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The Slave of Silence By Fred M. White Characters: 18068

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

Therefore there was nothing to be done. Perhaps after the lapse of years Mark might be told the strange sequel to the story. Sir Charles might be visited from time to time in the place where he would choose to hide himself. It would be by no means an enviable fate for a man who had lived and enjoyed the world as Sir Charles had done, but he must lie on the bed that he had made.

"It shall be exactly as you say," Beatrice said. "One moment and I will be with you again. I have some friends, downstairs, who will wonder at my long absence. I will go and make some excuse for you. Perhaps you had better come to the foot of the stairs."

At the foot of the stairs leading to the great hall, Mark stood waiting. At the sight of him Sir Charles drew back, muttering something by no means complimentary to the young man, under his breath.

"I stay in the bedroom till he has gone," he said, as he stepped back.

Beatrice hoped that her face did not betray signs of very much agitation. All the same, she rather wondered why Mark looked at her so very fixedly. Perhaps it was an uneasy conscience that was troubling the girl. Mark's first words startled her.

"So you have been the first to find it out?" he said.

"Find out what?" Beatrice stammered. "I-I don't understand what you mean."

"My dear girl, why try to blind me to the truth? Field told me Berrington actually knows that your father was concealed at 100, Audley Place. And I know all about that disgraceful City business, because my father told me all about it. Sir Charles has come back, he was with you just now; he is going to make his way to the Continent."

Beatrice had no reply for the moment; her face was red with shame.

"Forgive me," she whispered at length. "You have guessed everything. I suppose it was your quick instinct that told you my companion was my father. But, my dearest Mark, cannot you see that he must fly? He has the money from Sartoris--"

"Who gave it him on purpose," Mark said eagerly. "Who bought a valuable thing for a mere song, thus putting a fortune in his pocket, and getting Sir Charles out of the way for good and all, at the same time. My dearest child, whatever your father may think or say, those ruby mine concessions are of fabulous value. My father has gone into the matter carefully, and he is prepared to back his opinion by large sums of money. My father is never wrong in these things. There is a fortune here for Sir Charles and also for Miss Decié. Let your father come out and say that he has been the victim of swindlers who had resolved to get his property from him. Let him call on my father, who to-morrow will give him a cheque for ten times the amount required to get him out of all his troubles. I can guarantee that."

"You mean to say that your father is actually prepared--"

"Certainly he is-on condition that Sir Charles and he are equal partners. I'll go and get my father to come round here now. Only I'll see Sir Charles first."

Beatrice would have dissuaded him, but he would take no refusal. He burst into the bedroom of the discomfited baronet and asked him to remove his disguise. Sir Charles was too weak to do more than remonstrate in a gentlemanly way, but his troubled face grew clear as Mark proceeded with the argument. The sanguine side of the baronet's nature came up again.

"Really, my dear boy, this is exceedingly kind of you," he said. "Fact is, I had not the least idea that I was being treated in a really scandalous manner. I regarded Sartoris as a thoroughly good fellow who was going out of his way to do me a service. And if your father says that those mines are valuable, I am prepared to believe him, for there is no shrewder judge in the City. As Sartoris is dead, that deed that I signed falls to the ground."

"It would fall to the ground in any case," Mark said, "seeing that it was obtained by fraud. Now be so good as to dress yourself properly, and I will take a cab and go and fetch my father. The whole business can be settled on the spot."

Mark went off, Beatrice saying that she must go back to Mary Grey.

She hung lovingly on the arm of Mark as they crossed the corridor. The light was low there and nobody was about.

"I hope you are going to forgive me, dear," she said. "I came very near to paying a heavy penalty for not trusting in you, Mark. But everything is going my way now."

"Our way," Mark protested. "I don't care whether anybody is looking or not, I am going to kiss you, dearest. You have always belonged to me and to nobody else. I cannot possibly regard you in the light of Stephen Richford's widow. If I were you, I would not say anything to the others until after I have settled matters between your father and mine. Let Mary Grey have a good night's rest, and pack her off to bed as soon as possible."

Mary was safely in bed and asleep before Mark came back. Berrington stayed long enough for Beatrice to tell him exactly what had happened. The melancholy shade that Beatrice had seen so long on Berrington's face had vanished altogether.

"My poor little girl is going to have peace and happiness at last," he said, with a deep thrill in his voice. "We shall value it all the more because we have waited for it so long, so that the three years of our probation will not be altogether wasted. I expect there will be a good deal of talk about Carl Sartoris for a few days to come, but that need not concern Mary, who has never been identified with that scoundrel, and whose name is Grey, after all. In the course of a few days I am going to take Mary away and we shall be married very quietly. I am determined to try to get the roses back to her cheeks again."

"I hope you will be happy, as you deserve to be," Beatrice said with some emotion. "But I shall be sorry to lose two such good, kind friends, and--"

"You are not going to lose us," Berrington said. "I am going to give up soldiering altogether. I have only carried it on for the last few years, because I needed something to keep me from brooding over my troubles. I am going to settle down on my property at last. Good-night."

Beatrice shook Berrington warmly by the hand, and he kissed her little fingers. He had barely departed before Mark was back with a little wiry man with a keen face and a pair of grey eyes that seemed to see into everything.

"So this is Beatrice," he said, as he shook hands. "You must let me call you that, my dear, because you are going to be my daughter, Mark tells me. I am a plain man who has more or less lived for business all his life, but begins to see lately that business is not everything. It does not make for happiness, for instance. When I was ill I began to see that. But at any rate the result of my business can make others happy."

Beatrice blushed and smiled. She began to see that she was going to like Mark's father very much indeed. In quite a natural way she kissed him. The little grey man beamed with pleasure.

"Now that was real nice of you," he said. "Mark has a great deal more sense and discretion than I gave him credit for. He is making a name for himself, too. But you can't live on that kind of thing, at least not at first, and I'm going to give Mark £5000 a year, on condition that he takes a pretty little place in the country, where I can come and see you week ends. My dear, I feel that we are going to be very good friends indeed."

"I am quite certain of it," Beatrice said with tears in her eyes. "Everybody is so good to me. I can't think why, but they are."

"You'll find out if you look at yourself in the glass," Mr. Ventmore laughed. "There the secret lies. Not a bad compliment, eh, from a man who never tried his hand at that kind of thing before? And now let me go and see that father of yours. Did I bring my cheque-book, Mark?"

Mark gaily answered his father that he did, and together the two went up the stairs. When they came down at length, there was an expression on the face of Mr. Ventmore that showed that he was by no means displeased with himself. Sir Charles was whistling an opera tune and was regarding a cigar with an air of critical attention.

"Everything is settled," he said. "Those City people will be paid off to-morrow, and I shall be free of them altogether. I shall never touch business again, Beatrice; this has been a lesson to me. And if not a rich man, I shall be very comfortably off. Whatever luxuries you may need in the future will not have to be schemed for. My dear girl, will you order a chicken and some salad and a pint of some good dry champagne to be brought here? I'm particularly ravenous with hunger. Wonderful how one's appetite comes back when you get your mind free from worry. And to think of those concessions being of that value, after all. Ring the bell, please."

The next day was a good one for the evening papers. Sir Charles was interviewed till he was hot and angry and disposed to order his tormentors out of the room. Scotland Yard had its own version of the case, too, which was no

t quite in accordance with the real facts. But as Berrington said, the excitement soon cooled down, and the next sensation drove the recollection of Sir Charles's wonderful experience out of the public mind. Sir Charles and his daughter went off to the country, so as to escape so much attention, and Berrington and Mary Grey went along. At the end of the week there was a wedding at the pretty church in the village, and Mary was happy at last. Mark and Beatrice would have to wait for six months or so, because there was public opinion to be thought of, though as a matter of fact the thing was the most empty form.

"I hope we shall be as happy as they are," Mark said as he and Beatrice watched the train slowly glide into the darkness. "They have earned it, too."

"I think we both have," Beatrice said. "But don't look backward, especially on a day like this. Let us go into the big wood, and pick daffodils."

And in the train Berrington had gathered his wife to his heart and kissed her tenderly. He looked down into the soft eyes from which the shadow had gone for ever.

"And you are happy at last, darling?" he said; "though you are very silent."

"Silent, yes," Mary said quietly. "Quiet, too. But thank God no longer the Slave of Silence!"

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Transcriber's Note:

Inconsistent hyphenation and capitalization have been retained as in the original text. Inconsistent usage of American versus British spelling has also been retained. In the original text, positive contractions (He'll, I'd, I'll, I'm, they've, etc.) were printed with half spaces before the apostrophe. These spaces have been removed in this edition.

The following corrections were made:

Missing close quotes added: p. 43: On the other hand, if there is--"; p. 43: But the lady who wrote that letter--"; p. 178: Can you speak freely to me for a time?"; p. 237: who was a cripple."; p. 312: don't understand what you mean."

Missing open quotes added: p. 221: "The figures 4. 4. '93, I mean."; p. 222: "4. 4. '93 means the fourth of April 1893

Extra open quotes removed: p. 262 (before Look) Look at that 'e,' too, in the word 'nine.'

Single quote to double quote: p. 213: "If you knew all that I do you would not hesitate for a moment. If you care to write it down--"

Typos: try to tray (p. 17: pseudo waiter with his tray); then to than (p. 17: Scarcely had he left the conservatory by a door leading to the corridor than Richford strolled in.); his to her (p. 37: To her great surprise); at to as (p. 53: as Beatrice finished her story); in to if (p. 55: as if his vis a vis was); must to most (p. 61: most exquisitely furnished); inspentor to inspector (p. 91: The inspector smeared his hand further along the carpet.); quiet to quite (p. 121: quite another matter); does to dose (p. 124: a strong dose of sal-volatile); mappd to mapped (p. 129: mapped out a line for himself); somethink to something (p. 130: with something like a lovelight); had to has (p. 139: But it looks as if he has paid for his indiscretion.); colon to period (p. 147: so many threads in the plot.); undertand to understand (p. 147: I understand that you sent for me.); Satoris to Sartoris (p. 177: Not that he failed to trust Mary Sartoris.); wondred to wondered (p. 203: Whatever were they doing here, just now, Mary wondered?); Bumah to Burmah (p. 219: And that property is probably a ruby mine in Burmah.); extra 'be' removed (p. 234: Will you be so good as to come this way and shut the door?); extra comma removed (p. 301: after "Your brother treated Violet Decié"); post-morten to post-mortem (p. 309: A post-mortem would have prevented that part); Phillip to Philip (p. 132: He was passionately in love, Philip.)

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