THE GODS ARE JUST

It would be hard to say who was the palest and most terror-stricken of
the trio who stood on the terrace. Mrs. Crosbie clung to her stern
mother with dilated eyes, shaking like a reed: but Mrs. Berch,
although stern and unmoved–outwardly at least–was also pallid. As
for Rebb, he leaned against the balustrade of the terrace scarcely
able to speak. Before him stood Tod and Arnold, Gerald Haskins and the
girl whom he had treated so cruelly–the girl whom he had believed
until now was at the bottom of some rural stream. The hour of
retribution had come, and in a flash the guilty man saw everything he
possessed reft from him–saw also the structure of crime and falsehood
he had reared crumble into dust. His worst enemy would have pitied the
Major in that hour of agony.

“You!” he faltered, staring at Mavis, as though she were indeed the
ghost he almost believed her to be. “You!”

“Ah!” murmured Macandrew complacently, “so Geary did not deliver my
message to you after all.”

“Geary!” The Major stood erect, braced for the coming struggle, and
his face hardened. “Did Geary know this—-” And he pointed to Mavis.

“I told him the truth last night.”

“And he never told me; he never warned me.” Rebb clenched his fists.
“Oh the scoundrel! I might have—- But there, it is too late–too
late.”

“What do you mean by too late?” said Mrs. Berch imperiously, and
throwing a protecting arm round her daughter, “fight for Madge if you
will not for yourself.”

But Rebb paid no attention to her. “Geary! Geary!” he muttered,
looking round with bloodshot eyes, “he was in the courtyard an hour
ago, and he did not tell me, curse him! He may be—- Geary! Geary!”
he raised his voice to an angry cry and ran swiftly along the terrace
through the arch and into the quadrangle.

Gerald took the hand of his wife and followed quickly, with Tod and
the ex-tutor behind. They did not wish to lose sight of Rebb. For one
moment Mrs. Berch and her daughter looked at one another, and Madge
hung back, trembling. But the mother suddenly seized the widow’s wrist
and dragged her, a miserable figure, pale-faced, and shaking in her
gay attire, into the quadrangle. “We must see what Michael will do,”
whispered Mrs. Berch, passing her tongue over her dry lips. “He may
win the day yet.”

“No, no,” moaned Mrs. Crosbie; “he is lost.”

At the far end of the quadrangle Gerald and Mavis saw the token of
Geary’s drunken handiwork. A considerable portion of the ivy-clothed
wall had fallen outward, and lay in ruins on the lip of the cliff.
Three or four trees had been dashed into the pool below, and there was
a clear view across the Ruddle to the green forest beyond. The mystery
of the Enchanted Castle was at an end, and, no longer a palace of the
Sleeping Beauty, it lay open to the world, as Morgan had said. And now
in its romantic quadrangle there were sterner doings than the
moonlight wooings of lovers who had, for the moment, recalled the
Golden Age, when the gods came down to men.

“Geary! Geary!” shouted Rebb, rushing towards the fallen wall, and
mounting its ruins. There was no response, and Gerald fancied that
Rebb had merely made an excuse, so as to get near the river and
throw himself in. But, guilty or innocent, the Major was sufficiently
brave to face the sins he had committed, and came down again slowly to
the group near the battered sundial. He was still livid, but more
self-controlled.

“I shall deal with Geary later,” he said thickly, “in the meanwhile I
can deal with you.”

“We are quite ready,” said Gerald tranquilly.

“Who are _we?_” questioned Rebb scathingly.

“Myself and my wife.”

“She is not your wife. A marriage with a madwoman is not legal.”

Mavis shuddered, and clung to Gerald’s arm. It was the first time that
she had been called mad to her face. “Oh, guardian,” she wailed, “how
can you say that of me when I was so fond of you?”

“You had every reason to be fond of me,” said Rebb harshly, and his
eyes gleamed as he thought the girl was weakening. “I gave you a happy
home, in this delightful place, because your brain was not strong
enough to bear the troubles of this world.”

Mavis withdrew her hand from Gerald’s arm, and looked scornfully at
the liar, whom she now saw in his true colors. “You kept me here that
you might enjoy the money which my father left to me,” she declared,
in haughty tones, “you betrayed the trust your dead friend placed in
you. I was a weak girl, and an ignorant one, to believe in your lies:
but now,” she added, stepping forward a pace, “now, Major Rebb,” and
her use of the name showed the attitude she intended to adopt, “I call
upon you to give me back my money, and leave this place, which belongs
to me.”

“No madwoman can possess money,” said Mrs. Crosbie shrilly. She saw
the Major’s income was about to be lost, and that it would be useless
to marry him. “Michael, call the police and have her removed.”

“One moment,” said Gerald quietly. “You go too fast, Mrs. Crosbie. But
I am glad to see you at last as you really are. I thought you were my
friend. I now see that you are my enemy. My wife is perfectly sane,
and, as her husband, I shall see that her sanity is proved.”

“Call the police–call the police!” cried Mrs. Crosbie furiously; and
she broke from her mother’s grip. “How dare you stand there and insult
me, Gerald? I was your friend, and I will be your friend still, if you
will shut up that girl, and apologize.”

Tod laughed at the weakness of this speech. “If you cannot find
anything better to say, Mrs. Crosbie, you had better hold your
tongue,” he said caustically. “Even if Mrs. Haskins is shut up the
money still belongs to her husband. Major Rebb has lost that for ever.
It is the money you are after, madam.”

“Yes, it is; yes, it is,” said Mrs. Crosbie, utterly reckless, and
defying the efforts of her mother to keep her silent. “If you knew the
miserable years of poverty I have had you would not wonder at my
wishing for the money. My marriage with Michael will save me from
shame and misery and–and—-” She choked with mingled terror and
rage, and Mrs. Berch pulled her back roughly.

“Are you a fool to talk like this?” she muttered. “Hold your tongue,
you silly child.” She shook her angrily. “Wait until Michael settles
this affair. Major Rebb?” she turned inquiringly to her proposed
son-in-law.

“I shall settle this affair very speedily,” said Rebb, walking across
the lawn towards the archway, “my man shall go for the police. Or,
better still, that coachman who drove you from Silbury, Mavis, shall
go back to bring Inspector Morgan. I am very sorry that you have
thrust yourself into danger. But I should not be doing my duty by
society if I did not have you imprisoned.”

“As a lunatic?” asked Mavis scornfully. She had quite lost her old
dread of the Major by this time.

“As a murderess,” he retorted.

“Prove that,” said Haskins, stepping in Rebb’s path.

“Out of my way,” growled Rebb, looking dangerous.

“You have brought a serious accusation against my wife,” persisted the
young man, “and I intend to make you prove it. On what grounds do you
say that my wife is crazy?”

“She has been all her life,” said the Major, forced to answer, for he
saw very plainly that Haskins would knock him down if he attempted to
pass the archway. Not that the Major feared a fight, but his situation
was so desperate that he wished to adjust things as quietly as
possible. His threat to call the police was bluff, as Gerald knew, and
because Gerald _did_ know Rebb was furious.

“Prove that she has been mad all her life,” said Haskins coolly.
“Mavis has been with Mrs. Pelham Odin since she left here, and that
very clever old woman cannot see that my wife is mad: nor can
Macandrew, nor Arnold, nor anyone else.”

“I can, I can!” cried Mrs. Crosbie, with a bright red spot burning on
either cheek, and looked very angry.

“Ah! you are a prejudiced witness, seeing that you wish to marry Major
Rebb, for the income he is now losing.”

“That he has lost,” interposed Tod, in a dry legal tone: “the
conditions of Julian Durham’s will have been fulfilled, and Mrs.
Haskins now takes possession of her property.”

“How can you prove that my wife is mad?” asked Gerald again, and
taking no notice of the interruption, “have you had her examined by
two doctors, according to law?”

“No,” replied Rebb grudgingly.

“Then how dare you shut her up in this house? I shall bring an action
against you, on behalf of my wife, for false imprisonment.”

“You had better think twice before you do that,” said the Major, in
icy tones, “for I shall retort with an accusation of murder.”

“You say that my wife murdered Bellaria?”

“I do,” said Rebb doggedly. “I swear to it.”

“I dare say; but you have yet to prove your accusation. I am quite
willing to allow Mavis to be arrested.” Gerald stepped aside. “Go and
fetch the police, Rebb. They will be here soon.”

“Here!” Rebb started and turned a shade paler.

“I left instructions at the police station before coming here that
Inspector Morgan was to come with two men. When they arrive you can
give Mavis in charge and then we can submit your accusation of
insanity to a couple of doctors, and your charge of murder to a jury.”

“Then,” cried Mrs. Crosbie viciously, “Michael will get back his
money.”

“I think not,” replied Gerald coldly. “I take charge of that.”

By this time the courage was oozing out of Rebb, who had not expected
the young man to take up such an attitude. “Cannot we arrange this
matter quietly?” he asked, trying to appear composed.

“No,” said the other quietly. “The offer you made me in yonder room
does not suit me.”

“An offer?” said Mrs. Berch, in her deep voice.

“I offered to let Haskins marry Mavis and take her to America, if
he–or rather she–surrendered half the income.”

“I refuse, as Gerald refused,” said Mavis proudly. “I prefer to stand
my trial. I am not going to pass the rest of my life under a cloud for
your sake, Major Rebb.”

“Your sister–your twin sister–shall get the money,” cried Rebb, at
his wits’ end how to deal with the situation. “Ah, you never knew
that.”

“I knew when Gerald told me,” said Mrs. Haskins composedly, “and I
more than suspected it before. Indeed Charity allowed me to pass as
herself, so as to save me from you. I shall repay that, with three
thousand a year. My husband and I have arranged that.”

“You passed as Charity,” cried Rebb, amazed.

“Yes; I danced at the Belver Theatre, and—-”

“It’s a lie–you couldn’t. What became of Charity, if you did that?”

“Charity was with me,” said Tod, stepping forward.

“With you?”

“Yes, as my wife.”

Major Rebb jumped, and staggered against the sundial. “So both the
sisters are married?” he muttered.

“They are,” said Tod, “and they have agreed to share the income you
have held all these years. I am afraid that the game is up, Major.”

Rebb said nothing. The game was indeed up, and he did not know which
way to turn, or how to get the better of his pitiless opponents. Mrs.
Berch left her daughter for the moment and touched his arm. “Why did
you not tell me that there was another girl?” she asked hoarsely and
savagely.

“There was no need.” And the Major shook her off.

“There was every need. You told me, you told Madge, that your income
depended upon Mavis Durham—-”

“Mavis Haskins, if you please,” interpolated that young lady.

Mrs. Berch paid no attention. “On Mavis Durham not marrying. You said
that if in some way her insanity could be proved, and she could be
stopped from marriage, that your income would be safe. For that reason
my daughter wished to marry you.”

“She loved me,” said Rebb unsteadily, and looked at Mrs. Crosbie.

“I loved you as well as any other man,” she said coolly, and shrugging
her shoulders, “but I would have married anyone to escape from debt
and duns and hideous poverty. As you are now poor, of course I cannot
marry you. Come, mother. There is nothing more to be got here. Let us
go back to our misery.”

Rebb said nothing, but turned very white. The woman for whom he had
sold his soul was ready to cast him aside like an old glove. Mrs.
Crosbie, with a vicious glance at Mavis, and a look of indifference at
the man she had professed to love, took her mother’s arm. Mrs. Berch
was quite ready to go, and indeed seemed to be in a hurry to depart.
But the path of the two was blocked by the tiny figure of Arnold, who
had hitherto held his peace.

“So you _did_ know that the Major’s income depended upon Mavis being
prevented, even by the murder of Bellaria, from marrying?”

“What is that to you? Let me pass,” cried Mrs. Crosbie haughtily.

“We,” Arnold waved his hand to include Gerald and Tod, “we thought
that you were ignorant, and so could not guess what was your motive
for murdering that unfortunate woman.”

“Murder!” Mrs. Crosbie went a dead-white, and became as rigid as a
corpse.

Rebb started and came forward.

“You must be mistaken,” he said, in shaking tones to Arnold.

“He is a foul liar,” said Mrs. Berch, grasping her daughter to keep
her from falling. “Let us pass, sir.”

“No,” said Arnold, still holding his ground, and speaking loudly,
while the others kept silence. “When Inspector Morgan comes you shall
be arrested. I shall give you in charge for this murder, of which Mrs.
Haskins is wrongfully accused.”

Mrs. Crosbie shrieked, looking a pitiable spectacle of fear and shame,
as she clung to her mother. But that stern lady, although white and
also terrified, controlled her feelings with iron nerve. “On what
grounds do you accuse my daughter?” she demanded.

“I saw you and her in a motor car at Belldown–I saw you on the way
here–you were at the gates of the Pixy’s House shortly before twelve
o’clock, waiting for Bellaria, whom you lured to the gate by means of
a letter.”

“I was at Bognor–I was at Bognor,” cried Mrs. Crosbie, shaking with
fear.

“No,” interposed Tod. “My clerk went to watch you at Bognor. Neither
you nor Mrs. Berch went there at all. You were down here. Come, Mrs.
Crosbie, you may as well confess. We can prove all about the motor
car, and your presence here.”

“Madge! Madge!” cried Rebb, who looked horrified, “is this true?”

But Mrs. Crosbie only clung sobbing to her mother, being terrified
almost to death. At the same moment that Rebb spoke Inspector Morgan,
with a couple of policemen, entered the quadrangle, and advanced
towards the group. “You wanted me here, Mr. Haskins?” he asked
inquiringly. “I got your message, and here I am with my men. What is
it?”

“In the first place,” said Gerald quietly, “allow me to present to you
my wife,” then when Morgan saluted in a puzzled way, he continued,
“once known as Mavis Durham.”

“What!” Morgan grew red, and his eyes almost started out of his head.
“Do you mean to say that this lady is Mavis Durham?”

“Mavis Haskins now,” said the girl, with a perfectly calm smile, “and
I surrender myself to you willingly.”

“I arrest you in the King’s name for murder,” gabbled Morgan, trying
to recover his official dignity. “Anything you say now will be used in
evidence against you.” And he signed to his subordinates, likewise
startled out of their wits, to take charge of the girl. Arnold sprang
forward as a young constable placed his hand on Mavis’ arm.

“Stop,” he cried. “Mrs. Haskins is innocent. Here is the guilty
woman.” And he pointed to Mrs. Crosbie.

“No, _no!_ You can’t prove that–you dare not–you—-”

“I can prove it!” cried Arnold, bluffing. “Mrs. Crosbie was at the
gate of the Pixy’s House at the time Bellaria Dondi was murdered. A
dozen witnesses can swear that she was in the neighborhood.”

“Is this true?” Morgan asked the little widow, whose gaiety was all
gone, and who suddenly looked twice her age.

“It is not true! It is not true!” she cried. “Mother and I were at
Belldown. We went on to see Major Rebb at Denleigh.”

“Hush, you fool!” muttered Mrs. Berch, shaking her.

“You never came near me there!” cried Rebb, and then became aware
that, on the impulse of the moment, he had ruined the widow. In a
paroxysm of shame and terror, for the man did love the miserable
woman, he added: “Mrs. Crosbie is innocent. I swear she is. I know who
is guilty.”

“You?” everyone cried out, Inspector Morgan loudest of all. The scene
was beyond his comprehension, and he was on the verge of an apoplectic
fit. The whole scene was melodramatic and unreal, and, on the stage,
or when written in a book, would have been described so by critics.

“Who is guilty?” demanded Morgan fiercely.

“Geary–Adonis Geary,” said Rebb. “The knife was his, and I found him
in the grounds when I arrived.”

There was a savage shout before he could finish, and Geary sprang from
behind the ruined river wall. He had been concealed there, and had
heard everything: but he did not appear until his adored master
accused him of the crime. Then terror and rage made him leap forward,
half mad and half drunk. “You say one big lie, sah!” he shouted, with
rolling eyes, and a thick voice. “I lubbed you once, but now you would
kill me with a lie. I tell who did kill dat poor Bellaria.”

“Who killed her?” asked Gerald, for Morgan was too bewildered to ask.

Geary looked slowly round, and pointed to Mrs. Berch.

“Oh, mother, mother,” cried Mrs. Crosbie, “I would have saved you if I
could.”

There was an absolute silence for a few moments. What with one
accusation and another, Inspector Morgan’s brain was reeling. Gerald
could only stare in blank amazement at the negro, who declared so
positively that Mrs. Berch was guilty of a cowardly murder. As for the
accused woman, she put aside her weeping daughter gently and faced the
police boldly. Tod and Rebb and Arnold were silent out of sheer
astonishment. Haskins had thought Geary guilty: Arnold had believed
Rebb to be the doer of the deed: Tod deemed that Mrs. Crosbie had
struck the blow: but not one of the three ever fancied that Mrs. Berch
was the mysterious assassin of the unfortunate Italian.

“Ask this man,” said Mrs. Berch harshly, to Morgan, and pointing
towards Geary. “Ask him on what grounds he makes such an accusation.
My daughter and I certainly were at Belldown, and drove on past
Leegarth, intending to call on Major Rebb at the Devon Maid. But our
car broke down and we were obliged to stop in a cottage for the night.
I can prove an alibi.”

“If you can,” said Morgan, finding his tongue, “why should your
daughter say that she would have saved you if she could?”

“My daughter is mad with terror!” said Mrs. Berch, stonily, “Madge
knows that I am wholly innocent,” and she looked at Mrs. Crosbie.

“Yes, yes, yes!” whispered the widow faintly, “we stopped the night in
a cottage–we are innocent. My mother can prove an alibi.”

“Dat one big lie!” cried Geary, with scorn, “you would like de Major
to say dat I killed Bellaria. Oh yis, and I wud be hanged. Sah,” he
turned reproachfully towards his master, who had been willing to
sacrifice him for another, after his years of faithful service, “you
very wicked massa. I lub you: I do all bad tings for you, but I no
die. Dis woman,” he pointed to the perfectly calm Mrs. Berch, who was
much the most composed of the group, “she come here an’ kill Bellaria.
She write a letter sayin’ dat if Bellaria come to de gate late, she
wud be safe from dos who would kill her. And Bellaria she comes, wid
my big knife to save herself. Den dis woman,” he pointed again at Mrs.
Berch, “she stab and stab and stab.”

“It is all utterly false,” denied the accused woman coldly. “Do you
believe this of your mother’s friend, Gerald?”

“No,” said the young man generously, “there must be some mistake. I
cannot believe that Mrs. Berch would be so wicked. Her known character
contradicts this man’s accusation. I believed that Geary murdered
Bellaria himself, at Major Rebb’s instigation.”

“That’s a lie,” said Rebb, in an agitated voice.

“Dat one big lie,” repeated Geary in his own vernacular, and fumbled
in his breast pocket, “see, massa,” he went towards Morgan, “dis de
letter dat I find in Bellaria’s dress, and—-”

Mrs. Crosbie made a bound and a grab; but Morgan whisked the letter
out of Geary’s hand and held it above her head. One of the policemen
caught the widow to hold her back, and she burst into tears. “Is this
your writing, madam?” Morgan asked Mrs. Berch, holding the letter
before her.

“No,” said Mrs. Berch, in an unshaken voice. “Mr. Haskins knows my
writing well. Gerald, look at the letter.”

The young man took the epistle. It was evidently disguised
handwriting, clumsy and illiterate. He could not reasonably say that
Mrs. Berch had penned the few lines which asked Bellaria to come to
the gates of the Pixy’s House at midnight on a certain date to meet a
well-wisher–so the letter was signed–who could save her from the
Tána Society. The script was quite unlike Mrs. Berch’s sloping Italian
hand, which was that of the mid-Victorian epoch. “No,” he said, and
very gladly, “I don’t think that Mrs. Berch wrote this letter.”

“Ah,” the woman drew a long breath, but displayed no triumph. “Of
course, Mr. Inspector, the charge is absolutely absurd. This mad girl
whom Mr. Haskins has married murdered the miserable creature.”

“Ah,” said Gerald, slipping his arm round Mavis, who shivered, and hid
her face, “you return evil for good, Mrs. Berch.”

Morgan took the letter and placed it in his pocket. “I don’t know what
to think,” he muttered. “You may be innocent and Geary—-” He glanced
at the savage face of the negro, who shouted wrathfully.

“I no kill dat woman,” he cried, stamping like a wild bull in a rage,
“she write de letter, I come to dis house to find de Major, and I find
Bellaria dead–she just dying.”

“Did she speak?” Mavis asked the question.

“No, she no speak; she die at once. I look in de dress, and I find dat
letter and dis.” Geary opened his huge black palm, and on it lay the
coral hand with the dagger. “Dat on de ground near de dress,” he
ended.

“Do you recognize this?” asked Morgan, turning to Gerald, while Mrs.
Crosbie uttered a wail of fear and Mrs. Berch became even paler than
she had been.

Gerald had defended Mrs. Berch before and she had returned his
kindness by accusing Mavis. He determined to leave her to her fate,
since she was so ungrateful, especially as he readily recognized the
coral hand. “So you did not give it back to Venosta after all!” he
said to the terrified Mrs. Crosbie. “Mr. Inspector, this amulet
belongs to—-” He was about to say the name when Mrs. Berch, after a
glance of despair around, interrupted.

“It belongs to me,” she said harshly, “not to my daughter. Mrs.
Crosbie received it from Signor Venosta, but she gave it to me to
return to him after she made use of it to control the Jew moneylender.
I did not return it to Signor Venosta, I—-” She stopped.

“It was found near the corpse of Bellaria by this man,” said Morgan
gravely, “so if it belonged to you—-”

“It hers; it hers,” shouted Geary.

“How do you know?” asked Rebb sharply.

“I see dis woman in dat engine,” he meant the motor car, “on de hill
when I leave Bellaria dead. I run out to see where anyone was, dat
kill Bellaria, and I see dat woman wid dis odder in dat engine.”

“But you came running from the house,” cried Rebb; “you could not—-”

“Let be,” said Mrs. Berch, evidently recognizing that denial was
useless: “no doubt he did see me. But I am guilty and Mrs. Crosbie is
perfectly innocent.”

“Then you killed the woman?” cried Gerald, appalled.

“Yes. But not intentionally. Listen. From you we learned something
about this girl, and then my daughter and I were here on one occasion
and knew something beforehand about the matter. We forced Major Rebb
to explain, as the girl was supposed to be pretty,” she cast a
disdainful glance at Mavis, “and my daughter was a trifle jealous.
When you, Gerald, came asking Madge to take charge of this girl I took
alarm, as I thought that something serious was the matter.”

“You did,” said Rebb bitterly, “and you forced me to tell you the
truth of how my income depended upon Mavis never getting married. But
I did not expect you to kill Bellaria so as to save the income.”

“I did not do so for that purpose,” said Mrs. Berch steadily. “Madge
and I were in despair, as only her marriage with you could save us
from terrible trouble. When Gerald explained about Bellaria’s fear of
the coral hand I learned its purport from Signor Venosta. Then I
thought that I could use it to bend Bellaria to my will.”

“What was your will?” asked Tod, who looked awestruck.

“To insist that Bellaria should take Mavis to Italy and keep her
there, so as to prevent her marrying. Then I knew that Major Rebb’s
income would be safe, and that Madge could marry and take us both out
of the horrible misery we endured trying to keep up appearances on
nothing.”

“On nothing?” cried Haskins suddenly.

“Beyond a hundred a year, Madge and I were penniless,” said Mrs. Berch
coolly.

“But you lived in style,” said Rebb, who seemed to be thunderstruck by
these sordid revelations.

“Oh, we are only a couple of adventuresses,” said Mrs. Berch
ironically, “we deceived everyone, even Gerald’s mother, who was as
kind and good a woman as ever breathed.”

“Don’t,” muttered the young man softly.

“I am only praising the dead,” said Mrs. Berch stolidly. “I say no
evil of her. Well then, we were in desperate straits, else I never
would have hit on the desperate scheme of getting Bellaria to kidnap
Mavis, which was what it amounted to. I told Madge nothing, save, that
I wanted to see Major Rebb. We informed Gerald that we were going to
Bognor, and we really were going. But, by my plan, we came to
Devonshire, and Madge got one of her friends to lend her a motor. She
drives excellently, and as we were at Belldown before, she knows the
country. I pretended that Major Rebb was at the Pixy’s House and had
arranged to see me at midnight. This I told my daughter.”

“And you believed so ridiculous a story?” said Morgan, fixing an
official eye on the shrinking woman. But she only moaned.

“Leave her alone. I am to blame,” said Mrs. Berch sharply, “and the
murder of Bellaria was pure accident.”

“Pure accident!” muttered Arnold ironically.

Mrs. Berch turned on him with a wintry smile. “Yes, sir. The car broke
down–that was really an accident. While Madge was seeing what was the
matter I said that I would walk on and inquire if Major Rebb was at
the house, and could take us in for the night. I came to the gates and
waited for a time. Bellaria came at length. She opened the gates in
fear and trembling, and was armed with a large yellow-handled knife.”

“Dat my knife,” muttered the negro, and rolled his eyes.

“I explained who I was, and told her about the marriage. I said that I
could put Venosta, as representing the society, on her track, unless
she took Mavis to Italy, and kept her single. I promised her a
pension, but the foolish creature,” Mrs. Berch shrugged her shoulders,
“would listen to nothing. She refused to go to Italy, saying that she
would be killed there. I showed her the coral hand, and she tried to
snatch it from me. We struggled, and she lost her head, saying that I
had come to kill her. Once she wounded me in the arm,” here Mrs. Berch
rolled up her sleeve and showed a newly healed scar of considerable
dimensions, “so I tried to take the knife from her. Then—-”

“Then?” said Morgan, speaking for the others, who were all tongue-tied
and staring at the terrible recital.

Mrs. Berch put a slim hand to her head. “I don’t know exactly what
took place,” she said wearily and indifferently, “but somehow I got
the knife, and in the struggle, in the darkness, I stabbed her to the
heart. When she fell I was terrified at what I had done, and flung the
knife into the long grass–the coral hand had long since fallen to the
ground. Then I ran away back to the car. I found Madge had repaired
the damage, which was slight. She saw blood on my dress. I told a lie,
and we got into the car to fly. On the hill yonder”–she pointed over
the ruined wall towards Denleigh–“the car went wrong again. Then it
was that we saw a man come running up. It was Geary, but Madge started
the car, and we managed to get away. I was not sure if he recognized
us.”

“You–you,” said Geary, with a grin, “in de lamp. I saw you when I
come to town wid my massa. But I say noting till my massa want to hang
me. I come back and look for dis gal in de house.”

“I had fled by that time with Arnold,” said Mavis faintly.

“Is that all?” asked Morgan formally, turning to Mrs. Berch.

“What else would you have?” she asked.

“Did your daughter know of—-”

“She knew nothing.”

“I only knew that my mother had accidentally killed Bellaria,” cried
Mrs. Crosbie foolishly. “I made her tell me because of the blood—-”

“You idiot,” said the mother between her teeth.

“Then,” said Morgan officially, “I must arrest you both.”

“But I am innocent,” shrieked Mrs. Crosbie.

“You are an accomplice after the fact,” said Morgan. “Come!” He laid a
heavy hand on Mrs. Crosbie’s shoulder.

She started away with a terrible cry. Rebb flung himself forward to
save her. Morgan grappled with him, and Mrs. Berch tried to snatch her
daughter out of the way. The others were too startled to move. Mrs.
Crosbie, who was mad with fear, tore herself from the grasp of Mrs.
Berch, and ran towards the ruined wall, in the vain hope of escaping.
“Save me–help me! I won’t go to prison. I am innocent–innocent.”

In deadly terror she scrambled over the fallen wall. Geary ran forward
to stop her from escaping, while Morgan still fought with the Major,
and the two policemen were trying to help their superior. On seeing
the negro run after Mrs. Crosbie, the mother, silent and savage, moved
swiftly across the grass in pursuit. She did not run, but she glided
so rapidly that in a moment–as it seemed–she was over the ruins of
the wall, and on the verge of the cliff along with Madge. The negro
she pushed aside. As the others came running up she cried out: “Madge,
let us die together.” And before Mrs. Crosbie knew what was in her
mother’s mind she had leaped into the deep pool, holding her dearly
loved daughter, for whom she had sinned so deeply. There was a loud
splash, the agonized scream of Mrs. Crosbie, and then silence.

* * * * * * * * *

Six months later a happy young couple were in the drawing-room of a
handsome house in Kensington. With them was Mrs. Pelham Odin, looking
more stately and graceful than ever. She had established herself on
the sofa in her regulation attitude, and Mavis was seated in a low
chair beside her. Gerald stood with his back to the fire, smoking, and
looked extremely happy. His happiness was reflected in the face of his
young wife, and Mrs. Pelham Odin presided over the joint enjoyment
like a fairy godmother.

“You are both looking splendid,” she said, in her deep, clear voice,
“and I am glad to see you both after your sojourn abroad. But do you
think it was kind to leave England without seeing me?”

Mavis caught the two hands of the old actress. “No, it was not kind. I
said that it was not kind. But Gerald—-”

“Gerald said that it was necessary,” said that young man coolly. “Dear
Mrs. Pelham Odin look at the circumstances. There was the inquest on
the bodies of those two poor women, who drowned themselves in the
Peace Pool–in Mother Carey’s Peace Pool.”

“I thought that Mrs. Berch dragged her daughter to death.”

“So she did,” admitted Gerald quickly. “Mrs. Crosbie would have been
arrested as an accomplice after the fact, and in any case would have
sunk into poverty without her mother to help her. Mrs. Berch of course
thought she would be hanged, although, seeing how she swore that the
crime was accidental, extenuating circumstances might have been found.
I suppose Mrs. Berch, who was frantically fond of her daughter,
thought it best they should go together. Madge certainly would have
lived, poor soul, in spite of all her misery, as she loved life.
But Mrs. Berch pulled her down, and they are buried in Leegarth
cemetery—-”

“Beside Bellaria!” said Mavis, with a shiver. “How strange.”

“The punishment of providence, my dear,” said Mrs. Pelham Odin
rebukingly. “The murderess was laid beside her victim. A wicked
woman—-”

“No,” said Gerald, throwing up his hand. “Don’t call her that.”

“But she murdered—-”

“I believe that the crime really was committed accidentally. And as
she and poor Madge have paid for their sins let us leave them to God,
Mrs. Pelham Odin. Who are we to judge, and, as was revealed at the
inquest, those two women had suffered much misery and trouble.”

“I wonder how they managed to deceive the tradesmen for so long,” said
the old actress musingly. “I am sure my tradesmen always make me pay
every month. But look at the thousands they owed and—-”

“It would all have been paid had Mrs. Crosbie married the Major.”

“I daresay–with Mavis’ six thousand a year.”

“I have only three thousand,” said Mrs. Haskins: “Charity has the
rest.”

Mrs. Pelham Odin kissed the girl’s forehead. “You behaved in a noble
way, my dear. I hear that Lady Euphemia has quite taken to Charity,
now that she knows her father was a Devonshire Durham. And Tod has got
back his ruined castle to play the laird. He says, however, that he is
coming back from Scotland to work again at the law.”

“And quite right he is,” said Gerald, sitting down. “I don’t believe
in any man being lazy. Lady Euphemia wants Tod to play the laird on
his wife’s money, but Tod has too much respect to live on his wife.”

“I know _you_ have,” said Mavis, looking at him fondly. “You don’t
know how difficult it is to make him take money,” she added, turning
to the actress, “he will live on his own income, and works like a
nigger.”

“Not like Geary, if he is the nigger in question. My dear Mavis, this
house is yours, and I—-”

“You’re going to say that you are a boarder. Stop!” And Mavis laid a
pretty hand over his mouth. Gerald kissed it.

“You are both extremely silly,” said Mrs. Pelham Odin, “share and
share alike–money and love and sentiments and everything.”

“Right,” said Haskins playfully, “Mavis, darling, give me back that
kiss.”

“I came here,” said Mrs. Pelham Odin, in her most dignified way, “to
welcome you back from the Continent, so I must be attended to, and you
_did_ leave England after the trial without seeing me.”

Gerald rose, and became serious. “I did so to save my wife from an
attack of brain fever,” he said gravely. “Think of what that trial
meant to a girl who had never faced such a throng of people.”

“Oh, Gerald, there was the Belver Theatre.”

“I am sure the people in the court were a better audience,” said Mrs.
Pelham Odin, using her fan, “and after all, the trial was a mere form.
You were proved to be quite sane by those two nice doctors, and
perfectly innocent, when the evidence was given as to Mrs. Berch’s
verbal confession. I read all about it in the papers. You were made
quite a heroine, Mavis, and as I like heroines I expected you to come
and tell me all about it. Instead of which,” added the actress,
returning to her grievance, “you went quietly to the Continent.”

“To Switzerland,” said Haskins, slipping his arm around Mavis’ waist.
“There we passed a happy time, and Mavis recovered from the shock of
all these dreadful things. We never talk of them now.”

“I am very sorry to,” said Mrs. Pelham Odin obstinately, “but I must
know what has become of everyone. Major Rebb, I understand, is in
South America?”

“Yes. He could not face the court, and so he bolted. No one went after
him, as of course he knew nothing about the murder, and Mavis did not
prosecute him for his behavior to her.”

“Geary–that terrible Uncle Tom’s Cabin person?”

“He ran away also. I expect he is with Rebb now. I must say Rebb did
not treat him well, trying to fix the guilt on him. Perhaps he’s given
Rebb the go-by on that account, and is now in Jamaica with another
wife.”

“Where is his English one?”

“In Barnstaple, with her coffee-colored children. Mavis allows her a
small income.”

“I am so sorry for her,” said Mrs. Haskins apologetically. “I am sorry
for anyone who is unhappily married.”

“Well, you and Charity have married good men.”

“But poor men,” said Gerald, smiling.

Mrs. Pelham Odin shook her fan at him. “I could mention the Continent
again,” she said, smiling, “but as it was necessary that Mavis should
have peace and quiet after all her trials, poor dear, I forgive the
apparent rudeness. What are you going to do now?”

“We are going to repair the Pixy’s House and live there.”

Mrs. Pelham Odin gave a little scream. “Then don’t ask me to come and
see you. Two murders–for Mrs. Berch murdered her daughter as well as
that poor Italian woman–and three corpses. Ugh! Why, the house will
be haunted.”

“Not at all,” said Gerald tartly. “We can live there with a clear
conscience, and the evil influence of the place will depart when good
people dwell there.”

“Meaning yourself, my dear boy. How modest!”

“I was rather thinking of Mavis, with her pure mind and—-”

“There, there!” Mrs. Pelham Odin got rather restive, as she didn’t
like to hear any woman but herself complimented. “You are a six
months’ old husband—-”

“I shall be a lover all my life.” And Gerald kissed his wife.

“My Fairy Prince.” And Mavis kissed Gerald.

Mrs. Pelham Odin cast her eyes up to the ceiling. “Quite like Romeo
and Juliet, without the limelight,” she said, in a fatigued tone.
“Well, you must come to me before going to Devonshire. Charity
Macandrew and her husband are coming. I want to give a dinner-party
and introduce you two girls to all sorts of delightful people at a
reception to follow. Everyone is delighted with the romantic story.”

“I daresay they are,” said Gerald crossly. “The papers have made far
too much of the matter.”

“I daresay they wouldn’t have done so had it not happened to be the
dull season,” said Mrs. Pelham Odin consolingly. “Of course there have
been romantic accounts, and portraits of the girls, and all that, but
I have not seen what the newspapers call the sealed message.”

“Do you mean the phonograph record which Mavis sent me?”

“Yes; only she didn’t send it to you. She sent it to anyone who
happened to fish it up.”

“Tod did that, but the message was sent to me. Nothing happens by
chance, Mrs. Pelham Odin, so—-”

“Oh, dear me, here comes your occult stuff. Tod told me all about it.
I don’t like such deep subjects. The message—-”

“We have it,” said Mavis, rising and going to a side-table on which
stood a Jekle & Co. phonograph. “Gerald and I often turn on the
machine to hear the message which brought us together.”

While she fitted the tube on to the machine Mrs. Pelham Odin yawned.
“It was very clever of you to use a phonograph, since you couldn’t
read or write. I hope you are less ignorant now.”

“I am getting on very quickly. Gerald teaches me every day.”

“You conjugate the verb to love, I suppose. What’s that?”

Gerald raised his finger. “The message which Mavis sent me.”

“Sent anyone,” muttered Mrs. Pelham Odin obstinately: but she
listened.

“This to the wide world,” babbled the machine in the sweetest and most
melodious of voices. “This to the Fairy Prince, who will come and
waken me from dreams. Come, dear Prince, to the Pixy’s House, and
watch that the jealous ogress, who guards me, does not see you. I
cannot read, I cannot write: but I talk my message to you, dear
Prince. To the stream I commit the message on this first day of April
in this year five. May the river bear the message to you, dear Prince.
Come to me! Come to me! Come to me! and waken your Princess to life
with a kiss.”

The machine stopped, for Gerald laid a hand on it. “That,” he said
solemnly, “is the Sealed Message.”

“As I thought,” said Mrs. Pelham Odin, in her lively tones, “it might
have been sent to the Man in the Moon.”

“Instead,” said Mavis, kissing her husband, “to the dearest Fairy
Prince on Earth.”

“Which has none outside pantomimes,” ended Mrs. Pelham Odin,
determined to have the last word. She managed to do so, for the
husband and wife were kissing one another.

Share