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II CyW in America AU Rig Reserved j ILADY MARGARETS VOW i
I (C?yW? in ?.& America. AU Rig" Reserved,] j LADY MARGARET'S VOW BT I BLANCHE EARDLEY, Aothor of "A Bid for a Bride," MR. Maxwell'# Silence," &C. 1 CHAPTER XXVI. I THE BUNDLE OF LETTERS. I Three days later Virginia was well enough I to be moved and to go with Olivia to Dorchester-square. "I want to stay with her till everything is all right," she said to Wilfrid when they were saying good-bye. "You understand, don't you? Olivia is alone, and I know she wants some one with her, though she would let me go to you if I wished to." Her bridegroom-husband took her in his arms and kissed her white but happy face. "I love you for your unselfishness, dar- ling." he said tenderly. "I should love to tarry you off with me, but as you say it is only right to stay with Olivia, though she has pluck enough for any one." Virginia's eyes 8shone mistily. "Oh, Wilfrid," she murmured, "I can never tell you how brave she has been. All that time, ever since our-our mother was killed, an hour after telling us the truth, I simply collapsed with horror. But Olivia kept up splendidly. She knew, as I did, that we had to keep the secret, and when she used to talk it over with me she alwavs said: Don't be afraid. I shall not say anything that will betray it.' No wonder I leant on her and let her bear the burden of every- thing." "My poor darling," Wilfrid said tenderly, "you and Olivia are cast in different moulds. She is a grand character, but I would not have you one bit otherwise than what you are. So he and Jim travelled up to London with the sisters, and saw them safely back at the house in Dorchester-square. Then Jim went on with him to his chambers in the Albany, while Thaw returned to Scotland Yard. Before he went, Wilfrid said suddenly: "What about those two arch scoundrels, Sladen and his bogus doctor friend? They arc not going to be let off if I can help it. Why. the fiend actually made my wife sign papers in his favour!" "Both of them are under the closest super- vision," the detective answered. "I have discussed the matter with Miss Cassella, and neither she nor Mrs. Lyttleton are desirous of pressing the charge against the late secre- tary, in case, out of revenge, he tells the story of Lady Margaret's past. That would damage them more than the loss of a few hundreds." Wilfrid nodded. Yes, you are right, but I'd give the world to get my fingers round that scoundrel's neck and shake him aB a dog would a rat." Jim and the detective laughed. "Curb your impatience," Thaw said. "You might get the chance sooner than you ex- pet. But when he was alone in his office Thaw's keen face, the typical face of the sleuth hound of the law, grew set with thought. "I'm unravelling the knots," he mur- mured, "but there's a lot that I shall have to leave to guess-work. I shall be very inte- rested in the finale; it should be dramatic enough to please anyone. In the meantime I'll have a rest and a turn in." The following morning he was at the *'Yard" having a long conversation with his chief, Macfarlane. An hour later he had left. His face was more than usually grave, and his mild blue eyes shone with an inward satisfaction. He looked at his watch. It was nearly eleven, and his morning threatened to be full of work. He hailed a taxi-cab, and gave the address of 38, Dorchester-square, to the chauffeur, and in less than ten minutes he had arrived at his destination. Olivia saw him at once. She was in the library, and had been reading a letter when he entered. "Have you any fresh news for me, Mr. Thaw?" she asked smilingly. He nodded. "I think I have a little." Then he went on, "When did you last see Lady Scott, Miss Cassella P Olivia flushed hotly. "The other day," she said slowly. "And, if it is not an inquisitive question, may I ask you why she called on you?" Thaw went on. Olivia hesitated. "She told me that she knew the secret about our poor mother," she began, "and that she would publish it all in the papers unless I paid her a certain sum of money. "Humph!" Thaw murmured thought- fully. "And how much did she want for sup- pressing her knowledge?" I Olivia hesitated. "Thirty thousand pounds!" "And how were you to give it?" he asked. "In two instalments; fifteen thousand to- day, and fifteen thousand the first of next month," she answered. "You have not aent the first instalment Ftt? he said quickly. She shook her head. "No, but I have it here. I was reading a letter from my banker, who has been selling some stock for me." "Then, before you give it to Lady Scott, Miss Cassella," he went on, "may I ask you a favour? She looked at him in surprise. Why, certainly. Do you think I ought not to have promised it? But, really, Mr. Thaw, I had no alternative. I couldn't bear to think of that awful story being published in a paper. It would have made life for my- self and my sister impossible in England. The price, though big, was not too much to pay for Lady Scott's silence," He looked at her gravely. "Perhaps not. But has it occurred to y8u, Miss Cassella, that it was a strange thing that Lady Scott should have known this story of Lady Margaret's?" "No, because I know she was a friend of my—my mother's," Olivia answered. "It was only natural that she should know of it." "The favour I want to ask you," he went on, "is to glance carefully through this packet of letters and papers, and tell me if you find any mention in them of a name that Lady Margaret's particular friend may have had. These letters have been some years in Lady Margaret's possession, and may have been written by friends to her, or by some one be- longing to the same fatal society to which she belonged." Olivia took the letters, and looked at them curiously. "Where did you get them?" she asked. "From an old cabinet that Lady Margaret had, which was sold at the sale the other day." he replied. She gave a cry of amazement. I remember. The cabinet used to- stand by her bedside, and she would never allow it out of the room. I often wondered what she kept in it." "Only those papers, I fancy," Thaw said quietly. "They are written in Italian, and appear to be of value. Perhaps they may be of assistance in unravelling the mystery of her death, or, at any rate, in giving us a clue to any special person who may or may not be unknown to us." Olivia turned the pages over with trembling fingers. She had a thorough knowledge of Italian, and, as he watched her mobile face, the detective wondered curiously what she was thinking about as she began to read the fine foreign writing. Olivia began to read each letter slowly. It seemed almost like an 4 f impertinence to be reading the secrets of the dead woman who had preserved such a stony II silence all the years she and Virginia had lived with her. "Some are letters to her from my father," she said presently. They are love letters; and others are to him from the head of this society, but there are no names in it with which I am familiar." "Read on," he said. "Take your time, and don't miss a single letter. It may repay ns in the long run." She turned again to the letters, her white brow furrowed with anxiety. The detective's persistence was beginning to get on her nerves. She felt that he knew what she would find, and she began to be afraid. What fresh discovery was she going to make? Surely there could be no further horror for I' her to know She put down the bundle of faded letter? and took up a fresher, more recent packet. If was beginning to be tedious work, this wading through old papers, and a tiny pulse in her brain was throbbing with fatigue. The later letters, however, began to interest her. They were still in Italian, and the writer usually signed only a scribble that may have been initials or a nickname. Suddenly she caught her breatlf. "This letter—I have just begun it-was written a few days before—before the mur- der," she said quickly. "It is a sort of veiled threat, warning my mother that the blow would fall when she least expected it. Oh, it can't be from—from that awful person who killed her!" "Suppose you see what the signature is," he suggested. She turned to the end of the letter, and then, with a stifled cry, held it out to him. "See—oh, it can't be f,hat-that- He" handed the letter back to her quietly. I'm afraid it is, Miss Cassella," he said gravely. For a moment they did not speak, then Olivia, in a low, frightened voice, said huskily: "Had you any suspicions of this?" He bowed. "I am afraid I had. Miss Cassella, and this has made me more positive than ever." CHAPTER XXVII. I A CONFESSION. I Lady Scott was in & radiant mood the I morning that she woke up to dress for her little trip to Marseilles. She had disposed of the flat, her furniture had been stored, and I the servants had been given a month's wages in lieu of notice, and now, as she lay in the bedroom of a big hotel she smiled to herself. I All her life things had had to be fought -for before they came her way. She had plotted to become the wife of old Sir David Scott, and when she had been left a widow she had looked round for something else to fight for. Money she had always been suc- cessful in obtaining, and credit, too, but the one thing in all the world that she had failed to wrest from the still-room of Fate had been love, the love of a man for the woman he wanted. A hard expression followed the smile of re- trospection on her red lips. "If he had loved me," she muttered, "I should have been a different woman. David did not pretend to love me, nor I him. I was a i()od EO!3te v to his friends, and dressed well, but love—oh, if Jim had only loved me. If we had met earlier in my life things might have been different. I would have been a good woman, for love makes one good, and I would have given up everything for him, everything, even my vow, no matter what I should have suffered afterwards." Her green eyes grew dark with concen- trated thought as shadows of what might have been rose before her, and a little sigh fluttered to her lips. The next moment she liad shaken off her sentimental mood, and had touched a bell by her side. Presently the door opened, and Jordan came into the room. When Lady Scott had paid off her servants, Jordan had, to her sur- prise, refused to leave her, and had begged so hard to be allowed to stay tnat she had consented to let her remain as her maid. As the woman came up to the bed where her mistress lay, Lady Scott said languidly "Well, Lawson, have you packed? "Yes, your ladyship," the woman replied. "Then dress mè, and I will go out and do a little shopping. You hl\(J better take the luggage down to the station after lunch and have it registered." "And will you meet me at the station then, your ladyship? Jordan said obediently. I "Yes, a few minutes before the train goes." As she helped her mistress to dress, and put on the neat dark blue travelling coat and skirt, and motor cap of blue cloth, with a big blue gauze veil, Jordan seemed on the point of asking a question, but somehow her courage always failed her when she looked at that pretty babyish face. Lady Scott glanced at herself in the mirror and laughed softly. "It's nice to get in travelling clothes again, Lawson. I am tired of London, tired of England, and don't think I shall ever come back. I hope you are not very attached to your own country, Lawson, for we are going to be on the move a long time. I ought not to have stayed so long in England." "I hate London, too," Jordan burst out. I've been none too happy here. I wish I had never left Rome." Lady Scott looked at her in amazement. "Rome! Do you know Rome, Lawson? Jordan's face reddened guiltily. "Yes, your ladyship. I was there with my late mistress," she murmured. "Then, Lawson," Lady Scott went on, "you will be back again in the place you love, for we-shall go on to Rome from Mar- seilles. But you must keep this piece of in- formation to yourself," she added quickly, "I want no one to know of it." Jordan's grim, unpleasing face grew troubled. "If you please, your ladyship," she said desperately, "I have a confession to make to you. A confession! Lady Scott's eyes shot a suspicious glance at her. "What do you mean, Lawson?" "That my name is not Lawson, but Jordan," the woman replied. "Jordan! I don't understand. Why did you change your namfc then?" Lady Scott said slowly. "Because I was afraid that you would re- member me, your ladyship. I was maid to Lady Margaret for a long time," Jordan answered. Lady Scott's pink and white face went st-rangeiy pale. "Lady Margaret's maid! I see—your face puzzled me at first, I could not remember where I had seen it before, then I forgot all about it. Why did you disguise yourself- were you playing the spy on me? "No, no, your ladyship," Jordan cried. "I swear I wasn't—at least, not then." "Not then. You mean you did after," was the quick reply. "Who told you toT I understand now your eagerness to stay when I gave the other servants notice. Tell me, woman, whose 8PY you are?" Jordan clasped her hands tightly. "It's not my fault, my lady. If I hadn't agreed I should have been arrested for steal- ing some of the missing jewellery." Lady Scott looked at her thoughtfully. "So you stole it, did you?" Jordan shook her head. "No, I shielded my brother, Lady Mar- garet's secretary, and that detective found me out." "What detective?" Lady Scott said. "Mr. Thaw, your ladyship. He forced me to cive him my brother's address, and then said that I was to stay with you and tell him your movements." Lady Scott's babyish face grew suddenly livid. "How dare you do such a thing? How idare he give you instructions to spy on me in my own house? she said in a low furious voice. "If I hadn't said yes I should have been ar- rested at once, your ladyship. But it has been weighing on my mind, for you have been good to me, and I hated doing it." Lady Scott waved a white hand contemp- tuously. "Let us keep to business," she said curtly. "How long have you been playing the spy in my house? "Only a fortnight, your ladyship, Jordan said meekly. I was driven to it. But I can do one thing, my lady." "What is that?" Lady Scott said slowly. "Your ladyship will remember the cabinet you bought at the sale of the furniture at the residence of Lady Margaret?" "Yes," and the listening woman drew a deep breath. "What of it? "I knew there was something in it that Lady Margaret always took great care of, even to the day she was killed, and I had once seen it open. I guessed that you would not find the secret drawer in it, and when you went out I found it and took out a bundle of letters and papers, and just as I was looking at them they were snatched out of my hands by the detective." Lady Scott's green eyes grew black with rage. She had spent so much time and thought in plotting to get hold of those papers that the knowledge of how narrowly she had missed them made her grit her pretty teeth with fury. Her maid, whom she had considered so dull and safe, had after all been her worst enemy. "And, of course," she began slowly, "you have kept Mr. Thaw well informed as to my movements? Jordan nodded. "Y('I'I, your ladyship. Put I think you might escape even now. I've a plan that I meant to offer to yon when the time came, and- "I don't run away from people, Lady Scott replied haughtily. "What reason do you think I should have to make me do such a thing? Jordan did not reply, but their eyes met, I and when the woman removed her glance her mistress's face grew set and cold, while her eyes shone like frosted emeralds. A sudden knock at the door broke the silence. Jordan moved to it and then re- turned to her mistress with a card in her hand. "This has been sent up, your ladyship." Lady Scott glanced at it. "Tell Mr. Thaw to wait. I will come to him," she said in an even voice. Jordan left the room with the message. As soon as Lady Scott was alone she unlocked her jewel-case and took a ring from a secret drawer at the back and slipped it on to her finger. It was a quaint, old-fashioned ring, and looked out of place among the diamonds on her other fingers. Then she glanced at herself in the mirror, and frowned. "I am too pale. A little rouge will improve me. Even my lips are white—they must be made to look themselves." When she had made the trifling alterations to her appearance she left the room and entered her sitting-room which adjoined it. Mr. Thaw had been looking out of the win- dow, but he turned and greeted her gravely. "This is a surprise, Mr. Thaw," she said gaily, "so considerate of you to come and say good-bye before I leave England. It was thoughtful of you to have struck up a friend- ship with my maid, too. She has been tell- ing me all about it!" He flushed. "I don't deny that I have made use of your mnid, Lady Scott, but I must object to the word friendship.' I do not make friends with criminals." She raised her evebrows. "Really! How strange! I should have thought they would most appeal to you. Anyway, if you have not come to say good- bye,' I suppose you have %ome news?" "I have," he replied. "I have seen Miss Cassella, and she has been reading the bundle of letters that I took from your maid Jordan when I called at your flat. The letters, Lady Scott, threw light on a very dark subject, the question of Lady Mar- garet's murder." g "How interesting," she murmured. "Do please tell me all about it. I am glad it is to be cleared up at last." He looked at her curiously. There was something to wonder at and admire in this little babyish woman's insouriance at a moment when she must feel that disguise was no longer possible. 41 Why should we waste time in leii- 'ei iig' ? he said sternly. "I have come, Lady Scott, to arrest you on the charge of murdering Lady Margaret Hogarth by the summer-house in Eppstone Woods six months ago. He had expected a cry of horror—of indig- nant denial—even defiance, but instead Lady Scott smiled—the simple, pleased smile that one gives when a compliment is paid to one's powers. "Well," she said. "Surely you are going to tell me how you came to this wonderful conclusion? "I will gratify your curiosity," he said dryly, "only I must warn you that any- thing you say will be used against you as ence. evi d "I shall remember," she mocked, "but please begin—I am dying to know!" "As you know," he began,"Lady Margaret belonged to a certain secret society in Italy. She was forced into it against her will, and when she ran away from it she was sought out, again by another member of that same society and sent for to go to London and ex- plain why she had deserted them. She called at a certain house in Soho, where they held secret meetings, and it was at such a meeting when she had returned to her home that lots were drawn as to who should slay the old woman who had just left them with defiance on her lips. The lot was drawn by a woman who had been on terms of friendship with her—yourself Lady Scott's green eyes sparkled with amusement. "How on earth do you make that out?" "Firstly by the letter that was written and signed by you and kept by Lady Margaret in the bundle of letters, and also by the fact that your movements were traced up to the time of the murder. In accordance with the rules of the society a letter followed Lady Margaret from London, and then, disguised as a gipsy on a caravan, you travelled down to Eppstone and killed her in the woods. Step by step it has been followed up, and your guilt is clear. And not only that, but you stole from Lady Margaret's dead body a necklace, an heirloom worth a hundred thou- sand pounds, and that you pawned in Paris." "You are a very clever man, Mr. Thaw, she said softly. "I suppose you expect to get promotion over the arrest of so dangerous a criminal as myself?" "I expect to solve a mystery that has bur- dened the lives of two innocent girls," he said sternly, "and which almost destroyed their happiness. Now, Lady Scott, may I hint that we had better be moving? I have a taxi-cab outside, and our departure will at- tract no attention." "One moment," she said slowly, "I am thirsty—listening always makes me thirsty, Mr. Thaw, and I positively must have a drink. Oh, don't imagine that I am going to poison myself, she laughed scornfully as he hesitated, "you may go to the sideboard yourself, if you like, and bring me a glass of water poured out by yourself." He moved to the sideboard, and as he poured out the water he looked at her reflec tion in the mirror. She was sitting very still in her chair, her hands tightly clasped together, and across her face had spread a grey pallor. o With a bound he had reached her side and held the glass to her lips, but she raised her hand and pushed it away.. .J'Too laite, Mr. Thaw," she murmured. "This is not a faint—but escape. I am sorry to disappoint you of your sensation And before he realised that his quarry had cheated him. Lady Scott gave a little sigh and closed her wicked-, green eyes for ever! CHAPTER XXVIII. JOY COMETH IN THB MORNING. The mystery of Lady Margaret's death never came out after all. There was no men- tion of the dramatic arrest and suicide of Lady Scott, and her sudden death was attri- buted to syncope, though only a privileged few knew that a deadly Indian poison con- cealed in a ring had ended the miserable woman'6 life. In a, private room of a West End hotel Olivia and Virginia sat with their husbands. Olivia had been married that day to Jim very quietly, and only Virginia and Wilfrid ancl Mr. Thaw had been present at the wed- ding. They had been talking of the past in hushed, but happy voices, and then Olivia said suddenly: "I am so glad that awful man, Luke Sladen, and his sister, Jordan, have left the country. Bad as they were, it was better not to prosecute them-for her poor, dear sake." Wilfrid drew a paper out of his pocket and smiled. "But our worthy friend, Dr. Thorne, has been sent to three years' penal servitude for keeping an illegal private asylum, and he de- served it, too-the old impostpr! Virginia laid her hand in his. "I am so happy to-day, now that all the clouds and mysteries are cleared up, that I can be sorry for that awful man," she said softly. "There is no room in my heart for 9 anything but joy!" Olivia looked at her husband. "And so is mine," she said softly. "The one person I feel we ought to be ever grateful to is dear Mr. Thaw. He has brought our happiness to us! "Yes," said Jim, heartily, "good old Thaw has been in the wake of the hound ever since, and only Wilfrid and I know how much we Dwe him." But later on, when they were alone, after Virginia and Wilfrid had seen them off to Switzerland for their honeymoon, Jim drew his wife into his arms. "At last mine—my very own beloved wife, to have and to hold!" Olivia nestled her head against his shoulder. "For ever and for ever I" she murmured softly. I soItly. [Tn END.]
THINGS THOUGHTFUL DON'T LOSE A PAWN. A long time ago, when Queen Elizabeth was playing ohess, the French Ambassador entered her room, and while watching the progress of the game, he said to her, "Your Majesty, you have before you the game of life. You lose a pawn; it seems a small matter; but with the pawn you lose the game." The queen understood his meaniar, and saw the moral-that her success in life as a queen depended upon prompt and right action in little things; that a pawn in the rme of life must not be lost; that its value in the problem of life is incalculable. The in the taught to the queen is a good leMon for all, even in the pushful twentieth cen- tury. We can make our own sunshine and mafca our own mirth, We can add to our trouble by moping; We can make a grim graveyw of thie glea old earth By giving up loving and hoping. For if a all in the way that we look at the world- Yes, it's all in the way we view things; With sorrow or laughter our lips may be ourled, For it's all in the way that we do things. It wants not merely microscopic but tele- scopic power to know humanity in its essence; a power to discern its grandeur as well as its littleness, the infinity of its rela- tions as well as the meanness of its pur- suits, The human soul is a great deep. We must take into view the nebulous possibili- ties that are brooding and waiting there, and notice the buds and films of light that reveal themselves even in the darkest places. I THE USE OF FRIENDS. r- in this sad world where mortals must Be almost strangers, Should we not turn to those we trust To save us from its dangers; Then whisper in my ear again. And thia believe, That aught which gives thy dear heart pain Makes my heart grieve. God' wills that we have sorrow here, And we will share it; I Whisper thy sorrow in my ear That I may also bear it; If anywhere our trouble seems To find an end, Tis in the fairyland of dreams. Or with a friend. I ROYAL GIFTS. Some men fill the air with their strength and sweetness as the orchards in October days fill the air with ripe fruit. Some women cling to their own nouee like the honeysuckle over the door, yet, like it, fill all the region with the subtle fragrance of their goodness. How great a bounty and a blessing it is so to hold the royal gifts of the soul that they shall be musio to all! It would be no unworthy thing to live for, to make the power which we have within us the breath of other men's joys, to fill the atmosphere which they must stand in with a brightness which they cannot create for themselves. I WHILE YET 'TIS DAY. Arise, my soul! Nor dream the hours Of life away; Arise, and do thy being's work While yet 'tis day. The doer, not the dreamer, breaks Tho baleful spell Which binds with iron hands the earth On which we dwell. 0 dreamer, wake! Your brother-man Is still a slave; And thousands go heart-crushed this day Unto the grave. From out Time's orn your golden hours Flow fast away; Then, dreamer, up, and do life's work While yet 'tis day! I THE VALUE OF CONVERSATION. I Conversation is the most deiigntiu1 method of gaining knowledge. What 19 more invaluable than au accomplished com- panion, a living volume reading its own pages? What an intellectual treat it is to talk to one with whom conversing we forget all time. It is worth much to read the lemons of a philosopher, but to hear hi? impart them is worth much more. It is agreeable to read the narration of a. tra- veller, but far more so to hear him dewibo what he has seen. Besides, there tb'O opportunity of asking questions, and .kdl in interrogation is one of the chief