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Title: Dorothy's Double - Volume I (of 3)
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dorothy's Double - Volume I (of 3)" ***

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                        DOROTHY'S DOUBLE

                         BY G. A. HENTY

AUTHOR OF 'RUJUB THE JUGGLER' 'IN THE DAYS OF THE MUTINY' 'THE CURSE OF
CARNE'S HOLD' ETC.


    IN THREE VOLUMES--VOL. I.

    London
    CHATTO & WINDUS PICCADILLY
    1894

    PRINTED BY
    SPOTTISWOODE AND CO., NEW-STREET SQUARE
    LONDON



DOROTHY'S DOUBLE



PROLOGUE


A dark night on the banks of the Thames; the south-west wind, heavily
charged with sleet, was blowing strongly, causing little waves to lap
against the side of a punt moored by the bank. Its head-rope was tied
round a weeping willow which had shed most of its leaves, and whose
pendent boughs swayed and waved in the gusts, sending at times a shower
of heavy drops upon a man leaning against its trunk. Beyond stretched a
broad lawn with clumps of shrubs, and behind loomed the shadow of a
mansion, but so faintly that it might have passed unnoticed in the
darkness had it not been for some lights in the upper windows.

At times the man changed his position, muttering impatiently as the
water made its way down between his collar and neck and soaked through
his clothes to the shoulders.

'I must have been waiting an hour!' he exclaimed at last. 'If she
doesn't come soon I shall begin to think that something has prevented
her getting out. It will be no joke to have to come again to-morrow
night if it keeps on like this. It has been raining for the last three
days without a stop, and looks as if it would keep on as much longer.'

A few minutes later he started as he made out a figure in the darkness.
It approached him, and stopped ten yards away.

'Are you there?' a female voice asked.

'Of course I am,' he replied, 'and a nice place it is to be waiting in
for over an hour on such a night as this. Have you got it?'

'Yes.'

'That is all right. Well, chuck your bonnet down there, three or four
feet from the edge of the water.'

'And my cloak? I have brought that and a shawl, as you told me.'

'No; give it to me. Now get into the boat, and we will shove off.'

As soon as the woman had seated herself in the punt the man unfastened
the head-rope and stepped in; then, taking a long pole in his hand, he
let the boat drift down with the strong stream, keeping close to the
bank. Where the lawn ended there was a clump of bushes overhanging the
water. He caught hold of these, broke off two branches that dipped into
the stream, then, hauling the punt a little farther in, he took the
cloak the woman had handed to him and hitched it fast round a stump that
projected an inch or two above the swollen stream.

'That will do the trick,' he said. 'They will find it there when the
river falls.' Then he poled the boat out and let her drift again. 'You
have brought another bonnet, I see, Polly.'

'You don't suppose I was going to be such a fool as to leave myself
bareheaded on such a night as this,' she said sullenly.

'Well, there is no occasion to be bad-tempered; it has been a deal worse
for me than it has for you, waiting an hour and a half there, besides
being a good half-hour poling this tub up against the stream. I suppose
it went off all right?'

'Yes, there was no difficulty about it. I kicked up a row and pretended
to be drunk. Not too bad, or they would have turned me straight out of
the house, but I was told I was to go the first thing in the morning.
The rest was easy enough. I had only to slip down, get it, and be off,
but I had to wait some time at the door. I opened it about an inch or
two, and had to stand there listening until I was sure they were both
asleep. I am sorry I ever did it. I had half a mind to chuck it up three
or four times, but----'

'But you thought better of it, Polly. Well, you were perfectly right;
fifty pounds down and a pound a week regular, that ain't so bad you
know, especially as you were out of a place, and had no character to
show.'

'But mind,' she said threateningly, 'no harm is to come to it. I don't
know what your game is, but you promised me that, and if you break your
word I will peach, as true as my name is Polly Green. I don't care what
they do to me, but I will split on you and tell the whole business.'

'Don't you alarm yourself about nothing,' he said, good-temperedly. 'I
know what my game is, and that is enough for you. Why, if I wanted to
get rid of it and you too I have only to drive my heel through the side
of this rotten old craft. I could swim to shore easily enough, but when
they got the drags out to-morrow they would bring something up in them.
Here is the end of the island.'

A few pushes with the pole, and the punt glided in among several other
craft lying at the strand opposite Isleworth Church. The man helped the
woman with her burden ashore, and knotted the head-rope to that of the
boat next to it.

'That is how it was tied when I borrowed it,' he said; 'her owner will
never dream that she has been out to-night.'

'What next?' the woman asked.

'We have got to walk to Brentford. I have got a light trap waiting for
me there. It is a little crib I use sometimes, and they gave me the key
of the stable-door, so I can get the horse out and put him in the trap
myself. I said I was starting early in the morning, and they won't know
whether it is at two or five that I go out. I brought down a couple of
rugs, so you will be able to keep pretty dry, and I have got a
driving-coat for myself. We shall be down at Greenwich at that little
crib you have taken by six o'clock. You have got the key, I suppose?'

'Yes. The fire is laid, and we can have a cup of tea before you drive
back. Then I shall turn in for a good long sleep.'

An hour later they were driving rapidly towards London.



CHAPTER I


A slatternly woman was standing at the entrance of a narrow court in one
of the worst parts of Chelsea. She was talking to a neighbour belonging
to the next court, who had paused for a moment for a gossip in her
passage towards a public-house.

'Your Sal is certainly an owdacious one,' she said. 'I saw her yesterday
evening when you were out looking for her. I told her she would get it
hot if she didn't get back home as soon as she could, and she jest
laughed in my face and said I had best mind my own business. I told her
I would slap her face if she cheeked me, and she said, "I ain't your
husband, Mrs. Bell, and if you were to try it on you would find that I
could slap quite as hard as you can."'

'She is getting quite beyond me, Mrs. Bell. I don't know what to do with
her. I have thrashed her as long as I could stand over her, but what is
the good? The first time the door is open she just takes her hook and I
don't see her again for days. I believe she sleeps in the Park, and I
suppose she either begs or steals to keep herself. At the end of a week
maybe she will come in again, just the same as if she had only been out
for an hour. "How have you been getting on since I have been away?" she
will say. "No one to scrub your floor; no one to help you when you are
too drunk to find your bed," and then she laughs fit to make yer blood
run cold. Owdacious ain't no name for that wench, Mrs. Bell. Why, there
ain't a boy in this court of her own size as ain't afraid of her. She is
a regular tiger-cat, she is; and if they says anything to her, she just
goes for them tooth and nail. I shan't be able to put up with her ways
much longer. Well, yes; I don't mind if I do take a two of gin with
you.'

They had been gone but a minute or two when a man turned in at the
court. He looked about forty, was clean shaven, and wore a rough
great-coat, a scarlet and blue tie with a horseshoe pin, and tightly cut
trousers, which, with the tie and pin, gave him a somewhat horsey
appearance. More than one of the inhabitants of the court glanced
sharply at him as he came in, wondering what business he could have
there. He asked no questions, but went in at an open door, picked his
way up the rickety stairs to the top of the house, and knocked at a
door. There was no reply. He knocked again louder and more impatiently;
then, with a muttered oath, descended the stairs.

'Who are you wanting?' a woman asked, as he paused at a lower door.

'I am looking for Mrs. Phillips; she is not in her room.'

'I just saw her turn off with Mother Bell. I expect you will find them
at the bar of the Lion, lower down the street.'

With a word of thanks he went down the court, waited two or three
minutes near the entrance, and then walked in the direction of the
public-house. He had gone but a short distance, however, when he saw the
two women come out. They stood gossiping for three or four minutes, and
then the woman he was in search of came towards him, while the other
went on down the street.

'Hello, Mr. Warbles!' Mrs. Phillips exclaimed when she came near to him;
'who would have thought of seeing you? Why, it is a year or more since
you were here last, though I must say as your money comes every month
regular; not as it goes far, I can tell you, for that girl is enough to
eat one out of 'arth and 'ome.'

'Well, never mind that now,' he said impatiently, 'that will keep till
we get upstairs. I have been up there and found that you were out. I
want to have a talk with you. Where is the girl?'

'Ah, where indeed, Mr. Warbles; there is never no telling where Sal is;
maybe she is in the next court, maybe she is the other side of town. She
is allus on the move. I have locked up her boots sometimes, but it is no
odds to Sal. She would just as lief go barefoot as not.'

By this time they arrived at the door of the room, and after some
fumbling in her pocket the woman produced the key and they went in. It
was a poverty-stricken room; a rickety table and two chairs, a small bed
in one corner and some straw with a ragged rug thrown over it in
another, a kettle and a frying-pan, formed its whole furniture. Mr.
Warbles looked round with an air of disgust.

'You ought to be able to do better than this, Kitty,' he said.

'I s'pose as I ought,' she said philosophically, 'but you know me,
Warbles; it's the drink as does it.'

'The drink has done it in your case, surely enough,' he said, as he saw
in his mind's eye a trim figure behind the bar of a country
public-house, and looked at the coarse, bloated, untidy creature before
him.'

'Well, it ain't no use grunting over it,' she said. 'I could have
married well enough in the old days, if it hadn't been that I was always
losing my places from it, and so it has gone on, and I would not change
now if I could. A temperance chap come down the court a week or two ago,
a-preaching, and after a-going on for some time his eye falls on me, and
says he to me, "My good woman, does the demon of drink possess you
also?" And says I, "He possesses me just as long as I have got money in
my pocket." "Then," says he, "why don't you take the pledge and turn
from it all?" "'Cause," says I, "it is just the one pleasure I have in
life; what should I do I should like to know without it? I could dress
more flash, and I could get more sticks of furniture in my room, which
is all very well to one as holds to such things, but what should I care
for them?" "You would come to be a decent member of society," says he. I
tucks up my sleeves. "I ain't going to stand no 'pertinence from you,
nor from no one," says I, and I makes for him, and he picks up his bag
of tracts, and runs down the court like a little dog with a big dog
arter him. I don't think he is likely to try this court again.'

'No, I suppose you are not going to change now, Kitty. I have come here
to see the girl,' he went on, changing the subject abruptly.

'Well, you will see her if she comes in, and you won't if she don't
happen to, that is all I can say about it. What are you going to do
about her? It is about time as you did something. I have done what I
agreed to do when you brought her to me when she was three years old.
Says you, "The woman who has been taking charge of this child is dead,
and I want you to take her." Says I, "You know well enough, Warbles, as
I ain't fit to take care of no child. I am just going down as fast as I
can, and it won't be long before I shall have to choose between the
House and the river." "I can see that well enough," says you, "but I
don't care how she is brought up so as she lives. She can run about
barefoot through the streets and beg for coppers, for aught I care, but
I want her to live for reasons of my own. I will pay you five shillings
a week for her regular, and if you spend, as I suppose you will, one
shilling on her food and four shillings on drink for yourself, it ain't
no business of mine. I could have put her for the same money in some
country cottage where she would have been well looked after, but I want
her to grow up in the slums, just a ragged girl like the rest of them,
and if you won't take her there is plenty as will on those terms." So I
says, "Yes," and I have done it, and there ain't a raggeder or more
owdacious gal in all the town, East or West.'

'That is all right, Kitty; but I saw someone yesterday, and it has
altered my plans--but I must have a look at her first. I saw her when I
called a year ago; I suppose she has not changed since then?'

'She is a bit taller, and, I should say, thinner, which comes of
restlessness, and not for want of food. But she ain't changed otherwise,
except as she is getting too much for me, and I have been wishing for
some time to see you. I ain't no ways a good woman, Warbles, but the gal
is fifteen now, and a gal of fifteen is nigh a woman in these courts,
and I have made up my mind as I won't have her go wrong while she is on
my hands, and if I had not seen you soon I should just have taken her by
the shoulder and gone off to the workhouse with her.'

'They would not have taken her in without you,' the man said with a hard
laugh.

'I would have gone in, too, for the sake of getting her in. I know I
could not have stood it for many days, but I would have done it.
However, the first time I got leave to come out I would have taken my
hook altogether and got a room at the other end of the town, and left
her there with them. I could not have done better for her than that, but
that would have been a sight better than her stopping here, and if she
went wrong after that I should not have had it on my conscience.'

'Well, that is all right, Kitty; I agree with you this is not the best
place in the world for her, and I think it likely that I may take her
away altogether.'

'I am glad to hear it. I have never been able to make out what your game
was. One thing I was certain of--that it was no good. I know a good many
games that you have had a hand in, and there was not a good one among
them, and I don't suppose this differs from the rest. Anyhow, I shall be
glad to be shot of her. I don't want to lose the five bob a week, but I
would rather shift without it than have her any longer now she is
a-growing up.'

The man muttered something between his teeth, but at the moment a step
was heard coming up the stairs.

'That's Sal,' the woman said; 'you are in luck this time, Warbles.'

The door opened, and a girl came in. She was thin and gaunt, her eyes
were large, her hair was rough and unkempt, there were smears of dirt on
her face and an expression of mingled distrust and defiance.

'Who have you got here?' she asked, scowling at Mr. Warbles.

'It is the gent as you saw a year ago, Sally; the man as I told you had
put you with me and paid regular towards your keep.'

'What does he want?' the girl asked, but without removing her glance
from the man.

'He wants to have a talk with you, Sally. I do not know exactly what he
wants to say, but it is for your good.'

'I dunno that,' she replied; 'he don't look like as if he was one to do
anyone a good turn without getting something out of it.'

Mr. Warbles shifted about uneasily in his chair.

'Don't you mind her, Mr. Warbles,' the woman said; 'she is a limb, she
is, and no mistake, but she has got plenty of sense. But you had best
talk to her straight if you want her to do anything; then if she says
she will, she will; if she says she won't, you may take your oath you
won't drive her. Now, Sal, be reasonable, and hear what the gentleman
has to say.'

'Well, why don't he go on, then?' the girl retorted; 'who is a-stopping
him?'

Mr. Warbles had come down impressed with the idea that the proposition
he had to make would be received with enthusiasm, but he now felt some
doubt on the subject. He wondered for a moment whether it would be best
to speak as Mrs. Phillips advised him or to stick to the story he had
intended to tell. He concluded that the former way was the best.

'I am going to speak perfectly straight to you, Sally,' he began.

The girl looked keenly at him beneath her long eyelashes, and her face
expressed considerable doubt.

'I am in the betting line,' he said; 'horse-racing, you know; and I am
mixed up in other things, and there is many a job I might be able to
carry out if I had a sharp girl to help me. I can see you are sharp
enough--there is no fear about that--but you see sharpness is not the
only thing. A girl to be of use must be able to dress herself up and
pass as a lady, and to do that she must have some sort of education so
as to be able to speak as ladies speak. I ought to have begun earlier
with you, I know, but it was only when thinking of you a day or two ago
that it struck me you would do for the work. You will have to go to
school, or at least to be under the care of someone who can teach you,
for three years. I don't suppose you like the thought of it, but you
will have a good time afterwards. You will be well dressed and live
comfortably, and all you will have to do will be to play a part
occasionally, which to a clever girl will be nothing.'

'I should learn to read and write and to be able to understand books and
such like?'

'Certainly you would.'

'Then I am ready,' she said firmly; 'I don't care what you do with me
afterwards. What I want most of anything in the world is to be able to
read and write. You can do nothing if you can't do that. I do not
suppose I shall like schooling, but it cannot be so bad as tramping
about the streets like this,' and she pointed to her clothes and
dilapidated boots, 'so if you mean what you say I am ready.'

The thought that she was intended to bear a part in dishonest courses
afterwards did not for a moment trouble her. Half of the inhabitants of
the court were ready to steal anything worth selling if an opportunity
offered. She herself had often done so. She had no moral sense of right
or wrong whatever, and regarded theft as simply an exercise of skill and
quickness, and as an incident in the war between herself and society as
represented by the police. As to counterfeit coin, she had passed it
again and again, for a man came up once a fortnight or so with a roll of
coin for which Mrs. Phillips paid him about a fourth of its face value.
These she never attempted to pass in Chelsea, but tramped far away to
the North, South or East, carrying with her a jug hidden under her
tattered shawl, and going into public houses for a pint of beer for
father.

This she considered far more hazardous work than pilfering, and her
quickness of eye and foot had alone saved her many times, as if the
barman, instead of dropping the coin into the till, looked at it with
suspicion and then proceeded to test it she was off like a deer, and was
out of sight round the next turning long before the man could get to the
door. The fact that she was evidently considered sharp enough to take
part in frauds requiring cleverness and address gratified rather than
inclined her to reject the proposition.

'It ain't very grateful of you, Sally, to be so willing to leave me
after all I have done for you,' Mrs. Phillips said, rather hurt at her
ready acceptance of the offer.

'Grateful for what?' the girl said scornfully, turning fiercely upon
her; 'you have been paid for feeding me and what have you done more?
Haven't I prigged for you, and run the risk of being sent to quod for
getting rid of your dumps? Haven't you thrashed me pretty nigh every
time you was drunk, till I got so big you daren't do it? I don't say as
sometimes you haven't been kind, just in a way, but you have been a
sight oftener unkind. I don't want to part bad friends. If you ain't
showed me much kindness, you have shown me all as ever I have known, and
yer might have been worse than you have. I suppose yer knows this man,
and know that he is going to do as he says, and means to treat me fair,
for mind you,' and here she turned darkly to Warbles, 'if you tries to
do anything as is wrong with me I will stick a knife into you.'

'I am going to do you no harm, Sally,' he said hastily.

'Yer had better not,' she muttered.

'I mean exactly what I say, and nothing more. Mrs. Phillips may not have
been quite as kind to you as she might, but she would not let you go
with me if she did not know that no harm will be done with you.'

'Very well, then, I am ready,' the girl said, preparing to put on the
tattered bonnet she had taken off when she came in, and had held
swinging by its strings.

'No, no,' Mr. Warbles said, in dismay at the thought of walking out with
this ragged figure by his side, 'we can't manage it as quickly as all
that. In the first place, there are decent clothes to be bought for you.
You cannot go anywhere as you are now. I will give Mrs. Phillips money
for that.'

'Give it me,' the girl said, holding out her hand; 'she can't be trusted
with it; she would be drunk in half an hour after you had gone, and
would not get sober till it was all spent. You give it me, and let me
buy the things; I will hand it over to her to pay for them.'

'That would be best,' Mrs. Phillips said, with a hard laugh; 'she is
right, Warbles. I ain't to be trusted with money, and it is no use
pretending I am. Sally knows what she is about. When she has got money
she always hides it, and just brings it out as it is wanted; we have had
many a fight about it, but she is just as obstinate as a mule, and next
morning I am always ready to allow as she was right.'

'How much will you want, Kitty?'

'Well, I should say that to get three decent frocks and a fair stock of
underclothes and boots would run nigh up to ten pounds. If it ain't so
much she can give you back what there is of it. When will you come and
fetch her?'

'We had better say three days. You can get all the things in a day, no
doubt; but I shall have to make arrangements. I think I know just the
woman that would do. She was a governess once in good families, I am
told; but she went wrong, somehow, and went down pretty near to the
bottom of the hill; she lives a few doors from me, and gets a few
children to teach when she can. I expect I can arrange with her to take
Sally, and teach her. If she won't do it, someone else will; but being
close it would be handy to me. I could drop in sometimes of an evening
and see how she was getting on.'

'Are you my father?' the girl asked suddenly.

'No, I am not,' he answered readily.

The girl was looking at him keenly, and was satisfied that he spoke the
truth.

'I am glad of that,' she said. 'I always thought that if I had a father
I should like to love him. If you had been my father I expect as you
would have wanted me to love you, and I am sure I should never be able
to do it.'

'You are an outspoken girl, Sally,' Mr. Warbles said, with an unpleasant
attempt at a laugh. 'Why shouldn't you be able to love me?'

'Because I should never be able to trust you,' the girl said. 'I am
ready to work for you and to be honest with you as long as you are
honest with me. I s'pose you wouldn't be paying all this money and be
going to take such pains with me if you didn't think as you would get it
back again. I don't know much, but I know as much as that; so mind, I
don't promise to love you, that ain't in the agreement.'

'Perhaps you will think differently some day, Sally; and, after all, two
people can get on well enough together without much love. Well, have her
ready in three days, Kitty; but there is no use in my coming here for
her. Of course, the girl must have a box, and you will want a cab. Drive
across Westminster Bridge and stop just across it on the right-hand
side. Be there as near as you can at eight o'clock in the evening; that
will suit me, and it ought to suit you. It is just as well you should
get her out of the court after dark, so that she won't be recognised in
her new things, and you will get off without being questioned. I shall
be there waiting for you, but if anything should detain me, which is not
likely, wait till I come.'

When he had gone the girl flung her bonnet into a corner, then knelt
down and made up the fire; then she produced two mutton chops from her
pocket and placed them in the frying-pan over it.

'Good ones,' she said. 'I got them at a swell shop near Buckingham
Palace; they were outside, just handy. Well, I s'pose them's the last I
shall nick; that is a good job.' She then took a jug out of the
cupboard. 'I have got sixpence left out of that half-crown I changed
yesterday. We have got bread enough, so I will bring in a quart.'

The woman nodded. She had of late, as she had told Warbles, quite
determined she would not keep the girl much longer with her, but the
suddenness with which the change had come about had been so unexpected
that as yet she hardly realised it. Sally was a limb, no doubt. She had
got quite beyond her control, and although the petty thievings had been
at first encouraged by her, the aptness of her pupil, the coolness and
audacity with which she carried them out, and the perfect unconcern with
which she started on the dangerous operation of changing the counterfeit
money, had troubled and almost frightened her. As the girl had said, she
had never been kind to her, had often brutally beaten her, and usually
spoke of her as if she were the plague of her life, but the thought that
she would now be without her altogether touched her keenly, and when the
girl returned she found her in tears.

'Hello! what's up?' she asked in surprise. 'You ain't been a drinking as
early as this, have you?' for tears were to Sally's mind associated with
a particular phase of drunkenness.

The woman shook her head.

'Yer don't mean to say as you are crying because I am going?' Sally went
on in a changed voice. 'I should have thought there was nothing in the
world you would be so pleased at as getting rid of me.'

'I have said so in a passion, may be, Sally. You are a limb, there ain't
no doubt of that; but it ain't your fault, and I might have done for you
more than I have, if it had not been for drink. I don't know what I
shall do without you.'

'It will make a difference in the way of food, though,' the girl said;
'I am a onener to eat: still I don't think you can get rid of the dumps
as well as I can. You got two months last time you tried it.'

'It ain't that, Sally, though I dare say you think it is, but I shall
feel lonesome, awful lonesome, without you to sit of an evening to talk
to. You have been like a child to me, though I ain't been much of a
mother to you, and you mayn't believe it, Sally, but it is gospel truth,
as I have been fond of you.'

'Have you now?' the girl said, leaning forward eagerly in her chair. 'I
allus thought you hated me. Why didn't you say so? I wouldn't have
'greed to go with that man if I had thought as you wanted me. I don't
care for the dresses and that sort of thing, though I should like to get
taught something, but I would give that up, and if you like I will go by
myself and meet him where he said, and give him back that ten pound, and
say I have changed my mind and I am going to stop with you.'

'No, it is better that you should go, Sally; this ain't no place for a
girl, and I ain't no woman to look after one. I have been a-thinking
some months it was time you went; it didn't matter so much as long as
you was a kid, but you are growing up now, and it ain't to be expected
as you would keep straight in such a place as this; besides, any day you
might get nabbed, and three months in quod would finish you altogether.
So you see, Sally, I am glad and I am sorry. Warbles ain't the man I
would put you in charge of if I had my way. He has told you hisself what
he means to do with you, and I would a lot rather you had been going out
into service; only of course no one would take you as you are, it ain't
likely. Still if you keep your eyes open, and you are a sharp girl, you
may make money by it; but mind me, Sally, money is no good by itself,
nor fine clothes, nor nothing.

'It was fine clothes and drink as brought me to what I am. I was a nice
tidy-looking girl when Warbles first knew me, and if it hadn't been for
clothes and drink I might have been a respectable woman, and perhaps
missus of a snug public now. Well, perhaps your chances will be as good
as mine was. I have two bits of advice to give yer. When you have
finished that pint of beer you make up your mind never to touch another
drop of it. The second is, don't you listen to what young swells say to
yer. You look out for an honest man who wants to make you his wife, and
you marry him and make him a good wife, Sally.'

The girl nodded. 'That is what I mean to do, and when I get a
comfortable home you shall come and live with us.'

'It wouldn't do, Sally; by that time I reckon I shall be lying in a
graveyard, but if I wasn't it would not do nohow. No man will put up
with a drunken woman in his house, and a drunken woman I shall be to the
end of my life--but there, them chops are ready, Sally, and it would be
a sin to let them spoil now you have got them.'

When the meal was over, and Sally had finished her glass of beer, she
turned it over.

'That is the last of them,' she said; 'I don't care for it one way or
the other. Now tell me about that cove, who is he?'

'He is what he says--a betting man, and was when I first knew him; I
don't know what his real name is, but I don't expect it's Warbles. He
was a swell among them when I first knew him, and spent his money free,
and used to look like a gentleman. I was in a house at Newmarket at the
time, and whenever the races was on I often used to see him. Well, I
left there, and did not come across him for two years; when I did, I had
just come out of gaol; I had had two months for taking money from the
till. I met him in the street, and he says to me, "Hello, Kitty! I was
sorry to hear that you had been in trouble; what are you doing?"'

'What should I be doing?' says I; 'there ain't much chance of my getting
another situation after what has happened. I ain't a-doing nothing yet,
for I met a friend on the day I came out who gave me a couple of quid,
but it is pretty nigh gone.' 'Well, look here,' says he, 'I have got a
kid upon my hands: it don't matter whose kid it is, it ain't mine; but I
have got to keep it. It has been with a woman for the last three years,
and she has died. I don't care how it is brought up so as it is brought
up; it is nothing to me how she turns out so that she lives. I tell you
what I will do. I will give you ten pounds to furnish a room and get
into it, and I will pay you five shillings a week as long as it lives;
and if you ever get hard up and want a couple of pounds you can have
'em, so as you don't come too often.'

'Well, I jumped at the offer, and took you, and I will say Warbles has
been as good as his word. It wasn't long before I was turned out of my
lodging for being too drunk and noisy for the house, and it wasn't more
than a couple of years before I got pretty nigh as low as this. I had
got to know a good many queer ones when I was in the public line, and I
chanced to drop across one of them, and when I met him one day he told
me he could put me into an easy way of earning money if I liked, but it
was risky. I said I did not care for that, and since then I have always
been on that lay. For a bit I did very well; I used to dress up as a
tidy servant, and go shopping, and many a week I would get rid of three
or four pounds' worth of the stuff; but in course, as I grew older and
lost my figure and the drink told on me, it got more difficult. People
looked at the money more sharply, and I got three months for it twice. I
was allus careful, and never took more than one piece out with me at a
time, so that I got off several times till they began to know me. You
remember the last time I was in--I told you about it, and since then you
have been doing it.'

'But what will you do when I am gone?'

'Well, you know, Sally, I gets a bit from men who comes round of an
evening and gives me things to hide away under that board. They knows as
they can trust me, and I have had five thousand pounds worth of diamonds
and things hidden away there for weeks. No one would ever think of
searching there for it. I ain't known to be mixed up with thieves, and
this court ain't the sort of place that coppers would ever dream of
searching for jewels. Sometimes nothing comes for weeks, sometimes there
is a big haul; but they pay me something a week regular, and I gets a
present after a good thing has been brought off, so you needn't worrit
about me. I shan't be as well off as I have been, but there will be
plenty to keep me going, and if I have to drink a bit less it won't do
me any harm.'

'I wonder you ain't afraid to drink,' Sally said, 'lest you should let
out something.'

'I am lucky that way, Sally. Drink acts some ways with some people, and
some ways with others. It makes some people blab out just the things
they don't want known; it makes some people quarrelsome; it shuts up
some people's mouths altogether. That is the way with me. I take what I
take quiet, and though the coppers round here see me drunk pretty often
they can't never say as I am drunk and disorderly, so they just lets me
find my way home as I can.'

'And this man has never said no more about me than he did that first
time?' Sally asked. 'Why should he go on paying for me all this time?'

'He ain't never said a word. I've wondered over it scores of times.
These betting chaps are free with their money when they win, but that
ain't like going on paying year after year. I thought sometimes you
might be the daughter of some old pal of his, and that he had promised
him to take care of you. I thought that afterwards he had been sorry he
had done so, but would not go back from his word and so went on paying,
though he did not care a morsel whether you turned out well or bad. Now
I am going out, Sally.'

'You don't want to go out no more to-day,' Sally said decidedly. 'You
just stop in quietly these last three days with me.'

'I would like to,' the woman said, 'but I don't think it is in me. You
do not know what it is, Sally. When drink is once your master there
ain't no shaking it off. There is something in you as says you must go,
and you can't help it; nothing but tying you down would do it.'

'Well, look here, give me ninepence. I will go out and get you another
quart of beer and a quartern of gin to finish up with. I have never been
out for spirits for you before, though you have beat me many a time
'cause I wouldn't, but for these three days I will go. That won't be
enough to make you bad, and we can sit here and talk together, and when
we have finished it we can turn in comfortable.'

The woman took the money from a corner of a stocking, and gave it to
Sally, and that night went to bed sober for the first time for months.
The next morning shopping began, and Sally, although not easily moved,
was awe-struck at the number and variety of the garments purchased for
her. The dresses were to be made up by the next evening, when she was to
fetch them from the shop herself, as Mrs. Phillips shrunk from giving
her address at Piper Court.

During the interval Sally suffered much from a regular course of washing
and combing her hair. When on the third morning she was arrayed in her
new clothes, with hair neatly done up, she felt so utterly unlike
herself that a sort of shyness seized her. She could only judge as to
her general appearance, but not as to that of her face and head, for the
lodging was unprovided with even a scrap of looking-glass. She had no
doubt that the change was satisfactory, as Mrs. Phillips exclaimed,
'Fine feathers make fine birds, Sally, but I should not have believed
that they could have made such a difference; you look quite a
nice-looking gal, and I should not be surprised if you turn out
downright pretty, though I have always thought you as plain a gal as
ever I seed!'



CHAPTER II


Epsom racecourse on the Oaks Day. The great event of the day has not yet
been run, but the course has been cleared and two or three of the
fillies have just come out from the paddock and are making their way at
a walk along the broad green track, while their jockeys are chatting
together. Luncheons have been hastily finished, and the occupants of the
carriages and drags are standing up and beginning for the first time to
manifest an interest in the proceedings they have nominally come down to
witness. The general mass of spectators cluster thickly by the ropes,
while a few take advantage of the clearance of the ground beyond to
stroll leisurely along the line of carriages. The shouts of the men with
cocoanuts, pincushions, and dolls on sticks, and of those with Aunt
Sallys, rifle galleries, and other attractions, are hushed now; their
time will not come again until the race is over.

Two men, one perhaps thirty, the other some three or four years younger,
are among those who pay more attention to the carriages and their
occupants than to the approaching race. The younger has a face deeply
bronzed by a sun far hotter than that of England.

'How fast they change, Danvers. Six years ago I knew almost every face
in the carriages, now I scarcely know one. Who is that very pretty girl
standing up on the seat of that barouche?'

'Don't you know? Look at the man she is talking to on the box. That is
her father.'

'By Jove! it is Mr. Hawtrey. You don't mean to say that is little
Dorothy?'

'Not particularly little, but it is certainly Dorothy Hawtrey.'

'I must go and speak to them, Danvers. You know them too, don't you?'

'Well, considering I meet them out pretty well every night somewhere I
ought to do,' the other said, as with slower steps he followed his
companion to the carriage.

'How are you, Mr. Hawtrey?' the latter exclaimed, looking up at the man
on the box.

The gentleman looked down a little puzzled at the warmth with which the
words were spoken by one whose face he did not recall.

'Don't you remember me, sir? I am Edward Hampton.'

'Why, Ned, is it you? You are changed out of all knowledge. You have
come back almost as dark as a Malay. When did you arrive?'

'I only reached town yesterday evening; looked up Danvers, and was lucky
enough to find him at home. He said he was coming down here to-day, and
as it was of no use calling on people in town on the Oaks day I came
with him.'

'Are you not going to speak to me, Captain Hampton?'

'I am, indeed, Miss Hawtrey, though I confess I did not know you until
Danvers told me who you were; and I do not feel quite sure now, for the
Miss Hawtrey I used to know never called me anything but Ned.'

'The Miss Hawtrey of those days was a little tomboy in short frocks,'
the girl laughed, 'but I do not say that if I find that you are not so
changed in reality as you are in appearance, I may not, perhaps, some
day forget that you are Captain Hampton, V.C.' She had stepped down from
her lofty seat, and was now shaking hands with him heartily. 'It does
not seem six years since we said good-bye,' she went on. 'Of course you
are all that older, but you don't seem so old to me. I used to think you
so big and so tall when I was nine, and you were double that age, and
during the next three years, when you had joined your regiment and only
came down occasionally to us, you had become quite an imposing
personage. That was my last impression of you. Now, you see, you don't
look so old, or so big, or so imposing, as I have been picturing you to
myself.'

'I dare say not,' he laughed. 'You see you have grown so much bigger and
more imposing yourself.'

Suddenly Dorothy Hawtrey leapt to her seat again and touched her father
on the arm.

'Father,' she said in a whisper, 'that man who has just turned from the
crowd and is coming towards us is the one I was speaking to you about a
few minutes ago, who had been staring at you with such an evil look.'

The man, who had the appearance of a shabby bookmaker, and who carried a
satchel slung round his neck, and had the name of 'Marvel' on a broad
ribbon round his hat, was now close to the carriage.

'Will you take the odds, Mr. Hawtrey,' he said in a loud voice, 'against
any of the horses? I can give you six to one, bar one, against the
field.'

'I do not bet,' Mr. Hawtrey said coldly, 'and by your looks it would
have been better for you if you had never done so either.'

'I have had a bad run lately,' the man said, 'but I fancy it is going to
turn. Will you lay a few pounds for the sake of old times?'

Mr. Hawtrey shook his head decidedly.

'I have come down rather in the world,' the man went on insolently, 'but
I could pay the bet if I lost it as well as other debts. I have never
forgotten how much I owe you.'

Hampton took a step forward towards the man, when a policeman stepped
out from between their carriage and the next.

'Now, move on,' he said, 'or I will make you, sharp; you are not going
to annoy people here, and if you don't go at once I will walk you off to
the police tent.'

The man hesitated a moment, and then, muttering angrily, moved slowly
away to the spot where he had left the dense line of spectators by the
ropes.

'Who is he, father?' Dorothy Hawtrey asked; 'does he really know you?'

'Yes, my dear, he is the son of an old steward; he was a wild, reckless
young scamp, and when his father died, shortly after I came into the
property, I naturally refused to appoint him to the position. He used
some very strong language at the time, and threatened me with all sorts
of evils. I have met him once or twice since, and he never loses an
opportunity of showing that he has not forgiven me; but never mind him
now, here come the horses for their preliminary canter.'

Captain Hampton and his friend remained by the carriage until the race
was over. The former had been introduced by Dorothy to the other three
occupants of the carriage--Lady Linkstone, her daughter Mary, and Miss
Nora Cranfield.

As soon as it was over the crowd broke up, the shouts of the men with
the cocoanuts and Aunt Sallys rose loudly, and grooms began to lead up
the horses to many of the carriages.

'We are going to make a start at once, Ned,' Mr. Hawtrey said; 'I cannot
offer you a seat back to town, but if you have no engagement I hope that
you will dine with us. Will you come too, Mr. Danvers?'

Danvers was disengaged, and he and Edward Hampton accepted the
invitation at once. Ned's father had owned an estate adjoining that of
the Hawtreys' in Lincolnshire, and the families had been neighbours for
many years. Ned, who was the youngest of three sons had been almost as
much at the Hawtreys' as at his own home, as Mr. Hawtrey had a nephew
living with him who was just about the lad's age, and during the
holidays the two boys were always together. They had entered the army
just at the same time, but James Hawtrey had, a few months after he went
out to India, died of fever.

'Who was the man who came up and spoke to them five minutes before the
race started?' he asked Danvers as they strolled away together.

'There were two or three of them.'

'I mean the man who said it was too bad, Dorothy not coming down on his
drag.'

'That is Lord Halliburn; he is very attentive there, and the general
opinion is that it will be a match.'

'He didn't look as if he had much in him,' Hampton said, after a pause.

'He has a title and a very big rent roll, and has, therefore, no great
occasion for brains; but in point of fact he is really clever. He is
Under-Secretary for the Colonies, and is regarded as a rising young
peer. He is not a bad fellow at all, I believe; keeps a few racers but
does not bet, and has no vices as far as I have ever heard. That is his
drag; he drives a first-rate team.'

'Well, I hope he is a good fellow,' Captain Hampton said shortly. 'You
see I never had a sister of my own. That little one and I were quite
chums, and I used to look upon her almost in the light of a small
sister, and I should not like to think of her marrying anyone who would
not make her happy.'

'I should think she has as fair a chance with Halliburn as with most
men,' Danvers said. 'I know a man who was at Christ Church with him. He
said that he was rather a prig--but that a fellow could hardly help
being, brought up as he had been--but that, as a whole, he was one of
the most popular men of his set. Now we may as well be walking for the
station--that is, if you have had enough of it.'

'I am quite ready to go. After all, an English racecourse makes but a
dull show by the side of an Indian one. The horses are better, and, of
course, there is no comparison between the turnouts and the dresses of
the women, though they manage to make a brave show at the principal
stations; but as far as the general appearance of the crowd goes, you
are not in it here. The natives in their gay dresses and turbans give a
wonderfully light and gay appearance to the course, and though,
possibly, among quite the lower class they may not all be estimable
characters, at least they do not look such a pack of unmitigated
ruffians as the hangers-on of an English racecourse. That was a nice
specimen who attacked Hawtrey.'

'Yes, the fellow had a thoroughly bad face, and would be capable, I
should say, of any roguery. It is not the sort of face I should expect
to see in the dock on a charge of murder or robbery with violence, but I
should put him down as an astute rogue, a crafty scoundrel, who would
swindle an old woman out of her savings, rob servant girls or lads from
the country by means of specious advertisements, or who in his own line
would nobble a horse or act as the agent for wealthier rogues in getting
at jockeys and concocting any villainous plan to prevent a favourite
from winning. Of course, I know nothing of the circumstances under which
he lost his place with Hawtrey, but there is no doubt that he has
cherished a bitter hatred against him, and would spare no pains to take
his revenge. If Hawtrey owned racehorses I should be very shy of laying
a penny upon them after seeing that fellow's face.'

'Well, as he does not own racehorses the fellow has no chance of doing
him a bad turn; he might forge a cheque and put Hawtrey's name to it,
but I should say he would have some difficulty in getting any one to
cash it.'

There were at dinner that evening only the party who had been in the
barouche, Danvers, Hampton, and Sir Edward Linkstone.

'I wish there had been no one else here this evening,' Dorothy Hawtrey
said to Captain Hampton before dinner, 'there is so much to talk about.
First, I want to hear all you have been doing in India, and next, we
must have a long chat over old times; in fact, we want a cozy talk
together. Of course you will be tremendously engaged just at present,
but you must spare me a long morning as soon as you possibly can.'

'I suppose I am not going to take you into dinner?'

'No, Sir Edward Linkstone does that. We cannot ask him to take in his
daughter or Nora Cranfield, who is staying at his house, and besides, it
would not be nice. I should not like to be sitting by you, talking the
usual dinner talk, when I am so wanting to have a real chat with you.
You will take in Mary Linkstone, she is a very nice girl.'

The dinner was a pleasant one, and the party being so small the
conversation was general. It turned, however, a good deal on India, for
Sir Edward Linkstone had been Judge of the Supreme Court at Calcutta,
and had retired just about the time that Hampton had gone out there.
After the ladies had left the room, Danvers remarked to their host:

'That was an unpleasant-looking character who accosted you just before
the race started for the Oaks, Mr. Hawtrey.'

'Yes; I don't know that I have many enemies, beyond perhaps some
fellows, poachers and others, whom I have had to commit for trial, but I
do consider that fellow to be a man who would injure me if he could. His
father, John Truscott was my father's steward, or agent as it is the
fashion to call them now, on his estate in Lincolnshire. He had been
there for over thirty years, and was a thoroughly trustworthy and
honourable man, a good agent, and greatly liked by the tenants as well
as by my father. As you may know, I came into the estates when I came of
age. My father had died two years before. Well, I knew that Truscott had
had a good deal of trouble with his son, who was three or four years
older than myself.

'Truscott kept a small farm in his own hands, and he made a hobby of
breeding blood stock. Not to any great extent; I think he had only some
five or six brood mares, but they were all good ones. I think he did
very well by them; certainly some of the foals turned out uncommonly
well. Of course he did not race them himself, but sold them as
yearlings. As it turned out it was unfortunate, for it gave his son a
fancy for the turf. I suppose it began by his laying bets on the horses
they had bred, then it went on and he used to attend racecourses and get
into bad company, and I know that his father had more than once to pay
what were to him heavy sums to enable him to clear up on settlement day.
I don't know, though, that it would have made much difference, the
fellow might have gone to the bad anyhow. He had always a shifty, sly
sort of look. About four years after I came into the estates I was down
in Lincolnshire at our place, when Truscott was taken ill, and I
naturally went to see him.

'"I don't think I shall be long here, Mr. Hawtrey," he said, "and you
will have to look out for another steward. I used to hope that when my
time came for giving up work my son would step into my shoes. He has
plenty of brains, and as far as shrewdness goes he would make a better
steward than I have ever done. For the last year, since I began to fail,
he has been more at home and has done a good deal of my work, and I
expect he reckons on getting my place, but, Mr. Hawtrey, you must not
give it to him. It is a hard thing for a father to say, but you could
not trust him."

'I felt that myself, but I did not like to admit it to the old man, and
I said:

'"I know he has been a bit wild, Truscott, but he may have seen that he
was behaving like a fool, and as you say he has been helping you more
for the last year, he may have made up his mind to break altogether from
the life he has been leading."

'"It is not in him, sir," he said. "I could forgive his being a bit
wild, but he is not honest. Don't ask me what he has done, but take my
word for it. A man who will rob his own father will rob his employer. I
have done my best for your father and you; no man can say that John
Truscott has robbed him, and I should turn in my grave if our name were
dishonoured down here. You must not think of it, sir; you would never
keep him if you tried him; it would be a pain to me to think that one of
my blood should wrong you, as I know, surely, Robert would do, and I
implore you to make a complete change, and get some man who will do the
estate justice."

'Of course I assented; indeed, I had heard so much of the fellow's
doings that I had quite made up my mind that when his father retired I
would look for a steward elsewhere. At the same time I know that if the
old man had asked me to try him for a time, I should have done so. A
week later John Truscott died, and the day after his funeral, which I,
of course, attended, his son came up to the house. Well, it was a very
unpleasant business; he seemed to assume that, as a matter of course, he
would succeed his father, and pointed out that for the last year he had,
in fact, carried on the estate for him. I said that I did not doubt his
ability, but that I had no idea of making a man who was a frequenter of
racecourses, and who, I knew, bet so heavily that his father had had to
aid him several times, manager of the estate.

'He answered that he had had his fling, and would now settle down
steadily. Of course, after what his father had said I was obliged to be
firm. When he saw that there was no chance of altering my decision he
came out in his true colours; broke out in the most violent language,
and had I not been a good deal more powerful man than he was I believe
he would have struck me. At last I had to ring the bell and order the
footman to turn him out. He cooled down suddenly, and deliberately
cursed me, swearing that he would some day be revenged upon me for my
ingratitude to his father, and the insult I had passed upon him in thus
refusing to appoint him after the thirty years' services the old man had
rendered me. I have no doubt he thoroughly meant what he said, but
naturally, I never troubled myself about the matter.

'The threats of a disappointed man seldom come to anything, and as there
was no conceivable way in which he could injure me his menaces really
meant nothing. I have come across him four or five times since. I dare
say that I should have met him oftener were I a regular attendant on
racecourses, but it is years since I have been to one, and only did it
to-day because Dorothy had set her heart on seeing the Oaks for the
first time. However, whenever I have met him he has never failed to
thrust himself upon me, and to show that his animosity is as bitter as
it was on the day that I refused to appoint him steward. He left my
neighbourhood at once, turned the stock into money, and as I know that
he came into three or four thousand pounds at his father's death he had
every chance of doing well. I believe that he did do well on the turf
for a time, but the usual end came to that. When I met him last, some
seven or eight years ago, I happened to be with a member of the Jockey
Club who knew something of the fellow. He told me that he had been for a
time a professional betting man, but had become involved in some
extremely shady transactions, and had been warned off the turf, and was
now only to be seen at open meetings, and had more than once had a
narrow escape of being lynched by the crowd for welshing. From his
appearance to-day it is evident that he is still a hanger-on of
racecourses. I saw he had the name of Marvel on his hat. I should say
that probably he appears with a fresh name each time. I think the chance
of meeting him has had something to do with my giving up going to races
altogether. It is not pleasant being insulted by a disreputable-looking
scoundrel, in the midst of a crowd of people.'

'He has never done you any harm, Mr. Hawtrey?' Captain Hamilton asked,
'because certainly it seemed to me there was a ring of triumphant malice
in his voice.'

'Certainly not, to my knowledge,' Mr. Hawtrey replied. 'Once or twice
there have been stacks burnt down on the estate, probably the work of
some malicious fellow, but I have had no reason for suspecting Truscott,
and indeed, as the damage fell on the tenant and not on me, it would
have been at best a very small gratification of spite, and I can hardly
fancy he would have gone to the trouble and expense of travelling down
to Lincolnshire for so small a gratification of his ill-will to me.
Besides, had he had a hand in it, it would have been the stables and the
house itself that would have been endangered.'

'The same idea struck me that occurred to Hampton,' Danvers said, 'but I
suppose it was fancy. It sounded to me as if he had already paid, to
some extent, the debt he spoke of, or as if he had no doubt whatever
that he should do so in the future.'

The subject dropped, but when, after leaving, Hampton went into the Club
to which Danvers belonged, to smoke a cigar, he returned to it.

'I can't help thinking about that fellow Truscott. It is evident, from
what Hawtrey says, that he has never done him any serious harm, and I
don't see how the rascal can possibly do so; but I am positive that the
man himself believes that he either has done or shall be able to do so.'

'That was the impression I had too, but there is never any telling with
fellows of that class. The rogue, when he is found out, either cringes
or threatens. He generally cringes so long as there is a chance of its
doing him any good, then, when he sees that the game is altogether up,
he threatens; it is only in one case in ten thousand that the threats
ever come to anything, and as twenty years have gone by without any
result in this case we may safely assume that it is not one of the
exceptions.

'Do you remember Mrs. Hawtrey?'

'Yes, I remember her well. The first year or two after their marriage,
Hawtrey had a place near town. I think she had a fancy that Lincolnshire
was too cold for her. They came down when I was about eight years old.
Dorothy was about a year old, I fancy. Mrs. Hawtrey and my mother became
great friends. We could go from one house to the other without going
outside the grounds, and as I was the youngest of a large family I used
to walk across with her, and if Dorothy was in the garden she would come
toddling to me and insist upon my carrying her upon my shoulder, or
digging in her garden, or playing with her in some way or other. I don't
know that I was fonder of children in general than most boys were, but I
certainly took to her, and, as I said, we became great chums. She came
to us two or three months after her mother died; her father went away on
the Continent, and the poor little girl was heart-broken, as well she
might be, having no brothers or sisters. She was a very desolate little
maiden, so of course I did what I could to comfort her, and when my
father and mother died, within three days of each other, three years
later, I think that child's sympathy did me more good than anything.
That is the only time I have seen her since I entered the army, and then
I was only at home a few days, for the regiment was at Edinburgh, and it
was a busy season. I suppose I could have got longer leave had I tried,
but there was no object in staying at home. I had never got on
particularly well with John, who was now master of the house; he was
married, and had children, and after they arrived I thought the sooner I
was off the better.'

'What became of Tom? We were in the sixth together, you know; when you
were my fag. You told me, didn't you, that he had gone out to China or
something of that sort?'

'Yes; there had been an idea that he would go into the Church, but he
did not take to it; he tried one or two things here and would not stick
to them, and my father got him into a tea firm, and he went out for them
two years afterwards to Hong Kong; but that did not suit him either, so
he threw it up and went to Australia, and knocked about there until he
came into ten thousand at my father's death. He went in for
sheep-farming then, and I have only heard once of him since, but he said
that he was doing very well. I shall perhaps hear more about him when I
see John. I must go down to Lincolnshire to-morrow, and I suppose I
shall have to stay a week or so there; it is the proper thing to do, of
course, but I wish that it was over. I have never been in the old place
since that bad time. I don't at all care for my brother's wife. I have
no doubt that she is a very good woman, but there is nothing sympathetic
about her; she is one of those women with a metallic sort of voice that
seems to jar upon one as if she were out of tune.'

'And afterwards--have you any plans?'

'None at all. I shall look out for a couple of rooms, somewhere about
Jermyn Street, and stay in town to the end of the season. Then I shall
hire a yacht for a couple of months, and knock about the coast or go
across to Norway. I wish you would go with me; I did Switzerland and
Italy the last year before I went away, and I don't care about going
there when every place is filled with a crowd. I have only got a year,
and I should like to have as pleasant remembrances to take back with me
as possible. Do you think you will be able to come with me? Of course I
shall not be able to afford a floating palace. I should say about a
thirty-tonner that would carry four comfortably would be the sort of
thing. I will try to get two fellows to go to make up the party; some of
my old chums if I can come across them. Of course I can get any number
of men home on leave like myself, but I don't want anyone from India,
for in that case we should talk nothing but shop. You saw how we drifted
into it at dinner. I should like not to hear India mentioned until I am
on board a ship on my way out again.'

'When would you think of going?'

'Oh, I should say after Ascot--say the second week in July.'

'I can hardly go with you as soon as that; I cannot get away as long as
the courts are sitting, or until they have, at any rate, nearly finished
work; but I might join you by the end of the month, unless I have the
luck to get retained in some important case that would make my fortune,
and I need scarcely say that is not likely.

'But you are doing well, ain't you, Danvers? I see your name in the
papers occasionally.'

'I am doing quite as well as I have any right to expect; better, a good
deal, than many men of my own standing, for I have only been called
seven years, and ten is about the minimum most solicitors consider
necessary before they can feel the slightest confidence in a man. Still,
it does not do very much more than pay for one's chambers and clerk.'

A week later Ned Hampton was established in lodgings in Jermyn Street.
He had been down for three days into Lincolnshire, but had not cared
much for the visit. He had never got on very well with his elder
brother, and they had no tastes or opinions in common. Mrs. Hampton was
a woman with but little to say on any subject, while her husband was at
this time of year absorbed in his duties as a magistrate and landlord,
although in the winter these occupied a secondary position to hunting
and shooting. The only son was away at school, the two girls were all
day with their governess; and, after three as dull days as he had ever
spent in his life, Ned pleaded business that required his presence in
London, and came back suddenly. He had been a good deal in society
during his visits to London in the three years that intervened between
his obtaining his commission and sailing for India. He had, therefore,
many calls to make upon old acquaintances, and as at his military club
he met numbers of men he knew, he soon had his hands full of
engagements. He still managed, however, to spend a good deal of time at
the Hawtreys', where he was always welcome. One morning, when he dropped
in, Dorothy, after the first greeting, said, 'I have a piece of news to
tell you. I should not like you to hear it from anyone else but me.'
There was a heightened colour in her cheek, and he at once guessed the
truth.

'You have accepted Lord Halliburn? I guessed it would be so. I suppose I
ought to congratulate you, Dorothy. At any rate, I hope you will be very
happy with him.'

'Why should you not congratulate me?'

'Only because I do not know Lord Halliburn sufficiently well to be able
to do so. Of course, I understand that he is a good match; but that, in
my mind, is quite a secondary consideration. The real question is, is he
the sort of man who will make you happy?'

'I should not have accepted him unless I thought so,' she said gravely.
'Mind,' she added with a laugh, 'I don't mean to say that I am
insensible to the advantages of being a peeress, but in itself that
would not have decided me. He is pleasant, and has the advantage of
being very fond of me, and everyone speaks well of him.'

'All very good reasons, Dorothy, if added to the best of all--that you
love him.'

The girl nodded.

'Of course, Ned. I don't think that I have the sort of love one imagines
as a young girl; not a wild, unreasoning sort of love; but you don't
find that much in our days except in books. I like him very much, and,
as I said before, he likes me. That does make such a wonderful
difference, you see. When a man begins to show that he likes you, of
course one thinks of him a good deal and in quite a different way from
what you would otherwise do, and so one comes in time to like him in the
same way he likes you. That seems to me the way with most girls I have
known married. You don't see any harm in that?'

'Oh no; I suppose it is the regular way in society; and, indeed, I don't
see how people could get to care more than that for each other when they
only meet at balls and flower shows and so on. Well, I think I may
congratulate you. There is no doubt whatever about its being a good
match, and I don't see why you should not be very happy, and no doubt
your liking, as you call it, will grow into something more like the love
you used to dream about by-and-by.'

The girl pouted.

'You are not half as glad as I expected you to be--and please don't
think that I am marrying without love. I only admit that it is not the
sort of love one reads of in novels, but I expect it is just as real.'

'If it is good enough to wear well that is all that is necessary,'
Captain Hampton said, more lightly than he had before spoken. 'You know,
Dorothy, you have my very best wishes. You were my little sister for
years, you know, and there is no one whose happiness would give me so
much pleasure.'



CHAPTER III


Mr. Hawtrey and his daughter were sitting at breakfast a fortnight
later, the only other person present being a cousin, Mrs. Daintree, who
had come up to stay with them for the season to act as chaperon to
Dorothy. She had been unwell and unable to form one of the party at
Epsom. The servant brought in the letters just as they sat down,
carrying them as usual to his master, as Dorothy was busy with the tea
things. As Mr. Hawtrey looked through them his eye fell upon a letter.
On the back was written in a bold handwriting, 'Unless the money is sent
I shall use letters.--E. T.'

He turned it over, it was directed to his daughter. He was about to
speak, but as his eye fell on Mrs. Daintree he checked himself, placed
the missive among his own letters, and passed those for his daughter and
cousin across to them. He was very silent during breakfast. Dorothy
detected by his voice that something was wrong with him, and asked
anxiously if he was not feeling well. When the meal was over he said to
her:

'Before you go out, Dorothy, look in upon me in the library.'

Ten minutes later she came into the room.

'Dorothy,' he said, 'are you in any trouble?'

'Trouble, father?' she repeated, in surprise. 'No; what sort of trouble
do you mean?'

'Well, dear,' he said kindly, 'girls do sometimes get into scrapes. I
did not think you were the sort of girl to do so, but these things are
more often the result of thoughtlessness than of anything more serious,
and the trouble is that instead of going frankly to their friends and
making a clean breast of it, girls will try and set matters right
themselves, and so, in order to avoid a little unpleasantness, may ruin
their whole lives.'

Dorothy's eyes opened more and more widely as her father went on.

'Yes, father, I have heard of such things, but I don't know why you are
saying so to me. I have never got into any scrape that I know of.'

'What does this mean then?' he said, handing her the envelope.

She read it with an air of bewilderment, looked at the address, and
re-read the words.

'I have not the faintest idea, father.'

'Open the envelope,' he said sternly. She broke the seal, but there was
no enclosure whatever. 'You do not know who this E. T. is? You have not
written any letters that you would not care to have read aloud? You have
had no demand for money for their delivery? Wait a moment before you
speak, child; I don't mean for a moment that there could be anything
wrong in any letter that you have written. It can only be that in some
country house where you have been staying, you have got into some
foolish flirtation with some one, and have been silly enough to
correspond with him. I will not suppose that a man to whom you would
write would be blackguard enough to trade upon your weakness, but the
letters may have fallen into some one else's hands; his valet, perhaps,
who, seeing your engagement to Lord Halliburn, now seeks to extort money
from you by threatening to send your letters to him. If so, my dear
child, speak frankly to me. I will get the letters back, at whatever
cost, and will hand them to you to burn, without looking at them, and
will never mention the subject again.'

'There is nothing of the sort, father. How could you think that I could
do anything so foolish and wrong? Surely you must know me better than
that.'

'I thought I did, Dorothy; but girls do foolish things, especially when
they are quite young and perhaps not out of the schoolroom, and know
nothing whatever of the world. They fancy themselves in love, and are
foolish enough sometimes to allow themselves to be entrapped into
correspondence with men of whose real character they know nothing; it is
a folly, but not one to deal hardly with.'

'At any rate, father, I have not done so. If I had I would say so at
once. I have not the remotest idea what that letter means, or who wrote
it. If it were not that it had my name and address on the other side, I
should not have had an idea that it was meant for me. Except trifling
notes of invitation and that sort of thing I do not think that I had
ever written to any man until I was engaged to Algernon.'

'Well, that is a relief,' Mr. Hawtrey said, more cheerfully than he had
before spoken. 'It was a pain to me to think even for a moment that you
could have been so foolish. It never entered my head to think that you
could have done anything absolutely wrong. However, we must now look at
this rascally letter from another point of view. Here is a man writing
to demand a sum of money for letters. Now, it is one of two things.
Either he has forged letters in his possession, for which he hopes to
extort money, or he has no letters of any kind, and his only intention
in writing in this manner on an envelope is in some way to cause you
pain and annoyance. We may assume that the initials are fictitious;
whoever wrote the letter would certainly avoid giving any clue to his
identity. Sit down, Dorothy. We must talk the matter over quietly and
see what had best be done.'

'But this is dreadful, father!' Dorothy said, as she seated herself in
an arm-chair.

'Not dreadful, dear, though I admit that it is unpleasant, very
unpleasant; and we must, if possible, trace it to the bottom, for now
that this annoyance has begun there is no saying how much farther it may
be pushed. Is there anyone you can think of who would be likely to have
a spite against you? I do not say any of the four or five gentlemen
whose proposals you have declined in the course of the past year; all
were gentlemen and beyond suspicion. Any woman servant you may have
dismissed; any man whose request for money for one purpose or another
you may have refused; anyone, in short, to whom you may have given
offence?'

'Not that I know of, father. You know my last maid left to get married,
and I had nothing to do with hiring or discharging the other servants;
they are all under the housekeeper. I really do not know of anyone who
has cause for ill-feeling against me.'

'I shall write at once to the Postmaster General and request him to give
orders that no more letters of the kind shall be openly delivered.
Peters can hardly have helped reading it; it has evidently been written
in a large, bold handwriting, so that it can be read at a glance. Of
course, I shall speak to him, but he will probably have chatted about it
downstairs already. I shall go down to Scotland Yard and inform them of
the annoyance, and ask their advice there, though I don't see that they
can do anything until we can furnish them with some sort of clue. We may
find one later on; this envelope certainly gives us nothing to go on,
but we may be sure others will follow.'

'It is dreadful, father,' Dorothy repeated, as she rose, 'to think that
such malicious letters as this can be sent, and that they may be talked
about among the servants.'

'Well, I do not think there will be any more coming here, dear. I should
imagine the Post Office authorities will have no objection to retain
them. If there should be any difficulty about it, I will have a lock put
on the letter-box and keep the key myself, so that, at least, the
servants here will know nothing about it. Are you going out with your
cousin this morning?'

'I was going, but I shall make some excuse now; I could not be
chattering about all sorts of things with her.'

'That is just what you must do, Dorothy. It has taken the colour out of
your cheeks, child, though I suppose cold water and a rub with a hard
towel will bring it back again, but, at any rate, do not go about as if
you had something on your mind. You may be sure that the servants will
be looking at you curiously, whatever I may say to Peters; if they see
you are in no way disturbed or annoyed, the matter will soon pass out of
their minds, but, on the other hand, if they notice any change, they
will be saying to themselves there must be something in it.'

As soon as his daughter had left the room Mr. Hawtrey touched the bell.

'I am going out, Peters; if anyone calls to see me you can say that I
shall not be in till lunch-time. I may be detained at Scotland Yard. I
am going there to set the police on the track of the fellow who sent
that letter to Miss Hawtrey this morning. I suppose you noticed it?'

'Yes, sir,' the man replied, in a hesitating tone; 'as I took the
letters out of the box and laid them on the hall table, the envelope was
back upwards, and I could not help seeing what was on it.'

'I can quite understand that, Peters, and am not blaming you. The words
were evidently written with the intention that they should be read by
everyone through whose hands it passed. It is evidently the work of some
malicious scoundrel, though we have not, of course, the slightest clue
as to whom it may be, but I have no doubt the police will be able to get
on his track. If you have mentioned it to any of the other servants,
tell them that on no account is the matter to be spoken of outside the
house. Our only chance of catching the scoundrel is that he should be
kept entirely in the dark. Probably the fellow is in communication with
some one either in the house or acquainted with one of the servants. If
he hears nothing about it, he may suppose the letter has not attracted
notice, as he intended it should do, and we shall have some more of
them, and this will increase our chance of finding him.'

'I have not mentioned anything about it, sir.'

'All the better, Peters. Should another come do not bring it in with the
other letters, but hand it in to me privately. Miss Hawtrey is naturally
greatly pained and annoyed, and I should not wish her to know if any
more letters come.'

'It is hardly a matter that we can take up,' an inspector at Scotland
Yard said when Mr. Hawtrey showed him the envelope and explained the
matter. 'I suppose at bottom it is an attempt to extort money, though
one does not see how the writer intends to go about it. If there should
be any offer to drop the annoyance on the receipt of a sum of money sent
to a post-office or shop, to be called for, we would take it up, watch
the place, and arrest whoever comes for the letter. At present there is
nothing to go upon, and I don't see that we can do anything in the
matter. If you think it worth while you might put it into private hands,
but it would cost you a good deal of money, and I don't see that anyone
could help you much.'

'I do not care what it costs,' Mr. Hawtrey said hotly. 'Can you
recommend any of these private detectives?'

The inspector shook his head.

'There are some trustworthy men among them, sir, and some thorough
rogues, but we make a point of never recommending anyone. No doubt your
own solicitor would be able to tell you of some good man to go to.'

Mr. Hawtrey hailed a cab when he went out and told the man to drive to
Essex Street. Just as he turned down from the Strand he saw Danvers turn
out from the approach to the Middle Temple. He stopped the cab and
jumped out.

'I was just going to my lawyer,' he said, 'but I dare say, Danvers, you
can save me the loss of time. It generally means at least half an hour's
waiting before he is disengaged. Can you tell me of a shrewd fellow who
can be trusted to undertake a difficult piece of business?'

'That is rather vague, Mr. Hawtrey,' Danvers laughed. 'I might reply
that such a man stands before you.'

'No, I mean a sort of detective business.'

'There are plenty of shrewd fellows who call themselves private
detectives, Mr. Hawtrey. A good many of them are too shrewd altogether.
Of course, I have been in contact with several of them, and the majority
are rogues of the first water. Still, there are honest men among them.
If I knew a little more what sort of work you wanted done I should be
better able to tell what kind of man you require for it.'

'It is a deucedly unpleasant business, Danvers, but I will gladly tell
you what it is, for I want the advice of some one like yourself,
accustomed to deal with difficult cases. Can you spare ten minutes?'

'With pleasure. I have no case on to-day. Will you come to my chambers?
It is not half a minute's walk, and they are on the ground floor.'

'What do you think of it, Danvers?' Mr. Hawtrey asked, after he had
shown the envelope and related briefly his interview with his daughter.

'I don't know what to think of it,' Danvers said after a pause. 'Knowing
Miss Hawtrey as I have the pleasure of doing, I, of course, entertain no
doubt whatever of the truth of her denial, and believe she is as
completely in the dark as yourself as to what this thing means. I must
own that it is not often that I should take a young lady's word so
implicitly in such a matter. I have seen and still more heard from
solicitors of so many astounding cases of the troubles girls have got
into, sometimes from thoughtlessness only, sometimes, I am bound to
confess, from what seems to me to be an entire absence of moral
perception, that scarcely anything in that way would surprise me.

'That Miss Hawtrey would do anything absolutely wrong is to me out of
the question; though she might, from thoughtlessness, when a girl, as
you put it to her, have got into some silly entanglement, for such
things happen continually; but after the line you took up with her I can
but dismiss this from my mind as altogether out of the question, and we
must look at the matter entirely from the point of view that it is
either an attempt to extort money, or is simply the outcome of sheer
malice, an attempt to give pain, and to cause extreme annoyance. Miss
Hawtrey is, you say, wholly unaware of having at any time given such
offence to anyone as to convert him or her into an enemy. Of course,
there are people who are just as bitter over an imaginary injury as over
a real one, but I am more inclined to think that this letter is the
result of malice than an attempt to extort money.'

'I do not see how money could be extorted by such a letter as this, when
there is no foundation for the threat.'

'Quite so, Mr. Hawtrey. No one who wanted to blackmail a young lady
would proceed in so clumsy a manner as this. He would write to her, to
begin with, a letter full of vague hints and threats, in the hope that
although he himself was ignorant of any occurrence in her life that
would give him a hold upon her, her own conscience might bring to her
remembrance some act of past folly or thoughtlessness which, with an
engagement just made, she would certainly shrink from having raked up.
For instance, she might have had some foolish flirtation, some
sentimental correspondence, or stolen meeting--things foolish but in no
way criminal--that at such a moment she would not wish to be brought to
the ears of the man to whom she was engaged. A cleverly but vaguely
worded letter might then cause her to believe that this affair was known
to the writer, and she would endeavour to hush it up by paying any sum
in her power.

'Having written two or three letters of this kind without success, her
persecutor might then send an envelope like this to show her that he was
thoroughly resolved to carry out his threats unless she agreed to his
terms. But as a first move it can mean nothing; and the person to whom
it is addressed, knowing that it has already been seen by the postman,
the servants, and perhaps by others, would in any case be driven to hand
it over to her friends. Miss Hawtrey has received no preliminary
letters, therefore it is clear to me that this is not an attempt to
extort money. We have nothing, therefore, to fall back upon but the idea
of sheer malice, and I have known so many cases of wanton and ingenious
mischief-making, arising from such paltry and insufficient causes, that
I can be surprised at nothing.'

'Still, I don't see how anyone could do such an infamous and cruel thing
as this, Danvers, without some real cause for malice. My daughter is
altogether unconscious of having an enemy, there is nothing for us to go
upon, and I do not see how the business of discovery is to be
commenced.'

'At present, certainly, we seem to have no clue to help us. The letter
was posted, you see, in London, but that is of no use whatever; were it
from a small country town or rural district the matter would be
comparatively easy, but London is hopeless. I have no doubt some more
letters of this kind will come, and I should say that although the
post-marks may afford you no information, the postal authorities might
be able to help you. I do not know whether the stamps at all the
district post offices are identical, but it is possible that there may
be some private mark on them, some little peculiarity, by which the
post-office people would be able to tell you the office at which it was
posted.

'But even this would help us but little, as the letters are collected
and sent to the central district office, and are there, I believe,
stamped. At any rate, I see no use in your employing a man now, Mr.
Hawtrey. If you get a clue, even the smallest, I have a fellow in my
mind's eye who would, I think, suit you. He was at one time a clerk with
Buller and Sons. They gave up the criminal part of their business when
the eldest son, who had charge of that branch, died, and this man,
Slippen, was no longer wanted. He then set up on his own account, as a
sort of private detective. He has been employed in two or three delicate
cases in which I have held briefs, and is certainly a very shrewd
fellow.'

'It would be a relief to me to be doing something,' Mr. Hawtrey said. 'I
think I should like to see the man.'

Danvers was silent for a minute.

'I think, Mr. Hawtrey,' he said at last, 'it would be better if you were
to entrust the matter to me. I will see him, and without mentioning
names state the facts, and say that he may be asked to undertake the
case later on. The fewer people know of the affair the better. Whispers
will get about, and whispers would be more unpleasant than if the whole
story were told openly in court. If you like I will send my clerk over
to his place at once and make an appointment for him to come round here
this afternoon. If you are going to be at home this evening I will look
in and tell you what his opinion of the matter is, and whether he has
any suggestions to offer. If that will not suit you I will meet you
to-morrow at any time you may appoint.'

'This evening will do very well, Danvers. Dorothy is going with her
cousin and a party to the theatre, so if you will come round any time
after eight o'clock you will find me alone, and we can have our chat
over a glass of port and a cigar.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'Well, have you seen your man?' he asked, as Danvers came into his study
that evening. 'But do not answer until you have made yourself
comfortable, and poured yourself out a glass of port; do not light your
cigar for a few minutes, the wine is too good to be spoilt.'

'Yes, I have seen him,' Danvers replied, as he followed his instructions
deliberately.

'And what does he say?'

'Well, you see, Mr. Hawtrey, he has not the advantage we have of knowing
the lady. He naturally has seen a good deal of the seamy side of life,
and upon my stating the case to him, he said, without a moment's
hesitation, "Of course the thing is as plain as a pikestaff, Mr.
Danvers. The man has got hold of some secret, or is holding some
compromising letters, and has tried to get her to come to terms. She
hangs back and he shows his teeth, and writes her this open message,
which, if it had not happened to fall into her father's hands, would no
doubt have brought her to her knees at once."

'My assurance that it was absolutely certain that the lady in question
was in entire ignorance of the whole affair, and was as much in the dark
as we were as to the author of the letter, was received by him with
incredulity. "I have been concerned in cases like this, or at least a
good deal like it, a dozen--or, I might say, a score--of times. In every
case the lady maintained stoutly that she knew nothing about it, that
she had never written a letter to any man whatever, and had received
none previous to the one that happened to fall into the wrong hands. In
three or four instances I was deceived myself, but there is no telling
with women. When a man tells a lie, he either hesitates or stumbles, or
he says it off as if it were a lesson he had got by heart, or else he is
sulky over it, and you have to get it out of him bit by bit, just as if,
though he had made up his mind to lie, he did not wish to tell more lies
than necessary. With a woman it is altogether different. When she makes
up her mind to tell a lie, she does it thoroughly. Sometimes she is
indignant, sometimes she is plaintive; but, anyhow, she is so natural
that she would deceive Old Nick himself. Most of them are born
actresses, sir, and when they take up a part they do it with the
determination of carrying it through thoroughly." Of course, I told him
that, whatever it might be generally, this case was altogether an
exception; that it was a moral and absolute certainty that the lady had
nothing to do with it, and that the investigation, when it was once
undertaken, would have to proceed, say, on the line that the author of
these communications was a man or a woman having a personal enmity
against a lady, and instigated by a desire to annoy and pain her.

'"Well, sir," he said, "of course, if you employ me in this matter it
will be my business to carry it out according to instructions; but I am
afraid that it is not likely anything will come of my search."

'"But," I said, "there is nothing impossible or improbable in the fact
that someone should have a grudge against her; she has just become
engaged to be married."

'"That alters the case altogether," he said quickly; "there may be some
other woman who wants to marry the man, or there may be some one who may
consider that she will be left in the lurch if this marriage comes off;
and either of these might endeavour to make a scandal, or to get up a
quarrel that might cause the engagement to be broken off. If you had
mentioned about the engagement before, that is the first idea that would
have occurred to me. There are very few things a jealous woman will
stick at. The case looks more hopeful now, and when I come to know the
man's name, I ought very soon to be able to put my finger on the writer
of the letter, if it is a woman. At any rate, if there is no other clue,
that is the one I should take up first."

'That brought our interview to an end. I paid him a couple of guineas
for his advice, and he fully understood that he might, or might not, be
called in on some future occasion.'

'It is a confounded nuisance,' Mr. Hawtrey said thoughtfully; 'is the
fellow really trustworthy, Danvers?'

'He can be trusted to keep the matter to himself,' the barrister said;
'these men are engaged constantly in delicate business, such as getting
up divorce suits, and it would ruin their business altogether were they
to allow a word to escape them as to the matter in hand. At any rate, I
know enough about Slippen to be able to answer for his discretion.
However, I hope that there will be no occasion to move in the matter at
all. Of course you will not do so unless there is a repetition of the
annoyance?'

'I have little hope there will not be, Danvers,' Mr. Hawtrey groaned;
'whoever wrote that letter is certain to follow it up. Whatever effect
it was intended to produce he could hardly count on its being effected
by a single attack.'

'I own that I am afraid so, too,' Danvers agreed. 'You will, I hope, let
me know if it is so.'

'That you may be sure. I am afraid that now you have taken the trouble
to aid me in the matter, you will have to go through with it altogether.
This is utterly out of my line; anything connected with poaching or
stealing fruit, or drunken assaults, my experience as a county
magistrate enables me to treat with something like confidence, but here
I am altogether at sea and your experience as a barrister is of the
greatest benefit to me. What time do you get to your chambers in the
morning?'

'I am almost always there by half-past nine, and between that hour and
half past ten you are almost certain to find me; but if you come later
my clerk will be able to find me in the courts, and unless I am engaged
in a case being tried I can always come out to you.'

'I have been wanting to see you, father,' Miss Hawtrey said, as soon as
the latter returned home, 'I expect Lord Halliburn will be here soon
after lunch, and cousin Mary and I are going with him to the Botanical.
Had I better tell him about this or not?'

'That is a difficult question to answer, Dorothy, and I should be sorry
to offer any advice about it. You know Lord Halliburn a good deal better
than I do, and can best judge how he will take a matter like this; he
must certainly be told sooner or later, for even if there is no
repetition of this before your marriage there may be afterwards. Many
men would laugh at the whole thing, and never give it a moment's
thought, while others, although they would not doubt the assertion of
the woman they were engaged to, would still fret and worry over it
amazingly.'

'I am sure he would not doubt me for a moment, father, but I should
think that he really might worry over it.'

'That is rather my opinion too, Dorothy; still, it is clear that he must
be told either by you or me. However, there is no occasion to tell him
to-day. A flower show is not the place you would choose for the purpose,
even if you had not Mary Daintree with you. We shall see if another
letter comes or not; if it does he must be told at once.'

Dorothy looked a little relieved at the necessity for telling Lord
Halliburn being postponed for the day.

'It is of no use worrying over it, my dear,' her father said kindly. 'It
is an annoyance, there is no denying, but it is nothing to fret over,
and as the insinuations are a pack of lies the cloud will blow away
before long.'

The next morning, as soon as breakfast was over, Mr. Hawtrey drove to
the central post office, where the postal authorities had promised the
day before that they would retain any communications of the kind he
described. He had been introduced to the official in charge of the
department where complaints of stolen letters were investigated and
followed up.

'I have an envelope for you, Mr. Hawtrey,' that gentleman said, when he
entered, 'and have been more fortunate than I expected, for I can tell
you where it was posted; it was dropped into the letter-box at No. 35
Claymore Street, Chelsea. It is a grocer's shop. In tying up the bundles
the man's eye fell on this; it struck him at once as being an attempt to
annoy or extort money, and he had the good sense to put it into an
envelope and send it on here with a line of explanation, so as to leave
us the option of detaining it if we thought fit.'

'I am very pleased to hear it,' Mr. Hawtrey said. 'It is a great thing
to know there is at least one point from which we can make a start.'

'It is not much, but it may assist you. You must remember, however, that
it is scarcely likely that the next letter will be posted at the same
office; fellows of this kind are generally pretty cautious, and the next
letter may come from another part of London altogether. I have sent a
note to the man at this post office, telling him that he did right in
stopping the letter, and that he is to similarly detain any others of
the same kind that may be posted there. I will send them on to you. The
men on your round have been already ordered not to deliver any letters
of the kind, but to send them back here. I sincerely hope, Mr. Hawtrey,
that you may succeed in getting hold of the fellow, but if you do I am
afraid it will not be through our department; the chances against
detecting a man posting a thing of this kind are almost infinite.'

It was just half past ten when Mr. Hawtrey reached Danvers' chambers. He
found that the occupier had not yet gone to the Court.

'There is another of them,' Mr. Hawtrey said, throwing the letter down
before him. 'I got it at the central office.' It was in the same
handwriting as that on the previous day: 'Unless you agree to my terms
your letters will be sent to Lord H----.' 'The post-office people have
discovered that this letter was posted at a receiving office at Claymore
Street, Chelsea.'

'That would be valuable, Mr. Hawtrey, if there were any probability of
the next being posted at the same place. I could make an arrangement to
have a boy placed inside by the box so that he could see each letter as
it fell in. Then he would only have to run out and follow whoever had
posted it. I should probably require some special order from the
Postmaster-General for this, but I dare say I could get that. At any
rate, we can wait a day or two. If the next letter is posted there we
will try that plan; if it is posted elsewhere it will, of course, be
useless.'

Mr. Hawtrey next drove to Lord Halliburn's, in Park Lane.

'I have come on very unpleasant business, Halliburn,' he said. 'Dorothy
would have told you herself about it yesterday, but I thought it better
to let it stand over for a day, especially as she would not have an
opportunity of discussing it with you,' and he then laid the two letters
before him, and told him the steps he had taken and the conjectures that
he and Danvers had formed on the subject of the sender.

Lord Halliburn was a young man of about nine-and-twenty. He somewhat
prided himself on his self-possession, and, although generally liked,
was regarded, as Danvers had told his friend, as somewhat of a prig. His
face expressed some annoyance as he heard the story.

'It is certainly unpleasant,' he said. 'I am, of course, perfectly sure
that Dorothy is in no way to blame in the matter. This can be only a
malicious attempt to annoy her. Still, I admit it is annoying. Things of
this sort are sure to get about somehow. I am certain that everyone who
knows Dorothy will see the matter in the same light as we do, but those
who do not will conclude that there is something in it. Probably enough
ere long there will be a mysterious paragraph in one of those society
papers. Altogether it is certainly extremely annoying. The great thing
is to find out who sent them. I quite agree with you it cannot be an
attempt to extort money; had it been so, the demands would have been
sent under seal and not in this manner. I suppose you have no idea of
anyone having any special enmity against either you or her?'

'Not the slightest. The man who, as I told you, Danvers consulted
without mentioning any names, was of opinion that it might be the work
of some woman, and was intended to cause unpleasantness between you and
Dorothy. Of course, in that case you might be more able to form an idea
as to the writer than I can be.'

'No, indeed, there is no woman in my case,' Lord Halliburn said. 'I have
always been perfectly free from entanglements of that kind; nor have I
ever had anything like a serious flirtation before I met Miss Hawtrey;
indeed, as you know, I have been travelling abroad almost constantly
since I left college. I can assure you, on my honour, that I cannot
think of anyone who could have a motive, however slight, for making
mischief between us. Of course, it would be out of the question that
mischief could be made out of such things as these; they are too
contemptible for notice, beyond the fact that they are naturally
annoying. I shall see Dorothy this afternoon, and shall tell her not to
give the matter a thought, but at the same time I shall be extremely
glad if you can put your hand on the sender of these things.'



CHAPTER IV


Mr. Hawtrey's hope that a clue had been obtained was speedily
dissipated, for the next letter was posted in the south of London, and
the one after it at Brompton. It was clear that the man who sent them
did not confine himself to one particular office, and that it would be
useless to set a watch on that in Claymore Street, Chelsea. Edward
Hampton coming in that afternoon, he relieved his mind by telling what
had happened.

'It is a comfort to talk it over with some one, Ned. You were a
police-officer for some time out in India, I think, and may be able to
see your way through this business. Danvers has been very kind about it,
but so far nothing has come of his suggestions.'

'My Indian police experience is not much to the point. I had a police
district for a year, but my duties consisted principally in hunting down
criminals. Have you told Lord Halliburn?'

'Yes; as soon as the second letter came I went to him; it was only right
that he should know.'

'Certainly. How did he take it, Mr. Hawtrey? if I may ask.'

'He was naturally annoyed at it; though, of course, he agreed with me
that it was simply a piece of malice. A detective, to whom Danvers had
spoken, without mentioning any name, suggested that it might be the work
of some woman who had a grudge against him, or felt herself aggrieved at
his engagement. I mentioned this to him, and he assured me that, so far
as he knew, there was no one who had any complaint against him, and that
he had never had any entanglement of any kind.'

'It is a horribly annoying thing, Mr. Hawtrey, and I am sure Miss
Hawtrey must feel it very much. I thought she was not looking quite
herself when I met her at dinner the night before last. Still, there
must be some way of getting to the bottom of it. If it is not the work
of an enemy, either of Lord Halliburn or of your daughter, it may be the
work of one who has an enmity against yourself--one who is striking at
you through yours.'

'That is just possible, Ned; but beyond men I have sentenced on the
bench I don't know of anyone who would put himself out of his way to
annoy me. Assuredly this cannot be the work of any Lincolnshire rustic.'

'But you have certainly one enemy who is just the sort of man to
conceive and carry out such a blackguard business as this--I mean that
man who was impertinent to you on the racecourse, and whose history you
told us that evening.'

'I had not thought of him. Yes, that suggestion is certainly a probable
one. He is evidently deeply impressed with the sense of injury, though,
Heaven knows, I did not have the slightest ill-feeling against him, but
was driven to do what I did by his own courses, and especially by his
father's earnest request that he should not succeed him. There is no
doubt as to his malice, and there can be as little as to his
unscrupulousness.'

'Danvers and I were both of opinion, Mr. Hawtrey, that by his tone and
manner when he spoke to you about payment of debts, that he had already
done you some injury or had some distinct plan in his head. At that time
your daughter was not engaged to Lord Halliburn, and his ideas may have
been vague ones until the public notice of the engagement met his eye,
when he may have said to himself, "This is my opportunity for taking my
revenge, by annoying both father and daughter."'

'It is possible, Ned. I can hardly bring myself to think that the son of
my old friend would be capable of such a dastardly action, but I admit
that there is at least a motive in his case, and that I can see none in
that of anyone else.'

'At any rate, Mr. Hawtrey, here is a clue worth following, and as I have
nothing whatever to do, and my own time hangs rather heavily on my
hands, I will, if you will allow me, undertake to follow it up.'

'But with no evidence against him, not a particle, what can you do,
Ned?'

'My business will be to get evidence. The first thing is to find out
where the fellow lives, and to have him watched and followed, and if
possible, caught in the act of posting one of these letters.'

'Remember, Ned, I would above all things avoid publicity, for Dorothy's
sake. Nothing is more hateful than for a girl to be talked about, and it
is only as a last resource that I would bring a charge against him at
the Police Court.'

'I can quite understand that, and will certainly call in no police to my
aid until I have previously consulted you and received your sanction to
do so. It will be easy enough to find him, for I should know him in an
instant, and shall probably meet him at the first racecourse I go to. It
is not as if I knew nothing of his habits.'

For the next week Captain Hampton frequented every racecourse within a
short distance of London, but without meeting the man he was looking
for. Men of the same class were there in scores--some boisterous, some
oily-mouthed, some unmitigated ruffians, others crafty rogues.

Several times he accosted one of these men, and inquired if he had seen
a betting man having the name of Marvel on his hat; each time the
response was the same.

'I have not seen him here to-day. I know who you mean well enough, but
he is not here. I can lay you the odds if you like. You would be safe
with me.'

Further inquiry elicited the conjecture that 'he might have gone up
North, or to some other distant races.'

'There are two meetings pretty well every day,' one said, 'sometimes
three, and a man cannot be at them all. What do you want him for? If it
is to get money out of him, you won't find the job a very easy one,
unless he has happened to strike on a vein of luck. You had much better
take the odds from me.'

Captain Hampton explained that his business was a private one, and
altogether unconnected with betting.

'Well, if you will give me your name I will let him know that you want
to see him, if I happen to run up against him. I should say that he will
be at Reading next week.'

But Captain Hampton said his name would be unknown to Marvel, and the
bookmaker, after looking him over suspiciously, concluded that it was of
no use wasting further time, and turning away set up a stentorian shout
of 'Six to one, bar one.'

Captain Hampton tried Reading, but was as unsuccessful here as in his
previous attempts.

'Want Marvel?' one man he asked repeated. 'Well, I have not seen him
here, and I haven't seen him for the last ten days; so I expect he has
either gone down on a country tour, or he is ill, or he is so short of
the dibs that he can't pay his fare down. He would be here if he could;
for he would manage to make enough money to pay his expenses, anyhow. It
is hard when a man cannot do that.'

Captain Hampton was not to be baffled, and after examining a sporting
paper took a ticket early next morning for the North. He was away a
week, and returned home disheartened. He had not seen the man nor did
any of those he had questioned know the name of Marvel. 'It is like
enough I may know the man,' one said confidentially, 'but I don't know
the name; names don't go for much in the outside ring. A man is Marvel
one day, and if when the racing is over he cannot pay his bets and has
to go off quiet, he alters the cut of his hair next time and puts a
fresh name on his hat, and is ready to take his davy, if questioned,
that he was not near the course, and never heard the name of Marvel; and
as he is sure to have some one with him to back him up and swear that he
was with him at the other side of England on that day, the chap as wants
his money concludes that he may as well drop it.'

The day after his return Ned Hampton went to Epsom and there recognised
with a start of satisfaction the man of whom he was in search. He had no
name in his hat, and was talking to two or three men of his own class,
one of whom he recognised as the man who had offered to tell Marvel that
he wished to see him. He moved up in the crowd, and placed himself close
to the men, but with his back towards them. Marvel was speaking.

'But what sort of fellow was he?'

'A military-looking swell.'

'And he said I should not know his name? I should know it sharp enough
if it was down in my book without a pencil mark through the bet. There
are people, you know, who, quite accidentally of course, I haven't
settled up with.'

There was a laugh among the group. 'A good many I should fancy, Jacob,
but I don't think this chap could have been one of them. A man who has
been left in the lurch generally takes it out in strong language. If
this chap had wanted you for a tenner and you had not forked over, he
would probably have spoken of you as a swindling scoundrel and said that
if he met you he would take it out of you in another way if he could not
get the money. Now he didn't seem put out at all; he wanted to see you
about something or other, but I don't think it was anything to do with
money. I can always tell when there is anything wrong about that. A man
may put it as mild as he likes, but there is something in it that says
he is nasty.'

'Well, I don't want to see him whoever he is,' Marvel said, 'so if he
comes across any of you again tell him you hear I've retired, or that I
have drowned myself, or anything else you like, but that anyhow I ain't
likely to be on any of the courses again this season. And mind, you
don't know anything about where I live or where he is likely to get any
news of me.'

'But where have you been the last fortnight, Jacob?'

'I have been on another job altogether, and if it turns out well you
ain't likely to see much more of me here. I have had about enough of
it.'

As he found that he was not likely to hear more, Hampton moved away in
the crowd, but continued to keep Marvel in sight. In two or three
minutes the man separated from his companions, moved off the course, and
stood for a minute or two with his hands in his pockets, meditating.
Then his mind was made up. He pushed his way through the crowd, crossed
the course, and walked quickly towards one of the entrances. Captain
Hampton followed him closely, and was by no means surprised to see him
walk to the station.

'He is evidently nervous about what they have told him,' he said to
himself, 'and although he cannot tell what my business with him may be,
he is determined to avoid me. All the better; I should have had great
difficulty in keeping my eye on him in the crowd later on, and now I
won't lose sight of him again.'

Entering the station, the man waited until a train came up and then took
his place in a third class carriage. Hampton entered the next
compartment, but, to his great annoyance, found on arriving at Waterloo
that Marvel was not in the carriage.

'Confound it,' he muttered angrily, 'he must have slipped out at one of
the other stations without my noticing him. It must have been at
Vauxhall, just as those four men were pushing past me to get out. I am a
nice sort of fellow to take up the amateur detective business. To hunt
for a man for nearly three weeks and then when I have found him to lose
him again like this. I will go across and see Danvers. Of course he will
have the laugh against me. Well, I can't help that; I will take his
advice about it. I am evidently not fit to manage by myself.'

Danvers had just returned from the Courts when Captain Hampton reached
the chambers.

'Hullo, Hampton, where do you spring from? Everyone has missed you from
your accustomed haunts. Some said you had eloped with an heiress; others
that you are wanted for forgery. I met the Hawtreys last night at
dinner. They both asked me after you. The young lady quite seemed to
take your disappearance to heart. The more so, I think, because she had
sent down a servant with a note to your lodgings, and the girl had
learnt from your landlady that you had been away for a week. Of course,
I could not enlighten her. Her father took me apart and asked me quite
seriously about you. He seemed to think that you had been trying to
ferret out something about this confounded letter business. He told me
he had talked it over with you, regarding you as almost one of the
family.'

'That is just what I have been about, Danvers, and I have made an
amazing ass of myself.'

'You don't mean to say that!' Danvers exclaimed in affected surprise.
'Well, I know you used to do it at school sometimes, but I hoped that
you had got out of the habit.'

'Bosh!' Hampton laughed. 'But I own I have done it this time. You
remember that fellow on the racecourse?'

'You mean at the Oaks. Of course I remember him.'

'Well, it struck me that he might be the man who had sent the letters.
He had, as Hawtrey told us in the evening, a bitter grudge against him,
and such a dirty trick as this was just the sort of thing that a
disreputable broken-down knave like him might concoct to gratify his
malice.'

'You are right there; I wonder the idea did not occur to me. Well, I
retract what I said just now; so far you have told me nothing to justify
the epithet you bestowed on yourself.'

'My first idea,' Hampton went on, without noticing the interruption,
'was that as I had nothing particular to do I would go down to some of
the races near town where I felt certain I should find him, follow the
fellow back, and track him to his home. Then I had intended to come to
you and ask your advice as to the next step to be taken.'

'There you showed your sagacity again, Hampton. Well, what came of it?'

'I went for a fortnight to every racecourse near town and asked after
Marvel from bookmakers of his stamp. They all seemed rather surprised at
his absence, and suggested that perhaps having failed to pay up here he
had gone to one of the country meetings up in the North. I was up in
Yorkshire for a week but with no better result. I came up last night and
went to Epsom this morning and there spotted my man.' He then related
the conversation he had overheard and the manner in which he had allowed
the man to slip through his fingers. Danvers could not help laughing,
though he, too, was vexed.

'I can quite understand your missing him at Vauxhall, Hampton. Of course
it is easy to be wise after the event. It would not have done for you to
have got in the same compartment with him at Epsom. You don't look like
a third-class passenger, and the idea that you were the military swell
who had been enquiring after him would probably have occurred to him;
but if you had got out at a station or two further on, and then taken
your place in his carriage, that idea would hardly have entered his
mind.'

'Well, the result is I have thrown away three weeks of my leave in
taking a lot of trouble and we are no nearer than we were before.'

'Not much, except that we have learnt that the man is engaged on a
different matter, in which he intends to make money, and also that there
is but little probability of his being met with again for some time on a
racecourse. Of course, this business may be altogether unconnected with
that of the Hawtreys, but on the other hand it may be. I am afraid there
is little clue left for us to follow up. Getting out at Vauxhall might
mean that he lived in that neighbourhood, or at Camberwell, or Peckham,
or Kennington, or anywhere about there; or he might have crossed the
river, and there is all the region between Chelsea and Westminster to
choose from. If we knew that he went under the name of Marvel something
might be done, but it is a hundred to one against that being the name he
goes by in his domestic circle. If you have come to me for advice I can
give you none; I can see nothing whatever to do but to wait for new
developments. Have you seen the "Liar" this week?'

'No; I never look at it.'

'Well, you see there is a nasty paragraph there that unmistakably
alludes to the affair. I have no doubt it is Halliburn's doing; he got
so annoyed at these letters keeping on coming--and indeed it seems that
some have been sent to him with 'Look before you leap,' 'Be sure that
all is right before it is too late,' and things of that sort--that he
went off to Scotland Yard, kicked up a row there, showed the envelopes
he had received to the authorities, and gave them the whole history
about the others. Of course, they promised that they would do what they
could, and equally of course they will be able to do nothing. Well, I
suppose some understrapper there got to hear of it, and probably sold
the thing to one of the men who gather up garbage for the "Liar." I have
got the paper. There, that is the paragraph: "There is a possibility
that a marriage that has been arranged in high life may not come off
after all. The noble lord who was to figure as bridegroom has received
the unpleasant information that the young lady has been pestered with
demands for money in exchange for compromising letters, and has himself
received missives calculated to make one in his position extremely
uncomfortable. Further developments may be looked for."'

'It is scandalous,' Captain Hampton exclaimed passionately, 'that a
blackguard rag like this is allowed to exist!'

'Quite so, Hampton; I agree with you most heartily. Still, there it is,
and others like it, and we have got to put up with it. If it had not
been for that fool, Halliburn, taking things into his hands this notice
would never have got in. One of Hawtrey's servants came round in a cab
to fetch me this morning. I found him foaming with rage, talking about
horsewhipping and all sorts of things. It is curious how that sort of
thing still lingers in the minds of country squires. I told him, of
course, that would make it ten times worse. Then he talked of an action,
and I said, "Now, my dear Mr. Hawtrey, you are getting altogether beyond
my province. As a friend I am very glad to give you my advice as long as
it is merely a question of endeavouring to find out the authors of these
libels. Now it has assumed an altogether different phase, and you must
go to your lawyer for advice. I am sure that he will tell you that you
can do nothing, especially as in point of fact the statements are
perfectly true. Still, there is no saying how far the thing will go, and
whether it may not be necessary eventually to take legal steps;
therefore it is only fair to your solicitor that you should put him in
possession of the whole circumstances as far as they have gone."

'"Very well," he said, "I will go down at once to Harper and Hawes, and
take their advice about it."'

'There is one comfort,' Captain Hampton said; 'there are not many people
who will understand to whom this paragraph relates. I suppose there have
been a dozen lords of one sort and another who have become engaged
during the season, so that, except for us who are behind the scenes,
there is nothing to point distinctly to the identity of the parties.'

'You need not count on that,' Danvers said shortly. 'This paragraph is
merely intended to whet the curiosity of the public. You will see that
next week there will be another, saying that they are now able to state,
beyond fear of contradiction, that the nobleman and young lady who have
been persecuted by anonymous letters are Lord Halliburn and Miss
Hawtrey.'

'This sort of thing makes one regret that duelling has gone out of
fashion,' Captain Hampton said savagely. 'There is nothing would give me
greater pleasure than to parade the editor of that blackguard paper at
six o'clock to-morrow morning on Wimbledon Common!'

'It would no doubt be a pleasure to you, my dear Hampton,' Danvers said
tranquilly, 'and the result might be a matter of unmingled satisfaction
to all decent people; but, you see, it cannot be done. If it could have
been he would have been shot years ago, noxious beast that he is. It
being impossible, let us change the subject. What are you going to do
this evening?'

'I am going to have dinner first.'

'It is only six o'clock, my dear fellow.'

'All the better. I want to get it over, so as to go round and catch the
Hawtreys before they go out--that is to say, if they are going to a ball
or anything of that sort, and not to a dinner; Mr. Hawtrey knows I have
been doing what I could to find out this betting fellow, but has not
mentioned it to his daughter, for the same reason, probably, that I have
taken pains to avoid meeting them since I began the search. At any rate,
I should not like her to think that I have been away for this three
weeks on my own pleasure, in perfect indifference to the unpleasant
position in which she is placed, so I shall go to report progress--or,
rather, want of progress--and to assure them that I will continue the
search until I have run this fellow to earth.'

Danvers looked at his friend through his half-closed eyes with a gleam
of quiet amusement.

'The Indian sun does not seem to have cooled the enthusiasm of your
youth, Hampton. You used to throw yourself then like a young demon into
the middle of a football scrimmage, and rowed stroke in that four of
yours till you rowed your crew to a standstill, and then tugged away all
to yourself, till they got their wind again. To us, jaded men----'

'Shut up, man!' Hampton said hotly, 'this is no joking matter. Here is
the honour and happiness of a girl who, when she was a little child, was
very dear to me'--Danvers' eyes twinkled momentarily--'and I should be a
brute if I did not do everything I could to put the matter straight; and
I am quite sure,' he went on more quietly, 'that although, of course,
they are not such friends of yours as they are of mine, you would spare
no trouble yourself if you only saw any way in which you could be of
real assistance.'

'Perhaps so, old man, perhaps so; but I should not get into fever heat
about it. You see, the matter at present principally concerns Halliburn.
It is his business and privilege to stand first in the line of defence
of the character of the young lady to whom he is engaged.'

'And a nice mess he has made of his first move,' Captain Hampton agreed,
pointing to the copy of the 'Liar.' 'Well, I won't wait any longer; they
dine at seven o'clock when they are alone, and I will go round at eight
on the chance of finding them in.'

Danvers sat looking at the empty grate for some minutes after he had
left. 'It is about even betting, I should say,' he muttered to himself,
'and I think, if anything, the odds are slightly on Hampton, though he
has not the slightest idea at present that he has entered for the race.
The other one has got the start, but Hampton always had no end of last,
and he will take every fence well, and it seems to me there are likely
to be some awkward ones. Besides, I am not half sure that the other
fellow will run straight when the pinch comes.'

When Captain Hampton presented himself at the house in Chester Square,
he found, to his satisfaction, that Mr. Hawtrey and his daughter were at
home.

'They have just finished dinner, sir,' the servant said; 'dessert is on
the table.'

'Then I will go in,' Captain Hampton said, and, opening the dining-room
door, walked in.

'I am presuming on my old footing to enter unceremoniously, Mr.
Hawtrey,' he said.

'I am glad to see you. You are heartily welcome, Ned. This reminds one
of old times indeed.'

Dorothy's welcome was sensibly cooler, while Mrs. Daintree, who had from
the first set herself strongly against his intimacy at the house, was
absolutely frigid.

Ned saw that Dorothy's colour had perceptibly paled since he last saw
her, and that she looked harassed and anxious.

'It is three weeks since I saw you,' he said.

'Is it?' she asked with an air of indifference. He laughed outright.

'That was really very well done, Dorothy, and I quite understand what it
means. You think I have been neglecting you altogether, and amusing
myself while you were in trouble; and were that the case I should
deserve all the snubbing, and more, that you could give me. I believe
that your father has not told you what I have been doing, and I do not
wish to enter into details now,' and he glanced towards Mrs. Daintree,
'but I feel that I must, in justice to myself, assure you that the whole
of my time has been occupied in the matter, and that although I have no
success to boast of, I have, at least, tried my very best to deserve
it.'

'That is good of you, Ned,' the girl said brightly. 'I have been feeling
a little hurt at your desertion, and thought it did not seem like you to
leave me in trouble. I always used to rely upon you when I got into a
scrape. I don't want to know what you have been doing, though father can
tell me if he likes, but I am quite content to take your word for it.
Now I must go; it is time for us to dress. I wish I could stay at home
and have a quiet evening, but you see I am no longer quite my own
mistress.'

'Well, Hampton, what have you been doing, and why have you not been to
see me before? I heard you were in town--at least, I heard so ten days
ago.'

'I should have come, sir, before, had I had anything to tell you. I have
nothing much now, and in fact have to-day bungled matters considerably;
still, I shall start on a fresh search to-morrow, and hope to be luckier
than I have been so far.' He then gave a detailed account of his visits
to racecourses, of his meeting with Truscott that morning, of the
conversation he had overheard, and of the manner in which the man had
eluded him.

'Well, Ned, you certainly have deserved success, and I am indeed obliged
to you for the immense trouble you have taken over the matter. It is too
bad your spending your time over this annoying affair, when you are only
home on a year's leave. What you have learned is, of course, no direct
proof that Truscott has a hand in this affair; at the same time, what he
said confirms to some extent your suspicions of him. Would it not be as
well to put the search for him into the hands of a detective, now that
there is some one definite to search for? One of these men might be
useful, and I really would vastly rather employ one than know that you
are spending day after day searching for him yourself. These men are
accustomed to the work; they know exactly the persons to whom to apply;
they have agents under them, who know infinitely better the sort of
place where such a fellow would be likely to take up his quarters than
you can do.'

'No doubt that is so,' Captain Hampton admitted reluctantly. 'I should
have liked to have run him down myself, now that I have hunted him so
long. Still, that is a matter of no importance, the great thing is to
lose no time. I will get Danvers to give me a note to the man he spoke
to first.'

'On my behalf, remember, Ned; he must be engaged on my behalf.'

'Very well, sir, if you wish it so; but I would rather that you and I
arrange with him direct, and that it is not done by your solicitors.
Danvers told me that you were going to them this morning about that
infamous paragraph in the "Liar."'

'Certainly they shall have nothing to do with it,' Mr. Hawtrey said
hotly; 'I was a fool to go to them at all; I might as well have gone to
two old women. They have been lawyers to our family for I don't know how
many years, and are no doubt excellent men in their capacity of family
lawyers, but this matter is altogether out of their line. They looked at
each other like two helpless fools when I told them the story, and said
at once that they would not undertake to advise me, but that I had
better go to Levine, or one of the other men who are always engaged in
these what they call delicate cases, that is to say, hideous scandals.
However, I have made up my mind to keep clear of them all as far as I
can; but, of course, I must be guided to some extent by Halliburn's
opinion, or rather his wishes. As to his opinion, I have no confidence
in it one way or the other. I'm glad you did not say anything about what
you had been doing before my cousin; she is worrying herself almost into
a fever about it, the more so because there is no one to whom she can
talk about it. She means well, but were it not that just at present it
is absolutely necessary that Dorothy should show herself everywhere with
a perfectly unconcerned air, I would make some excuse to send Mrs.
Daintree down to the country again; as it is, I must keep her as a
chaperon, but she is very trying I assure you, and I believe would come
into my study to cry over the affair half-a-dozen times a day, if I
would but let her. Now, Ned, you must excuse me, the carriage will be
round in a few minutes, and as, with one thing and another, I got back
too late to dress for dinner, I have not another minute to spare. Shall
I give you a note authorising you to arrange with the detective?'

'There is no occasion for that; I shall speak in your name, and as he
will want to have an interview with you before long, you can then
confirm any arrangement I have made as to his remuneration.'

Hampton called in on Danvers in the morning for the address of the
detective, Slippen, and a card of introduction. The address was in
Clifford's Inn, and on finding the number Hampton saw the name over a
door on the ground floor. A sharp looking boy was sitting on a high
stool swinging his legs. He evidently thought that amusement somewhat
monotonous and was glad of a change, for he jumped down with alacrity.

'The governor is in, sir, but he has got a party in with him. I will
take your card in. I expect he will be glad to get rid of her, for she
has been sobbing and crying in there awful.'

'I am in no particular hurry,' Captain Hampton said, amused at the boy's
confidential manner.

'Divorce, I expect,' the lad went on, as Captain Hampton took a seat on
the only chair in the dark little office. 'I allus notice that the first
time they comes they usually goes on like that. After a time or two they
takes it more business-like. They comes in brisk, and says, "Is Mr.
Slippen in?" just the same as if they was asking for a cup of tea. When
they goes out sometimes they look sour, and I knows then that he,' and
he jerked his thumb towards the inner office, 'hasn't any news to tell
'em; sometimes they goes out looking red in the face and in a regular
paddy, and you can see by the way they grips their umbrellas they would
like to give it to some one.'

'You must find it dull sitting here all day. I suppose you haven't much
writing to do?'

'I doesn't sit here much. I am mostly about. There ain't many as comes
here of a day, and he can hear the knocker. Those as does come calls
mostly in the morning, from ten to eleven. There, she is a-moving.'

The inner door opened, and a stout woman came out looking flushed and
angry; the boy slid off his stool and opened the door for her, and then
took Captain Hampton's card in. A moment later Mr. Slippen himself
appeared at the door.

'Will you walk in, Captain Hampton? I am sorry to have kept you waiting.
I rather expected,' he said, as he closed the door behind him, 'that I
should have a call, either from Mr. Danvers or some one from him, when I
saw that paragraph in the "Liar." I made sure it was the case he was
speaking to me about, and I said to myself, "They are safe to be doing
something now."'

'Yes, it is that case that I come about. I am here on the part of Mr.
Hawtrey, the father of the young lady. I am an intimate friend of the
family. Mr. Danvers gave you the heads of the matter.'

The detective nodded; he was a rather short, slightly-built man, with
hair cut very short and standing up aggressively; his eyes were widely
opened, with a sharp, quick movement as they glanced from one point to
another, but the general expression of the face was pleasant and
good-tempered.

'He told you my opinion so far as I could form it from the very slight
data he gave me?'

'Yes, you thought at first that the writer of the threats really had
possession of compromising letters; but upon hearing that she was
engaged you thought it likely that the letters might be the work of some
aggrieved or disappointed woman.'

'That is it, sir.'

'So far as we can see,' Captain Hampton went on, 'neither view was
correct; certainly the first was not. We have, as we think, laid our
fingers on the writer, who is a man who believes himself to have a
personal grievance against Mr. Hawtrey himself.' He then related the
whole story.

'He may be the man,' Mr. Slippen said, when he had finished. 'At any
rate there is something to go on, which there was not before. There will
be no great difficulty in laying one's hand on him, but at present we
have not a shred of real evidence--nothing that a magistrate would
listen to.'

'We quite see that. Still, it will be something to find him; then we can
have him watched, and, if possible, caught in the act of posting the
letters.'

'You will find that difficult--I do not mean the watching him nor seeing
him post his letters, but bringing it home to him. I would rather have
to deal with anything than with a matter where you have got the Post
Office people to get round. Once a letter is in a box it is their
property until it is handed over to the person it is directed to. Still,
we may get over that, somehow. The first thing, I take it, is to find
the man. You say his betting name is Marvel?'

'That is the name he had on his hat at Epsom on the Oaks day, but he may
have a dozen others.'

'Ah, that is true enough. Still, no doubt he has used it often enough
for others to know him by it; and now for his description.

'Thank you, that will be sufficient. I think I will send a man down to
Windsor at once; the races are on again to-day. He will get his address
out of one or other of his pals. It will cost a five-pound note at the
outside. If you will give me your address, I shall most likely be able
to let you have it this evening.'

'I wish to goodness I had come to you before,' Captain Hampton said.
'Here I have been wasting three weeks trying to find the man, and
spending fifty or sixty pounds in railway fares, stand tickets and
expenses, and you are able to undertake it at once.'

'It is a very simple matter, Captain Hampton. I have been engaged in two
or three turf cases, and one of my men knows a lot of the hangers-on at
racecourses. Watches and other valuables are constantly stolen there,
and as often enough these things are gifts, and are valued beyond their
mere cost in money, their owners come to us to try if we can get them
back for them, which we are able to do three times out of four. Whoever
may steal the things, they are likely to get into one of four or five
hands, and as soon as we let it be known that we are ready to pay a fair
price for their return and no questions asked, it is not long before
they are brought here. I don't say I may be able to find out this man's
exact address, but I can find out the public-house or other place where
he is generally to be met with. I don't suppose the actual address of
one in ten of these fellows is known to others. They are to be heard of
in certain public-houses, but even their closest pals often don't know
where they live. Sometimes, no doubt, it is in some miserable den where
they would be ashamed to meet anyone. Sometimes there may be a wife and
family in the case, and they don't want men coming there. Sometimes it
may be just another way. Many of these fellows at home are quiet,
respectable sort of chaps, living at some little place where none of
their neighbours, and perhaps not even their wives, know that they have
anything to do with racing, but take them for clerks or warehousemen, or
something in the city. So I don't promise to find out the fellow's home,
only the place where a letter will find him, or where he goes to meet
his pals, and perhaps do a little quiet betting in the landlord's back
parlour.'

'That will be enough for us, to begin with at any rate.'

'Of course, the private address is only a matter of a day or two
longer,' Mr. Slippen went on. 'I have only to send that boy of mine up
to the place, and the first time the fellow goes there he will follow
him, if it is all over London, till he traces him to the place where he
lives. If, as he said, he is going to give up attending the races for
the present, he may not go there for a day or two. But he is sure to do
so sooner or later for letters.'

'Thank you. It would be as well to know where he lives, but at any rate
when we have what we may call his business address we shall have time to
talk over our next move.'

'Yes, that is where the real difficulty will begin, Captain Hampton. I
expect you have got to deal with a deep one, and I own that at present I
do not see my way at all clear before me.'



CHAPTER V


That evening Mr. Slippen's boy presented himself at Captain Hampton's
lodgings with a note. It contained only the words 'Dear sir,--Our man
uses the "White Horse," Frogmore Street, Islington. I await your
instructions before moving further in the matter.'

'Well, youngster, what is your name?' Captain Hampton asked, as he put
the note on the table beside him.

'Jacob Wrigley,' the lad replied promptly.

'Here is half-a-crown for yourself, Jacob.'

'Thank you, sir,' the boy said, as he took it up with a duck of the head
and slipped it into his pocket.

'Your office hours seem to be long, Jacob; that is, if you have been
there since I saw you this morning.'

'No, sir, I ain't a-been there since one o'clock, not till an hour ago.
I have been down at Greenwich, keeping my eye on a party there. I got
done there at six o'clock, and as the governor had said "Come round and
tell me what you have found out, I shall be in up to nine o'clock,"
round I went in course. The governor and me don't have no regular hours.
Some chaps wouldn't like that, but it doesn't matter to me, 'cause I
sleeps there.'

'Sleep where, Jacob?'

'In where you see me. The things is stowed away in that cupboard in the
corner, and I get on first-rate. It is a good place, especially in
winter. I lays the blankits down in front of the fire, and keeps it
going all night sometimes.'

'But haven't you got any place of your own to go to, Jacob?'

The boy shook his head. 'I was brought up in a wan, I was,' the boy
said. 'I hooked it one day, two years ago, 'cause they knocked me about
so. I pretty nigh starved at first, but one day I saw a chap prigging an
old gent's ticker. The old one shouted just as he got off; I was on the
look-out and as the chap came along I chucked myself down in front of
him and down he came. I grabbed him, and afore he could shake me off a
lot of chaps got hold of him and held him till a peeler came up. They
did not find the watch on him, but I had seen him as he ran pass
something to a chap he ran close to and pretty nigh knocked down. I gave
my evidence at the police court. The governor happened to be there, and
arter it was over and the chaps had got six months, and the beak had
said I gave my evidence very well, and gave me five bob out of the poor
box, he came up to me and said, "You are a smart young fellow. Do you
want a job?" I said I just did, and so he took me on; that is how it
came about, you see. The only thing I don't like is, he makes me go to a
night school. He says I shan't never do no good unless I can get to read
and write; so I does it, but I hates it bitter.'

'He is quite right, Jacob. You stick to it; it will come easier as you
get on.'

'Yes, I know I wants it, for letters and that sort of thing, but it is
bitter hard. I would rather stand opposite a house all day in winter
than I would sit for an hour trying to make my pen go where I wants it
to. It allus will go the other way, and the drops of ink will come out
awful. Good night, sir.'

'Good night, lad. Tell Mr. Slippen when you see him that I shall
probably be round to-morrow or next day.'

On the following morning Captain Hampton called early at Chester Square.
Mr. Hawtrey and Dorothy had just finished breakfast. Mrs. Daintree, as
was her custom after being out late the night before, had taken hers in
bed.

'I have good news so far. I have discovered, or rather Slippen has,
where Truscott is to be found. He frequents a public-house called the
White Horse, Frogmore Street, Islington.'

'That is good news indeed, Ned,' Mr. Hawtrey said warmly, as he shook
hands with him. As he turned to Dorothy, he saw with surprise that she
had turned suddenly pale, and that her hands shook as she put down the
cup.

'You are pleased, are you not, Dorothy?' he asked in surprise.

The girl hesitated. 'Yes,' she said, 'of course, I am pleased in one
way, but not in another. It frightens me to think that the man may be
brought up, and that I may have to give evidence; it is horrid being
talked about, but it would be much worse to stand up to be stared at,
and to have it all put in the papers.'

'Pooh, pooh, my dear, your evidence will be very simple,' her father
said. 'You will only have to tell that you received the first of these
letters, that you know nothing of the man, and that his assertion that
he has letters of yours is utterly false.'

'Yes, father, but I have noticed that in all trials of this sort they
ask such numberless questions, and that they always manage somehow to
put the witnesses into a false light. They will say, "How do you know
that he has no letters of yours? Do you mean to tell this court that you
have never written any letters?" And when I have said I have never
written any letters that I should object to having read out in court
they will insinuate that I am telling a lie, and that I have done all
sorts of dreadful things; and though they will not be able to prove a
word of it, I shall know, as I go out, that half the people will believe
that I have. I shall hate it, and I am sure that Algernon will hate it
even more.'

'Well, Algernon has no one but himself to thank for its having come to
this pass,' Mr. Hawtrey said sharply. 'It was his interference, and his
going down to Scotland Yard, that caused that paragraph to appear in the
paper. If he had left the matter alone nothing whatever would have been
heard about it outside our circle. I like Halliburn, but I must say that
at present nothing would give me more satisfaction than to hear that he
had gone for a month upon the Continent, for he comes round here every
afternoon, and worries and fusses over the matter until he upsets you
and fills me with an almost irresistible desire to seize him by the
shoulders and turn him out of the room.'

'He is a little trying, father,' Dorothy admitted, 'but of course he
does not like it.'

'Nor do any of us. It is a hundred times worse for you than it is for
him, and yet--But there, let us change the subject. What is it you were
saying, Ned? Oh yes, you have heard where Truscott lives.'

'Not exactly where he lives, but the public-house where he is to be met
with, and in his case it comes to pretty well the same thing. I had
nothing to do with finding it out. The man Slippen took it in hand, and
in a few hours did more than I had done in three weeks. He sent a fellow
down to Windsor, to some betting men he knew, and sent me word in the
evening. It was rather mortifying, I must confess, and I feel as if I
had been taken down several pegs in my own estimation.'

'And what is to be done next, father?' Dorothy asked anxiously.

'Ah, that is the point we shall have to talk over, my dear. At present
we have not a thread of evidence to connect him with the affair. We
must, in the first place, bring it home to him. Afterwards, we will see
whether we must have him arrested and charged in court, or whether we
can frighten him into making a confession. I am very much afraid that,
after all that has been said about it, there will be nothing for it but
a public prosecution; however, there will be time to think of that
afterwards.' Captain Hampton saw Dorothy go pale again, and mentally
resolved that he would do all in his power to save her from the ordeal
from which she evidently shrank. He was a little surprised at her
nervousness, for as a child she had been absolutely fearless, but he
supposed that the worry, and perhaps the fidgeting of Halliburn had
shaken her somewhat, as, indeed, was natural enough. 'You are going
round to see this detective, I suppose?' Mr. Hawtrey asked.

'Yes, I came in on my way for instructions. Slippen will no doubt
propose that a sharp watch shall be kept over his movements, and I
suppose that there can be no doubt that is the right thing to be done.'

'I should say so, certainly.'

'That, at least, Miss Hawtrey, will commit us to nothing afterwards, and
I trust even yet we may find some way of avoiding the unpleasantness you
feared.'

'I may as well go with you, Ned,' Mr. Hawtrey said; 'I have nothing
particular to do this morning; a walk will do me good. I am getting
bilious and out of sorts with all this worry, and would give a good
round sum to be quietly down in Lincolnshire again. Dorothy evidently
feels it a good deal more than I should have thought she would,' he went
on as they left the house.

'It is a horribly annoying sort of thing to happen to anyone, Mr.
Hawtrey; because it is so desperately difficult to meet anonymous
slander of this sort, and of course her engagement makes it so much the
worse for her.'

'Yes, that is the rub, Ned. I am not at all pleased with the fellow; he
seems to think of nothing but the manner in which it affects himself. I
have had, once or twice, as much as I could do not to let out at him. I
had it on the tip of my tongue to say, "Confound it, sir! What the deuce
do I care for you or your family? The ancestors through whom you got
your title were doubtless respectable enough, and as far as I know, may,
two or three generations back, have been washer-women, when our people
had already held their estates hundreds of years." Of course, Dorothy
takes his part, but my own belief is that it is he who is worrying her,
quite as much as the scandal itself.

'Dorothy is not marrying for a title; she refused a higher one than his
last autumn. I don't say that his being a lord might not have influenced
her to some extent; I suppose all girls have vanity enough to like to
carry off a man whom scores of others will envy her for, but I don't
think that went very far with her. I believe that, as far as she knew of
him, she liked him for himself; not, I suppose, in any desperate sort of
way, but as a pleasant, gentlemanly sort of fellow of whom everyone
spoke well, and whom she esteemed and thought she could be very happy
with. She has no occasion to marry for money; of course my estate is, as
I dare say you know, entailed, and will go to my cousin, Jack Hawtrey,
who is a sporting parson down in Somersetshire--a good fellow, with a
large family; but there will be plenty for her from her mother, besides
my unentailed property.

'I cannot help thinking that Halliburn's worrying, and the very evident
fact that he thinks more of the scandal as affecting his future wife
than of her feelings in the matter, may have shown her that she had
over-estimated him, and that although he may be a very respectable and
well-behaved young nobleman, he is a selfish and shallow-minded fellow
after all. Dorothy may say nothing now, but she is not the sort of girl
to forgive that sort of thing, and I don't mind saying it to you, as an
old friend, Ned, that I should not be at all surprised if, when once
this affair is thoroughly cleared up, she throws Halliburn over
altogether.'

Captain Hampton made no reply, but had his companion turned to look at
him he could hardly have avoided noticing that the expression on his
face expressed anything but sympathy with the tone of irritation in
which he had himself spoken.

Mr. Slippen was in when they arrived at Clifford's Inn. The door was
opened by him when they knocked, a proof that the boy was not at his
post.

'Come in, Captain Hampton; I fancied that you would be down here.'

'This is Mr. Hawtrey, Mr. Slippen,' said Ned, as they followed him into
his room; 'he thought he would like to talk over with you the plan of
campaign.'

'I am glad you have come, sir; it is always more satisfactory to meet
one's principal in matters of this kind; there is less chance of any
mistake being made. It is surprising sometimes to find, after one is
half through one's work, that one has been proceeding under an entirely
false impression. One may think, for example, that one's client is bent
upon carrying a matter out to the bitter end, and will not hear of
anything of a compromise, and then one discovers that he is perfectly
ready to condone everything, and to make every sacrifice to avoid
publicity. Of course, if one had known that in the first place, it would
have immensely facilitated matters.'

'I should be very glad to avoid publicity myself,' Mr. Hawtrey said,
'but unfortunately the matter has gone so far that I do not see how it
can possibly be avoided.'

Mr. Slippen shook his head.

'I don't see, myself, at present,' he agreed, 'how the scandal is to be
set at rest, except by the prosecution of its author--that is to say, if
we can get evidence enough to prosecute him. Of course, if we had such
evidence it would be easy enough to force him into making a complete
retractation; but, if we did, such a retractation would hardly be
satisfactory, as, supposing it were published, people would say, "How
are we to know that this letter is written by the fellow who wrote the
others? If it is the man, how is it that he is not prosecuted for it?"
Certainly there would be a strong suspicion that he had been bought
off.'

'I see that myself,' Mr. Hawtrey agreed. 'I don't see any other way of
clearing the matter up except by putting him in the dock, though I would
give a great deal to avoid it. My daughter is extremely averse to the
idea of the publicity attending such an affair, and especially to having
to appear as a witness, which is not surprising when one knows the
outrageous licence given to counsel in our days to cross-examine
witnesses.'

Captain Hampton noticed the sudden keen glance shot at his client from
Mr. Slippen's eyes, followed by a series of almost imperceptible little
nods, and was seized with a sudden and fierce desire to make a violent
assault upon the unconscious detective.

'At any rate,' Mr. Hawtrey continued, 'I see nothing at present but to
let the matter go on, and for you to obtain, if possible, some decisive
proof of the man's connection with these letters. So far we have really
only the most shadowy grounds for our suspicion against him.'

Again Mr. Slippen nodded, this time more openly and decisively.

'Quite the most shadowy, Mr. Hawtrey. I am far from saying that he may
not be the man, but beyond his having, as I understand, a grievance of
very many years' duration against yourself there is really nothing
whatever to connect him with the affair.'

'Nothing, Mr. Slippen. It is, in fact, simply because there is no one
else against whom we have even such slight grounds as this to go upon,
that we suspect this fellow of being the author of these rascally
communications.'

'You will understand, Mr. Hawtrey, that being employed by you I consider
it my duty to let you know exactly the light in which the matter strikes
me. Of course, I do not know the man as you do, but from what I have
learnt from Captain Hampton he seems to be an unprincipled blackguard; a
man who has been concerned in various shady transactions on the turf,
and who has come down to the rank of the lowest class of betting men; a
fellow who pays his bets when he has made a winning book on a race and
is a welsher when he loses.

'Of course, it may be that such a man is of so vindictive a nature that
he may have taken all this trouble simply to annoy you, but I cannot
help thinking that if he had embarked upon it he would have played his
hand so as not only to annoy but to extort money to cease that
annoyance. Now the writer of these letters has certainly not done that.
Had he had any idea of extorting money he would have sent some sort of
private intimation to you, by means of a cautiously worded letter, to
the effect that an arrangement could be made by which the thing could be
put a stop to. You have received no such missive; therefore, if this man
is the author he is simply a malicious scoundrel, and not, in this
instance at any rate, a clever rogue, as I should certainly have
expected to find him from his antecedents.'

'That is to say, you do not think he is the man?'

'Yes, I think it comes almost to that, Mr. Hawtrey. I do not know him,
and, of course, he may be the man, but I own that I shall be a good deal
surprised if I find that he is so. Still, in the absence of any other
clue whatever, I propose to follow this up. It will be something at
least to clear it out of the way and to have done with it. I shall
detail my boy to watch the public-house till the man comes to it, and
then to find out where he lives and what are his habits; to follow his
footsteps and take note of every place where he posts a letter. We shall
get, at any rate, negative evidence that way. If, for instance, a letter
is posted in the south of London, and we know that on that day the man
never went out of Islington, I think that it will be very strong proof
that he has nothing to do with the matter. Of course the reverse would
not be so convincing the other way; but if we had the coincidence, three
or four times repeated, of the letter bearing the mark of a district in
which he had dropped one into the post, we should feel that we were a
long way towards proving his connection with the affair.'

'Quite so,' Mr. Hawtrey agreed; 'that will, as you say, either go far to
confirm our suspicions, or will altogether clear the ground so far as he
is concerned, and we must then look for a clue in some other direction
altogether.'

That afternoon Captain Hampton, having nothing to do, made his way up to
Islington. The lad was not to be put on the watch until the next
morning, and he thought that he might see this man at the public-house
he frequented, and perhaps glean something from any conversation he
might have with the men he met there. After some inquiry as to the
direction of Frogmore Street, he turned up the Liverpool Road, and had
gone but a few hundred yards when his eye fell on a couple engaged in
earnest conversation on the raised walk, on the opposite side of the
street. He paused abruptly in his stride. One was unquestionably the man
for whom he was seeking. He was better dressed than when he had seen him
before, and had more the air of a gentleman, but there could be no
question as to his identity. The other was as unmistakably Dorothy
Hawtrey.

There was no question of an accidental likeness; it was the girl
herself, and he recognised the dress as one he had seen her wear.
Turning sharply on his heel he turned down a bye street, and came out
into Upper Street. There were too many people here for him to think; he
passed on, walking in the road at the edge of the pavement, to the
Angel, and then turned down the comparatively quiet pavement of
Pentonville Hill.

What could it mean? He could see but one solution, and yet he refused to
accept it. To believe it was to believe Dorothy Hawtrey to be guilty of
deception and lying. Was it possible that, after all, this man could
have possessed letters of hers, and that she had been driven at last to
meet him and redeem them? He remembered her pallor when she had heard
that morning that this fellow's whereabouts had been discovered, and how
she had urged that no steps should be taken against him. It had all
seemed natural then; it seemed equally natural now under this new
light--and yet he refused to believe it. So he told himself over and
over again. That he had seen her in conversation with Truscott was
undeniable; of that, at least, he was certain, but equally certain was
it to him that there must be some other explanation of the meeting than
that which had at first struck him. What could that explanation be? No
answer occurred to him; he could hit upon no hypothesis consistent with
her denial of any knowledge whatever of the writer of these letters.

He was at the bottom of the hill now; disregarding the hails of various
cabmen, he crossed the road and made his way down through the squares.
It was better to be walking than sitting still. He scarcely noticed
where he was going, and was almost surprised when he found himself in
Jermyn Street. He went upstairs, lighted a cigar, and sat down.

'What is coming to me?' he said to himself. 'I am generally pretty good
at guessing riddles, and there must be some explanation of this mystery,
if I can but hit upon it.'

But after thinking for another hour, the only alternative to the first
idea that had occurred to him was that Dorothy, in her horror of the
idea of a public trial and of being forced to appear in the witness box,
had taken the desperate resolution to find this man herself, at the
address he had mentioned to her and her father, to bribe him to desist
from his persecution of her, and to warn him that unless he moved away
at once the police would be on his track.

It was all so unlike the high-spirited child he had known, and the girl
as he had believed her still to be, that it was difficult to credit that
she would allow herself to be driven to take such a step as this, in
order to escape what seemed to him a minor unpleasantness.

Still, as he told himself, there were men of tried bravery in many
respects who were moral cowards, and it might well be that, though
generally fearless, Dorothy might have a nervous shrinking from the
thought of standing up in a crowded court, exposed to an inquisition
that in many cases was almost a martyrdom. It was an awful mistake to
have made. If the scoundrel had been bribed into silence now, he would
be all the more certain to recommence his persecution later on, and
after having once met with and paid him for his silence how could she
refuse to do so when another demand was made?

One thing seemed to Ned Hampton unquestionable. He must maintain an
absolute silence as to what he had seen--the harm was done now and could
not be undone. He was certain that she had not noticed him, and could
never suspect that he had her secret. As for himself there was nothing
for him now but to stand aside altogether. Filled as he was with the
deepest pity for Dorothy, he was powerless to help her. When the next
trouble came it was her husband who would have to stand beside her, and
to whom, sooner or later, she would have to own the false step she had
taken.

He felt that at any rate it was out of the question that he should see
her again at present. It was fortunate that he had retired from the
investigation in favour of Mr. Slippen, and could therefore run away for
a bit without seeming to have deserted Mr. Hawtrey. He had thought about
hiring a yacht, and this would serve as a pretext for him to run down to
Ryde. He could easily put away a fortnight between that town, Cowes,
Southampton, and Portsmouth. As to the yacht he had no real intention
now of looking for one. He must wait for a while and see what happened
next. He was sure to meet men he knew at Southsea, and anything was
better than staying in London.

He accordingly at once wrote a note to Mr. Hawtrey, saying that it would
be some time before Slippen obtained such evidence against Truscott as
would put them in a position to bring it home to him, and that as he
could not be of any use for a time he had resolved to run down for a
week to Southsea, and look round the various yards in search of a yacht
of about the size he wanted, for a cruise of six weeks or two months,
with the option of taking her up the Mediterranean through the winter.
Then he wrote several letters of excuse to houses where he had
engagements, and started the next morning by the first train for
Portsmouth. He was a fortnight absent, and on his return called on Mr.
Hawtrey at an hour when he knew that he was not likely to meet Dorothy.

'So you are back again, Ned? Your note took me quite by surprise, for
you had said nothing as to your going away when I met you early in the
day.'

'No, sir, it was a sort of sudden inspiration. I was sick of London, and
had had a very dull time of it going about to races for three weeks
before; so I thought that I would have a complete change, made up my
mind at once, packed my portmanteau, and was off. Have you had any news
from Slippen?'

'None. He has written to me two or three times; his last note came this
morning, saying that his boy has been watching the public-house ever
since, and that the man has certainly not been there. The boy is a sharp
fellow and found that the fellow had called in there on the very day
before he began his watch, and he also discovered by bribing a postman
where he had lodged, but upon going there found he had given up his room
on the same day he had last been at the public-house, and had left no
address, nor had the people of the house the slightest idea where he had
gone. I suppose the fellow took fright at the publicity there had been
about the affair; at any rate, no more of those letters have come since.
That is certainly a comfort, but it looks as if we were never going to
get to the bottom of the mystery. Of course, it is extremely annoying,
but I suppose we shall live it down. Halliburn offered a reward of a
hundred pounds for the discovery of Truscott's, or as he calls him
Marvel's, address. That was a week ago, and he has received no answer as
yet, which is certainly a fresh proof that the fellow was the author of
the letters. If not, he himself would have turned up and claimed the
reward.'

'That is not quite certain, Mr. Hawtrey. He has doubtless been concerned
in many other shady transactions, and may think he is wanted for some
other affair altogether.'

'You are right, that may be so; I did not think of that. Still, it is
strange the offer of a reward has brought no news of him. He must be
well known to numbers of men who would sell their own father for a
hundred pounds.'

'If he is really alarmed he may have changed his name, and gone to some
part of the country where he is altogether unknown, or he may have
crossed the Channel to some of the French or Belgian ports. There is a
lot of betting carried on from that side, and he may manage to live
there as he has lived here--by fleecing fools.'

Two days later, Hampton met the Hawtreys at a dinner-party. Dorothy was
looking pale and languid, but at times she roused herself and talked
with almost feverish gaiety. Lord Halliburn was there; he was sitting
next to Dorothy, and seemed silent and preoccupied, and looked, Hampton
thought, vexed when she had one of her fits of talking. When they had
rejoined the ladies after dinner Hampton was chatting with the lady he
had taken down, and who was an old friend of his family.

'Is it not awfully sad, this affair of Miss Hawtrey's?' she said. 'It is
evidently preying on her health. I never saw anybody more changed in the
course of a few weeks. Of course, everyone who knows her is quite
certain that there is no foundation whatever for these wicked libels
about her. Still, naturally, people who don't know her think that there
must be something in it, and she must know, wherever she goes, that
people are talking about it. It is terrible! I do not know what I should
do were she a daughter of mine.'

'Yes, it is a most painful position; there does not seem any method by
which these anonymous libels can be met and answered. The most
scandalous part of the business is that any notice of a thing of this
sort should get into the papers. The form in which it was noticed
rendered it impossible to obtain redress of any kind; the statements
contained as to the annoyance caused by these letters, and as to the
nature of their contents, were accurate, and Mr. Hawtrey is therefore
unable to take any steps against them. I have known Miss Hawtrey from
the time that she was a little child; as you are aware they are my
greatest friends, and I assure you that one's powerlessness in these
days to take any step to right a wrong of this sort, makes me wish I had
lived at any time save in the middle of the nineteenth century. A
hundred years ago one would have called out the editor or proprietor, or
whatever he calls himself, of a paper that published this thing, and
shot him like a dog; four hundred years ago one would have sent him a
formal challenge to do battle in the lists; if one had lived in Italy a
couple of centuries back, and had adopted the customs of the country,
one would have had him removed by a stab in the back by a bravo--not a
manner that commends itself to me I own, but which, as against a man
whose journal exists by attacking reputations is, I should consider,
perfectly legitimate.'

'But he is not the chief offender in the case, Captain Hampton.'

'I don't know. The anonymous libeller could really have done no harm had
it not been that there were organs that were ready to inform the world
of his attacks upon this lady; the letters could have been burnt and
none been any the wiser, and in time the annoyance would have ceased.'

'Do you think the author of these things will ever be found out?'

'I should hardly think so. It is clearly the outcome of malice on the
part of some man or woman who has either a grudge against Mr. Hawtrey,
his daughter, or Lord Halliburn, or of some one interested in breaking
off Miss Hawtrey's engagement.'

'I don't think Lord Halliburn has behaved nicely in the matter,' Mrs.
Dean said. 'If he had shown himself perfectly indifferent to the affair
from the first, people would never have talked so much. It is his
palpable annoyance that has more than confirmed these gossiping
rumours.'

'Between ourselves, Mrs. Dean, although I should not at all mind his
knowing it, my opinion is, that Halliburn is a cad.'

Mrs. Dean laughed. 'It is next door to blasphemy to speak in society of
a peer as a cad, Captain Hampton; still, I am not at all sure that you
are wrong. But I must be going; my husband has been making signs to me
for the last ten minutes.'



CHAPTER VI


Captain Hampton had spoken harshly of Lord Halliburn, but then he was
scarcely able to appreciate the difficulties of the young nobleman. Lord
Halliburn was in many respects a model peer. His talents were more than
respectable, his life was irreproachable, he was wealthy and yet not a
spendthrift. The title was of recent creation, his father being the
first holder of the earldom, having been raised to that rank for his
political services to the Whig party, just as his grandfather, a wealthy
manufacturer, had been rewarded for the bestowal of a park, a public
library, and other benefactions to his native town, by a baronetcy. And
yet Lord Halliburn supported his position as worthily as if the earldom
had come down in an unbroken line from the days of the Henrys, and was
held up as an example to less tranquil and studious spirits.

He had scarcely been popular at Eton, for he avoided both the river and
the playing fields, and was one of a set who kept aloof from the rest,
talked together upon politics, philosophy, and poetry, held mildly
democratic opinions as to the improvement of the existing state of
things, were particular about their dress, and subdued in their talk.
That they were looked upon with something like contempt by those who
regarded a place in the eight or the eleven as conferring the proudest
distinction that could be aimed at, they regarded not only with
complacency, but almost with pride, and privately considered themselves
to belong to a far higher order than these rough athletes. At college,
his mode of life was but little altered. He belonged to a small coterie
who lived apart from the rest, held academic discussions in each others'
rooms upon many abstruse subjects, were familiar with Kant, regarded the
German thinkers with respectful admiration, quoted John Stuart Mill and
Spencer as the masters of English thought, were mildly enthusiastic over
Carlyle and Ruskin, and had leanings towards Comte and Swedenborg.

It was only at the Union that Lord Everington, as he then was, came in
contact with those outside his own set, and here he quite held his own,
for he was a neat and polished speaker, never diverging into flights of
fancy, but precise as to his facts and close in his reasoning. His
speeches were always listened to with attention, and though far from
being one of the most popular, he was regarded as being one of the
cleverest and most promising debaters at the Union. Just as he was
leaving college a terrible blow fell upon him, for at the sudden death
of his father, he succeeded to the title. To some men the loss would not
have been without its consolations. To him it meant the destruction of
the scheme on which he had laid out his life. He had intended to enter
Parliament as soon as possible, and had sufficient confidence in himself
to feel sure that he should succeed in political life, and would ere
many years become an Under-Secretary, and in due course of time a member
of the Cabinet.

Now all this prospect seemed shattered. In the Peers he would have but
slight opportunity of distinguishing himself, and would simply be the
Earl of Halliburn, and nothing more. It was, however, to his credit that
even in the dull atmosphere of the Gilded Chamber he had, to some
extent, made his mark. He studied diligently every question that came
up, and, while clever enough not to bore the House by long speeches, he
came, ere long, to be considered a very well-informed and useful young
member of it, and had now the honour of being Under-Secretary for the
Colonies. It was a recognition of his work that he enjoyed keenly,
although he felt bitterly how few were his opportunities in comparison
to what they would have been had his chief been in the Peers and he in
the Commons.

As it was, his fellow peers evinced no curiosity whatever in regard to
colonial matters, and it was of rare occurrence that any question was
asked upon the affairs of which he had charge. Nevertheless, it was a
great step. It brought him within the official circle, and more than
once the mastery of the subject shown in his answers had won for him a
few words of warm commendation from the Leader of the House.

Then came, as he now thought it, the unfortunate idea of marriage. It
would add to his weight, he had considered. As a bachelor his house in
Park Lane, his place in the country, and his wealth, were but of slight
advantage to him, but, as his chief one day hinted to him, he would be
able to be of far more use to his party were he in a position to
entertain largely.

'We are rather behindhand in that respect, Halliburn. Four-fifths of the
good houses are Tory. These things count for a good deal. You may say
that it is absurd that it should be so, but that does not alter the fact
that it gratifies the wives and daughters of the country members to have
such houses open to them. You have plenty of money, and you don't throw
it away, so that you can afford to do things well. If I were you, I
should certainly look out for a wife.

'She need not be a politician. She need not even belong to one of our
families. Whatever her people's politics she will naturally, as your
wife, come in time to take your views; and besides, there is no harm,
rather the reverse, in keeping up a connection with that side. You must
see as well as I do that the time is fast coming when there will be a
considerable change in politics. Even now we are far nearer, upon all
important points, to the Tories than we are to these Radical fellows who
at present vote with us, but who in time will want to control us. The
Tories have come much nearer to us, and we to them. Already we are
scarcely in a majority on our own side of the house, and it will not be
many years before we shall have to concede the demand to give a large
share of ministerial appointments to Radicals. We shall then perceive
that we must choose between becoming the followers of men whose ways and
politics we hate, or the allies of men of our own stamp, whose way of
looking at things differs but very little from our own. Therefore, I
should say it would be just as well for you to choose a wife from their
ranks as from your own.'

Lord Halliburn had, as was his custom, thought the matter over coolly
and carefully, and had come to the conclusion that it would be well for
him to marry. He was by no means blind to the fact that there would be
no great difficulty in his doing so. He was not unobservant of the
frequency of invitations to houses where there were daughters of
marriageable age, and had often smiled quietly at the innocent
manoeuvres upon the part both of mothers and daughters. He had,
however, never seriously given the matter a thought, being rather of
opinion that a wife would interfere with his work, would compel him to
take a more prominent part in society, and would expect him to devote a
considerable proportion of his time to her. Now that the matter was
placed before him in another light, he saw that there was a good deal to
be said on the other side. The fact that the suggestion came from his
chief was not without weight, and he decided accordingly to marry.

He proceeded about the matter in the same methodical manner in which he
carried out the other work of his life, and was not very long in
deciding in favour of Miss Hawtrey. She was one of the belles of the
season, and, as was no secret, had refused two or three excellent
offers. There would, therefore, be a certain _éclat_ in carrying her
off. She belonged to an old county family. Her father, although a
Conservative, had taken no prominent part in politics, and his daughter
would no doubt soon prove amenable to his own opinions and wishes. Above
all, she would make a charming hostess. Having once made up his mind, he
set to work seriously, and soon became interested in it to a degree that
surprised him.

To his rank and his position in the Ministry he speedily found that she
was absolutely indifferent, and was as ready to dance and laugh with an
impecunious younger son as with himself. This indifference stimulated
his efforts, and as a man, as well as a peer and politician, he was
gratified when he received an affirmative reply to his proposal. His
chief himself congratulated him upon his engagement, and he knew that he
was an object of envy to many, for in addition to being a belle, Miss
Hawtrey was also an heiress, and for a short time he was highly
gratified at the course of events. It was thus he felt cruelly hard
when, within a fortnight of his engagement, this unpleasant affair took
place.

It seemed intolerable to him that the lady whom he had chosen should be
the subject of these libellous attacks. He did not for an instant doubt
that she was, as she said, wholly ignorant of the author of these
letters, and that there was nothing whatever on which these demands for
money could be based. Still, the business was none the less annoying,
and in his irritation he had taken the step that had unfortunately
resulted in the matter becoming public. He was angry with himself;
angry, although he could have given no reason for the feeling, with
Dorothy; very angry with society in general, for entertaining the
slightest suspicion of the lady whom he had selected to be his wife.
That such suspicion should, even in the vaguest manner, exist, was in
itself wholly at variance with his object in entering upon matrimony.
The wife of the Earl of Halliburn should not be spoken of except in
terms of admiration; that the finger of suspicion should be pointed at
her was intolerable.

His house might even be shunned, instead of the entry there being so
exclusive as to be eagerly sought for. Of course, it was not her fault,
and it should make no difference as to his course. Still, the affair
was, he freely owned, annoying in the extreme. He had had but few
troubles, and bore this badly. The belief that the clerks in his office
were talking of his affairs kept him in a state of constant irritation,
and he fancied that even the impassive door-keeper smiled furtively as
he passed him on his way in and out. Being in the habit of attaching a
good deal of importance to his personality he believed that anything
that affected him was a matter of much interest to the world at large,
and that it occupied the thoughts of other people almost as much as it
did his own. For the first time he felt that there were some advantages
in a seat in the Upper House. In that grave, and for the most part
scanty, gathering of men, generally much older than himself, he could
feel that his troubles elicited but little more than a passing remark,
and, indeed, the only sign of their knowledge of them that even his
irritated self-love could detect was a slightly added warmth and
kindness on the part of two or three of his leaders.

With the younger men it was different. 'I never thought much of that
fellow Halliburn,' said Frank Delancey, who had been in his form at
Eton, and was now, like himself, an under secretary, but in the Commons.
'I never believe in fellows who moon their time away instead of going in
for the water or fields, and Halliburn is showing now that he is not of
good stuff. He has not got the cotton out of his veins yet. Of course,
it is not pleasant for a girl you are engaged to, to be talked about;
but a man with any pluck and honour would not show it as he does.
Instead of going about looking bright and pleasant, as if such a paltry
accusation was too contemptible to give him a moment's thought, he gives
himself the airs of Hamlet when he begins to suspect his uncle, and
walks about looking as irritable as a bear with a sore head. He hasn't
even the decency to behave like a gentleman when he is with her, I hear.
Young Vaux, of the Foreign Office, told me yesterday that he met them
both at dinner the day before, and the fellow looked downright cross,
instead of being, as he ought to have been, more courteous and devoted
than usual. I fancy that you will hear that it is broken off before
long. I don't think Dorothy Hawtrey is the sort of girl to stand any
nonsense.'

'No, I quite agree with you, Delancey,' his companion--Fitzhurst, member
for an Irish constituency--said. 'Still, I should say it would last
until this blows over. As long as the engagement goes on it is in itself
a sort of proof that everything is all right, and that these reports are
but a parcel of lies. The girl would feel that if she broke it off fresh
stories would get about, and that half the people would say that it was
his doing and that the stories were true, after all.'

'I will bet you a fiver that it does not come off, Tom.'

'No, I would not take that, but I would not mind betting evens that it
lasts three months.'

'Well, I will go five pounds even with you, and I will take five to one,
if you like, that it does not last another month.'

'No, I will take the even bet, but not the other. There is no saying
what developments may turn up.'

But Dorothy had even before this offered to release Lord Halliburn from
the engagement; he had refused the offer with vehemence, declaring
himself absolutely unaffected by the story, and, indeed, taking an
injured tone and accusing her of doubting his love for her.

'I am not doubting your love, Algernon,' she replied, 'but it is
impossible for me to avoid seeing that the matter is a great annoyance
to you, and that it is troubling you very much. You have several times
spoken quite crossly to me, and I am not in the habit of being spoken
crossly to. My father is naturally quite as annoyed as you are, but as
he believes, as you do, that the accusations are entirely false, he is
not in any way vexed with me.'

'Nor am I, Dorothy; not in the slightest degree, though I own that the
knowledge that people are talking about us does irritate me; but
certainly I did not mean to speak crossly to you, and am very sorry if I
did so.'

And so the matter had dropped, but Dorothy had none the less felt that
at a time when Halliburn ought to have been kinder than usual, and to
have helped her to show a brave front in the face of these rumours, he
had added to instead of lightening her troubles.

One morning at breakfast Dorothy gave an exclamation of surprise upon
opening one of her letters.

'What is it, my dear?'

'I don't understand it, father. Here is a letter from Gilliat, saying he
would be obliged if I will hand over to an assistant who will call for
it to-day, whichever of the two diamond tiaras I may have decided not to
retain, as he expects a customer this afternoon whom it might suit. I
don't know what he means. Of course I have not been choosing any jewels.
I should not think of such a thing without consulting you, even if I had
had money enough in my pocket to indulge in such adornments.'

She handed the letter to her father.

'It must be some mistake,' he said, after glancing it through; 'the
letter must have been meant for some one else. It must be some stupid
blunder on the part of a clerk. We will go round there together after
breakfast. I have not bought you anything of the sort yet, dear, and was
not intending to do so until the time came nearer; indeed, I had
intended to get your mother's diamonds re-set for you. Of course, I
should have gone to Gilliat's, as we have always dealt with his firm.'

After breakfast they drove to Bond Street.

'I want to see Mr. Gilliat himself, if he is in,' Mr. Hawtrey said.

Mr. Gilliat was in.

'My daughter has received a letter which is evidently meant for some one
else, Mr. Gilliat. It is about two diamond tiaras, which, it seems,
somebody has taken in order to choose one of them. Of course it was not
intended for her.'

Gilliat took the letter, glanced at it, and then at Dorothy. 'I do not
quite understand,' he said doubtfully.

'Not understand?' Mr. Hawtrey repeated with some irritation. 'Do you
mean to say that Miss Hawtrey has been supplied with two diamond
tiaras?'

'Would you mind stepping into my room behind, Mr. Hawtrey?' the jeweller
replied, leading the way into an inner room. As he closed the door his
eye met Dorothy's with a look of inquiry, as if asking for instructions.
Hers expressed nothing but surprise. 'Am I to understand, Mr. Hawtrey,'
he asked gravely, after a pause, 'that Miss Hawtrey denies having
received the tiaras?'

'Certainly you are,' Mr. Hawtrey said hotly, 'she knows nothing whatever
about them.'

The jeweller pressed his lips tightly together, thought for a moment,
and then touched a bell on the table. An assistant entered. 'Ask Mr.
Williams to step here for a moment.'

The principal assistant entered: 'Mr. Williams, do you remember on what
day it was that Miss Hawtrey selected the two tiaras?'

'It was about three weeks ago, sir; I cannot tell you the exact day
without consulting the sales book.'

'Do so at once, if you please.'

Mr. Williams went out and returned in a moment with the book.

'It was the 15th of last month, sir--July.'

'You served her yourself, I think, Mr. Williams, or, rather, perhaps you
assisted me in doing so?'

'Certainly, sir.'

'What was the value of the tiaras, Mr. Williams?'

'One was twelve hundred, the other was twelve hundred and fifty, sir.'

'She took them away herself?'

'Certainly, sir; I offered to place them in the carriage for her, but
she said it was a few doors up the street, and she would take them
herself.'

'You have not a shadow of doubt about the facts, Mr. Williams?'

'None whatever, sir,' the assistant said, in some surprise.

'You know Miss Hawtrey well by sight?'

'Certainly, sir; she has been here many times, both by herself, for
repairs or alterations to her watch or jewellery, and with other
ladies.'

'Thank you, Mr. Williams, that will do at present.'

The door closed and the jeweller turned to his customers.

Mr. Hawtrey looked confounded, his daughter bewildered.

'I do not understand it,' she said. 'I have not been here, Mr. Gilliat,
since the beginning of May, when I came to you about replacing a pearl
that had become discoloured in my necklace.'

'I remember that visit perfectly, Miss Hawtrey,' the jeweller said
gravely, 'but I must confirm what my assistant has said. Allow me to
recall to you that, in the first place, you told me that in view of an
approaching event you required a tiara of diamonds, and of course,
having heard of your engagement to Lord Halliburn, I understood your
allusion, and came in here with you, and had the honour of showing you
five or six tiaras. Of these you selected two, and said that you should
like to show them to Mr. Hawtrey before choosing. I offered to send an
assistant with them, but you said that your carriage was standing a few
doors off and that you would rather take them yourself. Our firm having
had the honour of serving Mr. Hawtrey and his family for several
generations, and knowing you perfectly, I had, of course, no hesitation
in complying with your request. I may say, as an evidence of the
exactness of my memory, that Miss Hawtrey was dressed exactly as she is
at present. I had, of course, an opportunity of noticing her dress as
she was examining the goods. She had on that blue walking dress with
small red spots, and the bonnet with blue feathers with red tips.'

'Will you give me the hour as well as the day at which you say my
daughter called here?' Mr. Hawtrey said sternly.

'My own impression is that it was about three o'clock,' the jeweller
said, after a moment's thought.

'Will you call your assistant and ask him?'

Mr. Williams being summoned said that he had no distinct recollection as
to the precise time, but that it was certainly somewhat early in the
afternoon. He had returned from lunch about two, and it was not for some
little time after that that Miss Hawtrey called; he should say it was
between three and half past three.

'That will be near enough,' Mr. Hawtrey said. 'You shall hear from me
again shortly, Mr. Gilliat; I know that I can rely upon you to say
nothing in the meantime to anyone on the subject.'

'Certainly, Mr. Hawtrey.'

'Now, Dorothy, let us be going.'

Dorothy at the moment was unable to follow her father; she had sunk down
in a chair, pale and trembling; her look of intense surprise had given
way to one of alarm and horror, and it was not until she had drunk some
water that the jeweller brought her, that she recovered sufficiently to
take her father's arm and walk through the shop to the carriage.

'Well, Dorothy,' Mr. Hawtrey said, as they drove off, 'what does all
this mean?'

'I have not the least idea, father; I am utterly bewildered.'

'You still say that you did not go to the shop--that you did not examine
those tiaras and choose two of them?'

'Of course I say so, father. I have never been in the shop since I went
about that pearl. Surely, father, you cannot suspect me of having stolen
those things.'

'I am the last man in the world to suspect you of anything
dishonourable, Dorothy, but this evidence is staggering. Here are two
men ready to swear to the whole particulars of the incident. They are
both sufficiently acquainted with your appearance to be able to
recognise you readily. They can even swear to your dress. That you
should do such a thing seems to be incredible and impossible, but what
am I to think? You could not have done such a thing in your senses; it
would be the act of a madwoman, especially to go to a shop where you are
so well known.'

'But why should I have done it, father? I could not have worn them
without being detected at once.'

'You could not have worn them,' her father agreed, 'but they might have
been turned into money had you great occasion for it.'

Dorothy started.

'Do you mean, father--oh, surely, you never can mean that I could have
stolen those things to turn them into money in order to satisfy the man
who has been writing those letters?'

'No, my dear. I don't mean that myself, but that is certainly what
anyone who did not know you would say. There, don't cry so, child,' for
Dorothy was sobbing hysterically now; 'do not let us talk any more until
we get home. We have got the day and hour at which you were supposed to
have been at Gilliat's. Perhaps we may be able to prove that you were
engaged somewhere else, and that it was impossible you could have been
at Gilliat's about that time.'

Nothing more was said until they reached home.

'You had better come into my study, Dorothy; we shall not be disturbed
there. Now, dear,' he said, 'let us have the matter out. I can only say
this, that if you again give me your assurance that you are absolutely
ignorant of all this, and that you never went to Gilliat's on the day
they say you did, I shall accept your assurance as implicitly as I did
before; but before you speak, remember, dear, what that entails. These
people are prepared to swear to you, and will, of course, take steps to
obtain payment for these things. If such steps are taken the whole
matter will be gone into to the bottom. Remember everything depends on
your frankness. It will be terribly painful for you to acknowledge that,
after all, you had got into some entanglement, and that you did in a
moment of madness take these things in order to free yourself from it.
It would be terribly painful for me to hear this, but upon hearing it I
should of course take steps to raise this twenty-five hundred pounds,
for at present I do not happen to have so much at my bankers, and to
settle Gilliat's claim. But even painful as this would be it would be a
thousand times better than to have all this gone into in public. On the
other hand, if you still assure me that you know nothing of it I must
refuse to pay the money, both because to do so would be to admit that
you took the things, and because, in the second place, whoever has taken
these tiaras--for that some one has done so we cannot doubt--may again
personate you and involve us in fresh trouble and difficulties.'

'I did not do it, father; indeed I did not do it. I have had no
entanglement; I was in no need of money; I have never been near
Gilliat's shop, unless, indeed, I was altogether out of my mind and did
it in a state of unconsciousness, which I cannot think for a moment. I
have worried over this until I hardly knew what I was doing, but I never
could have gone to that shop and done as they say without having a
remembrance of it. Why, the last place I should choose if I had ever
thought of stealing would be a place where I was perfectly known.
Indeed, father, I am altogether innocent. I cannot account for it, not
in the least, but I am sure that I had nothing to do with it.'

'Then, my dear, I will not doubt you for another moment,' Mr. Hawtrey
said, kissing her tenderly. 'Now we just stand in the same position as
we did in regard to the other affair; we have got to find out all about
it. In the first place, get your book of engagements, and let us see
what you were doing on the afternoon of the 15th.'

Dorothy went out of the room and soon returned with a pocket book.

'Not satisfactory, I can see,' Mr. Hawtrey said, as he glanced at her
face.

'No, father; here it is, you see--"Lunch with Mrs. Milford;" nothing
else. I remember about that afternoon now. I drove in the carriage to
Mrs. Milford's, and had lunch at half-past one; there was one other lady
there. Mrs. Milford had tickets for a concert, at St. James's Hall I
think it was, but I am not sure about that. I had a headache, and would
not go with them; and, besides, I had some shopping to do. I got out of
her brougham in Hanover Square. I went into Bond Street certainly, and I
got some gloves and scent; then I went into Cocks' and looked through
the new music and chose one or two pieces, then I went into the French
Gallery. Mrs. Milford had been talking about it at lunch, so I thought I
would drop in. There were very few people there, so I sauntered round
and sat down and looked at those I liked best. It was quiet and
pleasant. I must have been in there a long time. When I came out I took
a cab and drove straight home. It was six o'clock when I got back, and I
remember I went straight up to my room and had a cup of tea there, then
I took off my gown and my maid combed my hair, as it was time for me to
dress for dinner. My head was aching a good deal and it did me good. We
dined at the Livingstones' that evening.'

'It is unfortunate, certainly, Dorothy. I had hoped we might have been
able to have fixed you somewhere that would have proved conclusively
that you could not possibly have been at Gilliat's that afternoon. As it
is, your recollections do not help us at all, for your time from
somewhere about three till six is practically unaccounted for. The
people you bought the gloves and scent from could prove that you were
there, but you probably would not have been many minutes in their shop.
Cocks' may remember that you were there a quarter of an hour or so.'

'I think I was there half-an-hour, father.'

'Well, say half-an-hour; the rest of the time you were really in the
picture gallery, but it is scarcely likely that, even if the man who
took your money at the door or the attendant inside noticed you
sufficiently to swear to your face, they would be able to fix the day,
still less have noticed how long you stayed. At any rate it is clear
that it would be possible for you to have done all you say you did that
afternoon and still to have spared time for that visit to Gilliat's.'

'I see that it is all terrible, father, but what can it all mean?'

'That is more than I can understand, Dorothy. At present we are face to
face with what seems to me two impossibilities. I mean looking at them
from an outsider's point of view. The one is that these shopmen should
have taken any one else for you when they are so well acquainted with
your face, and are able to swear even to the dress. No less difficult is
it to believe that did you require money so urgently that you were ready
to commit a crime to obtain it, you would go to the people to whom you
were perfectly well known, and so destroy every hope and even every
possibility of the crime passing undetected. One theory is as difficult
to believe as the other. Those letters were a mystery, but this affair
is infinitely more puzzling. I really do not know what to do. I must
take advice in the matter, of course. I would rather pay the money five
times over than permit it to become public, but who is to know what form
this strange persecution is to take next?'

'Do you think there is any connection between this and the other,
father?'

Mr. Hawtrey shook his head. 'I do not see the most remote connection
between the two things. But there may be; who can say?'

'I would rather face it out,' Dorothy said, passionately. 'I would
rather be imprisoned as a thief than go on as I have been doing for the
last six weeks; anything would be better. Even if you were to pay the
money the story might get about somehow, just as the other did. Then the
fact that you paid it would be looked upon as a proof that I had taken
the diamonds. Who will you consult, father?'

'My lawyers would be the proper people to consult, undoubtedly; but they
were quite useless before, and this is wholly out of their line, I
think. I will take a hansom and go across to Jermyn Street, and see if I
can find Ned Hampton in. I have great faith in his judgment, and no one
could be kinder than he has been in the matter. You don't mind my
speaking to him?'

'Oh, no, father. I would rather that you should speak to him than to any
one.'

Captain Hampton was in and listened in silent consternation to Mr.
Hawtrey's story, and for a long time made no answer to the question.

'I can make neither head nor tail of it, Ned. What do you think?'

At first sight it seemed to him that this story explained the meeting he
had seen opposite the Agricultural Hall. She had either turned the
diamonds into money or had handed them over to this man to buy his
silence. Then his faith in Dorothy rose again. It was absolutely absurd
to suppose for a moment that she should have thus committed a crime
which must be certainly brought home to her, and which would ruin her
far more than any revelations this man might make could do.

'It is an extraordinary story, Mr. Hawtrey,' he said, at last; 'even
putting our knowledge of your daughter's character out of the question,
is it possible to believe that any young lady possessed of ordinary
shrewdness would go to a place where she was well known, and, have acted
in the way that she is reported to have done?'

'It would certainly seem incredible, Ned, but here are two or three
people prepared to swear that she did do so, and that they identified
her by her dress as well as by herself.'

'We must look at the matter in every light, Mr. Hawtrey; however
confident you may feel of her innocence, we must look at it from the
light in which other people will regard it. They will say, of course,
that Miss Hawtrey had urgent need of money for some purpose or other,
and will naturally suppose that reason to be her desire to silence the
author of those letters. They will say, that although she would of
course know that the bill would be sent in to her father, she would be
sure that he would rather pay the money than betray her sin to the
world.'

'I quite see that,' Mr. Hawtrey agreed, 'but if she had been driven to
desperation by this fellow, why did she not come direct to me in the
first place, instead of committing a theft to drive me to pay, when she
might be pretty sure in some way or other the facts would leak out, and
do her infinitely more harm with the world than any indiscretion
committed years ago could do? Besides, had she done it for this purpose,
would she not have carried through that course of action, and when the
bill came in have implored me to pay it without question, and so save
her from disgrace and ruin?'

'That certainly is so,' Captain Hampton said, as his face brightened
visibly; 'the more one thinks of it the more mysterious the affair
seems. I should like to think it all over quietly. I suppose you will
not go out this evening?'

'Certainly not. There will be no more going out until this mystery has
been cleared up. It has been hard enough for Dorothy to bear up over her
last trouble, but it would be out of the question for her to go into
society with this terrible thing hanging over her.'

'Then I will come round about nine o'clock. I shall have had time to
think it over before that.'

Captain Hampton's cogitations came to nothing. He walked up and down his
little room until the lodger in the parlour below went out in despair to
his club. He tried the effect of an hour's stroll in the least
frequented part of Kensington Gardens. He drove to Mr. Slippen's to
inquire if any clue had been obtained as to Truscott's movements. He ate
a solitary dinner at his lodgings and smoked an enormous quantity of
tobacco, but could see no clue whatever to the mystery. The meeting he
had witnessed was to him a piece of evidence far more damning than that
of the jeweller and his assistants. If she could explain that, the other
matter might be got over, though he could not see how. If she could not
explain it, it was evident that he had nothing to do but to advise her
father to settle the business at any cost.



CHAPTER VII


At nine o'clock Captain Hampton called at Chester Square and was shown
into the drawing-room, from which, as previously arranged, Mr. Hawtrey
had dismissed Mrs. Daintree, telling her that he had some private
matters to discuss with Ned Hampton.

Mrs. Daintree had retired tearfully, saying that for her part she
preferred hearing nothing about this painful matter--meaning that of the
letters, for she was ignorant of the later development.

Dorothy looked flushed and feverish. Her eyes were large and brilliant,
and there was a restlessness in her manner as she shook hands with her
old friend.

'Well, Ned,' she asked, with an attempt at playfulness, 'what is your
verdict--guilty or not guilty?'

'You need not ask me, Dorothy. Even the evidence of my own eyes would
scarcely avail to convince me against your word.' Then he turned to her
father. 'I have done nothing but think the matter over since you left
me, and I can see but one solution--an utterly improbable one, I
admit--but I will not tell you what it is until I have spoken to Miss
Hawtrey. Would you mind my putting a question or two to her alone?'

'Certainly not, Ned,' said Mr. Hawtrey, rising.

But Dorothy exclaimed: 'No, no, father, I will not have it so. I don't
know what Captain Hampton is going to ask me, but nothing that he can
ask me nor my answers could I wish you not to hear. Please sit down
again. There shall be no mysteries between us, at any rate.'

'Perhaps it is best so,' Captain Hampton agreed, though he felt the ring
of pain in the girl's voice at what she believed to be a sign that he
doubted her. 'I am willing, as I said just now, to disbelieve the
evidence of my own eyes on your word. I am determined to believe you
innocent. It is impossible for me to do otherwise. But there is one
matter I want cleared up. On the fifteenth of last month--that is the
day on which these things were missed--I saw a lady so exactly like you
in face and in dress that I should under any other circumstances be
prepared to swear to her, speaking to the man Truscott, in the Liverpool
Road, Islington. This was at about half-past four in the afternoon.'

A look of blank wonderment passed across Dorothy's face as he spoke, and
then changed into one of indignation.

'I was never in Islington in my life, Captain Hampton; I never heard the
name of Liverpool Road that I know of. I have never seen this man,
Truscott, since that day at Epsom. And you have believed this? You
believe that I would meet this man alone, for the purpose, I suppose, of
bribing him to silence? I have been mistaken in you altogether, Captain
Hampton. I thought you were a friend.'

'Stop, Dorothy,' her father said, authoritatively, as with her head
erect she walked towards the door, 'you must listen to this; it is
altogether too important to be treated in this way. We must hear what
Captain Hampton really saw, and he will tell us why he did not mention
the fact to me before. Sit down, my dear. Now, Captain Hampton, please
tell it to us again.'

Ned Hampton repeated his story, and then went on,

'You know I went suddenly out of town, Mr. Hawtrey. That I had been
mistaken never once occurred to me. Up to that time I had never for an
instant doubted your daughter's assertions that she knew nothing as to
any letters in the possession of Truscott. That morning, as you may
remember, I mentioned before you the name of the place where he was to
be found, and when, as I thought, I saw her with him, it certainly
appeared to me possible that after the dread Miss Hawtrey expressed of
appearing in a public court to prosecute him, she might, in a moment of
weakness, have gone off to see the man, to warn him of the consequences
that would ensue if he continued to persecute her, and to tell him that
unless he moved he would in a few hours be in custody. I thought such an
action altogether foreign to her nature, but I own that it never for a
moment occurred to me to doubt the evidence of my own eyes, especially
as the person was dressed exactly as your daughter had been when I saw
her that morning. That the person I saw was not her I am now quite ready
to admit. In that case it is morally certain that the person who took
away those jewels was also not her; and this strengthens the idea I had
before conceived, and which seemed, as I told you, a most improbable
one, namely, that there is another person who so closely resembles your
daughter that she might be mistaken for her, and, if so, this person is
acting with the man Truscott. Should this conjecture be the true one it
explains what has hitherto been so mysterious. The letters were designed
to injure your daughter in public estimation, and to prepare the way for
this extraordinary robbery, which would enrich Truscott as well as
gratify his revenge. What do you think, Mr. Hawtrey?'

'The idea is too new for me to grasp it altogether, Ned. Until now there
seemed no possible explanation of the mystery. This, certainly, strange
and improbable as it is, does afford a solution.'

'Well, father, I will leave you to talk it over,' Dorothy said, rising
again, 'unless Captain Hampton has seen me anywhere else and wishes to
question me about that also. And I think, father, that it will be much
better in future to put the matter altogether into the hands of a
lawyer; it would be his business to do his best for me whether he
thought me innocent or guilty. At any rate, it is more pleasant to be
suspected by people you know nothing about, than by those you thought
were your friends.' Then without waiting for an answer she swept from
the room.

'No use stopping her now,' her father said, shrugging his shoulders; 'it
is not often that I have known Dorothy fairly out of temper from the
time she was a child, but when she is it is better to let her cool down
and come round of herself.'

'It will be a long time before she comes round as far as I am
concerned,' Captain Hampton said. 'I am not surprised that she should be
indignant that I should have suspected her for a moment, but I don't see
how I could have helped it. I saw her, or someone as much like her as if
it was herself in a looking-glass, talking to this man Truscott, the
very day when we had for the first time found out where we were likely
to lay hands on him. What could anyone suppose? I did not think for a
moment that she had done anything really wrong, or even, after what she
had said, that he could hold letters of any importance; but she had
evidently so great a dread of publicity that, as I say, it did strike me
she had gone to meet him in order to warn him, and perhaps to get back
any trumpery letters he might have had, stolen from her or from some one
else. I did think this up to the time when you told me of this affair at
the jeweller's. That seemed so utterly and wholly impossible that I
became convinced there must be some entirely different solution, if we
could but hit upon it, and the only idea that occurred to me was that of
there being some one else exactly like her, and that this person,
whoever she is, has been used by Truscott both to injure your daughter
and to obtain plunder.'

'I don't see how you could have helped suspecting as you did, when you
saw Truscott speaking with some one whom you did not doubt being
Dorothy. Had I been in your place and witnessed that meeting, it seems
to me that I must have doubted her myself. Though I am her father, I own
that I did doubt her for a moment this morning when I heard the story at
Gilliat's; but let us leave that alone for a moment, Ned; the pressing
question is, what am I to do?'

'I will give no opinion,' Captain Hampton said firmly; 'that must be a
question for you and Miss Hawtrey to decide. If my conjecture is right,
and this man, Truscott, and some woman closely resembling your daughter
are working to obtain plunder on the strength of that likeness, you may
be sure that this successful _coup_ they have made will only be the
first of a series. On the other hand, you have not a shadow of evidence
to adduce against Gilliat's claim; there is simply her assertion against
that of two or three other people, and if he sues you, as, of course, he
will if you do not pay, it seems to me certain that a jury would give
the verdict against you--unless, of course, we can put this other woman
and Truscott into the dock. Should such a verdict be given, although
some might have their doubts as to this extraordinary story, the public
in general would conclude that Miss Hawtrey was a thief and a liar.
There is no doubt that your daughter's advice is the one to be followed,
and if I were you I would go to Charles Levine, the first thing in the
morning, lay the whole case before him, and put yourself in his hands.'

'I will do so, Ned. Should I mention to him that you saw her, as you
thought, with Truscott?'

'That must be as you think fit, sir. I don't think I should do so unless
it were absolutely necessary. He does not know your daughter as we do,
and would infallibly put the worst construction upon it. I should
confine myself to the story of the letters and the jewels, stating that
you believe there is a connection between them, and that, as you
implicitly believe Miss Hawtrey's word, the only conclusion you can
possibly come to is that the person who visited Gilliat's was some
adventuress bearing a strong resemblance to her, and trading on that
resemblance.'

'But how about the dress, Ned?'

'If it was, as I take it, a preconceived plot, carefully prepared, one
can readily conceive that Miss Hawtrey's movements had been watched and
that a dress and bonnet closely resembling hers had been got in
readiness.'

'It is an ugly business, Ned,' Mr. Hawtrey said, irritably. 'You and I
believe Dorothy to be innocent, but the more one looks at it the more
one sees how difficult it will be to persuade other people that she is
so. However, I will see Levine in the morning. He has had more difficult
cases in his hands than any man living.'

'That is the best thing you can do, sir. Now I will say good-night. You
know where I am to be found, and I must ask you to write to me there and
make an appointment for me to meet you if you want to see me. I shall
still do what I can in the matter, and shall spare no efforts to
endeavour to trace this man Truscott, and if I can find him it is
probable that I shall be able to find the woman; but please do not let
Miss Hawtrey know that I am taking any further part in the matter. She
is deeply offended with me, and from her point of view this is perfectly
natural. She thinks I ought to have trusted her and believed in her in
spite of any evidence whatever, even that of my own eyes, and she is
naturally extremely sore that one whom she regarded as a close friend
should not have done so. I regret it deeply myself, but seeing what I
saw----'

'You could not help doing so, Ned,' Mr. Hawtrey broke in warmly; 'as I
told you I should have doubted her myself. Do not worry yourself about
that. When she thinks it over she will see that you were in no way to
blame.'

'That will be a long time first,' Captain Hampton said, gravely;
'situated as she is, and harassed as she has been, it is very difficult
to forgive a want of trust on the part of those in whose faith and
support you had implicit confidence. I shall be very glad if you will
let me know what Levine advises.'

'That I will certainly do. I will write to you after I have seen him and
had a talk with Dorothy. There is the affair with Halliburn, which
complicates the whole question confoundedly. I wish to goodness he would
start for a trip to China and not come back until it is all over. It is
lucky that that they have got a serious debate on to-night in the Upper
House, and that he was, as he told us when he called this afternoon,
unable to go to the Alberys; if it hadn't been so he would have been
here by this time, to inquire what had occurred to make us send our
excuses at the last moment. He will be round here the first thing after
breakfast. Well, good night, Ned, if you must be going.'

On reaching his lodgings Captain Hampton found a boy sitting on the
doorstep.

'Halloa,' he said, 'who are you? Out of luck, and want something to get
supper with, I suppose?'

'I wanted to speak to you, Captain,' the boy said, standing up.

'Why, you are the boy from Slippen's; have you got any news for me?'

'No, Captain, I ain't come on his account, I have come on my own. I have
left Slippen for good.'

'Well, come up stairs; we can't talk at the door. Now what is it?' he
asked, as he sat down.

'Well, sir, it is just this: I have left Slippen. You see, it was this
way: I was a-watching a female party and she wur a good sort. I got up
as a crossing sweeper, and she never went across without giving me a
penny and speaking kind like, and one day she sent me out a plate of
victuals; so I didn't much like the job, and when Slippen wanted me to
say I had seen a bit more than I had, I up and told him as I wasn't
going to. Then he gave me a cuff on the head and I gave him some cheek,
and he told me to take myself out of it and never let him see my face
again, so you see here I am.'

'I see you are. But why are you here?'

'Well, you see, Captain, you allus spoke nice to me over there, and I
says to myself, "If I was ever to leave the governor, that is just the
sort of gent as I should like to work for." I can clean boots with any
one, and I could run errands, and do all sorts of odd jobs, and if you
still want to find that chap I was after I would hunt him up for you all
over London.'

'You are quite sure, Jacob, that you have done with Mr. Slippen? I
should not like him to think that I had taken you away from him.'

'I ain't a-going back to him no ways,' the boy said, positively, 'not
even if he would have me; and after what I said to him he would not do
that. He called me a blooming young vaggerbond, and I says to him,
"Vaggerbond yourself, ain't you wanting to make up false evidence agin a
female? You are worse nor a vaggerbond," says I. "You are just the worst
kind of a spy," says I, "and a liar at that." Then I had to make a bolt
for it, and he arter me, and he run nigh fifty yards before he stopped;
that is enough to show how mad he wor over it. First of all I thinks as
I would go to the Garden, and take to odd jobs and sleeping under the
waggons, as I used to do afore I took up with him. Then I says to
myself, "There is that Captain Hampton; he is a nice sort of gent. I
could get along first-rate with him if he would have me."'

'But those clothes you have got on, Jacob; I suppose Slippen gave you
those?'

'Not he; Slippen ain't that sort; he got the clothes for me, and says
he, "These 'ere clothes cost twenty-two bob. I intend to give you
half-a-crown a week, and," says he, "I shall stop a bob a week for your
clothes." I have been with him about half a year, so we are square as to
the things.'

'But how did you live on eighteenpence a week?'

'I got a bob now and then from people who came to Slippen. When they
knew as I was doing the watching for them they would tip me, so as to
give me a h'interest in the case, as they said. I used to reckon on
making two bob a week that way, so with Slippen's eighteenpence, I had
sixpence a day for grub. I have got my old things wrapped up in the
cupboard. I used to use them mostly when I went out watching. I can get
them any time; I have got the key. I used to have to let myself in and
out, so I have only got to watch till I see him go out, and then go in
and get my things, and I can leave the key on the table when I come
out.'

Captain Hampton looked at the boy for some time in silence; it really
seemed a stroke of good luck that had thrown him in his way. There was
no doubt of his shrewdness; he was honest so far as his ideas of honesty
went. He wished to serve him, and would probably be faithful. He himself
felt altogether at sea as to how to set about the quest for this man and
the unknown woman who must be his associate. Even if the boy could be of
no material assistance, he would have him to talk to, and there was no
one else to whom he could say anything on the subject.

'Well, Jacob,' he said at last, 'I am disposed to give you a trial.'

'Thank you, Captain,' the lad said gratefully. 'I will do my best for
you, sir, whatever you tell me. I knows as I ain't much good to a gent
like you, but I will try hard, sir, I will indeed.'

'And now what am I to do with you?' Captain Hampton went on. 'I am sure
my landlady would not like to have you down in the kitchen, so for the
present you had better get your meals outside.'

'That is all right, Captain. I can take my grub anywhere.'

'Very well, then, I will give you two shillings a day for food; that
will be sixpence for breakfast and tea and a shilling for dinner. I
suppose you could manage on that.'

'Why, it would be just a-robbing of you,' the boy said, indignantly. 'I
can get a breakfast of a big cup of tea and a whopping piece of cake for
twopence at a coffee-stall, and the same at night, that is fourpence,
and for fourpence more I can get a regular blow out: threeha'porth of
bread and two saveloys for dinner. I could do first-rate on eightpence.'

'That is all nonsense, Jacob. If you are coming to be my servant you
must live decently. I daresay if you had a place where you could see to
your own food you might do it cheaper, but having to pay for things at a
coffee-shop, two shillings a day would be a fair sum. As I don't want
you to do anything for me in the house at present I do not see that it
will be of any use getting you livery, so we won't talk about that now.
You will most likely want another suit of clothes of some sort while
going about to look for this man, whom I still want to find. As for your
lodgings, I will see if there is a room vacant upstairs; if not, you
must get a bed out.'

He rang the bell, and his landlord, who acted as valet to his lodgers,
appeared.

'Richardson, I have engaged this boy to run errands for me. I do not
want him to interfere in the house, and have arranged about his board,
as no doubt you would find him in the way downstairs; but if you have an
attic empty I should like to arrange for his sleeping here.'

'I could arrange that, sir. I have a small room at the top of the house
empty; I would let it at four shillings a week.'

'Very well then. He will sleep here to-night.'

'Perhaps he will step up with me and I will show it to him, sir.'

Hampton nodded, and the boy followed the man out of the room. He
returned in a couple of minutes.

'That will do, I suppose, Jacob?'

'It just will do,' the boy said; 'it is too good for a chap like me. The
bed is too clean to sleep in: I would a sight rather lie down on the mat
there, sir.'

'That won't do at all, Jacob. You must get into clean and tidy ways if
you are to be with me. To-morrow morning I will give you some money, and
you must go out and get yourself a stock of underlinen--shirts, and
drawers, and stockings, and that sort of thing, and another pair or two
of shoes. And now it is getting late and you had better go off to bed.
Give yourself a thorough good wash all over before you turn in, and
again in the morning. Here are two shillings for your food to-morrow. Be
here at nine o'clock and then we will talk things over. Here is another
half-crown to get yourself a comb and brush.'

The next morning the boy presented himself looking clean and tidy.

'In the first place here is a list, Jacob, of the things you must get,
or rather that I will get for you, for I will go out with you and buy
them. And now about your work. I still want to find this man. Did you
discover what name he was known by at his lodging?'

'He was known there as Cooper, Captain, I got that out of the servant
girl, but lord bless you a name don't go for anything with these chaps.
No, he may call hisself something else at the next place he goes to.'

'You learnt he went away in a cab?'

The lad nodded.

'The first thing to do is to find that cab. It may have been taken from
a stand near; it may have been one he hailed passing along the road. How
would you set about that?'

'Offer a reward,' the boy replied promptly. 'Get a thing printed and I
will leave it at all the stands in that part.'

'Yes, that will be a good way.' Captain Hampton wrote a line or two on a
piece of paper. It was headed--A Reward.--The cabman who took a man with
several boxes from----'What is the address, Jacob, where the man
lodged?'

'Twelve, Hawthorn Street.'

'From Hawthorn Street, Islington, on the evening of the 15th July, can
earn one pound by calling upon Captain Hampton, 150 Jermyn Street.'

'That will do it,' the boy said, as the advertisement was read out.

'Well, I will get a hundred of these struck off at once, then you can
set to work.'

Having gone to a printer's and ordered the handbills, which were to be
ready in an hour, Captain Hampton went with the boy and bought his
clothes.

'Now, Jacob, you will go back to the printer's in an hour's time and
wait until you get the handbills. Here are five shillings to pay for
them; then take a 'bus at the Circus for Islington and distribute the
handbills at all the cab stands in the neighbourhood. I shan't want you
any more to-day, but if I am at home when you come in you can let me
know how you have got on. Be in by half-past nine always. You had better
go on at your night school; you have nothing to do after dark and there
is nowhere for you to sit here. There is no reason why you should not go
on working there as usual.'

'All right, Captain; if you says so in course I will go, but I hates it
worse nor poison.'

On his return Captain Hampton read the paper and wrote some letters, and
was just starting to go out to lunch when Mr. Hawtrey was shown in.

'I am very glad I have caught you, Ned; I meant to tell you I would come
round after seeing Levine. This business will worry me into my grave.
This morning Dorothy declared that the thing must be fought out. Her
objection to going into court has quite vanished. She says that it is
the only chance there is of getting to the bottom of things, and that if
that is not done we must go away to China or Siberia, or some
out-of-the-way place where no one will know her. Then I went to Levine.
Danvers called for me and took me there. I wrote to him last night and
asked him to do so. Nothing could have been more polite than Levine's
manner--I should say he would be a charming fellow at a dinner table. I
went into the whole thing with him, he took notes while I was talking,
and asked a question now and then; of course, I told him our last
notion, that there must be somebody about exactly like Dorothy in face
and figure. "And dress, too?" he asked, with a little sort of emphasis.
"Yes, and dress too," I said. When I had done he simply said that it was
a singular case, which I could have told him well enough, and that he
should like to take a little time to think it over. His present idea was
that I had best pay the money. I told him that I did not care a rap
about the money, but that if this thing got about, the fact that I had
compromised it would be altogether ruinous to my daughter. He said, "I
think you can rely upon it that Gilliat will preserve an absolute
silence. I can assure you that jewellers get to know a great many
curious family histories, and it is part of their business to be
discreet." "Yes," I said, "but don't you see if, as I believe, this
fellow Truscott got up the first persecution purely to revenge what he
believes is a grievance against me--if that is so, and if he has any
connection with this second business, you may be sure that somehow or
other he will get something nasty about it put in one of these gutter
journals." That silenced him, and he again said he would think it over.
When I got up to go he asked Danvers to wait a few minutes, as he took
it that if the matter went into court he would, as a matter of course,
be retained on our side. So I came away by myself and drove here. The
worst of it is, I believe that the man thinks that Dorothy did it. Of
course, as he does not know her he is not altogether to be blamed, but
it is deucedly annoying to have to do with a man who evidently thinks
your daughter is a thief.'

'Did he say anything as to our idea that some one else must have
represented her?'

'Not a single word; he listened attentively while I told him, but he
made no remarks whatever about it.'

After the doors of Mr. Levine's office had closed behind Mr. Hawtrey,
the solicitor leant back in his chair and looked at Danvers with raised
eyebrows.

'You have heard the story before, I suppose?' he asked.

'I heard about the first business, but not about this matter of the
jewels; except that he gave me a slight outline as we drove here this
morning. It is a curious business.'

'It is a very unpleasant business, but scarcely a curious one,' the
lawyer said, with a grave smile. 'I have heard so many bits of queer
family history, that I scarcely look at anything that way now as
curious. You would be astonished, simply astonished, did you know how
often things of this kind occur.'

'Then you think that Miss Hawtrey took the jewels?'

Mr. Levine's eyebrows went up again in surprise at the question. 'My
impression so far is,' he said, 'as between solicitor and counsel, that
there is not the slightest doubt in the world about it. The girl had got
into some bad sort of scrape; some blackguard had got her under his
thumb. She had a good marriage on hand; it was absolutely necessary to
shut the fellow's mouth. A largish sum was wanted, and she dared not ask
her father, so she played a bold stroke--a wonderfully bold stroke I
must say--relying upon brazening it out and getting her father to
believe--as she evidently has succeeded in doing--that there is a double
of herself somewhere about, who represented her. All the first part of
the case is a comparatively ordinary one. This is curious, even to
me--in its daring audacity, it is really magnificent. Of course, her
father must pay the money; to defend it would be to ruin her utterly. Do
you mean to say you don't agree with me?'

'I hardly know what to think,' Danvers said, doubtfully. 'I know Miss
Hawtrey intimately, and have done so for some years, and in spite of the
apparent impossibility of her innocence, I own that I cannot bring
myself to believe in her guilt. She is one of the brightest, frankest,
and most natural girls I know.'

The lawyer looked at him with a smile of almost pity.

'You surprise me, sir. My experience is that in the majority of cases of
this kind it is just the very last girl one would suspect who goes
wrong. Why, my dear sir, if we were to set up such a ridiculous defence
as this in an action to recover the price of the jewels, we should
simply be laughed out of court.'

'Mr. Hawtrey tells me that his daughter is most anxious that he should
defend the case.'

Again the eyebrows went up.

'Of course she would say so. She must know well enough that, whether her
father put himself into my hands or any one else's, the advice would be
the same: Pay the money; you have no shadow of a chance of getting a
verdict, and to bring it into court would utterly ruin your daughter's
prospects. Of course, it is her cue to appear anxious for a trial,
knowing perfectly well that such a thing is out of the question.'

'I think you might alter your opinion if you saw her.'

'I certainly should be glad to see her,' Charles Levine said. 'I admire
talent, and she must be amazingly clever. I have a great respect for
audacity, and I never heard in all my experience of a more brilliant
piece of boldness than this. She must be a great actress, too; of the
highest order. Altogether I should be very glad to see her. She deserves
to succeed, and as there is no doubt that you and I will be able to
persuade her father that there is nothing for it but to pay the money. I
think her success is pretty well assured.'

'I agree with you that this money must be paid, but I am not prepared to
go further yet.'

'My dear sir,' the lawyer said, 'you confirm the opinion I have always
held, that the judgment of no man under fifty is worth a penny where a
young and pretty woman is concerned. Mind, there are many men, perhaps
the majority, who cannot be trusted in such a matter up to any time of
life, but up to fifty the rule is almost universal.'

'I am glad to hear it,' Danvers said, 'for in that case your own
judgment cannot be accepted as final.'

'I rather expected that, Mr. Danvers, but you must remember that in
matters of this kind I have had more experience than a dozen ordinary
men of the age of eighty. Now, I really cannot spare any more time. I
have given your client a good two hours, and my waiting-room must be
full of angry men. I shall write to Mr. Hawtrey to-morrow to say that
upon thinking the matter well over my first impressions are more than
confirmed, and that I am of opinion that no jury in the world would give
him a verdict, and that it would be nothing short of insanity to go into
Court. I shall mention, of course, that I am much struck with his theory
of the affair, which indeed appears to me to furnish the only complete
explanation of the matter, but that in the absence of a single
confirmatory piece of evidence it would be hopeless for the most
eloquent counsel to attempt to persuade twelve British jurymen to
entertain the theory. I think it would be as well if you were to call on
him this evening or to-morrow morning and shew him that your view agrees
with mine. That much you can honestly say, can you not?'

'Certainly. However difficult I may find it to persuade myself that Miss
Hawtrey is in any way the woman you picture her, I am as convinced as
you are that it is absolutely necessary that the money should be paid.'

On Mr. Hawtrey reaching his home he found Mrs. Daintree upon the sofa in
tears, while Dorothy, with a book in her hand, was sitting with an
unconcerned expression a short distance from her.

'What is the matter now?' he asked testily. 'Upon my word I believe my
annoyances would have upset Job.'

'Would you believe it? Cousin Dorothy has just declared to me her
intention of writing to Lord Halliburn to break off the match.'

Mr. Hawtrey did not explode as his cousin had expected that he would do.

'It is not a step to be taken hastily,' he said, gravely, 'but it is one
upon which Dorothy herself is the best judge. You have not written yet,
child?'

'No, father. I should not think of doing so without telling you first. I
have, of course, been thinking a good deal about it, and it certainly
seems to me that it would be best.'

'Well, a few hours will make no difference. The idea is at present new
to me: I will think it over quietly this afternoon, and this evening we
will talk it over together.'

'It would be nothing short of madness for her to do so,' Mrs. Daintree
said, roused to a state of real anger by Mr. Hawtrey's defection, when
she had implicitly relied upon his authority being exerted to prevent
Dorothy from carrying out her intention. 'It would be madness to break
off so excellent a match. It would make her the talk of the whole town,
and would seem to confirm all the wicked rumours that have been going
about.'

'As to the match, cousin, there are as good fish in the sea as ever came
out of it. As to the public talk, it is better to be talked about for a
week or two than to have a life's unhappiness. That is the sole point
with which I concern myself.'

Dorothy, with a softened face now, got up and kissed her father.

'That is right dear,' he said. 'Now let us put the matter aside for the
present. I have been busy all the morning and want my lunch badly; so
even if you are not hungry yourself, come down and keep me company.
Come, cousin, dry your eyes, and put your cap straight, and come down to
lunch.'

'Food would choke me,' Mrs. Daintree said; 'I have a dreadful headache,
and shall go and lie down.'



CHAPTER VIII


'Mr. Danvers is in the library, sir,' a servant announced at nine
o'clock that evening.

'Will you come down, Dorothy?'

'No, father, I do not want to hear what is said. No doubt he will
suppose I took the diamonds.'

'No, no, my dear, you should not say that.'

'But I do say that, father. When even Captain Hampton was willing enough
to believe me guilty, what can I expect from others?'

'You are too hard on Ned altogether, Dorothy, a great deal too hard. He
spent a month of his leave entirely in your service, and now because he
could not disbelieve the evidence of his own eyes you turn against him.'

'I am obliged to him for the trouble he has taken, father, but that is
not what I want at present. I want trust; and I thought that if any one
would have given it to me fully it would have been Ned Hampton, and
nothing would have made me doubt him.'

'Well, my dear,' her father said, dryly, 'you may think so now, but if
you were to see him filling his pockets out of a bank till, I fancy for
a moment your trust in him would waver. However, I will go down to
Danvers.'

He returned at the end of twenty minutes.

'His advice is the same as that which, as I mentioned this afternoon,
Levine gave when I told him of the circumstances, and which I have no
doubt he will repeat when he has further thought the matter over,
namely, that unless we can obtain some evidence to support your denial,
we have no chance of obtaining a verdict if we go into court. Danvers
says that, of course, to those who know you, the idea of your taking
these diamonds is absolutely preposterous; still, as the jury will not
know you, and the public who read the report will not know you, they can
only go by the evidence. He says that trying to look at it as a
stranger, his opinion would be that it was an extraordinary case, but
that unless we believed thoroughly that you had not taken the things, we
should never have taken so hopeless a case into court. Still, he thinks
that the verdict of those who only look at the outside of things would
be that the denial was almost worse than the act. Had it not been for
the unfortunate rumours previously circulated, many people might be of
opinion that it was a case of kleptomania, and that no woman in her
senses would have thus openly carried the things away from a place where
she was well known.'

'I see all that, father; the more I have thought it over, the more I
feel that it is certain that every one will be against me.'

'Then in that case, Dorothy, why fight a battle we are certain to lose?
From the money point of view alone, it would be better to pay this
twenty-five hundred pounds than the twenty-five hundred pounds plus the
costs on both sides, which we might put down roughly at another
thousand. If we pay it now, the matter may never become public, for even
if the scoundrel was malicious enough to try and get a rumour about it
into one of these so-called society papers I should doubt whether he
could do so. In the last case they got the report, no doubt, from some
one in Scotland Yard, but no editor would be mad enough to risk an
action for libel with tremendous damages merely on an anonymous report,
or at best, a report given only on the authority of an impecunious
hanger-on of the turf. It seems to me, therefore, that we should have
everything to lose, and nothing to gain, by bringing the matter into
court.'

'But the same thing may be done again, father; if they have succeeded so
well now they are sure to try and repeat it.'

'We might take measures to prevent their doing that. The moment the
thing is settled we will go down into the country, and when we return to
town next season I will get a companion for you--some bright, sensible
woman, who will not be half her time laid up with headaches, and who
will always go with you whenever you go out; so that were such an
attempt made again, you would be in a position to prove conclusively
where you were at the time. Danvers suggested that if I pay the money to
Gilliat I should do so with a written protest, to the effect that I was
convinced that you had not been in his shop on the day in question, but
that as I was not in a position to prove this I paid the money,
reserving to myself the right to reclaim it, should I be at any time in
a position to prove that you had not been at his shop on that day, or be
able to produce the woman who represented you. Should the matter by any
chance ever crop up again, a copy of this protest would be an
advantage.'

'At any rate, father, I could never marry Lord Halliburn unless this
matter were entirely cleared up; it would be unfair to him in the
extreme. He might receive an anonymous letter from these people, and if
he asked me if it was true, what could I say? He has been greatly upset
by the other business, what would he say did he know that I have been
accused of theft? That brings us back to the subject of my engagement.
You have been thinking it over since lunch, father?'

'Yes, dear, I have been thinking it over as well as I could, and I again
repeat that the only light in which I can regard it is that of your
happiness. I quite see that your being engaged to a man in his position
does add to the embarrassment and difficulty of the position. We have to
consider not only ourselves but him. Still, that matters after all
comparatively little. Supposing this matter were all cleared up
satisfactorily, how would you stand then? You might then bitterly regret
the step you now want to take.'

'No, father; up to the time when this trouble first began I don't think
that I thought very seriously about it. Lord Halliburn was very nice, I
liked him as much as any man I have met. I suppose I was gratified by
his attentions; every one spoke well of him; I own that I was rather
proud of carrying him off, and it really seemed to me that I was likely
to be very happy with him. Since then I have looked at it in a different
way. I knew, of course, that husbands and wives are supposed to share
each other's troubles, but it had never really seemed to me that there
was a likelihood of troubles coming into my life. Well, troubles have
come, and with them I have come to look at things differently. To begin
with, I have learnt more of Lord Halliburn's character than I probably
should have done in all my life if such troubles had not come.

'I have been disappointed in him. I do not say that in the first matter
he doubted me for an instant--it was not that; but I found out that he
is altogether selfish. He has thought all through, not how this affected
me, but how it would affect himself; he has been querulous, exacting,
and impatient. Had he been the man I thought him he would have been
kinder and more attentive than before; he would have tried to let every
one see by his manner to me how wholly he trusted me; he would have
striven to make things easier for me; but he has made them much harder.
If I held in my hands now the proofs [missing text] against me, I would
send them to him and at the same time a letter breaking off my
engagement. When I think it over, I am sometimes inclined to be almost
grateful to this trouble, because it has opened my eyes to the fact that
I have been very nearly making a great mistake, and that, had I married
Lord Halliburn, my life might have gone on smoothly enough, but that
there would never have been any real community of feeling between us. He
would have regarded me as a useful and, perhaps, an ornamental head to
his house, but I should never have had a home in the true sense of the
word, father; that is, a home like this.'

'Then that is settled, my dear. Now that you have said as much as you
have, we need not say another word on the matter. I must say, frankly,
that I have of late come almost to dislike him, and it has several times
cost me no inconsiderable effort to keep my temper when I saw how
entirely he regarded the matter in a personal light, and how little
thought he gave to the pain and trouble you were going through. I am in
no hurry to lose you, my dear, and the thought that it might be a few
months has given me many a heartache. And now, how will you do it?--Will
you write to him or see him?'

'I would rather tell him, father.'

'You see, dear, both for his sake and your own it must be publicly known
that the engagement is broken by you, and not by him. It would be very
unfair on him for it to be supposed that he has taken advantage of these
rumours to break off his engagement, and it would greatly injure you, as
people would say that he must have become convinced of their truth.'

Dorothy nodded. 'I will see him, father. I shall speak to him quite
frankly; I shall tell him that this attack having been made on me it is
possible that there may be at some future time other troubles from the
same source, and that it would be unfair to him, in his position as a
member of the Ministry, for his wife to be made the target of such
attacks. I shall also tell him that quite apart from this, I feel that I
acted too hastily and upon insufficient knowledge of him in accepting
him; that I am convinced that our marriage would not bring to either of
us that happiness that we have a right to expect. That is all I shall
say, unless he presses me to go into details, and then I shall speak
just as frankly as I have done to you.'

'Well, dear, I can only say I am heartily glad,' Mr. Hawtrey said,
kissing her, 'and am inclined to feel almost grateful to that fellow
Truscott for giving me back my little girl again. Of course, I know it
must come some day, but after having been so much to each other for so
many years, it is a little trying at first to feel that one is no longer
first in your affections.'

'The idea of such a thing, father,' Dorothy said, indignantly, 'as if I
ever for a moment put him before you.'

'Well, if you have not, child, it shows very conclusively that you did
not care for him as a girl should care for a man she is going to marry.
I do not say that it is so in many marriages that are, as they term it,
arranged in society, but where there is the real, honest love that there
ought to be, and such as I hope you will some day feel for some one, he
becomes, as he should become, first in everything.'

'It seems to me quite impossible, father, that I could love any other
man as I do you.'

Mr. Hawtrey smiled.

'I hope you will learn it is very possible, some day, Dorothy. Well, at
any rate, this has done away with your chief reason for objecting to my
paying for these diamonds. No doubt I shall hear from Levine some time
to-morrow; at any rate, there is no reason to decide finally for another
day or two. Gilliat can be in no hurry, and a month's delay may make
some difference in the situation.'

'Well, dear, is it over?' Mr. Hawtrey asked next day, when Dorothy came
into his study. 'It was a relief to me when I saw his brougham drive
off, for I knew that you must be having an unpleasant time of it.'

'Yes; it has not been pleasant, father. He came in looking anxious, as
he generally has done of late, thinking that my request for him to call
this morning meant that there was news of some sort, pleasant or
otherwise. I told him at once that I had been seriously thinking over
the matter for some time, and that I had for several reasons come to the
conclusion that it would be better that our engagement should terminate,
and then gave him my first reason. He was very earnest, and protested
that as he had never for a moment believed in these rumours he could not
see that there was any reason whatever for breaking off the engagement.
I said that I did him full justice in that respect, but that the matter
had certainly been a great source of annoyance to him, and that I was
convinced of the probability of further trouble of the same kind, and
that as we had been powerless to detect the author of this we might be
as powerless in the future. Then I frankly told him that I knew that his
hopes were greatly centred in his political career, and that for him to
have a wife who was the subject of a scandal would be a very serious
drawback to him. He did not attempt to deny this, but then urged that a
breach of the engagement at present would be taken to mean that he had
been affected by the rumours. I said that full justice should be done to
him in that respect; then, as he still protested--though I am convinced
that at heart he felt relieved--I added that there were certain other
reasons into which I need not go fully; that I thought that I had
accepted him without sufficient consideration, and that I had gradually
come to feel that we were not altogether suited to each other, and that
a wife would always occupy but a secondary position in his thoughts,
politics and public business occupying the first. I said that I had been
brought up perhaps in an old-fashioned way and entertained the
old-fashioned idea that a wife should hold the first place.

'He was disposed to be angry, because, no doubt, he felt that it was
perfectly true. However I said, "Do not be angry, Lord Halliburn. I
shall be very, very sorry if we part other than good friends. I like and
esteem you very much, and had it not been for these troubles I should
never have thought of breaking my engagement to you. As it is, I am
thinking as much of you as of myself. I am convinced I shall have
further troubles, and perhaps more serious ones. I have already, in
fact, had some sort of warning of them, and if they come it would make
it much harder for me to bear them were our names associated together,
for I feel that your prospects would be seriously injured as well as my
own."

'"You talk it over very calmly and coolly," he said, irritably.

'I said that I had been thinking it over calmly for a month and more,
and that I was sure that it was best for both of us. So at last we
parted good friends. I have no doubt it is a relief to him as it is to
me, but just at first, I suppose, it was natural that he should be
upset. I don't think he had ever thought for a moment of breaking it off
himself, but I am quite sure that if this other thing comes out he will
congratulate himself most heartily. Well, there is an end of that,
father.'

'Yes, my dear; I am sorry, and at the same time I am glad. I don't
think, dear, that you are the sort of girl who would ever have been very
happy if you had married without any very real love in the matter. For
my part I can see nothing enviable in the life of a woman who spends her
whole life in what is called Society. Two or three months of gaiety in
the year may be well enough, but to live always in it seems to me one of
the most wretched ways of spending one's existence. And now, dear, let
us change the subject altogether. I think for the next few days you had
better go out again. I propose that we leave town at the end of the week
and either go down home or, what would be better, go for a couple of
months on the continent. That will give time for the gossip over the
engagement being broken off to die out. You did not put off our
engagement to dine at the Deans' to-day?'

'No, father, I could not write and say two days beforehand that I was
unwell and unable to come.'

'Very well then, we will go. I always like their dinners, because she
comes from our neighbourhood and one always meets three or four of our
Lincolnshire friends.'

'It is the Botanical this afternoon, father. Shall I go there with
Cousin Mary?'

'Do so by all means, dear.'

As they drove that evening to the Deans', Mr. Hawtrey said, 'I had that
letter from Levine as I was dressing, Dorothy. He goes over nearly the
same ground as Danvers did, and is also of opinion that I should pay
under protest, in order that if at any time we can lay our hands on the
real offender, we can claim the return of the money. I shall go round in
the morning and have a talk with Gilliat.'

Dorothy was more herself than she had been for weeks. Her engagement
had, since her trouble first began, been a greater burden to her than
she had been willing to admit even to herself. Lord Halliburn had jarred
upon her constantly, and she had come almost to dread their daily
meetings.

At an early stage of her troubles she had thought the matter out, and
had come to the conclusion that she had made a mistake, and was not long
in arriving at the determination that she would at the end of the season
ask him to release her from her engagement. Before that she hoped that
the rumours that had affected him would have died out completely, and
would not necessarily be associated with the termination of the
engagement. Had not this fresh trouble arisen, matters would have gone
on on their old footing until late in the autumn, but this new trouble
had forced her to act at once, and her first thought had been that it
was only fair to him to release him at once. She was surprised now at
the weight that had been lifted from her mind, at the buoyancy of
spirits which she felt. She was almost indifferent as to the other
matter.

'You are more like yourself than you have been for weeks, Dorothy,' her
father said, during the drive.

'I feel like a bird that has got out of a cage, father. It was not a bad
cage, it was very nicely gilt and in all ways a desirable one, still it
was a cage, and I feel very happy indeed in feeling that I am out of
it.'

Dorothy enjoyed her dinner and laughed and talked merrily with the
gentleman who had taken her down. Mrs. Dean remarked to her husband
afterwards that the absence of Lord Halliburn, who sent a letter of
regret that important business would prevent his fulfilling his
engagement, did not seem to be any great disappointment to Dorothy
Hawtrey.

'I never saw her in better spirits, my dear; lately I have been feeling
quite anxious about her; she was beginning to look quite worn from the
trouble of those abominable stories.'

'I expect she feels Halliburn's absence a positive relief,' he said.
'You know you remarked, yourself, the last time we saw them out, how
glum and sulky he looked, and you said that if you were in her place you
would throw him over without hesitation.'

'I know I said so, and do you know I wondered at dinner whether she had
not come to the same conclusion.'

'Dorothy has lots of spirit,' Mr. Dean said, 'and is quite capable of
kicking over the traces. I should say there is no pluckier rider than
that girl in all Lincolnshire, and I fancy that a woman who doesn't
flinch from the stiffest jump would not hesitate for a moment in
throwing over even the best match of the season if he offended her. She
is a dear good girl, is Dorothy Hawtrey, and I don't think that she is a
bit spoilt by her success this season. I always thought she made a
mistake in accepting Halliburn; he is not half good enough for her. He
may be an earl, and an Under-Secretary of State, but he is no more fit
to run in harness with Dorothy Hawtrey than he is to fly.'

When the gentlemen came up after dinner Dorothy made room on the sofa on
which she was sitting for an old friend who walked across to her. Mr.
Singleton was a near neighbour down in Lincolnshire; he was a bachelor,
and Dorothy had always been a great pet of his.

'Well, my dear,' he said, as he took a seat beside her, 'I am heartily
glad to see you looking quite yourself again to-night, and to know that
I have been able to help my little favourite out of a scrape.'

Dorothy's eyes opened wide. 'To help me out of a scrape, Mr. Singleton!
Why, what scrape have you helped me out of?'

'I beg your pardon, my dear,' he said hastily. 'I told you we would
never speak of the matter again, and here I am, like an old fool,
bringing it up the very first time I meet you.'

Dorothy's face paled.

'Mr. Singleton,' she said, 'I seem to be surrounded by mysteries. Do I
understand you to say that you have done me some kindness lately--helped
me out of some scrape?'

'Well, my dear, those were your own words,' he replied, looking
surprised in turn; 'but please do not let us say anything more about
it.'

Dorothy sat quiet for a minute, then she made a sign to her father, who
was standing at the other side of the room, to come across to her.
'Father,' she said, 'will you ask Mr. Singleton to drive home with us; I
am afraid there is some fresh trouble, and, at any rate, I must speak to
him, and this is not the place for questions. Please let us go as soon
as the carriage comes. Now, will you please go away, Mr. Singleton, and
leave me to myself for a minute or two, for my head is in a whirl?'

'But, my dear,' he began, but was stopped by an impatient wave of
Dorothy's hand.

'What is it, Singleton?' Mr. Hawtrey asked, as they went across the
room.

'I am completely puzzled,' he replied; 'what Dorothy means by asking me
to come with you, and to answer questions, is a complete mystery to me.
Please don't ask me any questions now. I have evidently put my foot into
it somehow, though I have not the least idea how.'

Ten minutes later the carriage was announced. As she took her place in
it, Dorothy said, 'Don't ask any questions until we are at home.'

The two men were far too puzzled to talk on any indifferent subject. Not
a word was spoken until they arrived at Chester Square.

'Has Mrs. Daintree gone to bed?' Dorothy asked the footman.

'Yes, Miss Hawtrey; she went a quarter of an hour ago.'

'Are the lights still burning in the drawing-room?'

'Yes, miss.'

They went upstairs.

'Now, Dorothy, what does all this mean?' her father asked, impatiently.

'That is what we have got to learn, father. Mr. Singleton congratulated
me on having recovered my spirits, and took some credit to himself for
having helped me out of a scrape. As I do not in the least know what he
means, I want him to give you and me the particulars.'

'But, my dear Dorothy,' Mr. Singleton said, 'why on earth do you ask me
that question? Surely you cannot wish me to mention anything about that
trifling affair.'

'But I do, Mr. Singleton. You do not know the position in which I am
placed at present. I am surrounded by mysteries, I am accused of things
I never did. Now it seems as if there were a fresh one; possibly if you
tell us the exact particulars of what you were speaking of it may help
us to get to the bottom of it.'

'I don't understand it in the least,' Mr. Singleton said, gravely. 'You
are quite sure, Dorothy, that you wish me to repeat before your father
the exact details of our interview?'

'If you please, Mr. Singleton; every little minute particular.'

'Of course I will do as you wish, my dear,' the old gentleman said,
kindly, 'it seems to me madness, but if you really wish it I will do so.
If I make any mistake correct me at once. Well, this is the story,
Hawtrey. I need not tell you it would never have passed my lips, except
at Dorothy's request. A short time since, a fortnight or three weeks, I
cannot tell you the day exactly, my servant brought me up word that a
lady wished to see me. She had given no name, but I supposed it was one
of these charity collecting women, so I told her to show her in. To my
surprise it was Miss Dorothy. After shaking hands she sat down, and to
my astonishment burst into tears. It was some time before I could pacify
her, and get her to tell me what was the matter; then she told me that
she had got into a dreadful scrape, that she dared not tell you, that it
would be ruin to her, and that she had come to me as one of her oldest
friends, to ask me if I could help her to get out of it.

'Of course, I said I would do anything, and at last, with great
difficulty, and after another burst of crying, she told me that she must
have a thousand pounds to save her. She said something about wanting to
pawn some of her jewels, but this would not come to enough. Of course, I
pooh-poohed this, and said that I was very sorry to hear that she had
got into a scrape, but that a thousand pounds were a trifle to me in
comparison to the happiness of the daughter of an old friend. She was
very reluctant to receive it, and wanted, at least, to pawn her jewels
for two or three hundred pounds, but I said that that was nonsense, and
eventually I drew a cheque for a thousand pounds, which I made payable
to Mary Brown or bearer, as I, naturally, did not wish her name to
appear at all in the matter.

'She was most grateful for it. I told her that, of course, I should
never allude to the matter again, and that she was not to trouble about
it in the slightest, for that I had put her down for five thousand
pounds in my will and would change the figure to four, so that she would
only be getting the money a little earlier than I had intended. This
evening, unfortunately, I was stupid enough, in saying that I was
pleased to see her looking more like her old self, to add that I was
glad to know that I had been the means of helping my little favourite
out of a scrape. It was stupid of me, I admit, to have even thus far
broken my promise never to allude to the thing again, but why she should
have insisted upon my telling a story--painful to both of us--to you, is
altogether beyond my comprehension.'

Mr. Hawtrey was too much astonished to ask any questions, but looked
helplessly at Dorothy, who said quietly--

'Thank you for telling the story, Mr. Singleton, and thank you still
more for so generously coming, as you believed, to my assistance. You
cannot remember exactly which day it was?'

'No, my dear, but I could see the date on the counterfoil of my
cheque-book.'

'Was it the fifteenth of last month, Mr. Singleton?'

'Fifteenth? Well, I cannot say exactly, but it would be somewhere about
that time.'

'And about what time of day?'

'Some time in the afternoon, I know; somewhere between three and four, I
should say. I know I had not been back long after lunching at the
Travellers'. I generally leave there about three, and it is not more
than five minutes' walk up to the Albany.'

'Now, father, please tell Mr. Singleton about Gilliat's.'

'But, Dorothy,' Mr. Singleton exclaimed, when he heard the story, 'it is
absolutely impossible that you could have done such a thing.'

'It seems to me impossible, Mr. Singleton, but here is the evidence of
two people that I did do it; and now I have your evidence that on the
same afternoon I came to you and obtained a thousand pounds from you.
Either those two men were dreaming or out of their minds, and you were
dreaming or out of your mind, or I am out of my mind and do things
unconsciously. My own belief is that I can account for my whole
afternoon,' and she repeated the details that she had given her father
as to her movements. 'But even if I could have done these things without
knowing it, where are the jewels and where is the cheque?'

'The cheque was presented next day and paid. It came back with my bank
book at the end of the month.'

'It is not often I go out in the morning,' Dorothy said, 'and I should
think I could prove that I did not do so on the morning of the 16th; but
I cannot be sure if, in a state of somnambulism or in a sort of trance,
I did not call at the jewellers and on you. I might, had I gone out,
have changed that cheque in a similar state. That would have been a
straightforward thing, but how could I get rid of the jewels? If I had
them now and wanted to raise money on them I should not have the least
idea how to do so, and I could hardly have carried out such a scheme in
a state of unconsciousness. The jewellers say I was dressed in a blue
dress with red spots, and I went out in a gown of that pattern on that
day.'

'I did not notice the dress particularly,' Mr. Singleton said, 'but it
was certainly a blue of some sort. Of course it is quite out of the
question that you could have done all these things unconsciously; but
what does it all mean? I am absolutely bewildered.'

'We have only one theory to account for it, Singleton. We believe, in
fact we are positively convinced, that there is somewhere a girl so
exactly resembling Dorothy that even those who know her well, like
yourself, might take one for the other, and that she and perhaps an
accomplice are taking advantage of this likeness to personate Dorothy.
They have even gone the length of having a dress made exactly like hers.
I will now tell you the real history of that affair that got into the
papers. You will see that the party we believe to be at the bottom of it
would know, or would have means of finding out, that Gilliat was our
family jeweller, and that you were an intimate friend. Our theory is
that revenge as well as plunder was the motive, and that the first part
of the affair was simply an endeavour to injure Dorothy, and to suggest
a motive for her need of money just at this time.'

'It is an extraordinary story,' Mr. Singleton said, when he heard it
all. 'I cannot doubt that it is as you suggest. That my little Dorothy
should behave in this way is too ridiculous to be believed for a moment;
though I own that I should have been ready, if obliged, to swear in
court that it was she who came to me.'

'Did she wear a veil?' Dorothy asked, suddenly. 'I forgot to ask Mr.
Gilliat that.'

'Yes, she had a veil on and kept it down all the time. It was a warm day
and I rather wondered afterwards at your wearing it, for I do not think
I ever saw you in a veil. But I supposed that you did not want to be
seen coming up to me, and that perhaps you felt that you could tell your
story more easily behind it.'

'Was it a thick veil?'

'No, it seemed to me the usual sort of thing ladies wear.'

'Did you notice anything particular about the voice?'

Mr. Singleton thought for a minute. 'I did not notice anything at the
time. Of course it differed from your ordinary voice as I am accustomed
to hear it. You see she was crying, with a handkerchief up to her face,
and spoke low and hesitatingly. All of which changes the voice. I never
doubted it was you, you see, and as I had never heard you speak in low,
broken tones, sobbing and crying, any difference there may have been did
not strike me.'

'But altogether, Mr. Singleton, even now that I declare that I was not
the person who called upon you, you can, thinking it over, see nothing
that would lead you to doubt that it was myself.'

Mr. Singleton shook his head. 'No, Dorothy, I am sorry to say that I
cannot. Your word is quite sufficient for me, and I feel as certain that
this woman was an impostor as if she herself came forward to own it. The
likeness, however, in figure and in face was extraordinary, although I
admit that the veil made an alteration in the face. It always does. I
frequently pass ladies I know well, and if they have thick veils down do
not recognise them until they bow and smile. There was just that
difference between the face and yours as I usually see it. I can
remember now that as you, or rather this woman came into the room, I did
not for the first instant recognise her owing to the veil; it was but
momentarily, just the same hesitation I have so often felt before,
neither more nor less.'

'However, it was possible, Mr. Singleton, that the resemblance may not
have been absolutely perfect, and that had she not had a veil on you
would have seen it at once.'

'That is possible, quite possible,' Mr. Singleton assented.

'And now, Singleton, as an old friend, tell me what is to be done.
To-day we had all but settled that I should pay the value of those
diamonds to Gilliat. Dorothy has been anxious that I should fight the
case, but Levine, into whose hands I put myself, and Danvers, who would
have been one of our counsel, were both so strongly of opinion that we
had no chance whatever of getting a verdict, and that it would greatly
damage Dorothy, that I persuaded her to let me pay. But, you see, this
affair of yours changes the position of affairs altogether. As she has
victimised you, so she may victimise others of my friends, as well as
other tradesmen, and it seems to me that the only way to put a stop to
that will be publicity.'

'I think, Hawtrey, that the first person to be consulted in the matter
is Lord Halliburn. You see this game may go on again in the future on
even a larger scale, for the Countess of Halliburn's orders would be
fulfilled without a moment's hesitation by any tradesman in London.'

'There is no need to consult him, Singleton; Dorothy broke off the
engagement with him this morning. You need not commiserate her,' he went
on, as Mr. Singleton was about to express his deep regret. 'I may tell
you, as an old friend, that there were perhaps other reasons besides
these troubles, and that, for myself, I am heartily glad that the
engagement is at an end.'

'Well, if that is the case, I may say I am glad too, Hawtrey. Of course,
the match was a good one, but I never altogether fancied it, and had
always felt some disappointment that my little favourite should be, as I
thought, making a match for position instead of for love. So it was
that, young lady, and not, as I was fool enough to fancy, getting out of
a money scrape, that made you so bright and like yourself at dinner this
evening?'

Dorothy smiled faintly.

'It was getting out of a scrape, you see, Mr. Singleton, although not
the one you thought of. I think you are a little hard on me. I certainly
should not have accepted Lord Halliburn unless at the time I had thought
I liked him very much; but I think that during the trouble I had I came
to see that something more than liking is necessary, and that a man who
may be a very pleasant member of society would not necessarily make so
pleasant a partner in life.'

'Well, now as to your advice, Singleton.'

'I can give none, Hawtrey. The matter is too important and too much out
of my line for my opinion to be worth a fig; but I will tell you what I
will do. It is clear that you must see Levine and tell him about this
affair; if you write and make an appointment with him to-morrow, say at
twelve o'clock, I will call here at half-past eleven and go with you. If
you will take my advice you will take Dorothy with you. Levine is pretty
well accustomed to read faces, and I think he will be more likely to
take our view of the matter when he has once seen her. You may as well
sit down and write a note at once; I will post it as I drive back. I
think, too, I would write to Danvers and ask him to be there; he is a
clever young fellow, and his opinion may help us. While you are writing
I will get Dorothy to tell your footman to whistle for a hansom for me.'


END OF THE FIRST VOLUME



NEW LIBRARY NOVELS.


THE ONE TOO MANY. By E. Lynn Linton.

IN DIREST PERIL. By David Christie Murray.

THE TIGER LILY: a Tale of Two Passions. By G. Manville Fenn.

THE RED-HOUSE MYSTERY. By Mrs. Hungerford.

THE COMMON ANCESTOR. By John Hill.

DOROTHY'S DOUBLE. By G. A. Henty.

CHRISTINA CHARD. By Mrs. Campbell Praed.





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