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r Q (,AL-L" L RIGHTS RESERVED. ] Y t IN SPITE OF EVIDENCE ? A  ? V $ ULLIAS CAMPBELL DAVIDSON$ T Author of "The Missing Finger," "Tempted," &c. g ?????o??€H?<?o<?eH??H3??e??<?D<?e??<?o<?eH?? SYNOPSIS. GERALD VANS, with a letter of introduction, goes to dine with Mr. Harcourti He is interested in jade, of which his ho-t has a wonderful collection. Mr. Harcourt's daughter Celia dines with them, and afterwards leaves to go to a dtno Vane, who has recently come back to England from abroad, is much attracted by the girl, and, watching for her to cr JSS ,the hall to the door, he sees a maid hand her a note, the reading of which seems to agitate her. He hears her say that ishe will start for the dance now, although the maid says the cab has come too early. While examining the valuable jane ornaments with his host Vane fancies he sees a face at the window. Later on Mr. Harcourt goes to another part of the house to fet ch some documents. He does not return, and aft er "waiting some time Harcourt goes in search of him. He finds him in the study dead. He has been shot A small pistol lies close by and Vane sees also a small white object, which he picks up from the floor before the servants come in. The police and the doctor arrive, and presently Cdia returns from her dance. The doctor breaks the news to her. and after the first shock of grief is over she declares that her father must have killed himself. Vane is disturbed at seeing in her eyes the look he had seen earlier that night, when the letter had been handed to her before she went to the dance. Is it fear—horror ? He cannot decide. He returns to his hotel. and in his room takes from his pocket the white object he had picked up near Mr. Harcourt's body. It is Celia s handkcr chief. How had it come where he found it ? And how was st., if Mr. Harcourt had committed suicide, that the pistol was so far from the body ? These are questions he cannot answer. He does not mention his doubts at the inquest, and the jury return a verdict of suicide. The leading of the will shows tiiat the valuable collection of jade has bepn left to a musi tilll, while Celia is left almost penni ess. lie is already in love with her, and has more money than he want. Can he win her Jove I he wonders. CHAPTER VII. I THE CALL. I Monday afternoon found him at the gate "?'ith the laurel hedge inside. He was con- scious of a slight feeling of nervousness as btrang the bell, and waited for the maid 'o open the door to him. He stood and waited for what seemed an eternity, till the Jock of the door clicked, and it opened before him into the square hall. Miss Harcourt was in, yes. The parlour- maid didn't know if she would see anybody. Would she inquire? Oh, yes, and she -moved aside to let Vane into the hall. He -was left there, asking himself if his call had been a blatant intrusion, a piece of tactless, iil-timed blundering. In a minute or two the maid came back to him. Miss Harcourt would be very pleased to see him. That was encouraging, any- how. He followed after the black frock and aiiowy cap and apron to the door of a little room at the back of the hall where he had never been before. It was a girl's room, dedicated to a girl's use, one could see at the first glance. A little room, all pink paper and bright chintzes, books and work- baskets and dainty pictures. A cosy little fire burned, on the hearth. By it sat two ladies. One was stout and kindly- faced, with a lace cap on, and a great heap -of fluffy knitting in her broad lap. Celia :-at with her hands clasped together on the lap of her black frock. She was staring into the red coals of the fire, with a weary kind of droop in face and figure. It struck Vane at once with compassion, and the pity ,deepened as he shook hands with her. All the- sparkle and the life had gone out of her ch arming face. She looked' frail and white and lifeless, somehow. The shock of that dreadful night a week ago was begin- ning, of course, to make itself felt. She shook hands, and sank down again on the low chair by the fire. He drew up another -chair near to her. The doctor's mother õowed in return for Celia's introduction, and went on with her knitting. It took Vane aback. He had not expected to find a third person there. He had looked to have a talk with Celia without the draw- hack of a stranger's ear. However, there was no abolishing her. One had to make the best of it. He began with the usual 'topic of the change in the weather, hoped she was not feeling the chill after the lon g, hot summer; asked after the welfare of the flower-beds. Such banalities! How was one ever to get to know a girl better, or to „ make her think of one kindly, when those were the most intimate things cae might say? Yet how say more, when a large, pleasant-faced chaperon sat and knitted away at coarse drab wool as if she did it for her bread and butter, while eves and ears were smilingly open? Celia answered him quietly. By and by, as they talked, a Jittle colour stole into her round, pale cheek. It made her lovelier than ever, against the background of that deep, .sombre frock. He guarded himself from any approach to t.3 subject that might remind her of what vas insistently present in both their minds. It couldn't help being painful to her to see him for the first time after that dreadful evening. So after he had talked and talked, waiting for her slow, sorrowful responses, lie got up to go. "I wanted to see how you were, and it -there was i anything I could do for you," he said, holding her hand for a minute and looking down into the clear eyes raised to his. "Is there anything? Please let me vl:now." But before she could answer the doctor's another spoke briskly from across the fire- place. "Thank you. I'm sure Miss Harcourt's very much obliged to you. But if there's anything to do my son attends to ] it." "Oh, oh!" thought Vane. "So she's the son's advocate! I suppose she doesn't know what he said to me!" Celia hurried her answer out then, with a deepening of the pink in her cheek and a little sudden dignity. "It's so good of you. So kind I'm more than grateful. If there's anything, may I "let you know?" "You know you've only to command me." Warmth lent his tone a sudden depth, and lie pressed the hand he held. "May I come again and see you?" And perhaps the readiness of her, Y ffi, please do," owed more of its emphasis to the interference of the doctor's mother than .Cplia would have acknowledged even to her- self. He did call again. This time fortune favoured him. Celia was alone. He arrived just at tea time. Her chaperon had gone down into the town to see her son, and would not be back till dinner. She poured "tea out for him from the little Dresden service, and he took up the muffin dish from the grate, and held it for her. It was inti- mate, friendly, pleasant. He roused himself then to entertain her. He told her stories of his wanderings, de- scribed foreign countries to her, spoke of books and the pictures round the walls of her little morning room, took her thoughts >quite away from herself. "How much you have seen and travelled," she said with interest. "Tell me more, if .you don't mind, it is so fascinating. It's like a fairy tale somehow." "You haven't been about much?" I was born abroad, I think. But-I came—was sent back to England early-and I went to school. My mother died. When my-,ny father came back and settled down here I came to keep house for him. So you see it is all new to me, and I love to hear •about, it. I should think it is the most delightful thing in the world to travel and I wander, isn't it?" "? ? up to a certain point. I thought, .111 a coup]e of years ago, I wouldn't ask  fny other life. You see, I hadn't a liolu I can remember—and I went out OQ_h India ?" from there I somehow ;f'f ™andering grows on you. It isn't alwavs wholesome, after all. I've come to the time of life when one's own roof and one's own fireside seem about the best places the world can offer one. "He held his breath for a second, after he had said that. Would she understand what he was leading toT "And you never had a home of your own? How pitiful!" Her eyes widened with gentle sympathy as she looked into his own. It makes one all the hungrier for a "home of one's own now." His voice shook a little, and suddenly, quite suddenly and unexpectedly he found himself beginning the very thing lie had sworn to avoid. Be let his gaze into her eyes hold t hem, rivet them. He leant forward and laid his tea- cup empty on the tray.. It makes one want it now, now, without -waiting, when one has seen at last the "v-oman——" and as the words left his lips, the door behind him opened, and a voice addressed them cheerfully. "What, haven't you finished tea yet? I gave Hector his before I started to coma back. Oh. Mr. Van-e-that's you!" with a « sudden change of voice to chilliness. If How do you do?" Yane pushed his chair back, rose, shook hands with her, but his brow was dark. He could not for the life of him have welcomed her with beaming pleasure. He stole a furtive glance at Celia. Had she understood ?—would she read into his unfinished sentence all that he had meant to say? If so, she had wonderful control over herself. She was speaking to her guest with complete calmness. No flutter, no stir of embarrassment betrayed that she had been listening to what in another minute would have been a declaration. And so he had to take his leave presently, as if his call had been the most common- place one in the world. CHAPTER VIII. I THE QUESTION. I As he walked away down the long road towards the gleaming lights of the market place, Vane went over the last quarter of an hour with something that was not un- mixed disappointment. After all, perhaps the stars in their courses had fought for him. It might have been too soon, he might have ruined all his chances, by having finished that sentence of his. Her eyes as they met his had been serene, untroubled. Not so, surely, did a woman meet the eyes of her lover, when h. made his eager declaration. If she had cared, cared even the least little bit, wouldn't she have shown it, understood, faltered a little? He consoled himself. The arrival of the doctor's mother, however in- opportune, perhaps had been by the direct intervention of heaven, to save him from the punishment of the over-rash fool. He called twice after that. One after- noon he had the good fortune to find Celia in the garden, pacing the paths where the flying red and russet leaves were making a carpet. She had not been outside the gates vet. She shrank from the notice she was sure to meet, so soon after the tragedy of her father's death. Until the short memory of the morbid public had been a little for- gotten, she would not go where people could point and whisper, and call each other's atterition. He turned and walked by her side, up and down, up and down the shrubbery paths. They made quite a long walk. twisting and twining as they did round the entire circuit cf the grounds. As they came within sight of the study window, Vane felt his involun- tary look go to it. It was somewhere out here that he had thought the lurking wit- ness to their talk had hidden, where the face had flitted that he was still more and inore unable to decide on either as a mere fiction of his imagination or the face of some human being. He could recall it now, swift, elusive, indistinct-flitting like a shadow, yet undeniably conveying the im- pression that some furtive watcher spied on them. They walked together, and the very asso- ciation was pleasure to Vane. She was growing further, more securely, into his heart, and taking her settled place there. And still, still the time was so short since he had known her. He feared to venture too far and frighten her—get an answer that might end his hopes for ever. For even the most ardent lover could not buoy himself up with the flattering assurance that he had already taught her the lesson of love for himself. He must wait still. He woke next morning to find letters brought in with his shaving water. He knitted his brows slightly as he read through them. It was annoying that busi- ness should crop up just at that moment to call him away from the wooing of his lady. But it was urgent, needed his presence. He told the boots to pack his portmanteau, kept on his room with the assurance to the landlord that he would be back again before the end of a fortnight, and drove to the station. It would have been three weeks before he found his business ended if he had not learnt hustling ways in his wandering life. As it was he drove lawyers and stock- brokers nearly frantic with his worrying before he got what he wanted out of them. He did another stroke of business, as un- expected as it was agreeable. He had just finished his work with the lawyer who had charge of his affairs since his guardian's death, and was standing up to leave the office, when a telegram was handed in to the lawyer. He read it, and turned to the tele- phone. Vane had to stand and wait for a minute till the talk was done. He heard scraps of it, standing there. What he heard was enough to arrest his attention. As the lawyer put back the re- ceiver, and sat up from the writing-table, he turned on him with some animation. "Was that a property you have charge of for selling?" Old Mr. Marsham bowed his head rather stiffly. "Because, if so, I'd rather like particulars of it. I'm looking out for a place to buy and settle in now I've come home for good. A nice garden, didn't I liear I"* In point of fact, it was the garden part that had attracted his attention. It sounded just the sort ,of garden Celia would love. Old, and walled for the most part, with a stretch of open pleasure garden IR-VOVKI. He asked and was answered, aDd noted details. "Suppose you get me the first refusal of it," he said. "I'll run down and look at it presently." If Celia said no to him, if his fond hopes were to come to nothing after all, he could give up the thought of it. But if there were a chance of his getting the wife he had set his heart on, he would like to feel he could offer her such a home as would most enchant her. So it was arranged. As he came up the road towards the well- known iron gates the afternoon of his return to the provincial town he-felt startled. He had reached his hotel an hour or two ago. At the earliest possible hour for calling he was making his way where his thoughts had long outrun him. Now he started, tor before the gate stood & huge, lumbering removal van. There was trampled straw far out into the roadway. As he came nearer two men carrying a heavy case between them staggered down the drive towards the waiting van. He passed them and got to the front door. It stood open, and there was a general air of disorder over the whole place. With a sudden fear at his heart he rang and waited for the maid's coming. She looked breath- less and untidy when she made her appear- ance. Miss Harcourt was at home? Oh, yes, she thought she'd see Mr. Vane. And in another moment Vane was in the little morning-room—and oh, joy and good for- tune Celia was alone. She came to meet him. "I thought you had gone away for alto- gether He held her hand and looked down at her. "Indeed, no! I'd have come to say good- bye. I was sent for on sudden business. That was all." Was she sorry? would she liave missed him? He longe-d to ask, but his courage failed him. "I'm glad you've come back. I wouldn't have liked to go without saying good-bye to you. She said it simply, but with gentle earnestness. He felt a shock of dismay. he "You are going! But how. why?" he broke off and found speech was failing him. This he had not been prepared for. "I have to leave the house, you know. It's being let to somebody. There was a lease, but they've let me give it up. They've been very kind about it. Otherwise, I don't know what I should do. They are taking away the collection to-day. Of course the things had to go to the museum as soon as they could be packed, you know." You—you are leaving!" he was stam- mering. "You are going away from here! But where are you going? What are you going to do? She met his look sadly but with complete unconsciousness. "I don't know. Mrs. Acton and other people asked me to stay with them here, but I couldn't. I'd rather go quite away. I shall look out for something to do, most j likely. I think that will be the best way. ( He was feeling more and more stupefied. His consternation showed in his face. "But, but surely there is no need for that! Surely you won't have to work, will you? I thought, I was told, I hoped, you had enough to prevent that." He was floundering horribly. "I haven't a great deal of money," she said quietly. "There will be a great deal less than my father's lawyer thought. There- have been unfortunate investments, he says. And I shan't be able to get anything till' the estate is settled. I thought I would try- to get something to do in London, perhaps. Do you think I could get t.aken on at a museum to help arrange collections, or keep them in order? I can do that pretty well. My father showed me how. I thought I would ask you, if I saw you again. I thought you might know, because you take an interest in things like that." "You mean—you mean that you would try to get a post as under-study to the curator of a museum, or something like that?" His eves were on her soft face. 1. This girl to go out into the hard and cruel world to get her living, struggle for bread and butter! It was monstrous, preposterous. He stood staring at her, too dumbfounded to have a chance of thinking of what thia meant. "I thought so. Perhaps it was too pre- sumptuous. Perhaps I'm really not fit at all to do anything like that. You see, I don't know. I've never thought I might have to make my own living. It was silly of me. Now I've got to think of it. You know, perhaps, how women set about getting things to do? She lifted her eyes to his, those eyes so full of sadness, and softness and gentle con- fidence. Vane felt his whole heart stir within him with a rush that threatened to overwhelm him. He took her hand in his own again and held it tight. "I don't know what other girls do," he said, and his voice was hoarse suddenly. "I know what I want for you. Don't want to earn your living? Let me take care of you— provide for you. Celia, marry me, my dar- ling, and I'll see to all the rest CHAPTER IX. I THE ENGAGEMENT. I For just a moment her startled eyes looked into his. Suddenly he saw again in them that shadow of a fear. Then she tried to draw away her hands from his. "But-but you don't know me! she stammered, going pink, then white, then g oing pl pink again, in a manner that seemed to him adorable. "We have hardly seen each other half a dozen times. That't too little to know? You mightn't want me—it wouldn't be fair to you. It's like two strangers wanting to get married. You can't mean it. You shouldn't. You perhaps are only saying it because you pity me." He captured the hands again, and held them tighter, fondly. It's because I love you," he said, and at that minute she seemed dearer to him than she had ever been before. Love doesn't take a year to grow, my darling It springs up like Jack's beanstalk in a single night sometimes. I'd have waited, yes, I meant to wait, only I can't hear of your going away from here, and our being parted. Marry me—I'll take such care of you. You shan't be sorry for it, if you'll Zive yourself to me." "I don't know you much," she sighed, with her head bent low. He could not see into her eyes, but the tone in her voice sud- denly sobered his. He had been forgetting her side, in his selfish eagerness to have her for his own. "I don't really seem to know you. You are good and kind—yes, you've been so kind to me. But people who marry "U"ht to know every bit of each other, oughtn't they? oughtn't they? It always joined to me it would take years for one to know a man well enough to marry him—or for him to marry me." "I can answer for the man's part of it," he said stoutly. I feel as if I'd known you all my life, as if there hadn't been a minute when I didn't know you. You're the one woman of the whole world for me, Celia. I never cared for any girl before- not really. I suppose without knowing it I must have been just keeping my love for you. He felt her shiver suddenly. She raised her head then, and looked at him for an instant with those changing eyes. One would have said there was something almost like recoil in them. It was tbot expression that forever puzzled him when he caught it unexpectedly. "But you don't know me really," she per- sisted. You think you do-I suppose I know what you mean. I feel too as if we'd seen more of each other than we have. Somehow, we've been thrown together in a different way from ordinary people." She stopped, broke off short, again he felt her shudder. This time it was more strongly. She went on, hurrying her words a little. "But neither of us really know, do we, It's all been on the outside so far. Suppose, sup- pose you found out after—when—if I married you that I'm a different kind of girl from ^hat you think me! Suppose you'd made a mistake after all "I'm ready to face that!" he said, half laughing, half seriously. "Come, Celia—come, my little sweetheart—if it's only because we haven't known each other a year that you're keeping me on tenter-hooks, do let me off! Marry me now-it's urgent, or I wouldn't press it so. I can give you a home—take care of you—teach you to care about me when you're married to me. You say I don't know you. I swear to you that the more I know the more I shall love you—that there's nothing, nothing I could ever dis- cover about you in our life together that would change my utmost love for you." Nothing? She had edged round a little, though he still held her hands fast. Now as she looked up at him again, the long lashes that fringed her eyes seemed to cast a shade over them. How long they were, and how curling Nothing he repeated it firmly. She sighed again, was silent. He read a gentle yielding in her look. She drooped towards him slightly. It was enough for Vane. In the same second he had her in his arms, against his throbbing heart, and he was laying kisses on her lips. She did not e nor resist him. Instead she let herself go with a soft and quivering sigh. He talked to her of plans, practically, as they stood together there in the little morn- ing-room, already dismantled of some of its ornaments. That must all be stopped at once. She should not be disturbed in her home. She must stay there till they could be married. That must be as soon as it could be arranged. She would stay on there, and when they were married and had gone. away, the things she wanted to keep could be packed up and sent to her; those she wanted no longer might be sold at, auction. At first Celia listened, silent. But as Vane went on he was aware that she was not eagerly assenting, as he had expected. "What is it, dearest?" He stopped and looked down into the gentle face. "Doesn't all that suit you? Then say what you'd prefer, and it shall be done to the letter. Only tell me everything, always; don't keep anything back from me." Once more she seemed secretly to shrink "It is only- Oh, it had better all be as you want," she said diffidently. "Only— only, if I need not be married from this house I would so much rather, I think. If I could go somewhere where people didn't know — where everything wouldn't remind one-- She stopped, and he anathe- matised himself for a clumsy fool. It was like a man not to remember that this house held such hideous associations for her. "You shall be married just how and where you wish, darling. What on earth can it matter, so long as you come to me?" And then he brought his changed plan for- ward. How would it be to sell the things off at once, store the others, for her to go to a hotel and be married from there? She caught at the suggestion eagerly. That would be so much easier. Yes, she would begin to pack up just as soon as he wished. She would like some one with her at the hotel, of course Was it necessary? Well then, yes. But not Mrs. Acton, please! Mrs. Acton was the doctor's mother. Vane felt in his inner mind that there would cer- tainly be a little lack of taste in asking for the chaperflinage of Mrs. Acton under the circumstances. Then he bethought him of an elderlv spinster cousin of his own-a good soul, who had been kintf to him when he was a boy. She would come and look after his little girl for him till he could have the right to do his own looking after. He would write to her that very day and ask her. Celia agreed gently to his suggestion. That would be very nice, she felt sure. And j no one need know about the marriage, it could be kept quite quiet? It might seem that she was heartless, thinking- of wed- dings and happiness so soon—so soon after. There she stuck again. But Vane, in his delight at hearing that word "happiness fall from her unconscious lips really as if she meant it, was not likely to think of anv- thing but his satisfaction. He wrote off to his cousin Mary that night, thoroughly explaining the situation, and asking her help. She answered with enthusiasm. The romance of it appealed to her spinster sentiment. The packing up of Celia's treasures went on briskly in the dis- mantled house. The servants were given notice; there was an auction of things not precious enough for keeping down at the rooms beyond the market place. For the last few days before the was finally given up, Celia migrated to the Red Lion, where she was met by Miss Heathcote. Vane's cousin turned out to be a jerky little lady, kind and pleasant and sympa- thetic, staccato in voice and movements. She took Celia to her heart immediately. Celia liked her. The shock of t h(- tragedy had left the girl still languid and inert and listless. It seemed as if it were hard for her to take up life again. Vane recognised that. He would not 11 have her worried or hurried or disturbed in any way. even over her preparations for her future- life. Cousin Mary held up both hands in horror when she heard there was to be no trousseau. Vane would not let Celia bother over ordering things. They would go straight to Paris, and he had always under- stood that a woman could buy anything she needed there. (To be Continued.)










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