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Fenton's Quest by M. E. Braddon

Part 10 out of 10

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She went with Ellen Whitelaw to Ventnor. It was late in August before she
was able to bear this journey; and in this mild refuge for invalids she
remained throughout the winter.

Even during that trying time, when it seemed more than doubtful whether
she could live to profit by her grandfather's bequest, her interests had
been carefully watched by Gilbert Fenton. It was tolerably evident to his
mind that Mr. Medler had been a tacit accomplice in Percival Nowell's
fraud; or, at any rate, that he had enabled the pretended Mrs. Holbrook
to obtain a large sum of ready money with greater ease than she could
have done had he, as executor, been scrupulously careful to obtain her
identification from some more trustworthy person than he knew Percival
Nowell to be.

Whether these suspicions of Gilbert's were correct, whether the lawyer
had been actually deceived, or had willingly lent himself to the
furtherance of Nowell's design, must remain, unascertained; as well as
the amount of profit which Mr. Medler may have secured to himself by the
transaction. The law held him liable for the whole of the moneys thus
paid over in fraud or error; but the law could do very little against a
man whose sole earthly possessions appeared to be comprised by the
worm-eaten desks and shabby chairs and tables in his dingy offices. The
poor consolation remained of making an attempt to get him struck off "the
Rolls;" but when the City firm of solicitors in whose hands Gilbert had
placed Mrs. Saltram's affairs suggested this. Marian herself entreated
that the man might have the benefit of the doubt as to his complicity
with her father, and that no effort should be made to bring legal ruin
upon him.

"There has been enough misery caused by this money already," she said.
"Let the matter rest. I am richer than I care to be, as it is."

Of course Mr. Medler was not allowed to retain his position as executor.
The Court of Chancery was appealed to in the usual manner, and intervened
for the future protection of Mrs. Saltram's interests.

About Nowell's conduct there was, of course, no doubt; but after wasting
a good deal of money and trouble in his pursuit, Gilbert was fain to
abandon all hope of catching him in the wide regions of the new world. It
was ascertained that the woman who had accompanied him in the _Orinoco_
as his daughter was actually his wife--a girl whom he had met at some low
London dancing-rooms, and married within a fortnight of his introduction
to her. It is possible that prudence as well as attachment may have had
something to do with this alliance. Mr. Nowell knew that, once united to
him in the bonds of holy matrimony, the accomplice of his fraud would
have no power to give evidence against him. The amount which he had
contrived to secure to himself by this plot amounted in all to something
under four thousand pounds; and out of this it may fairly be supposed
that Mr. Medler claimed a considerable percentage. The only information
that Gilbert Fenton could ever obtain from America was, of a shabby
swindler arrested in a gambling-house in one of the more remote western
cities, whose description corresponded pretty closely with that of
Marian's father.

There comes a time for the healing of all griefs. The cruel wound closes
at last, though the scar, and the bitter memory of the stroke, may remain
for ever. There came a time--some years after John Saltram's death--when
Gilbert Fenton had his reward. And if the woman he won for his wife in
these latter days was not quite the fresh young beauty he had wooed under
the walnut-trees in Captain Sedgewick's garden, she was still infinitely
more beautiful than all other women in his eyes; she was still the
dearest and best and brightest and purest of all earthly creatures for
him. In that happy time--that perfect summer and harvest of his life--all
his fondest dreams have been realized. He has the home he so often
pictured, the children whose airy voices sounded in his dreams, the dear
face always near him, and, sweeter than all, the knowledge that he is
loved almost as he loves. The bitter apprenticeship has been served, and
the full reward has been granted.

For Ellen Whitelaw too has come the period of compensation, and the
farmer's worst fears have been realized as to Frank Randall's
participation in that money he loved so well. The income grudgingly left
to his wife by Stephen has enabled Mr. Randall to begin business as a
solicitor upon his own account, in a small town near London, with every
apparent prospect of success. Ellen's home is within easy reach of the
river-side villa occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Fenton; so she is able to see
her dear Marian as often as she likes; nor is there any guest at the
villa more welcome than this faithful friend.

The half-written memoir of Jonathan Swift was published; and reviewers,
who had no compunction in praising the dead, were quick to recognize the
touch of a master hand, the trenchant style of a powerful thinker. For
the public the book is of no great value; it is merely a curiosity of
literature; but it is the only monument of his own rugged genius which
bears the name of John Saltram.

Poor little Mrs. Branston has not sacrificed all the joys of life to the
manes of her faithless lover. She is now the happy wife of a dashing
naval officer, and gives pleasant parties which bring life and light into
the great house in Cavendish-square; parties to which Theobald Pallinson
comes, and where he shines as a small feeble star when greater lights are
absent--singing his last little song, or reciting his last little poem,
for the delight of some small coterie of single ladies not in the first
bloom of youth; but parties from which Mrs. Pallinson keeps aloof in a
stern spirit of condemnation, informing her chosen familiars that she was
never more cruelly deceived than in that misguided ungrateful young
woman, Adela Branston.

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