Part 3 out of 6
certain of that. Believe me, my child, he'll come back some day,
and you'll know you can marry him."
"Never!" Elma cried, hiding her face still more passionately and
wildly than before beneath great folds of the bed-clothes. "Don't
speak to me of him any more, mother! Never! Never! Never!"
VISIONS OF WEALTH.
Cyril Waring, thus dismissed, and as in honour bound, hurried
up to London with a mind preoccupied by many pressing doubts and
misgivings. He thought much of Elma, but he thought much, too, of
sundry strange events that had happened of late to his own private
fortunes. For one thing he had sold, and sold mysteriously, at a very
good price, the picture of Sardanapalus in the glade at Chetwood.
A well-known London dealer had written down to him at Tilgate making
an excellent offer for the unfinished work, as soon as it should
be ready, on behalf of a customer whose name he didn't happen to
mention. And who could that customer be, Cyril thought to himself,
but Colonel Kelmscott? But that wasn't all. The dealer who had
offered him a round sum down for "The Rajah's Rest" had also at
the same time commissioned him to go over to the Belgian Ardennes
to paint a picture or two, at a specified price, of certain selected
scenes upon the Meuse and its tributaries. The price offered for
the work was a very respectable one, and yet--he had some internal
misgivings, somehow, about this mysterious commission. Could it be
to get rid of him? He had an uncomfortable suspicion in the back
chambers of his mind, that whoever had commissioned the pictures
might be more anxious to send him well away from Tilgate than
to possess a series of picturesque sketches on the Meuse and its
And who could have an interest in keeping him far from Tilgate?
That was the question. Was there anybody whom his presence there
could in any way incommode? Could it be Elma's father who wanted
to send him so quickly away from England?
And what was the meaning of Elma's profound resolution, so strangely
and strongly expressed, never, never to marry him?
A painful idea flitted across the young man's puzzled brain. Had
the Cliffords alone discovered the secret of his birth? and was
that secret of such a disgraceful sort that Elma's father shrank
from owning him as a prospective son-in-law, while even Elma herself
could not bring herself to accept him as her future husband? If so,
what could that ghastly secret be? Were he and Guy the inheritors
of some deadly crime? Had their origin been concealed from them,
more in mercy than in cruelty, only lest some hideous taint of
murder or of madness might mar their future and make their whole
When he reached Staple Inn, he found Guy and Montague Nevitt already
in their joint rooms, and arrears of three days' correspondence
A close observer--like Elma Clifford--might perhaps have noted in
Montague Nevitt's eye certain well-restrained symptoms of suppressed
curiosity. But Cyril Waring, in his straightforward, simple English
manliness, was not sharp enough to perceive that Nevitt watched
him close while he broke the envelopes and glanced over his letters;
or that Nevitt's keen anxiety grew at once far deeper and more
carefully concealed as Cyril turned to one big missive with an
official-looking seal and a distinctly important legal aspect. On
the contrary, to the outer eye or ear all that could be observed in
Montague Nevitt's manner was the nervous way he went on tightening
his violin strings with a tremulous hand and whistling low to
himself a few soft and tender bars of some melancholy scrap from
Miss Ewes's refectory.
As Cyril read through that letter, however, his breath came and went
in short little gasps, and his cheek flushed hotly with a sudden
and overpowering flood of emotion.
"What's the matter?" Guy asked, looking over his shoulder curiously.
And Cyril, almost faint with the innumerable ideas and suspicions
that the tidings conjured up in his brain at once, said with an
evident effort, "Read it, Guy; read it."
Guy took the letter and read, Montague Nevitt gazing at it by his
side meanwhile with profound interest.
As soon as they had glanced through its carefully-worded sentences,
each drew a long breath and stared hard at the other. Then Cyril
added in a whirl, "And here's a letter from my own bankers saying
they've duly received the six thousand pounds and put it to my
Guy's face was pale, but he faltered out none the less with ashy
lips, staring hard at the words all the time, "It isn't only the
money, of course, one thinks about, Cyril; but the clue it seems
to promise us to our father and mother."
"Exactly," Cyril answered, with a responsive nod. "The money I
won't take. I don't know what it means. But the clue I'll follow
up till I've run to earth the whole truth about who we are and
where we come from."
Montague Nevitt glanced quickly from one to the other with an
incredulous air. "Not take the money," he exclaimed, in cynical
surprise. "Why, of course you'll take it. Twelve thousand pounds
isn't to be sneezed at in these days, I can tell you. And as for
the clue, why, there isn't any clue. Not a jot or a tittle, a ghost
or a shadow of it. The unnatural parent, whoever he may be--for I
take it for granted the unnatural parent's the person at the bottom
of the offer--takes jolly good care not to let you know who on
earth he is. He wraps himself up in a double cloak of mystery.
Drummonds pay in the money to your account at your own bank, you
see, and while they're authorized to receive your acknowledgment
of the sum remitted, they are clearly NOT authorized to receive
to the sender's credit any return cheque for the amount or cash in
repayment. The unnatural parent evidently intends to remain, for
the present at least, strictly anonymous.
"Couldn't you find out for us at Drummond, Coutts and Barclay's
who the sender is?" Guy asked, with some hesitation, still turning
over in his hand the mysterious letter.
Nevitt shook his head with prompt decision. "No, certainly not,"
he answered, assuming an air of the severest probity. "It would
be absolutely impossible. The secrets in a bank are secrets of
honour. We are the depositaries of tales that might ruin thousands,
and we never say a word about one of them to anybody."
As for Cyril, he felt himself almost too astonished for words. It
was long before he could even discuss the matter quietly. The whole
episode seemed so strange, so mysterious, so uncanny. And no wonder
he hesitated. For the unknown writer of the letter with the legal
seal had proposed a most curious and unsatisfactory arrangement.
Six thousand pounds down on the nail to Cyril, six thousand more
in a few weeks to Guy. But not for nothing. As in all law business,
"valuable consideration" loomed large in the background. They
were both to repair, on a given day, at a given hour, to a given
office, in a given street, where they were to sign without inquiry,
and even without perusal, whatever documents might then and there
be presented to them. This course, the writer pointed out, with
perspicuous plainness, was all in the end to their own greater
For unless they signed, they would get nothing more, and it would
be useless for them at attempt the unravelling of the mystery. But
if they consented to sign, then, the writer declared, the anonymous
benefactor at whose instigation he wrote would leave them by his
will a further substantial sum, not one penny of which would ever
otherwise come to them.
And Montague Nevitt, as a man of business, looking the facts in
the face, without sentiment or nonsense, advised them to sign, and
make the best of a good bargain.
For Montague Nevitt saw at once in his own mind that this course
would prove the most useful in the end for his own interests, both
as regards the Warings and Colonel Kelmscott.
The two persons most concerned, however, viewed the matter in a very
different light. To them, this letter, with its obscure half-hints,
opened up a chance of solving at last the mystery of their position
which had so long oppressed them. They might now perhaps find out
who they really were, if only they could follow up this pregnant
clue; and the clue itself suggested so many things.
"Whatever else it shows," Guy said emphatically, "it shows we must
be the lawful sons of some person of property, or else why should
he want us to sign away our rights like this, all blindfold? And
whatever the rights themselves may be, they must be very considerable,
or else why should he bribe us so heavily to sign ourselves out
of them? Depend upon it, Nevitt, it's an entailed estate, and the
man who dictated that letter is in possession of the property,
which ought to belong to Cyril and me. For my part, I'm opposed to
all bargaining in the dark. I'll sign nothing, and I'll give away
nothing, without knowing what it is. And that's what I advise Cyril
to write back and tell him."
Cyril, however, was revolving in his own mind meanwhile a still
more painful question. Could it be any blood-relationship between
himself and Elma, unknown to him, but just made known to her, that
gave rise to her firm and obviously recent determination never to
marry him? A week or two since, he was sure, Elma knew of no cause
or just impediment why they should not be joined together in holy
matrimony. Could she have learned it meanwhile, before she met him
in the wood? and could the fact of her so learning it have thus
pricked the slumbering conscience of their unknown kinsman or
their supposed supplanter?
They sat there long and late, discussing the question from all
possible standpoints--save the one thus silently started in his
own mind by Cyril. But, in the end, Cyril's resolution remained
unshaken. He would leave the six thousand pounds in the bank,
untouched; but he would write back at once to the unknown sender,
declining plainly, once for all, to have anything to do with it
or with the proposed transactions. If anything was his by right,
he would take it as of right, but he would be no party to such
hole-and-corner renunciations of unknown contingencies as the
writer suggested. If the writer was willing to state at once all
the facts of the case, in clear and succinct language, and to come
to terms thus openly with himself and his brother, why then, Cyril
averred, he was ready to promise they would deal with his claims in
a spirit of the utmost generosity and consideration. But if this
was an attempt to do them out of their rights by a fraudulent bribe,
he for one would have nothing to say to it. He would therefore
hold the six thousand pounds paid in to his account entirely at
his anonymous correspondent's disposition.
"And as there isn't any use in my wasting the summer, Guy," he
said, in conclusion, "I won't let this red-herring, trailed across
my path, prevent me from going over at once, as I originally intended,
to Dinant and Spa, and fulfilling the commission for those pictures
of Dale and Norton's; You and Nevitt can see meanwhile what it's
possible for us to do in the matter of hunting up this family
mystery. You can telegraph if you want me, and I'll come back at
once. But more than ever now I feel the need of redeeming the time
and working as hard as I can go at my profession."
"Well, yes," Guy answered, as if both their thoughts ran naturally
in the self-same channel. "I agree with you there. She's been
accustomed to luxury. No man has a right to marry any girl if he
can't provide for her in the comfort and style she's always been
used to. And from that point of view, when one looks it in the
face, Cyril, six thousand pounds would come in handy."
Mr. Montague Nevitt rubbed his hands with delight in the sacred
privacy of his own apartment. Mr. Nevitt, indeed, had laid his
plans deep. He had everybody's secrets all round in his hands, and
he meant to make everybody pay dear in the end for his information.
Mr. Nevitt was free. His holidays were on at Drummond, Coutts and
Barclay's, Limited. He loved the sea, the sun, and the summer. He
was off that day on a projected series of short country runs, in
which it was his intention strictly to combine business and pleasure.
Dartmoor, for example, as everybody knows, is a most delightful and
bracing tourist district; but what more amusing to a man of taste
than to go a round of the Moor with its heather-clad tors, and at
the same time hunt up the parish registers of the neighbourhood
for the purpose of discovering, if possible, the supposed marriage
record of Colonel Kelmscott of Tilgate with the Warings' mother?
For that there WAS a marriage Montague Nevitt felt certain in his
own wise mind, and having early arrived at that correct conclusion,
why, he had quietly offered forthwith, in Plymouth papers, a
considerable reward to parish clerks and others who would supply
him with any information as to the births, marriages, or deaths
of any person or persons of the name of Waring for some eighteen
months or so before or after the reputed date when Guy and Cyril
began their earthly pilgrimage.
For deaths, Nevitt said to himself, with a sinister smile, were
every bit as important to him as births or marriages. He knew the
date of Colonel Kelmscott's wedding with Lady Emily Croke, and if
at that date wife number one was not yet dead, when the Colonel
took to himself wife number two, who now did the honours of Tilgate
Park for him, why, there you had as clear and convincing a case of
bigamy as any man could wish to find out against another, and to
utilize some day for his own good purposes.
As he thought these thoughts, Montague Nevitt gave the last delicate
twirl, the final touch of art, to the wire-like ends of his waxed
moustache, in front of his mirror, and, after surveying the result
in the glass with considerable satisfaction, proceeded to set out,
on very good terms with himself, for his summer holiday.
Devonshire, however, wasn't his first destination. Montague Nevitt,
besides being a man of business and a man of taste, was also in due
season a man of feeling. A heart beat beneath that white rosebud
in his left top button-hole. All his thoughts were not thoughts
of greed and of gain. He was bound to Tilgate to-day, and to see
It isn't so easy in England to see a lady alone. But fortune
favours the brave. Luck always attended Mr. Montague Nevitt's most
unimportant schemes. Hardly had he got into the field path across
the meadows between Tilgate station and the grounds of Woodlands
than, at the seat by the bend, what should he see but a lady sitting
down in an airy white summer dress, her head leaning on her hand,
most pensive and melancholy. Montague Nevitt's heart gave a sudden
bound. In luck once more. It was Gwendoline Gildersleeve.
"Good morning!" he said briskly, coming up before Gwendoline had
time to perceive him--and fly. "This is really most fortunate. I've
run down from town today on purpose to see you, but hardly hoped
I should have the good fortune to get a tete-a-tete with you--at
least so easily. I'm so glad I'm in time. Now, don't look so cross.
You must at any rate admit, you know, my persistence is flattering."
"I don't feel flattered by it, Mr. Nevitt," Gwendoline answered coldly,
holding out her gloved hand to him with marked disinclination. "I
thought last time I had said good-bye to you for good and for ever."
Nevitt took her hand, and held it in his own a trifle longer than
was strictly necessary. "Now don't talk like that, Gwendoline," he
said coaxingly. "Don't crush me quite flat. Remember at least that
you ONCE were kind to me. It isn't my fault, surely, if _I_ still
Gwendoline withdrew her hand from his with yet more evident coolness.
"Circumstances alter cases," she said severely. "That was before
I really knew you."
"That was before you knew Granville Kelmscott, you mean," Nevitt
responded with an unpleasantly knowing air. "Oh yes, you needn't
wince; I've heard all about that. It's my business to hear and find
out everything. But circumstances alter cases, as you justly say,
Gwendoline. And I've discovered some circumstances about Granville
Kelmscott that may alter the case as regards your opinion of that
rich young man, whose estate weighed down a poor fellow like me in
what you've graciously pleased to call your affections."
Gwendoline rose, and looked down at the man contemptuously. "Mr.
Nevitt," she said, in a chilling voice, "you've no right to call me
Gwendoline any longer now. You've no right to speak to me of Mr.
Granville Kelmscott. I refused your advances, not for any one else's
sake, or any one else's estate, but simply and solely because I
came to know you better than I knew you at first; and the more I
knew of you the less I liked you. I am NOT engaged to Mr. Granville
Kelmscott. I don't mean to see him again. I don't mean to marry
Nevitt took his cue at once, like a clever hand that he was, and
followed it up remorselessly. "Well, I'm glad to hear that anyhow,"
he answered, assuming a careless air of utter unconcern, "for your
sake as well as for his, Miss Gildersleeve; for Granville Kelmscott,
as I happen to know in the course of business, is a ruined man--a
ruined man this moment. He isn't, and never was, the heir of Tilgate.
And I'm sure it was very honourable of him, the minute he found
he was a penniless beggar, to release you from such an unequal
He had played his card well. He had delivered his shot neatly.
Gwendoline, though anxious to withdraw from his hateful presence,
couldn't help but stay and learn more about this terrible hint of
his. A light broke in upon her even as the fellow spoke. Was it
this, then, that had made Granville talk so strangely to her that
morning by the dell in the Woodlands? Was it this which, as he
told her, rendered their marriage impossible? Why, if THAT were
all--Gwendoline drew a deep breath and clasped her hands together
in a sudden access of mingled hope and despair. "Oh, what do you
mean, Mr. Nevitt," she cried eagerly. "What can Granville have
done? Don't keep me in suspense! Do tell me what you mean by it."
Montague Nevitt, still seated, looked up at her with a smile of
quiet satisfaction. He played with her for a moment as a cat plays
with a mouse. She was such a beautiful creature, so tall and fair
and graceful, and she was so awfully afraid, and he was so awfully
fond of her, that he loved to torture her thus and hold her dangling
in his power. "No, Gwendoline," he said slowly, drawing his words
out by driblets, so as to prolong her suspense, "I oughtn't to have
mentioned it at all. It's a professional secret. I retract what I
said. Forget that I said it. Excuse me on the ground of my natural
reluctance to see a woman I still love so deeply and so purely--whatever
she may happen to think of ME--throw herself away on a man without
a name or a penny. However, as Kelmscott seems to have done the
honourable thing of his own accord, and given you up the minute he
knew he couldn't keep you in the way you've been accustomed to--why,
there's no need, of course, of any warning from me. I'll say no
more on the subject."
His studied air of mystery piqued and drew on his victim. Gwendoline
knew in her own heart she ought to go at once; her own dignity
demanded it, and she should consult her dignity. But still, she
couldn't help longing to know what Nevitt's half-hints and innuendoes
might mean. After all, she was a woman! "Oh, do tell me," she
cried, clasping her hands in suspense once more; "what have you
heard about Mr. Kelmscott? I'm not engaged to him; I don't want to
know for that, but--" she broke down, blushing crimson, and Montague
Nevitt, gazing fixedly at her delicate peach-like cheek, remarked
to himself how extremely well that blush became her.
"No, but remember," he said in a very grave voice, in his favourite
impersonation of the man of honour, "whatever I tell you--if I give
way at all and tell you anything--you must hear in confidence, and
must repeat to nobody. If you do repeat it, you'll get me into very
serious trouble. And not only so, but as nobody knows it except
myself, you'll as good as proclaim to all the world that you
heard it from ME. If I tell you what I know, will you promise me
this--not to breathe a syllable of what I say to anybody?"
Gwendoline, glancing down, and thoroughly ashamed of herself, yet
answered in a very low and trembling voice, "I'll promise, Mr.
"Then the facts are these," the man of feeling went on, with an
undercurrent of malicious triumph in his musical voice. "Kelmscott
is NOT his father's eldest son; he's NOT, and never was, the heir
of Tilgate. More than that, nobody knows these facts but myself.
And I know the true heirs, and I can prove their title. Well, now,
Miss Gildersleeve--if it's to be Miss Gildersleeve still--this is
the circumstance that alters the case as regards Granville Kelmscott.
I have it in my hands to ruin Kelmscott. And what I've taken the
trouble to come down and say to you to-day is simply this for your
own advantage; beware, at least, how you throw yourself away upon
a penniless man, with neither name nor fortune! When you've quite
got over that dream, you'll be glad to return to the man you threw
overboard for the rich squire's son. No circumstances have ever
altered him. He loved you from the first, and he will always love
Gwendoline looked him back in the face again, as pale as death.
"Mr. Nevitt," she said scornfully, unmoved by his tale, "I do not
love you, and I will never love you. You have no right to say such
things to me as this. I'm glad you've told me, for I now know what
Mr. Kelmscott meant. And if he was as poor as a church mouse, I'd
marry him to-morrow--I said just now I didn't mean to marry him.
I retract that word. Circumstances alter cases, and what you've
just told me alters this one. I withdraw what I said. I'll marry
Granville Kelmscott to-morrow if he asks me."
She looked down at him so proudly, so defiantly, so haughtily, that
Montague Nevitt, sitting there with his cynical smile on his thin
red lips, flinched and wavered before her. He saw in a moment the
game was up. He had played the wrong card; he had mistaken his
woman and tried false tactics. It was too late now to retreat. An
empty revenge was all that remained to him. "Very well," he said
sullenly, looking her back in the face with a nasty scowl--for
indeed he loved that girl and was loath to lose her--"remember
your promise, and say nothing to anybody. You'll find it best so
for your own reputation in the end. But mark my words; be sure I
won't spare Granville Kelmscott now. I'll play my own game. I'll
ruin him ruthlessly. He's in my power, I tell you, and I'll crush
him under my heel. Well, that's settled at last. I'm off to Devonshire
to-morrow--on the hunt of the records--to the skirts of Dartmoor,
to a place in the wilds by the name of Mambury." He raised his
hat, and, curling his lip maliciously, walked away, without even
so much as shaking hands with her. He knew it was all up. That game
was lost. And, being a man of feeling, he regretted it bitterly.
Gwendoline, for her part, hurried home, all aglow with remorse and
excitement. When she reached the house, she went straight up in
haste to her own bedroom. In spite of her promise, all woman that
she was, she couldn't resist sitting down at once and inditing a
hurried note to Granville Kelmscott.
"Dearest Granville," it said, in a very shaky hand, not unblurred
by tears, "I know all now, and I wonder you thought it could ever
matter. I know you're not the eldest son, and that somebody else
is the heir of Tilgate. And I care for all that a great deal less
than nothing. I love you ten thousand times too dearly to mind one
pin whether you're rich or poor. And, rich or poor, whenever you
like, I'll marry you.
"Yours ever devotedly and unalterably,
She sealed it up in haste and ran out with it, all tremors, to the
post by herself. Her hands were hot. She was in a high fever. But
Mr. Montague Nevitt, that man of feeling, thus balked of his game,
walked off his disappointment as well as he could by a long smart
tramp across the springy downs, lunching at a wayside inn on bread
and cheese and beer, and descending as the evening shades drew in
on the Guildford station. Thence he ran up to town by the first
fast train, and sauntered sulkily across Waterloo Bridge to his
rooms on the Embankment. As he went a poster caught his eye on the
bridge. It riveted his attention by one fatal phrase. "Financial
News. Collapse of the Rio Negro Diamond and Sapphire Mines!"
He stared at the placard with a dim sense of disaster. What on
earth could this mean? It fairly took his breath away. The mines
were the best things out this season. He held three hundred shares
on his own account. If this rumour were true, he had let himself
in for a loss of a clear three thousand!
But being a person of restricted sympathies, he didn't reflect till
several minutes had passed that he must at the same time have let
Guy Waring in for three thousand also.
SELF OR BEARER.
At Charing Cross Station Montague Nevitt bought a Financial News
and proceeded forthwith to his own rooms to read of the sudden
collapse of his pet speculation. It was only too true. The
Rio Negro Diamond and Sapphire Mines had gone entirely in one of
the periodical South American crashes which involved them in the
liabilities of several other companies. A call would be made at
once to the full extent of the nominal capital. And he would have
to find three thousand pounds down to meet the demand on his credit
Nevitt hadn't three thousand pounds in the world to pay. The little
he possessed beyond his salary was locked up, here and there, in
speculative undertakings, where he couldn't touch it except at long
notice. It was a crushing blow. He had need of steadying. Some
men would have flown in such a plight to brandy. Montague Nevitt
flew, instead, to the consolations of music.
For some minutes, indeed, he paced his room up and down in solemn
silence. Then his eye fell by accident on the violin case in the
corner. Ah, that would do! That beloved violin would inspire him
with ideas; was it suicide or fraud? or some honest way out: be
it this plan or that the violin would help him. Screwing up the
strings for a minute with those deft, long, double-jointed fingers
of his, he took the bow in his right hand, and, still pacing the
room with great strides, like a wild beast in its cage, began to
discourse low passionate music to himself from one of those serpentine
pieces of Miss Ewes's of Leamington.
As he played and played, his whole soul in his fingers, a plan
began to frame itself, vaguely, dimly at first, then more and more
definitely by slow degrees--shape, form, and features--as it grew
and developed. A beautiful chord, that last! Oh, how subtle, how
beautiful! It seemed to curl and glide on like a serpent through
the grass, leaving strange trails behind as of a flowing signature;
a flowing signature with bold twirls and flourishes--twirls
and flourishes--twirls and flourishes--twirls, twirls, twirls and
flourishes; the signature to a cheque; to a cheque for money; three
thousand pounds at Drummond, Coutts and Barclay's.
It ran through his head, keeping time with the bars. Four thousand
pounds; five thousand; six thousand.
The longer he played the clearer and sharper the plan stood out.
He saw his way now as clear as daylight. And his way too, to make
a deal more in the end by it.
"Pay self or bearer six thousand pounds! Six thousand pounds;
signed, Cyril Waring!"
For hours he paced up and down there, playing long and low. Oh,
music, how he loved it; it seemed to set everything straight all at
once in his head. With bow in hand and violin at rest, he surpassed
himself that evening in ingenuity of fingering. He trembled to think
of his own cleverness and skill. What a miracle of device! What a
triumph of cunning! Not an element was overlooked. It was safe as
houses. He could go to bed now, and drop off like a child; having
arranged before he went to make Guy Waring his cat's paw, and turn
this sad stroke of ill-luck in the end to his own ultimate greater
and wider advantage.
And he was quite right too. He did sleep as he expected. Next
morning he woke in a very good humour, and proceeded at once to
Guy Waring's rooms the moment after breakfast.
He found Guy, as he expected, in a tumult of excitement, having
only just that moment received by post the final call for the Rio
When other men are excited the wise man takes care to be perfectly
calm. Montague Nevitt was calm under this crushing blow. He pointed
out blandly that everything would yet go well. All was not lost.
They had other irons in the fire. And even the Rio Negros themselves
were not an absolute failure. The diamonds, the diamonds themselves,
he insisted, were still there, and the sapphires also. They studded
the soil, they were to be had for the picking. Every bit of their
money would come back to them in the end. It was a question of
meeting an immediate emergency only.
"But I haven't three thousand pounds in the world to meet it
with," Guy exclaimed in despair. "I shall be ruined, of course. I
don't mind about that; but I never shall be able to make good my
Nevitt lighted a cigarette with a philosophical smile. The hotter
Guy waxed, the faster did he cool down.
"Neither have I, my dear boy," he said, in his most careless voice,
puffing out rings of smoke in the interval between his clauses;
"but I don't, therefore, go mad. I don't tear my hair over it;
though, to be sure, I'm a deal worse off than you. My position's at
stake. If Drummonds were to hear of it--sack--sack instanter. As
to making yourself responsible for what you don't possess, that's
simply speculation. Everybody on the Stock Exchange always does
it. If they didn't there'd be no such thing as enterprise at all.
You can't make a fortune by risking a ha'penny."
"But what am I to do?" Guy cried wildly. "However am I to raise
three thousand pounds? I should be ashamed to let Cyril know I'd
defaulted like this. If I can't find the money I shall go mad or
Montague Nevitt played him gently, as an experienced angler plays
a plunging trout, before proceeding to land him. At last, after
offering Guy much sympathetic advice, and suggesting several
intentionally feeble schemes, only to quash them instantly, he
observed with a certain apologetic air of unobtrusive friendliness,
"Well, if the worst comes to the worst, you've one thing to fall
back upon: There's that six-thousand, of course, coming in by-and-by
from the unknown benefactor."
Guy flung himself down in his easy-chair, with a look of utter
despondency upon his handsome face. "But I promised Cyril," he
exclaimed, with a groan, "I'd never touch that. If I were to spend
it I don't know how I could ever face Cyril."
"I was told yesterday," Nevitt answered, with a bitter little
smile, "and by a lady, too, many times over, that circumstances
alter cases, till I began to believe it. When you promised Cyril
you weren't face to face with a financial crisis. If you were to
use the money temporarily--mind, I say only temporarily; for to
my certain knowledge Rio Negros will pull through all right in the
end--if you were to use it temporarily in such an emergency as
this, no blame of any sort could possibly attach to you. The unknown
benefactor won't mind whether your money's at your banker's, or
employed for the time being in paying your debts. Your creditors
will. If I were you, therefore, I'd use it up in paying them."
"You would?" Guy inquired, glancing across at him, with a faint
gleam of hope in his eye.
Nevitt fixed him at once with his strange cold stare, He had caught
his man now. He could play upon him as readily as he could play
"Why, certainly I would," he answered, with confidence, striking
the new chord full. "Cyril himself would do the same in your place,
I'll bet you. And the proof that he would is simply this--you yourself
will do it. Depend upon it, if you can do anything, under given
circumstances, Cyril would do it too, in the same set of conditions.
And if ever Cyril feels inclined to criticise what you've done,
you can answer him back, 'I know your heart as you know mine. In
my place, I know you'd have acted as I did.'"
"Cyril and I are not absolutely identical," Guy answered slowly,
his eyes still fixed on Montague Nevitt's. "Sometimes I feel he
does things I wouldn't do."
"He has more initiative than you," Nevitt answered, as if carelessly,
though with deep design in his heart. "He acts where you debate.
You're often afraid to take a serious step. Cyril never hesitates.
You draw back and falter; Cyril goes straight ahead. But all the
more reason, accordingly, that Cyril should admit the lightness of
whatever you do, for if you do anything--anything in the nature
of a definite step, I mean--why, far more readily, then, would
Cyril, in like case, have done it."
"You think he has more initiative?" Guy asked, with a somewhat
nettled air. He hated to be thought less individual than Cyril.
"Of course he has, my dear boy," Nevitt answered, smiling. "He'd
use the money at once, without a second's hesitation."
"But I haven't got the money to use," Guy continued, after a short
"Cyril has, though," Nevitt responded, with a significant nod.
Guy perused his boots, and made no immediate answer. Nevitt wanted
none just then; he waited some seconds, humming all the while an
appropriate tune. Then he caught Guy's eye again, and fixed him a
"It's a pity we don't know Cyril's address in Belgium," he said,
in a musing tone. "We might telegraph across for leave to use his
money meanwhile. Remember, I'm just as deeply compromised as you,
or even more so. It's a pity we should both be ruined, with six
thousand pounds standing at this very moment to Cyril's account at
the London and West Country. But it can't be helped. There's no
time to lose. The money must be paid in sharp by this evening."
"By this evening!" Guy exclaimed, starting up excitedly.
Nevitt nodded assent. "Yes, by this evening, of course," he answered
unperturbed, "or we become ipso facto defaulters and bankrupts."
That was a lie to be sure; but it served his purpose. Guy was a
child at business, and believed whatever nonsense Nevitt chose to
foist upon him.
The journalist rose and paced the room twice or thrice with a
frantic air of unspeakable misery.
"I shall lose my place at our bank, no doubt," Nevitt went on, in
a resigned tone. "But that doesn't much matter. Though a temporary
loan--I could pay every penny in six weeks if I'd time--a temporary
loan would set things all straight again."
"I wish to heaven Cyril was here," Guy exclaimed, in piteous tones.
"He is, practically, when you're here," Nevitt answered, with a
knowing smile. "You can act as his deputy."
"How do you mean?" Guy asked, turning round upon him open-mouthed.
Nevitt paused, and smiled sweetly.
"This is his cheque-book, I think," he replied, in the oblique
retort, picking it up and looking at it. He tore out a cheque, as
if pensively and by accident.
"That's a precious odd thing," he went on, "that you showed me the
other day, don't you know, about your signature and Cyril's being
so absolutely identical."
Guy gazed at him in horror. "Oh, don't talk about that!" he cried,
running his hand through his hair. "If I were even to entertain
such an idea for a moment, my self-respect would be gone for ever."
"Exactly so," Nevitt put in, with a satirical smile. "I said so
just now. You've no initiative. Cyril wouldn't be afraid. Knowing
the interests at stake, he'd take a firm stand and act off-hand on
his own discretion."
"Do you think so?" Guy faltered, in a hesitating voice.
Nevitt held him with his eye.
"Do I think so?" he echoed, "do I think so? I know it. Look here,
Guy, you and Cyril are practically one. If Cyril were here we'd ask
him at once to lend us the money. If we knew where Cyril was we'd
telegraph across and get his leave like a bird. But as he isn't
here, and as we don't know where he is, we must show some initiative;
we must act for once on our own responsibility, exactly as Cyril
would. It's only for six weeks. At the end of that time the unknown
benefactor stumps up your share. You needn't even tell Cyril, if
you don't like, of this little transaction. See! here's his cheque.
You fill it in and sign it. Nobody can tell the signature isn't
Cyril's. You take the money and release us both. In six weeks' time
you get your own share of the unnatural parent's bribe. You pay
it in to his credit, and not a living soul on earth but ourselves
need ever be one penny the wiser."
Guy tried to look away, but he couldn't. He couldn't. Nevitt held
him fixed with his penetrating gaze. Guy moved uneasily. He felt
as if he had a stiff neck, so hard was it to turn. Nevitt took a
pen, and dipped it quick in the ink.
"Just as an experiment," he said firmly, yet in a coaxing voice,
"sit down and sign. Let me see what it looks like. There. Write it
just here. Write 'Cyril Waring.'"
Guy sat down as in a maze, and took the pen from his hand like an
obedient schoolboy. For a second the pen trembled in his vacillating
fingers; then he wrote on the cheque, in a free and flowing hand,
where the signature ought to be, his brother's name. He wrote it
"Capital! Capital!" Nevitt cried in delight, looking over his
shoulder. "It's a splendid facsimile! Now date and amount if you
please. Six thousand pounds. It's your own natural hand after all.
Ah, capital, capital!"
As he spoke, Guy framed the fatal words like one dreaming or
entranced, on the slip of paper before him. "Pay Self or Bearer
Six Thousand Pounds (L6,000), Cyril Waring."
Nevitt looked at it critically. "That'll do all right," he said,
with his eye still fixed in between whiles on Guy's bloodless face.
"Now the only one thing you have still left to do is, to take it
to the bank and get it cashed instanter."
MONTAGUE NEVITT FINESSES.
Guy rose mechanically, and followed him to the door. Nevitt still
held the forged cheque in his hand. Guy thought of it so to himself
in plain terms, as the forgery. Yet somehow, he knew not why,
he followed that sinister figure through the passage and down the
stairs like one irresistibly and magnetically drawn forward. Why,
he couldn't let any one go forth upon the streets of London--with the
cheque he himself had forged in his hands--unwatched and unshadowed.
Nevitt called a cab; and jumped in, and beckoned him. Guy, still
as in a dream, jumped after him hastily.
"To the London and West Country Bank, in Lombard Street," Nevitt
called through the flap.
The cab drove off; and Guy Waring leaned back, all trembling and
irresolute, with his head on the cushions.
At last, after a short drive, during which Guy's head seemed
to be swimming most dreamily, they reached the bank--that crowded
bank in Lombard Street. Nevitt thrust the cheque bodily into his
"Take it in, now, and cash it," he said with an authoritative air.
"Do you hear what I say? Take it in--and cash it."
Guy, as if impelled by some superior power, walked inside the door,
and presented it timidly.
The cashier glanced at the sum inscribed on the cheque with no
"It's a rather large amount, Mr. Waring," he said, scanning his
face closely. "How will you take it?"
Guy trembled violently from head to foot as he answered, in a voice
half choked with terror, "Bank of England hundreds, if you please.
It is a large sum, as you say; but I'm placing it elsewhere."
The cashier retired for a few minutes; then he returned once more,
bringing a big roll of notes, and a second clerk by his side--just
to prevent mistake--stared hard at the customer. "All square,"
the second clerk said, in a half-whispered aside. "It's him right
And the cashier proceeded to count out the notes with oft-wetted
Guy took them up mechanically, like a drunken man, counted them
over one by one in a strange, dazed way; and staggered out at last
to the cab to Nevitt.
Nevitt leaned forward and took the bundle from his hands. Guy stood
on the pavement and looked vacantly in at him! "That's right," Nevitt
said, clasping the bundle tight. "Rio Negro Diamond and Sapphire
Mines, cabby, 127, Knatchbull Street, Cheapside."
The cabman whipped up his horse and disappeared round the corner,
leaving Guy Waring alone--like a fool--on the pavement.
For a minute or two the dazed and dazzled journalist stood there
awaking by degrees as from some trance or stupefaction. At first
he could only stand still and gaze vacantly down the street after
the disappearing cab; but as his brain cleared slowly, and the mist
that hung over his mind dispelled itself bit by bit, he was able
to walk a few steps at a time towards the nearest shops, where he
looked in at the windows intently with a hollow stare, and tried
to collect his scattered wits for a great effort at understanding
this strange transaction.
All at once, as he looked, the full folly of his deed burst in its
true light upon his muddled brain. He had handed Nevitt six thousand
pounds in Bank of England notes; to waste, or lose, or speculate,
or run away with.
Six--thousand--pounds of Cyril's money! Not that for one moment he
suspected Nevitt. Guy Waring was too innocent to suspect anybody.
But as he woke up more fully now to the nature of his own act,
a horrible sense of guilt and pollution crept slowly over him. He
put his hand ito his forehead. Cold sweat stood in clammy small
drops upon his brow. Bit by bit, the hateful truth dawned clearly
upon him. Nevitt had lured him by strange means, he knew not how,
into hateful crime--into a disgraceful conspiracy. Word by word,
the self-accusing sentence framed itself upon his lips.
He spoke it out, aloud: "Why--this--is forgery!"
Dazzled and stunned by the intensity of that awful awaking from
some weird possession or suggestion of evil by a stronger mind, Guy
Waring began to walk on in a feverish fashion, fast, fast, oh, so
fast, not knowing where he went, but conscious only that he must
keep moving, lest an accusing conscience should gnaw his very heart
Whither, he hadn't as yet the faintest idea. His whole being for
the moment was centred and summed up in that unspeakable remorse.
He had done a great wrong. He had made himself a felon. And now,
in the first recoil of his revolted nature, he must go after the
man who held the evidences of his guilt, and by force or persuasion
demand them at once from him. Those notes were Cyril's. He must
get them. He must get them.
Possessed by this one idea, with devouring force, but still in a
very nebulous and hazy form, Guy began walking towards the Strand
and the Embankment, at the hot top of his speed, to get the notes
back--at Montague Nevitt's chambers. He had walked with fiery
zeal in that wrong direction for nearly a mile, his heart burning
within him all the way, and his brain in a whirl, before it began
to strike him, in a flash of common sense, that Montague Nevitt
wouldn't be there at all. He had driven off to the office. Guy
clapped his hand to his forehead once more, in an agony of remorse.
Great heavens, what folly! He had heard him tell the cabman the
address himself--"127, Knatchbull Street, Cheapside."
Even now he hadn't sense enough to hail a cab and go after him. His
faculties were still numbed and entranced by that horrible spell
of Montague Nevitt's eye. He had but one thought--to walk on, walk
hastily. He tramped along the streets in the direction of Cheapside,
straining every muscle to arrive at the office before Nevitt had
parted with Cyril's six thousand--but he never even thought of
saving the precious moments by driving the distance between instead
of walking it. Montague Nevitt's personality still weighed down
half his brain, and rendered his mind almost childish or imbecile.
Hurrying on so through the crowded streets, now walking, now running,
now pausing, now panting, knocking up here against a little knot of
wayfarers, and delayed again there by an untimely block at some
crowded crossing, he turned the corner at last with a beating
heart into the narrow pavement of an alley marked up as Knatchbull
Street. Number 127 was visible from afar.
A mob of excited people marked its site by loitering about the door.
Two policemen held off the angrier spirits among the shareholders.
But, nothing daunted by the press, Guy forced his way in and looked
around the room trembling, for Montague Nevitt. Too late! Too late!
Nevitt wasn't there. The unhappy dupe turned to the clerk in charge.
"Has Mr. Montague Nevitt been here?" he asked, in a voice all
tremulous with emotion.
"Mr. Montague Nevitt?" the clerk responded. "Just gone ten minutes
ago. Came to settle Mr. Whitley's call--his brother-in-law's. Went
off in a cab. Can I do anything for you?"
"He's paid in six thousand pounds?" Guy gasped out interrogatively.
The clerk gazed at him hard with a suspicious glance. "Are you
a shareholder?" he asked, with one eye on the policeman. "What do
you want to know for?"
"Yes, I'm a shareholder, unfortunately," Guy answered, still in a
maze. "I hold three hundred original shares. My name's Guy Waring.
You've got me on your books. Mr. Nevitt has paid three thousand
in Mr. Whitley's name, and three thousand for me. That was our
The clerk glanced hard at him again. "Waring!" he repeated, turning
over the leaves of his big book for further verification. "Waring!
Waring! Waring! Ah, here it is; Waring, Guy; journalist; 22,
Staple Inn; 300 shares. Three hundred pounds paid. Then we call up
to three thousand. No, Mr. Nevitt didn't settle for you, sir. He
paid Mr. Whitley's call in full. That was all. Nothing else. You're
still our debtor."
"He didn't pay up!" Guy exclaimed, clapping his hands to his head,
all the black guile and treachery of the man coining home to him
at once, at one fell blow. "He didn't pay up for me! Oh, this is
too, too terrible!"
He paused for a moment. Floods of feeling rushed over him. He knew
now that he had committed that forgery for nothing. Cyril's money
was gone. And Montague Nevitt had stolen the three thousand Guy
intrusted to him at the bank for the second payment. Yet Guy knew
he had no legal remedy save by acknowledging the forgery! This was
almost more than human nature could stand. If Montague Nevitt had
been by his side that moment Guy would have leapt at his throat,
and it would have gone hard with him if he had left the villain
He clapped his hands to his ears in the horror and agony of that
"The thief!" he cried aloud, in a choking voice. "Did he pay what
he paid from a big roll of notes, and did he take the rest of the
notes in the roll away with him?"
"Yes, just so," the clerk answered calmly. "He didn't mention your
name. But perhaps he's coming back by-and-by to settle for you."
Guy knew better. He saw through the man's whole black nature at
"I've been robbed," he said slowly. "I've been robbed and deserted.
I must follow the man and compel him to disgorge. When I've got
the cash back I'll return and pay you. ... No, I won't, though. I
forgot. I'll take it home to the bank for Cyril."
The clerk gazed at him with a smile of pitying contempt. Mad, mad;
quite mad! The loss of his fortune had, no doubt, unhinged this
shareholder's reason. But Guy, never heeding him, rushed out into
the street and hailed a passing cab.
"Temple Flats," he cried aloud, and drove to Nevitt's chambers.
Too late, once more! The housekeeper told him Mr. Nevitt was out.
He'd just started off, portmanteau and all, as hard as a hansom
could drive, to Waterloo Station.
"Waterloo, then!" Guy shouted, in wild despair, to the cabman. "We
must follow this man post haste. Alive or dead, I won't rest till
I catch him!"
It was an unhappy phrase. In the events that came after, it was
remembered against him.
COLONEL KELMSCOTT'S PUNISHMENT.
While Montague Nevitt was thus congenially engaged in pulling off
his treble coup of settling his own share in the Rio Negro deficit,
pocketing three thousand pounds, pro tem, for incidental expenses,
and getting Guy Waring thoroughly into his power by his knowledge
of a forgery, two other events were taking place elsewhere, which
were destined to prove of no small importance to the future of
the twins and their immediate surroundings. Things generally were
converging towards a crisis in their affairs. Colonel Kelmscott's
wrong-doing was bearing first-fruit abundantly.
For as soon as Granville Kelmscott received that strangely-worded
note from Gwendoline Gildersleeve, he proceeded, as was natural,
straight down, in his doubt, to his father's library. There, bursting
into the room, with Gwendoline's letter still crushed in his hand
in the side pocket of his coat, and a face like thunder, he stood
in the attitude of avenging fate before his father's chair, and
gazed down upon him angrily.
"What does THIS mean?" he asked, in a low but fuming voice, brandishing
the note before his eyes as he spoke. "Is every one in the county
to be told it but I? Is everybody else to hear my business before
you tell me a word of it? A letter comes to me this morning--no
matter from whom--and here's what it says: 'I know you're not the
eldest son, and that somebody else is the heir of Tilgate.' Surely,
if anybody was to know, _I_ should have known it first. Surely,
if I'm to be turned adrift on the world, after being brought up to
think myself a man of means so long, I should, at least, be turned
adrift with my eyes open."
Colonel Kelmscott gazed at him open-mouthed with horror.
"Did Gwendoline Gildersleeve write that to you?" he cried, overpowered
at once by remorse and awe. "Did Gwendoline Gildersleeve write
that to you? Well, if Gwendoline Gildersleeve knows it, it's all
up with the scheme! That rascally lawyer, her father, has found
out everything. These two young men must have put their case in
the fellow's hands. He must be hunting up the facts. He must be
preparing to contest it. My boy, my boy, we're ruined! we're ruined!"
"These two young men," Granville repeated, with a puzzled air of
surprise. "WHAT two young men? I don't know them. I never heard
of them." Then suddenly one of those flashes of intuition burst in
upon him that burst in upon us all at moments of critical importance
to our lives. "Father, father," he cried, loaning forward in his
anguish and clutching the oak chair, "you don't mean to tell me
those fellows, the Warings, that we met at Chetwood Court, are your
lawful sons--and that THAT was why you bought the landscape with
the snake in it?"
Kelmscott, of Tilgate, bent his proud head down to the table
unchecked. "My son, my son," he cried, in his despair, "you have
said it yourself. Your own mouth has suggested it. What use my
trying to keep it from you any longer? These lads--are Kelmscotts."
"And--my mother?" Granville Kelmscott burst out, in a very tremulous
voice. The question was almost more than a man dare ask. But he
asked it in the first bitterness of a terrible awakening.
"Your mother," Colonel Kelmscott answered, lifting his head once
more, with a terrible effort, and looking his son point-blank in
the face--"your mother is just what I have always called her--my
lawful wife--Lady Emily Kelmscott. The mother of these lads, to
whom I was also once duly married, died before my marriage with my
present wife--thank God I can say so. I may have acted foolishly,
cruelly, criminally; but at least I never acted quite so basely
and so ill as you impute to me, Granville."
"Thank Heaven for that," his son answered fervently, with one hand
on his breast, drawing a deep sigh as he spoke. "You're my father,
sir, and it isn't for me to reproach you; but if you had only done
THAT--oh, my mother! my mother! I don't know, sir, I'm sure, how
I could ever have forgiven you; I don't know how I could ever have
kept my hands off you."
Colonel Kelmscott straightened himself up, and looked hard at his
son. A terrible pathos gleamed in his proud brown eyes. His white
moustache had more dignity than ever.
"Granville," he said slowly, like a broken man, "I don't ask you to
forgive me; you can never forgive me; I don't ask you to sympathise
with me; a father knows better than to accept sympathy from a son;
but I do ask you to bear with me while I try to explain myself."
He braced himself up, and with many long pauses, and many inarticulate
attempts to set forth the facts in the least unfavourable aspect,
told his story all through, in minute detail, to that hardest of
all critics, his own dispossessed and disinherited boy.
"If you're hard upon me, Granville," he cried at last as he finished,
looking wistfully for pity into his son's face, "you should remember,
at least, it was for your sake I did it, my boy; it was for your
sake I did it--yours, yours, and your mother's."
Granville let him relate his whole story in full to the bitter
end, though it was with difficulty at times that that proud and
grey-haired man nerved himself up to tell it. Then, as soon as
all was told, he looked in his father's face once more, and said
slowly, with the pitilessness of sons in general towards the faults
and failings of their erring parents--
"It's not my place to blame you, I know. You did it, I suppose, as
you say so, for me and my mother. But it IS my place to tell you
plainly, father, that I, for one, will have nothing at all to do
with the fruits of your deception. I was no party to the fraud; I
will be no party either to its results or its clearing up. I, too,
have to think, as you say, of my mother. For her sake, I won't
urge you to break her heart at once by disinheriting her son, now
and here, too openly. You can make what arrangements you like with
these blood-sucking Warings. You can do as you will in providing
them with hush-money. Let them take their black-mail! You've handed
them over half the sum you got for Dowlands already, I suppose.
You can buy them off for awhile by handing them over the remainder.
Twelve thousand will do. Leeches as they are, that will surely
content them, at least for the present."
Colonel Kelmscott raised one hand and tried hard to interrupt him;
but Granville would not be interrupted.
"No, no," he went on sternly, shaking his head and frowning. "I'll
have my say for once, and then for ever keep silence. This is the
first and last time as long as we both live I will speak with you
on the subject. So we may as well understand one another, once and
for ever. For my mother's sake, as I said, there need be just at
present no open disclosure. You have years to live yet; and as long
as you live, these Waring people have no claim upon the estate in
any way. You've given them as much as they've any right to expect.
Let them wait for the rest till, in the course of nature, they
come into possession. As for me, I will go to carve out for myself
a place in the world elsewhere by my own exertions. Perhaps, before
my mother need know her son was left a beggar by the father who
brought him up like the heir to a large estate, I may have been
able to carve out that place for myself so well that she need
never really feel the difference. I'm a Kelmscott, and can fight
the world on my own account. But, in any case, I must go. Tilgate's
no longer a fit home for me. I leave it to those who have a better
right to it."
He rose as if to depart, with the air of a man who sets forth upon
the world to seek his fortune. Colonel Kelmscott rose too, and
faced him, all broken.
"Granville," he said, in a voice scarcely audible through the
stifled sobs he was too proud to give vent to, "you're not going
like this. You're not going without at least shaking hands with your
father! You're not going without saying good-bye to your mother!"
Granville turned, with hot tears standing dim in his eyes--like his
father, he was too proud to let them trickle down his cheek--and
taking the Colonel's weather-beaten hand in his, wrung it silently
for some minutes with profound emotion.
Then he looked at the white moustache, the grizzled hair, the
bright brown eyes suffused with answering dimness, and said, almost
remorsefully, "Father, good-bye. You meant me well, no doubt. You
thought you were befriending me. But I wish to Heaven in my soul
you had meant me worse. It would have been easier for me to bear
in the end. If you'd brought me up as a nobody--as a younger son's
accustomed--" He paused and drew back, for he could see his words
were too cruel for that proud man's heart. Then he broke off
"But I CAN'T say good-bye to my mother," he went on, with a piteous
look. "If I tried to say good-bye to her, I must tell her all. I'd
break down in the attempt. I'll write to her from the Cape. It'll
be easier so. She won't feel it so much then."
"From the Cape!" Colonel Kelmscott exclaimed, drawing back in horror.
"Oh, Granville, don't tell me you're going away from us to Africa!"
"Where else?" his son asked, looking him back in the face steadily.
"Africa it is! That's the only opening left nowadays for a man
of spirit. There, I may be able to hew out a place for myself at
last, worthy of Lady Emily Kelmscott's son. I won't come back till
I come back able to hold my own in the world with the best of them.
These Warings shan't crow over the younger son. Good-bye, once
more, father." He wrung his hand hard. "Think kindly of me when
I'm gone; and don't forget altogether I once loved Tilgate."
He opened the door and went up to his own room again. His mind was
resolved. He wouldn't even say good-bye to Gwendoline Gildersleeve.
He'd pack a few belongings in a portmanteau in haste, and go forth
upon the world to seek his fortune in the South African diamond
But Colonel Kelmscott sat still in the library, bowed down in his
chair, with his head between his hands, in abject misery. A strange
feeling seemed to throb through his weary brain; he had a sensation
as though his skull were opening and shutting. Great veins on his
forehead beat black and swollen. The pressure was almost more than
the vessels would stand. He held his temples between his two palms
as if to keep them from bursting. All ahead looked dark as night;
the ground was cut from under him. The punishment of his sin was
too heavy for him to bear. How could he ever tell Emily now that
Granville was gone? A horrible numbness oppressed his brain. Oh,
mercy! mercy! his head was flooded.
At the Gildersleeves', too, the house that day was alive with
Gwendoline had thrown herself into a fever of alarm as soon as she
had posted her letter to Granville Kelmscott. She went up to her
own room, flung herself wildly on the hed, and sobbed herself into
a half-hysterical, half-delirious state, long before dinner-time.
She hardly knew herself at first how really ill she was. Her hands
were hot and her forehead burning. But she disregarded such mere
physical and medical details as those, by the side of a heart too
full for utterance. She thought only of Granville, and of that
horrid man who had threatened with such evident spite and rancour
to ruin him.
She lay there some hours alone, in a high fever, before her mother
came up to her room to fetch her. Mrs. Gildersleeve was a subdued
and soft-voiced woman, utterly crushed, so people said, by the
stronger individuality of that blustering, domineering, headstrong
man, her husband. And to say the truth, the eminent Q.C. had taken
all the will out of her in twenty-three years of obedient slavery.
She was pretty still, to be sure, in a certain faded, jaded,
unassuming way; but her patient face wore a constant expression
of suppressed terror, as if she expected every moment to be the
victim of some terrible and unexplained exposure. And that feature
at least in her idiosyncrasy could hardly be put down to Gilbert
Gildersleeve's account; for hectoring and strong-minded as the
successful Q.C. was known to be, nobody could for a moment accuse
him in any definite way of deliberate unkindness to his wife or
daughter. On the contrary, he was tender and indulgent to them to
the last degree, as he understood those virtues. It was only by
constant assertion of his own individuality, and constant repression
or disregard of theirs, that he had broken his wife's spirit and
was breaking his daughter's. He treated them as considerately as
one treats a pet dog, doing everything for them that care and money
could effect, except to admit for a moment their claim to independent
opinions and actions of their own, or to allow the possibility
of their thinking and feeling on any subject on earth one nail's
breadth otherwise than as he himself did.
At sight of Gwendoline, Mrs. Gildersleeve came over to the bed with
a scared and startled air, felt her daughter's face tenderly with
her hands for a moment, and then cried in alarm, "Why, Gwennie,
what's this? Your cheeks are burning! Who on earth has been here?
Has that horrid man come down again from London to worry you?"
Gwendoline looked up and tried to prevaricate. But conscience was
too strong for her; the truth would out for all that. "Yes, mother,"
she cried, after a pause, "and he said, oh, he said--I could never
tell you what dreadful things he said. But he's so wicked, so cruel!
You never knew such a man! He thinks I want to marry Granville
Kelmscott, and so he told me--" She broke off, of a sudden, unable
to proceed, and buried her face in her hands, sobbing long and
"Well, what did he tell you, dear?" Mrs. Gildersleeve asked, with
that frightened air, as of a startled wild thing, growing deeper
than ever upon her countenance as she uttered the question.
"He told me--oh, he told me--I can't tell you what he told me; but
he threatened to ruin us--he threatened it so dreadfully. It was
a hateful threat. He seemed to have found out something that he
knew would be our ruin. He frightened me to death. I never heard
any one say such things as he did."
Mrs. Gildersleeve drew back in profound agitation. "Found out
something that would be our ruin!" she cried, with white face all
aghast. "Oh, Gwennie, what do you mean? Didn't he tell you what
it was? Didn't he try to explain to you? He's a wicked, wicked man
--so cruel, so unscrupulous! He gets one's secrets into his hands,
by underhand means, and then uses them to make one do whatever he
chooses. I see how it is. He wants to force us into letting him
marry you--into making you marry him! Oh, Gwennie, this is hard.
Didn't he tell you at all what it was he knew? Didn't he give you
a hint what sort of secret he was driving at?"
Gwendoline looked up once more, and murmured low through her sobs,
"No, he didn't say what it was. He's too cunning for that. But I
think--I think it was something about Granville. Mother, I never
told you, but you know I love him! I think it was something about
HIM, though I can't quite make sure. Some secret about somebody not
being properly married, or something of that sort. I didn't quite
understand. You see, he was so discreetly vague and reticent."
Mrs. Gildersleeve drew back her face all aghast with horror. "Some
secret--about somebody--not being properly married!" she repeated
slowly, with wild terror in her eyes.
"Yes, mother," Gwendoline gasped out, with an effort once more.
"It was about somebody not being really the proper heir; he made
me promise I wouldn't tell; but I don't know how to keep it. He
was immensely full of it; it was an awful secret; and he said he
would ruin us--ruin us ruthlessly. He said we were in his power,
and he'd crush us under his heel. And, oh, when he said it, you
should have seen his face. It was horrible, horrible. I've seen
nothing else since. It dogs me--it haunts me."
Mrs. Gildersleeve sat down by the bedside wringing her hands in
silence. "It's too late to-night," she said at last, after a long
deep pause, and in a voice like a woman condemned to death, "too
late to do anything; but to-morrow your father must go up to town
and try to see him. At all costs we must buy him off. He knows
everything--that's clear. He'll ruin us. He'll ruin us!"
"It's no use papa going up to town, though," Gwendoline answered
half dreamily. "That dreadful man said he was going away for his
holiday to the country at once. He'll be gone to-morrow."
"Gone? Gone where?" Mrs. Gildersleeve cried, in the same awestruck
"To Devonshire," Gwendoline replied, shutting her eyes hard and
still seeing him.
Mrs. Gildersleeve echoed the phrase in a startled cry. "To
Devonshire, Gwendoline! To Devonshire! Did he say to Devonshire?"
"Yes," Gwendoline went on slowly, trying to recall his very words.
"To the skirts of Dartmoor, I think he said; to a place in the
wilds by the name of Mambury."
The terror and horror that frail and faded woman threw into the one
word fairly startled Gwendoline. She opened her eyes and stared
aghast at her mother. And well she might, for the effect was
electrical. Mrs. Gildersleeve was sitting there, transfixed with
awe and some unspeakable alarm; her figure was rigid; her face was
dead white; her mouth was drawn down with a convulsive twitch; she
clasped her bloodless hands on her knees in mute agony. For a moment
she sat there like a statue of flesh. Then, as sense and feeling
came back to her by slow degrees, she could but rock her body up
and down in her chair with a short swaying motion, and mutter over
and over again to herself in that same appalled and terrified voice,
"That was the name, I'm sure," Gwendoline went on, almost equally
alarmed. "On a hunt after records, he said; on a hunt after records.
Whatever it was he wanted to prove, I suppose he knew that was the
place to prove it."
Mrs. Gildersleeve rose, or to speak with more truth, staggered
slowly to her feet, and, steadying herself with an effort, made
blindly for the door, groping her way as she went, like some faint
and wounded creature. She said not a word to Gwendoline. She had
no tongue left for speech or comment. She merely stepped on, pale
and white, pale and white, like one who walks in her sleep, and
clutched the door-handle hard to keep her from falling. Gwendoline,
now thoroughly alarmed, followed her close on her way to the top
of the stairs. There Mrs. Gildersleeve paused, turned round to her
daughter with a mute look of anguish and held up one hand, palm
outward, appealingly, as if on purpose to forbid her from following
farther. At the gesture, Gwendoline fell back, and looked after her
mother with straining eyes. Mrs. Gildersleeve staggered on, erect,
yet to all appearance almost incapable of motion, and stumbled
down the stairs, and across the hall, and into the drawing-room
opposite. The rest Gwendoline neither saw, nor heard, nor guessed
at. She crept back into her own room, and, flinging herself on her
bed alone as she stood, cried still more piteously and miserably
Down in the drawing-room, however, Mrs. Gildersleeve found the
famous Q.C. absorbed in the perusal of that day's paper. She came
across towards him, pale as a ghost, and with ashen lips. "Gilbert,"
she said slowly, blurting it all out in her horror, without one
word of warning, "that dreadful man Nevitt has seen Gwennie again,
and he's told her he knows all, and he means to ruin us, and he's
heard of the marriage, and he's gone down to Mambury to hunt up
The eminent Q.C. let the paper drop from his huge red hands in
the intensity of his surprise, while his jaw fell in unison at so
startling and almost incredible a piece of intelligence. "Nevitt
knows all!" he exclaimed, half incredulous. "He means to ruin
us! And he told this to Gwendoline! Gone down to Mambury! Oh no,
Minnie, impossible! You must have made some mistake. What did she
say exactly? Did she mention Mambury?"
"She said it exactly as I've said it now to you," Mrs. Gildersleeve
persisted with a stony stare. "He's gone down to Devonshire, she
said; to the borders of Dartmoor, on a hunt after the records; to
a place in the wilds by the name of Mambury. Those were her very
words. I could stake my life on each syllable. I give them to you
precisely as she gave them to me."
Mr. Gildersleeve gazed across at her with the countenance which had
made so many a nervous witness quake at the Old Bailey. "Are you
QUITE sure of that, Minnie?" he asked, in his best cross-examining
tone. "Quite sure she said Mambury, all of her own accord? Quite
sure you didn't suggest it to her, or supply the name, or give her
a hint of its whereabouts, or put her a leading question?"
"Is it likely I'd suggest it to her?" the meekest of women answered,
aroused to retort for once, and with her face like a sheet. "Is it
likely I'd tell her? Is it likely I'd give my own girl the clue? She
said it all of herself, I tell you, without one word of prompting.
She said it just as I repeated it--to a place in the wilds by the
name of Mambury."
Gilbert Gildersleeve whistled inaudibly to himself. 'Twas his way
when he felt himself utterly nonplussed. This was very strange
news. He didn't really understand it. But he rose and confronted
his wife anxiously. That overbearing big man was evidently stirred
by this untoward event to the very depths of his nature.
"Then Gwennie knows all!" he cried, the blood rushing purple into
his ruddy flushed cheeks. "The wretch! The brute! He must have told
"Oh, Gilbert," his wife answered, sinking into a chair in her
horror, "even HE couldn't do that--not to my own very daughter!
And he didn't do it, I'm sure. He didn't dare--coward as he is,
he couldn't be quite so cowardly. She doesn't guess what it means.
She thinks it's something, I believe, about Granville Kelmscott.
She's in love with young Kelmscott, as I told you long ago, and
everything to her mind takes some colour from that fancy. I don't
think it ever occurred to her, from what she says, this has anything
at all to do with you or me, Gilbert."
The Q.C. reflected. He saw at once he was in a tight corner. That
boisterous man, with the burly big hands, looked quite subdued and
crestfallen now. He could hardly have snubbed the most unassuming
junior. This was a terrible thing, indeed, for a man so unscrupulous
and clever as Montague Nevitt to have wormed out of the registers.
How he could ever have wormed it out Gilbert Gildersleeve hadn't
the faintest idea, Why, who on earth could have shown him the entry
of that fatal marriage--Minnie's first marriage--the marriage with
that wretch who died in Portland prison--the marriage that was
celebrated at St. Mary's, at Mambury? He couldn't for a moment
conceive, for nobody but themselves, he fondly imagined, had ever
identified Mrs. Gilbert Gildersleeve, the wife of the eminent Q.C.,
with that unhappy Mrs. Read, the convict's widow. The convict's
widow. Ah, there was the rub. For she was really a widow in name
alone when Gilbert Gildersleeve married her.
And Montague Nevitt, that human ferret, with his keen sharp eyes, and
his sleek polite ways, had found it all out in spite of them--had
hunted up the date of Read's death and their marriage, and had
bragged how he was going down to Mambury to prove it!
All the Warings and Reads always got married at Widdicombe or
Mambury. There were lots of them on the books there, that was one
comfort, anyhow. He'd have a good search to find his needle in
such a pottle of hay. But to think the fellow should have, had the
double-dyed cruelty to break the shameful secret first of all to
Gwendoline! That was his vile way of trying to force a poor girl
into an unwilling consent. Gilbert Gildersleeve lifted his burly
big hands in front of his capacious waistcoat, and pressed them
together angrily. If only he had that rascal's throat well between
them at that moment! He'd crush the fellow's windpipe till he choked
him on the spot, though he answered for it before the judges of
"There's only one thing possible for it, Minnie," he said at last,
drawing a long deep breath. "I must go down to Mambury to-morrow
to be beforehand with him. And I must either buy him off; or else,
if that won't do--"
"Or else what, Gilbert?"
She trembled like an aspen leaf.
"Or else get at the books in the vestry myself," the Q.C. muttered
low between his clenched teeth, "before the fellow has time to see
them and prove it."
GUY IN LUCK.
Guy Waring reached Waterloo ten minutes too late. Nevitt had gone
on by the West of England express. The porter at the labelling
place "minded the gentleman well." He was a sharp-looking gentleman,
with a queer look about the eyes, and a dark moustache curled round
at the corners.
"Yes, yes," Guy cried eagerly, "that's him right enough. The eyes
mark the man. And where was he going to?"
"He had his things labelled," the porter said, "for Plymouth."
"And when does the next train start?" Guy inquired, all on fire.
The porter, consulting the time-table in the muddle-headed way
peculiar to railway porters, and stroking his chin with his hand
to assist cerebration, announced, after a severe internal struggle,
that the 3.45 down, slow, was the earliest train available.
There was nothing for it then, Guy perceived, but to run home to
his rooms, possessing his soul in patience, pack up a few things
in his Gladstone bag, and return at his leisure to catch the down
train thus unfavourably introduced to his critical notice.
If Guy had dared, to be sure, he might have gone straight to a
police-station, and got an inspector to telegraph along the line
to stop the thief with his booty at Basingstoke or Salisbury. But
Guy didn't dare. For to interfere with Nevitt now by legal means
would be to risk the discovery of his own share in the forgery.
And from that risk the startled and awakened young man shrank for
a thousand reasons; though the chief among them all was certainly
one that never would have occurred to any one but himself as even
He didn't wish Elma Clifford to know that the man she loved, and
the man who loved her, had become that day a forger's brother.
To be sure, he had only seen Elma once--that afternoon at the
Holkers' garden-party. But, as Cyril himself knew, he had fallen in
love with her at first sight--far more immediately, indeed, than
even Cyril himself had done. Blood, as usual, was thicker than
water. The points that appealed to one brother appealed also to
the other, but with this characteristic difference, that Guy, who
was the more emotional and less strong-willed of the two, yielded
himself up at the very first glance to the beautiful stranger,
while Cyril required some further acquaintance before quite giving
way and losing his heart outright to her. And from that first meeting
forward, Guy had carried Elma Clifford's image engraved upon his
memory--as he would carry it, he believed, to his dying day. Not,
to be sure, that he ever thought for a moment of endeavouring to
win her away from his brother. She was Cyril's discovery, and to
Cyril, therefore, he yielded her up, as of prior right, though with
a pang of reluctance. But now that he stood face to face at last
with his own accomplished crime, the first thought that rose in his
mind spontaneous was for Elma's happiness. He must never let Elma
Clifford know that the man she loved, and would doubtless marry,
was now by HIS act--a forger's brother.
Three forty-five arrived at last, and Guy set off, all trembling,
on his fatal quest. As he sped along, indignant at heart with
Nevitt's black treachery, on the line to Plymouth, he had plenty
of time to revolve these things abundantly in his own soul. And
when, after a long and dusty drive, he reached Plymouth, late at
night, he could learn nothing for the moment about Montague Nevitt's
movements. So he was forced to go quietly for the evening to the
Duke of Devonshire Hotel, and there wait as best he might to see
how events would next develop themselves.
A day passed away--two days--but nothing turned up. Guy wasted much
time in Plymouth making various inquiries before he learnt at last
that a man with a queer look about the eyes, and a moustache with
waxed ends, had gone down a night or so earlier by the other line
to a station at the foot of Dartmoor, by the name of Mambury.
No sooner, however, had he learnt this promising news, than he
set off at once, hot at heart as ever, to pursue the robber. That
wretch shouldn't get away scot free with his booty; Guy would
follow him and denounce him to the other end of the universe! When
he reached Mambury, he went direct to the village inn and asked,
with trembling lips, if Mr. Montague Nevitt was at present staying
there. The landlord shook his head with a stubborn, rustic negative.
"No, we arn't a-got no gentleman o' thik there name in the house,"
he said; "fact is, zur, to tell 'ee the truth, we arn't a-had nobody
stoppin' in the Arms at all lately, 'cep' it might be a gentleman
come down from London, an' it was day afore yesterday as he did
come, an' he do call 'unself McGregor."
Quick as lightning, Guy suspected Nevitt might be passing under a
false name. What more likely, indeed, seeing he had made off with
Guy's three thousand pounds?
"And what sort of a man is this McGregor?" he asked hastily, putting
his suspicion into shape. "What age? What height? What kind of a
person to look at?"
"Wull, he's a vine upstandin' zart of a gentleman," the landlord
answered glibly in his own dialect; "as proper a gentleman as you'd
wish to zee in a day's march; med be about your height, zur, or a
trifle more, has his moustaches curled round zame as if it med be
a bellick's harns; an' a strange zart o' a look about his eyes,
too, as if ur could zee right drew an' drew 'ee."
"That's him!" Guy exclaimed, with a start, in profound excitement.
"That's the fellow, sure enough. I know him. I know him. And where
is he now, landlord? Is he in the house? Can I see him?"
"Well, no, 'ee can't zee him, zur," the landlord answered, eyeing
the stranger askance; "he be out, jest at present. He do go vur a
walk, mostly, down yonner in the bottom alongside the brook. Mebbe
if you was to vollow by river-bank you med come up wi' him by-an'-by
... and mebbe, agin, you medn't."
"I'll follow him," Guy exclaimed, growing more excited than ever,
now this quarry was almost well within sight; "I'll follow him till
I find him, the confounded rascal. I'll follow him to his grave.
He shan't get away from me."
The landlord looked at him with a dubious frown. That one could
smile and smile and be a villain didn't enter into his simple rustic
"He's a pleasant-spoken gentleman is Maister McGregor," the honest
Devonian said, with a tinge of disapprobation in his thick voice.
"What vur do 'ee want to vind 'un? That's what _I_ wants to know.
He don't look like one as did ever hurt a vlea. Such a soft zart of
a voice. An' he do play on the viddle that beautiful--that beautiful,
why, 'tis the zame if he war a angel from heaven. Viddler Moore,
he wur up here wi' his music last night; an' Maister McGregor, he
took the instrument vrom un, an' 'Let ME have a try, my vrend,'
says he, all modest and unassoomin'; and vi' that, he wounded it
up, an' he begun to play. Lard, how he did play. Never heard nothing
like it in all my barn days. It is the zame, vor all the world,
as you do hear they viddler chaps that plays by themselves in the
Albert Hall up to London. Depend upon it, zur, there ain't no harm
in HIM. A vullow as can play on the viddle like thik there, why,
he couldn't do no hurt, not to child nor chicken."
Guy turned away from the door, fretting and fuming inwardly. He
knew better than that. Nevitt's consummate mastery of his chosen
instrument was but of a piece, after all, with the way he could play
on all the world, as on a familiar gamut. It was the very skill of
the man that made him so dangerous and so devilish. Guy felt that
under the spell of Nevitt's eye he himself was but as clay in the
hands of the potter.
But Nevitt should never so trick him and twist him again. To that his
mind was now fully made up. He would never let that cold eye hold
him fixed as of yore by its steely glance. Once for all, Nevitt
had proved his power too well. Guy would take good care he never
subjected himself in future to that uncanny influence. One forgery
was enough. Henceforth he was adamant.
And yet? And yet he was going to seek out Nevitt; going to stand
face to face with that smiling villain again; going to tax him
with his crime; going to ask him what he meant by this double-dyed
The landlord had told him where Nevitt was most likely to be found.
He followed that direction. At a gate that turned by the river-bank,
twenty minutes from the inn, a small boy was seated. He was
a Devonshire boy of the poorest moorland type, short, squat, and
thick set. As Guy reached the gate, the boy rose and opened it,
pulling his forelock twice or thrice, expectant of a ha'penny. "Has
anybody gone down here?" Guy asked, in an excited voice.
And the boy answered promptly, "Yes, thik there gentleman, what's
stoppin' at the Talbot Arms. And another gentleman, too; o'ny
t'other one come after and went t'other way round. A big zart o'
a gentleman wi' 'ands vit vor two. He axed me the zame question,
had anybody gone by. This is dree of 'ee as has come zince I've
been a zitting here."
Guy paid no attention to the second-named gentleman, with the hands
fit for two, or to his inquiries after who might have gone before
him. He fastened at once on the really important and serious
information that the person who was stopping at the Talbot Arms
had shortly before turned down the side footpath.
"All right, my boy," he said, tossing the lad sixpence, the first
coin he came across in his waistcoat pocket. The boy opened his
eyes wide, and pocketed it with a grin. So unexpected a largess
sufficed to impress the handsome stranger firmly on his memory. He
didn't forget him when a few days later he was called on to give
evidence--at a coroner's inquest.
But Guy, unsuspicious of the harm he had done himself, walked on,
all on fire, down the woodland path. It was a shady path, and it
led through a deep dell arched with hazels on every side, while a
little brawling brook ran along hard by, more heard than seen, in
the bottom of the dingle. Thick bramble obscured the petty rapids
from view and half trailed their lush shoots here and there across
the pathway. It was just such a mossy spot as Cyril would have loved
to paint; and Guy, himself half an artist by nature, would in any
other mood have paused to gaze delighted on its tangled greenery.
As it was, however, he was in no mood to loiter long over ferns and
mosses. He walked down that narrow way, where luxuriant branches
of fresh green blackberry bushes encroached upon the track, still
seething in soul, and full of the bitter wrong inflicted upon him
by the man he had till lately considered his dearest friend. At each
bend of the footpath, as it threaded its way through the tortuous
dell, following close the elbows of the bickering little stream,
he expected to come full in sight of Nevitt. But, gaze as he would,
no Nevitt appeared. He must have gone on, Guy thought, and come
out at the other end, into the upland road, of which the porters
at Mambury Station had told him.
At last he arrived at a delicious green nook, where the shade of
the trees overhead was exceptionally dense, and where the ferns
by the side were somewhat torn and trodden. Casting his eye on
the ground to the left, a metal clasp, gleaming silvery among the
bracken, happened to attract his cursory attention. Something about
that clasp looked strangely familiar. He paused and stared hard at
it. Surely, surely he had seen those metal knobs before. A flash
of recognition ran electric through his brain. Why, yes; it was
the fastener of Montague Nevitt's pocket-book--the pocket-book in
which he carried his most private documents; the pocket-book that
must have held Cyril's stolen six thousand. Guy stooped down to
pick it up with a whirling sense of surprise. Great heavens! what
was this? Not only the clasp, but the pocket-book itself--the
pocket-book filled full and crammed to bursting with papers. Ah,
mercy, what papers? Yes, incredible--the money! Hundred-pound
notes! Not a doubt upon earth of it. The whole of the stolen and
re-stolen three thousand.
For a minute or two Guy stood there, unable to believe his own
swimming eyes. What on earth could have happened? Was it chance or
design? Had Nevitt deliberately thrown away his ill-gotten gains?
Were detectives on the track? Was he anxious to conceal his part in
the theft? Had remorse got the better of him? Or was he frightened
at last, thinking Guy was on his way to recover and restore Cyril's
But no, the pocket-book was neither hidden in the ferns nor
yet studiously thrown away. From the place where it lay, Guy felt
confident at once it had fallen unperceived from Nevitt's pocket,
and been trodden by his heel unawares into the yielding leaf-mould.
Had he pulled it out accidentally with his handkerchief? Very likely,
Guy thought. But then, how strange and improbable that a man so
methodical and calculating as Nevitt should carry such valuable
belongings as those in the self-same pocket. It was certainly most
singular. However, Guy congratulated himself, after a moment's pause,
that so much at least of the stolen property was duly recovered.
He could pay back one-half of the purloined sum now to Cyril's
credit. So he went on his way through the rest of the wood in a
somewhat calmer and easier frame of mind. To be sure, he had still
to hunt down that villain Nevitt, and to tax him to his face with
his double-dyed treachery. But it was something, nevertheless, to
have recovered a part, at any rate, of the stolen money. And Nevitt
himself need never know by what fortunate accident he had happened
to recover it.
He emerged on the upland road, and struck back towards Mambury.
All the way round, he never saw his man. Weary with walking, he
returned in the end to the Talbot Arms. Had Mr. McGregor come back?
No, not yet; but he was sure to be home for dinner. Then Guy would
wait, and dine at the inn as well. He might have to stop all night,
but he must see McGregor.
As the day wore on, however, it became gradually clear to him that
Montague Nevitt didn't mean to return at all. Hour after hour passed
by, but nothing was heard of him. The landlord, good man, began to
express his doubts and fears most freely. He hoped no harm hadn't
come to the gentleman in the parlour; he had a powerful zight
o' money on un for a man to carry about; the landlord had zeen it
when he took out his book from his pocket to pay the porter. Volks
didn't ought to go about with two or dree hundred pound or more in
the lonely lanes on the edge of the moorland.
But Guy, for his part, put a different interpretation on the affair
at once. In some way or other Montague Nevitt, he thought, must
have found out he was being tracked, and, fearing for his safety,
must have dropped the pocket-book and made off, without note or
notice given, on his own sound legs, for some other part of the
So Guy made up his mind to return next morning by the very first
train direct to Plymouth, and there inquire once more whether
anything further had been seen of the noticeable stranger.
A SLIGHT MISUNDERSTANDING.
On the very same day that Guy Waring visited Mambury, where his
mother was married, Montague Nevitt had hunted up the entry of
Colonel Kelmscott's wedding in the church register.
Nevitt's behaviour, to say the truth, wasn't quite so black as Guy
Waring painted it. He had gone off with the extra three thousand
in his pocket, to be sure; but he didn't intend to appropriate it
outright to his own uses. He merely meant to give Guy a thoroughly
good fright, as it wasn't really necessary the call should be met
for another fortnight; and then, as soon as he'd found out the truth
about Colonel Kelmscott and his unacknowledged sons, he proposed
to use his knowledge of the forgery as a lever with Guy, so as to
force him to come to advantageous terms with his supposed father.
Nevitt's idea was that Guy and Cyril should drive a hard bargain
on their own account with the Colonel, and that he himself should
then receive a handsome commission on the transaction from both
the brothers, under penalty of disclosing the true facts about the
cheque by whose aid Guy had met their joint liability to the Rio
Negro Diamond Mines.
It was with no small joy, therefore, that Nevitt saw at last
in the parish register of St. Mary's at Mambury, the interesting
announcement, "June 27th, Henry Lucius Kelmscott, of the parish
of Plymouth, bachelor, private in the Regiment of Scots Greys, to
Lucy Waring, spinster, of this parish."
He saw at a glance, of course, why Kelmscott of Tilgate had chosen
to describe himself in this case as a private soldier. But he
also saw that the entry was an official document, and that here he
had one firm hold the more on Colonel Kelmscott, who must falsely
have sworn to that incorrect description. The great point of all,
however, was the signature to the book; and though nearly thirty
years had elapsed since those words were written, it was clear to
Nevitt, when he compared the autograph in the register with one of
Colonel Kelmscott's recent business letters, brought with him for
the purpose, that both had been penned by one and the same person.
He chuckled to himself with delight to think how great a benefactor
he had proved himself unawares to Guy and Cyril. At that very
moment, no doubt, his misguided young friend whom he had compelled
to assist him with the sinews of war for this important campaign
was reviling and objurating him in revengeful terms as the blackest
and most infamous of double-dyed traitors. Ah, well! ah, well!
the good are inured to gross ingratitude. Guy little knew, as he,
Montague Nevitt, stood there triumphant in the vestry, blandly
rewarding the expectant clerk for his pains with a whole Bank of
England five-pound note--the largest sum that functionary had ever
in his life received all at once in a single payment--Guy little
knew that Nevitt was really the chief friend and founder of the
family fortunes, and was prepared to compel the "unknown benefactor"
(for a moderate commission) to recognise his unacknowledged firstborn
sons before all the world as the heirs to Tilgate. But yesterday,
they were nameless waifs and strays, of uncertain origin, ashamed of
their birth, and ignorant even whether they had been duly begotten
in lawful wedlock; to-day, they were the legal inheritors of an
honoured name and a great estate, the first and foremost among the
landed gentry of a wealthy and beautiful English county.
He smiled to think what a good turn he had done unawares to those
ungrateful youths--and how little credit, as yet, they were prepared
to give him for it. In such a mood he returned to the inn to lunch.
His spirits were high. This was a good day's work, and he could
afford, indeed, to make merry with his host over it. He ordered
in a bottle of wine--such wine as the little country cellar could
produce, and invited that honest man, the landlord, to step in and
share it with him. He had tasted worse sherry on London dinner-tables,
and he told his host so. An affable man with inferiors, Mr. Montague
Nevitt! Then he strolled out by himself down the path by the brook.
It was a pleasant walk, with the water making music in little
trickles by its side, and Montague Nevitt, as a man of taste,
found it suited exactly with his temper for the moment. He noted
an undercurrent of rejoicing and triumphant cheeriness in the tone
of the stream as it plashed among the pebbles on its precipitous
bed that suggested to his mind some bars of a symphony which he
determined to compose as soon as he got home again to his beloved
So he walked along by himself, elate, and with a springy step, on
thoughts of ambition intent, till he came at last to a cool and
shadowy place, where as yet the ferns were NOT broken down and
trampled underfoot, though Guy Waring found them so some twenty
At that spot he looked up, and saw advancing along the path in the
opposite direction the burly figure of a man, in a light tourist
suit, whom he hadn't yet observed since he came to Mambury. The
very first point he noticed about the man, long before he recognised
him, was a pair of overgrown, obtrusive hands held somewhat awkwardly
in front of him--just like Gilbert Gildersleeve's. The likeness,
indeed, was so ridiculously close that Montague Nevitt smiled quietly
to himself to observe it. If he'd been in the Tilgate district now,
he'd have declared, without the slightest hesitation, that the man
on the path WAS Gilbert Gildersleeve.
One second later, he pulled himself up with a jerk in alarmed
surprise. "Great heavens" he cried to himself, a weird sense of
awe creeping over him piece-meal, "either this is a dream or else
it IS, it must be Gilbert Gildersleeve."
And so, indeed, it was. Gilbert Gildersleeve himself, in his proper
person. But the eminent Q.C., better versed in the wiles of time
and place than Guy Waring in his innocence, had not come obtrusively
to Mambury village or asked point-blank at the Talbot Arms by his
own right name for the man he was in search of. Such simplicity of
procedure would never even have occurred to that practised hand at
the Old Bailey. Mr. Gilbert Gildersleeve appeared on that woodland
path in the general guise of the common pedestrian tourist with
his head-quarters at Ivybridge, walking about on the congenial
outskirts of the Moor in search of the picturesque, and coming and
going by mere accident through Mambury. He had hovered around the
neighbourhood for two days, off and on, in search of his man; and
now, by careful watching, like an amateur detective, he had run
his prey to earth by a dexterous flank-movement and secured an
interview with him where he couldn't shirk or avoid it.
To Montague Nevitt, however, the meeting seemed at first sight but
the purest accident. He had no reason to suppose, indeed, that
Gilbert Gildersleeve had any special interest in his visit to
Mambury, further than might be implied in its possible connection
with Granville Kelmscott's affairs; and he didn't believe Gwendoline,
in her fear of her father, that blustering man, would ever have
communicated to him the personal facts of their interview at Tilgate.
So he advanced to meet his old acquaintance, the barrister, with
frankly outstretched hand.
"Mr. Gildersleeve!" he exclaimed in some surprise. "No, it can't
be you. Well, this IS indeed an unexpected pleasure."
Gilbert Gildersleeve gazed down upon him from the towering elevation
of his six feet four. Montague Nevitt was tall enough, as men
go in England, but with his slim, tailor-made form, and his waxed
moustaches, he looked by the side of that big-built giant, like
a: Bond Street exquisite before some prize-fighting Goliath. The
barrister didn't hold out his huge hand in return. On the contrary,
he concealed it, as far as was possible, behind his burly back,
and, looking down from the full height of his contempt upon the
sinister smirking creature who advanced to greet him with that
false smile on his face, he asked severely,
"What are YOU doing here? That's what _I_ have to ask. What foxy
ferreting have you come down to Mambury for?"
"Foxy ferreting," Montague Nevitt repeated, drawing back as if
stung, and profoundly astonished. "Why, what do you mean by that,
Mr. Gildersleeve? I don't understand you." The home-thrust was too
true--after the great cross-examiner's well-known bullying manner
--not to pierce him to the quick. "Who dares to say I go anywhere
"_I_ do," Gilbert Gildersleeve answered, with assured confidence.
"I say it, and I know it. You pitiful sneak, don't deny it to ME.
You were in the vestry this morning looking up the registers. Even
YOU, with your false eyes, sir, daren't look me in the face and
tell me you weren't. I saw you there myself. And I know you found
in the books what you wanted; for you paid the clerk an extravagant
fee. ... What's that? you rat, don't try to interrupt me. Don't
try to bully me. It never succeeds. Montague Nevitt, I tell you,
I WON'T be bullied." And the great Q.C. put his foot down on the
path with an elephantine solidity that made the prospect of bullying
him seem tolerably unlikely. "I know the facts, and I'll stand no
prevarication. Now, tell me, what vile use did you mean to make of
your discovery this morning?"
Montague Nevitt drew back, fairly nonplussed for the moment by such
a vigorous and unexpected attack on his flank. Resourceful as he
was, even his cunning mind came wholly unprepared to this sudden
cross-questioning. He felt his own physical inferiority to the big
Q.C. more keenly just then than he could ever have conceived it
possible for a man of his type to feel it. After all, mind doesn't
always triumph over matter. Montague Nevitt was aware that that
mountain of a man, with his six feet four of muscular humanity,
fairly cowed and overawed him at such very close quarters.
"I don't see what business it is of yours, Mr. Gildersleeve," he
murmured, in a somewhat apologetic voice. "I may surely be allowed
to hunt up questions of pedigree, of service in the end to myself
and my friends, without YOUR interference."
Gilbert Gildersleeve glared at him, and flared up all at once with
"Of service in the end to yourself and your friends!" he cried, with
unfeigned scorn, putting his own interpretation, as was natural,
on the words. "Why, you cur! you reptile! you unblushing sneak! Do
you mean to say openly you avow your intention of threatening and
blackmailing me? here--alone--to my face! You extortionate wretch!
I wouldn't have believed even YOU in your heart would descend to
Montague Nevitt, flurried and taken aback as he was, yet reflected
vaguely with some wonder, as he listened and looked, what this
sudden passion of disinterested zeal could betoken. Why such
burning solicitude for Colonel Kelmscott's estate on the part of
a man who was his avowed enemy? Even if Gwendoline meant to marry
the young fellow Granville, with her father's consent, how could
Nevitt himself levy blackmail upon Gilbert Gildersleeve by his
knowledge of the two Warings' claim to the property? A complication
surely. Was there not some unexpected intricacy here which the
cunning schemer himself didn't yet understand, but which might
redound, if unravelled, to his greater advantage?
"Blackmail YOU, Mr. Gildersleeve," he cried, with a righteously
indignant air. "That's an ugly word. I blackmail nobody; and least
of all the father of a lady whom I still regard, in spite of all she
can say or do to make my life a blank, with affection and respect
as profound as ever. How can my inquiries into the two Warings'
Gilbert Gildersleeve crushed him with a sudden outburst of indignant