Part 3 out of 4
peace, Edith," Miss Tredworth said.
Edith Morriston did not alter her position as she stood looking out of
the window. "Thank you for your kind wish, Muriel," she responded in a
cold voice; "but I'm afraid that is too much to hope for just yet."
"Yet one doesn't see what else it can be," Kelson observed reflectively.
"They can hardly have found out exactly how the man came by his death;
much more likely to have abandoned their latest theory, eh, Hugh?"
Gifford was looking, held by the grip of his imagination, at the tall
figure by the window; wondering what was passing behind that veil of
impassiveness. "I don't see what they can have found out away from this
house," he said, rousing himself by an effort to answer; "and they don't
seem to have been here lately."
"Well, we shall see," Kelson said casually. "Ah, here comes Dick
Morriston hurried in with a serious face. In answer to Kelson's, "Well,
Dick?" he said.
"It appears a rather extraordinary piece of evidence has just come to
light; one which, if true, completely solves the mystery of the locked
door. I asked Freeman if there was any objection to you fellows coming
to the library and hearing the story; he is quite agreeable. So will you
come? You too, Edith, and Miss Tredworth; there is nothing at all
horrible in it so far."
For the first time Edith Morriston turned from the window. "Is it
necessary, Dick?" she protested quietly. "I'd just as soon hear it
all afterwards from you. These police visitations are rather getting
on my nerves."
"Very well, dear; you shall hear all about it later on," her brother
responded, and led the way down to the library. Gifford was the last to
leave the room, and his glance back showed him that Edith Morriston had
turned again to the window and resumed her former attitude.
In the library were the chief constable, Gervase Henshaw and a local
"Now, Major Freeman," Morriston said as he closed the door, "we shall be
glad to hear this new piece of evidence."
Major Freeman bowed. "Shortly, it comes to this," he began. "A young
woman named Martha Haynes, belonging to Branchester, called at my office
this morning and made a statement which, if reliable, must have an
important bearing on this mysterious case.
"It appears from her story that on the night of the Hunt Ball held here
she had been paying a visit to some friends at Rapscot, a village, as you
know, about a mile beyond Wynford. On her way back to the town, for which
she started at about 9.45, she took as a short cut the right-of-way path
running across the park and passing near the house. As she went by she
was naturally attracted by the lighted windows and could hear the band
quite plainly. She stopped to listen to the music at a point which she
has indicated, almost directly opposite the tower.
"She says she had stood there for some little time when her attention
was suddenly diverted to what seemed a mysterious movement on the
outside of the tower. A dark body, presumably a human being, appeared to
be slowly sliding down the wall from the topmost window. Unfortunately
before she could quite realize what she was looking at--and we may
imagine that a country girl would take some little time to grasp so
unusual a situation--a cloud drifted across the moon and threw the
tower into shadow.
"The girl continued, however, to keep her eyes fixed on the spot where
she had seen the dark object descending, with the result that in a few
seconds she saw it reach and pass over one side of the window of the
lower room which was sufficiently lighted up to silhouette anything
placed before it. She saw the object move slowly over the window and
disappear in the darkness beneath it. When, a few seconds later, the moon
came out again nothing more was to be seen.
"The girl stayed for some time watching the tower, but without result.
She is a more or less ignorant, unsophisticated country-woman, and what
she had seen she was quite unable to account for. Naturally she hardly
connected it with any sort of tragical occurrence. The house with its
lights and music seemed given over to gaiety; that any one should just
then have met his death in that upper room never entered her imagination.
A vague idea that a thief might have got into the house and she had seen
him escape by the tower window did indeed, as she says, cross her mind,
and that supposition prevented her from approaching the tower to satisfy
her curiosity. But as nothing more happened she began to think less of
the significance of what she had seen, in fact almost persuaded herself
that it had been something of an optical delusion. Presently, having had
enough of standing in the cold wind, she resumed her way, went home and
to bed, and early next morning left the town to enter a situation in
another part of the country.
"It appears that she had taken cold by her loitering and soon after
reaching her destination became so ill that she had to keep her bed, and
it was only on her recovery a few days ago that she heard what had
happened here that night. Directly she could get away she came over and
told her story to us."
"A pity she could not have come before," Morriston remarked as the chief
constable paused. "Her evidence is highly important, disposing as it does
of the mystery of the locked door."
"Yes," Major Freeman agreed, "and also of the suicide theory. The
question now is--who was the person who was seen descending from
"Could this girl tell whether it was a man or a woman?" The question came
from Henshaw, who had hitherto kept silent.
"She thinks it was a man," Major Freeman answered, "but could not swear
to it. The fact of the object being close to the wall made it almost
impossible in the imperfect light to distinguish plainly. But I think we
may take it that it was a man. The feat could be hardly one a woman would
"No," Gifford agreed. "And there would seem little chance of identifying
"None at all so far as the girl Haynes is concerned," Major Freeman
replied. "But we have something to go upon; a starting point for a new
line of inquiry. The person seen escaping must have lowered himself by
a rope from that top window and a considerable length would be
required. I have taken the liberty, Mr. Morriston, of setting a party
of my men to search the grounds for the rope; they will begin by
dragging the little lake."
"By all means," Morriston assented.
"Detective Sprules," the chief proceeded, "would like to make another
examination of the ironwork of the window. May he go up now?"
"Certainly," Morriston answered, and the detective left the room.
Gifford spoke. "The girl saw nothing of the escaping person after he
reached the ground?"
"Nothing, she says," Major Freeman answered. "But the base of the tower
was in deep shadow, which would prevent that."
"A pity her curiosity was not a little more practical," Henshaw observed.
"Yes." Gifford turned to him. "You are proved correct, Mr. Henshaw, in
your repudiation of the suicide idea. Perhaps, in view of this latest
development, you may have knowledge to go upon of some one from whom your
brother might have apprehended danger?"
Henshaw's set face gave indication of nothing but a studied reserve. "No
one certainly," he answered coolly, "from whom he might apprehend danger
to his life."
"There must have been a motive for the act," Kelson observed. "Unless it
was a sudden quarrel."
"There appears," Major Freeman put in, "to be no evidence whatever of
anything leading up to that."
"No; the cause is so far quite mysterious," Henshaw said.
It seemed to Gifford that there was something of undisclosed knowledge
behind his words, and he fell to wondering how far the motive was
mysterious to him.
Morriston proceeded to acquaint Major Freeman with the discovered cause
of the marks on the ladies' dresses, and they all went off to the lower
room where the position of the stains was pointed out. Edith Morriston
was no longer there.
"Miss Tredworth sat at this end of the sofa," Morriston explained, "and
so the marks on her dress are clearly accounted for."
"And Miss Morriston?" Henshaw put the question in a tone which had in it,
Gifford thought, a touch of scepticism.
"Oh, my sister must have been in here too," Morriston replied. "Or how
could her dress have been stained? Unless, indeed, she brushed against
Miss Tredworth's or someone else's. That's clear."
There seemed no alacrity in Henshaw to accept the conclusion and he did
"I am glad this part of the mystery is so satisfactorily settled,"
the chief constable remarked. "Now we have the issue narrowed.
The detective had appeared at the door.
"I have examined the ironwork of the window, sir," he said, "and have
found under the magnifying-glass traces of the fraying of a rope as
though caused by friction against the iron staple."
"Sufficient signs to bear out the young woman's statement?"
"Quite, sir. There is upon close examination distinct evidence of a rope
having been worked against the hinge of the window."
"Very good, Sprules. We may consider that point settled," Major
Having finally satisfied themselves as to the cause of the stains on the
floor and sofa, the chief constable and his subordinate proposed to go to
the lake and see whether the men who were dragging it had had any
success. Morriston and Henshaw with Kelson and Gifford accompanied them.
As they came in sight of the boat the detective exclaimed, "They have
found it!" and the men were seen hauling up a rope out of the water.
"Sooner than I expected," Major Freeman observed as they hurried towards
the nearest point to the boat.
The rope when landed proved to be of considerable length, sufficient when
doubled, they calculated, to reach from the topmost window to within five
or six feet of the ground.
"The escaping person," Henshaw said, "must have slid down the doubled
rope which had been passed through the staple of the window, and then
when the ground was reached have pulled it away, coiled it up, carried it
to the lake, and thrown it in. Obviously that was the procedure and it
accounts completely for the locked door."
The chief constable and the detective agreed.
"A man would want some nerve to come down from that height," the
"Any man, or woman either for that matter," Henshaw returned
dogmatically, "would not hesitate to take the risk as an alternative to
being trapped up there with his victim."
"You are not suggesting it might have been a woman who was seen sliding
down the rope?" Gifford asked pointedly.
Henshaw shrugged. "I suggest nothing as to the person's identity," he
replied in a sharply guarded tone. "That is now what remains to be
THE LOST BROOCH
The police authorities with Henshaw and Morriston went off with the rope
to experiment in the room of the tragedy.
"I don't suppose we are wanted," Kelson said quietly to Gifford; "let's
go for a turn round the garden. I wonder where Muriel has got to."
They found Miss Tredworth on the lawn. "I am waiting for Edith," she
"We'll stroll on and Gifford can bring Miss Morriston after us," Kelson
suggested, and the lovers moved away, leaving Gifford, much to his
satisfaction, waiting for Edith Morriston.
In a few minutes she made her appearance. Gifford mentioned the
arrangement and they strolled off by the path the others had taken.
It seemed to Gifford that his companion's manner was rather abnormal;
unlike her usual cold reserve there were signs of a certain suppressed
"I hope," she said, "that Major Freeman and his people are satisfied with
our discovery that the marks on Muriel's dress and mine came there by
"Evidently quite convinced," Gifford answered.
"That's well," she responded with a rather forced laugh. "It was
rather too bad to suspect us, on that evidence, of knowing anything
about the affair."
"I don't suppose for a moment they did," Gifford assured her.
"I don't know," the girl returned. "Anyhow it was rather an embarrassing,
not to say painful, position for us to be in. But that is at an end now."
Nevertheless Gifford could tell that she was not so thoroughly relieved
as her words implied.
"Completely," he declared. "You have heard of the new piece of evidence?"
he added casually.
For a moment she stopped with a start, instantly recovering herself.
"No; what is that?" in a tone almost of unconcern.
Gifford told her of the statement made by the country girl and its
corroboration in the finding of the rope. As he continued he felt sure
that the story was gripping his companion more and more closely. At last
she stopped dead and turned to him with eyes which had in them intense
mystification as well as fear.
"Mr. Gifford, do you believe that story?"
"I see no reason for disbelieving it," he answered quietly. "It is
practically the only conceivable solution of the mystery of the
"Surely--" she stopped, checking the vehement objection that rose to her
lips. "This girl," she went on as though searching for a plausible
argument, "is it not likely that she was mistaken? We know what these
country people are. And she could not have seen very clearly."
"But," Gifford argued gently, "her statement is confirmed by the finding
of the rope."
Edith Morriston was thinking strenuously, desperately, he could see
that. The words she spoke were but mechanical, the mere froth of a
seething brain. Yet her splendid self-command--and he recognized it with
admiration--never deserted her, however supreme the struggle may have
been to retain it.
A seat was by them; she went across the path to it and sat down. Gifford
saw that she was deadly pale.
"I fear this wretched business is upsetting you, Miss Morriston," he said
gently. "Let me run to the house and fetch something to revive you."
She made a gesture to stay him, and by an effort seemed to shake off the
threatening collapse. "No, no," she said; "please don't. It is very
stupid of me, but these repeated shocks are rather trying. You see one
has never had any experience of the sort before."
"It was more than stupid of me to blunder into the story," Gifford said
self-reproachfully. "But it never occurred to me--"
"No, no; of course not," she responded. "And, after all, I am bound to
hear all about it sooner or later. Sit down and tell me your opinion of
the affair. Supposing the girl was not mistaken who do you think the
person seen escaping from the window could have been?"
"That is difficult to say."
"A thief, no doubt."
"That is a natural conclusion."
"Have the police any idea?"
"Not that I know of. I should say decidedly no definite idea."
"Or Mr. Henshaw?"
"Whatever Mr. Henshaw's ideas may be he keeps them to himself."
Miss Morriston checked the remark she had seemed about to make, and for a
few minutes there was an awkward silence. Gifford broke it.
"I am so sorry that I have been unable to get any hint of his intentions.
Believe me, it has not been for want of trying. But the man, for reasons
best known to himself, seems determined to remain inscrutable."
The girl was staring in front of her. "Yes," she responded, with a catch
of her breath; "that is evident. But it does not much matter. I know you
have tried your best to do what I was foolish enough to ask you. And now
please do not think any more of it. In my ignorance of the man's
character I set you an impossible task. All I can do now is to thank you
for your sympathy and devotion."
Her tone pained him horribly. "I hope, Miss Morriston," he replied
warmly, "you are not asking me to end my devotion."
She gave a little bitter laugh. "Seeing that it is useless I have no
right to ask its continuance," she replied almost coldly, "nor to expect
you to involve yourself in my--in our worries."
"But if I ask to be allowed that privilege?" he urged.
She shook her head. "No, no, my friend," she insisted, with less warmth
than the words implied, "it can lead to no good and would be a mistake.
Let the man alone. To involve yourself with him can bring you nothing but
trouble. Promise me you will take no further heed of this unhappy
She turned to him as she spoke the last words, and there seemed less
trouble in her face than in his. For at his heart there was a sickening
fear and suspicion of what the words portended.
"I can't promise that," he objected.
"But I ask you; it is my wish," she returned with a touch of command.
"For my sake, or yours?" he rejoined.
"For both. Give me your promise. You must if we are to remain friends."
Her look and the fascination in her voice seemed to pull the very heart
out of him.
"You are asking a cruelly hard thing of me," he replied, with a tremor in
his voice. "I don't understand--"
"No, you don't understand," she interrupted quickly. "It is enough to
know that you have taken a girl's foolish commission too seriously, so
seriously as to run the risk of making things even worse than they
threatened to be. Now I ask you to leave well alone."
"If it is well," he said doubtfully.
"Of course. Why should it not be?" she rejoined, in a not very convincing
tone. "Now I shall rely on you--and I am sure it will not be in vain--to
respect my wishes. Things seem to be in a horrible muddle," she added
with a rather dreary laugh, "but let's hope they will right themselves
She rose, compelling him to rise too. Something in the tone and manner of
her last speech made him quite unwilling to end their conference, and
desperately anxious to speak out everything that was in his mind and try
to bring matters to a crisis.
"Don't go for a moment," he said as she began to move away towards the
house. "I have something to say to you."
She turned quickly and faced him with a suggestion of displeasure in her
eyes. "What is it?" she said with a touch of impatience.
"Only this," he answered quietly. "Have you lost a brooch, Miss
At the question the blood left her cheeks as it had done a little while
before; then surged back till her face was suffused.
"A brooch? Yes; I have missed one. Have you found it?" The words were
spoken with a calmness which failed to hide the eagerness behind them.
"I think so," he answered, taking out his letter-case. "A pearl, set in
diamonds mounted on a safety-pin?"
He opened the case and showed it pinned into the soft lining.
"Yes; that is mine," she said; and for a moment or two by a strange
attraction each looked into the other's eyes.
Gifford bent his head over the case as he unfastened the brooch and
took it out.
"Where--where did you find it?" Something in the girl's voice made him
glad that he was not looking at her.
"In the garden," he said.
"In the garden?" she repeated. He was looking up now and saw the intense
relief in her face. "To-day?"
"No; last time I was up here. I ought to have taken it to the house at
once but--but it was a temptation to me to keep it till I could give it
back to you like this. Do forgive me."
It was plain she divined what he meant, but her cold manner came to the
aid of her embarrassment.
"I am only too glad to have it again. I am so glad you found it."
"So am I," he responded with a touch of fervour. "I wish I could relieve
your mind of everything else as easily."
"I am sure you do," she said wistfully, and impulsively half put
out her hand.
He caught it as she was in the act of checking the action and drawing it
back. "You may be sure--quite sure, of my devotion," he said, and raised
her hand to his lips.
An exclamation and a sudden start as the hand was quickly withdrawn made
him look up. Edith Morriston's eyes were fixed with something like fear
on an object behind him. An intuition told him what it was before he
looked round to see Henshaw, with his characteristic, rather stealthy
walk, coming towards them.
Gifford set his teeth hard as the two faced round and awaited
"This man shall not annoy you," he said in an undertone.
"Don't quarrel with him, for heaven's sake," she entreated in the same
tone, under her breath, as the disturbing presence drew near. There was
a strange excitement in her voice, though none in the set face.
"I think your brother is looking for you, Miss Morriston," Henshaw said
in his even voice when he was within a dozen paces of them.
"I was just going to look for him," the girl replied in a voice strangely
changed from that in which she had talked with Gifford. "Isn't it lucky?
Mr. Gifford has picked up in the garden a brooch I lost some days ago. I
did not dare to tell Dick, as it was his gift."
Henshaw gave a casual glance at the ornament. "I congratulate you," he
responded coolly. Then Gifford saw his eyes seek hers as he added: "Where
was it found? Near the tower?"
The covert malice of the insinuation was plain in the questioner's look,
although the tone was casual enough.
"No. On the lawn," Gifford replied quietly.
IN THE CHURCHYARD
Nothing more of importance happened that day at Wynford, and Gifford had
no further opportunity of private talk with Edith Morriston. But it was
evident to him, and the knowledge gave him intense concern, that the girl
went in fear of Gervase Henshaw. That he was intimidating her, and using
his brother's death for that purpose, was beyond doubt, and the very fact
that Edith Morriston was a woman of uncommon courage and self-control,
one who in ordinary circumstances would be the last to give way to fear
or submit to bullying, showed how serious the matter had become.
Gifford on his part determined that this intolerable state of things must
come to an end, and that in spite of the command laid upon him by the
girl, he would now pit himself against her persecutor. He had given no
actual promise, and even if he had it would have been drawn from him in
ignorance of certain means which he possessed of help in this crisis.
And a significant circumstance which came to Gifford's knowledge a day or
two after his interview with Edith Morriston in the garden of Wynford,
was the cause of his beginning to take action without further delay.
Late on the next Sunday afternoon Gifford had gone for a country walk
which he had arranged to bring him round in time for the evening service
at the little village church of Wynford standing just outside the park
boundary. His way took him by well-remembered field-paths which, although
towards the end of his walk darkness had set in, he had no difficulty in
tracing. The last field he crossed brought him to a by-road joining the
highway which ran through Wynford, the junction being about a quarter of
a mile from the church. As he neared the stile which admitted to the road
he saw, on the other side of the hedge and showing just above it, the
head of a man. At the sound of his footsteps the man quickly turned,
and, as for a moment the fitful moonlight caught his face, Gifford was
sure he recognized Gervase Henshaw. But he took no notice and kept on his
way to the stile, which he crossed and gained the road. As he did so he
glanced back. A horse and trap was waiting there with Henshaw in it. He
was now bending down, probably with the object of concealing his
identity, and had moved on a few paces farther down the road.
Why was he waiting there? Gifford asked himself the obvious question with
a decidedly uneasy feeling. Henshaw the Londoner, on a Sunday evening,
waiting with a horse and trap in an unfrequented lane, a road which ran
nowhere but to a farm. What did it mean?
Naturally Gifford's suspicions connected Edith Morriston with the
circumstance, and yet he told himself the idea was monstrously
improbable. It was more likely that Henshaw was bound upon some search
with the police. His movements were and had been for some time
Gifford's impulse as he turned into the high road was to stay there in
concealment and watch for the upshot of Henshaw's presence. The
suggestion did not, however, altogether commend itself to him. He
disliked the idea of spying even upon such a man as Henshaw, whom he had
good reason to suspect of playing a dastardly game. It was probable, too,
that Henshaw had recognized him and might be on the look-out; it would be
intensely humiliating to be caught watching. So, turning the pros and
cons over in his mind, Gifford walked slowly on in a state of
irresolution till he came to a wicket-gate which admitted from the road
to a path which ran through the churchyard.
There he stopped, debating with himself whether he should turn back and
keep an eye on Henshaw or go on into the church where service was just
beginning. It did seem absurd to imagine that Henshaw with his conveyance
could be waiting there by appointment for a girl of the character and
position of Edith Morriston. True, he had seen them walking together in
secret, which was strange enough, but that need not necessarily have been
a planned meeting.
Such an urgent curiosity had hold of him at the bare possibility of
something wrong that he, temporizing with his scruples, was about to turn
back to the lane, when he saw the figure of a woman coming towards him
along the churchyard path. She was tall and so far as he could make out,
muffled in a cloak and veil. His heart gave a leap, for although the
woman's face and figure were indistinguishable the height and gait
corresponded with those of Edith Morriston.
As she came near the little gate where he stood she stopped dead, seemed
to hesitate a moment, and then turned as though to go back. Determined to
set his doubts at rest Gifford passed quickly through the gate and
followed her at an overtaking pace. Evidently sensible of her pursuit,
the woman quickened her steps and, as Gifford gained on her, turned
quickly from the path, threading her way among the graves to escape him.
She had gone but a few steps when in her hurry she tripped over the mound
of a small, unmarked grave and fell to the ground.
Gifford ran to her and taking her arm assisted her to rise.
"Miss Morriston!" he exclaimed, for he now was sure of her identity. "I
hope you are not hurt," he added mechanically, his mind full of a greater
and more critical contingency.
"Mr. Gifford!" she responded; but he was sure she had not recognized him
then for the first time. "Oh, no, thank you; I am not in the least hurt.
It was stupid of me to trip and fall like that. Are you going to church?"
she added, evidently wishing to get away.
"I was," he answered. "And you?"
"I was too," she said, conquering her embarrassment, "but I have a
headache, and prefer the fresh air. Don't let me keep you," she held out
her hand. "Service has begun."
He took her hand. "Miss Morriston," he said gravely, "don't think me very
unmannerly, but I am not going to leave you here."
In the bright moonlight he could see her expression of rather haughty
surprise. "I think you are unmannerly, Mr. Gifford," she retorted
defiantly. "May I ask why you are not going to leave me here?"
"Because," he answered with quiet decision, "Mr. Henshaw is waiting just
there in Turner's Lane."
"Is he?" The same defiant note; but there was anxiety behind the
"Yes. And pardon me, I have an idea he is waiting there for you."
His firm tone and manner baffled equivocation. "What is it to you if he
is?" she returned with a brave attempt to suggest cold displeasure. But
her lip trembled and her voice was scarcely steady.
"It is something to me," he replied insistently, "because it means a
great deal to you. This man is persecuting you. He is--"
"Mr. Gifford!" she exclaimed. "You take--"
He held up his hand. "Please let me finish, Miss Morriston. I can
convince you that I am not taking too much upon myself. I am no fool and
am not interfering without warrant. This man Henshaw has succeeded in
persuading you that you are in his power. That is very far from being the
case, and I can prove it."
"I don't understand you, Mr. Gifford."
The tone of cold annoyance was gone now. Relief and a vague hope seemed
to be struggling with an almost overwhelming anxiety.
"You will understand directly," he replied. "I have more than a suspicion
that this man is seeking to connect you with his brother's death and is
making use of a certain half-knowledge he possesses to get a hold over
you. Is that not so?"
For a while she was silent, her breath coming quickly, as she hesitated
how to meet the direct question. Gifford hated, yet somehow rejoiced, to
see this proud, cold-mannered girl brought to this pass, and the reason
he rejoiced lay in the knowledge that he could help her out of it.
At length she spoke. "Mr. Gifford, I trust you as a man of honour. Your
conjecture is right, but unhappily there is no help for it."
"There is help," he declared reassuringly. "Can this man prove that you
are in any way guilty of his brother's death?"
The girl gave a shiver. "He can by implication," she admitted in a
"Can he prove it?"
"Not actually, perhaps. But far enough to disgrace me and mine for ever,"
she said with a sob.
"And with that idea he terrorizes you?" The question was put with quiet
"Yes, yes; but I cannot help it! I cannot bear it. Oh, let me go." She
seemed now in an agony of fear.
Gifford laid his hand on her as she sought to move away towards the gate
and the waiting enemy.
"Miss Morriston," he said with decision, "you must not go; you must have
no more communication with this man Henshaw. He can prove nothing against
you, while I can prove everything in your favour."
Her look of fear and impatience changed at the last words to one of
"You, Mr. Gifford? What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I say," he returned decisively, "I can prove, if need be,
that you had no hand in that cowardly ruffian's death."
"You? How?" the girl gasped, staring at him with dilated eyes.
"I will convince you," he answered quietly. "When I told you the
other day that I had found your brooch on the lawn I said, for an
obvious reason, what was not true. I found it in the room where
Clement Henshaw died."
"You did," the girl gasped almost in terror. "When?"
"A few minutes after his death," Gifford replied calmly. "I happened to
be present in the room when he came by his fatal wound."
AN INVOLUNTARY EAVESDROPPER
As she heard the words Edith Morriston stood for a moment as though
transfixed, and then staggered back grasping at a tombstone for support.
Gifford took a quick step forward, but before he could be of help she had
recovered from the shock, and motioning him back, was looking at him with
"You were there?" she repeated, with more suspicion now than unbelief.
"In that room at the top of the tower; yes; by accident," he answered in
a tone calculated to reassure her.
"Then you know--you saw what happened?"
He bowed his head in assent. "Enough to be sure that Mr. Clement Henshaw
was a great scoundrel, and that his fate was not altogether unmerited.
Now," he added in a tone of decision, "you will have nothing more to do
with this Gervase Henshaw, or he with you."
It was good to see the eager relief in Edith Morriston's eyes.
"And you never told me this before," she said.
"I could not very well," he replied. "And I should not have told you now
had I not been forced to protect you from this man. It is a dangerous
position for me to stand in, and I should in ordinary circumstances have
let the affair remain a mystery."
"I understand your position," she responded, with a look of gratitude.
"But you can trust me."
"Indeed I can," he assured her with infinite content.
"I don't realize it now," the girl said, with signs that she was fighting
against the effect of the reaction. "Can you trust me enough to tell me
how it all happened?"
"I would trust you with my life," he responded fervently. "Though it
hardly comes to that. Of course I will tell you the whole story of my
adventure. But we had better not stay here. Mr. Henshaw must be getting
impatient by this time and may come to look for you. Before he has the
chance of meeting you it will be well for you to hear the real facts of
the case. Shall we come into the park, or would your brother--"
"Dick is at church," she said, a little shamefacedly, it seemed. "I gave
him the slip."
"What a terrible risk you have just run," Gifford observed as they went
through the churchyard to the private gate into the park. "If I had not
happened to come along just then and see Henshaw waiting--"
"Oh, don't talk of that now," she entreated. "I knew it meant horrible
misery for the rest of my life, but anything seemed better than the
terrible scandal which threatened us."
"With which Henshaw threatened you, the scoundrel," Gifford corrected.
"Now you shall see how little he really had to go upon."
"And yet," she murmured, "it seemed overwhelming. I can scarcely believe
even now that the danger is past."
"Wait till you hear my story," he said with a reassuring smile.
They had entered the enclosed path, called Church Walk, and passing the
branch which led to the drive, kept on between the tall laurel hedges.
"We shall be quite undisturbed here," the girl said. "Dick is sure to
turn off and go in by the drive. Now, Mr. Gifford, do trust me and tell
"I hope it is not necessary to talk of trust between us," he replied,
with as much tenderness as his chivalry permitted.
"No; forgive me; I hope not," she responded quietly. "Now please tell me,
Mr. Gifford, what I am longing to hear."
"You will remember," Gifford began, as they slowly paced the moon-lit
path, "that on the evening I came down here my suitcase containing my
evening clothes had gone astray on the railway. There was no chance of
its turning up at the hotel before ten o'clock, and I was therefore
prevented from appearing at the dance till quite late. Naturally I would
not hear of Kelson waiting for me, which like the good-natured fellow he
is, he proposed to do; he therefore went off in good time."
"Yes; I remember he arrived quite early," Edith Morriston murmured.
"Clement Henshaw," Gifford proceeded, "left the hotel about the
same time. They must have reached your house within a few minutes
of one another."
As he paused, his companion looked round at him inquiringly. "Yes," she
said, with a certain suggestion of reticence; "I remember that too."
Gifford continued. "Having seen Kelson off, I went up to our sitting-room
to wait till my kit should arrive. I was very keen on seeing again the
old place where in my young days I used to spend such happy months, and
my enforced waiting soon became almost intolerable boredom. The result
was that I got a fit of the fidgets; I could not settle down to read, and
at last, having still an hour to spare, I resolved in my restlessness to
stroll out and take a preliminary look from outside at what was
practically my old home."
"Yes." There was a catch of growing excitement in Edith Morriston's
voice, which was scarcely above a whisper.
"The wind was sharp that night, as we all know," Gifford went on, "and
forbade loitering. A smart walk of fifteen or twenty minutes brought me
here, knowing as I did every path and short cut across the park. The old
familiar house looked picturesque enough with its many lighted windows
and every sign of gaiety. Keeping away from the front entrance where
carriages were constantly driving up and a good many people were about, I
went round to the other side, avoiding the stables and passing along by
the west wing. This, of course, brought me to the old tower, the scene of
many a game and frolic in my young days. At its foot I stood for a while
recalling memories of the past. In the mere idleness of affectionate
remembrance I went up to the garden door of the tower and mechanically
turned the handle. It was unlocked.
"I hardly know what made me go in; an impulse to stand again in those
once familiar surroundings. It was fascinating to be in the old tower
which the dim light showed me was just as I had last seen it more than a
dozen years ago. The past came vividly back to me, and I stood there for
a while indulging in a reverie of old days. The associations of the place
seemed every moment to grip me more compellingly. The tower seemed quiet
and altogether deserted; all I could hear was the dance-music away in the
hall. There could be no risk, I thought, of being seen if I went up to
the floor above: and I quietly ascended the stairs to the first landing.
The narrow passage leading to the hall was lighted up with sconces; at
its farther end I could see the movement of the dancers The band was
playing a favourite waltz of mine, and I stayed there rather enjoying the
music and the sight from my safe retreat.
"It did not seem likely that any one would be coming to the tower, and
I resolved, foolishly enough, for, of course, I was in my travelling
suit, to wander up to the next floor and take a look at the room which
held a rather sentimental association for me. It was a stupid thing to
do as I was there in, for the moment, a rather questionable situation,
still I felt pretty secure from being noticed, and went up warily to
the next floor.
"There I found the room considerably altered from my recollection of it,
especially as it was arranged as a sitting-out room, but no one was
there, nor were there any signs of its having been used, which from its
rather secluded position, was natural enough.
"Having given a reminiscent look round I concluded that it would be best
to make a retreat, especially as there would be ample opportunity later
in the evening for me to visit it again. I turned and went to the door.
On reaching the stairs I heard to my great annoyance the sounds of
persons coming up and the subdued tones of a man's voice, I realized that
I was caught, and my one chance of escape was to retreat up the topmost
flight of stairs and wait in the darkness till the couple had gone into
the room I had just quitted.
"Accordingly I turned and went up the remaining flight on tip-toe, two
stairs at a time, waiting beyond the turn in hiding till the coast
should be clear.
"The couple had now reached the landing below and, so far as I could
tell, went into the room. I was just about to make a quick descent,
hoping to get past that and other awkward points unnoticed, when to my
dismay I became aware that the people whom I had thought safely settled
in the room below had come out and were beginning to mount the topmost
flight of stairs. This was indeed a most awkward predicament for me, and
I debated for a moment whether my best course would not be to go boldly
down the stairs and pass them, rather than retreat to the top room. If I
had chosen the former course how differently things might have turned
out; at any rate, for better or worse, the situation as it exists to-day
might have presented itself in quite another form."
Edith Morriston glanced quickly at Gifford as he uttered the reflection.
She seemed about to speak, but checked the impulse, and he continued:
"Treading noiselessly, I bolted up the remaining stairs and went into the
dark room at the top. At the door, which stood open, I stopped and
listened. To my intense vexation, for the situation was becoming
decidedly unpleasant, the pair were still coming up. In silence now, but
I could hear their approaching footsteps and the rustle of the lady's
dress. Unfortunately, there was no corner on the top landing where I
could stand hidden, so I was forced to draw back into the room.
"Happily it had been so familiar to me from childhood that I could find
my way about it in the dark. I well remembered the little inner room
formed by the bartizan of the tower, and into this I tip-toed, feeling
horribly guilty. If only I had not been in that suspicious brown suit! In
evening clothes there would, of course, have been no necessity for this
surreptitious retreat. I devoutly hoped that the two were merely bent on
exploring the place and that the darkness of the old lumber-room would
quickly satisfy their curiosity and send them down again. I heard them
come into the room, the man speaking in a tone so low that the words were
indistinguishable from where I stood; and then the sound of the door
being shut struck my ear unpleasantly.
"Then the man spoke in a more audible voice, a voice which in a flash I
recognized as Henshaw's. And his first words caught my attention with an
GIFFORD CONTINUES HIS STORY
"'Failing to get the regular invitation I had a right to expect, I have
had to take this mode of seeing you,' I just caught the words in
Henshaw's metallic, rather penetrating voice.
"The lady's reply was given in a tone so low that at the distance I stood
the words were indistinguishable.
"'Unmanly?' he exclaimed, evidently taking up her word. 'I don't admit
that for a moment. You know how we stand to one another and what my
feelings are towards you. It is no use for you to try to ignore them or
me. I won't stand being treated like this. There is no reason why my
advances should be repulsed as though they were an insult.'
"I caught the last words of the lady's reply: '--good reason, and
you know it.'
"It was more than clear to me now that I was to be the witness of a very
hateful piece of business. The man's tone, even more than his words, made
my blood boil, and I began to congratulate myself on being thus
accidentally in a position to protect, if need be, the girl whom this
fellow was evidently bullying. With the utmost care I crept nearer to the
small curtained arch which admitted to the larger room. The pitch
darkness of the little turret chamber in which I stood made me feel quite
safe from observation. And I had no qualms now about eavesdropping; the
situation surely justified it.
"I went forward till I could get a sight round the arch of the two
persons in the room. They were standing near the window at some distance
from me. In the obscurity, not quite as impenetrable as that out of which
I looked, I could distinguish the tall figure of the girl in a dark
ball-dress, and facing her, towards me, the big form of Henshaw."
"You had no idea who the lady was?" Edith Morriston interrupted
him to ask.
"Naturally not the vaguest," Gifford answered. "When I had gone as far
as was safe, I set myself to listen again.
"'I don't know what your game is or whether you think you can play the
fool with me,' Henshaw was saying in an ugly tone. 'But I warn you not to
try it; I am not a man to be fooled. Now let us be friends again,' he
added in a softer tone.
"It seemed as though he put out his hand for a caress, for the girl
started back and I heard her say 'Never!'
"'Folly!' he exclaimed. Then took a step forward. 'You are in love with
another man?' he demanded. I could hear the hiss of the question.
"'If I were I should not tell you,' was the defiant reply in a low voice.
"'You would not?' he snapped viciously. 'Let me tell you this, then. You
shall never marry another man while I live. I hold the bar to that, as
you will find.'
"'You mean to act like a cad?' I heard the girl say.
"'I mean to act,' he retorted, 'like a sensible man who has a fair
advantage and means, in spite of your caprice, to keep it.'
"'Fair?' the girl echoed in scorn.
"'Yes, fair,' Henshaw insisted with some heat. 'I saved you from a
scandal that would have ruined you, and it was natural I should ask my
reward. But your notions of gratitude, which had led me on to love you,
soon evaporated; but I am not so easily dismissed.'
"'You mean to continue your cowardly persecution?' There was a tremor in
the girl's voice that made me long to get at the man.
"'I mean to marry you,' he retorted. 'Or at least--'
"'Don't touch me!' she said hoarsely as he approached her.
"'You are coming away with me to-night,' he insisted. 'You need not
pretend to be horrified. It won't be your first nocturnal adventure, and
I have waited quite long enough.'
"He had driven her to the other corner on the window side of the room.
As I leaned forward ready to fasten on the man when he should offer
violence I heard a peculiar sound as of a loose piece of wood or iron
striking the sill.
"'Keep away!' the girl said in a hoarse whisper. 'If you drive me to
desperation I swear I will kill you.'
"There followed a vicious laugh from Henshaw and I could tell from the
panting which followed that a struggle was going on. Just then the moon
came out and I could see that Henshaw was trying to get some object--a
weapon, I guessed--away from the girl. It is a wonder that neither of
them saw me. In the dark opening I must have still been practically
hidden, and they too intent on their struggle to notice anything beyond.
"I was just on the point of springing out to the girl's assistance when
she staggered back and, turning, made a rush for the door. In a moment
Henshaw was after her, but in his blind haste he either tripped or
stumbled and fell heavily. I think it likely that in the dark he struck
against the corner of the rather massive oak table in the centre of the
room and was thrown off his balance. He rose immediately, but I was now
close behind him, and as he put out his arm to clutch the girl, who was
then half through the doorway, I gripped him by the collar and with all
my strength swung him back into the room.
"He must have been most horribly surprised, for he uttered a gasping cry
as he spun round, and instead of keeping his feet and rushing at me as I
expected he went down with a thud by the window."
They had stopped in their walk now, and Edith Morriston was listening
almost breathlessly to Gifford's graphic story. Never for a moment had he
suggested the lady's identity; for all that had passed neither of them
might have known it.
"I turned quickly to the door," Gifford continued, "but to my surprise
the lady whom I expected to find there had disappeared. I could neither
see nor hear any sign of her.
"I took a step back into the room, fully expecting an onslaught from the
infuriated Henshaw. 'You cowardly brute!' I exclaimed in the heat of my
anger and excitement. But no reply came, and to my wonder he lay still on
the floor where he had fallen."
HOW GIFFORD ESCAPED
"I waited for some time in silence, expecting him every moment to rise
and retaliate. He was a big, muscular man, but it never occurred to me to
be in any fear of him physically. For one thing my indignation was too
hot to admit fear; I happen to be quite good enough at boxing to be able
to take care of myself, and I was sure--all the more from his continuing
to lie there--that such a despicable bully must be a coward.
"'You had better get up and clear out of this house,' I said wrathfully,
'before you get the thrashing you so richly deserve.'
"No answer came. As I waited for one there was, save for my own
breathing, dead silence in the room. Before speaking I had heard
something like a long drawn sigh come from the man on the floor, but now,
listening intently, I could hear nothing. Two explanations suggested
themselves to account for his still lying there. One, shame at his vile
conduct having been witnessed by a third person, the other that he had
struck his head against the wall in falling and was stunned.
"Naturally I was not greatly concerned at the fellow's condition,
whichever it was; still it would, I concluded, be well to settle the
matter, and if he was merely skulking see that he cleared out of the
house. I shut the door, and then crossing to where the man lay, struck a
match and held it out to get a view of him.
"He lay on his face with his arms bent under him. I prodded him with my
foot, but he did not stir; he lay absolutely, rather uncannily still. The
match burned out; I struck another and leaned over to get a sight of his
face. To my horror there met my eyes a dark wet patch on the floor which
I instinctively felt must be blood. You may imagine the terrible thrill
the conviction gave me. Yet I could not believe even then that anything
really serious had happened.
"I struck a fresh match and holding it up with one hand, with the other
took the man's shoulder and turned him over on his back. Then I knew that
I was there with a dead man. The hue of the face was unmistakably that of
death. And the cause of it was plainly to be seen. There was a wound in
the man's neck from which blood came freely.
"How had the wound--clearly a fatal one--been caused? I searched for an
explanation. That which forced itself upon me was that the girl had in
her desperation stabbed her persecutor with some weapon she had found
there or brought with her. It was a horrible idea to entertain, although
the act would have been almost justified. I wondered if by chance the
weapon was still there. Striking a match I looked round. Yes; there on
the floor near the spot where Henshaw had first fallen, lay a narrow
"Whatever my first conclusions were I can see now the most probable
explanation of how Henshaw came by his death-wound. He had forced the
chisel away from the girl; he had kept it in his hand; in his eagerness
to prevent his victim's escape he had not realized that he was holding
it point upwards, and when he fell it had pierced him with all the force
of his heavy body falling plump on it."
"Then you know it was an accident?" Edith Morriston drew a great breath
of relief from the painful tension with which she had listened.
"I can see it was a pure accident," Gifford answered. "All the same it
was an accident with an ugly look about it, and I quickly realized that I
was in an equivocal--not to say dangerous, situation."
"It was a terrible predicament for you," the girl said sympathetically.
"It was indeed. And one which called for prompt action. Moreover the very
fact that I was not in evening clothes made it all the more suspicious. I
pulled my wits together and proceeded to make quite sure that the man was
actually dead. That I found was beyond all doubt the case, and it now
remained for me to make my escape before being found there in that
"I went out to the landing, closing the door after me, with the idea of
getting down the stairs and escaping into the garden as secretly as I had
come in. I had crept down a very few stairs when I found this was not to
be. A chatter of voices just below told me that people were in the tower,
and leaning over I could see couples passing between the passage to the
hall and the room below me.
"At any moment, I realized, some of them might take it into their heads
to explore the topmost room, when the result would be disastrous.
Certainly in my mufti I could not get past the next floor just then
without exciting fatal notice, and to wait for an opportunity when the
coast might be clear was too dangerous, seeing the risk of someone
"It was not easy to see my way of escape. I went to the top room and
locked the door. My nerves were pretty strong, but they were severely
tried when I shut myself in with the dead man and had the consciousness
of having laid myself open to the charge of being his murderer. I stood
there by the door thinking desperately what I could do. Fool that I had
been to venture into the place in that garb. But who could have foreseen
the result? Anyhow there was no time for reflection; it was necessary to
act and seek a possible expedient. Hopelessly enough I went into the
little inner room and struck a match. In a moment a thrill of hope came
to me, for the first object the light showed me was a big coil of rope
conspicuous among the odds and ends of lumber in the recess. The idea of
escape by the window had only occurred to me to be dismissed as a sheer
impossibility; the height of the tower made that quite prohibitive, but
here seemed a chance of it. If only the rope was long enough.
"I got hold of the coil as my match burned out, and pulled it away from
the surrounding rubbish. Its weight gave me hope that it would be
sufficient. In haste I dragged it to the outer room into which the
moonlight was now streaming. With a shuddering glance at the dead man,
whose ashen face stared up in ghastly fashion in the moonbeams, I opened
the window and looked out to make sure that no one was below. Satisfied
on that point I brought forward the rope and began paying it out of the
window. To my content I saw that there was a strong iron stanchion at the
side which would allow of the rope being fastened to it.
"There was light enough just then to enable me to see pretty well when
the end of the rope reached the ground, and upon examining what was left
in the room I calculated that not much more than half was outside. In a
flash the discovery gave me an idea. Why should I not simply pass the
rope behind the stanchion and use it doubled? By that means I could pull
it down after me when I reached the ground, and so not only effect my
escape but also leave the fact unknown. That, together with the door
locked on the inside, would tend to make Henshaw's death a mystery with a
strong probability in favour of suicide, which would be altogether the
happiest conclusion to arrive at. In fact my hastily formed calculation
was, as we know, subsequently borne out and the suicide theory would
probably have been quietly accepted had it not been for the intervention
of Gervase Henshaw with his smartness and incredulity.
"That is practically the end of my story, Miss Morriston. I laid the
chisel by the body, went to the window, pulled in the rope, carefully got
the centre, adjusted it through the stanchion, and with a last look at
the dead man, got out of the window, a rather nerve-trying business, and
began to lower myself. I had calculated that the double rope was long
enough to take me to within a few feet of the ground, and this proved to
be the case. When I came to the end I let go of one side and pulled the
other with me as I dropped. Then I drew the rope down, the latter half
when released falling with a great thud. Hastily I set off for the lake,
dragging the rope after me. At the landing-stage by the boat-house I
coiled it up as best I could and threw it in. As I had anticipated it was
thick and heavy enough to sink without being weighted. Then with a last
glance at the tower I made my way as quickly as possible to the hotel in
a state of nerves which you may imagine, little thinking that my descent
from the tower had been witnessed. My first intention was to abandon all
idea of going to the dance, but on reflection I came to the conclusion
that I had better at least put in an appearance there.
"Accordingly I changed and came on late to the ball, as you know.
Naturally a great curiosity possessed me to find out the girl who had
played the third part in the drama which had been enacted in the tower.
But I had not seen her face, nor heard her voice sufficiently to be able
to recognize it. There were several tall girls in the room, yourself
among the number, but naturally it never occurred to me--"
He stopped awkwardly, just as by inadvertence he was about to say that
which all along he had studiously refrained from suggesting.
"To suspect me," Edith Morriston completed his sentence with a smile.
"No," he continued frankly. "You would have been the last person to enter
my head in that connexion. And then Kelson came out of the passage from
the tower with Miss Tredworth, to whom he had just proposed. He
introduced me in a way which suggested their new relationship, and we had
just began to chat when to my horror I noticed what to my mind went to
prove that she was the person for whom I was looking. There were dark red
stains on the white roses she wore on her dress. It was an unpleasant
shock to me, placing me, as it seemed, in a terribly difficult position.
For, at the first blush of my discovery, it all seemed to fit in. Clement
Henshaw had been, I imagined, in love with Miss Tredworth before Kelson
appeared on the scene. She had thrown him over for my friend, and
Henshaw, taking his rejection in bad part, had threatened to expose some
questionable incident in her past. Now that is all happily explained
away, and I won't retrace the steps by which my imagination led me on;
but you see how painfully I was situated with respect to my friend.
"That is my story, Miss Morriston. Had I known what I know now I should
not have kept it to myself so long; but up to a certain point, until the
last few days, there seemed no reason for making the dangerous secret
known to any one. Now, when it appears necessary to protect you from this
man, Henshaw, the account of the part I played in the tragedy must be
told in your interest."
Edith Morriston drew in a deep breath as Gifford ceased speaking. "It is
very kind and chivalrous of you, Mr. Gifford," she said in a low voice,
"to run this risk for me, although your telling me the story shall never
involve you in danger."
"I am ready for your sake to face any danger the telling of my secret may
hold for me," he responded firmly.
"I am sure of that, as I am sure of you," she replied. Then added with a
change of tone, "You were certain for a while that Muriel Tredworth had
not only been guilty of something discreditable in her past but had
stabbed to death in your presence the man who knew her secret."
"I'm afraid there seemed to me no alternative but to believe it," he
"When you found out that you were mistaken in her identity and that she
had nothing whatever to do with the tragedy you would naturally transfer
the opinion you had held of her to--to the other woman--the one who was
The question was put searchingly and was not to be evaded.
"That would be a natural consequence," Gifford admitted frankly. "But
there was in my mind always a growing doubt whether the wound had not
been given accidentally. And that doubt became almost certainty when the
real identity of Henshaw's victim became apparent."
Edith Morriston looked at him steadily. "You know it--for certain?" she
asked almost coldly.
"Naturally I cannot fail to know it now," he answered sympathetically.
She gave a rather bitter laugh. "I shall not deny it to you, Mr. Gifford,
even if I thought it could be of any use. But, knowing so much, you owe
it to me to hear my explanation of matters which look so black against
me, and above all to accept my absolute assurance that so far as I am
concerned Clement Henshaw's wound was quite accidental. Indeed I never
dreamt that he had been hurt until his body was found."
Gifford seized her hand by an irresistible impulse.
"Miss Morriston, if you only knew how glad and relieved I am to hear you
say that!" he exclaimed.
"When you hear my story," she said, composedly but with an underlying
bitterness which was hardly to be concealed, "the story of a long
martyrdom of persecution--for it has been nothing less--you will acquit
me of being guilty of anything disreputable. What I did was innocent
enough and it moreover was forced upon me."
"Tell me," he urged tenderly.
"I must tell you," she returned, "if only to set myself right in your
eyes who have been witness of the terrible sequel to it all. But not
to-night; it is too late, and the story is long: it must be told at
length. Dick will be home by this and I must go. I would ask you to come
in, but there would be no opportunity for private talk there. Will you
meet me to-morrow morning at half-past ten by the summer-house near the
wood that runs up to James' farm? You know it?"
"Well. I will be there."
"It is rather a long way for you to come," she said, "but there are
reasons for avoiding the big wood with the rides."
"I know," he replied. "Henshaw might be on the look-out there for you."
Then he added in answer to her quick look of curiosity, "I happened once
by accident to see him there with you."
"Ah, yes," she admitted with a shudder, "I will tell you about that."
"I think I can guess," he said quietly. "Now in the meantime you will
take no notice of this man if he writes or tries to see you. He will
probably be exasperated by your not keeping the appointment this evening
and may determine to put the screw on."
"Yes," she agreed with a lingering fear in her voice.
"Leave him to me to deal with," Gifford said reassuringly. "And do make
up your mind that all will be well."
"I will, thanks to you, my friend in need."
And so, with a warm pressure of the hands, they parted.
EDITH MORRISTON'S STORY
Next morning Gifford was in good time at the rendezvous, a sequestered
corner of the park, and Edith Morriston soon joined him. "Let us come
into the summer-house," she suggested; "it will be more convenient for my
"First of all, tell me," Gifford said, "has anything happened since last
night? Has Henshaw made any move?"
She took out a note and handed it to him. "Only that," she said with an
"There must have been some misunderstanding last evening," Gifford read.
"I cannot think that your not keeping the appointment was intentional.
Anyhow I can wait till to-night, then I shall be at the lane just beyond
the church at 7.30. That you may not repent I hope you have not
repented." That was all.
"A thinly veiled threat," Gifford observed. "The man in his way seems as
great a bully as his brother. May I keep this? I am going to see Mr.
Henshaw presently, and have a serious talk with him. After which I shall
hope to be able to convince you that your troubles are at an end."
"If you can do that--" she said.
"The knowledge that I have been of service to you will be my great
reward. I hope I am sufficiently a gentleman not to ask or expect
She made no reply. They had entered the little rustic summer-house,
and sat down.
"Dick has driven into Branchester," Edith Morriston said, perhaps to end
an embarrassing pause. "He will not be back till luncheon, so we are not
likely to be interrupted."
"That's well," Gifford answered. "Now please begin what I am most
anxious to hear."
"The story I have to tell you, Mr. Gifford," Edith Morriston began, "is
not a pleasant one and is as humiliating to me to relate as was the
experience, the terrible experience, I had to go through. But to be fair
to myself I must be quite frank with you, and am sure you will never
give me cause to repent speaking unreservedly."
"You can rely upon my honour to respect your confidence," Gifford
"I know I may," the girl answered. "Well, then, you must know first of
all, that my father married a second time, and he unfortunately chose a
woman well connected enough, but heartless and an utter snob. I suppose
men are often blind to these hateful qualities before marriage; doubtless
a clever, unscrupulous woman is able to hide her faults when she has the
main chance in view. My stepmother was a good deal younger than my
father, and I dare say on the whole made him, socially at any rate, a
fairly good wife. Her one idea was social aggrandizement at any cost, and
I unhappily was to fall a victim to it.
"I suppose we ought not to blame her for determining that I ought to
marry well; she wanted to do the best for the family and was
constitutionally incapable of making allowance for or considering any
one's private feelings. To make a long story short, my stepmother, in
pursuance of her policy, determined that I should marry a certain peer
whose name I need not mention. He was altogether a bad lot, and I soon
came to know it. I received certain warnings, but without them I could
see that the man was all wrong, and I told my stepmother what I
thought of him.
"She scoffed at the idea that he was any worse than the average man. All
I had to concern myself with was the fact that he was a peer of ancient
lineage, of large property, and there wasn't another girl in the kingdom
who wouldn't jump at him. I might well chance his making me unhappy since
he could make me a countess, and to refuse him would be absolute madness;
Mrs. Morriston's face grew black at the very thought of it. She soon got
my father on to her side, and between them I had a hateful time of it.
It's the old story, which will be told as long as there are worldly,
selfish women on the earth, but it was none the less fresh and poignant
to me who had to live through the experience.
"Things got so bad through my continued refusal to fall in with my
stepmother's wishes that I was reduced to a state bordering on despair.
My father, whom I loved, was turned against me; his mind was so
prejudiced in favour of the man whom I was being gradually forced to take
as a husband that he could see no good reason, only sheer obstinacy, in
my refusal. Altogether my life was becoming a perfect hell. Dick, who
might have stood by me, and made things less unbearable, was away on a
two years' tour for big game shooting; I had no one to confide in, no one
to help me.
"Just as things were at their worst and I was getting quite desperate, I
met at a dance a man named Archie Jolliffe. He had been a sailor, but
having come into money had given up the Service and settled down to enjoy
himself. He and I got on very well together from the first; he was a
breezy, genial, young fellow, fond of fun and adventure and a pleasant
contrast in every way to the man who was threatening to ruin my life. I
don't know that in happier circumstances I should have cared for
Jolliffe; there wasn't much in him beyond his capacity for fun; he was
inclined to be fast in a foolish sort of way; a man's man rather than one
for whom a woman could feel much respect. Still he was not vicious like
the other, for whom my dislike increased every time I saw him.
"Well, Archie Jolliffe fell in love with me and in his impetuous way made
no secret of it. I need not say it did not take long for my step-mother
to become aware of it, and with the idea that I was encouraging him she
became furious. Except that poor Archie was a welcome change from the
atmosphere of my home and the hateful attentions of the man who was
always being left alone with me, I did not really care for him, and but
for Mrs. Morriston's attitude I should have told him it was no use his
thinking of me. Considering the sequel, I wish I had done so; but it is
too late now for regrets. His love-making gave me a chance of defying my
stepmother, and I rather enjoyed baulking her plans to keep Archie and me
apart. If I did not encourage him--indeed, I refused him every time he
proposed--I did not dismiss him as I ought to have done, and he evidently
had an idea that perseverance would win the day. And so, after a
fashion, it did.
"Matters reached such a pitch at last that it became plain that I must
either consent to marry the man I loathed or leave my home for good.
Goaded on by my apparent encouragement of Archie Jolliffe, my stepmother
resolved to bring matters to a crisis. She started a terrific row with me
one day, my father was brought into it, and I stood up against them both.
The upshot was that when the interview was over I went out of the house
boiling with indignation and for the time utterly reckless. Chance caught
the psychological moment and threw me in the way of Archie Jolliffe. He
saw something was wrong and pressed me to tell him what had happened. He
was so chivalrous and sympathetic that I was led in my turbulent state of
mind to become confidential, the more so when he told me he had known for
some time how I was being treated.
"'You must not marry that man,' he said 'It is an outrage for your people
to suggest such a thing. He is a big swell and all that, with heaps of
money, but any man in town who knows anything will tell you he is quite
"I had heard that, and had told my stepmother, but of course it did not
suit her to heed me. She cared for nothing beyond the fact that I should
be a countess, and said so.
"Archie and I talked together for a long time and with the result that in
my longing for protection from the powers against me and my indignation
at the way I was being treated I had promised when we parted to marry
him, and we had planned to elope together that very night.
"At that time we were living at Haynthorpe Hall--you know it?--about ten
miles from here. That evening I slipped out of the house after dinner and
met Archie, who was waiting for me at a quiet spot outside the village.
His plan was to drive across country to Branchester Junction, where it
was not likely we should be noticed or recognized, catch the night train
up to town and be married there next morning. You may imagine the state
of desperation--utter desperation and recklessness--I was in to have
consented to such a thing, but I could see no help for it, and of two
evils I seemed to be choosing the least. The future looked hideously
vague and dark; still Jolliffe was capable of being transformed into a
decent husband, while the other man assuredly was not.
"Archie seemed overjoyed, poor fellow, as I mounted into the dog-cart; he
had hardly expected that I should not repent. Once we were fairly off and
bowling along the dark road, a sense of relief came to me, and whatever
qualms I may have felt soon vanished. However wrong my conduct was I had
been driven to it and my father, for whom I was sorry, by taking part
against me, deserved to lose me.
"My companion had the tact not to talk much, and I was glad to think he
could realize the seriousness of the step he had persuaded me to take.
But the little he did say was affectionately sympathetic and, now that
the die was cast, it comforted me to indulge hopes of him.
"All went well till we were about three miles from Branchester; then an
awful thing happened. Our horse was a fast trotter, and Archie let him
have his head, knowing that it would never do for us to miss the train.
As we turned a blind corner we came into collision with another dog-cart
which we had neither seen nor heard. The force of the impact was so
great that our off-wheel was smashed; the cart went over, we were both
flung out, and as I fell I realized horribly that my desperate expedient
was a failure.
"I was not much hurt, for my fall was broken, and I soon scrambled to my
feet. But Archie lay there motionless. The man who was the only occupant
of the other dog-cart had pulled into the hedge and alighted. He came up
to offer his help, and to express his sorrow at the accident, which he
said, doubtless with truth, was not his fault. I dare say you will have
guessed that the man was Clement Henshaw. Between us we raised Archie and
carried him to the side of the road. He was quite insensible, and
"'I am afraid he is rather seriously hurt,' the man said sympathetically.
'We ought to get him to Branchester Hospital as soon as possible.'
"I was so overwhelmed by the sudden and terrible end to our adventure
that I could think of nothing. By a great piece of luck a belated dray
came along on its way to Branchester. Into this, with the driver's help,
we lifted poor Archie; and then Henshaw and I drove on in his trap to
prepare the hospital authorities for the patient's arrival. The doctor
after a cursory examination gave very little hope, and I left the
hospital in a most wretched state of mind, feeling more than indirectly
responsible for the end of that bright young life. Henshaw arranged for
the horse and smashed dogcart to be fetched from the scene of the
accident, and then he asked where in the town he should escort me.
"I thanked him and said, a good deal to his surprise, that I was not
going to stop in Branchester, but would hire a fly and drive to my
destination. I stood, of course, in a hideously false position, and that
he very soon began to divine; he would not hear of my getting a fly at
that hour of the night, but insisted on driving me in his trap to
wherever I wished to go.
"Unhappily I had no idea of the man's character, or I should never have
dreamt of accepting his offer; but I was then in no state of mind to
judge his nature or question his motives; he had proved himself
infinitely kind and resourceful, so in my lonely and agitated condition I
consented, little imagining what the dire result to me would be.
"On the drive back to my home I was naturally in a horribly distressed
state of mind, and hardly dared think of the future. My companion
tactfully refrained from much talking, although I had an idea that his
curiosity was greatly excited to learn the explanation of the affair; he
put occasionally a leading question which I always evaded, when he took
the hint and did not press his inquiries. So far as every one else was
concerned there had been no idea of connecting me with poor Archie
Jolliffe. The hospital people believed that he had been driving alone,
and that I had been in the trap with Henshaw. I dare say they took me for
his sister or his wife.
"At last, after one of the most wretched hours I ever spent--and I have
had more than my fair share of trouble--we reached Haynthorpe, and on
the outskirts of the village I asked Henshaw to set me down. He stopped
and looked at me curiously.
"'Can't you trust me to drive you to your home?'" he said insinuatingly.
"I replied that I preferred to get down where we were, and thanked him as
warmly as I was able for all his services.
"'You haven't even told me your name,' he protested, 'Mine is Clement
Henshaw; I am staying at Flinton for hunting.'
"My answer was that he must not think me ungrateful, but that I would
rather not tell him my name. It could be of no consequence to him.
"'I should like at least,' he urged, 'to be allowed to drive over and
report how your--friend--or was it your brother?--is getting on.'
"I thanked him, made the best excuse I could for refusing, got down from
the trap and hurried off through the dark village street, thankful to get
away from those awkward questions.
"But if I thought I had finally got rid of Mr. Clement Henshaw I was, in
my ignorance of the man, woefully mistaken."
HOW THE STORY ENDED
"When I reached the house luck unexpectedly favoured me. My maid, whom I
had been obliged to take, up to a certain point, into my confidence, and
who, after the manner of her class, had acquired more than a sympathetic
inkling of the way my people had been treating me, was waiting up on the
look-out for my return, and quietly let me in. She told me that no one
but herself had any idea that I was out of the house; she had led them to
believe that I had gone to bed early with a headache, which considering
the stress of the past two days was plausible enough. So I got back
safely to my room which it had not seemed likely. I should ever enter
again, and next morning I could see that my over-night's adventure was
"Naturally I anticipated a continuation of my stepmother's attempts to
force me into the marriage she had in view, and it rather puzzled me to
understand why they seemed to be dropped. The prospective bridegroom did
not come to the house, and, stranger still, his name was not mentioned.
The explanation was soon forthcoming. I did not see the newspapers just
then, in fact I have an idea they were purposely kept away from me; but
some people who were calling mentioned a big society-scandal coming on in
the Law Courts in which this precious peer was desperately involved. The
relief with which I heard the news was unbounded considering all it meant
for me, but my joy was turned to bitter grief by the news that Archie
Jolliffe after lying unconscious for nearly a week had died of his
injury. I had contrived, during the days he lingered, to make secret
inquiries as to his condition, and so knew that what would have seemed my
heartless absence from his bedside had made no difference to him."
"Poor fellow," Gifford commented.
"It was unspeakably sad," Edith Morriston continued, "but it seemed like
fate, seeing how things rearranged themselves afterwards. Certainly if I
was to blame for his piteous end, I was to pay the penalty. For no sooner
was I out of one trouble than another was ready for me.
"After this long preface, I come to the most unpleasant episode of
Henshaw and his persecution.
"On the day I heard of poor Archie's death I had gone out for a walk
possessed by a great longing to be alone in my grief. On my way home by a
woodland path leading to the Hall grounds, I, to my great annoyance, came
upon Clement Henshaw. I can't say I was altogether surprised, for I had
caught a glimpse of some one very like him in the village a day or two
before. Of that I had thought little, merely taking care that the man did
not see me. But now there was no avoiding him, and I had more than a
suspicion that he had been lying in wait for me. At the risk of appearing
horribly ungrateful I made up my mind on the instant to try to pass him
with a bow, but need not say that was utterly futile. He stood directly
in my path, and raised his hat.
"'I am sorry to be the bearer of sad news, Miss Morriston,' he said.
"So he had found out my name, assuredly not by accident, and the fact
angered me, perhaps unreasonably.
"'I have heard of Mr. Jolliffe's death,' I replied coldly, 'if that is
what you have to tell me.'
"'I thought,' he rejoined, with assurance, 'it quite possible you might
not have heard so soon.'
"From his manner I began to see that the man was likely to become an
annoyance if he were not snubbed, but soon discovered that it was not so
easily done. I thanked him coldly enough, and tried to dismiss him, but
he insisted on walking with me. What could I do? He seemed determined to
force his company upon me and I could not run away. He tried to get out
of me how I had come to be driving with Archie that night, and although I
evaded his questions it was plain that he had a shrewd inkling of the
reason. Not to weary you with a long account of this disagreeable and
humiliating affair, I will only say that from that day forward I became
subject to a determined system of persecution from Clement Henshaw. He
waylaid me on every possible occasion, holding over me a covert threat of
the exposure of my escapade, till at last I was absolutely afraid to go
outside the house for fear of meeting him."
"He wanted to marry you?" Gifford suggested.
Edith Morriston gave a little shudder. "I suppose so. He was always
making love to me, and was quite impervious to snubbing. When, in
consequence of my keeping within bounds of the house and garden, he could
not see me, he took to writing, and kept me in terror lest one of his
letters should fall into my stepmother's hands. I wished afterwards that
I had taken a bold line, confessed what had happened, and defied the
consequences. I think it was the fear of being disgraced in my brother's
eyes on his return which kept me from doing so.
"In the midst of my worry my father fell into a state of bad health and
we took him down to the Devonshire coast for change of air. Needless to
say Henshaw soon found out our retreat, and to my dismay appeared there.
His persecution went on with renewed vigour and I, having less chance
there of escaping it, was nearly at my wits' end, when fate curiously
enough again intervened. We were caught in a storm on a long country
excursion, my stepmother got a severe chill and within a week was dead.
We returned to Haynthorpe, my father being now in a very precarious state
of health, Henshaw followed us with a pertinacity that was almost
devilish. But I now ventured to defy his threats of exposing me; he
strenuously denied any such intention and declared himself madly in love
with me. I had now taken courage enough to reject him uncompromisingly; I
forbade him ever to speak to me again, and, as after that he disappeared
from the village, began to flatter myself that I had got rid of him.
"My father grew worse now from day to day; he lingered through the summer
and with the chill days of autumn the end came. Dick hurried home and
arrived just in time to see him alive. He left a much larger fortune than
we had supposed him to possess, and Dick, always fond of sport, was soon
in negotiation for this place which had come into the market.
"No sooner had we settled in here than, to my horror, Clement Henshaw
began to renew his persecution. He had evidently heard that I had
inherited a good share of my father's fortune, and was worth making
another effort for. He recommenced to write to me, he came down secretly
and waylaid me, and when everything else failed he resorted to threats,
not veiled as before, but open and unmistakable. He vowed that if I
persisted in refusing to marry him he would take good care that I should
never marry any one else. He held, he said, my reputation in his hand; he
hoped he should never have to use his power, but I ought to consider the
state of his feelings towards me and not goad him to desperate measures.
In short he took all the joy out of my life, for I had come from mere
dislike simply to loathe the man who could show himself such a dastardly
cad. And the worst of it was that I saw no way out of it. Dick is a good
fellow and very fond of me, but, although you might not think it, he is
almost absurdly proud of the family name and its unsmirched record. And
if I had confided in him, and he had horsewhipped Henshaw, what good
could that have done? It would simply have infuriated the man, who would
have at once made public my escapade, and few people would have given me
the credit of its being innocent. Dick had just sunk a large part of his
fortune in this place, he had taken over the hounds and was certain of
becoming popular. All that would be nullified and upset if this man,
Henshaw, chose to let loose his tongue. For how could I even pretend to
deny his story? At the very least the truth would mean a hateful
reflection on my dead father, and the whole thing would have led to an
intolerable scandal. Yet it seemed as though this could be avoided in no
other way but by marrying my persecutor, a man whom I had reason to hate
and who had shown himself to be such an unchivalrous bully. About this
time--that is shortly before the Hunt Ball--rumours had got about the
neighbourhood that I was going to marry Lord Painswick. He was certainly
paying me a good deal of attention, and I fancy Dick would have liked
the match, but I could not bring myself to care for Painswick, and indeed
his courtship only added to my other worries.
"But Clement Henshaw heard the rumour and it had naturally the effect of
rousing his wretched pursuit of me to greater activity. He vowed with
brutal vehemence that I should not marry Painswick, and declared that
when our engagement was announced he would tell him the story he had
against me. That in itself did not trouble me much since I had no
intention of marrying Painswick; still the man's relentless persecution
was getting more than I could bear.
"I now come to the night of the Hunt Ball. For some days previously I had
seen or heard nothing of Henshaw, and had even begun to hope that
something might have happened to make the man abandon his line of
conduct. I might have known him better. To my intense annoyance and
dismay I saw him come into the ballroom with all the hateful assurance
that was so familiar to me. I could not well escape, seeing that I was
acting as hostess. For a while he, beyond a formal greeting, let me
alone. But I felt what was surely coming, and it was almost a relief when
he took an opportunity of asking for a dance.
"He must have seen the hate in my eyes as in my hesitation they met his,
for he said with a forced laugh, 'You need not do violence to your
feelings by dancing with me, Miss Morriston, if you don't care to, but
there is something I must say to you. Let us come out of the crowd to
where we shall not be overheard.'
"I had never felt so madly furious with the man as at that moment; and it
was with a reckless desire to tell him in strong language my opinion of
his tactics, to insult him, if that were possible, to declare that I
would die rather than yield to him, that I led the way to the tower. My
desire to get out of the crowd was even greater than his, for a mad hope
possessed me that in some desperate way I might bring our relations to a
"We went into the sitting-out room. 'Some one will be coming in here,' he
objected. 'Is there a room upstairs where we can talk?'
"'There is a room up there,' I answered, as steadily as my indignation
would let me, and unheeding the idea of compromising myself I went up the
dark staircase in front of him. Naturally the idea that our stormy
interview was to have a witness would have been the last thing to enter
my mind; it never occurred to me to make sure no one was already in the
room when we entered it.
"You know what happened, Mr. Gifford, so I need not go through that. The
man showed himself the cowardly bully that he was. Somehow up there
alone with him, as at least I thought, in the dark, my courage gave way,
and it was only when the man sought in his vehemence to take hold of me
that anger and disgust cast out fear. It was quite by accident that I
touched and caught up the chisel lying on the window-sill. As the man's
hand sought me it struck the edge of the chisel, and got a wound; that
must have been how the blood came upon my dress. He seized my arm, and
after a struggle wrenched the implement away. But I never struck him
with it, far from giving him his death-blow. The chisel was never in my
hand afterwards. When I rushed for the door in a sudden panic, for,
knowing that I had hurt him, I believed the man in his rage might be
capable of anything, and when in springing after me he stumbled and
fell, the chisel must have been held by him edge upwards, and so pierced
him to his death."
"That, I am certain now," Gifford said, "is what must have happened."
"And you thought I had stabbed him?" the girl said with a
"I hardly dare ask you to forgive me for harbouring such a thought," he
replied. "Yet had it been true I, who had been a witness of the man's
vile conduct, could never have blamed you. If ever an act was
An elongated shadow shot forward on the ground in front of them. Gifford
stopped abruptly, and with an involuntary action his companion clutched
his arm as both looked up expectantly. Next moment Gervase Henshaw stood
For some moments Henshaw did not speak; indeed, it was probable that the
unexpected success of his search for Edith Morriston--for such doubtless
was his object--had so disagreeably startled him, that he was unable to
pull those sharp wits of his together at once. But the expression which
flashed into his eyes, and that came instantaneously, was of so vengeful
and threatening a character, that Gifford felt glad he was there to
protect the girl from her now enraged persecutor.
"I did not expect to find you here, Miss Morriston."
The words came sharply and wrathfully, when the man had found his
Gifford answered. "Miss Morriston and I have been enjoying the view and
the air of the pines."
The commonplace remark naturally, as it was intended, went for nothing.
Henshaw affected not to notice it.
"I am glad I have come across you, Miss Morriston," he said, with an
evident curbing of his chagrin, "as I have something rather important to
say to you."
"I am afraid I cannot hear it now, Mr. Henshaw," the girl returned
Henshaw's face darkened. "I really must ask you to grant me an interview
without delay," he retorted insistently, as though secure in his sense of
power over the girl. "I am sure Mr. Gifford will permit--"
"Mr. Gifford will do nothing of the sort," came the bold and rather
startling reply from the person alluded to. "As a friend of Miss
Morriston's I do not intend to allow you to hold any more private
conversations with her."
No doubt with his knowledge of the world and of his own advantage Henshaw
put down Gifford's resolute speech to mere bluff. And Gervase Henshaw was
too old a legal practitioner to be bluffed. "I do not for a moment admit
your right to interfere," he retorted with an assumption of calm
superiority. "I am addressing myself to Miss Morriston, who does not, I
hope, approve of your somewhat singular manners."
Gifford took a step out of the summerhouse and sternly faced Henshaw. "I
am sure Miss Morriston will endorse anything I choose to say to a man who
has constituted himself her cowardly persecutor," he said. "Now we don't
want to have a dispute in a lady's presence," he added as Henshaw began
an angry rejoinder. "You have got, unless you wish very unpleasant
consequences to follow, to render an account to me, as Miss Morriston's
friend, of your abominable conduct towards her. But not here. You had
better come to my room at the hotel at three o'clock this afternoon and
hear what I shall have to say. And in the meantime you will address Miss
Morriston only at the risk of a horsewhipping."
Henshaw was looking at him steadfastly through eyes that blazed with
hate. "I wonder if you quite know whom and what you are trying to
champion," he snarled.
"Perfectly," was the cool reply. "A much wronged and cruelly persecuted
lady. You had better postpone what you have to say till this afternoon,
when we will come to an understanding as to your conduct. Now, as you are
on private land, you had better take the nearest way to the public road."
Henshaw looked as though he would have liked to bring the dispute to the
issue of a physical encounter, had but the coward in him dared. "I am
here by permission," he returned, standing his ground.
"Which has been rescinded by the vile use to which you have chosen to put
it," Gifford rejoined. "I have Miss Morriston's authority to treat you as
a trespasser, and to order you off her brother's land."
Henshaw fell back a step. "Very well, Mr. Gifford," he returned with an
ugly sneer. "You talk with great confidence now, but we shall see. You
will be wiser by this time tomorrow."
With that he turned and walked off; Gifford, after watching him for a
while, went back to the summer-house.
"I have put things in the right train there," he remarked with a
confident laugh. "I hope to be able to tell you this evening that Mr.
Henshaw is a thing of the past."
"You are very sanguine," she said, a little doubtfully. "I am afraid you
do not know the man."
"I'm afraid I do," he replied. "He is obviously not an easy person to
deal with. But I think I see my way. Tell me. He has threatened you in
order to induce you to elope with him?"
"Yes. He has found evidence among his brother's correspondence of the
hold he had over me and of his persecution. That would afford a
sufficient motive for my killing him; and how could I prove that I did
not strike the blow?"
"It might be difficult," Gifford answered thoughtfully. "But I may be
able to do it. Of course he knows you to be an heiress."
"I am sure of that from something he once let slip. It has been my
inheritance which has brought all this trouble upon me, at any rate its
"Yes. This man must be something of an adventurer, as his brother was. We
shall see," Gifford said with a grim touch. "Now, I must not keep you
any longer. I am so grateful for the confidence you have given me. May I
call later on and tell you the result?"
Her eyes were on him in an almost piteous searching for hope in his
resolute face. "Of course," she responded. "I shall be so terribly
anxious to know."
Chivalrously avoiding any suggestion of tenderness, he shook hands and
went off towards the town.
Punctually at the appointed time Gervase Henshaw was shown into
Gifford's room. Kelson had received from his friend a hint of what was
afoot and had naturally offered his services to back Gifford up, but
they were refused.
"It is very kind of you, Harry," Gifford had said, "and just what one
would have expected from you. But, as you shall hear later, this is not a
business in which you or any one could usefully intervene. In fact it
would be dangerous for me, considering the man I am dealing with, to say
what I have to say before a third person."
So Kelson went off to spend the afternoon at the Tredworths'.
When Henshaw came in his expression bore no indication of the terms on
which he and Gifford had lately parted. The keen face was unruffled and
almost genial; but Gifford was not the man to be deceived by that outward
seeming. Henshaw bowed and took the chair the other indicated. There was
a short pause as though each waited for the other to begin. In the end it
was Gifford who spoke first.
"I should like to come to an understanding with you, Mr. Henshaw, with
regard to a very serious annoyance, not to say persecution, to which Miss
Morriston has been subjected at your hands." Henshaw drew back his thin
lips in a smile. "I have to tell you," Gifford continued, "once and for
all that it must cease."
"Miss Morriston authorizes you to tell me that?" The question was put
with something like a sneer.
"I should hope it requires no authority," Gifford retorted. "Having
cognizance of what has been going on, it is my plain duty--"
"Why yours?" Henshaw interrupted coolly.
"For a very good reason," Gifford replied; "one which I may have to tell
He saw Henshaw flush and dart a glance of hate at him. It was plain he
had misinterpreted the reply. But the exhibition was only momentary.
"Admitting in the meantime your right to interfere," Henshaw said, now
with perfect coolness, "allow me to tell you that you are taking a very
"I shall be glad to know how."
"The reason is, that if you have any regard, as you suggest, for Miss
Morriston, you are going the right way to do her a terrible injury."
Gifford rose and stood by the fire-place. "To come to the point at once
without further preliminary fencing," he said quietly, "you mean, I take
it, that I am forcing you to denounce her as being guilty of your
For an instant Henshaw seemed taken aback by the other's directness.
"There can be no doubt, holding the evidence I do, that she was guilty of
it," he retorted uncompromisingly.
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Henshaw," Gifford objected with decision, "there
can be, and is, a very great deal more than a doubt of it."
Henshaw shot a searching glance at the man who spoke so confidently, as
though trying to probe what, if anything, was behind his words.
"Perhaps you know then," he returned with his sneering smile, "how
otherwise, if the lady had no hand in it, my brother came by his death?"
"I do," was the quiet answer.
"Then," still the smile of sneering incredulity, "it is clearly your duty
to make it known."
"Clearly," Gifford assented in a calm tone. "That is why I asked you to
come here this afternoon."
Henshaw was looking at him with a sort of malicious curiosity. In spite
of his smartness he seemed at a loss to divine what the other was driving
at, unless it were a well-studied line of bluff. But that Gifford could
have, apart from what Edith Morriston might have told him, any intimate
knowledge of the tragedy was inconceivable.
"I shall be glad to hear what you have to say, Mr. Gifford," he
responded, in perhaps much greater curiosity than he chose to show.
"Then I have to inform you positively," Gifford answered, "that your
brother's fatal wound was the result of a pure accident."
Coming from Edith Morriston's champion, there was nothing surprising in
that assertion. Certainly if that were the other's strong suit he could
easily beat it. It was therefore in a tone of confidence and relief that
he demanded, "You can prove it?"
"By Miss Morriston's testimony?"
"Not at all. By my own."