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? ; ? Iti? kooo ? ? 0 ?O F?…


? ? Iti ? kooo ? ? 0 ?O F? E?V I?D E?N?C E? ?  [AIM RIGHTS RUZUVZD-1 a 6 IN SPITE OF EVIDENCE BY Y 9 LILLI AS CAMPBELL DAVIDSON 9 T Author of "The Missing Finger," Tempted," &c. i CHAPTER XVI. DEPASTURE. "Btrt—but he'd let me give it you. He'd let me do what I liked with it—I know he Would. He cut her short rudely. "Would he! Likely! A man doesn't let his wife play ducks and drakes without wanting to know what she does it for. And you know, if it gets about concerning me He stopped, made a significant pause. She paled in- voluntarily. "Then let me give it all to you—every penny," she implored. "I will do that, gladly, gladly. Again he stopped her. "No, no, my dear Celia, you go with me, and we share the money. That's the only way about it. You can't manage it when you're married, so that's done with." She faced him, suddenly, white as a snow- drift, but she faced him steadily. "And if I refuse? If I say I shall marry him?" "Oh, well, why then I shall have to use my authority. 1 think you'U come, Celia. LOan over, and I'll tell you why, my dear." She shrank, then reluctantly leaned to- wards him, so that her ear came close to his lips. He stooped, said something in a short, sharp whisper. She drew away from him with a cry and covered her face with her hands. When she took them away, it was as if in that brief instant she had grown years older. "Yes. Well, now you see why you'll come along with me and do as you're told. He's hardly likely to want you for a wife, is he? If you like, I'll tell him what I've told you." He was sure of that cry breaking across his words, interrupting him, protesting. He was not disappointed. "Wouldn't like that, eh? All right? Then you know the remedy. Come along with me, and we'll do all right together on your money. Let's see, there's a train to town in half an hour. That'll just do for us. I'll go and get my togs together. I can carry my bag to the station." "Oh, not like that! I can't—I can't! Let me go hack and see him, break it to him! He'll never understand, he'll think I didn't care," she ran her words out wildly, one over the other. He stopped her. Rot! What does it matter what he thinks or says? He's got to make up his mind to it. It's the sooner the better, that's all. See here. You shan't say I was unfair to you. I'll go round to the hotel, which one was it?-and get some things for you. "No, no, they have all gone to the sta. tion. There's nothing here. ?ou had better not go, Percy." The station? Good luck! That'll just do then. All right. You wait. I'll get my togs. He went to the door, and opened it, walk- ing down the passage, and calling something to the woman in the basement. Celia heard the click of the key in the lock, as he left the door of the room that held her. It was the last abasement, the last humiliation. He locked her in, refusing to trust her. She hid her face in her hands again, and moaned to herself miserably. He was back in a second. He was chink- m? g change in his hand, from the sovereign h.ghad caught up from Celia's little hoard on the table. He got himself into a coat, put his hat on, picked up his bag, and led 6 way out of the miserable house, and n,roug the tangled garden. As they came Mt into the desolate, forsaken street a man (S?M? turned and stared at them. GelijP lhfr, L her head down. She did not see him 7aS ^.Tng to keep back the toSrabl* fprfi J? came flowing, flowing, in rpitc f a that she C°"ld do to hold' Semback they went out. t th ?d tocher. station ? lugeaRc ? labelled andut h van, and Celia and her com- pSanniio?n go? t together into a carriage. Thev to tnuim ° themselves almost the whole way  town. He read a paper, and smoker shp looped together, her head bent, .her lips silent. bJif °?ly further clue that came to Vane e ore he 1 town came from an unex- rpwe>rc.tte^ d quarter. He was at the station, takin' his ticket for town. A cabman, ai ing on his box, saw him, and, after a pause, got down heavily, and came Shambo' fing across the platform to where Vano and waited for the signalled train to run in. "Beg pardon, sir. Could I speak with You a minute?" Vane turned with a start. He saw a dusty, bent figure, whip in hand. I don't want a cab," he said briefly. And he turned back to his paper. The cab- man coughed deprecatingly. "Beg pardon, sir, but they tells me as you're the gent as the young miss was to have married, and didn't turn up at the church." ane moved a pace away M if he had been stung. He turned his back, and lifted the paper to hide his face from his tor- Mentor. But the man persisted. So I thought as you'd like to know I was one of the last to see her. She was a- comin' out of that same 'ouse as I drove her to the night her dad died." That brought down the paper, and Vane's startled face was full upon him. "You did what? Say that again? Where 'Was it you saw her?" Well pleased at the effect he had pro- duced, the old cabman took up his parable. "I was comin' along a short cut from my 'ome, that very Tuesday as she left. It was about nine o'clock in the marnin'. I see the young miss come out of a 'ouse in Chesset Street—a poor enough place it was, beggin' your pardon. I knew her in a minute, because of her being Mr. Harcourt's daughter, and seein' her at the funeral, as well as when I drove her. It was the very same 'ouse where she went the night of the death. That's what struck me to look twice at her. She was walking with a gent-yes, I suppose he was a gent, but he was fair shabby! He had a bag in 'is 'and, and she was a-cryin'. It made me wonder what WUJ up* with her goin' there twice, and such a queer street for a lady "You drove Miss Harcourt to a street like that the night her father died? Stuff and nonsense! Rubbish, man She went to a dance at a friend's house, Mrs. Bridger's. You're making that up. I don't know what you hope to -et by it." The cabman shifted his whip and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "Not me, sir! I'm speaking the gorspel truth. What'd make me tell a lie about "i t? 'Twouldn't do me no good as I can see. I drove the young miss to Chesset Street. It was like this-see. They 'phoned for a cab to the rank, and they made a mistake in the time, or my mate did that took the mes- sage and passed it to me. I got to Har- court's house half-an-hour too soon, about. young lady came down into the hall, whIle stood with the door ?P?' ? I ? hear? d her say it was too soon. Then some- body brought her in a letter and she read it, and -,she ehallo-cd her mind and said it didn't matter. When she came out she seemed upset like, and she told me to go on. I hadn't got outside the gates when she pops her pretty ead out of the winder, and "he says, says she, Cabman, drive first to No. 16, Chesset Street. She got out when we drew up, and ran up through the garden and to the door, and she rang and knocked. A man came and opened the door and she went in. She was gone a long time. I had a good nap on my box, I did, before I heard the door open and shut again, and she came running down all in a flutter, and dragged the cab-door open and bundled in. She was panting, as if she'd been running, and she seemed as if she hardly knew what she was about. She just said, Go on now-go on as quick as you can to Mrs. Bridger's.' And I went. I wondered about it, more than once, and all the more the other day when I see her come out of that door again with the same gent, and heard after that she was a-missin'. I thought you'd just like to know, sir, hearing as how you'd liecn making hinquiries about who's seen her. Thirsty weather, ain't it, sir? Thank you, lir-thank you kindly." For Vane had turned sharply away, but a half-crown lay in the horny palm of the cabman. It was indeed news as unexpected as it was startling. Vaiie got into the feel- ing as if his world had crumblvd about him, and the stars had fallen from the heavens. And yet, and yet. He had loved Celia, be- lieved in her, looked on her as the noblest and truest of women. How was he to accept even these horrible proofs against her? It all seemed to him some hideous puzzle, dark and past comprehending. He thought and thought till his brain reeled. He was forced in hoiie-sty to confess to his question- ing self that no solution at all presented itself to him. What solution could there be? How could one explain or smooth away facts whose blackness was without parallel? And yet, and yet It was Celia, and not another who was concerned. Any other women one mig-ht have believed it of. But Celia So he went townwards. If he had known that town held her, he might have searched it through and through, spending years of his life in vain search for her. He might have hunted London from end to end, and have pined out his heart in the vain quest. He could not know that fate was to bring them face to face again once more at a mo- ment when he least looked for it. I CHAPTER XVII. I I THE NEW LIFE. I Celia stood in the window of a poor house in a cheap back street of Finchley. They had been in London for nearly two years now. They had moved from one low, mise- rable lodeine: to another, as funds came and went. Sometimes the rent could not be paid. Those were her times of greatest misery. But, by and by, there would come a time of transitory prosperity, and then they would blossom forth. Sometimes, when the rent was long overdue, they would be driven ignominiously from their rooms, with the landlady's threats and denunciations. Those were dreadful times! Whenever a little gleam of ease followed, and money be- came more plentiful again, Celia used to save and scrape together what she could, out of the meagre allowance for their living, and send it anonymously to their late land- lady, in payment of that horrible debt. Sometimes Percy had a good deal of money. He jangled it in his pockets, talked large about his luck, took her out to dine somewhere at a cheap restaurant, bought himself a fur coat. and-flung her a sovereign or two, telling her to make herself look decent. She dared not ask how he came by his sudden prosperity. She always knew it would be followed by destitution once more. He was out a great deal. Sometimes for day and a night together he would be away, and she would be alone, watching at the window for his figure coming down the IItroot-listening, if it were night, with strained ear and beating heart to the steps that echoed ou the pavement, wondering if one were his. He was never the worse for drink. He did not seem to exceed in that way. That was not his weakness. But she had a doubt about what he did with his time and his money, that lay on her heart Like a grim and heavy weight. Her little income was always in his hands. When the quarterly allowance arrived, he took it, and pocketed it as a matter of course. She could not touch the capital, he had found that out soon, and grumbled at her for it as if it had been her fault. But she never saw a farthing of what was in reality all her own. By and by she begun to suspect, then suspicion grew to certainty. He began to bring men home with him, now and then. They smoked and drank in the little sitting- room, long, long after she had fled to her room and to bed. She could hear their low voices going on through the night's silence. There would be the rattle of dice, the flutter and fall of cards. Her bedroom was next, and the partition was so thin she could follow every sound. Sometimes Percy's voice would be heard, high, shrill, excited, in exultation. Sometimes he would be in one of those rages of his. He gambled. That was how their money went. And then, and then there began to steal over her a wonder whether that was why her father had acted in the past in ways that had seemed to her cruel and unjust. She had not dreamed of that. Not that now it could make any difference. Their lets were cast together, and they could not be untied. She dared not speak to Percy about it. When first they had been together she had begun to say things gently, hoping to be able to influence him. But she soon found the futility of that. He scorned her con- trol, defied it-was only angry, and harsh. There was nothing to be done but to try and fulfil the duty 101lir, Tortg hgo taEefl (;IT herself. She would do all for him that she knew how, There w^s a time now when Percy had bJ good luck, apparently in those con- stant gaming days of his. Money was for the moment more plentiful. He took her to a cheap suburban theatre, and gave her money to buy herself a new frock. As they came out of the theatre together, the play over, and into the street with the flare of the electric lamps, a man passing stopped, turned, looked, wheeled round and followed them. He was a big, rough-looking man in ,a fur-collared overcoat. He tapped Percy on the arm familiarly, and laughed as he saw his start, and the way in which his face blanched as he turned it over his shoulder. He clapped him hard again with his broad, red hand. "Hallo, took me fo" a copper, did you? That's a good joke! Never saw a man look more as if he'd seen his own ghost face him I What's it you're scared of?" The younger man smiled whitely, put out his hand. 1 "You, is it, Scudamore? I couldn't think who it was for the minute. How's the world treating you?" Celia, had shrunk back. The tone of familiarity between them shocked her a little. It was not only that it startled her to see the friendship between Percy and a man so beneath him in every respect. But the man's personality repelled her, his coarseness, his boldness, an indefinable sense of his wickedness. Scudamore looked at her boldly, admir- ingly. He pushed his hat jauntily a trifle to one side. "Introduce me to the lady, won't you?''I he said, ingratiatingly. And to Celia's secret indignation Percy at once complied. "Delighted to make your acquaintance," said the stranger, with a swagger. "Been to see 'The Spider in the Soup,' eh? Why ( didn't vou let me know, so's I could have come and joined the party? I tell you what though, it's slow going, with the Palace down the road. That's the show for ray money. You see roarers there, I can tell you. Why not come along now, and fee a turn or two?" Celia had slipped her hand nnder Percy's arm. She pressed it apprehensively now, and murmured into his ear. "No, no!" He hesitated for an instant. Then her urgent pressure, and perhaps s'vne lingering sense of decent tradition made him come to her aid. "Oh, it's late now. Not to-night. Thi« place was beastly hot, and I'm tired. "We'll turn in another night, eh, Celia?" Celia! repeated the man in the fnr- collared coat unctuously. "A charming name, appropriate to the owner, I'm ready to bet my bottom dollar! Well, since the ladv is so cruel,, we'll put it off till another night. But mind. it's a promise. I'll take the tickets, and I'll give you both a bit of supper after Righto! Going along this way? I'll walk a bit with you. The lady doesn't mind my cigar, eh?" And almost to the very door of the mean street that housed them, had Celia to endure his company. He talked to her, ignorin- i Percy, and rolling dolt Iii.,i talk about him- self and his doings with a complacency that disgusted her. When they parted, he shock Celia's hand with warmth, and held it in his own fat one, pressing it tenderly, till she drew it hastily awa y. "What a horrible man!" she said quickly, as she and Percy walked down together to the door of lii c, house, through the now quiet street. How did you ever get to know him, Percy? I don't think he's' nice for anybody to see much of." What rot!" he started suddenly from one of those brooding tits of his. lie turned and looked at her with a quick shai-pness. "You talk such rot!" he repeated, testily. "What's the matter with the chap? He's all right. A decent sort. He's got plenty of money, I can tell yon, and he's always ready to have a game of baccarat." "I didn't speak about his income." She raised her head with a faint reflection of her old dignity. "I don't think that matters, does it? I meant himself. He's horrible. Please don't let us go to the music hall with him. I'd so much rather not! Oh, bosh! He's a friend of mine, and I can't afford to quarrel with him just because you choose to take whims. He's all right, I tell you. You're so infernally parties I CHAPTER XVTII. I THE INVITATION. It was only the next afternoon that the post brought a letter to Celia addressed in an unknown hand. She never had any letters, except those containing her quarter's money, forwarded from the post-office in her old town. Percy would not let her give their address even to her father's old soli- citor, who still managed her affairs. She changed colour when she saw this envelope, with the bold handwriting, and the flourish under the last word, and the stamp stuck on cornerwise. She hesitated to break it open-some instinct within her shrank from it. When she did tear the envelope, there fell out two tickets, and there was a sheet of paper with writing on it. She took it up and looked through it. It had a signature at the end, "Harvey Scudamore," and at the sight of it she shrank again. It was addressed to 'her herself, and it began in terms of familiarity, and ended Yours most warmly." It informed her that the writer thought from something she had dropped that she didn't care for variety as much as the theatre, so he had got tickets for himself and her for Friday evening for the Crown. I'm sending you two of them, don't make any mistake. There isn't one for Percy! I was only able to get two, and we'll share them. Tell him he can meet us after it's over at the Alhambra restaurant, and I'll stand the food. Now, don't you have any other engagement, dear little lady, for I'm not going to have that. I'll meet you at the theatre at half-past seven." Celia dropped tlics envelope, the sheet of paper and the tickets as if they had all stung her. How atrocious! How insolent! As if such a thing were possible She restrained her impulse to throw the tickets in the fire. She kept them instead to return to him. She shrank from even writing to him. She decided to wait till Percy came 'home, and let him do it for her. She was sitting still with that look of cold disgust upon her, when his latchkey rattled in the infirm lock of the front door, and he came into the little, narrow sitting-room. lielt'D I w at've you got there?" His keen glance caught the tickets as he entered, lying red upon the white paper. "Oh, it's something stupid. That man we met the other night, that Mr. Scudamore, wasn't he? He sent them. Read the letter, please. I suppose he didn't mean imper- tinence. He didn't know anv better. I thought you'd send the tickets 'back for me. It woul d be better than burning them." He picked up the open sheet, glanced through it, laughed shortly, for the moment he looked angry. Then he shrugged his shoulders, dropped the letter, turned round on her, his hands shoved into his pocket. "Oh, what's that to get your dander up about? It's decent of the chap, anyhow. If you don't want to go with Idm-" She broke off short with an exclamation of protest-- Percy! Well—as I say, if you don't—though really, Celia, I don't see what the harm would be. You're not in Belgravia, you must realise. You don't need chaperons in Finchley! But if you don't want to go with Scudamore, what's wrong with the tickets? I'll write and say you want me to see the piece, and I'll take you. He sent the tickets, like a fool, so he can't object, if we work it that way." "Percy!" Then she checked herself. He meant it for a joke, of course, even if it were a disagreeable and senseless one. He looked at her from under his lowered eyebrows. "Well, what are you speaking to me in that tone of voice for? Eh? It's the natural thing' under the circumstances. I'll make it square with him, if he kicks up any row." She looked at him for a moment. Till then she had not believed that he meant it Now she realised it, and her heart grew hot. She stretched her hand across the table and took up the tickets and the letter. Before he knew what she meant to do, she had done it. They had fluttered into the fire and they were flaring up there. He made a spring and caught her wrist. She quailed before the fury in his blazing eyes. He held her wrist and shook her by it, as a terrier shakes a rat. He set his teeth and hissed at her. His eyes seemed to glow red, and his lips stretched to a thin red ii8o, thatq what, you do, Is it?" he said hoarsely. "That's how you defy mf! Take care, Celia! Don't do it again. Don't do it, I tell you, or it'll be the worse for you! You dare to burn those tickets, rather than do what I tell you. You shall obey my orders, you shall! So let there be an end of this. Don't let it ever happen again! Ho flung her away from him, and she staggered against the sofa. She fell upon it and lay prostrate, stfiinned. as much by the shock of his words, his fury, as by a physi- cal hurt. She had never seen him like this. She could not have believed that he could so be past himself. There stole into her mind vague memories—warnings of long ago-that she had derided and refused to listen to. Had they been true? Had she been foolish to refuse to credit them? Was this the result of her unbelief? She shuddered as she lay and looked at him. It would hardly have surprised her if he had flown at her and struck her as he stood glowering down at her from his erect height. Then, suddenly, his face changed. He walked across the room, picked up and set on its legs the chair he had overturned when he sprang at her. He brushed a trifle of dust from his coat sleeve. He glanced at her furtively, almost sheepishly, from under his heavy eyebrows. He put out a tongue tip and moistsned hi? dry lips. "There!" he said. standing with his back to her, and pretending to hunt for his tobacco pouch upon the mantel-shelf. "There I That's enough! Now you'll know another time. Be a sensible girl and we shan't have any more of these rumpuses. You see you've got to learn something, though you think you know so much." She did not answer. He looked round at her now. His face was itself again. His eves had lost their red, his lips were calm. One would have thought one had dreamed that frenzy in him. "Come, come, Celia, don't sulk! I hate a sulky woman. I'll write to Scudamore and make it right with him. When he hears you burned the tickets, he'll think it a vast joke, and he won't bear malice." She could not speak. Perhaps he saw he had better not require it of her. He whistled, went to the door, and took him- self out. When he came out presently and sat down to write to Scudamore, she had gone into the bed-room and closed the door after her. When they met again at supper presently there was no reminder, but in her pallor, of the scene they had been through. It had been a revelation to Celia-a revela- tion of a dreadful sort. She had never till that moment seen that side of Percy, and it filled her with consternation and terror. He had looked at her so strangely, so incre- dibly. What was it that had struck at her heart with cold fear? She would not ask herself, lest the answer should be too ter- rible. But from that day she walked warily. She would have done much. suffered much, rather than once more awake that strang°e spirit within him. t:> What Scudamore wrote back she did not -know. She saw Percy get a letter in the same bold handwriting, open it, read it, bend down in silent laughter, toss it into the fire. But to herself he said nothing. It was an episode closed, she hoped. She thought no more about it till one afternoon in the next week. Then something came to Bring it all back to her with the force of a shock as violent as it was disagreeable. She had been for a walk and she had come in, driven by chill wind and drizzling rain. She had taken her hat off and dried it carefully. She had come back into the sitting-room and was putting out the tea- cups for tea. She had bought two c hc.- p but inoffensive ones to take the place of the chipped, coarse, hideous, huge ones provided by the landlady. She had bought a tea- eake for Percy, in case he should come in in time for it. She knelt down now to toast it before the little sultry fire, when there came a ring at the door and a rap to the rusty knocker. She glanced over her shoulder at the door, as the draught from the opening of the front one made itself felt through the wide crack underneath it. (To be Continued.)





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