JOB BECOMES CIVILISED

Again and again did Miss Cass wish that she could tell Jennie Brawn the
story of the broken link and her position with regard to her father.
But she had given her promise, and was forced to hold her tongue. On
her part Jennie, always open and honest, felt a trifle embarrassed
at the secret understanding with Geoffrey Heron regarding the bill
of exchange, it seemed to her too delicate perception to be wrong;
for was not the young man her friend’s lover? But, like Ruth herself,
Jennie had given a promise which could not be broken, and she, too,
had to hold her peace. Under these circumstances, both girls were less
open with each other than usual, and on this account did not seek one
another, as was formerly the case. Jennie made her teaching serve as an
excuse; and Ruth took to wandering about the country in the society of
her own sad thoughts.

She had promised her father to refrain from further meddling with the
Jenner case; but she did not think that this bound her to abstain from
visiting the Turnpike House; and she was always finding herself in the
neighbourhood of that ill-omened building. It held the secret of a
crime.

Several times Ruth had noticed smoke rising from its chimney; she
began to think, from the recurrence of this phenomenon, that some
tramp had taken up his abode in the deserted building. Full of nervous
apprehension lest the said tramp should find something in the house
likely to connect her father with the crime, Ruth had, more than once,
made up her mind to see who it was that occupied the hovel. But on each
occasion her courage failed her at the last moment. But one day she
screwed up her courage, and set out to visit the Turnpike House. She
would [*** ***] if any other piece of evidence connected with the crime
had been discovered; and, if so, ascertain who was the finder.

As she approached, she could see that although the house still looked
dilapidated and disreputable in its green jungle, some attempt had
been made to render it fit for human habitation. The windows had been
mended, the door repaired, and the roof patched in various places. Ruth
walked boldly up the path–now trodden down by the footsteps of the new
owner–and after a glance at the closed door, looked in at the window.
This was guiltless of blinds or curtain, and she could see quite
plainly what was going on inside. To her surprise, the first person she
saw was her aunt Inez seated by the fire and talking eagerly to Job,
who was astride a chair beside her. The gypsy turned his head rapidly
as the shadow of the girl, lengthened by the sun, fell across the
floor, and he uttered an exclamation of mingled surprise aid vexation.
Mrs. Marshall, looking up at that moment, beheld her niece–the very
last person she expected or, indeed, desired to see in that place. Her
dark face grew a trifle pale, her black eyes flashed, and she looked
downright savage at the intrusion. However, there was nothing left for
it now but to make the best of the situation, so before Ruth had time
to recover from her astonishment, Aunt Inez had passed quickly to the
window and had thrown it wide open.

“Goodness, Ruth! Why do you come in that silent way to frighten people?
Come in–come in, and don’t stand staring there like a fool!”

Ruth struggled to recover from her surprise.

“I am astonished to see you here, Aunt Inez,” she said, when she had
found her tongue. “I did not know you were acquainted with Job.”

“He is a pensioner of mine,” Mrs. Marshall said, composedly, preparing
to shut the window. “Are you coming in, Ruth? We can walk back together.
You know I do not approve of your roaming the country in this
uncivilised fashion.”

“It seems I am only following your example,” Ruth said, pertly.

“I am a married woman.”

“And Job’s patroness,” remarked Ruth, who was too much annoyed by her
aunt’s manner to be careful. Mrs. Marshall flashed at her a look which
boded ill for the harmony of their future relations.

“Yes; I am looking after the poor man. There is nothing wrong in that,
I hope?”

“On the contrary,” said her niece, and went towards the door. It was
opened by Job, who, during this interview, had been most discreetly
silent. He winked at the girl–not rudely, but to intimate that he
still looked upon her as a Romany sister–and ushered her into the room.

Mrs. Marshall had resumed her seat by the fire, and pointed out the
other chair to her niece. Job leant up against the table, and regarded
the two with a twinkle in his dark eyes. Evidently he anticipated some
amusement.

“Have you been here before, Ruth?” asked the elder lady, sharply.

“Once; I was curious to see the place.”

“On account of the murder, I suppose?” replied Mrs. Marshall, with
contempt. “Really, Ruth, I do wonder that you should care to concern
yourself with such horrors! And why do you come here again?”

“To see Job,” was the quiet answer.

“Me and the lady are pals,” put in Job. “Oh, yes; she can patter the
black tongue, and she is a real Romany sister.”

“Perhaps, Ruth, you will explain,” said Mrs. Marshall, both puzzled and
annoyed.

“I think Job has already done so,” Ruth said, coolly. “I met him here
by accident when last I came, and I talked Romany to him. He has taken
me as a sister of the gypsy folk. I am a female Borrow.”

“Ruth!” Aunt Inez threw up her hands in horror. “How dare you speak
like this? A low gypsy–a tramp–and you a young lady! And pray where
did you learn the gypsy language?”

“At school, and out of it. I got a gypsy woman to teach me. But I do
not see why you should forbid me to associate with Job, aunt. You are
doing so yourself.”

“I!” exclaimed that lady, with something of defiance in her manner.
“But I have taken this poor man under my protection, and I intend to
make him comfortable.”

Ruth did not reply immediately. Then she looked up:

“Last time I was here you watched me, Aunt Inez,” she said, slowly.

“Perhaps I did–perhaps I did not,” replied that lady, coldly. She
scorned to tell a lie, and refused to own the truth.

“Then you know what I found here–under the window?”

Job looked up eagerly and exchanged a glance with Mrs. Marshall. But
that clever lady preserved an imperturbable countenance. “What you
found, my dear, is of no consequence to me,” she said, impatiently, and
rose to her feet.

“It is more to the purpose that we should be going. I will arrange
about your weekly money,” she said, turning to Job.

“Thank you, lady,” said the gypsy, gratefully. “You are a real good
sort. I won’t trouble you long, though. I’m booked before the year is
out.”

Ruth lingered, for she wanted to speak to the man alone; but her aunt
hurried her away, and the last glimpse she had of him was standing in
the doorway laughing in anything but a respectful manner.

One would have thought that Miss Cass had burnt her fingers quite
severely enough to avoid playing with fire. But such was not the case.
Her curiosity was stronger than her prudence.. Besides, after the smile
she had seen on Job’s face she began to doubt her aunt’s plausible
explanation. Unfortunately, Mrs. Marshall escorted her niece right up
to the gates of Hollyoaks Park. But she refused to go in.

“I have left my carriage at the inn,” she said, “and, as your uncle is
not very well, I must go home at once. I hope you will come and see us
soon, Ruth; you are neglecting me very much.”

“I will come with pleasure, aunt. Will next week do?”

“Any week will do. I am always at home–except on an occasion like
this, when I am employed in charitable works. I shall expect you next
week.”

When her aunt had gone, Ruth waited until she was out of sight; then
took a short cut across the meadows to the Turnpike House. Within the
hour she again presented herself at the door. It was opened so suddenly
that she felt sure that Job had been watching her; and his greeting
proved that such was the case.

“I expected you, sister,” he said. “Come into my tent. Duvel! That a
Romany should dwell under a roof-tree like a Gorgio.”

“It is better for your health than wandering about the roads,” said the
girl, sitting down.

“I am dying,” interrupted Job, quietly. “And I am not the man to decay
like a tree. If I find that I can never recover, I will die after my
own fashion. I am not afraid.”

Ruth did not know what reply to make to this: she glanced round hoping
to find a fresh topic of conversation. “You are comfortable here; quite
civilised. I am sure that you will get better now that you are so well
housed!”

“I do not think so, lady. But I yielded to Mrs. Marshall’s request to
take shelter here. One place is as good as another to die in; she is
good to me; I have this house–and a little money to buy food.”

“Why is she so kind?” asked Ruth, sharply. “Such kindness is not in her
nature. Have you done her a good turn?”

“Perhaps I have; maybe I have not,” Job said, coolly. “See here, sister,
I knew you would come back to ask questions. I saw it in your eye; but
I know when to keep my mouth shut.”

“You do–when it pays you. Well, I have no wish to pry into your
secrets, Job. Keep your own counsel.”

“I intend to,” replied the man. “And it is a good thing for your family
that I do.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothing that I can tell you.”

“Job”–Ruth looked at him sharply–“are you hinting at any disgrace?”

“No: what disgrace could befall so noble a family? I hold my tongue.”

“Because you are paid for it,” retorted Ruth. Already her wits were
at work trying to search out the reason for all this: she scented a
mystery and began vaguely to connect it with the Jenner case. Half
in jest, half in earnest, she asked a leading question. “Do you know
anything of this murder?”

“No. Duvel! I should think not. It was before my time.”

“Yet I wonder you are not afraid to sleep in this room. It was here that
the body was found.”

Job laughed, and stared at the stains on the floor near the window.
“Yes; it was here,” he said. “But I know nothing.”

“You know what I found last time I came to this place?” she said,
recalling the glance exchanged between her aunt and the gypsy.

“Perhaps,” replied Job; then he began to laugh. “Oh, you are a rare
one, lady, you are!” he said. “You would rob me of my new tent by
asking me to speak about what does not concern you.”

“Ah! Then you have something to conceal?”

“Perhaps,” said Job again. “But you may as well stop, sister. I hold my
peace until I die.”

Ruth looked at him fixedly. By this time she felt quite sure that
the secret which procured for Job food, and fire, and roof-tree, was
connected with the murder.

“What you know has nothing to do with Mr. Cass–with my father?” she
asked in a low voice.

“No, no; on my soul it has not,” he said, earnestly. “Why do you think
so, sister?”

“Has it anything to do with the murder?”

“I cannot tell you.”

“You need not, for I can see the truth in your face. Tell me this, do
you know what I found under that window?”

He looked at her. “Yes, I know,” he said, softly, and refused to speak
another word.

Mr. Cass arrived home in a more cheerful frame of mind. His business,
whatever it was, had evidently prospered, and the look of anxiety which
his face had worn had given place to his usual imperturbable smile. He
was relieved, too, to hear that Amy had gone. Altogether, when, the
dinner hour arrived, Ruth found that he was as pleased as ever to be
alone with her.

“By the way, my dear,” he said, after the dessert was placed on the
table and they had had some desultory chat, “we are about to have a
visitor.”

“Geoffrey?” asked Ruth, eagerly. She was longing to see her lover again.

“No; Neil Webster. I have been to Bognor to see him. He is much better,
poor fellow, though still far from well. However, he is coming down
here, where he will be surrounded with more comfort than Mrs. Jent can
provide. Before long I hope he will be quite restored to health.”

“I am glad he is coming, papa.” She hesitated, and then continued in a
low voice: “Are you going to assist him?”

“I thought we had agreed to close that discussion, Ruth?” said her
father with some coldness. “Assist him? What can I do? I have told him
that I will endeavour to prove his mother’s innocence, but I have not
much hope of success. Whatever you may say, Ruth, I believe the woman
is guilty.”

“I think she is innocent,” cried the girl, throwing back her head with
a look of defiance.

“I know you do. Well, if her innocence can be proved so much the
better. At present Neil has promised not to worry more than he can
help. I want to see him on his feet again, therefore he must have
cheerful company to distract his mind.”

“Is that why you asked him down here?” asked Ruth, ironically. “I am
afraid his spirits will not rise in this house. Amy left it because she
found the dulness intolerable.”

“Amy is a frivolous butterfly, my dear. I hope you have more sense. You
must do your best to amuse Neil, and above all you must say nothing to
him about this case. It is becoming a sort of monomania with him, and
his thoughts must be kept off it.”

“In that case I shall get Jennie to amuse him,” replied Ruth “for I
find it difficult not to become a monomaniac on the subject myself.
Besides, I want her to marry him.”

Mr. Cass stroked his chin and did not appear to look unfavourably on
this proposal. “Neil might do worse,” he said, after a pause. “Jennie
is a good little creature and will make him a very adaptable wife. You
would never have suited yourself to the boy. Geoffrey Heron is more in
your way, Ruth. He will be at once your husband and your master.”

“So long as he is not a domestic tyrant I do not care. I am very, very
fond of Geoffrey, now that I have got over my foolish feeling for Neil.
I do wish Geoffrey would come to see me oftener.”

At that moment, as if in answer to her words, a servant appeared with
a card, which he presented to his master. “Queer!” exclaimed Mr. Cass,
glancing at it through his eye-glass. “Here is the very man you want.”

“Geoffrey!” she cried, joyfully.

“Yes; I wonder why he did not send me notice of his coming. He wants
to see me on business. Business!” he repeated, with a frown. “Humph! I
hope he has found no new mare’s nest with your assistance.”

“I have meddled no more with the case, papa, if that is what you mean,”
said Miss Cass. “But where is he?”

“In the library. I will see him first. You can talk to him afterwards.”

“Ask him to stay, papa,” said Ruth, following her father to the door of
the dining-room.

“Of course he can stay if he likes,” Mr. Cass said, looking at his
daughter as if he were about to make some remark. However, he thought
better of it and hurried out. Ruth guessed that it had been in his
mind to say something about the unhappy affair in which they were
all interested. She was irritated at not being admitted into his
confidence, for her nerves were worn thin with the constant strain.
However, he had been quite determined to see Geoffrey alone; and all
she could do was to possess herself in patience until such time as the
conversation should have ended.

Meanwhile the two men were sitting opposite one another in Mr. Cass’s
room. Geoffrey refused to have any dinner; he had dined before leaving
home, he said, but he did not decline a cigar and glass of good port.
Mr. Cass was at once convinced, from the expression of tragic gravity
on the young man’s face, that he had something serious to say, and he
concluded that it had to do with the Jenner case. But he was not going
to commit himself by introducing the subject lest he might appear too
eager. He talked lightly on desultory matters and waited for Heron to
begin.

“Mr. Cass,” he said, at last, “I have come to renew our former
conversation.”

“Oh, the Jenner murder, I suppose?” Mr. Cass said, lightly. “I thought
as much; but I did not know that you intended to pursue the matter.”

“Nor did I of my own free will,” replied Geoffrey, coolly; “but
circumstances have thrust upon me fresh discoveries, and I want your
assistance.”

Mr. Cass looked up sharply, and replied with studied carelessness: “Of
course I will do my best to help you, my dear fellow; but really I do
not see how I can.”

“You will soon see when I have told you of my discovery,” was the grim
answer. “About those links, you know—-”

The merchant started and changed colour. “Ah!” he said. “Ruth told you?”

“Some time ago; but what she did not tell me, and what you did not
reveal, Mr. Cass, was that you were the owner of those links.”

“How can you be certain on that point?” asked Mr. Cass, calmly. “What
have you found out to make you think that they–at any rate the broken
one Ruth got under the window of the Turnpike House–have anything to
do with me?

“I will tell you,” he said, leaning forward and looking very directly
at his host. “You gave a portion of one of those links to your
granddaughter Mildred for her doll. I found the child crying because
Ruth had taken what she called a ‘brooch’ from her. At first I did not
connect it with the one Ruth had found, but when she described it I
guessed that it was part of the set; to make certain I shewed her the
one her aunt had picked up, and she recognised it at once as the double
of her brooch, with the difference in the design, of course. You did
not tell me of this, Mr. Cass.

“Why should I have told you?” Mr. Cass’s tone was slightly defiant. “I
did give such a link to Mildred, and it was one of a set.”

“Have you the set?” asked Heron. “Forgive my asking you, but I have a
good reason for doing so.”

“I know what your reason is,” replied the merchant, raising his voice;
“but you are wrong; I did not drop that link at the Turnpike House–I
did not murder Jenner!”

“Nothing was further from my mind,” protested the young man. “You jump
to conclusions; my meaning was quite different.”

The expression on Mr. Cass’s face was one half of relief, half of
uneasiness.

“What do you mean, then?” he demanded. “I have a right to know.”

“You shall know. It was in order to tell you that I came over this
evening. But first, have you the remaining links?”

Mr. Cass crossed the room to an old-fashioned desk which stood in a
corner, and began to search. In five minutes he returned to his seat by
the fire, bringing with him an oval enamelled with a pack of cards.

“That is all I have,” he said. “Mildred has the one with the horse on
it; you have the other with the champagne bottle.”

“And the ballet girl? Where is that one?” Mr. Cass was silent and
shifted uneasily in his chair. “That I cannot tell you until I know
more clearly what you have discovered.”

“You shall know all. It may save a certain person from a relentless
enemy. Yes; you may look, Mr. Cass! I tell you there is one man who
hates another with all the intensity of his soul, and will only too
willingly do him an injury.”

Mr. Cass began to grow angry at this mysterious description. “One
man–another man?” he repeated. “What do you mean? Who is the enemy?”

“Julian Roper.”

“And who is he?” Heron looked at him in astonishment. If faces were to
be read, his host knew nothing of this man. “I am surprised that you do
not know who Roper is,” he said, slowly.

“Why should I? I never even heard his name, that I can recollect. If he
has any grudge against me, I cannot understand the reason, seeing, as I
have said, that he is unknown to me.”

“I did not say that he had a grudge against you.”

“No, but you hinted as much. After all, I suppose I am the man who is
so well hated. At least, I can take your speech in no other way.”

“I don’t mean you at all. I allude to Marshall–your brother-in-law.”

“Marshall!” Mr. Cass sprang to his feet and his face turned positively
grey; this time Geoffrey had no reason to complain of indifference: it
was plain that his host feared the revelation about to be made against
his sister’s husband. “I don’t quite understand,” he said. “What has
Marshall—-”

“I think you understand very well, Mr. Cass; and I can only wish that
during our last conversation you had spoken out. If you want the truth
in plain words, I say that Frank Marshall murdered Jenner at the
Turnpike House to recover a bill of exchange on which he had forged my
father’s name.”

“Stop! Stop!” cried Mr. Cass, dropping back into his seat. “What–what
grounds have you–such an accusation—-”

“Is it not true?”

“Upon my word of honour, I cannot say.”

“I think you can, Mr. Cass. You know that Mrs. Jenner is innocent and
that Marshall is guilty.”

The merchant became vehement. “I cannot say that!” he cried, dashing
his fist on the table. “Because I don’t know. I did suspect Marshall
myself–on certain grounds; but I knew nothing of this bill–I could
not fathom his motive. I was doubtful, and so I came to the conclusion
that Mrs. Jenner was the guilty person. I would have told you all this
before, Heron, but the honour of my family—-”

“I hope to be one of the family myself, soon,” Geoffrey said, quietly;
“and you cannot suppose that I am less anxious than you are to avoid a
scandal. I must know the truth now, at all costs.”

“You shall know everything I can tell you. Oh, Heavens! If it should be
so–if he should be guilty! I could never be sure–never; or I would
have taken steps to get that unfortunate woman released; I did not want
her to suffer. In some way–without incriminating Marshall–I would
have managed it, if only I had been sure! But this bill–ah! that was
his motive, and I never knew! He did not tell me that. As to Roper, I
can assure you that this is the first time, to my knowledge, that I
have heard his name.”

“Yet he discounted the bill. It was in his office that Jenner was
employed after he had failed on the stage.”

“I took no interest in the man after I had dismissed him. I never even
heard his employer’s name. He stole the bill, I suppose–ah, yes, I
begin to understand–and he came down here to blackmail Marshall. Quite
so. Great Heavens! Can he be guilty, after all? I’ll have the truth out
of him at all costs.”

“That is the difficult part of it,” Geoffrey said, with a flush. “I
can make Marshall speak out, but I dread his confession. By rights, we
should give him up to the law–and yet the disgrace–the—-”

“We must get at the truth first; afterwards we can decide how to get
the woman released, and how to punish my wretched brother-in-law. Tell
me what proof you have against him?”

Heron produced his pocket-book, and took therefrom the bill of
exchange, which he gave to Mr. Cass. He started, as though a snake had
stung him. “Forged?” he asked, placing his finger on the signature of
Geoffrey Heron. Then on a nod from that young man, he added: “Did you
find this among your father’s papers? No; that is impossible. Jenner
must have had it on the night he was murdered; yet if Marshall killed
him to get possession of it, how came it into your hands?”

“Because Marshall lost the fruits of his wickedness he never gained
possession of this bill. Jenner was too clever for him; it seems, as I
learn from Mrs. Jenner, that she left him alone while she put her child
to bed. During that time he–fearing, no doubt, lest Marshall should
try and recover it–sewed it up in the body of a toy horse with which
his boy had been playing. Neil sent the horse to George Chisel, your
grandson, and he, as children will, cut up the animal. Miss Brawn saw
this paper among the stuffing, and gave it to me.”

“Does she know? Has she said—-”

“She knows nothing of the connection of this with the murder–and she
has said nothing for I made her give me her word that she would not. No
one but you, and I, and she are aware of its existence.

“Roper–what of Roper?”

“He knows nothing about it. If you knew how he hated Marshall, you
would be glad that he is ignorant. For he would certainly prosecute if
he got hold of this paper.”

“I doubt if he could now, seeing that your father–who alone could give
evidence as to the falsity of the signature–is dead. But why does he
hate Marshall so bitterly?”

“Well, it appears that Roper had a daughter who fell in love with
him she would have married him, and he had given her every reason to
believe that he would. But, of course, he stopped at that, and she died
of a broken heart. I don’t think there was anything scandalous about
the affair–nothing worse than the playing fast and loose with the
affections of the unhappy girl.”

“He always was a scoundrel. I paid him a large sum to leave my firm,
as I feared he would do something criminal some day. Then he married
my sister. I begged her to give him up; but she was headstrong, and
insisted. Great Heavens!” he cried. “And he married her very shortly
after he had committed this crime. Yet I doubt very much if he would
have had the courage to kill Jenner.”

“Will you tell me what led you to suspect him?”

“In the first place, from the circumstances of his return on that
night; in the second, these links.”

“How is that? I should like to know all from the beginning.”

“Well, Marshall was staying here on the night of the crime. He looked
out of sorts; but he made some excuse–I forget what. After dinner
he said he was going out for a walk; it was wet and misty, and I
tried to dissuade him. My sister had gone to bed with a headache. I
was alone, and, although I never liked him, I wanted to talk to him.
But he insisted upon going. About nine he returned, knocked at the
library window–that French window over there–and I let him in, torn
and muddy and wild with fear! He said that he had been set upon by
robbers–footpads. The next morning I heard of the murder, and I spoke
to him about it, but he swore that he had not seen Jenner.”

“Tell me about the links. Are they yours?”

“Yes; I bought them many years ago, when I was young and vain. Marshall
saw them, and took a great fancy to them; so I gave him the set–and
now”–Mr. Cass clenched his hands–“I fear, if he got his deserts, that
they would hang him!”

And, quite overcome, he bowed his head on the table.