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[PUBLISHED BY SPECIAL A="r.EMENT.] A SEALED BOOK. BY I ALICE LIVINGSTONE, Author of "The Silence of Maurice Armitage," "A Man's Angel," etc. CHAPTER XVI. HER WITS FOR A WEAPON. It was a surprise to find the gate not only un- locked, but standing ajar. Gerald was so certain that a mystery was concealed in the vicarage—a mystery which would set all London agog if it were but suspected-that he wondered more pre- cautions were not taken. He walked up the path, and glanced at his surroundings curiously. Gerald knocked at the front door. He had but a moment to wait, before an elderly woman ap- peared. She wore the dark dress, the spotless white apron and cap of a servant, but she had a fine, intelligent face, and it struck Gerald instantly that she was of a class superior to her position. She gazed at him questioningly, and he spoke with quick decision. ''I am a London doctor," he said. and have come down to see Mr. Avlmer." So saying, he kept a keen eye on the woman. If she made objections to admitting him, he would insist, saying that he had been asked to pay this visit by one of the vicar's parishioners, and had come at great personal inconvenience, there- fore he must insist upon seeing some member of the family. But instead of objecting, the elderly servant caught at his words with delight. Oh. air. I am glad indeed that you have come,' she exclaimed, Mrs. Aylmer has been expecting you every minute; I will tell her at once that you are here, if you will walk into the drawmg- room." Gerald did so, well pleased with the success of his inspiration, though there was an element of danger in the situation suggested by the woman's words. Mre. Aylmer was expecting a London doctor at any moment. Evidently she had sent for one, and his arrival was now due. If the real doctor should happen to appear in the midst of his own conversation with Mrs. Aylmer, the position would be delicate in the extreme, and it would need all Gerald Darke finesse to escape from it with his identih unsllBDectcd. The servant shut the door of the drawing-room, and he was free to occupy the time of waiting as he chose. He did not sit down, but wandered about the room examining everything with ex- treme curiosity. The day was seasonably cold, but there was no fire in the grate. He took this to indicate poverty. Still, it was a pleasant room. and shewed the cultivated taste of a woman in its simple but charming decoration. On the mantel were deveral photographs, in silver and olive-wood frames. Gerald applied himself to an eager in- spection. The first he took up brought back some vague memory, which he could not fix. It represented an old man, in clerical dress—an old man with a splendid head, a mouth sweet, yet singularly firm, and the eyes of a saint. "By Jove!" Gerald said to himself after a doubtful moment, isn't this the man who per- suaded Roy that his vocation was the Church ? I can't recall his name at the moment, but he was a celebrity at Oxford. Surely it is the same face I saw in Roy's room once—only older by many years. Other faces on the mantel were strange to him but a photograph, unframed. had fallen behind another, and was lying face downward. Gerald picked it up, and in spite of his habitual caution. gave a cry of astonishment. The picture had been taken by an amateur, and was roughly mounted on cardboard, without the name of the photograuher. A man and a girl stood together on the vicarage porch by which Gerald Darke had entered a few minutes ago. The man, who was dre, a as a clergyman, had his hand on the girl's shoulder. As to her identity there was no doubt. The lovely smile, the halo of sunnv hair, the large sweet eyes, were those of Grace Aylmer, the young "resident musician" at Wrendlebury Towers. But the man It was at sight of his face, so like the girl's, and still more like another face unseen for many years-, that Gerald exclaimed. "Roy Atherton!" he gasped. At the same instant the door opened. Gerald heard the sound, and turned quickly; but he was I too late. He saw a hand on the door-a woman's hand white and beautiful, with a thick, plain gold ring on the wedding finger. Then before he could ta-ke two steps across the floor, it was gone, and the door closed sharply. Gerald strode to it and flung it wide open, but no one was to be seen in the hail. Opposite was another door. He sprang to it across the passage, to find himself on the threshold of a study, plainly furnished, its walls lin-cd with many books. No one was there. Gerald Darke's brain buzzed with the two strange discoveries he had made, but the sight of the photograph had overwhelmed him. He anathematised himself for clumsiness in exclaim- ing his surprise aloud. If he had been silent, in another instant the owner of that white hand would have pushed the door open and entered— whoever she was, they two would have been face to face. Instead she had heard him gasp out Roy's name; she had seen him at the mantelpiece, with the photograph in his hand: and though he stood with his back to the door, face and figure were reflected in the quaint, convex mirror over the mantel No doubt she had seen him holding the photograph, and had been able to reoogniæ which one had aroused his emotion. Leaving bus gold matchbox on the study table, he went back to the drawing-room, and waited for a few moment. hoping that someone would i come. But he was left alone; and finally, deter- mined not to be thwarted again on the threshold of success, he rang the belL. After a short delay, the woman who had admitted him to the honrfe I appeared. My time is very limited," he said. Have you let Mrs. Aylmer know that the doctor from London is here?" Yes, sir; she will come as soon as possible," returned the servant. She spoke quietly, yet Gerald detected a difference in her manner. It was impossible, he thought, that she or anyone else in this house could guess his identity; but there was suspicion in her eyes. The ladv of the white hand which had appeared and vanished had evidently hurried to thi., woman and told her that the visitor was not to be trusted. Probably they already suspected that he was not the doctor from London. He wished that he knew upon what plan of action they had decided, for there was a look of some settled resolve in the old ser- vant's eyes. I thought that Mrs. Ayimer was coming in a moment ago." he said. "The door opened but no one was there, and I stepped out into the hall and into a room opposite in search of her. as I am in haste to do what I came to do and get back to town." "I will tell my mistress, sir." replied the woman, with a stolid air, particularly irritating to Gerald. There was nothing for it but to allow her to go. Five minutes passed, which he profited by in secreting the photograph. He had much food for thought, but he could think afterwards; and now each minute which passed was his enemy. "I see her game," he said to himself at last. She can't know who I am, but she thinks I am a spy who has got into the house under false pre- tenoes. She does not want to try and turn me out, as that might be dangerous; but she hopes that at any moment the real doctor may come, in which case I would be proved a fraud. She would have a man to help her, and an excuse for getting rid of me." This reasoning brought Gerald Darke to his feet. The plan which he suspected was a clever one, and might. easily proceed unless he acted at once. He would not. wait to fall into the trap. III see her face and 'his' at any cost," he re- solved, and went once more into the hall. At the back, where the passage widened into a hall, was the stairway. Boldly he ran up, two steps at a time. Near the top was a door, outside which stood a small table with several bottles and glasses upon it. No need to hesitate now. That table, with its contents, betrayed the room of the invalid. Gerald opened the door, found himself in a kind of ante-chamber, and was on the point of going on into the lighted room beyond—where a quick glance shewed him the footboard of a bed—when a woman came swiftly out, shut the door between, and stood before it. There was a twilight in the ante-room, but there was light enough to see that the woman was tall and slender, with fair hair parted and looped over the ears. What is your business here?" she asked with a strong French accent, in a voice which trembled. "I am the doctor from London," Gerald an- swered, coming closer as he spoke, and almost peering into the woman's face, which was turned away from such light as the one ivy-draped window gave at this sunset hour. The brows were as blonde as the hair, the eyes looked out from behind glasses, the dress was a plain, black one, such as Evelyn Montault would never wear; yet, despite all these differences, despite the curtain of wintry twilight which closed round her. this woman who stood barring Justin Aylmer's door was like Evelyn Montault, might be Evelyn Montault wearing a disguise. What is your name?" inquired the voice with the French accent. "I am Dr. Horace Ellison," replied Gerald, hastily adopting the name of a Harley Street practitioner well known in London. It was not Dr. Ellison for whom we sent." I did not tell your servant who sent for me," Gerald said. "As a matter of fact, it is one of Mr. Aylmer's rich parishioners who pays my fee, and does not wish his name mentioned. I have been engaged to come here, and I must insist on seeing the patient." You &Il not see him," said the fair-foamed woman. "You are not the doctor we want. We will have nothing to do with you." Madame, I must ask that you let me pass," exclaimed Gerald, carefully disguising his own voioe. "I have my duty to do, and I must do it. It is evident that you understand nothing of the etiquette of my profession, or you would not seek to hinder me." "I am Mr. Aylmer's wife." said the woman, and I have the right to protect him from an impostor." You, who, to judge from your accent, are a Frenchwoman, tell me that you are the wife of this English clergyman? I find that difficult to believe, madam. You have some object in deceiving me." And I find it difficult to believe that you are a doctor." If I were not, why should I be here?" You know best. I only know that you shall not see my husband." Have you then some secret to conceal in this house, that you are afraid to have him seen?" "I am not afraid; but I am determined." You had better change your mind. Do you know, madam, that, in spite of some changes in your appearance, you are strangely like a lady prominent in London society? Such a resem- blance, if talked about, might create gossip, which would be unpleasant for that lady and for I you. I advise you not to be too obstinate, for 1 both our sakes." You are insolent! Leave the room, or I willi call for help!" There is no one to help you exwpt that old woman downstairs. Now I am gong into that room. Stand out of the way, if you don't wish me to treat you roughly!" The woman's answer was to stretch out her arms across the closed door. Gerald sprang at her, bent on tearing away what he believed to be a disguise, and then penetrating into the room where lay the man of the photograph. Both, it seemed, were in his power. Neither would guess the identity of their enemy, and Gerald Darke could hint afterwards to Evelyn Montault of his secret knowledge. His hand was on the woman's slender wrist, in its tight black sleeve, when the door leading in from the corridor was flung violently open. Oh. madam, thank Heaven! thcpolice have come at last!" gasped the old servmt as she entered. Through the deepening dusk thd,.Ieyes behind the glasses looked 'him in the face, I sent my servant for the police," she said, in a voioe that shook slightly. "she has told them that we had reason to believe that the man who wounded my husband was lurking near the house. One cry from either of us will call two policemen to this room. You wilr-be arrested. Whether or not you are ready to do this, you yourself can judge. If you will go away quietly, however, my servant will see that you pass out of the house without being seen. Now, choose!" A flame of savage anger ran through Gerald Darke's veins. He was not ready yet to have his identity known. If he were arrested, his disguise would be discovered You will regret this treatment of a London doctor, madam." he said. But you give me no choice. Since I am not to see the patient I will leave your house." Ten minutes later Darke was on his way to the railway station. In the train, alone in a first-class compartment. Gerald took the photograph of the vicar and the girl from his pocket. How like the faces were and what a strange resemblance the man's had to the dead Roy Atherton! Could it be possible, Gerald asked himself, that after all Roy had not died? The thought struck him like an electric shock. The man who had schemed so long saw the I whole fabric of his plan crumbling, like a beautiful palace undermined by an earthquake. Roy alive; Evelyn Montault secretly his wife; the girl Graoe, their child, ingratiating herself with Lord Wrendlebury's fortune. Gerald D.rk. all Inst: EnOn, title, the woman he loved—the wonderful woman wK'' had fought him to-day, armed only with hei £ frits. For a few moments of agony J; covered his face with his hands, thinking intently. Then he said aloud: If it's true, all three shall pay me-- and pay in different ways. The girl shall be my I' weapon!" (To be continued.)

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