"It's very strange," said Ware thoughtfully.
"It's worse; it's improper," cried Mrs. Parry in her sternest voice. "I see no reason why such a thing should be done in the darkness of night. Though to be sure," she continued, rubbing her nose, "we have had moonlight lately."
"I must see into this," said Ware, rising.
"You'll find nothing. Everyone has watched, but to no purpose, my friend. Now the idiots talk of ghosts, and what not."
"What do you think yourself?" asked Giles.
"Why, that some one who loved Daisy better than you did has taken pity on her neglected grave, and——"
"Don't!" he cried, wincing. "I did my best to make her happy. The engagement was unfortunate."
"The marriage would have been still more so. It is just as well the poor girl died. No, no, I don't blame you. But Anne——"
"Don't say a word against Anne," he interrupted quickly. Then, before his hostess could reply, he took his leave. "I must be going now."
Mrs. Parry was not at all pleased, but knowing how far she could go, decided that she had reached the limit of his forbearance. With feminine craft she smothered her resentment, and parted from him in the most cordial manner. All the same, she still held to her opinion that Anne was not the wife for her favorite.
Giles went at once to the churchyard to view Daisy's grave. He found everything in good order. The grass was shorn, the flowers were blooming, and the white marble of the stone had been cleansed carefully. Wondering who had performed this labor of love, he returned to get his horse. At the gate of the churchyard a tall man passed him with bent head. As he brushed past the young squire he raised it suddenly. Giles saw a clean-shaven face, large black eyes, and a sallow complexion. He stood aside to let him pass.
"Rather a nice day," said Ware pleasantly.
"Very," responded the man, and continued his walk.
Giles knew very well that he was the new tenant of the Priory. It was in his mind to speak to him, but on second thoughts he decided to do so on a more propitious occasion. Standing at the gate, he looked thoughtfully after the retiring figure. There was something familiar about it and about the face of the man. His eyes especially aroused a vague recollection in his mind, but he could not, as the saying goes, "put a name to it." But while walking to the inn it suddenly flashed into his brain that this was the man whom he had seen in church on that fatal New Year's Eve.
"It's the clerk," he said breathlessly. "He has shaved his beard. He is Wilson, the man who fled with Anne, who murdered poor Daisy!"
MRS. BENKER REAPPEARS
The more Giles thought about Franklin, the more he was certain that he was the man for whom search was being made. To be sure there was no distinguishing mark of identification; the evidence that he was one and the same amounted to the facts that he had large black eyes, and that his height and figure resembled the so-called Wilson. Moreover, although other people in the village had seen the clerk, no one but Giles seemed to recognize him. In fact, this recognition was rather due to an instinct than to any tangible reason. But in his own mind he was convinced. He recalled how the man had suddenly removed his scarf as though he were stifling on that night. He remembered the wan face, the dark, anxious face, and the rough red beard and hair.
To be sure Franklin was dark-haired and sallow in complexion; also he was clean-shaved, and even when not—according to Mrs. Parry—had worn a full black beard. But the red hair and whiskers might have been assumed as a disguise. Giles did not know very well how to verify his suspicions. Then he determined to confide in Morley. Steel had told him that the proprietor of The Elms was an ex-detective, and Giles thought that for the sake of avenging Daisy's death he might be induced to take up his old trade. With this idea he called at The Elms.
Morley was delighted to see him and welcomed him in the most cheerful manner. He and Giles were always good friends, and the only subject of contention between them was the question of Anne's guilt. Morley still believed that the governess had committed the crime and asked after her at the outset of the interview.
"Have you found her?" he asked, just as Mrs. Parry had done.
Giles knew quite well of whom he was speaking. "No, I have not," he answered; "and if I had I certainly should not tell you."
"As you please," replied the little man complacently; "you will never see the truth."
"It is not the truth. But see here, Morley, what is the use of our discussing this matter? You believe Miss Denham to be guilty. I am certain that she is innocent. Let the difference between us rest there. Still, if I could prove the innocence of Miss Denham——"
"I should be more than delighted," responded Morley quickly, "and would make all the amends in my power for my unjust suspicions. But you have first to prove them unjust. Believe me, Ware, I admired Miss Denham as much as my wife did, and thought much of her. I defended her from poor Daisy's aspersions, and would have stood her friend all through but for this last act of hers. Well! Well, don't get angry. I am willing to be shown that I am wrong. Show me."
Giles reflected for a moment, then went straight to the point.
"I have been with Steel," he said abruptly, "and he tells me that you have been in the detective line yourself."
Morley nodded. "Quite so," he answered, "although I asked Steel to say nothing about it. I am a private gentleman now, and I don't want my former occupation to be known in Rickwell. A prejudice exists against detectives, Ware. People don't like them, because every one has something to conceal, and with a trained man he or she is afraid lest some secret sin should come to light."
"It may be so, although that is rather a cynical way of looking at the matter. But you are really Joe Bart?"
"Yes. And quite at your service. Only keep this quiet."
"Certainly. I quite appreciate your reasons for wanting the matter kept quiet. But see here, Mr. Morley—I shall call you so."
"It will be better," replied the ex-detective cheerfully, "and I have a sort of right to the name. It was my mother's."
"Very good. Then as Morley why should you not exercise your old skill and help me to find out who killed Daisy?"
"I should be delighted, and what skill remains to me is at your service. But I am rusty now, and cannot follow a trail with my old persistence or talent. Besides, my mind is made up as to the guilt——"
"Yes, yes," interposed Giles hastily, "you think so, but I don't agree with you. Now listen to what I have to tell you, and I am sure you will think that it was the man who killed Daisy."
"But he had no motive."
"Yes, he had. I'll tell it to you concisely."
Morley looked surprised at Giles' insistence, but nodded without a word and waited for an explanation. Giles related all that he had learned about Wilson, and how Steel had connected him with the supposed clerk who had served the summons on Morley. Then he proceeded to detail Steel's belief that the so-called Wilson was a burglar, and mentioned the fact of the yacht with the strange name. Morley listened in silence, but interrupted the recital with a laugh, when the scarlet cross was mentioned in connection with the robbery at Lady Summersdale's house.
"Steel has found a mare's nest this time," he said coolly. "He knew better than to come to me with such a cock and bull story, although he has imposed very successfully on you and on that Hungarian Princess you talk of. I had the Summersdale case in hand."
"I know. Steel said that you carried it through successfully."
Morley demurred. "I don't know if you can say that I was successful, Ware. It was not one of my lucky cases. I certainly got back the jewels. I found them in their London hiding-place, but I did not catch one of the thieves. They all bolted."
"In The Red Cross yacht."
"Oh, that's all rubbish," said Morley frankly; "there were a great many yachts at Bexleigh on that occasion. I don't remember one called The Red Cross. And even if one of that name was there, it does not say that it is the same that was off Gravesend the other day."
"Six months ago," corrected Giles gravely; "but how do you account for the fact that wherever that yacht has been burglaries have taken place?"
"I can't account for it, and Steel has yet to prove that there is any connection between the yacht and the robberies. He thinks it a kind of pirate ship evidently. Not a bad idea, though," added Morley musingly; "the goods could be removed easily without suspicion on board a good-looking yacht."
"And that is what has been done."
"It wasn't in the matter of Lady Summersdale's jewels," retorted the ex-detective. "I found those in London, and have reason to believe that they were taken there by train. Besides, there was no connection between the yacht and that robbery."
"Steel said that a scarlet cross was found in the safe, and——"
"And," interrupted Morley, "there you have the long arm of coincidence, Ware. That cross belonged to Lady Summersdale, and was one of the trinkets left behind. If you want proof on this point, you have only to ask Lady——no, I forgot, she is dead. However, I daresay her son or daughter will be able to prove that the cross was hers."
Giles was much disappointed by this explanation, which seemed clear enough. And if any one should know the truth, it would be the man who had taken charge of the case. Failing on this point, Giles shifted his ground.
"Well, Morley," he said, "I am not very anxious to prove this man Wilson a burglar. He is a murderer, I am sure, and the greater crime swallows up the lesser."
"That sounds law," said Morley, lighting a cigar.
"Well, Ware, I don't see how I can help you. This man Wilson, whether he is innocent or guilty, has vanished; and, moreover, his connection, if any, with the Summersdale robbery of ten years ago won't prove him guilty of my poor ward's death."
"I only mentioned that to show his connection with the yacht at Gravesend. But as to this Wilson, I know where he is."
Morley wheeled round with an eager light in his eyes. "The devil you do. Where is he?"
"At the Priory."
"Is this a joke?" cried Morley angrily. "If so, it is a very poor one, Ware. The man who lives at the Priory is my friend Franklin——"
"He is also the man who was in the church on New Year's Eve—the man who killed Daisy, as I truly believe."
Giles went on to state what his reasons were for this belief. All at once Morley started to his feet. "Ah! I know now why something about him seemed to be familiar to me. What a fool I am! I believe you are right, Ware."
"What? That he is this man Wilson?"
"I don't know what his former name was," replied Morley, with a shrug, "but now you mention it I fancy he is the man who served the summons on me."
"You ought to know," said Ware dryly; "you saw him in this room, and in a good light."
"True enough, Ware; but all the time he kept his collar up and that white scarf round his throat. His chin was quite buried in it. And then he had a rough red—wig, shall we say? and a red beard. I didn't trouble to ask him to make himself comfortable. All I wanted was to get him out of the way. But I remember his black eyes. Franklin has eyes like that, and sometimes I catch myself wondering where I have seen him before. He tells me he has lived in Florence these six years and more. I fancied that when I was a detective I might have seen him, but he insisted that he had not been to London for years and years. He originally came from the States. And I was once a detective! Good Lord, how I have lost my old cleverness! But to be sure I have been idle these ten years."
"Then you think Franklin is this man?"
"I think so, but of course I can't be sure. Naturally he will deny that he is, and I can't prove the matter myself. But I tell you what, Ware," said Morley suddenly, "get that woman Wilson lodged with down, and see if she will recognize Franklin as her former lodger. She, if any one, will know him, and perhaps throw him off his guard."
Ware rose. "A very good idea," he said. "I'll write to her at once. I am certain this is the man, especially as he has inherited Daisy's money. He killed her in order to get the fortune, and that was why he kept asking Asher's office boy about money left to people."
"Ah!" Morley looked thoughtful. "So that was the motive, you think?"
"I am sure of it, and a quite strong enough motive for many people," said Ware grimly. "If Mrs. Benker can verify this man, I'll have him arrested. He will have to explain why he came here instead of the office boy, and why he fled on that night."
"Yes, yes!" cried Morley excitedly. "And he might perhaps explain why the governess helped him to escape."
"Ah!" Giles' face fell. "So he might; but if he dares to inculpate her in this crime——"
"Ware," said Morley, laying his hand on the young man's shoulder, "if I were you I should do nothing rash. Every one thinks that Miss Denham is guilty. If this Franklin is the man who fled with her, he will accuse her to save himself. Certainly there is the motive of the money, but that might be explained away."
"I don't see how it can."
"Nor I; still, there is always the chance. Again, he may take alarm—always presuming he is the man—and fly. I tell you what, Ware, you bring Mrs. Benker down, and take her into the grounds of the Priory. I will arrange that Franklin, without suspecting her or us, shall meet her, accidentally, at some place where we can hide. Then we can overhear if he is the man or not."
"He'll deny that he is."
"Why should he? There is nothing, so far as he knows, that Mrs. Benker can lay hold of. If he is the man he will admit his identity, if not, he will explain who he is. Whereas if we show ourselves and show that we suspect him, he will be on his guard. No, Ware; better let the woman meet him by chance."
"It's a good plan," replied Giles, shaking hands heartily with Morley. "I am delighted that you should co-operate with me. We will yet prove that Anne is innocent."
"I hope so," cried his host, slapping Giles on the back. "Off with you, Ware, to do your part. I'll attend to Franklin. But say no word of our plan to any one. Upon my word," cried he jubilantly, "I feel just as though I were in the profession again." And thus laughing and joking, he sent his visitor away in the best of spirits.
Delighted that he had some one to help him, Giles lost no time in performing his part of the business. He sent a letter to Mrs. Benker, asking her to come down for a couple of days. It was his intention to invite Alexander also, as the boy would also be useful in identifying Franklin as his mother's former lodger; but since leaving Asher's Alexander had been taken up by Steel, who saw in him the makings of a good detective. If Alexander learned anything he would certainly tell his master, and then Steel would come down to interfere. Ware did not want him to meddle with the matter at present. He wished to be sure of his ground first, and then would ask the assistance of the detective to have Franklin arrested. Of course, he had every confidence in Steel, but for the above reason he determined to keep his present action quiet. Also, Steel was on the south coast, hunting for evidence concerning The Red Cross yacht, and would not be pleased at being taken away to follow what might prove to be a false trail. Ware therefore said nothing to Mrs. Benker about what he desired to see her, but simply asked her to come down on a visit.
There was a prospect of his having another visitor, and one he did not much wish to meet. This was the Princess Karacsay. Several times he had called to see her, but she had always put off her promised explanation on some plea or another. Instead of attending strictly to the business which had brought them together, she made herself agreeable to Giles—too agreeable he thought, for he had by this time got it into his head that Olga Karacsay was in love with him. He was not a vain young man, and tried to think that her attentions were merely friendly; but she was so persistent in her invitations and—in the slang phrase—made such running with him, that he grew rather nervous of her attentions. Several times she had proposed to come on a visit to Rickwell, but hitherto he had always managed to put her off. But her letters were becoming very imperative, and he foresaw trouble. It was quite a relief to Giles when the post arrived without a letter from this too persistent and too charming lady. However, she did not trouble him on this especial occasion, and he was thus enabled to give all his time to Mrs. Benker.
That good lady duly arrived, looking more severe than ever and with several new tales about the iniquities of Alexander. She expressed herself greatly obliged to Giles for giving her a day in the country, and got on very well with the old housekeeper. But when Ware told her his reason for asking her, Mrs. Benker grew rather nervous, as she did not think how she could support an interview, and, also, she wanted to know what the interview was for. To some extent Giles had to take her into his confidence, but he suppressed the fact that he suspected Franklin of the crime. He merely stated that Steel—who had introduced Giles to Mrs. Benker—had reason to believe that the so-called Wilson was wanted by the police. All that Mrs. Benker had to do was to see if Franklin was really her former lodger. After much talk and many objections, she consented to do what was wanted.
This was to wander in the park of the Priory and meet Franklin accidentally near a ruined summer-house, near what was known as the fish-ponds. Morley had arranged that Franklin should meet him there, and was to be late, so as to afford Mrs. Benker an opportunity of speaking to the man. Morley and Ware concealed themselves in the summer-house and saw Mrs. Benker parading the grass. Shortly Franklin arrived, walking slowly, and Mrs. Benker saluted him.
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Mrs. Benker to the new-comer, "but I do hope I'm not—— Why"—she changed her tone to one of extreme surprise—"if it ain't Mr. Wilson!"
The man did not move a muscle. Ware, who was watching, was disappointed. At least he expected him to start, but the so-called Wilson was absolutely calm, and his voice did not falter.
"You are making a mistake; my name is Franklin."
"It isn't his voice," muttered the landlady, still staring; "but his eyes are the same."
"May I ask you to go?" said Franklin. "You are trespassing."
Mrs. Benker shook her rusty black bonnet.
"You may change your hair from red to black," she declared, "and you may shave off a ginger beard, but you can't alter your eyes. Mr. Wilson you are, and that I'll swear to in a court of law before a judge and jury. Let them say what they will about me being a liar."
"Of what are you talking, woman?"
"Of you, sir; and I hope I may mention that you were more respectful when you boarded with me."
"Boarded with you!" Franklin stared, and spoke in an astonished tone. "Why, I never boarded with you in my life!"
"Oh, Mr. Wilson, how can you? What about my little house in Lambeth, and the dear boy—my son Alexander—you were so fond of?"
"You are raving."
"I'm as sane as you are," said the landlady, her color rising, "and a deal more respectable, if all were known. Why you should deny me to my face is more than I can make out, Mr. Wilson."
"My name is not Wilson."
"And I say it is, sir."
Both the man and the woman eyed one another firmly. Then Franklin motioned Mrs. Benker to a seat on a mossy bank.
"We can talk better sitting," said he. "I should like an explanation of this. You say that my name is Wilson, and that I boarded with you."
"At Lambeth. I'll take my oath to it."
"Had your boarder red hair and a red beard?"
"Red as a tomato. But you can buy wigs and false beards. Eyes, as I say, you cannot change."
"Had this Wilson eyes like mine?" asked Frankly eagerly.
"There ain't a scrap of difference, Mr. Wilson. Your eyes are the same now as they were then."
"One moment. Had this man you think me to be two teeth missing in his lower jaw—two front teeth?"
"He had. Not that his teeth were of the best."
Franklin drew down his lip.
"You will see that I have all my teeth."
"H'm!" Mrs. Benker sniffed. "False teeth can be bought."
"I fear you would find these teeth only too genuine," said the man quietly. "But I quite understand your mistake."
"My mistake?" Mrs. Benker shook her head vehemently. "I'm not the one to make mistakes."
"On this occasion you have done so; but the mistake is pardonable. Mrs.—Mrs.—what is your name?"
"Mrs. Benker, sir. And you know it."
"Excuse me, I do not know it. The man who was your lodger, and whom you accuse me of being, is my brother."
"Your brother!" echoed the landlady, amazed.
"Yes, and a bad lot he is. Never did a hand's turn in all his life. I daresay while he was with you he kept the most irregular hours?"
"He did—most irregular."
"Out all night at times, and in all day? And again, out all day and in for the night?"
"You describe him exactly." Mrs. Benker peered into the clean-shaven face in a puzzled manner. "Your hair is black, your voice is changed, and only the eyes remain."
"My brother and I have eyes exactly the same. I guessed your mistake when you spoke. I assure you I am not my brother."
"Well, sir," said the woman, beginning to think she had made a mistake after all, "I will say your voice is not like his. It was low and soft, while yours, if you'll excuse me mentioning it, is hard, and not at all what I'd call a love-voice."
Grim as Franklin was, he could not help laughing at this last remark.
"I quite understand. You only confirm what I say. My brother has a beautiful voice, Mrs. Benker; and much harm he has done with it amongst your sex."
"He never harmed me," said Mrs. Benker, bridling. "I am a respectable woman and a widow with one son. But your brother——"
"He's a blackguard," interrupted Franklin; "hand and glove with the very worst people in London. You may be thankful he did not cut your throat or steal your furniture."
"Lord!" cried Mrs. Benker, astounded, "was he that dangerous?"
"He is so dangerous that he ought to be shut up. And if I could lay hands on him I'd get the police to shut him up. He's done no end of mischief. Now I daresay he had a red cross dangling from his watch-chain."
"Yes, he had. What does it mean?"
"I can't tell you; but I'd give a good deal to know. He has hinted to me that it is the sign of some criminal fraternity with which he is associated. I never could learn what the object of the cross is. He always kept quiet on that subject. But I have not seen him for years, and then only when I was on a flying visit from Italy."
"Have you been to Italy, sir?"
"I live there," said Franklin, "at Florence. I have lived there for over ten years, with an occasional visit to London. If you still think that I am my brother, I can bring witnesses to prove——"
"Lord, sir, I don't want to prove nothing. Now I look at you and hear your voice I do say as I made a mistake as I humbly beg your pardon for. But you are so like Mr. Wilson——"
"I know, and I forgive you. But why do you wish to find my brother? He has been up to some rascality, I suppose?"
"He has, though what it is I know no more than a babe. But they do say," added Mrs. Benker, sinking her voice, "as the police want him."
"I'm not at all astonished. He has placed himself within the reach of the law a hundred times. If the police come to me, I'll tell them what I have told you. No one would be more pleased than I to see Walter laid by the heels."
"Is his name Walter?"
"Yes, Walter Franklin, although he chooses to call himself Wilson. My name is George. He is a blackguard."
"Oh, sir, your flesh and blood."
"He's no brother of mine," said Franklin, rising, with a snarl. "I hate the man. He had traded on his resemblance to me to get money and do all manner of scoundrelly actions. That was why I went to Italy. It seems that I did wisely, for if I could not prove that I have been abroad these ten years, you would swear that I was Walter."
"Oh, no, sir—really." Mrs. Benker rose also.
"Nonsense. You swore that I was Walter when we first met. Take a good look at me now, so that you may be sure that I am not he. I don't want to have his rascalities placed on my shoulders."
Mrs. Benker took a good look and sighed. "You're not him, but you're very like. May I ask if you are twins, sir?"
"No. Our eyes are the only things that we have in common. We got those from our mother, who was an Italian. I take after my mother, and am black, as you see me. My brother favored my father, who was as red as an autumn sunset."
"He was indeed red," sighed Mrs. Benker, wrapping her shawl round her; "and now, sir, I hope you'll humbly forgive me for——"
"That's all right, Mrs. Benker. I only explained myself at length because I am so sick of having my brother's sins imputed on me. I hope he paid your rent."
"Oh, yes, sir, he did that regularly."
"Indeed," sneered Franklin; "then he is more honest than I gave him credit for being. Because if he had not paid you I should have done so. You seem to be a decent woman and——"
"A widow!" murmured Mrs. Benker, hoping that he would give her some money. But this Mr. Franklin had no intention of doing.
"You can go now," he said, pointing with his stick towards an ornamental bridge; "that is the best way to the high-road. And, Mrs. Benker, if my brother should return to you let me know."
"And the police, sir," she faltered.
"I'll tell the police myself," said the man, frowning. "Good day."
Mrs. Benker, rather disappointed that she should have received no money, and wishing that she had said Walter Franklin had not paid her rent, crept off, a lugubrious figure, across the bridge. Franklin watched her till she was out of sight, then took off his hat, exposing a high, baldish head. His face was dark, and he began to mutter to himself. Finally, he spoke articulately.
"Am I never to be rid of that scamp?" he said, shaking his fist at the sky. "I have lived in Italy—in exile, so that I should not be troubled with his schemes and rascalities. I have buried myself here, with my daughter and those three who are faithful to me, in order that he may not find me out. And now I hear of him. That woman. She is a spy of his. I believe she came here from him with a made-up story. Walter will come, and then I'll have to buy him off. I shall be glad to do so. But to be blackmailed by that reptile. No! I'll go back to Florence first." He replaced his hat and began to dig his stick in the ground. "I wonder if Morley would help me. He is a shrewd man. He might advise me how to deal with this wretched brother of mine. If I could only trust him?" He looked round. "I wonder where he is? He promised to meet me half an hour ago." Here Franklin glanced at his watch. "I'll walk over to The Elms and ask who this woman, Mrs. Benker, is. He may know."
All this was delivered audibly and at intervals. Giles was not astonished, as he knew from Mrs. Parry that the man was in the habit of talking aloud to himself. But he was disappointed to receive such a clear proof that Franklin was not the man who had eloped with Anne. Even if he had been deceiving Mrs. Benker (which was not to be thought of), he would scarcely have spoken in soliloquy as he did if he had not been the man he asserted himself to be. Giles, saying nothing to his companion, watched Franklin in silence until he was out of sight, and then rose to stretch his long legs, Morley, with a groan, followed his example. It was he who spoke first.
"I am half dead with the cramp," said he, rubbing his stout leg, "just like old times when I hid in a cupboard at Mother Meddlers, to hear Black Bill give himself away over a burglary. Ay, and I nearly sneezed that time, which would have cost me my life. I have been safe enough in that summer-house—but the cramp—owch!"
"It seems I have been mistaken," was all Giles could say.
"So have I, so was Mrs. Benker. We are all in the same box. The man is evidently very like his scamp of a brother."
"No doubt, Morley. But he isn't the brother himself."
"More's the pity, for Franklin's sake as well as our own. He seems to hate his brother fairly and would be willing to give him up to the law—if he's done anything."
"Well," said Ware, beginning to walk, "this Walter Franklin—to give him his real name—has committed murder. I am more convinced than ever that he is the guilty person. But I don't see what he has to do with Anne. Her father is certainly dead—died at Florence. Ha! Morley. Franklin comes from Florence. He may know—he may have heard."
Morley nodded. "You're quite right, Ware. I'll ask him about the matter. Humph!" The ex-detective stopped for a moment. "This involuntary confession clears George Franklin."
"Yes. He is innocent enough."
"Well, but he inherited the money," said Morley. "It's queer that his brother, according to you, should have killed the girl who kept the fortune from him."
"It is strange. But it might be that Walter Franklin intended to play the part of his brother and get the money, counting on the resemblance between them."
"That's true enough. Yet if George were in Italy and within hail, so to speak, I don't see how that would have done. Why not come to The Elms with me and speak to Franklin yourself? He will be waiting for me there."
"No," answered Ware after some thought, "he evidently intends to trust you, and if I come he may hold his tongue. You draw him out, Morley, and then you can tell me. Mrs. Benker——"
"I'll say nothing about her. I am not supposed to know that she is a visitor to Rickwell. He'll suspect our game if I chatter about her, Ware. We must be cautious. This is a difficult skein to unravel."
"It is that," assented Giles dolefully, "and we're no further on with it than we were before."
"Nonsense, man. We have found out Wilson's real name."
"Well, that is something certainly, and his brother may be able to put us on his track. If he asks about Mrs. Benker, say that she is a friend of my housekeeper. You can say you heard it from your wife."
"I'll say no more than is necessary," replied Morley cunningly. "I learned in my detective days to keep a shut mouth. Well, I'll be off and see what I can get out of him."
When Morley departed at his fast little trot—he got over the ground quickly for so small a man—Giles wandered about the Priory park. He thought that he might meet with the daughter, and see what kind of a person she was. If weak in the head, as Mrs. Parry declared her to be, she might chatter about her Uncle Walter. Giles wished to find out all he could about that scamp. He was beginning to feel afraid for Anne, and to wonder in what way she was connected with such a blackguard.
However, he saw nothing and turned his face homeward. Just as he was leaving the park on the side near the cemetery he saw something glittering in the grass. This he picked up, and was so amazed that he could only stare at it dumb-founded. And his astonishment was little to be wondered at. He held in his hand a half-sovereign with an amethyst, a diamond, and a pearl set into the gold. It was the very ornament which he had given Anne Denham on the night of the children's party at The Elms—the coin of His Most Gracious Majesty King Edward VII.
AN AWKWARD INTERVIEW
The discovery of the coin perplexed Giles. It was certainly the trinket attached to the bangle which he had given Anne. And here he found it in the grounds of the Priory. This would argue that she was in the neighborhood, in the house it might be. She had never been to the Priory when living at The Elms, certainly not after the New Year, when she first became possessed of the coin. He decided, therefore, that at some late period—within the last few days—she had been in the park, and there had lost the coin. It would, indeed, be strange if this trifling present which he had made her should be the means of tracing her to her hiding-place.
And that hiding-place was the Priory. Giles felt sure of this. If she was in the neighborhood and walking about openly, she would be discovered and arrested. Therefore she must be concealed in the house. She had gone off with Walter Franklin, and here she was under the wing of his brother George. The case grew more mysterious and perplexing as time went on. Giles did not know which way to turn, or what advantage to reap from this discovery.
Certainly, if he could get into the Priory and search the house, he might discover Anne. Or, it might be, that if he confided in Franklin and told him of his love for Anne, the man might tell the truth and let him have an interview. But the matter took some thinking out. He decided to let it remain in abeyance at present. After kissing the coin—had it not been Anne's?—he slipped it into his waistcoat-pocket and returned home.
Here a surprise, and not a very agreeable one, awaited him. He reached his house just in time to dress for dinner, and found a letter, which had been delivered by hand. It was from Olga Karacsay, and announced that she and her mother were stopping at the village inn. She asked Giles to come over that evening, as she wished to introduce him to the elder Princess. Ware was vexed that this inopportune visit should have taken place at the moment. He did not wish to be introduced to Olga's mother, and had more to do than to chatter French to a foreign lady. However, being naturally a most polite young gentleman, he could not refuse the request, and after dinner proceeded to the village.
Morris, the landlord of "The Merry Dancer"—which was the name of the inn—was a burly man, and usually extremely self-important. On this night he excelled himself, and looked as swollen as the frog in the fable. That two Princesses should stay in his house was an honor which overwhelmed him. To be sure, they were foreigners, which made a difference; still, they had titles, and plenty of money, and for all Morris knew—as he observed to his flustered wife—might be exiled sovereigns. Morris received Giles in his best clothes, and bowed himself to the ground.
"Yes, Mr. Ware, their Highnesses are within—on the first floor, Mr. Ware, having engaged a salon and two bedrooms."
"I didn't know you had a salon, Morris!" said Giles, his eyes twinkling.
"For the time being I call it such," replied the landlord grandly. "My daughter is a French scholar, Mr. Ware, and called the sitting-room by that name. Me and Mrs. Morris and Henrietta Morris wish to make their Highnesses feel at home. Allow me to conduct you, sir, to the salon of their Highnesses. The garkong is engaged with the dejune, along with the femmie de chambers, who also waits."
"You are quite a French scholar, Morris."
"Henrietta Morris, my daughter—or I should say, mon filly—has instructed me in the languidge, sir. This way to the salon, sir," and Morris marshalled the way with the air of a courtier of Louis XIV.
Giles entered the sitting-room, which was pretty and quaint but extremely unpretentious, bubbling over with laughter.
Olga came forward, and catching sight of his face, laughed also as she shook hands with him.
"I see you know the jest," she said.
"Morris informed me of it as soon as I entered his door. Why have you come down to this dull place, Princess?"
"Ah, no"—she made a pretty gesture of annoyance—"you must to-night call me Olga——"
"I should not think of taking such a liberty," said Giles quickly.
Olga pouted. "Then, Mademoiselle Olga," said she, "my mother you must call the Princess Karacsay. Will you allow me, Mr. Ware, to present you to my mother?"
She led the young man forward, and he found himself bowing to a stout lady, who at one time must have been beautiful, but in whom age had destroyed a great amount of her good looks. She was darker than her daughter, and had a languid, indolent air, which seemed to account for her stoutness. Evidently she never took exercise. Her face was still beautiful, and she had the most glorious pair of dark eyes. Her hair was silvery, and contrasted strangely with her swart face. One would have thought that she had African blood in her. She wore a yellow dress trimmed with black lace, and many jewels twinkled on her neck and arms and in her hair. Her tastes, like her appearance, were evidently barbaric. In this cold, misty island she looked like some gorgeous tropical bird astray.
"I am glad to see you, Mr. Ware," she said in soft, languid tones, yet with a kind of rough burr; "my daughter has often talked of you." Her English was very good, and there was little trace of a foreign accent. Yet the occasional lisp and the frequent roughness added a piquancy to her tones. Even at her age—and she was considerably over fifty—she was undeniably a fascinating woman: in her youth she must have been a goddess both for looks and charm. Olga was regal and charming, but her mother excelled her. Giles found himself becoming quite enchanted with this Cleopatra of the West.
"You have been long in England, Princess?" he asked.
"But a week. I came to see Olga. She would have me come, although I dislike travelling. But I am fond of Olga."
"It is more than my father is," said Olga, with a shrug; "he would not come. I suppose he thinks that I have disgraced him."
"My dear child," reproved her mother, "you know what your father's opinion is about this wild life you lead."
"A very hard-working life," retorted her daughter; "singing is not easy. For the rest, I assure you I am respectable."
"It is not the life for a Karacsay, my dear. If you would only come back to Vienna and marry the man your father——"
"I choose for myself when I marry," flashed out Olga, with a glance at the uncomfortable Giles. "Count Taroc can take another wife."
The Princess, seeing that Giles found this conversation somewhat trying, refrained from further remark. She shrugged her ample shoulders, and sipped her coffee, which she complained was bad. "You do not know how to make coffee here," she said, unfurling a fan, "and it is cold, this England of yours."
"Princess, to-night is warm!" expostulated Ware.
"Nevertheless I have had a fire made up," she answered, pointing with her fan to the end of the room; "the landlord was so surprised."
"He no doubt considered it to be an eccentricity of Her Highness," said Olga, with a laugh; "a cigarette, mother?"
The Princess took one languidly, and moved her chair closer to the fire. The night—to Giles—was quite hot, and he could scarcely bear the stifling heat of the room. Windows and doors were closed, and the fire flamed up fiercely. Also some pastiles had been burnt by Olga, and added a heavy, sensuous scent to the atmosphere. Ware could not help comparing the room to the Venusberg, and the women to the sirens of that unholy haunt. Which of the two was Venus he did not take upon himself to decide.
"I am used to the tropics," explained the Princess, puffing blue clouds of smoke. "I come from Jamaica; but I have been many years in Vienna, and in that cold Hungary," she shivered.
"Ah, now I see, Princess, why you speak English so well," said Giles, and he might also have added that he now guessed why she was so Eastern in appearance and so barbaric in her taste for crude, vivid colors. She had negro blood in her veins he decided, and Olga also. This would account for the fierce temperament of the latter.
"I left Jamaica when I was twenty-two," explained the Princess, while her daughter frowned. For some reason Olga did not seem to approve of these confidences. "Prince Karacsay was travelling there. He came to my father's plantation, and there he married me. I am sorry I did not marry someone in Jamaica," she finished lazily.
"My dear mother," broke in her daughter petulantly, "you have always been happy in Vienna and at the Castle."
"At the castle, yes. It was so quiet there. But Vienna, ach! It is too gay, too troublesome."
"You don't like noise and excitement, Princess?"
She shook her imperial head with the gesture of an angry queen.
"I like nothing but rest. To be in a hammock with a cigarette and to hear the wind bend the palms, the surf break on the shores. It is my heaven. But in Hungary—no palms, no surf. Ach!" She made a face.
"You are different to Mademoiselle Olga here," said Ware, smiling.
"Quite different," cried Olga, with a gay laugh. "But I am like my father. He is a bold hunter and rider. Ah, if I had only been born a man! I love the saddle and the gun. No wonder I got away from the dull Society life of Vienna, where women are slaves."
"I like being a slave, if rest is slavery," murmured her mother.
"Would not your father let you ride and shoot, Mademoiselle Olga?"
"Ah yes, in a measure. But he is an Austrian of the old school. He does not believe in a woman being independent. My mother, who is obedient and good, is the wife he loves."
"The Prince has been very kind to me. He does not trouble me."
"He wouldn't let the air blow too roughly on you, mother," said Olga, with a scornful laugh. "He is a descendant of those Magyars who had Circassian slaves, and adores them as playthings. I am different."
"You are terribly farouche, Olga," sighed the elder woman. "Your father has forgiven you, but he is still annoyed. I had the greatest difficulty in getting his permission to come over here."
"He doubtless thinks you will be able to bring me back to marry Count Taroc," replied Olga composedly, "but I stay." She looked at Giles again, as if he were the reason she thus decided. To change the conversation he stood up.
"I fear I fatigue you ladies," he said, looking very straight and handsome. "You will wish to retire."
"Certainly I retire," said the Princess. "But my daughter——"
"I shall stop and talk with Mr. Ware."
"Olga!" murmured her mother, rather shocked.
"I fear I have to go," said Giles uneasily.
"No. You must stop. I have to talk to you about Anne."
"Who is this Anne?" asked the Princess, rising lazily.
"No one you know, mother. A friend of Mr. Ware's. Now you must retire, and Katinka shall make you comfortable."
"You will not be long, Olga? If your father knew—"
"My father will not know," broke in her daughter, leading the elder woman to the door. "You will not tell him. Besides," (she shrugged), "we women are free in England. What would shock my father is good form in this delightful country."
The Princess murmured something to Giles in a sleepy tone, and lounged out of the room bulky but graceful. When she departed and the door was closed, Olga threw open the windows. "Pah!" she said, throwing the pastiles out of doors, "I cannot breathe in this atmosphere. And you, Mr. Ware?"
"I prefer untainted airs," he replied, accepting a cigarette.
"The airs of the moors and of the mountains," she exclaimed, drawing herself up and looking like a huntress in her free grace. "I also. I love wide spaces and chill winds. If we were in the Carpathians, you and I, how savage our life would be!"
"An alluring picture, Princess."
"I am not Princess at present. I am Olga!"
"Mademoiselle Olga," he corrected. "And what about Anne?"
She appeared annoyed by his persistence. "You think of nothing but that woman," she cried impetuously.
"Your friend, mademoiselle."
"Ach! How stiffly you stay that! My friend! Oh, yes. I would do much for Anne, but why should I do all?"
"I do not understand, mademoiselle."
With a strong effort she composed herself, and looked at him smiling. "Is it so very difficult to understand?" she asked softly.
"Very difficult," replied Ware stolidly.
"None so blind as those who won't see," muttered Olga savagely.
"Quite so, mademoiselle." He rose to go. "Will you permit me to retire?"
"No! I have much to say to you. Please sit down."
"If you will talk about Anne," he replied, still standing. "From what you said at our first interview, she evidently knows something of the Scarlet Cross, and——"
"I don't know what she does know. She was always careful."
"I thought she spoke freely to you."
"Oh, as a woman always does speak to one of her own sex. With reservations, Mr. Ware. Still, I could tell you something likely to throw some light on the mystery."
"If you only would."
"It would not lead you to her hiding-place."
"What if I knew it already, mademoiselle?"
She stood before him, her hands clenched, her breathing coming and going in quick, short gasps. "You can't know that."
"But you do," he said suddenly.
"I may, or I may not," she replied quickly; "and if you know, why not seek her out?"
"I intend to try."
"To try! Then you are not sure where she is?" said Olga eagerly.
"Before I answer that, mademoiselle, I must know if you are my friend or Anne's—enemy," and he looked at her straightly.
"You have put the matter—the position in the right way. I am your friend and Anne's—no, I am not her enemy. But I won't give her to you. No, I won't. You must guess that I——"
"Mademoiselle," he interrupted quickly, "spare yourself and me unnecessary humiliation. You know that I love Anne, that I love no one but her. I would give my life to find her to prove her innocence."
"Even your life will not bring her to you or save her from the law. Giles"—she held out her arms—"I love you."
"The heat of the room is too much for you. I will go."
"No!" She flung herself between him and the door. "Since I have said so much, I must say all. Listen! I have been making inquiries. I know more about the Scarlet Cross and Anne's connection with it than you think. Her fate is in my hands. I can prove her innocence."
"And you will—you will!"
"On condition that you give her up."
"I refuse to give her up," he cried angrily.
"Then she will be punished for a crime she did not commit."
"You know that she is innocent."
"I can prove it, and I shall do so. You know my price."
"Olga, do not speak like this. I would do much to save Anne——"
"And you refuse to save her," she replied scornfully.
"I refuse to give her up!"
"Then I shall do so—to the police. I know where she is."
"You do—that is why you are down here."
"I did not come here for that, but to see you. To make my terms. I love you, and if you will give her up, I shall save her——"
"I can save her in spite of you," said Giles, walking hastily in the door. "Your presence here confirms a fancy that I had. I can guess where Anne is, and I'll save her."
"You will bring her to the light of day and she will be arrested. I alone can save her."
"You will. Oh, Olga, be your better self, and——"
"You know my price," she said between her teeth.
"I can't pay it—I can't."
"Then you must be content to see her ruined."
"You are a devil!"
"And you are most polite. No; I am a woman who loves you, and who is determined to have you at any cost."
"Can you really save Anne?"
"Will you give me time to think?"
A flash of joy crossed her face. "Then I am not so indifferent to you as you would have me suppose," she said softly.
"You are not so—no, no! I can't say it! Give me time! give me time!" He opened the door.
"Wait, wait!" she said, and closed it again. "I will give you two days. Then I return to London. If I have your promise, Anne shall be set free from this accusation. If you tamper in the meantime with her—for you may know where she is—I'll have her arrested at once."
"I will do nothing," he said in muffled tones.
"Swear! swear!" She placed her hands on his shoulders.
Giles stepped back to free himself. "I will swear nothing," he said in icy tones. "I take my two days." So saying he opened the door, but not quickly enough to prevent her kissing him.
"You are mine! you are mine!" she exclaimed exultingly. "Let Anne have her liberty, her good name. I have you. You are mine!—mine!"
"On conditions," said Giles cruelly, and went away quickly.
THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS
Giles left "The Merry Dancer" quite determined to deceive Olga if it were possible. No faith should be kept with such a woman. She had power, and she was using it unscrupulously for selfish ends. Moreover, come what might, Giles could not bring himself to make her his wife. He loved Anne too deeply for that. And then he began to ask himself if he were not selfish also, seeing that he would not lose his own gratification to save the woman he loved. Nevertheless, he could not contemplate giving up Anne with equanimity, and set his wits to work in order to circumvent the treacherous Olga.
In the first place he now felt certain that Anne was in the neighborhood, and, as he shrewdly suspected, in the Priory. The discovery of the coin and the presence of Olga in the village made him certain on this point. In some way or another she had got to know of Anne's whereabouts, and had come here to make capital of her knowledge. If he consented to surrender Anne and make Olga his wife, she would probably assist Anne to escape, or else, as she asserted, clear her of complicity in the crime.
On the other hand, should he refuse, she would then tell the police where the unfortunate governess was to be found. It might be that Anne could save herself. But seeing that she had fled immediately after the murder, it would be difficult for her to exonerate herself. Also, the reason she had then to take the guilt upon her own shoulders might again stand in the way of her now clearing her character. Nothing was left but to marry Olga and so free Anne, or seek Anne himself. Ware determined to adopt the latter course as the least repugnant to his feelings.
But Olga was no mean antagonist. She loved Giles so much that she knew perfectly well that he did not love her, and this knowledge taught her to mistrust him. As her passion was so great she was content to take him as a reluctant husband, in the belief that she, as his wife, would in time wean him from his earlier love. But she was well aware that, even to save Anne, he would not give in without a struggle.
This being the case, she considered what he would do. It struck her that he would see if he could get into the Priory, for from some words he had let fall she was convinced that he thought Anne was concealed therein. Olga had her own opinion about that; but she had to do with his actions at present and not with her own thoughts. For this reason she determined to watch him—to be in his company throughout the time of probation.
Thus it happened that before Giles could arrange his plans the next day—one of which entailed a neighborly visit to Franklin—Olga made her appearance at his house, and expressed a desire to see his picture gallery, of which she had heard much. Her mother, she said, was coming over that afternoon to look at the house, which, as she had been told, was a model of what an English country-house should be.
Giles growled at this speech, being clever enough to see through the artifices of Mademoiselle Olga.
"The house is as old as the Tudors," he expostulated; "your mother should look at a more modern one."
"Oh, no," replied Olga sweetly. "I am sure she will be delighted with this one; it is so picturesque."
"I am afraid that I promised to pay a visit this afternoon."
"Ah, you must put it off, Mr. Ware. When two ladies come to see you, you really cannot leave them alone."
"If the next day will do——"
"I don't think it will. My mother and I leave the next day. She is due in town to a reception at the Austrian Embassy."
Ware made other excuses, but Olga would listen to none of them. She stopped all the morning and looked at the pictures, but she never referred to their conversation of the previous night. There was a tacit understanding between them that it should remain in abeyance until the time given for the reply of Giles was ended. Still, Ware could not forget that burning kiss, and was awkward in consequence.
Not so Olga. She was quite cool and self-possessed, and although alone with him for close on two hours, did not show the least confusion. Giles, much disgusted, called her in his own mind "unmaidenly." But she was not that, for she behaved very discreetly. She was simply a woman deeply in love who was bent on gaining her ends. Considering the depth of her passion, she restrained herself very creditably when with the man she loved. Giles now saw how it was that she had defied her family and had taken her own way in life.
"I won't stop to luncheon," she said, when he asked her; "but I and my mother will come over at three o'clock." It was now close on two. "I am sure we shall have a pleasant afternoon."
Giles tried to smile, and succeeded very well, considering what his feelings were at the moment. If he could only have behaved brutally, he would have refused the honor of the proposed visit, but it is difficult to be rude to a charming woman bent upon having her own way. Ware kicked as a man will, but ended in accepting the inevitable.
Olga returned to the inn, and found the Princess seated on the sofa fanning herself violently. Mrs. Morris was in the room, fluttering nervously as she laid the cloth for luncheon. Olga looked at her mother. "Did you take your walk?" she asked.
The Princess nodded. "I am very warm," she said.
"What do you think now?" asked her daughter impatiently.
"I think that you are a very clever woman, Olga," replied the Princess; "but I am too hungry to talk just now. When I have eaten and am rested we can speak."
"But just one word. Am I right?"
This conversation was conducted in French, and Mrs. Morris could make nothing of it. Even if she had known the sense she would not have understood what it meant. However, Olga and her mother reverted to English for the benefit of the landlady, and chatted about their proposed visit to Ware's mansion. After that came luncheon. Shortly after three mother and daughter were with Giles. He received them with composure, although he felt quite otherwise than composed. The Princess pronounced him a charming young man.
"And what a delightful place you have here!" she said, looking at the quaint Tudor house, with its grey walls and mullion windows. "It is like a fairy palace. The Castle"—she meant her husband's residence in Styria—"is cruel-looking and wild."
"It was built in the Middle Ages," said Olga. "I don't think any one was particularly amiable then."
"I would rather have stayed in Jamaica," sighed the Princess. "Why did I ever leave it?"
Olga, who always appeared annoyed when her mother reverted to her early life, touched the elder woman's elbow. The Princess sighed again, and held her peace. She had a fine temper of her own, but always felt that it was an effort to use it. She therefore usually gave in to Olga. "It saved trouble," she explained.
But her good temper did not last all the afternoon, and ended in disarranging Olga's plans. After a hearty afternoon tea on the lawn the Princess said that she did not feel well, and wished to go home. Olga demurred, but Giles, seeing the chance of escape, agreed that the Princess really was unwell, and proposed to send them back to the inn in his carriage. Princess Karacsay jumped at the offer.
"It will save me walking," she declared fretfully, "and I have done so much this morning."
"Where did you go?" asked Giles, wondering that so indolent a woman should exert herself on such a hot day.
"To some woods round a place they call the Priory."
"To the Priory!" he exclaimed, astonished. "Do you know Mr. Franklin?"
"My mother said the woods round the Priory," explained Olga, with an annoyed glance at the elder lady. "She did not enter."
"No," said the Princess, "I did not enter; I do not know the man. Oh, my dear Olga, do come back. I don't feel at all well."
"I will order the carriage," said Giles, rising.
"And you will come back with us?"
"Really, you must excuse me, Mademoiselle Olga," he answered; "but even a country squire has his work to do."
And with that he hurried away. In half an hour he had the satisfaction of seeing the carriage roll down his avenue with a very disappointed young lady frowning at the broad back of the coachman. Then he set about seeing what he could do to circumvent her.
It was too late to call on Franklin, as it was nearly six o'clock. Still, Ware thought he would reconnoitre in the woods. It was strange that the elder Princess should have been there this morning, and he wondered if she also knew of Anne's whereabouts. But this he decided was impossible. She had only been a few days in England, and she would not likely know anything about the governess. Still, it was odd that she should have taken a walk in that particular direction, or that she should have walked at all. Here was another mystery added to the one which already perplexed him so greatly.
However, time was too precious to be wasted in soliloquizing, so he went off post-haste towards the woods round the Priory. Since he wished to avoid observation, he chose by-paths, and took a rather circuitous route. It was nearly seven when he found himself in the forest. The summer evenings were then at their longest, and under the great trees there was a soft, brooding twilight full of peace and pleasant woodland sounds. Had he gone straight forward, he would have come on the great house itself, centred in that fairy forest. But this was the last thing he wished to do. He was not yet prepared to see Franklin. He looked here and there to see if any human being was about, but unsuccessfully. Then he took his way to the spot where he had found the coin of Edward VII. To his surprise he saw a girl stooping and searching. At once he decided that she was looking for the lost coin. But the girl was not Anne.
Looking up suddenly she surveyed him with a startled air, and he saw her face plainly in the quiet evening light. She had reddish hair, a freckled face, and was dressed—as Mrs. Parry had said—in all the colors of the rainbow. Giles guessed at once who she was, and bowed.
"Good evening, Miss Franklin," he said, lifting his hat, "you seem to be looking for something. Can I assist you?"
The damsel looked at him sternly and scowled. "You're trespassing," she said in rather a gruff voice.
"I fear that I am," he answered, laughing; "but you'll forgive me if I assist you in your search, won't you?"
"Who are you?" questioned Miss Franklin, quite unmoved by this politeness. "I never saw you before."
"I have just returned from London. My name is Ware."
"Ware!" echoed the girl eagerly. "Giles Ware?"
"Yes. Do you know my name?"
She took a good look at him, and seemed—he was vain enough to think so—rather to soften towards him. "I have heard Mrs. Morley speak of you," she declared bluntly.
"Ah! You have not heard a lady speak of me?"
Miss Franklin stared. "No, I never heard a lady talk of you," she replied, with a giggle. "What lady?"
"The lady who is stopping in your house."
Her eyes became hard, and she assumed a stony expression. "There is no lady in the house but myself."
"Not a lady who lost what you are looking for?"
This time she was thrown off her guard, and became as red as her hair. She tried to carry off her confusion with rudeness. "I don't know what you're talking of," she said, with a stamp and a frown! "you can just clear away off our land, or I'll set the dogs on you."
"I see. You keep dogs, do you? Bloodhounds probably?"
"How do you know that?" asked Miss Franklin, staring. "Yes, we do keep bloodhounds, and they will tear you to pieces if you don't go."
"You seem to forget that this is a civilized country," said Giles quietly. "If you set your dogs on me, I shall set the police on you."
"The police!" She seemed startled, but recovered herself. "I don't care for the police," she declared defiantly.
"You might not, but Walter Franklin might."
"Who is he? Never heard of him."
"Never heard of your uncle?" said Giles, and then wondered how he could let her know that he had heard it without confessing to the eavesdropping. It suddenly occurred to him that Franklin had—he supposed—on the previous day made a confidant of Morley. This supposition he took advantage of. "Mr. Morley told me that your father had mentioned his brother."
The girl started and thought for a moment. "Oh, you mean Uncle Walter," she said, after a pause. "Yes, but we never talk of him."
This little speech did not ring quite true. It seemed as though the girl wished to back up the saying of her father, whether she believed it or not. "Is that why you pretended ignorance?" he asked.
"That was why," replied Miss Franklin, with brazen assurance.
She was lying. Giles felt certain of that, but he could not bring the untruth home to her. He suddenly reverted to the main object of his interview, which had to do with the possibility of Anne being in the Priory.
"What about that coin you are looking for?"
"I am looking for no coin," she replied, quite prepared for him. "I lost a brooch here. Have you found it?"
"Yes," replied Giles, his eyes watchfully on her face. "It is an Edward VII. coin in the form of a brooch."
He thought Miss Franklin would contradict this, but she was perfectly equal to the occasion. "You must have found it, since you know it so well. Please give it to me."
"I have left it at home," he answered, although it was lying in his pocket-book, and that next his heart. "I will give it to you to-morrow if you tell me from whom you got it."
"I found it," she confessed, "in the churchyard."
"Ah!" A sudden light flashed into the darkness of Ware's mind. "By the grave of that poor girl who was murdered?"
"I don't know of any murdered girl," retorted Miss Franklin, and looked uneasy, as though she were conscious of making a mistake.
"Yes you do, and you know the lady who cleans the stone and attends to the grave. Don't deny the truth."
Miss Franklin looked him up and down, and shrugged her clumsy shoulders. "I don't know what you are talking about," she declared, and with that turned on her heel. "Since you will not take yourself off like a gentleman, I'll go myself"; and she went.
"Don't set the bloodhounds on me," called out Giles. But she never turned her head; simply went on with a steady step until she was lost in the gloom of the wood.
Giles waited for a time. He had an idea that she was watching. By-and-by the feeling wore off, and knowing by this time that he was quite alone, he also departed.
He was beginning to doubt Franklin, for this girl had evidently something to conceal. He was sure that Anne was being sheltered in the house, and that it was Anne who cleaned the gravestone. Perhaps George Franklin was giving her shelter since she had helped his rascal of a brother to escape. Thus thinking, he went through the wood with the intention of going home. A glance at his watch told him it was after eight.
Suddenly it occurred to him that it would be a good time to pay a visit to the graveyard and see if anything new had been done to the grave. All the people were within doors at this hour, and the churchyard would be quiet. Having made up his mind, he walked in the direction of the church and vaulted the low wall that divided that graveyard from the park. He saw Daisy's grave. Bending over it a woman. She looked up with a startled cry. It was Anne Denham.
PART OF THE TRUTH
For a moment the lovers stared at one another in the luminous twilight. The meeting was so strange, the place where it took place so significant of the trouble that had parted them, that both were overcome with emotion. Anne was as white as the marble tombstone, and looked at him with appealing eyes that beseeched him to go away. But having found her Giles was determined not to lose her again, and was the first to find his tongue.
"Anne!" said he, and stepped towards her with open arms.
His voice broke the spell which held her chained to the ill-omened spot, and she turned to fly, only to find herself on his breast and his dear voice sounding entreatingly in her ears.
"Anne," he said in a hoarse whisper, "you will not leave me now?"
After a brief struggle she surrendered herself. There was no danger of any one coming to the churchyard at this hour, and since they had met so unexpectedly, she—like the tender, sweet woman she was—snatched at the blissful moment. "Giles," she murmured, and it was the first time he had heard her lips frame his name. "Giles!"
Again there was a silence between them, but one of pure joy and transcendental happiness. Come what might, nothing could banish the memory of that moment. They were heart to heart and each knew that the other loved. There was no need of words. Giles felt that here was the one woman for him; and Anne nestled in those beloved arms like a wild bird sheltering from storm.
But the storm which buffeted her wings would tear her from this refuge. The passionate delight of that second of Eden passed like a shadow on the sun dial. From heaven thy dropped to earth, and parted once more by a hand-breath, stared with haggard looks at one another. The revulsion was so great that Anne could have wept; but her sorrow was so deep that her eyes were dry. For the gift of the world she could not have wept at that hour.
But she no longer felt an inclination to fly. When she saw how worn and thin her lover looked, she knew that he had been suffering as much as she had, and a full tide of love swelled to her heart. She also had lost much of her beauty, but she never thought of that. All she desired was to comfort the man that loved her. She felt that an explanation was due to him, and this she determined to give as far as she could without incriminating others.
Taking his hand in her own, she led him some little distance from the grave of Daisy; and they seated themselves on a flat stone in the shadow of the church, and a stone's throw from the park wall. Here they could converse without being seen, and if any one came they could hear the footsteps on the gravelled path, and so be warned. And throughout that short interview Anne listened with strained attention for the coming step. At the outset Giles noted her expectant look and put his arm round her.
"Dearest, do not fear," he said softly. "No one will come; and if any one does I can save you."
"No," she replied, turning her weary eyes on him. "I am under a ban. I am a fugitive from the law. You cannot save me from that."
"But you are innocent," he said vehemently.
"Do you believe that I am, Giles?"
"Do I believe it? Why should you ask me such a question? If you only knew, Anne, I have never doubted you from the first. Never! never!"
"I do know it," she said, throwing her arms round his neck. "I have known all along how you believed in my innocence. Oh, Giles, my darling Giles, how shall I be able to thank you for this trust?"
"You can, Anne, by becoming my wife."
"Would you marry me with this accusation hanging over me?"
"I would make you my wife at this moment. I would stand beside you in the dock holding your hand. What does it matter to me if all the foolish world think you guilty? I know in my own heart that you are an innocent woman."
"Oh, Giles, Giles!" Then her tears burst forth. She could weep now, and felt the better for that moment of joyful relief. He waited till she grew more composed, and then began to talk of the future.
"This can't go on for ever, Anne," said he decisively; "you must proclaim your innocence."
"I can't," she answered, with hanging head.
"I understand. You wish to protect this man. Oh, do not look so surprised. I mean with the man you fled with—the man Wilson."
"I don't know any one called Wilson."
"Anne!"—he looked at her keenly—"I implore you to tell me the truth. Who is this man you fled with to Gravesend—with whom you went on board the yacht?"
"Is that known?" she asked in a terrified whisper.
"Yes. A great deal is known."
"Portia never told me that," she murmured to herself.
"Who is Portia?"
"She lives at the Priory, and——"
"I see. She is the red-haired, freckle-faced girl—the daughter of Mr. Franklin. Morley told me that. Portia! What a stately name for that dreadful young person!"
"But indeed, Giles, she is a good girl, and has been a kind friend to me," explained Anne eagerly. "She told me all about you, and how you believed in my innocence."
"Ah!" exclaimed Giles, "then that was why she seemed so pleased to hear my name. I met her in the park just now, Anne——"
"You met her in the park?" Anne half rose to go. He drew her down.
"Yes, dearest. But don't be alarmed. She will never think that we have met. She was looking for this." And Giles took out the coin.
Anne gave a cry of delighted surprise. "Oh," she said, taking it eagerly, "I thought I had lost it forever. And you found it, Giles?"
"I found it," he replied gravely. "It was that discovery which made me believe that you were in the neighborhood. And then when Olga——"
"Olga." Anne looked at him suddenly. "Do you know her?"
"Very well. She is your friend."
"My best friend. She loves me like a sister."
Giles could have told her that the sisterly love was not to be trusted, but she had so much trouble that he could not find it in his heart to add to her worries. Besides, time was slipping by, and as yet he knew nothing of the truth of the matter.
"Tell me why you fled with that man," he asked.
"Giles, I will tell you all," she replied earnestly, "but on your part let me hear what is being done about the death of poor Daisy. It will set my mind at rest. You see how I have taken care of her grave, dear. Were I guilty would I do that?"
"I never thought you guilty," he repeated impatiently. "How many times have I to say that?"
"As many as you can bring your mind to repeat," she replied. "It is sweet to think that you love me so well, that you can refuse to believe evil of me in the face of the evidence against me."
"Anne, Anne, why did you fly?"
"Tell me how the case stands against me and what you have discovered," she asked in a composed voice, and with a visible effort to command her feelings. "And I shall tell you all that I can."
As time was precious Giles did not lose a moment. He plunged into the story of all that had taken place, from his interview with Mrs. Parry to the finding of the coin which had first given him his clue to the whereabouts of Anne. Also he touched lightly upon the visit of Olga to Rickwell, but was careful not to allude to her feelings towards him. Since Anne believed the woman to be her friend, he wished her to remain in that belief. He was not the one to add to her sorrows. And even when she was cleared of the charge and became his wife Ware determined that he would never speak of Olga's treachery. For her own sake he knew that the Hungarian would be silent.
Anne listened in silence to his recital, and when he ended drew a sigh of relief. "It might have been worse," she said.
"I don't see how it could be," replied Ware bluntly. "Morley will insist that you are guilty, and Steel thinks so too. I must admit that he wavers between you and this man you fled with. Come now, Anne, tell me all."
"I shall not have much time," she said hurriedly. "I dare not let Mr. Franklin know that I have met you. If I am not back in the Priory soon, he will send Portia to look for me."
"You can tell me much in ten minutes. Who is the man?"
"My father," she replied in a low voice.
Giles could hardly speak for surprise. "But your father is dead?"
"I thought he was," said Anne. "I have believed it these many months. But when I saw him in Mr. Morley's library on that night I knew that he still lived."
"But I can't understand how you made such a mistake. Does Morley know?"
She shook her head. "I managed to restrain myself. Mr. Morley knows nothing. Afterwards I went to the church in the hope of meeting my father. He was in church."
"I saw him," said Giles; "but tell me how the mistake occurred."
"My father lived in Florence, and——"
"Is his name Walter Franklin?"
"That is his real name; but he was known in Florence as Alfred Denham."
"You spoke to Olga Karacsay about him under that name?"
"Yes, because I did not know until lately that his name was Walter Franklin. Nor did I know that George Franklin, who inherits Daisy's money, was his brother."
"So George Franklin is your uncle and Portia your cousin?"
"Yes; but let me go on. My father lived in Florence. I was often away from home, as I was engaged as a governess. I came to England and met Olga at the Institute. I procured an engagement in London; it was the one I had before Mrs. Morley engaged me. I received news that my father was ill of typhoid fever. I hurried at once to Florence. He not only was dead, but he was buried, so I was informed by Mark Dane."
"Who is Mark Dane?"
"He was my father's secretary."
"One moment, Anne. Your uncle stated that he was the man who lived in Florence, and that your father being a scamp lived in England. On account of Walter George resided abroad."
"That is quite true. But Walter—I may speak of my father so for the sake of clearness—used to come sometimes to Florence. George never knew that he was there, thinking that he was in London. I learned all this lately. At the time my father and I lived in Florence I knew nothing of the relationship between George and Walter. My father knew that if Daisy died his brother would inherit the money, and he kept a watch on George so as to see if he would come into the property. But I knew nothing of this, neither did Mark, although he was deep in my father's confidence. Well, as I say, my father was supposed to have died. I expect another corpse was buried in his place. Mark no doubt agreed to the fraud, whatever was the reason. But I have not seen Mark since immediately after the death, and can't get an explanation. I saw him in Florence, and he told me that my father was dead and buried. Since then I have not seen him."
"So you returned to England, thinking your father was dead?"
"Certainly. He left me a little money. I went back to my situation. Afterwards I came down here. On that New Year's Eve I entered the library and saw my father speaking to Mr. Morley. I disguised my feelings, as I was certain he did not wish to be recognized. But the shock was so great that I nearly fainted. I went up to my room, and afterwards to church to see my father. He was there, as you know. I saw him pass a paper to Daisy. She went out ten minutes later; he followed. I wished to see him, and I was curious to know why he had come to Rickwell and had let me think he was dead. Shortly afterwards I went outside. It was snowing fast. I could not see my father or Daisy. Suddenly I came across my father. He was beside the grave of Mr. Kent. Daisy was lying on the ground. He gasped out that she was dead, and implored me to save him."
"Do you think he killed her?"
"No. Afterwards he denied that he did. But at the time I believed that he was guilty. I saw that he would be arrested, and in a frenzy of alarm I cast about for some means to save him. I remembered your motor-car was waiting at the gates. I sent Trim away on an errand——"
"I know, I know! You deceived him!"
"To save my father," replied Anne quietly. "I got the car in this way and went off with my father. He told me to go to Gravesend, where he had a yacht waiting. Near Gravesend the car upset. We left it on the roadside and walked to Tilbury. A boatman ferried us across the river, and we went on board the yacht."
"Did you know your father was the owner of the yacht?"
"No, I did not. He said that it belonged to a friend. We departed in the yacht and went to a French port, then on to Paris."
"And it was from Paris that you sent me the drawing of the coin."
"Yes; I knew that appearances were against me, and could not bear to think that you should believe me guilty. I did not dare to send any letter, but I knew you would recognize the drawing of the Edward VII. coin, and so sent it as you saw."
"How long did you stay in Paris?"
"For some weeks. Then we went to Italy, to Florence."
"Wasn't your father recognized?"
"No; he had altered his appearance. He gave me no reason at first for doing this, but afterwards told me that he was engaged in a political conspiracy, something to do with the Anarchists."
"Is the red cross the symbol of some society?"
"I can't say. He refused to explain the mystery of the cross to me. I admit fully, Giles, that I cannot understand my father. His ways are strange, and he leads a most peculiar life. Afterwards George Franklin, my uncle, came to England and inherited the property. My father sent me to him with an explanation. My uncle refused to believe that I was guilty, and gave me shelter in his house until such time as my character could be cleared. I came over and have been hiding in the Priory ever since. I was so sorry for poor Daisy and for her unexpected death that I came to see after her grave. I found it neglected, and thus went to clean it, as you see. Portia, my cousin, has been very good to me. I have stayed in all day and have walked out in the evening. No one knows that I am here. No one will ever know unless you tell."
"I tell? Anne, what do you take me for? I will keep quiet until I can clear your character, and make you my wife."
"You must not see me again."
"No," sighed Giles, "it will not be wise. But can't you tell me who killed Daisy, and thus clear yourself?"
Anne shook her head.
"I wish I could. But my father declares that he came out to see the girl, and found her already dead on the grave face downwards. She had been killed during the time he waited behind. He saw that there was a danger of his being accused of the crime, since he had asked her to leave the church. Thus it was that he lost his presence of mind and called on me to save him. I did so on the impulse of the moment, and thus it all came about."
"Where is your father now?"
Anne thought for a moment.
"I would tell you if I knew," she said seriously, "as I know you will not betray him. But I don't know where he is. Since I have been here I have not heard a word from him."
"If my uncle knew, he would hand my father over to the police. He hates him; but he is always kind to me."
"Anne, I wonder if your uncle killed Daisy to inherit the money?"
"No; he was in Italy at the time. I am sure of that."
"Has your father any suspicion who killed Daisy?"
"No. He says he has not."
"Why did he ask her to leave the church? And how did he manage it?"
"He wished to speak to her about George Franklin, who would inherit the money if she died. I believe he intended to warn her that George was dangerous, for he hates my uncle."
"Did your father know that the money had been left at the time?"
"No. It was only because he was on the spot that he wished to see Daisy. He wrote on a scrap of paper that he wished to see her about the money, and she came out."
"She was always eager after that miserable money," said Ware sadly. "But your father did know that Powell was dead at the time, Anne." And he told her of his discoveries in connection with the office boy. "So you see your father was in England masquerading as Wilson," he finished.
"Yes," said Anne, with a shudder, "I see now. But he told me nothing of this. Indeed, I can't understand my father at all."
"Do you know the meaning of the Scarlet Cross?"
"No; he refuses to tell me. He won't say why he pretended to be dead; and in every way he is most mysterious. But I am fond of my father, Giles, although I know he is not a good man. But he did not kill Daisy; I am sure of that. And even at the time I thought he had done so I saved him. After all he may be as bad as possible; but he is my father, and I owe him a daughter's affection."
Giles would have argued this, but at the moment Anne started to her feet. She heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and without a word to Giles she flew over the low wall and darted across the park. He was too astonished by this sudden departure to say a word. He had lost her again. But he knew where she was after all.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
Giles left the churchyard slowly, with his brain in a whirl. Anne had departed in hot haste, taking shelter in her hiding-place, and he dare not follow unless he wanted it to be discovered. He never knew who it was, whose footsteps had startled her away. When she left him he remained for quite ten minutes where he was, in a kind of dazed condition. The footsteps were not heard now. So intent had he been upon Anne's flight, and on the amazing things she had told him, that he had not noticed when they ceased. Then it occurred to him that they had retreated—just as though a person had been listening and had hastily gone away. But of this he could not be sure. All he did know was that when he rounded the corner there was not a soul in sight. And nothing remained but to go home.
Olga and her mother did not put in an appearance on this night, so Giles had ample time to think over his meeting with Anne. He did not see how he could help her, and the story she had related bewildered, instead of enlightening him. After a time he rearranged the details, and concluded that, in spite of all denial, her father was the guilty person, and the crime had been committed for the sake of the Powell money.
"Whether the Scarlet Cross indicates a political society or is the symbol of a thieves' association," said Giles to himself, "I can't say until Steel is more certain of his ground. But this Alfred Denham, or Walter Franklin, or whatever he chooses to call himself, is evidently a bad lot. He has sufficient love for his daughter to keep his iniquities from her, and that is why Anne is so much in the dark. I quite believe that she thinks her father innocent, and saved him on the spur of the moment. But he is guilty for all that."
And then Giles proceeded to work out the case as it presented itself to him. Walter Franklin—as he found it most convenient to call him—was a scoundrel who preyed on society, and who by some mischance had a pure and good daughter like Anne. To keep her from knowing how bad he was—and the man apparently valued her affection—he sent her to be a governess. She believed in him, not knowing how he was plotting to get the Powell money.
Certainly Walter had resided in Florence under the name of Denham. Ware quite believed this, and guessed that he did so in order to keep an eye on his brother George, who was to inherit the Powell money. Probably he knew beforehand that Powell was ill, and so had feigned death that he might carry out his scheme without Anne's knowledge. That scheme was to impersonate his brother; and Giles trembled to think of how he proposed to get rid of George when the time was ripe. He must have intended to murder him, for since he had slain Daisy with so little compunction, he certainly would not stick at a second crime.
However, thus Giles argued, the first step to secure the money was for him to feign death and thus get rid of Anne. Then he came to London, and as Wilson stopped with Mrs. Benker in order to spy on the Ashers through Alexander. As soon as he knew for certain that Powell was dead and that the money was coming to Daisy, he came down to Rickwell on the errand of serving the summons, and then had lured the girl outside of the church to kill her. But for Anne following him, he would have disappeared into the night and no one would have been the wiser.
But the appearance of his daughter in the library upset his plans. She followed him into the church and came out to find him near the dead body. He certainly made an excuse, but Giles believed that such was a lie. If he had confessed to the crime, even Anne might not have stopped with him. But here Giles remembered that at the time of the flight Anne really believed that her father was guilty. At all events he had made use of her to get away, and thus had reached the yacht at Gravesend. It was waiting for him there, in order that he might fly after the crime was committed. Perhaps he intended to walk to Tilbury, and crossing the Thames get on board the yacht before the hue-and-cry was out. Anne hampered his plans in some measure and then, by means of the stolen motor-car, assisted them. Thus the man had got away, and by the murder of the girl had opened the way to George inheriting the money.
"They went to Paris," mused Giles, "then to Florence. I daresay this Walter intended to send Anne away on some excuse and to murder his brother in Florence. Then he could slip into the dead man's shoes, and come to inherit—as George—the property of Powell. Probably George left Florence before Walter arrived, and thus escaped death. He is safe so far, but how long will he be safe?"
Then a terrible thought occurred to Giles. He wondered if Walter had placed his daughter at the Priory so as to have an opportunity of coming to see his brother, and thus seizing his chance of killing him. Anne, innocent as she was of the real meaning of these terrible schemes, might be a decoy. If her father came, George would be murdered. Walter, who was able to disguise himself with infernal ingenuity, might slip into the dead man's shoes, and thus the money he had schemed for would come to him. Evidently the last act of the tragedy was not yet played out.
The more Giles puzzled over the matter, the more bewildered he became. He could see—as he thought—what had been done, but he could not guess how the last act was to be carried out. Yet Walter Franklin was hiding somewhere waiting to pounce out on his unsuspecting brother, and the second crime might involve Anne still deeper in the nefarious transactions of her father. Finally Giles made up his mind to seek George Franklin at the Priory and tell him what he thought. The man should at least be put on his guard. It may be said that Ware fancied he might be permitted to see Anne as a reward for his kind warning.
Before calling on Franklin he went to see the foreign ladies. To his surprise both had left by the early morning train. There was a note from Olga, which informed him that her mother had insisted on returning to town, finding the country cold and dull. The note added that she—Olga—would be glad to see him at the Westminster flat as soon as he could come to London, and ended with the remark that he had yet to give his answer to her question. Giles was relieved when he read this. Olga was gone, and the two days of probation were extended indefinitely. He might find some way of releasing Anne before he need give this dreadful answer. Again and again did he bless the selfishness of the elder Princess, which had removed the obstacle of Olga from his path.
Meanwhile he put her out of his mind and went on to the Priory. He called in on the way to see Morley, but learned that the little man had gone to town. Mrs. Morley looked more worn and haggard than ever, and seemed about to say something as Giles was taking his leave. However, she held her peace and merely informed him that she missed her children dreadfully. "But I'm sure that is not what she meant to say," thought Ware, as he departed. On looking back he saw her thin white face at the window and concluded—as Mrs. Parry did—that the poor lady had something on her mind.
In due time he arrived at the Priory and was shown into a gloomy drawing-room, where George Franklin received him. Giles apologized for not having called before, and was graciously pardoned.
"And, indeed, I should have called on you, Mr. Ware," said Franklin, "but I am such a recluse that I rarely go out."
"You call on Mr. Morley, I believe?"
"Yes; he is a cheery man, and won't take no for an answer. I find that his company does me good, but I prefer to be alone with my books."
There were many books in the room and many loose papers on the desk, which Giles saw were manuscripts. "I write sometimes," said Franklin, smiling in his sour way. "It distracts my mind from worries. I am writing a history of Florence during the age of the Renaissance."
"A very interesting period," Giles assured him.
"Yes; and my daughter Portia helps me a great deal. You have met her, Mr. Ware. She told me."
"Yes; we met in the park. She was looking for something, which I found; but I gave it to—to——" Giles hesitated, for he was on dangerous ground. "To another lady," he finished desperately, and waited for the storm to break.
To his surprise the man smiled. "You mean my niece Anne," said he in the calmest way.
"Yes; I do mean Miss Denham. But I did not know that—that——"
"That I wished you to know she was under my roof. Is that it?"
"Yes," stammered Giles, quite at sea. He did not expect this candor.
Franklin rather enjoyed his confusion. "I did not intend to let you know that she was here. It was her own request that you were kept in ignorance. But since you met her——"
"Did you hear of our meeting?"
"Certainly. Anne told me of it directly she came back. Oh, I have heard all about you, Mr. Ware. My niece confessed that you loved her, and from Morley I heard that you defended her."
"Did Morley know that Anne was here?"
"Certainly not. At the outset of our acquaintance he informed me that he believed her to be guilty. I resolved to say nothing, lest he might tell the police."
"Why did you not tell him that she was innocent?" asked Giles hotly.
The man looked grave and smoothed his shaven chin—a habit with him when perplexed. "Because I could not do so without telling an untruth," he said coldly.
Giles started to his feet, blazing with anger. "What!" he cried, "can you sit there and tell me that your own niece killed that poor girl?"
"I have reason to believe that she did," replied Franklin.
"She told me she was innocent," began Ware.
Franklin interrupted. "She loves you too well to say otherwise. But she is—guilty."
"I would not believe that if she told me herself."
"Sit down, Mr. Ware," said Franklin, after a pause. "I'll explain exactly how the confession came about."
Giles took his seat again, and eyed his host pale but defiant. "It is no use your saying anything against Anne. She is innocent."
"Mr. Ware, I believed that when she first came to me. I hate my brother because he is a bad man; but I liked his niece, and when she came to me for shelter I took her in, notwithstanding the enormity of the crime which she was accused of having committed."
"It gained you your fortune," said Ware bitterly.
"I would rather have been without a fortune gained at such a price," answered Franklin coldly; "but I really believed Anne guiltless. She defended her father, but I fancied, since she had helped him to escape, that he had killed the poor girl."
"And he did," cried Giles. "I am sure he did."
"He had no motive."
"Oh yes, to get the money—the five thousand a year."
"You forget. By Miss Kent's death that came to me."
"Your brother would have found means to get it. I believe he will find means yet."
"I don't understand you. Will you explain?"
Franklin seemed fairly puzzled by Giles' remarks, so the young man set forth the theory he had formed about the murder. At first Mr. Franklin smiled satirically; but after a time his face became grave, and he seemed agitated. When Giles ended he walked the room in a state of subdued irritation.
"What have I done to be so troubled with such a relative as Walter?" he said aloud. "I believe you are right, Mr. Ware. He may attempt my life to get the money; and as we are rather like one another in appearance he may be able to pass himself off as me. Why, there was a woman here who called herself Mrs. Benker. She insisted that I was called Wilson, under which name she knew my brother Walter. So you must see how easily he could impose on every one. I am dark and clean-shaven; he is red-haired and bearded. But a razor and a pot of black dye would soon put that to rights. Yes, he might attempt my murder. But do not let us saddle him with a crime of which he is guiltless. Anne killed the girl. I assure you this is the truth."
"I don't believe it," cried Giles fiercely.
"Nevertheless"—Franklin paused and then came forward swiftly to place a sympathetic hand on the young man's shoulder—"I heard her say so myself. She confessed to me that she had met you, and seemed much agitated. Then she ran out of this room to another. Fearing she was ill, I followed, and found her on her knees praying. She said aloud that she had deceived you, stating that she could not bear to lose your love by proclaiming herself a murderess."
"No, no; I won't listen." Giles closed his ears.
"Be a man, Mr. Ware. Anne is ill now. She confessed the truth to me, and then fled to her bedroom. This morning she was very ill, as my daughter Portia assured me. Portia is out of the house. If you will come with me, you will hear the truth from Anne herself. She is so ill that she will not try to deceive you now. But if she does confess, you must promise not to give her up to the police. She is suffering agonies, poor child!"
"I'll come at once," said Giles bravely, starting to his feet. And it was brave of him, for he dreaded the truth. "If she confesses this, I'll go away and never see her again. The police—ah, you needn't think I would give her up to the police. But if she is guilty (and I can't believe such a thing of her) I'll tear her out of my heart. But it's impossible, impossible!"
Franklin looked at him with a pitying smile as he hid his face in his hands. Then he touched him on the shoulder and led the way along a passage towards the back part of the house. At a door at the end he paused. "The room is rather dark. You won't see her clearly," he said, "but you will know her by her voice."
"I would know her anyway," cried Giles fiercely, and tormented beyond endurance.
Franklin gave him another glance, as though asking him to brace himself for the ordeal, and then opened the door. He showed small mercy in announcing Ware's coming. "Anne, here is Mr. Ware come to see you. Tell him the truth."
The room was not very large, and was enveloped in a semi-gloom. The blind was pulled down, and the curtains were drawn. The bed was near the window, and on it lay Anne in a white dress. She was lying on the bed with a rug thrown over her feet. When she heard the name of Giles she uttered a cry. "Keep him away!" she said harshly. "Keep him away! Don't let him come!"
"Anne! Anne!" cried Giles, coming forward, his mouth dry, his hands clenched. "Do not tell me that you killed Daisy."
There was a groan and silence, but Anne—so far as he could see—buried her face in the pillow. It was Franklin who spoke. "Anne, you must tell the truth once and for all."
"No, no," she cried, "Giles would despise me."
"Anne," he cried in agony, "did you kill her?"
"Yes," came the muffled voice from the bed. "I found her at the grave. My father was not there. He had missed her in the darkness and the snow. She taunted me. I had the stiletto, which I took from the library, and I killed her. It was my father who saved me. Oh, go away, Giles, go away!"