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   Chapter 21 A FINAL SURPRISE.

Red Money By Fergus Hume Characters: 22733

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


A week later and Lambert was seated in the library of The Manor, looking worn and anxious. His wan appearance was not due so much to what he had passed through, trying as late events had been, as to his dread of what Inspector Darby was about to say. That officer was beside him, getting ready for an immediate conversation by turning over various papers which he produced from a large and well-filled pocket-book. Darby looked complacent and important, as an examination into the late tragedy had added greatly to his reputation as a zealous officer. Things were now more ship-shape, as Miss Greeby had died after making confession of her crime and had been duly buried by her shocked relatives. The ashes of Lord Garvington and Mother Cockleshell, recovered from the débris of the cottage, had also been disposed of with religious ceremonies, and Silver's broken body had been placed in an unwept grave. The frightful catastrophe which had resulted in the death of four people had been the talk of the United Kingdom for the entire seven days.

What Lambert was dreading to hear was the report of Miss Greeby's confession, which Inspector Darby had come to talk about. He had tried to see her himself at the village inn, whither she had been transferred to die, but she had refused to let him come to her dying bed, and therefore he did not know in what state of mind she had passed away. Judging from the vindictive spirit which she had displayed, Lambert fancied that she had told Darby the whole wretched story of the forged letter and the murder. The last was bound to be confessed, but the young man had hoped against hope that Miss Greeby would be silent regarding Garvington's share in the shameful plot. Wickedly as his cousin had behaved, Lambert did not wish his memory to be smirched and the family honor to be tarnished by a revelation of the little man's true character. He heartily wished that the evil Garvington had done might be buried with him, and the whole sordid affair forgotten.

"First, my lord," said Darby leisurely, when his papers were in order, "I have to congratulate your lordship on your accession to the title. Hitherto so busy have I been that there has been no time to do this."

"Thank you, Mr. Inspector, but I regret that I should have succeeded through so tragic a death."

"Yes, yes, my lord! the feeling does you honor," Darby nodded sympathetically; "but it must be some comfort for you to know that your poor cousin perished when on an errand of mercy, although his aim was not perhaps quite in accordance with strict justice."

Lambert stared. "I don't know what you mean," he remarked, being puzzled by this coupling of Garvington's name with any good deed.

"Of course you don't, my lord. But for you to understand I had better begin with Miss Greeby's confession. I must touch on some rather intimate things, however," said the inspector rather shyly.

"Meaning that Miss Greeby was in love with me."

"Exactly, my lord. Her love for you-if you will excuse my mentioning so private a subject-caused the whole catastrophe."

"Indeed," the young man felt a sense of relief, as if Darby put the matter in this way the truth about the forged letter could scarcely have come to light, "will you explain?"

"Certainly, my lord. Miss Greeby always wished to marry your lordship, but she knew that you loved your wife, the present Lady Garvington, who was then Lady Agnes Pine. She believed that you and Lady Agnes would sooner or later run away together."

"There was no reason she should think so," said Noel, becoming scarlet.

"Of course not, my lord. Pardon me again for speaking of such very private matters. But I can scarcely make your lordship understand how the late Sir Hubert Pine came by his death unless I am painfully frank."

"Go on, Mr. Inspector," Noel leaned back and folded his arms. "Be frank to the verge of rudeness, if you like."

"Oh, no, no, my lord; certainly not," Darby said in a shocked manner. "I will be as delicate as I possibly can. Well, then, my lord, Miss Greeby, thinking that you might elope with the then Lady Agnes Pine, resolved to place an even greater barrier between you than the marriage."

"What could be a possibly greater barrier?"

"Your honor, my lord, your strict sense of honor. Miss Greeby thought that if she got rid of Sir Hubert, and Lady Agnes was in possession of the millions, that you would never risk her losing the same for your sake."

"She was right in supposing that, Mr. Inspector, but how did Miss Greeby know that Lady Agnes would lose the money if she married me?"

"Sir Hubert told her so himself, my lord, when she discovered that he was at the Abbot's Wood camp under the name of Ishmael Hearne."

"His real name."

"Of course, my lord; of course. And having made this discovery and knowing how jealous Sir Hubert was of his wife-if you will pardon my mentioning the fact-Miss Greeby laid a trap to lure him to The Manor that he might be shot."

The listener moved uneasily, and he now quite expected to hear the revelation of Garvington's forgery. "Go on, Mr. Inspector."

"Miss Greeby," pursued the officer, glancing at his notes, "knew that the late Mark Silver, who was Sir Hubert's secretary, was not well disposed toward his employer, as he fancied that he had been cheated out of the proceeds of certain inventions. Miss Greeby worked on this point and induced Silver to forge a letter purporting to come from Lady Agnes to you saying that an elopement had been arranged."

"Oh," Lambert drew a breath of relief, "so Silver laid a trap, did he?"

"Yes, my lord, and a very clever one. The letter was arranged by Silver to fall into Sir Hubert's hands. That unfortunate gentleman came to the blue door at the appointed time, then Miss Greeby, who had climbed out of the window of her bedroom to hide in the shrubbery, shot the unsuspecting man. She then got back into her room-and a very clever climber she must have been, my lord-and afterward mingled with the guests."

"But why did she think of luring Sir Hubert to be shot?" asked Noel with feigned ignorance, "when she ran such a risk of being discovered?"

"Ah, my lord, therein lies the cleverness of the idea. Poor Lord Garvington had threatened to shoot any burglar, and that gave Miss Greeby the idea. It was her hope that your late cousin might kill Sir Hubert by mistaking him for a robber, and she only posted herself in the shrubbery to shoot if Sir Hubert was not killed. He was not, as we know that the shot fired by Lord Garvington only broke his arm. Miss Greeby made sure by killing him herself, and very cleverly she did so."

"And what about my late cousin's philanthropic visit to Silver?"

"Ah, my lord, that was a mistake. His lordship was informed of the forged letter by Chaldea the gypsy girl, who found it in Sir Hubert's tent, and for the sake of your family wished to get Silver out of the country. It would have been dreadful-as Lord Garvington rightly considered-that the name of his sister and your name should be mentioned in connection with an elopement even though it was untrue. He therefore went to induce Silver to leave the country, but the man, instead of being grateful, stunned his lordship with a blow from a poker which he had picked up."

"How was that known, Mr. Inspector?"

"Miss Greeby had the truth from his own lips. Silver threatened to denounce her, and knowing this Chaldea went to London to warn her."

"Oh," muttered Lambert, thinking of what Gentilla Stanley had said, "how did she find out?"

"She overheard a conversation between Silver and Lord Garvington in the cottage."

Lambert was relieved again, since Miss Greeby had not evidently mentioned him as being mixed up with the matter. "Yes, Mr. Inspector, I can guess the rest. This unfortunate woman came down to get Silver, who could have hanged her, out of the country, and he set fire to the cottage."

"She set fire to it," corrected Darby quickly, "by chance, as she told me, she overturned a lamp. Of course, Lord Garvington, being senseless, was burned to death. Gentilla Stanley was also burned."

"How did she come to be there?"

"Oh, it seems that Gentilla followed Hearne-he was her grandson I hear from the gypsies-to The Manor on that night and saw the shooting. But she said nothing, not feeling sure if her unsupported testimony would be sufficient to convict Miss Greeby. However, she watched that lady and followed her to the cottage to denounce her and prevent the escape of Silver-who knew the truth also, as she ascertained. Silver knocked the old woman down and stunned her, so she also was burned to death. Then Silver ran for the motor car and crushed Miss Greeby-since he could not manage the machine."

"Did he crush her on purpose, do you think?"

"No," said Darby after a pause, "I don't think so. Miss Greeby was rich, and if the pair of them had escaped Silver would have been able to extort money. He no more killed her than he killed himself by dashing into that chalk pit near the road. It was mismanagement of the motor in both cases."

Lambert was quiet for a time. "Is that all?" he asked, looking up.

"All, my lord," answered the inspector, gathering his papers together.

"Is anything else likely to appear in the papers?"

"No, my lord."

"I noted," said Lambert slowly, "that there was no mention of the forged letter made at the inquest."

Darby nodded. "I arranged that, my lord, since the forged letter made so free with your lordship's name and that of the present Lady Garvington. As you probably saw, it was only stated that the late Sir Hubert had gone to meet his secretary at The Manor and that Miss Greeby, knowing of his coming, had shot him. The motive was ascribed as anger at the late Sir Hubert for having lost a great sum of money which Miss Greeby entrusted to him for the purpose of speculation."

"And is it true that such money was entrusted and lost?"

"Perfectly true, my lord. I saw in that fact a chance of hiding the real truth. It would do no good to make the forged letter public and would cast discredit both on the dead and the living. Therefore all that has been said does not even hint at the trap laid by Silver. Now that all parties concerned are dead and buried, no more will be heard of the matter, and your lordship can sleep in peace."

The young man walked up and down the room for a few minutes while the inspector made ready to depart. Noel was deeply touched by the man's consideration and made up his mind that he should not lose by the delicacy he had shown in preserving his name and that of Agnes from the tongue of gossips. He saw plainly that Darby was a man he could thoroughly trust and forthwith did so.

"Mr. Inspector," he said, coming forward to shake hands, "you have acted in a most kind and generous manner and I cannot show my appreciation of your behavior more than by telling you the exact truth of this sad affair."

"I know the truth," said Darby staring.

"Not the exact truth, which closely concerns the honor of my family. But as you have saved that by suppressing certain evidence it is only right that you should know more than you do know."

"I shall keep quiet anything that you tell me, my lord," said Darby greatly pleased; "that is, anything that is consistent with my

official duty."

"Of course. Also I wish you to know exactly how matters stand, since there may be trouble with Chaldea."

"Oh, I don't think so, my lord. Chaldea has married that dwarf."

"Kara, the Servian gypsy?"

"Yes. She's given him a bad time, and he put up with it because he had no authority over her; but now that she's his romi-as these people call a wife-he'll make her dance to his playing. They left England yesterday for foreign parts-Hungary, I fancy, my lord. The girl won't come back in a hurry, for Kara will keep an eye on her."

Lambert drew a long breath of relief. "I am glad," he said simply, "as I never should have felt safe while she remained in England."

"Felt safe?" echoed the officer suspiciously.

His host nodded and told the man to take a seat again. Then, without wasting further time, he related the real truth about the forged letter. Darby listened to the recital in amazement and shook his head sadly over the delinquency of the late Lord Garvington.

"Well! Well!" said the inspector staring, "to think as a nobleman born and bred should act in this way."

"Why shouldn't a nobleman be wicked as well as the grocer?" said Lambert impatiently, "and according to the socialistic press all the evil of humanity is to be found in aristocratic circles. However, you know the exact truth, Mr. Inspector, and I have confided to you the secret which concerns the honor of my family. You won't abuse my confidence."

Darby rose and extended his hand. "You may be sure of that, my lord. What you have told me will never be repeated. Everything in connection with this matter is finished, and you will hear no more about it."

"I'm glad and thankful," said the other, again drawing a breath of relief, "and to show my appreciation of your services, Darby, I shall send you a substantial check."

"Oh, my lord, I couldn't take it. I only did my duty."

"I think you did a great deal more than that," answered the new Lord Garvington dryly, "and had you acted entirely on the evidence you gathered together, and especially on the confession of that miserable woman, you might have made public much that I would prefer to keep private. Take the money from a friend, Darby, and as a mark of esteem for a man."

"Thank you, my lord," replied the inspector straightly, "I don't deny but what my conscience and my duty to the Government will allow me to take it since you put it in that way. And as I am not a rich man the money will be welcome. Thank you!"

With a warm hand-shake the inspector took his departure and Noel offered up a silent prayer of thankfulness to God that things had turned out so admirably. His shifty cousin was now dead and there was no longer any danger that the honor of the family, for which so much had been sacrificed, both by himself and Agnes, would be smirched. The young man regretted the death of Mother Cockleshell, who had been so well disposed toward his wife and himself, but he rejoiced that Chaldea had left England under the guardianship of Kara, as henceforth-if he knew anything of the dwarf's jealous disposition-the girl would trouble him no more. And Silver was dead and buried, which did away with any possible trouble coming from that quarter. Finally, poor Miss Greeby, who had sinned for love, was out of the way and there was no need to be anxious on her account. Fate had made a clean sweep of all the actors in the tragedy, and Lambert hoped that this particular play was ended.

When the inspector went away, Lord Garvington sought out his wife and his late cousin's widow. To them he reported all that had passed and gave them the joyful assurance that nothing more would be heard in connection with the late tragic events. Both ladies were delighted.

"Poor Freddy," sighed Agnes, who had quite forgiven her brother now that he had paid for his sins, "he behaved very badly; all the same he had his good points, Noel."

"Ah, he had, he had," said Lady Garvington, the widow, shaking her untidy head, "he was selfish and greedy, and perhaps not so thoughtful as he might have been, but there are worse people than poor Freddy."

Noel could not help smiling at this somewhat guarded eulogy of the dead, but did not pursue the subject. "Well, Jane, you must not grieve too much."

"No, I shall not," she admitted bluntly, "I am going to be quiet for a few months and then perhaps I may marry again. But I shall marry a man who lives on nuts and roots, my dear Noel. Never again," she shuddered, "shall I bother about the kitchen. I shall burn Freddy's recipes and cookery books."

Lady Garvington evidently really felt relieved by the death of her greedy little husband, although she tried her best to appear sorry. But the twinkle of relief in her eyes betrayed her, and neither Noel nor Agnes could blame her. She had enough to live on-since the new lord had arranged this in a most generous manner-and she was free from the cares of the kitchen.

"So I'll go to London in a few days when I've packed up," said the widow nodding, "you two dears can stay here for your second honeymoon."

"It will be concerned with pounds, shillings, and pence, then," said Agnes with a smile, "for Noel has to get the estate put in order. Things are very bad just now, as I know for certain. But we must try to save The Manor from going out of the family."

It was at this moment, and while the trio wondered how the financial condition of the Lamberts was to be improved, that a message came saying that Mr. Jarwin wished to see Lord and Lady Garvington in the library. Wondering what the lawyer had come about, and dreading further bad news, the young couple descended, leaving the widow to her packing up. They found the lean, dry solicitor waiting for them with a smiling face.

"Oh!" said Agnes as she greeted him, "then it's not bad news?"

"On the contrary," said Jarwin, with his cough, "it is the best of news."

Noel looked at him hard. "The best of news to me at the present moment would be information about money," he said slowly. "I have a title, it is true, but the estate is much encumbered."

"You need not trouble about that, Lord Garvington; Mrs. Stanley has put all that right."

"What?" asked Agnes greatly agitated. "Has she made over the mortgages to Noel? Oh, if she only has."

"She has done better than that," remarked Jarwin, producing a paper of no great size, "this is her will. She wanted to make a deed of gift, and probably would have done so had she lived. But luckily she made the will-and a hard-and-fast one it is-for I drew it up myself," said Mr. Jarwin complacently.

"How does the will concern us?" asked Agnes, catching Noel's hand with a tremor, for she could scarcely grasp the hints of the lawyer.

"Mrs. Stanley, my dear lady, had a great regard for you since you nursed her through a dangerous illness. Also you were, as she put it, a good and true wife to her grandson. Therefore, as she approved of you and of your second marriage, she has left the entire fortune of your late husband to you and to Lord Garvington here."

"Never!" cried Lambert growing pale, while his wife gasped with astonishment.

"It is true, and here is the proof," Jarwin shook the parchment, "one million to you, Lord Garvington, and one million to your wife. Listen, if you please," and the solicitor read the document in a formal manner which left no doubt as to the truth of his amazing news. When he finished the lucky couple looked at one another scarcely able to speak. It was Agnes who recovered her voice first.

"Oh, it can't be true-it can't be true," she cried. "Noel, pinch me, for I must be dreaming."

"It is true, as the will gives you to understand," said the lawyer, smiling in his dry way, "and if I may be permitted to say so, Lady Garvington, never was money more rightfully inherited. You surrendered everything for the sake of true love, and it is only just that you should be rewarded. If Mrs. Stanley had lived she intended to keep five or six thousand for herself so that she could transport certain gypsies to America, but she would undoubtedly have made a deed of gift of the rest of the property. Oh, what a very fortunate thing it was that she made this will," cried Jarwin, genuinely moved at the thought of the possible loss of the millions, "for her unforeseen death would have spoiled everything if I had not the forethought to suggest the testament."

"It is to you we owe our good fortune."

"To Mrs. Gentilla Stanley-and to me partially. I only ask for my reward that you will continue to allow me to see after the property. The fees," added Jarwin with his dry cough, "will be considerable."

"You can rob us if you like," said Noel, slapping him on the back. "Well, to say that I am glad is to speak weakly. I am overjoyed. With this money we can restore the fortunes of the family again."

"They will be placed higher than they have ever been before," cried Agnes with a shining face. "Two millions. Oh, what a lot of good we can do."

"To yourselves?" inquired Jarwin dryly.

"And to others also," said Lambert gravely. "God has been so good to us that we must be good to others."

"Then be good to me, Lord Garvington," said the solicitor, putting away the will in his bag, "for I am dying of hunger. A little luncheon-"

"A very big one."

"I am no great eater," said Jarwin, and walked toward the door, "a wash and brush-up and a plate of soup will satisfy me. And I will say again what I said before to both of you, that you thoroughly deserve your good fortune. Lord Garvington, you are the luckier of the two, as you have a wife who is far above rubies, and-and-dear me, I am talking romance. So foolish at my age. To think-well-well, I am extremely hungry, so don't let luncheon be long before it appears," and with a croaking laugh at his jokes the lawyer disappeared.

Left alone the fortunate couple fell into one another's arms. It seemed incredible that the past storm should have been succeeded by so wonderful a calm. They had been tested by adversity, and they had proved themselves to be of sterling metal. Before them the future stretched in a long, smooth road under sunny blue skies, and behind them the black clouds, out of which they had emerged, were dispersing into thin air. Evil passes, good endures.

"Two millions!" sighed Agnes joyfully.

"Of red money," remarked her husband.

"Why do you call it that?"

"Mother Cockleshell-bless her!-called it so because it was tainted with blood. But we must cleanse the stains, Agnes, by using much of it to help all that are in trouble. God has been good in settling our affairs in this way, but He has given me a better gift than the money."

"What is that?" asked Lady Garvington softly.

"The love of my dear wife," said the happiest of men to the happiest of women.

THE END.

* * *

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