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THE END OF THE TROUBLE
Giles returned to Rickwell within a week, to find that great changes had taken place in the place, even in that little while. After the foundering of The Dark Horse, the other yacht had returned to England forthwith. She had not been very badly damaged by Dane's mad act, although her bows had been smashed. Calthorpe, indeed, had been on the point of putting in to the nearest port to refit, but finding that The Firefly was still seaworthy he held on until he got back to Dover.
Some of the crew of the lost ship had been picked up. As they were all more or less connected with the Scarlet Cross Society, Steel took charge of them and conducted them to London. Giles accompanied Anne to her mother. The Princess Karacsay received her with open arms, and Olga with many professions of gratitude. "You have undone all the harm I caused," said Olga to Giles.
"Oh, that's all right," he replied. "We are friends now?"
"Friends, and nothing more than friends. I am returning to Vienna with my mother, and have agreed to marry Count Taroc."
Satisfied on this point, Giles went back to Rickwell, leaving Anne to the society of the Princess. Almost as soon as he set foot in his home he was informed of the news by Trim.
"Mr. Franklin is dead," said Trim, with startling abruptness.
"Dead!" echoed Ware astonished. "Was his broken leg the cause?"
"No," replied the old man; "but yesterday he received a telegram, and afterwards took a dose of poison. His daughter is coming here to see you, sir. She heard you were to be here to-day."
Giles wondered why Portia should come to see him, and also why Denham should have committed suicide after receiving a telegram. Trim could not tell him what the telegram was about, so Giles had to wait until the girl chose to call and enlighten him. Perhaps she had a message for him from the dead man concerning Anne. Meanwhile Trim went on to state that Mrs. Morley was leaving Rickwell.
"She has sold all her furniture and has let The Elms," said Trim. "I saw Morris yesterday, and he tells me she is stopping at 'The Merry Dancer' with her children."
"Does she know of her husband's death?" asked Giles.
"Death, sir. Is Mr. Morley dead?"
"I forgot. You do not know. Yes, Trim. He went down in his yacht, The Dark Horse, in the Bay of Biscay."
"Poor woman!" said Trim, looking shocked; "she was so fond of him."
Ware had his own opinion on this point, so made no remark. He turned over the correspondence that had accumulated during his absence, and found a letter from Mrs. Morley written a day or so previous. She said therein that she wished to see him particularly, and that she would call as soon as he returned. She had something most particular to tell him. The word "particular" was underlined. Giles wondered if she intended to tell him some of Morley's rascalities. But then he remembered that, according to Dane, she knew nothing of the double life which her husband had led. Anxious to hear what she had to say, he despatched a note by Trim asking her to come to his house, and offering to go to the inn, should she prefer their conversation to take place there. When Trim departed, Giles proceeded to despatch such business connected with his estates as was necessary.
Hardly had he been an hour engaged in this way when Portia called to see him. She had discarded her rainbow-colored garb, and was clothed in funereal black. When she entered Giles' study he saw that her eyes were red, and her face swollen with weeping. He felt extremely sorry for the poor girl, and privately determined to look after her as Denham had requested. Meantime he did his best to console Portia.
"I am sorry to hear of your father's death," he said sympathetically. Portia looked at him indignantly.
"Why should you say that?" she demanded; "you were not his friend."
"No. I certainly was not. All the same I cannot help regretting that a man with such great gifts should have wasted them in the way he did, and should have put an end to himself."
"There was nothing else for him to do," said the girl mournfully. "He was to be taken to gaol as soon as his leg was better. The police could not move him immediately, or he would have been put in gaol long ago. But he's dead now, and I'm glad. Whatever you may say of him, Mr. Ware, he was my father, and good to me. Yes, and he was good to Anne also. She'll tell you so."
"I am sure he was," answered Giles gently. "Your father had his good points, Portia. How much of his sad history do you know?"
"I know he had his faults," she replied doggedly, "and that he was very badly treated by that beast Morley. I'm glad Morley is dead."
"How do you know he is?" asked Giles sharply.
"Father got a telegram yesterday from Steel. Steel promised to let him know if Morley was caught, as father hated him so. When the telegram came saying that Morley was drowned, father said that he had nothing left to live for, and that he was quite pleased to die. Then he sent me out of the room and took poison. I came back in an hour," sobbed Portia, "and found him dead. He looked so handsome as a corpse."
Giles shivered at this morbid speech, but made no comment thereon. He saw that Portia knew very little, and was determined in her own mind to know no more. She had elevated her dead father to the rank of a hero, and would not listen to a word against him. Ware thought there must have been a great deal of good in Denham, despite his evil career, seeing that he had gained the good will of both Portia and Anne. But he had no time to talk further to Portia on these points, as a card was brought in to him, and he learned that Mrs. Morley was waiting to see him. He said a few final words to Portia.
"How do you stand?" he asked.
"Anne will look after me," she answered. "I don't suppose you'll be mean enough to put her against me."
"Why should I?" said Giles mildly. "I am only too glad to help you in any way I can. But this money your father----"
"That is all right. Father saw Mr. Asher, the lawyer, and has left his money to Anne, every penny of it. I get nothing," cried Portia, with a fresh burst of grief; "but I do hope Anne will help me. I'm sure I've always been very good to her, even though she isn't my sister."
"Did your father tell you she wasn't?"
"Yes. He said she was an adopted child. Though why he should have left her all, and me nothing----"
Here Portia wept again.
Ware saw that Denham had arranged with Asher that her father's money should pass to Anne. No doubt he had told the lawyer the whole history of the imposture, and Asher would now take steps to place Anne in possession of her fortune. But Denham had deceived Portia, probably because he wished the girl to think well of him after he was dead. Giles resolved that he would not undeceive the girl.
"I'll see that things are made easy for you," he said. "Are you still at the Priory?"
"There's nowhere else for me to go till I hear from Anne."
"Anne is in town. I'll write to her, and we'll see what can be done."
Portia rose to go, but she expressed no thanks for his kindness. "So you are to marry Anne," she said. "Well, I hope you'll be good to her."
"Don't you think I shall?"
Portia, in spite of her grief, tossed her head. "I don't know," she said; "all men are bad, except my father, who was very, very good," and she looked defiantly at Giles as though challenging contradiction.
But Ware was too sorry for the girl to make any harsh remark. He walked with her to the outer door, and sent her away in a much more cheerful mood. Then he returned to his study, and found Mrs. Morley already seated near his desk. She looked ill and worn, but, in strange contrast to her usual custom, wore a colored gown, and evidently had been trying to dress herself as gaily as possible. She saw the surprised look on Giles' face, and guessed its meaning.
"Yes, Mr. Ware," she said, plucking at her dress, "you see I have my holiday clothes on. Even though Oliver has left me, there is no need for me to go into mourning. No. He has deserted me basely. I am determined to show the world that I don't care."
"Mrs. Morley, your husband is dead."
"Dead!" She half started from her chair, but sat down again with a white face. Then to Giles' horror she began to laugh. He knew that Morley had been a bad husband to the woman before him, but that she should laugh on hearing of his death, made him shiver. He hastily explained how Morley had met with his fate, and Mrs. Morley not only laughed again, but clapped her gloved hands.
"Dead!" she said quite gleefully. "Ah! he was lucky to the last."
Ware thought that the widow must be off her head to talk like this; but Mrs. Morley was perfectly sane, and her exclamation was perfectly natural, as he soon learned. She enlightened him in her next speech.
"Don't you call a man lucky," she said quietly, "who died like my husband in the clean waves of the sea, instead of being hanged as he deserved?"
"What do you mean?" asked the startled Giles.
"Can't you guess?" She drew a paper out of her pocket. "I came here to give you that, Mr. Ware. The confession of my wicked husband."
"Yes. You will find it particularly interesting, Mr. Ware. It was my miserable husband who murdered Daisy."
"Never!" gasped Giles, rising aghast. "He was in the library all the time. You told----"
"I know what I told," she answered quickly. "I did so to save my name from shame; for the sake of my children I lied. Oliver did not deserve the mercy I showed him. Base to the last he deserted me. Now he is dead. I am glad to hear it." She paused and laughed. "I shall not change my dress, Mr. Ware."
"Don't, Mrs. Morley," he said, with a shudder.
"Not that name, if you please," she said, and noting her card on the desk she tore it in two. Then opening her case she tore the other cards and scattered them on the floor. "Mrs. Morley is no more. I am Mrs. Warton. That is the name of my first husband--my true husband--the father of my three children. Yes, Mr. Ware, I have sold my furniture, and let The Elms. To-morrow I leave for the south of France with my children. I land in France as Mrs. Warton, and the old life is gone for ever. Can you blame me?"
"From what I know of Morley I cannot," he stammered. "But what do you know, Mrs. Mor--I mean Mrs. Warton?"
"I know everything. Listen, Mr. Ware. When Oliver married me I was in love with him. I thought he loved me for myself. But it was my money he was after. Some time after our marriage I found that he was a gambler. He lost all my money at cards. Fortunately there was a sum of a thousand a year settled on me which he could not touch, nor was he able to touch the money left to my children. All the rest (and there was a great deal) he wheedled out of me and spent."
"I wonder you did not put an end to him long ago. I mean I should have thought you would separate from the scoundrel."
Mrs. Morley sighed. "I loved him," she said in low tones. "It took me many a long day to stamp that love out of my heart. I did all he wished me to do. I took The Elms and obtained the guardianship of Daisy. I never thought that he had any design in getting me to take her to live with us. I was one of her father's oldest friends and loved the girl. Morley managed the affair in such a manner that I did what he wished without knowing I was being coerced."
"Morley was a very clever man."
"And a wicked man," said his widow, without emotion. "I can only think of the way he behaved to me and mine. Daisy always hated him. I could never get her to like him. I don't know what he said or did to her--he always seemed to me to treat her with kindness--but she had an antipathy to him. He thought when she got the Powell money he would do what he liked with her and it. But when he saw she was hostile to him he determined then on her murder."
"You did not know that at the time?" said Giles breathlessly.
"No. Certainly I did not, or I should have sent the girl away. I am only talking by the light of recent events. When that man came to tell Morley about the death of Powell he knew that Daisy would leave the house and marry you as soon as she got the fortune. He tried to induce Denham when he was in the library to kill Daisy, and took down the stiletto for that purpose. Denham refused. Then there was a man called Dane, who came with a message. Morley asked him likewise to kill the girl, and was likewise refused. He saw there was nothing for it but to murder Daisy himself. In a day or so it would have been too late, as she would hear about the money and leave the house. Morley took the stiletto and went to the church in the hope of killing her when she came out and was amidst the crowd of people. He hoped to escape unobserved."
"A rash idea!" observed Giles.
"Oh, its safety lay in its rashness," said the widow coldly. "Well, it happened that Denham lured Daisy out of the church and did not follow for some time. Morley looking at the door saw her come out. She waited for a moment and then walked to her father's grave. Morley followed and killed her by stabbing her in the back as she knelt in the snow by the grave. She fell forward with a cry. He would have repeated the blow but that he saw Denham coming. He fled back to the house. I was in the library when he arrived. He made some excuse, and I never thought anything was wrong."
"Had he the stiletto with him?"
"I believe he had, but I did not see it. Afterwards he took the stiletto back to the churchyard and pretended to find it, so that Anne might be accused. Denham never suspected Morley of the crime. Why, I don't know, as any one who knew what I have told you about his offers to Denham and Dane must have guessed that Morley was guilty."
"How did you learn all this?" asked Giles, glancing at the confession which was in Morley's own handwriting.
"At various times. I did not suspect him at first. But one thing led to another and I watched him. I got at his papers and discovered all about the Scarlet Cross, and----"
"Wait, Mrs. Morley--I mean Warton. Did Morley write that anonymous letter which accused Anne?"
"Yes. He did so, in case it was necessary to kill Daisy. He hoped by hinting beforehand that Anne would be accused. It was Anne's foolish speech to Daisy, saying she would kill her, that gave him the idea. But she meant nothing by it. It was only a few hot words. However, Morley used them to his own end. Well, Mr. Ware, I found out about the thieving gang, and then learned for the first time the kind of man I had married. My love died out of my heart at once. I took to thinking how I could get away from him. He used to mutter in his sleep, having an uneasy conscience."
"I should think he was too strong a man to have a conscience."
"Well, he muttered in his sleep at all events. From what he said I discovered that he had something to do with the death of Daisy. I accused him, and told him that I knew all about his Scarlet Cross wickedness. He denied the truth of this at first. Afterwards, little by little, I got the truth out of him. I then made him write out that confession and sign it, so that I could save Anne should she be caught. I promised for the sake of my own name and my children not to use the confession unless Anne was taken. That is why Morley ran away with Anne. He fancied that she would continue to bear the blame, and also"--here Mrs. Wharton hesitated and glanced at Giles--"I fancy that Oliver was in love with Miss Denham."
"The scoundrel!" cried Giles furiously.
Mrs. Wharton--as she now called herself--laughed coldly and rose to depart. "I don't think it matters much now," she said. "Anne was not drowned also, was she?"
"No," replied Ware, shuddering; "she is in London, and I hope shortly to make her my wife."
"I wish her all happiness," said Mrs. Wharton, without emotion. "I always liked Anne, and for her sake I secured that confession. That, when published, will vindicate her character. You need have no hesitation in showing it to the police and in letting that detective deal with it as he thinks fit. In a few days I shall be in France under the name of Mrs. Wharton, and the past will be dead to me. Good-bye." She held out her hand.
"Good-bye," answered Giles, shaking it heartily. "I trust you will be happy, Mrs. Wharton."
"I shall be at peace, if nothing else," she replied, and so passed from the room, and out of his life.
Giles showed the confession to Steel, who was delighted that the real culprit had at last been discovered. But he was sorely disappointed at the suicide of Denham. "It spoils the case," he said.
"You are going to bring the matter into court, then," said Giles.
"Of course. I want some reward for my labor, Mr. Ware. I'll break up that gang. I must publish this confession in order to save your future wife from further blame. Not that it will matter much," he added, "for Miss Denham--I should rather say Miss Franklin--has gone to Styria with her mother and half-sister."
"I know," answered Giles quietly. "I join them there in a week."
"Well, Mr. Ware, I congratulate you, and I hope you'll have a good time. You deserve it from the way in which you have worked over this case."
"What about yourself, Steel?"
"Oh, I'm all right. Dane, Morley, and Denham are dead, which is a pity, as they are the chief villains of the play. Still, I'll contrive to punish those others and get some kudos out of the business. And I must thank you, Mr. Ware, for that reward."
"It was Miss Anne's idea," replied Ware. "She will soon be put in possession of her money, and asked me to give you the reward. It is half from her and half from me."
"And I believed her guilty," said Steel regretfully; "but I'll make amends, Mr. Ware. I'll keep her name out of this business as much as I can, consistently with the evidence."
Steel was as good as his word. The thieves were tried, but Anne was not mentioned in connection with their robberies. As regards the murder, the confession of Morley was made public and every one knew that Anne was guiltless. In fact, she was applauded for the way in which she had helped her supposed father to escape. The papers called the whole episode romantic, but the papers never knew the entire truth, nor that Anne was the daughter of the Princess Karacsay. Not even Mrs. Parry learned as much as she should have liked to learn. But what scraps of information she did become possessed of, she wove into a thrilling story which fully maintained her reputation as a scandal-monger. And she was always Anne's friend, being particularly triumphant over the fact that she had never believed her to be guilty.
"And I hope," said Mrs. Parry generally, "that every one will believe what I say in the future;" which every one afraid of her tongue pretended to do.
Giles and Anne were married from the castle of Prince Karacsay, in Styria. The Prince took a great fancy to Anne Franklin, and learned the truth about her parentage. But this was not made public. It was simply supposed that she was a young English lady who was the intimate friend of Princess Olga. But every one was surprised when the elder Princess at the wedding threw over Anne's neck a magnificent necklace of uncut emerald. "It belonged to your father's mother, dear," whispered the Princess as she kissed the bride.
Olga married Count Taroc, and settled down into the meekest of wives. Giles and Anne heard of the marriage while on their honeymoon in Italy. They had taken a villa at Sorrento and were seated out on the terrace when the letter came, Anne expressed herself glad.
"And you are pleased too, dear," she said to Giles.
"Very pleased," he replied, with emphasis, whereat she laughed.
"I know why you are pleased," she said, in answer to his look. "Olga told me how deeply she was in love with you. But her cure was as quick as her disease was virulent. She never would have harmed me, my dear. Olga was always fond of me--and of you."
Giles flushed and laughed.
"Well, it's all over now," he said, "and I am glad she is married. But let us talk about yourself. Are you happy after all your troubles, dearest?"
"Very happy, Giles. I regret nothing. Portia, thanks to you, is in a good home. But my poor father----"
"Don't call Denham that, Anne," he said, with a frown.
She kissed it away.
"He was always very good to me," she said. "I tried to save him, as you know. I believed that he had killed Daisy by some mistake. But really, Giles, I did not stop to think. I knew that my--I mean Denham--was in danger of his life, and I could not rest until I had placed him in safety."
"And you defended him afterwards, Anne--that time we met in the churchyard. You quite endorsed his story of the invented Walter Franklin."
"Don't reproach me, Giles. I had promised Denham to say what I did; and not even for your dear sake could I break my word. He was a good man in many ways; but, as you say yourself, it is all over. Let us forget him and his tragic end."
Anne shivered. "He was the worst. Oh, what a terrible time I had on board that boat, when I found he was deceiving me. I thought he was taking me to Denham, and I wanted to see what he--I mean Denham--would say to my mother's statement. I thought he might be able to show that he was not so bad as she----"
"Not another word," said Ware, taking her in his arms. "Let us leave the old bad past alone, and live in the present. See"--he took a parcel out of his pocket--"I have had this made for you."
Anne opened the package, and found therein the coin of Edward VII. set as a brooch and surrounded by brilliants.
"Oh, how delightful!" she said, with a true woman's appreciation of pretty things.
"It is the dearest thing in the world to me, save you, Anne," he said. "Twice that coin brought me to you. But for it I should never have been by your side now."
She kissed the coin again and fastened it at her throat, where it glittered a pretty, odd ornament.
"You waste your kisses," cried Giles, and took her to his breast.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
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