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<J-0-0-0-0-<><H>OD<>0-<>-0-0-0-0-0-0~0~0-0-0-0-0~0-0-Q C) [Axii RIGHTS RESERVED.] ,L $IN SPITE OF EVIDENCE 6 L LILLl AS CAMPBELL DAVIDSON 9 Y Author of "The Missing Finger," "Tempted," &c. X ?AAuutthhoor r of ll TThh. e MMiissssiin ng g FFiinnggerr, TTeemmpptteed," &c. SYNOPSIS. -oes to dine WILU 'GERALD VAn. with a letter of introduction, goes diaewiui Mr. Harcourt. He is interested in jade, of which his boat has a wonderful collection. Mr. Harcourt's daughter Celia dines with them, and afterwards leaves to go to a dance. Vane, who has recently come back to Kngland from abroad, is much attracted by the girl, and, watching for her to cross the hall to the door, lie sees a maid hand her a note, the wading of which seems to ag itate her. He hears her sLv that she will start for the dance now, although the maid says the cab has come too early, While examining the valuable jade ornaments with his host Vane fancies he sees a face at the wiucloiv. Later on Mr. Hu-rcourt goes to another part ot the lloutie \o feich some documents. He does not retnrll, and itt ter Waitin°<* some time llnrcxirl, goes in search of him. He iinds him inthe t-tuuy dead. He has been shot. A small p>tol lies «loee b)- 'and Vane sees also a small white object, which he :(>ieks up from the lloor before the servants come in. The police and the doctor arrive, and pieaintly Celia returns lroui her dance. The doctor breaks the news to her, and after the first shock of griet 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-horrur He cannot decide. lie returns to his hotel, and in bis room takes from his pocket the white object he had picked up near Mr. Harcourt's body. It is Celia s handker- chief. How had it come where he found it! And how was it, it Mr. Harcourt had committed suicide, that the pistol was go 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. that the valuable collection of jade has been left to a museum, while Celia is left almost penni.ess. He is already in love with her, and has more money than he wants. Can he win her love 1 he wonders. Cailing at the house, Vane finds Celia under the chaperon" age ot Alre. Acton, the doctor's mother, who gives him no opportunity of talking with the girl on anything but ordinary topics. Alter a fortnight's absence on business he returns on the day when the collection of jade is being removed to the museum. Celia is left almost penniless, and is anxious to find work to do. She appeals to linn for advice, and he asks her to many him. After much persuasion she consents, and Vane sends for his cousin, Miss Heathcote, to stay with her until they can be married. CHAPTER X. PEACEFUL DAYS. Vane had given in to Celia about keeping their engagement a secret from the town iiiid its inhabitants. But he had not been able to retrain from jubilation on his own account. There were certain old chums of his, a fringe of distant relations, all of whom must be informed of his approaching -change of estate. Letters came back in dozens. Presents Jbegan to stream in, too. He was like a boy in his pleasure in bringing and showing them to Celia-tlie silver, the pictures, the furniture. They would all help to fill the home he was planning with her. He had secured the little property he had been ttracted to when he heard of it in the lawyer's office. She was delighted with it, and that clinched the matter. He was eager now to fit it up, and choose decorations and furniture that would suit its period. A man needs to be past his lirst youth, to have knocked about the world and had Jnanv of its blows and rubs and scratches Jbefore he can appreciate to the full what it means to have a home. To Vane it seemed like the opening of the gates of paradise to plan out the rooms where he and Celia were to live together, where he was to teach her the sweet lesson of which he began to hope she was already learning the alphabet. Day by day it seemed to his joyful sense that she looked more pleased at his coming, more reluctant when he got up to go. He W;t, half his time at the Red Lion. He "fould not keep away. My dear Celia," said Cousin Mary fussily one afternoon when he had not arrived as early as usual, and Celia had been standing at the window for the last ten minutes looking down the crowded street, don't you think it is better for a woman never to show a man that she cares so much for him?" Celia turned and looked at her with wide eyes. They had a wonderfully childish look WhetJ she so opened them. She slowly smiled. "I" it? I don't know! I never thought about it. But why?" "«>h. well. you see," Cousin Mary •ooughed slightly, "a man only cares for a thing when he thinks he can't have it. It's a. law of nature, they say. I've heard many people say so. Once a man is sure that a woman cares for him, he doesn't care so much for her. Wouldn't it be better, dear Celia, not to let Gerald see that you care so very much for him? It would be safer, don't you think?" '"But I didn't know I did care so very, very much Celia's tone was faintly startled. "We're the best of friends, and I'm going to try and love him. That's all." dear Don't jsav such shocking things Cousin Mary was genuinely dis- tressed. I don't for a moment believe in a Ionian marrying unless she ciires, for the man—she ought to care more than that. She'll be a most unhappy woman if she doesn't." Butf I am to care and not to care, and never to show what I do feel, how can I manage it?" "rt. the only way!" Cousin Marv sighed. Don't care too much. A man will break Your heart for you if you do. Of course, herald is different from most men. I nevei can make out how he comes to be what lie i8: I don't suppose there are two more like "him in the whole round world. He's Sf/' Co^s'derate and unselfish." ,iliiled slowly. She had a sense of humour, and it was tickled now. I suppose I'm a fortunate girl, tlier," said, and with that Cousin Marv almost leapt round on her. Of course you are! And you know :t! Otherwise you wouldn't be standing Atid looking for him at that window, instead of considering your pride and your woman's position, and pretending when he comes in that you don't care if you never saw him aSrain. ."I did look. I wanted to see him. Crlia sighed suddenly. "He makes the day dif- ferent, somehow. I'm glad I'm going to marry him. Why should I try to make him nink I'm not? It seem-, crit-el to liiiii." Alas, my dear child! Men's ways ap"ll t ll way? You'll find that out soon cno-?h. But I ve given you my warning. I can't d? D10re for you. I said, and I say again, that Gerald is different from most men-quite dif- "or*?'It. But even with him I wouldn't go too f a r. n  that mysterious warning Celia 'h ?d to C\ntfnt herself. She felt a little in- -dbjnant Gerald was a dear He was kind 3 d*Z 1? 1 ?? n ??to.d? ?—"?!??ti?ul. She was soin? ?to <5are for  very much-oh, yes slw was. But she didn't^l™!10^?11' yes she was. I Kf iiTe ,ws*8 true about Dot ?ttwin? ? ? o??? ? y°« loved t hem. Wherere swas the. Gerald if she W W?h?.-h? ??????? ? ? at all? /raldlf liked him better than X fron' iG? wr TT ?'\y ?d  Utin ^4v th^ t  evening bef;re the d?v that wa.?i to bri !Ig to Vane the joy he ;vas so eagerly waIting for, and let ]nm call Cel? In- »i!V.  o????? h?un?dr? ed things to see to. it senmed  1 last day. He had been to the church  ??? ? ??ryt thing was in order there. lf0 Ioked o?t trains, ?ot seat* reserved afternoon boat train for Paris ? J n V ti affti ernoon boat train  Paris--taken securoo Tooms t.c ? TOO,"s at the Paris hotel. ? ?? to be awav now, to have her all t? v "8^ If with- out the intervention Df nioe ,?'.?te tiresome Cowin ?V?-? y with her prattle. He walked the street with a kind of exultant glorv. To-morrow at this time she would be his own. He came to the Red Lion to find a little fuss of packing and confusion. The new maid he had got for Celia was getting tier i last orders about the new boxes that stood ready in the corridor. CHAPTER XI. I HIS MARRIAGE DAT. j Van. woke in his room at the George Hotel. For the first moment he stared blinkingly at the white ceiling. In the next there came to him with a great rush of overpowering gladness the realisation of ..hat marked off this morning from all other mornings 'in his whole life. He was to oe married to-day! He turned on his pillow, pressed the electric^ell he could ?ust reach from where he lay, waited with impatience that was new to him for the hasty step s of the waiter with his shaving water and bath. HO got out of bed swiftly as the door closed after the retreating waiter. He plunged into his bath gaily, hummed to himself a hunting song as he shaved. He had kept the matter of his marriage fe, secret, according to Celia's anxious desires. He couldn't make out how it was that the whole hotel was roused this morning to such extraordinary covert interest in him. Knots of maids gathered at corners of passages or tops of staircases, turned and scanned him sharply, and dropped their eager whispering as he came within earshot. lie was certain that every waiter in the hotel came to bring him something for his beakfast in the coffee-room. And every time a fresh waiter brought him something and offered it with gently inclined head and deferential atti- tude, Vane felt again that pricking guilty certainty that sharp eyes were examining him, keen interest -was in the air about him. What in thunder did it all mean? He had forgotten that in a little pro- vincial town local affairs loom immensely larger than things of imperial interest. The fact that he—who had been first brought to public notice by the paper at the time of the inquest on poor Harcourt-was going to marry Harcourt's daughter, orphaned in that tragic way, had set the whole town agog. The parson of the old brown church by the river had been bursting with the secret ever since Vane went to him on press- ing business, confided that he and Miss Harcourt were engaged, and wanted to be married as quietly as possible on account of Miss Harcourt's deep mourning, and the recent terrible tragedy in her family. Vane had impressed upon the Rev. Alick Tonkins that not a soul was to hear of the affair till they saw it in the papers. And the Rev. Alick had agreed amiably. But parsons have wives, and what are they for if a man cannot pour into their sympathetic ears such stories as the clerical soul would other- wise feel too much of a burden, unshared and unconfided? The Rev. Alick told his wife the amazing news. "I never heard anything so surprising." Mrs. Tonkins' astonishment equalled her husband's, and was very gratifying to a teller of news. "Of course, then, they were engaged when he came to see them. I suppose they felt it would hardly be decent to or ive cut the engagement, then, after the suicide. Well, I must say I think they might have waited a bit longer now. It's hardly decent so soon after." "Oh, since they are engaged, why wait?" The Rev. Alick took a man's wider view of conventionalities. "I think it's the most sensible thing they could do. The poor girl is homeless, and there's nobody to look after her. He seems a quite decent sort." "Yes, but what about Dr. Acton? A rew thought had leapt to the mind of Mrs. pjnkins.. "He was quite in earnest, you know. His mother told me so. She said she was certain he meant to ask Celia as soon as she was out of crape. Of course he oughtn't to marry, when his old mother is dependent on him, unless the girl has money enough to let them provide for her separately. But Celia must be pretty well off, I should think." < "We needn't speculate on her income, under the circumstances," said the rector with mild rebuke. "It seems to have been the case with Acton that delay is dangerous. Or, perhaps, he wasn't in the secret of Miss Harcourt's engagement. Speaking of secrets, by the way, my love, you under- stand, 1 hope, that what I've just told you is strictly confidential? Mr. Vane made a point of it not being talked about." "Oh, of course!" Mrs. Tomkins looked resentful. "I'm not a talking sort." Where- upon, putting on her hat and starting off to go round her own particular district, she fell upon two special friends of hers, laden with a talent for conversation, and straight- way confided to them the thrilling news. "What do You think Celia Harcourt's going to be married! And to that man who gave -evidence at the inquest! Isn't it extraordinary He's just been to arrange about the wedding with my husband. But of course you won't say a word. It's to be kept strictly secret." "Oh, of course!" The ladies having dis- charged various exclamations were depart- ing on their way. They paused long enough to reassure her. Then their loosened tongues took up the tale. The subject lasted them for half a day. I In that time they saw a pretty considerable number of people who really had a right to hear the news. Each of them received it with the final tag of warning. "Of course, you won't say anything about it." And with the same injunction each one passed it on. Mrs. Tonkins, delivering parish maga- zines faithfully in mean streets, giving kindly advice and soup tickets, was telling herself that she at least would not let poor Celia be married without one friend So sup- port her. She could never object to just the rector's wife slipping into the church and seeing her take her vows to love and honour and obey. It was a rather curious fact that every other creature who listened to the news that day, and for the following day, felt the same conviction, came to the same resolution. So all the whole town vibrated with the news of Celia's marriage by the time the eve of the wedding day had come. When Vane presently threaded the streets on foot, with outwardly quiet demeanour, to the brown riverside church, he was stared at even by utter strangers, who stood and looked after him. and when they could fol- lowed in his tracks to see at least the entry of the bride into the porch. Vane had paid his biil at the hotel. He was leaving. The landlord's agreeable smile passed unnoticed. He would want his luggage at the station to meet such an d such a tram. Llie tJoots mign-C stay Dy it on the platform till he came to claim it. Where was it to be labelled to? Oh, town, of course A whisper of interest ran round the hotel before he had left it. London was to be the place for the honeymoon. At the Red Lion there were doubts as to the hour of the ceremony. It was considered likelv that it would be in the afternoon. Miss' Heathcote had made no intimation of paying bills and ordering luggage. But presently a maid reported that she had orders to have some boxes taken down from Miss Harcourt's room and sent to the station. They, too. were to be labelled London and kept on the platform. That gave a fierce prick to curiosity. Then they were not 'coming back to the hotel for luncheon, probably. That was a thousand pities. Vane, reaching the church, found the west door open. He made his way in, ex- pecting to find the church dim and empty and shadowed. To his amazement, tempered with what may be mildly described as dis- may. he found himself on a sudden the mark for the eyes of a good-sized congregation, all of whom, as his step sounded on the flagged pavement, turned their eager heads and stretched their necks to get a sight of him. He was stunned at the spectacle. When they had so carefully arranged that their wedding should be a completely private one! He restrained a brief word with diffi- culty—marched up between the rows of well- filled pews on either side with head set erect and eyes staring straight before him, and indignant wrath in his heart. What would Celia say cr feel?—little Celia, who had shrunk from even being seen in the town that knew her' This was monstrous, un- forgiveabic He inarchcd straight, to the vestry. looking neither to the right nor the left of him. Those of the congregation who had never till now succeeded in setting eyes I on him whispered to each other that he was horribly grim and stern-looking. Poor Celia! And then, just as he shot past the front pew, the one nearest of all to the chancel rails, he heard his name uttered in an eager whisper, and a hand was thrust out before him. I CHAPTER XII. I "WHERE?" He turned his still indignant glance upon it and the face of its owner. He saw a pretty girl, well dressed, smiling, and he pretty nil?d her. It was a Miss Bridger, he remembered. She had stopped him in the street one day to ask after Celia, in those brief days between the night he dined with j the Harcourts and the day when he attended Harcourt's funeral. "Oh, Mr. Vane! I'm so glad! We didn't know a word about it till we heard you were actually going to be married to-day!" She spoke in the decorous whisper rendered needful by the time and the place. "I'm so glad! Though it's so sudden It's taken us all by surprise! Poor darling Celia! Why, do you know, she hasn't even seen me yet, though we were such friends! I sup- pose she felt the association too painful, but she needn't have minded that! She couldn't help it, poor dear!" Association? Painful? He returned her meaning look vaguely and blankly. Then recognition dawned. Of course. What a fool he was not to have remembered. It was to the house of people called Bridger that Celia had gone that fatal evening. He remembered now that this girl had intro- duced herself as Miss Bridger when she stopped him before. "Yes, it has been sudden," he forced him- self to answer, with one longing eye on the vestry door. "There was no use in waiting —every reason for doing the other thing. Miss Harcourt is all alone, as you know, of course. I'm the proper person to be look- ing after her. I want to take her abroad." "Of course. I quite see, really. Only it's been such a surprise." Why did the girl keep harping on that view of it? What did it matter whether every soul in the place had a fit from being startled by the occurrence? They had a right to surprise the world if they liked. He looked more eagerly still at the vestry door. He could not refrain from saying with some pointedness: "No doubt it has surprised everyone. That was inevitable. It is a surprise to me, too, to find the church full of people. We were specially anxious there should be no one. "I know! I think it's perfectly detest- able of people!" she cast a resentful look around. "Of course, I came. I knew Celia wouldn't for a moment mind that. Why, she had promised me I should be her brides- maid when she married! But these other people! Vftne was edging away towards the vestry. "Well, you'll tell dear Celia, with my love. how much I wish her happiness, won't you Miss Bridger recognised that a bridegroom will turn, if he is enough trodden on. "Do ask her to write to me. And I think I might have a bit of wedding cake: And oh, Mr. Vane would you mind- I haven't liked to ask, of course, under the circumstances—but as she's going away altogether, and she might so likely forget it. Would you remind her about my hand- kerchief, and ask her if she'll let me have it "Your handkerchief?" Let him only escape from the eyes of this Argus congre- gation, and he would take whatever mes- sage she wanted. "Yes. a handkerchief I lent her that night she came to our dance—that night, vou know—her father. I wouldn't have said a word, onlv it was one I had a special fondness for, and a good one with a lace border. Of course, she wouldn't remember about returning it in all that trouble. But she won't mind now, I'm sure, if I remind her. Tell her it was one I particularly va l ue." "You lent her a handkerchief, the night she ,C:1me to your house, that night of the dance ?'' She might have removed her detaining hand now. the hand that sil1 rested on his coat sleeve. He forgot the congregation and the vestry as he turned and looked at her. "Yes. She came so late to the house. and when she got there she had forgotten a handkerchief. She asked me to lend her one, so of course I was very glad to. It is onb" because it's one I value." He cut short across her words as if he had not heard them. "But—late. No, you mistake. She was early. She left before the time; the cab- man had made a mistake in the hour. I was dining there that night." Yes, I know. Oh, but it is you who are mistaken. She was late, dreadfully late; it was nearly ten when she came in. I re- member so well, for she seemed as if she had been hurrying. She was so white, and she hardly seemed to know what she was doing. Some girls do get flurried like that when they are late. We teased her about it rather, till we saw that she didn't likp it. And then she asked me to lend her a handkerchief. She said she must have dropped hers somewhere; she was rather funny about it, I thought. But it's all right, as long as she sends me back mine. It's got my initials on-A. G. B." A. G. B," repeated Vane mechanically. He could not have told what it was his lips uttered. He was bewildered. She had reached the Bridgcrs' house more than an hour after she left them, her father and himself, and she had needed to borrow a handkerchief because she had dropped her own somewhere. Well, that was natural enough. The handkerchief she had dropped lay at this minute amongst his treasures. But why, why? What had kept her? Why hadn't she said anything about it to him- self, or to anyone? How could she have spent that hour between her father's study and the Bridger's house? He moved away from Miss Bridger's hand suddenly. He walked straight on to the chancel steps, mounted them, reached the haven of the vestry door at last. Once in- side he drew a long breath, began to speak to the rector, who was getting himself into his white surplice. Miss Bridger had made a mistake, otherwise that would be a most preposterous statement. Where should a girl spend an hour of the night between her father's house and the house of her friends in a hired cab? The rector was talking to him. He was expressing his regret that the wedding was, after all, apparently going to be such a public affair. "I'm sure I can't understand how it has got about," he said in all innocence. "I trust you won't imagine I've been babbling. It must have been the verger, I'm afraid. I warned him not to mention it, but these things get carried by the fowls of the air. Even my own wife wouldn't come to see IUJSS -tiarcotirt married since sne wished otherwise, though I know how great a de- privation it will be to her." His own wife at that moment occupied the rector's pew in a prominent position, and was taken up with wondering how on earth people could have the audacity to come to church when they had been plainly told they were not wanted. It was atrocious, that was all she could say. The strains of the organ began to boom through the silent church—silent but for rustles and whispers with which the interval of waiting was beguiling itself. Vane started, made a movement doorwards. The rector benignly motioned him back. "Keep still, my dear sir, keep still. Tlia bride is not yet coming. They will give me due warning, so that I may be in my place in the chancel before she enters the church. "But they're playing the organ," stam- mered Vane, who was not experienced in weddings. The rector smiled slightly. So I hear. A pretty tribute from the organist. Miss Harcourt took lessons from him some time ago, and no doubt he feels he would like to pay her the compliment. But it is merely an interlude, merely some- thing to keep the people assembled in my church a little reminded of the sanctity of the place. Impatience stretches out minutes for us to an extraordinary degree. When Vane stole a look at his watch presently he was sur- prised to see that really only some ten minutes had elapsed after the time when she was due. He resolutely talked to the rector, walked about, and examined such interest- ing records on the walls as the amount of last Sunday's collection, and the prayer for the choir boys. He would not let himself for very shame look again at his watch till he was emboldened by seeing the' rectox furtively draw his own out, and scan it under cover of his surplice. Their eves met as the watch was just slipping back. The rector coughed, looked as if he had been caught in flagrant transgression, said in an apologetic voice "Not so remarkably late, after all, my dear Mr. Vane—nothing to be alarmed about. So many young ladies forget how time goes on the morning of their wed- ding. But Celia was to be married in a simple frey frock. She couldn't be all this time ressing. Vane felt with a sudden un- reasonable indignation that Cousin Mary was somehow at the bottom of it. She would be prosing on about the duties of husbands to their wives, and the stand that a woman ought to take in marriage, and the Lord knows what. The organist finished the march from "Lohengrin;" he was beginuini7 the march of the war priests in "Athalie." In the pews, where repeated disappoint- ments had made the necks of the oft- startled congregation a little stiff in turn- ing, comment was becoming free and con- stant. "What can be keeping her?" one lady asked of another, leaning over the back of the pew, and raising her shrill whisper to get the better of the war priests on the organ. "I call this really a little too bad- that is if we are right about the time. It's nearly three-quarters of an hour late. I can tell you what, it's a mistake for a girl to think people like this kind of thing. A con- gregation gets so irritated that they criti- cise her frock in a way they wouldn't think of if she came when she was expected." "It's the man who gets the worst of it. I never knew one kept waiting like this who didn't pay her out for it afterwards." "Well, I'd hardly blame him. Makes a man look a fool, doesn't it? It looks as if she'd changed her mind at the last moment. I declare, if girls knew what marriage was really like they'd be more careful not to start it with a grudge in the husband's mind against them." "Perhaps she's ill, or the clocks at the Red Lion are too slow," said a third, join- ing in. "Look! See! What's that?" Vane had come to the vestry door, and was cautiously looking down the church, himself unseen. In the intensity of his anxiety he came a step forward. As he did so, he caught sight of someone who had just entered the church door, and who -made a hasty signal to him. It was like a wave of beckoning. And as he looked he recog- nised the beckoner. It was Celia's new maid. (To be Continued.)





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