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THE THIRD VOLUME. BY FERGUS HUME, Author of The Mystery of a Hansom CaV," The Lone Inn," 44 The Chinese Jar," &c. [ALL BIGHTS RESERVED. 3 CHAPTER XL, Face to Face. ^he conversation between Taib and Captain sarcher was not finished until evening, as the old gentleman, worn out by the excitement of the Say, early retired to bed. However, he declared that he would be shortly ready to journey to London and Claude left the Cottage with Tait TO the understanding that his father was to be tailed for next day. Before they parted for the Bight Claude made a remark about Hilliston. I hope he won't get wind of this," he said dubiously "or he may get Mrs Bezel—Ioan'tcall tier mother-out of the way." Have no fear," replied Tait, calmly. Hillis- ion's hands are too full at present." What do you mean ?" Why," said Tait, lighting his candle; 44 your lather showed me a letter from Hilliston, Apologising for not coming over as his wife was tying dangerously ill at the Connaught Hotel at Eastbourne." He said something of that in his note to me. What is the matter with Mrs Hilliston y" She has the smallpox." The smallpox 2" echoed Claude, in a tone of Ikorror poor creature, she is a dead woman I don't know so much about that. She may Recover." She may recover from the disease," said the ronng man, gloomily but not from the blow to ner vanity. Many a time has she told me that if he lost her looks she would kill herself. You toark my words, Tait, within the week we will llear of her death." And with these prophetic words Claude retired to his room. Tait had no time to think of this conversation, being occupied with anticipation regarding the Meeting of Captain Larcher and his wife but it to happened that Claude's prognostications Occurred to him when the truth of the Horriston tragedy was discovered, and that was not long afterwards. Perhaps like the young men, Fate lierself grew weary of an affair which had dragged an for 25 years. At all events, she brought matters to a conclusion with almost inconceivable rapidity. They jowrned to London together. The first step towards the end was the meeting £ f husband and wife, which took place at Clarence Dottage, Hampstead, during the afternoon of the Hext day. In oompany with his son and Tait, the eld gentleman drove to the railway station, some three miles distant, and took the up express. When established oomfortably in a first-class smoking carriage- for Captain Larcher was fond of a pipe—he resumed the conversation with Tait Which had been broken off on the previous night. This time the subject was Hilliston and his doings. I have been thinking over your suspicions re- cording Hilliston," he said, addressing himself (Bore directly to Tait, and I confess that it is difficult to reconcile some of his actions with your view that he is guilty. Claude, as you know, was ignorant of the Horriston tragedy until en- lightened by Hilliston." I know that, my dear sir," said Tait, quietly. Hilliston certainly placed the papers containing the account of the matter in Claude's hands, but; we was forced to do so by the action of Mrs Bezel -1 beg pardon, Mrs Larcher." Continue to call her Mrs Bezel, if you please, I prefer it so. How did she force Hilliston to con* We in Claude?" Because she read the book, A Whim of Fate,' and seeing the tragedy therein described, she IIIrrote asking Claude to see her with the intention of tolling him all. As you may guess, her story differs materially from that of Hilliston's, so of two evils, choosing the least,'hede»ermined to fore- stall her and inform Claude of the matter." And he did so by means of the Press," said Claude, eagerly, in place of telling me the story himself he allowed me to gather what information I could from the scanty report of the Canterbury Observer. My dear father, the Genesis of the Whole matter springs from 'the finding of those £ tpocs by Jenny. Had she not read them and told in ton the story he would not have written the book bad he not done so Mrs Bezel would not have determined to toll me her version and bat for her threat to do so Hilliston would not have produced the papers." Humph The action was compulsory on the part of Hilliston." "I think so, sir," said Taitt. complacently, "there- fore it is quite in keeping with his usual char&oter. flFhe rat did nob fight till it was driven into a to or." It is not in the corner," remarked Captain Larcher, significantly, but we'll drive it there and see if it will face our accusation. But what *jbont Hilliston's introduction of Claude to me ? Would it not have been to his interest to keep us »part ?' aparll t" Oh I" said Tait, with some contempt for Hilliston's diplomacy, that was another case of necessity. He knew that Claude and I were bent OB discovering the truth, so, fearing that we should do so by further investigation, he thought to stop the whole matter by bringing you face to face with your son." 441 don't see how that would accomplish his aim. Hilliston hoped it would do so in two ways," explained Tait, glibly. First he hoped that you would give your consent to Claude marrying Jenny, and so lead his mind away from the case, aDd s'eoond he trusted that when Claude found you aliffc he would no longer desire to pursue the investigation." U He was right so far," said Claude, seriously. It that was Hilliston's calculation, he made one great mistake," said Captain Laroher scorn- fully. He did not think that I should wish to ■ee my wife." "He must have been satisfied that Claude Would tell you she was alive." 44 That, of course. Bab he thought I would Btay at Thorston as Ferdinand Paynton, and be afraid to admit my identity even to my wife. 1 might have done so but for Claude. But I owe it 110 him to clear myself, and this meeting with my wife will be the first step towards doing 150. Between us we may solve the mystery." 44 It is none, so far as I am concerned," said Tait, grimly. I am as sure as I am sitting here that Hilliston murdered Jeringham. The gardener was just too late to see him do the deed." But his motive ? asked Claude curiously. His father and Tait stole a glance at one %bother. They neither of them wished to make any remarks about Mrs Laroher and Hilliston's passion, preferring that Claude should be ignorant of that episode. Still, when he asked so direob a question it was difficult to avoid a direct answer, but Larcher gave him one which was sufficiently evasive to stop further inquiries. 44 We must try and find out his motive," he said quietly. 44 Depend upon it, Claude, there is a good deal of underhand work in this of which we know nothing." Do you think Mona committed the crime?" No, I do not. In no way could she have gained possession of the dagger with which it was committed." a My mother says she had the dagger in the Sitting-room." "That is a mistake," said Captain Larcher, using as delicate a word as he could think of. "She threatened me with the sheath of the dagger, and no doubt, being agitated at the time, she thought it was the weapon itself. But I noticed when she entered the room that the sheath was empty. Her story to th« police at the time of the trial is more likely. She lost it in the ballroom. The question ie, who picked it up t Judging from the knowledge I now have of his character, I believe it was Hilliston who did so." Or Jeringham," said Tait, suddenly. Impossible How could Jeringham have found it ? p He was with Mrs Larcher all the evening, and may have seen the dagger fall. Or again, he may have taken it out of its sheath to ex- amine it and have forgotten to return it. It is not improbable that in such a case he might have recollected it when he was in the garden, md offered it to Mona to return to her mistress." Ob said Claude with contempt, 44 and on that slight ground you suppose that Mona killed h i ru. 44 It is not beyond the bounds of probability." "Nonsense!" said Captain Larcher. angrily. I don't believe it. Mona was a good girl, r foully deceived by Jeringham. She fled from tbo house to hide her disgrace, thinking my wife would tell her brother. Hilliston afterwards met her in London, where she died in giving birth to Jenny." 44 Then it was Hilliston who brought Jenny to you Yes. Because her uncle Denid was in my tervioe. I adopted Jenny, but told her that she was the child of a Mr Kennedy and Mona Bantry. She believed hor father and mothor Wwre married, so do not disturb that view of the sase." 44 Certainly not," said Tait emphatically, "it would be cruel to do so. But here we are at Victoria. After seeing Mrs Bezel at Hampatoad we can resume our conversation." "If we do it will bn frem a different stand- point, I fancy," said Larcher significantly, as the train stopped. Tait's brougham was waiting for them at the station, and in this they drov* up to H amps toad, Leaving it in Fitz John's Aveuuo they walk»d down Hunt Lane to Clarence Cotuig>. Mrs Bezal occupied her usual seat in thr window, and caught sight of Claude as he preceded his father and Tait up the path. A terrified expression crossed her face, but sh6 made no motion to for- bid their entrance. Yet a sense of coming evil strode at her heart, and it nded all her self- oontrol to prevent herself from fainting when jiBMt war* ihotra into the room. < 44 My dear mother," said Claude, kissing her, you musi be prepared for unexpected news. I beg of you to control yourself, for- He stopped short in astonishment. Mrs Bezel was looking at Captain Larcher with a be- wildered air, and he gazed at her face with an expression of amazement. She shrank back as he crossed the room with rapidity and bent over her. 44 Mona Bantry," he cried, is it possible that you still live 1" CHAPTER XLI, An Explanation. On hearing his father's exclamation Claude turned round with a look of supreme astonish- ment. He could not understand the meaning of that sudden exclamation. Father, you do not understand. This is your wife—my mother." m 44 Is it, indeed ?" sneered Captain Larcher, who had recovered from his momentary emotion. "Nothing of the sort, sir. This woman is Mona Bantry, who was my wife's maid." 4'Are you sure?" cried Tait, who was be- ginning to be bewildered by these successive revelations. "Sure, sir as sure as I am of my own inno- cence. As sure as I am George Laroher, this is the sister of Denis Bantry, who-" 44 Denis The interruption came from Mrs Bezel. She had sat dumbfounded at the unex- pected appearance of the man whom she had thought dead, and she had said nothing while assertion and denial were going on, but the men- tion of her brother's name stirred her dormant faculties, and she sat up looking wildly around. Denis she cried, in a terrified tone. Is Denis here?" "Denis is down at Horriston," said Captain Larcher, gruffly, Ie as you no doubt knew well enough." I swear I did not. Francis told me Denis was in America." "Francis?" exclaimed Claude, forgetting to whom the name belonged. "Francis Hilliston." Ah said Captain Larcher, with a disdainful look round. "I might have guessed as much. Off with the dead love, on with .ving. You have amended the proverb." I did not know Mark was dead, sir," ex. claimed Mrs Bezel, passionately. Francis said that he had gone to America with Denis. I thought he had done so to escape the conse- quences of his crime, but——" Of his crime cried Claude. He was the victim, poor sonl, not the murderer. It was Jeringham who was killed, not my father." Your father," said Mrs Bezel, looking steadily at Captain Larcher. "Yes; it is my old master. So you are alive and he is dead. Why did you kill him, sir 2" «• I did not kill him," replied the Captain quietly and as a counter question may I ask why you passed yourself off to Claude as my wife ?" Mrs Bezel burst into a wild laugh, and clapped her hands together. Then she covered her face and commenced to weep but in a few moments the fit of hysterics passed away, and she became cool and composed. Thrown off her balance for the time being, she bad now gathered her wits to- gether, and was ready to fight. Her folly and impulse had brought about this oatastrophe.and it was her duty to set it right again-if she could. But the upshot of the matter was extremely doubtful. On his part Captain Laroher was relieved to find that Mrs Bezel proved to be Mona Bantry instead of his wife. Ever since the communica- tion made by Claude, he had suffered agonies at the thought that bis wife had been living all these years under the protection of his false friend. Now that fear was set at rest one and for ever. Julia Larcber had really died. as Hilliston had asserted, and the woman in Clarence Cottage, who had taken her name, was the maid in place of the mistress. Out of all the trouble Larcher extracted this morsel of comfort, his honour was unstained. Meanwhile the three visitors sat waiting to hear what Mrs Bezel had to say. She saw that they ex- pected a confession, and resolved to disappoint them. Leaning backward amongher cushions, she olose her eyes, and played a waiting game. It proved successful, for in two minutes or there- abouts Captain Larcher broke out. His temper was none of the best, and recent events had not tended to improve it. Well, madam," he said, sharply, rapping his stick on the ground, I am waiting to hear what you have to say." "I have nothing to say," said Mrs Bezel quietly. 44 Oh yes, yon have," began Tait. As you set the ball- But at this moment he was in- terrupted by Larcher. 441 beg your pardon, Mr Tait, but I will ques- tion this woman myself. Pray do not speak, nor you, Claude, till I have done." Both young men bewed their heads and acuuiesced in silence. After all the Captain was the proper person to examine Mona Bantry. He knew more of the case than anyone else, and conversant as he was with the events of that fatal night, he would know whether she spoke truly 01 falsely. Mrs Bezel looked uneasy on hearing his resolution, but only compressed her lips tighter as though resolved to let nothing escape her. But he was a match for her in obstinacy. 4* Now then," said Larcher, turning to her, 44 relate your history from the moment you left me alone with my wife twenty-five years ago at 4 The Laurels. 44 It would not help you if I did." 44 I'm not so sure of that. But I understand. You are afraid of incriminating yourself." II I 1" exclaimed Mrs Bezel indignantly. What have I to do with the matter. I know nothing of it. I left the house then and there, and only heard of the tragedy while I was concealed at Horriston, more than a week afterwards." Why did you state to my son that Mrs Laroher threatened me with the dagger ?" 4* So she did," said Mrs Bezel coolly. I saw her hand raised, I saw the dagger in it." 44 You saw the sheath of the dagger you mean,' retorted Larcher, it fell on the floor, and was found there next day. But the weapon with which the crime was committed was lost by my wife at the ball." It may have been," said the woman, in. differently. I don't know anything about it. Did not Jeringham show it to you when you joined him in the garden ?" 441 tell you I did not see him on that night. When you found out my secret, I was afraid that you and the mistress would betray it to my brother Denis, so I left the room and fled. I thought Jeringham would join me at Horriston next day, but then I heard of your supposed death, and that he had fled. Until this hour I did not know that it was the other way round. Did not Hilliston tell you ? He knew. No, Captain Larcher, he did not, said Mrs Bazil, emphatically. "He said that Jeringham bad gone to America with my brother." Where did you go after leaving Horriston ? 441 came to London, and remained there till my baby was born." "And then?" 441 found that my money had come to an end, and called at Mr Hilliston s office to ask him to help me." 44 What right bad you to expect help from him. 441 had no right, but that I knew he would assist me because of his love." 44 His love exclaimed Larcher, sharply. Did Hilliston Jove yotvv, 6 6 Yes; I refused to have anything to do with him on account of Jeringham. But he did love me. Oh, yes, I know you thouglib he was in love with your wife, but such was not the case. He loved me, and me only." Laroher drew a long breath, and looked puzzled. He was relieved to find that he had not been mistaken in Hilliston after all, yet the assertion of Mrs Bezel only seemed to further complicate the case. If Hilliston did not love Mrs Laroher, what possible motive could he have to kill Jeringham ? The looks of Claude and Tait reflected his perplexity; but dismissing this special point for the moment, ha pursued his examination. How did Hilliston receive you ¥' Mrs Bezel looked around with a bitter smile. Her meaning was clear from the contemptuous expression on her face. I Can you not guess from what you see here ?" she said quietly. Francis Hilliston bought me. He loved me well enough, but not sufficiently to marry me. He did not ruin me, for J was already ruined. I accepted his offer to come here and te his mistress. What else could I do ? I was alone in London. I was friendless. I believed that my lover and my brother had fled to America. I could not return to Horriston lest I might be involved in the tragedy at 'The Laurels.' I did what any other woman would have done, and made the best of a bad business. I accepted the love and protection of Francis Hilliston. The protection still continues, as you see-the love that is dead and done with." I see you are thinking of Louisa Sinclair," interposed Tait, quietly. At those words she fainted. What do you know of Louisa Sinclair ? asked Mis Bezel, with a violent start. 44 Everything, thanks to you," answered Tait. Your letter put the clne into my head. I went to Hurriston I saw a portrait of Miss Sinclair. I know that she went to America after the tragedy, and returned as 1r Devrick, rich and beautiful, to marry HiPiston. Ali, yon know that much. Yes Louisa Sinclair is iny rival Ten years ago she came hack tu England and wanted I'Vancis to marry her, I fell ill, I became paralysed. He forgot me, he forgot my love, and she became his wife. Oh, how I hate her. I hatn him. It was on that account that I wrote to you, Claude, to reveal all." 44 You th-n acted out of revenge ? 44 Yes, I did said Mrs Bezel, sullenly, Lookat me a wreol^, look at hor bis wife, rich, and handsome, and healthy," < Not healthy, poor soul," said Claude, She is ill with the small-pox." With the small-pox," echoed Mrs Bezel, joy. fully. 44 I'm glad of it. I'm glad of it. Her beauty will depart, as mine as done. Then Francis may come back to me." You love him still ?" asked Captain Larcher, in wonderment. Too well to ruin him. You want me to accuse him of the crime, but I tell you he is innocent— he knows nothing." 44 He was in the garden alone on that night. None other but he-" 41 He was not alone," cried Mrs Bezel, sharply. Louisa Sinclair was with him. Yes, she followed him from the ball because she was jealous of me. In my flight I passed her at the gate. She had a cloak over her dress, but I saw that it was the costume of Mary, Queen of Scots." 44 And you knew her by that ?" Partly. My mistress told me that Miss Sinclair had a similar costume to her own, for she was very angry about it. But I saw her face as I fled. She may know who killed Jering- ham. I do not. Hilliston does not. Now I have told you all. Go away and leave me. I speak no more." 44 First tpIlus why you declared yourself to be my mother?" said Claude, sharply. 44 For safety. I regretted that I had told you— that I had forced Hilliston into defending himself. I was afraid lest you should learn too much and denounce me as the criminal. So long as you thought I was your mother you would not dare to do so. and therefore I told you I was Mrs Larcher." One last word," said Captain Larcher, rising to his feet. Your child. What became of it 1" 41 Hilliston took it away," said Mrs Bezel, in a melancholy tone. I was In at the time and he overcame my scruples. I don't know where my child is. Often and often have I wanted to see her again, but Francis has always refused. Oh where can she be ?" 41 I can tell you." 44 You I" cried Mrs Bezel, starting up in amaze- ment. Yes. Your daughter Jenny was brought by Hilliston to me. I adopted her as my child, and she is now at Horriston with her uncle Denis— your brother." Mrs Bezel tried to speak, but could not. With a wild glance around she heaved a long sigh and fainted. The joy of hearing that her ohild was alive proved too much for her enfeebled frame. To be continued.






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