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Title: The Clock Struck One
Author: Hume, Fergus
Language: English
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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.

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       (The Boston-Library Society)



THE CLOCK STRUCK ONE.



THE CLOCK STRUCK ONE.



BY
FERGUS HUME,
AUTHOR OF
"THE MYSTERY OF A HANSOM CAB," "TRACKED BY A TATTOO,"
"THE CARBUNCLE CLUE," ETC., ETC.



LONDON:
FREDERICK WARNE AND CO.
AND NEW YORK.
1898.
[_All rights reserved_.]



CONTENTS

CHAPTER
I.     DIANA ON A BICYCLE
II.    THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF DR. SCOTT
III.   TO EVERY MAN HIS OWN FEAR
IV.    MORE MYSTERIES
V.     MR. EDERMONT'S HIGH SPIRITS
VI.    WHAT HAPPENED IN THE NIGHT
VII.   A NINE DAYS' SCANDAL
VIII.  THE WILL OF JULIAN EDERMONT
IX.    AN AMAZING REWARD
X.     DR. SCOTT IS STILL OBSTINATE
XI.    PREPARING THE GROUND
XII.   A TERRIBLE ACCUSATION
XIII.  DENIAL
XIV.   WHAT DR. SCOTT SAW
XV.    THE PEARL BROOCH
XVI.   DORA IS STARTLED
XVII.  A STORY OF THE PAST
XVIII. PALLANT MAKES A STATEMENT
XIX.   MORE MYSTERIES
XX.    THE SINS OF THE FATHER
XXI.   SO NEAR, AND YET SO FAR
XXII.  WHAT DORA DISCOVERED
XXIII. THE MADNESS OF LAMBERT JOAD
XXIV.  THE STOLEN MANUSCRIPT
XXV.   CONFESSION
XXVI.  A FINAL SURPRISE



THE CLOCK STRUCK ONE



CHAPTER I.
DIANA ON A BICYCLE.


Over the bridge which spans the railway two miles from Canterbury a
girl was riding a bicycle. She was perfect mistress of her
machine--and nerves; for on the slope of the hill she let the wheels
run freely, and did not trouble to use the brake. The white dust
clouded the air as she spun down to the level; and the heat of the
day--a July noon--was so great that she was fain to dismount for the
sake of coolness. A wayside fence offered a tempting seat; and, with a
questioning glance to right and left, the girl balanced herself
lightly on the topmost rail. Here she perched in a meditative fashion,
and fanned her flushed face with her straw hat. A pretty girl in so
unconventional a position, unchaperoned and fearless, would have
shocked the susceptibilities of our grandmothers. But this is the age
of the New Woman, and the girl was a type of her epoch.

Assuredly a finer representative could not have been found. She was
tall and straight, deep-bosomed and stately. Her sunburnt complexion,
her serviceable tailor-made dress and her stout shoes of brown
leather, denoted a preference for life out of doors. Across her broad
forehead, round her well-shaped head, fluttered tiny curls in a loose
mass of burnished gold. For the rest, a nose aquiline and two steady
eyes of gray, a mouth rather wide, red-lipped and firm; there you have
a portrait in your mind's eye of a charming gentlewoman--new style.
Diana must have been just such another; but for brightness, sympathy,
and womanly kindness the maid surpassed the goddess. If mythology is
to be credited, Diana was cold, serene and--_vide_ Actæon's
disaster--a trifle cruel. On the whole, this mortal was more lovable
than that immortal, and less dangerous; otherwise the comparison holds
good. Miss Dora Carew was a modern Diana--on a bicycle.

Shortly, Diana of Kent reassumed her hat, and, folding her arms,
stared absently across the fields. She saw not sheep or meadow, hedge
or ditch, windmill or rustling tree, for her mind was absorbed in her
own thoughts; and these--as indexed by her changing expressions--did
not seem to be over-pleasant. Dora frowned, smiled, wrinkled her
forehead into two perpendicular lines between the eyebrows, and
finally made a gesture of impatience; this last drawn forth by a
glance at her watch.

"I do wish he would be punctual," she muttered, jumping off the fence;
"if not, I must----"

Further speech was interrupted by the crisp vibration of a bell, and
immediately afterwards a second bicycle, whirling down the slope,
brought a young man to her feet. He was smart, lithe and handsome;
also he was full of apologies for being late, and made the most
reasonable excuses, hat in hand.

"But you know, Dora, a doctor's time is not his own," he concluded;
"and I was detained by a new patient--an aristocratic patient, my
dear"--this he said with subdued pride--"Lady Burville, a guest at
Hernwood Hall."

"Lady Burville!" replied Miss Carew, starting. "Laura Burville?"

Dr. Scott looked profoundly surprised.

"I do not know that her name is Laura," he said; "and how you came
to----"

"I heard it yesterday, Allen, for the first time."

"Indeed! From whom?"

"From the lips of my guardian."

"Mr. Edermont spoke of Lady Burville?" The young doctor frowned
thoughtfully. "Strange! This morning Lady Burville spoke of Mr.
Edermont."

"What did she say, Allen? No, wait"--with an afterthought--"why did
she call you in? Is she ill?"

"Indisposed--slightly indisposed--nothing to speak of. Yesterday she
was at church, and the heat was too much for her. She fainted, and
so----"

He completed the sentence with a shrug.

"Oh!" said Dora, putting much expression into the ejaculation; "and
yesterday my guardian also became indisposed in church."

"Really? Chillum Church?"

"Chillum Church."

They looked questioningly at one another, the same thought in the
brain of each. Here was a stranger in the neighbourhood, a guest at
Hernwood Hall, and she inquired for a recluse scarcely known beyond
the walls of his house. Again, here was a man who had not been absent
from the district for over twenty years, who dwelt in strict
retirement, and he mentioned the name--the unknown Christian name--of
the strange lady. This coincidence--if it could be called so--was odd
in the extreme, and even these two unsuspicious young people were
struck by its singularity. Dora was the first to speak, and her remark
was apparently irrelevant.

"Come with me to the Red House," said she, moving towards her bicycle.
"Mr. Edermont is ill."

"Consequent upon his indisposition of yesterday, I suppose," replied
Scott, following. "Since you wish it, I obey; but do not forget my
position in the house."

Miss Carew waited until he glided alongside, and they were both
swinging easily down the road. Then she glanced at him with a smile--a
trifle roguish, and wholly charming.

"What _is_ your position in the house, Allen?"

"Is it necessary to explain, my dear? I am the son of Mr. Edermont's
oldest friend. I am one of the few people he admits to see him. With
his sanction, I am your most devoted lover. But"--and here the doctor
became emphatic--"Mr. Edermont will not have me as a medical
attendant--he will not have anyone. So my calling to see him
professionally is rather--forgive me, my dearest--is rather
impertinent."

"Then you must be impertinent enough to save his life," retorted
Dora sharply. "He has never been really ill before, so far as I know,
and there has been no occasion for a doctor at the Red House. But
now"--her face assumed a serious expression--"he is not himself. He is
agitated, distraught, terrified."

"H'm! Terrified? That is strange. Are you sure that his indisposition
dates from service in Chillum Church?"

"It dates from the reading of the Litany," said Dora precisely. "You
know, Allen, that for years my guardian has never failed to attend
morning service at Chillum. You know also--for I have told you
often--that at the prayers for deliverance from battle, murder, and
sudden death he is accustomed to look questioningly round the
congregation. He did so yesterday, as usual, and immediately
afterwards he sank back half fainting in his seat. I wished him to
leave the church at once, but he refused to go until the text was
given out. Then he went home."

"And since then?"

"He has shut himself up in his room, and has neither eaten nor slept.
He refuses to see me or speak to me. Several times I have been to his
door to inquire if I could do anything, but he will not let me enter.
He refuses admittance even to Mr. Joad. And all the hours he paces up
and down, talking to himself."

"What does he talk about?" asked Scott curiously.

"I cannot say, as he speaks too low for me to hear. But I caught the
name of Laura Burville twice. Alarmed lest he should fall seriously
ill, I wrote to you yesterday, making this appointment, and waited at
the bridge to explain. What do you think of it, Allen?"

Scott shrugged his shoulders.

"I can hardly say until I see Mr. Edermont. At the present moment I
can be sure only of one thing--that the sight of Lady Burville upset
your guardian in the church, and _vice versâ_."

"But why should they be upset at the sight of one another? They are
strangers."

"H'm! We cannot be certain of that," replied Allen cautiously. "That
he should mention her name, that she should ask about him--these facts
go to prove that, whatever they may be now to one another, they were
not strangers in the past."

"Then the past must be quite twenty years ago," said Dora
thoughtfully, "for Mr. Edermont has not left the Red House all that
time. But what did Lady Burville say when you told her about my
guardian?"

"She said--nothing. A wonderfully self-possessed little woman,
although she looks like a doll and talks like a fool, Dora; therefore
the fact of her fainting yesterday in church is all the more strange.
I said that Mr. Edermont was averse to strangers, that he dwelt in the
Red House, and that he was a good friend to me."

"You did not mention my name?"

"Dora! As though I should converse about you to a stranger! No, my
dear. I merely told so much about Mr. Edermont, prescribed for the
lady's nerves, and informed her host and Mr. Pallant that she would be
all right to-morrow."

"And who is Mr. Pallant?"

"Did I not mention his name? Oh, he is another guest of Sir Harry's.
He left the message that I was to call and see Lady Burville."

"Indeed. Why did not Sir Harry call in his own doctor?"

"Faith! that is more than I can say," replied Scott. "All the better
for me that he did not. But how this Mr. Pallant found me out I do not
know. It is my impression that, hearing he was riding into Canterbury,
Lady Burville asked him privately to send her a doctor, and as he
chanced on my door-plate first, he called on me. A lucky accident for
a struggling practitioner, eh, Dora?"

"No doubt--if it was an accident," said she dryly. "What is this Mr.
Pallant like, Allen?"

"A red-haired, blue-eyed, supercilious beast. I disliked him at sight.
Rather a shame on my part, seeing that he has done me a good turn."

By this time they had arrived at the outskirts of Chillum, and
alighted before a massive gate of wood set in a high brick wall,
decorated at the top with broken glass.

The green spires of poplar-trees rose over the summit of this wall,
and further back could be seen the red-tiled gable of a house.
Opposite the gates on the other side of the dusty white road there was
a small cottage buried in a plantation of fir-trees. An untidy garden
extended from its front-door to the quickset hedge which divided the
grounds from the highway, and the house had a desolate and solitary
look, as though rarely inhabited.

"Does old Joad still sleep in his cottage?" asked Allen, with a
careless glance at the tiny house.

"Of course! You know Mr. Edermont won't let anyone stay in the house
at night but myself and Meg Gance."

"That is the cook?"

"Cook, housemaid, general servant, and all the rest of it," replied
Dora gaily; "she and I between us manage the domestic affairs of the
mansion. Mr. Edermont is too taken up with his library and Mr. Joad to
pay attention to such details."

"He is always in the clouds," assented Allen, smiling. "By the way,
who is Mr. Joad?"

Dora laughed and shrugged her shoulders.

"I'm sure I can't tell you that," she replied carelessly; "he is an
old college friend of my guardian's, who gives him house-room."

"But not a bed?"

"No. Joad has to turn out at nine o'clock every night and return to
his cottage. I believe he passes most of his evenings in the company
of Mr. Pride."

"Pride, Pride?" said Allen thoughtfully--"oh, that is the chubby
little man who is so like your guardian."

"He is like him in the distance," answered Dora, "but a nearer view
dispels the illusion. Pride is, as you say, chubby, while Mr. Edermont
is rather lean. But they are both short, both have heads of silvery
hair, and both rejoice in patriarchal beards. Yes, they are not unlike
one another."

While this conversation was taking place the young people were
standing patiently before the jealously-closed gate. Dora had rung the
bell twice, but as yet there was no sign that they would be admitted.
The sun was so hot, the road so dusty, that Allen became impatient.

"Haven't you the key of the gate yourself, Dora?"

"No. Mr. Edermont won't allow anyone to have the key but himself. I
don't know why."

"Let us go round to the little postern at the side of the wall,"
suggested Allen.

Dora shook her head with a laugh.

"Locked, my dear, locked. Mr. Edermont keeps the postern as firmly
closed as these gates."

"A most extraordinary man!" retorted Scott, raising his eyebrows. "I
wonder what he can be afraid of in this eminently respectable
neighbourhood."

"I think I can tell you, Allen."

"Can you, my dear? Then Mr. Edermont has said why----"

"He has said nothing," interrupted Dora, "but I have eyes and ears, my
dear Allen. Mr. Edermont is afraid of losing his----"

"His money," interrupted Allen in his turn. "Oh yes, of course."

"There is no 'of course' in the matter," said Miss Carew sharply; "he
is afraid of losing his life."

"His life? Dora!"

"I am sure of it, Allen. Remember his favourite prayer in the
Litany--the prayer which takes his wandering eyes round the church:
'From battle and murder, and from sudden death, good Lord, deliver
us.'"



CHAPTER II.
THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF DR. SCOTT.


The appearance of the individual who admitted them into what may be
called the prison of Mr. Edermont was sufficiently odd to merit a
description. Lambert Joad, the friend, factotum, and parasite of
Dora's guardian, was a short, stout man verging on sixty years. He had
a large bland face, clean-shaven, and bluish-red in hue; his mouth was
loose, his chin double, his jowl pendulous; and his insignificant nose
was scarcely redeemed by two watery eyes of a pale blue. A few tufts
of white hair covered sparsely the baldness of his skull; and his
ears, hands, and feet were all large and ill-shaped. He dressed in
rusty black, wore carpet slippers, and a wisp of white ribbon did duty
as a collar. This last adornment hinted at a clerical vocation, and
hinted rightly, for Lambert Joad was an unsuccessful parson of the
Anglican Church.

Some forty years previously he had been a college friend of
Edermont's, and in due course had taken orders, but either from lack
of brains, or of eloquence, or perhaps from his Quilpish looks, he had
failed to gain as much as a curacy. In lieu thereof he had earned a
bare subsistence by making notes in the British Museum for various
employers, and it was while thus engaged that Edermont had chanced
upon him again; out of sheer pity the owner of the Red House had taken
the unlucky Joad to Kent, and there permitted him to potter about
library and garden--a vegetable existence which completely satisfied
the unambitious brain of the creature. He was devoted to the god who
had given him this ease.

But the odd part of the arrangement was that Edermont would not permit
his hanger-on to remain in the house at night. Punctually at nine Mr.
Joad betook himself to the small cottage fronting the gates, and there
ate and slept until nine the next morning, when he presented himself
again in the library, to read, and dust, and arrange, and catalogue
the many books. For twenty years this contract had been faithfully
carried out by the pair of college friends. From nine to nine daylight
Joad haunted the house; from nine to nine darkness he remained in his
tumbledown cottage.

Being now on duty, he admitted Dora and her lover, and after closing
the gates, stood staring at them; with a book hugged to his breast,
and a cunning look in his eyes. His swollen and red nose suggested
snuff; his trembling hands and bloodshot eyes, drink; so that on the
whole he was by no means a pleasant spectacle to behold. Dora threw a
look of disgust on this disreputable, dirty Silenus, whom she
particularly disliked, and addressed him sharply, according to custom.

"Where is Mr. Edermont?" said she, stepping back from his immediate
neighbourhood; "I have brought Dr. Scott to see him."

"Julian is still in his bedroom," replied this Silenus in a voice of
surprising beauty and volume; "but he does not wish to see anyone,
least of all a doctor."

"Oh, never mind that, Mr. Joad," said Allen good-humouredly. "I come
as a friend to inquire after the health of Mr. Edermont."

"I quite understand," grunted the other; "you will make medical
suggestions in the guise of friendly remarks. So like your father,
that is."

"My father, Mr. Joad? Did you know him?" asked Scott, considerably
astonished.

"Yes; I do not think," added Joad, with a spice of maliciousness,
"that you had that advantage."

"He died when I was five years old," replied Allen sadly, "so I
remember him very slightly. But it is strange that I should have known
you all these months without becoming aware of the fact that you were
acquainted with my father."

"All this is beside the point," broke in Dora severely. "I want you to
see Mr. Edermont. Afterwards you can talk to Mr. Joad."

"I shall be glad to do so. There are many things I wish to know about
my father."

"Then, why ask me, Dr. Scott, when Julian is at hand?"

"Mr. Edermont refuses to answer my inquiries."

"In that case," said Joad, with great deliberation, "I should ask Lady
Burville."

The young man was so startled by this speech that for the moment he
could say nothing. By the time he had recovered his tongue Joad was
already halfway across the lawn. Scott would have followed him, but
that Dora laid a detaining hand upon his arm.

"Later on, Allen," she said firmly; "in the meantime, see my
guardian."

"But, Dora, Lady Burville's name again hints----"

"It hints at all manner of strange things, Allen. I know that as well
as you do. I tell you what, my dear: the coming of this woman is about
to cause a change in our lives."

"Dora! On what grounds do you base such a supposition?"

"On the grounds that you know," she returned distinctly. "I can give
you no others. But I have a belief, a premonition--call it what you
will--that Lady Burville's coming is the herald of change. If you
would know more, ask Mr. Edermont who she is, and why he fainted at
the sight of her."

By this time they were standing on the steps of the porch, whence the
wings of mellow red brick spread to right and left, facing the sunlit
lawn. Square-framed windows extended along this front above and below,
and an upper one of these over the porch was wide open. As Allen and
Dora stood by the steps, a wild white face peered out and saw them in
the sunlight. Had they looked up they would have seen Mr. Edermont,
and have refrained from further conversation. But Fate so willed it
that they talked on, unconscious of a listener. It was Allen who
reopened the subject of his new patient, who had been referred to both
by Edermont and Joad in so mysterious a way.

"After all," said Allen meditatively, "I do not see why you should
have a premonition of change. That Lady Burville should know Mr.
Edermont is nothing to you."

"Quite so; but that Lady Burville should know something about your
late father is something to you. Did she mention anything about it
this morning?"

"Not a word," he replied; "it was strange that she should not have
done so."

"Not stranger than that you should have been called in to attend her."

"That was purely an accident."

"I don't think so," said Dora deliberately; "at least, not in the face
of Mr. Joad's remark."

Dr. Scott looked puzzled.

"What do you make out of this Lady Burville?" he asked.

Before Dora could answer the question, a voice spoke to them from
above.

"Do not talk any more of that woman," cried Mr. Edermont with a tremor
in his tones. "Come upstairs, Allen; I have something for your private
ear."

And then they heard the window hastily closed, as though Mr. Edermont
were determined that the forthcoming conversation should be as private
as possible.

"Go up at once, Allen," whispered Dora, pushing him towards the door.
"You speak to my guardian, and I shall question Mr. Joad about Lady
Burville. Mind, you must tell me all that Mr. Edermont says to you."

"There may not be anything to tell," said Allen doubtfully.

Dora looked at him seriously.

"I am sure that what is told will change your life and mine," she
said.

"Dora! you know something?"

"Allen, I know nothing; I am going simply by my premonition."

"I am not superstitious," said Scott, and entered the house.

He was not superstitious, as he stated; yet at that moment he might
well have been so, for in the mere act of ascending the stairs he was
entering on a dark and tortuous path, at the end of which loomed the
shadow of death.

When his gray tweeds vanished up the stairs, Dora turned her eyes in
the direction of Mr. Joad. He was seated in a straw chair under a
cedar-tree, and looked a blot on the loveliness of the view. All else
was blue sky and stretches of emerald green, golden sunshine, and
multicoloured flowers; this untidy, disreputable creature, a huddled
up mass of dingy black, seemed out of place. But, for all that, Dora
was glad he was within speaking distance, and alone. So to speak, he
was the key to the problem which was then perplexing her--the problem
of her premonition.

That a healthy, breezy young woman should possess so morbid a fancy
seems unreasonable; and Dora took this view of the matter herself. She
was troubled rarely by forebodings, by premonitions, or vague fears;
nevertheless, there was a superstitious side to her character.
Hitherto, in her tranquil and physically healthy existence, there had
been no chance for the development of this particular side; but now,
from various causes, it betrayed itself in a feeling of depression.
Mr. Edermont's fainting and mention of Lady Burville; that lady's
fainting and anxiety concerning the recluse; and finally, Mr. Joad's
assertion that Lady Burville had known Allen's father--all these facts
hinted that something was about to happen. Dora did not know what the
something could possibly be, but she felt vaguely that it would affect
the lives of herself and her lover. Therefore she was anxious to know
the worst at once, and accordingly, going out to meet her troubles,
she walked forward to the Silenus on the lawn.

Joad saw her coming, and looked up with what was meant to be a
fascinating smile. This disreputable old creature had the passions of
youth in spite of his age, and in his senile way he greatly admired
the ward of his patron. His admiration took the annoying form of
constantly forestalling her wishes. If Dora wanted a book, a paper, a
chair, a bunch of flowers, Joad was always at hand to supply her
wants. At first she accepted these attentions carelessly enough,
deeming them little but the kindly pertinacities of an amiable old
man; but of late she had found Joad and his attentions rather
troublesome. Moreover, his obsequious demeanour, his leers, his oily
courtesies, made her feel uneasy. Nevertheless, she did not dream that
the old creature was in love with her beauty. So absurd an idea never
entered her head. But Joad was in love, for all that, and cherished
ardently his hopeless passion.

"Mr. Joad," said Dora abruptly, coming to the point at once, "who is
Lady Burville?"

"Dear Miss Carew," cried the old man, ignoring the question, and
rising to his feet, "pray be seated in this chair. The sun is hot, but
here you will be out of the glare."

"Never mind about the glare and the chair," said Dora, making an
unconscious rhyme; "I asked you a question. Who is Lady Burville?"

"Lady Burville?" repeated Joad, seeing he could no longer escape
answering; "let me see. Mr. Pride said something about her. Oh yes:
she is the wife of Sir John Burville, the celebrated African
millionaire, and I believe she is the guest of Sir Harry Hernwood at
the Hall."

"Go on," said Dora, seeing that he paused; "what else do you know?"

"Nothing. What I repeated was only Pride's gossip. I am ignorant of
the lady's history. And if you come to that, Miss Dora," added Joad
with a grotesque smile, "why should I not be ignorant?"

"But you hinted that Lady Burville knew Allen's father," persisted
Dora, annoyed by his evasion of her question.

"Did I?" said Joad, suddenly conveying a vacant expression into his
eyes. "I do not remember, Miss Dora. If I did, I was not thinking of
what I was saying."

"You are wilfully deceiving me, Mr. Joad."

"Why should I, Miss Dora? If I knew anything about this lady I would
tell you willingly; but it so happens that I know nothing."

"You spoke as though you knew a good deal, retorted Dora angrily.

"I spoke at random, young lady. And if you--why, what's the matter
with Julian?"

It was little wonder that he asked the question, for Edermont had
opened his window again, and was hanging out of it crying and
gesticulating like some terrible Punch.

"Lambert! Lambert!" he shrieked. "Come and help me! He will kill
me--kill me!"

Joad shuffled towards the house as quickly as his old legs could take
him. He was followed by the astonished Dora, and they were about to
step into the entrance-hall, when Allen Scott came flying down the
stairs. He was wild-eyed, breathless, and as gray in hue as the
clothes he wore.

"Allen!" cried Dora, recoiling at his mad looks, "what is the matter?"

"Don't stop me, for God's sake!" said the doctor hoarsely, and
avoiding her outstretched hand, he fled hastily down the garden-path.
A click of the gate, which had not been locked by Joad, and he
vanished from their sight.

Dora stared at Joad; he looked back at her with a malicious grin at
the flight of her lover, and overhead, at the open window, they heard
the hysterical sobbing of Julian Edermont.



CHAPTER III.
TO EVERY MAN HIS OWN FEAR.


After a pause of astonishment at the inexplicable flight of her lover,
Dora ran upstairs to the room of Mr. Edermont. It was imperative that
she should learn the truth of this disturbance, and, in the absence of
Dr. Scott, her guardian was the proper person to explain the matter.
Had Dora glanced back at Joad, who followed closely, she might have
gathered from his malignant expression that he was likely also to
afford an explanation; but in her anxiety she went directly to the
door of Mr. Edermont's bedroom. It was wide open, and the occupier was
still sobbing by the open window.

"What is the matter?" cried Dora, hurrying forward. "Why has
Allen----"

Edermont lifted up a white face wet with tears, and flung out two thin
hands with a low cry of terror. Then, with a sudden anxiety in his
eyes, he staggered rather than walked across the room, and closed the
door sharply. Joad had already entered, and, still hugging a book,
stood looking grimly at the swaying figure of his patron. With his
back to the door, Edermont interrogated his ward and his friend.

"Has he gone? Is the gate closed--is it locked and barred?"

"He has gone, and the gate is safe," said Joad, for Dora was too
astonished by the oddity of these questions to reply.

Edermont wiped the sweat from his forehead, nodded weakly, and finally
subsided into an armchair. Here he bowed his face in his hands, and
Dora caught the drift of the words which he muttered in a low voice.
They were those of his favourite prayer from the Litany.

"'From battle and murder, and from sudden death, good Lord, deliver
us,'" moaned the man; and then in some measure he recovered his
serenity.

Seized with a sudden anger at the abject terror he had displayed, at
the shameful accusation he had levelled against her lover, Dora
stepped forward and faced Mr. Edermont with an indignant look.

"Now that you feel better," she said coldly, "perhaps you will afford
me an explanation."

Edermont looked at her in a dazed manner. He was a little man,
scarcely five feet in height, and had a noble head, which seemed out
of place on so insignificant a body. With his long white locks and
streaming beard, he was quite an imposing figure when seated; but when
standing, the smallness of his body, of his hands and feet, detracted
from the majesty of his patriarchal looks. Also, his eyes were timid
and restless; the silvery beard, which swept his breast, hid a weak
mouth; and, stripped of his venerable disguise, Mr. Edermont would, no
doubt, have looked what he was--a puny, irresolute, and insignificant
animal. As it was, he imposed on everyone--until they knew him better.
Dora had long since fathomed the narrow selfishness of his nature, and
she saw him for what he was, not as he appeared to the outside world.
It is but fair to add that she always treated him with deference in
public.

At the present moment there was no need to keep up appearances,
and Dora spoke brusquely to the little man. In her heart she had
as great a contempt for him as she had a disgust for Joad. They were
both objectionable, she considered, and each had but one redeeming
point--the noble head of Edermont, the noble voice of his friend.
Beyond these, the first was more of a rabbit than, a man; the second
rather a satyr than a human being. Never had Dora detested the pair
more than she did at the present moment.

"I am waiting for your explanation, Mr. Edermont," she said again, as
he did not reply.

"I have no explanation for you," retorted her guardian wearily; "go
away, Dora, and leave me in peace."

The girl took a seat, and folded her arms.

"I don't leave this room until I know why Allen left the house," she
said firmly.

"What has that to do with you?" cried Edermont in shrill anger; "our
conversation was about private matters."

"It was about Lady Burville."

"What do you know of that woman?" he demanded, shrinking back.

"I know that the mere sight of her caused you to faint," said Dora
slowly, "and I know also that she was acquainted with Allen's father."

"Lambert, you have betrayed me!" said Edermont in a tone of terror.

"You have betrayed yourself, Julian," was Joad's reply. "I can guess
why Allen Scott left the house."

"I--I could not help myself. I was--oh, I was afraid," muttered
Edermont, passing his hand over his eyes.

"You have cause to be afraid--now," retorted Joad; and with a look of
contempt at the shrinking figure of his friend he turned and left the
room. Dora waited until his heavy footsteps died away, then she turned
again to Edermont.

"Why did Allen leave the house?" she asked with obstinate insistence.

"That is my business."

"And mine also. I have a right to know why you have driven away the
man whom I am about to marry."

Edermont burst into unpleasant mirth. "That's all over and done with,
my dear," he said, staring at her. "Allen Scott will never marry
you--now."

"What have you told him?" she gasped, turning pale.

"I have told him something which will keep him away from this
house--something which will prevent him from ever seeing you again."

"What do you mean, Mr. Edermont?"

She had risen to her feet, and was standing over him with flushed face
and indignant eyes. To force his speech she gripped the shoulder of
the man until he winced with pain.

"You have said something against me," she continued, giving him a
slight shake.

"I have been saying nothing against you. I am truly sorry for you,
Dora."

"Sorry for me, Mr. Edermont? Why?"

"Because of your parents," said her guardian slowly.

Dora stepped back. Since she had been brought by Edermont to the Red
House, a year-old babe, he had never mentioned the name of her
parents. All questions she had put to him had been put aside. That her
father and mother were dead, that she inherited five hundred a year,
and that Mr. Edermont was her guardian until she reached the age of
twenty-one--these facts were known to her; beyond them, nothing. Now
it would seem that some mystery was connected with the dead, and that
Mr. Edermont was about to divulge it.

"What did my parents do that you should be sorry for me?" she asked
pointedly.

"I shall never tell you what they did, Dora. I have hinted too much
already. It is sufficient for you to know that they sinned, and that
their sin will be visited on you."

"How dare you speak to me like this!" cried Dora, clenching her hands;
"what right have you to terrify me with vague hints? I demand an
explanation!"

"You will never obtain one--from me," said Edermont in a quavering
voice; "and if you are wise you will seek one nowhere else."

"I shall ask Allen."

"He is bound by a promise to me not to tell you."

"Then, I shall question Lady Burville."

Edermont rose with a bound, and gripped her arm with a strength of
which she had not thought him capable.

"Girl," he cried earnestly, "do not go near that woman! She is an evil
woman--one who has brought harm in the past, and will bring harm in
the future. When I saw her in church it was no wonder that I turned
faint. She has hunted me down; and she brings trouble in her train.
Leave me to fight my own battles, Dora, and come not into the fray. If
you cross her path she will show you such mercy as she has shown me. I
implore you to say nothing, to think nothing. If you disobey me I
cannot save you; you must be your own salvation."

Throughout this strange speech he kept his eyes fixed upon her face.
When it was ended he dropped her arm and turned away.

"Leave me now," he said faintly; "I--I am not myself."

The poor creature seemed so exhausted that it would have been absolute
cruelty to have questioned him further, and, anxious as Dora was to do
so, she was moved from sheer pity to spare him. Without a word she
left the room, closing the door after her, and went slowly downstairs
to the hall. Here she paused and considered.

"I knew that some evil was coming," she thought, with a chill of fear,
"and my premonition has come to pass. According to that coward
upstairs, there is danger and evil on all sides. He has separated me
from Allen; he warns me against Lady Burville; yet he refuses to
enlighten my ignorance, and warns me against going to others. But I
must know; I must learn what it is that threatens the future happiness
of Allen and myself. I can't sit down with folded arms and await the
bolt from the blue. I must know, I must consider, I must act."

Against two people Edermont had warned her, but he had omitted to
specify a third. Out on the lawn, under the cedars, Dora saw the black
figure of Joad. It would appear from his parting words to his patron
that he knew what had been told to Allen. Dora was on the point of
crossing to him, and wringing, if possible, the truth from his
reluctant lips, but her instinctive repulsion to the man prevented her
from taking him into her confidence. If she wanted help, she must rely
on herself or upon Allen. He was her affianced lover, and she felt
that she could trust him. But if his lips were sealed by the promise
given to Edermont, why----

"But he will tell me--he must tell me," she said, with an angry stamp.
"I shall go into Canterbury at once." She glanced at the old clock in
the hall, which chimed half-past two. "I shall go at once," repeated
Dora, and went for her bicycle.

At the gate she found Joad, with the key in his hand. He cast a
sidelong look at her bicycle, and explained his presence on the spot.

"I quite forgot to lock the gate, Miss Dora," he said, in his deep
tones; "it was fortunate for Dr. Scott that I did not, and unfortunate
for you."

"Why was it unfortunate for me, Mr. Joad?" she asked coldly.

"Because, if Dr. Scott had not been able to get out, he would have
been forced to remain; and if he had remained," said Joad, with
another glance at the machine, "he might have saved you a journey to
Canterbury."

"How do you know that I am going to Canterbury?"

"I guessed it. You wish to obtain from Scott the explanation which
Julian refuses. As I said, it was unlucky Scott found this gate
unlocked, else he might have made his explanation here."

"You are a shrewd observer, Mr. Joad," was Dora's reply; "and I admit
that you are right. I am going to see Dr. Scott, as you say."

"It is a hot day, and a long journey. You will experience discomfort."

"Probably I shall," said Dora, with a significant look. "Suppose you
save me the journey, Mr. Joad, and explain this mystery yourself?"

"To what mystery are you alluding, young lady?" asked Joad with
childlike blandness.

"To the mystery of Allen's sudden departure. You know the reason for
it. I heard you say so myself to Edermont."

"Mr. Edermont's secrets are not my secrets, and I do not betray my
friends."

"You are wonderfully scrupulous," said Miss Carew scornfully. "Well, I
won't ask you to play the part of a traitor. Allen will tell me what I
want to know."

"I am afraid Allen will do no such thing, Miss Dora."

"I have a right to know what bar there is to my marriage."

"I agree with you there," replied Joad, putting the key in the lock of
the gate. "All the same, Dr. Scott will keep his own counsel. But I'll
tell you one thing, Miss Dora--Julian is right: you will never marry
Allen Scott."

"Who will stop the marriage?" asked Dora indignantly.

"Scott himself. He will ask you to break the engagement."

Dora looked at Joad with ineffable contempt, and wheeled the bicycle
out on the dusty road.

"I will never believe that until I hear it from his own lips," she
said. And the next moment she was spinning at full speed towards
Canterbury.

Joad looked after her with a grim smile, and locked the gates with the
greatest deliberation. Then he went up to the house, swinging the key
on his finger and talking aloud.

"This," said Joad, chuckling, "is the beginning of the end."



CHAPTER IV.
MORE MYSTERIES.


If Dora was disappointed at failing to obtain explanations at Chillum,
she was still more so at Canterbury. She ran the five miles under
thirty minutes, and made sure she would be able to overtake Allen
before he could escape her. There was a vague idea in her mind that,
owing to what had been told him by Edermont--whatever it might be--he
did not wish to submit himself to her questioning. This idea was
confirmed by the discovery she made on reaching the tidy green-doored
house near the Cathedral. Dr. Scott was not at home.

"And to tell the truth, miss," said Mrs. Tice, a large, ample,
motherly person, who had been Allen's nurse and was now his
housekeeper, "the doctor has gone to London."

"To London?" gasped Dora blankly, "and without letting me know?"

"Dear, dear; did he say nothing, miss? Well, to be sure! and Mr. Allen
so considerate! You'll pardon me, miss, but I have been with him since
he was a baby, and I should be sorry to think he had quarrelled with
you. It's few as loves as Mr. Allen does."

"There is no quarrel," said Miss Carew, a trifle stiffly. "Dr. Scott
saw my guardian, and then left the house without speaking to me. I
have called to ask for an explanation."

"Well, miss, I'll--but, dear, dear! here I am keeping you out on the
doorstep. A fine rage Mr. Allen would be in if he knew that, miss.
Come in and rest, my dear lady, and I'll make you a cup of tea."

Dora accepted this hospitable offer with alacrity, not that she was
anxious for rest or tea, but because it occurred to her that Mrs. Tice
might throw some light on the darksome mysteries which were perplexing
her brain. The old woman, as she had stated, had taken charge of Allen
since he was a baby, so she, if anyone, would know about this Lady
Burville who had been acquainted with Scott senior. But before Dora
asked any questions concerning this remote past, she wanted first to
learn the circumstances of Allen's hasty departure for London. When
seated in Mrs. Tice's comfortable room, she spoke directly on the
subject.

"Had Dr. Scott decided to go up to town this morning?"

"Why, no, miss," replied the housekeeper, poising a spoon over the
caddy, "and that is just what puzzles me. Mr. Allen is not a young
gentleman to make up his mind in a hurry like. But he came home about
half an hour ago quite wild in his looks, and would not say what ailed
him. Before I could turn round, he had put a few things into a black
bag, and went off on his bicycle."

"To the station?"

"No, Miss: to Selling. He said he had a patient to see there, and
would catch the four twenty-six train from that place."

Dora glanced at her watch. It was now three o'clock, and if she chose
she could ride the nine miles to Selling before the up-train left that
station. But this she determined not to do. If Allen insisted upon
behaving so badly, she would do nothing to force him into an
explanation. Sooner or later he would tell her his reasons for this
strange conduct. But there was no doubt in her mind that his sudden
departure was the result of his mysterious conversation with Mr.
Edermont.

"When did Mr. Scott say he would return, Mrs. Tice?"

"To-morrow, miss; and then I have no doubt he will explain why he went
off in such a hurry."

"He did not tell you, I suppose?"

"Not a word, miss," replied the housekeeper, pouring out the tea.
"He'll be in a rare way when he finds out you have been here, and he
not at home to make things pleasant for you. Your tea, miss."

"You will make them pleasant enough, Mrs. Tice. What delicious tea and
bread and butter! I feel quite hungry after my ride. By the way,"
continued Dora, artfully preparing to take the housekeeper by
surprise, "Allen told me that he had a new patient--Lady Burville."

Contrary to her expectation, Mrs. Tice did not appear to be
astonished. From the composed expression of her face, from the
friendly nod with which she received the news, Dora was convinced that
she was absolutely unacquainted with the name. Failing in this attack,
Dora attempted to gain the information she wanted, if it were to be
gained, by approaching the subject from another quarter.

"I am so glad that the doctor is to prescribe for Lady Burville," she
said softly; "she will be able to do Allen so much good in his
profession. He only needs the chance, and with his talents he is sure
to be successful."

"Mr. Allen is very clever indeed," said delighted Mrs. Tice, who could
never hear her nursling praised sufficiently.

"And his father was clever also, I believe?" said Dora, unmasking her
batteries. This time Mrs. Tice changed colour, and placed the cup she
was holding carefully on the tray. Dora noticed that her hand
trembled.

"The late Dr. Scott was eminent in his profession," she said in a low
voice.

"What a pity he did not live to help Allen on!" pursued Dora, still
observant; "how long ago is it since he died, Mrs. Tice?"

"Some twenty years, miss."

"Really! When Allen was five years old; and you have had charge of him
ever since?"

Mrs. Tice recovered a little of her self-control.

"I had charge of him before that, miss," she said genially; "his poor
mother died when he was born, so I have had him in my care since he
was in his cradle. And, please God, I'll stay with him until I
die--that is, miss, if you do not object to my continuing housekeeper
after your marriage to my dear Mr. Allen?"

"You shall stay and look after us both," declared Dora impetuously;
"we could not do without you."

"Your guardian, Mr. Edermont, will miss you when you marry, my dear
lady."

Dora's lip curled. "I do not think so," she said quietly. "Mr.
Edermont is too much wrapped up in himself to trouble about me. You
have never seen him, have you?" And on receiving a shake of the head,
Dora continued: "He is a little womanish man, with a fine head of
silvery hair."

"Ah!" said Mrs. Tice, a startled expression coming into her eyes.

"I think he has quarrelled with Allen," pursued Dora, not noticing the
change in the other's manner, "for he told him something which may
prevent our marriage."

"What was it, my dear?" asked Mrs. Tice in some perturbation.

"I don't know; Mr. Edermont won't tell me. And I asked you about this
Lady Burville because I feel sure she has something to do with it."

"But, Miss Carew, I do not understand!"

"Well, Mrs. Tice," cried Dora quickly, "Mr. Joad said Lady Burville
knew my guardian and Allen's father, and--I'm sure I can't tell
how--but it has something to do with our marriage being stopped and
Allen's going to London."

By this time Mrs. Tice was perfectly livid, and trembling like a leaf.
Out of the incoherencies of Dora's story she had picked an idea, and
it was this which moved her so deeply. Dora looked at her in
astonishment.

"What is the matter, Mrs. Tice? Are you ill?"

The housekeeper shook her head; then, rising with some difficulty, she
went to a cupboard, and produced therefrom a book of portraits.
Turning over the pages of this, she pointed out one to Dora.

"A little man with silvery hair," she said slowly--"is that your
guardian, Miss Carew?"

Dora looked and saw the face--clean-shaven--of a young man.
Notwithstanding the absence of beard, she recognised it at once. It
was Julian Edermont, with some twenty years off his life.

"Yes, that is Mr. Edermont," she said, astonished at the discovery.

"And you are his--his daughter?" questioned the housekeeper.

"No; I am his ward. Mr. Edermont has never been married."

Mrs. Tice looked thoroughly frightened.

"You say Mr. Edermont had a conversation with Mr. Allen?"

"Yes: a conversation and a quarrel"

"Oh, great heavens! if he should have learnt the truth!" muttered the
old lady.

"If who should have learnt the truth?" demanded Dora.

Mrs. Tice closed the book with a snap, and put it in the cupboard,
shaking her head ominously. She kept her eyes turned away persistently
from the face of the young girl. Whatever discovery she had made from
displaying the photograph, it was evident that she did not intend to
communicate it to her companion.

"How did you come possessed of Mr. Edermont's photograph, when you
said you did not know him?" asked Dora suddenly.

"I did not know him until--five minutes ago. You had better ask me no
more questions, Miss Carew."

"But can you not tell me, from your knowledge of Allen's parents, why
Mr. Edermont has quarrelled with him?"

"If Mr. Edermont is the man I take him to be, I can. But I shall _not_
tell you, Miss Dora."

"Why not?"

The housekeeper shuddered.

"I dare not," she said in a trembling tone. "Oh, my dear, why did you
come to-day? I know much, but I dare not speak."

"Is your knowledge so very terrible?"

"It is more terrible than you can guess."

"Does Mr. Edermont know as much as you do?"

"Mr.--Edermont," said the housekeeper, with a pause before the name,
"knows more than I do."

"I do not see why I should be kept in the dark," said Dora petulantly.
"All that concerns Allen concerns me."

"In that case," observed Mrs. Tice calmly, "I can only recommend you
to wait until Mr. Allen returns. If he chooses to tell you, well and
good; but for my part, I prefer to keep silent about the past."

"But is that fair to me, Mrs. Tice?"

"Silence is more than fair to you in this case," said the old dame,
looking steadily at the eager face of the young girl. "It is
merciful."

"Merciful? That is a strange word to use."

"It is the only word that can be used," replied Mrs. Tice
emphatically. "No, do not ask me any more, my dear young lady. The
secret I hold is not my own to tell. Should Mr. Allen give me
permission to reveal it, I shall do so; otherwise I prefer to be
silent."

One would have thought that this speech was final; but Dora was too
bent upon learning the truth of Allen's strange behaviour to be
satisfied. She urged, she cajoled, she threatened, she implored, but
all to no purpose. Whatever it was that Mrs. Tice knew detrimental to
the past of Mr. Edermont, she was determined to keep it to herself.
Evidently there was nothing left but to wait until Allen returned.
From experience Dora knew that she could wheedle anything out of her
easy-going lover.

"Do you know anything about Lady Burville?" asked Dora, finding she
could not persuade Mrs. Tice into confessing what she knew.

"I know nothing--not even the name," said the housekeeper. "Why do you
ask?"

"Because Lady Burville has something to do with the quarrel between
Mr. Edermont and Allen."

"I can safely say that I know nothing on that point, Miss Carew. Lady
Burville is a complete stranger to me, and, I should say, to Mr.
Allen. I have never heard him speak of her."

"But Mr. Edermont knows her."

"Very probably. Mr. Edermont knows many people I am unacquainted with.
You must remember, Miss Carew, that there is a vast difference between
the position of a gentleman and that of a housekeeper."

"Then, Lady Burville has nothing to do with Mr. Edermont's past?"

"So far as I know she has not," replied Mrs. Tice promptly. "I don't
know everything, my dear young lady."

"Can you guess the cause of this quarrel?"

"Yes. I told you so before; but I cannot speak of it."

"Do you fancy that Mr. Edermont told Allen this secret you speak of?"

Mrs. Tice made no immediate reply, but smoothed her silken apron with
trembling hands. At length she said:

"I do not know. I trust he did not. But if he did speak----"

"Yes, Mrs. Tice," said Dora eagerly, "if he did speak?"

The housekeeper drew a long breath. "If he did speak," she repeated,
"you will never--never--never become the wife of Allen Scott."



CHAPTER V.
MR. EDERMONT'S HIGH SPIRITS.


After that extraordinary conversation with Allen's housekeeper, Dora
returned home more mystified than ever. Like everyone else, Mrs. Tice
hinted at secrets of the past likely to affect the future, yet refused
any explanation of such hints. Edermont and Joad acted in the same
unsatisfactory way, and Allen, to avoid questioning, absented himself
from her presence. It was all very tiresome, she thought, and
perfectly inexplicable. Only one fact stood out clearly in Dora's
mind, namely, that Lady Burville was responsible for all this
confusion; therefore, she argued, Lady Burville must hold the clue to
a possible disentanglement. This was logical.

Had Dora obeyed the impulse of her nature, she would have gone
directly to the cause of these perplexities and have demanded an
unravelment. She would have put her questions in the crudest form,
thus:

"My guardian was moved by the sight of you, and he orders me to avoid
you. Your name formed the gist of conversation between my guardian and
my lover, with the result that Mr. Edermont tells me I shall never
marry Allen. Mrs. Tice, who is ignorant of your inexplicable
influence, asserts the same thing; and the creature Joad hints that
you knew Allen's father. On the surface these matters appear to be
disconnected and incoherent; but I feel certain that a word from you
will render them explicable. You must say that word to me, since it is
upon me that the trouble you have created has descended."

So Dora thought, ranging the facts in such vague order as her
ignorance permitted; but as she did not know Lady Burville, and had no
plausible excuse for seeking her, she was forced to remain in
ignorance for want of the explanation which she felt sure the woman
could have supplied.

In her present dilemma, Dora, with her usual good sense, recognised
that there was nothing to be done but to remain quiescent, and wait.
Later on Allen would return from London--indeed, Mrs. Tice expected
him back that day--and then he would be forced to explain his conduct.
That explanation might put the matter in a plain light, and do away
with the fiats of Mrs. Tice and Edermont regarding the impossibility
of her marriage with Allen. Come what might, Dora was resolved that
she would not give up her lover and spoil her life. But, pending
explanation and resultant adjustment of the situation, she held her
peace, and waited. The future was--the future. Dora knew no more than
that.

For a week after that day of mysteries, life progressed as usual at
the Red House. Joad came and went with his usual punctuality, and eyed
Dora in a furtive manner, with a distinct avoidance of explanation.
Edermont recovered his nerve to some extent, and moved in his
accustomed petty orbit; and Dora, lacking other interests, attended to
her household duties. To a casual spectator, all things would seem to
be going on as usual, the life would have appeared tranquil and dull;
but this was but surface calm. Beneath, dangerous elements were at
work, which later on were destined to--but it is no use to recur to
the hackneyed simile of a sleeping volcano.

All these seven days nothing was heard of Lady Burville or of Allen.
The former still continued to be a guest at Hernwood Hall, the latter
still remained in London. Not a line had been received from him by
Dora, and, hurt in her maidenly pride, she became offended by his
continued silence. Whatever extraneous circumstances had led to his
behaviour, _she_ had not caused the breach--for breach she considered
it--between them. Twice or thrice she had determined to go over to
Canterbury and question Mrs. Tice, but pride withheld her. She
remained at the Red House, waiting, waiting, and waiting. What else
could she do?

Mention has been made of the high wall which surrounded the mansion of
Mr. Edermont. This had been built by himself, and contained only two
entrances, one from the road--a tall gate with spikes on the top--the
other, a little door far down the right side. The house itself, like
these gates, was kept always bolted and barred, and Mr. Edermont
confessed to a fear of robbers. But, bearing in mind his particular
prayer in the Litany, Dora was certain in her own mind that a greater
fear than this moved him to take such precautions.

When Joad had retired to his cottage at nine o'clock, Mr. Edermont
accompanied him personally to the gates, and saw that they were bolted
and barred. Afterwards he examined the side postern, and then
retreated to the mansion, where he closed the iron-clamped shutters
and locked every door throughout the house. The woman who cooked and
cleaned, and did all the work, was locked up in the kitchen, with
bedroom adjoining, like a prisoner; Dora was barred in her own set of
rooms, and Mr. Edermont shut himself up in equal isolation. Ever since
Dora could remember, these precautions had been taken, and by night
she felt as though she were in gaol. Certainly burglars could not
break in; but, on the other hand, none of the three inmates could get
out unless permitted to do so by the caprice of Mr. Edermont. And on
this point he had no caprice.

A week after his conversation with Allen--the conversation which had
terminated in so unexpected a manner--Edermont sat in his study. This
was a small oak-panelled room on the left side of the house, and was
entered directly from the hall. It was plainly, even penuriously,
furnished, containing little beyond a bureau of innumerable drawers
and cupboards, a dingy sofa, and three chairs, the most comfortable of
which was placed in front of the desk. On the walls were paintings
dark with age, and an assortment of flint pistols, ancient swords,
savage weapons from Africa and the South Seas, and portions of rusty
armour. A window looked out directly on the lawn, but there were two
doors, one of which led into the hall, the other, on the opposite
side, into the faded and lonely drawing-room, which was never used.
This latter apartment had three windows in the same position as that
of the study, and also a glass-door with shutters at the side of the
house. The view from this door was bounded by a hedge of untrimmed
laurel-trees. So much for the scene. Now for the drama.

To Edermont, seated at his desk on this particular morning, entered
Joad, with a card held between a dingy finger and thumb. He advanced
towards his friend with a malignant grin, and dropped the card on to
the blotting-pad.

"Here is something likely to startle you, Julian," said he with his
usual familiarity. "Mr. Augustus Pallant, on behalf of Laura Burville,
is waiting to see you."

The miserable Edermont turned pale, and began to whimper.

"Oh, Lambert, do you think he means to do me harm?"

"If he does, it is on behalf of your dear Laura," replied Joad
quietly; "you had better pluck up your courage, Julian, and see him."

"It might be dangerous, Lambert. Oh dear, terribly dangerous!"

"It will be more dangerous if you don't see the man."

"Why so? After twenty years Laura can do nothing."

"I am not so sure of that, Julian. She might tell Dora who she is."

The mere suggestion struck a blow at the timid heart of Edermont.

"I'll see him! I'll see him!" he cried, getting nervously on his feet.
"Admit him, Lambert, and bring him here. But"--he buttonholed his
friend--"remain within hearing, Lambert. He might do me an injury. I
am not strong, you know."

"You are a contemptible little coward!" snarled Joad, shaking him off.
"I'll look after you. There is too much to lose for me to risk your
death."

Edermont threw up his hands with a cry.

"Not that word, Lambert; there can be no danger after twenty years.
'From battle and murder, and from sudden death, good Lord, deliver
us.'"

As was his custom, Joad sneered at this prayer, which Edermont had
offered up daily for the last twenty years, and went out of the house.
In a few minutes he returned with a tall, red-haired man, whom he
introduced silently into the study. After the introduction he closed
the door, and went across to his favourite seat under the cedar to
await events. The first which occurred was the coming of Dora.

She had seen the introduction of the stranger from her window, and,
wondering what the visit might portend--for visitors were rare at the
Red House--she waited a reasonable time, then sought Joad on the lawn.
He looked up at her graceful figure with admiration in his eyes--a
look which Dora resented. It had occurred to her on more than one
occasion that, notwithstanding his age and physical defects, this
creature, as she termed him, had presumed to fall in love with her.
However, as at present he limited his mistaken passion to looks, she
merely frowned at his amorous glances, and asked her question.

"Why has Mr. Pallant called?" she demanded.

"How do you know that is his name?" asked Joad, without altering his
position.

"Dr. Scott described him to me," she said curtly. "Why has he called?"

"Julian can answer that question better than I can," answered Joad,
with a chuckle at baffling her curiosity, and returned to his reading.

Dora, who knew that he revenged himself thus for the frown she had
bestowed on him, strove to assuage his childish petulance.

"I think you might be civil, Mr. Joad," said she in an offended tone.
"I have no friend but you."

"What about Allen Scott?"

"There is no question of friendship there," said Dora stiffly. "Allen
Scott is my affianced husband."

"Ho, ho! Your affianced husband!" jeered Silenus, grinning. "Well,
Miss Dora, while Dr. Scott holds that position, I am no friend to
you."

"Why not?" asked Dora, nettled by the hinted menace in his tone.

"It's too long to explain; it's too early yet for plain speaking. But
look you here, Miss Dora: a man is as old as he feels, not as he
looks. I feel twenty-two--and at twenty-two"--he leant forward with a
sly smile--"one falls in love."

"You are talking nonsense!" retorted Miss Carew, drawing back; "and
your conversation is not to the point. I ask you why Mr. Pallant
called to see my guardian."

"And I answer as I answered before," replied Joad, rendered sullen by
the rebuff, "that you had better ask Julian. As I am not your friend,
you can't ask me to tell you my secrets."

"I don't want to know your secrets, but those of Mr. Edermont."

"Then, speak to the right person," said Joad rudely. "I am not
Julian."

After which speech he began reading again, utterly oblivious of the
presence of the girl he admired. Dora made no reply, but went back to
the house. At the door she was met by her guardian in a state of wild
excitement. He ran out, shouting and holding out his hands. Behind him
appeared the tall and well-dressed form of Mr. Pallant.

"Dora! Lambert!" shouted Edermont wildly. "Congratulate me! My
nightmare is at an end! I am free! I am safe!"

Then he ran over to Joad, and talked to him with much gesticulation.

Thinking her guardian had suddenly gone out of his mind, Dora turned
to Mr. Pallant for an explanation. He stared at her with undisguised
admiration, and she resented it, as she had done that of Joad, with a
frown.

"What is the matter with Mr. Edermont?" she asked abruptly.

"Why," said Mr. Pallant in a slow and sleepy voice, "I have brought
him some good news."

"What good news?"

"I think Mr. Edermont will inform you himself," said Pallant.

And at that moment Edermont, still overwhelmed with joy, came running
back.

"I am safe--safe!" he shouted; "and after twenty years of dread. No
more of the Litany, no more of the--O God!"

His joy was too much for him, and he rolled over on the ground in a
dead faint, at the very feet of Dora and Pallant.



CHAPTER VI.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE NIGHT.


And here was another mystery: Dora never learnt the good news which
Pallant had brought to Edermont. The little man had fainted with
excess of joy, and was carried off to bed by Joad; while Pallant took
his leave of Dora, and was escorted by her to the gate. He smiled as
she turned the key of the lock.

"No need for that now," said he, passing through the gate. "Mr.
Edermont can sleep in peace without bolt or bar."

"On account of what you have told him to-day?"

"Precisely, Miss Carew; on account of what I have told him to-day."

Dora looked at his sneering mouth, at his bold blue eyes, and asked a
question which had been in her mind since she had seen him from the
window.

"Were you sent by Lady Burville to tell this news, Mr. Pallant?"

"No; I came of my own accord. May I ask what you know of Lady
Burville?"

"I know nothing," said Dora gloomily. "I wish I did."

"Why, Miss Carew?"

The girl did not reply. Pallant was a stranger to her, and she did not
care to tell him of her belief that the fatal name of Lady Burville
had made trouble between herself and Allen. Pallant noticed her
hesitation.

"I see you do not wish to speak to me openly," he said, sneering, "yet
you may be glad to do so some day. Good-day, Miss Carew, and remember
my words."

His horse was tethered to the wall, and on bidding her farewell he
mounted to ride off. From the saddle he looked down at her fair face
and smiled. Then he made a strange remark:

"I shall give you one last warning, Miss Carew: Beware of Allen
Scott!"

The girl stared after him in surprise. Was all the world in conspiracy
to torture her with hints and mysteries? Joad, Edermont, Allen and
Mrs. Tice all knew of something about which they refused to speak. It
would seem that Pallant--a complete stranger--was possessed also of
the same knowledge. What did he mean by his warning? What had he to do
with Allen Scott, or even with Edermont? Dora felt as though she were
spied upon by a hundred eyes; as though she were playing a mechanical
part in some terrible drama, without knowing plot, or actors, or end.
She was ignorant, and therefore helpless.

For the next few days she tried to learn from Joad and her guardian
what all these doings meant. Both of them refused to speak, and the
tension of Dora's nerves was only relaxed by a letter from Allen, in
which he stated that he would return on the second of August, and
would see her the next day.

"He means to explain," thought the girl, putting the welcome letter
away in her desk. "In two or three days I shall know why he quarrelled
with my guardian, and why Mr. Pallant warned me against him. But I
must scold Allen for his neglect."

The communication relieved her greatly. Of late she had been so
bewildered and harassed that she had almost doubted whether Allen
loved her truly. Yet he had told her so a hundred times, and she was
satisfied that he spoke truly, from that subtle instinct which never
deceives a woman. He loved her, he adored her, and none other than she
would ever be his wife. Before that belief the dismal prophecies of
Mrs. Tice and Edermont, the strange warning of Pallant, counted as
nothing. Dora believed that Allen loved her, and could explain away
all the mysteries of the past weeks. In that belief she was content to
wait.

And all this time Mr. Edermont was surprisingly bright. A weight
appeared to have been lifted off his shoulders, and he looked ten
years younger. He was scarcely past fifty, notwithstanding his white
locks and hoary beard; and he began to talk of leaving his retirement
and going out to mix with the world once more. Dora knew that he had a
large income, and could afford to live in the most luxurious manner.
It had often been a surprise to her that he had lived so long in
seclusion and almost penury. From sundry circumstances she gathered
that he had for years been labouring under a dread of death by
violence, hence his anxiety that the house should be carefully locked
up. Now that dread had been removed--as he more than hinted--by a
communication from Pallant, and he could take life easily. Looking
back on the fears which had haunted him these twenty years, Dora no
longer wondered at the cowardice and terror of the puny creature.
Rather was she astonished that with so terrific a shadow to fight he
had kept himself out of a lunatic asylum. Stronger men than he
succumbed to such influences.

From force of habit Edermont still locked up the house at night; he
still sent Joad to the cottage over the road; but he no longer
trembled at that tremendous prayer of the Litany, nor did he look
round the church searching for a possible danger. Whatever the mystery
of his life could be--and Dora was quite unable to guess it--that
mystery had been done away with, and Edermont talked of fraternizing
again with his fellow-creatures.

One thing struck her as odd. When he recovered from the excess of joy
caused by the communication of Pallant, he wrote a lengthy letter, and
this he was particular to post himself. As a rule, Joad attended to
the despatch of such rare epistles as were sent from the Red House, so
Dora was astonished that her guardian should be so anxious about this
especial letter. It occurred to her that it might possibly have been
sent to Lady Burville, with whom she felt certain her guardian was
connected in some underhanded way. But she had never learnt if her
belief were correct. What she did learn, however, was that Edermont
wrote to Allen at Canterbury during the last days of July; also, he
sent a third letter, but to whom Dora did not know. The first and last
of these communications were posted with his own hand; the middle one
had been delivered to Joad in the usual way.

On the night of the second of August, Edermont dismissed Joad as
usual, and locked the gates according to custom. Then he returned to
bolt and bar the house. In his study he found Dora awaiting him.

"You have not seen to the little postern," she said.

"No matter," he replied impatiently. "I suppose it is locked; if
not--why, I can afford to leave it as it is and sleep in peace. There
is no more danger for me now."

"Of what danger are you talking, Mr. Edermont?"

"What is that to you?" he retorted with weak defiance. "Why are you
here? Go to bed and leave my business alone!"

"I will go to bed when you have answered me one question."

"Only one?" he scoffed. "You are more moderate than most women. Well?"

"Why have you written to Allen Scott?"

"Who told you I had done so?"

"Mr. Joad."

"He is too meddlesome!" cried Edermont angrily. "If he does not take
care I shall dismiss him! What right had he to show you that letter?"

"Because he knows that I am engaged to Allen."

"I tell you the engagement must be broken off."

"Why, Mr. Edermont?" asked Dora indignantly.

"Allen will tell you. I wrote to him to call and see me. When he comes
you shall speak to him in my presence, and from his own lips you shall
hear that he can never be your husband."

"Until then I decline to consider the engagement as broken," said
Dora, very pale, but firm. "I am not going to be your dupe, Mr.
Edermont. I shall force you to explain."

"I--I forbid you to--to speak to me like this!" cried Edermont,
shrinking back.

"I shall speak as I choose--I am tired of your selfish tyranny; and if
Allen does not make me his wife, I shall go out into the world to earn
my own living. At least I have enough to live on."

"Enough to live on?" he replied slowly. "Perhaps yes, perhaps no."

"What do you mean, sir?" she demanded imperiously.

A crafty smile played over the face of Mr. Edermont, and he shrugged
his shoulders.

"Wait till Allen comes: then you may learn more than you care to
listen to. Now go to bed. By the way, what about your toothache?"

"Toothache?"

"Joad said something about it," was Edermont's impatient remark; "you
told him that toothache kept you awake at night."

"Very true. My nights have been sleepless for the last few weeks. I
have heard that dreary sounding chime in the hall clock ring from
midnight till dawn. But my tooth is better to-night, thank you. I have
no pain, so there is every hope that I shall have a good night's
rest."

"I am glad of that, my dear," said Edermont in a softer tone than was
usual with him. "I would be fond of you, Dora, if you would let me.
Remember, all these years I have stood in the place of a father to
you."

"I do not forget that, Mr. Edermont," answered Dora kindly; "you have
been goodness itself. The parents I have lost could not have been
kinder to me."

"Perhaps not so kind," said Edermont, sitting on the chair in front of
his desk. "I need not talk to you about your parents, Dora."

"Why not, Mr. Edermont? I should like to know----"

"A great many things," interrupted the old man gloomily; "but for
reasons of my own, which you may learn some day, I am not prepared to
gratify your curiosity; and after all," he added in a significant
tone, "it would do you no good to hear the story."

"It would do me this much good," said Dora spiritedly: "I should learn
the obstacle which is a bar to my marriage with Allen."

"What would be the use of your knowing the obstacle, Dora? You will
never get rid of it--take my word for that. Now good-night."

"Good-night," replied Dora, thinking it useless to argue further.

"I think you might kiss me before you go," grumbled Edermont. "I stand
in the place of your father."

Without a word, Dora returned and touched the forehead of the old man
with her fresh young lips. As she passed through the door, a glance
back showed her a picture which never left her memory in afterlife.
Edermont, his noble head with its white hair leaning on his hand, sat
by the bureau in gloomy thought. A single candle served rather to show
than to dispel the darkness; and in the gulf of pale glimmer hollowed
out of the gloom the man looked like some famous portrait by an old
master. The burden of years was visible in his silvery hair and
sweeping beard of snow; the burden of sorrow marked itself in the
hollow eyes, the wrinkled cheek and forehead, the wasted hands. He
looked the incarnation of eld as seen in that spectral light, in that
tenebrous atmosphere. Dora never forgot that sight.

Once in her room, she lost no time in getting to bed. Her sleepless
nights of the past week had worn her out; and now that the pain had
left her tooth, she was glad to take advantage of the respite. At
first she thought about her guardian and his untold miseries;
afterwards of Allen's strange behaviour; lastly, her thoughts wandered
to Joad's sly looks and hinted terrors, until sleep rolled like a wave
over her weary brain, and she became oblivious of the material world.
Nature revenged herself for many vigils, and soothed her into sound
slumber.

How long she had been asleep she did not know, but suddenly, for some
inexplicable reason, she woke with a start, and sat up in the bed, her
nerves strung to their utmost tension, faculties all on the alert. It
seemed to her that she had heard a muffled cry for help, a wild appeal
for mercy; but now that she was listening with all her will, she could
hear nothing. All was dark and quiet: not a sound broke the silence of
the still night. After a moment or two, Dora believed that she had
mistaken a dream for a reality, and, laughing softly at her own folly,
lay down again to sleep. As her head touched the pillow, the deep bell
of the hall clock chimed "one." Remembering how often she had heard
those dreary tones in the past week, Dora smiled drowsily to herself,
and was soon fast asleep again. When she again woke it was dawn.

Someone was knocking furiously at the door of the bedroom. Dora leaped
out of her bed, unlocked it, and flung it wide open. Meg Gance, the
cook, stood shaking on the threshold, as pale as a ghost.

"Miss Dora! O Lord, miss!" gasped the terrified woman. "The master
is--is--is dead!"

"Dead?" replied Dora in a dazed tone.

"Murdered! And his head! O Lord! 'tis bashed in like a pumpkin!"



CHAPTER VII.
A NINE DAYS' SCANDAL.


And this was the end of Julian Edermont's high spirits. For twenty
years he had dreaded and guarded himself against a violent death; but
the moment that the fear had been removed the end came. There was
something ironical in the way in which Fate had lulled his suspicions
only to smite the surer. One day he had been rejoicing in the thought
that the reign of terror was over; the next he lay dead under his own
roof-tree, and none knew who had slain him.

They found the body in the study, lying near the desk, which was
broken open and terribly damaged. As Meg, the cook, stated, his head
was smashed in like a pumpkin, and near by lay the weapon with which
the deed had been done--a Zulu knobkerrie, which had been torn from
the decorative weapons of the wall. Dora was an exceptionally brave
woman, cool in danger and collected in trouble; but even she felt
qualmish to see that revered head all beaten, all splashed with gore.
The place was like a shambles. Amid the blood lay a pistol, near to
the hand of the dead man, and many papers were scattered about it,
tossed in confusion from the bureau.

Mr. Edermont had been nothing more to Dora than her legal guardian. He
had been a selfish, cowardly creature, who had done nothing to win her
love; yet, as Dora looked at the body lying there, red with blood,
battered, and beaten, and bruised, she felt at once sorry and angered.
The first, that so harmless--so far as she knew--a creature had been
so cruelly done to death; the second, that his assassin had escaped.
However, as the deed was done, and the man was dead, no time was to be
lost in raising the alarm. It was just possible that the murderer
might be secured if prompt measures were taken.

Dora knew now that the cry she had heard in the night had been no
fancy, no dreaming, but a terrible reality; and the striking of the
clock immediately afterwards enabled her to fix the exact time when
the crime had been committed. However, she was wise enough to say
nothing on the point until called upon to do so. But raising, with the
aid of Meg, the dead body on to the sofa, she sent the woman across
the road to summon Joad. Hardly had she issued the order when the
voice of that very person, in surprised tones, was heard in the
drawing-room off the study.

Considerably astonished at his early arrival, for it was not yet eight
o'clock, Dora ran into the next room. At the door she paused in sheer
amazement. The glass door at the side of the apartment had no shutters
up, and was wide open, while Joad was looking through it, apparently
as much taken aback by her appearance as she was by his.

"What is it? What is it?" he demanded hastily. "This door ajar--the
postern gate open--you here----"

"The postern gate open?" cried Dora suddenly. "The assassin must have
escaped that way."

"Assassin! What do you mean?" stammered the new-comer, turning pale
with fright.

"Come in at once, Mr. Joad, and I will show you. The sight requires no
explanation."

Still amazed, Joad heaved his fat body through the door, and followed
Dora into the room of death. When he saw what had taken place--the
blood on the floor, the dead body on the sofa--his jaw dropped, his
skin turned the colour of a dirty yellow, and he stared dumbfounded at
the sight. So long did he remain in his semi-trance, that Dora was
obliged to shake him by the elbow to bespeak his attention.

"You see Mr. Edermont has been murdered. Meg found him like that when
she came to clean up the study."

"Aye, I did for sure!" cried Meg, her coarse face blanched with dread.
"Master did not lock kitchen last night, and I found doors all wide. I
came here with broom and dust-pan, and there I saw he with poor head
bashed to jelly."

Joad approached the sofa and examined the body, then reverently spread
his handkerchief over the disfigured face.

"My poor friend!" he muttered with emotion. "And you thought that you
were safe!"

"Does that mean you know who killed him?" asked Dora, making a step
forward.

"No, I do not know who killed him. Julian was always afraid that he
would be murdered by a certain person; but who that person is, or why
he should desire Julian's death, I know no more than you do."

Dora only believed half of this statement. From what she had seen it
would appear that Joad had been completely in the confidence of the
dead man, and his denial seemed to be unnecessary. However, she made
no comment on the speech, but with sudden suspicion asked Joad how it
was he had come to the Red House before his usual time. He guessed
what was in her mind, and laughed slyly.

"If you think I know anything of this terrible deed, you are wrong,"
said he slowly; "it is not likely I should kill the only friend I have
in the world, and reduce myself to beggary."

"Good heavens, Mr. Joad! I never accused you of such a thing!" cried
Dora indignantly.

"Nevertheless, you thought it, Miss Carew," he replied smoothly, "and
you deemed that I had come thus early to look at my handiwork. You are
wrong: it's my custom to take a short walk to get an appetite for
breakfast. In crossing the fields, I saw to my amazement that the
postern door was open. Knowing that Julian was particular to keep it
locked, I went to see what was the matter. I came up to the house, and
saw the side door was open also. In my surprise I uttered an
ejaculation, and you appeared. You know the rest."

Dora did know the rest, but she did not know who had killed her
guardian. However, now that a man was on the spot, she wished him to
take the management of the matter into his own hands. But Joad
declined to saddle himself with any such responsibility. He said that
Dora was a New Woman, who thought that the weaker sex was the stronger
of the two. This being the case, Mr. Joad suggested that she should
prove her boast by assuming the position of the necessary male. Dora
was annoyed at his niggling arguments, and disgusted at his laziness;
but, not deeming the matter worth discussing, she took all authority
into her own hands.

They proved to be very capable hands. She sent a man to Canterbury for
the police, and put them in charge of the body and the house. To the
inspector she related all she knew, and Meg followed suit. As for
Joad, he interviewed the authorities on his own account, and gave the
same unvarnished statement as he had given to the two women. Mr.
Inspector heard all that was to be heard, saw all that was to be seen;
and after leaving a couple of policemen in charge, he returned to
Canterbury to rack his brains as to the whereabouts of the assassin.
He also detailed a doctor to examine the body; and with this doctor
came Allen.

The young man appeared haggard and ill. His face was pale, his eyes
were wild, and he looked as though he had been sitting up for several
nights in succession. When he saw Dora he made no effort to embrace or
kiss her, but stood before her with downcast eyes, like a detected
criminal. The girl was profoundly astonished at this conduct.
Ordinarily Scott was blithe and light-hearted, with a smile and a word
for everybody. Now he looked dejected and worried, and had not a word
to say, even to the girl to whom he was betrothed. After a time Dora,
finding him so unsatisfactory, took him to her own sitting-room, and
sat him in a chair. Then she spoke bluntly, and with some anger, which
was surely natural.

"I am glad to see you, Allen," she said abruptly, "as I wish to have
an explanation of your singular conduct."

"I have none to give you," he said, flushing.

"Indeed! Then why did you come over to-day?"

"I heard of this murder, for one thing," said Allen slowly; "and for
another, I wish to put an end to our engagement."

Dora started. She remembered the prophecy of Mrs. Tice and of the dead
man. It had come true sooner than she expected, and in a fashion she
did not anticipate. Many things might have arisen to prevent their
marriage, but if she and Allen were true to one another, she hoped to
overleap all obstacles. But here was the man himself--the man who had
vowed a thousand times that he could not live without her--and he
proposed to part. She could hardly believe her ears; and from outraged
pride tears sprang to her eyes.

"I thought you loved me, Allen!" said she, then flung herself on the
sofa and sobbed as though her heart would break.

Dr. Scott rose suddenly, and stood looking down at her, his face
working with passion. He would fain have taken her in his arms; he
would have assured her of his love and undying fidelity. But between
him and Dora a shadow was standing--the shadow of a dead man.

"I do love you, Dora," said Allen, as soon as he could command his
voice; "I shall always love you; but I can never make you my wife."

"But why? What is your reason?"

"I dare not tell you my reason; but you shall learn this much: Mr.
Edermont told me something which parts us for ever."

"What did he tell you?"

"I dare not say."

Dora rose slowly and looked steadily into his face. His eyes dropped
before hers, and he would have turned away, but she compelled him to
face her.

"Allen, you know who killed Mr. Edermont."

"No, no! As God is in heaven I do not!" he said vehemently. "I have my
suspicions, but they count as nothing. Don't ask me anything, Dora,
for I can tell you nothing."

"At least tell me why you wish our engagement ended," said she, very
pale.

"I cannot," he groaned, and sank into a chair.

"Then listen to me, Allen," she said in a firm voice. "Until you tell
me the reason of this conduct I refuse to release you from the
engagement. I love you; you say that you love me; so there is no
reason why we should part. If you will not speak, others will; and I
shall devote myself to finding out the truth. When I do find it," she
added slowly, "then we may part. Until then"--her voice rose--"you are
my affianced husband."

Allen rose from his chair and walked slowly towards the window, where
he stood looking out at the green lawn, the brilliant sunshine. In his
then mood of self-torture and sorrow, the brightness of the day seemed
a cruel contrast to his own dark thoughts. His life was over, his joys
were at an end; a deadly trouble, greater than he could bear, had come
upon him. Yet the flowers bloomed, the birds sang, the sunlight bathed
stretches of green grass and clumps of stately trees in its golden
rays, as in mockery of his puny grief and trivial ruin. The contrast
struck him as so ironical that he burst into bitter laughter; but the
mirth thus wrung from his breaking heart ended in a sigh of regret.

"Why do you laugh, Allen?" asked Dora, scared by this cruel merriment.
"Why do you not answer?"

"I laugh because of the contrast between the joy of Nature and our own
sorrows," he replied, turning his pale face towards her, "and I did
not reply because I was thinking."

"You heard what I said?"

He took her hands within his own, and looked at her anguished face
with a great love in his eyes.

"I heard you, and I agree," said he softly. "God bless you for a good
woman, Dora, for you have behaved nobly. Many a woman would have cast
me off in scorn for my refusal to speak. But you are content to wait
in hope. Alas, my darling!" he cried, with a burst of sorrow; "there
is no hope; there never can be hope. You and I are parted as surely as
though the one were following the other to the graveyard."

"But, Allen, we have committed no sin. Why should we part?"

"Because of the sins of others. Our trouble comes from the past, Dora,
and it was that dead man who revealed it to me. Did I tell you what he
said, you would agree with me that the only thing left to us is to
kiss and part. But I dare not tell you; in mercy to yourself I spare
you the burden of the secret which has made my life so bitter."

"I know that you act in all kindness, Allen, but you are wrong. It
would be better to tell me all, and let me share your troubles. I am
strong; I can bear anything."

"Not this, not this," replied Allen, releasing her hands and going to
the door; "it would wreck your life, your happiness, as it has wrecked
mine."

"Happiness!" she said in a tone of despair; "I have done with that."

"I hope not. Oh, my dear, I trust not. Time may bring you the content
that I cannot give you. I accept your noble offer, Dora. Let us still
continue our engagement, although we must rarely meet. But if you are
wise, you will not seek to know the secret. It will bring you no good,
only evil. For your own sake I keep silent. I can do no more; I can do
no less."

He paused at the door, looking at her sadly. She stood in the centre
of the room, a quiet and sorrowful figure in her black dress. Allen
returned, and kissed her twice on the forehead; then he left her under
the same roof as the dead man, and passed out of her life--as he
thought--for ever.



CHAPTER VIII.
THE WILL OF JULIAN EDERMONT.


After that interview Allen came no more to the Red House. He was aware
that his behaviour appeared shameful; for no other word was applicable
to the conduct of a man who forsook a girl to whom he had been engaged
a year, and refused to disclose the reason of such desertion. Yet he
could act in no other way, for the bar to the marriage, as revealed by
Edermont, was so insuperable and terrible that Allen could not bring
himself to enlighten Dora on the subject. If things looked black
against him, he would have to put up with the situation as best he
could. But to justify his conduct by telling the truth--he could not
do so. In mercy to herself he spared her that revelation.

But if Allen remained absent, others did not. When the fact of the
murder became known, quite a stream of morbid people set forth to view
the scene of the crime. Thanks to the presence of the police, and the
stubborn fact of the high wall, these folk were unable to push
themselves into the house; but they gathered in crowds on the road,
staring and staring, as though they hoped to see through the bricks
and mortar and behold the dead body within. Much speculation was rife
as to the cause of the crime, but the generally accepted opinion was
that Edermont had been murdered by a burglar or burglars. Indeed,
Inspector Jedd inclined to this opinion himself.

This official was a fussy, pompous man, with an immense idea of his
own importance; now that an opportunity occurred of displaying that
importance he made the most of it. What with examining the grounds,
the house, the postern-gate; what with questioning the living inmates
and the doctor who had examined the body, he was as active as a
squirrel, and about as useful. In his sublime self-conceit he could
not see an inch beyond his nose, and accepted the first idea that came
into his head. The bureau was smashed, the drawers pulled out and
emptied of their contents. On these grounds Inspector Jedd concluded
that the death was due to the wrath of an interrupted housebreaker.

"Tramp, you see," he said in his jerky way to admiring subordinates.
"Mr. Edermont--rich house, full of treasures and loose cash--mistaken
whim, very; but tramp, hearing such tales in beer-shops, believes them.
He climbs over the wall; Mr. Edermont has omitted to lock side-door.
Tramp enters easily--sees bureau--thinks money there. Smashes desk with
the bludgeon taken from the wall"--so the inspector denominated the
"knobkerrie"--"Mr. Edermont hears noise--comes in--tramp startled--turns
at bay--kills Mr. Edermont. Takes what he can--steals keys from dead man
and unlocks postern-gate--gets away. There you are! What could be
simpler?"

None of Inspector Jedd's underlings disputed the theory of their
chief, for the simple reason that they believed in it, as they would
have believed in any other he chose to put forward. Joad sneered when
this explanation was repeated in his hearing, but, on the plea that he
knew nothing about such matters, he made no comment upon it. Dora also
disagreed with Jedd, but, being a judicious young woman, she said
nothing. She herself believed that the death was due to revenge, but
as yet she was too uncertain of her ground, too ignorant of Mr.
Edermont's past life, to venture an opinion. The reading of the dead
man's will proved that her insight into the matter was keener than
Jedd's.

But before the reading of the will came the holding of the inquest.
Jedd gathered together all the obtainable evidence, called all the
available witnesses, with the result that nothing was discovered
likely to lead to the assassin's detection. The inquest was held in
the dining-room of the Red House, and everybody who could obtain
admittance was present; but when Dora looked round the crowded room
she noted that three persons whom she expected to see were absent.
These were Allen Scott, because he was her lover, and should have been
at hand to support her in this trial; Mr. Pallant, as he had evidently
some knowledge of Mr. Edermont's past life, and might be curious
concerning his violent death; and Lady Burville, because the sight of
her in church had been, as Dora truly believed, the genesis of all
these woes. But none of the three put in an appearance, and their
absence gave Dora food for reflection.

The first witness called was Meg Gance, the cook, who deposed that she
was usually locked up in her kitchen, with bedroom attached, by the
deceased. On the night of the second of August he had omitted to lock
her up as usual--why, she did not know. It was her custom to rise at
seven and wait till Mr. Edermont came to let her into the main portion
of the house, so that she could go about her work. She was general
servant as well as cook. On the morning of the third she rose as
usual, but Mr. Edermont never came. To her surprise she found the door
leading to the front of the house was unlocked. She passed through
with broom and dust-pan to seek the study, which she usually cleaned
the first thing in the morning. There she saw Mr. Edermont lying dead
near the desk, with his head smashed. The bureau was smashed also, the
drawers were pulled out, and their contents untidily tumbled on the
floor. Near the dead body lay a pistol and a stick (the knobkerrie)
which had been taken from the wall. At once she called Miss Carew. The
witness stated that she had heard no noise during the night. She had
noticed no tramps or suspicious characters looking round the house of
late.

The second witness was Dora Carew, who stated that she had retired as
usual on the previous night at half-past nine, leaving Mr. Edermont to
lock up. Her guardian usually locked the door which closed the passage
on the first-floor leading to her bedroom. On this night he did not do
so, although she was not aware of the fact until summoned by Meg the
next morning. During the night she was awakened by a cry--as it seemed
to her, an appeal for mercy. She listened, but could hear nothing
further, and, thinking she had been dreaming, she had lain down and
gone to sleep again. When she awoke in the morning she was called by
Meg to see the dead body. She was aware that Mr. Edermont considered
himself a threatened man, but she had no knowledge of the person or
persons whom he feared. In reply to a question, this witness stated
that she heard the cry immediately before the clock in the hall struck
"one." She believed that the murder had been committed at that time.

The third witness was Lambert Joad, who gave his evidence as follows:

He was accustomed to leave the Red House at nine o'clock every night
for his cottage, which was on the other side of the road. On the night
of the murder he left as usual, and heard the gate locked behind him.
He went to his cottage, and took his supper and read. Later on he was
joined by Mr. Pride, a tutor in a local private school, who was, like
himself, a classical scholar. Pride talked with him till after two
o'clock in the morning, when he went away. The witness was up at seven
to take a walk before breakfast, as was his custom. In crossing the
fields he noticed that the postern door was open. Astonished at this,
and knowing that Mr. Edermont was particular about keeping the door
closed, he went across to see what was the matter. On entering through
the postern gate he went to the house. To gain the front-door he had
to follow the path between laurel hedges, which passed by the glass
door of the disused drawing-room, off the study. He saw that this door
had no shutters up on the glass, as was customary, and was standing
wide open. He uttered an exclamation of surprise, which brought Miss
Carew into the drawing-room. She called him in, and he saw the dead
body and the smashed desk. He was not aware that Mr. Edermont had
enemies. The witness believed that Edermont's fancy of being
threatened with a violent death was monomania. He recognised the
revolver as the property of the deceased.

The fourth witness was Dr. Chambers, of Canterbury, who deposed that
he had been summoned by Inspector Jedd to examine the body of the
deceased. The head was smashed in by a violent blow on the left
temple, and death must have been instantaneous, After giving some
technical evidence relative to the injuries inflicted, this witness
concluded by stating that, from the condition of the body, he was
satisfied the crime had been committed between twelve and one o'clock
in the morning. This assertion bore out the statement of Miss Carew,
that she had heard the hall clock strike one shortly after the cry for
mercy had awakened her.

The fifth and last witness was Inspector Jedd. He deposed to the state
of the body, the state of the bureau, and the finding of the
knobkerrie and pistol. Evidently the criminal had entered the house
through the side-door of the drawing-room, which was wide open, and
had retreated the same way. No clue had been obtained likely to lead
to the detection of the assassin. The postern gate, usually kept
locked, had been found open on the morning after the crime. Several
tramps had been arrested on suspicion, but one and all had explained
their movements on the night of the second. No one but deceased knew
what was in the bureau, therefore witness was unable to say if
anything was missing.

These five witnesses having given their evidence, the coroner summed
up, after which the jury brought in a verdict that Julian Edermont had
been murdered by some person or persons unknown. It was the only
conclusion to which they could come in the face of such scanty facts
as had been placed before them, and all present departed with the
unsatisfactory feeling that the death of Mr. Edermont was a mystery,
and, what is more, was likely to remain a mystery. And so a very
trying and exciting day came to a conclusion.

Mr. Edermont was duly buried in Chillum churchyard, and again Dora
noticed that Allen was not present at the funeral. When she returned
to the house, Mr. Carver, the long, lean lawyer from Canterbury,
produced the will of the dead man, and read it to herself and Joad. As
Mr. Edermont had no relations, these two were the only people likely
to be interested in the disposition of his property. The will was a
peculiar one, and reflected the lifelong fear of Edermont. Since he
had been relieved of that fear by the visit of Mr. Pallant, he had not
troubled to execute another testament; so the document read by Mr.
Carver showed how vivid had been his presentiment of meeting with a
violent end. The result had justified his fears.

The property included the Red House and its surrounding acres, the
pictures and silver, and also the rental of three farms, amounting to
two hundred a year. All this--house, pictures, silver, and income--was
left to Dora, on condition that she remained at the Red House, and
permitted Lambert Joad to continue his life there on the same footing
as during the life of the deceased. The rest of the property,
consisting of stocks and shares and various investments, amounted in
all to some fifty thousand pounds. And now came the surprising part of
the will. This large sum of money was left unconditionally to such
person or persons as should discover and punish the assassin of the
testator.

"For years," said the maker of the will, "I have been threatened with
violent death by a certain enemy. Sooner or later, in spite of all my
precautions, he will succeed in carrying out his wicked purpose. In
that event I am content to reward the person who punishes him, or
whomsoever he employs, with the sum of fifty thousand pounds. The
story of my life, which sets forth how I incurred the wrath of this
enemy, will be found in my bureau, sealed with my seal. Let my ward,
Dora Carew, read the document, and discover the assassin, so that she
can at once revenge my death and inherit my money. But in any case she
is provided for, as is Lambert Joad; and the bulk of my estate must go
to him or her who punishes my enemy."

Then followed the usual clauses ending the will, the signatures of the
testator, and of two witnesses.

When Carver had finished there was a dead silence, which was broken by
the lawyer himself.

"It is a strange will," said he, taking off his spectacles, "and
hardly worded in a legal manner. But it holds good, nevertheless, so I
can only recommend you, Miss Carew, or you, Mr. Joad, to gain fifty
thousand pounds if you can."

"Will that sum actually be paid over to the discoverer of the
assassin?" cried Joad, with sparkling eyes.

"My dear sir," said Carver, with a solemn smile on his lean face, "the
man or woman who discovers the murderer of my late client will
receive"--he smacked his lips--"fifty thousand pounds!"



CHAPTER IX.
AN AMAZING REWARD.


The extraordinary will of Julian Edermont caused a no less
extraordinary sensation. Pursuant to the instructions of his late
client, Carver caused the contents of the will to be published in
almost every newspaper of the three kingdoms, and the advertisement
was copied and printed and talked about all over the civilized world.
Many of the leading London dailies devoted a leading article to
discussing the eccentricity of the bequest. Of these lucubrations none
was more noteworthy than that of the _Morning Planet_.

"Here is a chance for our amateur and professional detectives," it
said. "A riddle to stimulate the curiosity; a magnificent reward to
repay the solution of the same. Mr. Edermont, a recluse, dwelling in
the Red House, near Canterbury, has been barbarously murdered, and
fifty thousand pounds are now offered for the discovery and
apprehension of his murderer. It seems that the dead man had a past,
and that that past had engendered an enemy. For twenty years Mr.
Edermont lived in strict retirement, and took extraordinary
precautions to ensure his safety. But all in vain. The man or
woman--for no one is aware of the sex of the assassin--discovered the
victim, and carried out the revenge in a peculiarly brutal fashion.
There is nothing to show how the assassin came or went; but the time
of the committal of the crime has been ascertained by the evidence of
Miss Carew, the ward of the deceased. She fancied she heard a cry, and
immediately afterwards the hall clock struck one. There can be no
doubt that Miss Carew really did hear a cry, and was not dreaming, as
she fancied, and that such cry was the last appeal of the poor victim
for mercy.

"In the will of Mr. Edermont, he mentions that the story of his life
is set forth in a manuscript locked up in his bureau. It is evident
that the assassin knew of the existence of this narrative, for,
immediately after committing the crime, he--we will assume by way of
argument that the criminal is a man--rifled the desk, and made off
with the paper containing an account of his motive for revenge. He
knew that such paper would condemn him, and that with its aid the
officers of the law would have little difficulty in putting a rope
round his neck. Doubtless such story gave his name--possibly his
address--and he was aware that it thus jeopardized his safety. But be
this as it may, one fact remains: that the assassin has stolen the
sole clue to his discovery, and it would seem that the death of Julian
Edermont must remain wrapped in mystery.

"But fifty thousand pounds! Will anyone permit this death to go
unavenged when he can gain such a reward? A fortune for life, and the
consciousness of having done his duty to the dead man and to society.
No doubt our inglorious Vidocques, our amateur Sherlock Holmes, will
set to work to unravel the mystery and gain the reward. The Red House,
near Canterbury, will become the shrine of pilgrim detectives from all
parts of the world. Nevertheless, in spite of their astuteness, in
spite of their greed, we doubt whether the mystery will ever be
solved. The sole clue, so far as we can see, is to be found in the
past life of the dead man. The tale of that past life is set forth in
a certain paper; such paper is in the possession of the assassin, who
is himself unknown. To find the paper, they must find the assassin;
without the paper the assassin cannot be found; and so matters are at
a deadlock. We shall await the development of this extraordinary case
with interest; but we doubt whether the fifty thousand pounds will
ever be claimed. Julian Edermont is dead and buried; his assassin has
escaped with the story of the motive for the crime in his pocket. Here
the case stands. What light can be thrown on this darkness? What clue
can be found to the cunning murderer? We wait the answer from the
possible man or woman who can honestly claim fifty thousand pounds."

While the papers talked thus, while people wondered, and would-be
winners of the reward set their wits to work on the facts of the case,
Dora remained at the Red House. No change was made in her life, or in
that of Joad. In conjunction with Meg, the girl still looked after the
domestic details of the mansion; and Joad still came and went from
nine to nine. He became morose after the death of his friend, and
hardly addressed a word to Dora. But she was aware that he constantly
watched her in a furtive manner, which in the end became exceedingly
annoying. Had the terms of the will been less clear, she would have
left the Red House, or have induced Joad to confine his life to his
own cottage. But in order to exist, and draw her poor rental of two
hundred a year, she was forced to live in the house, with Joad, dirty,
disreputable and crabbed, at her elbow. She disliked the man
exceedingly, the more so as she had a suspicion that he admired her;
but, fettered as she was by the terms of the will, she could do
nothing.

Nevertheless, she became aware, as the days went by, that she would
have to make some change in her life. It was impossible that she
should go on living with an illiterate servant and an admiring satyr.
It was equally impossible that she could continue to remain at
variance with Allen after the last interview. He neither came near her
nor wrote a line to comfort her; and, angered as she was at his
heartless and inexplicable conduct, she made up her mind to see him.
In one way or the other she would bring the matter to an end, and
treat him either as a stranger or as her affianced lover.

Again, she wished to see Carver as to her financial position. By the
will she had been left certain moneys and the Red House; but she also,
as she understood, possessed an income of five hundred pounds, which
came to her from her parents, and once or twice Mr. Edermont had
informed her that she was entitled to so much; but he stated also that
he was saving it up for her against the time she came of age.

As Dora was now twenty-one, she expected that the accumulations would
be considerable. Making allowance for the amounts given to her at
various times, she concluded that she was entitled to close on eight
thousand pounds. If this were so--as she could ascertain from Mr.
Carver--it was her intention to change her mode of life should Allen
prove obstinate.

"I shall give up the Red House and the two hundred a-year," thought
Dora, making her plans, "and, after investing my eight thousand pounds
with the aid of Mr. Carver, I shall go to London. I cannot live any
longer in the company of that odious creature"--for so she termed the
learned Joad. "And if Allen is resolved to break off the engagement,
there is nothing to keep me here. Mr. Edermont is dead; Allen, for
some reason, is estranged, and I am all alone. I shall take my life in
my own hands, and go to London."

It never entered her head to earn the reward. She was completely
ignorant as to how her late guardian had come to so untimely an end.
Lady Burville might have explained, but after the crime she had gone
to London, and Dora did not know where to find her. Mr. Pallant might
have given a hint, but he had left Hernwood Hall also. Dora saw no way
of solving the mystery; and even if she did conjecture the truth, she
scarcely felt herself called upon to revenge the death of Mr. Edermont
by discovering his assassin. She did not want the reward, and she had
not sufficient regard for the dead man's memory to devote herself to
so difficult a task.

Mr. Carver lived and worked in a dusty, dingy, dreary house near
Mercery Lane. His rooms were above--he was a bachelor, dry and
crusty--and his offices below. Two clerks, as lean as their master,
worked in the dismal outer office, and in the inner apartment, the
window of which looked on to a mews, Mr. Carver sat all day, and often
far into the night. The appearance of so charming and blooming a woman
as Dora quite lighted up the musty, fusty den. Her fresh beauty had
little effect upon Carver, who regarded women as the root of all evil.
The generally accepted root of all evil is money. This he approved of
and hoarded; but women--he could not bear them, save in the light of
clients, and then they gave him endless trouble.

"Mr. Carver," said Dora, facing the saturnine lawyer on the other side
of the table, "I have called to see you about my financial position. I
was, as you know, a ward of Mr. Edermont's"--Carver nodded--"and he
has left me the Red House and two hundred a year." Mr. Carver nodded
again. "But what about my own income of five hundred a year?"

"What five hundred a year?" said Carver grimly.

"The income which was left me by my parents."

"I was not aware that any income had been left to you by your parents,
nor, for the matter of that--if you will excuse me--was I aware that
you had any parents."

"What do you mean, sir?" asked Dora, sitting up very straight.

"Why," said the lawyer meditatively, "it is not hard for you to gather
my meaning. I never saw your parents--I never heard mention of them.
All I know is that my late client arrived here with you, and shortly
after his arrival purchased the Red House. You were then a year old,
and as twenty years have now elapsed, it makes you twenty-one," added
Mr. Carver in parenthesis. "My late client said that you were an
orphan, Carew by name, whom he intended to bring up; but as to
parents, or history, or income--I know nothing about them, absolutely
nothing."

"But Mr. Edermont assured me that I had five hundred a year of my
own!" stammered Dora, taken aback by this plain speaking. "He handed
me money from time to time, and stated frequently that he was saving
the rest of the income to give me when I came of age. If this is so, I
ought to be entitled to at least eight thousand pounds."

"I congratulate you on your logical arguments, and on your business
capabilities," said Carver with grave irony; "but I am afraid that you
are mistaken, or else that the late Mr. Edermont deceived you
wilfully--a thing which I can hardly believe. I know all the details
of my late client's monetary affairs. As I said before, I purchased
for him the Red House freehold some twenty years ago--shortly after
his arrival in the neighbourhood. The two hundred per annum which you
inherit under the will is the rental of three farms, which I purchased
at a later period for him. The silver, furniture and pictures, which
you also inherit, he brought with him from his last dwelling-house.
Finally, Miss Carew," added the lawyer, with the air of a man who is
making a satisfactory statement, "I know precisely how he invested
that fifty thousand pounds which, by the will, has been so foolishly
offered as a reward for the discovery of the murderer of the testator.
All these matters I can explain and prove, but as regards your
supposititious income of five hundred pounds, I know nothing. There
are," concluded Mr. Carver calmly, "neither letters, nor scrip, nor
documents of any kind whatsoever among the papers of my late client
which can in the least substantiate your statement, or even hint at
the possibility of such a thing."

Dora listened to this long speech in silent amazement. She had never
contemplated the possibility of such a deception--for now it seemed
plainly a deception. Why Edermont should have told so many lies, and
fostered in her a belief that she was independent as regards pecuniary
matters, she could not understand. Carver waited for her to argue the
matter, but Dora made no attempt to do this. The lawyer's explanation
was so clear and decisive that she saw no reason to doubt his honesty.
Besides, he had been always well-disposed towards her, and no motive
could exist to induce him to deceive her.

"Then I am penniless?" she murmured in dismay. "Mr. Edermont deceived
me!"

"Apparently he did deceive you," assented Mr. Carver, placing the tips
of his fingers together; "but if you will permit me to remind you,
Miss Carew, you are not penniless."

"I have a roof to cover me, and two hundred a year," said Dora
bitterly. "True enough, Mr. Carver. But such a legacy is saddled with
the constant companionship of Mr. Joad."

"He is scarcely a pleasant companion for a young lady, I grant, Miss
Carew. But if you permit him to potter about the library and garden, I
hardly think that he will trouble you much. These bookworms,
dry-as-dust scholars, are so wrapped up in their books, that they
rarely deign to notice mundane affairs, or the presence of youth and
beauty."

Dora had her own opinion as to Mr. Joad's blindness in this direction;
but as the subject was not pertinent to the matter under discussion,
she made no remark on Carver's speech. After a few moments' thought,
she looked earnestly at the lawyer.

"You are not deceiving me, Mr. Carver?" she asked imploringly.

"I deceive no one, Miss Carew," he replied stiffly. "If you doubt my
integrity, you can consult any solicitor you think fit, and send him
to me. I can prove all my statements by means of documents signed by
my late client."

"It is very hard to be so deceived, Mr. Carver."

"I grant it, I grant it," said Carver hastily; "but if you wish to be
rich, I can only remind you that fifty thousand pounds is waiting for
the discoverer of my late client's assassin."

"I wonder you do not earn it yourself," said Dora, rising to take her
leave.

"I would willingly do so, Miss Carew, but unfortunately my knowledge
of Mr. Edermont's past is confined to dry business details. I do not
know the romance of his life," added Carver with emphasis. "And from
the romance, whatever it was, this present trouble springs."

"Do you mean a love romance?"

Carver shrugged his shoulders.

"Why not?" he said, in his dryest tone. "With all due respect to you,
Miss Carew, I believe that a woman is to be found at the bottom of
everything. Trace back Mr. Edermont's life to his period of romance,
and you will find a woman. Find that woman, Miss Carew; learn her
story, and her influence on your late guardian. Then I'll guarantee
you will discover the assassin of the Red House."

Dora said nothing, but hastily took leave. But once outside, Carver's
words recurred to her. They seemed to fit in with her suspicions of
Lady Burville.



CHAPTER X.
DR. SCOTT IS STILL OBSTINATE.


Having failed with the grim lawyer, Dora resolved to see Allen. She
felt singularly lonely, and longed to have some person to advise her.
That should have been Allen's office, but after his cruel behaviour,
Dora could scarcely bring herself to consult him. Yet it was
imperative she should do so. She was an orphan, and had been kept so
secluded by the selfishness of Mr. Edermont that she had not a friend
in the world. If Allen failed her, the poor girl felt she would not
know what to do, or who to consult. He must love her, notwithstanding
his conduct, she thought; and perhaps if she told him how lonely she
was, how unhappy, how greatly in need of his counsel, he might soften
towards her. As Dora was naturally a haughty and self-reliant young
woman, it may be guessed how isolated she felt when she so far unbent
her pride as to turn for sympathy and consolation to the man who had
scorned her. But, after all, she was only a woman, and subject to the
weakness of her sex.

It was with slow and hesitating steps that she sought the house of her
lover. She was well aware that she would find him at home at this
hour; and the thought that she would soon see him face to face brought
the blood to her cheeks. Pausing at the door, she twice or thrice
resolved to go away; but the memory of her isolation, of her need of
sympathy, confirmed her original intention. She rang the bell, and the
door was opened by Mrs. Tice, who changed colour at the sight of the
girl.

"Deary me, Miss Carew!" she said in some confusion; "I had no idea it
was you. Is it the doctor you wish to see?"

"Yes, Mrs. Tice. Is he within?

"He is, my dear young lady. Come into the sitting-room, miss, and I'll
inquire if Mr. Allen will see you."

Left alone in the room, Dora sank into a chair. The ceremony with
which she had been received, the obvious confusion of Mrs. Tice,
touched her painfully. She wondered what could be the reason of such
things. They made her only the more determined to see Allen, and
demand an explanation. But he had refused her once before; it was
probable he would do so again. She felt her helpless condition keenly
at this moment.

While she was thus taken up with these sad thoughts, she heard a firm
step approach the door; it opened, and Allen stood before her. He
seemed even more haggard and worn than the last time she had seen him.
His shoulders were bent, his eyes lacked fire; altogether the man
looked so thoroughly ill, so consumed by trouble and vexation of
spirit, that Dora involuntarily took a step forward out of sheer
sympathy. Then she recollected his conduct, and stopped short. They
both looked steadily at one another.

"Why have you come to see me?" said Allen wearily. "It can do no good.
I can explain nothing."

"Allen, you loved me once."

"I love you still," he responded hastily. "I shall always love you."

"Words, words, words!" said Dora, after the manner of Hamlet. "Your
actions prove otherwise. Now listen to me, Allen: I have come to you
for advice."

"I am the worst person in the world to give it to you," replied Scott,
with cruel emphasis on the last words. "But if you wish it, I will do
so."

"I do wish it, Allen. I am an orphan. I have few acquaintances, and no
friends. My guardian is dead, and in all the world there is no living
soul who cares about me."

"Dora!" he cried in a tone of agony, "how can you speak so? I care! I
would rather die than see you suffer."

"I do not wish you to die," answered the girl with some bitterness;
"it is so easy to say so--so difficult, so difficult to do. No, Allen;
I wish you to live and help me. Let me put my position before you. My
guardian told me that I had five hundred a year. He deceived me; I
inherited nothing from my parents."

"Who told you this, Dora?"

"Mr. Carver, the lawyer. For some reason Mr. Edermont lied to me, and
confirmed his lie by paying me certain moneys which he said came from
my inherited income. I hear now that I am a pauper. But for his
bequest of two hundred a year and the freehold of the Red House, I
should be a beggar."

"I cannot understand his reason for deceiving you," said Allen,
drawing a long breath; "but at all events, he has made some reparation
by leaving you enough to live on. You will always have a home at the
Red House."

"You do not know the conditions of the will," was Dora's reply. "I
have to live at the Red House; I have to permit Mr. Joad to carry on
his former life, which means that I must see him daily, and I hate the
man," added Dora fervently; "I loathe him; and now that Mr. Edermont
is dead, I do not know to what length his audacity may carry him."

"What do you mean?" demanded Allen, frowning.

"I mean that Joad admires me."

"Admires you?" The young man stepped forward and clenched his fists.
"Impossible that he should dare!"

"Oh, trust a woman's instinct in such matters, Allen! Yes, Mr. Joad
admires me, and I believe he will soon put his admiration into words."

"If he does, I'll thrash him within an inch of his life!"

"As my affianced husband you no doubt have the right," replied Dora
steadily; "but have you the will? You say you love me, yet----"

"I do love you!" he burst out; "and it is because of my love for you
that I keep silent. On that fatal day Edermont, beside himself with
terror, betrayed to me a secret he had better have kept hidden. That
secret parts us for ever. I dare not marry you."

"You dare not? What secret can have the power to make you say such
words?"

"If I told you that, I should tell you all," replied Allen sullenly.
"Do not try me beyond my strength, Dora. If you suffer, I suffer also.
For your own sake I keep silent, and I love you too dearly to inflict
unnecessary pain."

"What you might inflict can be no worse than what you have inflicted,"
said Dora bitterly. "I see it is useless to ask you to confide in me.
But one word: has this secret to do with Mr. Edermont's death?"

Allen hesitated; then, turning away his head:

"I cannot answer you," he said resolutely.

"Oh!" said Dora in a taunting tone; "then you know something about the
death."

"I know nothing," replied Allen, with a white face.

"Yes, you do. Your refusal to explain shows me that the secret has to
do with the murder. Perhaps Mr. Edermont told you the name of the
person he was afraid of. Well, that person perhaps carried out his
wicked purpose."

"Why do you say 'perhaps'?" asked Allen suddenly. "You seem to be
doubtful."

"Because a day or two before the crime was committed, Mr. Pallant
called on my guardian. What he told him relieved him of the fear of
assassination. Therefore I do not know if Mr. Edermont's enemy killed
him."

Allen jumped up and looked eagerly at the girl.

"Did Pallant say that the person whom Mr. Edermont feared was--was
dead?"

"I cannot answer you that. Mr. Edermont only said that his nightmare
was at an end. I presume from such a speech that he felt there was no
more danger. Unfortunately, he was murdered shortly afterwards, so
that his hopes were vain. But you apparently know all about this
person whom my guardian feared. What is his name?"

"I can't tell you, Dora," said Allen with a groan.

"Oh, I do not want you to tell me!" she replied scornfully, "but tell
the authorities. No doubt you will be rewarded with fifty thousand
pounds--blood-money."

"Dora! How can you speak like this to me?"

"How else do you wish me to speak?" she retorted fiercely. "Do you
think that I have water in my veins, to put up with your neglect in
silence?"

"It is for your own good."

"You should permit me to be the best judge of that, Allen. My brain is
in confusion from the event of last week. I have suffered
indescribably. With Lady Burville and her fainting in church came
disaster. That woman caused a breach between us----"

"No, no! Lady Burville has nothing to do with my secret."

"Will you deny that her name was mentioned several times between you
and Mr. Edermont?"

"No, I will not deny it," he returned doggedly. "All the same, she has
nothing to do with the matter."

"So you say, for the preservation of your secret," said Dora
disdainfully; "but I believe that she has everything to do with the
matter. And what is more," continued the girl, raising her voice, "I
feel assured that indirectly she caused the death of my guardian."

Allen turned even paler than before.

"I assure you such is not the case, Dora."

"I decline to take your word for it. I will only believe the evidence
of my own senses, of my own researches."

"Your own researches?"

"Yes; I intend to find out this secret which is a bar to our marriage.
To do so I must solve the mystery of Mr. Edermont's death."

"I warn you not to do so;" cried Allen, breathing heavily; "you are
playing with fire!"

"I'll take the risk of that--if risk there is. Allen," she said,
placing her hands on his shoulders, "you laughed at my premonition of
evil when I spoke to you of Lady Burville. You see I was right. Now I
have a premonition of good. My researches will mend the breach between
us, and bring about our marriage."

"Impossible! and, moreover----" he hesitated. "Can you love me after
the cruel way in which I have been forced to behave to you?"

"Yes. You mention the poison and the antidote at once. You have been
cruel, but you have been forced, as I truly believe, to be so. When I
discover that force, I shall learn the bar to our marriage. If so, it
can be removed."

"I am afraid not," he replied, shaking his head.

"In the meantime," she continued, as though she had not heard him, "as
I am a pauper, I must remain at the Red House. But I refuse to do so
in the company of that creature Joad, unless I have a companion. Will
you let Mrs. Tice come and stay with me for a few weeks?"

"If Mrs. Tice will go, I shall be delighted that you should have her."

"Very good, Allen." She rose from her chair. "Now we understand one
another. When I know the truth, I shall come and see you again. Till
then, we must be strangers."

"I suppose so," said Scott gloomily; "but I warn you the danger is
great when you know the truth----"

"Well, what will be the result?"

Allen Scott looked at her pityingly.

"Your life will be ruined, as mine has been," he said.

Dora walked towards the window with a weary sigh.

"It is ruined already; I do not see how it can be much worse. I have
lost you; I have been deceived as regards my pecuniary position; I am
threatened with the attentions of that odious creature. It is all very
terrible."

Allen groaned.

"I wish I could give you hope, Dora, but I cannot. I see nothing in
the future but pain, and separation, and misery."

"Oh, I don't know," replied Dora with a hard laugh. "Since you can
give me up so easily, I have no doubt that you will speedily console
yourself for my loss. You will be married in a few years."

"Never! If I do not marry you--and that is impossible--I shall marry
no other woman."

"So you say; but I know what men are."

"Not from experience."

"I don't think a woman needs experience to divine the nature of the
other sex," said Dora loftily, with all the brave self-confidence of
youth; "our instinct teaches us what you are and how you will act. I
can't expect you to be true to a phantom all your life."

"Phantom! You are flesh and blood, my dear."

"Yes; but I mean that should I fail to discover this secret, or should
you persist in treating me as a child, we must part, and never see one
another again. I will then be nothing to you but a phantom--a memory.
No man can remain true to a memory."

"Strange as it may appear to you, Dora, there have been men thus
faithful, and I swear----"

"Do not swear fidelity. You will only perjure yourself in after years.
But it is no use discussing such things, my dear," she continued more
cheerfully. "I must return home."

"Will you come back and see me again?"

"If I have occasion to, I shall do so. I do not intend to part from
you until all mysteries are made plain. It shall be my business to
make them so."

"A hopeless task," sighed Allen, as he accompanied her to the door. "I
shall send Mrs. Tice over to you in the morning."

"Thank you. Do you know that Mrs. Tice was once acquainted with my
guardian?"

"Yes; she said something about it," he murmured, turning away his
head; "she knows something."

"I am convinced of that. She knows the celebrated past of Mr.
Edermont, about which so much has been said. I would not be surprised
if she knew the contents of that stolen manuscript."

"I dare say; but she may not know everything."

"She knows more than you give her credit for," said Dora dryly. "For
instance; when you returned from London, I dare say she knew why you
had gone there."

"Yes; that's true enough."

"And she knew why you quarrelled with my guardian."

"She did. What of that?"

"Only this," said Miss Carew triumphantly; "Mr. Carver said that he
believed the past whence this present trouble arose was connected with
a woman in love with Mr. Edermont. For all I know, that woman may
be--Mrs. Tice."



CHAPTER XI.
PREPARING THE GROUND.


When Dora returned to the Red House, she made up her mind. Since Allen
refused to tell her his secret, she would discover it herself, and
judge if it were as serious a bar to their marriage as he asserted.
She did not think for a moment that Allen knew who had killed
Edermont, but she could not help concluding that he was aware of
something likely to lead to the identification of the assassin.
Perhaps he knew the story of Edermont's life, set forth in the
manuscript which had been stolen from the bureau by the murderer. But
whatever knowledge he was possessed of, Dora saw plainly enough that
he was resolved to hold his peace. The truth is, she was afraid to
admit his motive for silence even to herself. She half guessed the
reason of his determination, but she neither spoke nor thought about
it.

There were two ways in which she could go to work; either begin from
the arrival of Lady Burville at Hernwood Hall, and progress onward to
the committal of the crime, or begin from the fact of the murder, and
trace back its motive to Lady Burville. After some consideration, she
decided on the latter of these two courses. But Lady Burville had
departed, and Dora was ignorant of her present address. Even if she
did learn it, there was no excuse whereby she could gain an interview
with the lady. She had no proof that this stranger was implicated in
the crime, and if she were--a fact which Dora fully believed--there
would be little chance of forcing her into confession. This course was
therefore out of the question, but there remained the other. Starting
with the evidence which had gathered round the crime itself, the
theories, the suppositions, the beliefs, Dora thought she might piece
together scattered hints and facts, which might be woven into a rope
strong enough to hang the assassin. But the difficulty, in the absence
of all absolute knowledge, was to discover the criminal.

And there was yet another thing to be remembered. The reward of fifty
thousand pounds had brought into competition hundreds of men, bent
upon gaining the prize. From far and near they came to Canterbury, and
haunted the environs of the Red House. But not one of them entered the
gates, for these were kept locked, and the famous postern through
which the assassin had passed had been bricked up, by Dora's order.
Every labourer and tramp and shopkeeper in the neighbourhood was
questioned and cross-questioned by these pests, but none gained any
information likely to solve the mystery. No trace could be found of
Edermont's past life. He had appeared in the place twenty years
before; he had bought the Red House, and a few farms; he had lived in
retirement since that time. Beyond this nothing could be learned, and,
notwithstanding the magnitude of the reward, no one was fortunate
enough to make a step forward. Out of the night the assassin had come,
into the night he had gone; and neither Inspector Jedd nor the many
amateur detectives could trace him to his hiding-place. Hemmed in by
these difficulties on all sides, with no information to go upon, with
obstinate people like Joad, Allen, and Mrs. Tice to deal with, it can
be easily seen how difficult was the problem which Dora wished to
solve. On surveying the situation her heart failed her; she felt
helpless.

One chance she had of making a beginning, and that was by questioning
Joad as to the motive of the crime. That this motive was to be found
in Edermont's past life Dora was certain; and as Joad was more likely
than anyone else to know that past, he would be the proper person to
apply to for information. From conversations which she had overheard,
Dora was satisfied that the secret of the horror which had
overshadowed Edermont's life--which had sent him to church and to the
consolation of the Litany--was known to Joad. And as Joad evinced a
decided admiration for her, she resolved to use such admiration for
the purpose of discovering the truth. When she learned the secret of
Edermont's past, she would learn the name of the person he dreaded;
that name would identify the assassin, and if she found the assassin
she might be able to learn and do away with the unknown obstacle to
her marriage with Allen. She would gain also the fortune of the dead
man; but that, in Dora's opinion, was a side issue.

In the meantime, and before she had time to formulate her
plans--which, indeed, were but in their inception--Mrs. Tice came
over, bag and baggage, to play the part of dragon at the Red House.
Dora was glad to welcome her within its walls; not only because she
promised to stand a bulwark of respectability against Joad, but also
because Mrs. Tice might reveal by accident something of Edermont's
past. The conversation at Canterbury had shown Dora very plainly that
some time or another Mrs. Tice had been acquainted with the recluse;
and that such acquaintance must have been prior to his purchase of the
Red House. At that period had been engendered the terror which had
haunted the poor creature, and Mrs. Tice might have some inkling of
its nature.

The old housekeeper, however, was not to be cajoled into reminiscences
of the past. She kept a guard over her tongue, and resolutely avoided
all Dora's hints and significant remarks. It was quite a week before
Dora could induce her to converse on the subject at all, and then she
spoke in an ambiguous fashion. Life at that moment seemed to Dora to
resemble a theatre with the curtain down. If she could induce Mrs.
Tice to raise the curtain, what shadowy drama of the past might not be
performed! Seven days after the arrival of Mrs. Tice she lifted the
curtain a little--a very little--but revealed enough to excite the
liveliest curiosity in the girl.

It was after nine o'clock, and as usual Joad had been turned out to
have his supper, and talk classics with Mr. Pride, the schoolmaster.
The gates were locked, the shutters of the windows were closed, and
Mrs. Tice was seated in Dora's own sitting-room, with a basket of work
before her. Dora sat by the one window, which had not yet been shut,
and the pale light of the evening floated into the room, to mingle
with the dim radiance of the solitary candle which illuminated the
busy fingers of the housekeeper. Meg Gance was in her kitchen, resting
after the labours of the day, so the two women were quite alone.
Suddenly Dora yawned, and stretched out her hands.

"Heigh-ho!" said she in a wearied tone. "How long is this going on, I
wonder?"

"What are you referring to, Miss Carew?" asked the housekeeper in her
pleasant voice--"to your life here?"

"Yes; to my lonely and miserable life. I feel simply wretched."

"Do not say that, my dear young lady. You have health, and youth, and
many blessings."

"No doubt," replied Dora scornfully; "but I have lost the chief of my
blessings."

"You mean Mr. Allen?" said the old lady in an embarrassed tone.

"Yes, I do, Mrs. Tice. And since he has left me, I do not see why I
should not accept the attentions of Mr. Lambert Joad. The wretched old
man worships the ground I walk on."

"Of course you are jesting?" said Mrs. Tice, with an uneasy smile;
"but I see that Mr. Joad admires you. More's the pity."

"Why 'more's the pity'?"

"Well, you see, miss, he will not relish your rebuffing him for his
impertinence; and he is likely to prove a dangerous enemy."

"Pshaw! He can do me no harm."

"I am not so sure of that, miss. He knows a good deal about Mr.
Edermont's past life."

Dora turned round and looked sharply at the comely, withered face.

"Is there anything in the past life of Mr. Edermont likely to be
harmful to me?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Tice deliberately, "there is."

"And do you know what it is?"

"Yes, miss; I know what it is, and so does Mr. Allen. It was a
knowledge of that past which sent him up to London. Since he returned
we have talked over the matter, and we have both concluded that it is
best to hold our tongues. But if Mr. Joad knows the secret, and you
rebuff him, he may not be wise enough to keep silent."

"I am glad to hear you say so!" cried Dora with animation. "Since I
can learn the secret from no one else, I'll see if a rebuff cannot
loosen Mr. Joad's tongue."

"If you are wise, you will let well alone," warned Mrs. Tice, feeling
that she had said too much.

Dora crossed the room, and stood with her hands behind her back,
looking indignantly at the old woman.

"Upon my word, it is a shame!" she said in a low voice. "I am
apparently surrounded by pitfalls on all sides, yet no one will tell
me how to avoid them."

"If you remain quiet, you won't fall into them," replied Mrs. Tice
with a nod.

"Quiet!" cried Dora, frowning. "Good heavens! how can I remain quiet
when I see my life falling into ruins? No, no, no!" She stamped her
foot defiantly. "I must act, I must inquire, I must know what all
these mysteries mean!"

"You will never arrive at that knowledge, Miss Carew."

"I'm not so sure of that, Mrs. Tice. Remember your hint about that
Joad creature. I'll wring it out of him, if I can't out of anyone
else. Mrs. Tice"--Dora flung herself on her knees before the
housekeeper--"did you know Mr. Edermont before he came to the Red
House?"

"Yes, Miss Carew, I can admit that much: I knew Mr. Edermont."

"Was that when you were Allen's nurse?"

"Yes, Miss Carew."

"In the service of Allen's parents?"

"I was in the service of Dr. and Mrs. Scott," replied Mrs. Tice
composedly. "Pray don't ask me any more questions, Miss Carew, for I
cannot answer them."

"You will not, you mean," said Dora, rising. "Never mind, I have found
out something from the little you have told me."

Mrs. Tice looked up quickly.

"Impossible," she said anxiously. "I have revealed nothing."

"Oh, I can put two and two together, Mrs. Tice," said Dora quietly.
"Allen told me that his parents lived in Christchurch, Hants--that his
father and mother are buried there. Now, if you knew Mr. Edermont
while you were nursing Allen, Mr. Edermont must have lived, or have
been on a visit, at Christchurch. Consequently, if I go down to
Christchurch I shall learn something of Mr. Edermont's past life."

Mrs. Tice fell into the skilfully-laid trap.

"You won't find that the name of Edermont is known in those parts,"
she said, without thinking.

"Precisely," said Dora coolly. "Edermont is a false name. I have
suspected that for some time. Thank you, Mrs. Tice, for admitting it.
I have learnt so much from you. Mr. Joad will tell me the rest."

"Mr. Joad may or may not," said Mrs. Tice doubtfully. "Do not go too
much by what I am saying, Miss Carew. You have a skilful and crafty
person to deal with."

"Are you talking of yourself?"

"By no means. I am neither skilful nor crafty. I allude to Mr. Joad."

"You seem to be well acquainted with his character, Mrs. Tice. Did you
know him at Christchurch?"

"No, my dear. I never saw the man until I came here--to this house.
But I have eyes in my head, and I can see that he is singularly
deceitful."

"Perhaps, but harmless."

Mrs. Tice shook her head with pursed-up lips.

"I disagree with you. The adder is harmless so long as it isn't
trodden upon. Tread upon Mr. Joad, my dear young lady, and he
will--bite."

To emphasize the last word Mrs. Tice snapped off a piece of thread,
and looked up at Dora with a sharp nod. Evidently Joad had failed to
impress her favourably.

"I have no doubt you are right," said Dora, after reflection. "He
would be dangerous if he got the chance, but I don't see where his
opportunity for mischief comes in."

"Neither do I, Miss Carew; but he'll watch for one, you mark my
words."

Dora did not reply to this remark, as she was of the same opinion
herself. She was thinking about Carver's remark touching a past
romance of Edermont's, and of her own statement to Allen that Mrs.
Tice might have been the woman who had to do with the same. It was now
her desire to find out if there was any grain of truth in her
supposition, but she did not know exactly how to put it to Mrs. Tice.
At last she thought the best method to approach so delicate a subject
was by a side issue.

"Your husband is dead, isn't he, Mrs. Tice?" she asked with apparent
carelessness.

"Yes, Miss Carew," replied the housekeeper; "he died more than
twenty-five years ago, and his body is buried in the graveyard of
Christchurch Priory."

"Were you much in love with him?"

"We respected and liked one another," said Mrs. Tice judiciously: "but
we were not madly in love."

"Were you ever madly in love with anyone, Mrs. Tice?"

"No, my dear young lady," was the laughing reply, "never! I am not a
romantic person."

Dora thought for a moment.

"Was Mr. Edermont handsome when you knew him first?"

"He was passable, Miss Carew--a little, womanish man. Even in his
youth his hair was white--the effect of nerves, I believe. He was
always nervous, poor soul!"

"He had reason to be, evidently."

"Yes," said Mrs. Tice sharply, "good reason. I never liked him, but I
was sorry for him."

Determined to know the exact truth, Dora put her question plainly:

"Were you in love with him?"

"What!" said Mrs. Tice, laughing, "with that rat of a man? No, my
dear: I had better taste."

This was conclusive, and Dora was satisfied that, whoever had played
the part of heroine in her guardian's romance, it was not Mrs. Tice.



CHAPTER XII.
A TERRIBLE ACCUSATION.


The next day Dora altered her demeanour towards Joad. Hitherto she had
been cold and unapproachable; now she sought his society with smiles,
and quite bewildered the poor man with kindness. If Joad, who was
naturally very crafty, had not been in love, he would have mistrusted
this sudden transformation and been on his guard. As it was, in the
then state of his feelings, he ascribed Dora's changed behaviour to a
desire to be on better terms with one who was bound, owing to the
terms of the will, to come into contact daily with her. In this belief
he reciprocated her advances, and vied with her in amiability.

On her part, Mrs. Tice viewed the comedy with displeasure.
Nevertheless, she made no attempt to interfere. Although she was
unwilling to be an active party in revealing the truth to Dora, yet
she was by no means displeased that the girl should learn it from a
third person. Dora was deeply in love with Allen; and the sooner she
realized that there could be no union between them, the better it
would be. To come to such an understanding, it was necessary that she
should learn the secret. When she was possessed of such knowledge, the
housekeeper was satisfied that, even if Dr. Scott did desire the
match, Dora would refuse her consent thereto. Therefore Mrs. Tice
preferred being spectator to actor. For some days Dora pursued her
amiable tactics, and Joad fell deep and deeper in love. He was well
aware, in his own heart, that this girl, young enough to be his
granddaughter, would never consent to be his wife; but for all that,
he put no restraint upon his feelings. Moreover, he had a weapon in
his hand which he hoped to use with effect. In spite of his belief
that Dora might not accept him voluntarily, he fancied that he could
force her into the match by making use of the weapon aforesaid. But it
was not to be brought into active service save as a last resource.

Meanwhile the comedy of May and December, of Methuselah in Arcady, of
"An Old Man's Darling," went gaily on. Joad paid more attention to his
dress, he drank less brandy, and talked more affably. Instead of
burying himself in the library, he was to be found haunting the steps
of Dora. He loved her very shadow, and was never tired of gazing at
her face. She seemed to him to be the most beautiful, the most
wonderful, the most gracious woman in the world; and he gloated over
her charms like an old satyr. Crafty, astute and worldly as he was, he
fell prostrate at her feet, a debased Merlin entangled in the wiles of
an artificial Vivien.

Dora played her part bravely; but at times it was too much for her,
and she would leave the house to scour the country on her bicycle.
Joad was too old and shaky to accompany her, and she was thus relieved
in some measure from his senile adoration. But, however near she
approached to Canterbury, she never entered the town or sought out
Allen.

"No," she said to herself, when unusually impelled to make the visit;
"first I shall learn the truth. Once in possession of Allen's secret,
of the name of Mr. Edermont's assassin, and I shall know how to act;
till then I shall remain absent."

But, with all her diplomacy, it was not so easy to gain the confidence
of Joad. The least hint at Mr. Edermont's past, and he withdrew into
himself. He evaded her most dexterous inquiries; and when she pressed
him hard, assumed the character of a dull, stupid old man who knew
nothing about the matter. Yet he was not unwilling to discuss the
details of the murder and subsequent robbery, although he professed
himself unable to account for either. By acting thus, he ignored the
question of Edermont's secret enemy.

But one day Dora succeeded in forcing him into plain speaking; but the
revelation made was one she was far from expecting. The beginning of
the whole matter lay in the fact that she discovered Joad in the
library the worse for drink. It was not that he was confused or
maudlin, for the man's brain and speech were both clear. But he was
filled with Dutch courage, which made him more audacious than usual.
Dora reproved him for his vice.

"You should be ashamed of yourself, drinking so much brandy, Mr.
Joad!" she said severely.

"I have not touched brandy for weeks!" said Joad, lying glibly, after
the fashion of habitual drunkards.

Dora looked at him in contempt, and pointed out a tall mirror, before
which they were both standing. It reflected her own tall, straight
form, and also the figure of the disreputable old sinner.

"Can you see your face and deny it?" she said in a tone of rebuke.
"Your eyes are red, your clothes are awry, your----"

"Leave me to bear the burden of my own sins," said Joad sullenly; "if
I take brandy, I don't ask you to pay for it."

"But you are a gentleman, a scholar," persisted Dora, sorry for the
wretched old creature; "you should be above such low vices."

"We cannot be above the depths to which we have fallen, Miss Carew. My
life has been one long failure, so it is scarcely to be wondered at
that I fly to drink for consolation. Few men have been so hardly
treated as I have been."

"Yet Mr. Edermont helped you."

"No doubt," retorted Joad viciously; "but he would not have stretched
out a finger to save me if I had not forced him to."

"You forced Mr. Edermont to----?"

"I forced him to nothing," interrupted Joad, seeing that he had gone
too far. "It is only my way of speaking. Don't mind the ramblings of a
foolish old failure."

Dora looked at him silently. His eyes were filled with tears, and,
ashamed of betraying his emotion, he turned away to busy himself with
dusting a book. In the few words which he had let slip Dora saw that
he had possessed some power over the dead man which had won him house
and home. That power she believed was connected with the lifelong
misery of Edermont, and with the fact of his murder. The idea made her
take an unexpected step. Seizing the astonished Joad by the arm, she
whirled him round, so as to look straight into his eyes.

"Did you kill Mr. Edermont?" she asked abruptly. Joad looked at her in
amazement, and sneered in her face.

"O Lord! Have you got that idea into your head?" said he
contemptuously. "No, Miss Carew, I did not kill Mr. Edermont. One does
not readily kill the goose with the golden eggs. By Julian's death I
have lost a protector--almost a home. Do you take me for a fool?"

"I take you for a man who knows more than he says," said Dora tartly.

"Then I am wise. I keep my own counsel until the time comes for me to
speak."

"I do not understand you."

"You will some day," retorted Joad with a leer, "and that sooner than
you expect. I wonder at your accusing me of this crime," he continued
in an injured tone. "By your own evidence the murder took place at one
o'clock, and at that time I was talking to Mr. Pride in my cottage. I
wonder at your talking like this, Miss Carew."

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Joad," said Dora ceremoniously. "I know that
you proved an alibi. There is one thing about you that I admire," she
added, after a pause.

Joad's eyes glittered like stars as he turned an admiring glance in
the direction of the young girl, and bent forward eagerly.

"What is that?" he demanded.

"You do not care for money."

"No," said Joad, after a pause; "I do not care particularly for money.
As long as I have a roof, a crust, and my books, I am satisfied. My
wants are simple. But why," he continued, looking at her in a puzzled
way, "why do you make such a remark?"

"Because you refuse to pocket fifty thousand pounds."

"You allude to the reward. My dear lady, I cannot gain that."

"I am not so sure of your inability to do so," said Dora coolly. "With
your knowledge of Mr. Edermont's past life, you must know who it was
he feared. If you know the name of that person, you know who killed
him. With that knowledge, why not apply for the fifty thousand
pounds?"

"I am not so omniscient as you think, Miss Carew. But we will suppose,
for the sake of argument, that I have such knowledge: what would it
benefit me to gain this fortune?"

"You could do good with it."

"Could I gain your love?"

Dora turned away with a flushed face, feeling the delicacy of the
position.

"You must not talk to me like that, Mr. Joad," she said with great
dignity.

"Why not? I love you."

"Then you ought to be ashamed to say so. I am the affianced wife of
another man."

"Allen Scott?"

"Yes," said Dora with emphasis, "Dr. Allen Scott.

"Bah! Why should you think of him? Has he stood by you in this
trouble? Not he! He left you to fight the matter out by yourself.
Besides, there are reasons why you should not marry him."

Dora's heart beat rapidly. Was she about to learn the truth? Had her
rebuff brought about the desired result, and would this old man reveal
what so long had been hidden? She believed that such was the case, and
could scarcely manage, so intense was her excitement, to ask the
necessary question to lure him on to a full confession. However, by an
effort of will she managed to keep her voice fairly steady.

"Are there any special reasons that you know of?"

"Several!" snarled Joad, rubbing his hands together, with an evil
glitter in his eyes.

"I should be glad to hear them," she said in the tone of an empress.

"I dare say you would; but I don't intend to tell you what they are."

"Why not?" demanded Dora, trying to hide her disappointment at this
unlooked-for result.

"Because I don't choose to speak until it is my pleasure to do so,"
said Joad insolently. "Oh, I can see what you are up to, Miss Carew.
You are trying to force the truth out of me for purposes of your own.
But you shan't--shan't--shan't!"

The old creature stamped with rage, and his face grew so red in his
excitement that Dora really thought he was about to have a fit. She
looked at him in astonishment, while he strove to control his anger
and assume a dignified demeanour. Such conduct was not to be
tolerated, and Dora walked towards the door of the library.

"I shall return when you know how to conduct yourself," she said
coldly.

Before she could open the door the delinquent shuffled after her, in a
state of childish repentance. "Do not go, do not go!" he cried
piteously. "I am very sorry; indeed, I am very sorry."

"Then why do you talk such nonsense?" said Dora, seeing that she had
gained an advantage. "Do you think I want to know your secrets, you
foolish old man?"

"Yes, yes; I am a foolish old man," he repeated, catching up her words
eagerly; "but do not be angry with me. I love you. Oh, Dora, dear,
sweet Dora, I love you!" and whining in this fashion the old man fell
on his knees.

"Rise, Mr. Joad! Do not be foolish. Get up at once--I insist!"

"Not until you promise to be my wife. I love you. I am old, but my
heart is young. Listen, listen!" he continued, glancing round. "If you
want money, I can get fifty thousand pounds. I know who killed
Julian!"

Dora tore her dress from his grasp in horror. "You know who killed Mr.
Edermont!"

"Yes; I will tell the name; I will gain the fortune; I will give it to
you. Only consent to be my wife."

"Your wife!" cried Dora, shrinking back with visible repugnance.

"Ah, I know that I am old," said Joad piteously, "but reflect. There
is much to be gained by you. I cannot live long; you would soon be my
widow. I would leave you all the money; and think how rich you would
be!"

"I wouldn't marry you if you offered me millions!" said Dora with
contempt. "I love one man only, and him only shall I marry."

Joad rose in a fury. "Don't tell me his name!" he shrieked; "I
know it. Allen--that miserable wretch! But you shall never marry
him--never!"

"How can you prevent our marriage?"

"By telling the truth--by gaining the fortune!" He stepped forward and
seized her wrist. "I hold the life of your lover in the hollow of my
hand!"

"What do you mean?" panted Dora. "Explain!"

"You wish to know my secrets. Well, I shall tell you one--one
only--that will make your heart sore and your face white. Who killed
Julian? Who came here in the dead of night and struck his foul blow?
Who but Allen Scott--Allen Scott, the murderer! Curse him!"



CHAPTER XIII.
DENIAL.


This, then, was the weapon which Joad had reserved to strike his last
blow. By denouncing Scott he hoped to win a fortune; but by keeping
silent for Dora's sake he thought he could force her to marry him. In
either case he stood to win. With his indifference to money, he
preferred the girl to the fifty thousand pounds. It only remained for
her to accept his hand, in order to save her lover from death on the
gallows. But as yet this was doubtful. Certainly the bolt had been
shot; but would the bolt fall? He waited.

With fixed eyes and bloodless face, Dora retreated slowly backwards.
At length she reached the wall, and leant against it, overcome with
mingled feelings of terror and astonishment. Joad, his hands hanging
loosely by his sides, stood looking at her, with a doubtful smile on
his pale lips. Seeing that she did not speak, he repeated his
accusation in a different form. He was now calmer.

"Your lover is the murderer of your guardian," said he, watching the
effect of each word.

Something in the malice of his tones brought back the courage to
Dora's heart with a rush. She flushed up bravely, and stepped forward
boldly. Joad did not move, and she came close to him--so close that he
could feel her breath on his withered cheek. For a final taunt he
spoke again.

"A murderer--that fine young man--your lover! Just think of it!"

"You lie!" She brought out the words coldly, and without the least
display of passion. Knowing Scott as she did, the charge was so
monstrous that she could hardly forbear from breaking into hysterical
laughter. As it was, she controlled herself admirably, and merely
repeated her words. "You lie, Mr. Joad," she said steadily. "Your
accusation springs from malice. You cannot substantiate your lie."

Without wasting time in asseverations, Joad simply raised his finger
to emphasize his words. He related without preamble the grounds upon
which he based his accusation.

"Listen," he said, in his rich, deep voice; "you remember that day on
which you brought Scott to see Julian. Very good. As you know, they
had a serious quarrel. You heard yourself that Julian called out for
protection. Scott wished to kill him at that moment."

"But why--why?" she stammered, making a vague gesture with her hand.

"Ah! you ask me more than I can tell. I was not present during the
conversation, you know. However, I can guess what took place. I refuse
to tell all, but this much I dare speak. Julian cast certain
reflections on the dead parents of Scott; he mentioned something which
took place twenty and more years ago."

"At Christchurch?" she murmured.

He looked surprised.

"I don't know who told you so much," he said brusquely, "but I admit
that your information is correct. At Christchurch, Miss Carew, an
episode took place which was not creditable to Dr. Scott's parents."

"Had the episode to do with Mr. Edermont?"

"I cannot tell you. I am speaking of my grounds for suspecting your
lover. What passed before matters nothing. Suffice it for you to
understand that Julian quarrelled with Scott, and he was afraid lest
the young man should murder him. You heard his cry for help."

"Well?" said Dora, seeing that he paused.

"Well," replied Joad, with a suave smile, "he _did_ murder him."

"No; I do not believe it. Where are your proofs?"

Joad darted an imperious glance at her shrinking form.

"I am about to produce my proofs," he declared calmly. "On the night
of the second of August I left here at nine o'clock. You assisted
Julian to lock the gates behind me, if I remember. I went to my
cottage and had my supper. Afterwards I waited for Mr. Pride, who had
promised to look in on his return from Canterbury. Ten o'clock, eleven
o'clock, twelve o'clock struck, and still Pride did not come. I
thought that he had arranged to stay all night in Canterbury, but
shortly after twelve I went out on to the road to see if he was
coming. I did not see him; I did see Dr. Scott."

"Allen?" cried Dora disbelievingly.

"Himself. He was coming down the road on a bicycle."

"How could you recognise him in the dark?"

"The moon was up. I recognised him in the moonlight."

"Did he see you?"

"No; I was standing in the shadow. I was astonished to see him near
the Red House at midnight, and I watched him. He passed the gates, and
got off his bicycle at the end of the wall. Then he turned down the
side path which leads to the postern gate. I waited to see if he would
return, but as he did not I was about to follow him, when Pride
arrived. Unwilling to say anything about what I had seen, lest it
should compromise your lover, I took Pride into my house, and there I
got talking to him till after two o'clock. In the interest of our
conversation, I quite forgot Scott and his visit. But the next
morning"--he looked at her in a crafty way--"I heard of the murder,
and I found the postern gate open."

"And--and what inference do you draw from all this?" murmured Dora,
with white lips.

"I infer that Scott called to see Julian with reference to their
previous quarrel, perhaps to demand proofs as to the episode of
Christchurch. I believe that he climbed the wall and entered the house
through the glass door of the drawing-room, which Julian had not
locked. I have no doubt that he found Julian in his study, that Julian
told him the story of the episode was locked up in the bureau. No
doubt Scott insisted upon having the papers which revealed the
dishonour of his parents placed in his hands. Julian would naturally
refuse. Then the quarrel would recommence, and the end of it would
be--well," added Joad, with a shrug, "you know the rest. Julian was
killed, and the bureau robbed of that paper. What further proof can
you desire that Dr. Scott murdered your guardian?"

Dora heard this story with a suffocating feeling in her throat. She
felt as though a net were being thrown round Allen, as though he would
be tangled in its meshes. It was true that he had returned from London
on the night of the murder; but she could not understand why he should
have visited the Red House at midnight. Then she remembered that Allen
had gone to town on business connected with that terrible conversation
with Edermont. What if he had learnt that Edermont had spoken the
truth regarding the dishonour of his parents, and had returned to
revenge himself on the old man? These thoughts occurred to her with
lightning rapidity; but in the end they all gave place to one. She
must save him at any cost; to do so she must close Joad's mouth.

"Why did you not speak of this before?" she asked in a trembling
voice.

"I wished to tell you first. You know that I love you. I wish you to
be my wife. If you marry me, Scott will be safe. If not----"

"If not, what would you do?"

"My duty," said he solemnly.

The situation was frightful. Dora felt that she must scream, if only
to relieve the tension of her nerves. If Joad denounced Allen, the
doctor would be arrested; and what defence could he make, what
explanation could he give, for coming to the Red House on the night,
at the very time, of the committal of the crime? She said nothing,
trying to collect her thoughts, while Joad blinked at her through his
half-shut eyes.

"And, after all, you couldn't marry him," he declared suddenly; "he is
guilty."

"That has yet to be proved," said Dora faintly. "I cannot believe that
Allen committed so horrible a crime. His motive----"

"His motive will be found in the papers he stole," said Joad brutally.
"But come--your answer. Consent to be my wife, or I go to the police
this evening."

"You--you must give me time," she stammered.

Joad nodded.

"That is only fair," he said gravely. "I will give you a week. If you
do not promise by that time, well--your lover goes to the scaffold."

How Dora got out of the library and climbed the stairs to her own room
she did not know. There was a humming in her ears, and the place
seemed to go round and round. With an access of despair she threw
herself on the bed, and tried to face the situation. Allen was
innocent, she was certain, although no proofs of such innocence
presented themselves at the moment. But, on the face of it, his
conduct appeared to be suspicious. What was he doing at the Red House
at midnight? Why had he come there by stealth? If Joad denounced him,
Dora could see no hope of saving his life. Still, she could protect
him by becoming the wife of this disreputable Silenus, whom she
loathed with all her soul. But he held Allen's life in his hand, and
the poor young fellow was doomed unless he could make some defence.

Defence! She sat up suddenly and thought. She had not yet heard
Allen's side of the question. Perhaps he could explain himself, and
give a reasonable excuse for his presence in the study at so untoward
an hour. She remembered that Edermont had written asking Allen to call
and see him. Might he not have appointed the conference for midnight,
and have left the postern gate and the glass door open so that Allen
could enter without attracting attention? All this was feasible
enough, and might be put forward in his defence. But on second
thoughts Dora gave way to despair. Even so straightforward a tale
would be against the presumption of his innocence.

Assuming that he had been in the study at the appointed hour, how
could he prove himself guiltless? The fact of the previous quarrel was
known to herself and Joad. Nothing was more likely than that they
might have continued their dispute. Perhaps Edermont might have
threatened Allen with his pistol, and to protect himself Scott might
have torn the knobkerrie from the wall. But had he struck the blow?
Had he---- Dora closed her eyes with a faint cry, to shut out the
vision of horror which that thought conjured into existence.

Without doubt Alien had been present in the study at the time of the
murder. Joad saw him after twelve o'clock. Dora knew that the crime
had been committed a minute or so before one. It was just possible
that Allen had left the house before that time. But who could prove
that he had so departed? Dora rose from her bed, and paced to and fro,
distracted by a hundred thoughts that swarmed in her head like hiving
bees.

"The murder was committed before one o'clock," she said aloud. "I can
prove that. The striking of the clock came almost on top of that cry
for help. Could Allen have gone away before then? He must have done. I
cannot believe that he would murder an inoffensive old man. No
provocation would make him commit so brutal a crime. He is cool and
collected; he is not passionate and impulsive. No, no, no! Allen is
innocent! He left my guardian alive and well. Allen went--but who
remained?"

Had two people been present? Dora remembered that Edermont had written
other letters at the same time as that to Allen. Perhaps he had
invited a third person to be present at that midnight conference. If
so, when Allen departed, the third person might have remained to kill
Edermont and rifle the desk. If such were the case, Allen must know
the name of that third person. Why, then, did he not denounce that
person to the police?--not so much for the gaining of fifty thousand
pounds as to accomplish an act of justice. Why was he silent? Why did
he not speak out in his own defence? Dora could not but acknowledge in
her own heart that the circumstantial evidence was strong against her
lover.

"Oh, I can't stay here thinking--thinking!" she cried fiercely; "it
will drive me mad. I shall go to Canterbury and see Allen. He must
speak out now, if only to defend himself from Joad. A week--a
week--seven days--and his life and my happiness to be saved in that
short space of time. I must think; I must act. Oh, Allen, Allen!"

She glanced at her watch. It was close on four o'clock. If she rode
into Canterbury at once, she might find Allen at home. He usually came
in between four and five to have tea. No one was likely to be present,
so she would have him all to herself. At once she made up her mind,
and without a word to Joad or to Mrs. Tice she went out of the house.
In a few minutes she was spinning along the highroad as fast as her
machine could go.

Dora was right in her surmise. Allen was at home, and at tea. She went
straight into the dining-room and saw him at the table. He looked up
with an air of astonishment at her appearance; and, noting his pale
and startled face, Dora felt a pang. Was he guilty after all, or was
the terror visible in his face merely the result of her sudden
entrance? Without a word, she shut the door sharply, and took a seat
by the side of the table. Allen welcomed her with an air of
constraint. He offered her a cup of tea and a plate of cake. Dora
pushed them both away in a state of fierce excitement, leant her arms
on the table, and looked at him steadily. He stared at her in
surprise, marvelling at her strange behaviour.

"Allen," she said abruptly, "what were you doing at the Red House on
the night of the murder?"

The young man turned even paler than before, dropped the plates he was
holding, and fell into his chair as though he had been shot.

"Who--who says I was there?" he stammered.

"Mr. Joad--he accuses you."

"Accuses--acc----"--he could hardly get the words out--"accuses
me--of what?"

"Of murdering Mr. Edermont. Allen, don't look at me like that. It is
not true?"

"Dora," said Allen, shaking as with palsy, "I--I--I am--I am innocent.
I--I swear--I'm innocent!"



CHAPTER XIV.
WHAT DR. SCOTT SAW.


Dora made no reply. In spite of his asseverations of innocence, she
saw that he felt himself in a trap. His pallid face, his wild eyes,
his trembling hands--all these signs hinted at a realization of his
helpless position. Week by week since that fatal conversation he had
grown thinner and more haggard. He was the shadow of the comely lover
who had met her by the wayside when she had taken him to see Edermont.
He looked round the room, as though searching for some means of
escape. One would have thought that the officers of the law were
already at the door, and that he was guilty. Dora knew that this was
not the case, but could not be sure until she heard his explanation.
Suddenly he threw up his hands with a gesture of despair.

"I was mad on that night," he said in a hoarse tone.

Dora drew back with a gasp. Was he about to confess to the crime and
allege temporary insanity by way of excuse? A violent trembling seized
all her limbs, and she was obliged to lean against the table while
waiting for his next words.

"You say Joad saw me?" he asked, looking at her. "Joad can denounce
me?"

"No," she murmured, "he will not denounce you."

"But why should he show me such mercy?" cried Allen with haggard
surprise. "He admires you; he is jealous of me. To get rid of me he
would willingly place a noose round my neck."

"That is true, Allen. But--you are safe from him. He--he has asked me
to be his wife."

"Ah!" said he, jealously seizing her hands. "And you--you---- No!" He
abruptly tossed her hands away. "You could never bring yourself to
marry that wretch, even for fifty thousand pounds."

"He does not wish for that money," said Dora, with a calmness which
surprised herself; "he wants me."

"Like his insolence! Of course you told him that such a thing was
impossible!"

Dora raised her eyes to his with a look of pain.

"How could I?" she said slowly. "He saw you at the Red House on that
night."

"Dora"--Allen again seized her hands--"you are sacrificing yourself to
save me?"

"I can do no less, Allen. I love you. Ah!" she cried, with a burst of
tears, "you will never know how I love you. I have suffered from your
cruelty, your desertion, from your strange silence, but I still love
you, as I have always done. As I cannot be your wife and make you
happy, I can still marry this man and save you from the consequences
of your crime."

"Dora! You do not believe that I am guilty?"

"No, Allen, no; still, I cannot understand. You have refused me your
confidence; you say you were mad on that night. Morally speaking, you
are innocent, I am certain. But still, in a moment of anger----"

"I swear that I did not touch him!" cried Allen violently. "I admit
that I was at the Red House on that night. He asked me to come."

"I guessed that. Joad posted a letter to you."

"Yes, yes. Wait!" He ran into the next room, wherein his desk was
standing, and in two minutes he returned with a paper. "This is his
letter. You see, Edermont asked me to come at midnight to the Red
House--to enter by the postern gate, which he left open for my
admittance."

"He wished to add something to the conversation of the week before,"
said Dora, reading the letter. "But, my poor Allen, this letter rather
condemns than saves you. It shows conclusively that you had an
appointment at the Red House at midnight. And Mr. Edermont was killed
at one o'clock."

"I don't know at what hour he was killed," rejoined Allen, taking back
the letter with a gloomy air. "As I told you, I was mad on that night.
I lost all idea of time. Whether I was in his study at twelve or one I
cannot say, but when I did enter I saw him dead."

"Allen!" Dora uttered a cry of horror. "You saw him dead?"

"He was lying on the floor near the bureau," said Scott, speaking
rapidly. "I see him now in my mind's eye--a limp heap, with his white
hair dappled with blood. The Zulu club, torn from the savage weapons
which decorated the walls, lay near him; his pistol was on the other
side. He was dead--dead! Ah God, dead!"

During this recital Dora had sunk into a chair, overcome by the
vehemence of his words. Allen strode to and fro, swinging his long
arms, with a look of horror on his worn, white face. He pressed his
hands to his eyes, as if to shut out the scene which his too vivid
fancy had painted. Half swooning, Dora uttered a sob, and the next
moment Allen was on his knees beside her, covering her hands with
passionate and burning kisses.

"My queen! my saint!" he said hurriedly; "and you would sacrifice
yourself for me. You would marry this drunkard, this parasite, this
vile reptile, to save me from danger! No, Dora. No, I have been weak
and foolish, but I am not guilty--I swear that I am not guilty. You
shall not shield me at the cost of your own ruin. Oh, if I could only
tell you all! But I dare not, I dare not!"

Carried away by his passion, angered at the sense of his weakness, he
could have kissed her feet. But Dora placed her hand on his forehead
and reasoned calmly with him. He was not to be saved by giving way to
such whirlwinds of passion and despair. The prospect was terrible, but
they must both face it boldly. Allen was innocent. He said so, and she
believed him. That was everything. If he were not guilty, they might
find a way out of the trap into which he had stumbled. To do so, she
must know exactly what took place on that fatal night, and to this end
she addressed her frenzied lover.

"Allen," she said gravely, "this is not the way to save yourself from
arrest, or me from a disgraceful marriage. I have obtained a week's
time from Joad to think matters over. In seven days we can do a great
deal, and we may see a way out of this terrible situation. Sit down
beside me, and tell me exactly what you did on that night."

"I shall not sit down beside you, Dora. I shall remain here at your
feet. Ah, Heaven! to think of that cruel bar which prevents our
marriage! You should know all, but I have not the courage to tell
you."

"Keep silent on that point," said Dora soothingly. "What I want to
know now is the story of that night. You returned from London on the
second, did you not?"

"Yes," he replied in a tired voice. "In that conversation I had with
Edermont he made certain statements which I could not believe. He said
I could verify them in London, and told me how and where I could do
so. I could not rest until I knew the truth, therefore I caught the
express at Selling and went to town. Alas, alas! I found that he had
spoken only too truly, and that you could never be my wife."

Repressing the curiosity which devoured her to learn the terrible
secret of which he spoke, Dora smoothed his hair gently, and asked him
to relate what had taken place on his return from this mysterious
errand. He obeyed her like a child.

"When I came home," he said with thoughtful deliberation, "I found
that letter I showed you awaiting me. Edermont asked me to see him in
his study at midnight on the second of the month. But how he knew that
I should return on that day I cannot guess."

"I can explain," said Dora quietly. "You wrote and told me when you
would return, and I showed the letter to my guardian."

"Why did you do that, Dora--especially when you knew about our
quarrel?"

"I wished to point out to Mr. Edermont that you had gone to London,"
replied Dora, "and, if possible, induce him to explain your reason for
going there."

"Ah, he knew my reason well enough," said Allen with a frown; "but I
suppose he refused to tell you what it was?"

"Naturally. He refused to tell me anything. But now you know how Mr.
Edermont learnt the date of your return, and appointed that midnight
meeting for the date. Go on, Allen."

"I was pleased to get his invitation," continued Allen, picking up the
thread of his story, "as I fancied he might confess something further,
likely to ameliorate the distressing situation in which I was placed
by his previous revelation. I determined, therefore, to obey the
summons, but as it yet wanted three hours till midnight the thought of
the delay worked me into a fever of anxiety. The hopes, the fears, the
vague terrors which beset me drove me nearly wild. I declare, Dora,
that I was like a madman. A hundred ideas came into my head as to how
I might do away with the effect of Edermont's secret and regain you.
But one and all were dismissed, and I felt more helpless than ever.
Only one man could put matters right, and that was the man who put
them wrong; so there was nothing left for it but to wait until I saw
him at midnight."

"Had you any idea that a third person might be present at your
meeting?"

"No. As you see, there is no mention of a third person in the letter,
nor did I see a third person in the study--only the dead man's corpse."
"Ugh!"--Allen shuddered--"I shall never forget that horrible sight."

"It was gruesome enough in the morning," said Dora with a shiver, "so
it must have been doubly horrifying at night. Well, did you remain
indoors until you went to the Red House?"

"No. I could not rest; I could not bear the confinement. I felt that I
must be up and doing, so, in sheer despair, I went out on my bicycle.
Where I went I do not know. The night was as bright as day with the
rays of the moon, and I had sufficient sense to guide the machine
rightly, while running blindly along, not knowing or caring whither I
was going. I went up hill and down dale along those weary roads, until
I wore myself out. Physically exhausted, for I must have been riding
at nearly top speed for hours, I turned in the direction of Chillum.
At what time I got there I do not know."

"You had your watch with you?"

"Yes; but in my then perturbed state of mind it never struck me to
look at it."

"Mr. Joad said he saw you pass his cottage shortly before twelve
o'clock."

"It might have been," said Allen indifferently; "but to my mind it was
nearer one o'clock. Indeed, it must have been, for, according to your
showing, the murder was committed about that time, and when I entered
the study I found Edermont dead."

"Dead! Poor soul!" cried Dora, clasping her hands.

"The postern-gate was open," continued Allen rapidly, "also the
side-door of that deserted drawing-room. This did not surprise me, as
I had been led to expect from the letter that the way would be clear
for me to enter. When I went into the study I was struck with horror
at the sight. A candle, wasted nearly to the socket, was burning on
the bureau. The desk itself was hacked and smashed, and the drawers
forced open, as you saw it in the morning. Hundreds of letters and
papers were scattered about, some on the bureau itself, others on the
floor, and in the midst of all this disorder lay the ghastly dead
body, terrible to look at in the pale glimmer of the expiring candle.
The pistol was on one side, the knobkerrie on the other, and the dead
man, with his face and head beaten and disfigured, lay between."

"Did you hear anyone, or see anyone?"

"I heard nothing, I saw nothing. The door leading to the hall was
closed, and there was no sign of the assassin. I saw in a flash the
terrible position in which I was placed. I had quarrelled with
Edermont, and here I was, in his private room at midnight, standing
beside his dead body. I might be accused of the murder, and
condemned on circumstantial evidence--for, on the face of it, I
could make no defence. As I looked with horror on the scene, with
these thoughts in my mind, the candle flamed up in one expiring
flash, then died out in a blue flicker. I was alone in the darkness
with the dead man; and, seized with a sudden panic--surely excusable
under the circumstances--I turned and fled rapidly. In two minutes I
was on my bicycle, running full speed for Canterbury. That is all I
know, Dora."

Dora considered for a few moments after he had finished.

"You are sure that there was nobody else in the Red House on that
night?" she asked, after a pause.

Allen hesitated.

"I did not intend to speak," he murmured; "but for my own sake I must
tell you all. When I was coming into Chillum I met a woman going
towards Canterbury on a bicycle."

"A woman, Allen! And at midnight--alone! Who was she?"

"At the time I passed her I did not know," said the doctor, rising;
"but on my return journey, when I had left the house after the murder,
I met her again, by the railway bridge. She was wheeling her machine
down the hill, and called out to me to help her. The tyre of her back
wheel was punctured. I got off at once, notwithstanding my anxiety to
get home, and, with the aid of guttapercha, I soon mended the tiny
hole. Then we rode on together until our roads parted."

"Do you know who she was?" asked Dora for a second time.

"Yes," said Allen quietly. "I recognised her at once." He produced a
brooch from his waistcoat pocket. "I found this in Edermont's study,
where it had no doubt been dropped by her."

"How do you know?"

"By putting two and two together. Look at the brooch."

Dora did so. It was a slender bar of pale gold, to which two letters
formed of small pearls were attached. She uttered an exclamation of
astonishment as she read them out. "L.B.," she said; "that stands
for----"

"For Laura Burville," finished Allen quickly. "Exactly. Laura Burville
was the woman I met coming from Chillum. And, by the evidence of the
brooch, Laura Burville was the woman who was in Edermont's study on
the midnight of the second of August."



CHAPTER XV.
THE PEARL BROOCH.


So the long-expected had happened at last, and the inevitable woman
appeared on the scene. Dora was hardly astonished to hear of Lady
Burville's connection with the crime. She had always believed that,
sooner or later, the name of this woman would come into the matter.
Nevertheless, it was terrible that she should have killed the wretched
man with whom, in some mysterious fashion, she had been associated
twenty years before. With the pearl-lettered brooch in her hand, Dora
considered the position in which she was placed, the discovery she had
made.

"Do you think that Lady Burville really did kill him, Allen?" she
asked in a hesitating voice.

"Who can say?" answered Scott wearily. "I should be loath to accuse
her on insufficient evidence. But look at the matter as it stands.
Lady Burville fainted at the sight of Edermont; she asked me questions
as to his whereabouts. On the night of the murder she visits him, as
is proved by the finding of that brooch in the study. Immediately
after passing her on the road I enter the house, to find Edermont
dead. So far as we know, no one else was in the house on that night;
so the inference must be drawn that this woman murdered your guardian.
Yes," said Allen thoughtfully, "I think there is a strong case to be
made out against Lady Burville."

"But her motive, Allen?" expostulated Dora. "She would not commit so
terrible a crime without a motive."

"I cannot guess her motive, Dora. I am as ignorant of Lady Burville's
connection with the dead man as--as--you are."

"But, Allen," said Dora, hesitating, "was not her name mentioned by
Mr. Edermont during that conversation?"

"Yes. He asked me where she was staying, but he gave me no information
about her. She has nothing to do with the bar to our marriage. At
least, I do not think so."

"Then you are not certain?"

"No," said Allen in a low voice; "I cannot say that I am certain."

Dora looked at him impatiently, and a sigh escaped her. Evidently he
was determined to give her no clue to the unravelling of these
enigmas, and what she discovered she would discover unaided.
Nevertheless, she did not lose heart, but took up the burden which he
had laid down.

"Why did you not tell me this before, Allen?"

"How could I?" he said vehemently. "By visiting the Red House on that
night I was in a dangerous position. If my movements had been known, I
might have not only lost what little practice I have, but have been in
danger of arrest. Even now I may be called upon to exonerate myself
should this man Joad speak."

"Joad will not speak," said Dora quietly; "at all events, not for a
week. As I said before, a great deal may be done in seven days. You
must let me take away this brooch."

Allen looked at her with an air of astonishment.

"Why do you wish to take away the brooch?" he asked.

"I'll answer that question later on. Lady Burville is not now at
Hernwood Hall?"

"I believe not," replied Scott. "She returned to London, I think,
shortly after the discovery of the murder of Edermont. To my mind, her
sudden departure seems suspicious."

"On the face of it, I agree with you that it does," assented Dora.
"But from what I have heard of the medical evidence, I doubt if Lady
Burville killed Edermont--the murder was so brutal."

"You are right there. The assassin must have had brutal instincts and
a strong physique. Now, Lady Burville is small and delicate, not the
sort of woman capable of using that heavy knobkerrie, or striking so
terrible a blow. But then, Dora," added Allen, with a puzzled air, "if
Lady Burville is innocent, who is guilty? There can't have been anyone
else in the house on that night."

"Why not? Mr. Edermont wrote letters to other people besides
yourself."

"Do you know the names of the persons to whom he wrote?"

"No," replied Dora promptly; "he was careful to post the letters
himself."

"But, Dora," expostulated Allen, "why should Edermont convene a
meeting of so many people at such a late hour?"

"I cannot guess. The explanation may be contained in the stolen
manuscript. All my guardian's actions were wrapped up in mystery, and
there may be more people connected with this matter than we dream of.
But this is not the point. Can I take away this brooch?"

"As you please," said Allen indifferently; "except to exonerate myself
in your eyes, I would not have betrayed Lady Burville, murderess as I
believe her to be."

"You would win fifty thousand pounds by doing so."

"Blood money!" said Scott angrily. "No, Dora; I do not wish to build
up my fortunes in that way, on the ruin of others. I do not say,
should Joad denounce me, that I would keep silent. One must save one's
own neck if possible; but otherwise I say nothing, I do nothing. All
things thought about, or done, cannot gain me your hand; the rest may
go."

"Well, my dear Allen," said Dora, pocketing the brooch, "you refuse to
tell me this secret, and I have promised not to press you. But if I
can't marry you, at least I can save you."

"By becoming Joad's wife?"

"No; by seeing Lady Burville."

He looked at her in surprise.

"My dear Dora," said he after a pause, "you have no reasonable excuse
for seeking an interview with Lady Burville."

"You have just given me an excellent excuse, Allen--the pearl brooch."

"But Lady Burville will know that I have betrayed her."

"No doubt. But I will show her that you have done so to save your own
life."

Allen thought.

"What do you intend to do?" he asked abruptly.

"Force Lady Burville to confess her share in these mysteries."

"She will not do that," said Scott, shaking his head. "On the surface
she is a frivolous little creature, but from what I saw of her I am
inclined to believe that such frivolity conceals a strong will."

"No doubt, Allen. She must be a clever and merciless woman to plan and
carry out so dexterous a crime. I do not see why you should save her
life at the expense of your own. Leave me to deal with her, and I'll
force her to speak."

"Would you have her arrested for the crime?"

"If Joad denounces you, I shall denounce her," said Dora quietly; "but
there may be no necessity for such an extreme course. Wait until I see
her."

"But you do not know where to find her."

"Oh, I can get her address from her late host, Sir Harry Hernwood."

And with this decision Dora took her leave. Here one may pause to
reflect on the difference between these characters--a difference
accentuated the more by the circumstances in which they found
themselves entangled. It cannot be denied that Dora bore herself the
better of the two. Shrewd, cool and determined, she saw her way to a
definite end, and strove steadily towards its attainment. Allen, on
the other hand, was dilatory and wavering. Knowing of a bar to his
marriage, he should have informed the girl what this bar was, and have
left her to judge of its insuperability. But this is exactly what he
shrank from doing. He preferred to wait the turn of events, to refrain
from action, until it was forced upon him. No; Allen Scott was not an
heroic character. Dora knew this, despite her preference for him above
all other men. Indeed, as is the way with good women, she loved him
all the better for such weakness. However, as matters now were
arranged, Allen sulked like a modern Achilles in his tent, and Dora
went forth to take action.

With characteristic decision, she had determined upon her future
course. To get the address of Lady Burville from Sir Harry, to call on
Lady Burville in town, and to learn all she could of the events of the
night from Lady Burville before leaving her house--this was the
programme sketched out and adhered to by Dora Carew. As a first step
towards the accomplishment of her purpose, she turned off the main
road and took that which led to Hernwood Hall. She reached it before
half-past six--an awkward hour for a call--and on inquiring for Sir
Harry she was shown into the drawing-room. Here she was saluted by the
man she came to see, and to whom she apologized for the lateness of
her visit.

"You must excuse me, Sir Harry," said Dora calmly. "I am Miss Carew,
of the Red House, and I leave for London to-morrow by an early train.
Hence my calling on you at so late an hour. If you would be so kind as
to give me the address of Lady Burville, I should esteem it a favour."

This abrupt speech was hardly a graceful one under the circumstances;
but Dora was so taken up with the intrigue in which she found herself
involved that she paid no attention to necessary social observances.
Sir Harry, a dapper little man, mincing and polite, was not at all
indisposed to grant this request, especially to so handsome a woman.

"Charmed to oblige you, Miss Carew," said he in a gallant fashion;
"but--you will pardon me--may I ask why you wish for this address?"

"Certainly," replied Dora, prepared for the question; "I have picked
up a pearl brooch on the road"--she was afraid to state the actual
finding-place--"which I have reason to believe belongs to Lady
Burville. I wish to return it to her in person."

"May I see the brooch, Miss Carew?"

"Certainly."

She handed it to him in silence. Sir Harry examined it, noted the
initials, and returned it with a polite bow and the required
information.

"The address of Lady Burville," said he amiably, "is No. 22, Jersey
Place, Mayfair. I am sure she will be greatly obliged to you for
returning her brooch, which I recognise as one she usually wore. No
doubt she dropped it on the road when out on her bicycle. But if it
would save you trouble, Miss Carew, I should be happy to forward it
myself."

"There is no necessity, thank you," replied Dora, rising to take her
leave. "I am going up to town to-morrow, in any event, so I can easily
return it myself. Good evening, Sir Harry. I thank you for your good
nature in seeing me at this hour, and your kindness in giving me the
address."

"Pray do not mention it, my dear Miss Carew. I am delighted to be of
service to you."

During this conversation Sir Harry had discreetly refrained from
remarking on the tragic end of Julian Edermont. He knew that Miss
Carew was the ward of the dead man; but, afraid of a scene, and
detesting trouble, he judged it wiser to ignore the fact. In the same
way he gave the address of Lady Burville at once, as he was anxious to
rid himself of his visitor. Sir Harry Hernwood, in a word, was a fool;
and for that reason Dora was successful in her mission. A wiser man
would have withheld the address of his late guest until better assured
of the errand of the inquirer.

Dora thought of all these things as she rode homewards, and
congratulated herself that Sir Harry had proved so foolish and weak.
She had the address of Lady Burville, and could obtain the interview
she sought. Now it remained to force the woman into confession of the
crime by means of the pearl brooch. It would be difficult for Lady
Burville to explain its presence in the study without inculpating
herself in the murder.

"Mrs. Tice," said Dora that night when Joad had departed, "I am going
to town to-morrow."

"Very good, Miss Carew," said the housekeeper placidly. "Will you
return in the evening?"

"Probably. If I do not, I shall send you a wire. But I want you to
conceal from Mr. Joad that I have gone to London."

"I shall not tell him, Miss Carew, if you do not wish him to know. But
why, if I may be so bold?"

"Oh," said Dora, with a peculiar look, "I'll tell you that when I
return."

"You will tell me on your return?" repeated Mrs. Tice, looking
shrewdly at her companion. "I hope nothing is wrong, miss?"

"Everything is wrong. I am endeavouring to put everything right."

"That will be difficult, my dear young lady, in your present state of
ignorance. You do not know all."

Dora laughed.

"I know more than you give me credit for, Mrs. Tice. Allen has told me
something."

The ruddy face of the housekeeper blanched suddenly.

"Not--not--the secret?" she stammered.

"Not the secret you know of," replied Dora. "I am still ignorant of
the bar to our marriage."

"Then what has Mr. Allen told you?" asked Mrs. Tice, reassured on this
point.

"Ah, that's my secret. If you will not confide in me, I do not see why
I should confide in you."

"Mr. Allen could have said nothing very dreadful," was Mrs. Tice's
reply; "we had a talk together on the evening he returned from London,
and he told me everything then."

"No doubt," said Dora, who was pleased to stimulate the housekeeper's
curiosity, "but he did not tell you some things, for the simple reason
that 'some things' had not happened. Remember, Mrs. Tice, the night of
Allen's return was the night of the murder."

"The murder!" repeated Mrs. Tice in a scared tone.

"Yes. Allen did not tell you what he knew about that," said Dora, and
left the room.



CHAPTER XVI.
DORA IS STARTLED.


The next day Dora excused her absence to Joad on the plea of a visit
to a friend living the other side of Canterbury, and stated
furthermore that she would not return until late that evening. It was
absolutely necessary to make some such statement, as she knew not what
conclusion would be drawn by the old man did he learn that her true
destination was London. She suspected him of knowing more of Lady
Burville than he chose to confess; and, with such knowledge, he might
guess her intention. If so, it might be that he would warn Lady
Burville, did he know her address, which was by no means unlikely;
therefore Dora was resolved to keep him in ignorance of her plan. To
blind Joad was no easy task, as he was artful, dangerous, and--she
more than suspected--merciless.

To avert all suspicion, she rode to Selling on her bicycle, and there
caught the early train to London. Resolved on economy, she purchased a
third-class ticket, and had just time to stumble into a carriage
before the train started. Then she became aware that she had but one
companion in the compartment--a man. He turned his head as the train
began to move, and she saw with astonishment and some annoyance that
it was Mr. Pride. "Never mind," she thought, returning his greeting
with a stiff nod; "he can tell Joad on his return if he pleases. It
will then be too late for the old man to do anything, as I shall have
seen Lady Burville."

Like Joad, this man was another _protégé_ of Edermont's, who had
procured for him a small post in a private school at Chillum. Pride
was not unlike his late patron, being short and insignificant-looking,
with a white beard, hardly so luxuriant as that of Edermont, and
silvery-white hair. In the distance the resemblance was striking, but
a closer inspection showed the difference between the two men, as
Pride was plump and rosy, with mild eyes and a good-natured smile. He
rubbed one fat hand over the over, and saluted Miss Carew in his usual
cheery fashion.

"I am glad to see you looking so well, Miss Carew," he said brightly.
"You go to London?"

"Only for the day, Mr. Pride," replied Dora coldly.

"Ah! no doubt you wish to get away from those pests who swarm round
the Red House in the hope of gaining a fortune."

"Those amateur detectives?" said Dora quietly; "do you think they will
discover the truth?"

"Who knows?" was Pride's reply; "they will do their best to do so.
Fifty thousand pounds is worth the earning."

Dora considered for a moment, then turned on him suddenly.

"You were at Canterbury on the night the murder was committed?"

"Till close on eleven," returned Pride easily; "then I walked back to
Chillum."

"And you went into Mr. Joad's house?"

"I did. I was with him at one o'clock."

"Did you meet anyone on a bicycle as you walked to Chillum from
Canterbury?"

"Why," replied the schoolmaster after a moment's pause, "I met two
people, and each rode a bicycle. One, a man, was riding towards
Chillum; the other, a woman, was making for Canterbury."

"Did you know who they were?"

"I, my dear Miss Carew!" said Pride in great surprise--"why, no. I
took no particular notice of them, in the first place; and in the
second, they flitted along so swiftly and noiselessly that I was
hardly aware of their passing."

"I suppose you have no clue to the assassin?" said Dora abruptly.

"No. If I had, I should not scruple to earn the fortune."

"Can you conjecture the motive for the crime, Mr. Pride?"

"I--am--afraid--not," said Pride slowly. "I knew Mr. Edermont well;
but there was nothing in his past life likely to endanger his safety."

"He thought otherwise. Mr. Edermont was always haunted by the dread of
a violent death."

"I knew that, Miss Carew. Monomania, my dear lady--monomania."

"It could not be monomania if it came true," said Dora impetuously.

"Why not?" replied Pride in an argumentative tone. "Monomania is the
dwelling on one particular idea until it fills the thoughts and life
of the thinker. Mr. Edermont may have had reason to suppose that his
life was in danger; but the original cause may have passed away.
Nevertheless, the habit may have continued; and so," added Pride with
a shrug, "we may reasonably ascribe our friend's death to a creature
of his imagination."

"Your argument is weak," replied Dora spiritedly. "Mr. Edermont
believed that he would die a violent death, and what he believed came
to pass. That does away with all your sophistries."

"But, Miss Carew, the cause of his fear was done away with before your
guardian died."

"How do you know that?"

"Joad told me. We were discussing the possibility of the existence of
this unknown enemy whom Mr. Edermont feared; and Joad mentioned that
Mr. Pallant had set that fear at rest."

"Do you mean to say that Mr. Pallant told him his enemy was dead?"

"Joad thought that such was the case."

"Then you must see," cried Dora triumphantly, "that such a supposition
does away with your theory of monomania. Evidently Mr. Edermont's fear
was founded on no fancy, but on fact."

"Well, I will agree with you for the sake of argument;" said Pride
hastily; "but granted that all you say is true, it brings us no nearer
the solution of the mystery. Admitting that the enemy whom Mr.
Edermont feared really existed: if such enemy died, as we suppose Mr.
Pallant told our poor friend, who killed him, and verified his
lifelong prediction that he would come to a violent end?"

"I understand your meaning," was Dora's reply; "but I do not think all
the talking in the world will aid us to discover the actual assassin.
What is your belief, Mr. Pride?"

"I cannot say that I have any particular belief, Miss Carew. These
criminal problems are too intricate for me."

"Don't you wish to earn the reward?"

"I should not mind doing so," replied Pride, with a good-natured
laugh. "No man in his senses would lose the chance of gaining fifty
thousand pounds. All the same, I am not clever enough to win it. I do
not see where to begin."

"Do you think that the manuscript in the bureau was the motive for the
crime?"

"No. Why should anyone have killed Mr. Edermont to gain a worthless
manuscript?"

"It might not have been worthless to the assassin," objected Dora; "it
contained the story of Mr. Edermont's past life."

"But what has his past life to do with his violent death?"

"Everything. You forget that Mr. Edermont believed himself to be a
threatened man."

"And so we get back to the starting-point of our argument!" laughed
Pride.

Dora laughed also; and, finding that they were arguing in a circle,
changed that particular line of conversation.

"You knew Mr. Edermont well?" she asked, after a pause.

"Yes--for quite fifteen years. He was very good to me, and helped me
to the post I now hold."

"Did you know Mr. Edermont at Christchurch?"

"Christchurch?" repeated Pride slowly. "No; I did not know him then.
Did he live there?"

"I believe so," said Dora curtly, and closed the conversation.

Evidently there was nothing to be learnt from Pride. His knowledge of
Edermont only extended back fifteen years; and Dora believed that the
motive of the crime was to be found as far back as twenty. Moreover,
if he knew anything conclusive, he would be certain to utilize it for
his own benefit, and thus gain the reward. Under these circumstances
Dora hardly regarded Pride in the light of an important factor in the
course she was pursuing, and took no further notice of him from that
point of view. They chatted on indifferent subjects until the train
arrived at Victoria Station. Here Pride took his leave, and Dora went
forward on her mission.

Jersey Place was easily found by asking a convenient policeman. Dora
was impressed with the magnificence of the houses and by the
aristocratic seclusion of the square. If possible, No. 22 was even
more imposing than the surrounding mansions, and as Dora rang the bell
she could not help thinking that she was undertaking a difficult task.
Here was a rich and titled lady, evidently a power in society, fenced
round, as it were, by wealth and position. Yet she proposed to accuse
this powerful personage of a crime; she intended to save her lover at
the cost of casting down this formidable goddess from her pedestal. It
was a dangerous, almost a hopeless, task, but Dora did not shrink from
its fulfilment. Too much depended upon the issue of the coming
interview for her to retreat at the eleventh hour.

She was introduced by the footman into a small anteroom on the left of
the entrance-hall, and there she remained while he took her card up to
Lady Burville. In a few moments he returned with the information that
his mistress would see her. Dora followed the man upstairs, and was
shown into the drawing-room. It was empty at the moment, and she had
ample leisure to survey the splendid room, and its still more splendid
furniture. The apartment was sumptuous in the extreme. Everything that
art and luxury could supply was gathered together between these four
walls. The East and the West had contributed to adorn this house. It
was more like a palace than the residence of a private person, and
gave Dora large ideas of the wealth of Sir John Burville.

His portrait--as she guessed--hung in a conspicuous part of the room.
A strong, burly man he appeared to be, with a shrewd, coarse face.
Parvenu was writ large on his whole personality, and Dora could guess
from his lowering looks that he possessed a violent temper. The
portrait was not prepossessing, and she left it to look at the picture
of a frail and delicate woman. This, without doubt, was Lady Burville,
and her suspicion was confirmed in a few minutes, for as she was
contemplating the portrait the door opened to admit the original.

Lady Burville was small, slender, and usually as daintily tinted as a
statuette of Dresden china. But at the present moment her face was
pale, and her eyes, filled with alarm, looked apprehensively at Dora
from under the loose fringe of her golden hair. Arrayed in a tea-gown
of some white filmy material, she looked like a ghost as she glided
towards the girl. Dora put these terrified looks down to a secret
knowledge of her guilt, and believed in her own mind that Lady
Burville had really slain Mr. Edermont. But again, she thought, it was
impossible that so frail a creature could have struck so deadly a
blow. Yet, why was she so terrified?

"Miss Carew, I believe?" said Lady Burville, trying to smile with
white lips. "Will you not be seated?"

"No, thank you, Lady Burville," replied Dora stiffly. "I am obliged to
you for granting me this interview."

"I am only too pleased. You are a ward of Mr. Edermont's, I believe?"

"I _was_ his ward, Lady Burville."

"Yes, yes; how stupid of me! I forgot about that terrible murder."

Dora deliberately produced the pearl brooch from her pocket, and held
it out towards the other.

"Perhaps this will refresh your memory?" she said slowly.

"My brooch!" said Lady Burville in surprise. "How did you come by it?
How did you find it?"

"I did not find it, but Dr. Scott did."

"Really! Where?"

"On the floor of the room in which Mr. Edermont was killed."

Lady Burville's face turned even whiter than it was before.

"I--I do not understand," she stammered, shrinking back.

"I can explain," continued Dora pitilessly. "You visited the Red House
on the night of the second of August; you dropped this brooch there,
and you there killed my guardian."

"No, no! I--I did not! Who dares to say such a thing?"

"I dare," said Dora calmly. "I say it again. You killed Mr. Edermont."

"What--what proof have you?" gasped Lady Burville, seizing a chair to
keep herself from falling.

"The proof of this brooch; the evidence of Dr. Scott, who met you
returning from the Red House. You need not deny it, Lady Burville. I
believe you to be guilty, and I shall denounce you."

"No, no! You cannot--you dare not!"

"Why?"

Lady Burville fell at her feet in a passion of tears.

"I am your mother," she cried, "your unhappy mother!"



CHAPTER XVII.
A STORY OF THE PAST.


"My mother!" Echoing Lady Burville's exclamation, Dora stepped
backward and surveyed with amazement the weeping woman kneeling at her
feet. The situation perplexed her. She could not believe that Lady
Burville spoke truly in claiming so close a relationship, and deemed
that it was some trick to avert the danger of being arrested for the
crime. She frowned as this thought came into her mind, and turned away
coldly.

"I do not believe you, Lady Burville. My parents are dead."

"Your father is dead," said Lady Burville, rising slowly, "but your
mother lives; I am really and truly your mother. Why should I say what
is not true?"

"Oh, you have enough excuse to do so," said Dora quietly. "You hope to
close my mouth, and escape the consequences of your crime."

"My crime! You believe, then, that I killed Mr. Edermont?"

"I do. You were in the room alone with him, and left the house
hurriedly. When Dr. Scott was coming from Canterbury he met you."

"He met me twice," said Lady Burville calmly; "once when I was coming
from Chillum, and again when he assisted me to repair my bicycle."

"Then you do not deny that you were at the Red House?"

"No; I can hardly do so in the face of the discovery of the pearl
brooch. It is mine; I thought I had lost it on the road, but as it was
found in Mr. Edermont's study I admit that I was there on the night of
the second of August. If I were guilty, I would not admit as much,
even to my own daughter."

"I am not your daughter. Give me some proof that you are my mother."

"What proof do you want?" asked Lady Burville helplessly. "You cannot
alter existing facts. If you choose to listen, I can tell you so much
of my history as may convince you that what I say is true."

She seated herself on a near sofa, and put a frivolous lace
handkerchief to her eyes. Dora looked at this woman, so frail, so
helpless, so devoid of brain and courage, and pity entered her soul.
If this was indeed her mother, the relationship was nothing to be
proud of. And yet, would she confess to such a thing if it were not
true? Dora could not answer this question, and resolved to suspend her
judgment until she had heard the promised history. With some pity she
seated herself beside the feeble little woman.

"I am willing to hear your story," she said kindly; "but first you
must assure me of your innocence."

"Innocence! Oh, as to the murder. Yes, I am innocent. I never touched
Julian; I did not kill him. I would not kill a fly. Who says I am
guilty?"

"Dr. Scott saw----"

"I know he saw me!" interrupted Lady Burville impatiently. "I do not
deny it. But did he see the dead body of Mr. Edermont, since he is so
sure of my guilt?"

"He found your brooch lying by the dead body."

"Ah! And what was he doing at the Red House on that night? When I left
Julian, he was alive and well. No doubt Dr. Scott killed him, and
blames me for the crime."

"I do not believe that," said Dora decidedly. "Allen is innocent."

"You think so because you love him," said Lady Burville bitterly. "No
doubt you are right, my dear; but if he is innocent, who is guilty?
Not I--not---- Don't look at me like that, Dora. I swear I did not
kill Julian. How dare you accuse your mother of such a horrible
thing!"

"You forget I am not yet prepared to accept you as my mother."

"I do not see why you should," said Lady Burville quietly. "I have not
acted the part of a mother towards you. But what could I do? Julian
took you away from me when you were a year old."

"Had Mr. Edermont the right to do so?"

"Yes. He was my husband!"

"Your husband!" cried Dora in astonishment. "Do you mean to say that
Mr. Edermont was my father?"

"I say nothing of the sort," retorted Lady Burville impatiently.
"Julian was my second husband; you were the offspring of my first."

"Then my father is dead?"

"No, he isn't; I am sure I don't know; I thought he was, but it seems
he isn't," said Lady Burville incoherently. "Oh dear, oh dear! what a
tangle it all is!"

"I cannot understand," said Dora in perplexity. "Perhaps if you tell
me your story from the beginning I may gather what you mean."

"I shall tell you as much as suits me," replied Lady Burville, "but I
cannot tell you all. It is too terrible!" She shuddered, and looked
round. "Perhaps you may be able to help me, Dora; I am in the power of
a man."

"Of what man?"

"Of Augustus Pallant. You know, he was down at Hernwood with me. Oh,
my dear, he is a terrible man, and he knows all."

"Knows all what?"

"All my story--all your story--all Julian's story. He threatened to
tell my husband." Here her eyes wandered to the stern-faced portrait.
"I am so afraid of my husband," she said, with a burst of tears, "and
Mr. Pallant is merciless. Oh, my dear, my dear, if you could only help
me!"

"Tell me your story, and I may be able to do so," said Dora
cheerfully.

She was beginning to believe that Lady Burville spoke truly, and that
she was really her mother. It seemed doubtful as to whether she was
guiltless or guilty, and Dora was prepared to hear both sides of the
question before judging. But even if Lady Burville proved the truth of
her assertion, Dora was not prepared to take her for a parent, and be
sentimental over the discovery. Mother and daughter had been so long
parted and estranged, that no revival of the maternal or filial
feeling was possible. Dora pitied her mother; she was sorry for her;
but she did not love her. In the meantime Lady Burville told her
story, in her usual flippant manner, with many tears. The woman's
nature was shallow in the extreme.

"I was married to your father at an early age," she said. "He was a
sea captain, and immediately after the honeymoon he went to sea. I
lived at Christchurch, in Hants, while he was away. Mr. Edermont was
there also."

"Is not Edermont a feigned name?" asked Dora suddenly.

"How clever you are!" said her mother. "Yes; Mr. Edermont's real name
was Dargill--Julian Dargill. He was an old admirer of mine, and wanted
to marry me, but I was forced by my parents to become the wife of
George Carew."

"Then I am really and truly Dora Carew?"

"Of course--your father's name. Well, after a few months I received
news that my husband's ship was lost off the coast of Africa. All
hands were drowned except the first mate. He was saved, and brought
the story to England. So you see, my dear, I was a widow six months
after marriage."

"Are you sure that my father was drowned?" demanded Dora doubtfully.

"I am coming to that," said Lady Burville impatiently. "He was said to
be drowned; and after a year of mourning I married Dargill."

"You married Julian Edermont?"

"Yes; what else could I do? I was comparatively poor; I had no friends
to speak of. Dargill was rich, so I married him. We were quite happy,
he and I, and he was very fond of you, my dear."

"Oh! I was born then?" said Dora, rather naïvely, it must be
confessed.

"Certainly. Don't I tell you I married Dargill a year after your
father died--eighteen months after my first marriage? Well, we were
happy; and then your father returned. He also had been saved by some
natives, who detained him on the Gold Coast. He managed to escape, and
returned to England. Of course, he sought me out at Christchurch; and
then, my dear," added Lady Burville impressively, "there was trouble."

"Between my father and Mr. Dargill, _alias_ Edermont?"

"Yes. Dargill was away at the time, and they never met. He was a
coward, you know, my dear, and afraid of your father's violent
temper--and he had a violent temper, truly awful. Dargill fled to
America. George Carew followed him. Then Dargill escaped him in San
Francisco, and returned to England. He wrote to me from London, and
offered me an annuity if I would let him take you away."

"And you did," said Dora reproachfully.

"What could I do?" said her mother fretfully. "I was poor without
Dargill's money. I could hardly keep you alive, and Carew had left me
in his search for Dargill. I accepted the annuity and let you go. Then
Dargill disappeared, and I never heard of him again till I saw him in
Chillum Church."

"Did you make no attempt to find him?" asked Dora coldly.

"No; why should I have done so?" said Lady Burville. "He was not my
real husband, you know, since my first--your father, my dear--was
alive. I never wanted to set eyes on Dargill again. I am sure he got
me into enough trouble as it was. He absolutely worried me into
marrying him, and, as he was rich, I thought it best to do so. We
should have been happy enough if Captain Carew had not proved to be
alive. Then I wished I hadn't married Dargill."

"Because you loved my father so?"

"No, it wasn't that exactly," babbled Lady Burville, with great
simplicity. "But Carew had a dreadful temper, and I thought he might
kill me. However, he was more angry at Dargill than at me, and if he
had caught him I really believe he would have killed him. But Dargill
got away; he was an artful little creature, but a frightful coward. I
don't know how I ever came to marry such a mouse of a man."

"You forget he was rich."

Dora could not forbear making this satirical remark. Every word that
came out of Lady Burville's mouth showed her to be a vain, shallow
fool; a heartless woman, who cared more for dress and gaiety and money
than anything else. On the whole, Dora thought it was just as well
that Dargill, _alias_ Edermont, had taken her away. She never would
have got on with so frivolous a parent as Lady Burville.

"You are right; he was rich," said her mother artlessly. "I married
him for his money, and never saw him after he left me for at least
twenty years. I did not mind much. But I did get a shock when I saw
him in Chillum Church. I recognised him at once, in spite of his
beard. He had always white hair, you know."

"And that was why you fainted, I suppose?" said Dora bitterly. "No
doubt you are my mother, but you have acted anything but a mother's
part towards your child."

Lady Burville whimpered, and tried to take Dora's hand. The girl drew
away coldly. She could not feel any love for this weak little woman,
who had acted so despicable a part.

"Go on with your story, Lady Burville," she said calmly. "What of my
father?"

"I heard nothing of him for some time, Dora," said her mother,
displeased at the lack of affection displayed by her newly-found
child. "Then I saw a paragraph in an American paper which said that he
was dead. Oh yes! there could be no doubt about it. The name George
Theophilus Carew was given in full. It's not a common name, you know.
I was satisfied that he was really dead."

"And you married again?"

"What could I do? I was poor," said Lady Burville, for the third time
giving her childish excuse. "Yes, I married Sir John Burville. He is a
cruel and violent-tempered man, but he has plenty of money, and he is
good to me."

"And you are happy?" said Dora, scornful of the weak nature which
could draw happiness out of such misery.

"Quite happy--at least, I was--till Augustus Pallant came."

"When did he come? and who is he?"

"He came about two years ago from America. He told me that my husband
was not dead, and that I had committed bigamy. I had to pay him to be
quiet; he has cost me a lot of money."

"And, knowing this, you still live with a man who is not your
husband?"

"Yes; I am not going back to poverty," said her mother defiantly. "I
shall remain Lady Burville till I die. Pallant knew all my story.
Carew told it to him. He found out that Dargill was living near
Canterbury under the name of Edermont. He induced me to go down to
Hernwood Hall, and took me to Chillum Church. There I saw Dargill, and
fainted. Of course, it was all done on purpose--the brute!"

"Mr. Edermont fainted also," said Dora; "he was afraid."

"I know he was. He was afraid lest Carew should find him out and kill
him. He lived in a state of perpetual dread, for he told me so on the
night I saw him."

"Why did you go to the Red House at so late an hour?" asked Dora.

"Dargill sent me a note stating that he wanted to see me. I went; what
could I do? He might have told Sir John about my past. Oh yes, I went;
and Dargill told me that Pallant had been at him for a parcel of
letters--an old correspondence between Dargill and myself. Pallant
wanted to get them to increase his hold over me and wring money out of
me. But Dargill, coward as he was, acted very well. He gave me the
letters himself; that was why he sent for me. I went, I got the
letters, and I came away. When I left the house Dargill--or Edermont,
as he called himself--was as well as you or I."

"But when Allen went into the study after you left it, he found Mr.
Edermont dead, and the bureau robbed."

"Then, if Dr. Scott did not kill him, someone else must have done so."

"But Allen had no reason to kill him," argued Dora.

"No," said Lady Burville, "but Carew had."

"My father?"

"Yes; I believe that my first husband killed my second. In a word,
George Carew killed Mr. Dargill."



CHAPTER XVIII.
PALLANT MAKES A STATEMENT.


Dora did not remain long with Lady Burville after she had heard the
story; nor did her mother desire her to stay. There was no love lost
between them, therefore there was no joy at their meeting, no sorrow
at their parting. Lady Burville considered her daughter to be cold,
proud, and unsympathetic. Dora saw that Lady Burville was a weak and
frivolous fool, whom she could neither respect nor love. They parted
with a feeling of mutual relief, but not before Lady Burville had
extracted a promise of silence.

"You must say nothing about what I've told you to anybody," she said
imploringly. "My husband would never forgive me if he found out my
past history. I told it to you so as to clear myself in your eyes as
to the murder. Only Pallant knows my story, and he will keep silent
while I give him money. As you are my child, you must be silent also.
Say nothing--nothing."

"But I wish to find out who killed my guardian," said Dora.

"I tell you it was Carew. No one else had any reason to kill him. If
you denounce Carew, you will hang your own father. Promise me to be
silent."

"I promise," said Dora curtly, and took her leave in the calmest
manner.

She returned to Selling, and thence rode to Chillum on her bicycle. It
was close on eight before she got home, and she found Joad waiting for
her at the gate. He looked pleased to see her, and wheeled the machine
into the grounds.

"You are late," said he, following her every movement with greedy
eyes. "I hope you had a pleasant day with your friend."

"Very pleasant, Mr. Joad. Good-night; I am tired."

She walked off with a stiff nod, and left her elderly lover looking
after her with a rather sulky expression. He had missed her greatly
during the day, and resented her departure when he wanted to have a
little chat before retiring to his own domicile across the road.

"Never mind," chuckled Joad, rubbing his hands. "She'll have to marry
me, or see Allen Scott in gaol as a murderer. And when we are man and
wife, I'll find out some way to tame her proud spirit."

Dora partook of supper with Mrs. Tice, but answered that good lady's
questions in a perfunctory manner. The housekeeper was anxious and
uneasy. The visit of Dora to town struck her as strange--the more so
as she connected it with recent events. Before departing Dora had
promised an explanation of her movements, and Mrs. Tice waited for the
fulfilment of that promise. But Dora said nothing. She ate her supper,
talked on general subjects, and finally took herself off to bed
without a word of explanation. Mrs. Tice was annoyed.

"Miss Carew," she said, following her to the door, "I beg your pardon,
but you promised to tell me why you went up to town to-day."

"Did I?" said Dora carelessly. "I've changed my mind, then."

"I do not see why you should keep me in the dark, miss," exclaimed the
housekeeper, in a mortified tone.

"If you cast back your memory to our last conversation, you will see,
Mrs. Tice. You are keeping me in the dark; so, by acting in the same
way towards you, I am only giving you a Roland for an Oliver."

"All the same, you could do worse than ask my advice, Miss Carew."

"I have asked it, and you refuse to help me. Now I must see after
things in my own way."

"You will get into trouble if you are not careful," said Mrs. Tice
sharply.

"It will be no thanks to you if I do not," retorted Dora bitterly.
"You have refused to help me."

"What would you have me do, girl?" cried Mrs. Tice, forgetting her
respect in her anxiety. "I dare not tell you what I know. Mr. Allen
made me promise to be silent."

"Allen is acting in a very foolish manner, and so are you," said Dora
quietly; "you seem to think that I am a child, to whom no secret can
be confided. In ordinary cases, this would not matter to me, as I am
the least curious of women. But as my happiness is at stake, I must
strive to learn what you would want concealed."

"It will do you no good if you do find out," said Mrs. Tice sullenly.

"Perhaps not; but at least its discovery will throw a light on the
mystery of this murder."

"There you are wrong, Miss Carew. It will do no such thing."

Dora had argued this point before; therefore she made no reply, and
with a weary nod prepared to leave the room. Again Mrs. Tice laid a
detaining hand upon her sleeve.

"Tell me, my dear," said she timidly, "what is it Mr. Allen said to
you about the murder?"

"You had better ask him, Mrs. Tice; it is no good coming to me. Unless
you tell me what you know, I shall keep silent as to my knowledge."

"Does Mr. Allen know anything about this crime?"

"Yes, he does; he knows a great deal."

"Does he know who killed Mr. Edermont?"

"He does--and you know also."

"No, no; I--I do not!" gasped Mrs. Tice, shrinking back; "my knowledge
has nothing to do with the matter."

"Has your knowledge anything to do with my father?"

Mrs. Tice gasped again, and sank into a chair. For a moment she closed
her eyes, and when she opened them again Dora was gone. The
housekeeper wiped her face.

"Who can have told her about her father?" she meditated. "If she gets
to know about him, there will be trouble."

Then she drank a glass of water, and put away her work. But her
thoughts wandered.

"What has come to her?" she said to herself again, as she made all
safe for the night. "There is a worried look on her face, an anxious
expression in her eyes. And why did she go up to London? Can she have
learnt anything about the past? No, no. Mr. Allen knows it, Mr. Joad
knows it, and myself. None of the three will tell her. Still, that
question about her father! It is very, very strange."

In the meantime Dora was leaning out of her bedroom window, looking
into the soft darkness of the night. Overhead the sky was fleecy with
clouds, between the rifts of which twinkled the cold stars, and below,
between the tree-tops and dry grass, hovered the thick gloom of night.
She could see nothing in the shadows; all was as indistinct, as
unknown, as strange, as this mystery which was torturing her life.

She had gone seeking, and she had learnt much: that her mother lived,
and her father; that the latter had been the incarnation of the deadly
fear which had haunted Dargill, _alias_ Edermont, throughout his long
life. No wonder he had changed his name, had hidden himself in the Red
House, had prayed for deliverance from murder and sudden death, when a
man of violent passions had hunted him hot-footed through the world.
Dora remembered what a despicable coward the dead man had been, and no
longer marvelled at his fears; but what she did wonder at was the
change that had come over Edermont after Pallant's visit. Then he had
declared that the shadow was lifted from his life; that he could
henceforth mix with his fellow-men, and dwell in safety. Such joy
could only mean that his enemy was dead. Yet Edermont was dead also,
of the very death he feared.

And there was no doubt in Dora's mind that her father had killed him.
It seemed a cruel thing, for, after all, in marrying her mother
Edermont--or Dargill, as he was called--had sinned unconsciously. Why
should her father have so ardently desired his death? Dora began to
think that her mother had not told her all, that there was something
still hidden--a something which might account for the persistent
desire of Carew for the death of Edermont.

Again, she had not asked her mother what was the bar which existed to
prevent her marriage with Allen. Dora thought her mother knew this,
and might reveal the obstacle. But then she would be forced to tell
the portion of her story which she had hidden. Would she do so?
Dora was doubtful, for the weak little coquette was as strong as steel
in aught that concerned herself. Unblinded by filial love, Dora
estimated her mother's character at its true value. There was no
further hope of learning the truth in that quarter. And who, then,
would tell her--Allen, Joad, Mrs. Tice? She would be forced to ask one
of the three to speak. Since she knew so much, she might as well know
more. And a fuller knowledge might enable her to save Allen, to marry
Allen, to revenge the death of Edermont, and to win the fifty thousand
pounds. But yet, all----

"Dreams, dreams; vain, vain dreams!" sighed Dora, and went to bed in
as hopeless a frame of mind as can well be imagined.

Fate always arranges matters much better than ourselves. Here was Dora
at a dead stop; she knew not what to do, or in which direction to
turn. It seemed that no one would advise her as to the future; and
that she must be content to lose Allen, and accept the humiliating
position of Joad's wife. But while she was steeling her heart to face
this dreary prospect Fate was at work, and next morning Pallant
appeared. He came to point out the road.

Dora was surprised when Mrs. Tice informed her that a gentleman wished
to see her. She was still more surprised when Pallant was shown into
the morning-room where she sat. The old supercilious look was on his
face, the old cynicism was looking out of his blue eyes, and as he
stood bowing, with the strong sunlight glittering on his red beard, he
looked as worldly and evil a man as could be imagined. Dora remembered
how he had extorted money from her weak mother for over two years, and
rose to meet him with a stern face.

"What has brought you here, sir?" she asked coldly.

"You have," said Pallant, calmly taking a seat. "I saw Lady Burville
yesterday, and she gave me the gist of your conversation."

"I do not see how it can interest you," said she contemptuously; "you
cannot get out of me what I have not got. I am poor, Mr. Pallant."

"More's the pity!" he replied, quite indifferent to her shaft. "With
your beauty and my brains, we might do worse than marry!"

"Marry--marry you!"

"I forgot. You are in love with that foolish young doctor," he said in
his sleepy voice. "That is a pity. At our first meeting I warned you
to beware of Allen Scott."

"I know you did. Why did you warn me?"

"Ah! I see your mother did not tell you everything, Miss Carew, else
you would not ask me such a question. I warned you, lest you should
give him your heart. It would be foolish to do so, because you can
never marry him."

"Why?"

"That is my secret. I don't tell you all I know. It is not worth my
while."

Dora looked at him scornfully.

"It is worth your while to blackmail my mother!"

"It pays! it pays!" said Pallant shamelessly. "I must live, you know.
Lady Burville is greatly afraid of her present husband, so she keeps
me well supplied with money to hold my tongue."

"Where did you learn my mother's history?" said Dora, disgusted with
this brutal speech.

"From the best of all authorities--her first husband."

"My father?"

"Your father--George Theophilus Carew. I met him in San Francisco some
years ago. He was a drunkard and a gambler, Miss Carew. We had some
dealings over cards, for you must know that I am a gambler also,
though it is to my credit that I don't drink. One day, in a fit of
maudlin fear, he told me his story, and how he was seeking for Julian
Dargill."

"Mr. Edermont?"

"Precisely. The man who had taken away his wife. He wanted to kill
him."

"To kill him?" echoed Dora, starting; "and--and did--did my father
succeed in carrying out his intention? Was it George Carew who killed
Mr. Edermont?"

"Not exactly, Miss Carew," responded Pallant dryly, "for the simple
reason that before your father could accomplish his object he died
himself."

"Died himself! Is my father dead?"

"Dead and buried," said Pallant concisely; "dead and buried."



CHAPTER XIX.
MORE MYSTERIES.


When Pallant made this remarkable statement he looked up sharply to
see how Dora was affected by it. Her face had flushed hotly, and her
eyes had brightened. In place of sorrow, her whole expression was that
of relief and gladness. Pallant could not forbear a cynical remark on
her want of feeling.

"You do not seem sorry to hear that your father is dead, Miss Carew."

"I do not know why I should display a sorrow which I do not feel," she
replied quietly. "You must remember, Mr. Pallant, that my parents are
nothing to me. I was taken away from them when I was a year old, and I
have no feeling of love towards them. I am glad that my father is
dead."

"May I ask why?"

"Because, had he lived, he might have been guilty of murder. At least,
I am spared the dishonour of having a criminal for a parent."

Pallant chuckled, and seemed about to speak. However, he thought
better of it, and merely turned away his face to hide a peculiar
smile. Dora took little notice of his action, being absorbed in her
own thoughts.

"Is this what you told Mr. Edermont in the conversation you had with
him?"

"Yes. I was sorry for the miserable little creature. The thought of
Carew roaming the earth in search of him was his constant nightmare.
It did not matter to me whether he knew or not. Certainly, it did not
affect my plans, so--I never inflict useless cruelty, Miss Carew--I
told him the truth: that his lifelong enemy was dead and buried; that
henceforward he could sleep in safety."

"The result proved your assertions to be false."

"What is that to me?" said Pallant with a shrug. "I am no prophet, to
foretell the day and hour of a man's death. I said that Carew was past
harming him. That was true. Carew did not kill him."

"Then who did?"

"My dear young lady, if I could tell you that I should be the richer
by fifty thousand pounds; but on that point I am as ignorant as you
are. I held your father in my arms when he died; I saw him buried. It
was not Carew who killed Dargill, _alias_ Edermont, and there is
nothing in the story told to me by your father likely to throw light
on the mystery."

"You--you do not think my mother killed him?" faltered Dora.

Pallant scoffed at the idea.

"Could those little hands wield a heavy club? Could those weak muscles
deliver so terrible a blow? No, Miss Carew; your mother is too weak,
too--if I dare say so--cowardly, to do such a thing. She is as
innocent of this death as your father. Dargill's fate is not due to
the vendetta of the past."

"It must be due to something of the sort, Mr. Pallant. No one had any
interest in killing so harmless a man."

"No one in this neighbourhood, you mean."

"Yes; I have lived here all my life, and I know everything about my
guardian. He had few friends, and lived quietly among his books and
flowers. Beyond his constant fear lest my father should find him out,
I never saw him distressed in any way. And in some things Mr. Edermont
was as transparent as a child. If he had been threatened by any person
about here, I should have known of it."

"Then you think his death must be due to what took place twenty years
ago?"

"Don't you think so yourself, Mr. Pallant?"

"No, Miss Carew, I do not," replied the red-haired man quietly. "If
your father had lived I might have held a different opinion. But,
knowing the story of the past, you can see for yourself that,
excepting Carew, no one had any motive or desire to kill Dargill."

"Then what is your own theory?" asked Dora, rather confounded by this
argument.

"Burglary. Yes! Mr. Edermont was known to be rich; this house is in a
lonely situation, and I dare say the burglar made himself acquainted
with the garrison of the mansion. Two women and one old man--small
odds against a sturdy villain. Inspector Jedd, of Canterbury, is also
of my opinion. The burglar, or burglars, broke in, ransacked the desk,
killed Edermont, who interrupted them, and then bolted. That is my
theory, Miss Carew."

"I do not agree with you," replied Dora calmly; "you forget that
nothing was taken out of the bureau but that manuscript containing the
story of the past."

"How do you know that the manuscript was in the bureau?"

"Mr. Edermont said so in his will."

"Nevertheless, he might have changed its hiding-place," said Pallant
coolly, "or my information that his enemy was dead might have induced
him to burn it as useless. With the death of Carew ceased all
necessity to keep that story in writing. And again, Miss Carew, how do
you know but that money or jewels may have been hidden in the bureau?"

"It is possible, but not probable," replied Dora cautiously; "I don't
think Mr. Edermont kept anything there save bills and letters. No
doubt he preserved also the packet of letters you wished to obtain."

"And which he gave to Lady Burville," said Pallant. "Very possibly. I
was vexed at not getting those letters."

"What information did they contain?"

"Much that I know, and you don't," answered Pallant; "they related to
you."

"To me!" cried Dora in surprise. "What about me?"

"Ah!" said Pallant grimly, "that is exactly what I wanted to find out.
However, Lady Burville has them now, and she'll keep them."

He made this speech in a tone of such genuine regret that Dora saw he
was in earnest. It was no use questioning him upon matters of which he
was ignorant, so she changed the subject.

"You warned me once against Allen Scott," said she, after a pause.
"Did that mean you believed him to be guilty?"

"No. At the time I made the remark Edermont was alive. Why I warned
you was to make you give up the idea of marriage with him. I know from
Lady Burville that Scott was here on the night the crime was
committed; but for all that I do not believe him to be guilty."

"I am thankful to hear you say so, Mr. Pallant."

"You need not be," replied Pallant coldly. "If I thought Scott was
guilty, I should have no hesitation in denouncing him. But I do not
see what motive he had to commit so terrible a crime. He could not win
you for a wife by doing so; he could not gain a fortune, and he would
be running into danger without hope of reward. No; Allen Scott is
innocent."

"I believe he is myself," said Dora emphatically; "but you know, Mr.
Pallant, he refuses to tell me the secret which Mr. Edermont confided
to him, and which prevents our marriage."

"He is quite right to do so, Miss Carew. I know that secret also, and
it would do you no good to learn it. Besides, that knowledge had
nothing to do with the death of Mr. Edermont."

"But what about the paper taken out of the bureau?"

"If it was not destroyed," said Pallant, "it is hard to say what
became of it. The manuscript, as we are told by the will, contained
the story of Mr. Edermont's past life. Now, through Carew I know that
story, and therefore the contents of that paper. Excepting Carew
himself, I know no one who would have killed your guardian for the
possession of that written information."

"But undoubtedly the murder was committed to gain possession of the
manuscript."

"We don't agree on that point," said Pallant; "but granting for the
sake of argument it was so, that is exactly why I can't name the
assassin. If the possession of that paper was essential to his safety,
if his name was mentioned in it in connection with the past of Mr.
Edermont, I am ignorant of some of the past. Evidently Carew did not
tell me all."

"It is just as well he did not," said Dora, curling her lip; "you have
made bad use of what you do know."

"Oh, a man must live, you know," retorted Pallant coolly, as he rose
to take his leave. "I prefer to get money without work, if I can. We
all do."

"I'll put a stop to your----"

"Quite right," was the insolent answer, "if you can; but you see, my
dear young lady, you can't."

After which remark Pallant bowed himself out of the room. Dora
accompanied him as far as the gate, and as he passed through she asked
him a question which had been in her mind all the time of the
interview. "Why did you come down here?" she asked abruptly. "It was
not to condole with me."

"No, it wasn't," candidly admitted Pallant; "but I want fifty thousand
pounds, and I thought you might help me to get it."

"I decline to do so," said Dora coldly; "and I don't see how I can
help you."

"As you decline to give your aid," said Pallant quietly, "there is no
necessity to discuss the matter. But I fancied you might be able to
tell me something about Mr. Joad."

"You don't think he killed Edermont?"

"Why not? Certainly I did not know his name in connection with Mr.
Edermont's past. But for all that he might have killed his patron."

"For what reason, Mr. Pallant?"

"That is just where I require to be enlightened by you."

"I am afraid I cannot enlighten you," she replied, "and I would not if
I could. There is no sense in believing Joad killed my guardian. In
the first place, far from being desirable, Mr. Edermont's death was a
bad thing to happen for Joad's comfort. In the second, Mr. Joad was in
his cottage at one o'clock in the morning, as was proved by Mr. Pride.
To my own knowledge, the murder was committed about that time, so Mr.
Joad could not have been the assassin."

"It all seems clear enough," said Pallant, preparing to climb into the
trap which was waiting for him; "but, all the same, I mistrust Joad.
You say the murder was committed at one o'clock. Joad says he was in
his cottage at one o'clock, and calls upon Mr. Pride to substantiate
his statement. Very good. We will believe all that. But," added
Pallant, gathering up the reins, "your clock in the hall might have
been wrong."

After which remark he raised his hat, and drove off smiling. Dora did
not think that his remark about the clock was worthy of consideration,
for she had set her watch by it before retiring to bed on the night of
the second of August. It was right then, and no one could possibly
have put it wrong in the meantime. Joad had proved his alibi clearly
enough, and there was no possible suspicion that he was guilty of the
crime, especially as its committal had not been to his advantage.

Curiously enough, Joad knew nothing of Pallant's visit, nor did Dora
intend to inform him of it. He had been in the library all the
morning, reading ancient books, and sipping brandy out of the flask he
carried constantly in the tail pocket of his dingy coat. Not wishing
to disturb him in the midst of his pleasures, Dora returned to her own
sitting-room, and sat down to think. While thus employed, Mrs. Tice
entered the room with a letter in her hand. She looked distressed.

"My dear young lady," she said hastily, "I am afraid I must return to
Mr. Allen. He is ill."

"Ill!" cried Dora, jumping up. "What is the matter with him?"

"I fancy he has fretted himself into a kind of fever," said Mrs. Tice,
glancing at the letter. "This has just been sent over. Emma wrote it."
Emma was a servant in Scott's house. "Mr. Allen did not want me to be
told, but Emma thought it best I should know. I must really return and
nurse my dear Mr. Allen," concluded Mrs. Tice, smoothing down her
apron with trembling hands.

"You shall go this afternoon," cried Dora. "I'll send Meg to the hotel
for a trap, and we will go over together."

Mrs. Tice smiled and looked grateful.

"I hope you won't think me unkind, Miss Carew?"

"Oh dear no! Meg will protect me against Joad," said Dora. And, after
a pause, she added abruptly: "You do not ask me what I was doing in
London yesterday."

"I did not think you wished to let me know, miss. You refused to tell
me last night."

"I know I did; but I'll tell you now, because you may be able to help
me. Mrs. Tice," said Dora solemnly, "I have seen Lady Burville."

"Yes, miss; and what of that?" asked Mrs. Tice cheerfully.

"Do you know who Lady Burville is?"

"I know nothing about her, miss, save she's a patient of Mr. Allen's."

"Then I'll tell you, Mrs. Tice: she is my mother."

The housekeeper's ruddy face paled, and she sat down on the nearest
chair.

"Your mother, Miss Carew! Are you sure?"

"I am certain. Lady Burville informed me of the relationship, and told
me her story."

"In that case," said Mrs. Tice with emphasis, "you know now why a
marriage between you and Mr. Allen is impossible."

"That is just what I do not know," was Dora's reply. "My mother did
not tell me all her story. Now, I want you to relate what she kept
hidden."

"Tell me what you have heard, miss, and I'll see," said Mrs. Tice,
after a pause.

"Very good," said Dora, taking a seat near the old dame. "I'll tell my
story, you will tell yours, and between us we may save Allen's life."



CHAPTER XX.
THE SINS OF THE FATHER.


When Dora made that last remark, the face of Mrs. Tice grew red and
indignant. She looked at the girl with a fiery eye, and demanded
crossly what she meant by saying such a thing. Knowing the attachment
of the housekeeper to Allen, this was natural enough.

"The fact is," explained Dora, "Mr. Joad accuses Allen of murdering
Mr. Edermont."

"And what next, I wonder!" cried Mrs. Tice in high dudgeon; "it is
more likely Mr. Joad killed the man himself! Can he substantiate his
accusation?"

"He can state that Allen was in this house on the night of the
murder."

"That does not say Mr. Allen committed the crime," retorted Mrs. Tice,
her face a shade paler. "Mr. Allen told me in confidence that he had
seen the dead body, and had kept silent for his own sake. I quite
agreed with him that it was the best thing to do. And he told you
also, Miss Carew?"

"Yes, he told me also; but he did not inform Joad."

"Then how does Joad know that Mr. Allen was here on that night?"

"He saw him from the door of his cottage," said Dora quietly; "but you
need not be afraid for Allen, Mrs. Tice. I can save him, and close
Joad's mouth."

"But how, my dear?" asked the housekeeper, greatly perplexed.

"By becoming the wife of Mr. Joad."

"Mercy on me, Miss Carew! You would not do that!" exclaimed Mrs. Tice,
lifting up her hands in horror.

"I won't do it unless I am forced to," said Dora gloomily. "But
supposing Joad denounces Allen, how can he defend himself? I know that
he is innocent; but his presence here on that night looks guilty."

"Appearances are against him, certainly. But if Mr. Allen is arrested,
he will have to save his life by denouncing your father as the
murderer."

"My father is not the murderer."

"I say that he is!" cried Mrs. Tice emphatically. "For twenty years
George Carew has been hunting down Mr. Dargill--I suppose Lady
Burville told you his real name?--and he caught him at last and killed
him."

"You are wrong," said Dora, shaking her head. "I thought as you did
before Mr. Pallant arrived. He undeceived me."

"What does Mr. Pallant know about it?"

"He knows everything. He met my father in San Francisco two years ago,
and my father told him the whole story before he died."

"Died! Do you mean to say that George Carew is dead?"

"He is dead and buried."

"Captain Carew dead!" muttered Mrs. Tice in a bewildered tone;
"dead--and without avenging himself on the man who stole his wife!
Then, who killed Mr. Dargill--or rather, Mr. Edermont?"

"I do not know. That is just what I wish to find out."

"No one else had any reason to kill him," said the housekeeper in
dismay, "and yet he is dead--dead--murdered. You are right, my dear,"
she added in a firm tone; "this is a serious matter for Mr. Allen.
Joad hates him so that he would willingly perjure himself to see my
dear boy hanged. But we must save him, you and I; we must save him,
Miss Carew."

"To do so, we must understand one another," said Dora; "you must tell
me all."

"I shall do so," cried Mrs. Tice energetically--"yes. Hitherto I have
said nothing, out of consideration for your feelings. Now I shall tell
you why Captain Carew--your father, my dear--hated Mr. Edermont so
deeply. But first let me hear what your mother revealed. I may be able
to relate those things which she kept hidden from you."

Thus adjured to confess, Dora related the story of the past, as told
to her by Lady Burville--she could not bear even to think of her as
"mother." Mrs. Tice listened in severe silence, only nodding her head
now and then at some special point in the story. When Dora concluded,
she sat quiet for two minutes, then gravely delivered herself of her
opinion.

"I see that you do not look upon this woman as a mother, my dear young
lady," she said solemnly, "and you are right to do so. May I speak
plainly?"

"As plainly as you like, Mrs. Tice. I have no filial feeling for the
mother who deserted me, and left her helpless child to be brought up
by a stranger."

"Mr. Dargill was scarcely a stranger," corrected Mrs. Tice: "he was
your mother's second husband, as she told you. Oh, heavens! you are
quite right! Mrs. Carew, as I knew her, was always a light-headed,
selfish woman, given over to vanity and pleasure. She cared only for
money and idleness, and I'll be bound she was only too glad to get rid
of you, so as to give herself a chance of a third marriage as an
unencumbered widow. Yet what she came through would have sobered many
a woman. But there, Mrs. Carew was always a feeble, frail coquette.
She loved only one thing in the world then, and she loves only one
thing now--herself."

"Was what she told me true?"

"Oh yes; the tale she told is true enough, but it is trimmed and cut
to suit her own ends. She was ashamed to tell you everything, I
suppose. A wicked woman she is, Miss Carew, for all that she is your
mother. Owing to her coquetry and love of money, poor Mr. Dargill came
to his end as surely as if she had killed him herself."

"We don't know that yet," said Dora thoughtfully. "Remember, it was
not her first husband who killed him."

"That is true," assented Mrs. Tice. "Nevertheless, I can think of no
other person who had an interest in your guardian's death. But I had
best tell you my story, Miss Carew, and you can judge for yourself."

"Will your story enable me to discover the real murderer?"

"I don't say that," replied Mrs. Tice reluctantly; "as I said before,
you must judge for yourself."

She took her spectacles off and laid them on the table; then, folding
her mittened hands on her lap, she began the amended version of that
story which Lady Burville had told to Dora. The missing portion,
supplied by the memory of the housekeeper, was by far the most
exciting episode of the tale.

"The whole affair took place at Christchurch, in Hampshire," she said
slowly; "you were right in your guess as to the locality, Miss Carew.
I was born and brought up and married there, but twenty-five years ago
my husband died, and to support myself I had to go out again to
service. Dr. and Mrs. Scott took me in as a nurse to their newly-born
child--Mr. Allen, that is. His mother died shortly after giving him
birth, and his bringing up was left to me. Dr. Scott took little heed
of the child. He was a handsome man, clever in his profession, but
fond of going about the country to pleasure parties, and of flirting
with his lady patients. He was said to be deeply in love with Mrs.
Carew."

"Was my father with her then?"

"No, my dear. This was two years after Mr. Allen was born, and your
mother was not married then. A Miss Treherne she was, a pretty,
fair-haired girl, shallow and frivolous. She had three suitors: Dr.
Scott was one, Mr. Julian Dargill was the second, and Captain Carew
the third."

"Was Mr. Edermont rich then?"

"Mr. Julian Dargill was rich," corrected Mrs. Tice. "I prefer to talk
of Mr. Edermont by his real name, my dear. He was a weak, effeminate
little man, with a noble head, and even then his hair was of a silvery
whiteness. It was your description that made me recognise him on the
day I showed you his picture."

"He wore no beard then?" said Dora, remembering the portrait.

"No; he was clean shaven. No doubt he afterwards adopted the beard as
a disguise to escape Captain Carew. Well, Miss Treherne hesitated
between the three suitors for many months. At last her parents decided
for her, and for some reason forced her to marry Carew. Why, I do not
know, for the Captain was not rich; he was of a violent temper, and
usually he was absent at sea. However, she married him and became Mrs.
Carew, and shortly after the honeymoon her husband went to sea. While
he was absent Mrs. Carew carried on with Mr. Dargill and Dr. Scott. I
must say she behaved very badly, and public opinion was quite against
her--so much, indeed, that six months afterwards she left
Christchurch."

"Had she received news of my father's supposed death then?" said Dora,
flushing a little at the disapproving way in which Mrs. Tice spoke of
her mother.

"Yes; the mate of Captain Carew's ship was saved, and came home to
tell the story. Then Mrs. Carew went away with what small property she
had. It was supposed she went to London, and it was noticed that Mr.
Dargill left Christchurch after she did. When she reappeared at
Christchurch she brought you, Miss Carew, and her new husband, Mr.
Dargill."

"That was a year afterwards?"

"Yes, it was quite a year, if not more," said Mrs. Tice. "But she
married Mr. Dargill as soon as she could after the report of her first
husband's death."

"Was my mother in love with Mr. Dargill?"

"In love!" echoed the housekeeper contemptuously. "She was never in
love with anyone but herself."

"Are you not rather hard on her, Mrs. Tice?" said Dora, reflecting
that after all this despised woman was her mother, and entitled to
some consideration.

"Far from it, my dear young lady," was the emphatic rejoinder of Mrs.
Tice; "indeed, out of pity for your position and feelings, I am
speaking as well as I can of her. But what can you think of a woman
who marries three husbands, and leaves her child to be brought up far
away from her? In all these twenty years, Miss Carew," added the old
dame, nodding, "I dare swear your mother has not given you a single
thought."

"She was willing enough to recognise me," said the girl, attempting a
defence of the indefensible.

"She made the best of a bad job, you mean," retorted Mrs. Tice. "If
you had not produced that brooch, and showed Lady Burville plainly
that she was in your power, she would never have acknowledged the
relationship. She knew you could not denounce your own mother, and
that is why she spoke up."

"She might wish to make amends for her conduct."

Mrs. Tice shook her head.

"Laura Carew, Laura Dargill, Laura Burville, whatever you like to call
her," she said, "is not the kind of woman to regret her conduct in any
way. No, no; don't you deceive yourself. Lady Burville was in a trap,
and she used her knowledge of your birth to get out of it."

"But all this is beside my question," said Dora, wearied of this
constant blame; "I asked you if my mother was in love with Mr.
Dargill?"

"No, she was not. What woman could love that miserable little
creature? You saw enough of him, Miss Carew, and I am sure you neither
loved nor respected him."

"No, I certainly did not," said Dora gravely; "and yet, seeing that he
brought me up out of charity, I should certainly have paid him more
attention."

"He acted well by you, I don't deny," answered Mrs. Tice reluctantly;
"and it was good of him to help Lady Burville by taking charge of you.
But what I cannot understand is why he did not stay with her."

"How could he, Mrs. Tice? For, in the first place, his marriage was
void, as my father was alive. And in the second, you may be sure that
Captain Carew kept a watch on my mother to see if Mr. Dargill would
come near her. No doubt he thought to trap him in that way."

"Perhaps," replied Mrs. Tice ambiguously; "but if your father kept
watch upon his wife, why did he permit her to marry Sir John
Burville?"

"I cannot say," said Dora, colouring; she knew her mother's opinion on
that point. "But my mother thought that Captain Carew was dead, else
you may be sure that she would not have married again."

"I am not so sure of that," grumbled Mrs. Tice. "Your mother would do
anything for money. I remember that she took----"

"Spare me further details," said Dora, blushing, "and finish your
story. I have not heard yet why Allen cannot marry me."

"I will say no more, then," said Mrs. Tice hastily; "but, to make a
long story short, Captain Carew was not dead, and returned to claim
his wife. As I have said, he was madly jealous of his wife, and he had
a fearful temper; when he heard that his wife had married again, he
swore he would kill her second husband. Dargill was away at the time,
and Captain Carew kept such a watch on his wife that she could send no
warning. He wished to kill Dargill, who was expected back by a late
train. All this came out at the inquest, my dear. It was Dargill's
habit to cross the lawn and enter the drawing-room by the French
window. As afterwards was stated by the servants, Captain Carew found
this out, and hid himself in the drawing-room with a pistol. He saw a
man approaching at nine o'clock, and as the stranger stepped into the
room he shot him."

"Shot Mr. Dargill?"

"No, Miss Carew," said Mrs. Tice, shaking her head; "he made a
mistake. He shot Dr. Scott."

"Dr. Scott--Allen's father!" cried Dora, rising to her feet with a
pale face.

"Yes, Mr. Allen's father. Mrs. Dargill, your mother, had sent for him
to see how her second husband was to be saved from the fury of Captain
Carew. He fell into the trap laid for Mr. Dargill, and was shot
through the heart. Then Captain Carew fled, and was never caught. It
was supposed that he had gone to the Continent. And now, Miss Carew,
you know why Mr. Allen cannot marry you."

"Because--because of that murder!" gasped Dora in broken tones.

"Yes. Mr. Allen cannot marry the daughter of the man who killed his
father in cold blood."



CHAPTER XXI.
SO NEAR, AND YET SO FAR.


Mrs. Tice was right: marriage with Allen was out of the question. He
could not make the daughter of a murderer his wife; no power, human or
divine, would sanction such a union. Dora no longer wondered at
Allen's strange silence. It was natural that he should shrink from
telling her so terrible a story, and from branding her father with the
terrible name of assassin. She remembered how she had been glad to
know that her father had died without killing Edermont; that he had
gone to his account without blood on his hands. No wonder Pallant had
chuckled at her ignorance, and had forborne to enlighten her. George
Carew had taken a life in cold blood, with deliberation and malice
aforethought. She, Dora Carew, was the daughter of a criminal.

Dora said little to Mrs. Tice after the story had been told. Indeed,
there was nothing to say; for she knew her fate only too well. She
could never marry Allen; and if she did not become Joad's wife, to
save her lover from arrest, and possibly condemnation, she would be
forced to remain single for the rest of her life, lonely and
sorrowful. The sins of the father had been visited on the child, and
Dora was reaping the harvest of blood which George Carew had sown.
Morally speaking, the end of all things had come to Dora.

"I shall go over to Canterbury with you," she said to Mrs. Tice, "and
say good-bye to Allen. I can never marry him; but I can at least see
him for the last time, and tell him that he is safe from Joad."

"But, my dear young lady, you will not marry that wicked man?"

"If I can save Allen in no other way, I must," said Dora firmly.
"Consider his position, Mrs. Tice, should Joad accuse him of the
crime! He quarrelled with Edermont, he came here at the very hour of
the murder, and when he left the house Edermont was dead. To all this
circumstantial evidence he can oppose only his bare word. I tell you
he is in danger of being hanged, Mrs. Tice. Nothing is left for me to
do save to marry Joad. He dare not speak then."

"The real assassin may be found yet," suggested Mrs. Tice hopefully.

"There is little chance of that, I am afraid. When all these hundreds
of men, stimulated by that gigantic reward, have failed to track the
murderer, how can I hope to succeed? No, Mrs. Tice; the name of the
criminal will never be known, so it only remains for me to see Allen
for the last time, and return here to be Joad's wife."

The housekeeper sighed. This indeed appeared the sole way out of the
difficulty, and she could offer no advice on the subject. It went to
her heart that Dora should marry so disreputable a creature; but as
the reason for such marriage was the safety of Allen Scott, she was
content that it should take place. In her love for Allen, the old
nurse would have sacrificed a hundred women. Dora's fate was hard; she
admitted that, but it was necessary.

Allen proved less ill than they expected to find him. He was annoyed
that Mrs. Tice had been sent for, although he was glad to see both her
and Dora. Nevertheless, he protested against being considered a sick
man, or that he should take to his bed.

"I'm not well enough to go about my work," he said candidly; "at the
same time, I am not sufficiently ill to retire to a sick-room. I shall
be all right in a day or two."

He did not look as though he would recover in so short a time. In
default of bed, he was lying on a sofa in the dining-room, covered
with a rug, and he appeared to be thoroughly ill. His eyes were
bright, his hands were burning, and every now and again he shivered
with cold, as though suffering from an attack of ague. Mrs. Tice made
him some beef-tea, and insisted upon his taking it, which he did after
much persuasion.

"You see, Dora," he said, with a smile, "the doctor has to be
prescribed for by his old nurse. All my science and knowledge goes for
nothing in comparison with Mrs. Tice's remedies."

"I know what is common-sense," said Mrs. Tice, smiling also. "Lie
still, Mr. Allen, and keep warm. Miss Carew will sit with you here
while I look after the house. I dare say it has been dreadfully
neglected in my absence."

"That is hardly a compliment to my management," said Allen, trying to
smile.

"Oh, as to that, no gentleman can look after a house, Mr. Allen. It's
woman's work to see to such things. Let me manage at present, and when
I am gone your wife can take my place."

"Wife!" echoed Dr. Scott, with a sigh. "I shall never marry."

Dora said nothing, but bent her head to hide the despair written on
her face. Feeling that she had said too much, Mrs. Tice hastened to
excuse herself; in doing so, she only succeeded in making matters
worse. The name of Joad occurred in the midst of her excuses, and
Allen made a feeble gesture of displeasure.

"I wish you would not mention that creature," he said, clasping Dora's
hand. "I hate him as much as Dora does. He is her enemy and mine."

"But, for all that, I must marry him, Allen."

"No. You must not sacrifice yourself."

"Mr. Allen, be sensible!" cried Mrs. Tice. "You stand in a dreadful
position; you are at the mercy of Joad. Should he speak you are lost."

"I can tell my story."

Dora shook her head.

"It will not be believed in the face of Joad's evidence," said she
dolefully. "And then the quarrel you had with Mr. Edermont gives
colour to his accusation."

Dr. Scott made a gesture of dissent, but Mrs. Tice supported Dora.

"She is right, Mr. Allen. If Joad speaks you are lost. Talk it over
with Miss Carew, sir, and I'll hear what you think when I come back.
Just now I must look after the house."

When she left the room, Allen waited until the door was closed, then
turned to look at Dora. She was sitting by the side of the sofa with a
drooping head, and a sad expression on her face. Moved by her silent
sorrow, and ascribing it rightly to the unhappy position in which they
stood to one another, he took her hands within his own.

"Do not look so sad, Dora," he said softly; "I shall be better
shortly. It is the knowledge of what was told to me by Mr. Edermont
which has made me ill. But I shall recover, my dear, and bear my
troubles like a man."

Dora burst into tears.

"I can only bear my troubles like a woman," she sobbed. "Oh, Allen,
Allen! what have we done, you and I, that we should be made so
unhappy? You are in a very dangerous position, and I can save you only
by marrying a man I detest."

"Dora, you must not marry Joad. I cannot accept safety at the price of
your lifelong misery."

"What does it matter about my marrying that creature?" she said,
drying her tears. "I can never become your wife."

Allen groaned.

"True, true; ah, how true it is that the sins of the father are
visited on the children! It is shameful that we should suffer as we do
for the evil of others."

"We cannot help our position, Allen. There is no hope."

"You are right," said Allen in a despairing tone; "there is no hope.
Ah, Dora, if you only knew the truth!"

"I do know the truth."

"Who told you?" he asked, sitting up with a look of astonishment.

"Lady Burville told me that----"

"Lady Burville!" he interrupted sharply; "what does she know?"

"Everything. And it is no wonder, seeing that she is the root of all
the evil."

"How do you mean that she is the root of all the evil?"

"Lady Burville is my mother, Allen."

"Great heavens! Your mother--Mrs. Carew!"

"Yes. Mrs. Carew, Mrs. Dargill, Lady Burville--whatever you like to
call her. I know her story, Allen, and what she failed to relate Mrs.
Tice told. I know that my father killed yours, and that we can never
marry."

"Lady Burville--your mother told you this!" he stammered; "and I was
so careful to hide the truth from you!"

"I know you spared me, in the goodness of your heart, Allen, but it
was better that I should know the truth. Yes, I went up to town; I
restored the pearl brooch to Lady Burville--I cannot call her my
mother--and I heard her story."

"Dora!" Allen seized her hand again. "Did your mother kill Mr.
Edermont?"

"No. Thank God, she is innocent of that crime!"

"Then how was it I found her brooch by the dead body?"

"She dropped it in the room when she went to see Mr. Edermont on that
night."

"But why did she see Edermont?"

"He sent for her to deliver up a packet of letters she had written to
him. It is a long story, Allen, and a sad one. Listen, and I will tell
you all."

Allen signified his desire to hear the story, and listened eagerly
while she told him what her mother had related. To make the
information complete, Dora passed on to the history of the murder, as
told by Mrs. Tice. When she finished, and Allen was in possession of
all the facts, she waited for him to comment thereon. This he was not
long in doing.

"I see that you know all, Dora," he said with a melancholy smile.
"Yes, this is what Mr. Edermont told me on that day. I lost my head
when he ended; I believe I advanced towards him in a threatening
manner, to thrash him for the share he had taken in the matter. It was
then that he threw up the window and cried out that I wished to kill
him. Probably I was wrong to act as I did, as the miserable little
creature was not responsible for the death of my father; but I did not
consider that at the moment. When he cried out to you and Joad, I left
the room, and the house. You remember, I would not speak to you when I
went. I could not, my dear; the revelation had proved too much for my
self-control. I felt half-mad, for I saw that I had lost you for
ever."

"And why did you go up to London?" asked Dora anxiously.

"Edermont referred me to a file of the _Morning Planet_, containing an
account of the tragedy which ended in the death of my father."

"You went up to see an account of your father's murder?"

"Yes. I could not bring myself to believe that matters were so bad as
he made out. But in London I went to the office of the paper; I turned
up the report, and it was true enough. Your father shot mine, as was
stated by Edermont. Afterwards I went down to Christchurch, and found
out the rest of the story from an old housekeeper."

"Did you learn that Lady Burville was my mother?"

"No: nor did Edermont tell me so. Why, I do not know. He only stated
the bare facts of the case, and how my father had been killed. Now you
know why I told you nothing, Dora--why I kept silent. I was afraid
lest your father should be arrested for the double murder, and bring
shame and pain on you, my poor dear."

"The double murder?"

"Yes. George Carew killed my father; and, in accordance with his oath,
I believe he murdered Mr. Edermont--found him out after many years and
killed him."

"You are wrong, Allen. I told you how Pallant blackmailed my mother,
and learnt the whole story from my wretched father. Well, Captain
Carew died two years ago in San Francisco."

"Are you sure?"

"I am certain. He died in Mr. Pallant's arms. Pallant has no reason to
lie over that story."

"Then, if Carew did not kill Edermont, who did?"

"Ah," said Dora with a weary sigh, "that is just what we must find
out, if only to save your life and prevent my marrying Joad."

"Dora," said Allen after a pause, "do you know why Pallant wanted that
packet of letters?"

"Yes. He desired to confirm his possession of my mother. By
threatening to show the letters to Sir John Burville, he hoped to get
whatever money he wished."

"The scoundrel! What particular information did the letters contain to
render them so valuable?"

"I don't know. Mr. Pallant hinted that they were about me."

"About you?" Allen reflected for a few moments. "Dora," he said at
length, "I dare say those letters passed between your mother and your
guardian after the tragedy at Christchurch. Probably they contained a
full account of the crime, and details as to how your mother parted
with you. In fact, I believe they contained a summary of Lady
Burville's life. If Pallant had obtained those letters, no wonder he
could have extorted money. If they had been shown to Sir John
Burville, his wife--your mother--could have denied nothing. Her own
handwriting would prove the falsity of her denial."

"I quite understand," said Dora; "but Mr. Edermont was wise enough to
give them to my mother himself."

"And that is just it!" cried Allen. "Supposing Lady Burville had
unconsciously let Pallant know that she was going to the Red House to
receive the letters; supposing he followed her, and was too late to
intercept the packet. Do you think he might have killed Edermont in a
fit of rage at losing the letters?"

"No, Allen, I do not think so for a moment. Mr. Pallant is too
cautious to act so foolishly. Besides, if it was as you say, he could
easily have followed Lady Burville along that lonely road, and have
forced her to give him the letters. No. Whoever killed my guardian, it
was not Mr. Pallant."

"Then who is guilty?" asked Allen in despair.

"Ah!" said Dora with a melancholy sigh. "That secret is worth fifty
thousand pounds and your life, my dear Allen."



CHAPTER XXII.
WHAT DORA DISCOVERED.

When Dora took leave of Allen, she returned to the Red House with the
firm conviction that to save the doctor she would be obliged to marry
Joad. In the face of this old man's evidence, she did not see how
Allen could defend himself. It was true that he could produce the
letter of Mr. Edermont, giving him a midnight invitation to his study;
but such production would not mend matters. It would only show that he
had been present at the very hour of the murder, and would confirm the
evidence of Joad. Once that was proved, what plea could he put forward
to prove his innocence? None. A quarrel might have taken place on the
subject of their previous conversation, and Allen might have killed
Edermont in a fit of rage. That was the view, Dora truly believed,
which the judge and jury would take of the matter. And on the face of
it what view could be more reasonable?

It was no use bringing Lady Burville into the question, for her
evidence could throw no light on the subject. When she left the house
Edermont was alive; when Scott arrived the old man was dead, and there
was nothing to show that anyone had been in the study between Lady
Burville's departure and Dr. Scott's arrival. Medical evidence could
prove that Lady Burville was too feeble a woman to strike so terrible
a blow, of too nervous a character to carry out so brutal a crime. No;
if Lady Burville came into court, it would be to save herself, and to
condemn Allen. Under these circumstances, it only remained to hush the
matter up by granting Joad's wish. Dora hated the man, but for the
sake of Allen she decided to marry him. Yet, as she still had a few
days' grace before giving him his answer, she resolved to say nothing
of her resolution at present. It might be that in the interval the
real criminal might be discovered.

All that night Dora tossed and tossed on her bed, courting sleep in
vain. She was like a rat in a trap, running round and round in the
endeavour to escape. She would have done anything rather than consent
to this marriage with Joad; but unless some miracle intervened, she
saw no chance of escaping the ceremony. To be saddled with such a
husband! to live in constant companionship with such a satyr! The poor
girl wept bitterly at the very thought. What would she feel when Joad
demanded payment of the price of his silence?

Towards morning she fell into an uneasy slumber, and awoke more
despondent than ever. It was with a listless air that she descended to
breakfast, and only with a strong effort could she force herself to
eat. Meg Gance, who brought in the meal, informed her Mr. Joad was
already in the library, engrossed in his daily occupation.

"He come here afore nine," said Meg, who was a large, stupid
countrywoman, with more muscle than brains; "it wasn't so when master
lived, was it, Miss Dora?"

"No. But I don't suppose it matters much now when Mr. Joad comes,
Meg."

"I dunno 'bout that," said the servant, putting her large hands on her
hips; "it takes long to clean up bookshop, it do. I rarely get it done
afore nine. I declare, miss, when Mr. Joad come this morn, I couldn't
believe 'twas so late. Thought I, Clock's gone wrong again."

"What clock?" asked Dora, remembering the strange remark made by
Pallant.

"Lor, miss, how sharp you speak!" said Meg, rather startled by the
abruptness of the question. "Why, clock in hall, for sure!"

"Was it ever wrong, Meg?"

"A whole hour, miss; though how it could have lost hour in night I
dunno. But it was ten when I looked at it in morning, while kitchen
clock was nine. Too fast by hour, Miss Dora."

"On what night was it wrong?" asked Dora, eagerly feeling that she was
on the verge of a discovery.

"Why, miss, it went wrong on night master had head bashed. Not as I
wonder, miss, for my aunt had husband as died, and clock--her clock,
miss--struck thirteen. Seems as clock knows of deaths and funerals,"
concluded Meg reflectively.

"Was the clock in the hall wrong by an hour when you saw it in the
morning after the crime had been committed?"

"For sure, Miss Dora. But Lor' bless you, miss, it don't matter. I
jes' put it right by kitchen clock, as has never lost a minute since I
came here, and that's six years, miss."

"Why did you not mention that the clock was wrong when you gave your
evidence?"

Meg stared at her mistress.

"I never thought, miss," she said gravely; "and I wasn't asked about
clock. It didn't matter, I hope?"

"No," replied Dora carelessly, "it didn't matter. You need say nothing
about it to Mr. Joad, or, indeed, to anyone."

"I aren't much of a chat at any time, miss," cried Meg, tossing her
head; "and as for Mr. Joad, I'd as lief speak to blackbeetle! I won't
say naught, bless you, no, miss."

"Very well, Meg. You can clear away."

This Meg did with considerable clatter and clamour; while Dora left
the room, and without putting on a hat walked slowly across the lawn,
in the dewy freshness of the morning. On reaching the beehive chair
under the cedar, which was Joad's favourite outdoor study, the girl
sat down, and looked contemplatively at the scene before her. A space
of sunlit lawn, with a girdle of flaming rhododendrons fringing it on
the right; tall poplars, musical with birds, bordering the ivy-draped
wall; and beyond the wall itself the red-tiled roof of Joad's cottage,
showing in picturesque contrast against the delicate azure of an
August sky. After regarding the scene to right and left, as it lay
steeped in the yellow sunlight, Dora's gaze finally rested on the
glimpse of Joad's house. There it stayed; and her thoughts reverted to
the remark about the clock made by Pallant, and to the later
explanation given by Meg Gance. What connection these things had with
Joad may be gathered from the girl's thoughts.

They ran something after this fashion: "Could it be possible that Joad
had killed Edermont? There seemed to be no motive for his committing
the crime, and he was not the kind of man to run needlessly into
danger. Yet the discovery about the clock was certainly very strange.
I knew it was correct on the night of the murder," meditated Dora. "I
set my watch by it before I went upstairs. That was at half-past nine,
and my watch has been right ever since. When Meg looked at it in the
morning, it was an hour wrong; therefore, somebody must have put it
wrong with intent. It is impossible that so excellent a clock could
suddenly slip for an hour, and then go on again. Could Joad have been
in the house on that night, and have put it on an hour? At the time of
the murder the clock struck one, and at that hour Joad, according to
his own showing and Mr. Pride's corroboration, was in the cottage. If
the clock had been put wrong, the murder must have taken place at
twelve, since it was an hour fast in the morning. There was ample time
for Joad to commit the crime at twelve, and be back in his cottage by
one."

Dora got up, and walked restlessly to and fro. She could not quite
understand why the clock should have been put on an hour, so as to
give a false time, when there was no one to hear it in the night. That
she had woke up and heard it strike was quite an accident, although
there had been nights when she had heard every hour, every chime,
strike till dawn. Suddenly she remembered that once she had said
something to Joad about her sleepless nights. On the impulse of the
moment she walked into the library.

"Mr. Joad," she said to the old man, who was reading near the window,
"that hall clock."

It seemed to Dora that a pallor crept over the red face of the man she
addressed. However, he looked up quietly enough, and spoke to her with
the greatest calmness.

"What about the hall clock, Miss Dora?" he asked in a puzzled tone.

"It is disturbing me again. I really must have it removed. In the dead
hours I hear it strike in the most ghostly, graveyard fashion. As it
did on that night," she concluded under her breath.

"Do you have many sleepless nights now?"

"How do you know that I have sleepless nights at all?" she asked
quickly.

Joad looked at her in surprise.

"You told me so yourself shortly before we lost Julian," he said
quietly. "It was toothache, was it not?"

"Yes--something of that sort," she answered carelessly. "But it is not
toothache now. Still, I lie awake thinking."

"Of me?" said Joad with a leer.

"The week is not yet over, Mr. Joad," she said coldly; "till the end
of it you have no right to ask me such a question. Good-bye for the
present; I am going out on my bicycle."

This was an excuse. Confident that Joad had altered the clock, on the
chance that she would hear it during her sleepless nights, she was
confident also that for such reason, and for a more terrible one, he
had been in the house on the night of the murder.

"He put on the clock so as to prove an alibi," she thought, wheeling
her bicycle down the path to the gate. "If he killed Edermont at
twelve o'clock--the right time when it struck one--he would have ample
opportunity of getting back to his cottage through the postern. I
quite believe that he was with Pride at one o'clock; but I also
believe he was in the study at twelve."

She had proved to her own satisfaction that Joad could have been in
the house; she wished to discover if he had killed Edermont. The
assassin had committed the crime to obtain the manuscript containing
the story of her guardian's life. If Joad were guilty, that manuscript
would be in his possession. This was why Dora excused herself on a
plea of riding her bicycle. She was determined to search Joad's
cottage, and find out if the manuscript was hidden there.

With this intent she hid the bicycle behind the hedge on the other
side of the road, and went to the cottage. There was plenty of time
for her to search, as Joad took his mid-day meal in the Red House and
never returned to his house until nine at night. She had the whole day
at her disposal, and determined to search in every corner for the
manuscript she believed he had hidden. If she found it, she would then
be able to prove Allen guiltless and Joad guilty. It would be a
magnificent revenge on her part. The man would be caught in his own
trap.

It can be easily guessed by what steps Dora had arrived at this
conclusion--the chance remark of Pallant anent the possibility of the
clock being wrong; the chance explanation of Meg which proved that the
clock was an hour fast on the morning after the murder had taken
place; the memory of her own remark to Joad about her sleepless
nights; and the conclusion that the old man had put the clock wrong
for purposes of his own. The inference to be drawn from these facts
was that Joad had been in the house on the night of the second of
August. If he had been in the house, it was probable that he had
killed Edermont, since Allen and Lady Burville, the only other people
who had been present at the same hour, were innocent. It had been
proved by sundry scraps of evidence that the murder had been committed
to obtain possession of the manuscript. Therefore, if Joad were
guilty, he must have hidden the fruits of his crime. Where? In the
cottage, without doubt.

The front door of the cottage was locked, so Dora went round to the
back. She knew that Joad was in the habit of hiding the key of the
back door under the water-butt, and sure enough she found it there. To
open the door and pass into his study was the work of a moment. So
here she was in the stronghold of the enemy. But where was the
manuscript?

The room was not very large, and lined on all four sides with books. A
writing-desk, littered with papers, stood before the single window,
and a few chairs were scattered round. There were also a horsehair
sofa, a small sideboard of varnished deal, three or four china
ornaments, and a little clock on the mantelpiece. The floor was
covered with straw matting, but what the pattern of the paper was like
no one could tell, for it was hidden completely by the books. The
whole apartment looked penurious in the extreme and very untidy. Books
lay on chairs and sofas, and the fireplace was filled with torn-up
letters, newspapers, and hastily scribbled manuscripts.

"The books first," decided Dora, after a look at this chaos.

There was no need to go through them one by one, for dust lay thickly
upon bindings and shelves. She had only to glance to see those which
had been disturbed within the last few weeks. Those that had been
taken down she examined carefully, but could find no trace of the
manuscript. She looked on the top of the bookcase, went down on her
knees to search the lower shelves, and still found nothing. At the end
of an hour Dora had gone through the whole library of Joad, but had
come across no trace of the wished-for paper. He had hidden it--always
presuming that it was in his possession--more cunningly than she had
thought.

"Now for the desk."

Another hour's search in drawers and pigeonholes and blotting-pad
likewise revealed nothing. Dora emptied out the wastepaper basket, and
sorted every scrap, and still she was unsuccessful. Then she lifted
portions of the matting, removed the cushions of the chairs, searched
the sideboard, and dived into the recesses of the sofa. All to no
purpose.

"Perhaps he has not got it after all," thought Dora, disappointed, "or
he has burnt it."

Burning suggested the fireplace; but she saw that there had not been a
fire for months in the grate. It then struck her that Mr. Joad might
have taken an idea from Poe's "Purloined Letter," and have hidden the
manuscript in some conspicuous place. The fireplace alone was
unsearched, so she went down on her knees and turned out the
disorderly mass of papers. Her patience was rewarded at last. From
under the heap she drew forth a crumpled mass of paper, foolscap size,
and spread it out carefully. Then she uttered a cry. "The Confession
of Julian Dargill, better known as Julian Edermont," she read. "Ah! I
was right. Here is the stolen story of the past, and Joad is the man
who killed my guardian."



CHAPTER XXIII.
THE MADNESS OF LAMBERT JOAD.


With the recovered manuscript in her hands, with the knowledge where
it had been found, and with the memory of the clock being wrong, Dora
felt convinced that Joad was guilty of the crime. Without doubt he had
designed to kill Edermont on that night, and had prepared the alibi so
as to prove his innocence should such proof be needed. But what was
his motive for the perpetration of so detestable a crime? Why had he
stolen the manuscript, and why had he not destroyed so dangerous a
piece of evidence? Dora believed that the answer to these questions
was to be found in the manuscript itself. The reading of it would
probably solve the whole mystery.

Having accomplished her task, she slipped the paper into the pocket of
her dress, ran out of the house, and, having locked the door, repaired
to the place where she had hidden her bicycle. To give colour to her
excuse to Joad, she mounted and rode down the road for some
considerable distance. Indeed, she felt inclined there and then to go
to Canterbury and assure Allen that he was safe, and that she had won
a fortune by discovering the actual criminal; but her desire to do
away with any possible suspicions on the part of Joad induced her to
abandon such intention. When he found the manuscript gone, he might
suspect her if she went directly into Canterbury, whereas, if she
behaved as usual, he could have no doubts on the subject.

"Besides," said Dora to herself, as she turned her face towards
Chillum, "Joad never goes to his cottage during the day, and therefore
he will not find out his loss until to-night. Should he suspect that I
have discovered his secret, he may do me an injury, or take to flight.
I must allay his suspicions, and see Allen about the manuscript. We
will read it together, and then take such steps as may be necessary to
save him and arrest Joad."

On approaching the gates of the Red House, Dora received a shock, for
on glancing at Joad's cottage, she saw its owner coming out of the
door. Perhaps her questions about the clock had induced him to depart
from his usual routine, and by rousing his suspicions had created a
desire to assure himself that the manuscript was safe; but whatever
might be the reason, Dora had never known Joad to revisit his domicile
in the daytime. A qualm seized her lest he should guess what she had
done; but the memory of what was at stake nerved her to resistance,
and she confronted the approaching old man with a mien cool and
composed. Certainly she needed all her courage at that moment, for
Joad was conducting himself like a lunatic.

His face was redder than usual with suppressed rage; he swung round
his arms in a threatening manner, and, hardly seeing her in his blind
fury, babbled about his loss. Dora did not need to hear his words to
be assured that he had discovered the loss of the manuscript. But she
strained her ears to listen, in the hope that Joad might say something
likely to incriminate himself.

"Lost, lost!" muttered Joad, as he shuffled near her--"and after all
my care. What am I to do now? What--what--what?"

"Is anything wrong, Mr. Joad?"

The man paused before Dora with a dazed look, and suddenly cooled down
in the most surprising manner. Knowing the dangerous position in which
he was placed by the loss of the manuscript, he saw the necessity for
dissimulation. His rage gave place to smiles, his furious gestures to
fawning.

"No, Miss Dora; there is nothing wrong. I have lost a precious book,
that is all. But I know who took it," he broke out with renewed fury.

Dora felt nervous, and for the moment she thought that he suspected
her. But the next moment--still talking of the manuscript under the
flimsy disguise of a book--his words reassured her. "Oh yes," he
repeated; "I know who stole it, but I'll be revenged;" then he shook
his fists in the air, as though invoking a curse on someone, and
returned to the Red House.

When Dora reached her own room, she took out the manuscript. It was a
lengthy effusion, evidently carefully prepared, and certainly clearly
written. With a thrill of excitement the girl sat down to read the
story, and learn from it, if possible, the motive of Joad in becoming
a midnight assassin. Before she had read two lines, Meg knocked at her
door. Dora hid away the precious paper hastily in her wardrobe, and
called on Meg to enter.

"Dinner is up, miss," said the stout countrywoman, "and Mr. Joad
waits. He don't look well, Miss Dora. Sheets ain't nothing to face of
he."

"Is he in a bad temper, Meg?"

"Lordy, no, miss! He ghastly pale and quiet like."

Meg's report proved to be true. Joad's rage had died out into a
subdued nervousness, and his red face had paled to a yellowish hue. He
said little and ate little, but Dora noticed that he drank more than
his ordinary allowance of whisky-and-water. Every now and then he cast
a furtive glance round the room, as though waiting anxiously for the
unexpected to happen. His conduct reminded Dora of the late Mr.
Edermont's behaviour in church during the Litany, and there was no
doubt in her mind as to Joad's feelings. He had received a shock, and
in consequence thereof he was thoroughly frightened.

Towards the end of the meal he grew more composed, under the influence
of the spirits and water, and it was then that he abruptly informed
Dora that he was going into Canterbury.

"You are going into Canterbury," she echoed, fairly astonished, "this
afternoon?"

"Yes; I have not been in the town for months. But I wish to consult--a
lawyer."

"About the loss of your book, I suppose?"

Joad raised his heavy eyes, and sent a piercing glance in her
direction.

"Yes," he said, in a quiet tone, "I wish to consult about that loss."

"Will you see Mr. Carver?"

"On the whole," said Joad, with great deliberation, "I think I shall
see Mr. Carver. He knows much; he may as well know more."

"What do you mean?" asked Dora, startled by the significance of this
speech.

"You will know to-morrow, Miss Carew."

He left the room, and shortly afterwards the house. Anxious to learn
if he intended to fly, and so escape the consequences of his crime,
Dora followed him down to the gate. This had not been kept locked of
late, and Joad swung it easily open. Stepping out, he cast a glance to
right and left in an uneasy fashion, and suddenly staggered against
the wall with his hand to his heart. In an instant Dora was beside
him.

"What is the matter, Mr. Joad?"

"Only the old trouble--my heart, my heart," he muttered; "it will kill
me some day. The sooner the better--now."

Dora took this speech as an acknowledgment of his guilt, and withdrew
a little from his neighbourhood. Joad took no notice of this
shrinking, but explained his plans.

"I go to my cottage to change my clothes," he said calmly, "then I
will get a trap from the hotel, and drive to Canterbury to see Mr.
Carver. You need not expect me at the Red House to-night, Miss Dora. I
shall stay in my own cottage. It will not do for me to be out after
dark."

"Why not, Mr. Joad? You are in no danger?"

"I am in danger of losing my life," retorted the old man, and,
flinging her detaining hand rudely aside, he ran across the road with
an activity surprising in one of his years and sedentary life.

When he disappeared Dora returned to the house. She was at a loss what
to do with regard to Joad. His actions and speech were so strange that
she was afraid lest he should fly. If he did, his complicity in the
crime might never be proved, and so Allen's safety might be
compromised. Dora was determined that this should not be. She decided
to get into Canterbury before Joad, to see Mr. Carver and ask his
advice; afterwards to call on Allen and show him the manuscript. In
some way or other she would contrive to circumvent the discovered
villain.

Having come to this decision, Dora put the manuscript in her pocket,
assumed her hat and gloves, and took out her bicycle. Joad was not yet
out of his cottage, so she hurried in hot haste, and spun up the road
at full speed. By the time he had got to the hotel and ordered the
trap she hoped to be in Canterbury preparing the ground for his
arrival, so that his efforts to fly--if indeed he intended to do
so--might be baffled in every direction. Dora felt that a crucial
moment was at hand, and that it behoved her to have all her wits about
her if she hoped to save Allen and win the fifty thousand pounds.

On her arrival at Canterbury, Dora lost no time in seeking the lawyer.
He was busy in his dingy back office as usual, and betrayed no
surprise at seeing his visitor. With a dry smile he shook hands, and
placed a chair for her, then he gave his explanation of her
appearance.

"You have come to ask further about your five hundred pounds," said
he; "if so, I am afraid you are wasting your time."

"I do not intend to waste my time on that matter, Mr. Carver," replied
Dora quietly, "nor yours either. The object of my visit is far more
important. I have discovered who killed Mr. Edermont."

If she hoped to astonish Mr. Carver by this speech, she was never more
mistaken in her life. He did not display any surprise, but merely
laughed and rubbed his dry hands together.

"Have I, then, to congratulate you on gaining fifty thousand pounds?"
he asked satirically.

"You can judge for yourself, Mr. Carver," said Dora quietly; and then
and there, without further preamble, she related the finding of the
manuscript, the behaviour of Joad, and the evidence of the clock.

Carver betrayed his interest by frequent raisings of his eyebrows, but
otherwise remained motionless until the conclusion of her story. She
might as well have been speaking to a stone.

"And this manuscript," he asked; "have you it with you?"

"Yes," Dora laid it on the table, "here it is. The story of Mr.
Edermont's early life."

"You have read it?"

"No; not yet. I have not had time to do so. I have brought it in to
read with Allen--that is, unless you require it."

Carver thought for a moment, and shook his head.

"No," he said in an amiable tone, "I do not require it at the present
moment. I shall see Mr. Joad first, and then call on Dr. Scott to hear
his and your report on this paper."

"Do you think Mr. Joad is guilty?" asked Dora, replacing the
manuscript in her pocket.

"Circumstantial evidence is strongly against him," replied Mr. Carver
cautiously, "but I shall reserve my opinion until I hear his story."

"Do you think he will call on you?"

"He told you that he intended to do so, Miss Carew."

"Very true, Mr. Carver. All the same, he may have done so to
save time. For all we know, he may design to go straight to the
railway-station and catch the London express."

"Oh, I can frustrate that scheme," said Carver, rising. "Mr. Joad's
conduct is sufficiently suspicious to justify his detention on the
ground of complicity, if not of actual guilt. A word to Inspector
Jedd, and Mr. Joad will not get away by the express. Go and see Dr.
Scott, my dear young lady, and leave me to deal with your friend."

"You won't let him escape?"

"No," said Carver dryly. "On the whole, I had rather you got the fifty
thousand pounds than anyone else."

And then he conducted Dora to the door with a courtesy he had never
extended before to any female client, and at which his clerks were
greatly astonished. Congratulating herself on having thus made all
safe, Dora went to see Allen. He was still unwell, but felt better
than he had done on the previous day. He was surprised at her visit,
and gathered from her bright looks that she had something of
importance to communicate to him.

"What is it, Dora?" he asked anxiously; "good or bad news?"

"Good! You are safe!"

"Then you intend to marry Joad?" said Allen in a tone of despair.

"Indeed, I intend no such thing! Mr. Joad has other things to think
about besides marriage."

"What other things?"

"How to save his neck. Yes, you may well look astonished, Allen. Joad,
and none other, killed my guardian! Here is the proof!" and Dora flung
the manuscript on the table.



CHAPTER XXIV.
THE STOLEN MANUSCRIPT.


Allen looked on the manuscript thus suddenly produced in mute wonder.
With a swift glance he questioned Dora as to what it was--for he could
not yet bring himself to believe that it was the lost paper--and how
she had come by it. The girl afforded him at once a concise
explanation.

"It is the paper containing an account of the early life of Mr.
Edermont," said she, with a nod; "the manuscript stolen from the
bureau, on account of which we believe the murder to have been
perpetrated. I found it in the cottage of Joad."

"In the cottage of Joad?" echoed Allen slowly. "How did he come by
it?"

"By robbery and murder. He is the guilty person."

"Dora--are you sure? He proved an alibi, you know."

"I am aware of that, and I am aware also how he prepared such alibi.
It is a long story, Allen. I shall tell it to you, and then we will
read the manuscript together."

"I am all attention," cried Allen, settling himself on the sofa. "Go
on, you most wonderful girl."

"I am a most unfortunate girl," said Dora sadly. "By my discovery I
have saved you from arrest, and perhaps condemnation, and myself from
a marriage which revolted me. But what is left after all, my dear?
Nothing, nothing. We can never be anything but friends to one another,
for our lives have been ruined by the sins of other people. It is
cruelly hard."

"You speak only too truly, Dora," said Allen, taking her hand. "And I
can give you no comfort; I can give myself no consolation. Your
father's crime has parted us, and we must suffer vicariously for his
guilt."

For a moment or so they remained silent, thinking over the
hopelessness of their position. But matters were too important and
pressing to admit of much time being wasted in useless lamentations.
Dora was the first to recover her speech, and forthwith related the
events of the day, from the conversation of Meg Gance down to the
visit to Carver. Allen interrupted her frequently with exclamations of
surprise.

"You are right, Dora!" he cried when she had ended. "How wonderfully
you have worked out the matter! Without doubt Joad was hidden in the
house while Lady Burville saw Edermont. After she left, he must have
killed his friend, and secured the manuscript. No doubt he hid again
when he heard me coming, and saw me, not in the road, as he alleges,
but in the study. Oh, the villain! and he would have saved his neck at
the expense of mine!"

"He had not even that excuse, Allen; for, owing to his manipulation of
the hall clock, there was absolutely no suspicion that he was guilty.
He accused you to gain me, but now I have caught him in his own trap,
and no doubt Mr. Carver will have him arrested this night."

"I hope so," said Dr. Scott angrily; "he is a wicked old ruffian! But
I cannot understand why he killed Mr. Edermont."

"The manuscript may inform us," said Dora, taking it up. "Let us read
it at once."

Allen consented eagerly, and Dora, smoothing the pages, began to read
what may be termed the confession of Julian Dargill, alias Edermont.
Some parts of the narrative were concisely told, others expanded
beyond all due bounds; and as a literary attempt the story was a
failure. But for style or elegance of language the young couple cared
little. They wished to learn the truth, and they found it in the
handwriting of the dead man.

"'My name is Julian Dargill,'" began the manuscript abruptly. "'I was
born at Christchurch, in Hants, where my family lived for many
generations. My parents died whilst I was at Oxford, and at the age of
twenty I found myself my own master. For ten years I travelled in the
company of a young man whom I had met at the University. He was not a
gentleman, but he had a clever brain, and was an amusing companion, so
I paid his expenses for the pleasure of his conversation and company.
When I returned home, I left Mallison--for such was his name, John
Mallison--in my London rooms, and came down to my house at
Christchurch. Here I took up my residence, and here I fell in love
with Laura Burville. She was a charming blonde, delicate and tiny as a
fairy, full of life and vivacity. Her face was singularly beautiful,
her figure perfection, and she had the gift of bringing sunshine
wherever she went. Needless to say, I fell deeply in love with her,
and would have made her my wife but for the foolish behaviour of
her parents. These were religious fanatics of peculiarly rigid
principles, and they disapproved of my tendency to a gay life. How
they came to have so charming a daughter I could never understand.
Miss Treherne--or shall I call her by the fonder name of Laura?--had
three suitors--myself, Dr. Scott, a widower, and Captain George Carew,
of the merchant service. Scott was a handsome and clever man, but
poor, and reckless in his way of life. His wife had died when his son
Allen was born, and Scott left the child to be brought up by the nurse
while he went flirting with all the pretty girls in the country. Mr.
and Mrs. Treherne disapproved of him also on account of this
behaviour. So far as I saw, neither Dr. Scott nor myself had any
chance of marrying Laura, for her parents favoured the suit of her
third admirer, George Carew. I hated and feared that man. He was a
brutal sailor, with a vindictive spirit and an unusually violent
temper. Everybody yielded to his imperious spirit, and he rode
rough-shod over any opposition that might be made to his wishes. He
fell in love with Laura, and determined to marry her. At my
pretensions and those of Scott he laughed scornfully, and warned both
that he would permit neither of us to interfere with his design. He
was cunning enough to ingratiate himself with the parents of Laura by
pretending to be religious, and ostensibly became more of a fanatic
than the Trehernes themselves. Laura was carried away by the violence
of his wooing; her parents were delighted with his pretended
conversion; and against their support and Laura's timidity--I can call
her yielding by no other name--Scott and myself could do nothing.
Carew married her. I omitted to state that Carew was not rich. He was
part owner in a ship called the _Silver Arrow_, which traded to the
Cape of Good Hope, and sometimes went as far as Zanzibar. When the
marriage took place Carew was forced to take command of his ship for a
voyage to the Cape. He wished Laura to go also, but this she refused
to do, and by offering a dogged resistance to his violent temper she
managed to get her own way for once. This I learnt from her
afterwards. Alas! had she only been as determined over refusing
marriage with Carew, all this sorrow might not have come upon us. But
she was quite infatuated with the insolent sailor, and while he was
with her I believe she loved him after a fashion. Nevertheless, I do
not think her passion either for Carew or for myself was very strong.
Leaving then for his voyage, Carew established his wife in a cottage
near my house, and went away almost immediately after the honeymoon.
Her parents had left Christchurch shortly before to take possession of
some property in Antrim, Ireland, which had been left to them. Laura
was quite alone, and found her state of grass-widowhood sufficiently
tiresome. She wished for distraction, and encouraged myself and Dr.
Scott to call upon her. As we were still in love with her, we accepted
her invitation only too gladly, and for six months we devoted
ourselves to her amusement. Then came the news that the _Silver Arrow_
had been wrecked on the coast of Guinea. The information was brought
by the first mate, who had been picked up in an open boat by a passing
ship. His companions were dead of hardship and suffering, and it was
only with the greatest difficulty that he was brought round again.

"'On his return to England he told his tale to the owners of the ship,
and then communicated the news to Mrs. Carew. Without doubt her
husband was drowned, and so after six months of married life she found
herself a widow, but ill-provided with money. As part owner of the
_Silver Arrow_, the dead Carew had some claim to a portion of the
insurance; but, owing to some commercial and legal trickery, no money
was obtainable from this source. Laura had barely sufficient to live
on. It may be guessed what effect poverty had upon her refined and
pleasure-loving nature. She refused to go to her parents in Ireland,
as their gloomy religious views were alien to her more æsthetic
leanings; yet she could not remain in Christchurch with hardly
sufficient to sustain life. Dr. Scott offered to marry her, but he was
too poor to give her the luxuries of life, and she refused to become
his wife or step-mother to his little boy. Then I offered myself, and
was accepted. I was not so handsome as Scott, or so manly and daring
as her first husband; but I was rich, and while pretending to love me
but little, she married me for my fortune. I was content to take her
even on such terms, and we arranged to become husband and wife. Owing
to the recent death of Carew, we could not marry openly in
Christchurch; and as Laura had never truly loved the sailor, she did
not care to pay a tribute to his hated memory by a year of mourning.
Rather was she anxious to marry me at once, and for this purpose she
went up to London. After a decent interval, to avert suspicion, I
followed, and we were married shortly afterwards by special license in
the church of St. Pancras. John Mallison was the best man, and
arranged all the details for me. These things happened some months
after Carew's supposed death. Then we travelled for a year, and at the
end of it came back with our child Dora to Christchurch, where----"

"_Our_ child?" said Dora, interrupting her reading. "What does that
mean, Allen?"

"No doubt that Dargill adopted you as his child after the death of
Carew."

"But I was his ward here; why does he not call me his ward in this
manuscript?"

"Read on," said Allen. "You may discover the reason."

"'We took up our abode at my mansion in Christchurch,'" read Dora
swiftly, "'and for a time we were fairly happy. But I was not
altogether pleased with my wife. She did not love me, nor did she make
any pretence to do so. Indeed, I believe she despised me for my
weakness of body and amiability of temper. Dr. Scott began to call
again, and Laura encouraged his visits. I forbade him the house, but
my wife and himself defied me, and I was powerless to control their
behaviour. One evening, after a scene with Laura, I left the house.
Scott was in the habit of crossing the lawn at dusk and entering the
drawing-room, to flirt with my wife while I was reading in the
library. I also came the same way at times in preference to going
round by the door; and one evening, entering thus, I chanced upon
them. The discovery resulted in a violent scene; and next morning I
left for London, vowing never to return until my wife dismissed Scott
from her thoughts. The departure saved my life.

"'While I was away, Carew returned to Christchurch. He had been saved
by some negroes on the Guinea Coast, and had been detained in
captivity by them for over a year. Finally he escaped, managed to get
to England, and came to claim his wife. When he heard of our marriage
he went mad with rage. He accused me of corrupting his wife, of
spreading a false report of his death, and finally swore that he would
not rest until he had killed me. I verily believe that he was bent on
doing so, notwithstanding my innocence in the matter; and had I not
been absent in London, he would have shot me without mercy. As it was,
he committed a murder in the hope of killing me.

"'My wife--as I must still call her--had no opportunity of warning me,
as Carew kept such a close watch on her. He expected me to return, and
took up his quarters in the house with the avowed intention of killing
me. Laura sent for Scott to see how she could save me--rather for her
own sake than for mine--and he came to see her one evening by stealth.
Carew had heard from one of the servants that I was in the habit of
crossing the lawn and entering the drawing-room. When he saw Scott
approaching in the same direction he thought it was me; and, being
provided with a pistol, which he always carried, he shot the man
through the heart. When he found out whom he had killed, he fled, to
escape being arrested; but his last words to Laura were that he would
hunt me down and kill me.

"'All this came out at the inquest, which was reported in the _Morning
Planet_ under the heading of "A Romantic Tragedy." On hearing how my
life was sought by Carew--still at large--I left my lodgings and went
into hiding. What else could I do? I am a weak and puny man, and,
morally speaking, I am a coward. It is not my fault. I was born so. I
dared not face this brute in his ungoverned rage, and so I hid. Then
John Mallison came to my rescue. He was rather like me, and he
proposed to adopt my name and go to America, letting Carew know in
some way how he had fled. Mallison was a brave man, and I knew that he
could hold his own better than I against Carew. He assumed my name,
and I supplied him with funds. Carew saw him by chance in Regent
Street, and in the distance took him for me. Mallison, to encourage
this false recognition, fled to America, and Carew followed. Then I
prepared for my own safety.

"'I took the name of Julian Edermont, and transferred my property in
the funds to that name. I bought, through Carver, the Red House, near
Canterbury, and I made it secure against robbers and my enemy Carew.
Then I went to live there. I was afraid to go back to Laura--for whom
I provided amply--lest Carew should hear of it. And I wrote to her
about our child. Laura was not a good mother, and I was afraid she
would neglect Dora. Some letters passed between us--while I was in
London, for I did not give her my new address or name--and she
ultimately sent Dora to me. Since then Dora has lived with me as my
ward, for I was afraid to say that she was my daughter, lest Carew
should find out.'"

"His adopted daughter, of course," interrupted Allen. "He was afraid
your father might kill him, and take you away."

"'Later on I found my old college companion, Joad, starving in London,
and took him to live with me,'" Dora went on. "'Mallison came back
from America, and I provided for him likewise. So far I felt safe; but
all these years I have had a belief that Carew would find me out, in
spite of all my precautions, and kill me. If I am found murdered,
George Carew will be the culprit, as no one else has any reason to
wish for my death. I am at peace with all men. To punish him I leave
by will the bulk of my fortune to him or her who finds out and
punishes George Carew for his villainy. I hope my daughter Dora may be
so fortunate. She need have no compunction in doing so, for Carew is
not her father. She is my child, born of my marriage with Laura, and I
only called her Carew, and my ward, to do away with any possible
discovery by Carew. The certificate of her birth is with my family
lawyer in Lincoln's Inn Fields.'"

"Dora!" cried Allen, starting up, "you are not Carew's daughter--not
the daughter of the man who killed my father!"

"Edermont--Dargill--my father!" stammered Dora. "What does it mean?"

"Mean!" cried Allen, taking her in his arms--"that your father did not
kill mine--and we can marry!"



CHAPTER XXV.
CONFESSION.


There was also a short note to the manuscript, stating that Edermont
had found out and helped the son of his old enemy, Dr. Scott, on the
ground that he felt himself to be the cause indirectly of the man's
death. Allen took occasion to explain this particular matter.

"Now I come to look back on it," he said reflectively, "I believe that
Edermont must have supplied most of the funds for my education. I
understood they came from moneys left by my dead father; but from this
story"--touching the manuscript--"it would appear that he died poor.
Certainly Mr. Edermont behaved generously in inviting me to settle in
Canterbury when I qualified for a doctor, and in helping me with a
loan. I am afraid I acted badly to him on that day," added Allen, in a
penitent tone, "but I was not myself; the news of my father's terrible
death maddened me."

"And he was my father, after all!" sighed Dora. "Poor soul! I never
cared over-much for him, as I did not like his personality. And, as I
thought I was living on my own money, I did not realize his
generosity. I am glad to know that I am not the daughter of Carew."

"It is strange that Mrs. Tice did not know Edermont was your father,"
said Allen, after a pause, "for you must have been born shortly before
the Dargills returned to Christchurch. Ah, here is Mrs. Tice," he
added, as the housekeeper entered. "Come here, nurse; we have good
news for you."

"And what may that be?" asked the old dame, smiling.

"Dora and I intend to fulfil our engagement, and marry."

The face of Mrs. Tice grew stern with dismay and disapproval.

"Impossible, Mr. Allen! How can you marry the daughter of your
father's murderer?"

"That is just it, nurse; Dora is not the daughter of Carew, but of
Julian Dargill."

"Oh, she was adopted by Mr. Dargill, I know," said Mrs. Tice, still
unconvinced, "and was called by his name in Christchurch. Why he
changed her name to Carew I do not know, though, to be sure, she was
his ward, and not his daughter, and Carew was her real name."

"So we all thought," said Dora impetuously; "but we have just
discovered that I am really and truly the daughter of Mr. Dargill and
his wife Laura. Listen, Mrs. Tice, and I'll tell you the story."

The narrative greatly surprised Mrs. Tice, who was forced to sit
down and lift up her hands in her surprise. She was forced to believe
that Dora was Dargill's daughter by Laura Carew's second marriage,
and--as Mrs. Tice mentally noted--illegitimate, owing to Carew still
being alive after her birth. But the housekeeper was too wise and
kind-hearted to touch upon so delicate a point.

"Deary, deary me!" she ejaculated. "And no one knew it in
Christchurch! I never saw you myself, Miss Dora, or I should have
known that so young a child could not have been the daughter of a man
dead over a year. I am surprised no one else guessed it. How blind we
all are!"

"Oh, you may be sure Lady Burville told some story to account for the
appearance and size of the child," said Allen cynically. "She is an
adept at trickery. But I cannot understand, Dora, why she did not tell
you the name of your real father."

"She did not wish to inculpate herself more than was necessary," said
Dora, in a bitter tone. "She told me she was my mother only because
she believed I would denounce her as guilty of the crime. And you know
those letters Pallant wanted, Allen? Well, I have no doubt that those
were the letters she wrote to Edermont--I can hardly bring myself to
call him father--giving him permission to take me to live with him.
Probably he paid her for doing so."

"After all, she is your mother, Miss Dora," said Mrs. Tice
reprovingly.

"She has not acted a mother's part," retorted Dora. "She deserted me,
she deceived me, she lied to me; I never wish to set eyes on her
again."

"I think that will be rather a relief to her than otherwise," said
Allen. "She is determined to keep her position as Sir John's wife, and
will refuse to make any explanation likely to endanger it. However, it
does not matter to us, my dear. The bar to our marriage is removed;
indeed, I wonder your father did not tell me the truth."

"The poor soul was a coward, Allen. He admits as much in his
confession. Few men would have behaved as he did, especially in the
face of the fact that Captain Carew was in danger of arrest for the
murder of your father. All Mr. Edermont's elaborate precautions were
dictated solely by his lifelong dread. I can see no other reason why
he should have passed me off as his ward. However, now that we know
the truth, I can marry you."

"We will marry as soon as you like, dearest. And I am glad for your
sake, Dora, that you will inherit the fifty thousand pounds left by
your father."

"But how is that, Mr. Allen?" cried Mrs. Tice in amazement. "That
money was only left to the person who discovered the murderer."

"Well, nurse, Dora has done so. Joad is the culprit."

"You don't say so! Well, I always did think he was a bad man. And he
had the boldness to say you were guilty of his own wickedness!" cried
Mrs. Tice indignantly. "I am glad he has fallen into his own trap. But
why did he kill Mr. Dargill?"

"Ah," said Allen, "that is just what I should like to know. No motive
is assigned in the manuscript. It is a mystery at present."

"Mr. Carver may force him to confess his reason," suggested Dora, "or
perhaps he may guess it."

"What! Mr. Carver?"

"Yes, Mrs. Tice. I believe Mr. Carver knows a great deal more about my
unhappy father than he chooses to confess. From the reference in the
manuscript to my father's family lawyers, I am inclined to think that
Mr. Carver knows who they are. If he does, he knows also that Mr.
Edermont's real name was Julian Dargill."

"I wonder if he knows anything about John Mallison," said Allen
abruptly.

"I don't see what there is to know about him," replied Dora
carelessly; "the man did his work well, and inveigled Carew to
America. When he returned my father recompensed him, as he says in his
confession. I dare say John Mallison is settled somewhere in England,
happy and content. Why do you ask, Allen?"

"I was thinking that failing Joad's confession Mallison might know his
motive. Depend upon it, Dora, the reason is mixed up somehow with that
dark story of the past."

"Well, well," said Dora with a sigh, "we shall know all when Mr.
Carver comes. In the meantime, let us enjoy our present happiness."

Mrs. Tice approved of this sentiment, and brought in tea. The two
lovers, with confidence restored between them, lingered over their
simple meal, and made plans for the future. It was after six before
they awoke to the fact that twilight was waning; and as Dora had to
return to the Red House on her bicycle, Allen suggested that she
should start at once. She demurred to this, as she was anxious to hear
the lawyer's report of his interview with Joad, and while they were
arguing the matter Mr. Carver arrived.

For so unemotional a man, he seemed greatly excited, and shook hands
heartily with Dora, although he had seen her but a few hours before.
Mr. Carver explained the meaning of that second salute.

"I congratulate you, young lady," he said heartily. "Through your
cleverness and tact we have found out the truth. You are a heroine,
Miss Carew."

"Not Miss Carew," interposed Allen brightly, "but Miss Dargill."

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Carver in a stiff manner. "I am aware
that Mr. Edermont's real name was Dargill, as you have no doubt learnt
from the manuscript. But this young lady----"

"Is the daughter of your late client," interrupted Dora. "Captain
Carew was not my father, Mr. Carver. I am the child of Julian
Edermont--or rather, Dargill."

"In that case I congratulate you again, Miss Dora," said Carver,
compromising the matter by calling her by her Christian name; "you can
now marry Dr. Scott, since your father did not kill his father."

"Do you know that story?" asked Allen with a start.

"Oh dear, yes! I was told it by my late client. But he did not inform
me that this young lady was his daughter. I was always under the
impression that she was the child of Captain Carew, and the ward of
the late Mr. Dargill. Strange he should have kept that from me," mused
the lawyer; "but I never yet knew a client to tell the whole truth."

"But this is all very well," broke in Dora. "What has Joad done--fled
to London?"

"No. He has been with me for the last two hours; and by this
time"--Mr. Carver glanced at his watch--"he is no doubt back in his
cottage."

"Back in his cottage?" echoed the doctor. "Did he not make a
confession?"

"Certainly. It was written out and signed in my presence, with two
witnesses--myself and one of my clerks--to testify to the signature."

"Then he confesses the murder?"

"Oh dear me, no!" said Carver dryly; "he does nothing of the sort; but
he confesses as to who committed the murder."

"Didn't he do it himself?"

"No, Miss Dora, he did not. Our friend Joad is innocent; although,"
added the lawyer with an afterthought, "he may be described as an
accessory after the fact."

"Then who killed my father?" cried Dora in blank amazement.

"Aha! that is a long, long story," replied Carver with a nod. "All in
good time, my dear young lady. You tell me briefly what is contained
in the manuscript, and I shall supply the sequel. Thus," added Mr.
Carver, rubbing his dry hands, "we shall arrive at a clear and logical
understanding of the whole complicated matter."

Both lovers protested against this proposal, but Carver firmly refused
to speak a word until the gist of the manuscript was communicated to
him. In the end they were reluctantly compelled to give way to the
lawyer's obstinacy, and postpone the satisfaction of their own
curiosity. Assisted by Allen, the young girl communicated all the
details, but succeeded little in moving the emotions of Mr. Carver.
Perhaps the sequel he referred to was more exciting than what they
told him. But on this point the pair had a speedy opportunity of
judging.

"It's a queer story," said Carver reflectively, "but I've heard
queerer. It is the sequel that is the odd thing about this. Here is a
man who for twenty years goes in dread of his life, and takes all
manner of precautions to look after it. Yet, a few days after he has
learnt that his enemy is dead and his life is safe, he is foully
murdered. I am not a superstitious man, Miss Dora, but I see the
finger of Fate in this. Your father was doomed to die a violent death,
and his lifelong fears were justified by the result."

"But he was not killed by the man whom he expected to be his
murderer."

"Quite true, Dr. Scott. He was killed by the man whom he did _not_
expect to be his murderer."

"What do you mean?" cried Dora, rising. "Did my father know this man?"

"Intimately. He was the man who at one time saved Mr. Edermont from
being caught by Captain Carew."

"You don't mean John Mallison?" shouted Allen in wide-eyed surprise.
Mr. Carver nodded.

"That's the man. He killed Edermont. You must admit that there is
something ironical in the fact?"

"I don't understand it at all," said Dora helplessly. "Will you be so
kind as to tell us how and why the crime was committed?"

"Willingly," replied Carver, and commenced forthwith. "My late client,
as you know, went for years in fear of his life," he said in his dry
way; "but shortly before the murder his fears were ended by a
communication from a Mr. Pallant. This gentleman told him that Captain
Carew had died in San Francisco, and as a reward for his intelligence
asked Mr. Edermont for a packet of letters written by Lady Burville to
her second husband. Mr. Edermont was unwilling to give them up, as he
saw that Pallant wanted to blackmail the unfortunate woman--your
mother, Miss Dora. He refused to comply with Mr. Pallant's request,
and wrote to Lady Burville at Hernwood Hall, asking her to come to his
study in the Red House on the night of the second of August between
eleven and twelve o'clock, when he undertook to give her up the
letters."

"But why did he choose so late an hour?"

"Because he did not wish to compromise Lady Burville's position;
nor did he wish Pallant to know. This letter he posted himself. But
Joad--who was afraid of losing his home with his patron, and thinking
something was wrong--obtained the letter in some way from the village
post-office, and made himself master of its contents. Those he
communicated to me as I have told them. So you see," continued Mr.
Carter, "that Edermont expected a visit from Lady Burville on that
night. He also expected a visit from Scott."

"Yes," said Allen eagerly; "he wrote to me, and appointed almost the
same hour. But why?"

"I will tell you, doctor. He wished to give Lady Burville the letters,
but only conditionally that in your presence she admitted that Dora
was her child."

"Oh! so he repented telling me that Carew killed my father?"

"No; but he repented letting you remain under the impression that Dora
was the child of your father's murderer. That, as he knew, was a bar
to your marriage, and to do away with it he asked you to meet Lady
Burville."

"But I did not meet her!"

"No; because you were late, and she would not wait. But let us
continue. Edermont also wrote a letter to Mallison, telling him that
now Carew was dead, and his fears at an end, he would no longer pay
him the pension he had hitherto allowed him. That letter was the cause
of his death."

"But how?" asked Dora and Allen together.

"You shall hear. Joad, learning, as I have said, about the appointment
with Lady Burville, made up his mind to overhear the conversation.
He knew by the letter he had opened that the postern-gate and the
glass-door were to be left ajar, so about eleven o'clock he got into
the house that way."

"Without being seen by Mr. Edermont?"

"Yes. Mr. Edermont at that moment was in his bedroom, so Joad slipped
through the study and hid in the darkness of the hall. Here he altered
the clock by putting it on an hour."

"But why did he do that?"

"In case Edermont should suspect him the next day," explained Carver;
"then he could prove an alibi by saying he was in his cottage. He did
this with success to clear himself of the murder, but primarily it was
to make himself safe in the eyes of Edermont."

"Well, we know that he altered the clock. What happened then?"

"Lady Burville arrived, and Edermont, returning to the study, gave her
the letters. Joad, hidden behind the door, saw and heard all. Edermont
showed her the manuscript, which he took out of the bureau, and told
her he was going to burn it and alter his will. Afterwards, when Dr.
Scott did not come, she refused to wait, and went off. Edermont saw
her to the glass-door at the end of the deserted drawing-room. He left
the manuscript on the desk; and, seeing a way to get a hold over
Edermont, Joad stepped into the room during his absence and secured
it."

"The scoundrel!" cried Dora excitedly. "Go on, Mr. Carver."

"Hardly had Joad hidden himself again when Edermont came back in a
state of terror, with Mallison at his heels. Mallison reproached him
for cutting off his income, and swore he would obtain the manuscript,
which he knew was in the bureau, and reveal the whole story. He began
to pull out the drawers, smash the desk, and toss the papers all out.
Edermont raved and implored and threatened. Ultimately he took out a
pistol to shoot Mallison, in the extremity of his terror. Mallison, to
defend himself, caught the knobkerrie from the wall. The first barrel
of the revolver proved empty, and before Edermont could fire again,
Mallison killed him by smashing in his head with the club."

"Horrible! And Joad?"

"When he saw the murder he rushed in, and tried to raise an alarm.
Mallison caught him by the throat, and swore he would kill him also if
he did not hold his tongue. Joad, in terror, promised to do so. Then
the clock struck one. Mallison looked at his watch and found it was
only twelve. Seeing a chance of proving an alibi for them both, he
dragged Joad out of the house into his cottage; and so he was safe. It
was shortly after they entered the cottage that Dr. Scott came down
the road. He entered, saw the evidence of the crime, and fled."

"And why did Joad hold his tongue?"

"Because Mallison found out he had the manuscript, which Joad hid and
would not give up. He swore he would say that Joad had committed the
crime if he did not keep quiet. You can see for yourself the position
in which Joad was placed. Of two evils he chose the least, and held
his peace. But when he found that the manuscript was gone, he thought
Mallison had taken it, and, fearful for his life lest Mallison should
denounce him to gain the fifty thousand pounds, he came in to-day and
confided all to me."

"I understand all," said Dora--"all but one point. Who is John
Mallison?"

"Why," said Carver quietly, "none other than your polite friend, Mr.
Pride."



CHAPTER XXVI.
A FINAL SURPRISE.


And now that the mysterious criminal has been discovered, nothing
remains but to relate the end of some and the future of
others--meaning all those persons who, directly or indirectly, have
been connected in any way with the tragic death of Julian Edermont.

In the first place, Joad died of heart disease. This organ had been
affected for some considerable period, and he had always been told to
live quietly and to avoid excitement. For years he had taken this
advice, and had vegetated at the Red House; but the dread of what
Mallison might do to him, and the excitement of the subsequent arrest,
proved too much for him. He fell dead on his own doorstep on the very
night on which the murderer was arrested.

"Although," said the _Morning Planet_, commenting on this event, "it
was perhaps as well that he did not live. He might have been arrested
for keeping silence as to his knowledge of the assassin. He was an
accessory after the fact, and in his terror he compounded a felony;
so, probably, if he had lived the law would have taken cognisance of
his behaviour. But as it was, Lambert Joad died worth fifty thousand
pounds. By the will of Julian Edermont, this amount was left to the
person who should bring his murderer to justice. Mr. Joad did this, as
it was through his instrumentality that the criminal Mallison, alias
Pride, was secured by the police. He was arrested in Joad's cottage,
whither in the evening he had gone to see the old man, and owing to
the excitement of the struggle and subsequent capture, Joad fell dead
of heart disease. His gaining of the reward did him but little good.
But it will now go to his relatives, if he has any, and should prove a
lucky windfall for them."

Although Lady Burville's name was kept out of the papers, a rumour got
about that she was connected in some way with the case. Nothing very
definite was known as to how she was implicated, but it was hinted
that in some vague way the death was due to her influence. Alarmed at
this hint of publicity, and tired of being blackmailed by Pallant, the
little woman plucked up her small portion of courage, and confessed
the whole story to Sir John. Needless to say, the millionaire was
deeply shocked, but as he recognised that his wife was one of those
weak fools of women who bring trouble on themselves and on everyone
else, he forgave her. He trusted to the influence of his strong nature
to keep her in the right path for the future, and, indeed, as Laura
Burville had an assured position--for Sir John insisted upon marrying
her again after he knew that Carew was really dead--and plenty of
money, she had no temptation to behave badly. After the confession and
second marriage and forgiveness, she felt much happier than she had
done since the tragedy at Christchurch. Her fate was a better one than
she had a right to expect.

With Pallant, who knew that Lady Burville had not been actually
married, seeing that Carew still lived, when the first ceremony took
place, Sir John came to a compromise. He paid him a handsome sum of
money, for which he received a receipt. Then he turned the blackmailer
out of the house, made him leave England, and swore if he ever set
foot in London again that he would prosecute him for blackmailing. As
Pallant knew that Sir John was a man of his word, and, moreover, as he
had reaped a rich harvest by his blackguardly conduct, he willingly
went abroad. Ultimately he returned to San Francisco, and was shot in
a Chinese gambling shop while playing fan-tan. No one regretted him
when he died, and the only people who gave him a thought were the
Burvilles, who breathed more freely when they saw an account of the
tragedy. So Augustus Pallant was punished in the long-run for his many
villainies.

And the still greater villain, John Mallison, came to his right end
also. He refused to admit his guilt, but, thanks to the evidence of
Meg Gance, who deposed as to the alteration of the clock, and to the
confession of Joad, he was arrested, and tried for the murder of his
quondam friend. The jury brought him in guilty, and he was condemned
to death. At the last moment he confessed that the charge was true.

"I did kill Julian Dargill," he confessed, the night before his
execution, "and I am glad that I rid the world of the crawling little
ingrate. Twenty and more years ago I saved his life from the bullet of
Carew at the risk of my own. I took his name, and led Carew off to
America on a false trail; and had it not been for the dexterity with
which I avoided him, I should have been killed by my pursuer in
mistake for Dargill. And for this service Julian allowed me only a
paltry two hundred a year. I turned tutor and took the name of Pride
at Chillum to keep Dargill under my eye; and I had to have some excuse
for remaining in so dull a hole.

"Julian was afraid to tell me face to face that he intended to cut off
my pension. The coward wrote, although I was at Chillum at the time.
It was no coincidence that I was in the study between the visits of
Lady Burville and Scott. I learnt from Joad, who opened the letter to
Lady Burville, that Edermont expected those two at midnight on the
second of August. I wanted to go and taunt him before them with his
mean conduct. I did not intend to kill him, but only to taunt him, and
to get possession of the manuscript, so as to force him to continue my
pension. But he threatened me with a pistol, and in self-defence I
killed him. The blow was unpremeditated, but, since it killed him, I
refuse to say that I am sorry. I knew that Joad had secured the
manuscript, but he refused to give it up, and I could not find out
where he had hidden it. If I had secured the manuscript, no one would
have known that John Mallison was in existence, and I would then have
denounced Joad as the assassin and gained the fifty thousand pounds.
It was his belief that I had taken it instead of Miss Dora that made
him tell Carver the truth. But he is dead, too, the miserable traitor!
I shall have one satisfaction in going to the scaffold in knowing that
the man who injured me and the man who betrayed me have gone before.
Both their deaths, directly and indirectly, can be laid at my door.
I'm glad of it."

As to Dora, there was some difficulty over her marriage--this time
through her own scruples about her birth. She reminded Allen of the
blot upon her life--that she had not even a right to the name of
Dargill, much less that of Carew. But Allen laughed away her scruples
and kissed away her tears, and swore that she should be his wife in
the spring. Dora yielded to his persuasions and to those of Mrs. Tice,
and surrendered herself to the full tide of happiness which was
bearing her along to a prosperous future. So all was settled, and then
came a final surprise from no less a person than Mr. Carver.

Shortly after Mallison, alias Pride, had paid the penalty of his
crime, the lovers were seated on the lawn of the Red House, under the
shadow of the mighty cedar. It was a quiet and beautiful evening, just
after sunset, and the sky was resplendent with colours like the hues
of a butterfly's wing. Allen's arm was round the waist of Dora, and
they were talking of their future.

"I think it will be best for you to come to Canterbury, Dora," he was
saying. "After the tragedy which has taken place in this house, you
can never live in it without a shudder. Marry me, live in Canterbury,
and we will keep on Mrs. Tice as housekeeper."

"But I lose what little fortune I have if I leave it," remonstrated
the girl.

"What of that? I can give you a comfortable home, dearest. My practice
is increasing, and in a few years we shall be quite opulent. Give up
your father's bequest, my own, and let us begin our new life without
dwelling within the shadow of a crime."

While Dora was reflecting what answer to make, the gate opened--it was
never locked now--and Mr. Carver, as black as a raven and as lean as a
stick, made his appearance. He saw the couple on the lawn, and walked
directly towards them, with what was meant for a smile on his grim
face. Indeed, he had taken a great fancy to the young couple--to Dora
in particular--and they both welcomed him heartily.

"Well, my young friends," said he, when the first greetings were over,
"I have come to learn your plans."

"We were just making them," said Dora with a blush. "Allen wants me to
give up the Red House and live in Canterbury when we are married."

"I agree with him there, Miss Dora. The Red House is what the Scotch
call uncanny. I should not like to live in it myself, with the
knowledge that a brutal murder had been committed within its walls."

"I feel the same as you do," replied Dora. "All the same, if I give it
up I lose my poor two hundred a year, and shall go to Allen a pauper."

"Dearest, as if that mattered! I can provide a home for you, and Mrs.
Tice shall look after it."

"Be comforted, Miss Dora," said Carver, smiling. "You will not go to
Allen a pauper. You are entitled to fifty thousand pounds--your
father's money."

"But why, Mr. Carver? I did not find out who killed my father."

"No; but Joad did, and the money came to him. On the day that he made
his confession--as if anticipating his untimely end--he made his will,
and left all the money to you."

"All the money to Dora?" cried Allen joyfully. "Then she inherits her
father's money, after all!"

"Every penny of it," replied Carver gravely; "and I'm glad to say so."

"But--but can I take it?" said Dora in a hesitating manner.

"Tut, tut! Why not? You need have no compunction in doing so, my dear.
As your father's daughter and sole offspring, he should have left it
to you. It has only passed through Joad's hands on its way to your
pockets. Take it by all means. I kept the telling of this for you as a
pleasant surprise. Do not spoil my little plot by a refusal."

"What do you say, Allen?"

"I say with Mr. Carver, my dear, take it--it is lawfully yours."

"Then I shall accept it. Fifty thousand pounds! O Allen!" Dora flung
her arms round his neck. "You can go to London--we can take a house in
Harley Street--you can become a famous physician--and--and----"

"And all your geese will be swans!" laughed Carver kindly.

But Allen did not laugh. He held Dora to his breast and kissed her.

"My dearest," he said in a grave tone, "the money is not unwelcome;
but a greater gift has come to me than that--the gift of a
true-hearted, stanch woman, who will be a noble wife."

"Hear, hear!" said Carver the misogamist. And so that disturbed
chapter in their lives came to an end.



THE END.



BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD.





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