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Witness For The Defense by A.E.W. Mason

Part 3 out of 5

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"You know who lives there?"


"Mrs. Ballantyne."

Dick put his head on one side and whistled softly. He knew the general
tenor of that _cause celebre_.

Mr. Hazlewood raised remonstrating hands.

"There! You are like the rest, Richard. You take the worst view. Here is
a good woman maligned and slandered. There is nothing against her. She
was acquitted in open trial by a jury of responsible citizens under a
judge of the Highest Court in India. Yet she is left alone--like a leper.
She is the victim of gossip and _such_ gossip. Richard," said the old man
solemnly, "for uncharitableness, ill-nature and stupid malice the gossip
of a Sussex village leaves the most deplorable efforts of Voltaire and
Swift entirely behind."

"Father, you _are_ going it," said Dick with a chuckle. "Do you mean to
give me a step-mother?"

"I do not, Richard. Such a monstrous idea never entered my thoughts. But,
my boy, I have called upon her."

"Oh, you have!"

"Yes. I have seen her too. I left a card. She left one upon me. I called
again. I was fortunate."

"She was in?"

"She gave me tea, Richard."

Richard cocked his head on one side.

"What's she like, father? Topping?"

"Richard, she gave me tea," said the old man, dwelling insistently upon
his repetition.

"So you said, sir, and it was most kind of her to be sure. But that fact
won't help me to form even the vaguest picture of her looks."

"But it will, Richard," Mr. Hazlewood protested with a nervousness which
set Dick wondering again. "She gave me tea. Therefore, don't you see, I
must return the hospitality, which I do with the utmost eagerness.
Richard, I look to you to help me. We must champion that slandered lady.
You will see her for yourself. She is coming here to luncheon."

The truth was out at last. Yet Dick was aware that he might very easily
have guessed it. This was just the quixotic line his father could have
been foreseen to take.

"Well, we must just keep our eyes open and see that she doesn't slip
anything into the decanters while our heads are turned," said Dick with a
chuckle. Old Mr. Hazlewood laid a hand upon his son's shoulder.

"That's the sort of thing they say. Only you don't mean it, Richard, and
they do," he remarked with a mild and reproachful shake of the head. "Ah,
some day, my boy, your better nature will awaken."

Dick expressed no anxiety for the quick advent of that day.

"How many are there of us to be at luncheon?" asked Dick.

"Only the two of us."

"I see. We are to keep the danger in the family. Very wise, sir,
upon my word."

"Richard, you pervert my meaning," said Mr. Hazlewood. "The
neighbourhood has not been kind to Mrs. Ballantyne. She has been made to
suffer. The Vicar's wife, for instance--a most uncharitable person. And
my sister, your Aunt Margaret, too, in Great Beeding--she is what you
would call--"

"Hot stuff," murmured Dick.

"Quite so," replied Mr. Hazlewood, and he turned to his son with a look
of keen interest upon his face. "I am not familiar with the phrase,
Richard, but not for the first time I notice that the crude and
inelegant vulgarisms in which you abound and which you no doubt pick up
in the barrack squares compress a great deal of forcible meaning into
very few words."

"That is indeed true, sir," replied Dick with an admirable gravity, "and
if I might be allowed to suggest it, a pamphlet upon that interesting
subject would be less dangerous work than coquetting with the latest
edition of the Marquise de Brinvilliers."

The word pamphlet was a bugle-call to Mr. Hazlewood.

"Ah! Speaking of pamphlets, my boy," he began, and walked over to a desk
which was littered with papers.

"We have not the time, sir," Dick interrupted from the bay of the window.
A woman had come out from the cottage. She unlatched a little gate in her
garden which opened on to the meadow. She crossed it. Yet another gate
gave her entrance to the garden of Little Beeding. In a moment Hubbard

"Mrs. Ballantyne"; and Stella came into the room and stood near to the
door with a certain constraint in her attitude and a timid watchfulness
in her big eyes. She had the look of a deer. It seemed to Dick that at
one abrupt movement she would turn and run.

Mr. Hazlewood pressed forward to greet her and she smiled with a warmth
of gratitude. Dick, watching her from the bay window, was surprised by
the delicacy of her face, by a look of fragility. She was dressed very
simply in a coat and short skirt of white, her shoes and her gloves were
of white suede, her hat was small.

"And this is my son Richard," said Mr. Hazlewood; and Dick came forward
out of the bay. Stella Ballantyne bowed to him but said no word. She
was taking no risks even at the hands of the son of her friend. If
advances of friendliness were to be made they must be made by him, not
her. There was just one awkward moment of hesitation. Then Dick
Hazlewood held out his hand.

"I am very glad to meet you, Mrs. Ballantyne," he said cordially, and he
saw the blood rush into her face and the fear die out in her eyes.

The neighbourhood, to quote Mr. Hazlewood, had not been kind to Stella
Ballantyne. She had stood in the dock and the fact tarnished her.
Moreover here and there letters had come from India. The verdict was
inevitable, but--but--there was a doubt about its justice. The full
penalty--no. No one desired or would have thought it right, but something
betwixt and between in the proper spirit of British compromise would not
have been amiss. Thus gossip ran. More-over Stella Ballantyne was too
good-looking, and she wore her neat and simple clothes too well. To some
of the women it was an added offence when they considered what she might
be wearing if only the verdict had been different. Thus for a year Stella
had been left to her own company except for a couple of visits which the
Reptons had paid to her. At the first she had welcomed the silence, the
peace of her loneliness. It was a balm to her. She recovered like a
flower in the night. But she was young--she was twenty-eight this
year--and as her limbs ceased to be things of lead and became once more
aglow with life there came to her a need of companionship. She tried to
tramp the need away on the turf of her well-loved downs, but she failed.
A friend to share with her the joy of these summer days! Her blood
clamoured for one. But she was an outcast. Friends did not come her way.
Therefore she had gratefully received old Mr. Hazlewood in her house, and
had accepted, though with some fear, his proposal that she should lunch
at the big house and make the acquaintance of his son.

She was nervous at the beginning of that meal, but both father and son
were at the pains to put her at her ease; and soon she was talking
naturally, with a colour in her cheeks, and now and then a note of
laughter in her voice. Dick worked for the recurrence of that laughter.
He liked the clear sound of it and the melting of all her face into
sweetness and tender humour which came with it. And for another thing he
had a thought, and a true one, that it was very long since she had known
the pleasure of good laughter.

They took their coffee out on the lawn under the shade of a huge
cedar-tree. The river ran at their feet and a Canadian canoe and a
rowing-boat were tethered close by in a little dock. The house, a place
of grey stone with grey weathered and lichen-coloured slates, raised its
great oblong chimneys into a pellucid air. The sunlight flashed upon its
rows of tall windows--they were all flat to the house, except the one
great bay on the ground floor in the library--and birds called from all
the trees. The time slipped away. Dick Hazlewood found himself talking of
his work, a practice into which he seldom fell, and was surprised that
she could talk of it with him. He realised with a start how it was that
she knew. But she talked naturally and openly, as though he must know her
history. Once even some jargon of the Staff College slipped from her.
"You were doing let us pretend at Box Hill last week, weren't you?" she
said, and when he started at the phrase she imagined that he started at
the extent of her information. "It was in the papers," she said. "I read
every word of them," and then for a second her face clouded, and she
added: "I have time, you see."

She looked at her watch and sprang to her feet.

"I must go," she said. "I didn't know it was so late. I have enjoyed
myself very much." She did not hesitate now to offer her hand. "Goodbye."

Dick Hazlewood went with her as far as the gate and came back to
his father.

"You were asking me," he said carelessly, "if I could give you some part
of the summer. I don't see why I shouldn't come here in a day or two. The
polo matches aren't so important."

The old man's eyes brightened.

"I shall be delighted, Richard, if you will." He looked at his son with
something really ecstatic in his expression. At last then his better
nature was awakening. "I really believe--" he exclaimed and Dick cut
him short.

"Yes, it may be that, sir. On the other hand it may not. What is quite
clear is that I must catch my train. So if I might order the car?"

"Of course, of course."

He came out with his son into the porch of the house.

"We have done a fine thing to-day, Richard," he said with enthusiasm and
a nod towards the cottage beyond the meadow.

"We have indeed, sir," returned Dick cheerily. "Did you ever see such a
pair of ankles?"

"She lost the tragic look this afternoon, Richard. We must be her

"We will put in the summer that way, father," said Dick, and waving his
hand was driven off to the station.

Mr. Hazlewood walked back to the library. But "walked" is a poor word. He
seemed to float on air. A great opportunity had come to him. He had
enlisted the services of his son. He saw Dick and himself as Toreadors
waving red flags in the face of a bull labelled Conventionality. He went
back to the pamphlet on which he was engaged with renewed ardour and
laboured diligently far into the night.



"I was in Great Beeding this morning," said Dick, as he sat at luncheon
with his father, "and the blinds were up in Aunt Margaret's house."

"They have returned from their holiday then," his father observed with a
tremor in his voice. He looked afraid. Then he looked annoyed.

"Pettifer will break down if he doesn't take care," he exclaimed
petulantly. "No man with any sense would work as hard as he does. He
ought to have taken two months this year at the least."

"We should still have to meet Aunt Margaret at the end of them," said
Dick calmly. He had no belief in Mr. Hazlewood's distress at the overwork
of Pettifer.

A month had passed since the inauguration of the great Crusade, and
though talk was rife everywhere and indignation in many places loud, a
certain amount of success had been won. But all this while Mrs. Pettifer
had been away. Now she had returned. Mr. Hazlewood stood in some awe of
his sister. She was not ill-natured, but she knew her mind and expressed
it forcibly and without delay. She was of a practical limited nature; she
saw very clearly what she saw, but she walked in blinkers, and had
neither comprehension of nor sympathy with those of a wider vision. She
was at this time a woman of forty, comfortable to look upon and the wife
of Mr. Robert Pettifer, the head of the well-known firm of solicitors,
Pettifer, Gryll and Musgrave. Mrs. Pettifer had very little patience to
spare for the idiosyncrasies of her brother, though she owed him a good
deal more than patience. For at the time, some twenty years before, when
she had married Robert Pettifer, then merely a junior partner of the
firm, Harold Hazlewood had alone stood by her. To the rest of the family
she was throwing herself away; to her brother Harold she was doing a fine
thing, not because it was a fine thing but because it was an exceptional
thing. Robert Pettifer however had prospered, and though he had reached
an age when he might have claimed his leisure the nine o'clock train
still took him daily to London.

"Aunt Margaret isn't after all so violent," said Dick, for whom she kept
a very soft place in her heart. But Harold shook his head.

"Your aunt, Richard, has all the primeval ferocity of the average woman."
And then the fires of the enthusiast were set alight in his blue eyes.
"I'll tell you what I'll do: I'll send her my new pamphlet, Richard. It
may have a humanising influence upon her. I have some advance copies.
I'll send her one this afternoon."

Dick's eyes twinkled.

"I should if I were you, though to be sure, sir, we have tried that plan
before without any prodigious effect."

"True, Richard, true, but I have never before risen to such heights as
these." Mr. Hazlewood threw down his napkin and paced the room. "Richard,
I am not inclined to boast. I am a humble man."

"It is only humility, sir, which achieves great work," said Dick, as he
went contentedly on with his luncheon.

"But the very title of this pamphlet seems to me calculated to interest
the careless and attract the thoughtful. It is called _The Prison Walls
must Cast no Shadow_."

With an arm outstretched he seemed to deliver the words of the title
one by one from the palm of his hand. Then he stood smiling,
confident, awaiting applause. Dick's face, which had shown the highest
expectancy, slowly fell in a profound disappointment. He laid down his
knife and fork.

"Oh, come, father. All walls cast shadows. It entirely depends upon the
altitude of the sun."

Mr. Hazlewood returned to his seat and spoke gently.

"The phrase, my boy, is a metaphor. I develop in this pamphlet my belief
that a convict, once he has expiated his offence, should upon his release
be restored to the precise position in society which he held before with
all its privileges unimpaired."

Dick chuckled in the most unregenerate delight.

"You are going it, father," he said, and disappointment came to Mr.

"Richard," he remonstrated mildly, "I hoped that I should have had your
approval. It seemed to me that a change was taking place in you, that the
player of polo, the wild hunter of an inoffensive little white ball, was
developing into the humanitarian."

"Well, sir," rejoined Dick, "I won't deny that of late I have been
beginning to think that there is a good deal in your theories. But you
mustn't try me too high at the beginning, you know. I am only in my
novitiate. However, please send it to Aunt Margaret, and--oh, how I would
like to hear her remarks upon it!"

An idea occurred to Mr. Hazlewood.

"Richard, why shouldn't you take it over yourself this afternoon?"

Dick shook his head.

"Impossible, father, I have something to do." He looked out of the window
down to the river running dark in the shade of trees. "But I'll go
to-morrow morning," he added.

And the next morning he walked over early to Great Beeding. His aunt
would have received the pamphlet by the first post and he wished to seize
the first fine careless rapture of her comments. But he found her in a
mood of distress rather than of wordy impatience.

The Pettifers lived in a big house of the Georgian period at the bottom
of an irregular square in the middle of the little town. Mrs. Pettifer
was sitting in a room facing the garden at the back with the pamphlet on
a little table beside her. She sprang up as Dick was shown into the room,
and before he could utter a word of greeting she cried:

"Dick, you are the one person I wanted to see."


"Yes. Sit down."

Dick obeyed.

"Dick, I believe you are the only person in the world who has any control
over your father."

"Yes. Even in my pinafores I learnt the great lesson that to control
one's parents is the first duty of the modern child."

"Don't be silly," his aunt rejoined sharply. Then she looked him over.
"Yes, you must have some control over him, for he lets you remain in the
army, though an army is one of his abominations."

"Theoretically it's a great grief to him," replied Dick. "But you see I
have done fairly well, so actually he's ready to burst with pride. Every
sentimental philosopher sooner or later breaks his head against his own

Mrs. Pettifer nodded her head in commendation.

"That's an improvement on your last remark, Dick. It's true. And your
father's going to break his head very badly unless you stop him."


"Mrs. Ballantyne."

All the flippancy died out of Dick Hazlewood's face. He became at once
grave, wary.

"I have been hearing about him," continued Mrs. Pettifer. "He has made
friends with her--a woman who has stood in the dock on a capital charge."

"And has been acquitted," Dick Hazlewood added quietly and Mrs. Pettifer
blazed up.

"She wouldn't have been acquitted if I had been on the jury. A
parcel of silly men who are taken in by a pretty face!" she cried,
and Dick broke in:

"Aunt Margaret, I am sorry to interrupt you. But I want you to understand
that I am with my father heart and soul in this."

He spoke very slowly and deliberately and Mrs. Pettifer was
utterly dismayed.

"You!" she cried. She grew pale, and alarm so changed her face it was as
if a tragic mask had been slipped over it. "Oh, Dick, not you!"

"Yes, I. I think it is cruelly hard," he continued with his eyes
relentlessly fixed upon Mrs. Pettifer's face, "that a woman like Mrs.
Ballantyne, who has endured all the horrors of a trial, the publicity,
the suspense, the dread risk that justice might miscarry, should have
afterwards to suffer the treatment of a leper."

There was for the moment no room for any anger now in Mrs. Pettifer's
thoughts. Consternation possessed her. She weighed every quiet firm word
that fell from Dick, she appreciated the feeling which gave them wings,
she searched his face, his eyes. Dick had none of his father's
flightiness. He was level-headed, shrewd and with the conventions of his
times and his profession. If Dick spoke like this, with so much certitude
and so much sympathy, why then--She shrank from the conclusion with a
sinking heart. She became very quiet.

"Oh, she shouldn't have come to Little Beeding," she said in a low voice,
staring now upon the ground. It was to herself she spoke, but Dick
answered her, and his voice rose to a challenge.

"Why shouldn't she? Here she was born, here she was known. What else
should she do but come back to Little Beeding and hold her head high? I
respect her pride for doing it."

Here were reasons no doubt why Stella should come back; but they did not
include the reason why she had. Dick Hazlewood was well aware of it. He
had learnt it only the afternoon before when he was with her on the
river. But he thought it a reason too delicate, of too fine a gossamer to
be offered to the prosaic mind of his Aunt Margaret. With what ridicule
and disbelief she would rend it into tatters! Reasons so exquisite were
not for her. She could never understand them.

Mrs. Pettifer abandoned her remonstrances and was for dropping the
subject altogether. But Dick was obstinate.

"You don't know Mrs. Ballantyne, Aunt Margaret. You are unjust to her
because you don't know her. I want you to," he said boldly.

"What!" cried Mrs. Pettifer. "You actually--Oh!" Indignation robbed her
of words. She gasped.

"Yes, I do," continued Dick calmly. "I want you to come one night and
dine at Little Beeding. We'll persuade Mrs. Ballantyne to come too."

It was a bold move, and even in his eyes it had its risks for Stella. To
bring Mrs. Pettifer and her together was, so it seemed to him, to mix
earth with delicate flame. But he had great faith in Stella Ballantyne.
Let them but meet and the earth might melt--who could tell? At the worst
his aunt would bristle, and there were his father and himself to see that
the bristles did not prick.

"Yes, come and dine."

Mrs. Pettifer had got over her amazement at her nephew's audacity.
Curiosity had taken its place--curiosity and fear. She must see this
woman for herself.

"Yes," she answered after a pause. "I will come. I'll bring Robert too."

"Good. We'll fix up a date and write to you. Goodbye."

Dick went back to Little Beeding and asked for his father. The old
gentleman added to his other foibles that of a collector. It was the
only taste he had which was really productive, for he owned a collection
of miniatures, gathered together throughout his life, which would have
realised a fortune if it had been sold at Christie's. He kept it arranged
in cabinets in the library and Dick found him bending over one of the
drawers and rearranging his treasures.

"I have seen Aunt Margaret," he said. "She will meet Stella here
at dinner."

"That will be splendid," cried the old man with enthusiasm.

"Perhaps," replied his son; and the next morning the Pettifers received
their invitation.

Mrs. Pettifer accepted it at once. She had not been idle since Dick had
left her. Before he had come she had merely looked upon the crusade as
one of Harold Hazlewood's stupendous follies. But after he had gone she
was genuinely horrified. She saw Dick speaking with the set dogged look
and the hard eyes which once or twice she had seen before. He had always
got his way, she remembered, on those occasions. She drove round to her
friends and made inquiries. At each house her terrors were confirmed. It
was Dick now who led the crusade. He had given up his polo, he was
spending all his leave at Little Beeding and most of it with Stella
Ballantyne. He lent her a horse and rode with her in the morning, he
rowed her on the river in the afternoon. He bullied his friends to call
on her. He brandished his friendship with her like a flag. Love me, love
my Stella was his new motto. Mrs. Pettifer drove home with every fear
exaggerated. Dick's career would be ruined altogether--even if nothing
worse were to happen. To any view that Stella Ballantyne might hold she
hardly gave a thought. She was sure of what it would be. Stella
Ballantyne would jump at her nephew. He had good looks, social position,
money and a high reputation. It was the last quality which would give him
a unique value in Stella Ballantyne's eyes. He was not one of the
chinless who haunt the stage doors; nor again one of that more subtly
decadent class which seeks to attract sensation by linking itself to
notoriety. No. From Stella's point of view Dick Hazlewood must be the
ideal husband.

Mrs. Pettifer waited for her husband's return that evening with unusual
impatience, but she was wise enough to hold her tongue until dinner was
over and he with a cigar between his lips and a glass of old brandy on
the table-cloth in front of him, disposed to amiability and concession.

Then, however, she related her troubles.

"You see it must be stopped, Robert."

Robert Pettifer was a lean wiry man of fifty-five whose brown dried face
seemed by a sort of climatic change to have taken on the colour of the
binding of his law-books. He, too, was a little troubled by the story,
but he was of a fair and cautious mind.

"Stopped?" he said. "How? We can't arrest Mrs. Ballantyne again."

"No," replied Mrs. Pettifer. "Robert, you must do something."

Robert Pettifer jumped in his chair.

"I, Margaret! Lord love you, no! I decline to mix myself up in the matter
at all. Dick's a grown man and Mrs. Ballantyne has been acquitted."

Margaret Pettifer knew her husband.

"Is that your last word?" she asked ruefully.


"It isn't mine, Robert."

Robert Pettifer chuckled and laid a hand upon his wife's.

"I know that, Margaret."

"We are going to dine next Friday night at Little Beeding to meet Stella

Mr. Pettifer was startled but he held his tongue.

"The invitation came this morning after you had left for London,"
she added.

"And you accepted it at once?"


Pettifer was certain that she had before she opened her mouth to
answer him.

"I shall dine at Little Beeding on Friday," he said, "because Harold
always gives me an admirable glass of vintage port"; and with that he
dismissed the subject. Mrs. Pettifer was content to let it smoulder in
his mind. She was not quite sure that he was as disturbed as she wished
him to be, but that he was proud of Dick she knew, and if by any chance
uneasiness grew strong in him, why, sooner or later he would let fall
some little sentence; and that little sentence would probably be useful.



The dinner-party at Little Beeding was a small affair. There were but ten
altogether who sat down at Mr. Hazlewood's dinner-table and with the
exception of the Pettifers all, owing to Dick Hazlewood's insistence,
were declared partisans of Stella Ballantyne. None the less Stella came
to it with hesitation. It was the first time that she had dined abroad
since she had left India, now the best part of eighteen months ago, and
she went forth to it as to an ordeal. For though friends of hers would be
present to enhearten her she was to meet the Pettifers. The redoubtable
Aunt Margaret had spoilt her sleep for a week. It was for the Pettifers
she dressed, careful to choose neither white nor black, lest they should
find something symbolic in the colour of her gown and make of it an
offence. She put on a frock of pale blue satin trimmed with some white
lace which had belonged to her mother, and she wore not so much as a thin
gold chain about her neck. But she did not need jewels that night. The
months of quiet had restored her to her beauty, the excitement of this
evening had given life and colour to her face, the queer little droop at
the corners of her lips which had betrayed so much misery and bitterness
of spirit had vanished altogether. Yet when she was quite dressed and
her mirror bade her take courage she sat down and wrote a note of apology
pleading a sudden indisposition. But she did not send it. Even in the
writing her cowardice came home to her and she tore it up before she had
signed her name. The wheels of the cab which was to take her to the big
house rattled down the lane under her windows, and slipping her cloak
over her shoulders she ran downstairs.

The party began with a little constraint. Mr. Hazlewood received his
guests in his drawing-room and it had the chill and the ceremony of a
room which is seldom used. But the constraint wore off at the table. Most
of those present were striving to set Stella Ballantyne at her ease, and
she was at a comfortable distance from Mrs. Pettifer, with Mr. Hazlewood
at her side. She was conscious that she was kept under observation and
from time to time the knowledge made her uncomfortable.

"I am being watched," she said to her host.

"You mustn't mind," replied Mr. Hazlewood, and the smile came back to her
lips as she glanced round the table.

"Oh, I don't, I don't," she said in a low voice, "for I have
friends here."

"And friends who will not fail you, Stella," said the old man. "To-night
begins the great change. You'll see."

Robert Pettifer puzzled her indeed more than his wife. She was plain to
read. She was frigidly polite, her enemy. Once or twice, however, Stella
turned her head to find Robert Pettifer's eyes resting upon her with a
quiet scrutiny which betrayed nothing of his thoughts. As a matter of
fact he liked her manner. She was neither defiant nor servile, neither
loud nor over-silent. She had been through fire; that was evident. But it
was evident only because of a queer haunting look which came and went in
her dark eyes. The fire had not withered her. Indeed Pettifer was
surprised. He had not formulated his expectations at all, but he had not
expected what he saw. The clear eyes and the fresh delicate colour, her
firm white shoulders and her depth of bosom, forced him to think of her
as wholesome. He began to turn over in his mind his recollections of her
case, recollections which he had been studious not to revive.

Halfway through the dinner Stella lost her uneasiness. The lights, the
ripple of talk, the company of men and women, the bright dresses had
their effect on her. It was as though after a deep plunge into dark
waters she had come to the surface and flung out her arms to the sun. She
ceased to notice the scrutiny of the Pettifers. She looked across the
table to Dick and their eyes met; and such a look of tenderness
transfigured her face as made Mrs. Pettifer turn pale.

"That woman's in love," she said to herself and she was horrified. It
wasn't Dick's social position then or the shelter of his character that
Stella Ballantyne coveted. She was in love. Mrs. Pettifer was honest
enough to acknowledge it. But she knew now that the danger which she had
feared was infinitely less than the danger which actually was.

"I must have it out with Harold to-night," she said, and later on, when
the men came from the dining-room, she looked out for her husband. But at
first she did not see him. She was in the drawing-room and the wide
double doors which led to the big library stood open. It was through
those doors that the men had come. Some of the party were gathered there.
She could hear the click of the billiard balls and the voices of women
mingling with those of the men. She went through the doors and saw her
husband standing by Harold Hazlewood's desk, and engrossed apparently in
some little paper-covered book which he held in his hand. She crossed to
him at once.

"Robert," she said, "don't be in a hurry to go to-night. I must have a
word with Harold."

"All right," said Pettifer, but he said it in so absent a voice that his
wife doubted whether he had understood her words. She was about to repeat
them when Harold Hazlewood himself approached.

"You are looking at my new pamphlet, Pettifer, _The Prison Walls must
Cast no Shadow_. I am hoping that it will have a great influence."

"No," replied Pettifer. "I wasn't. I was looking at this," and he held
up the little book.

"Oh, that?" said Hazlewood, turning away with disappointment.

"Yes, that," said Pettifer with a strange and thoughtful look at his
brother-in-law. "And I am not sure," he added slowly, "that in a short
time you will not find it the more important publication of the two."

He laid the book down and in his turn he moved away towards the
billiard-table. Margaret Pettifer remained. She had been struck by the
curious deliberate words her husband had used. Was this the hint for
which she was looking out? She took up the little book. It was a copy of
_Notes and Queries_. She opened it.

It was a small periodical magazine made up of printed questions which
contributors sent in search of information and answers to those questions
from the pens of other contributors. Mrs. Pettifer glanced through the
leaves, hoping to light upon the page which her husband had been
studying. But he had closed the book when he laid it down and she found
nothing to justify his remark. Yet he had not spoken without intention.
Of that she was convinced, and her conviction was strengthened the next
moment, for as she turned again towards the drawing-room Robert Pettifer
looked once sharply towards her and as sharply away. Mrs. Pettifer
understood that glance. He was wondering whether she had noticed what in
that magazine had interested him. But she did not pursue him with
questions. She merely made up her mind to examine the copy of _Notes and
Queries_ at a time when she could bring more leisure to the task.

She waited impatiently for the party to break up but eleven o'clock had
struck before any one proposed to go. Then all took their leave at once.
Robert Pettifer and his wife went out into the hall with the rest, lest
others seeing them remain should stay behind too; and whilst they stood a
little apart from the general bustle of departure Margaret Pettifer saw
Stella Ballantyne come lightly down the stairs, and a savage fury
suddenly whirled in her head and turned her dizzy. She thought of all the
trouble and harm this young woman was bringing into their ordered family
and she would not have it that she was innocent. She saw Stella with her
cloak open upon her shoulders radiant and glistening and slender against
the dark panels of the staircase, youth in her face, enjoyment sparkling
in her eyes, and her fingers itched to strip her of her bright frock, her
gloves, her slim satin slippers, the delicate white lace which nestled
against her bosom. She clothed her in the heavy shapeless garments, the
coarse shoes and stockings of the convict; she saw her working
desperately against time upon an ignoble task with black and broken
finger-nails. If longing could have worked the miracle, thus at this hour
would Stella Ballantyne have sat and worked, all the colour of her faded
to a hideous drab, all the grace of her withered. Mrs. Pettifer turned
away with so abrupt a movement and so disordered a face that Robert asked
her if she was ill.

"No, it's nothing," she said and against her will her eyes were drawn
back to the staircase. But Stella Ballantyne had disappeared and Margaret
Pettifer drew her breath in relief. She felt that there had been danger
in her moment of passion, danger and shame; and already enough of those
two evils waited about them.

Stella, meanwhile, with a glance towards Dick Hazlewood, had slipped back
into the big room. Then she waited for a moment until the door opened and
Dick came in.

"I had not said good-night to you," she exclaimed, coming towards him and
giving him her hands, "and I wanted to say it to you here, when we were
alone. For I must thank you for to-night, you and your father. Oh, I have
no words."

The tears were very near to her eyes and they were audible in her low
voice. Dick Hazlewood was quick to answer her.

"Good! For there's need of none. Will you ride to-morrow?"

Stella took her hands from his and moved across the room towards the
great bay window with its glass doors.

"I should love to," she said.

"Eight. Is that too early after to-night?"

"No, that's the good time," she returned with a smile. "We have the day
at its best and the world to ourselves."

"I'll bring the same horse round. He knows you now, doesn't he?"

"Thank you," said Stella. She unlatched the glass door and opened it.
"You'll lock it after me, won't you?"

"No," said Dick. "I'll see you to your door."

But Stella refused his company. She stood in the doorway.

"There's no need! See what a night it is!" and the beauty of it crept
into her soul and stilled her voice. The moon rode in a blue sky, a disc
of glowing white, the great cedar-trees flung their shadows wide over the
bright lawns and not a branch stirred.

"Listen," said Stella in a whisper and the river rippling against its
banks with now a deep sob and now a fairy's laugh sang to them in notes
most musical and clear. That liquid melody and the flutter of a bird's
wings in the bough of a tree were the only sounds. They stood side by
side, she looking out over the garden to the dim and pearly hills, he
gazing at her uplifted face and the pure column of her throat. They
stood in a most dangerous silence. The air came cool and fresh to their
nostrils. Stella drew it in with a smile.

"Good-night!" She laid her hand for a second on his arm. "Don't
come with me!"

"Why not?"

And the answer came in a clear whisper:

"I am afraid."

Stella seemed to feel the man at her side suddenly grow very still.
"It's only a step," she went on quickly and she passed out of the window
on to the pathway. Dick Hazlewood followed but she turned to him and
raised her hand.

"Don't," she pleaded; the voice was troubled but her eyes were steady.
"If you come with me I shall tell you."

"What?" he interrupted, and the quickness of the interruption broke the
spell which the night had laid upon her.

"I shall tell you again how much I thank you," she said lightly. "I shall
cross the meadow by the garden gate. That brings me to my door."

She gathered her skirt in her hand and crossed the pathway to the edge of
the grass.

"You can't do that," exclaimed Dick and he was at her side. He stooped
and felt the turf. "Even the lawn's drenched. Crossing the meadow you'll
be ankle-deep in dew. You must promise never to go home across the
meadow when you dine with us."

He spoke, chiding her as if she had been a mutinous child, and with so
much anxiety that she laughed.

"You see, you have become rather precious to me," he added.

Though the month was July she that night was all April, half tears, half
laughter. The smile passed from her lips and she raised her hands to her
face with the swiftness of one who has been struck.

"What's the matter?" he asked, and she drew her hand away.

"Don't you understand?" she asked, and answered the question herself.
"No, why should you?" She turned to him suddenly, her bosom heaving, her
hands clenched. "Do you know what place I fill here, in my own county?
Years ago, when I was a child, there was supposed to be a pig-faced woman
in Great Beeding. She lived in a small yellow cottage in the Square. It
was pointed out to strangers as one of the sights of the town. Sometimes
they were shown her shadow after dusk between the lamp and the blind.
Sometimes you might have even caught a glimpse of her slinking late at
night along the dark alleys. Well, the pig-faced woman has gone and I
have taken her place."

"No," cried Dick. "That's not true."

"It is," she answered passionately. "I am the curiosity. I am the freak.
The townspeople take a pride in me, yes, just the same pride they took in
her, and I find that pride more difficult to bear than all the aversion
of the Pettifers. I too slink out early in the morning or late after
night has fallen. And you"--the passion of bitterness died out of her
voice, her hands opened and hung at her sides, a smile of tenderness
shone on her face--"you come with me. You ride with me early. With you I
learn to take no heed. You welcome me to your house. You speak to me as
you spoke just now." Her voice broke and a cry of gladness escaped from
her which went to Dick Hazlewood's heart. "Oh, you shall see me to my
door. I'll not cross the meadow. I'll go round by the road." She stopped
and drew a breath.

"I'll tell you something."


"It's rather good to be looked after. I know. It has never happened to me
before. Yes, it's very good," and she drew out the words with a low laugh
of happiness.

"Stella!" he said, and at the mention of her name she caught her hands up
to her heart. "Oh, thank you!"

The hall-door was closed and all but one car had driven away when they
turned the corner of the house and came out in the broad drive. They
walked in the moonlight with a perfume of flowers in the air and the big
yellow cups of the evening primroses gleaming on either side. They walked
slowly. Stella knew that she should quicken her feet but she could not
bring herself to do more than know it. She sought to take into her heart
every tiniest detail of that walk so that in memory she might, years
after, walk it again and so never be quite alone. They passed out through
the great iron gates and turned into the lane. Here great elms overhung
and now they walked in darkness, and now again were bathed in light. A
twig snapped beneath her foot; even so small a thing she would remember.

"We must hurry," she said.

"We are doing all that we can," replied Dick. "It's a long
way--this walk."

"You feel it so?" said Stella, tempting him--oh, unwisely! But the spell
of the hour and the place was upon her.

"Yes," he answered her. "It's a long way in a man's life," and he drew
close to her side.

"No!" she cried with a sudden violence. But she was awake too late. "No,
Dick, no," she repeated, but his arms were about her.

"Stella, I want you. Oh, life's dull for a man without a woman; I can
tell you," he exclaimed passionately.

"There are others--plenty," she said, and tried to thrust him away.

"Not for me," he rejoined, and he would not let her go. Her struggles
ceased, she buried her face in his coat, her hands caught his shoulders,
she stood trembling and shivering against him.

"Stella," he whispered. "Stella!"

He raised her face and bent to it. Then he straightened himself.

"Not here!" he said.

They were standing in the darkness of a tree. He put his arms about her
waist and lifted her into an open space where the moonlight shone bright
and clear and there were no shadows.

"Here," he said, and he kissed her on the lips. She thrust her head back,
her face uplifted to the skies, her eyes closed.

"Oh, Dick," she murmured, "I meant that this should never be. Even
now--you shall forget it."

"No--I couldn't."

"So one says. But--oh, it would be your ruin." She started away from him.


"Yes," he answered.

She stood confronting him desperately a yard or so away, her bosom
heaving, her face wet with her tears. Dick Hazlewood did not stir.
Stella's lips moved as though she were speaking but no words were
audible, and it seemed that her strength left her. She came suddenly
forward, groping with her hands like a blind person.

"Oh, my dear," she said as he caught them. They went on again together.
She spoke of his father, of the talk of the countryside. But he had an
argument for each of hers.

"Be brave for just a little, Stella. Once we are married there will be no
trouble," and with his arms about her she was eager to believe.

Stella Ballantyne sat late that night in the armchair in her bedroom, her
eyes fixed upon the empty grate, in a turmoil of emotion. She grew cold
and shivered. A loud noise of birds suddenly burst through the open
window. She went to it. The morning had come. She looked across the
meadow to the silent house of Little Beeding in the grey broadening
light. All the blinds were down. Were they all asleep or did one watch
like her? She came back to the fireplace. In the grate some torn
fragments of a letter caught her eyes. She stooped and picked them up.
They were fragments of the letter of regret which she had written earlier
that evening.

"I should have sent it," she whispered. "I should not have gone. I should
have sent the letter."

But the regret was vain. She had gone. Her maid found her in the morning
lying upon her bed in a deep sleep and still wearing the dress in which
she had gone out.



When Dick and Stella walked along the drive to the lane Harold Hazlewood,
who was radiant at the success of his dinner-party, turned to Robert
Pettifer in the hall.

"Have a whisky-and-soda, Robert, before you go," he said. He led the way
back into the library. Behind him walked the Pettifers, Robert
ill-at-ease and wishing himself a hundred miles away, Margaret Pettifer
boiling for battle. Hazlewood himself dropped into an arm-chair.

"I am very glad that you came to-night, Margaret," he said boldly. "You
have seen for yourself."

"Yes, I have," she replied. "Harold, there have been moments this evening
when I could have screamed."

Robert Pettifer hurriedly turned towards the table in the far corner
of the room where the tray with the decanters and the syphons had
been placed.

"Margaret, I pass my life in a scream at the injustice of the world,"
said Harold Hazlewood, and Robert Pettifer chuckled as he cut off the end
of a cigar. "It is strange that an act of reparation should move you in
the same way."

"Reparation!" cried Margaret Pettifer indignantly. Then she noticed that
the window was open. She looked around the room. She drew up a chair in
front of her brother.

"Harold, if you have no consideration for us, none for your own
position, none for the neighbourhood, if you will at all costs force
this woman upon us, don't you think that you might still spare a thought
for your son?"

Robert Pettifer had kept his eyes open that evening as well as his wife.
He took a step down into the room. He was anxious to take no part in the
dispute; he desired to be just; he was favourably inclined towards Stella
Ballantyne; looking at her he had been even a little moved. But Dick was
the first consideration. He had no children of his own, he cared for Dick
as he would have cared for his son, and when he went up each morning by
the train to his office in London there lay at the back of his mind the
thought that one day the fortune he was amassing would add a splendour to
Dick's career. Harold Hazlewood alone of the three seemed to have his
eyes sealed.

"Why, what on earth do you mean, Margaret?"

Margaret Pettifer sat down in her chair.

"Where was Dick yesterday afternoon?"

"Margaret, I don't know."

"I do. I saw him. He was with Stella Ballantyne on the river--in the
dusk--in a Canadian canoe." She uttered each fresh detail in a more
indignant tone, as though it aggravated the crime. Yet even so she had
not done. There was, it seemed, a culminating offence. "She was wearing a
white lace frock with a big hat."

"Well," said Mr. Hazlewood mildly, "I don't think I have anything against
big hats."

"She was trailing her hand in the water--that he might notice its
slenderness of course. Outrageous I call it!"

Mr. Hazlewood nodded his head at his indignant sister.

"I know that frame of mind very well, Margaret," he remarked. "She cannot
do right. If she had been wearing a small hat she would have been

But Mrs. Pettifer was not in a mood for argument.

"Can't you see what it all means?" she cried in exasperation.

"I can. I do," Mr. Hazlewood retorted and he smiled proudly upon his
sister. "The boy's better nature is awakening."

Margaret Pettifer lifted up her hands.

"The boy!" she exclaimed. "He's thirty-four if he's a day."

She leaned forward in her chair and pointing up to the bay asked: "Why is
that window open, Harold?"

Harold Hazlewood showed his first sign of discomfort. He shifted in
his chair.

"It's a hot night, Margaret."

"That is not the reason," Mrs. Pettifer retorted implacably.
"Where is Dick?"

"I expect that he is seeing Mrs. Ballantyne home."

"Exactly," said Mrs. Pettifer with a world of significance in her voice.
Mr. Hazlewood sat up and looked at his sister.

"Margaret, you want to make me uncomfortable," he exclaimed pettishly.
"But you shan't. No, my dear, you shan't." He let himself sink back again
and joining the tips of his fingers contemplated the ceiling. But
Margaret was in the mind to try. She shot out her words at him like so
many explosive bullets.

"Being friends is one thing, Harold. Marrying is another."

"Very true, Margaret, very true."

"They are in love with one another."

"Rubbish, Margaret, rubbish."

"I watched them at the dinner-table and afterwards. They are man and
woman, Harold. That's what you don't understand. They are not
illustrations of your theories. Ask Robert."

"No," exclaimed Robert Pettifer. He hurriedly lit a cigar. "Any inference
I should make must be purely hypothetical."

"Yes, we'll ask Robert. Come, Pettifer!" cried Mr. Hazlewood. "Let us
have your opinion."

Robert Pettifer came reluctantly down from his corner.

"Well, if you insist, I think they were very friendly."

"Ah!" cried Hazlewood in triumph. "Being friends is one thing, Margaret.
Marrying is another."

Mrs. Pettifer shook her head over her brother with a most
aggravating pity.

"Dick said a shrewd thing the other day to me, Harold."

Mr. Hazlewood looked doubtfully at his sister.

"I am sure of it," he answered, but he was careful not to ask for any
repetition of the shrewd remark. Margaret, however, was not in the mind
to let him off.

"He said that sentimental philosophers sooner or later break their heads
against their own theories. Mark those words, Harold! I hope they won't
come true of you. I hope so very much indeed."

But it was abundantly clear that she had not a shadow of doubt that they
would come true. Mr. Hazlewood was stung by the slighting phrase.

"I am not a sentimental philosopher," he said hotly. "Sentiment I
altogether abhor. I hold strong views, I admit."

"You do indeed," his sister interrupted with an ironical laugh. "Oh, I
have read your pamphlet, Harold. The prison walls must cast no shadow and
convicts, once they are released, have as much right to sit down at our
dinner-tables as they had before. Well, you carry your principles into
practice, that I will say. We had an illustration to-night."

"You are unjust, Margaret," and Mr. Hazlewood rose from his chair with
some dignity. "You speak of Mrs. Ballantyne, not for the first time, as
if she had been tried and condemned. In fact she was tried and
acquitted," and in his turn he appealed to Pettifer.

"Ask Robert!" he said.

But Pettifer was slow to answer, and when he did it was without

"Ye-es," he replied with something of a drawl. "Undoubtedly Mrs.
Ballantyne was tried and acquitted"; and he left the impression on the
two who heard him that with acquittal quite the last word had not been
said. Mrs. Pettifer looked at him eagerly. She drew clear at once of
the dispute. She left the questions now to Harold Hazlewood, and
Pettifer had spoken with so much hesitation that Harold Hazlewood could
not but ask them.

"You are making reservations, Robert?"

Pettifer shrugged his shoulders.

"I think we have a right to know them," Hazlewood insisted. "You are a
solicitor with a great business and consequently a wide experience."

"Not of criminal cases, Hazlewood. I bring no more authority to judge
them than any other man."

"Still you have formed an opinion. Please let me have it," and Mr.
Hazlewood sat down again and crossed his knees. But a little impatience
was now audible in his voice.

"An opinion is too strong a word," replied Pettifer guardedly. "The
trial took place nearly eighteen months ago. I read the accounts of it
certainly day by day as I travelled in the train to London. But they were

"Full summaries, Robert," said Hazlewood.

"No doubt. The trial made a great deal of noise in the world. But they
were not full enough for me. Even if my memory of those newspaper reports
were clear I should still hesitate to sit in judgment. But my memory
isn't clear. Let us see what I do remember."

Pettifer took a chair and sat for a few moments with his forehead
wrinkled in a frown. Was he really trying to remember? His wife asked
herself that question as she watched him. Or had he something to tell
them which he meant to let fall in his own cautiously careless way? Mrs.
Pettifer listened alertly.

"The--well--let us call it the catastrophe--took place in a tent in some
state of Rajputana."

"Yes," said Mr. Hazlewood.

"It took place at night. Mrs. Ballantyne was asleep in her bed. The man
Ballantyne was found outside the tent in the doorway."


Pettifer paused. "So many law cases have engaged my attention since,"
he said in apology for his hesitation. He seemed quite at a loss. Then
he went on:

"Wait a moment! A man had been dining with them at night--oh yes, I
begin to remember."

Harold Hazlewood made a tiny movement and would have spoken, but Margaret
held out a hand towards him swiftly.

"Yes, a man called Thresk," said Pettifer, and again he was silent.

"Well," asked Hazlewood.

"Well--that's all I remember," replied Pettifer briskly. He rose and put
his chair back. "Except--" he added slowly.


"Except that there was left upon my mind when the verdict was published a
vague feeling of doubt."

"There!" cried Mrs. Pettifer triumphantly. "You hear him, Harold."

But Hazelwood paid no attention to her. He was gazing at his
brother-in-law with a good deal of uneasiness.

"Why?" he asked. "Why were you in doubt, Robert?"

But Pettifer had said all that he had any mind to say.

"Oh, I can't remember why," he exclaimed. "I am very likely quite wrong.
Come, Margaret, it's time that we were getting home."

He crossed over to Hazlewood and held out his hand. Hazlewood, however,
did not rise.

"I don't think that's quite fair of you, Robert," he said. "You don't
disturb my confidence, of course--I have gone into the case
thoroughly--but I think you ought to give me a chance of satisfying you
that your doubts have no justification."

"No really," exclaimed Pettifer. "I absolutely refuse to mix myself up in
the affair at all." A step sounded upon the gravel path outside the
window. Pettifer raised a warning finger. "It's midnight, Margaret," he
said. "We must go"; and as he spoke Dick Hazlewood walked in through the
open window.

He smiled at the group of his relations with a grim amusement. They
certainly wore a guilty look. He was surprised to remark some
embarrassment even upon his father's face.

"You will see your aunt off, Richard," said Mr. Hazlewood.

"Of course."

The Pettifers and Dick went out into the hall, leaving the old man in his
chair, a little absent, perhaps a little troubled.

"Aunt Margaret, you have been upsetting my father," said Dick.

"Nonsense, Dick," she replied, and her face flushed. She stepped into the
carriage quickly to avoid questions, and as she stepped in Dick noticed
that she was carrying a little paper-covered book. Pettifer followed.
"Good-night, Dick," he said, and he shook hands with his nephew very
warmly. In spite of his cordiality, however, Dick's face grew hard as he
watched the carriage drive away. Stella was right. The Pettifers were the
enemy. Well, he had always known there would be a fight, and now the
sooner it came the better. He went back to the library and as he opened
the door he heard his father's voice. The old man was sitting sunk in his
chair and repeating to himself:

"I won't believe it. I won't believe it."

He stopped at once when Dick came in. Dick looked at him with concern.

"You are tired, father," he said.

"Yes, I think I am a little. I'll go to bed."

Hazlewood watched Dick walk over to the corner table where the candles
stood beside the tray, and his face cleared. For the first time in his
life the tidy well-groomed conventional look of his son was a real
pleasure to him. Richard was of those to whom the good-will of the world
meant much. He would never throw it lightly away. Hazlewood got up and
took one of the candles from his son. He patted him on the shoulder. He
became quite at ease as he looked into his face.

"Good-night, my boy," he said.

"Good-night, sir," replied Dick cheerfully. "There's nothing like acting
up to one's theories, is there?"

"Nothing," said the old man heartily. "Look at my life!"

"Yes," replied Dick. "And now look at mine. I am going to marry Stella

For a moment Mr. Hazlewood stood perfectly still. Then he murmured

"Oh, are you? Are you, Richard?" and he shuffled quickly out of the room.



As Dick was getting out of bed at half-past seven a troubled little note
was brought to him written hurriedly and almost incoherent.

"Dick, I can't ride with you this morning. I am too tired ... and I don't
think we should meet again. You must forget last night. I shall be very
proud always to remember it, but I won't ruin you, Dick. You mustn't
think I shall suffer so very much ..." Dick read it all through with a
smile of tenderness upon his face. He wrote a line in reply. "I will come
and see you at eleven, Stella. Meanwhile sleep, my dear," and sent it
across to the cottage. Then he rolled back into bed again and took his
own advice. It was late when he came down into the dining-room and he
took his breakfast alone.

"Where's my father?" he asked of Hubbard the butler.

"Mr. Hazlewood breakfasted half an hour ago, sir. He's at work now."

"Capital," said Dick. "Give me some sausages. Hubbard, what would you say
if I told you that I was going to be married?"

Hubbard placed a plate in front of him.

"I should keep my head, sir," he answered in his gentle voice. "Will you
take tea?"

"Thank you."

Dick looked out of the window. It was a morning of clear skies and
sunlight, a very proper morning for this the first of all the remarkable
days which one after the other were going especially to belong to him. He
was of the gods now. The world was his property, or rather he held it in
trust for Stella. It was behaving well; Dick Hazlewood was contented. He
ate a large breakfast and strolling into the library lit his pipe. There
was his father bending over his papers at his writing-table before the
window, busy as a bee no doubt at some new enthusiasm which was destined
to infuriate his neighbours. Let him go on! Dick smiled benignly at the
old man's back. Then he frowned. It was curious that his father had not
wished him a good-morning, curious and unusual.

"I hope, sir, that you slept well," he said.

"I did not, Richard," and still the back was turned to him. "I lay awake
considering with some care what you told me last night about--about
Stella Ballantyne."

Of late she had been simply Stella to Harold Hazlewood. The addition of
Ballantyne was significant. It replaced friendliness with formality.

"Yes, we agreed to champion her cause, didn't we?" said Dick cheerily.
"You took one good step forward last night, I took another."

"You took a long stride, Richard, and I think you might have consulted
me first."

Dick walked over to the table at which his father sat.

"Do you know, that's just what Stella said," he remarked, and he seemed
to find the suggestion rather unintelligible. Mr. Hazlewood snatched at
any support which was offered to him.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, and for the first time that morning he looked his son
in the face. "There now, Richard, you see!"

"Yes," Richard returned imperturbably. "But I was able to remove all
her fears. I was able to tell her that you would welcome our marriage
with all your heart, for you would look upon it as a triumph for your
principles and a sure sign that my better nature was at last
thoroughly awake."

Dick walked away from the table. The old man's face lengthened. If he was
a philosopher at all, he was a philosopher in a piteous position, for he
was having his theories tested upon himself, he was to be the experiment
by which they should be proved or disproved.

"No doubt," he said in a lamentable voice. "Quite so, Richard. Yes," and
he caught at vague hopes of delay. "There's no hurry of course. For one
thing I don't want to lose you... And then you have your career to think
of, haven't you?" Mr. Hazlewood found himself here upon ground more solid
and leaned his weight on it. "Yes, there's your career."

Dick returned to his father, amazement upon his face. He spoke as one who
cannot believe the evidence of his ears.

"But it's in the army, father! Do you realise what you are saying? You
want me to think of my career in the British Army?"

Consistency however had no charms for Mr. Hazlewood at this moment.

"Exactly," he cried. "We don't want to prejudice that--do we? No, no,
Richard! Oh, I hear the finest things about you. And they push the young
men along nowadays. You don't have to wait for grey hairs before you're
made a General, Richard, so we must keep an eye on our prospects, eh? And
for that reason it would be advisable perhaps"--and the old man's eyes
fell from Dick's face to his papers--"yes, it would certainly be
advisable to let your engagement remain for a while just a private matter
between the three of us."

He took up his pen as though the matter was decided and discussion at an
end. But Dick did not move from his side. He was the stronger of the two
and in a little while the old man's eyes wandered up to his face again.
There was a look there which Margaret Pettifer had seen a week ago. Dick
spoke and the voice he used was strange and formidable to his father.

"There must be no secrecy, father. I remember what you said: for
uncharitable slander an English village is impossible to beat. Our secret
would be known within a week and by attempting to keep it we invite
suspicion. Nothing could be more damaging to Stella than secrecy.
Consequently nothing could be more damaging to me. I don't deny that
things are going to be a little difficult. But of this I am sure"--and
his voice, though it still was quiet, rang deep with confidence--"our one
chance is to hold our heads high. No secrecy, father! My hope is to make
a life which has been very troubled know some comfort and a little

Mr. Hazlewood had no more to say. He must renounce his gods or hold his
tongue. And renounce his gods--no, that he could not do. He heard in
imagination the whole neighbourhood laughing--he saw it a sea of laughter
overwhelming him. He shivered as he thought of it. He, Harold Hazlewood,
the man emancipated from the fictions of society, caught like a silly
struggling fish in the net of his own theories! No, that must never be.
He flung himself at his work. He was revising the catalogue of his
miniatures and in a minute he began to fumble and search about his
over-loaded desk.

"Everybody is trying to thwart me this morning," he cried angrily.

"What's the matter, father?" asked Dick, laying down the _Times_.
"Can I help?"

"I wrote a question to _Notes and Queries_ about the Marie Antoinette
miniature which I bought at Lord Mirliton's sale and there was an answer
in the last number, a very complete answer. But I can't find it. I can't
find it anywhere"; and he tossed his papers about as though he were
punishing them.

Dick helped in the search, but beyond a stray copy or two of _The Prison
Walls must Cast no Shadow_, there was no publication to be found at all.

"Wait a bit, father," said Dick suddenly. "What is _Notes and Queries_
like? The only notes and queries I read are contained in a pink paper.
They are very amusing but they do not deal with miniatures."

Mr. Hazlewood described the appearance of the little magazine.

"Well, that's very extraordinary," said Dick, "for Aunt Margaret took it
away last night."

Mr. Hazlewood looked at his son in blank astonishment.

"Are you sure, Richard?"

"I saw it in her hand as she stepped into her carriage."

Mr. Hazlewood banged his fist upon the table.

"It's extremely annoying of Margaret," he exclaimed. "She takes no
interest in such matters. She is not, if I may use the word, a virtuoso.
She did it solely to annoy me."

"Well, I wonder," said Dick. He looked at his watch. It was eleven
o'clock. He went out into the hall, picked up a straw hat and walked
across the meadow to the thatched cottage on the river-bank. But while he
went he was still wondering why in the world Margaret had taken away that
harmless little magazine from his father's writing-table. "Pettifer's at
the bottom of it," he concluded. "There's a foxy fellow for you. I'll
keep my eye on Uncle Robert." He was near to the cottage. Only a rail
separated its garden from the meadow. Beyond the garden a window stood
open and within the room he saw the flutter of a lilac dress.

From the window of the library Mr. Hazlewood watched his son open the
garden gate. Then he unlocked a drawer of his writing-table and took out
a large sealed envelope. He broke the seal and drew from the envelope a
sheaf of press cuttings. They were the verbatim reports of Stella
Ballantyne's trial, which had been printed day by day in the _Times of
India_. He had sent for them months ago when he had blithely taken upon
himself the defence of Stella Ballantyne. He had read them with a growing
ardour. So harshly had she lived; so shadowless was her innocence. He
turned to them now in a different spirit. Pettifer had been left by the
English summaries of the trial with a vague feeling of doubt. Mr.
Hazlewood respected Robert Pettifer. The lawyer was cautious, deliberate,
unemotional--qualities with which Hazlewood had instinctively little
sympathy. But on the other hand he was not bound hand and foot in
prejudice. He could be liberal in his judgments. He had a mind clear
enough to divide what reason had to say and the presumptions of
convention. Suppose that Pettifer was after all right! The old man's
heart sank within him. Then indeed this marriage must be prevented--and
the truth must be made known--yes, widely known. He himself had been
deceived--like many another man before him. It was not ridiculous to have
been deceived. He remained at all events consistent to his principles.
There was his pamphlet to be sure, _The Prison Walls must Cast no
Shadow_ that gave him an uncomfortable twinge. But he reassured himself.

"There I argue that, once the offence has been expiated, all the
privileges should be restored. But if Pettifer is right there has been no

That saving clause let him out. He did not thus phrase the position even
to himself. He clothed it in other and high-sounding words. It was after
all a sort of convention to accept acquittal as the proof of innocence.
But at the back of his mind from first to last there was an immense fear
of the figure which he himself would cut if he refused his consent to
the marriage on any ground except that of Stella Ballantyne's guilt. For
Stella herself, the woman, he had no kindness to spare that morning.
Yesterday he had overflowed with it. For yesterday she had been one more
proof to the world how high he soared above it.

"Since Pettifer's in doubt," he said to himself, "there must be some
flaw in this trial which I overlooked in the heat of my sympathy"; and
to discover that flaw he read again every printed detail of it from the
morning when Stella first appeared before the stipendiary magistrate to
that other morning a month later when the verdict was given. And he
found no flaw. Stella's acquittal was inevitable on the evidence. There
was much to show what provocation she had suffered, but there was no
proof that she had yielded to it. On the contrary she had endured so
long, the presumption must be that she would go on enduring to the end.
And there was other evidence--positive evidence given by Thresk which
could not be gainsaid.

Mr. Hazlewood replaced his cuttings in the drawer; and he was utterly
discontented. He had hoped for another result. There was only one point
which puzzled him and that had nothing really to do with the trial, but
it puzzled him so much that it slipped out at luncheon.

"Richard," he said, "I cannot understand why the name of Thresk is so
familiar to me."

Dick glanced quickly at his father.

"You have been reading over again the accounts of the trial."

Mr. Hazlewood looked confused.

"And a very natural proceeding, Richard," he declared. "But while reading
over the trial I found the name Thresk familiar to me in another
connection, but I cannot remember what the connection is."

Dick could not help him, nor was he at that time concerned by the failure
of his father's memory. He was engaged in realising that here was another
enemy for Stella. Knowing his father, he was not greatly surprised, but
he thought it prudent to attack without delay.

"Stella will be coming over to tea this afternoon," he said.

"Will she, Richard?" the father replied, twisting uncomfortably in his
chair. "Very well--of course."

"Hubbard knows of my engagement, by the way," Dick continued implacably.

"Hubbard! God bless my soul!" cried the old man. "It'll be all over the
village already."

"I shouldn't wonder," replied Dick cheerfully. "I told him before I saw
you this morning, whilst I was having breakfast."

Mr. Hazlewood remained silent for a while. Then he burst out petulantly:

"Richard, there's something I must speak to you seriously about: the
lateness of your hours in the morning. I have noticed it with great
regret. It is not considerate to the servants and it cannot be healthy
for you. Such indolence too must be enervating to your mind."

Dick forbore to remind his father that he was usually out of the house
before seven.

"Father," he said, at once a very model of humility, "I will endeavour
to reform."

Mr. Hazlewood concealed his embarrassment at teatime under a show of
over-work. He had a great deal to do--just a moment for a cup of tea--no
more. There was to be a meeting of the County Council the next morning
when a most important question of small holdings was to come up for
discussion. Mr. Hazlewood held the strongest views. He was engaged in
shaping them in the smallest possible number of words. To be brief, to be
vivid--there was the whole art of public speaking. Mr. Hazlewood
chattered feverishly for five minutes; he had come in chattering, he went
out chattering.

"That's all right, Stella, you see," said Dick cheerfully when they
were left alone. Stella nodded her head. Mr. Hazlewood had not said one
word in recognition of her engagement but she had made her little fight
that morning. She had yielded and she could not renew it. She had spent
three miserable hours framing reasonable arguments why last night
should be forgotten. But the sight of her lover coming across the
meadow had set her heart so leaping that she could only stammer out a
few tags and phrases.

"Oh, I wish you hadn't come!" she had repeated and repeated and all the
while her blood was leaping in her body for joy that he had. She had
promised in the end to stand firm, to stand by his side and brave--what,
after all, but the clamour of a week? So he put it and so she was eager
to believe.

Mr. Hazelwood, busy though he made himself out to be, found time that
evening to drive in his motor-car into Great Beeding, and when the London
train pulled up at the station he was on the platform. He looked
anxiously at the passengers who descended until he saw Robert Pettifer.
He went up to him at once.

"What in the world are you doing here?" asked the lawyer.

"I came on purpose to catch you, Robert. I want to speak to you in
private. My car is here. If you will get into it with me we can drive
slowly towards your house."

Pettifer's face changed, but he could not refuse. Hazlewood was agitated
and nervous; of his ordinary complacency there was no longer a trace.
Pettifer got into the car and as it moved away from the station he asked:

"Now what's the matter?"

"I have been thinking over what you said last night, Robert. You had a
vague feeling of doubt. Well, I have the verbatim reports of the trial in
Bombay here in this envelope and I want you to read them carefully
through and give me your opinion." He held out the envelope as he spoke,
but Pettifer thrust his hands into his pockets.

"I won't touch it," he declared. "I refuse to mix myself up in the affair
at all. I said more than I meant to last night."

"But you did say it, Robert."

"Then I withdraw it now."

"But you can't, Robert. You must go further. Something has happened
to-day, something very serious."

"Oh?" said Pettifer.

"Yes," replied Mr. Hazlewood. "Margaret really has more insight than I
credited her with. They propose to get married."

Pettifer sat upright in the car.

"You mean Dick and Stella Ballantyne?"


And for a little while there was silence in the car. Then Mr. Hazlewood
continued to bleat.

"I never suspected anything of the kind. It places me, Robert, in a very
difficult position."

"I can quite see that," answered Pettifer with a grim smile. "It's really
the only consoling element in the whole business. You can't refuse your
consent without looking a fool and you can't give it while you are in any
doubt as to Mrs. Ballantyne's innocence."

Mr. Hazlewood was not, however, quite prepared to accept that definition
of his position.

"You don't exhaust the possibilities, Robert," he said. "I can quite
well refuse my consent and publicly refuse it if there are reasonable
grounds for believing that there was in that trial a grave miscarriage
of justice."

Mr. Pettifer looked sharply at his companion. The voice no less than the
words fixed his attention. This was not the Mr. Hazlewood of yesterday.
The champion had dwindled into a figure of meanness. Harold Hazlewood
would be glad to discover those reasonable grounds; and he would be very
much obliged if Robert Pettifer would take upon himself the
responsibility of discovering them.

"Yes, I see," said Pettifer slowly. He was half inclined to leave Harold
Hazlewood to find his way out of his trouble by himself. It was all his
making after all. But other and wider considerations began to press upon
Pettifer. He forced himself to omit altogether the subject of Hazlewood's
vanities and entanglements.

"Very well. Give the cuttings to me! I will read them through and I will
let you know my opinion. Their intention to marry may alter
everything--my point of view as much as yours."

Mr. Pettifer took the envelope in his hand and got out of the car as
soon as Hazlewood had stopped it.

"You have raised no objections to the engagement?" he asked.

"A word to Richard this morning. Of not much effect I am afraid."

Mr. Pettifer nodded.

"Right. I should say nothing to anybody. You can't take a decided line
against it at present and to snarl would be the worst policy imaginable.
To-day's Thursday. We'll meet on Saturday. Good-night," and Robert
Pettifer walked away to his own house.

He walked slowly, wondering at the eternal mystery by which this
particular man and that individual woman select each other out of the
throng. He owed the greater part of his fortune to the mystery like many
another lawyer. But to-night he would willingly have yielded a good
portion of it up if that process of selection could be ordered in a more
reasonable way. Love? The attraction of Sex? Yes, no doubt. But why these
two specimens of Sex? Why Dick and Stella Ballantyne?

When he reached his house his wife hurried forward to meet him. Already
she had the news. There was an excitement in her face not to be
misunderstood. The futile time-honoured phrase of triumph so ready on the
lips of those who have prophesied evil was trembling upon hers.

"Don't say it, Margaret," said Pettifer very seriously. "We have come to
a pass where light words will lead us astray. Hazlewood has been with me.
I have the reports of the trial here."

Margaret Pettifer put a check upon her tongue and they dined together
almost in complete silence. Pettifer was methodically getting his own
point of view quite clearly established in his mind, so that whatever he
did or advised he might be certain not to swerve from it afterwards. He
weighed his inclinations and his hopes, and when the servants had left
the dining-room and he had lit his cigar he put his case before his wife.

"Listen, Margaret! You know your brother. He is always in extremes. He
swings from one to the other. He is terrified now lest this marriage
should take place."

"No wonder," interposed Mrs. Pettifer.

Pettifer made no comment upon the remark.

"Therefore," he continued, "he is anxious that I should discover in these
reports some solid reason for believing that the verdict which acquitted
Stella Ballantyne was a grave miscarriage of justice. For any such reason
must have weight."

"Of course," said Mrs. Pettifer.

"And will justify him--this is his chief consideration--in withholding
publicly his consent."

"I see."

Only a week ago Dick himself had observed that sentimental
philosophers had a knack of breaking their heads against their own
theories. The words had been justified sooner than she had expected.
Mrs. Pettifer was not surprised at Harold Hazlewood's swift change any
more than her husband had been. Harold, to her thinking, was a
sentimentalist and sentimentality was like a fir-tree--a thing of no
deep roots and easily torn up.

"But I do not take that view, Margaret," continued her husband, and she
looked at him with consternation. Was he now to turn champion, he who
only yesterday had doubted? "And I want you to consider whether you can
agree with me. There is to begin with the woman herself, Stella
Ballantyne. I saw her for the first time yesterday, and to be quite
honest I liked her, Margaret. Yes. It seemed to me that there was nothing
whatever of the adventuress about her. And I was impressed--I will go
further, I was moved--dry-as-dust old lawyer as I am, by something--How
shall I express it without being ridiculous?" He paused and searched in
his vocabulary and gave up the search. "No, the epithet which occurred to
me yesterday at the dinner-table and immediately, still seems to me the
only true one--I was moved by something in this woman of tragic
experiences which was strangely virginal."

One quick movement was made by Margaret Pettifer. The truth of her
husband's description was a revelation, so exact it was. Therein lay
Stella Ballantyne's charm, and her power to create champions and friends.
Her history was known to you, the miseries of her marriage, the suspicion
of crime. You expected a woman of adventures and lo! there stood before
you one with "something virginal" in her appearance and her manner, which
made its soft and irresistible appeal.

"I recognise that feeling of mine," Pettifer resumed, "and I try to put
it aside. And putting it aside I ask myself and you, Margaret, this:
Here's a woman who has been through a pretty bad time, who has been
unhappy, who has stood in the dock, who has been acquitted. Is it quite
fair that when at last she has floated into a haven of peace two private
people like Hazlewood and myself should take it upon ourselves to review
the verdict and perhaps reverse it?"

"But there's Dick, Robert," cried Mrs. Pettifer. "There's Dick. Surely
he's our first thought."

"Yes, there's Dick," Mr. Pettifer repeated. "And Dick's my second point.
You are all worrying about Dick from the social point of view--the
external point of view. Well, we have got to take that into our
consideration. But we are bound to look at him, the man, as well. Don't
forget that, Margaret! Well, I find the two points of view identical. But
our neighbours won't. Will you?"

Mrs. Pettifer was baffled.

"I don't understand," she said.

"I'll explain. From the social standpoint what's really important as
regards Dick? That he should go out to dinner? No. That he should have
children? Yes!"

And here Mrs. Pettifer interposed again.

"But they must be the right children," she exclaimed. "Better that he
should have none than that he should have children--"

"With an hereditary taint," Pettifer agreed. "Admitted, Margaret. If we
come to the conclusion that Stella Ballantyne did what she was accused of
doing we, in spite of all the verdicts in the world, are bound to resist
this marriage. I grant it. Because of that conviction I dismiss the plea
that we are unfair to the woman in reviewing the trial. There are wider,
greater considerations."

These were the first words of comfort which Mrs. Pettifer had heard since
her husband began to expound. She received them with enthusiasm.

"I am so glad to hear that."

"Yes, Margaret," Pettifer retorted drily. "But please ask yourself
this question: (it is where, to my thinking, the social and the
personal elements join) if this marriage is broken off, is Dick likely
to marry at all?"

"Why not?" asked Margaret.

"He is thirty-four. He has had, no doubt, many opportunities of
marriage. He must have had. He is good-looking, well off and a good
fellow. This is the first time he has wanted to marry. If he is
disappointed here will he try again?"

Mrs. Pettifer laughed, moved by the remarkable depreciation of her own
sex which women of her type so often have. It was for man to throw the
handkerchief. Not a doubt but there would be a rush to pick it up!

"Widowers who have been devoted to their wives marry again," she argued.

"A point for me, Margaret!" returned Pettifer. "Widowers--yes. They miss
so much--the habit of a house with a woman its mistress, the
companionship, the order, oh, a thousand small but important things. But
a man who has remained a bachelor until he's thirty-four--that's a
different case. If he sets his heart at that age, seriously, for the
first time on a woman and does not get her, that's the kind of man who,
my experience suggests to me--I put it plainly, Margaret--will take one
or more mistresses to himself but no wife."

Mrs. Pettifer deferred to the worldly knowledge of her husband but she
clung to her one clear argument.

"Nothing could be worse," she said frankly, "than that he should marry a
guilty woman."

"Granted, Margaret," replied Mr. Pettifer imperturbably. "Only suppose
that she's not guilty. There are you and I, rich people, and no one to
leave our money to--no one to carry on your name--no one we care a rap
about to benefit by my work and your brother's fortune--no one of the
family to hand over Little Beeding to."

Both of them were silent after he had spoken. He had touched upon their
one great sorrow. Margaret herself had her roots deep in the soil of
Little Beeding. It was hateful to her that the treasured house should
ever pass to strangers, as it would do if this the last branch of the
family failed.

"But Stella Ballantyne was married for seven years," she said at last,
"and there were no children."

"No, that's true," replied Pettifer. "But it does not follow that with a
second marriage there will be none. It's a chance, I know, but--" and
he got up from his chair. "I do honestly believe that it's the only
chance you and I will have, Margaret, of dying with the knowledge that
our lives have not been altogether vain. We've lighted our little torch.
Yes, and it burns merrily enough, but what's the use unless at the
appointed mile-stone there's another of us to take it and carry it on?"

He stood looking down at his wife with a wistful and serious look
upon his face.

"Dick's past the age of calf-love. We can't expect him to tumble from one
passion to another; and he's not easily moved. Therefore I hope very
sincerely that these reports which I am now going to read will enable me
to go boldly to Harold Hazlewood and say: 'Stella Ballantyne is as
guiltless of this crime as you or I.'"

Mr. Pettifer took up the big envelope which he had placed on the table
beside him and carried it away to his study.



On the Saturday morning Mr. Hazlewood drove over early to Great Beeding.
His impatience had so grown during the last few days that his very sleep
was broken at night and in the daytime he could not keep still. The news
of Dick's engagement to Stella Ballantyne was now known throughout the
countryside and the blame for it was laid upon Harold Hazlewood's
shoulders. For blame was the general note, blame and chagrin. A few bold
and kindly spirits went at once to see Stella; a good many more seriously
and at great length debated over their tea-tables whether they should
call after the marriage. But on the whole the verdict was an indignant
No. Disgrace was being brought upon the neighbourhood. Little Beeding
would be impossible. Dick Hazlewood only laughed at the constraint of his
acquaintances, and when three of them crossed the road hurriedly in Great
Beeding to avoid Stella and himself he said good-humouredly:

"They are like an ill-trained company of bad soldiers. Let one of them
break from the ranks and they'll all stream away so as not to be left
behind. You'll see, Stella. One of them will come and the rest will
tumble over one another to get into your drawing-room."

How much he believed of what he said Stella did not inquire. She had a
gift of silence. She just walked a little nearer to him and smiled, lest
any should think she had noticed the slight. The one man, in a word, who
showed signs of wear and tear was Mr. Hazlewood himself. So keen was his
distress that he had no fear of his sister's sarcasms.

"I--think of it!" he exclaimed in a piteous bewilderment, "actually I
have become sensitive to public opinion," and Mrs. Pettifer forbore from
the comments which she very much longed to make. She was in the study
when Harold Hazlewood was shown in, and Pettifer had bidden her to stay.

"Margaret knows that I have been reading these reports," he said. "Sit
down, Hazlewood, and I'll tell you what I think."

Mr. Hazlewood took a seat facing the garden with its old red brick wall,
on which a purple clematis was growing.

"You have formed an opinion then, Robert?"


"What is it?" he asked eagerly.

Robert Pettifer clapped the palm of his hand down upon the cuttings from
the newspapers which lay before him on his desk.

"This--no other verdict could possibly have been given by the jury. On
the evidence produced at the trial in Bombay Mrs. Ballantyne was properly
and inevitably acquitted."

"Robert!" exclaimed his wife. She too had been hoping for the contrary
opinion. As for Hazlewood himself the sunlight seemed to die off that
garden. He drew his hand across his forehead. He half rose to go when
again Robert Pettifer spoke.

"And yet," he said slowly, "I am not satisfied."

Harold Hazlewood sat down again. Mrs. Pettifer drew a breath of relief.

"The chief witness for the defence, the witness whose evidence made the
acquittal certain, was a man I know--a barrister called Thresk."

"Yes," interrupted Hazlewood. "I have been puzzled about that man ever
since you mentioned him before. His name I am somehow familiar with."

"I'll explain that to you in a minute," said Pettifer, and his wife
leaned forward suddenly in her chair. She did not interrupt but she sat
with a look of keen expectancy upon her face. She did not know whither
Pettifer was leading them but she was now sure that it was to some
carefully pondered goal.

"I have more than once briefed Thresk myself. He's a man of the highest
reputation at the Bar, straightforward, honest; he enjoys a great
practice, he is in Parliament with a great future in Parliament. In a
word he is a man with everything to lose if he lied as a witness in a
trial. And yet--I am not satisfied."

Mr. Pettifer's voice sank to a low murmur. He sat at his desk staring out
in front of him through the window.

"Why?" asked Hazlewood. But Pettifer did not answer him. He seemed not to
hear the question. He went on in the low quiet voice he had used before,
rather like one talking to himself than to a companion.

"I should very much like to put a question or two to Mr. Thresk."

"Then why don't you?" exclaimed Mrs. Pettifer. "You know him."

"Yes." Mr. Hazlewood eagerly seconded his sister. "Since you know him you
are the very man."

Pettifer shook his head.

"It would be an impertinence. For although I look upon Dick as a son I am
not his father. You are, Hazlewood, you are. He wouldn't answer me."

"Would he answer me?" asked Hazlewood. "I don't know him at all. I can't
go to him and ask if he told the truth."

"No, no, you can't do that," Pettifer answered, "nor do I mean you to. I
want to put my questions myself in my own way and I thought that you
might get him down to Little Beeding."

"But I have no excuse," cried Hazlewood, and Mrs. Pettifer at last
understood the plan which was in her husband's mind, which had
been growing to completion since the night when he had dined at
Little Beeding.

"Yes, you have an excuse," she cried, and Pettifer explained what it was.

"You collect miniatures. Some time ago you bought one of Marie Antoinette
at Lord Mirliton's sale. You asked a question as to its authenticity in
_Notes and Queries_. It was answered--"

Mr. Hazlewood broke in excitedly:

"By a man called Thresk. That is why the name was familiar to me. But I
could not remember." He turned upon his sister. "It is your fault,
Margaret. You took my copy of _Notes and Queries_ away with you. Dick
noticed it and told me."

"Dick!" Pettifer exclaimed in alarm. But the alarm passed. "He cannot
have guessed why."

Mrs. Pettifer was clear upon the point.

"No. I took the magazine because of a remark which Robert made to you.
Dick did not hear it. No, he cannot have guessed why."

"For it's important he should have no suspicion whatever of what I
propose that you should do, Hazlewood," Pettifer said gravely. "I propose
that we should take a lesson from the legal processes of another country.
It may work, it may not, but to my mind it is our only chance."

"Let me hear!" said Hazlewood.

"Thresk is an authority on old silver and miniatures. He has a valuable
collection himself. His advice is sought by people in the trade. You know
what collectors are. Get him down to see your collection. It wouldn't be
the first time that you have invited a stranger to pass a night in your
house for that purpose, would it?"


"And the invitation has often been accepted?"


"We must hope that it will be this time. Get Thresk down to Little
Beeding upon that excuse. Then confront him unexpectedly with Mrs.
Ballantyne. And let me be there."

Such was the plan which Pettifer suggested. A period of silence followed
upon his words. Even Mr. Hazlewood, in the extremity of his distress,
recoiled from it.

"It would look like a trap."

Mr. Pettifer thumped his table impatiently.

"Let's be frank, for Heaven's sake. It wouldn't merely look like a trap,

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