Infomotions, Inc.Red Money / Hume, Fergus, 1859-1932



Author: Hume, Fergus, 1859-1932
Title: Red Money
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): garvington; miss greeby; greeby; lambert; agnes; chaldea; lady garvington; lord garvington; noel; mother cockleshell; lady agnes; hubert; gypsy; pine; silver; miss greeby's; gentilla stanley; miss; abbot's wood; clara greeby; hubert pine
Contributor(s): Bradley, H. [Annotator]
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Identifier: etext15356
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Title: Red Money

Author: Fergus Hume

Release Date: March 14, 2005 [EBook #15356]

Language: English

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK RED MONEY ***




Produced by Suzanne Shell, Mary Meehan, and the PG Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.






                                RED MONEY

                              BY FERGUS HUME

Author of "The Mystery of a Hansom Cab," "The Solitary Farm," "The
Peacock of Jewels," "The Red Window," "The Steel Crown," etc.

                                  1911




CONTENTS

CHAPTER

       I. THE DRAMA OF LITTLE THINGS

      II. IN THE WOOD

     III. AN UNEXPECTED RECOGNITION

      IV. SECRETS

       V. THE WOMAN AND THE MAN

      VI. THE MAN AND THE WOMAN

     VII. THE SECRETARY

    VIII. AT MIDNIGHT

      IX. AFTERWARDS

       X. A DIFFICULT POSITION

      XI. BLACKMAIL

     XII. THE CONSPIRACY

    XIII. A FRIEND IN NEED

     XIV. MISS GREEBY, DETECTIVE

      XV. GUESSWORK

     XVI. THE LAST STRAW

    XVII. ON THE TRAIL

   XVIII. AN AMAZING ACCUSATION

     XIX. MOTHER COCKLESHELL

      XX. THE DESTINED END

     XXI. A FINAL SURPRISE




RED MONEY




CHAPTER I.

THE DRAMA OF LITTLE THINGS.


"Gypsies! How very delightful! I really must have my fortune told. The
dear things know all about the future."

As Mrs. Belgrove spoke she peered through her lorgnette to see if anyone
at the breakfast-table was smiling. The scrutiny was necessary, since
she was the oldest person present, and there did not appear to be any
future for her, save that very certain one connected with a funeral. But
a society lady of sixty, made up to look like one of forty (her maid
could do no more), with an excellent digestion and a constant desire,
like the Athenians of old, for "Something New!" can scarcely be expected
to dwell upon such a disagreeable subject as death. Nevertheless, Mrs.
Belgrove could not disguise from herself that her demise could not be
postponed for many more years, and examined the faces of the other
guests to see if they thought so too. If anyone did, he and she politely
suppressed a doubtful look and applauded the suggestion of a
fortune-telling expedition.

"Let us make up a party and go," said the hostess, only too thankful to
find something to amuse the house-party for a few hours. "Where did you
say the gypsies were, Garvington?"

"In the Abbot's Wood," replied her husband, a fat, small round-faced
man, who was methodically devouring a large breakfast.

"That's only three miles away. We can drive or ride."

"Or motor, or bicycle, or use Shanks' mare," remarked Miss Greeby rather
vulgarly. Not that any one minded such a speech from her, as her
vulgarity was merely regarded as eccentricity, because she had money and
brains, an exceedingly long tongue, and a memory of other people's
failings to match.

Lord Garvington made no reply, as breakfast, in his opinion, was much
too serious a business to be interrupted. He reached for the marmalade,
and requested that a bowl of Devonshire cream should be passed along.
His wife, who was lean and anxious-looking even for an August hostess,
looked at him wrathfully. He never gave her any assistance in
entertaining their numerous guests, yet always insisted that the house
should be full for the shooting season. And being poor for a titled
pair, they could not afford to entertain even a shoeblack, much less a
crowd of hungry sportsmen and a horde of frivolous women, who required
to be amused expensively. It was really too bad of Garvington.

At this point the reflections of the hostess were interrupted by Miss
Greeby, who always had a great deal to say, and who always tried, as an
American would observe, "to run the circus." "I suppose you men will go
out shooting as usual?" she said in her sharp, clear voice.

The men present collectively declared that such was their intention, and
that they had come to "The Manor" for that especial purpose, so it was
useless to ask them, or any one of them, to go on a fortune-telling
expedition when they could find anything of that sort in Bond Street.
"And it's all a lot of rot, anyhow," declared one sporting youth with
obviously more muscle and money than brains; "no one can tell my
fortune."

"I can, Billy. You will be Prime Minister," flashed out Miss Greeby, at
which there was a general laugh. Then Garvington threw a bombshell.

"You'd better get your fortunes told to-day, if you want to," he
grunted, wiping his mustache; "for to-morrow I'm going to have these
rotters moved off my land straight away. They're thieves and liars."

"So are many other people," snapped Miss Greeby, who had lost heavily at
bridge on the previous night and spoke feelingly.

Her host paid no attention to her. "There's been a lot of burglaries in
this neighborhood of late. I daresay these gypsies are mixed up in
them."

"Burglaries!" cried Mrs. Belgrove, and turned pale under her rouge, as
she remembered that she had her diamonds with her.

"Oh, it's all right! Don't worry," said Garvington, pushing back his
chair. "They won't try on any games in this house while I'm here. If any
one tries to get in I'll shoot the beast."

"Is that allowed by law?" asked an army officer with a shrug.

"I don't know and I don't care," retorted Garvington. "An Englishman's
house is his castle, you know, and he can jolly well shoot any one who
tries to get into it. Besides, I shouldn't mind potting a burglar. Great
sport."

"You'd ask his intentions first, I presume," said Lady Garvington
tartly.

"Not me. Any one getting into the house after dark doesn't need his
intentions to be asked. I'd shoot."

"What about Romeo?" asked a poetic-looking young man. "He got into
Juliet's house, but did not come as a burglar."

"He came as a guest, I believe," said a quiet, silvery voice at the end
of the table, and every one turned to look at Lady Agnes Pine, who had
spoken.

She was Garvington's sister, and the wife of Sir Hubert Pine, the
millionaire, who was absent from the house party on this occasion. As a
rule, she spoke little, and constantly wore a sad expression on her pale
and beautiful face. And Agnes Pine really was beautiful, being one of
those tall, slim willowy-looking women who always look well and act
charmingly. And, indeed, her undeniable charm of manner probably had
more to do with her reputation as a handsome woman than her actual
physical grace. With her dark hair and dark eyes, her Greek features and
ivory skin faintly tinted with a tea-rose hue, she looked very lovely
and very sad. Why she should be, was a puzzle to many women, as being
the wife of a superlatively rich man, she had all the joys that money
could bring her. Still it was hinted on good authority--but no one ever
heard the name of the authority--that Garvington being poor had forced
her into marrying Sir Hubert, for whom she did not care in the least.
People said that her cousin Noel Lambert was the husband of her choice,
but that she had sacrificed herself, or rather had been compelled to do
so, in order that Garvington might be set on his legs. But Lady Agnes
never gave any one the satisfaction of knowing the exact truth. She
moved through the social world like a gentle ghost, fulfilling her
duties admirably, but apparently indifferent to every one and
everything. "Clippin' to look at," said the young men, "but tombs to
talk to. No sport at all." But then the young men did not possess the
key to Lady Agnes Pine's heart. Nor did her husband apparently.

Her voice was very low and musical, and every one felt its charm.
Garvington answered her question as he left the room. "Romeo or no
Romeo, guest or no guest," he said harshly, "I'll shoot any beast who
tries to enter my house. Come on, you fellows. We start in half an hour
for the coverts."

When the men left the room, Miss Greeby came and sat down in a vacant
seat near her hostess. "What did Garvington mean by that last speech?"
she asked with a significant look at Lady Agnes.

"Oh, my dear, when does Garvington ever mean anything?" said the other
woman fretfully. "He is so selfish; he leaves me to do everything."

"Well," drawled Miss Greeby with a pensive look on her masculine
features, "he looked at Agnes when he spoke."

"What do you mean?" demanded Lady Garvington sharply.

Miss Greeby gave a significant laugh. "I notice that Mr. Lambert is not
in the house," she said carelessly. "But some one told me he was near at
hand in the neighborhood. Surely Garvington doesn't mean to shoot him."

"Clara." The hostess sat up very straight, and a spot of color burned on
either sallow cheek. "I am surprised at you. Noel is staying in the
Abbot's Wood Cottage, and indulging in artistic work of some sort. But
he can come and stay here, if he likes. You don't mean to insinuate that
he would climb into the house through a window after dark like a
burglar?"

"That's just what I do mean," retorted Miss Greeby daringly, "and if he
does, Garvington will shoot him. He said so."

"He said nothing of the sort," cried Lady Garvington, angrily rising.

"Well, he meant it. I saw him looking at Agnes. And we know that Sir
Hubert is as jealous as Othello. Garvington is on guard I suppose,
and--"

"Will you hold your tongue?" whispered the mistress of the Manor
furiously, and she would have shaken Miss Greeby, but that she had
borrowed money from her and did not dare to incur her enmity. "Agnes
will hear you; she is looking this way; can't you see?"

"As if I cared," laughed Miss Greeby, pushing out her full lower lip in
a contemptuous manner. However, for reasons best known to herself, she
held her peace, although she would have scorned the idea that the hint
of her hostess made her do so.

Lady Garvington saw that her guests were all chattering with one
another, and that the men were getting ready to leave for the day's
shooting, so she went to discuss the dinner in the housekeeper's room.
But all the time she and the housekeeper were arguing what Lord
Garvington would like in the way of food, the worried woman was
reflecting on what Miss Greeby had said. When the menu was finally
settled--no easy task when it concerned the master of the house--Lady
Garvington sought out Mrs. Belgrove. That juvenile ancient was sunning
herself on the terrace, in the hope of renewing her waning vitality,
and, being alone, permitted herself to look old. She brisked up with a
kittenish purr when disturbed, and remarked that the Hengishire air was
like champagne. "My spirits are positively wild and wayward," said the
would-be Hebe with a desperate attempt to be youthful.

"Ah, you haven't got the house to look after," sighed Lady Garvington,
with a weary look, and dropped into a basket chair to pour out her woes
to Mrs. Belgrove. That person was extremely discreet, as years of
society struggling had taught her the value of silence. Her discretion
in this respect brought her many confidences, and she was renowned for
giving advice which was never taken.

"What's the matter, my dear? You look a hundred," said Mrs. Belgrove,
putting up her lorgnette with a chuckle, as if she had made an original
observation. But she had not, for Lady Garvington always appeared worn
and weary, and sallow, and untidy. She was the kind of absent-minded
person who depended upon pins to hold her garments together, and who
would put on her tiara crookedly for a drawing-room.

"Clara Greeby's a cat," said poor, worried Lady Garvington, hunting for
her pocket handkerchief, which was rarely to be found.

"Has she been making love to Garvington?"

"Pooh! No woman attracts Garvington unless she can cook, or knows
something about a kitchen range. I might as well have married a soup
tureen. I'm sure I don't know why I ever did marry him," lamented the
lady, staring at the changing foliage of the park trees. "He's a pauper
and a pig, my dear, although I wouldn't say so to every one. I wish my
mother hadn't insisted that I should attend cooking classes."

"What on earth has that to do with it?"

"To do with what?" asked Lady Garvington absentmindedly. "I don't know
what you're talking about, I'm sure. But mother knew that Garvington was
fond of a good dinner, and made me attend those classes, so as to learn
to talk about French dishes. We used to flirt about soups and creams and
haunches of venison, until he thought that I was as greedy as he was. So
he married me, and I've been attending to his meals ever since. Why,
even for our honeymoon we went to Mont St. Michel. They make splendid
omelettes there, and Garvington ate all the time. Ugh!" and the poor
lady shuddered.

Mrs. Belgrove saw that her companion was meandering, and would never
come to the point unless forced to face it, so she rapped her knuckles
with the lorgnette. "What about Clara Greeby?" she demanded sharply.

"She's a cat!"

"Oh, we're all cats, mewing or spitting as the fit takes us," said Mrs.
Belgrove comfortably. "I can't see why cat should be a term of
opprobrium when applied to a woman. Cats are charmingly pretty animals,
and know what they want, also how to get it. Well, my dear?"

"I believe she was in love with Noel herself," ruminated Lady
Garvington.

"Who was in love? Come to the point, my dear Jane."

"Clara Greeby."

Mrs. Belgrove laughed. "Oh, that ancient history. Every one who was
anybody knew that Clara would have given her eyes--and very ugly eyes
they are--to have married Noel Lambert. I suppose you mean him? Noel
isn't a common name. Quite so. You mean him. Well, Clara wanted to buy
him. He hasn't any money, and as a banker's heiress she is as rich as a
Jew. But he wouldn't have her."

"Why wouldn't he?" asked Lady Garvington, waking up--she had been
reflecting about a new soup which she hoped would please her husband.
"Clara has quite six thousand a year, and doesn't look bad when her maid
makes her dress in a proper manner. And, talking about maids, mine wants
to leave, and--"

"She's too like Boadicea," interrupted Mrs. Belgrove, keeping her
companion to the subject of Miss Greeby. "A masculine sort of hussy.
Noel is far too artistic to marry such a maypole. She's six foot two, if
she's an inch, and her hands and feet--" Mrs. Belgrove shuddered with a
gratified glance at her own slim fingers.

"You know the nonsense that Garvington was talking; about shooting a
burglar," said the other woman vaguely. "Such nonsense, for I'm sure no
burglar would enter a house filled with nothing but Early Victorian
furniture."

"Well? Well? Well?" said Mrs. Belgrove impatiently.

"Clara Beeby thought that Garvington meant to shoot Noel."

"Why, in heaven's name! Because Noel is his heir?"

"I'm sure I can't help it if I've no children," said Lady Garvington,
going off on another trail--the one suggested by Mrs. Belgrove's remark.
"I'd be a happier woman if I had something else to attend to than
dinners. I wish we all lived on roots, so that Garvington could dig them
up for himself."

"My dear, he'd send you out with a trowel to do that," said Mrs.
Belgrove humorously. "But why does Garvington want to shoot Noel?"

"Oh, he doesn't. I never said he did. Clara Greeby made the remark. You
see, Noel loved Agnes before she married Hubert, and I believe he loves
her still, which isn't right, seeing she's married, and isn't half so
good-looking as she was. And Noel stopping at that cottage in the
Abbot's Wood painting in water-colors. I think he is, but I'm not sure
if it isn't in oils, and the--"

"Well? Well? Well?" asked Mrs. Belgrove again.

"It isn't well at all, when you think what a tongue Clara Greeby has,"
snapped Lady Garvington. "She said if Noel came to see Agnes by night,
Garvington, taking him for a burglar, might shoot him. She insisted that
he looked at Agnes when he was talking about burglars, and meant that."

"What nonsense!" cried Mrs. Belgrove vigorously, at last having arrived
at a knowledge of why Lady Garvington had sought her. "Noel can come
here openly, so there is no reason he should steal here after dark."

"Well, he's romantic, you know, dear. And romantic people always prefer
windows to doors and darkness to light. The windows here are so
insecure," added Lady Garvington, glancing at the facade above her
untidy hair. "He could easily get in by sticking a penknife in between
the upper and lower sash of the window. It would be quite easy."

"What nonsense you talk, Jane," said Mrs. Belgrove, impatiently. "Noel
is not the man to come after a married woman when her husband is away. I
have known him since he was a Harrow schoolboy, so I have every right to
speak. Where is Sir Hubert?"

"He is at Paris or Pekin, or something with a 'P,'" said Lady Garvington
in her usual vague way. "I'm sure I don't know why he can't take Agnes
with him. They get on very well for a married couple."

"All the same she doesn't love him."

"He loves her, for I'm sure he's that jealous that he can't scarcely
bear her out of his sight."

"It seems to me that he can," remarked Mrs. Belgrove dryly. "Since he is
at Paris or Pekin and she is here."

"Garvington is looking after her, and he owes Sir Hubert too much, not
to see that Agnes is all right."

Mrs. Belgrove peered at Lady Garvington through her lorgnette. "I think
you talk a great deal of nonsense, Jane, as I said before," she
observed. "I don't suppose for one moment that Agnes thinks of Noel, or
Noel of Agnes."

"Clara Greeby says--"

"Oh, I know what she says and what she wishes. She would like to get
Noel into trouble with Sir Hubert over Agnes, simply because he will not
marry her. As to her chatter about burglars--"

"Garvington's chatter," corrected her companion.

"Well, then, Garvington's. It's all rubbish. Agnes is a sweet girl,
and--"

"Girl?" Lady Garvington laughed disdainfully. "She is twenty-five."

"A mere baby. People cannot be called old until they are seventy or
eighty. It is a bad habit growing old. I have never encouraged it
myself. By the way, tell me something about Sir Hubert Pine. I have only
met him once or twice. What kind of a man is he?"

"Tall, and thin, and dark, and--"

"I know his appearance. But his nature?"

"He's jealous, and can be very disagreeable when he likes. I don't know
who he is, or where he came from. He made his money out of penny toys
and South African investments. He was a member of Parliament for a few
years, and helped his party so much with money that he was knighted.
That's all I know of him, except that he is very mean."

"Mean? What you tell me doesn't sound mean."

"I'm talking of his behavior to Garvington," explained the hostess,
touching her ruffled hair, "he doesn't give us enough money."

"Why should he give you any?" asked Mrs. Belgrove bluntly.

"Well, you see, dear, Garvington would never have allowed his sister to
marry a nobody, unless--"

"Unless the nobody paid for his footing. I quite understand. Every one
knows that Agnes married the man to save her family from bankruptcy.
Poor girl!" Mrs. Belgrove sighed. "And she loved Noel. What a shame that
she couldn't become his wife!"

"Oh, that would have been absurd," said Lady Garvington pettishly.
"What's the use of Hunger marrying Thirst? Noel has no money, just like
ourselves, and if it hadn't been for Hubert this place would have been
sold long ago. I'm telling you secrets, mind."

"My dear, you tell me nothing that everybody doesn't know."

"Then what is your advice?"

"About what, my dear?"

"About what I have been telling you. The burglar, and--"

"I have told you before, that it is rubbish. If a burglar does come here
I hope Lord Garvington will shoot him, as I don't want to lose my
diamonds."

"But if the burglar is Noel?"

"He won't be Noel. Clara Greeby has simply made a nasty suggestion which
is worthy of her. But if you're afraid, why not get her to marry Noel?"

"He won't have her," said Lady Garvington dolefully.

"I know he won't. Still a persevering woman can do wonders, and Clara
Greeby has no self-respect. And if you think Noel is too near, get Agnes
to join her husband in Pekin."

"I think it's Paris."

"Well then, Paris. She can buy new frocks."

"Agnes doesn't care for new frocks. Such simple tastes she has, wanting
to help the poor. Rubbish, I call it."

"Why, when her husband helps Lord Garvington?" asked Mrs. Belgrove
artlessly.

Lady Garvington frowned. "What horrid things you say."

"I only repeat what every one is saying."

"Well, I'm sure I don't care," cried Lady Garvington recklessly, and
rose to depart on some vague errand. "I'm only in the world to look
after dinners and breakfasts. Clara Greeby's a cat making all this fuss
about--"

"Hush! There she is."

Lady Garvington fluttered round, and drifted towards Miss Greeby, who
had just stepped out on to the terrace. The banker's daughter was in a
tailor-made gown with a man's cap and a man's gloves, and a man's
boots--at least, as Mrs. Belgrove thought, they looked like that--and
carried a very masculine stick, more like a bludgeon than a cane. With
her ruddy complexion and ruddy hair, and piercing blue eyes, and
magnificent figure--for she really had a splendid figure in spite of
Mrs. Belgrove's depreciation--she looked like a gigantic Norse goddess.
With a flashing display of white teeth, she came along swinging her
stick, or whirling her shillalah, as Mrs. Belgrove put it, and seemed
the embodiment of coarse, vigorous health.

"Taking a sun-bath?" she inquired brusquely and in a loud baritone
voice. "Very wise of you two elderly things. I am going for a walk."

Mrs. Belgrove was disagreeable in her turn. "Going to the Abbot's Wood?"

"How clever of you to guess," Miss Greeby smiled and nodded. "Yes, I'm
going to look up Lambert"; she always spoke of her male friends in this
hearty fashion. "He ought to be here enjoying himself instead of living
like a hermit in the wilds."

"He's painting pictures," put in Lady Garvington. "Do hermits paint?"

"No. Only society women do that," said Miss Greeby cheerfully, and Mrs.
Belgrove's faded eyes flashed. She knew that the remark was meant for
her, and snapped back. "Are you going to have your fortune told by the
gypsies, dear?" she inquired amiably. "They might tell you about your
marriage."

"Oh, I daresay, and if you ask they will prophesy your funeral."

"I am in perfect health, Miss Greeby."

"So I should think, since your cheeks are so red."

Lady Garvington hastily intervened to prevent the further exchange of
compliments. "Will you be back to luncheon, or join the men at the
coverts?"

"Neither. I'll drop on Lambert for a feed. Where are you going?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said the hostess vaguely. "There's lots to do.
I shall know what's to be done, when I think of it," and she drifted
along the terrace and into the house like a cloud blown any way by the
wind. Miss Greeby looked after her limp figure with a contemptuous grin,
then she nodded casually to Mrs. Belgrove, and walked whistling down the
terrace steps.

"Cat, indeed!" commented Mrs. Belgrove to herself when she saw Miss
Greeby's broad back disappear behind the laurels. "Nothing half so
pretty. She's like a great Flanders mare. And I wish Henry VIII was
alive to marry her," she added the epithet suggesting that king, "if
only to cut her head off."




CHAPTER II.

IN THE WOOD.


Miss Greeby swung along towards her destination with a masculine stride
and in as great a hurry as though she had entered herself for a Marathon
race. It was a warm, misty day, and the pale August sunshine radiated
faintly through the smoky atmosphere. Nothing was clear-cut and nothing
was distinct, so hazy was the outlook. The hedges were losing their
greenery and had blossomed forth into myriad bunches of ruddy hips and
haws, and the usually hard road was soft underfoot because of the
penetrating quality of the moist air. There was no wind to clear away
the misty greyness, but yellow leaves without its aid dropped from the
disconsolate trees. The lately-reaped fields, stretching on either side
of the lane down which the lady was walking, presented a stubbled
expanse of brown and dim gold, uneven and distressful to the eye. The
dying world was in ruins and Nature had reduced herself to that
necessary chaos, out of which, when the coming snow completed its task,
she would build a new heaven and a new earth.

An artist might have had some such poetic fancy, and would certainly
have looked lovingly on the alluring colors and forms of decay. But Miss
Greeby was no artist, and prided herself upon being an aggressively
matter-of-fact young woman. With her big boots slapping the ground and
her big hands thrust into the pockets of her mannish jacket, she bent
her head in a meditative fashion and trudged briskly onward. What
romance her hard nature was capable of, was uppermost now, but it
had to do strictly with her personal feelings and did not require the
picturesque autumn landscape to improve or help it in any way. One man's
name suggested romance to bluff, breezy Clara Greeby, and that name was
Noel Lambert. She murmured it over and over again to her heart, and her
hard face flushed into something almost like beauty, as she remembered
that she would soon behold its owner. "But he won't care," she said
aloud, and threw back her head defiantly: then after a pause, she
breathed softly, "But I shall make him care."

If she hoped to do so, the task was one which required a great amount of
skill and a greater amount of womanly courage, neither of which
qualities Miss Greeby possessed. She had no skill in managing a man, as
her instincts were insufficiently feminine, and her courage was of a
purely rough-and-tumble kind. She could have endured hunger and thirst
and cold: she could have headed a forlorn hope: she could have held to a
sinking ship: but she had no store of that peculiar feminine courage
which men don't understand and which women can't explain, however much
they may exhibit it. Miss Greeby was an excellent comrade, but could not
be the beloved of any man, because of the very limitations of
semi-masculinity upon which she prided herself. Noel Lambert wanted a
womanly woman, and Lady Agnes was his ideal of what a wife should be.
Miss Greeby had in every possible way offered herself for the post, but
Lambert had never cared for her sufficiently to endure the thought of
passing through life with her beside him. He said she was "a good sort";
and when a man says that of a woman, she may be to him a good friend, or
even a platonic chum, but she can never be a desirable wife in his eyes.
What Miss Greeby lacked was sex, and lacking that, lacked everything. It
was strange that with her rough common sense she could not grasp this
want. But the thought that Lambert required what she could never
give--namely, the feminine tenderness which strong masculine natures
love--never crossed her very clear and mathematical mind.

So she was bent upon a fool's errand, as she strode towards the Abbot's
Wood, although she did not know it. Her aim was to capture Lambert as
her husband; and her plan, to accomplish her wish by working on the
heart-hunger he most probably felt, owing to the loss of Agnes Pine. If
he loved that lady in a chivalrous fashion--and Miss Greeby believed
that he did--she was absolutely lost to him as the wife of another man.
Lambert would never degrade her into a divorce court appearance. And
perhaps, after all, as Miss Greeby thought hopefully, his love for Sir
Hubert's wife might have turned to scorn that she had preferred money to
true love. But then, again, as Miss Greeby remembered, with a darkening
face, Agnes had married the millionaire so as to save the family estates
from being sold. Rank has its obligation, and Lambert might approve of
the sacrifice, since he was the next heir to the Garvington title. "We
shall see what his attitude is," decided Miss Greeby, as she entered the
Abbot's Wood, and delayed arranging her future plans until she fully
understood his feelings towards the woman he had lost. In the meantime,
Lambert would want a comrade, and Miss Greeby was prepared to sink her
romantic feelings, for the time being, in order to be one.

The forest--which belonged to Garvington, so long as he paid the
interest on the mortgage--was not a very large one. In the old days it
had been of greater size and well stocked with wild animals; so well
stocked, indeed, that the abbots of a near monastery had used it for
many hundred years as a hunting ground. But the monastery had vanished
off the face of the earth, as not even its ruins were left, and the game
had disappeared as the forest grew smaller and the district around
became more populous. A Lambert of the Georgian period--the family name
of Lord Garvington was Lambert--had acquired what was left of the
monastic wood by winning it at a game of cards from the nobleman who had
then owned it. Now it was simply a large patch of green in the middle of
a somewhat naked county, for Hengishire is not remarkable for woodlands.
There were rabbits and birds, badgers, stoats, and such-like wild things
in it still, but the deer which the abbots had hunted were conspicuous
by their absence. Garvington looked after it about as much as he did
after the rest of his estates, which was not saying much. The fat, round
little lord's heart was always in the kitchen, and he preferred eating
to fulfilling his duties as a landlord. Consequently, the Abbot's Wood
was more or less public property, save when Garvington turned crusty and
every now and then cleared out all interlopers. But tramps came to sleep
in the wood, and gypsies camped in its glades, while summer time brought
many artists to rave about its sylvan beauties, and paint pictures of
ancient trees and silent pools, and rugged lawns besprinkled with
rainbow wild flowers. People who went to the Academy and to the various
art exhibitions in Bond Street knew the Abbot's Wood fairly well, as it
was rarely that at least one picture dealing with it did not appear.

Miss Greeby had explored the wood before and knew exactly where to find
the cottage mentioned by Lady Garvington. On the verge of the trees she
saw the blue smoke of the gypsies' camp fires, and heard the vague
murmur of Romany voices, but, avoiding the vagrants, she took her way
through the forest by a winding path. This ultimately led her to a
spacious glade, in the centre of which stood a dozen or more rough
monoliths of mossy gray and weather-worn stones, disposed in a circle.
Probably these were all that remained of some Druidical temple, and
archaeologists came from far and near to view the weird relics. And in
the middle of the circle stood the cottage: a thatched dwelling, which
might have had to do with a fairy tale, with its whitewashed walls
covered with ivy, and its latticed windows, on the ledges of which stood
pots of homely flowers. There was no fence round this rustic dwelling,
as the monoliths stood as guardians, and the space between the cottage
walls and the gigantic stones was planted thickly with fragrant English
flowers. Snapdragon, sweet-william, marigolds, and scented clove
carnations, were all to be found there: also there was thyme, mint,
sage, and other pot-herbs. And the whole perfumed space was girdled by
trees old and young, which stood back from the emerald beauty of
untrimmed lawns. A more ideal spot for a dreamer, or an artist, or a
hermit, or for the straying prince of a fairy tale, it would have been
quite impossible to find. Miss Greeby's vigorous and coarse personality
seemed to break in a noisy manner--although she did not utter a single
word--the enchanted silence of the solitary place.

However, the intruder was too matter-of-fact to trouble about the
sequestered liveliness of this unique dwelling. She strode across the
lawns, and passing beyond the monoliths, marched like an invader up the
narrow path between the radiant flower-beds. From the tiny green door
she raised the burnished knocker and brought it down with an emphatic
bang. Shortly the door opened with a pettish tug, as though the person
behind was rather annoyed by the noise, and a very tall, well-built,
slim young man made his appearance on the threshold. He held a palette
on the thumb of one hand, and clutched a sheaf of brushes, while another
brush was in his mouth, and luckily impeded a rather rough welcome. The
look in a pair of keen blue eyes certainly seemed to resent the
intrusion, but at the sight of Miss Greeby this irritability changed to
a glance of suspicion. Lambert, from old associations, liked his visitor
very well on the whole, but that feminine intuition, which all creative
natures possess, warned him that it was wise to keep her at arm's
length. She had never plainly told her love; but she had assuredly
hinted at it more or less by eye and manner and undue hauntings of his
footsteps when in London. He could not truthfully tell himself that he
was glad of her unexpected visit. For quite half a minute they stood
staring at one another, and Miss Greeby's hard cheeks flamed to a poppy
red at the sight of the man she loved.

"Well, Hermit." she observed, when he made no remark. "As the mountain
would not come to Mahomet, the prophet has come to the mountain."

"The mountain is welcome," said Lambert diplomatically, and stood
aside, so that she might enter. Then adopting the bluff and breezy,
rough-and-ready-man-to-man attitude, which Miss Greeby liked to see in
her friends, he added: "Come in, old girl! It's a pal come to see a pal,
isn't it?"

"Rather," assented Miss Greeby, although, woman-like, she was not
entirely pleased with this unromantic welcome. "We played as brats
together, didn't we?

"Yes," she added meditatively, when following Lambert into his studio,
"I think we are as chummy as a man and woman well can be."

"True enough. You were always a good sort, Clara. How well you are
looking--more of a man than ever."

"Oh, stop that!" said Miss Greeby roughly.

"Why?" Lambert raised his eyebrows. "As a girl you always liked to be
thought manly, and said again and again that you wished you were a boy."

"I find that I am a woman, after all," sighed the visitor, dropping into
a chair and looking round; "with a woman's feelings, too."

"And very nice those feelings are, since they have influenced you to pay
me a visit in the wilds," remarked the artist imperturbably.

"What are you doing in the wilds?"

"Painting," was the laconic retort.

"So I see. Still-life pictures?"

"Not exactly." He pointed toward the easel. "Behold and approve."

Miss Greeby did behold, but she certainly did not approve, because she
was a woman and in love. It was only a pictured head she saw, but the
head was that of a very beautiful girl, whose face smiled from the
canvas in a subtle, defiant way, as if aware of its wild loveliness. The
raven hair streamed straightly down to the shoulders--for the bust of
the model was slightly indicated--and there, bunched out into curls. A
red and yellow handkerchief was knotted round the brows, and dangling
sequins added to its barbaric appearance. Nose and lips and eyes, and
contours, were all perfect, and it really seemed as though the face were
idealized, so absolutely did it respond to all canons of beauty. It was
a gypsy countenance, and there lurked in its loveliness that wild,
untamed look which suggested unrestricted roamings and the spacious
freedom of the road.

The sudden, jealous fear which surged into Miss Greeby's heart climbed
to her throat and choked her speech. But she had wisdom enough to check
unwise words, and glanced round the studio to recover her composure. The
room was small and barely furnished; a couch, two deep arm-chairs, and a
small table filled its limited area. The walls and roof were painted a
pale green, and a carpet of the same delicate hue covered the floor. Of
course, there were the usual painting materials, brushes and easel and
palettes and tubes of color, together with a slightly raised platform
near the one window where the model could sit or stand. The window
itself had no curtains and was filled with plain glass, affording plenty
of light.

"The other windows of the cottage are latticed," said Lambert, seeing
his visitor's eyes wander in that direction. "I had that glass put in
when I came here a month ago. No light can filter through lattices--in
sufficient quantity that is--to see the true tones of the colors."

"Oh, bother the window!" muttered Miss Greeby restlessly, for she had
not yet gained command of her emotions.

Lambert laughed and looked at his picture with his head on one side, and
a very handsome head it was, as Miss Greeby thought. "It bothered me
until I had it put right, I assure you. But you don't seem pleased with
my crib."

"It's not good enough for you."

"Since when have I been a sybarite, Clara?"

"I mean you ought to think of your position."

"It's too unpleasant to think about," rejoined Lambert, throwing himself
on the couch and producing his pipe. "May I smoke?"

"Yes, and if you have any decent cigarettes I'll join you. Thanks!" She
deftly caught the silver case he threw her. "But your position?"

"Five hundred a year and no occupation, since I have been brought up to
neither trade nor profession," said Lambert leisurely. "Well?"

"You are the heir to a title and to a large property."

"Which is heavily mortgaged. As to the title"--Lambert shrugged his
shoulders--"Garvington's wife may have children."

"I don't think so. They have been married ten years and more. You are
certain to come in for everything."

"Everything consists of nothing," said the artist coolly.

"Well," drawled Miss Greeby, puffing luxuriously at her cigarette, which
was Turkish and soothing, "nothing may turn into something when these
mortgages are cleared off."

"Who is going to clear them off?"

"Sir Hubert Pine."

Lambert's brows contracted, as she knew they would when this name was
mentioned, and he carefully attended to filling his pipe so as to avoid
meeting her hard, inquisitive eyes. "Pine is a man of business, and if
he pays off the mortgages he will take over the property as security. I
don't see that Garvington will be any the better off in that case."

"Lambert," said Miss Greeby very decidedly, and determined to know
precisely what he felt like, "Garvington only allowed his sister to
marry Sir Hubert because he was rich. I don't know for certain, of
course, but I should think it probable that he made an arrangement with
Pine to have things put straight because of the marriage."

"Possible and probable," said the artist shortly, and wincing; "but old
friend as you are, Clara, I don't see the necessity of talking about
business which does not concern me. Speak to Garvington."

"Agnes concerns you."

"How objectionably direct you are," exclaimed Lambert in a vexed tone.
"And how utterly wrong. Agnes does not concern me in the least. I loved
her, but as she chose to marry Pine, why there's no more to be said."

"If there was nothing more to be said," observed Miss Greeby shrewdly,
"you would not be burying yourself here."

"Why not? I am fond of nature and art, and my income is not enough to
permit my living decently in London. I had to leave the army because I
was so poor. Garvington has given me this cottage rent free, so I'm
jolly enough with my painting and with Mrs. Tribb as housekeeper and
cook. She's a perfect dream of a cook," ended Lambert thoughtfully.

Miss Greeby shook her red head. "You can't deceive me."

"Who wants to, anyhow?" demanded the man, unconsciously American.

"You do. You wish to make out that you prefer to camp here instead of
admitting that you would like to be at The Manor because Agnes--"

Lambert jumped up crossly. "Oh, leave Agnes out of the question. She is
Pine's wife, so that settles things. It's no use crying for the moon,
and--"

"Then you still wish for the moon," interpolated the woman quickly.

"Not even you have the right to ask me such a question," replied Lambert
in a quiet and decisive tone. "Let us change the subject."

Miss Greeby pointed to the beautiful face smiling on the easel. "I
advise you to," she said significantly.

"You seem to have come here to give me good advice."

"Which you won't take," she retorted.

"Because it isn't needed."

"A man's a man and a woman's a woman."

"That's as true as taxes, as Mr. Barkis observed, if you are acquainted
with the writings of the late Charles Dickens. Well?"

Again Miss Greeby pointed to the picture. "She's very pretty."

"I shouldn't have painted her otherwise."

"Oh, then the original of that portrait does exist?"

"Could you call it a portrait if an original didn't exist?" demanded
the young man tartly. "Since you want to know so much, you may as well
come to the gypsy encampment on the verge of the wood and satisfy
yourself." He threw on a Panama hat, with a cross look. "Since when have
you come to the conclusion that I need a dry nurse?"

"Oh, don't talk bosh!" said Miss Greeby vigorously, and springing to her
feet. "You take me at the foot of the letter and too seriously. I only
came here to see how my old pal was getting on."

"I'm all right and as jolly as a sandboy. Now are you satisfied?"

"Quite. Only don't fall in love with the original of your portrait."

"It's rather late in the day to warn me," said Lambert dryly, "for I
have known the girl for six months. I met her in a gypsy caravan when on
a walking tour, and offered to paint her. She is down here with her
people, and you can see her whenever you have a mind to."

"There's no time like the present," said Miss Greeby, accepting the
offer with alacrity. "Come along, old boy." Then, when they stepped out
of the cottage garden on to the lawns, she asked pointedly, "What is her
name?"

"Chaldea."

"Nonsense. That is the name of the country."

"I never denied that, my dear girl. But Chaldea was born in the country
whence she takes her name. Down Mesopotamia way, I believe. These
gypsies wander far and wide, you know. She's very pretty, and has the
temper of the foul fiend himself. Only Kara can keep her in order."

"Who is Kara?"

"A Servian gypsy who plays the fiddle like an angel. He's a
crooked-backed, black-faced, hairy ape of a dwarf, but highly popular on
account of his music. Also, he's crazy about Chaldea, and loves her to
distraction."

"Does she love him?" Miss Greeby asked in her direct fashion.

"No," replied Lambert, coloring under his tan, and closed his lips
firmly. He was a very presentable figure of a man, as he walked beside
the unusually tall woman. His face was undeniably handsome in a fair
Saxon fashion, and his eyes were as blue as those of Miss Greeby
herself, while his complexion was much more delicate. In fact, she
considered that it was much too good a complexion for one of the male
sex, but admitted inwardly that its possessor was anything but
effeminate, when he had such a heavy jaw, such a firm chin, and such set
lips. Lambert, indeed, at first sight did indeed look so amiable, as to
appear for the moment quite weak; but danger always stiffened him into a
dangerous adversary, and his face when aroused was most unpleasantly
fierce. He walked with a military swing, his shoulders well set back and
his head crested like that of a striking serpent. A rough and warlike
life would have brought out his best points of endurance, capability to
plan and strike quickly, and iron decision; but the want of opportunity
and the enervating influences of civilized existence, made him a man of
possibilities. When time, and place, and chance offered he could act the
hero with the best; but lacking these things he remained innocuous like
gunpowder which has no spark to fire it.

Thinking of these things, Miss Greeby abandoned the subject of Chaldea,
and of her possible love for Lambert, and exclaimed impulsively, "Why
don't you chuck civilization and strike the out-trail?"

"Why should I?" he asked, unmoved, and rather surprised by the change of
the subject. "I'm quite comfortable here."

"Too comfortable," she retorted with emphasis. "This loafing life of
just-enough-to-live-on doesn't give you a chance to play the man. Go out
and fight and colonize and prove your qualities."

Lambert's color rose again, and his eyes sparkled. "I would if the
chance--"

"Ah, bah, Hercules and Omphale!" interrupted his companion.

"What do you mean?"

"Never mind," retorted Miss Greeby, who guessed that he knew what she
meant very well. His quick flush showed her how he resented this
classical allusion to Agnes Pine. "You'd carry her off if you were a
man."

"Chaldea?" asked Lambert, wilfully misunderstanding her meaning.

"If you like. Only don't try to carry her off at night. Garvington says
he will shoot any burglar who comes along after dark."

"I never knew Garvington had anything to do with Chaldea."

"Neither did I. Oh, I think you know very well what I mean."

"Perhaps I do," said the young man with an angry shrug, for really her
interference with his affairs seemed to be quite unjustifiable. "But I
am not going to bring a woman I respect into the Divorce Court."

"Respect? Love, you mean to say."

Lambert stopped, and faced her squarely. "I don't wish to quarrel with
you, Clara, as we are very old friends. But I warn you that I do possess
a temper, and if you wish to see it, you are going the best way to get
what you evidently want. Now, hold your tongue and talk of something
else. Here is Chaldea."

"Watching for you," muttered Miss Greeby, as the slight figure of the
gypsy girl was seen advancing swiftly. "Ha!" and she snorted
suspiciously.

"Rye!" cried Chaldea, dancing toward the artist. "Sarishan rye."

Miss Greeby didn't understand Romany, but the look in the girl's eyes
was enough to reveal the truth. If Lambert did not love his beautiful
model, it was perfectly plain that the beautiful model loved Lambert.

"O baro duvel atch' pa leste!" said Chaldea, and clapped her slim hands.




CHAPTER III.

AN UNEXPECTED RECOGNITION.


"I wish you wouldn't speak the calo jib to me, Chaldea," said Lambert,
smiling on the beautiful eager face. "You know I don't understand it."

"Nor I," put in Miss Greeby in her manly tones. "What does Oh baro devil,
and all the rest of it mean?"

"The Great God be with you," translated Chaldea swiftly, "and duvel is
not devil as you Gorgios call it."

"Only the difference of a letter," replied the Gentile lady
good-humoredly. "Show us round your camp, my good girl."

The mere fact that the speaker was in Lambert's company, let alone the
offensively patronizing tone in which she spoke, was enough to rouse the
gypsy girl's naturally hot temper. She retreated and swayed like a cat
making ready to spring, while her black eyes snapped fire in a most
unpleasant manner.

But Miss Greeby was not to be frightened by withering glances, and
merely laughed aloud, showing her white teeth. Her rough merriment and
masculine looks showed Chaldea that, as a rival, she was not to be
feared, so the angry expression on the dark face changed to a wheedling
smile.

"Avali! Avali! The Gorgios lady wants her fortune told."

For the sake of diplomacy Miss Greeby nodded and fished in her pocket.
"I'll give you half a crown to tell it."

"Not me--not me, dear lady. Mother Cockleshell is our great witch."

"Take me to her then," replied the other, and rapidly gathered into her
brain all she could of Chaldea's appearance.

Lambert had painted a very true picture of the girl, although to a
certain extent he had idealized her reckless beauty. Chaldea's looks had
been damaged and roughened by wind and rain, by long tramps, and by
glaring sunshine. Yet she was superlatively handsome with her warm and
swarthy skin, under which the scarlet blood circled freely. To an oval
face, a slightly hooked nose and two vermilion lips, rather full, she
added the glossy black eyes of the true Romany, peaked at the corners.
Her jetty hair descended smoothly from under a red handkerchief down to
her shoulders, and there, at the tips, became tangled and curling. Her
figure was magnificent, and she swayed and swung from the hips with an
easy grace, which reminded the onlookers of a panther's lithe movements.
And there was a good deal of the dangerous beast-of-prey beauty about
Chaldea, which was enhanced by her picturesque dress. This was ragged
and patched with all kinds of colored cloths subdued to mellow tints by
wear and weather. Also she jingled with coins and beads and barbaric
trinkets of all kinds. Her hands were perfectly formed, and so doubtless
were her feet, although these last were hidden by heavy laced-up boots.
On the whole, she was an extremely picturesque figure, quite comforting
to the artistic eye amidst the drab sameness of latterday civilization.

"All the same, I suspect she is a sleeping volcano," whispered Miss
Greeby in her companion's ear as they followed the girl through the camp.

"Scarcely sleeping," answered Lambert in the same tone. "She explodes on
the slightest provocation, and not without damaging results."

"Well, you ought to know. But if you play with volcanic fire you'll burn
more than your clever fingers."

"Pooh! The girl is only a model."

"Ha! Not much of the lay figure about her, anyway."

Lambert, according to his custom, shrugged his shoulders and did not
seek to explain further. If Miss Greeby chose to turn her fancies into
facts, she was at liberty to do so. Besides, her attention was luckily
attracted by the vivid life of the vagrants which hummed and bustled
everywhere. The tribe was a comparatively large one, and--as Miss Greeby
learned later--consisted of Lees, Loves, Bucklands, Hernes, and others,
all mixed up together in one gypsy stew. The assemblage embraced many
clans, and not only were there pure gypsies, but even many diddikai, or
half-bloods, to be seen. Perhaps the gradually diminishing Romany clans
found it better to band together for mutual benefit than to remain
isolated units. But the camp certainly contained many elements, and
these, acting co-operatively, formed a large and somewhat reckless
community, which justified Garvington's alarm. A raid in the night by
one or two, or three, or more of these lean, wiry, dangerous-looking
outcasts was not to be despised. But it must be admitted that, in a
general way, law and order prevailed in the encampment.

There were many caravans, painted in gay colors and hung round with
various goods, such as brushes and brooms, goat-skin rugs, and much
tinware, together with baskets of all sorts and sizes. The horses, which
drew these rainbow-hued vehicles, were pasturing on the outskirts of the
camp, hobbled for the most part. Interspersed among the travelling homes
stood tents great and small, wherein the genuine Romany had their abode,
but the autumn weather was so fine that most of the inmates preferred to
sleep in the moonshine. Of course, there were plenty of dogs quarrelling
over bones near various fires, or sleeping with one eye open in odd
corners, and everywhere tumbled and laughed and danced, brown-faced,
lithe-limbed children, who looked uncannily Eastern. And the men,
showing their white teeth in smiles, together with the fawning women,
young and handsome, or old and hideously ugly, seemed altogether alien
to the quiet, tame domestic English landscape. There was something
prehistoric about the scene, and everywhere lurked that sense of
dangerous primeval passions held in enforced check which might burst
forth on the very slightest provocation.

"It's a migrating tribe of Aryans driven to new hunting grounds by
hunger or over-population," said Miss Greeby, for even her unromantic
nature was stirred by the unusual picturesqueness of the scene. "The
sight of these people and the reek of their fires make me feel like a
cave-woman. There is something magnificent about this brutal freedom."

"Very sordid magnificence," replied Lambert, raising his shoulders. "But
I understand your feelings. On occasions we all have the nostalgia of
the primitive life at times, and delight to pass from ease to hardship."

"Well, civilization isn't much catch, so far as I can see," argued his
companion. "It makes men weaklings."

"Certainly not women," he answered, glancing sideways at her Amazonian
figure.

"I agree with you. For some reason, men are going down while women are
going up, both physically and mentally. I wonder what the future of
civilized races will be."

"Here is Mother Cockleshell. Best ask her."

The trio had reached a small tent at the very end of the camp by this
time, snugly set up under a spreading oak and near the banks of a
babbling brook. Their progress had not been interrupted by any claims on
their attention or purses, for a wink from Chaldea had informed her
brother and sister gypsies that the Gentile lady had come to consult the
queen of the tribe. And, like Lord Burleigh's celebrated nod, Chaldea's
wink could convey volumes. At all events, Lambert and his companion were
unmolested, and arrived in due course before the royal palace. A
croaking voice announced that the queen was inside her Arab tent, and
she was crooning some Romany song. Chaldea did not open her mouth, but
simply snapped her fingers twice or thrice rapidly. The woman within
must have had marvellously sharp ears, for she immediately stopped her
incantation--the songs sounded like one--and stepped forth.

"Oh!" said Miss Greeby, stepping back, "I am disappointed."

She had every reason to be after the picturesqueness of the camp in
general, and Chaldea in particular, for Mother Cockleshell looked like a
threadbare pew-opener, or an almshouse widow who had seen better days.
Apparently she was very old, for her figure had shrivelled up into a
diminutive monkey form, and she looked as though a moderately high wind
could blow her about like a feather. Her face was brown and puckered and
lined in a most wonderful fashion. Where a wrinkle could be, there a
wrinkle was, and her nose and chin were of the true nutcracker order, as
a witch's should be. Only her eyes betrayed the powerful vitality that
still animated the tiny frame, for these were large and dark, and had in
them a piercing look which seemed to gaze not at any one, but through
and beyond. Her figure, dried like that of a mummy, was surprisingly
straight for one of her ancient years, and her profuse hair was scarcely
touched with the gray of age. Arrayed in a decent black dress, with a
decent black bonnet and a black woollen shawl, the old lady looked
intensely respectable. There was nothing of the picturesque vagrant
about her. Therefore Miss Greeby, and with every reason, was
disappointed, and when the queen of the woodland spoke she was still
more so, for Mother Cockleshell did not even interlard her English
speech with Romany words, as did Chaldea.

"Good day to you, my lady, and to you, sir," said Mother Cockleshell in
a stronger and harsher voice than would have been expected from one of
her age and diminished stature. "I hope I sees you well," and she
dropped a curtsey, just like any village dame who knew her manners.

"Oh!" cried Miss Greeby again. "You don't look a bit like a gypsy queen."

"Ah, my lady, looks ain't everything. But I'm a true-bred Romany--a
Stanley of Devonshire. Gentilla is my name and the tent my home, and I
can tell fortunes as no one else on the road can."

"Avali, and that is true," put in Chaldea eagerly. "Gentilla's a bori
chovihani."

"The child means that I am a great witch, my lady," said the old dame
with another curtsey. "Though she's foolish to use Romany words to
Gentiles as don't understand the tongue which the dear Lord spoke in
Eden's garden, as the good Book tells us."

"In what part of the Bible do you find that?" asked Lambert laughing.

"Oh, my sweet gentleman, it ain't for the likes of me to say things to
the likes of you," said Mother Cockleshell, getting out of her
difficulty very cleverly, "but the dear lady wants her fortune told,
don't she?"

"Why don't you say dukkerin?"

"I don't like them wicked words, sir," answered Mother Cockleshell
piously.

"Wicked words," muttered Chaldea tossing her black locks. "And them true
Romany as was your milk tongue. No wonder the Gentiles don't fancy you a
true one of the road. If I were queen of--"

A vicious little devil flashed out of the old woman's eyes, and her
respectable looks changed on the instant. "Tol yer chib, or I'll heat
the bones of you with the fires of Bongo Tem," she screamed furiously,
and in a mixture of her mother-tongue and English. "Ja pukenus, slut of
the gutter," she shook her fist, and Chaldea, with an insulting laugh,
moved away. "Bengis your see! Bengis your see! And that, my generous
lady," she added, turning round with a sudden resumption of her fawning
respectability, "means 'the devil in your heart,' which I spoke
witchly-like to the child. Ah, but she's a bad one."

Miss Greeby laughed outright. "This is more like the real thing."

"Poor Chaldea," said Lambert. "You're too hard on her, mother."

"And you, my sweet gentleman, ain't hard enough. She'll sell you, and
get Kara to put the knife between your ribs."

"Why should he? I'm not in love with the girl."

"The tree don't care for the ivy, but the ivy loves the tree," said
Mother Cockleshell darkly. "You're a good and kind gentleman, and I
don't want to see that slut pick your bones."

"So I think," whispered Miss Greeby in his ear. "You play with fire."

"Aye, my good lady," said Mother Cockleshell, catching the whisper--she
had the hearing of a cat. "With the fire of Bongo Tern, the which you
may call The Crooked Land," and she pointed significantly downward.

"Hell, do you mean?" asked Miss Greeby in her bluff way.

"The Crooked Land we Romany calls it," insisted the old woman. "And the
child will go there, for her witchly doings."

"She's too good-looking to lose as a model, at all events," said
Lambert, hitching his shoulders. "I shall leave you to have your fortune
told, Clara, and follow Chaldea to pacify her."

As he went toward the centre of the camp, Miss Greeby took a hesitating
step as though to follow him. In her opinion Chaldea was much too
good-looking, let alone clever, for Lambert to deal with alone. Gentilla
Stanley saw the look on the hard face and the softening of the hard eyes
as the cheeks grew rosy red. From this emotion she drew her conclusions,
and she chuckled to think of how true a fortune she could tell the
visitor on these premises. Mother Cockleshell's fortune-telling was not
entirely fraudulent, but when her clairvoyance was not in working order
she made use of character-reading with good results.

"Won't the Gorgios lady have her fortune told?" she asked in wheedling
tones. "Cross Mother Cockleshell's hand with silver and she'll tell the
coming years truly."

"Why do they call you Mother Cockleshell?" demanded Miss Greeby, waiving
the question of fortune-telling for the time being.

"Bless your wisdom, it was them fishermen at Grimsby who did so. I
walked the beaches for years and told charms and gave witchly spells for
fine weather. Gentilla Stanley am I called, but Mother Cockleshell was
their name for me. But the fortune, my tender Gentile--"

"I don't want it told," interrupted Miss Greeby abruptly. "I don't
believe in such rubbish."

"There is rubbish and there is truth," said the ancient gypsy darkly.
"And them as knows can see what's hidden from others."

"Well, you will have an opportunity this afternoon of making money. Some
fools from The Manor are coming to consult you."

Mother Cockleshell nodded and grinned to show a set of beautifully
preserved teeth. "I know The Manor," said she, rubbing her slim hands.
"And Lord Garvington, with his pretty sister."

"Lady Agnes Pine?" asked Miss Greeby. "How do you know, her?"

"I've been in these parts before, my gentle lady, and she was good to me
in a sick way. I would have died in the hard winter if she hadn't fed me
and nursed me, so to speak. I shall love to see her again. To dick a
puro pal is as commoben as a aushti habben, the which, my precious
angel, is true Romany for the Gentile saying, 'To see an old friend is
as good as a fine dinner.' Avali! Avali!" she nodded smilingly. "I shall
be glad to see her, though here I use Romany words to you as doesn't
understand the lingo."

Miss Greeby was not at all pleased to hear Lady Agnes praised; as,
knowing that Lambert had loved her, and probably loved her still, she
was jealous enough to wish her all possible harm. However, it was not
diplomatic to reveal her true feelings to Mother Cockleshell, lest the
old gypsy should repeat her words to Lady Agnes, so she turned the
conversation by pointing to a snow-white cat of great size, who stepped
daintily out of the tent. "I should think, as a witch, your cat ought to
be black," said Miss Greeby. Mother Cockleshell screeched like a
night-owl and hastily pattered some gypsy spell to avert evil. "Why, the
old devil is black," she cried. "And why should I have him in my house
to work evil? This is my white ghost." Her words were accompanied by a
gentle stroking of the cat. "And good is what she brings to my
roof-tree. But I don't eat from white dishes, or drink from white mugs.
No! No! That would be too witchly."

Miss Greeby mused. "I have heard something about these gypsy
superstitions before," she remarked meditatively.

"Avo! Avo! They are in a book written by a great Romany Rye. Leland is
the name of that rye, a gypsy Lee with Gentile land. He added land to
the lea as he was told by one of our people. Such a nice gentleman,
kind, and free of his money and clever beyond tellings, as I always
says. Many a time has he sat pal-like with me, and 'Gentilla,' says he,
'your're a bori chovihani'; and that, my generous lady, is the gentle
language for a great witch."

"Chaldea said that you were that," observed Miss Greeby carelessly.

"The child speaks truly. Come, cross my hand, sweet lady."

Miss Greeby passed along half a crown. "I only desire to know one
thing," she said, offering her palm. "Shall I get my wish?"

Mother Cockleshell peered into the hands, although she had already made
up her mind what to say. Her faculties, sharpened by years of chicanery,
told her from the look which Miss Greeby had given when Lambert followed
Chaldea, that a desire to marry the man was the wish in question. And
seeing how indifferent Lambert was in the presence of the tall lady,
Mother Cockleshell had no difficulty in adjusting the situation in her
own artful mind. "No, my lady," she said, casting away the hand with
quite a dramatic gesture. "You will never gain your wish."

Miss Greeby looked angry. "Bah! Your fortune-telling is all rubbish, as
I have always thought," and she moved away.

"Tell me that in six months," screamed the old woman after her.

"Why six months?" demanded the other, pausing.

"Ah, that's a dark saying," scoffed the gypsy. "Call it seven, my
hopeful-for-what-you-won't-get, like the cat after the cream, for
seven's a sacred number, and the spell is set."

"Gypsy jargon, gypsy lies," muttered Miss Greeby, tossing her ruddy
mane. "I don't believe a word. Tell me--"

"There's no time to say more," interrupted Mother Cockleshell rudely,
for, having secured her money, she did not think it worth while to be
polite, especially in the face of her visitor's scepticism. "One of our
tribe--aye, and he's a great Romany for sure--is coming to camp with us.
Each minute he may come, and I go to get ready a stew of hedgehog, for
Gentile words I must use to you, who are a Gorgio. And so good day to
you, my lady," ended the old hag, again becoming the truly respectable
pew-opener. Then she dropped a curtsey--whether ironical or not, Miss
Greeby could not tell--and disappeared into the tent, followed by the
white cat, who haunted her footsteps like the ghost she declared it to
be.

Clearly there was nothing more to be learned from Mother Cockleshell,
who, in the face of her visitor's doubts, had become hostile, so Miss
Greeby, dismissing the whole episode as over and done with, turned her
attention toward finding Lambert. With her bludgeon under her arm and
her hands in the pockets of her jacket, she stalked through the camp in
quite a masculine fashion, not vouchsafing a single reply to the
greetings which the gypsies gave her. Shortly she saw the artist
chatting with Chaldea at the beginning of the path which led to his
cottage. Beside them, on the grass, squatted a queer figure.

It was that of a little man, very much under-sized, with a hunch back
and a large, dark, melancholy face covered profusely with black hair. He
wore corduroy trousers and clumsy boots--his feet and hands were
enormous--together with a green coat and a red handkerchief which was
carelessly twisted round his hairy throat. On his tangled
locks--distressingly shaggy and unkempt--he wore no hat, and he looked
like a brownie, grotesque, though somewhat sad. But even more did he
resemble an ape--or say the missing link--and only his eyes seemed
human. These were large, dark and brilliant, sparkling like jewels under
his elf-locks. He sat cross-legged on the sward and hugged a fiddle, as
though he were nursing a baby. And, no doubt, he was as attached to his
instrument as any mother could be to her child. It was not difficult for
Miss Greeby to guess that this weird, hairy dwarf was the Servian gypsy
Kara, of whom Lambert had spoken. She took advantage of the knowledge to
be disagreeable to the girl.

"Is this your husband?" asked Miss Greeby amiably.

Chaldea's eyes flashed and her cheeks grew crimson. "Not at all," she
said contemptuously. "I have no rom."

"Ah, your are not married?"

"No," declared Chaldea curtly, and shot a swift glance at Lambert.

"She is waiting for the fairy prince," said that young gentleman
smiling. "And he is coming to this camp almost immediately."

"Ishmael Hearne is coming," replied the gypsy. "But he is no rom of
mine, and never will be."

"Who is he, then?" asked Lambert carelessly.

"One of the great Romany."

Miss Greeby remembered that Mother Cockleshell had also spoken of the
expected arrival at the camp in these terms. "A kind of king?" she
asked.

Chaldea laughed satirically. "Yes; a kind of king," she assented; then
turned her back rudely on the speaker and addressed Lambert: "I can't
come, rye. Ishmael will want to see me. I must wait."

"What a nuisance," said Lambert, looking annoyed. "Fancy, Clara. I have
an idea of painting these two as Beauty and the Beast, or perhaps as
Esmeralda and Quasimodo. I want them to come to the cottage and sit now,
but they will wait for this confounded Ishmael."

"We can come to-morrow," put in Chaldea quickly. "This afternoon I must
dance for Ishmael, and Kara must play."

"Ishmael will meet with a fine reception," said Miss Greeby, and then,
anxious to have a private conversation with Chaldea so as to disabuse
her mind of any idea she may have entertained of marrying Lambert, she
added, "I think I shall stay and see him."

"In that case, I shall return to my cottage," replied Lambert,
sauntering up the pathway, which was strewn with withered leaves.

"When are you coming to The Manor?" called Miss Greeby after him.

"Never! I am too busy," he replied over his shoulder and disappeared
into the wood. This departure may seem discourteous, but then Miss
Greeby liked to be treated like a comrade and without ceremony. That
is, she liked it so far as other men were concerned, but not as regards
Lambert. She loved him too much to approve of his careless leave-taking,
and therefore she frowned darkly, as she turned her attention to
Chaldea.

The girl saw that Miss Greeby was annoyed, and guessed the cause of her
annoyance. The idea that this red-haired and gaunt woman should love the
handsome Gorgio was so ludicrous in Chaldea's eyes that she laughed in
an ironical fashion. Miss Greeby turned on her sharply, but before she
could speak there was a sound of many voices raised in welcome.
"Sarishan pal! Sarishan ba!" cried the voices, and Chaldea started.

"Ishmael!" she said, and ran toward the camp, followed leisurely by
Kara.

Anxious to see the great Romany, whose arrival caused all this
commotion, Miss Greeby plunged into the crowd of excited vagrants. These
surrounded a black horse, on which sat a slim, dark-faced man of the
true Romany breed. Miss Greeby stared at him and blinked her eyes, as
though she could not believe what they beheld, while the man waved his
hand and responded to the many greetings in gypsy language. His eyes
finally met her own as she stood on the outskirts of the crowd, and he
started. Then she knew. "Sir Hubert Pine," said Miss Greeby, still
staring. "Sir Hubert Pine!"




CHAPTER IV.

SECRETS.


The scouting crowd apparently did not catch the name, so busy were one
and all in welcoming the newcomer. But the man on the horse saw Miss
Greeby's startled look, and noticed that her lips were moving. In a
moment he threw himself off the animal and elbowed his way roughly
through the throng.

"Sir Hubert," began Miss Greeby, only to be cut short hastily.

"Don't give me away," interrupted Pine, who here was known as Ishmael
Hearne. "Wait till I settle things, and then we can converse privately."

"All right," answered the lady, nodding, and gripped her bludgeon
crosswise behind her back with two hands. She was so surprised at the
sight of the millionaire in the wood, that she could scarcely speak.

Satisfied that she grasped the situation, Pine turned to his friends and
spoke at length in fluent Romany. He informed them that he had some
business to transact with the Gentile lady who had come to the camp for
that purpose, and would leave them for half an hour. The man evidently
was such a favorite that black looks were cast on Miss Greeby for
depriving the Romany of his society. But Pine paid no attention to these
signs of discontent. He finished his speech, and then pushed his way
again toward the lady who, awkwardly for him, was acquainted with his
true position as a millionaire. In a hurried whisper he asked Miss
Greeby to follow him, and led the way into the heart of the wood.
Apparently he knew it very well, and knew also where to seek solitude
for the private conversation he desired, for he skirted the central
glade where Lambert's cottage was placed, and finally guided his
companion to a secluded dell, far removed from the camp of his brethren.
Here he sat down on a mossy stone, and stared with piercing black eyes
at Miss Greeby.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded imperiously.

"Just the question I was about to put to you," said Miss Greeby amiably.
She could afford to be amiable, for she felt that she was the mistress
of the situation. Pine evidently saw this, for he frowned.

"You must have guessed long ago that I was a gypsy," he snapped
restlessly.

"Indeed I didn't, nor, I should think, did any one else. I thought you
had nigger blood in you, and I have heard people say that you came from
the West Indies. But what does it matter if you are a gypsy? There is no
disgrace in being one."

"No disgrace, certainly," rejoined the millionaire, leaning forward and
linking his hands together, while he stared at the ground. "I am proud
of having the gentle Romany blood. All the same I prefer the West Indian
legend, for I don't want any of my civilized friends to know that I am
Ishmael Hearne, born and bred in a tent."

"Well, that's natural, Pine. What would Garvington say?"

"Oh, curse Garvington!"

"Curse the whole family by all means," retorted Miss Greeby coolly.

Pine looked up savagely, "I except my wife."

"Naturally. You always were uxorious."

"Perhaps," said Pine gloomily, "I'm a fool where Agnes is concerned."

Miss Greeby quite agreed with this statement, but did not think it worth
while to indorse so obvious a remark. She sat down in her turn, and
taking Lambert's cigarette case, which she had retained by accident, out
of her pocket, she prepared to smoke. The two were entirely alone in the
fairy dell, and the trees which girdled it were glorious with vivid
autumnal tints. A gentle breeze sighing through the wood, shook down
yew, crisp leaves on the woman's head, so that she looked like Danae in
a shower of gold. Pine gazed heavily at the ground and coughed
violently. Miss Greeby knew that cough, and a medical friend of hers
had told her several times that Sir Hubert was a very consumptive
individual. He certainly looked ill, and apparently had not long to
live. And if he died, Lady Agnes, inheriting his wealth, would be more
desirable as a wife than ever. And Miss Greeby, guessing whose wife she
would be, swore inwardly that the present husband should look so
delicate. But she showed no sign of her perturbations, but lighted her
cigarette with a steady hand and smoked quietly. She always prided
herself on her nerve.

The millionaire was tall and lean, with a sinewy frame, and an oval,
olive-complexioned face. It was clean-shaven, and with his aquiline
nose, his thin lips, and brilliant black eyes, which resembled those of
Kara, he looked like a long-descended Hindoo prince. The Eastern blood
of the Romany showed in his narrow feet and slim brown hands, and there
was a wild roving look about him, which Miss Greeby had not perceived in
London.

"I suppose it's the dress," she said aloud, and eyed Pine critically.

"What do you say, Miss Greeby?" he asked, looking up in a sharp,
startled manner, and again coughing in a markedly consumptive way.

"The cowl makes the monk in your case," replied the woman quietly. "Your
corduroy breeches and velveteen coat, with that colored shirt, and the
yellow handkerchief round your neck, seem to suit you better than did
the frock coats and evening dress I have seen you in. You did look like
a nigger of sorts when in those clothes; now I can tell you are a gypsy
with half an eye."

"That is because you heard me called Ishmael and saw me among my kith
and kin," said the man with a tired smile. "Don't tell Agnes."

"Why should I? It's none of my business if you chose to masquerade as a
gypsy."

"I masquerade as Sir Hubert Pine," retorted the millionaire, slipping
off the stone to sprawl full-length on the grass. "I am truly and really
one of the lot in the camp yonder."

"Do they know you by your Gentile name?"

Pine laughed. "You are picking up the gypsy lingo, Miss Greeby. No.
Every one on the road takes me for what I am, Ishmael Hearne, and my
friends in the civilized world think I am Sir Hubert Pine, a millionaire
with colored blood in his veins."

"How do you come to have a double personality and live a double life?"

"Oh, that is easily explained, and since you have found me out it is
just as well that I should explain, so that you may keep my secret, at
all events from my wife, as she would be horrified to think that she had
married a gypsy. You promise?"

"Of course. I shall say nothing. But perhaps she would prefer to know
that she had married a gypsy rather than a nigger."

"What polite things you say," said Pine sarcastically. "However, I can't
afford to quarrel with you. As you are rich, I can't even bribe you to
silence, so I must rely on your honor."

"Oh, I have some," Miss Greeby assured him lightly.

"When it suits you," he retorted doubtfully.

"It does on this occasion."

"Why?"

"I'll tell you that when you have related your story."

"There is really none to tell. I was born and brought up on the road,
and thinking I was wasting my life I left my people and entered
civilization. In London I worked as a clerk, and being clever I soon
made money. I got hold of a man who invented penny toys, and saw the
possibilities of making a fortune. I really didn't, but I collected
enough money to dabble in stocks and shares. The South African boom was
on, and I made a thousand. Other speculations created more than a
million out of my thousand, and now I have over two millions, honestly
made."

"Honestly?" queried Miss Greeby significantly.

"Yes; I assure you, honestly. We gypsies are cleverer than you Gentiles,
and we have the same money-making faculties as the Jews have. If my
people were not so fond of the vagrant life they would soon become a
power in the money markets of the world. But, save in the case of
myself, we leave all such grubbing to the Jews. I did grub, and my
reward is that I have accumulated a fortune in a remarkably short space
of time. I have land and houses, and excellent investments, and a title,
which," he added sarcastically, "a grateful Government bestowed on me
for using my money properly."

"You bought the title by helping the political party you belonged to,"
said Miss Greeby with a shrug. "There was quite a talk about it."

"So there was. As if I cared for talk. However, that is my story."

"Not all of it. You are supposed to be in Paris, and--"

"And you find me here," interrupted Pine with a faint smile. "Well you
see, being a gypsy, I can't always endure that under-the-roof life you
Gentiles live. I must have a spell of the open road occasionally. And,
moreover, as my doctor tells me that I have phthisis, and that I should
live as much as possible in the open air, I kill two birds with one
stone, as the saying is. My health benefits by my taking up the old
Romany wandering, and I gratify my nostalgia for the tent and the wild.
You understand, you und--" His speech was interrupted by a fresh fit of
coughing.

"It doesn't seem to do you much good this gypsying," said Miss Greeby
with a swift look, for his life was of importance to her plans. "You
look pretty rocky I can tell you, Pine. And if you die your wife will be
free to--" The man sat up and took away from his mouth a handkerchief
spotted with blood. His eyes glittered, and he showed his white teeth.
"My wife will be free to what?" he demanded viciously, and the same
devil that had lurked in Mother Cockleshell's eye, now showed
conspicuously in his.

Miss Greeby had no pity on his manifest distress and visible wrath, but
answered obliquely: "You know that she was almost engaged to her cousin
before you married her," she hinted pointedly.

"Yes, I know, d---- him," said Pine with a groan, and rolled over to
clutch at the grass in a vicious manner. "But he's not at The Manor now?"

"No."

"Agnes doesn't speak of him?"

"No."

Pine drew a deep breath and rose slowly to his feet, with a satisfied
nod.

"I'm glad of that. She's a good woman is Agnes, and would never
encourage him in any way. She knows what is due to me. I trust her."

"Do you? When your secretary is also stopping at The Manor?"

"Silver!" Pine laughed awkwardly, and kicked at a tuft of moss. "Well I
did ask him to keep an eye on her, although there is really no occasion.
Silver owes me a great deal, since I took him out of the gutter. If
Lambert worried my wife, Silver would let me know, and then--"

"And then?" asked Miss Greeby hastily.

The man clenched his fists and his face grew stormy, as his blood
untamed by civilization surged redly to the surface. "I'd twist his
neck, I'd smash his skull, I'd--I'd--I'd--oh, don't ask me what I'd do."

"I should keep my temper if I were you," Miss Greeby warned him, and
alarmed by the tempest she had provoked. She had no wish for the man she
loved to come into contact with this savage, veneered by civilization.
Yet Lambert was in the neighborhood, and almost within a stone's throw
of the husband who was so jealous of him. "Keep your temper," repeated
Miss Greeby.

"Is there anything else you would like me to do?" raged Pine fiercely.

"Yes. Leave this place if you wish to keep the secret of your birth from
your wife. Lady Garvington and Mrs. Belgrove, and a lot of people from
The Manor, are coming to the camp to get their fortunes told. You are
sure to be spotted."

"I shall keep myself out of sight," said Pine sullenly and suspiciously.

"Some of your gypsy friends may let the cat out of the bag."

"Not one of them knows there is a cat in the bag. I am Ishmael Hearne to
them, and nothing else. But I shan't stay here long."

"I wonder you came at all, seeing that your wife is with her brother."

"In the daring of my coming lies my safety," said Pine tartly. "I know
what I am doing. As to Lambert, if he thinks to marry my wife when I am
dead he is mistaken."

"Well, I hope you won't die, for my sake!"

"Why for your sake?" asked Pine sharply.

"Because I love Lambert and I want to marry him."

"Marry him," said the millionaire hoarsely, "and I'll give you thousands
of pounds. Oh! I forgot that you have a large income. But marry him,
marry him, Miss Greeby. I shall help you all I can."

"I can do without assistance," said the woman coolly. "All I ask you to
do is to refrain from fighting with Lambert."

"What?" Pine's face became lowering again. "Is he at The Manor? You
said--"

"I know what I said. He is not at The Manor, but he is stopping in the
cottage a stone's throw from here."

Pine breathed hard, and again had a spasm of coughing. "What's he doing?"

"Painting pictures."

"He has not been near The Manor?"

"No. And what is more, he told me to-day that he did not intend to go
near the house. I don't think you need be afraid, Pine. Lambert is a man
of honor, and I hope to get him to be my husband."

"He shall never be my wife's husband," said the millionaire between his
teeth and scowling heavily. "I know that I shan't live to anything like
three score and ten. Your infernal hot-house civilization has killed me.
But if Lambert thinks to marry my widow he shall do so in the face of
Garvington's opposition, and will find Agnes a pauper."

"What do you mean exactly?" Miss Greeby flung away the stump of her
cigarette and rose to her feet.

Pine wiped his brow and breathed heavily. "I mean that I have left Agnes
my money, only on condition that she does _not_ marry Lambert. She can
marry any one else she has a mind to. I except her cousin."

"Because she loves him?"

"Yes, and because he loves her, d--n him."

"He doesn't," cried Miss Greeby, lying fluently, and heartily wishing
that her lie could be a truth. "He loves me, and I intend to marry him.
Now you can understand what I meant when I declared that I had honor
enough to keep your secret. Lambert is my honor."

"Oh, then I believe in your honor," sneered Pine cynically. "It is a
selfish quality in this case, which can only be gratified by preserving
silence. If Agnes knew that I was a true Romany tramp, she might run
away with Lambert, and as you want him to be your husband, it is to your
interest to hold your tongue. Thank you for nothing, Miss Greeby."

"I tell you Lambert loves me," cried the woman doggedly, trying to
persuade her heart that she spoke truly. "And whether you leave your
money to your wife, or to any one else, makes no manner of difference."

"I think otherwise," he retorted. "And it is just as well to be on the
safe side. If my widow marries Lambert, she loses my millions, and they
go to--" He checked himself abruptly. "Never mind who gets them. It is a
person in whom you can take no manner of interest."

Miss Greeby pushed the point of her bludgeon into the spongy ground, and
looked thoughtful. "If Lambert loves Agnes still, which I don't
believe," she observed, after a pause, "he would marry her even if she
hadn't a shilling. Your will excluding him as her second husband is
merely the twisting of a rope of sand, Pine."

"You forget," said the man quickly, "that I declared also, he would have
to marry her in the face of Garvington's opposition."

"In what way?"

"Can't you guess? Garvington only allowed me to marry his sister because
I am a wealthy man. I absolutely bought my wife by helping him, and she
gave herself to me without love to save the family name from disgrace.
She is a good woman, is Agnes, and always places duty before
inclination. Marriage with her pauper cousin meant practically the
social extinction of the Lambert family, and nothing would have remained
but the title. Therefore she married me, and I felt mean at the time in
accepting the sacrifice. But I was so deeply in love with her that I did
so. I love her still, and I am mean enough still to be jealous of this
cousin. She shall never marry him, and I know that Garvington will
appeal to his sister's strong desire to save the family once more; so
that she may not be foolish enough to lose the money. And two millions,
more or less," ended Pine cynically, "is too large a sum to pay for a
second husband."

"Does Agnes know these conditions?"

"No. Nor do I intend that she should know. You hold your tongue."

Miss Greeby pulled on her heavy gloves and nodded. "I told you that I
had some notion of honor. Will you let Lambert know that you are in this
neighborhood?"

"No. There is no need. I am stopping here only for a time to see a
certain person. Silver will look after Agnes, and is coming to the camp
to report upon what he has observed."

"Silver then knows that you are Ishmael Hearne?"

"Yes. He knows all my secrets, and I can trust him thoroughly, since he
owes everything to me."

Miss Greeby laughed scornfully. "That a man of your age and experience
should believe in gratitude. Well, it's no business of mine. You may be
certain that for my own purpose I shall hold my tongue and shall keep
Lambert from seeking your wife. Not that he loves her," she added
hastily, as Pine's brows again drew together. "But she loves him, and
may use her arts--"

"Don't you dare to speak of arts in connection with my wife," broke in
the man roughly. "She is no coquette, and I trust her--"

"So long as Silver looks after her," finished Miss Greeby
contemptuously. "What chivalrous confidence. Well, I must be going. Any
message to your--"

"No! No! No!" broke in Pine once more. "She is not to know that I am
here, or anything about my true position and name. You promised, and you
will keep your promise. But there, I know that you will, as
self-interest will make you."

"Ah, now you talk common sense. It is a pity you don't bring it to bear
in the case of Silver, whom you trust because you have benefited him.
Good-day, you very unsophisticated person. I shall see you again--"

"In London as Hubert Pine," said the millionaire abruptly, and Miss
Greeby, with a good-humored shrug, marched away, swinging her stick and
whistling gayly. She was very well satisfied with the knowledge she had
obtained, as the chances were that it would prove useful should Lambert
still hanker after the unattainable woman. Miss Greeby had lulled Pine's
suspicions regarding the young man's love for Agnes, but she knew in her
heart that she had only done so by telling a pack of miserable lies.
Now, as she walked back to The Manor, she reflected that by using her
secret information dexterously, she might improve such falsehood into
tolerable truth.

Pine flung himself down again when she departed, and coughed in his
usual violent manner. His throat and lungs ached, and his brow was wet
with perspiration. With his elbows on his knees and his face between his
hands, he sat miserably thinking over his troubles. There was no chance
of his living more than a few years, as the best doctors in Europe and
England had given him up, and when he was placed below ground, the
chances were that Agnes would marry his rival. He had made things as
safe as was possible against such a contingency, but who knew if her
love for Lambert might not make her willing to surrender the millions.
"Unless Garvington can manage to arouse her family pride," groaned Pine
drearily. "She sacrificed herself before for that, and perhaps she will
do so again. But who knows?" And he could find no answer to this
question, since it is impossible for any man to say what a woman will do
where her deepest emotions are concerned.

A touch on Pine's shoulder made him leap to his feet with the alertness
of a wild animal on the lookout for danger. By his side stood Chaldea,
and her eyes glittered, as she came to the point of explanation without
any preamble. The girl was painfully direct. "I have heard every word,"
she said triumphantly. "And I know what you are, brother."

"Why did you come here?" demanded Pine sharply, and frowning.

"I wanted to hear what a Romany had to do with a Gorgio lady, brother.
And what do I hear. Why, that you dwell in the Gentile houses, and take
a Gentile name, and cheat in a Gentile manner, and have wed with a
Gentile romi. Speaking Romanly, brother, it is not well."

"It is as I choose, sister," replied Pine quietly, for since Chaldea had
got the better of him, it was useless to quarrel with her. "And from
what I do good will come to our people."

Chaldea laughed, and blew from her fingers a feather, carelessly picked
up while in the thicket which had concealed her eavesdropping. "For
that, I care that," said she, pointing to the floating feather slowly
settling. "I looks to myself and to my love, brother."

"Hey?" Pine raised his eyebrows.

"It's a Gorgio my heart is set on," pursued Chaldea steadfastly. "A
regular Romany Rye, brother. Do you think Lambert is a good name?"

"It's the name of the devil, sister," cried Pine hastily.

"The very devil I love. To me sweet, as to you sour. And speaking
Romanly, brother, I want him to be my rom in the Gentile fashion, as you
have a romi in your Gorgious lady."

"What will Kara say?" said Pine, and his eyes flashed, for the idea of
getting rid of Lambert in this way appealed to him. The girl was
beautiful, and with her added cleverness she might be able to gain her
ends, and these accomplished, would certainly place a barrier between
Agnes and her cousin, since the woman would never forgive the man for
preferring the girl.

"Kara plays on the fiddle, but not on my heart-strings," said Chaldea in
a cool manner, and watched Pine wickedly. "You'd better help me,
brother, if you don't want that Gorgious romi of yours to pad the hoof
with the rye."

The blood rushed to Pine's dark cheeks. "What's that?"

"No harm to my rye and I tell you, brother. Don't use the knife."

"That I will not do, if a wedding-ring from him to you will do as well."

"It will do, brother," said Chaldea calmly. "My rye doesn't love me yet,
but he will, when I get him away from the Gentile lady's spells. They
draw him, brother, they draw him."

"Where do they draw him to?" demanded Pine, his voice thick with
passion.

"To the Gorgious house of the baro rai, the brother of your romi. Like
an owl does he go after dusk to watch the nest."

"Owl," muttered Pine savagely. "Cuckoo, rather. Prove this, my sister,
and I help you to gain the love you desire."

"It's a bargain, brother"--she held out her hand inquiringly--"but no
knife."

Pine shook hands. "It's a bargain, sister. Your wedding-ring will part
them as surely as any knife. Tell me more!" And Chaldea in whispers told
him all.




CHAPTER V.

THE WOMAN AND THE MAN.


Quite unaware that Destiny, that tireless spinner, was weaving sinister
red threads of hate and love into the web of his life, Lambert continued
to live quietly in his woodland retreat. In a somewhat misanthropic
frame of mind he had retired to this hermitage, after the failure of his
love affair, since, lacking the society of Agnes, there was nothing left
for him to desire. From a garden of roses, the world became a sandy
desert, and denied the sole gift of fortune, which would have made him
completely happy, the disconsolate lover foreswore society for solitude.
As some seek religion, so Lambert hoped by seeking Nature's breast to
assuage the pains of his sore heart. But although the great Mother could
do so much, she could not do all, and the young man still felt restless
and weary. Hard work helped him more than a little, but he had his dark
hours during those intervals when hand and brain were too weary to
create pictures.

In one way he blamed Agnes, because she had married for money; in
another way he did not blame her, because that same money had been
necessary to support the falling fortunes of the noble family to which
Lambert belonged. An ordinary person would not have understood this, and
would have seen in the mercenary marriage simply a greedy grasping after
the loaves and fishes. But Lambert, coming at the end of a long line of
lordly ancestors, considered that both he and his cousin owed something
to those of the past who had built up the family. Thus his pride told
him that Agnes had acted rightly in taking Pine as her husband, while
his love cried aloud that the sacrifice was too hard upon their
individual selves. He was a Lambert, but he was also a human being, and
the two emotions of love and pride strove mightily against one another.
Although quite three years had elapsed since the victim had been offered
at the altar--and a willing victim to the family fetish--the struggle
was still going on. And because of its stress and strain, Lambert
withdrew from society, so that he might see as little as possible of the
woman he loved. They had met, they had talked, they had looked, in a
conventionally light-hearted way, but both were relieved when
circumstances parted them. The strain was too great.

Pine arranged the circumstances, for hearing here, there, and
everywhere, that his wife had been practically engaged to her cousin
before he became her husband, he looked with jealous eyes upon their
chance meetings. Neither to Agnes nor Lambert did he say a single word,
since he had no reason to utter it, so scrupulously correct was their
behavior, but his eyes were sufficiently eloquent to reveal his
jealousy. He took his wife for an American tour, and when he brought her
back to London, Lambert, knowing only too truly the reason for that
tour, had gone away in his turn to shoot big game in Africa. An attack
of malaria contracted in the Congo marshes had driven him back to
England, and it was then that he had begged Garvington to give him The
Abbot's Wood Cottage. For six months he had been shut up here,
occasionally going to London, or for a week's walking tour, and during
that time he had done his best to banish the image of Agnes from his
heart. Doubtless she was attempting the same conquest, for she never
even wrote to him. And now these two sorely-tried people were within
speaking distance of one another, and strange results might be looked
for unless honor held them sufficiently true. Seeing that the cottage
was near the family seat, and that Agnes sooner or later would arrive to
stay with her brother and sister-in-law, Lambert might have expected
that such a situation would come about in the natural course of things.
Perhaps he did, and perhaps--as some busybodies said--he took the
cottage for that purpose; but so far, he had refrained from seeking the
society of Pine's wife. He would not even dine at The Manor, nor would
he join the shooting-party, although Garvington, with a singular
blindness, urged him to do so. While daylight lasted, the artist painted
desperately hard, and after dark wandered round the lanes and roads and
across the fields, haunting almost unconsciously the Manor Park, if only
to see in moonlight and twilight the casket which held the rich jewel he
had lost. This was foolish, and Lambert acknowledged that it was
foolish, but at the same time he added inwardly that he was a man and
not an angel, a sinner and not a saint, so that there were limits, etc.,
etc., etc., using impossible arguments to quieten a lively conscience
that did not approve of this dangerous philandering.

The visit of Miss Greeby awoke him positively to a sense of danger, for
if she talked--and talk she did--other people would talk also. Lambert
asked himself if it would be better to visit The Manor and behave like
a man who has got over his passion, or to leave the cottage and betake
himself to London. While turning over this problem in his mind, he
painted feverishly, and for three days after Miss Greeby had come to
stir up muddy water, he remained as much as possible in his studio.
Chaldea visited him, as usual, to be painted, and brought Kara with his
green coat and beloved violin and hairy looks. The girl chatted, Kara
played, and Lambert painted, and all three pretended to be very happy
and careless. This was merely on the surface, however, for the artist
was desperately wretched, because the other half of himself was married
to another man, while Chaldea, getting neither love-look nor caress,
felt savagely discontented. As for Kara, he had long since loved
Chaldea, who treated him like a dog, and he could not help seeing that
she adored the Gentile artist--a knowledge which almost broke his heart.
But it was some satisfaction for him to note that Lambert would have
nothing to do with the siren, and that she could not charm him to her
feet, sang she ever so tenderly. It was an unhappy trio at the best.

The gypsies usually came in the morning, since the light was then better
for artistic purposes, but they always departed at one o'clock, so that
Lambert had the afternoon to himself. Chaldea would fain have lingered
in order to charm the man she loved into subjection; but he never gave
her the least encouragement, so she was obliged to stay away. All the
same, she often haunted the woods near the cottage, and when Lambert
came out for a stroll, which he usually did when it became too dark to
paint, he was bound to run across her. Since he had not the slightest
desire to make love to her, and did not fathom the depth of her passion,
he never suspected that she purposely contrived the meetings which he
looked upon as accidental.

Since Chaldea hung round the house, like a moth round a candle, she saw
every one who came and went from the woodland cottage. On the afternoon
of the third day since Pine's arrival at the camp in the character of
Ishmael Hearne, the gypsy saw Lady Agnes coming through the wood.
Chaldea knew her at once, having often seen her when she had come to
visit Mother Cockleshell a few months previously. With characteristic
cunning, the girl dived into the undergrowth, and there remained
concealed for the purpose of spying on the Gentile lady whom she
regarded as a rival. Immediately, Chaldea guessed that Lady Agnes was
on her way to the cottage, and, as Lambert was alone as usual for the
afternoon, the two would probably have a private conversation. The girl
swiftly determined to listen, so that she might learn exactly how
matters stood between them. It might be that she would discover
something which Pine--Chaldea now thought of him as Pine--might like to
know. So having arranged this in her own unscrupulous mind, the girl
behind a juniper bush jealously watched the unsuspecting lady. What she
saw did not please her overmuch, as Lady Agnes was rather too beautiful
for her unknown rival's peace of mind.

Sir Hubert's wife was not really the exquisitely lovely creature Chaldea
took her to be, but her fair skin and brown hair were such a contrast to
the gypsy's swarthy face and raven locks, that she really looked like an
angel of light compared with the dark child of Nature. Agnes was tall
and slender, and moved with a great air of dignity and calm
self-possession, and this to the uncontrolled Chaldea was also a matter
of offence. She inwardly tried to belittle her rival by thinking what a
milk-and-water useless person she was, but the steady and resolute look
in the lady's brown eyes gave the lie to this mental assertion. Lady
Agnes had an air of breeding and command, which, with all her beauty,
Chaldea lacked, and as she passed along like a cold, stately goddess,
the gypsy rolled on the grass in an ecstasy of rage. She could never be
what her rival was, and what her rival was, as she suspected, formed
Lambert's ideal of womanhood. When she again peered through the bush,
Lady Agnes had disappeared. But there was no need for Chaldea to ask her
jealous heart where she had gone. With the stealth and cunning of a Red
Indian, the gypsy took up the trail, and saw the woman she followed
enter the cottage. For a single moment she had it in her mind to run to
the camp and bring Pine, but reflecting that in a moment of rage the man
might kill Lambert, Chaldea checked her first impulse, and bent all her
energies towards getting sufficiently near to listen to a conversation
which was not meant for her ears.

Meanwhile, Agnes had been admitted by Mrs. Tribb, a dried-up little
woman with the rosy face of a winter apple, and a continual smile of
satisfaction with herself and with her limited world. This consisted of
the cottage, in the wood, and of the near villages, where she repaired
on occasions to buy food. Sometimes, indeed, she went to The Manor, for,
born and bred on the Garvington estates, Mrs. Tribb knew all the
servants at the big house. She had married a gamekeeper, who had died,
and unwilling to leave the country she knew best, had gladly accepted
the offer of Lord Garvington to look after the woodland cottage. In this
way Lambert became possessed of an exceedingly clean housekeeper, and a
wonderfully good cook. In fact so excellent a cook was Mrs. Tribb, that
Garvington had frequently suggested she should come to The Manor. But,
so far, Lambert had managed to keep the little woman to himself. Mrs.
Tribb adored him, since she had known him from babyhood, and declined to
leave him under any circumstances. She thought Lambert the best man in
the world, and challenged the universe to find another so handsome and
clever, and so considerate.

"Dear me, my lady, is it yourself?" said Mrs. Tribb, throwing up her dry
little hands and dropping a dignified curtsey. "Well, I do call it good
of you to come and see Master Noel. He don't go out enough, and don't
take enough interest in his stomach, if your ladyship will pardon my
mentioning that part of him. But you don't know, my lady, what it is to
be a cook, and to see the dishes get cold, while he as should eat them
goes on painting, not but what Master Noel don't paint like an angel, as
I've said dozens of times."

While Mrs. Tribb ran on in this manner her lively black eyes twinkled
anxiously. She knew that her master and Lady Agnes had been, as she said
herself, "next door to engaged," and knew also that Lambert was fretting
over the match which had been brought about for the glorification of the
family. The housekeeper, therefore, wondered why Lady Agnes had come,
and asked herself whether it would not be wise to say that Master
Noel--from old associations, she always called Lambert by this juvenile
title--was not at home. But she banished the thought as unworthy, the
moment it entered her active brain, and with another curtsey in response
to the visitor's greeting, she conducted her to the studio. "Them two
angels will never do no wrong, anyhow," was Mrs. Tribb's reflection, as
she closed the door and left the pair together. "But I do hope as that
black-faced husband won't ever learn. He's as jealous as Cain, and I
don't want Master Noel to be no Abel!"

If Mrs. Tribb, instead of going to the kitchen, which she did, had gone
out of the front door, she would have found Chaldea lying full length
amongst the flowers under the large window of the studio. This was
slightly open, and the girl could hear every word that was spoken, while
so swiftly and cleverly had she gained her point of vantage, that those
within never for one moment suspected her presence. If they had, they
would assuredly have kept better guard over their tongues, for the
conversation was of the most private nature, and did not tend to soothe
the eavesdropper's jealousy.

Lambert was so absorbed in his painting--he was working at the
Esmeralda-Quasimodo picture--that he scarcely heard the studio door
open, and it was only when Mrs. Tribb's shrill voice announced the name
of his visitor, that he woke to the surprising fact that the woman he
loved was within a few feet of him. The blood rushed to his face, and
then retired to leave him deadly pale, but Agnes was more composed, and
did not let her heart's tides mount to high-water mark. On seeing her
self-possession, the man became ashamed that he had lost his own, and
strove to conceal his momentary lapse into a natural emotion, by pushing
forward an arm-chair.

"This is a surprise, Agnes," he said in a voice which he strove vainly
to render steady. "Won't you sit down?"

"Thank you," and she took her seat like a queen on her throne, looking
fair and gracious as any white lily. What with her white dress, white
gloves and shoes, and straw hat tied under her chin with a broad white
ribbon in old Georgian fashion, she looked wonderfully cool, and pure,
and--as Lambert inwardly observed--holy. Her face was as faintly tinted
with color as is a tea-rose, and her calm, brown eyes, under her smooth
brown hair, added to the suggestive stillness of her looks. She seemed
in her placidity to be far removed from any earthly emotion, and
resembled a picture of the Madonna, serene, peaceful, and somewhat sad.
Yet who could tell what anguished feelings were masked by her womanly
pride?

"I hope you do not find the weather too warm for walking," said Lambert,
reining in his emotions with an iron hand, and speaking conventionally.

"Not at all. I enjoyed the walk. I am staying at The Manor."

"So I understand."

"And you are staying here?"

"There can be no doubt on that point."

"Do you think you are acting wisely?" she asked with great calmness.

"I might put the same question to you, Agnes, seeing that you have come
to live within three miles of my hermitage."

"It is because you are living in what you call your hermitage that I
have come," rejoined Agnes, with a slight color deepening her cheeks.
"Is it fair to me that you should shut yourself up and play the part of
the disappointed lover?"

Lambert, who had been touching up his picture here and there, laid down
his palette and brushes with ostentatious care, and faced her doggedly.
"I don't understand what you mean," he declared.

"Oh, I think you do; and in the hope that I may induce you, in justice
to me, to change your conduct, I have come over."

"I don't think you should have come," he observed in a low voice, and
threw himself on the couch with averted eyes.

Lady Agnes colored again. "You are talking nonsense," she said with some
sharpness. "There is no harm in my coming to see my cousin."

"We were more than cousins once."

"Exactly, and unfortunately people know that. But you needn't make
matters worse by so pointedly keeping away from me."

Lambert looked up quickly. "Do you wish me to see you often?" he asked,
and there was a new note in his voice which irritated her.

"Personally I don't, but--"

"But what?" He rose and stood up, very tall and very straight, looking
down on her with a hungry look in his blue eyes.

"People are talking," murmured the lady, and stared at the floor,
because she could not face that same look.

"Let them talk. What does it matter?"

"Nothing to you, perhaps, but to me a great deal. I have a husband."

"As I know to my cost," he interpolated.

"Then don't let me know it to _my_ cost," she said pointedly. "Sit down
and let us talk common sense."

Lambert did not obey at once. "I am only a human being, Agnes--"

"Quite so, and a man at that. Act like a man, then, and don't place the
burden on a woman's shoulders."

"What burden?"

"Oh, Noel, can't you understand?"

"I daresay I can if you will explain. I wish you hadn't come here
to-day. I have enough to bear without that."

"And have I nothing to bear?" she demanded, a flash of passion ruffling
her enforced calm. "Do you think that anything but the direst need
brought me here?"

"I don't know what brought you here. I am waiting for an explanation."

"What is the use of explaining what you already know?"

"I know nothing," he repeated doggedly. "Explain."

"Well," said Lady Agnes with some bitterness, "it seems to me that an
explanation is really necessary, as apparently I am talking to a child
instead of a man. Sit down and listen."

This time Lambert obeyed, and laughed as he did so. "Your taunts don't
hurt me in the least," he observed. "I love you too much."

"And I love in return. No! Don't rise again. I did not come here to
revive the embers of our dead passion."

"Embers!" cried Lambert with bitter scorn. "Embers, indeed! And a dead
passion; how well you put it. So far as I am concerned, Agnes, the
passion is not dead and never will be."

"I am aware of that, and so I have come to appeal to that passion. Love
means sacrifice. I want you to understand that."

"I do, by experience. Did I not surrender you for the sake of the family
name? Understand! I should think I did understand."

"I--think--not," said Lady Agnes slowly and gently. "It is necessary to
revive your recollections. We loved one another since we were boy and
girl, and we intended, as you know, to marry. There was no regular
engagement between us, but it was an understood family arrangement. My
father always approved of it; my brother did not."

"No. Because he saw in you an article of sale out of which he hoped to
make money," sneered Lambert, nursing his ankle.

Lady Agnes winced. "Don't make it too hard for me," she said
plaintively. "My life is uncomfortable enough as it is. Remember that
when my father died we were nearly ruined. Only by the greatest
cleverness did Garvington manage to keep interest on the mortgages paid
up, hoping that he would marry a rich wife--an American for choice--and
so could put things straight. But he married Jane, as you know--"

"Because he is a glutton, and she knows all about cooking."

"Well, gluttony may be as powerful a vice as drinking and gambling, and
all the rest of it. It is with Garvington, although I daresay that
seeing the position he was in, people would laugh to think he should
marry a poor woman, when he needed a rich wife. But at that time Hubert
wanted to marry me, and Garvington got his cook-wife, while I was
sacrificed."

"Seeing that I loved you and you loved me, I wonder--"

"Yes, I know you wondered, but you finally accepted my explanation that
I did it to save the family name."

"I did, and, much as I hated your sacrifice, it was necessary."

"More necessary than you think," said Lady Agnes, sinking her voice to
a whisper and glancing round, "In a moment of madness Garvington altered
a check which Hubert gave him, and was in danger of arrest. Hubert
declared that he would give up the check if I married him. I did so, to
save my brother and the family name."

"Oh, Agnes!" Lambert jumped up. "I never knew this."

"It was not necessary to tell you. I made the excuse of saving the
family name and property generally. You thought it was merely the
bankruptcy court, but I knew that it meant the criminal court. However,
I married Hubert, and he put the check in the fire in my presence and in
Garvington's. He has also fulfilled his share of the bargain which he
made when he bought me, and has paid off a great many of the mortgages.
However, Garvington became too outrageous in his demands, and lately
Hubert has refused to help him any more. I don't blame him; he has paid
enough for me."

"You are worth it," said Lambert emphatically.

"Well, you may think so, and perhaps he does also. But does it not
strike you, Noel, what a poor figure I and Garvington, and the whole
family, yourself included, cut in the eyes of the world? We were poor,
and I was sold to get money to save the land."

"Yes, but this changing of the check also--"

"The world doesn't know of that," said Agnes hurriedly. "Hubert has been
very loyal to me. I must be loyal to him."

"You are. Who dares to say that you are not?"

"No one--as yet," she replied pointedly.

"What do you mean by that?" he demanded, flushing through his fair skin.

"I mean that if you met me in the ordinary way, and behaved to me as an
ordinary man, people would not talk. But you shun my society, and even
when I am at The Manor, you do not come near because of my presence."

"It is so hard to be near you and yet, owing to your marriage, so far
from you," muttered the man savagely.

"If it is hard for you, think how hard it must be for me," said the
woman vehemently, her passion coming to the surface. "People talk of the
way in which you avoid me, and hint that we love one another still."

"It is true! Agnes, you know it is true!"

"Need the whole world know that it is true?" cried Agnes, rising, with
a gust of anger passing over her face. "If you would only come to The
Manor, and meet me in London, and accept Hubert's invitations to dinner,
people would think that our attachment was only a boy and girl
engagement, that we had outgrown. They would even give me credit for
loving Hubert--"

"But you don't?" cried Lambert with a jealous pang.

"Yes, I do. He is my chosen husband, and has carried out his part of the
bargain by freeing many of Garvington's estates. Surely the man ought to
have something for his money. I don't love him as a wife should love her
husband, not with heart-whole devotion, that is. But I give him loyalty,
and I respect him, and I try to make him happy in every way. I do my
part, Noel, as you do yours. Since I have been compelled to sacrifice
love for money, at least let us be true to the sacrifice."

"You didn't sacrifice yourself wholly for money."

"No, I did not. It was because of Garvington's crime. But no one knows
of that, and no one ever shall know. In fact, so happy am I and
Hubert--"

"Happy?" said Lambert wincing.

"Yes," she declared firmly. "He thinks so, and whatever unhappiness I
may feel, I conceal from him. But you must come to The Manor, and meet
me here, there, and everywhere, so that people shall not say, as they
are doing, that you are dying of love, and that, because I am a greedy
fortune-hunter, I ruined your life."

"They do not dare. I have not heard any--"

"What can you hear in this jungle?" interrupted Lady Agnes with scorn.
"You stop your ears with cotton wool, but I am in the world, hearing
everything. And the more unpleasant the thing is, the more readily do
I hear it. You can end this trouble by coming out of your lovesick
retirement, and by showing that you no longer care for me."

"That would be acting a lie."

"And do I not act a lie?" she cried fiercely. "Is not my whole marriage
a lie? I despise myself for my weakness in yielding, and yet, God help
me, what else could I do when Garvington's fair fame was in question?
Think of the disgrace, had he been prosecuted by Hubert. And Hubert
knows that you and I loved; that I could not give him the love he
desired. He was content to accept me on those terms. I don't say he was
right; but am I right, are you right, is Garvington right? Is any one of
us right? Not one, not one. The whole thing is horrible, but I make the
best of it, since I did what I did do, openly and for a serious purpose
of which the world knows nothing. Do your part, Noel, and come to The
Manor, if only to show that you no longer care for me. You
understand"--she clasped her hands in agony. "You surely understand."

"Yes," said Lambert in a low voice, and suddenly looked years older. "I
understand at last, Agnes. You shall no longer bear the burden alone. I
shall be a loyal friend to you, my dear," and he took her hand.

"Will you be a loyal friend to my husband?" she asked, withdrawing it.

"Yes," said Lambert, and he bit his lip. "God helping me, I will."




CHAPTER VI.

THE MAN AND THE WOMAN.



The interview between Lady Agnes and Lambert could scarcely be called a
love-scene, since it was dominated by a stern sense of duty. Chaldea,
lying at length amongst the crushed and fragrant flowers, herself in her
parti-colored attire scarcely distinguishable from the rainbow blossoms,
was puzzled by the way in which the two reined in their obvious
passions. To her simple, barbaric nature, the situation appeared
impossible. If he loved her and she loved him, why did they not run away
to enjoy life together? The husband who had paid money for the wife did
not count, nor did the brother, who had sold his sister to hide his
criminal folly. That Lady Agnes should have traded herself to save
Garvington from a well-deserved punishment, seemed inexcusable to the
gypsy. If he had been the man she loved, then indeed might she have
acted rightly. But having thrown over that very man in this silly
fashion, for the sake of what did not appear to be worth the sacrifice,
Chaldea felt that Agnes did not deserve Lambert, and she then and there
determined that the Gentile lady should never possess him.

Of course, on the face of it, there was no question of possession. The
man being weaker than the woman would have been only too glad to elope,
and thus cut the Gordian knot of the unhappy situation. But the woman,
having acted from a high sense of duty, which Chaldea could not rise to,
evidently was determined to continue to be a martyr. The question was,
could she keep up that pose in the face of the undeniable fact that she
loved her cousin? The listening girl thought not. Sooner or later the
artificial barrier would be broken through by the held-back flood of
passion, and then Lady Agnes would run away from the man who had bought
her. And quite right, too, thought Chaldea, although she had no notion
of permitting such an elopement to take place. That Agnes would hold to
her bargain all her life, because Hubert had fulfilled his part, never
occurred to the girl. She was not civilized enough to understand this
problem of a highly refined nature.

Since the situation was so difficult, Lambert was glad to see the back
of his cousin. He escorted her to the door, but did not attend her
through the wood. In fact, they parted rather abruptly, which was wise.
All had been said that could be said, and Lambert had given his promise
to share the burden with Agnes by acting the part of a lover who had
never really been serious. But it did not do to discuss details, as
these were too painful, so the woman hurried away without a backward
glance, and Lambert, holding his heart between his teeth, returned to
the studio. Neither one of the two noticed Chaldea crouching amongst the
flowers. Had they been less pre-occupied, they might have done so; as it
was she escaped observation.

As soon as the coast was clear, Chaldea stole like a snake along the
ground, through the high herbage of the garden, and beyond the circle of
the mysterious monoliths. Even across the lawns of the glade did she
crawl, so as not to be seen, although she need not have taken all this
trouble, since Lambert, with a set face and a trembling hand, was
working furiously at a minor picture he utilized to get rid of such
moods. But the gypsy did not know this, and so writhed into the woods
like the snake of Eden--and of that same she was a very fair
sample--until, hidden by the boles of ancient trees, she could stand
upright. When she did so, she drew a long breath, and wondered what was
best to be done.

The most obvious course was to seek Ishmael and make a lying report of
the conversation. That his wife should have been with Lambert would be
quite enough to awaken the civilized gypsy's jealousy, for after all his
civilization was but skin deep. Still, if she did this, Chaldea was
clever enough to see that she would precipitate a catastrophe, and
either throw Agnes into Lambert's arms, or make the man run the risk of
getting Pine's knife tickling his fifth rib. Either result did not
appeal to her. She wished to get Lambert to herself, and his safety was
of vital importance to her. After some consideration, she determined
that she would boldly face the lover, and confess that she had overheard
everything. Then she would have him in her power, since to save the
wife from the vengeance of the husband, although there was no reason for
such vengeance, he would do anything to keep the matter of the visit
quiet. Of course the interview had been innocent, and Chaldea knew that
such was the case. Nevertheless, by a little dexterous lying, and some
vivid word-painting, she could make things extremely unpleasant for the
couple. This being so, Lambert would have to subscribe to her terms. And
these were, that he should leave Agnes and marry her. That there was
such a difference in their rank mattered nothing to the girl. Love
levelled all ranks, in her opinion.

But while arranging what she should do, if Lambert proved obstinate,
Chaldea also arranged to fascinate him, if possible, into loving her.
She did not wish to use her power of knowledge until her power of
fascination failed. And this for two reasons. In the first place, it was
not her desire to drive the man into a corner lest he should defy her
and fight, which would mean--to her limited comprehension--that
everything being known to Pine, the couple would confess all and elope.
In the second place, Chaldea was piqued to think that Lambert should
prove to be so indifferent to her undeniable beauty, as to love this
pale shadow of a Gentile lady. She would make certain, she told herself,
if he really preferred the lily to the full-blown rose, and on his
choice depended her next step. Gliding back to the camp, she decided to
attend to one thing at a time, and the immediate necessity was to charm
the man into submission. For this reason Chaldea sought out the Servian
gypsy, who was her slave.

Her slave Kara certainly was, but not her rom. If he had been her
husband she would not have dared to propose to him what she did propose.
He was amiable enough as a slave, because he had no hold over her, but
if she married him according to the gypsy law, he would then be her
master, and should she indulge her fancy for a Gentile, he would
assuredly use a very nasty-looking knife, which he wore under the green
coat. Even as it was, Kara would not be pleased to fiddle to her
dancing, since he already was jealous of Lambert. But Chaldea knew how
to manage this part of the business, risky though it was. The hairy
little ape with the musician's soul had no claim on her, unless she
chose to give him that of a husband. Then, indeed, things would be
different, but the time had not come for marital slavery.

The schemer found Kara at the hour of sunset sitting at the door of the
tent he occupied, drawing sweet tones from his violin. This was the
little man's way of conversing, for he rarely talked to human beings. He
spoke to the fiddle and the fiddle spoke to him, probably about Chaldea,
since the girl was almost incessantly in his thoughts. She occupied them
now, and when he raised his shaggy head at the touch on his hump-back,
he murmured with joy at the sight of her flushed beauty. Had he known
that the flush came from jealousy of a rival, Kara might not have been
so pleased. The two conversed in Romany, since the Servian did not speak
English.

"Brother?" questioned Chaldea, standing in the glory of the rosy sunset
which slanted through the trees. "What of Ishmael?"

"He is with Gentilla in her tent, sister. Do you wish to see him?"

Chaldea shook her proud head. "What have I to do with the half Romany?
Truly, brother, his heart is Gentile, though his skin be of Egypt."

"Why should that be, sister, when his name signifies that he is of the
gentle breed?" asked Kara, laying down his violin.

"Gentile but not gentle," said Chaldea punning, then checked herself
lest she should say too much. She had sworn to keep Pine's secret, and
intended to do so, until she could make capital out of it. At present
she could not, so behaved honorably. "But he's Romany enough to split
words with the old witch by the hour, so let him stay where he is.
Brother, would you make money?" Kara nodded and looked up with diamond
eyes, which glittered and gloated on the beauty of her dark face. "Then,
brother," continued the girl, "the Gorgio who paints gives me gold to
dance for him."

The Servian's face--what could be seen of it for hair--grew sombre, and
he spat excessively. "Curses on the Gentile!" he growled low in his
throat.

"On him, but not on the money, brother," coaxed the girl, stooping to
pat his face. "It's fine work, cheating the rye. But jealous you must
not be, if the gold is to chink in our pockets."

Kara still frowned. "Were you my romi, sister--"

"Aye, if I were. Then indeed. But your romi I am not yet."

"Some day you will be. It would be a good fortune, sister. I am as ugly
as you are lovely, and we two together, you dancing to my playing, would
make pockets of red gold. White shows best when placed on black."

"What a mine of wisdom you are," jeered Chaldea, nodding. "Yes. It is
so, and my rom you may be, if you obey."

"But if you let the Gorgio make love to you--"

"Hey! Am I not a free Roman, brother? You have not yet caught the bird.
It still sings on the bough. If I kiss him I suck gold from his lips. If
I put fond arms around his neck I but gather wealth for us both. Can you
snare a mouse without cheese, brother?"

Kara looked at her steadily, and then lifted his green coat to show
the gleam of a butcher knife. "Should you go too far," he said
significantly; and touched the blade.

Chaldea bent swiftly, and snatching the weapon from his belt, flung it
into the coarse grass under the trees. "So I fling you away," said she,
and stamped with rage. "Truly, brother, speaking Romanly, you are a fool
of fools, and take cheating for honesty. I lure the Gorgio at my will,
and says you whimpering-like, 'She's my romi,' the which is a lie. Bless
your wisdom for a hairy toad, and good-bye, for I go to my own people
near Lundra, and never will he who doubted my honesty see me more."

She turned away, and Kara limped after her to implore forgiveness. He
assured her that he trusted her fully, and that whatever tricks she
played the Gentile would not be taken seriously by himself. "Poison him
I would," grumbled the little gnome in his beard. "For his golden talk
makes you smile sweetly upon him. But for the gold--"

"Yes, for the gold we must play the fox. Well, brother, now that you
talk so, wait until the moon is up, then hide in the woods round the
cottage dell with your violin to your chin. I lure the rabbit from its
hole, and then you play the dance that delights the Gorgios. But what I
do, with kisses or arm-loving, my brother," she added shaking her
finger, "is but the play of the wind to shake the leaves. Believe me
honest and my rom you shall be--some day!" and she went away laughing,
to eat and drink, for the long watching had tired her. As for Kara he
crawled again into the underwood to search for his knife. Apparently he
did not trust Chaldea as much as she wanted him to.

Thus it came about that when the moon rolled through a starry sky like a
golden wheel, Lambert, sighing at his studio window, saw a slim and
graceful figure glide into the clear space of lawn beyond the monoliths.
So searching was the thin moonlight that he recognized Chaldea at once,
as she wandered here and there restless as a butterfly, and apparently
as aimless. But, had he known it, she had her eyes on the cottage all
the time, and had he failed to come forth she would have come to inquire
if he was at home. But the artist did come forth, thinking to wile away
an hour with the fascinating gypsy girl. Always dressing for dinner,
even in solitude, for the habit of years was too strong to lay
aside--and, moreover, he was fastidious in his dress to preserve his
self-respect--he appeared at the door looking slender and well-set up in
his dark clothes. Although it was August the night was warm, and Lambert
did not trouble to put on cap or overcoat. With his hands in his pockets
and a cigar between his lips he strolled over to the girl, where she
swayed and swung in the fairy light.

"Hullo, Chaldea," he said leisurely, and leaning against one of the
moss-grown monoliths, "what are you doing here?"

"The rye," exclaimed Chaldea, with a well-feigned start of surprise.
"Avali the rye. Sarishan, my Gorgious gentleman, you, too, are a
nightbird. Have you come out mousing like an owl? Ha! ha! and you hear
the nightingale singing, speaking in the Gentile manner," and clapping
her hands she lifted up a full rich voice.

"Dyal o pani repedishis,
M'ro pirano hegedishis."

"What does that mean, Chaldea?"

"It is an Hungarian song, and means that while the stream flows I hear
the violin of my love. Kara taught me the ditty."

"And Kara is your love?"

"No. Oh, no; oh, no," sang Chaldea, whirling round and round in quite a
magical manner. "No rom have I, but a mateless bird I wander. Still I
hear the violin of my true love, my new love, who knows my droms, and
that means my habits, rye," she ended, suddenly speaking in a natural
manner.

"I don't hear the violin, however," said Lambert lazily, and thinking
what a picturesque girl she was in her many-hued rag-tag garments, and
with the golden coins glittering in her black hair.

"You will, rye, you will," she said confidentially. "Come, my darling
gentleman, cross my hand with silver and I dance. I swear it. No hokkeny
baro will you behold when the wind pipes for me."

"Hokkeny baro."

"A great swindle, my wise sir. Hai, what a pity you cannot patter the
gentle Romany tongue. Kek! Kek! What does it matter, when you speak
Gentile gibberish like an angel. Sit, rye, and I dance for you."

"Quite like Carmen and Don Jose in the opera," murmured Lambert, sliding
down to the foot of the rude stone.

"What of her and of him? Were they Romans?"

"Carmen was and Jose wasn't. She danced herself into his heart."

Chaldea's eyes flashed, and she made a hasty sign to attract the happy
omen of his saying to herself. "Kushto bak," cried Chaldea, using the
gypsy for good luck. "And to me, to me," she clapped her hand. "Hark, my
golden rye, and watch me dance your love into my life."

The wind was rising and sighed through the wood, shaking myriad leaves
from the trees. Blending with its faint cry came a long, sweet,
sustained note of music. Lambert started, so weird and unexpected was
the sound. "Kara, isn't it?" he asked, looking inquiringly at Chaldea.

"He talks to the night--he speaks with the wind. Oh-ah-ah-ah.
Ah-oha-oha-oha-ho," sang the gypsy, clapping her hands softly, then,
as the music came breathing from the hidden violin in dreamy sensuous
tones, she raised her bare arms and began to dance. The place, the
dancer, the hour, the mysterious music, and the pale enchantments of
the moon--it was like fairyland.

Lambert soon let his cigar go out, so absorbed did he become in watching
the dance. It was a wonderful performance, sensuous and weirdly unusual.
He had never seen a dance exactly like it before. The violin notes
sounded like actual words, and the dancer answered them with responsive
movements of her limbs, so that without speech the onlooker saw a
love-drama enacted before his eyes. Chaldea--so he interpreted the
dance--swayed gracefully from the hips, without moving her feet, in the
style of a Nautch girl. She was waiting for some one, since to right and
left she swung with a delicate hand curved behind her ear. Suddenly she
started, as if she heard an approaching footstep, and in maidenly
confusion glided to a distance, where she stood with her hands across
her bosom, the very picture of a surprised nymph. Mentally, the dance
translated itself to Lambert somewhat after this fashion:

"She waits for her lover. That little run forward means that she sees
him coming. She falls at his feet; she kisses them. He raises her--I
suppose that panther spring from the ground means that he raises her.
She caresses him with much fondling and many kisses. By Jove, what
pantomime! Now she dances to please him. She stops and trembles; the
dance does not satisfy. She tries another. No! No! Not that! It is too
dreamy--the lover is in a martial mood. This time she strikes his fancy.
Kara is playing a wild Hungarian polonaise. Wonderful! Wonderful!"

He might well say so, and he struggled to his feet, leaning against the
pillar of stone to see the dancer better. From the wood came the fierce
and stirring Slav music, and Chaldea's whole expressive body answered to
every note as a needle does to a magnet. She leaped, clicking her heels
together, advanced, as if on the foe, with a bound--was flung back--so
it seemed--and again sprang to the assault. She stiffened to stubborn
resistance--she unexpectedly became pliant and yielding and graceful,
and voluptuous, while the music took on the dreamy tones of love. And
Lambert translated the change after his own idea:

"The music does not please the dancer--it is too martial. She fears lest
her lover should rush off to the wars, and seeks to detain him by the
dance of Venus. But he will go. He rises; he speeds away; she breaks off
the dance. Ah! what a cry of despair the violin gave just now. She
follows, stretching out her empty arms. But it is useless--he is gone.
Bah! She snaps her fingers. What does she care! She will dance to please
herself, and to show that her heart is yet whole. What a Bacchanalian
strain. She whirls and springs and swoops and leaps. She comes near to
me, whirling like a Dervish; she recedes, and then comes spinning round
again, like a mad creature. And then--oh, hang it! What do you mean?
Chaldea, what are you doing?"

Lambert had some excuse for suddenly bursting into speech, when he cried
out vigorously: "Oh, hang it!" for Chaldea whirled right up to him and
had laid her arms round his neck, and her lips against his cheek. The
music stopped abruptly, with a kind of angry snarl, as if Kara, furious
at the sight, had put his wrath into the last broken note. Then all was
silent, and the artist found himself imprisoned in the arms of the
woman, which were locked round his neck. With an oath he unlinked her
fingers and flung her away from him fiercely.

"You fool--you utter fool!" cried Lambert, striving to calm down the
beating of his heart, and restrain the racing of his blood, for he was
a man, and the sudden action of the gypsy had nearly swept away his
self-restraint.

"I love you--I love you," panted Chaldea from the grass, where he had
thrown her. "Oh, my beautiful one, I love you."

"You are crazy," retorted Lambert, quivering with many emotions to which
he could scarcely put a name, so shaken was he by the experience. "What
the devil do you mean by behaving in this way?" and his voice rose in
such a gust of anger that Kara, hidden in the wood, rejoiced. He could
not understand what was being said, but the tone of the voice was enough
for him. He did not know whether Chaldea was cheating the Gentile, or
cheating him; but he gathered that in either case, she had been
repulsed. The girl knew that also, when her ardent eyes swept across
Lambert's white face, and she burst into tears of anger and
disappointment.

"Oh, rye, I give you all, and you take nothing," she wailed tearfully.

"I don't want anything. You silly girl, do you think that for one moment
I was ever in love with you?"

"I--I--want you--to--to--love me," sobbed Chaldea, grovelling on the
grass.

"Then you want an impossibility," and to Lambert's mind's eye there
appeared the vision of a calm and beautiful face, far removed in its
pure looks from the flushed beauty of the fiery gypsy. To gain control
of himself, he took out a cigar and lighted it. But his hand trembled.
"You little fool," he muttered, and sauntered, purposely, slowly toward
the cottage.

Chaldea gathered herself up with the spring of a tigress, and in a
moment was at his elbow with her face black with rage. Her tears had
vanished and with them went her softer mood. "You--you reject me," she
said in grating tones, and shaking from head to foot as she gripped his
shoulder.

"Take away your hand," commanded Lambert sharply, and when she recoiled
a pace he faced her squarely. "You must have been drinking," he
declared, hoping to insult her into common sense. "What would Kara say
if--"

"I don't want Kara. I want you," interrupted Chaldea, her breast
heaving, and looking sullenly wrathful.

"Then you can't have me. Why should you think of me in this silly way?
We were very good friends, and now you have spoiled everything. I can
never have you to sit for me again."

Chaldea's lip drooped. "Never again? Never again?"

"No. It is impossible, since you have chosen to act in this way. Come,
you silly girl, be sensible, and--"

"Silly girl! Oh, yes, silly girl," flashed out Chaldea. "And what is
she?"

"She?" Lambert stiffened himself. "What do you mean?"

"I mean the Gentile lady. I was under the window this afternoon. I heard
all you were talking about."

The man stepped back a pace and clenched his hands. "You--listened?" he
asked slowly, and with a very white face.

Chaldea nodded with a triumphant smile.

"Avali! And why not? You have no right to love another man's romi."

"I do not love her," began Lambert, and then checked himself, as he
really could not discuss so delicate a matter with this wildcat. "Why
did you listen, may I ask?" he demanded, passing his tongue over his dry
lips.

"Because I love you, and love is jealous."

Lambert restrained himself by a violent effort from shaking her. "You
are talking nonsense," he declared with enforced calmness. "And it is
ridiculous for you to love a man who does not care in the least for
you."

"It will come--I can wait," insisted Chaldea sullenly.

"If you wait until Doomsday it will make no difference. I don't love
you, and I have never given you any reason to think so."

"Chee-chee!" bantered the girl. "Is that because I am not a raclan?"

"A raclan?"

"A married Gentile lady, that is. You love her?"

"I--I--see, here, Chaldea, I am not going to talk over such things with
you, as my affairs are not your business."

"They are the business of the Gorgious female's rom."

"Rom? Her husband, you mean. What do you know of--"

"I know that the Gentle Pine is really one of us," interrupted the girl
quickly. "Ishmael Hearne is his name."

"Sir Hubert Pine?"

"Ishmael Hearne," insisted Chaldea pertly. "He comes to the fire of the
Gentle Romany when he wearies of your Gorgious flesh-pots."

"Pine a gypsy," muttered Lambert, and the memory of that dark, lean,
Eastern face impressed him with the belief that what the girl said was
true.

"Avali. A true son of the road. He is here."

"Here?" Lambert started violently. "What do you mean?"

"I say what I mean, rye. He you call Pine is in our camp enjoying the
old life. Shall I bring him to you?" she inquired demurely.

In a flash Lambert saw his danger, and the danger of Agnes, seeing that
the millionaire was as jealous as Othello. However, it seemed to him
that honesty was the best policy at the moment. "I shall see him myself
later," he declared after a pause. "If you listened, you must know that
there is no reason why I should not see him. His wife is my cousin, and
paid me a friendly visit--that is all."

"Yes; that is all," mocked the girl contemptuously. "But if I tell
him--"

"Tell him what?"

"That you love his romi!"

"He knows that," said Lambert quietly. "And knows also that I am an
honorable man. See here, Chaldea, you are dangerous, because this silly
love of yours has warped your common sense. You can make a lot of
mischief if you so choose, I know well."

"And I _shall_ choose, my golden rye, if you love me not."

"Then set about it at once," said Lambert boldly. "It is best to be
honest, my girl. I have done nothing wrong, and I don't intend to do
anything wrong, so you can say what you like. To-night I shall go to
London, and if Pine, or Hearne, or whatever you call him, wants me, he
knows my town address."

"You defy me?" panted Chaldea, her breast rising and falling quickly.

"Yes; truth must prevail in the end. I make no bargain with a spy," and
he gave her a contemptuous look, as he strode into the cottage and shut
the door with an emphatic bang.

"Hai!" muttered the gypsy between her teeth. "Hatch till the dood wells
apre," which means: "Wait until the moon rises!" an ominous saying for
Lambert.




CHAPTER VII.

THE SECRETARY.


"Was ever a man in so uncomfortable a position?"

Lambert asked himself this question as soon as he was safe in his
studio, and he found it a difficult one to answer. It was true that what
he had said to Agnes, and what Agnes had said to him, was perfectly
honest and extremely honorable, considering the state of their feelings.
But the conversation had been overheard by an unscrupulous woman, whose
jealousy would probably twist innocence into guilt. It was certain that
she would go to Pine and give him a garbled version of what had taken
place, in which case the danger was great, both to himself and to Agnes.
Lambert had spoken bravely enough to the marplot, knowing that he had
done no wrong, but now he was by no means sure that he had acted
rightly. Perhaps it would have been better to temporize but that would
have meant a surrender young to Chaldea's unmaidenly wooing. And, as the
man had not a spark of love for her in a heart given entirely to another
woman, he was unwilling even to feign playing the part of a lover.

On reflection he still held to his resolution to go to London, thinking
that it would be best for him to be out of reach of Agnes while Pine was
in the neighborhood. The news that the millionaire was a gypsy had
astonished him at first; but now that he considered the man's dark
coloring and un-English looks, he quite believed that what Chaldea said
was true. And he could understand also that Pine--or Hearne, since that
was his true name--would occasionally wish to breathe the free air of
heath and road since he had been cradled under a tent, and must at times
feel strongly the longing for the old lawless life. But why should he
revert to his beginnings so near to his brother-in-law's house, where
his wife was staying? "Unless he came to keep an eye on her," murmured
Lambert, and unconsciously hit on the very reason of the pseudo-gypsy's
presence at Garvington.

After all, it would be best to go to London for a time to wait until
he saw what Chaldea would do. Then he could meet Pine and have an
understanding with him. The very fact that Pine was a Romany, and was on
his native heath, appealed to Lambert as a reason why he should not seek
out the man immediately, as he almost felt inclined to do, in order to
forestall Chaldea's story. As Hearne, the millionaire's wild instincts
would be uppermost, and he would probably not listen to reason, whereas
if the meeting took place in London, Pine would resume to a certain
extent his veneer of civilization and would be more willing to do
justice.

"Yes," decided Lambert, rising and stretching himself. "I shall go to
London and wait to turn over matters in my own mind. I shall say nothing
to Agnes until I know what is best to be done about Chaldea. Meanwhile,
I shall see the girl and get her to hold her tongue for a time--Damn!"
He frowned. "It's making the best of a dangerous situation, but I don't
see my way to a proper adjustment yet. The most necessary thing is to
gain time."

With this in his mind he hastily packed a gladstone bag, changed into
tweeds, and told Mrs. Tribb that he was going to London for a day or so.
"I shall get a trap at the inn and drive to the station," he said, as he
halted at the door. "You will receive a wire saying when I shall
return," and leaving the dry little woman, open-mouthed at this sudden
departure, the young man hastened away.

Instead of going straight to the village, he took a roundabout road to
the camp on the verge of Abbot's Wood. Here he found the vagrants in a
state of great excitement, as Lord Garvington had that afternoon sent
notice by a gamekeeper that they were to leave his land the next day.
Taken up with his own private troubles, Lambert did not pay much
attention to those of the tribe, and looked about for Chaldea. He
finally saw her sitting by one of the fires, in a dejected attitude,
and touched her on the shoulder. At once, like a disturbed animal, she
leaped to her feet.

"The rye!" said Chaldea, with a gasp, and a hopeful look on her face.

"Give me three days before you say anything to Pine," said Lambert in a
low voice, and a furtive look round. "You understand."

"No," said the girl boldly. "Unless you mean--"

"Never mind what I mean," interrupted the man hastily, for he was
determined not to commit himself. "Will you hold your tongue for three
days?"

Chaldea looked hard at his face, upon which the red firelight played
brightly, but could not read what was in his mind. However, she thought
that the request showed a sign of yielding, and was a mute confession
that he knew he was in her power. "I give you three days," she murmured.
"But--"

"I have your promise then, so good-bye," interrupted Lambert abruptly,
and walked away hastily in the direction of Garvington village. His mind
was more or less of a chaos, but at all events he had gained time to
reduce the chaos to some sort of order. Still as yet he could not see
the outcome of the situation and departed swiftly in order to think it
over.

Chaldea made a step or two, as if to follow, but a reflection that she
could do no good by talking at the moment, and a certainty that she held
him in the hollow of her hand, made her pause. With a hitch of her
shapely shoulders she resumed her seat by the fire, brooding sombrely on
the way in which this Gentile had rejected her love. Bending her black
brows and showing her white teeth like an irritated dog, she inwardly
cursed herself for cherishing so foolish a love. Nevertheless, she did
not try to overcome it, but resolved to force the Gorgio to her feet.
Then she could spurn him if she had a mind to, as he had spurned her.
But she well knew, and confessed it to herself with a sigh, that there
would be no spurning on her part, since her wayward love was stronger
than her pride.

"Did the Gentile bring the gold, my sister?" asked a harsh voice, and
she raised her head to see Kara's hairy face bent to her ear.

"No, brother. He goes to Lundra to get the gold. Did I not play my fish
in fine style?"

"I took it for truth, sister!" said Kara, looking at her searchingly.

Chaldea nodded wearily. "I am a great witch, as you can see."

"You will be my romi when the gold chinks in our pockets?"

"Yes, for certain, brother. It's a true fortune!"

"Before our camp is changed, sister?" persisted the man greedily.

"No; for to-morrow we may take the road, since the great lord orders us
off his land. And yet--" Chaldea stood up, suddenly recollecting what
had been said by Pine's wife. "Why should we leave?"

"The rabbit can't kick dust in the fox's face, sister," said Kara,
meaning that Garvington was too strong for the gypsies.

"There are rabbits and rabbits," said Chaldea sententiously. "Where is
Hearne, brother?"

"In Gentilla's tent with a Gorgious gentleman. He's trading a horse with
the swell rye, and wants no meddling with his time, sister."

"I meddle now," snapped Chaldea, and walked away in her usual free and
graceful manner. Kara shrugged his shoulders and then took refuge in
talking to his violin, to which he related his doubts of the girl's
truth. And he smiled grimly, as he thought of the recovered knife which
was again snugly hidden under his weather-worn green coat.

Chaldea, who did not stand on ceremony, walked to the end of the camp
without paying any attention to the excited gypsies, and flung back the
flap of the old woman's tent. Mother Cockleshell was not within, as she
had given the use of her abode to Pine and his visitor. This latter was
a small, neat man with a smooth, boyish face and reddish hair. He had
the innocent expression of a fox-terrier, and rather resembled one. He
was neatly and inoffensively dressed in blue serge, and although he did
not look exactly like a gentleman, he would have passed for one in a
crowd. When Chaldea made her abrupt entrance he was talking volubly to
Pine, and the millionaire addressed him--when he answered--as Silver.
Chaldea, remembering the conversation she had overheard between Pine and
Miss Greeby, speedily reached the conclusion that the neat little man
was the secretary referred to therein. Probably he had come to report
about Lady Agnes.

"What is it, sister?" demanded Pine sharply, and making a sign that
Silver should stop talking.

"Does the camp travel to-morrow, brother?"

"Perhaps, yes," retorted Pine abruptly.

"And perhaps no, brother, if you use your power."

Silver raised his faint eyebrows and looked questioningly at his
employer, as if to ask what this cryptic sentence meant. Pine knew only
too well, since Chaldea had impressed him thoroughly with the fact that
she had overheard many of his secrets. Therefore he did not waste time
in argument, but nodded quietly. "Sleep in peace, sister. The camp shall
stay, if you wish it."

"I do wish it!" She glanced at Silver and changed her speech to Romany.
"The ring will be here," tapping her finger, "in one week if we stay."

"So be it, sister," replied Pine, also in Romany, and with a gleam of
satisfaction in his dark eyes. "Go now and return when this Gentile
goes. What of the golden Gorgious one?"

"He seeks Lundra this night."

"For the ring, sister?"

Chaldea looked hard at him. "For the ring" she said abruptly, then
dropping the tent-flap which she had held all the time, she disappeared.

Silver looked at his master inquiringly, and noted that he seemed very
satisfied. "What did she say in Romany?" he asked eagerly.

"True news and new news, and news you never heard of," mocked Pine.
"Don't ask questions, Mark."

"But since I am your secretary--"

"You are secretary to Hubert Pine, not to Ishmael Hearne," broke in the
other man. "And when Romany is spoken it concerns the last."

Silver's pale-colored, red-rimmed eyes twinkled in an evil manner. "You
are afraid that I may learn too much about you."

"You know all that is to be known," retorted Pine sharply. "But I won't
have you meddle with my Romany business. A Gentile such as you are
cannot understand the chals."

"Try me."

"There is no need. You are my secretary--my trusted secretary--that is
quite enough. I pay you well to keep my secrets."

"I don't keep them because you pay me," said Silver quickly, and with a
look of meekness belied by the sinister gleam in his pale bluish eyes.
"It is devotion that makes me honest. I owe everything to you."

"I think you do," observed Pine quietly. "When I found you in
Whitechapel you were only a pauper toymaker."

"An inventor of toys, remember. You made your fortune out of my
inventions."

"The three clever toys you invented laid the foundations of my wealth,"
corrected the millionaire calmly. "But I made my money in the South
African share business. And if I hadn't taken up your toys, you would
have been now struggling in Whitechapel, since there was no one but me
to exploit your brains in the toy-making way. I have rescued you from
starvation; I have made you my secretary, and pay you a good salary, and
I have introduced you to good society. Yes, you do indeed owe everything
to me. Yet--" he paused.

"Yet what?"

"Miss Greeby observed that those who have most cause to be grateful are
generally the least thankful to those who befriend them. I am not sure
but what she is right."

Silver pushed up his lower lip contemptuously, and a derisive expression
came over his clean-shaven face. "Does a clever man like you go to that
emancipated woman for experience?"

"Emancipated women are usually very clever," said Pine dryly, "as they
combine the logic of the male with the intuition of the female. And I
have observed myself, in many cases, that kindness brings out
ingratitude."

Silver looked sullen and uneasy. "I don't know why you should talk to me
in this strain," he said irritably. "I appreciate what you have done for
me, and have no reason to treat you badly. If I did--"

"I would break you," flamed out his employer, angered by the mere
thought. "So long as you serve me well, Silver, I am your friend, and I
shall treat you as I have always done, with every consideration. But you
play any tricks on me, and--" he paused expressively.

"Oh, I won't betray you, if that's what you mean."

"I am quite sure you won't," said the millionaire with emphasis. "For if
you do, you return to your original poverty. And remember, Mark, that
there is nothing in my life which has any need of concealment."

Silver cast a look round the tent and at the rough clothes of the
speaker. "No need of any concealment?" he asked significantly.

"Certainly not," rejoined Pine violently. "I don't wish my gypsy origin
to be known in the Gentile world. But if the truth did come to light,
there is nothing to be ashamed of. I commit no crime in calling myself
by a Gorgio name and in accumulating a fortune. You have no hold over
me." The man's look was so threatening that Silver winced.

"I don't hint at any hold over you," he observed mildly. "I am bound to
you both by gratitude and self-interest."

"Aha. That last is better. It is just as well that we have come to this
understanding. If you--" Pine's speech was ended by a sharp fit of
coughing, and Silver looked at his contortions with a thin-lipped smile.

"You'll kill yourself if you live this damp colonial sort of tent-life,"
was his observation. "Here, take a drink of water."

Pine did so, and wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his rough coat.
"You're a Gorgio," he said, weakly, for the fit had shaken him, "and
can't understand how a bred and born Romany longs for the smell of the
smoke, the space of the open country, and the sound of the kalo jib.
However, I did not ask you here to discuss these things, but to take my
instructions."

"About Lady Agnes?" asked the secretary, his eyes scintillating.

"You have had those long ago, although, trusting my wife as I do, there
was really no need for me to ask you to watch her."

"That is very true. Lady Agnes is exceedingly circumspect."

"Is she happy?"

Silver lifted his shoulders. "As happy as a woman can be who is married
to one man while she loves another."

He expected an outburst of anger from his employer, but none came. On
the contrary, Pine sighed, restlessly. "Poor soul. I did her a wrong in
making her my wife. She would have been happier with Lambert in his
poverty."

"Probably! Her tastes don't lie like those of other women in the
direction of squandering money. By the way, I suppose, since you are
here, that you know Lambert is staying in the Abbot's Wood Cottage?"

"Yes, I know that. And what of it?" demanded the millionaire sharply.

"Nothing; only I thought you would like to know. I fancied you had come
here to see if--"

"I did not. I can trust you to see that my wife and Lambert do not meet
without spying myself."

"If you love and trust your wife so entirely, I wonder you ask me to spy
on her at all," said Silver with a faint sneer.

"She is a woman, and we gypsies have sufficient of the Oriental in us to
mistrust even the most honest women. Lambert has not been to The Manor?"

"No. That's a bad sign. He can't trust himself in her presence."

"I'll choke the life out of you, rat that you are, if you talk in such a
way about my wife. What you think doesn't matter. Hold your tongue, and
come to business. I asked you here to take my instructions."

Silver was rather cowed by this outburst, as he was cunning enough to
know precisely how far he could venture with safety. "I am waiting," he
observed in sullen tones.

"Garvington--as I knew he would--has ordered us off the land. As the
wood is really mine, since I hold it as security, having paid off the
mortgage, I don't choose that he should deal with it as though it were
his own. Here"--he passed along a letter--"I have written that on my
office paper, and you will see that it says, I have heard how gypsies
are camping here, and that it is my wish they should remain. Garvington
is not to order them off on any pretext whatsoever. You understand?"

"Yes." Silver nodded, and slipped the paper into his breast pocket after
a hasty glance at the contents, which were those the writer had stated.
"But if Garvington wishes to know why you take such an interest in the
gypsies, what am I to say?"

"Say nothing. Simply do what I have told you."

"Garvington may suspect that you are a Romany."

"He won't. He thinks that I'm in Paris, and will never connect me with
Ishmael Hearne. If he asks questions when we meet I can tell him my own
tale. By the way, why is he so anxious to get rid of the tribe?"

"There have been many burglaries lately in various parts of Hengishire,"
explained the secretary. "And Garvington is afraid lest the gypsies
should be mixed up with them. He thinks, this camp being near, some of
the men may break into the house."

"What nonsense! Gypsies steal, I don't deny, but in an open way. They
are not burglars, however, and never will be. Garvington has never seen
any near The Manor that he should take fright in this way."

"I am not so sure of that. Once or twice I have seen that girl who came
to you hanging about the house."

"Chaldea?" Pine started and looked earnestly at his companion.

"Yes. She told Mrs. Belgrove's fortune one day when she met her in the
park, and also tried to make Lady Agnes cross her hand with silver for
the same purpose. Nothing came of that, however, as your wife refused to
have her fortune told."

Pine frowned and looked uneasy, remembering that Chaldea knew of his
Gentile masquerading. However, as he could see no reason to suspect that
the girl had betrayed him, since she had nothing to gain by taking such
a course, he passed the particular incident over. "I must tell Chaldea
not to go near The Manor," he muttered.

"You will be wise; and tell the men also. Garvington has threatened to
shoot any one who tries to enter his house."

"Garvington's a little fool," said Pine violently. "There is no chance
that the Romany will enter his house. He can set his silly mind at
rest."

"Well, you're warned," said Silver with an elaborate pretence of
indifference.

Pine looked up, growling. "What the devil do you mean, Mark? Do you
think that I intend to break in. Fool! A Romany isn't a thief of that
sort."

"I fancied from tradition that they were thieves of all sorts," retorted
the secretary coolly. "And suppose you took a fancy to come quietly and
see your wife?"

"I should never do that in this dress," interrupted the millionaire in a
sharp tone. "My wife would then know my true name and birth. I wish to
keep that from her, although there is nothing disgraceful in the secret.
I wonder why you say that?" he said, looking searchingly at the little
man.

"Only because Lambert is in the--"

"Lambert! Lambert! You are always harping on Lambert."

"I have your interest at heart."

Pine laughed doubtfully. "I am not so sure of that. Self-interest
rather. I trust my wife--"

"You do, since you make me spy on her," said Silver caustically.

"I trust my wife so far," pursued the other man, "if you will permit me
to finish my sentence. There is no need for her to see her cousin,
and--as they have kept apart for so long--I don't think there is any
chance of their seeking one another's company."

"Absence makes the heart grow fonder," remarked the secretary
sententiously. "And you may be living in a fool's paradise. Lambert is
within running-away distance of her, remember."

Pine laughed in a raucous manner. "An elopement would have taken place
long ago had it been intended," he snapped tartly. "Don't imagine
impossibilities, Mark. Agnes married me for my money, so that I might
save the credit of the Lambert family. But for me, Garvington would have
passed through the Bankruptcy Court long ago. I have paid off certain
mortgages, but I hold them as security for my wife's good behavior. She
knows that an elopement with her cousin would mean the ruin of her
brother."

"You do, indeed, trust her," observed Silver sarcastically.

"I trust her so far and no further," repeated Pine with an angry snarl.
"A Gentile she is, and Gentiles are tricky." He stretched out a slim,
brown hand significantly and opened it. "I hold her and Garvington
there," and he tapped the palm lightly.

"You don't hold Lambert, and he is the dangerous one."

"Only dangerous if Agnes consents to run away with him, and she won't do
that," replied Pine coolly.

"Well, she certainly doesn't care for money."

"She cares for the credit of her family, and gave herself to me, so that
the same might be saved."

Silver shrugged his narrow shoulders. "What fools these aristocrats
are," he observed pleasantly. "Even if Garvington were sold up he would
still have his title and enough to live on in a quiet way."

"Probably. But it was not entirely to save his estates that he agreed to
my marriage with his sister," said Pine pointedly and quietly.

"Eh! What?" The little man's foxy face became alive with eager inquiry.

"Nothing," said Pine roughly, and rose heavily to his feet. "Mind your
own infernal business, and mine also. Go back and show that letter to
Garvington. I want my tribe to stay here."

"_My_ tribe," laughed Silver, scrambling to his feet; and when he took
his departure he was still laughing. He wondered what Garvington would
say did he know that his sister was married to a full-blooded Romany.

Pine, in the character of a horse-coper, saw him out of the camp, and
was staring after him when Chaldea, on the watch, touched his shoulder.

"I come to your tent, brother," she said with very bright eyes.

"Eh? Yes!" Pine aroused himself out of a brown study. "Avali, miri pen.
You have things to say to me?"

"Golden things, which have to do with your happiness and mine, brother."

"Hai? A wedding-ring, sister."

"Truly, brother, if you be a true Romany and not the Gentile you call
yourself."




CHAPTER VIII.

AT MIDNIGHT.


Silver's delivery of his employer's orders to Lord Garvington were
apparently carried out, for no further intimation was given to the
gypsies that they were to vacate Abbot's Wood. The master of The Manor
grumbled a good deal at the high tone taken by his brother-in-law, as,
having the instincts of a landlord, he strongly objected to the presence
of such riff-raff on his estates. However, as Pine had the whip-hand of
him, he was obliged to yield, although he could not understand why the
man should favor the Romany in this way.

"Some of his infernal philanthropy, I suppose," said Garvington, in a
tone of disgust, to the secretary. "Pine's always doing this sort of
thing, and people ain't a bit grateful."

"Well," said Silver dryly, "I suppose that's his look-out."

"If it is, let him keep to his own side of the road," retorted the
other. "Since I don't interfere with his business, let him not meddle
with mine."

"As he holds the mortgage and can foreclose at any moment, it _is_ his
business," insisted Silver tartly. "And, after all, the gypsies are
doing no very great harm."

"They will if they get the chance. I'd string up the whole lot if I had
my way, Silver. Poachers and blackguards every one of them. I know that
Pine is always helping rotters in London, but I didn't know that he had
any cause to interfere with this lot. How did he come to know about
them?"

"Well, Mr. Lambert might have told him," answered the secretary, not
unwilling to draw that young man into the trouble. "He is at Abbot's
Wood."

"Yes, I lent him the cottage, and this is my reward. He meddles with my
business along with Pine. Why can't he shut his mouth?"

"I don't say that Mr. Lambert did tell him, but he might have done so."

"I am quite sure that he did," said Garvington emphatically, and growing
red all over his chubby face. "Otherwise Pine would never have heard,
since he is in Paris. I shall speak to Lambert."

"You won't find him at home. I looked in at his cottage to pass the
time, and his housekeeper said that he had gone to London all of a
sudden, this very evening."

"Oh, he'll turn up again," said Garvington carelessly. "He's sick of
town, Silver, since--" The little man hesitated.

"Since when?" asked the secretary curiously.

"Never mind," retorted the other gruffly, for he did not wish to mention
the enforced marriage of his sister, to Silver. Of course, there was no
need to, as Garvington, aware that the neat, foxy-faced man was his
brother-in-law's confidential adviser, felt sure that everything was
known to him. "I'll leave those blamed gypsies alone meanwhile,"
finished Garvington, changing and finishing the conversation. "But I'll
speak to Pine when I see him."

"He returns from Paris in three weeks," remarked Silver, at which
information the gross little lord simply hunched his fat shoulders. Much
as Pine had done for him, Garvington hated the man with all the power of
his mean and narrow mind, and as the millionaire returned this dislike
with a feeling of profound contempt, the two met as seldom as possible.
Only Lady Agnes was the link between them, the visible object of sale
and barter, which had been sold by one to the other.

It was about this time that the house-party at The Manor began to break
up; since it was now the first week in September, and many of the
shooters wished to go north for better sport. Many of the men departed,
and some of the women, who were due at other country houses; but Mrs.
Belgrove and Miss Greeby still remained. The first because she found
herself extremely comfortable, and appreciated Garvington's cook; and
the second on account of Lambert being in the vicinity. Miss Greeby had
been very disappointed to learn that the young man had gone to London,
but heard from Mrs. Tribb that he was expected back in three days. She
therefore lingered so as to have another conversation with him, and
meanwhile haunted the gypsy camp for the purpose of keeping an eye on
Chaldea, who was much too beautiful for her peace of mind. Sometimes
Silver accompanied her, as the lady had given him to understand that she
knew Pine's real rank and name, so the two were made free of the
Bohemians and frequently chatted with Ishmael Hearne. But they kept his
secret, as did Chaldea; and Garvington had no idea that the man he
dreaded and hated--who flung money to him as if he were tossing a bone
to a dog--was within speaking distance. If he had known, he would
assuredly have guessed the reason why Sir Hubert Pine had interested
himself in the doings of a wandering tribe of undesirable creatures.

A week passed away and still, although Miss Greeby made daily inquiries,
Lambert did not put in an appearance at the forest cottage. Thinking
that he had departed to escape her, she made up her impatient mind to
repair to London, and to hunt him up at his club. With this idea she
intimated to Lady Garvington that she was leaving The Manor early next
morning. The ladies had just left the dinner-table, and were having
coffee in the drawing-room when Miss Greeby made this abrupt
announcement.

"Oh, my dear," said Lady Garvington, in dismay. "I wish you would change
your mind. Nearly everyone has gone, and the house is getting quite
dull."

"Thanks ever so much," remarked Mrs. Belgrove lightly. She sat near the
fire, for the evening was chilly, and what with paint and powder, and
hair-dye, to say nothing of her artistic and carefully chosen dress,
looked barely thirty-five in the rosy lights cast by the shaded lamps.

"I don't mean you, dear," murmured the hostess, who was even more untidy
and helpless than usual. "You are quite a host in yourself. And that
recipe you gave me for Patagonian soup kept Garvington in quite a good
humor for ever so long. But the house will be dull for you without
Clara."

"Agnes is here, Jane."

"I fear Agnes is not much of an entertainer," said that lady, smiling in
a weary manner, for this society chatter bored her greatly.

"That's not to be wondered at," struck in Miss Greeby abruptly. "For of
course you are thinking of your husband."

Lady Agnes colored slightly under Miss Greeby's very direct gaze, but
replied equably enough, to save appearances, "He is still in Paris."

"When did you last hear from him, dear?" questioned Lady Garvington,
more to manufacture conversation than because she really cared.

"Only to-day I had a letter. He is carrying out some special business
and will return in two or three weeks."

"You will be glad to see him, no doubt," sneered Miss Greeby.

"I am always glad to see my husband and to be with him," answered Lady
Agnes in a dignified manner. She knew perfectly well that Miss Greeby
hated her, and guessed the reason, but she was not going to give her any
satisfaction by revealing the true feelings of her heart.

"Well, I intend to stay here, Jane, if it's all the same to you," cried
Mrs. Belgrove in her liveliest manner and with a side glance, taking in
both Miss Greeby and Lady Agnes. "Only this morning I received a
chit-chat letter from Mr. Lambert--we are great friends you know--saying
that he intended to come here for a few days. Such a delightful man he
is."

"Oh, dear me, yes," cried Lady Garvington, starting. "I remember. He
wrote yesterday from London, asking if he might come. I told him yes,
although I mentioned that we had hardly anyone with us just now."

Miss Greeby looked greatly annoyed, as Mrs. Belgrove maliciously saw,
for she knew well that the heiress would now regret having so hastily
intimated her approaching departure. What was the expression on Lady
Agnes's face, the old lady could not see, for the millionaire's wife
shielded it--presumably from the fire--with a large fan of white
feathers. Had Mrs. Belgrove been able to read that countenance she would
have seen satisfaction written thereon, and would probably have set down
the expression to a wrong cause. In reality, Agnes was glad to think
that Lambert's promise was being kept, and that he no longer intended to
avoid her company so openly.

But if she was pleased, Miss Greeby was not, and still continued to look
annoyed, since she had burnt her boats by announcing her departure. And
what annoyed her still more than her hasty decision was, that she would
leave Lambert in the house along with the rival she most dreaded. Though
what the young man could see in this pale, washed-out creature Miss
Greeby could not imagine. She glanced at a near mirror and saw her own
opulent, full-blown looks clothed in a pale-blue dinner-gown, which went
so well--as she inartistically decided, with her ruddy locks, Mrs.
Belgrove considered that Miss Greeby looked like a paint-box, or a
sunset, or one of Turner's most vivid pictures, but the heiress was very
well pleased with herself. Lady Agnes, in her favorite white, with her
pale face and serious looks, was but a dull person of the nun
persuasion. And Miss Greeby did not think that Lambert cared for nuns,
when he had an Amazonian intelligent pal--so she put it--at hand. But,
of course, he might prefer dark beauties like Chaldea. Poor Miss Greeby;
she was pursuing her wooing under very great difficulties, and became
silent in order to think out some way of revoking in some natural
manner the information of her departure.

There were other women in the room, who joined in the conversation, and
all were glad to hear that Mr. Lambert intended to pay a visit to his
cousin, for, indeed, the young man was a general favorite. And then as
two or three decided--Mrs. Belgrove amongst the number--there really
could be nothing in the report that he loved Lady Agnes still, else he
would scarcely come and stay where she was. As for Pine's wife, she was
a washed-out creature, who had never really loved her cousin as people
had thought. And after all, why should she, since he was so poor,
especially when she was married to a millionaire with the looks of an
Eastern prince, and manners of quite an original nature, although these
were not quite conventional. Oh, yes, there was nothing in the scandal
that said Garvington had sold his sister to bolster up the family
property. Lady Agnes was quite happy, and her husband was a dear man,
who left her a great deal to her own devices--which he wouldn't have
done had he suspected the cousin; and who gave her pots of money to
spend. And what more could a sensible woman want?

In this way those in the drawing-room babbled, while Agnes stared into
the fire, bracing herself to encounter Lambert, who would surely arrive
within the next two or three days, and while Miss Greeby savagely
rebuked herself for having so foolishly intimated her departure. Then
the men straggled in from their wine, and bridge became the order of the
night with some, while others begged for music. After a song or so and
the execution of a Beethoven sonata, to which no one paid any attention,
a young lady gave a dance after the manner of Maud Allan, to which
everyone attended. Then came feats of strength, in which Miss Greeby
proved herself to be a female Sandow, and later a number of the guests
sojourned to the billiard-room to play. When they grew weary of that,
tobogganing down the broad staircase on trays was suggested and indulged
in amidst shrieks of laughter. Afterwards, those heated by this
horse-play strayed on to the terrace to breathe the fresh air, and flirt
in the moonlight. In fact, every conceivable way of passing the time was
taken advantage of by these very bored people, who scarcely knew how to
get through the long evening.

"They seem to be enjoying themselves, Freddy," said Lady Garvington to
her husband, when she drifted against him in the course of attending to
her guests. "I really think they find this jolly."

"I don't care a red copper what they find," retorted the little man, who
was looking worried, and not quite his usual self. "I wish the whole lot
would get out of the house. I'm sick of them."

"Ain't you well, Freddy? I knew that Patagonian soup was too rich for
you."

"Oh, the soup was all right--ripping soup," snorted Freddy, smacking his
lips over the recollection. "But I'm bothered over Pine."

"He isn't ill, is he?" questioned Lady Garvington anxiously. She liked
her brother-in-law, who was always kind to her.

"No, hang him; nothing worse than his usual lung trouble, I suppose. But
he is in Paris, and won't answer my letters."

"Letters, Freddy dear."

"Yes, Jane dear," he mocked. "Hang it, I want money, and he won't stump
up. I can't even get an answer."

"Speak to Mr. Silver."

"Damn Mr. Silver!"

"Well, I'm sure, Frederick, you needn't swear at me," said poor, wan
Lady Garvington, drawing herself up. "Mr. Silver is very kind. He went
to that gypsy camp and found out how they cook hedgehog. That will be a
new dish for you, dear. You haven't eaten hedgehog."

"No. And what's more, I don't intend to eat it. But you may as well tell
me how these gypsies cook it," and Freddy listened with both his red
ears to the description, on hearing which he decided that his wife
might instruct the cook how to prepare the animal. "But no one will eat
it but me."

Lady Garvington shuddered. "I shan't touch it myself. Those horrid
snails you insisted on being cooked a week ago made me quite ill. You
are always trying new experiments, Freddy."

"Because I get so tired of every-day dishes," growled Lord Garvington.
"These cooks have no invention. I wish I'd lived in Rome when they had
those banquets you read of in Gibbon."

"Did he write a book on cookery?" asked Lady Garvington very naturally.

"No. He turned out a lot of dull stuff about wars and migrations of
tribes: you are silly, Jane."

"What's that about migration of tribes?" asked Mrs. Belgrove, who was in
a good humor, as she had won largely at bridge. "You don't mean those
dear gypsies at Abbot's Wood do you, Lord Garvington? I met one of them
the other day--quite a girl and very pretty in a dark way. She told my
fortune, and said that I would come in for a lot of money. I'm sure I
hope so," sighed Mrs. Belgrove. "Celestine is so expensive, but no one
can fit me like she can. And she knows it, and takes advantage, the
horrid creature."

"I wish the tribe of gypsies would clear out," snapped Freddy, standing
before the fire and glaring at the company generally. "I know they'll
break in here and rob."

"Well," drawled Silver, who was hovering near, dressed so carefully that
he looked more of a foxy, neat bounder than ever. "I have noticed that
some of the brutes have been sneaking round the place."

Mrs. Belgrove shrieked. "Oh, how lucky I occupy a bedroom on the third
floor. Just like a little bird in its tiny-weeny nest. They can't get at
me there, can they, Lord Garvington?"

"They don't want you," observed Miss Greeby in her deep voice. "It's
your diamonds they'd like to get."

"Oh!" Mrs. Belgrove shrieked again. "Lock my diamonds up in your strong
room, Lord Garvington. Do! do! do! To please poor little me," and she
effusively clasped her lean hands, upon which many of the said diamonds
glittered.

"I don't think there is likely to be any trouble with these poor
gypsies, Mrs. Belgrove," remarked Lady Agnes negligently. "Hubert has
told me a great deal about them, and they are really not so bad as
people make out."

"Your husband can't know anything of such ragtags," said Miss Greeby,
looking at the beautiful, pale face, and wondering if she really had any
suspicion that Pine was one of the crew she mentioned.

"Oh, but Hubert does," answered Lady Agnes innocently. "He has met many
of them when he has been out helping people. You have no idea, any of
you, how good Hubert is," she added, addressing the company generally.
"He walks on the Embankment sometimes on winter nights and gives the
poor creatures money. And in the country I have often seen him stop to
hand a shilling to some tramp in the lanes."

"A gypsy for choice," growled Miss Greeby, marvelling that Lady Agnes
could not see the resemblance between the tramps' faces and that of her
own husband. "However, I hope Pine's darlings won't come here to rob.
I'll fight for my jewels, I can promise you."

One of the men laughed. "I shouldn't like to get a blow from your fist."

Miss Greeby smiled grimly, and looked at his puny stature. "Women have
to protect themselves from men like you," she said, amidst great
laughter, for the physical difference between her and the man was quite
amusing.

"It's all very well talking," said Garvington crossly. "But I don't
trust these gypsies."

"Why don't you clear them off your land then?" asked Silver daringly.

Garvington glared until his gooseberry eyes nearly fell out of his red
face. "I'll clear everyone to bed, that's what I'll do," he retorted,
crossing the room to the middle French window of the drawing-room. "I
wish you fellows would stop your larking out there," he cried. "It's
close upon midnight, and all decent people should be in bed."

"Since when have you joined the Methodists, Garvington?" asked an
officer who had come over from some twelve-mile distant barracks to pass
the night, and a girl behind him began to sing a hymn.

Lady Agnes frowned. "I wish you wouldn't do that, Miss Ardale," she
said in sharp rebuke, and the girl had the sense to be silent, while
Garvington fussed over the closing of the window shutters.

"Going to stand a siege?" asked Miss Greeby, laughing. "Or do you expect
burglars, particularly on this night."

"I don't expect them at all," retorted the little man. "But I tell you I
hate the idea of these lawless gypsies about the place. Still, if anyone
comes," he added grimly, "I shall shoot."

"Then the attacking person or party needn't bother," cried the officer.
"I shouldn't mind standing up to your fire, myself, Garvington."

With laughter and chatter and much merriment at the host's expense, the
guests went their several ways, the women to chat in one another's
dressing-rooms and the men to have a final smoke and a final drink.
Garvington, with two footmen, and his butler, went round the house,
carefully closing all the shutters, and seeing that all was safe. His
sister rather marvelled at this excessive precaution, and said as much
to her hostess.

"It wouldn't matter if the gypsies did break in," she said when alone
with Lady Garvington in her own bedroom. "It would be some excitement,
for all these people must find it very dull here."

"I'm sure I do my best, Agnes," said the sister-in-law plaintively.

"Of course, you do, you poor dear," said the other, kissing her. "But
Garvington always asks people here who haven't two ideas. A horrid,
rowdy lot they are. I wonder you stand it."

"Garvington asks those he likes, Agnes."

"I see. He hasn't any brains, and his guests suit him for the same
reason."

"They eat a great deal," wailed Lady Garvington. "I'm sure I might as
well be a cook. All my time is taken up with feeding them."

"Well, Freddy married you, Jane, because you had a genius for looking
after food. Your mother was much the same; she always kept a good
table." Lady Agnes laughed. "Yours was a most original wooing, Jane."

"I'd like to live on bread and water for my part, Agnes."

"Put Freddy on it, dear. He's getting too stout. I never thought that
gluttony was a crime. But when I look at Freddy"--checking her speech,
she spread out her hands with an ineffable look--"I'm glad that Noel is
coming," she ended, rather daringly. "At least he will be more
interesting than any of these frivolous people you have collected."

Lady Garvington looked at her anxiously. "You don't mind Noel coming?"

"No, dear. Why should I?"

"Well you see, Agnes, I fancied--"

"Don't fancy anything. Noel and I entirely understand one another."

"I hope," blurted out the other woman, "that it is a right
understanding?"

Agnes winced, and looked at her with enforced composure. "I am devoted
to my husband," she said, with emphasis. "And I have every reason to be.
He has kept his part of the bargain, so I keep mine. But," she added
with a pale smile, "when I think how I sold myself to keep up the credit
of the family, and now see Freddy entertaining this riff-raff, I am
sorry that I did not marry Noel, whom I loved so dearly."

"That would have meant our ruin," bleated Lady Garvington, sadly.

"Your ruin is only delayed, Jane. Freddy is a weak, self-indulgent fool,
and is eating his way into the next world. It will be a happy day for
you when an apoplectic fit makes you a widow."

"My dear," the wife was shocked, "he is your brother."

"More's the pity. I have no illusions about Freddy, Jane, and I don't
think you have either. Now, go away and sleep. It's no use lying awake
thinking over to-morrow's dinner. Give Freddy the bread and water you
talked about."

Lady Garvington laughed in a weak, aimless way, and then kissed her
sister-in-law with a sigh, after which she drifted out of the room in
her usual vague manner. Very shortly the clock over the stables struck
midnight, and by that time Garvington the virtuous had induced all his
men guests to go to bed. The women chatted a little longer, and then, in
their turn, sought repose. By half-past twelve the great house was in
complete darkness, and bulked a mighty mass of darkness in the pale
September moonlight.

Lady Agnes got to bed quickly, and tired out by the boredom of the
evening, quickly fell asleep. Suddenly she awoke with all her senses on
the alert, and with a sense of vague danger hovering round. There were
sounds of running feet and indistinct oaths and distant cries, and she
could have sworn that a pistol-shot had startled her from slumber. In a
moment she was out of bed and ran to open her window. On looking out
she saw that the moonlight was very brilliant, and in it beheld a tall
man running swiftly from the house. He sped down the broad path, and
just when he was abreast of a miniature shrubbery, she heard a second
shot, which seemed to be fired there-from. The man staggered, and
stumbled and fell. Immediately afterwards, her brother--she recognized
his voice raised in anger--ran out of the house, followed by some of the
male guests. Terrified by the sight and the sound of the shots, Lady
Agnes huddled on her dressing-gown hastily, and thrust her bare feet
into slippers. The next moment she was out of her bedroom and down the
stairs. A wild idea had entered her mind that perhaps Lambert had come
secretly to The Manor, and had been shot by Garvington in mistake for a
burglar. The corridors and the hall were filled with guests more or less
lightly attired, mostly women, white-faced and startled. Agnes paid no
attention to their shrieks, but hurried into the side passage which
terminated at the door out of which her brother had left the house. She
went outside also and made for the group round the fallen man.

"What is it? who is it?" she asked, gasping with the hurry and the
fright.

"Go back, Agnes, go back," cried Garvington, looking up with a distorted
face, strangely pale in the moonlight.

"But who is it? who has been killed?" She caught sight of the fallen
man's countenance and shrieked. "Great heavens! it is Hubert; is he
dead?"

"Yes," said Silver, who stood at her elbow. "Shot through the heart."




CHAPTER IX.

AFTERWARDS.


With amazing and sinister rapidity the news spread that a burglar had
been shot dead while trying to raid The Manor. First, the Garvington
villagers learned it; then it became the common property of the
neighborhood, until it finally reached the nearest county town, and thus
brought the police on the scene. Lord Garvington was not pleased when
the local inspector arrived, and intimated as much in a somewhat
unpleasant fashion. He was never a man who spared those in an inferior
social position.

"It is no use your coming over, Darby," he said bluntly to the
red-haired police officer, who was of Irish extraction. "I have sent to
Scotland Yard."

"All in good time, my lord," replied the inspector coolly. "As the
murder has taken place in my district I have to look into the matter,
and report to the London authorities, if it should be necessary."

"What right have you to class the affair as a murder?" inquired
Garvington.

"I only go by the rumors I have heard, my lord. Some say that you winged
the man and broke his right arm. Others tell me that a second shot was
fired in the garden, and it was that which killed Ishmael Hearne."

"It is true, Darby. I only fired the first shot, as those who were with
me will tell you. I don't know who shot in the garden, and apparently no
one else does. It was this unknown individual in the garden that killed
Hearne. By the way, how did you come to hear the name?"

"Half a dozen people have told me, my lord, along with the information I
have just given you. Nothing else is talked of far and wide."

"And it is just twelve o'clock," muttered the stout little lord, wiping
his scarlet face pettishly. "Ill news travels fast. However, as you are
here, you may as well take charge of things until the London men
arrive."

"The London men aren't going to usurp my privileges, my lord," said
Darby, firmly. "There's no sense in taking matters out of my hands. And
if you will pardon my saying so, I should have been sent for in the
first instance."

"I daresay," snapped Garvington, coolly. "But the matter is too
important to be left in the hands of a local policeman."

Darby was nettled, and his hard eyes grew angry. "I am quite competent
to deal with any murder, even if it is that of the highest in England,
much less with the death of a common gypsy."

"That's just where it is, Darby. The common gypsy who has been shot
happens to be my brother-in-law."

"Sir Hubert Pine?" questioned the inspector, thoroughly taken aback.

"Yes! Of course I didn't know him when I fired, or I should not have
done so, Darby. I understood, and his wife, my sister, understood, that
Sir Hubert was in Paris. It passes my comprehension to guess why he
should have come in the dead of night, dressed as a gypsy, to raid my
house."

"Perhaps it was a bet," said Darby, desperately puzzled.

"Bet, be hanged! Pine could come openly to this place whenever he liked.
I never was so astonished in my life as when I saw him lying dead near
the shrubbery. And the worst of it is, that my sister ran out and saw
him also. She fainted and has been in bed ever since, attended by Lady
Garvington."

"You had no idea that the man you shot was Sir Hubert, my lord?"

"Hang it, no! Would I have shot him had I guessed who he was?"

"No, no, my lord! of course not," said the officer hastily. "But as
I have come to take charge of the case, you will give me a detailed
account of what has taken place."

"I would rather wait until the Scotland Yard fellows come," grumbled
Garvington, "as I don't wish to repeat my story twice. Still, as you are
on the spot, I may as well ask your advice. You may be able to throw
some light on the subject. I'm hanged if I can."

Darby pulled out his notebook. "I am all attention, my lord."

Garvington plunged abruptly into his account, first having looked to see
if the library door was firmly closed. "As there have been many
burglaries lately in this part of the world," he said, speaking with
deliberation, "I got an idea into my head that this house might be
broken into."

"Natural enough, my lord," interposed Darby, glancing round the splendid
room. "A historic house such as this is, would tempt any burglar."

"So I thought," remarked the other, pleased that Darby should agree with
him so promptly. "And I declared several times, within the hearing of
many people, that if a raid was made, I should shoot the first man who
tried to enter. Hang it, an Englishman's house is his castle, and no man
has a right to come in without permission."

"Quite so, my lord. But the punishment of the burglar should be left to
the law," said the inspector softly.

"Oh, the deuce take the law! I prefer to execute my own punishments.
However, to make a long story short, I grew more afraid of a raid when
these gypsies came to camp at Abbot's Wood, as they are just the sort of
scoundrels who would break in and steal."

"Why didn't you order them off your land?" asked the policeman, alertly.

"I did, and then my brother-in-law sent a message through his secretary,
who is staying here, asking me to allow them to remain. I did."

"Why did Sir Hubert send that message, my lord?"

"Hang it, man, that's just what I am trying to learn, and I am the more
puzzled because he came last night dressed as a gypsy."

"He must be one," said Darby, who had seen Pine and now recalled his
dark complexion and jetty eyes. "It seems, from what I have been told,
that he stopped at the Abbot's Wood camp under the name of Ishmael
Hearne."

"So Silver informed me."

"Who is he?"

"Pine's secretary, who knows all his confidential affairs. Silver
declared, when the secret could be kept no longer, that Pine was really
a gypsy, called Ishmael Hearne. Occasionally longing for the old life,
he stepped down from his millionaire pedestal and mixed with his own
people. When he was supposed to be in Paris, he was really with the
gypsies, so you can now understand why he sent the message asking me to
let these vagrants stay."

"You told me a few moments ago, that you could not understand that
message, my lord," said Darby quickly, and looking searchingly at the
other man. Garvington grew a trifle confused. "Did I? Well, to tell you
the truth, Darby, I'm so mixed up over the business that I can't say
what I do know, or what I don't know. You'd better take all I tell you
with a grain of salt until I am quite myself again."

"Natural enough, my lord," remarked the inspector again, and quite
believed what he said. "And the details of the murder?"

"I went to bed as usual," said Garvington, wearily, for the events of
the night had tired him out, "and everyone else retired some time about
midnight. I went round with the footmen and the butler to see that
everything was safe, for I was too anxious to let them look after things
without me. Then I heard a noise of footsteps on the gravel outside,
just as I was dropping off to sleep--"

"About what time was that, my lord?"

"Half-past one o'clock; I can't be certain as to a minute. I jumped up
and laid hold of my revolver, which was handy. I always kept it beside
me in case of a burglary. Then I stole downstairs in slippers and
pajamas to the passage,--oh, here." Garvington rose quickly. "Come with
me and see the place for yourself!"

Inspector Darby put on his cap, and with his notebook still in his hand,
followed the stout figure of his guide. Garvington led him through the
entrance hall and into a side-passage, which terminated in a narrow
door. There was no one to spy on them, as the master of the house had
sent all the servants to their own quarters, and the guests were
collected in the drawing-room and smoking-room, although a few of the
ladies remained in their bedrooms, trying to recover from the night's
experience.

"I came down here," said Garvington, opening the door, "and heard the
burglar, as I thought he was, prowling about on the other side. I threw
open the door in this way and the man plunged forward to enter. I fired,
and got him in the right arm, for I saw it swinging uselessly by his
side as he departed."

"Was he in a hurry?" asked Darby, rather needlessly.

"He went off like greased lightning. I didn't follow, as I thought that
others of his gang might be about, but closing the door again I shouted
blue murder. In a few minutes everyone came down, and while I was
waiting--it all passed in a flash, remember, Darby--I heard a second
shot. Then the servants and my friends came and we ran out, to find the
man lying by that shrubbery quite dead. I turned him over and had just
grasped the fact that he was my brother-in-law, when Lady Agnes ran out.
When she learned the news she naturally fainted. The women carried her
back to her room, and we took the body of Pine into the house. A doctor
came along this morning--for I sent for a doctor as soon as it was
dawn--and said that Pine had been shot through the heart."

"And who shot him?" asked Darby sagely.

Garvington pointed to the shrubbery. "Someone was concealed there," he
declared.

"How do you know, that, my lord?"

"My sister, attracted by my shot, jumped out of bed and threw up her
window. She saw the man--of course she never guessed that he was
Pine--running down the path and saw him fall by the shrubbery when the
second shot was fired."

"Her bedroom is then on this side of the house, my lord?"

"Up there," said Garvington, pointing directly over the narrow door,
which was painted a rich blue color, and looked rather bizarre, set in
the puritanic greyness of the walls. "My own bedroom is further along
towards the right. That is why I heard the footsteps so plainly on this
gravel." And he stamped hard, while with a wave of his hand he invited
the inspector to examine the surroundings.

Darby did so with keen eyes and an alert brain. The two stood on the
west side of the mansion, where it fronted the three-miles distant
Abbot's Wood. The Manor was a heterogeneous-looking sort of place,
suggesting the whims and fancies of many generations, for something was
taken away here, and something was taken away there, and this had been
altered, while that had been left in its original state, until the house
seemed to be made up of all possible architectural styles. It was a tall
building of three stories, although the flattish red-tiled roofs took
away somewhat from its height, and spread over an amazing quantity of
land. As Darby thought, it could have housed a regiment, and must have
cost something to keep up. As wind and weather and time had mellowed its
incongruous parts into one neutral tint, it looked odd and attractive.
Moss and lichen, ivy and Virginia creeper--this last flaring in crimson
glory--clothed the massive stone walls with a gracious mantle of natural
beauty. Narrow stone steps, rather chipped, led down from the blue door
to the broad, yellow path, which came round the rear of the house and
swept down hill in a wide curve, past the miniature shrubbery, right
into the bosom of the park.

"This path," explained Garvington, stamping again, "runs right through
the park to a small wicket gate set in the brick wall, which borders the
high road, Darby."

"And that runs straightly past Abbot's Wood," mused the inspector. "Of
course, Sir Hubert would know of the path and the wicket gate?"

"Certainly; don't be an ass, Darby," cried Garvington petulantly. "He
has been in this house dozens of times and knows it as well as I do
myself. Why do you ask so obvious a question?"

"I was only wondering if Sir Hubert came by the high road to the wicket
gate you speak of, Lord Garvington."

"That also is obvious," retorted the other, irritably. "Since he wished
to come here, he naturally would take the easiest way."

"Then why did he not enter by the main avenue gates?"

"Because at that hour they would be shut, and--since it is evident that
his visit was a secret one--he would have had to knock up the
lodge-keeper."

"Why was his visit a secret one?" questioned Darby pointedly.

"That is the thing that puzzles me. Anything more?"

"Yes? Why should Sir Hubert come to the blue door?"

"I can't answer that question, either. The whole reason of his being
here, instead of in Paris, is a mystery to me."

"Oh, as to that last, the reply is easy," remarked the inspector. "Sir
Hubert wished to revert to his free gypsy life, and pretended to be in
Paris, so that he would follow his fancy without the truth becoming
known. But why he should come on this particular night, and by this
particular path to this particular door, is the problem I have to
solve!"

"Quite so, and I only hope that you will solve it, for the sake of my
sister."

Darby reflected for a moment or so. "Did Lady Agnes ask her husband to
come here to see her privately?"

"Hang it, no man!" cried Garvington, aghast. "She believed, as we all
did, that her husband was in Paris, and certainly never dreamed that he
was masquerading as a gypsy three miles away."

"There was no masquerading about the matter, my lord," said Darby,
dryly; "since Sir Hubert really was a gypsy called Ishmael Hearne. That
fact will come out at the inquest."

"It has come out now: everyone knows the truth. And a nice thing it is
for me and Lady Agnes."

"I don't think you need worry about that, Lord Garvington. The honorable
way in which the late Sir Hubert attained rank and gained wealth will
reflect credit on his humble origin. When the papers learn the story--"

"Confound the papers!" interrupted Garvington fretfully. "I sincerely
hope that they won't make too great a fuss over the business."

The little man's hope was vain, as he might have guessed that it would
be, for when the news became known in Fleet Street, the newspapers were
only too glad to discover an original sensation for the dead season.
Every day journalists and special correspondents were sent down in such
numbers that the platform of Wanbury Railway Station was crowded with
them. As the town--it was the chief town of Hengishire--was five miles
away from the village of Garvington, every possible kind of vehicle was
used to reach the scene of the crime, and The Manor became a rendezvous
for all the morbid people, both in the neighborhood and out of it. The
reporters in particular poked and pried all over the place, passing from
the great house to the village, and thence to the gypsy camp on the
borders of Abbot's Wood. From one person and another they learned facts,
which were published with such fanciful additions that they read like
fiction. On the authority of Mother Cockleshell--who was not averse to
earning a few shillings--a kind of Gil Blas tale was put into print, and
the wanderings of Ishmael Hearne were set forth in the picturesque style
of a picarooning romance. But of the time when the adventurous gypsy
assumed his Gentile name, the Romany could tell nothing, for obvious
reasons. Until the truth became known, because of the man's tragic and
unforeseen death, those in the camp were not aware that he was a Gorgio
millionaire. But where the story of Mother Cockleshell left off, that of
Mark Silver began, for the secretary had been connected with his
employer almost from the days of Hearne's first exploits as Pine in
London. And Silver--who also charged for the blended fact and fiction
which he supplied--freely related all he knew.

"Hearne came to London and called himself Hubert Pine," he stated
frankly, and not hesitating to confess his own lowly origin. "We met
when I was starving as a toymaker in Whitechapel. I invented some penny
toys, which Pine put on the market for me. They were successful and he
made money. I am bound to confess that he paid me tolerably well,
although he certainly took the lion's share. With the money he made in
this way, he speculated in South African shares, and, as the boom was
then on, he simply coined gold. Everything he touched turned into cash,
and however deeply he plunged into the money market, he always came out
top in the end. By turning over his money and re-investing it, and by
fresh speculations, he became a millionaire in a wonderfully short space
of time. Then he made me his secretary and afterwards took up politics.
The Government gave him a knighthood for services rendered to his party,
and he became a well-known figure in the world of finance. He married
Lady Agnes Lambert, and--and--that's all."

"You were aware that he was a gypsy, Mr. Silver?" asked the reporter.

"Oh, yes. I knew all about his origin from the first days of our
acquaintanceship. He asked me to keep his true name and rank secret. As
it was none of my business, I did so. At times Hearne--or rather Pine,
as I know him best by that name--grew weary of civilization, and then
would return to his own life of the tent and road. No one suspected
amongst the Romany that he was anything else but a horse-coper. He
always pretended to be in Paris, or Berlin, on financial affairs, when
he went back to his people, and I transacted all business during his
absence."

"You knew that he was at the Abbot's Wood camp?"

"Certainly. I saw him there once or twice to receive instructions about
business. I expostulated with him for being so near the house where his
brother-in-law and wife were living, as I pointed out that the truth
might easily become known. But Pine merely said that his safety in
keeping his secret lay in his daring to run the risk."

"Have you any idea that Sir Hubert intended to come by night to Lord
Garvington's house?"

"Not the slightest. In fact, I told him that Lord Garvington was afraid
of burglars, and had threatened to shoot any man who tried to enter the
house."

All this Silver said in a perfectly frank, free-and-easy manner, and
also related how the dead man had instructed him to ask Garvington to
allow the gypsies to remain in the wood. The reporter published the
interview with sundry comments of his own, and it was read with great
avidity by the public at large and by the many friends of the
millionaire, who were surprised to learn of the double life led by the
man. Of course, there was nothing disgraceful in Pine's past as Ishmael
Hearne, and all attempts to discover something shady about his
antecedents were vain. Yet--as was pointed out--there must have been
something wrong, else the adventurer, as he plainly was, would not have
met so terrible a death. But in spite of every one's desire to find fire
to account for the smoke, nothing to Pine's disadvantage could be
learned. Even at the inquest, and when the matter was thoroughly
threshed out, the dead man's character proved to be honorable, and--save
in the innocent concealment of his real name and origin--his public and
private life was all that could be desired. The whole story was not
criminal, but truly romantic, and the final tragedy gave a grim touch to
what was regarded, even by the most censorious, as a picturesque
narrative.

In spite of all his efforts, Inspector Darby, of Wanbury, could produce
no evidence likely to show who had shot the deceased. Lord Garvington,
under the natural impression that Pine was a burglar, had certainly
wounded him in the right arm, but it was the second shot, fired by some
one outside the house, which had pierced the heart. This was positively
proved by the distinct evidence of Lady Agnes herself. She rose from her
sick-bed to depose how she had opened her window, and had seen the
actual death of the unfortunate man, whom she little guessed was her
husband. The burglar--as she reasonably took him to be--was running down
the path when she first caught sight of him, and after the first shot
had been fired. It was the second shot, which came from the
shrubbery--marked on the plan placed before the Coroner and jury--which
had laid the fugitive low. Also various guests and servants stated that
they had arrived in the passage in answer to Lord Garvington's outcries,
to find that he had closed the door pending their coming. Some had even
heard the second shot while descending the stairs. It was proved,
therefore, in a very positive manner, that the master of the house had
not murdered the supposed robber.

"I never intended to kill him," declared Garvington when his evidence
was taken. "All I intended to do, and all I did do, was to wing him, so
that he might be captured on the spot, or traced later. I closed the
door after firing the shot, as I fancied that he might have had some
accomplices with him, and I wished to make myself safe until assistance
arrived."

"You had no idea that the man was Sir Hubert Pine?" asked a juryman.

"Certainly not. I should not have fired had I recognized him. The moment
I opened the door he flung himself upon me. I fired and he ran away. It
was not until we all went out and found him dead by the shrubbery that
I recognized my brother-in-law. I thought he was in Paris."

Inspector Darby deposed that he had examined the shrubbery, and had
noted broken twigs here and there, which showed that some one must have
been concealed behind the screen of laurels. The grass--somewhat long in
the thicket--had been trampled. But nothing had been discovered likely
to lead to the discovery of the assassin who had been ambushed in this
manner.

"Are there no footmarks?" questioned the Coroner.

"There has been no rain for weeks to soften the ground," explained the
witness, "therefore it is impossible to discover any footmarks. The
broken twigs and trampled grass show that some one was hidden in the
shrubbery, but when this person left the screen of laurels, there is
nothing to show in which direction the escape was made."

And indeed all the evidence was useless to trace the criminal. The Manor
had been bolted and barred by Lord Garvington himself, along with some
footmen and his butler, so no one within could have fired the second
shot. The evidence of Mother Cockleshell, of Chaldea, and of various
other gypsies, went to show that no one had left the camp on that night
with the exception of Hearne, and even his absence had not been made
known until the fact of the death was made public next morning. Hearne,
as several of the gypsies stated, had retired about eleven to his tent
and had said nothing about going to The Manor, much less about leaving
the camp. Silver's statements revealed nothing, since, far from seeking
his brother-in-law's house, Pine, had pointedly declared that in order
to keep his secret he would be careful not to go near the place.

"And Pine had no enemies to my knowledge who desired his death,"
declared the secretary. "We were so intimate that had his life been in
danger he certainly would have spoken about it to me."

"You can throw no light on the darkness?" asked the Coroner hopelessly.

"None," said the witness. "Nor, so far as I can see, is any one else
able to throw any light on the subject. Pine's secret was not a
dishonorable one, as he was such an upright man that no one could have
desired to kill him."

Apparently there was no solution to the mystery, as every one concluded,
when the evidence was fully threshed out. An open verdict was brought
in, and the proceedings ended in this unsatisfactory manner.

"Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown," said Lambert,
when he read the report of the inquest in his St. James's Street rooms.
"Strange. I wonder who cut the Gordian knot of the rope which bound
Agnes to Pine?"

He could find no reply to this question, nor could any one else.




CHAPTER X.

A DIFFICULT POSITION.


Lord Garvington was not a creditable member of the aristocracy, since
his vices greatly exceeded his virtues. With a weak nature, and the
tastes of a sybarite, he required a great deal of money to render him
happy. Like the immortal Becky Sharp, he could have been fairly honest
if possessed of a large income; but not having it he stopped short of
nothing save actual criminality in order to indulge his luxurious
tastes to the full. Candidly speaking, he had already overstepped the
mark when he altered the figures of a check his brother-in-law had given
him, and, had not Pine been so generous, he would have undoubtedly
occupied an extremely unpleasant position. However, thanks to Agnes, the
affair had been hushed up, and with characteristic promptitude,
Garvington had conveniently forgotten how nearly he had escaped the iron
grip of Justice. In fact, so entirely did it slip his memory that--on
the plea of Pine's newly discovered origin--he did not desire the body
to be placed in the family vault. But the widow wished to pay this honor
to her husband's remains, and finally got her own way in the matter, for
the simple reason that now she was the owner of Pine's millions
Garvington did not wish to offend her. But, as such a mean creature
would, he made capital out of the concession.

"Since I do this for you, Agnes," he said bluntly, when the question was
being decided, "you must do something for me."

"What do you wish me to do?"

"Ah--hum--hey--ho!" gurgled Garvington, thinking cunningly that it was
too early yet to exploit her. "We can talk about it when the will has
been read, and we know exactly how we stand. Besides your grief is
sacred to me, my dear. Shut yourself up and cry."

Agnes had a sense of humor, and the blatant hypocrisy of the speech made
her laugh outright in spite of the genuine regret she felt for her
husband's tragic death. Garvington was quite shocked. "Do you forget
that the body is yet in the house?" he asked with heavy solemnity.

"I don't forget anything," retorted Agnes, becoming scornfully serious.
"Not even that you count on me to settle your wretched financial
difficulties out of poor Hubert's money."

"Of course you will, my dear. You are a Lambert."

"Undoubtedly; but I am not necessarily a fool."

"Oh, I can't stop and hear you call yourself such a name," said
Garvington, ostentatiously dense to her true meaning. "It is hysteria
that speaks, and not my dear sister. Very natural when you are so
grieved. We are all mortal."

"You are certainly silly in addition," replied the widow, who knew how
useless it was to argue with the man. "Go away and don't worry me. When
poor Hubert is buried, and the will is read, I shall announce my
intentions."

"Intentions! Intentions!" muttered the corpulent little lord, taking a
hasty departure out of diplomacy. "Surely, Agnes won't be such a fool as
to let the family estates go."

It never struck him that Pine might have so worded the will that the
inheritance he counted upon might not come to the widow, unless she
chose to fulfil a certain condition. But then he never guessed the
jealousy with which the hot-blooded gypsy had regarded the early
engagement of Agnes and Lambert. If he had done so, he assuredly would
not have invited the young man down to the funeral. But he did so, and
talked about doing so, with a frequent mention that the body was to rest
in the sacred vault of the Lamberts so that every one should applaud his
generous humility.

"Poor Pine was only a gypsy," said Garvington, on all and every
occasion. "But I esteemed him as a good and honest man. He shall have
every honor shown to his memory. Noel and I, as representatives of his
wife, my dear sister, shall follow him to the Lambert vault, and there,
with my ancestors, the body of this honorable, though humble, man shall
rest until the Day of Judgment."

A cynic in London laughed when the speech was reported to him. "If
Garvington is buried in the same vault," he said contemptuously, "he
will ask Pine for money, as soon as they rise to attend the Great
Assizes!" which bitter remark showed that the little man could not
induce people to believe him so disinterested as he should have liked
them to consider him.

However, in pursuance of this artful policy, he certainly gave the dead
man, what the landlady of the village inn called, "a dressy funeral."
All that could be done in the way of pomp and ceremony was done, and the
procession which followed Ishmael Hearne to the grave was an
extraordinarily long one. The villagers came because, like all the lower
orders, they loved the excitement of an interment; the gypsies from the
camp followed, since the deceased was of their blood; and many people in
financial and social circles came down from London for the obvious
reason that Pine was a well-known figure in the City and the West End,
and also a member of Parliament. As for Lambert, he put in an
appearance, in response to his cousin's invitation, unwillingly enough,
but in order to convince Agnes that he had every desire to obey her
commands. People could scarcely think that Pine had been jealous of the
early engagement to Agnes, when her former lover attended the funeral of
a successful rival.

Of course, the house party at The Manor had broken up immediately after
the inquest. It would have disintegrated before only that Inspector
Darby insisted that every one should remain for examination in
connection with the late tragical occurrence. But in spite of
questioning and cross-questioning, nothing had been learned likely to
show who had murdered the millionaire. There was a great deal of talk
after the body had been placed in the Lambert vault, and there was more
talk in the newspapers when an account was given of the funeral. But
neither by word of mouth, nor in print, was any suggestion made likely
to afford the slightest clue to the name or the whereabouts of the
assassin. Having regard to Pine's romantic career, it was thought by
some that the act was one of revenge by a gypsy jealous that the man
should attain to such affluence, while others hinted that the motive
for the crime was to be found in connection with the millionaire's
career as a Gentile. Gradually, as all conjecture proved futile, the
gossip died away, and other events usurped the interest of the public.
Pine, who was really Hearne, had been murdered and buried; his assassin
would never be discovered, since the trail was too well hidden; and Lady
Agnes inherited at least two millions on which she would probably marry
her cousin and so restore the tarnished splendors of the Lambert family.
In this way the situation was summed up by the gossips, and then they
began to talk of something else. The tragedy was only a nine minutes'
wonder after all.

The gossips both in town and country were certainly right in assuming
that the widow inherited the vast property of her deceased husband. But
what they did not know was that a condition attached to such inheritance
irritated Agnes and caused Garvington unfeigned alarm. Pine's
solicitor--he was called Jarwin and came from a stuffy little office in
Chancery Lane--called Garvington aside, when the mourners returned from
the funeral, and asked that the reading of the will might be confined to
a few people whom he named.

"There is a condition laid down by the testator which need not be made
public," said Mr. Jarwin blandly. "A proposition which, if possible,
must be kept out of print."

Garvington, with a sudden recollection of his iniquity in connection
with the falsified check, did not dare to ask questions, but hastily
summoned the people named by the lawyer. As these were the widow, Lady
Garvington, himself, and his cousin Noel, the little man had no fear of
what might be forthcoming, since with relatives there could be no risk
of betrayal. All the same, he waited for the reading of the will with
some perturbation, for the suggested secrecy hinted at some posthumous
revenge on the part of the dead man. And, hardened as he was, Garvington
did not wish his wife and Lambert to become acquainted with his
delinquency. He was, of course, unaware that the latter knew about it
through Agnes, and knew also how it had been used to coerce her--for the
pressure amounted to coercion--into a loveless marriage.

The quintette assembled in a small room near the library, and when the
door and window were closed there was no chance that any one would
overhear the conference. Lambert was rather puzzled to know why he had
been requested to be present, as he had no idea that Pine would mention
him in the will. However, he had not long to wait before he learned the
reason, for the document produced by Mr. Jarwin was singularly short and
concise. Pine had never been a great speaker, and carried his reticence
into his testamentary disposition. Five minutes was sufficient for the
reading of the will, and those present learned that all real and
personal property had been left unreservedly to Agnes Pine, the widow of
the testator, on condition that she did _not_ marry Noel Tamsworth
Leighton Lambert. If she did so, the money was to pass to a certain
person, whose name was mentioned in a sealed envelope held by Mr.
Jarwin. This was only to be opened when Agnes Pine formally relinquished
her claim to the estate by marrying Noel Lambert. Seeing that the will
disposed of two millions sterling, it was a remarkably abrupt document,
and the reading of it took the hearers' breath away.

Garvington, relieved from the fears of his guilty conscience, was the
first to recover his power of speech. He looked at the lean, dry lawyer,
and demanded fiercely if no legacy had been left to him. "Surely Pine
did not forget me?" he lamented, with more temper than sorrow.

"You have heard the will," said Mr. Jarwin, folding up the single sheet
of legal paper on which the testament was inscribed.

"There are no legacies."

"None at all."

"Hasn't Pine remembered Silver?"

"He has remembered nothing and no one save Lady Agnes." Jarwin bowed to
the silent widow, who could not trust herself to speak, so angered was
she by the cruel way in which her husband had shown his jealousy.

"It's all very dreadful and very disagreeable," said Lady Garvington in
her weak and inconsequent way. "I'm sure I was always nice to Hubert and
he might have left me a few shillings to get clothes. Everything goes in
cooks and food and--"

"Hold your tongue, Jane," struck in her husband crossly. "You're always
thinking of frocks and frills. But I agree with you this will is
dreadful. I am not going to sit under such a beastly sell you know," he
added, turning to Jarwin. "I shall contest the will."

The lawyer coughed dryly and smiled. "As you are not mentioned in the
testament, Lord Garvington, I fail to see what you can do."

"Hum! hum! hum!" Garvington was rather disconcerted. "But Agnes can
fight it."

"Why should I?" questioned the widow, who was very pale and very quiet.

"Why should you?" blustered her brother. "It prevents your marrying
again."

"Pardon me, it does not," corrected Mr. Jarwin, with another dry cough.
"Lady Agnes can marry any one she chooses to, save--" His eyes rested on
the calm and watchful face of Lambert.

The young man colored, and glancing at Agnes, was about to speak. But on
second thoughts he checked himself, as he did not wish to add to the
embarrassment of the scene. It was the widow who replied. "Did Sir
Hubert tell you why he made such a provision?" she asked, striving to
preserve her calmness, which was difficult under the circumstances.

"Why, no," said Jarwin, nursing his chin reflectively. "Sir Hubert was
always of a reticent disposition. He simply instructed me to draw up the
will you have heard, and gave me no explanation. Everything is in order,
and I am at your service, madam, whenever you choose to send for me."

"But suppose I marry Mr. Lambert--"

"Agnes, you won't be such a fool!" shouted her brother, growing so
scarlet that he seemed to be on the point of an apoplectic fit.

She turned on him with a look, which reduced him to silence, but
carefully avoided the eyes of the cousin. "Suppose I marry Mr. Lambert?"
she asked again.

"In that case you will lose the money," replied Jarwin, slightly weary
of so obvious an answer having to be made. "You have heard the will."

"Who gets the money then?"

This was another ridiculous question, as Jarwin, and not without reason,
considered.

"Would you like me to read the will again?" he asked sarcastically.

"No. I am aware of what it contains."

"In that case, you must know, madam, that the money goes to a certain
person whose name is mentioned in a sealed envelope, now in my office
safe."

"Who is the person?" demanded Garvington, with a gleam of hope that Pine
might have made him the legatee.

"I do not know, my lord. Sir Hubert Pine wrote down the name and
address, sealed the envelope, and gave it into my charge. It can only be
opened when the ceremony of marriage takes place between--" he bowed
again to Lady Agnes and this time also to Lambert.

"Pine must have been insane," said Garvington, fuming. "He disguises
himself as a gypsy, and comes to burgle my house, and makes a silly will
which ought to be upset."

"Sir Hubert never struck me as insane," retorted Jarwin, putting the
disputed will into his black leather bag. "A man who can make two
million pounds in so short a space of time can scarcely be called
crazy."

"But this masquerading as a gypsy and a burglar," urged Garvington
irritably.

"He was actually a gypsy, remember, my lord, and it was natural that he
should wish occasionally to get back to the life he loved. As to his
being a burglar, I venture to disagree with you. He had some reason to
visit this house at the hour and in the manner he did, and doubtless if
he had lived he would have explained. But whatever might have been his
motive, Lord Garvington, I am certain it was not connected with
robbery."

"Well," snapped the fat little man candidly, "if I had known that Pine
was such a blighter as to leave me nothing, I'm hanged if I'd have
allowed him to be buried in such decent company."

"Freddy, Freddy, the poor man is dead. Let him rest," said Lady
Garvington, who looked more limp and untidy than ever.

"I wish he was resting somewhere else than in my vault. A damned
gypsy!"

"And my husband," said Lady Agnes sharply. "Don't forget that,
Garvington."

"I wish I could forget it. Much use he has been to us."

"_You_ have no cause to complain," said his sister with a meaning
glance, and Garvington suddenly subsided.

"Won't you say something, Noel?" asked Lady Garvington dismally.

"I don't see what there is to say," he rejoined, not lifting his eyes
from the ground.

"There you are wrong," remarked Agnes with a sudden flush. "There is a
very great deal to say, but this is not the place to say it. Mr.
Jarwin," she rose to her feet, looking a queenly figure in her long
black robes, "you can return to town and later will receive my
instructions."

The lawyer looked hard at her marble face, wondering whether she would
choose the lover or the money. It was a hard choice, and a very
difficult position. He could not read in her eyes what she intended to
do, so mutely bowed and took a ceremonious departure, paying a silent
tribute to the widow's strength of mind. "Poor thing; poor thing,"
thought the solicitor, "I believe she loves her cousin. It is hard that
she can only marry him at the cost of becoming a pauper. A difficult
position for her, indeed. H'm! she'll hold on to the money, of course;
no woman would be such a fool as to pay two millions sterling for a
husband."

In relation to nine women out of ten, this view would have been a
reasonable one to take, but Agnes happened to be the tenth, who had the
singular taste--madness some would have called it--to prefer love to
hard cash. Still, she made no hasty decision, seeing that the issues
involved in her renunciation were so great. Garvington, showing a
characteristic want of tact, began to argue the question almost the
moment Jarwin drove away from The Manor, but his sister promptly
declined to enter into any discussion.

"You and Jane can go away," said she, cutting him short. "I wish to have
a private conversation with Noel."

"For heaven's sake don't give up the money," whispered Garvington in an
agonized tone when at the door.

"I sold myself once to help the family," she replied in the same low
voice; "but I am not so sure that I am ready to do so twice."

"Quite right, dear," said Lady Garvington, patting the widow's hand. "It
is better to have love than money. Besides, it only means that Freddy
will have to give up eating rich dinners which don't agree with him."

"Come away, you fool!" cried Freddy, exasperated, and, seizing her arm,
he drew her out of the room, growling like a sick bear.

Agnes closed the door, and returned to look at Lambert, who still
continued to stare at the carpet with folded arms. "Well?" she demanded
sharply.

"Well?" he replied in the same tone, and without raising his eyes.

"Is that all you have to say, Noel?"

"I don't see what else I can say. Pine evidently guessed that we loved
one another, although heaven knows that our affection has been innocent
enough, and has taken this way to part us forever."

"Will it part us forever?"

"I think so. As an honorable man, and one who loves you dearly, I can't
expect you to give up two millions for the sake of love in a cottage
with me. It is asking too much."

"Not when a woman loves a man as I love you."

This time Lambert did look up, and his eyes flashed with surprise and
delight. "Agnes, you don't mean to say that you would--"

She cut him short by sitting down beside him and taking his hand. "I
would rather live on a crust with you in the Abbot's Wood Cottage than
in Park Lane a lonely woman with ample wealth."

"You needn't remain lonely long," said Lambert moodily. "Pine's will
does not forbid you to marry any one else."

"Do I deserve that answer, Noel, after what I have just said?"

"No, dear, no." He pressed her hand warmly. "But you must make some
allowance for my feelings. It is right that a man should sacrifice all
for a woman, but that a woman should give up everything for a man seems
wrong."

"Many women do, if they love truly as I do."

"But, Agnes, think what people will say about me."

"That will be your share of the sacrifice," she replied promptly. "If I
do this, you must do that. There is no difficulty when the matter is
looked on in that light. But there is a graver question to be answered."

Lambert looked at her in a questioning manner and read the answer in her
eyes. "You mean about the property of the family?"

"Yes." Agnes heaved a sigh and shook her head. "I wish I had been born a
village girl rather than the daughter of a great house. Rank has its
obligations, Noel. I recognized that before, and therefore married
Hubert. He was a good, kind man, and, save that I lost you, I had no
reason to regret becoming his wife. But I did not think that he would
have put such an insult on me."

"Insult, dear?" Lambert flushed hotly.

"What else can you call this forbidding me to marry you? The will is
certain to be filed at Somerset House, and the contents will be made
known to the public in the usual way, through the newspapers. Then what
will people say, Noel? Why, that I became Hubert's wife in order to get
his money, since, knowing that he was consumptive, I hoped he would soon
die, and that as a rich widow I could console myself with you. They will
chuckle to see how my scheme has been overturned by the will."

"But you made no such scheme."

"Of course not. Still, everyone will credit me with having done so.
As a woman, who has been insulted, and by a man who has no reason to
mistrust me, I feel inclined to renounce the money and marry you, if
only to show how I despise the millions. But as a Lambert I must think
again of the family as I thought before. The only question is, whether
it is wise to place duty above love for the second time, considering the
misery we have endured, and the small thanks we have received for our
self-denial?"

"Surely Garvington's estates are free by now?"

"No; they are not. Hubert, as I told you when we spoke in the cottage,
paid off many mortgages, but retained possession of them. He did not
charge Garvington any interest, and let him have the income of the
mortgaged land. No one could have behaved better than Hubert did, until
my brother's demands became so outrageous that it was impossible to go
on lending and giving him money. Hubert did not trust him so far as to
give back the mortgages, so these will form a portion of his estate. As
that belongs to me, I can settle everything with ease, and place
Garvington in an entirely satisfactory condition. But I do that at the
cost of losing you, dear. Should the estates pass to this unknown
person, the mortgages would be foreclosed, and our family would be
ruined."

"Are things as bad as that?"

"Every bit as bad. Hubert told me plainly how matters stood. For
generations the heads of the family have been squandering money. Freddy
is just as bad as the rest, and, moreover, has no head for figures. He
does not know the value of money, never having been in want of it. But
if everything was sold up--and it must be if I marry you and lose the
millions--he will be left without an acre of land and only three hundred
a year."

"Oh, the devil!" Lambert jumped up and began to walk up and down the
room with a startled air. "That would finish the Lambert family with a
vengeance, Agnes. What do you wish me to do?" he asked, after a pause.

"Wait," she said quietly.

"Wait? For what--the Deluge?"

"It won't come while I hold the money. I have a good business head, and
Hubert taught me how to deal with financial matters. I could not give
him love, but I did give him every attention, and I believe that I was
able to help him in some ways. I shall utilize my experience to see the
family lawyer and go into matters thoroughly. Then we shall know for
certain if things are as bad as Hubert made out. If they are, I must
sacrifice you and myself for the sake of our name; if they are not--"

"Well?" asked Lambert, seeing how she hesitated. Agnes crossed the room
and placed her arms round his neck with a lovely color tinting her wan
cheeks. "Dear," she whispered, "I shall marry you. In doing so I am not
disloyal to Hubert's memory, since I have always loved you, and he
accepted me as his wife on the understanding that I could not give him
my heart. And now that he has insulted me," she drew back, and her eyes
flashed, "I feel free to become your wife."

"I see," Lambert nodded. "We must wait?"

"We must wait. Duty comes before love. But I trust that the sacrifice
will not be necessary. Good-bye, dear," and she kissed him.

"Good-bye," repeated Lambert, returning the kiss. Then they parted.




CHAPTER XI.

BLACKMAIL.


Having come to the only possible arrangement, consistent with the
difficult position in which they stood, Lambert and Lady Agnes took
their almost immediate departure from The Manor. The young man had
merely come to stay there in response to his cousin's request, so that
his avoidance of her should not be too marked, and the suspicions of
Pine excited. Now that the man was dead, there was no need to behave in
this judicious way, and having no great love for Garvington, whom he
thoroughly despised, Lambert returned to his forest cottage. There he
busied himself once more with his art, and waited patiently to see what
the final decision of Agnes would be. He did not expect to hear for some
weeks, or even months, as the affairs of Garvington, being very much
involved, could not be understood in a moment. But the lovers, parted by
a strict sense of duty, eased their minds by writing weekly letters to
one another.

Needless to say, Garvington did not at all approve of the decision of
his sister, which she duly communicated to him. He disliked Lambert,
both as the next heir to the estates, and because he was a more popular
man than himself. Even had Pine not prohibited the marriage in his will,
Garvington would have objected to Agnes becoming the young man's wife;
as it was, he stormed tempests, but without changing the widow's
determination. Being a remarkably selfish creature, all he desired was
that Agnes should live a solitary life as a kind of banker, to supply
him with money whenever he chose to ask for the same. Pine he had not
been able to manage, but he felt quite sure that he could bully his
sister into doing what he wanted. It both enraged and surprised him to
find that she had a will of her own and was not content to obey his
egotistical orders. Agnes would not even remain under his roof--as he
wanted her to, lest some other person should get hold of her and the
desirable millions--but returned to her London house. The only comfort
he had was that Lambert was not with her, and therefore--as he devoutly
hoped--she would meet some man who would cause her to forget the Abbot's
Wood recluse. So long as Agnes retained the money, Garvington did not
particularly object to her marrying, as he always hoped to cajole and
bully ready cash out of her, but he would have preferred had she
remained single, as then she could be more easily plundered.

"And yet I don't know," he said to his long-suffering wife. "While she's
a widow there's always the chance that she may take the bit between her
teeth and marry Noel, in which case she loses everything. It will be as
well to get her married."

"You will have no selection of the husband this time," said Lady
Garvington, whose sympathies were entirely for Agnes. "She will choose
for herself."

"Let her," retorted Garvington, with feigned generosity. "So long as she
does not choose Noel; hang him!"

"He's the very man she will choose;" replied his wife, and Garvington,
uneasily conscious that she was probably right, cursed freely all women
in general and his sister in particular. Meanwhile he went to Paris to
look after a famous chef, of whom he had heard great things, and left
his wife in London with strict injunctions to keep a watch on Agnes.

The widow was speedily made aware of these instructions, for when Lady
Garvington came to stay with her sister-in-law at the sumptuous Mayfair
mansion, she told her hostess about the conversation. More than that,
she even pressed her to marry Noel, and be happy.

"Money doesn't do so much, after all, when you come to think of it,"
lamented Lady Garvington. "And I know you'd be happier with Noel, than
living here with all this horrid wealth."

"What would Freddy say if he heard you talk so, Jane?"

"I don't know what else he can say," rejoined the other reflectively.
"He's never kept his temper or held his tongue with me. His liver is
nearly always out of order with over-eating. However," she added
cheering up, "he is sure to die of apoplexy before long, and then I
shall live on tea and buns for the rest of my life. I simply hate the
sight of a dinner table."

"Freddy isn't a pretty sight during a meal," admitted his sister with a
shrug. "All the same you shouldn't wish him dead, Jane. You might have a
worse husband."

"I'd rather have a profligate than a glutton, Agnes. But Freddy won't
die, my dear. He'll go to Wiesbaden, or Vichy, or Schwalbach, and take
the waters to get thin; then he'll return to eat himself to the size of
a prize pig again. But thank goodness," said Lady Garvington, cheering
up once more, "he's away for a few weeks, and we can enjoy ourselves.
But do let us have plain joints and no sauces, Agnes."

"Oh, you can live on bread and water if you choose," said the widow
good-humoredly. "It's a pity I am in mourning, as I can't take you out
much. But the motor is always at your disposal, and I can give you all
the money you want. Get a few dresses--"

"And hats, and boots, and shoes, and--and--oh, I don't know what else.
You're a dear, Agnes, and although I don't want to ruin you, I do want
heaps of things. I'm in rags, as Freddy eats up our entire income."

"You can't ruin a woman with two millions, Jane. Get what you require
and I'll pay. I am only too glad to give you some pleasure, since I
can't attend to you as I ought to. But you see, nearly three times a
week I have to consult the lawyers about settling Freddy's affairs."

On these conditions four or five weeks passed away very happily for the
two women. Lady Garvington certainly had the time of her life, and
regained a portion of her lost youth. She revelled in shopping, went in
a quiet way to theatres, patronized skating rinks, and even attended one
or two small winter dances. And to her joy, she met with a nice young
man, who was earnestly in pursuit of a new religion, which involved much
fasting and occasional vegetarian meals. He taught her to eat nuts, and
eschew meats, talking meanwhile of the psychic powers which such
abstemiousness would develop in her. Of course Lady Garvington did not
overdo this asceticism, but she was thankful to meet a man who had not
read Beeton's Cookery Book. Besides, he flirted quite nicely.

Agnes, pleased to see her sister-in-law enjoying life, gave her
attention to Garvington's affairs, and found them in a woeful mess. It
really did appear as if she would have to save the Lambert family from
ever-lasting disgrace, and from being entirely submerged, by keeping
hold of her millions. But she did not lose heart, and worked on bravely
in the hope that an adjustment would save a few thousand a year for
Freddy, without touching any of Pine's money. If she could manage to
secure him a sufficient income to keep up the title, and to prevent the
sale of The Manor in Hengishire, she then intended to surrender her
husband's wealth and retire to a country life with Noel as her husband.

"He can paint and I can look after the cottage along with Mrs. Tribb,"
she told Mrs. Belgrove, who called to see her one day, more painted and
dyed and padded and tastefully dressed than ever. "We can keep fowls and
things, you know," she added vaguely.

"Quite an idyl," tittered the visitor, and then went away to tell her
friends that Lady Agnes must have been in love with her cousin all the
time. And as the contents of the will were now generally known, every
one agreed that the woman was a fool to give up wealth for a dull
existence in the woods. "All the same it's very sweet," sighed Mrs.
Belgrove, having made as much mischief as she possibly could. "I should
like it myself if I could only dress as a Watteau shepherdess, you know,
and carry a lamb with a blue ribbon round its dear neck."

Of course, Lady Agnes heard nothing of this ill-natured chatter, since
she did not go into society during her period of mourning, and received
only a few of her most intimate friends. Moreover, besides attending to
Garvington's affairs, it was necessary that she should have frequent
consultations with Mr. Jarwin in his stuffy Chancery Lane office,
relative to the large fortune left by her late husband. There, on three
occasions she met Silver, the ex-secretary, when he came to explain
various matters to the solicitor. With the consent of Lady Agnes, the
man had been discharged, when Jarvin took over the management of the
millions, but having a thorough knowledge of Pine's financial dealings,
it was necessary that he should be questioned every now and then.

Silver was rather sulky over his abrupt dismissal, but cunningly
concealed his real feelings when in the presence of the widow, since she
was too opulent a person to offend. It was Silver who suggested that a
reward should be offered for the detection of Pine's assassin. Lady
Agnes approved of the idea, and indeed was somewhat shocked that she had
not thought of taking this course herself. Therefore, within seven days
every police office in the United Kingdom was placarded with bills,
stating that the sum of one thousand pounds would be given to the person
or persons who should denounce the culprit. The amount offered caused
quite a flutter of excitement, and public interest in the case was
revived for nearly a fortnight. At the conclusion of that period, as
nothing fresh was discovered, people ceased to discuss the matter. It
seemed as though the reward, large as it was, would never be claimed.

But having regard to the fact that Silver was interesting himself in the
endeavor to avenge his patron's death, Lady Agnes was not at all
surprised to receive a visit from him one foggy November afternoon. She
certainly did not care much for the little man, but feeling dull and
somewhat lonely, she quite welcomed his visit. Lady Garvington had gone
with her ascetic admirer to a lecture on "Souls and Sorrows!" therefore
Agnes had a spare hour for the ex-secretary. He was shown into her own
particular private sitting-room, and she welcomed him with studied
politeness, for try as she might it was impossible for her to overcome
her mistrust.

"Good-day, Mr. Silver," she said, when he bowed before her. "This is an
unexpected visit. Won't you be seated?"

Silver accepted her offer of a chair with an air of demure shyness, and
sitting on its edge stared at her rather hard. He looked neat and dapper
in his Bond Street kit, and for a man who had started life as a
Whitechapel toymaker, his manners were inoffensive. While Pine's
secretary he had contrived to pick up hints in the way of social
behavior, and undoubtedly he was clever, since he so readily adapted
himself to his surroundings. He was not a gentleman, but he looked like
a gentleman, and therein lay a subtle difference as Lady Agnes decided.
She unconsciously in her manner, affable as it was, suggested the gulf
between them, and Silver, quickly contacting the atmosphere, did not
love her any the more for the hint.

Nevertheless, he admired her statuesque beauty, the fairness of which
was accentuated by her sombre dress. Blinking like a well-fed cat,
Silver stared at his hostess, and she looked questioningly at him. With
his foxy face, his reddish hair, and suave manners, too careful to be
natural, he more than ever impressed her with the idea that he was a
dangerous man. Yet she could not see in what way he could reveal his
malignant disposition.

"What do you wish to see me about, Mr. Silver?" she asked kindly, but
did not--as he swiftly noticed--offer him a cup of tea, although it was
close upon five o'clock.

"I have come to place my services at your disposal," he said in a low
voice.

"Really, I am not aware that I need them," replied Lady Agnes coldly,
and not at all anxious to accept the offer.

"I think," said Silver dryly, and clearing his throat, "that when you
hear what I have to say you will be glad that I have come."

"Indeed! Will you be good enough to speak plainer?"

She colored hotly when she asked the question, as it struck her suddenly
that perhaps this plotter knew of Garvington's slip regarding the check.
But as that had been burnt by Pine at the time of her marriage, she
reflected that even if Silver knew about it, he could do nothing.
Unless, and it was this thought that made her turn red, Garvington had
again risked contact with the criminal courts. The idea was not a
pleasant one, but being a brave woman, she faced the possibility boldly.

"Well?" she asked calmly, as he did not reply immediately. "What have
you to say?"

"It's about Pine's death," said Silver bluntly.

"Sir Hubert, if you please."

"And why, Lady Agnes?" Silver raised his faint eyebrows. "We were more
like brothers than master and servant. And remember that it was by the
penny toys that I invented your husband first made money."

"In talking to me, I prefer that you should call my late husband Sir
Hubert," insisted the widow haughtily. "What have you discovered
relative to his death?"

Silver did not answer the question directly. "Sir Hubert, since you will
have it so, Lady Agnes, was a gypsy," he remarked carelessly.

"That was made plain at the inquest, Mr. Silver."

"Quite so, Lady Agnes, but there were other things not made plain on
that occasion. It was not discovered who shot him."

"You tell me nothing new. I presume you have come to explain that you
have discovered a clew to the truth?"

Silver raised his pale face steadily. "Would you be glad if I had?"

"Certainly! Can you doubt it?"

The man shirked a reply to this question also. "Sir Hubert did not treat
me over well," he observed irrelevantly.

"I fear that has nothing to do with me, Mr. Silver."

"And I was dimissed from my post," he went on imperturbably.

"On Mr. Jarwin's advice," she informed him quickly. "There was no need
for you to be retained. But I believe that you were given a year's
salary in lieu of notice."

"That is so," he admitted. "I am obliged to you and to Mr. Jarwin for
the money, although it is not a very large sum. Considering what I did
for Sir Hubert, and how he built up his fortune out of my brains, I
think that I have been treated shabbily."

Lady Agnes rose, and moved towards the fireplace to touch the ivory
button of the electric bell. "On that point I refer you to Mr. Jarwin,"
she said coldly. "This interview has lasted long enough and can lead to
nothing."

"It may lead to something unpleasant unless you listen to me," said
Silver acidly. "I advise you not to have me turned out, Lady Agnes."

"What do you mean?" She dropped the hand she had extended to ring the
bell, and faced the smooth-faced creature suddenly. "I don't know what
you are talking about."

"If you will sit down, Lady Agnes, I can explain."

"I can receive your explanation standing," said the widow, frowning. "Be
brief, please."

"Very well. To put the matter in a nutshell, I want five thousand
pounds."

"Five thousand pounds!" she echoed, aghast.

"On account," said Silver blandly. "On account, Lady Agnes."

"And for what reason?"

"Sir Hubert was a gypsy," he said again, and with a significant look.

"Well?"

"He stopped at the camp near Abbot's Wood."

"Well?"

"There is a gypsy girl there called Chaldea."

"Chaldea! Chaldea!" muttered the widow, passing her hand across her
brow. "I have heard that name. Oh, yes. Miss Greeby mentioned it to me
as the name of a girl who was sitting as Mr. Lambert's model."

"Yes," assented Silver, grinning. "She is a very beautiful girl."

The color rushed again to the woman's cheeks, but she controlled her
emotions with an effort. "So Miss Greeby told me!" She knew that the man
was hinting that Lambert admired the girl in question, but her pride
prevented her admitting the knowledge. "Chaldea is being painted as
Esmeralda to the Quasimodo of her lover, a Servian gypsy called Kara, as
I have been informed, Mr. Silver. But what has all this to do with me?"

"Don't be in a hurry, Lady Agnes. It will take time to explain."

"How dare you take this tone with me?" demanded the widow, clenching her
hands. "Leave the room, sir, or I shall have you turned out."

"Oh, I shall leave since you wish it," replied Silver, rising slowly and
smoothing his silk hat with his sleeve. "But of course I shall try and
earn the reward you offered, by taking the letter to the police."

Agnes was so surprised that she closed again the door she had opened for
her visitor's exit. "What letter?"

"That one which was written to inveigle Sir Hubert to The Manor on the
night he was murdered," replied Silver slowly, and suddenly raising his
eyes he looked at her straightly.

"I don't understand," she said in a puzzled way. "I have never heard
that such a letter was in existence. Where is it?"

"Chaldea has it, and will not give it up unless she receives five
thousand pounds," answered the man glibly. "Give it to me and it passes
into your possession, Lady Agnes."

"Give you what?"

"Five thousand pounds--on account."

"On account of blackmail. How dare you make such a proposition to me?"

"You know," said Silver pointedly.

"I know nothing. It is the first time I have heard of any letter. Who
wrote it, may I ask?"

"You know," said Silver again.

Lady Agnes was so insulted by his triumphant look that she could have
struck his grinning face. However, she had too strong a nature to lower
herself in this way, and pointed to a chair. "Let me ask you a few
questions, Mr. Silver," she said imperiously.

"Oh, I am quite ready to answer whatever you choose to ask," he
retorted, taking his seat again and secretly surprised at her
self-control.

"You say that Chaldea holds a letter which inveigled my husband to his
death?" demanded Lady Agnes coolly.

"Yes. And she wants five thousand pounds for it."

"Why doesn't she give it to the police?"

"One thousand pounds is not enough for the letter. It is worth more--to
some people," and Silver raised his pale eyes again.

"To me, I presume you mean;" then when he bowed, she continued her
examination. "The five thousand pounds you intimate is on account, yet
you say that Chaldea will deliver the letter for that sum."

"To me," rejoined the ex-secretary impudently. "And when it is in my
possession, I can give it to you for twenty thousand pounds."

Lady Agnes laughed in his face. "I am too good a business woman to make
such a bargain," she said with a shrug.

"Well, you know best," replied Silver, imitating her shrug.

"I know nothing; I am quite in the dark as to the reason for your
blackmailing, Mr. Silver."

"That is a nasty word, Lady Agnes."

"It is the only word which seems to suit the situation. Why should I
give twenty-five thousand pounds for this letter?"

"Its production will place the police on the track of the assassin."

"And is not that what I desire? Why did I offer a reward of one thousand
pounds if I did not hope that the wretch who murdered my husband should
be brought to justice?"

Silver exhibited unfeigned surprise. "You wish that?"

"Certainly I do. Where was this letter discovered?"

"Chaldea went to the tent of your husband in the camp and found it in
the pocket of his coat. He apparently left it behind by mistake when he
went to watch."

"Watch?"

"Yes! The letter stated that you intended to elope that night with Mr.
Lambert, and would leave the house by the blue door. Sir Hubert went to
watch and prevent the elopement. In that way he came by his death, since
Lord Garvington threatened to shoot a possible burglar. Of course, Sir
Hubert, when the blue door was opened by Lord Garvington, who had heard
the footsteps of the supposed burglar, threw himself forward, thinking
you were coming out to meet Mr. Lambert. Sir Hubert was first shot in
the arm by Lord Garvington, who really believed for the moment that he
had to do with a robber. But the second shot," ended Silver with
emphasis, "was fired by a person concealed in the shrubbery, who knew
that Sir Hubert would walk into the trap laid by the letter."

During this amazing recital, Lady Agnes, with her eyes on the man's
face, and her hands clasped in sheer surprise, had sat down on a near
couch. She could scarcely believe her ears. "Is this true?" she asked in
a faltering voice.

Silver shrugged his shoulders again. "The letter held by Chaldea
certainly set the snare in which Sir Hubert was caught. Unless the
person in the shrubbery knew about the letter, the person would scarcely
have been concealed there with a revolver. I know about the letter for
certain, since Chaldea showed it to me, when I went to ask questions
about the murder in the hope of gaining the reward. The rest of my story
is theoretical."

"Who was the person who fired the shot?" asked Lady Agnes abruptly.

"I don't know."

"Who wrote the letter which set the snare?"

Silver shuffled. "Chaldea loves Mr. Lambert," he said hesitating.

"Go on," ordered the widow coldly and retaining her self-control.

"She is jealous of you, Lady Agnes, because--"

"There is no reason to explain," interrupted the listener between her
teeth.

"Well, then, Chaldea hating you, says that you wrote the letter."

"Oh, indeed." Lady Agnes replied calmly enough, although her conflicting
emotions almost suffocated her. "Then I take it that this gypsy declares
me to be a murderess."

"Oh, I shouldn't say that exactly."

"I do say it," cried Lady Agnes, rising fiercely. "If I wrote the
letter, and set the snare, I must necessarily know that some one was
hiding in the shrubbery to shoot my husband. It is an abominable lie
from start to finish."

"I am glad to hear you say so. But the letter?"

"The police will deal with that."

"The police? You will let Chaldea give the letter to the police?"

"I am innocent and have no fear of the police. Your attempt to
blackmail me has failed, Mr. Silver."

"Be wise and take time for reflection," he urged, walking towards the
door, "for I have seen this letter, and it is in your handwriting."

"I never wrote such a letter."

"Then who did--in your handwriting?"

"Perhaps you did yourself, Mr. Silver, since you are trying to blackmail
me in this bareface way."

Silver snarled and gave her an ugly look. "I did no such thing," he
retorted vehemently, and, as it seemed, honestly enough. "I had every
reason to wish that Sir Hubert should live, since my income and my
position depended upon his existence. But you--"

"What about me?" demanded Lady Agnes, taking so sudden a step forward
that the little man retreated nearer the door.

"People say--"

"I know what people say and what you are about to repeat," she said in a
stifled voice. "You can tell the girl to take that forged letter to the
police. I am quite able to face any inquiry."

"Is Mr. Lambert also able?"

"Mr. Lambert?" Agnes felt as though she would choke.

"He was at his cottage on that night."

"I deny that; he went to London."

"Chaldea can prove that he was at his cottage, and--"

"You had better go," said Lady Agnes, turning white and looking
dangerous. "Go, before you say what you may be sorry for. I shall tell
Mr. Lambert the story you have told me, and let him deal with the
matter."

Silver threw off the mask, as he was enraged she should so boldly
withstand his demands. "I give you one week," he said harshly. "And, if
you do not pay me twenty-five thousand pounds, that letter goes to the
inspector at Wanbury."

"It can go now," she declared dauntlessly.

"In that case you and Mr. Lambert will be arrested at once."

Agnes gripped the man's arm as he was about to step through the door. "I
take your week of grace," she said with a sudden impulse of wisdom.

"I thought you would," retorted Silver insultingly. "But remember I must
get the money at the end of seven days. It's twenty-five thousand pounds
for me, or disgrace to you," and with an abrupt nod he disappeared
sneering.

"Twenty-five thousand pounds or disgrace," whispered Agnes to herself.




CHAPTER XII.

THE CONSPIRACY.


It was lucky that Lambert did not know of the ordeal to which Agnes had
to submit, unaided, since he was having a most unhappy time himself. In
a sketching expedition he had caught a chill, which had developed once
more a malarial fever, contracted in the Congo marshes some years
previously. Whenever his constitution weakened, this ague fit would
reappear, and for days, sometimes weeks, he would shiver with cold, and
alternately burn with fever. As the autumn mists were hanging round the
leafless Abbot's Wood, it was injudicious of him to sit in the open,
however warmly clothed, seeing that he was predisposed to disease. But
his desire for the society of the woman he loved, and the hopelessness
of the outlook, rendered him reckless, and he was more often out of
doors than in. The result was that when Agnes came down to relate the
interview with Silver, she found him in his sitting-room swathed in
blankets, and reclining in an arm-chair placed as closely to a large
wood fire as was possible. He was very ill indeed, poor man, and she
uttered an exclamation when she saw his wan cheeks and hollow eyes.
Lambert was now as weak as he had been strong, and with the mothering
instinct of a woman, she rushed forward to kneel beside his chair.

"My dear, my dear, why did you not send for me?" she wailed, keeping
back her tears with an effort.

"Oh, I'm all right, Agnes," he answered cheerfully, and fondly clasping
her hand. "Mrs. Tribb is nursing me capitally."

"I'm doing my best," said the rosy-faced little housekeeper, who stood
at the door with her podgy hands primly folded over her apron. "Plenty
of bed and food is what I give Master Noel; but bless you, my lady, he
won't stay between the blankets, being always a worrit from a boy."

"It seems to me that I am very much between the blankets now," murmured
Lambert in a tired voice, and with a glance at his swathed limbs. "Go
away, Mrs. Tribb, and get Lady Agnes something to eat."

"I only want a cup of tea," said Agnes, looking anxiously into her
lover's bluish-tinted face. "I'm not hungry."

Mrs. Tribb took a long look at the visitor and pursed up her lips, as
she shook her head. "Hungry you mayn't be, my lady, but food you must
have, and that of the most nourishing and delicate. You look almost as
much a corpse as Master Noel there."

"Yes, Agnes, you do seem to be ill," said Lambert with a startled
glance at her deadly white face, and at the dark circles under her eyes.
"What is the matter, dear?"

"Nothing! Nothing! Don't worry."

Mrs. Tribb still continued to shake her head, and, to vary the movement,
nodded like a Chinese mandarin. "You ain't looked after proper, my lady,
for all your fine London servants, who ain't to be trusted, nohow,
having neither hands to do nor hearts to feel for them as wants comforts
and attentions. I remember you, my lady, a blooming young rose of a gal,
and now sheets ain't nothing to your complexion. But rose you shall be
again, my lady, if wine and food can do what they're meant to do. Tea
you shan't have, nohow, but a glass or two of burgundy, and a plate of
patty-foo-grass sandwiches, and later a bowl of strong beef tea with
port wine to strengthen the same," and Mrs. Tribb, with a determined
look on her face, went away to prepare these delicacies.

"My dear! my dear!" murmured Agnes again when the door closed. "You
should have sent for me."

"Nonsense," answered Lambert, smoothing her hair. "I'm not a child to
cry out at the least scratch. It's only an attack of my old malarial
fever, and I shall be all right in a few days."

"Not a few of these days," said Agnes, looking out of the window at the
gaunt, dripping trees and gray sky and melancholy monoliths. "You ought
to come to London and see the doctor."

"Had I come, I should have had to pay you a visit, and I thought that
you did not wish me to, until things were adjusted."

Agnes drew back, and, kneeling before the fire, spread out her hands to
the blaze. "Will they ever be adjusted?" she asked herself despairingly,
but did not say so aloud, as she was unwilling to worry the sick man.
"Well, I only came down to The Manor for a few days," she said aloud,
and in a most cheerful manner. "Jane wants to get the house in order
for Garvington, who returns from Paris in a week."

"Agnes! Agnes!" Lambert shook his head. "You are not telling me the
truth. I know you too well, my dear."

"I really am staying with Jane at The Manor," she persisted.

"Oh, I believe that; but you are in trouble and came down to consult me."

"Yes," she admitted faintly. "I am in great trouble. But I don't wish to
worry you while you are in this state."

"You will worry me a great deal more by keeping silence," said Lambert,
sitting up in his chair and drawing the blankets more closely round him.
"Do not trouble about me. I'm all right. But you--" he looked at her
keenly and with a dismayed expression. "The trouble must be very great,"
he remarked.

"It may become so, Noel. It has to do with--oh, here is Mrs. Tribb!" and
she broke off hurriedly, as the housekeeper appeared with a tray.

"Now, my lady, just you sit in that arm-chair opposite to Master Noel,
and I'll put the tray on this small stool beside you. Sandwiches and
burgundy wine, my lady, and see that you eat and drink all you can.
Walking over on this dripping day," cried Mrs. Tribb, bustling about.
"Giving yourself your death of cold, and you with carriages and horses,
and them spitting cats of motive things. You're as bad as Master Noel,
my lady. As for him, God bless him evermore, he's--" Mrs. Tribb raised
her hands to show that words failed her, and once more vanished through
the door to get ready the beef tea.

Agnes did not want to eat, but Lambert, who quite agreed with the
kind-hearted practical housekeeper, insisted that she should do so. To
please him she took two sandwiches, and a glass of the strong red wine,
which brought color back to her cheeks in some degree. When she
finished, and had drawn her chair closer to the blaze, he smiled.

"We are just like Darby and Joan," said Lambert, who looked much better
for her presence. "I am so glad you are here, Agnes. You are the very
best medicine I can have to make me well."

"The idea of comparing me to anything so nasty as medicine," laughed
Agnes with an attempt at gayety. "But indeed, Noel, I wish my visit was
a pleasant one. But it is not, whatever you may say; I am in great
trouble."

"From what--with what--in what?" stuttered Lambert, so confusedly and
anxiously that she hesitated to tell him.

"Are you well enough to hear?"

"Of course I am," he answered fretfully, for the suspense began to tell
on his nerves. "I would rather know the worst and face the worst than be
left to worry over these hints. Has the trouble to do with the murder?"

"Yes. And with Mr. Silver."

"Pine's secretary? I thought you had got rid of him?"

"Oh, yes. Mr. Jarwin said that he was not needed, so I paid him a year's
wages instead of giving him notice, and let him go. But I have met him
once or twice at the lawyers, as he has been telling Mr. Jarwin about
poor Hubert's investments. And yesterday afternoon he came to see me."

"What about?"

Agnes came to the point at once, seeing that it would be better to do
so, and put an end to Lambert's suspense. "About a letter supposed to
have been written by me, as a means of luring Hubert to The Manor to be
murdered."

Lambert's sallow and pinched face grew a deep red. "Is the man mad?"

"He's sane enough to ask twenty-five thousand pounds for the letter,"
she said in a dry tone. "There's not much madness about that request."

"Twenty-five thousand pounds!" gasped Lambert, gripping the arms of his
chair and attempting to rise.

"Yes. Don't get up, Noel, you are too weak." Agnes pressed him back into
the seat. "Twenty thousand for himself and five thousand for Chaldea."

"Chaldea! Chaldea! What has she got to do with the matter?"

"She holds the letter," said Agnes with a side-glance. "And being
jealous of me, she intends to make me suffer, unless I buy her silence
and the letter. Otherwise, according to Mr. Silver, she will show it to
the police. I have seven days, more or less, in which to make up my
mind. Either I must be blackmailed, or I must face the accusation."

Lambert heard only one word that struck him in this speech. "Why is
Chaldea jealous of you?" he demanded angrily.

"I think you can best answer that question, Noel."

"I certainly can, and answer it honestly, too. Who told you about
Chaldea?"

"Mr. Silver, for one, as I have just confessed. Clara Greeby for
another. She said that the girl was sitting to you for some picture."

"Esmeralda and Quasimodo," replied the artist quickly. "You will find
what I have done of the picture in the next room. But this confounded
girl chose to fall in love with me, and since then I have declined to
see her. I need hardly tell you, Agnes, that I gave her no
encouragement."

"No, dear. I never for one moment supposed that you would."

"All the same, and in spite of my very plain speaking, she continues to
haunt me, Agnes. I have avoided her on every occasion, but she comes
daily to see Mrs. Tribb, and ask questions about my illness."

"Then, if she comes this afternoon, you must get that letter from her,"
was the reply. "I wish to see it."

"Silver declares that you wrote it?"

"He does. Chaldea showed it to him."

"It is in your handwriting?"

"So Mr. Silver declares."

Lambert rubbed the bristles of his three days' beard, and wriggled
uncomfortably in his seat. "I can't gather much from these hints," he
said with the fretful impatience of an invalid. "Give me a detailed
account of this scoundrel's interview with you, and report his exact
words if you can remember them, Agnes."

"I remember them very well. A woman does not forget such insults
easily."

"Damn the beast!" muttered Lambert savagely. "Go on, dear."

Agnes patted his hand to soothe him, and forthwith related all that had
passed between her and the ex-secretary. Lambert frowned once or twice
during the recital, and bit his lip with anger. Weak as he was, he
longed for Silver to be within kicking distance, and it would have fared
badly with the foxy little man had he been in the room at the moment.
When Agnes ended, her lover reflected for a few minutes.

"It's a conspiracy," he declared.

"A conspiracy, Noel?"

"Yes. Chaldea hates you because the fool has chosen to fall in love with
me. The discovery of this letter has placed a weapon in her hand to do
you an injury, and for the sake of money Silver is assisting her. I will
do Chaldea the justice to say that I don't believe she asks a single
penny for the letter. To spite you she would go at once to the police.
But Silver, seeing that there is money in the business, has prevented
her doing so. As to this letter--" He stopped and rubbed his chin again
vexedly.

"It must be a forgery."

"Without doubt, but not of your handwriting, I fancy, in spite of what
this daring blackguard says. He informed you that the letter stated how
you intended to elope with me on that night, and would leave The Manor
by the blue door. Also, on the face of it, it would appear that you had
written the letter to your husband, since otherwise it would not have
been in his possession. You would not have given him such a hint had an
elopement really been arranged."

Agnes frowned. "There was no chance of an elopement being arranged," she
observed rather coldly.

"Of course not. You and I know as much, but I am looking at the matter
from the point of view of the person who wrote the letter. It can't be
your forged handwriting, for Pine would never have believed that you
would put him on the track as it were. No, Agnes. Depend upon it, the
letter was a warning sent by some sympathetic friend, and is probably an
anonymous one."

Agnes nodded meditatively. "You may be right, Noel. But who wrote to
Hubert?"

"We must see the letter and find out."

"But if it is my forged handwriting?"

"I don't believe it is," said Lambert decisively. "No conspirator would
be so foolish as to conduct his plot in such a way. However, Chaldea has
the letter, according to Silver, and we must make her give it up. She is
sure to be here soon, as she always comes bothering Mrs. Tribb in the
afternoon about my health. Just ring that hand-bell, Agnes."

"Do you think Chaldea wrote the letter?" she asked, having obeyed him.

"No. She has not the education to forge, or even to write decently."

"Perhaps Mr. Silver--but no. I taxed him with setting the trap, and he
declared that Hubert was more benefit to him alive than dead, which is
perfectly true. Here is Mrs. Tribb, Noel."

Lambert turned his head. "Has that gypsy been here to-day?" he asked
sharply.

"Not yet, Master Noel, but there's no saying when she may come, for
she's always hanging round the house. I'd tar and feather her and slap
and pinch her if I had my way, say what you like, my lady. I've no
patience with gals of that free-and-easy, light-headed,
butter-won't-melt-in-your-mouth kind."

"If she comes to-day, show her in here," said Lambert, paying little
attention to Mrs. Tribb's somewhat German speech of mouth-filling words.

The housekeeper's black eyes twinkled, and she opened her lips, then she
shut them again, and looking at Lady Agnes in a questioning way, trotted
out of the room. It was plain that Mrs. Tribb knew of Chaldea's
admiration for her master, and could not understand why he wished her to
enter the house when Lady Agnes was present. She did not think it a wise
thing to apply fire to gunpowder, which, in her opinion, was what
Lambert was doing.

There ensued silence for a few moments. Then Agnes, staring into the
fire, remarked in a musing manner, "I wonder who did shoot Hubert. Mr.
Silver would not have done so, as it was to his interest to keep him
alive. Do you think that to hurt me, Noel, Chaldea might have--"

"No! No! No! It was to her interest also that Pine should live, since
she knew that I could not marry you while he was alive."

Agnes nodded, understanding him so well that she did not need to ask
for a detailed explanation. "It could not have been any of those staying
at The Manor," she said doubtfully, "since every one was indoors and in
bed. Garvington, of course, only broke poor Hubert's arm under a
misapprehension. Who could have been the person in the shrubbery?"

"Silver hints that I am the individual," said Lambert grimly.

"Yes, he does," assented Lady Agnes quickly. "I declared that you were
in London, but he said that you returned on that night to this place."

"I did, worse luck. I went to town, thinking it best to be away while
Pine was in the neighborhood, and--"

"You knew that Hubert was a gypsy and at the camp?" interrupted Agnes in
a nervous manner, for the information startled her.

"Yes! Chaldea told me so, when she was trying to make me fall in love
with her. I did not tell you, as I thought that you might be vexed,
although I dare say I should have done so later. However, I went to town
in order to prevent trouble, and only returned for that single night. I
went back to town next morning very early, and did not hear about the
murder until I saw a paragraph in the evening papers. Afterwards I came
down to the funeral because Garvington asked me to, and I thought that
you would like it."

"Why did you come back on that particular night?"

"My dear Agnes, I had no idea that Hubert would be murdered on that
especial night, so did not choose it particularly. I returned because I
had left behind a parcel of your letters to me when we were engaged. I
fancied that Chaldea might put Hubert up to searching the cottage while
I was away, and if he had found those letters he would have been more
jealous than ever, as you can easily understand."

"No, I can't understand," flashed out Agnes sharply. "Hubert knew that
we loved one another, and that I broke the engagement to save the
family. I told him that I could not give him the affection he desired,
and he was content to marry me on those terms. The discovery of letters
written before I became his wife would not have caused trouble, since I
was always loyal to him. There was no need for you to return, and your
presence here on that night lends color to Mr. Silver's accusation."

"But you don't believe--"

"Certainly I don't. All the same it is awkward for both of us."

"I think it was made purposely awkward, Agnes. Whosoever murdered Hubert
must have known of my return, and laid the trap on that night, so that I
might be implicated."

"But who set the trap?"

"The person who wrote that letter."

"And who wrote the letter?"

"That is what we have to find out from Chaldea!"

At that moment; as if he had summoned her, the gypsy suddenly flung open
the door and walked in with a sulky expression on her dark face. At
first she had been delighted to hear that Lambert wanted to see her, but
when informed by Mrs. Tribb that Lady Agnes was with the young man, she
had lost her temper. However, the chance of seeing Lambert was too
tempting to forego, so she marched in defiantly, ready to fight with her
rival if there was an opportunity of doing so. But the Gentile lady
declined the combat, and took no more notice of the jealous gypsy than
was absolutely necessary. On her side Chaldea ostentatiously addressed
her conversation to Lambert.

"How are you, rye?" she asked, stopping with effort in the middle of the
room, for her impulse was to rush forward and gather him to her heaving
bosom. "Have you taken drows, my precious lord?"

"What do you mean by drows, Chaldea?"

"Poison, no less. You look drabbed, for sure."

"Drabbed?"

"Poisoned. But I waste the kalo jib on you, my Gorgious. God bless you
for a sick one, say I, and that's a bad dukkerin, the which in gentle
Romany means fortune, my Gentile swell."

"Drop talking such nonsense," said Lambert sharply, and annoyed to see
how the girl ignored the presence of Lady Agnes. "I have a few questions
to ask you about a certain letter."

"Kushto bak to the rye, who showed it to the lady," said Chaldea,
tossing her head so that the golden coins jingled.

"He did not show it to me, girl," remarked Lady Agnes coldly.

"Hai! It seems that the rumy of Hearne can lie."

"I shall put you out of the house if you speak in that way," said
Lambert sternly. "Silver went to Lady Agnes and tried to blackmail her."

"He's a boro pappin, and that's Romany for a large goose, my Gorgious
rye, for I asked no gold."

"You told him to ask five thousand pounds."

"May I die in a ditch if I did!" cried Chaldea vehemently. "Touch the
gold of the raclan I would not, though I wanted bread. The tiny rye took
the letter to give to the prastramengro, and that's a policeman, my
gentleman, so that there might be trouble. But I wished no gold from
her. Romany speaking, I should like to poison her. I love you, and--"

"Have done with this nonsense, Chaldea. Talk like that and out you go.
I can see from what you admit, that you have been making mischief."

"That's as true as my father," laughed the gypsy viciously. "And glad am
I to say the word, my boro rye. And why should the raclan go free-footed
when she drew her rom to be slaughtered like a pig?"

"I did nothing of the sort," cried Agnes, with an angry look.

"Duvel, it is true." Chaldea still addressed Lambert, and took no notice
of Agnes. "I swear it on your Bible-book. I found the letter in my
brother's tent, the day after he perished. Hearne, for Hearne he was,
and a gentle Romany also, read the letter, saying that the raclan, his
own romi, was running away with you."

"Who wrote the letter?" demanded Agnes indignantly.

This time Chaldea answered her fiercely. "You did, my Gorgious rani, and
lie as you may, it's the truth I tell."

Ill as he was, Lambert could not endure seeing the girl insult Agnes.
With unexpected strength he rose from his chair and took her by the
shoulders to turn her out of the room. Chaldea laughed wildly, but did
not resist. It was Agnes who intervened. "Let her stay until we learn
the meaning of these things, Noel," she said rapidly in French.

"She insults you," he replied, in the same tongue, but released the
girl.

"Never mind; never mind." Agnes turned to Chaldea and reverted to
English. "Girl, you are playing a dangerous game. I wrote no letter to
the man you call Hearne, and who was my husband--Sir Hubert Pine."

Chaldea laughed contemptuously. "Avali, that is true. The letter was
written by you to my precious rye here, and Hearne's dukkerin brought it
his way."

"How did he get it?"

"Those who know, know," retorted Chaldea indifferently. "Hearne's breath
was out of him before I could ask."

"Why do you say that I wrote the letter?"

"The tiny rye swore by his God that you did."

"It is absolutely false!"

"Oh, my mother, there are liars about," jeered the gypsy sceptically.
"Catch you blabbing your doings on the crook, my rani, Chore mandy--"

"Speak English," interrupted Agnes, who was quivering with rage.

"You can't cheat me," translated Chaldea sulkily. "You write my rye,
here, the letter swearing to run world-wide with him, and let it fall
into your rom's hands, so as to fetch him to the big house. Then did
you, my cunning gentleman," she whirled round on the astounded Lambert
viciously, "hide so quietly in the bushes to shoot. Hai! it is so, and I
love you for the boldness, my Gorgious one."

"It is absolutely false," cried Lambert, echoing Agnes.

"True! true! and twice times true. May I go crazy, Meg, if it isn't. You
wanted the raclan as your romi, and so plotted my brother's death. But
your sweet one will go before the Poknees, and with irons on her wrists,
and a rope round her--"

"You she-devil!" shouted Lambert in a frenzy of rage, and forgetting in
his anger the presence of Agnes.

"Words of honey under the moon," mocked the girl, then suddenly became
tender. "Let her go, rye, let her go. My love is all for you, and when
we pad the hoof together, those who hate us shall take off the hat."

Lambert sat glaring at her furiously, and Agnes glided between him and
the girl, fearful lest he should spring up and insult her. But she
addressed her words to Chaldea. "Why do you think I got Mr. Lambert to
kill my husband?" she asked, wincing at having to put the question, but
seeing that it was extremely necessary to learn all she could from the
gypsy.

The other woman drew her shawl closely round her fine form and snapped
her fingers contemptuously. "It needs no chovihani to tell. Hearne the
Romany was poor, Pine the Gentile chinked gold in his pockets. Says you
to yourself, 'He I love isn't him with money.' And says you, 'If I don't
get my true rom, the beauty of the world will clasp him to her breast.'
So you goes for to get Hearne out of the flesh, to wed the rye here on
my brother's rich possessions. Avali," she nodded vigorously. "That is
so, though 'No' you says to me, for wisdom. Red money you have gained,
my daring sister, for the blood of a Romany chal has changed the color.
But I'm no--"

How long she would have continued to rage at Lady Agnes it is impossible
to say, for the invalid, with the artificial strength of furious anger,
sprang from his chair to turn her out of the room. Chaldea dodged him in
the alert way of a wild animal.

"That's no love-embrace, my rye," she jibed, retreating swiftly. "Later,
later, when the moon rises, my angel," and she slipped deftly through
the door with a contemptuous laugh. Lambert would have followed, but
that Agnes caught his arm, and with tears in her eyes implored him to
remain.

"But what can we do in the face of such danger?" she asked him when he
was quieter, and breaking down, she sobbed bitterly.

"We must meet it boldly. Silver has the forged letter: he must be
arrested."

"But the scandal, Noel. Dare we--"

"Agnes, you are innocent: I am innocent. Innocence can dare all things."

Both sick, both troubled, both conscious of the dark clouds around them,
they looked at one another in silence. Then Lambert repeated his words
with conviction, to reassure himself as much as to comfort her.

"Innocence can dare all things," said Lambert, positively.




CHAPTER XIII.

A FRIEND IN NEED.


It was natural that Lambert should talk of having Silver arrested, as in
the first flush of indignation at his audacious attempt to levy
blackmail, this appeared the most reasonable thing to do. But when Agnes
went back to The Manor, and the sick man was left alone to struggle
through a long and weary night, the reaction suggested a more cautious
dealing with the matter. Silver was a venomous little reptile, and if
brought before a magistrate would probably produce the letter which he
offered for sale at so ridiculous a price. If this was made public,
Agnes would find herself in an extremely unpleasant position. Certainly
the letter was forged, but that would not be easy to prove. And even if
it were proved and Agnes cleared her character, the necessary scandal
connected with the publicity of such a defence would be both distressing
and painful. In wishing to silence Silver, and yet avoid the
interference of the police, Lambert found himself on the horns of a
dilemma.

Having readjusted the situation in his own mind, Lambert next day wrote
a lengthy letter to Agnes, setting forth his objections to drastic
measures. He informed her--not quite truthfully--that he hoped to be on
his feet in twenty-four hours, and then would personally attend to the
matter, although he could not say as yet what he intended to do. But
five out of the seven days of grace allowed by the blackmailer yet
remained, and much could be done in that time. "Return to town and
attend to your own and to your brother's affairs as usual," concluded
the letter. "All matters connected with Silver can be left in my hands,
and should he attempt to see you in the meantime, refer him to me." The
epistle ended with the intimation that Agnes was not to worry, as the
writer would take the whole burden on his own shoulders. The widow felt
more cheerful after this communication, and went back to her town house
to act as her lover suggested. She had every belief in Lambert's
capability to deal with the matter.

The young man was more doubtful, for he could not see how he was to
begin unravelling this tangled skein. The interview with Chaldea had
proved futile, as she was plainly on the side of the enemy, and to apply
to Silver for information as to his intentions would merely result in a
repetition of what he had said to Lady Agnes. It only remained to lay
the whole matter before Inspector Darby, and Lambert was half inclined
to go to Wanbury for this purpose. He did not, however, undertake the
journey, for two reasons. Firstly, he wished to avoid asking for
official assistance until absolutely forced to do so; and secondly, he
was too ill to leave the cottage. The worry he felt regarding Agnes's
perilous position told on an already weakened frame, and the invalid
grew worse instead of better.

Finally, Lambert decided to risk a journey to the camp, which was not so
very far distant, and interview Mother Cockleshell. The old lady had no
great love for Chaldea, who flouted her authority, and would not,
therefore, be very kindly disposed towards the girl. The young man
believed, in some vague way, that Chaldea had originated the conspiracy
which had to do with the letter, and was carrying her underhand plans
to a conclusion with the aid of Silver. Mother Cockleshell, who was very
shrewd, might have learned or guessed the girl's rascality, and would
assuredly thwart her aims if possible. Also the gypsy-queen would
probably know a great deal about Pine in his character of Ishmael
Hearne, since she had been acquainted with him intimately during the
early part of his life. But, whatever she knew, or whatever she did not
know, Lambert considered that it would be wise to enlist her on his
side, as the mere fact that Chaldea was one of the opposite party would
make her fight like a wild cat. And as the whole affair had to do with
the gypsies, and as Gentilla Stanley was a gypsy, it was just as well to
apply for her assistance. Nevertheless, Lambert was quite in the dark,
as to what assistance could be rendered.

In this way the young man made his plans, only to be thwarted by the
weakness of his body. He could crawl out of bed and sit before the fire,
but in spite of all his will-power, he could not crawl as far as the
camp. Baffled in this way, he decided to send a note asking Mother
Cockleshell to call on him, although he knew that if Chaldea learned
about the visit--which she was almost certain to do--she would be placed
on her guard. But this had to be risked, and Lambert, moreover, believed
that the old woman was quite equal to dealing with the girl. However,
Fate took the matter out of his hands, and before he could even write
the invitation, a visitor arrived in the person of Miss Greeby, who
suggested a way out of the difficulty, by offering her services. Matters
came to a head within half an hour of her presenting herself in the
sitting-room.

Miss Greeby was quite her old breezy, masculine self, and her presence
in the cottage was like a breath of moorland air blowing through the
languid atmosphere of a hot-house. She was arrayed characteristically in
a short-skirted, tailor-made gown of a brown hue and bound with brown
leather, and wore in addition a man's cap, dog-skin gloves, and heavy
laced-up boots fit to tramp miry country roads. With her fresh
complexion and red hair, and a large frame instinct with vitality, she
looked aggressively healthy, and Lambert with his failing life felt
quite a weakling beside this magnificent goddess.

"Hallo, old fellow," cried Miss Greeby in her best man-to-man style,
"feeling chippy? Why, you do look a wreck, I must say. What's up?"

"The fever's up and I'm down," replied Lambert, who was glad to see her,
if only to distract his painful thoughts. "It's only a touch of malaria,
my dear Clara. I shall be all right in a few days."

"You're hopeful, I must say, Lambert. What about a doctor?"

"I don't need one. Mrs. Tribb is nursing me."

"Coddling you," muttered Miss Greeby, planting herself manfully in an
opposite chair and crossing her legs in a gentlemanly manner. "Fresh air
and exercise, beefsteaks and tankards of beer are what you need. Defy
Nature and you get the better of her. Kill or cure is my motto."

"As I have strong reasons to remain alive, I shan't adopt your
prescription, Dr. Greeby," said Lambert, dryly. "What are you doing in
these parts? I thought you were shooting in Scotland."

"So I was," admitted the visitor, frankly and laying her bludgeon--she
still carried it--across her knee. "But I grew sick of the sport.
Knocked over the birds too easy, Lambert, so there was no fun. The birds
are getting as silly as the men."

"Well, women knock them over easy enough."

"That's what I mean," said Miss Greeby, vigorously. "It's a rotten
world, this, unless one can get away into the wilds."

"Why don't you go there?"

"Well," Miss Greeby leaned forward with her elbows on her knees, and
dandled the bludgeon with both hands. "I thought I'd like a change from
the rough and ready. This case of Pine's rather puzzled me, and so I'm
on the trail as a detective."

Lambert was rather startled. "That's considerably out of your line,
Clara."

Miss Greeby nodded. "Exactly, and so I'm indulging in the novelty. One
must do something to entertain one's self, you know, Lambert. It struck
me that the gypsies know a lot more about the matter than they chose to
say, so I came down yesterday, and put up at the Garvington Arms in the
village. Here I'm going to stay until I can get at the root of the
matter."

"What root?"

"I wish to learn who murdered Pine, poor devil."

"Ah," Lambert smiled. "You wish to gain the reward."

"Not me. I've got more money than I know what to do with, as it is.
Silver is more anxious to get the cash than I am."

"Silver! Have you seen him lately?"

"A couple of days ago," Miss Greeby informed him easily. "He's my
secretary now, Lambert. Yes! The poor beast was chucked out of his
comfortable billet by the death of Pine, and hearing that I wanted some
one to write my letters and run my errands, and act like a tame cat
generally, he applied to me. Since I knew him pretty well through Pine,
I took him on. He's a cunning little fox, but all right when he's kept
in order. And I find him pretty useful, although I've only had him as a
secretary for a fortnight."

Lambert did not immediately reply. The news rather amazed him, as it had
always been Miss Greeby's boast that she could manage her own business.
It was queer that she should have changed her mind in this respect,
although she was woman enough to exercise that very feminine
prerogative. But the immediate trend of Lambert's thoughts were in the
direction of seeking aid from his visitor. He could not act himself
because he was sick, and he knew that she was a capable person in
dealing with difficulties. Also, simply for the sake of something to do
she had become an amateur detective and was hunting for the trail of
Pine's assassin. It seemed to Lambert that it would not be a bad idea to
tell her of his troubles. She would, as he knew, be only too willing to
assist, and in that readiness lay his hesitation. He did not wish, if
possible, to lie under any obligation to Miss Greeby lest she should
demand in payment that he should become her husband. And yet he believed
that by this time she had overcome her desires in this direction. To
make sure, he ventured on a few cautious questions.

"We're friends, aren't we, Clara?" he asked, after a long pause.

"Sure," said Miss Greeby, nodding heartily. "Does it need putting into
words?"

"I suppose not, but what I mean is that we are pals." He used the word
which he knew most appealed to her masculine affectations.

"Sure," said Miss Greeby again, and once more heartily. "Real, honest
pals. I never believed in that stuff about the impossibility of a man
and woman being pals unless there's love rubbish about the business. At
one time, Lambert, I don't deny but what I had a feeling of that sort
for you."

"And now?" questioned the young man with an uneasy smile.

"Now it's gone, or rather my love has become affection, and that's quite
a different thing, old fellow. I want to see you happy, and you aren't
now. I daresay you're still crying for the moon. Eh?" she looked at him
sharply.

"You asked me that before when you came here," said Lambert, slowly.
"And I refused to answer. I can answer now. The moon is quite beyond my
reach, so I have dried my tears."

Miss Greeby, who was lighting a cigarette, threw away the match and
stared hard at his haggard face. "Well, I didn't expect to hear that,
now we know how the moon--"

"Call things by their right name," interrupted Lambert, sharply. "Agnes
is now a widow, if that's what you mean."

"It is, if you call Agnes a thing. Of course, you'll marry her since the
barrier has been removed?"

"Meaning Pine? No! I'm not certain on that point. She is a rich widow
and I'm a poor artist. In honor bound I can't allow her to lose her
money by becoming my wife."

Miss Greeby stared at the fire. "I heard about that beastly will," she
said, frowning. "Horribly unfair, I call it. Still, I believed that you
loved the moon--well, then, Agnes, since you wish us to be plain--and
would carry her off if you had the pluck."

"I have never been accused of not having pluck, Clara. But there's
another thing to be considered, and that's honor."

"Oh, bosh!" cried Miss Greeby, with boyish vigor. "You love her and she
loves you, so why not marry?"

"I'm not worth paying two million for, Clara."

"You are, if she loves you."

"She does and would marry me to-morrow if I would let her. The
hesitation is on my part."

"More fool you. If I were in her position I'd soon overcome your
scruples."

"I think not," said Lambert delicately.

"Oh, I think so," she retorted. "A woman always gets her own way."

"And sometimes wrecks continents to get it."

"I'd wreck this one, anyhow," said Miss Greeby dryly. "However, we're
pals, and if there's anything I can do--"

"Yes, there is," said Lambert abruptly, and making up his mind to trust
her, since she showed plainly that there was no chance of love on her
part destroying friendship. "I'm sick here and can't move. Let me engage
you to act on my behalf."

"As what, if you don't mind my asking, Lambert?"

"As what you are for the moment, a detective."

"Ho!" said Miss Greeby in a guttural manner. "What's that?"

"I want you to learn on my behalf, and as my deputy, who murdered Pine."

"So that you can marry Agnes?"

"No. The will has stopped my chances in that direction. Her two million
forms quite an insurmountable barrier between us now, as the fact of her
being Pine's wife did formerly. Now you understand the situation, and
that I am prevented by honor from making her my wife, don't let us talk
any more on that especial subject."

"Right you are," assented Miss Greeby affably. "Only I'll say this, that
you are too scrupulous, and if I can help you to marry Agnes I shall do
so."

"Why?" demanded Lambert bluntly.

"Because I'm your pal and wish to see you happy. You won't be happy,
like the Pears soap advertisement, until you get it. Agnes is the 'it.'"

"Well, then, leave the matter alone, Clara," said Lambert, taking the
privilege of an invalid and becoming peevish. "As things stand, I can
see no chance of marrying Agnes without violating my idea of honor."

"Then why do you wish me to help you?" demanded Miss Greeby sharply.

"How do I wish you to help me, you mean."

"Not at all. I know what you wish me to do; act as detective; I know
about it, my dear boy."

"You don't," retorted Lambert, again fractious. "But if you listen I'll
tell you exactly what I mean."

Miss Greeby made herself comfortable with a fresh cigarette, and nodded
in an easy manner, "I'm all attention, old boy. Fire away!"

"You must regard my confidence as sacred."

"There's my hand on it. But I should like to know why you desire to
learn who murdered Pine."

"Because if you don't track down the assassin, Agnes will get into
trouble."

"Ho!" ejaculated Miss Greeby, guttural again. "Go on."

Lambert wasted no further time in preliminary explanations, but plunged
into the middle of things. In a quarter of an hour his auditor was
acquainted with the facts of a highly unpleasant case, but exhibited no
surprise when she heard what her secretary had to do with the matter. In
fact, she rather appeared to admire his acuteness in turning such shady
knowledge to his own advantage. At the same time, she considered that
Agnes had behaved in a decidedly weak manner. "If I'd been in her shoes
I'd have fired the beast out in double-quick time," said Miss Greeby
grimly. "And I'd have belted him over the head in addition."

"Then he would have gone straight to the police."

"Oh, no he wouldn't. One thousand reward against twenty-five thousand
blackmail isn't good enough."

"He won't get his blackmail," said Lambert, tightening his lips.

"You bet he won't now that I've come into the matter. But there's no
denying he's got the whip-hand so far."

"Agnes never wrote the letter," said Lambert quickly.

"Oh, that goes without the saying, my dear fellow. Agnes knew that if
she became a rich widow, your uneasy sense of honor would never let you
marry her. She had no reason to get rid of Pine on that score."

"Or on any score, you may add."

Miss Greeby nodded. "Certainly! You and Agnes should have got married
and let Garvington get out of his troubles as best he could. That's what
I should have done, as I'm not an aristocrat, and can't see the use of
becoming the sacrifice for a musty, fusty old family. However, Agnes
made her bargain and kept to it. She's all right, although other people
may be not of that opinion."

"There isn't a man or woman who dare say a word against Agnes."

"A good many will say lots of words, should what you have told me get
into print," rejoined Miss Greeby dryly.

"I agree with you. Therefore do I ask for your assistance. What is best
to be done, Clara?"

"We must get the letter from Silver and learn who forged it. Once that
is made plain, the truth will come to light, since the individual who
forged and sent that letter must have fired the second shot."

"Quite so. But Silver won't give up the letter."

"Oh, yes, he will. He's my secretary, and I'll make him."

"Even as your secretary he won't," said Lambert, dubiously.

"We'll see about that, old boy. I'll heckle and harry and worry Silver
on to the gallows if he doesn't do what he's told."

"The gallows. You don't think--"

"Oh, I think nothing. It was to Silver's interest that Pine should live,
so I don't fancy he set the trap. It was to Chaldea's interest that Pine
should not live, since she loves you, and I don't think she is to blame.
Garvington couldn't have done it, as he has lost a good friend in Pine,
and--and--go on Lambert, suggest some one else."

"I can't. And two out of three you mention were inside The Manor when
the second shot was fired, so can prove an alibi."

"I'm not bothering about who fired the second shot," said Miss Greeby
leisurely, "but as to who wrote that letter. Once we find the forger,
we'll soon discover the assassin."

"True; but how are you going about it?"

"I shall see Silver and force him to give me the letter."

"If you can."

"Oh, I'll manage somehow. The little beast's a coward, and I'll bully
him into compliance." Miss Greeby spoke very confidently. "Then we'll
see the kind of paper the letter is written on, and there may be an
envelope which would show where it was posted. Of course, the forger
must be well acquainted with Agnes's handwriting."

"That's obvious," said Lambert promptly. "Well, I suppose that your way
of starting the matter is the best. But we have only four days before
Silver makes his move."

"When I get the letter he won't make any move," reported Miss Greeby,
and she looked very determined.

"Let us hope so. But, Clara, before you return to town I wish you would
see Mother Cockleshell."

"That old gypsy fortune-teller, who looks like an almshouse widow? Why?"

"She hates Chaldea, and I suspect that Chaldea has something to do with
the matter of this conspiracy."

"Ha!" Miss Greeby rubbed her aquiline nose. "A conspiracy. Perhaps you
may be right. But its reason?"

Lambert colored. "Chaldea wants me to marry her, you know."

"The minx! I know she does. I warned you against having her to sit for
you, Lambert. But there's no sense in your suggestion, my boy. It wasn't
any catch for her to get Pine killed and leave his wife free to marry
you."

"No. And yet--and yet--hang it," the young man clutched his hair in
desperation and glared at the fire, "I can't see any motive."

"Nor can I. Unless it is to be found in the City."

"Gypsies are more lawless than City men," observed the other quickly,
"and Hearne would have enemies rather than Pine."

"I don't agree with you," said Miss Greeby, rising and getting ready to
go away. "Hearne was nobody: Pine was a millionaire. Successful men have
enemies all over the shop."

"At the inquest it was said that Pine had no enemies."

"Oh, rubbish. A strong man like that couldn't make such a fortune
without exciting envy. I'll bet that his assassin is to be found in a
frock coat and a silk hat. However, I'll look up Mother Cockleshell, as
it is just as well to know what she thinks of this pretty gypsy hussy of
yours."

"Not of mine. I don't care for her in the least."

"As if that mattered. There is always one who loves and one who is
loved, as Heine says, and that is the cause of all life's tragedies. Of
this tragedy maybe, although I think some envious stockbroker may have
shot Pine as a too successful financial rival. However, we shall see
about it."

"And see about another thing, Clara," said Lambert quickly. "Call on
Agnes and tell her that she need not worry over Silver. She expects the
Deluge in a few days, remember."

"Write and tell her that I have the case in hand and that she needn't
trouble about Silver. I'll straighten him out."

"I fear you are too hopeful."

"I don't fear anything of the sort. I'll break his neck if he doesn't
obey me. I wouldn't hesitate to do it, either."

Lambert ran his eyes over her masculine personality and laughed. "I
quite believe that, Clara. But, I say, won't you have some tea before
you go?"

"No, thanks. I don't eat between meals."

"Afternoon tea is a meal."

"Nonsense. It's a weakness. I'm not Garvington. By the way, where is
he?"

"In Paris, but he returns in a few days."

"Then don't let him meddle with this matter, or he'll put things wrong."

"I shall allow no one but yourself to meddle, Clara, Garvington shan't
know a single thing."

Miss Greeby nodded. "Right. All we wish kept quiet would be in the
papers if Garvington gets hold of our secrets. He's a loose-tongued
little glutton. Well, good-bye, old chap, and do look after yourself.
Good people are scarce."

Lambert gripped her large hand. "I'm awfully obliged to you, Clara."

"Wait until I do something before you say that, old son," she laughed
and strode towards the door. "By the way, oughtn't I to send the doctor
in?"

"No. Confound the doctor! I'm all right. You'll see me on my legs in a
few days."

"Then we can work together at the case. Keep your flag flying, old chap,
for I'm at the helm to steer the bark." And with this nautical farewell
she went off with a manly stride, whistling a gay tune.

Left alone, the invalid looked into the fire, and wondered if he had
been right to trust her. After some thought, he concluded that it was
the best thing he could have done, since, in his present helpless state,
he needed some one to act as his deputy. And there was no doubt that
Miss Greeby had entirely overcome the passion she had once entertained
for him.

"I hope Agnes will think so also," thought Lambert, when he began a
letter to the lady. "She was always rather doubtful of Clara."




CHAPTER XIV.

MISS GREEBY, DETECTIVE.


As Miss Greeby had informed Lambert, she intended to remain at the
Garvington Arms until the mystery of Pine's death was solved. But her
interview with him necessitated a rearrangement of plans, since the
incriminating letter appeared to be such an important piece of evidence.
To obtain it, Miss Greeby had decided to return to London forthwith, in
order to compel its surrender. Silver would undoubtedly show fight, but
his mistress was grimly satisfied that she would be able to manage him,
and quite counted upon gaining her end by bullying him into compliance.
When in possession of the letter she decided to submit it to Agnes and
hear what that lady had to say about it as a dexterous piece of forgery.
Then, on what was said would depend her next move in the complicated
game. Meanwhile, since she was on the spot and desired to gather all
possible evidence connected with Chaldea's apparent knowledge of the
crime, Miss Greeby went straight from Lambert's cottage to the gypsy
camp.

Here she found the community of vagrants in the throes of an election,
or rather their excitement was connected with the deposition of Gentilla
Stanley from the Bohemian throne, and the elevation of Chaldea. Miss
Greeby mixed with the throng, dispensed a few judicious shillings and
speedily became aware of what was going on. It appeared that Chaldea,
being pretty and unscrupulous, and having gained, by cunning, a
wonderful influence amongst the younger members of the tribe, was
insisting that she should be elected its head. The older men and women,
believing wisely that it was better to have an experienced ruler than a
pretty figurehead, stood by Mother Cockleshell, therefore the camp was
divided into two parties. Tongues were used freely, and occasionally
fists came into play, while the gypsies gathered round the tent of the
old woman and listened to the duet between her and the younger aspirant
to this throne of Brentford. Miss Greeby, with crossed legs and leaning
on her bludgeon, listened to the voluble speech of Mother Cockleshell,
which was occasionally interrupted by Chaldea. The oration was delivered
in Romany, and Miss Greeby only understood such scraps of it as was
hastily translated to her by a wild-eyed girl to whom she had given a
shilling. Gentilla, less like a sober pew-opener, and more resembling
the Hecate of some witch-gathering, screamed objurgations at the pitch
of her crocked voice, and waved her skinny arms to emphasize her words,
in a most dramatic fashion.

"Oh, ye Romans," she screeched vehemently, "are ye not fools to be
gulled by a babe with her mother's milk--and curses that it fed
her--scarcely dry on her living lips? Who am I who speak, asses of the
common? Gentilla Stanley, whose father was Pharaoh before her, and who
can call up the ghosts of dead Egyptian kings, with a tent for a palace,
and a cudgel for a sceptre, and the wisdom of our people at the service
of all."

"Things have changed," cried out Chaldea with a mocking laugh. "For old
wisdom is dead leaves, and I am the tree which puts forth the green of
new truths to make the Gorgios take off their hats to the Romans."

"Oh, spawn of the old devil, but you lie. Truth is truth and changes
not. Can you read the hand? can you cheat the Gentile? do you know the
law of the Poknees, and can you diddle them as has money? Says you, 'I
can!' And in that you lie, like your mother before you. Bless your
wisdom"--Mother Cockleshell made an ironical curtsey. "Age must bow
before a brat."

"Beauty draws money to the Romans, and wheedles the Gorgios to part with
red gold. Wrinkles you have, mother, and weak wits to--"

"Weak wits, you drab? My weakest wits are your strongest. 'Wrinkles,'
says you in your cunning way, and flaunts your brazen smoothness. I spit
on you for a fool." The old woman suited her action to the word. "Every
wrinkle is the mark of lessons learned, and them is wisdom which the
Romans take from my mouth."

"Hear the witchly hag," cried Chaldea in her turn. "She and her musty
wisdom that puts the Romans under the feet of the Gentiles. Are not
three of our brothers in choky? have we not been turned off common and
out of field? Isn't the fire low and the pot empty, and every purse
without gold? Bad luck she has brought us," snarled the girl, pointing
an accusing finger. "And bad luck we Romans will have till she is turned
from the camp."

"Like a dog you would send me away," shrieked Mother Cockleshell,
glancing round and seeing that Chaldea's supporters outnumbered her own.
"But I'm dangerous, and go I shall as a queen should, at my own free
will. I cast a shoe amongst you,"--she flung one of her own, hastily
snatched off her foot--"and curses gather round it. Under its heels
shall you lie, ye Romans, till time again and time once more be
accomplished. I go on my own," she turned and walked to the door of her
tent. "Alone I go to cheat the Gentiles and win my food. Take your new
queen, and with her sorrow and starvation, prison, and the kicks of the
Gorgios. So it is, as I have said, and so it shall be."

She vanished into the tent, and the older members of the tribe, shaking
their heads over the ill-omen of her concluding words, withdrew
sorrowfully to their various habitations, in order to discuss the
situation. But the young men and women bowed down before Chaldea and
forthwith elected her their ruler, fawning on her, kissing her hands and
invoking blessings on her pretty face, that face which they hoped and
believed would bring prosperity to them. And there was no doubt that of
late, under Mother Cockleshell's leadership, the tribe had been
unfortunate in many ways. It was for this reason that Chaldea had raised
the standard of rebellion, and for this reason also she gained her
triumph. To celebrate her coronation she gave Kara, who hovered
constantly at her elbow, a couple of sovereigns, and told him to buy
food and drink. In a high state of enjoyment the gypsies dispersed in
order to prepare for the forthcoming festivity, and Chaldea, weary but
victorious, stood alone by the steps of the caravan, which was her
perambulating home. Seizing her opportunity, Miss Greeby approached.

"My congratulations to your majesty," she said ironically. "I'm sorry
not to be able to stay for your coronation, which I presume takes place
to-night. But I have to go back to London to see a friend of yours."

"I have no friends, my Gentile lady," retorted Chaldea, with a fiery
spark in each eye. "And what do you here amongst the gentle Romany?"

"Gentle," Miss Greeby chuckled, "that's a new word for the row that's
been going on, my girl. Do you know me?"

"As I know the road and the tent and the art of dukkerhin. You stay at
the big house, and you love the rye who lived in the wood."

"Very clever of you to guess that," said Miss Greeby coolly, "but as it
happens, you are wrong. The rye is not for me and not for you. He
marries the lady he worships on his knees. Forgive me for speaking in
this high-flowing manner," ended Miss Greeby apologetically, "but in
romantic situations one must speak romantic words."

Chaldea did not pay attention to the greater part of this speech, as
only one statement appealed to her. "The rye shall not marry the Gentile
lady," she said between her white teeth.

"Oh, I think so, Chaldea. Your plotting has all been in vain."

"My plotting. What do you know of that?"

"A certain portion, my girl, and I'm going to know more when I see
Silver."

Chaldea frowned darkly. "I know nothing of him."

"I think you do, since you gave him a certain letter."

"Patchessa tu adove?" asked Chaldea scornfully; then, seeing that her
visitor did not understand her, explained: "Do you believe in that?"

"Yes," said Miss Greeby alertly. "You found the letter in Pine's tent
when he was camping here as Hearne, and passed it to Silver so that he
might ask money for it."

"It's a lie. I swear it's a lie. I ask no money. I told the tiny rye--"

"Silver, I presume," put in Miss Greeby carelessly.

"Aye: Silver is his name, and a good one for him as has no gold."

"He will get gold from Lady Agnes for the letter."

"No. Drodi--ah bah!" broke off Chaldea. "You don't understand Romanes. I
speak the Gorgio tongue to such as you. Listen! I found the letter which
lured my brother to his death. The rani wrote that letter, and I gave it
to the tiny rye, saying: 'Tell her if she gives up the big rye free she
shall go; if not take the letter to those who deal in the law.'"

"The police, I suppose you mean," said Miss Greeby coolly. "A very
pretty scheme, my good girl. But it won't do, you know. Lady Agnes never
wrote that letter, and had nothing to do with the death of her husband."

"She set a trap for him," cried Chaldea fiercely, "and Hearne walked
into it like a rabbit into a snare. The big rye waited outside and
shot--"

"That's a lie," interrupted Miss Greeby just as fiercely, and determined
to defend her friend. "He would not do such a thing."

"Ha! but I can prove it, and will when the time is ripe. He becomes my
rom does the big rye, or round his neck goes the rope; and she dances
long-side, I swear."

"What a bloodthirsty idea, you savage devil! And how do you propose to
prove that Mr. Lambert shot the man?"

"Aha," sneered Chaldea contemptuously, "you take me for a fool,
saying more than I can do. But know this, my precious angel"--she
fumbled in her pocket and brought out a more or less formless piece
of lead--"what's this, may I ask? The bullet which passed through
Hearne's heart, and buried itself in a tree-trunk."

Miss Greeby made a snatch at the article, but Chaldea was too quick for
her and slipped it again into her pocket. "You can't prove that it is
the bullet," snapped Miss Greeby glaring, for she dreaded lest its
production should incriminate Lambert, innocent though she believed him
to be.

"Kara can prove it. He went to where Hearne was shot and saw that there
was a big tree by the blue door, and before the shrubbery. A shot fired
from behind the bushes would by chance strike the tree. The bullet which
killed my brother was not found in the heart. It passed through and was
in the tree-trunk. Kara knifed it out and brought it to me. If this,"
Chaldea held up the bullet again jeeringly, "fits the pistol of the big
rye he will swing for sure. The letter hangs her and the bullet hangs
him. I want my price."

"You won't get it, then," said Miss Greeby, eyeing the pocket into
which the girl had again dropped the bullet. "Mr. Lambert was absent in
London on that night. I heard that by chance."

"Then you heard wrong, my Gentile lady. Avali, quite wrong. The big rye
returned on that very night and went to Lundra again in the morning."

"Even if he did," said Miss Greeby desperately, "he did not leave the
cottage. His housekeeper can prove--"

"Nothing," snapped Chaldea triumphantly. "She was in her bed and the
golden rye was in his bed. My brother was killed after midnight, and if
the rye took a walk then, who can say where he was?"

"You have to prove all this, you know."

Chaldea snapped her fingers. "First, the letter to shame her; then the
bullet to hang him. The rest comes after. My price, you know, my
Gorgious artful. I toves my own gad. It's a good proverb, lady, and true
Romany."

"What does it mean?"

"I wash my own shirt," said Chaldea, significantly, and sprang up the
steps of her gaily-painted caravan to shut herself in.

"What a fool I am not to take that bullet from her," thought Miss
Greeby, standing irresolutely before the vehicle, and she cast a glance
around to see if such an idea was feasible. It was not, as she speedily
decided, for a single cry from Chaldea would bring the gypsies round to
protect their new queen. It was probable also that the girl would fight
like a wild cat; although Miss Greeby felt that she could manage her so
far. But she was not equal to fighting the whole camp of vagrants, and
so was compelled to abandon her scheme. In a somewhat discontented mood,
she turned away, feeling that, so far, Chaldea had the whip-hand.

Then it occurred to her that she had not yet examined Mother Cockleshell
as had been her original intention when she came to the camp. Forthwith
she passed back to the tent under the elm, to interview the deposed
queen. Here, she found Gentilla Stanley placing her goods in an untidy
bundle on the back of a large gray donkey, which was her private
property. The old creature's eyes were red with weeping and her gray
hair had fallen down, so that she presented a somewhat wild appearance.
This, in connection with her employment, reminded Miss Greeby--whose
reading was wide--of a similar scene in Borrow's "Lavengro," when Mrs.
Pentulengro's mother shifted herself. And for the moment Mother
Cockleshell had just the hairy looks of Mrs. Hern, and also at the
moment, probably had the same amiable feelings.

Feeling that the old woman detested her successful rival, Miss Greeby
approached, guessing that now was the right moment to work on her mind,
and thus to learn what she could of Chaldea's underhand doings. She
quite expected a snub, as Gentilla could scarcely be expected to answer
questions when taken up with her own troubles. But the artful creature,
seeing by a side-glance that Miss Greeby was a wealthy Gentile lady,
dropped one of her almshouse curtseys when she approached, and bundled
up her hair. A change passed over her withered face, and Miss Greeby
found herself addressing not so much a fallen queen, as a respectable
old woman who had known better days.

"And a blessing on your sweet face, my angel," mumbled Mother
Cockleshell. "For a heart you have to feel for my sorrows."

"Here is a sign of my feelings," said Miss Greeby, handing over a
sovereign, for she rightly judged that the gypsy would only appreciate
this outward symbol of sympathy. "Now, what do you know of Pine's
murder?"

Mother Cockleshell, who was busy tying up the sovereign in a corner of
her respectable shawl, after biting it to make sure it was current gold,
looked up with a vacant expression. "Murder, my lady, and what should I
know of that?"

Miss Greeby looked at her straightly. "What does Chaldea know of it?"

A vicious pair of devils looked out of the decent widow's eyes in a
moment, and at once she became the Romany. "Hai! She knows, does she,
the drab! I hope to see her hanged."

"For what?"

"For killing of Hearne, may his bones rest sweetly."

Miss Greeby suppressed an exclamation. "She accuses Lady Agnes of laying
a trap by writing a letter, and says that Mr. Lambert fired the shot."

"Avali! Avali!" Mother Cockleshell nodded vigorously, but did not
interrupt her preparations for departure. "That she would say, since she
loves the Gorgio, and hates the rani. A rope round her neck to set the
rye free to make Chaldea--my curses on her--his true wife."

"She couldn't have fired the shot herself, you know," went on Miss
Greeby in a musing manner. "For then she would remove an obstacle to Mr.
Lambert marrying Lady Agnes."

"Blessings on her for a kind, Gentile lady," said Gentilla, piously,
and looking more respectable than ever, since the lurking devils had
disappeared. "But Chaldea is artful, and knows the rye."

"What do you mean?"

"This, my lady. Hearne, who was the Gorgio Pine, had the angel to wife,
but he did not hope to live long because of illness."

Miss Greeby nodded. "Consumption, Pine told me."

"If he had died natural," pursued Mother Cockleshell, pulling hard at a
strap, "maybe the Gentile lady would have married the golden rye, whom
she loves. But by the violent death, Chaldea has tangled up both in her
knots, and if they wed she will make trouble."

"So she says. But can she?"

"Hai! But she's a deep one, ma'am, believe me when I say so," Mother
Cockleshell nodded sapiently. "But foolish trouble has she given
herself, when the death of Hearne natural, or by the pistol-shot would
stop the marriage."

"What do you mean?" inquired Miss Greeby once more.

"You Gentiles are fools," said Gentilla, politely. "For you put other
things before true love. Hearne, as Pine, had much gold, and that he
left to his wife should she not marry the golden rye."

"How do you know that?"

"Chaldea was told so by the dead, and told me, my lady. Now the angel of
the big house would give up the gold to marry the rye, for her heart is
all for him. 'But,' says he, and tell me if I'm wrong. Says he, 'No. If
I make you my romi that would beggar you and fair it would not be, for a
Romany rye to do!' So, my lady, the red gold parts them, because it's
red money."

"Red money?"

"Blood money. The taint of blood is on the wealth of the dead one, and
so it divides by a curse the true hearts of the living. You see, my
lady?"

Miss Greeby did see, and the more readily, since she had heard Lambert
express exactly the sentiments with which the old gypsy credited him.
An overstrained feeling of honor prevented him in any case from making
Agnes his wife, whether the death had come by violence or by natural
causes. But it was amazing that Gentilla should know this, and Miss
Greeby wonderingly asked her how she came by such knowledge. The
respectable widow chuckled.

"I have witchly ways, ma'am, and the golden rye has talked many a time
to me in my tent, when I told him of the Gorgious lady's goodness to me
when ill. They love--aye, that is sure--but the money divides their
hearts, and that is foolish. Chaldea had no need to shoot to keep them
apart."

"How do you know she shot Pine?"

"Oh, I can say nothing the Poknees would listen to," said Mother
Cockleshell readily. "For I speak only as I think, and not as I know.
But the child was impatient for joy, and hoped by placing the cruel will
between true hearts to gain that of the golden rye for her own part. But
that she will not. Ha! Ha! Nor you, my lady, nor you."

"Me?" Miss Greeby colored even redder than she was by nature.

Gentilla looked at her shrewdly. "La! La! La! La!" she croaked. "Age
brings a mighty wisdom. They were fools to throw me out," and she jerked
her grizzled head in the direction of the caravans and tents.

"Don't talk rubbish, you old donkey! Mr. Lambert is only my friend."

"You're a woman and he's a man," said Mother Cockleshell sententiously.

"We are chums, pals, whatever you like to call us. I want to see him
happy."

"He will never be happy, my lady, unless he marries the rani. And death,
by bringing the money between their true love, has divided them forever,
unless the golden rye puts his heart before his fear of silly chatter
for them he moves amongst. The child was right to shoot Hearne, so far,
although she could have waited and gained the same end. The rye is free
to marry her, or to marry you, ma'am, but never to marry the angel,
unless--" Mother Cockleshell adjusted the bundle carefully on the
donkey, and then cut a long switch from the tree.

"I don't want to marry Mr. Lambert," said Miss Greeby decisively. "And
I'll take care that Chaldea doesn't!"

Gentilla chuckled again. "Oh, trust you for that."

"As to Chaldea shooting Pine--"

"Leave it to me, leave it to me, ma'am," said the old gypsy with a
grandiloquent wave of her dirty hand.

"But I wish to learn the truth and save Lady Agnes from this trouble."

"You wish to save her?" chuckled Mother Cockleshell. "And not the golden
rye? Ah well, my angel, there are women, and women." She faced round,
and the humor died out of her wrinkled face. "You wish for help and so
have come to see me? Is it not so?"

"Yes," said Miss Greeby tartly. "Chaldea will make trouble."

"The child won't. I can manage her."

Miss Greeby hitched up her broad shoulders contemptuously. "She has
managed you just now."

"There are ways and ways, and when the hour arrives, the sun rises to
scatter the darkness," said Gentilla mystically. "Let the child win for
the moment, for my turn comes."

"Then you know something?"

"What I know mustn't be said till the hour strikes. But content
yourself, my Gorgious lady, with knowing that the child will make no
trouble."

"She has parted with the letter?"

"I know of that letter. Hearne showed it to me, and would make for the
big house, although I told him fair not to doubt his true wife."

"How did he get the letter?"

"That's tellings," said Mother Cockleshell with a wink of her lively
eye.

"I've a good mind to take you to the police, and then you'd be forced
to say what you know," said Miss Greeby crossly, for the vague hints
irritated her not a little.

The old woman cackled in evident enjoyment. "Do that, and the pot will
boil over, ma'am. I wish to help the angel rani who nursed me when I was
sick, and I have debts to pay to Chaldea. Both I do in my own witchly
way."

"You will help me to learn the truth?"

"Surely! Surely! my Gorgious one. And now," Mother Cockleshell gave a
tug at the donkey's mouth, "I goes my ways."

"But where can I find you again?"

"When the time comes the mouth will open, and them as thinks they're
high will find themselves in the dust. Aye, and maybe lower, if six feet
of good earth lies atop, and them burning in lime, uncoffined and
unblessed."

Miss Greeby was masculine and fearless, but there was something so weird
about this mystic sentence, which hinted at capital punishment, that she
shrank back nervously. Mother Cockleshell, delighted to see that she had
made an impression, climbed on to the gray donkey and made a progress
through the camp. Passing by Chaldea's caravan she spat on it and
muttered a word or so, which did not indicate that she wished a blessing
to rest on it. Chaldea did not show herself, so the deposed queen was
accompanied to the outskirts of the wood by the elder gypsies, mourning
loudly. But when they finally halted to see the last of Mother
Cockleshell, she raised her hand and spoke authoritatively.

"I go and I come, my children. Forget not, ye Romans, that I say so
much. When the seed needs rain it falls. Sarishan, brothers and sisters
all." And with this strange speech, mystical to the last, she rode away
into the setting sun, on the gray donkey, looking more like an almshouse
widow than ever.

As for Miss Greeby, she strode out of the camp and out of the Abbot's
Wood, and made for the Garvington Arms, where she had left her baggage.
What Mother Cockleshell knew, she did not guess; what Mother Cockleshell
intended to do, she could not think; but she was satisfied that Chaldea
would in some way pay for her triumph. And the downfall of the girl was
evidently connected with the unravelling of the murder mystery. In a
witchly way, as the old woman would have said herself, she intended to
adjust matters.

"I'll leave things so far in her hands," thought Miss Greeby. "Now for
Silver."




CHAPTER XV.

GUESSWORK.


Whether Miss Greeby found a difficulty, as was probable, in getting
Silver to hand over the forged letter, or whether she had decided to
leave the solution of this mystery to Mother Cockleshell, it is
impossible to say. But she certainly did not put in an appearance at
Lady Agnes Pine's town house to report progress until after the new
year. Nor in the meantime did she visit Lambert, although she wrote to
say that she induced the secretary to delay his threatened exposure. The
position of things was therefore highly unsatisfactory, since the
consequent suspense was painful both to Agnes and her lover. And of
course the widow had been duly informed of the interview at the cottage,
and naturally expected events to move more rapidly.

However, taking the wise advice of Isaiah to "Make no haste in time of
trouble," Agnes possessed her soul in patience, and did not seek out
Miss Greeby in any way, either by visiting or by letter. She attended at
her lawyers' offices to supervise her late husband's affairs, and had
frequent consultations with Garvington's solicitors in connection with
the freeing of the Lambert estates. Everything was going on very
satisfactorily, even to the improvement of Lambert's health, so Agnes
was not at all so ill at ease in her mind as might have been expected.
Certainly the sword of Damocles still dangled over her head, and over
the head of Lambert, but a consciousness that they were both innocent,
assured her inwardly that it would not fall. Nevertheless the beginning
of the new year found her in anything but a placid frame of mind. She
was greatly relieved when Miss Greeby at last condescended to pay her a
visit.

Luckily Agnes was alone when the lady arrived, as Garvington and his
wife were both out enjoying themselves in their several ways. The pair
had been staying with the wealthy widow for Christmas, and had not yet
taken their departure, since Garvington always tried to live at
somebody's expense if possible. He had naturally shut up The Manor
during the festive season, as the villagers expected coals and blankets
and port wine and plum-puddings, which he had neither the money nor the
inclination to supply. In fact, the greedy little man considered that
they should ask for nothing and pay larger rents than they did. By
deserting them when peace on earth and goodwill to men prevailed, or
ought to have prevailed, he disappointed them greatly and chuckled over
their lamentations. Garvington was very human in some ways.

However, both the corpulent little lord and his untidy wife were out
of the way when Miss Greeby was announced, and Agnes was thankful that
such was the case, since the interview was bound to be an important one.
Miss Greeby, as usual, looked large and aggressively healthy, bouncing
into the room like an india-rubber ball. Her town dress differed very
little from the garb she wore in the country, save that she had a
feather-trimmed hat instead of a man's cap, and carried an umbrella in
place of a bludgeon. A smile, which showed all her strong white teeth in
a somewhat carnivorous way, overspread her face as she shook hands
vigorously with her hostess. And Miss Greeby's grip was so friendly as
to be positively painful.

"Here you are, Agnes, and here am I. Beastly day, ain't it? Rain and
rain and rain again. Seems as though we'd gone back to Father Noah's
times, don't it?"

"I expected you before, Clara," remarked Lady Agnes rather hurriedly,
and too full of anxiety to discuss the weather.

"Well, I intended to come before," confessed Miss Greeby candidly.
"Only, one thing and another prevented me!" Agnes noticed that she did
not specify the hindrances. "It was the deuce's own job to get that
letter. Oh, by the way, I suppose Lambert told you about the letter?"

"Mr. Silver told me about it, and I told Noel," responded Agnes gravely.
"I also heard about your interview with--"

"Oh, that's ages ago, long before Christmas. I should have gone and seen
him, to tell about my experiences at the gypsy camp, but I thought that
I would learn more before making my report as a detective. By the way,
how is Lambert, do you know?"

"He is all right now, and is in town."

"At his old rooms, I suppose. For how long? I want to see him."

"For an indefinite period. Garvington has turned him out of the
cottage."

"The deuce! What's that for?"

"Well," said Agnes, explaining reluctantly, "you see Noel paid no rent,
as Garvington is his cousin, and when an offer came along offering a
pound a week for the place, Garvington said that he was too poor to
refuse it. So Noel has taken a small house in Kensington, and Mrs. Tribb
has been installed as his housekeeper. I wonder you didn't know these
things."

"Why should I?" asked Miss Greeby, rather aggressively.

"Because it is Mr. Silver who has taken the cottage."

Miss Greeby sat up alertly. "Silver. Oh, indeed. Then that explains why
he asked me for leave to stay in the country. Said his health required
fresh air, and that London got on his nerves. Hum! hum!" Miss Greeby
bit the handle of her umbrella. "So he's taken the Abbot's Wood Cottage,
has he? I wonder what that's for?"

"I don't know, and I don't care," said Agnes restlessly. "Of course I
could have prevented Garvington letting it to him, since he tried to
blackmail me, but I thought it was best to see the letter, and to
understand his meaning more thoroughly before telling my brother about
his impertinence. Noel wanted me to tell, but I decided not to--in the
meantime at all events."

"Silver's meaning is not hard to understand," said Miss Greeby, drily
and feeling in her pocket. "He wants to get twenty-five thousand pounds
for this." She produced a sheet of paper dramatically. "However, I made
the little animal give it to me for nothing. Never mind what arguments
I used. I got it out of him, and brought it to show you."

Agnes, paling slightly, took the letter and glanced over it with
surprise.

"Well," she said, drawing a long breath, "if I had not been certain that
I never wrote such a letter, I should believe that I did. My handwriting
has certainly been imitated in a wonderfully accurate way."

"Who imitated it?" asked Miss Greeby, who was watching her eagerly.

"I can't say. But doesn't Mr. Silver--"

"Oh, he knows nothing, or says that he knows nothing. All he swears to
is that Chaldea found the letter in Pine's tent the day after his
murder, and before Inspector Darby had time to search. The envelope had
been destroyed, so we don't know if the letter was posted or delivered
by hand."

"If I had written such a letter to Noel," said Agnes quietly, "it
certainly would have been delivered by hand."

"In which case Pine might have intercepted the messenger," put in Miss
Greeby. "It couldn't have been sent by post, or Pine would not have got
hold of it, unless he bribed Mrs. Tribb into giving it up."

"Mrs. Tribb is not open to bribery, Clara. And as to the letter, I never
wrote it, nor did Noel ever receive it."

"It was written from The Manor, anyhow," said Miss Greeby bluntly. "Look
at the crest and the heading. Someone in the house wrote it, if you
didn't."

"I'm not so sure of that. The paper might have been stolen."

"Well." Miss Greeby again bit her umbrella handle reflectively. "There's
something in that, Agnes. Chaldea told Mrs. Belgrove's fortune in the
park, and afterwards she came to the drawing-room to tell it again. I
wonder if she stole the paper while she was in the house."

"Even if she did, an uneducated gypsy could not have forged the letter."

"She might have got somebody to do so," suggested Miss Greeby, nodding.

"Then the somebody must be well acquainted with my handwriting,"
retorted Lady Agnes, and began to study the few lines closely.

She might have written it herself, so much did it resemble her style of
writing. The terse communication stated that the writer, who signed
herself "Agnes Pine," would meet "her dearest Noel" outside the blue
door, shortly after midnight, and hoped that he would have the motor at
the park gates to take them to London en route to Paris. "Hubert is sure
to get a divorce," ended the letter, "and then we can marry at once and
be happy ever more."

It was certainly a silly letter, and Agnes laughed scornfully.

"I don't express myself in that way," she said contemptuously, and
still eyeing the writing wonderingly. "And as I respected my husband and
respect myself, I should never have thought of eloping with my cousin,
especially from Garvington's house, when I had much better and safer
chances of eloping in town. Had Noel received this, he would never have
believed that I wrote it, as I assuredly did not. And a 'motor at the
park gates,'" she read. "Why not at the postern gate, which leads to the
blue door? that would have been safer and more reasonable. Pah! I never
heard such rubbish," and she folded up the letter to slip it into her
pocket.

Miss Greeby looked rather aghast. "Oh, you must give it back to me," she
said hurriedly. "I have to look into the case, you know."

"I shall not give it back to you," said Agnes in a determined manner.
"It is in my possession and shall remain there. I wish to show it to
Noel."

"And what am I to say to Silver?"

"Whatever you like. You can manage him, you know."

"He'll make trouble."

"Now that he has lost this weapon"--Agnes touched her pocket--"he
can't."

"Well"--Miss Greeby shrugged her big shoulders and stood up--"just as
you please. But it would be best to leave the letter and the case in my
hands."

"I think not," rejoined Agnes decisively. "Noel is now quite well again,
and I prefer him to take charge of the matter himself."

"Is that all the thanks I get for my trouble?"

"My dear Clara," said the other cordially, "I am ever so much obliged to
you for robbing Mr. Silver of this letter. But I don't wish to put you
to any more trouble."

"Just as you please," said Miss Greeby again, and rather sullenly. "I
wash my hands of the business, and if Silver makes trouble you have
only yourself to thank. I advise you also, Agnes, to see Mother
Cockleshell and learn what she has to say."

"Does she know anything?"

"She gave me certain mysterious hints that she did. But she appears to
have a great opinion of you, my dear, so she may be more open with you
than she was with me."

"Where is she to be found?"

"I don't know. Chaldea is queen of the tribe, which is still camped on
the outskirts of Abbot's Wood. Mother Cockleshell has gone away on her
own. Have you any idea who wrote the letter?"

Agnes took out the forged missive again and studied it. "Not in the
least," she said, shaking her head.

"Do you know of any one who can imitate your handwriting?"

"Not that I know--oh," she stopped suddenly and grew as white as the
widow's cap she wore. "Oh," she said blankly.

"What is it?" demanded Miss Greeby, on fire with curiosity. "Have you
thought of any one?"

Agnes shook her head again and placed the letter in her pocket. "I can
think of no one," she said in a low voice.

Miss Greeby did not entirely believe this, as the sudden hesitation and
the paleness hinted at some unexpected thought, probably connected with
the forgery. However, since she had done all she could, it was best, as
she judged, to leave things in the widow's hands. "I'm tired of the
whole business," said Miss Greeby carelessly. "It wouldn't do for me to
be a detective, as I have no staying power, and get sick of things.
Still, if you want me, you know where to send for me, and at all events
I've drawn Silver's teeth."

"Yes, dear; thank you very much," said Agnes mechanically, so the
visitor took her leave, wondering what was rendering her hostess so
absent-minded. A very persistent thought told her that Agnes had made a
discovery in connection with the letter, but since she would not impart
that thought there was no more to be said.

When Miss Greeby left the house and was striding down the street, Agnes
for the third time took the letter from her pocket and studied every
line of the writing. It was wonderfully like her own, she thought again,
and yet wondered both at the contents and at the signature. "I should
never have written in this way to Noel," she reflected. "And certainly
I should never have signed myself 'Agnes Pine' to so intimate a note.
However, we shall see," and with this cryptic thought she placed the
letter in her desk.

When Garvington and his wife returned they found Agnes singularly quiet
and pale. The little man did not notice this, as he never took any
interest in other people's emotions, but his wife asked questions to
which she received no answers, and looked at Agnes uneasily, when she
saw that she did not eat any dinner to speak of. Lady Garvington was
very fond of her kind-hearted sister-in-law, and would have been glad to
know what was troubling her. But Agnes kept her worries to herself, and
insisted that Jane should go to the pantomime, as she had arranged with
some friends instead of remaining at home. But when Garvington moved to
leave the drawing-room, after drinking his coffee, his sister detained
him.

"I want you to come to the library to write a letter for me, Freddy,"
she said in a tremulous voice.

"Can't you write it yourself?" said Garvington selfishly, as he was in a
hurry to get to his club.

"No, dear. I am so tired," sighed Agnes, passing her hand across her
brow.

"Then you should have kept on Silver as your secretary," grumbled
Garvington. "However, if it won't take long, I don't mind obliging you."
He followed her into the library, and took his seat at the writing
table. "Who is the letter to?" he demanded, taking up a pen in a hurry.

"To Mr. Jarwin. I want him to find out where Gentilla Stanley is. It's
only a formal letter, so write it and sign it on my behalf."

"Like an infernal secretary," sighed Garvington, taking paper and
squaring his elbows. "What do you want with old Mother Cockleshell?"

"Miss Greeby was here to-day and told me that the woman knows something
about poor Hubert's death."

Garvington's pen halted for a moment, but he did not look round. "What
can she possibly know?" he demanded irritably.

"That's what I shall find out when Mr. Jarwin discovers her," said
Agnes, who was in a low chair near the fire. "By the way, Freddy, I am
sorry you let the Abbot's Wood Cottage to Mr. Silver."

"Why shouldn't I?" growled Garvington, writing industriously. "Noel
didn't pay me a pound a week, and Silver does."

"You might have a more respectable tenant," said Agnes scathingly.

"Who says Silver isn't respectable?" he asked, looking round.

"I do, and I have every reason to say so."

"Oh, nonsense!" Garvington began to write again. "Silver was Pine's
secretary, and now he's Miss Greeby's. They wouldn't have engaged him
unless he was respectable, although he did start life as a pauper
toymaker. I suppose that is what you mean, Agnes. I'm surprised at your
narrowness."

"Ah, we have not all your tolerance, Freddy. Have you finished that
letter?"

"There you are." Garvington handed it over. "You don't want me to
address the envelope?"

"Yes, I do," Agnes ran her eyes over the missive; "and you can add a
postscript to this, telling Mr. Jarwin he can take my motor to look for
Gentilla Stanley if he chooses."

Garvington did as he was asked reluctantly. "Though I don't see why
Jarwin can't supply his own motors," he grumbled, "and ten to one he'll
only put an advertisement in the newspapers."

"As if Mother Cockleshell ever saw a newspaper," retorted his sister.
"Oh, thank you, Freddy, you are good," she went on when he handed her
the letter in a newly addressed envelope; "no, don't go, I want to speak
to you about Mr. Silver."

Garvington threw himself with a growl into a chair. "I don't know
anything about him except that he's my tenant," he complained.

"Then it is time you did. Perhaps you are not aware that Mr. Silver
tried to blackmail me."

"What?" the little man grew purple and exploded. "Oh, nonsense!"

"It's anything but nonsense." Agnes rose and went to her desk to get the
forged letter. "He came to me a long time before Christmas and said that
Chaldea found this," she flourished the letter before her brother's
eyes, "in Hubert's tent when he was masquerading as Hearne."

"A letter? What does it say?" Garvington stretched out his hand.

Agnes drew back and returned to her seat by the fire. "I can tell you
the contents," she said coolly, "it is supposed to be written by me to
Noel and makes an appointment to meet him at the blue door on the night
of Hubert's death in order to elope."

"Agnes, you never wrote such a letter," cried Garvington, jumping up
with a furious red face.

His sister did not answer for a moment. She had taken the letter just
written to Jarwin by Garvington and was comparing it with that which
Miss Greeby had extorted from Silver. "No," she said in a strange voice
and becoming white, "I never wrote such a letter; but I should be glad
to know why you did."

"I did?" Garvington retreated and his face became as white as that of
the woman who confronted him, "what the devil do you mean?"

"I always knew that you were clever at imitating handwriting, Freddy,"
said Agnes, while the two letters shook in her grasp, "we used to make a
joke of it, I remember. But it was no joke when you altered that check
Hubert gave you, and none when you imitated his signature to that
mortgage about which he told me."

"I never--I never!" stammered the detected little scoundrel, holding on
to a chair for support. "I never--"

"Spare me these lies," interrupted his sister scornfully, "Hubert showed
the mortgage, when it came into his possession, to me. He admitted that
his signature was legal to spare you, and also, for my sake, hushed up
the affair of the check. He warned you against playing with fire,
Freddy, and now you have done so again, to bring about his death."

"It's a damned lie."

"It's a damned truth," retorted Agnes fiercely. "I got you to write the
letter to Mr. Jarwin so that I might compare the signature to the one in
the forged letter. Agnes Pine in one and Agnes Pine in the other, both
with the same twists and twirls--very, very like my signature and yet
with a difference that I alone can detect. The postscript about the
motor I asked you to write because the word occurs in the forged letter.
Motor and motor--both the same."

"It's a lie," denied Garvington again. "I have not imitated your
handwriting in the letter to Jarwin."

"You unconsciously imitated the signature, and you have written the word
motor the same in both letters," said Agnes decisively. "I suddenly
thought of your talent for writing like other people when Clara Greeby
asked me to-day if I could guess who had forged the letter. I laid a
trap for you and you have fallen into it. And you"--she took a step
forward with fiery glance so that Garvington, retreating, nearly tumbled
over a chair--"you laid a trap for Hubert into which he fell."

"I never did--I never did!" babbled Garvington, gray with fear.

"Yes, you did. I swear to it. Now I understand why you threatened to
shoot any possible burglar who should come to The Manor. You learned, in
some way, I don't know how, that Hubert was with the gypsies, and,
knowing his jealous nature, you wrote this letter and let it fall into
his hands, so that he might risk being shot as a robber and a thief."

"I--I--I--didn't shoot him," panted the man brokenly.

"It was not for the want of trying. You broke his arm, and probably
would have followed him out to inflict a mortal wound if your accomplice
in the shrubbery had not been beforehand with you."

"Agnes, I swear that I took Pine for a burglar, and I don't know who
shot him. Really, I don't!"

"You liar!" said Agnes with intense scorn. "When you posted your
accompl--"

She had no chance to finish the word, for Garvington broke in furiously
and made a great effort to assert himself. "I had no accomplice. Who
shot Pine I don't know. I never wrote the letter; I never lured him to
his death; he was more good to me alive than dead. He never--"

"He was not more good to you alive than dead," interrupted Lady Agnes in
her turn. "For Hubert despised you for the way in which you tried to
trick him out of money. He thought you little better than a criminal,
and only hushed up your wickedness for my sake. You would have got no
more money out of him, and you know that much. By killing him you hoped
that I would get the fortune and then you could plunder me at your
leisure. Hubert was hard to manage, and you thought that I would be
easy. Well, I have got the money and you have got rid of Hubert. But I
shall punish you."

"Punish me?" Garvington passed his tongue over his dry lips, and looked
as though in his terror he would go down on his knees to plead.

"Oh, not by denouncing you to the police," said his sister
contemptuously. "For, bad as you are, I have to consider our family
name. But you had Hubert shot so as to get the money through me, and
now that I am in possession I shall surrender it to the person named
in the sealed envelope."

"No! No! No! No! Don't--don't--"

"Yes, I shall. I can do so by marrying Noel. I shall no longer consider
the financial position of the family. I have sacrificed enough, and I
shall sacrifice no more. Hubert was a good husband to me, and I was a
good and loyal wife to him; but his will insults me, and you have made
me your enemy by what you have done."

"I did not do it. I swear I did not do it."

"Yes, you did; and no denial on your part will make me believe
otherwise. I shall give you a few days to think over the necessity of
making a confession, and in any case I shall marry Noel."

"And lose the money. You shan't!"

"Shan't!" Agnes stepped forward and looked fairly into his shifty eyes.
"You are not in a position to say that, Freddy. I am mistress both of
the situation and of Hubert's millions. Go away," she pushed him toward
the door. "Take time to think over your position, and confess everything
to me."

Garvington got out of the room as swiftly as his shaky legs could carry
him, and paused at the door to turn with a very evil face. "You daren't
split on me," he screeched. "I defy you! I defy you! You daren't split
on me."

Alas! Agnes knew that only too well, and when he disappeared she wept
bitterly, feeling her impotence.




CHAPTER XVI.

THE LAST STRAW.


Lady Agnes was inaccurate when she informed Miss Greeby that her cousin
had taken a house in Kensington, since, like many women, she was
accustomed to speak in general terms, rather than in a precise way. The
young man certainly did live in the suburb she mentioned, but he had
simply rented a furnished flat in one of the cheaper streets. He was the
poorest of all the Lamberts, and could scarcely pay his club
subscriptions, much less live in the style his ancient name demanded.
The St. James's chambers had merely been lent to him by a friend, and
when the owner returned, the temporary occupant had to shift. Therefore,
on the score of economy, he hired the dingy flat and brought up Mrs.
Tribb to look after it. The little woman, on her master's account, was
disgusted with the mean surroundings.

"When you ought to be living in a kind of Buckingham Palace, Master
Noel, as I should declare with my dying breath," she said indignantly.
"And have the title, too, if things was as they ought to be."

"I shouldn't be much better off if I did have the title, Mrs. Tribb,"
replied Lambert with a shrug. "It's common knowledge that Garvington can
scarcely keep his head above water. As an old family servant you should
know."

"Ah, Master Noel, there's many things as I know, as I'm sorry I do
know," said Mrs. Tribb incoherently. "And them lords as is dead and
buried did waste the money, there's no denying. But some of your
cousins, Master Noel, have gone into trade and made money, more shame to
them."

"I don't see that, Mrs. Tribb. I'd go into trade myself if I had any
head for figures. There's no disgrace in trade."

"Not for them as isn't Lamberts, Master Noel, and far be it from me to
say so, gentry not being so rich as they used to be when my mother was a
gal. I don't hold with it though for you, sir. But now Lady Agnes having
millions and billions will make things easier for you."

"Certainly not, Mrs. Tribb. How could I take money from her?"

"And why not, Master Noel? if you'll excuse my making so free. As a
child she'd give you anything in the way of toys, and as a grown-up, her
head is yours if not her heart, as is--"

"There! there! Don't talk any more," said Lambert, coloring and vexed.

"I haven't annoyed you, sir, I hope. It's my heart as speaks."

"I appreciate the interest you take in the family, Mrs. Tribb, but you
had better leave some things unsaid. Now, go and prepare tea, as Lady
Agnes has written saying she will be here this afternoon."

"Oh, Master Noel, and you only tell me now. Then there ain't time to
cook them cakes she dotes on."

But Lambert declined to argue further, and Mrs. Tribb withdrew,
murmuring that she would have to make shift with sardine sandwiches. Her
tongue was assuredly something of a nuisance, but the young man knew how
devoted she was to the family, and, since she had looked after him when
he was a child, he sanctioned in her a freedom he would not have
permitted any one else to indulge in. And it is to be feared, that the
little woman in her zeal sometimes abused her privileges.

The sitting room was small and cramped, and atrociously furnished in an
overcrowded way. There were patterns on the wall-paper, on the carpet,
on the tablecloth and curtains, until the eye ached for a clean surface
without a design. And there were so many ill-matched colors, misused for
decorative purposes, that Lambert shuddered to the core of his artistic
soul when he beheld them. To neutralize the glaring tints, he pulled
down the blinds of the two windows which looked on to a dull suburban
roadway, and thus shut out the weak sunshine. Then he threw himself into
an uncomfortable arm-chair and sought solace in his briar root. The
future was dark, the present was disagreeable, and the past would not
bear thinking about, so intimately did it deal with the murder of Pine,
the threats of Silver, and the misery occasioned by the sacrifice of
Agnes to the family fetish. It was in the young man's mind to leave
England forthwith and begin a new life, unhampered by former troubles
and present grievances. But Agnes required help and could not be left to
struggle unaided, so Lambert silently vowed again, as he had vowed
before, to stand by her to the end. Yet so far he was unable to see what
the end would be.

While he thus contemplated the unpleasantness of life he became aware
that the front door bell was ringing, and he heard Mrs. Tribb hurrying
along the passage. So thin were the walls, and so near the door that he
heard also the housekeeper's effusive welcome, which was cut short by a
gasp of surprise. Lambert idly wondered what caused the little woman's
astonishment, but speedily learned when Agnes appeared in the room. With
rare discretion Mrs. Tribb ushered in the visitor and then fled to the
kitchen to wonder why the widow had discarded her mourning. "And him
only planted six months, as you might say," murmured the puzzled woman.
"Whatever will Master Noel say to such goings on?"

Master Noel said nothing, because he was too astonished to speak, and
Agnes, seeing his surprise, and guessing its cause, waited, somewhat
defiantly, for him to make an observation. She was dressed in a gray
silk frock, with a hat and gloves, and shoes to match, and drew off a
fur-lined cloak of maroon-colored velvet, when she entered the room. Her
face was somewhat pale and her eyes looked unnaturally large, but she
had a resolute expression about her mouth, which showed that she had
made up her mind. Lambert, swift, from long association, to read her
moods, wondered what conclusion she had arrived at, and proceeded to
inquire.

"Whatever is the meaning of this?" he demanded, considerably startled.

"This dress?"

"Of course. Where is your widow's cap and--"

"In the fire, and there they can remain until they are burned to ashes."

Lambert stared harder than ever. "What does it mean?" he asked again.

"It means," said Agnes, replying very directly, "that the victim is no
longer decked out for the sacrifice. It means, that as Hubert insulted
me by his will, I no longer intend to consider his memory."

"But, Agnes, you respected him. You always said that you did?"

"Quite so, until his will was read. Then when I found that his mean
jealousy--which was entirely unreasonable--had arranged to rob me of my
income by preventing my marriage with you, I ceased to have any regard
for him. Hubert knew that I loved you, and was content to take me on
those terms so long as I was loyal to him. I _was_ loyal, and did what
I could to show him gratitude for the way in which he helped the family.
Now his will has broken the bargain I respect him no longer, and for
that reason I refuse to pose any longer as a grieving widow."

"I wonder, with these thoughts, that you posed at all," said Lambert
gloomily, and pushed forward a chair.

"I could not make up my mind until lately what to do," explained Agnes,
sitting down gracefully, "and while I accepted his money it appeared to
me that I ought to show his memory the outward respect of crape and all
the rest of it. Now," she leaned forward and spoke meaningly, "I am
resolved to surrender the money. That breaks the link between us. The
will! the will!" she tapped an impatient foot on the carpet. "How could
you expect any woman to put up with such an insult?"

Lambert dropped on the sofa and looked at her hard. "What's up?" he
asked anxiously. "I never saw you like this before."

"I was not free when you last saw me," she replied dryly.

"Oh, yes; you were a widow."

"I mean free, in my own mind, to marry you. I am now. I don't intend to
consider the family or society, or Mr. Silver's threats, or anything
else. I have shaken off my fetters; I have discarded my ring." She
violently pulled off her glove to show that the circle of gold was
absent. "I am free, and I thank God that I am free."

"Agnes! Agnes! I can't reduce you to poverty by marrying you. It would
not be honorable of me."

"And would it be honorable on my part for me to keep the money of a man
I despise because his will insults me?" she retorted.

"We argued all this before."

"Yes, we did, and concluded to wait until we saw how the estates could
be freed before we came to any conclusion."

"And do you see now how the estates can be freed without using Pine's
money, Agnes?" asked Lambert anxiously.

"No. Things are ever so much worse than I thought. Garvington can hold
out for another year, but at the end of twelve months the estates will
be sold up by the person whose name is in the sealed envelope, and he
will be reduced to some hundreds a year. The Lamberts!" she waved her
arm dramatically, "are ruined, my dear; entirely ruined!"

"And for the simple reason that you wish us to place love before duty."

Agnes leaned forward and took his hand firmly. "Noel, you love me?"

"Of course I do."

"Do you love the family name better?"

"In one way I wish to save it, in another I am willing to let it go
hang."

"Yes. Those were my views until three or four days ago."

"And what caused you to change your mind, dear?"

"A visit which Clara Greeby paid me."

"Oh." Lambert sat up very straight. "She hasn't been making mischief,
has she?"

"Not at all. On the contrary, she has done both of us a great service."

Lambert nodded thankfully. He felt doubtful as to whether Miss Greeby
really had meant to renounce her absurd passion for himself, and it was
a relief to find that she had been acting honestly. "Has she then
learned who killed Pine?" he asked cautiously.

Lady Agnes suddenly rose and began to pace the room, twisting her gloves
and trying to control herself. Usually she was so composed that Lambert
wondered at this restlessness. He wondered still more when she burst
into violent tears, and therefore hastened to draw her back to the
chair. When she was seated he knelt beside her and passed his arm round
her neck, as distressed as she was. It was so unlike Agnes to break down
in this way, and more unlike her to sob brokenly. "Oh, I'm afraid--I'm
afraid."

"Afraid of what, darling?"

"I'm afraid to learn who killed my husband. He might have done so, and
yet he only fired the first shot--"

"Agnes," Lambert rose up suddenly, "are you talking of Garvington?"

"Yes." She leaned back and dried her tears. "In spite of what he says,
I am afraid he may be guilty."

Lambert's heart seemed to stand still. "You talk rubbish!" he cried
angrily.

"I wish it was. Oh, how I wish it was rubbish! But I can't be sure. Of
course, he may have meant what he says--"

"What does he say? Tell me everything. Oh, heavens!" Lambert clutched
his smooth hair. "What does it all mean?"

"Ruin to the Lambert family. I told you so."

"You have only told me scraps so far. I don't understand how you can
arrive at the conclusion that Garvington is guilty. Agnes, don't go on
crying in so unnecessary a way. If things have to be faced, surely we
are strong enough to face them. Don't let our emotions make fools of us.
Stop it! Stop it!" he said sharply and stamping. "Dry your eyes and
explain matters."

"I--I can't help my feelings," faltered Agnes, beginning to respond to
the spur, and becoming calmer.

"Yes, you can. I don't offer you brandy or smelling salts, or anything
of the sort, because I know you to be a woman with a firm mind. Exert
your will, and compel your nerves to be calm. This exhibition is too
cheap."

"Oh," cried Agnes indignantly, and this feeling was the one Lambert
wished to arouse, "how can you talk so?"

"Because I love you and respect you," he retorted.

She knew that he meant what he said, and that her firmness of mind and
self-control had always appealed to him, therefore she made a great
effort and subdued her unruly nerves. Lambert gave her no assistance,
and merely walked up and down the room while waiting for her to recover.
It was not easy for her to be herself immediately, as she really was
shaken, and privately considered that he expected too much. But pride
came to her aid, and she gradually became more composed. Meanwhile
Lambert pulled up the blind to display the ugly room in all its
deformity, and the sight--as he guessed it would--extorted an
exclamation from her.

"Oh, how can you live in this horrid place?" she asked irrelevantly.

"Necessity knows no law. Are you better?"

"Yes; I am all right. But you are brutal, Noel."

"I wouldn't have been brutal to a weaker woman," he answered. "And by
acting as I have done, I show how much I think of you."

"Rather a strange way of showing approval. But your drastic methods have
triumphed. I am quite composed, and shall tell you of our disgrace in as
unemotional a manner as if I were reckoning pounds, shillings and
pence."

"Disgrace?" Lambert fastened on the one word anxiously. "To us?"

"To Garvington in the first place. But sit down and listen. I shall
tell you everything, from the moment Clara came to see me."

Lambert nodded and resumed his seat. Agnes, with wonderful coolness,
detailed Miss Greeby's visit and production of the letter. Thence she
passed on to explain how she had tricked Garvington into confession.
"But he did not confess," interrupted Lambert at this point.

"Not at the moment. He did yesterday in a letter to me. You see, he left
my house immediately and slept at his club. Then he went down to The
Manor and sent for Jane, who, by the way, knows nothing of what I have
explained. Here are two letters," added Agnes, taking an envelope out of
her pocket. "One is the forged one, and the other came from Garvington
yesterday. Even though he is not imitating my writing, you can see every
now and then the similarity. Perhaps there is a family resemblance in
our caligraphy." Her cousin examined the two epistles with a rather
scared look, for there was no doubt that things looked black against the
head of the family. However, he did not read Garvington's letter, but
asked Agnes to explain. "What excuse does he make for forging your
name?" asked Lambert in a business-like way, for there was no need to
rage over such a worm as Freddy.

"A very weak one," she replied. "So weak that I scarcely believe him to
be in earnest. Besides, Freddy always was a liar. He declares that when
he went to see about getting the gypsies turned off the land, he caught
sight of Hubert. He did not speak to him, but learned the truth from
Mr. Silver, whom he forced to speak. Then he wrote the letter and let it
purposely fall into Mr. Silver's hands, and by Mr. Silver it was passed
on to Hubert. Freddy writes that he only wanted to hurt Hubert so that
he might be laid up in bed at The Manor. When he was weak--Hubert, I
mean--Freddy then intended to get all the money he could out of him."

"He did not wish to kill Pine, then?"

"No. And all the evidence goes to show that he only broke Hubert's arm."

"That is true," murmured Lambert thoughtfully, "for the evidence of the
other guests and of the servants showed plainly at the inquest that the
second shot was fired outside while Garvington was indoors."

Agnes nodded. "Yes; it really seems as though Freddy for once in his
life is telling the exact truth."

Her cousin glanced at Garvington's lengthy letter of explanation. "Do
you really believe that he hoped to manage Pine during the illness?"

"Well," said Agnes reluctantly, "Freddy has tremendous faith in his
powers of persuasion. Hubert would do nothing more for him since he was
such a cormorant for money. But if Hubert had been laid up with a broken
arm, it is just possible that he might have been worried into doing what
Freddy wanted, if only to get rid of his importunity."

"Hum! It sounds weak. Garvington certainly winged Pine, so that seems to
corroborate the statement in this letter. He's such a good shot that he
could easily have killed Pine if he wanted to."

"Then you don't think that Freddy is responsible for the death?"
inquired Agnes with a look of relief.

Lambert appeared worried. "I think not, dear. He lured Hubert into
his own private trap so as to get him laid up and extort money.
Unfortunately, another person, aware of the trap, waited outside and
killed your poor husband."

"According to what Freddy says, Mr. Silver knew of the trap, since he
delivered the letter to Hubert. And Mr. Silver knew that Freddy had
threatened to shoot any possible burglar. It seems to me," ended Agnes
deliberately, "that Mr. Silver is guilty."

"But why should he shoot Pine, to whom he owed so much?"

"I can't say."

"And, remember, Silver was inside the house."

"Yes," assented Lady Agnes, in dismay. "That is true. It is a great
puzzle, Noel. However, I am not trying to solve it. Clara says that Mr.
Silver will hold his tongue, and certainly as the letter is now in my
possession he cannot bring forward any evidence to show that I am
inculpated in the matter. I think the best thing to do is to let Freddy
and Mr. Silver fight out the matter between them, while we are on our
honeymoon."

Lambert started. "Agnes! What do you mean?"

She grew impatient. "Oh, what is the use of asking what I mean when you
know quite well, Noel? Hubert insulted me in his will, and cast a slur
on my character by forbidding me to marry you. Freddy--although he did
not fire the second shot--certainly lured Hubert to his death by forging
that letter. I don't intend to consider my husband's memory any more,
nor my brother's position. I shall never speak to him again if I can
help it, as he is a wicked little animal. I have sacrificed myself
sufficiently, and now I intend to take my own way. Let the millions go,
and let Freddy be ruined, if only to punish him for his wickedness."

"But, dear, how can I ask you to share my poverty?" said Lambert,
greatly distressed. "I have only five hundred a year, and you have been
accustomed to such luxury."

"I have another five hundred a year of my own," said Agnes obstinately,
"which Hubert settled on me for pin money. He refused to make any other
settlements. I have a right to that money, since I sacrificed so much,
and I shall keep it. Surely we can live on one thousand a year."

"In England?" inquired Lambert doubtfully. "And after you have led such
a luxurious life?"

"No," she said quickly. "I mean in the Colonies. Let us go to Australia,
or Canada, or South Africa, I don't care which, and cut ourselves off
from the past. We have suffered enough; let us now think of ourselves."

"But are we not selfish to let the family name be disgraced?"

"Freddy is selfish, and will disgrace it in any case," said Agnes, with
a contemptuous shrug. "What's the use of pulling him out of the mud,
when he will only sink back into it again? No, Noel, if you love me you
will marry me within the week."

"But it's so sudden, dear," he urged, more and more distressed. "Take
time to consider. How can I rob you of millions?"

"You won't rob me. If you refuse, I shall make over the money to some
charity, and live on my five hundred a year. Remember, Noel, what people
think of me: that I married Hubert to get his money and to become your
wife when he died, so that we could live on his wealth. We can only
prove that belief to be false by surrendering the millions and marrying
as paupers."

"You may be right, and yet--"

"And yet, and yet--oh," she cried, wounded, "you don't love me."

The man did not answer, but stood looking at her with all his soul in
his eyes, and shaking from head to foot. Never before had she looked so
desirable, and never before had he felt the tides of love surge to so
high a Water-mark. "Love you!" he said in a hoarse voice. "Agnes, I
would give my soul for you."

"Then give it." She wreathed her arms round his neck and whispered with
her warm lips close to his ear, "Give me all of you."

"But two millions--"

"You are worth it."

"Darling, you will repent."

"Repent!" She pressed him closer to her. "Repent that I exchange a
lonely life for companionship with you? Oh, my dear, how can you think
so? I am sick of money and sick of loneliness. I want you, you, you!
Noel, Noel, it is your part to woo, and here am I making all the love."

"It is such a serious step for you to take."

"It is the only step that I can take. I am known as a mercenary woman,
and until we marry and give up the money, everybody will think
scornfully of me. Besides, Freddy must be punished, and in no other way
can I make him suffer so much as by depriving him of the wealth he
sinned to obtain."

"Yes. There is that view, certainly. And," Lambert gasped, "I love
you--oh, never doubt that, my darling."

"I shall," she whispered ardently, "unless you get a special license
and marry me straightaway."

"But Garvington and Silver--"

"And Clara Greeby and Chaldea, who both love you," she mocked. "Let them
all fight out their troubles alone. I have had enough suffering; so have
you. So there's no more to be said. Now, sir," she added playfully,
"wilt thou take this woman to be thy wedded wife?"

"Yes," he said, opening his arms and gathering Agnes to his heart. "But
what will people say of your marrying so soon after Pine's death?"

"Let them say what they like and do what they like. We are going to the
Colonies and will be beyond reach of slanderous tongues. Now, let us
have tea, Noel, for I am hungry and thirsty, and quite tired out with
trying to convince you of my earnestness."

Lambert rang for the tea. "Shall we tell Jarwin that we intend to
marry?"

"No. We shall tell no one until we are married," she replied, and kissed
him once, twice, thrice, and again, until Mrs. Tribb entered with the
tray. Then they both sat demurely at the first of many meals which they
hoped would be the start of a new Darby and Joan existence.

And the outcome of the interview and of the decision that was arrived at
appeared in a letter to Mr. Jarwin, of Chancery Lane. A week later he
received a communication signed by Agnes Lambert, in which she stated
that on the preceding day she had married her cousin by special license.
Mr. Jarwin had to read the epistle twice before he could grasp the
astounding fact that the woman had paid two millions for a husband.

"She's mad, crazy, silly, insane," murmured the lawyer, then his eyes
lighted up with curiosity. "Now I shall know the name of the person in
the sealed letter who inherits," and he forthwith proceeded to his safe.




CHAPTER XVII.

ON THE TRAIL.


Great was the excitement in society when it became known--through the
medium of a newspaper paragraph--that Lady Agnes Pine had surrendered
two millions sterling to become Mrs. Noel Lambert. Some romantic people
praised her as a noble woman, who placed love above mere money, while
others loudly declared her to be a superlative fool. But one and all
agreed that she must have loved her cousin all the time, and that
clearly the marriage with the deceased millionaire had been forced on
by Garvington, for family reasons connected with the poverty of the
Lamberts. It was believed that the fat little egotist had obtained his
price for selling his sister, and that his estates had been freed from
all claims through the generosity of Pine. Of course, this was not the
case; but the fact was unknown to the general public, and Garvington was
credited with an income which he did not possess.

The man himself was furious at having been tricked. He put it in this
way, quite oblivious to his own actions, which had brought about such a
result. He could not plead ignorance on this score, as Agnes had written
him a letter announcing her marriage, and plainly stating her reasons
for giving up her late husband's fortune. She ironically advised him to
seek out the person to whom the money would pass, and to see if he could
not plunder that individual. Garvington, angry as he was, took the
advice seriously, and sought out Jarwin. But that astute individual
declined to satisfy his curiosity, guessing what use he would make of
the information. In due time, as the solicitor said, the name of the
lucky legatee would be made public, and with this assurance Garvington
was obliged to be content.

Meanwhile the happy pair--and they truly were extremely happy--heard
nothing of the chatter, and were indifferent to either praise or blame.
They were all in all to one another, and lived in a kind of Paradise, on
the south coast of Devonshire. On one of his sketching tours Lambert had
discovered a picturesque old-world village, tucked away in a fold of the
moorlands, and hither he brought his wife for the golden hours of the
honeymoon. They lived at the small inn and were attended to by a
gigantic landlady, who made them very comfortable. Mrs. "Anak," as Noel
called her, took the young couple for poor but artistic people, since
Agnes had dropped her title, as unsuited to her now humble position.

"And in the Colonies," she explained to her husband, during a moorland
ramble, "it would be absurd for me to be called 'my lady.' Mrs. Noel
Lambert is good enough for me."

"Quite so, dear, if we ever do go to the Colonies."

"We must, Noel, as we have so little to live on."

"Oh, one thousand a year isn't so bad," he answered good-humoredly. "It
may seem poverty to you, who have been used to millions, my darling; but
all my life I have been hard up, and I am thankful for twenty pounds a
week."

"You speak as though I had been wealthy all my life, Noel. But remember
that I was as hard up as you before I married Hubert, poor soul."

"Then, dear, you must appreciate the fact that we can never starve.
Besides I hope to make a name as a painter."

"In the Colonies?"

"Why not? Art is to be found there as in England. Change of scene does
not destroy any talent one may possess. But I am not so sure, darling,
if it is wise to leave England--at least until we learn who murdered
Pine."

"Oh, my dear, do let us leave that vexed question alone. The truth will
never become known."

"It must become known, Agnes," said Lambert firmly. "Remember that
Silver and Chaldea practically accuse us of murdering your husband."

"They know it is a lie, and won't proceed further," said Agnes
hopefully.

"Oh, yes, they will, and Miss Greeby also."

"Clara! Why, she is on our side."

"Indeed she is not. Your guess that she was still in love with me turns
out to be quite correct. I received a letter from her this morning,
which was forwarded from Kensington. She reproaches me with marrying you
after the trouble she took in getting the forged letter back from
Silver."

"But you told me that she said she would help you as a friend."

"She did so, in order--to use an expressive phrase--to pull the wool
over my eyes. But she intended--and she puts her intention plainly in
her letter--to help me in order to secure my gratitude, and then she
counted upon my making her my wife."

Agnes flushed. "I might have guessed that she would act in that way.
When you told me that she was helping I had a suspicion what she was
aiming at. What else does she say?"

"Oh, all manner of things, more or less silly. She hints that I have
acted meanly in causing you to forfeit two millions, and says that no
man of honor would act in such a way."

"I see," said Mrs. Lambert coolly. "She believed that my possession of
the money would be even a greater barrier to our coming together than
the fact of my being married to Hubert. Well, dear, what does it
matter?"

"A great deal, Agnes," replied Noel, wrinkling his brows. "She intends
to make mischief, and she can, with the aid of Silver, who is naturally
furious at having lost his chance of blackmail. Then there's Chaldea--"

"She can do nothing."

"She can join forces with Miss Greeby and the secretary, and they will
do their best to get us into trouble. To defend ourselves we should have
to explain that Garvington wrote the letter, and then heaven only knows
what disgrace would befall the name."

"But you don't believe that Freddy is guilty?" asked Agnes anxiously.

"Oh, no. Still, he wrote that letter which lured Pine to his death, and
if such a mean act became known, he would be disgraced forever."

"Freddy has such criminal instincts," said Mrs. Lambert gloomily, "that
I am quite sure he will sooner or later stand in the dock."

"We must keep him out of it as long as we can," said Noel decisively.
"For that reason I intend to leave you here and go to Garvington."

"To see Freddy?"

"Yes, and to see Chaldea, and to call on Silver, who is living in my old
cottage. Also I wish to have a conversation with Miss Greeby. In some
way, my dear, I must settle these people, or they will make trouble.
Have you noticed, Agnes, what a number of gypsies seem to cross our
path?"

"Yes; but there are many gypsies in Devonshire."

"No doubt, but many gypsies do not come to this retired spot as a rule,
and yet they seem to swarm. Chaldea is having us watched."

"For what reason?" Agnes opened her astonished eyes.

"I wish to learn. Chaldea is now a queen, and evidently has sent
instructions to her kinsfolk in this county to keep an eye on us."

Agnes ruminated for a few minutes. "I met Mother Cockleshell yesterday,"
she observed; "but I thought nothing of it, as she belongs to
Devonshire."

"I believe Mother Cockleshell is on our side, dear, since she is so
grateful to you for looking after her when she was sick. But Kara has
been hovering about, and we know that he is Chaldea's lover."

"Then," said Mrs. Lambert, rising from the heather on which they had
seated themselves, "it will be best to face Mother Cockleshell and Kara
in order to learn what all this spying means."

Lambert approved of this suggestion, and the two returned to Mrs.
"Anak's" abode to watch for the gypsies. But, although they saw two or
three, or even more during the next few days, they did not set eyes on
the Servian dwarf, or on Gentilla Stanley. Then--since it never rains
but it pours--the two came together to the inn. Agnes saw them through
the sitting-room window, and walked out boldly to confront them. Noel
was absent at the moment, so she had to conduct the examination entirely
alone.

"Gentilla, why are you spying on me and my husband?" asked Agnes
abruptly.

The respectable woman dropped a curtsey and clutched the shoulder of
Kara, who showed a disposition to run away. "I'm no spy, my angel," said
the old creature with a cunning glint in her eyes. "It's this one who
keeps watch."

"For what reason?"

"Bless you, my lady--"

"Don't call me by my title. I've dropped it."

"Only for a time, my dear. I have read your fortune in the stars, my
Gorgio one, and higher you will be with money and rank than ever you
have been in past days. But not with the child's approval."

"The child. What child?"

"Chaldea, no less. She's raging mad, as the golden rye has made you his
romi, my sweet one, and she has set many besides Kara to overlook you."

"So Mr. Lambert and I thought. And Chaldea's reason?"

"She would make trouble," replied Mother Cockleshell mysteriously. "But
Kara does not wish her to love the golden rye--as she still does--since
he would have the child to himself." She turned and spoke rapidly in
Romany to the small man in the faded green coat.

Kara listened with twinkling eyes, and pulling at his heavy beard with
one hand, while he held the neck of his violin with the other. When
Mother Cockleshell ceased he poured out a flood of the kalo jib with
much gesticulation, and in a voice which boomed like a gong. Of course,
Mrs. Lambert did not understand a word of his speech, and looked
inquiringly at Gentilla.

"Kara says," translated the woman hurriedly, "that he is your friend,
since he is glad you are the golden rye's romi. Ever since you left
Lundra the child has set him and others to spy on you. She makes
mischief, does the child in her witchly way."

"Ask him," said Agnes, indicating the dwarf, "if he knows who murdered
my late husband?"

Gentilla asked the question and translated the reply. "He knows nothing,
but the child knows much. I go back to the wood in Hengishire, my dear,
to bring about much that will astonish Chaldea--curses on her evil
heart. Tell the rye to meet me at his old cottage in a week. Then the
wrong will be made right," ended Mother Cockleshell, speaking quite in
the style of Meg Merrilees, and very grandiloquently. "And happiness
will be yours. By this and this I bless you, my precious lady," making
several mystical signs, she turned away, forcing the reluctant Kara to
follow her.

"But, Gentilla?" Agnes hurried in pursuit.

"No! no, my Gorgious. It is not the time. Seven days, and seven hours,
and seven minutes will hear the striking of the moment. Sarishan, my
deary."

Mother Cockleshell hobbled away with surprising alacrity, and Mrs.
Lambert returned thoughtfully to the inn. Evidently the old woman knew
of something which would solve the mystery, else she would scarcely have
asked Noel to meet her in Hengishire. And being an enemy to Chaldea, who
had deposed her, Agnes was quite sure that Gentilla would work her
hardest to thwart the younger gypsy's plans. It flashed across her mind
that Chaldea herself might have murdered Pine. But since his death would
have removed the barrier between Lambert and herself, Agnes could not
believe that Chaldea was guilty. The affair seemed to become more
involved every time it was looked into.

However, Mrs. Lambert related to her husband that same evening all that
had taken place, and duly delivered the old gypsy's message. Noel
listened quietly and nodded. He made up his mind to keep the appointment
in Abbot's Wood the moment he received the intelligence. "And you can
stay here, Agnes," he said.

"No, no," she pleaded. "I wish to be beside you."

"There may be danger, my dear. Chaldea will not stick at a trifle to
revenge herself, you know."

"All the more reason that I should be with you," insisted Agnes.
"Besides, these wretches are plotting against me as much as against you,
so it is only fair that I should be on the spot to defend myself."

"You have a husband to defend you now, Agnes. Still, as I know you will
be anxious if I leave you in this out-of-the-way place, it will be best
for us both to go to London. There is a telephone at Wanbury, and I can
communicate with you at once should it be necessary."

"Of course it will be necessary," said Mrs. Lambert with fond
impatience. "I shall worry dreadfully to think that you are in danger.
I don't wish to lose you now that we are together."

"You can depend upon my keeping out of danger, for your sake, dear,"
said the young man, caressing her. "Moreover, Mother Cockleshell will
look after me should Chaldea try any of her Romany tricks. Stay in town,
darling."

"Oh, dear me, that flat is so dingy, and lonely, and disagreeable."

"You shan't remain at the flat. There's a very pleasant hotel near Hyde
Park where we can put up."

"It's so expensive."

"Never mind the expense, just now. When everything is square we can
consider economy. But I shall not be easy in my mind until poor Pine's
murderer is in custody."

"I only hope Garvington won't be found to be an accomplice," said Agnes,
with a shiver. "Bad as he is, I can't help remembering that he is my
brother."

"And the head of the Lamberts," added her husband gravely. "You may be
sure that I shall try and save the name from disgrace."

"It's a dismal ending to our honeymoon."

"Let us look upon it as the last hedge of trouble which has to be
jumped."

Agnes laughed at this quaint way of putting things, and cheered up. For
the next few days they did their best to enjoy to the full the golden
hours of love, and peace which remained, and then departed, to the
unfeigned regret of Mrs. "Anak." But present pleasure meant future
trouble, so the happy pair--and they were happy in spite of the lowering
clouds--were forced to leave their temporary paradise in order to baffle
their enemies. Miss Greeby, Chaldea, Silver, and perhaps Garvington,
were all arrayed against them, so a conflict could not possibly be
avoided.

Agnes took up her abode in the private hotel near the Park which Lambert
had referred to, and was very comfortable, although she did not enjoy
that luxury with which Pine's care had formerly surrounded her. Having
seen that she had all she required, Noel took the train to Wanbury, and
thence drove in a hired fly to Garvington, where he put up at the
village inn. It was late at night when he arrived, so it might have been
expected that few would have noted his coming. This was true, but among
the few was Chaldea, who still camped with her tribe in Abbot's Wood.
Whosoever now owned the property on mortgage, evidently did not desire
to send the gypsies packing, and, of course, Garvington, not having the
power, could not do so.

Thus it happened that while Lambert was breakfasting next morning,
somewhere about ten o'clock, word was brought to him by the landlady
that a gypsy wished to see him. The young man at once thought that
Mother Cockleshell had called to adjust the situation, and gave orders
that she should be admitted. He was startled and ill-pleased when
Chaldea made her appearance. She looked as handsome as ever, but her
face wore a sullen, vicious look, which augured ill for a peaceful
interview.

"So you cheated me after all, rye?" was her greeting, and her eyes
sparkled with anger at the sight of the man she had lost.

"Don't be a fool, girl," said Lambert, purposely rough, for her
persistence irritated him. "You know that I never loved you."

"Am I so ugly then?" demanded the girl bitterly.

"That remark is beside the point," said the man coldly. "And I am not
going to discuss such things with you. But I should like to know why you
set spies on me when I was in Devonshire?"

Chaldea's eyes sparkled still more, and she taunted him. "Oh, the clever
one that you are, to know that I had you watched. Aye, and I did, my
rye. From the time you left the cottage you were under the looks of my
people."

"Why, may I ask?"

"Because I want revenge," cried Chaldea, stepping forward and striking
so hard a blow on the table that the dishes jumped. "You scorned me, and
now you shall pay for that scorn."

"Don't be melodramatic, please. What can you do to harm me, I should
like to know, you silly creature?"

"I can prove that you murdered my brother Hearne."

"Oh, can you, and in what way?"

"I have the bullet which killed him," said the gypsy, speaking very fast
so as to prevent interruption. "Kara knifed it out of the tree-trunk
which grows near the shrubbery. If I take it to the police and it fits
your pistol, then where will you be, my precious cheat?"

Lambert looked at her thoughtfully. If she really did possess the bullet
he would be able to learn if Garvington had fired the second shot, since
it would fit the barrel of his revolver. So far as he was concerned,
when coming to live in the Abbot's Wood Cottage, he had left all his
weapons stored in London, and would be able to prove that such was the
case. He did not fear for himself, as Chaldea's malice could not hurt
him in this way, but he wondered if it would be wise to take her to The
Manor, where Garvington was in residence, in order to test the fitting
of the bullet. Finally, he decided to risk doing so, as in this way he
might be able to force the girl's hand and learn how much she really
knew. If aware that Garvington was the culprit, she would exhibit no
surprise did the bullet fit the barrel of that gentleman's revolver. And
should it be proved that she knew the truth, she would not dare to say
anything to the police, lest she should be brought into the matter, as
an accomplice after the fact. Chaldea misunderstood his silence, while
he was thinking in this way, and smiled mockingly with a toss of her
head.

"Ah, the rye is afraid. His sin has come home to him," she sneered.
"Hai, you are at my feet now, my Gorgious one."

"I think not," said Lambert coolly, and rose to put on his cap. "Come
with me, Chaldea. We go to The Manor."

"And what would I do in the boro rye's ken, my precious?"

Lambert ignored the question. "Have you the bullet with you?"

"Avali," Chaldea nodded. "It lies in my pocket."

"Then we shall see at The Manor if it fits the pistol."

"Hai! you have left the shooter at the big house," said the girl,
falling into the trap, and thereby proved--to Lambert at least--that she
was really in the dark as regards the true criminal.

"Lord Garvington has a revolver of mine," said the young man evasively,
although the remark was a true one, since he had presented his cousin
with a brace of revolvers some twelve months before.

Chaldea looked at him doubtfully. "And if the bullet fits--"

"Then you can do what you like," retorted Lambert tartly. "Come on.
I can't wait here all day listening to the rubbish you talk."

The gypsy followed him sullenly enough, being overborne by his
peremptory manner, and anxious, if possible, to bring home the crime to
him. What she could not understand, for all her cleverness, was, why he
should be so eager to condemn himself, and so went to The Manor on the
lookout for treachery. Chaldea always judged other people by herself,
and looked upon treachery as quite necessary on certain occasions. Had
she guessed the kind of trap which Lambert was laying for her, it is
questionable if she would have fallen into it so easily. And Lambert,
even at this late hour, could not be certain if she really regarded him
as guilty, or if she was only bluffing in order to gain her ends.

Needless to say, Garvington did not welcome his cousin enthusiastically
when he entered the library to find him waiting with Chaldea beside him.
The fat little man rushed in like a whirlwind, and, ignoring his own
shady behavior, heaped reproaches on Lambert's head.

"I wonder you have the cheek to come here," he raged. "You and this
beast of a girl. I want no gypsies in my house, I can tell you. And
you've lost me a fortune by your selfish behavior."

"I don't think we need talk of selfishness when you are present,
Garvington."

"Why not? By marrying Agnes you have made her give up the money."

"She wished to give it up to punish you," said Lambert rebukingly.

"To punish me!" Garvington's gooseberry eyes nearly fell out of his
head. "And what have I done?"

Lambert laughed and shrugged his shoulders. In the face of this dense
egotism, it was impossible to argue in any way. He dismissed the subject
and got to business, as he did not wish to remain longer in Garvington's
society than was absolutely necessary.

"This girl," he said abruptly, indicating Chaldea, who stood passively
at his elbow, "has found the bullet with which Pine was shot."

"Kara found it, my boro rye," put in the gypsy quickly, and addressing
Lord Garvington, who gurgled out his surprises, "in the tree-trunk."

"Ah, yes," interrupted the other. "The elm which is near the shrubbery.
Then why didn't you give the bullet to the police?"

"Do you ask that, Garvington?" inquired Lambert meaningly, and the
little man whirled round to answer with an expression of innocent
surprise.

"Of course I do," he vociferated, growing purple with resentment. "You
don't accuse me of murdering the man who was so useful to me, I hope?"

"I shall answer that very leading question when you bring out the
revolver with which you shot Pine on that night."

"I only winged him," cried Garvington indignantly. "The second shot was
fired by some unknown person, as was proved clearly enough at the
inquest."

"All the same, I wish you to produce the revolver."

"Why?" The host looked suspicious and even anxious.

It was Chaldea who replied, and when doing so she fished out the
battered bullet. "To see if this fits the barrel of the pistol which the
golden rye gave you, my great one," said she significantly.

Garvington started, his color changed and he stole a queer look at the
impassive face of his cousin. "The pistol which the golden rye gave me?"
he repeated slowly and weighing the words. "Did you give me one, Noel?"

"I gave you a couple in a case," answered Lambert without mentioning the
date of the present. "And if this bullet fits the one you used--"

"It will prove nothing," interrupted the other hurriedly, and with a
restless movement. "I fired from the doorstep, and my bullet, after
breaking Pine's arm, must have vanished into the beyond. The shot which
killed him was fired from the shrubbery, and, it is quite easy to guess
how it passed through him and buried itself in the tree which was in the
line of fire."

"I want to see the pistols," said Lambert insistently, and this time
Chaldea looked at him, wondering why he was so anxious to condemn
himself.

"Oh, very well," snapped Garvington, with some reluctance, and walked
toward the door. There he paused, and evidently awaited to arrive at
some conclusion, the nature of which his cousin could not guess. "Oh,
very well," he said again, and left the room.

"He thinks that you are a fool, as I do, my Gorgious," said Chaldea
scornfully. "You wish to hang yourself it seems, my rye."

"Oh, I don't think that I shall be the one to be hanged. Tell me,
Chaldea, do you really believe that I am guilty?"

"Yes," said the girl positively. "And if you had married me I should
have saved you."

Lambert laughed, but was saved the trouble of a reply by the return of
Garvington, who trotted in to lay a mahogany case on the table. Opening
this, he took out a small revolver of beautiful workmanship. Chaldea,
desperately anxious to bring home the crime to Lambert, hastily snatched
the weapon from the little man's hand and slipped the bullet into one of
the chambers. It fitted--making allowance for its battered
condition--precisely. She uttered a cry of triumph. "So you did shoot
the Romany, my bold one," was her victorious speech.

"Because the bullet fits the barrel of a revolver I gave to my cousin
some twelve months ago?" he inquired, smiling.

Chaldea's face fell. "Twelve months ago!" she echoed, greatly
disappointed.

"Yes, as Lord Garvington can swear to. So I could not have used the
weapon on that night, you see."

"I used it," admitted Garvington readily enough. "And winged Pine."

"Exactly. But I gave you a brace of revolvers of the same make. The
bullet which would fit one--as it does--would fit the other. I see there
is only one in the case. Where is the other?"

Garvington's color changed and he shuffled with his feet. "I lent it to
Silver," he said in a low voice, and reluctantly.

"Was it in Silver's possession on the night Pine was shot?"

"Must have been. He borrowed it a week before because he feared
burglars."

"Then," said Lambert coolly, and drawing a breath of relief, for the
tension had been great, "the inference is obvious. Silver shot Hubert
Pine."




CHAPTER XVIII.

AN AMAZING ACCUSATION.


"Beng in tutes bukko!" swore Chaldea in good Romany, meaning that she
wished the devil was in some one's body. And she heartily meant what she
said, and cared little which of the two men's interior was occupied by
the enemy of mankind, since she hated both. The girl was disappointed to
think that Lambert should escape from her snare, and enraged that
Garvington's production of one revolver and his confession that Silver
had the other tended to this end. "May the pair of you burn in hell,"
she cried, taking to English, so that they could understand the insult.
"Ashes may you be in the Crooked One's furnace."

Lambert shrugged his shoulders, as he quite understood her feelings, and
did not intend to lower himself by correcting her. He addressed himself
to his cousin and turned his back on the gypsy. "Silver shot Hubert
Pine," he repeated, with his eyes on Garvington's craven face.

"It's impossible--impossible!" returned the other hurriedly. "Silver was
shut up in the house with the rest. I saw to the windows and doors
myself, along with the butler and footmen. At the inquest--"

"Never mind about the inquest. I know what you said there, and I am now
beginning to see why you said it."

"What the devil do you mean?"

"I mean," stated the other, staring hard at him, "that you knew Silver
was guilty when the inquest took place, and screened him for some
reason."

"I didn't know; I swear I didn't know!" stuttered Garvington, wiping his
heated face, and with his lower lip trembling.

"You must have done so," replied Lambert relentlessly. "This bullet will
fit both the revolvers I gave you, and as you passed on one to Silver--"

"Rubbish! Bosh! Nonsense!" babbled the little man incoherently. "Until
you brought the bullet I never knew that it would fit the revolver."

This was true, as Lambert admitted. However, he saw that Garvington was
afraid for some reason, and pressed his advantage. "Now that you see how
it fits, you must be aware that it could only have been fired from the
revolver which you gave Silver."

"I don't see that," protested Garvington. "That bullet may fit many
revolvers."

Lambert shook his head. "I don't think so. I had that brace of revolvers
especially manufactured, and the make is peculiar. I am quite prepared
to swear that the bullet would fit no other weapon. And--and"--he
hesitated, then faced the girl, who lingered, sullen and disappointed.
"You can go, Chaldea," said Lambert, pointing to the French window of
the library, which was wide open.

The gypsy sauntered toward it, clutching her shawl and gritting her
white teeth together. "Oh, I go my ways, my rye, but I have not done
with you yet, may the big devil rack my bones if I have. You win
to-day--I win to-morrow, and so good day to you, and curses on you for
a bad one. The devil is a nice character--and that's you!" she screamed,
beside herself with rage. "The puro beng is a fino mush, if you will
have the kalo jib!" and with a wild cry worthy of a banshee she
disappeared and was seen running unsteadily across the lawn. Lambert
shrugged his shoulders again and turned to his miserable cousin, who had
sat down with a dogged look on his fat face. "I have got rid of her
because I wish to save the family name from disgrace," said Lambert
quietly.

"There is no disgrace on my part. Remember to whom you are speaking."

"I do. I speak to the head of the family, worse luck! You have done your
best to trail our name in the mud. You altered a check which Pine gave
you so as to get more money; you forged his name to a mortgage--"

"Lies, lies, the lies of Agnes!" screamed Garvington, jumping up and
shaking his fist in puny anger. "The wicked--"

"Speak properly of my wife, or I'll wring your neck," said Lambert
sharply. "As to what she told me being lies, it is only too true, as you
know. I read the letter you wrote confessing that you had lured Pine
here to be shot by telling falsehoods about Agnes and me."

"I only lured him to get his arm broken so that I might nurse him when
he was ill and get some money," growled Garvington, sitting down again.

"I am well aware of what you did and how you did it. But you gave that
forged letter to Silver so that it might be passed on to Pine."

"I didn't! I didn't! I didn't! I didn't!"

"You did. And because Silver knew too much you gave him the Abbot's Wood
Cottage at a cheap rent, or at no rent at all, for all I know. To be
quite plain, Garvington, you conspired with Silver to have Pine killed."

"Winged--only winged, I tell you. I never shot him."

"Your accomplice did."

"He's not my accomplice. He was in the house--everything was locked up."

"By you," said Lambert quickly. "So it was easy for you to leave a
window unfastened, so that Silver might get outside to hide in the
shrubbery."

"Oh!" Garvington jumped up again, looking both pale and wicked. "You
want to put a rope round my neck, curse you."

"That's a melodramatic speech which is not true," replied the other
coldly. "For I want to save you, or, rather, our name, from disgrace.
I won't call in the police"--Garvington winced at this word--"because
I wish to hush the matter up. But since Chaldea and Silver accuse me
and accuse Agnes of getting rid of Pine so that we might marry, it is
necessary that I should learn the exact truth."

"I don't know it. I know nothing more than I have confessed."

"You are such a liar that I can't believe you. However, I shall go at
once to Silver and you shall come with me."

"I shan't!" Garvington, who was overfed and flabby and unable to hold
his own against a determined man, settled himself in his chair and
looked as obstinate as a battery mule.

"Oh, yes, you will, you little swine," said Lambert freezingly cold.

"How dare you call me names?"

"Names! If I called you those you deserved I should have to annex the
vocabulary of a Texan muledriver. How such a beast as you ever got into
our family I can't conceive."

"I am the head of the family and I order you to leave the room."

"Oh, you do, do you? Very good. Then I go straight to Wanbury and shall
tell what I have discovered to Inspector Darby."

"No! No! No! No!" Garvington, cornered at last, sprang from his chair
and made for his cousin with unsteady legs. "It might be unpleasant."

"I daresay--to you. Well, will you come with me to Abbot's Wood?"

"Yes," whimpered Garvington. "Wait till I get my cap and stick, curse
you, for an interfering beast. You don't know what you're doing."

"Ah! then you do know something likely to reveal the truth."

"I don't--I swear I don't! I only--"

"Oh, damn you, get your cap, and let us be off," broke in Lambert
angrily, "for I can't be here all day listening to your lies."

Garvington scowled and ambled out of the room, closely followed by his
cousin, who did not think it wise to lose sight of so shifty a person.
In a few minutes they were out of the house and took the path leading
from the blue door to the postern gate in the brick wall surrounding the
park. It was a frosty, sunny day, with a hard blue sky, overarching a
wintry landscape. A slight fall of snow had powdered the ground with a
film of white, and the men's feet drummed loudly on the iron earth,
which was in the grip of the frost. Garvington complained of the cold,
although he had on a fur overcoat which made him look like a baby bear.

"You'll give me my death of cold, dragging me out like this," he moaned,
as he trotted beside his cousin. "I believe you want me to take
pneumonia so that I may die and leave you the title."

"I should at least respect it more than you do," said Lambert with
scorn. "Why can't you be a man instead of a thing on two legs? If you
did die no one would miss you but cooks and provision dealers."

Garvington gave him a vicious glance from his little pig's eyes, and
longed to be tall, and strong, and daring, so that he might knock him
down. But he knew that Lambert was muscular and dexterous, and would
probably break his neck if it came to a tussle. Therefore, as the stout
little lord had a great regard for his neck, he judged it best to yield
to superior force, and trotted along obediently enough. Also he became
aware within himself that it would be necessary to explain to Silver how
he had come to betray him, and that would not be easy. Silver would be
certain to make himself extremely disagreeable. Altogether the walk was
not a pleasant one for the sybarite.

The Abbot's Wood looked bare and lean with the leaves stripped from its
many trees. Occasionally there was a fir, clothed in dark green foliage,
but for the most part the branches of the trees were naked, and quivered
constantly in the chilly breeze. Even on the outskirts of the wood one
could see right into the centre where the black monoliths--they looked
black against the snow--reared themselves grimly. To the right there was
a glimpse of gypsy fires and tents and caravans, and the sound of the
Romany tongue was borne toward them through the clear atmosphere. On
such a day it was easy both to see and hear for long distances, and for
this reason Chaldea became aware that the two men were walking toward
the cottage.

The girl, desperately angry that she had been unable to bring Lambert to
book, had sauntered back to the camp, but had just reached it when she
caught sight of the tall figure and the short one. In a moment she knew
that Lambert and his cousin were making for Silver's abode, which was
just what she had expected them to do. At once she determined to again
adopt her former tactics, which had been successful in enabling her to
overhear the conversation between Lambert and Lady Agnes, and, following
at a respectful distance, she waited for her chance. It came when the
pair entered the cottage, for then Chaldea ran swiftly in a circle
toward the monoliths, and crouched down behind one. While peering from
behind this shelter, she saw Silver pass the window of the studio, and
felt certain that the interview, would take place in that room. Like a
serpent, as she was, the girl crawled and wriggled through the frozen
vegetation and finally managed to get under the window without being
observed. The window was closed, but by pressing her ear close to the
woodwork she was enabled to hear a great deal, if not all. Candidly
speaking, Chaldea had truly believed that Lambert had shot Pine, but
now that he had disproved the charge so easily, she became desperately
anxious to learn the truth. Lambert had escaped her, but she thought
that it might be possible to implicate his wife in the crime, which
would serve her purpose of injuring him just as well.

Silver was not surprised to see his landlord, as it seemed that
Garvington paid him frequent visits. But he certainly showed an uneasy
amazement when Lambert stalked in behind the fat little man. Silver was
also small, and also cowardly, and also not quite at rest in his
conscience, so he shivered when he met the very direct gaze of his
unwelcome visitor.

"You have come to look at your old house, Mr. Lambert," he remarked,
when the two made themselves comfortable by the studio fire.

"Not at all. I have come to see you," was the grim response.

"That is an unexpected honor," said Silver uneasily, and his eyes sought
those of Lord Garvington, who was spreading out his hands to the blaze,
looking blue with cold. He caught Silver's inquiring look.

"I couldn't help it," said Garvington crossly. "I must look after
myself."

Silver's smooth, foxy face became livid, and he could scarcely speak.
When he did, it was with a sickly smile. "Whatever are you talking
about, my lord?"

"Oh, you know, d---- you! I did give you that revolver, you know."

"The revolver?" Silver stared. "Yes, why should I deny it? I suppose you
have come to get it back?"

"I have come to get it, Mr. Silver," put in Lambert politely. "Hand it
over to me, if you please."

"If you like. It certainly has your name on the handle," said the
secretary so quietly that the other man was puzzled. Silver did not seem
to be so uncomfortable as he might have been.

"The revolver was one of a pair which I had especially made when I went
to Africa some years ago," explained Lambert elaborately, and determined
to make his listener understand the situation thoroughly. "On my return
I made them a present to my cousin. I understand, Mr. Silver, that Lord
Garvington lent you one--"

"And kept the other," interrupted the man sharply. "That is true. I was
afraid of burglars, since Lord Garvington was always talking about them,
so I asked him to lend me a weapon to defend myself with."

"And you used it to shoot Pine," snapped Garvington, anxious to end his
suspense and get the interview over as speedily as possible.

Silver rose from his seat in an automatic manner, and turned delicately
pale. "Are you mad?" he gasped, looking from one man to the other.

"It's all very well you talking," whimpered Garvington with a shiver;
"but Pine was shot with that revolver I lent you."

"It's a lie!"

"Oh, I knew you'd say that," complained Garvington, shivering again.
"But I warned you that there might be trouble, since you carried that
letter for me, so that it might fall by chance into Pine's hands."

"Augh!" groaned Silver, sinking back into his chair and passing his
tongue over a pair of dry, gray lips. "Hold your tongue, my lord."

"What's the use? He knows," and Garvington jerked his head in the
direction of his cousin. "The game's up, Silver--the game's up!"

"Oh!" Silver's eyes flashed, and he looked like a rat at bay. "So you
intend to save yourself at my expense. But it won't do, my lord. You
wrote that letter, if I carried it to the camp."

"I have admitted to my sister and to Lambert, here, that I wrote the
letter, Silver. I had to, or get into trouble with the police, since
neither of them will listen to reason. But you suggested the plan to get
Pine winged so that he might be ill in my house, and then we could both
get money out of him. You invented the plot, and I only wrote the
letter."

"Augh! Augh!" gulped Silver, unable to speak plainly.

"Do you confess the truth of Lord Garvington's statement?" inquired
Lambert suavely, and fixing a merciless eye on the trapped fox.

"No--that is--yes. He swings on the same hook as I do."

"Indeed. Then Lord Garvington was aware that you shot Pine?"

"I was not! I was not!" screamed the head of the Lambert family, jumping
up and clenching his hands. "I swear I never knew the truth until you
brought the bullet to the library to fit the revolver."

"The--the--bullet!" stammered Silver, whose smooth red hair was almost
standing on end from sheer fright.

"Yes," said Lambert, addressing him sharply. "Kara, under the direction
of Chaldea, found the bullet in the trunk of the elm tree which was in
the line of fire. She came with me to The Manor this morning, and we
found that it fitted the barrel of Lord Garvington's revolver. At the
inquest, and on unimpeachable evidence, it was proved that he fired only
the first shot, which disabled Pine without killing him. The second
shot, which pierced the man's heart, could only have come from the
second revolver, which was, and is, in your possession, Mr. Silver. The
bullet found in the tree trunk will fit no other barrel of no other
weapon. I'm prepared to swear to this."

Silver covered his face with his hands and looked so deadly white that
Lambert believed he would faint. However, he pulled himself together,
and addressed Garvington anxiously. "You know, my lord, that you locked
up the house on that night, and that I was indoors."

"Yes," admitted the other hesitating. "So far as I knew you certainly
were inside. It is true, Noel," he added, catching his cousin's eye.
"Even to save myself I must admit that."

"Oh, you'd admit anything to save yourself," retorted his cousin
contemptuously, and noting the mistake in the wording of the sentence.
"But admitting that Silver was within doors doesn't save you, so far as
I can see."

"There is no need for Lord Garvington to excuse himself," spoke up
Silver, attempting to enlist the little man on his side by defending
him. "It was proved at the inquest, as you have admitted, Mr. Lambert,
that he only fired the first shot."

"And you fired the second."

"I never did. I was inside and in bed. I only came down with the rest of
the guests when I heard the firing. Is that not so, my lord?"

"Yes," admitted Garvington grudgingly. "So far as I know you had nothing
to do with the second shot."

Silver turned a relieved face toward Lambert. "I shall confess this
much, sir," he said, trying to speak calmly and judicially. "Pine
treated me badly by taking my toy inventions and by giving me very
little money. When I was staying at The Manor I learned that Lord
Garvington had also been treated badly by Pine. He said if we could get
money that we should go shares. I knew that Pine was jealous of his
wife, and that you were at the cottage here, so I suggested that, as
Lord Garvington could imitate handwriting, he should forge a letter
purporting to come from Lady Agnes to you, saying that she intended to
elope on a certain night. Also I told Lord Garvington to talk a great
deal about shooting burglars, so as to give color to his shooting Pine."

"It was arranged to shoot him, then?"

"No, it wasn't," cried Garvington, glaring at Silver. "All we wanted to
do was to break Pine's arm or leg so that he might be laid up in The
Manor."

"Yes, that is so," said Silver feverishly, and nodding. "I fancied--and
for this reason I suggested the plot--that when Pine was ill, both Lord
Garvington and myself could deal with him in an easier manner.
Also--since the business would be left in my hands--I hoped to take out
some money from various investments, and share it with Lord Garvington.
We never meant that Pine should be killed, but only reduced to weakness
so that we might force him to give us both money."

"A very ingenious plot," said Lambert grimly and wondering how much of
the story was true. "And then?"

"Then Lord Garvington wrote the letter, and when seeing Pine, I gave it
to him saying that while keeping watch on his wife--as he asked me to,"
said Silver with an emphasis which made Lambert wince, "I had
intercepted the letter. Pine was furious, as I knew he would be, and
said that he would come to the blue door at the appointed time to
prevent the supposed elopement. I told Lord Garvington, who was ready,
and--"

"And I went down, pretending that Pine was a burglar," said Lord
Garvington, continuing the story in a most shameless manner. "I opened
the door quite expecting to find him there. He rushed me, believing in
his blind haste that I was Agnes coming to elope with you. I shot him in
the arm, and he staggered away, while I shut the door again. Whether, on
finding his mistake, and knowing that he had met me instead of Agnes, he
intended to go away, I can't say, as I was on the wrong side of the
door. But Agnes, attracted to the window by the shot, declared--and you
heard her declare it at the inquest, Noel--that Pine walked rapidly away
and was shot just as he came abreast of the shrubbery. That's all."

"And quite enough, too," said Lambert savagely. "You tricky pair of
beasts; I suppose you hoped to implicate me in the crime?"

"It wasn't a crime," protested Silver; "but only a way to get money. By
going up to London you certainly delayed what we intended to do, since
we could not carry out our plan until you returned. You did for one
night, as Chaldea, who was on the watch for you, told us, and then we
acted."

"Did Chaldea know of the trap?"

"No! She knew nothing save that I"--it was Silver who spoke--"wanted to
know about your return. She found the letter in Pine's tent, and really
believed that Lady Agnes had written it, and that you had shot Pine. It
was to force you by threats to marry her that she gave the letter to
me."

"And she instructed you to show it to the police," said Lambert between
his teeth, "whereas you tried to blackmail Lady Agnes."

"I had to make my money somehow," said Silver insolently. "Pine was dead
and Lady Agnes had the coin."

"You were to share in the twenty-five thousand pounds, I suppose?"
Lambert asked his cousin indignantly.

"No; Silver blackmailed on his own. I hoped to get money from Agnes in
another way--as her hard-up brother that is. And if--"

"Oh, shut up! You make me sick," interrupted Lambert, suppressing a
strong desire to choke his cousin. "You are as bad as Silver."

"And Silver is as innocent as Lord Garvington," struck in that
gentleman, whose face was recovering its natural color.

Lambert turned on him sharply. "I don't agree with that. You shot Pine!"

Silver sprang up with a hysterical cry. He had judged like Agag that the
bitterness of death was past, but found that he was not yet safe. "I did
not shoot Pine," he declared, wringing his hands. "Oh, why can't you
believe me."

"Because Garvington gave you the second revolver and with that--on the
evidence of the bullet--Pine was murdered."

"That might be so, but--but--" Silver hesitated, and shivered and looked
round with a hunted expression in his eyes.

"But what? You may as well explain to me."

"I shan't--I refuse to. I am innocent! You can't hurt me!"

Lambert brushed aside this puny rage. "Inspector Darby can. I shall go
to Wanbury this evening and tell him all."

"No; don't do that!" cried Garvington, greatly agitated. "Think of
me--think of the family!"

"I think of Justice! You two beasts aren't fit to be at large. I'm off,"
and he made for the door.

In a moment Silver was clutching his coat. "No, don't!" he screamed. "I
am innocent! Lord Garvington, say that I am innocent!"

"Oh, ---- you, get out of the hole as best you can! I'm in as big a mess
as you are, unless Lambert acts decently."

"Decently, you wicked little devil," said Lambert scornfully. "I only
propose to do what any decent man would do. You trapped Pine by means
of the letter, and Silver shot him."

"I didn't! I didn't!"

"You had the revolver!"

"I hadn't. I gave it away! I lent it!" panted Silver, crying with
terror.

"You lent it--you gave it--you liar! Who to?"

Silver looked round again for some way of escape, but could see none.
"To Miss Greeby. She--she--she--she shot Pine. I swear she did."




CHAPTER XIX.

MOTHER COCKLESHELL.


It was late in the afternoon when Lambert got back to the village inn,
and he felt both tired and bewildered. The examination of Silver had
been so long, and what he revealed so amazing, that the young man wished
to be alone, both to rest and to think over the situation. It was a very
perplexing one, as he plainly saw, since, in the light of the new
revelations, it seemed almost impossible to preserve the name of the
family from disgrace. Seated in his sitting room, with his legs
stretched out and his hands in his pockets, Lambert moodily glared at
the carpet, recalling all that had been confessed by the foxy secretary
of Miss Greeby. That he should accuse her of committing the crime seemed
unreasonable.

According to Silver, the woman had overheard by chance the scheme to
lure Pine to The Manor. Knowing that the millionaire was coming to
Abbot's Wood, the secretary had propounded the plan to Garvington long
before the man's arrival. Hence the constant talk of the host about
burglars and his somewhat unnecessary threat to shoot any one who tried
to break into the house. The persistence of this remark had roused Miss
Greeby's curiosity, and noting that Silver and his host were frequently
in one another's company, she had seized her opportunity to listen. For
some time, so cautious were the plotters, she had heard nothing
particular, but after her recognition of Hearne as Pine when she visited
the gypsy camp she became aware that these secret talks were connected
with his presence. Then a chance remark of Garvington's--he was always
loose-tongued--gave her the clue, and by threats of exposure she managed
to make Silver confess the whole plot. Far from thwarting it she agreed
to let them carry it out, and promised secrecy, only extracting a
promise that she should be advised of the time and place for the
trapping of the millionaire. And it was this acquiescence of Miss
Greeby's which puzzled Lambert.

On the face of it, since she was in love with him, it was better for her
own private plans that Pine should remain alive, because the marriage
placed Agnes beyond his reach. Why, then, should Miss Greeby have
removed the barrier--and at the cost of being hanged for murder? Lambert
had asked Silver this question, but had obtained no definite answer,
since the secretary protested that she had not explained her reasons.
Jokingly referring to possible burglars, she had borrowed the revolver
from Silver which he had obtained from Garvington, and it was this
action which first led the little secretary to suspect her. Afterward,
knowing that she had met Pine in Abbot's Wood, he kept a close watch on
her every action to see if she intended to take a hand in the game. But
Silver protested that he could see no reason for her doing so, and even
up to the moment when he confessed to Lambert could not conjecture why
she had acted in such a manner.

However, it appeared that she was duly informed of the hour when Pine
would probably arrive to prevent the pretended elopement, and also
learned that he would be hanging about the blue door. When Silver
retired for the night he watched the door of her bedroom--which was in
the same wing of the mansion of his own. Also he occasionally looked out
to see if Pine had arrived, as the window of his room afforded a fair
view of the blue door and the shrubbery. For over an hour--as he told
Lambert--he divided his attention between the passage and the window. It
was while looking out of the last, and after midnight, that he saw Miss
Greeby climb out of her room and descend to the ground by means of the
ivy which formed a natural ladder. Her window was no great height from
the ground, and she was an athletic woman much given to exercise.
Wondering what she intended to do, yet afraid--because of Pine's
expected arrival--to leave the house, Silver watched her cautiously. She
was arrayed in a long black cloak with a hood, he said, but in the
brilliant moonlight he could easily distinguish her gigantic form as she
slipped into the shrubbery. When Pine arrived, Silver saw him dash at
the blue door when it was opened by Garvington, and saw him fall back
after the first shot. Then he heard the shutting of the door;
immediately afterward the opening of Lady Agnes's window, and noted that
Pine ran quickly and unsteadily down the path. As he passed the
shrubbery, the second shot came--at this point Silver simply gave the
same description as Lady Agnes did at the inquest--and then Pine fell.
Afterward Garvington and his guests came out and gathered round the
body, but Miss Greeby, slipping along the rear of the shrubbery, doubled
back to the shadow at the corner of the house. Silver, having to play
his part, did not wait to see her re-enter the mansion, but presumed she
did so by clambering up the ivy. He ran down and mingled with the guests
and servants, who were clustered round the dead man, and finally found
Miss Greeby at his elbow, artlessly inquiring what had happened. For the
time being he accepted her innocent attitude.

Later on, when dismissed by Jarwin and in want of funds, he sought out
Miss Greeby and accused her. At first she denied the story, but finally,
as she judged that he could bring home the crime to her, she compromised
with him by giving him the post of her secretary at a good salary. When
he obtained the forged letter from Chaldea--and she learned this from
Lambert when he was ill--Miss Greeby made him give it to her, alleging
that by showing it to Agnes she could the more positively part the widow
from her lover. Miss Greeby, knowing who had written the letter, counted
upon Agnes guessing the truth, and had she not seen that it had entered
her mind, when the letter was brought to her, she would have given a
hint as to the forger's name. But Agnes's hesitation and sudden paleness
assured Miss Greeby that she guessed the truth, so the letter was left
to work its poison. Silver, of course, clamored for his blackmail, but
Miss Greeby promised to recompense him, and also threatened if he did
not hold his tongue that she would accuse him and Garvington of the
murder. Since the latter had forged the letter and the former had
borrowed the revolver which had killed Pine, it would have been
tolerably easy for Miss Greeby to substantiate her accusation. As to her
share in the crime, all she had to do was to deny that Silver had passed
the borrowed revolver on to her, and there was no way in which he could
prove that he had done so. On the whole, Silver had judged it best to
fall in with Miss Greeby's plans, and preserve silence, especially as
she was rich and could supply him with whatever money he chose to ask
for. She was in his power, and he was in her power, so it was necessary
to act on the golden rule of give and take.

And the final statement which Silver made to Lambert intimated that
Garvington was ignorant of the truth. Until the bullet was produced in
the library to fit the revolver it had never struck Garvington that the
other weapon had been used to kill Pine. And he had honestly believed
that Silver--as was actually the case--had remained in his bedroom all
the time, until he came downstairs to play his part. As to Miss Greeby
being concerned in the matter, such an idea had never entered
Garvington's head. The little man's hesitation in producing the
revolver, when he got an inkling of the truth, was due to his dread that
if Silver was accused of the murder--and at the time it seemed as though
the secretary was guilty--he might turn king's evidence to save his
neck, and explain the very shady plot in which Garvington had been
engaged. But Lambert had forced his cousin's hand, and Silver had been
brought to book, with the result that the young man now sat in his room
at the inn, quite convinced that Miss Greeby was guilty, yet wondering
what motive had led her to act in such a murderous way.

Also, Lambert wondered what was best to be done, in order to save the
family name. If he went to the police and had Miss Greeby arrested, the
truth of Garvington's shady dealings would certainly come to light,
especially as Silver was an accessory after the fact. On the other hand,
if he left things as they were, there was always a chance that hints
might be thrown out by Chaldea--who had everything to gain and nothing
to lose--that he and Agnes were responsible for the death of Pine. Of
course, Lambert, not knowing that Chaldea had been listening to the
conversation in the cottage, believed that the girl was ignorant of the
true state of affairs, and he wondered how he could inform her that the
actual criminal was known without risking her malignity. He wanted to
clear his character and that of his wife; likewise he wished to save the
family name. But it seemed to him that the issue of these things lay in
the hands of Chaldea, and she was bent upon injuring him if she could.
It was all very perplexing.

It was at this point of his meditation that Mother Cockleshell arrived
at the inn. He heard her jovial voice outside and judged from its tone
that the old dame was in excellent spirits. Her visit seemed to be a
hint from heaven as to what he should do. Gentilla hated Chaldea and
loved Agnes, so Lambert felt that she would be able to help him. As soon
as possible he had her brought into the sitting room, and, having made
her sit down, closed both the door and the window, preparatory to
telling her all that he had learned. The conversation was, indeed, an
important one, and he was anxious that it should take place without
witnesses.

"You _are_ kind, sir," said Mother Cockleshell, who had been supplied
with a glass of gin and water. "But it ain't for the likes of me to be
sitting down with the likes of you."

"Nonsense! We must have a long talk, and I can't expect you to stand all
the time--at your age."

"Some Gentiles ain't so anxious to save the legs of old ones," remarked
Gentilla Stanley cheerfully. "But I always did say as you were a golden
one for kindness of heart. Well, them as does what's unexpected gets
what they don't hope for."

"I have got my heart's desire, Mother," said Lambert, sitting down and
lighting his pipe. "I am happy now."

"Not as happy as you'd like to be, sir," said the old woman, speaking
quite in the Gentile manner, and looking like a decent charwoman.
"You've a dear wife, as I don't deny, Mr. Lambert, but money is what
you want."

"I have enough for my needs."

"Not for her needs, sir. She should be wrapped in cloth of gold and have
a path of flowers to tread upon."

"It's a path of thorns just now," muttered Lambert moodily.

"Not for long, sir; not for long. I come to put the crooked straight and
to raise a lamp to banish the dark. Very good this white satin is," said
Mother Cockleshell irrelevantly, and alluding to the gin. "And terbaccer
goes well with it, as there's no denying. You wouldn't mind my taking a
whiff, sir, would you?" and she produced a blackened clay pipe which had
seen much service. "Smoking is good for the nerves, Mr. Lambert."

The young man handed her his pouch. "Fill up," he said, smiling at the
idea of his smoking in company with an old gypsy hag.

"Bless you, my precious!" said Mother Cockleshell, accepting the offer
with avidity, and talking more in the Romany manner. "I allers did say
as you were what I said before you were, and that's golden, my Gorgious
one. Ahime!" she blew a wreath of blue smoke from her withered lips,
"that's food to me, my dearie, and heat to my old bones."

Lambert nodded. "You hinted, in Devonshire, that you had something to
say, and a few moments ago you talked about putting the crooked
straight."

"And don't the crooked need that same?" chuckled Gentilla, nodding.
"There's trouble at hand, my gentleman. The child's brewing witch's
broth, for sure."

"Chaldea!" Lambert sat up anxiously. He mistrusted the younger gypsy
greatly, and was eager to know what she was now doing.

"Aye! Aye! Aye!" Mother Cockleshell nodded three times like a veritable
Macbeth witch. "She came tearing, rampagious-like, to the camp an hour
or so back and put on her fine clothes--may they cleave with pain to her
skin--to go to the big city. It is true, rye. Kara ran by the side of
the donkey she rode upon--may she have an accident--to Wanbury."

"To Wanbury?" Lambert looked startled as it crossed his mind, and not
unnaturally, that Chaldea might have gone to inform Inspector Darby
about the conversation with Garvington in the library.

"To Wanbury first, sir, and then to Lundra."

"How can you be certain of that?"

"The child treated me like the devil's calls her," said Gentilla
Stanley, shaking her head angrily. "And I have no trust in her, for a
witchly wrong 'un she is. When she goes donkey-wise to Wanbury, I says
to a chal, says I, quick-like, 'Follow and watch her games!' So the chal
runs secret, behind hedges, and comes on the child at the railway line
making for Lundra. And off she goes on wheels in place of tramping the
droms in true Romany style."

"What the deuce has she gone to London for?" Lambert asked himself in a
low voice, but Gentilla's sharp ears overheard.

"Mischief for sure, my gentleman. Hai, but she's a bad one, that same.
But she plays and I play, with the winning for me--since the good cards
are always in the old hand. Fear nothing, my rye. She cannot hurt,
though snake that she is, her bite stings."

The young man did not reply. He was uneasy in one way and relieved in
another. Chaldea certainly had not gone to see Inspector Darby, so she
could not have any intention of bringing the police into the matter. But
why had she gone to London? He asked himself this question and finally
put it to the old woman, who watched him with bright, twinkling eyes.

"She's gone for mischief," answered Gentilla, nodding positively. "For
mischief's as natural to her as cheating is to a Romany chal. But I'm a
dealer of cards myself, rye, and I deal myself the best hand."

"I wish you'd leave metaphor and come to plain speaking," cried Lambert
in an irritable tone, for the conversation was getting on his nerves by
reason of its prolixity and indirectness.

Mother Cockleshell laughed and nodded, then emptied the ashes out of her
pipe and spoke out, irrelevantly as it would seem: "The child has taken
the hearts of the young from me," said she, shaking her grizzled head;
"but the old cling to the old. With them as trusts my wisdom, my rye, I
goes across the black water to America and leaves the silly ones to the
child. She'll get them into choky and trouble, for sure. And that's a
true dukkerin."

"Have you the money to go to America?"

"Money?" The old woman chuckled and hugged herself. "And why not, sir,
when Ishmael Hearne was my child. Aye, the child of my child, for I am
the bebee of Hearne, bebee being grandmother in our Romany tongue, sir."

Lambert started from his seat, almost too astonished to speak. "Do you
mean to say that you are Pine's grandmother?"

"Pine? Who is Pine? A Gentile I know not. Hearne he was born and Hearne
he shall be to me, though the grass is now a quilt for him. Ohone! Hai
mai! Ah, me! Woe! and woe, my gentleman. He was the child of my child
and the love of my heart," she rocked herself to and fro sorrowfully,
"like a leaf has he fallen from the tree; like the dew has he vanished
into the blackness of the great shadow. Hai mai! Hai mai! the sadness of
it."

"Hearne your grandson?" murmured Lambert, staring at her and scarcely
able to believe her.

"True. Yes; it is true," said Gentilla, still rocking. "He left the
road, and the tent, and the merry fire under a hedge for your Gentile
life. But a born Romany he was and no Gorgio. Ahr-r-r!" she shook
herself with disgust. "Why did he labor for gold in the Gentile manner,
when he could have chored and cheated like a true-hearted black one?"

Her allusions to money suddenly enlightened the young man. "Yours is the
name mentioned in the sealed letter held by Jarwin?" he cried, with
genuine amazement written largely on his face. "You inherit the
millions?"

Mother Cockleshell wiped her eyes with a corner of her shawl and
chuckled complacently. "It is so, young man, therefore can I take those
who hold to my wisdom to the great land beyond the water. Ah, I am rich
now, sir, and as a Gorgious one could I live beneath a roof-tree. But
for why, I asks you, my golden rye, when I was bred to the open and the
sky? In a tent I was born; in a tent I shall die. Should I go, Gentile,
it's longing for the free life I'd be, since Romany I am and ever shall
be. As we says in our tongue, my dear, 'It's allers the boro matcho that
pet-a-lay 'dree the panni,' though true gypsy lingo you can't call it
for sure."

"What does it mean?" demanded Lambert, staring at the dingy possessor of
two millions sterling.

"It's allers the largest fish that falls back into the water,"
translated Mrs. Stanley. "I told that to Leland, the boro rye, and he
goes and puts the same into a book for your readings, my dearie!" then
she uttered a howl and flung up her arms. "But what matter I am rich,
when my child's child's blood calls out for vengeance. I'd give all the
red gold--and red money it is, my loved one," she added, fixing a bright
pair of eyes on Lambert, "if I could find him as shot the darling of my
heart."

Knowing that he could trust her, and pitying her obvious sorrow, Lambert
had no hesitation in revealing the truth so far as he knew it. "It
wasn't a him who shot your grandson, but a her."

"Hai!" Gentilla flung up her arms again, "then I was right. My old eyes
did see like a cat in the dark, though brightly shone the moon when he
fell."

"What? You know?" Lambert started back again at this second surprise.

"If it's a Gentile lady, I know. A red one large as a cow in the
meadows, and fierce as an unbroken colt."

"Miss Greeby!"

"Greeby! Greeby! So your romi told me," shrieked the old woman, throwing
up her hands in ecstasy. "Says I to her, 'Who's the foxy one?' and says
she, smiling like, 'Greeby's her name!'"

"Why did you ask my wife that?" demanded Lambert, much astonished.

"Hai, she was no wife of yours then, sir. Why did I ask her? Because I
saw the shooting--"

"Of Pine--of Hearne--of your son?"

"Of who else? of who else?" cried Mother Cockleshell, clapping her
skinny hand and paddling on the floor with her feet. "Says Ishmael to
me, 'Bebee,' says he, 'my romi is false and would run away with the
golden rye this very night as ever was.' And says I to him, 'It's not
so, son of my son, for your romi is as true as the stars and purer than
gold.' But says he, 'There's a letter,' he says, and shows it to me.
'Lies, son of my son,' says I, and calls on him to play the trustful
rom. But he pitches down the letter, and says he, 'I go this night to
stop them from paddling the hoof,' and says I to him, 'No! No!' says I.
'She's a true one.' But he goes, when all in the camp are sleeping
death-like, and I watches, and I follers, and I hides."

"Where did you hide?"

"Never mind, dearie. I hides securely, and sees him walking up and down
biting the lips of him and swinging his arms. Then I sees--for Oliver
was bright, and Oliver's the moon, lovey--the big Gentile woman come
round and hide in the bushes. Says I to myself, says I, 'And what's your
game?' I says, not knowing the same till she shoots and my child's child
falls dead as a hedgehog. Then she runs and I run, and all is over."

"Why didn't you denounce her, Gentilla?"

"And for why, my precious heart? Who would believe the old gypsy? Rather
would the Poknees say as I'd killed my dear one. No! no! Artful am I and
patient in abiding my time. But the hour strikes, as I said when I spoke
to your romi in Devonshire no less, and the foxy moll shall hang. You
see, my dear, I waited for some Gentile to speak what I could speak, to
say as what I saw was truth for sure. You speak, and now I can tell my
tale to the big policeman at Wanbury so that my son's son may sleep
quiet, knowing that the evil has come home to her as laid him low. But,
lovey, oh, lovey, and my precious one!" cried the old woman darting
forward to caress Lambert's hand in a fondling way, "tell me how you
know and what you learned. At the cottage you were, and maybe out in the
open watching the winder of her you loved."

"No," said Lambert sharply, "I was at the cottage certainly, but in bed
and asleep. I did not hear of the crime until I was in London. In this
way I found out the truth, Mother!" and he related rapidly all that had
been discovered, bringing the narrative right up to the confession of
Silver, which he detailed at length.

The old woman kept her sharp eyes on his expressive face and hugged his
hand every now and then, as various points in the narrative struck her.
At the end she dropped his hand and returned back to her chair
chuckling. "It's a sad dukkerin for the foxy lady," said Gentilla,
grinning like the witch she was. "Hanged she will be, and rightful
it is to be so!"

"I agree with you," replied Lambert relentlessly. "Your evidence and
that of Silver can hang her, certainly. Yet, if she is arrested, and the
whole tale comes out in the newspapers, think of the disgrace to my
family."

Mother Cockleshell nodded. "That's as true as true, my golden rye," she
said pondering. "And I wish not to hurt you and the rani, who was kind
to me. I go away," she rose to her feet briskly, "and I think. What will
you do?"

"I can't say," said Lambert, doubtfully and irresolutely. "I must
consult my wife. Miss Greeby should certainly suffer for her crime, and
yet--"

"Aye! Aye! Aye! The boro rye," she meant Garvington, "is a bad one for
sure, as we know. Shame to him is shame to you, and I wouldn't have the
rani miserable--the good kind one that she is. Wait! aye, wait, my
precious gentleman, and we shall see."

"You will say nothing in the meantime," said Lambert, stopping her at
the door, and anxious to know exactly what were her intentions.

"I have waited long for vengeance and I can wait longer, sir," said
Mother Cockleshell, becoming less the gypsy and more the respectable
almshouse widow. "Depend upon my keeping quiet until--"

"Until what? Until when?"

"Never you mind," said the woman mysteriously. "Them as sins must suffer
for the sin. But not you and her as is innocent."

"No violence, Gentilla," said the young man, alarmed less the lawless
gypsy nature should punish Miss Greeby privately.

"I swear there shall be no violence, rye. Wait, for the child is making
mischief, and until we knows of her doings we must be silent. Give me
your gripper, my dearie," she seized his wrist and bent back the palm of
the hand to trace the lines with a dirty finger. "Good fortune comes to
you and to her, my golden rye," she droned in true gypsy fashion.
"Money, and peace, and honor, and many children, to carry on a stainless
name. Your son shall you see, and your son's son, my noble gentleman,
and with your romi shall you go with happiness to the grave," she
dropped the hand. "So be it for a true dukkerin, and remember Gentilla
Stanley when the luck comes true."

"But Mother, Mother," said Lambert, following her to the door, as he was
still doubtful as to her intentions concerning Miss Greeby.

The gypsy waved him aside solemnly. "Never again will you see me, my
golden rye, if the stars speak truly, and if there be virtue in the
lines of the hand. I came into your life: I go out of your life: and
what is written shall be!" she made a mystic sign close to his face and
then nodded cheerily.

"Duveleste rye!" was her final greeting, and she disappeared swiftly,
but the young man did not know that the Romany farewell meant, "God
bless you!"




CHAPTER XX.

THE DESTINED END.


As might have been anticipated, Lord Garvington was in anything but a
happy frame of mind. He left Silver in almost a fainting condition, and
returned to The Manor feeling very sick himself. The two cowardly little
men had not the necessary pluck of conspirators, and now that there
seemed to be a very good chance that their nefarious doings would be
made public they were both in deadly fear of the consequences. Silver
was in the worst plight, since he was well aware that the law would
consider him to be an accessory after the fact, and that, although his
neck was not in danger, his liberty assuredly was. He was so stunned by
the storm which had broken so unexpectedly over his head, that he had
not even the sense to run away. All manly grit--what he possessed of
it--had been knocked out of him, and he could only whimper over the fire
while waiting for Lambert to act.

Garvington was not quite so downhearted, as he knew that his cousin was
anxious to consider the fair fame of the family. Thinking thus, he felt
a trifle reassured, for the forged letter could not be made public
without a slur being cast on the name. Then, again, Garvington knew that
he was innocent of designing Pine's death, and that, even if Lambert did
inform the police, he could not be arrested. It is only just to say that
had the little man known of Miss Greeby's intention to murder the
millionaire, he would never have written the letter which lured the man
to his doom. And for two reasons: in the first place he was too cowardly
to risk his neck; and in the second Pine was of more value to him alive
than dead. Comforting himself with this reflection, he managed to
maintain a fairly calm demeanor before his wife.

But on this night Lady Garvington was particularly exasperating, for she
constantly asked questions which the husband did not feel inclined to
answer. Having heard that Lambert was in the village, she wished to know
why he had not been asked to stay at The Manor, and defended the young
man when Garvington pointed out that an iniquitous person who had robbed
Agnes of two millions could not be tolerated by the man--Garvington
meant himself--he had wronged. Then Jane inquired why Lambert had
brought Chaldea to the house, and what had passed in the library, but
received no answer, save a growl. Finally she insisted that Freddy had
lost his appetite, which was perfectly true.

"And I thought you liked that way of dressing a fish so much, dear," was
her wail. "I never seem to quite hit your taste."

"Oh, bother: leave me alone, Jane. I'm worried."

"I know you are, for you have eaten so little. What is the matter?"

"Everything's the matter, confound your inquisitiveness. Hasn't Agnes
lost all her money because of this selfish marriage with Noel, hang him?
How the dickens do you expect us to carry on unless we borrow?"

"Can't you get some money from the person who now inherits?"

"Jarwin won't tell me the name."

"But I know who it is," said Lady Garvington triumphantly. "One of the
servants who went to the gypsy camp this afternoon told my maid, and my
maid told me. The gypsies are greatly excited, and no wonder."

Freddy stared at her. "Excited, what about?"

"Why, about the money, dear. Don't you know?"

"No, I don't!" shouted Freddy, breaking a glass in his irritation. "What
is it? Bother you, Jane. Don't keep me hanging on in suspense."

"I'm sure I never do, Freddy, dear. It's Hubert's money which has gone
to his mother."

Garvington jumped up. "Who--who--who is his mother?" he demanded,
furiously.

"That dear old Gentilla Stanley."

"What! What! What!"

"Oh, Freddy," said his wife plaintively. "You make my head ache. Yes,
it's quite true. Celestine had it from William the footman. Fancy,
Gentilla having all that money. How lucky she is."

"Oh, damn her; damn her," growled Garvington, breaking another glass.

"Why, dear. I'm sure she's going to make good use of the money. She
says--so William told Celestine--that she would give a million to learn
for certain who murdered poor Hubert."

"Would she? would she? would she?" Garvington's gooseberry eyes nearly
dropped out of his head, and he babbled, and burbled, and choked, and
spluttered, until his wife was quite alarmed.

"Freddy, you always eat too fast. Go and lie down, dear."

"Yes," said Garvington, rapidly making up his mind to adopt a certain
course about which he wished his wife to know nothing. "I'll lie down,
Jane."

"And don't take any more wine," warned Jane, as she drifted out of the
dining-room. "You are quite red as it is, dear."

But Freddy did not take this advice, but drank glass after glass until
he became pot-valiant. He needed courage, as he intended to go all by
himself to the lonely Abbot's Wood Cottage and interview Silver. It
occurred to Freddy that if he could induce the secretary to give up Miss
Greeby to justice, Mother Cockleshell, out of gratitude, might surrender
to him the sum of one million pounds. Of course, the old hag might have
been talking all round the shop, and her offer might be bluff, but it
was worth taking into consideration. Garvington, thinking that there was
no time to lose, since his cousin might be beforehand in denouncing the
guilty woman, hurried on his fur overcoat, and after leaving a lying
statement with the butler that he had gone to bed, he went out by the
useful blue door. In a few minutes he was trotting along the well-known
path making up his mind what to say to Silver. The interview did not
promise to be an easy one.

"I wish I could do without him," thought the treacherous little
scoundrel as he left his own property and struck across the waste ground
beyond the park wall. "But I can't, dash it all, since he's the only
person who saw the crime actually committed. 'Course he'll get jailed as
an accessory-after-the-fact: but when he comes out I'll give him a
thousand or so if the old woman parts. At all events, I'll see what
Silver is prepared to do, and then I'll call on old Cockleshell and make
things right with her. Hang it," Freddy had a qualmish feeling. "The
exposure won't be pleasant for me over that unlucky letter, but if I can
snaffle a million, it's worth it. Curse the honor of the family, I've
got to look after myself somehow. Ho! ho!" he chuckled as he remembered
his cousin. "What a sell for Noel when he finds that I've taken the wind
out of his sails. Serve him jolly well right."

In this way Garvington kept up his spirits during the walk, and felt
entirely cheerful and virtuous by the time he reached the cottage. In
the thin, cold moonlight, the wintry wood looked spectral and wan. The
sight of the frowning monoliths, the gaunt, frozen trees and the
snow-powdered earth, made the luxurious little man shiver. Also the
anticipated conversation rather daunted him, although he decided that
after all Silver was but a feeble creature who could be easily managed.
What Freddy forgot was that he lacked pluck himself, and that Silver,
driven into a corner, might fight with the courage of despair. The sight
of the secretary's deadly white and terrified face as he opened the door
sufficient to peer out showed that he was at bay.

"If you come in I'll shoot," he quavered, brokenly. "I'll--I'll brain
you with the poker. I'll throw hot water on you, and--and scratch out
your--your--"

"Come, come," said Garvington, boldly. "It's only me--a friend!"

Silver recognized the voice and the dumpy figure of his visitor. At once
he dragged him into the passage and barred the door quickly, breathing
hard meanwhile. "I don't mind you," he giggled, hysterically. "You're in
the same boat with me, my lord. But I fancied when you knocked that the
police--the police"--his voice died weakly in his throat: he cast a wild
glance around and touched his neck uneasily as though he already felt
the hangman's rope encircling it.

Garvington did not approve of this grim pantomime, and swore. "I'm quite
alone, damn you," he said roughly. "It's all right, so far!" He sat down
and loosened his overcoat, for the place was like a Turkish bath for
heat. "I want a drink. You've been priming yourself, I see," and he
pointed to a decanter of port wine and a bottle of brandy which were on
the table along with a tray of glasses. "Silly ass you are to mix."

"I'm--I'm--keeping up my--my spirits," giggled Silver, wholly unnerved,
and pouring out the brandy with a shaking hand. "There you are, my lord.
There's water, but no soda."

"Keeping up your spirits by pouring spirits down," said Garvington,
venturing on a weak joke. "You're in a state of siege, too."

Silver certainly was. He had bolted the shutters, and had piled
furniture against the two windows of the room. On the table beside the
decanter and bottles of brandy, lay a poker, a heavy club which Lambert
had brought from Africa, and had left behind when he gave up the
cottage, a revolver loaded in all six chambers, and a large bread knife.
Apparently the man was in a dangerous state of despair and was ready to
give the officers of the law a hostile welcome when they came to arrest
him. He touched the various weapons feverishly.

"I'll give them beans," he said, looking fearfully from right to left.
"Every door is locked; every window is bolted. I've heaped up chairs and
sofas and tables and chests of drawers, and wardrobes and mattresses
against every opening to keep the devils out. And the lamps--look at the
lamps. Ugh!" he shuddered. "I can't bear to be in the dark."

"Plenty of light," observed Garvington, and spoke truly, for there must
have been at least six lamps in the room--two on the table, two on the
mantel-piece, and a couple on the sideboard. And amidst his primitive
defences sat Silver quailing and quivering at every sound, occasionally
pouring brandy down his throat to keep up his courage.

The white looks of the man, the disorder of the room, the glare of the
many lights, and the real danger of the situation, communicated their
thrill to Garvington. He shivered and looked into shadowy corners, as
Silver did; then strove to reassure both himself and his companion.
"Don't worry so," he said, sipping his brandy to keep him up to concert
pitch, "I've got an idea which will be good for both of us."

"What is it?" questioned the secretary cautiously. He naturally did not
trust the man who had betrayed him.

"Do you know who has inherited Pine's money?"

"No. The person named in the sealed envelope?"

"Exactly, and the person is Mother Cockleshell."

Silver was so amazed that he forgot his fright. "What? Is Gentilla
Stanley related to Pine?"

"She's his grandmother, it seems. One of my servants was at the camp
to-day and found the gypsies greatly excited over the old cat's
windfall."

"Whew!" Silver whistled and drew a deep breath. "If I'd known that, I'd
have got round the old woman. But it's too late now since all the fat is
on the fire. Mr. Lambert knows too much, and you have confessed what
should have been kept quiet."

"I had to save my own skin," said Garvington sullenly. "After all, I had
nothing to do with the murder. I never guessed that you were so mixed up
in it until Lambert brought that bullet to fit the revolver I lent you."

"And which I gave to Miss Greeby," snapped Silver tartly. "She is the
criminal, not me. What a wax she will be in when she learns the truth.
I expect your cousin will have her arrested."

"I don't think so. He has some silly idea in his head about the honor of
our name, and won't press matters unless he is forced to."

"Who can force him?" asked Silver, looking more at ease, since he saw a
gleam of hope.

"Chaldea! She's death on making trouble."

"Can't we silence her? Remember you swing on my hook."

"No, I don't," contradicted Garvington sharply. "I can't be arrested."

"For forging that letter you can!"

"Not at all. I did not write it to lure Pine to his death, but only
wished to maim him."

"That will get you into trouble," insisted Silver, anxious to have a
companion in misery.

"It won't, I tell you. There's no one to prosecute. You are the person
who is in danger, as you knew Miss Greeby to be guilty, and are
therefore an accessory after the fact."

"If Mr. Lambert has the honor of your family at heart he will do
nothing," said the secretary hopefully; "for if Miss Greeby is arrested
along with me the writing of that letter is bound to come out."

"I don't care. It's worth a million."

"What is worth a million?"

"The exposure. See here, Silver, I hear that Mother Cockleshell is
willing to hand over that sum to the person who finds the murderer of
her grandson. We know that Miss Greeby is guilty, so why not give her
up and earn the money?"

The secretary rose in quivering alarm. "But I'd be arrested also. You
said so; you know you said so."

"And I say so again," remarked Garvington, leaning back coolly. "You'd
not be hanged, you know, although she would. A few years in prison
would be your little lot and when you came out I could give you
say--er--er--ten thousand pounds. There! That's a splendid offer."

"Where would you get the ten thousand? Tell me!" asked Silver with a
curious look.

"From the million Mother Cockleshell would hand over to me."

"For denouncing me?"

"For denouncing Miss Greeby."

"You beast!" shrieked Silver hysterically. "You know quite well that if
she is taken by the police I have no chance of escaping. I'd run away
now if I had the cash. But I haven't. I count on your cousin keeping
quiet because of your family name, and you shan't give the show away."

"But think," said Garvington, persuasively, "a whole million."

"For you, and only ten thousand for me. Oh, I like that."

"Well, I'll make it twenty thousand."

"No! no."

"Thirty thousand."

"No! no! no!"

"Forty, fifty, sixty, seventy--oh, hang it, you greedy beast! I'll give
you one hundred thousand. You'd be rich for life then."

"Would I, curse you!" Silver clenched his fists and backed against the
wall looking decidedly dangerous. "And risk a life-long sentence to get
the money while you take the lion's share."

"You'd only get ten years at most," argued the visitor, annoyed by what
he considered to be silly objections.

"Ten years are ten centuries at my time of life. You shan't denounce
me."

Garvington rose. "Yes, I shall," he declared, rendered desperate by the
dread lest he should lose the million. "I'm going to Wanbury to-night to
tell Inspector Darby and get a warrant for Miss Greeby's arrest along
with yours as her accomplice."

Silver flung himself forward and gripped Garvington's coat. "You
daren't!"

"Yes, I dare. I can't be hurt. I didn't murder the man and I'm not going
to lose a pile of money for your silly scruples."

"Oh, my lord, consider." Silver in a panic dropped on his knees. "I
shall be shut up for years; it will kill me; it will kill me! And you
don't know what a terrible and clever woman Miss Greeby is. She may deny
that I gave her the revolver and I can't prove that I did. Then I might
be accused of the crime and hanged. Hanged!" cried the poor wretch
miserably. "Oh, you'll never give me away, my lord, will you."

"Confound you, don't I risk my reputation to get the money," raged
Garvington, shaking off the trembling arms which were round his knees.
"The truth of the letter will have to come out, and then I'm dished so
far as society is concerned. I wouldn't do it--tell that is--but that
the stakes are so large. One million is waiting to be picked up and I'm
going to pick it up."

"No! no! no! no!" Silver grovelled on the floor and embraced
Garvington's feet. But the more he wailed the more insulting and
determined did the visitor become. Like all tyrants and bullies
Garvington gained strength and courage from the increased feebleness
of his victim. "Don't give me up," wept the secretary, nearly beside
himself with terror; "don't give me up."

"Oh, damn you, get out of the way!" said Garvington, and made for the
door. "I go straight to Wanbury," which statement was a lie, as he first
intended to see Mother Cockleshell at the camp and make certain that the
reward was safe. But Silver believed him and was goaded to frenzy.

"You shan't go!" he screamed, leaping to his feet, and before Garvington
knew where he was the secretary had the heavy poker in his grasp. The
little fat lord gave a cry of terror and dodged the first blow which
merely fell on his shoulder. But the second alighted on his head and
with a moan he dropped to the ground. Silver flung away the poker.

"Are you dead? are you dead?" he gasped, kneeling beside Garvington, and
placed his hand on the senseless man's heart. It still beat feebly, so
he arose with a sigh of relief. "He's only stunned," panted Silver, and
staggered unsteadily to the table to seize a glass of brandy. "I'll,
ah--ah--ah!" he shrieked and dropped the tumbler as a loud and
continuous knocking came to the front door.

Naturally in his state of panic he believed that the police had actually
arrived, and here he had struck down Lord Garvington. Even though the
little man was not dead, Silver knew that the assault would add to his
punishment, although he might have concluded that the lesser crime was
swallowed up in the greater. But he was too terrified to think of doing
anything save hiding the stunned man, and with a gigantic effort he
managed to fling the body behind the sofa. Then he piled up rugs and
cushions between the wall and the back of the sofa until Garvington was
quite hidden and ran a considerable risk of being suffocated. All the
time the ominous knocking continued, as though the gallows was being
constructed. At least it seemed so to Silver's disturbed fancy, and he
crept along to the door holding the revolver in an unsteady grip.

"Who--who--is--"

"Let me in; let me in," said a loud, hard voice. "I'm Miss Greeby. I
have come to save you. Let me in."

Silver had no hesitation in obeying, since she was in as much danger as
he was and could not hurt him without hurting herself. With trembling
fingers he unbolted the door and opened it, to find her tall and stately
and tremendously impatient on the threshold. She stepped in and banged
the door to without locking it. Silver's teeth chattered so much and his
limbs trembled so greatly that he could scarcely move or speak. On
seeing this--for there was a lamp in the passage--Miss Greeby picked him
up in her big arms like a baby and made for the sitting-room. When,
within she pitched Silver on to the sofa behind which Garvington lay
senseless, and placing her arms akimbo surveyed him viciously.

"You infernal worm!" said Miss Greeby, grim and savage in her looks,
"you have split on me, have you?"

"How--how--how do you know?" quavered Silver mechanically, noting that
in her long driving coat with a man's cap she looked more masculine than
ever.

"How do I know? Because Chaldea was hiding under the studio window this
afternoon and overheard all that passed between you and Garvington and
that meddlesome Lambert. She knew that I was in danger and came at once
to London to tell me since I had given her my address. I lost no time,
but motored down here and dropped her at the camp. Now I've come to get
you out of the country."

"Me out of the country?" stammered the secretary.

"Yes, you cowardly swine, although I'd rather choke the life out of you
if it could be done with safety. You denounced me, you beast."

"I had to; my own neck was in danger."

"It's in danger now. I'd strangle you for two pins. But I intend to send
you abroad since your evidence is dangerous to me. If you are out of the
way there's no one else can state that I shot Pine. Here's twenty pounds
in gold;" she thrust a canvas bag into the man's shaking hands; "get on
your coat and cap and I'll take you to the nearest seaport wherever that
is. My motor is on the verge of the wood. You must get on board some
ship and sail for the world's end. I'll send you more money when you
write. Come, come," she stamped, "sharp's the word."

"But--but--but--"

Miss Greeby lifted him off the sofa by the scruff of the neck. "Do you
want to be killed?" she said between her teeth, "there's no time to be
lost. Chaldea tells me that Lambert threatens to have me arrested."

The prospect of safety and prosperity in a distant land so appealed to
Silver that he regained his courage in a wonderfully short space of
time. Rising to his feet he hastily drained another glass of brandy and
the color came back to his wan cheeks. But for all the quantity he had
drank that same evening he was not in the least intoxicated. He was
about to rush out of the room to get his coat and cap when Miss Greeby
laid a heavy hand on his shoulder.

"Is there any one else in the house?" she asked suspiciously.

Silver cast a glance towards the sofa. "There's no servant," he said in
a stronger voice. "I have been cooking and looking after myself since I
came here. But--but--but--"

"But what, you hound?" she shook him fiercely.

"Garvington's behind the sofa."

"Garvington!" Miss Greeby was on the spot in a moment pulling away the
concealing rugs and cushions. "Have you murdered him?" she demanded,
drawing a deep breath and looking at the senseless man.

"No, he's only stunned. I struck him with the poker because he wanted to
denounce me."

"Quite right." Miss Greeby patted the head of her accomplice as if he
were a child, "You're bolder than I thought. Go on; hurry up! Before
Garvington recovers his senses we'll be far enough away. Denounce me;
denounce him, will you?" she said, looking at Garvington while the
secretary slipped out of the room; "you do so at your own cost, my lord.
That forged letter won't tell in your favor. Ha!" she started to her
feet. "What's that! Who's here?"

She might well ask. There was a struggle going on in the passage, and
she heard cries for help. Miss Greeby flung open the sitting-room door,
and Silver, embracing Mother Cockleshell, tumbled at her feet. "She got
in by the door you left open," cried Silver breathlessly, "hold her or
we are lost; we'll never get away."

"No, you won't!" shouted the dishevelled old woman, producing a knife to
keep Miss Greeby at bay. "Chaldea came to the camp and I learned through
Kara how she'd brought you down, my Gentile lady. I went to tell the
golden rye, and he's on the way here with the village policeman. You're
done for."

"Not yet." Miss Greeby darted under the uplifted knife and caught
Gentilla round the waist. The next moment the old woman was flung
against the wall, breathless and broken up. But she still contrived to
hurl curses at the murderess of her grandson.

"I saw you shoot him; I saw you shoot him," screamed Mother Cockleshell,
trying to rise.

"Silver, make for the motor; it's near the camp; follow the path,"
ordered Miss Greeby breathlessly; "there's no time to be lost. As to
this old devil--" she snatched up a lamp as the secretary dashed out of
the house, and flung it fairly at Gentilla Stanley. In a moment the old
woman was yelling with agony, and scrambled to her feet a pillar of
fire. Miss Greeby laughed in a taunting manner and hurled another lamp
behind the sofa. "You'd have given me up also, would you, Garvington?"
she cried in her deep tone; "take that, and that, and that."

Lamp after lamp was smashed and burst into flames, until only one was
left. Then Miss Greeby, seeing with satisfaction that the entire room
was on fire and hearing the sound of hasty footsteps and the echoing of
distant voices, rushed in her turn from the cottage. As she bolted the
voice of Garvington screaming with pain and dread was heard as he came
to his senses to find himself encircled by fire. And Mother Cockleshell
also shrieked, not so much because of her agony as to stop Miss Greeby
from escaping.

"Rye! Rye! she's running; catch her; catch her. Aha--aha--aha!" and she
sank into the now blazing furnace of the room.

The walls of the cottage were of mud, the partitions and roof of wood
and thatch, so the whole place soon burned like a bonfire. Miss Greeby
shot out of the door and strode at a quick pace across the glade. But as
she passed beyond the monoliths, Lambert, in company with a policeman,
made a sudden appearance and blocked her way of escape. With a grim
determination to thwart him she kilted up her skirts and leaped like a
kangaroo towards the undergrowth beneath the leafless trees. By this
time the flames were shooting through the thatched roof in long scarlet
streamers and illuminated the spectral wood with awful light.

"Stop! stop!" cried Lambert, racing to cut off the woman's retreat,
closely followed by the constable.

Miss Greeby laughed scornfully, and instead of avoiding them as they
crossed her path, she darted straight towards the pair. In a moment, by
a dexterous touch of her shoulders right and left, she knocked them over
by taking them unawares, and then sprang down the path which curved
towards the gypsies' encampment. At its end the motor was waiting, and
so vivid was the light that she saw Silver's black figure bending down
as he frantically strove to start the machine. She travelled at top
speed, fearful lest the man should escape without her.

Then came an onrush of Romany, attracted to the glade by the fire. They
guessed from Miss Greeby's haste that something was seriously wrong and
tried to stop her. But, delivering blows straight from the shoulder,
here, there, and everywhere, the woman managed to break through, and
finally reached the end of the pathway. Here was the motor and safety,
since she hoped to make a dash for the nearest seaport and get out of
the kingdom before the police authorities could act.

But the stars in their course fought against her. Silver, having started
the machinery, was already handling the steering gear, and bent only
upon saving his own miserable self, had put the car in motion. He could
only drive in a slip-slop amateur way and aimlessly zigzagged down the
sloping bank which fell away to the high road. As the motor began to
gather speed Miss Greeby ran for her life and liberty, ranging at length
breathlessly alongside. The gypsies tailed behind, shouting.

"Stop, you beast!" screamed Miss Greeby, feeling fear for the first
time, and she tried to grab the car for the purpose of swinging herself
on board.

But Silver urged it to greater speed. "I save myself; myself," he
shrieked shrilly and unhinged by deadly terror, "get away; get away."

In his panic he twisted the wheel in the wrong direction, and the big
machine swerved obediently. The next moment Miss Greeby was knocked
down and writhed under the wheels. She uttered a tragic cry, but little
Silver cared for that. Rendered merciless with fear he sent the car
right over her body, and then drove desperately down the hill to gain
the hard road. Miss Greeby, with a broken back, lay on the ground and
saw as in a ghastly dream her machine flash roaring along the highway
driven by a man who could not manage it. Even in her pain a smile crept
over her pale face.

"He's done for, the little beast," she muttered, "he'll smash. Lambert!
Lambert!" The man whose name she breathed had arrived as she spoke; and
knelt breathlessly beside her to raise her head. "You--you--oh, poor
creature!" he gasped.

"I'm done for, Lambert," she panted in deadly pain, "back broken. I
sinned for you, but--but you can't hang me. Look--look after
Garvington--Cockleshell too--look--look--Augh!" and she moaned.

"Where are they?"

"In--in--the--cottage," murmured the woman, and fell back in a fainting
condition with a would-be sneering laugh.

Lambert started to his feet with an oath, and leaving the wretched woman
to the care of some gypsies, ran back to the glade. The cottage was a
mass of streaming, crackling flames, and there was no water to
extinguish these, as he realized with sudden fear. It was terrible to
think that the old woman and Garvington were burning in that furnace,
and desperately anxious to save at least one of the two, Lambert tried
to enter the door. But the heat of the fire drove him back, and the
flames seemed to roar at his discomfiture. He could do nothing but stand
helplessly and gaze upon what was plainly Garvington's funeral pyre.

By this time the villagers were making for the wood, and the whole place
rang with cries of excitement and dismay. The wintry scene was revealed
only too clearly by the ruddy glare and by the same sinister light.
Lambert suddenly beheld Chaldea at his elbow. Gripping his arm, she
spoke hoarsely, "The tiny rye is dead. He drove the engine over a bank
and it smashed him to a pulp."

"Oh! ah! And--and Miss Greeby?"

"She is dying."

Lambert clenched his hands and groaned, "Garvington and Mother
Cockleshell?"

"She is dead and he is dead by now," said Chaldea, looking with a
callous smile at the burning cottage, "both are dead--Lord Garvington."

"Lord Garvington?" Lambert groaned again. He had forgotten that he now
possessed the title and what remained of the family estates.

"Avali!" cried Chaldea, clapping her hands and nodding toward the
cottage with a meaning smile, "there's the bonfire to celebrate the
luck."




CHAPTER XXI.

A FINAL SURPRISE.


A week later and Lambert was seated in the library of The Manor, looking
worn and anxious. His wan appearance was not due so much to what he had
passed through, trying as late events had been, as to his dread of what
Inspector Darby was about to say. That officer was beside him, getting
ready for an immediate conversation by turning over various papers which
he produced from a large and well-filled pocket-book. Darby looked
complacent and important, as an examination into the late tragedy had
added greatly to his reputation as a zealous officer. Things were now
more ship-shape, as Miss Greeby had died after making confession of her
crime and had been duly buried by her shocked relatives. The ashes of
Lord Garvington and Mother Cockleshell, recovered from the debris of
the cottage, had also been disposed of with religious ceremonies, and
Silver's broken body had been placed in an unwept grave. The frightful
catastrophe which had resulted in the death of four people had been the
talk of the United Kingdom for the entire seven days.

What Lambert was dreading to hear was the report of Miss Greeby's
confession, which Inspector Darby had come to talk about. He had tried
to see her himself at the village inn, whither she had been transferred
to die, but she had refused to let him come to her dying bed, and
therefore he did not know in what state of mind she had passed away.
Judging from the vindictive spirit which she had displayed, Lambert
fancied that she had told Darby the whole wretched story of the forged
letter and the murder. The last was bound to be confessed, but the young
man had hoped against hope that Miss Greeby would be silent regarding
Garvington's share in the shameful plot. Wickedly as his cousin had
behaved, Lambert did not wish his memory to be smirched and the family
honor to be tarnished by a revelation of the little man's true
character. He heartily wished that the evil Garvington had done might
be buried with him, and the whole sordid affair forgotten.

"First, my lord," said Darby leisurely, when his papers were in order,
"I have to congratulate your lordship on your accession to the title.
Hitherto so busy have I been that there has been no time to do this."

"Thank you, Mr. Inspector, but I regret that I should have succeeded
through so tragic a death."

"Yes, yes, my lord! the feeling does you honor," Darby nodded
sympathetically; "but it must be some comfort for you to know that your
poor cousin perished when on an errand of mercy, although his aim was
not perhaps quite in accordance with strict justice."

Lambert stared. "I don't know what you mean," he remarked, being puzzled
by this coupling of Garvington's name with any good deed.

"Of course you don't, my lord. But for you to understand I had better
begin with Miss Greeby's confession. I must touch on some rather
intimate things, however," said the inspector rather shyly.

"Meaning that Miss Greeby was in love with me."

"Exactly, my lord. Her love for you--if you will excuse my mentioning so
private a subject--caused the whole catastrophe."

"Indeed," the young man felt a sense of relief, as if Darby put the
matter in this way the truth about the forged letter could scarcely have
come to light, "will you explain?"

"Certainly, my lord. Miss Greeby always wished to marry your lordship,
but she knew that you loved your wife, the present Lady Garvington, who
was then Lady Agnes Pine. She believed that you and Lady Agnes would
sooner or later run away together."

"There was no reason she should think so," said Noel, becoming scarlet.

"Of course not, my lord. Pardon me again for speaking of such very
private matters. But I can scarcely make your lordship understand how
the late Sir Hubert Pine came by his death unless I am painfully frank."

"Go on, Mr. Inspector," Noel leaned back and folded his arms. "Be frank
to the verge of rudeness, if you like."

"Oh, no, no, my lord; certainly not," Darby said in a shocked manner.
"I will be as delicate as I possibly can. Well, then, my lord, Miss
Greeby, thinking that you might elope with the then Lady Agnes Pine,
resolved to place an even greater barrier between you than the
marriage."

"What could be a possibly greater barrier?"

"Your honor, my lord, your strict sense of honor. Miss Greeby thought
that if she got rid of Sir Hubert, and Lady Agnes was in possession of
the millions, that you would never risk her losing the same for your
sake."

"She was right in supposing that, Mr. Inspector, but how did Miss Greeby
know that Lady Agnes would lose the money if she married me?"

"Sir Hubert told her so himself, my lord, when she discovered that he
was at the Abbot's Wood camp under the name of Ishmael Hearne."

"His real name."

"Of course, my lord; of course. And having made this discovery and
knowing how jealous Sir Hubert was of his wife--if you will pardon my
mentioning the fact--Miss Greeby laid a trap to lure him to The Manor
that he might be shot."

The listener moved uneasily, and he now quite expected to hear the
revelation of Garvington's forgery. "Go on, Mr. Inspector."

"Miss Greeby," pursued the officer, glancing at his notes, "knew that
the late Mark Silver, who was Sir Hubert's secretary, was not well
disposed toward his employer, as he fancied that he had been cheated out
of the proceeds of certain inventions. Miss Greeby worked on this point
and induced Silver to forge a letter purporting to come from Lady Agnes
to you saying that an elopement had been arranged."

"Oh," Lambert drew a breath of relief, "so Silver laid a trap, did he?"

"Yes, my lord, and a very clever one. The letter was arranged by Silver
to fall into Sir Hubert's hands. That unfortunate gentleman came to the
blue door at the appointed time, then Miss Greeby, who had climbed out
of the window of her bedroom to hide in the shrubbery, shot the
unsuspecting man. She then got back into her room--and a very clever
climber she must have been, my lord--and afterward mingled with the
guests."

"But why did she think of luring Sir Hubert to be shot?" asked Noel with
feigned ignorance, "when she ran such a risk of being discovered?"

"Ah, my lord, therein lies the cleverness of the idea. Poor Lord
Garvington had threatened to shoot any burglar, and that gave Miss
Greeby the idea. It was her hope that your late cousin might kill Sir
Hubert by mistaking him for a robber, and she only posted herself in the
shrubbery to shoot if Sir Hubert was not killed. He was not, as we know
that the shot fired by Lord Garvington only broke his arm. Miss Greeby
made sure by killing him herself, and very cleverly she did so."

"And what about my late cousin's philanthropic visit to Silver?"

"Ah, my lord, that was a mistake. His lordship was informed of the
forged letter by Chaldea the gypsy girl, who found it in Sir Hubert's
tent, and for the sake of your family wished to get Silver out of the
country. It would have been dreadful--as Lord Garvington rightly
considered--that the name of his sister and your name should be
mentioned in connection with an elopement even though it was untrue. He
therefore went to induce Silver to leave the country, but the man,
instead of being grateful, stunned his lordship with a blow from a poker
which he had picked up."

"How was that known, Mr. Inspector?"

"Miss Greeby had the truth from his own lips. Silver threatened to
denounce her, and knowing this Chaldea went to London to warn her."

"Oh," muttered Lambert, thinking of what Gentilla Stanley had said, "how
did she find out?"

"She overheard a conversation between Silver and Lord Garvington in the
cottage."

Lambert was relieved again, since Miss Greeby had not evidently
mentioned him as being mixed up with the matter. "Yes, Mr. Inspector, I
can guess the rest. This unfortunate woman came down to get Silver, who
could have hanged her, out of the country, and he set fire to the
cottage."

"She set fire to it," corrected Darby quickly, "by chance, as she told
me, she overturned a lamp. Of course, Lord Garvington, being senseless,
was burned to death. Gentilla Stanley was also burned."

"How did she come to be there?"

"Oh, it seems that Gentilla followed Hearne--he was her grandson I hear
from the gypsies--to The Manor on that night and saw the shooting. But
she said nothing, not feeling sure if her unsupported testimony would be
sufficient to convict Miss Greeby. However, she watched that lady and
followed her to the cottage to denounce her and prevent the escape of
Silver--who knew the truth also, as she ascertained. Silver knocked the
old woman down and stunned her, so she also was burned to death. Then
Silver ran for the motor car and crushed Miss Greeby--since he could not
manage the machine."

"Did he crush her on purpose, do you think?"

"No," said Darby after a pause, "I don't think so. Miss Greeby was rich,
and if the pair of them had escaped Silver would have been able to
extort money. He no more killed her than he killed himself by dashing
into that chalk pit near the road. It was mismanagement of the motor in
both cases."

Lambert was quiet for a time. "Is that all?" he asked, looking up.

"All, my lord," answered the inspector, gathering his papers together.

"Is anything else likely to appear in the papers?"

"No, my lord."

"I noted," said Lambert slowly, "that there was no mention of the forged
letter made at the inquest."

Darby nodded. "I arranged that, my lord, since the forged letter made so
free with your lordship's name and that of the present Lady Garvington.
As you probably saw, it was only stated that the late Sir Hubert had
gone to meet his secretary at The Manor and that Miss Greeby, knowing of
his coming, had shot him. The motive was ascribed as anger at the late
Sir Hubert for having lost a great sum of money which Miss Greeby
entrusted to him for the purpose of speculation."

"And is it true that such money was entrusted and lost?"

"Perfectly true, my lord. I saw in that fact a chance of hiding the real
truth. It would do no good to make the forged letter public and would
cast discredit both on the dead and the living. Therefore all that has
been said does not even hint at the trap laid by Silver. Now that all
parties concerned are dead and buried, no more will be heard of the
matter, and your lordship can sleep in peace."

The young man walked up and down the room for a few minutes while the
inspector made ready to depart. Noel was deeply touched by the man's
consideration and made up his mind that he should not lose by the
delicacy he had shown in preserving his name and that of Agnes from
the tongue of gossips. He saw plainly that Darby was a man he could
thoroughly trust and forthwith did so.

"Mr. Inspector," he said, coming forward to shake hands, "you have acted
in a most kind and generous manner and I cannot show my appreciation of
your behavior more than by telling you the exact truth of this sad
affair."

"I know the truth," said Darby staring.

"Not the exact truth, which closely concerns the honor of my family. But
as you have saved that by suppressing certain evidence it is only right
that you should know more than you do know."

"I shall keep quiet anything that you tell me, my lord," said Darby
greatly pleased; "that is, anything that is consistent with my official
duty."

"Of course. Also I wish you to know exactly how matters stand, since
there may be trouble with Chaldea."

"Oh, I don't think so, my lord. Chaldea has married that dwarf."

"Kara, the Servian gypsy?"

"Yes. She's given him a bad time, and he put up with it because he had
no authority over her; but now that she's his romi--as these people call
a wife--he'll make her dance to his playing. They left England yesterday
for foreign parts--Hungary, I fancy, my lord. The girl won't come back
in a hurry, for Kara will keep an eye on her."

Lambert drew a long breath of relief. "I am glad," he said simply, "as
I never should have felt safe while she remained in England."

"Felt safe?" echoed the officer suspiciously.

His host nodded and told the man to take a seat again. Then, without
wasting further time, he related the real truth about the forged letter.
Darby listened to the recital in amazement and shook his head sadly over
the delinquency of the late Lord Garvington.

"Well! Well!" said the inspector staring, "to think as a nobleman born
and bred should act in this way."

"Why shouldn't a nobleman be wicked as well as the grocer?" said Lambert
impatiently, "and according to the socialistic press all the evil of
humanity is to be found in aristocratic circles. However, you know the
exact truth, Mr. Inspector, and I have confided to you the secret which
concerns the honor of my family. You won't abuse my confidence."

Darby rose and extended his hand. "You may be sure of that, my lord.
What you have told me will never be repeated. Everything in connection
with this matter is finished, and you will hear no more about it."

"I'm glad and thankful," said the other, again drawing a breath of
relief, "and to show my appreciation of your services, Darby, I shall
send you a substantial check."

"Oh, my lord, I couldn't take it. I only did my duty."

"I think you did a great deal more than that," answered the new Lord
Garvington dryly, "and had you acted entirely on the evidence you
gathered together, and especially on the confession of that miserable
woman, you might have made public much that I would prefer to keep
private. Take the money from a friend, Darby, and as a mark of esteem
for a man."

"Thank you, my lord," replied the inspector straightly, "I don't deny
but what my conscience and my duty to the Government will allow me to
take it since you put it in that way. And as I am not a rich man the
money will be welcome. Thank you!"

With a warm hand-shake the inspector took his departure and Noel offered
up a silent prayer of thankfulness to God that things had turned out so
admirably. His shifty cousin was now dead and there was no longer any
danger that the honor of the family, for which so much had been
sacrificed, both by himself and Agnes, would be smirched. The young man
regretted the death of Mother Cockleshell, who had been so well disposed
toward his wife and himself, but he rejoiced that Chaldea had left
England under the guardianship of Kara, as henceforth--if he knew
anything of the dwarf's jealous disposition--the girl would trouble him
no more. And Silver was dead and buried, which did away with any
possible trouble coming from that quarter. Finally, poor Miss Greeby,
who had sinned for love, was out of the way and there was no need to be
anxious on her account. Fate had made a clean sweep of all the actors in
the tragedy, and Lambert hoped that this particular play was ended.

When the inspector went away, Lord Garvington sought out his wife and
his late cousin's widow. To them he reported all that had passed and
gave them the joyful assurance that nothing more would be heard in
connection with the late tragic events. Both ladies were delighted.

"Poor Freddy," sighed Agnes, who had quite forgiven her brother now that
he had paid for his sins, "he behaved very badly; all the same he had
his good points, Noel."

"Ah, he had, he had," said Lady Garvington, the widow, shaking her
untidy head, "he was selfish and greedy, and perhaps not so thoughtful
as he might have been, but there are worse people than poor Freddy."

Noel could not help smiling at this somewhat guarded eulogy of the dead,
but did not pursue the subject. "Well, Jane, you must not grieve too
much."

"No, I shall not," she admitted bluntly, "I am going to be quiet for a
few months and then perhaps I may marry again. But I shall marry a man
who lives on nuts and roots, my dear Noel. Never again," she shuddered,
"shall I bother about the kitchen. I shall burn Freddy's recipes and
cookery books."

Lady Garvington evidently really felt relieved by the death of her
greedy little husband, although she tried her best to appear sorry. But
the twinkle of relief in her eyes betrayed her, and neither Noel nor
Agnes could blame her. She had enough to live on--since the new lord had
arranged this in a most generous manner--and she was free from the cares
of the kitchen.

"So I'll go to London in a few days when I've packed up," said the widow
nodding, "you two dears can stay here for your second honeymoon."

"It will be concerned with pounds, shillings, and pence, then," said
Agnes with a smile, "for Noel has to get the estate put in order.
Things are very bad just now, as I know for certain. But we must try to
save The Manor from going out of the family."

It was at this moment, and while the trio wondered how the financial
condition of the Lamberts was to be improved, that a message came saying
that Mr. Jarwin wished to see Lord and Lady Garvington in the library.
Wondering what the lawyer had come about, and dreading further bad news,
the young couple descended, leaving the widow to her packing up. They
found the lean, dry solicitor waiting for them with a smiling face.

"Oh!" said Agnes as she greeted him, "then it's not bad news?"

"On the contrary," said Jarwin, with his cough, "it is the best of
news."

Noel looked at him hard. "The best of news to me at the present moment
would be information about money," he said slowly. "I have a title, it
is true, but the estate is much encumbered."

"You need not trouble about that, Lord Garvington; Mrs. Stanley has put
all that right."

"What?" asked Agnes greatly agitated. "Has she made over the mortgages
to Noel? Oh, if she only has."

"She has done better than that," remarked Jarwin, producing a paper of
no great size, "this is her will. She wanted to make a deed of gift, and
probably would have done so had she lived. But luckily she made the
will--and a hard-and-fast one it is--for I drew it up myself," said Mr.
Jarwin complacently.

"How does the will concern us?" asked Agnes, catching Noel's hand with a
tremor, for she could scarcely grasp the hints of the lawyer.

"Mrs. Stanley, my dear lady, had a great regard for you since you nursed
her through a dangerous illness. Also you were, as she put it, a good
and true wife to her grandson. Therefore, as she approved of you and of
your second marriage, she has left the entire fortune of your late
husband to you and to Lord Garvington here."

"Never!" cried Lambert growing pale, while his wife gasped with
astonishment.

"It is true, and here is the proof," Jarwin shook the parchment, "one
million to you, Lord Garvington, and one million to your wife. Listen,
if you please," and the solicitor read the document in a formal manner
which left no doubt as to the truth of his amazing news. When he
finished the lucky couple looked at one another scarcely able to speak.
It was Agnes who recovered her voice first.

"Oh, it can't be true--it can't be true," she cried. "Noel, pinch me,
for I must be dreaming."

"It is true, as the will gives you to understand," said the lawyer,
smiling in his dry way, "and if I may be permitted to say so, Lady
Garvington, never was money more rightfully inherited. You surrendered
everything for the sake of true love, and it is only just that you
should be rewarded. If Mrs. Stanley had lived she intended to keep five
or six thousand for herself so that she could transport certain gypsies
to America, but she would undoubtedly have made a deed of gift of the
rest of the property. Oh, what a very fortunate thing it was that she
made this will," cried Jarwin, genuinely moved at the thought of the
possible loss of the millions, "for her unforeseen death would have
spoiled everything if I had not the forethought to suggest the
testament."

"It is to you we owe our good fortune."

"To Mrs. Gentilla Stanley--and to me partially. I only ask for my reward
that you will continue to allow me to see after the property. The fees,"
added Jarwin with his dry cough, "will be considerable."

"You can rob us if you like," said Noel, slapping him on the back.
"Well, to say that I am glad is to speak weakly. I am overjoyed. With
this money we can restore the fortunes of the family again."

"They will be placed higher than they have ever been before," cried
Agnes with a shining face. "Two millions. Oh, what a lot of good we can
do."

"To yourselves?" inquired Jarwin dryly.

"And to others also," said Lambert gravely. "God has been so good to us
that we must be good to others."

"Then be good to me, Lord Garvington," said the solicitor, putting away
the will in his bag, "for I am dying of hunger. A little luncheon--"

"A very big one."

"I am no great eater," said Jarwin, and walked toward the door, "a wash
and brush-up and a plate of soup will satisfy me. And I will say again
what I said before to both of you, that you thoroughly deserve your good
fortune. Lord Garvington, you are the luckier of the two, as you have a
wife who is far above rubies, and--and--dear me, I am talking romance.
So foolish at my age. To think--well--well, I am extremely hungry, so
don't let luncheon be long before it appears," and with a croaking laugh
at his jokes the lawyer disappeared.

Left alone the fortunate couple fell into one another's arms. It seemed
incredible that the past storm should have been succeeded by so
wonderful a calm. They had been tested by adversity, and they had proved
themselves to be of sterling metal. Before them the future stretched in
a long, smooth road under sunny blue skies, and behind them the black
clouds, out of which they had emerged, were dispersing into thin air.
Evil passes, good endures.

"Two millions!" sighed Agnes joyfully.

"Of red money," remarked her husband.

"Why do you call it that?"

"Mother Cockleshell--bless her!--called it so because it was tainted
with blood. But we must cleanse the stains, Agnes, by using much of it
to help all that are in trouble. God has been good in settling our
affairs in this way, but He has given me a better gift than the money."

"What is that?" asked Lady Garvington softly.

"The love of my dear wife," said the happiest of men to the happiest of
women.


THE END.




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