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THE IRONY OF FATE
Giles was slowly recovering from his illness, but as yet was unable to leave his room. It was now over a month since the death of Daisy, and during that time all matters connected therewith had been reported to the invalid. Thus he knew of the funeral, of the verdict of the jury, and of the search that was being made for Anne. Trim, who nursed his young master--and he would not allow any one else to do so--day by day, related all that was taking place. The man himself quite believed that Miss Denham was guilty, but he did not offer this opinion to Ware, knowing how keenly Giles felt the untoward tragedy.
The young squire could not bring himself to believe that Anne was guilty. Appearances were against her, and he could not conceive what excuse she could make for her flight with the lawyer's clerk. If she were innocent, she had gone the best way to work up a feasible case against her. But Giles was so deeply in love with her that the blacker became her character in the mouths of the general public, the more persistently he held to the belief that it was whiter than snow. Had he been able he would have followed her, in order to persuade her to return and face the worst with a frank story of the events of that terrible night. But he was chained to his bed, and even had he been sufficiently well, he could not have traced her whereabouts. Steel had called to explain his doings, but not even he could guess where Anne was to be found. And Giles rejoiced that this should be so.
"What's the news this morning, Trim?" he asked languidly.
"Mr. Morley has come to see you, sir. He is waiting below."
"I thought he had gone to Brighton with his wife and family?"
"He did go some days back," assented Trim, "but he returned, sir--so he says--especially to see you."
"How very good of him! Ask him to come up."
"Are you strong enough, Master Giles?"
"Yes, you old tyrant. I hope to be up and about in a week."
Trim shook his grey head. He was rather a pessimist, and did not believe in too sudden recoveries, insisting that such did not last.
"You'll have a relapse, sir, and be worse than ever."
Ware laughed, knowing Trim's ways, and motioned him out of the room. When the old servant left, grumbling that his master should be disturbed, Giles began to wonder what had brought Morley back from Brighton. Perhaps he had come to speak of Daisy and her untimely end; but he had already, on a previous occasion, said all that was to be said about that matter. Ware sincerely mourned Daisy, for in a way he had been fond of her. Still, he could not but confess that a marriage between them would have been a mistake, and that drastic as was the cutting of the Gordian knot, it relieved him from an impossible position. His love for Anne would always have stood between himself and the unfortunate girl, and her jealousy would have ruined both their lives. Certainly he saw no chance of making Anne his wife, seeing that she was a fugitive and accused of a terrible crime. Nevertheless, since he had not to marry Daisy, the situation was less difficult. But Ware, his heart aching for the woman he loved, found cold comfort in this reasoning.
Morley entered, looking ruddy and cheerful, quite his old self, in fact. Evidently the sea air and the change had assuaged his grief to a considerable extent, and Giles could not help remarking cynically on his quick recovery. "I thought you were fond of Daisy," he said reproachfully.
"I was, and so was my wife," answered Morley, taking a seat beside the bed. "But what's done can't be undone, and I have been trying to get over my sorrow. But in spite of my looks, Ware, I have my bad moments. And you?"
"I sincerely mourn for the poor girl. It is terrible that she should be cut off so suddenly. But I am just as sorry for Miss Denham, if not more sorry. It is those who are left behind that suffer most, Morley."
"Humph!" said the little man thoughtfully, "then you did love Miss Denham?"
"Morley"--Giles started up on his elbow--"what do you mean?"
"I am simply repeating what Daisy said."
"She had a monomania on the subject," said Ware uneasily. "I never gave her any cause for jealousy."
"Would you have married her had she lived?"
"Certainly," said Ware coldly. "I promised my father that the daughter of his old friend should be my wife."
"I am sure you would have acted honorably," said Morley gravely, "but it is just as well that you did not marry the girl. I think she had some reason to be jealous of Miss Denham."
Ware groaned. "I tried my best to----" He broke off with a frown. "This is my private business, Morley. You have no right to pry into these things."
Morley shrugged his shoulders. "As you please. I shall say no more. But I don't expect you'll see Miss Denham again."
"I don't expect I shall. Please leave her name out of this conversation."
"For the moment I am agreeable to do so. But as I believe her to be guilty, I must ask you a question or two."
"I shall answer no questions," responded Giles violently. "Miss Denham is innocent."
"Then why did she fly?"
"I don't know. If I can only find her, I shall ask her to come back and face the worst. She can explain."
"She will have to when she is caught. How do you propose to find her, Ware?"
"I don't know. Wait till I am on my feet again."
"Well," said Morley cheerfully, "I'll give you a clue--the Scarlet Cross."
"Rubbish! There's nothing in that in spite of the anonymous letter. What do you know about the matter?"
"Only what Steel told me. He found a boatman at Gravesend who declared that on the day of the crime--Steel gave him the date--a small steam yacht was lying in the river off the town. It was called The Red Cross. The next morning it was gone. The night was foggy, and no one saw it leave its moorings. It simply vanished. What do you make of that, Ware?"
"Nothing at all. What has this yacht to do with Miss Denham?"
"Can't you see? The anonymous letter referred to a Scarlet Cross. Such an ornament was picked up in the church, and the boat was called----"
"The Red Cross--not The Scarlet Cross," interrupted Ware.
"Only a difference of shade," said Morley ironically. "But I am certain that Miss Denham with her companion went on board that yacht. I can't think how else they escaped."
"Why should this lawyer's clerk have gone on board?"
"That's what Steel is trying to find out. I expect he will make inquiries of Asher, Son, and Asher's office. But the name of the yacht, the fact that Miss Denham made for Gravesend, where it was lying, and its appearance and disappearance within twenty-four hours during which the crime was committed shows me that she fled and that she is guilty."
Ware restrained himself with a violent effort. "Oh," he said ironically, "then you believe that Miss Denham arranged that the yacht should be at Gravesend, ready for her flight, after the death of Daisy."
"It looks like that," assented Morley. "I believe myself that the crime was premeditated."
"And was the fact of my car being at the church gate premeditated?" asked Ware angrily.
"Why not? Miss Denham knew that your car was coming for you after the service."
"Morley, I admit that things look black, but she is not guilty."
"Humph! You love her."
"That has nothing to do with it."
"As you will. Let us say no more on the subject. I wish to tell you why I came."
"It is sure to be a more disagreeable subject," retorted Giles; then felt compunction for the rude speech. "I beg your pardon, Morley, I am a perfect bear. But this illness has made me peevish, and the events of the last few weeks have rendered my brain irritable. Forgive my bad temper."
"Oh, that's all right, Ware," replied his visitor heartily. "I can always make allowances for invalids. You'll be your old self again shortly."
"I shall never be myself again," replied Giles gloomily.
It was on the tip of Morley's tongue to make some fresh reference to Anne. But he knew that such a remark would only exasperate the invalid; and, moreover, Giles looked so ill and worried that Morley generously refrained from adding to his troubles. "Let us come to business," he said, taking some papers out of his breast coat-pocket. "Since you were engaged to Daisy I thought it right that you should be made aware of a communication I have received from Asher, Son, and Asher."
"About the summons you told me of?" asked Ware wearily. He did not take much interest in Morley's affairs.
"No. I have managed to compromise that. The solicitors have accepted payment in instalments. In this instance they write to me officially as Daisy's guardian. She has come into five thousand a year, Ware."
Giles opened his eyes and sat up in bed excitedly.
"Do you mean to say that her half-uncle Powell is dead?"
Morley nodded. "Very ironical, isn't it?" he said. "She was always talking and hoping for the money, and now when it comes she is unable to enjoy it. What tricks Fate plays us to be sure!"
"Poor girl!" sighed Giles; "how often have we discussed the prospect of her being an heiress! I always told her that I had enough for both, but she hankered after having money in her own right."
"Look at the papers," said Morley, handing them to the young man, "and you will see that Powell died over four months ago in Sydney. His solicitors arranged about the estate in the colony of New South Wales, and then communicated with Asher as Powell had advised them before he died. There is a copy of the will there."
"So I see. But tell me the chief points in it. I feel too tired to wade through all this legal matter."
"Well, the money was left to Daisy, and failing her it goes to a man called George Franklin."
"H'm! He has come in for his kingdom very speedily, thanks to the death of poor Daisy. Who is he?"
Morley glanced at a letter. "He was the brother-in-law of Mr. Powell--married Powell's sister who is dead. I don't know if there is any family. Asher's firm doesn't know the whereabouts of Franklin, but they are advertising for him. The five thousand a year goes to him without reservation."
"Why did they tell you all this?"
"I really can't say, unless it is because I was Daisy's legal guardian. I wish she had come in for this money, Ware, for I do not say but what I shouldn't have been glad of a trifle. And if Daisy had lived she would have paid me something. Certainly as I did what I did do out of sheer friendship with her father, I have no right to demand anything, but when Franklin hears of my circumstances I hope he will lend me some money to get me out of my difficulties."
"It all depends upon the kind of man he turns out to be. But I always thought, Morley, that it was your wife to whom Kent left his daughter. She was an old friend of his."
"Quite so; but Kent appointed me guardian, as Mrs. Morley refused to be legally bound. I am sure I did my duty," added the little man, with sudden heat.
"I am sure you did. You behaved like a father to her, and I am sorry she did not live to repay you." Giles thought for a moment or so, then added, "I was engaged to Daisy, and I am rich. Let me help you, Morley."
"No, thanks. It is good of you to suggest such a thing, but I am a very independent man. If this Franklin will do anything, I don't mind accepting a thousand from him; otherwise--no, Ware."
Giles admired the bluff way in which Morley said this. He knew well that for a long time Morley and his wife had done all they could for Daisy Kent, and that both of them deserved great praise. He suggested that Mrs. Morley might be induced----
"No," interrupted his visitor, "my wife wants nothing. She has her own money, and ample means."
"Then why don't you ask for her help?"
"My dear Ware, I married Mrs. Morley because I loved her, and not for her money. All her property is settled on herself, and I have not touched one shilling of it. She would willingly help me, but I have refused."
"Isn't that rather quixotic on your part?"
"Perhaps," responded Morley, with some dryness; "but it is my nature. However, I see that I am tiring you. I only came to tell you of this irony of fate, whereby Daisy inherited a fortune too late to benefit by it. I must go now. My wife expects me back in Brighton to-morrow."
"When do you return to The Elms?"
"In a month. And what are your movements?"
Ware thought for a few minutes before he answered. At length he spoke seriously.
"Morley, I know you are prejudiced against Miss Denham."
"I think she is guilty, if that is what you mean, Ware."
"And I say that she is innocent. I intend to devote myself to finding her and to clearing up this mystery."
"Well, I wish you good luck," said Morley, moving towards the door; "but don't tell me when you find Miss Denham. If I come across her I'll have her arrested."
"That's plain enough. Well, since you are her declared enemy, I shall keep my own counsel." He raised himself on his elbow. "But I tell you, Morley, that I shall find her. I shall prove her innocence, and I shall make her my wife."
Morley opened the door.
"The age of miracles is past," he said. "When you are more yourself, you will be wiser. Good-bye, and a speedy recovery."
As the visitor departed Trim entered with the letters. He was not at all pleased to find Giles so flushed, and refused to hand over the correspondence. Only when Ware began to grow seriously angry did Trim give way. He went grumbling out of the room as Giles opened his letters. The first two were from friends in town asking after his health; the third had a French stamp and the Paris postmark. Ware opened it listlessly. He then uttered an exclamation. On a sheet of thin foreign paper was the drawing in pencil of a half-sovereign of Edward VII., and thereon three circles placed in a triangle, marked respectively "A," "D," and "P." Below, in a handwriting he knew only too well, was written the one word "Innocent."
"Anne, Anne!" cried Ware, passionately kissing the letter, "as though I needed you to tell me that!"
And it was not till an hour later that he suddenly remembered what a narrow escape he had had from putting Morley on the track of Anne Denham. Had Morley seen that letter----?
"Paris," murmured Giles, "I'll go there."
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