KNIGHT-ERRANT

In time Sir Joseph Branwin gradually recovered his usual rude health,
although there was no doubt that the unexpected and tragic death of
his wife had shaken his system severely. But his feeling for her
decease was not one of regret. Doubtless he had once loved her in an
animal way, which might have had its beginning in a purer affection,
when the rustic lovers wandered as boy and girl through the Bleakleigh
Woods in Somersetshire. But since the big man had become a prominent
personage in the political, social and stockbroking worlds, the
uncomely looks of the poor woman had rapidly become offensive to his
more cultivated taste. He was annoyed by her unwieldy appearance, by
her simple manners; and it irritated him that she was not sufficiently
educated to shine in the circles to which his wealth procured him
admission. The rich setting of success suited to a diamond was thrown
away on a common stone. And Lady Branwin–as Sir Joseph wrathfully
told himself on many occasions–was merely an ordinary pebble on the
beach.

In his daughter Audrey the millionaire could have found the hostess he
required for the gorgeous mansion on Camden Hill. She had been born in
the purple of wealth; she had been admirably educated; and, besides
being an exceptionally pretty girl, her manners were attractive. But
Sir Joseph had never loved this daughter of the wife he disliked, even
though he was her father. Audrey was far too frank and honest for him,
and did not seem to appreciate her advantages as the only child and
heiress of a wealthy man. Her preference was for the simple life, and
she found the frivolous doings and trifling chatter of society
excessively boring. Also she had set her affections on a young man
who, as yet, occupied no position in the world. Branwin did not mind
if Audrey married a pauper, so long as that pauper possessed a title;
but that she should wish to become the wife of a commoner who had yet
to make his way in the world was a heinous sin in the successful
parvenu’s eyes. Finally, Sir Joseph had always resented the sex of
Audrey. He had ardently desired an heir, and it was one of his
grievances against the unhappy Lady Branwin that she had not presented
him with a son. Now that the stumbling-block of an objectionable wife
had been removed Sir Joseph saw a chance of realising his ambition.
Before he rose from his sick-bed he determined to marry again as
speedily as possible, in the hope that a male child would be born to
inherit his wealth and title. Then Audrey could marry her barrister,
and he would wash his hands of her once and for all. Branwin would not
have admitted his feelings to the world, but in his heart he was
thankful that his wife was dead.

Advised by the doctor, the millionaire prepared forthwith to remove to
Brighton for a few weeks’ fresh air; but when Audrey offered dutifully
to accompany him, he refused brusquely. The father and daughter were
at breakfast when she made the offer which was so rudely declined, and
Sir Joseph, who prided himself on never letting the grass grow under
his feet–so he put it–hinted to the girl that some day he would
provide her with a stepmother. This point in the conversation he
reached by easy stages, and began by advising her to cultivate Mrs.
Mellop during his absence.

“Now your poor mother is out of the way,” growled Sir Joseph, using
the adjective as a grudging concession to the dead, “you can go about
with Mrs. Mellop. She’s a fool, but amusing and clever in her own way.
As she’s a widow with a limited income, you can offer her money if you
like. She’ll jump at the chance of doing the season for nothing. Then
you can go to the theatres, garden-parties, and all the rest of the
frivolities you like.”

“I don’t like such things,” replied the girl, wearily. “I have been to
so many, and they are nearly always the same–just like a stale
circus. Besides, how can I go out when poor mother is scarcely cold in
her grave?”

“I wish you wouldn’t harp on that, Audrey,” snapped Branwin,
irritably, and rose from his chair. “You’re always talking about your
mother.”

“Isn’t it natural, papa? I loved her.”

“Oh, it goes without speaking that you loved her; but she had a great
many faults, my dear.”

“Bury them with her, then,” said Audrey, turning white with anger.

Sir Joseph, who still retained many habits of his youth, lighted his
pipe in the breakfast-room, and turned with a bullying air. “I intend
to,” said he, harshly, “along with all memory of her. I shall make a
funeral of the whole thing. She never understood her position or my
position, and was–”

Audrey rose quickly, with a look of pain. “Papa,” she said slowly, “I
know that you did not love my mother. But she is dead, and died in a
very painful way. My memory of her is concerned wholly with her kind
heart and her many kind actions. Surely your recollections must be
similar. You must have loved her, since you went back to Bleakleigh to
marry her, after you had made your money.”

“I was a romantic young fool, my girl, and, seeing that I had already
got the start in life, I should have left Bleakleigh and your mother
alone. But I said I’d come back and marry her, and I did, more fool I.
Ah!”–Sir Joseph drew a deep breath–“if I did want to make a fool of
myself I should have married Flora instead of Dora.”

“Who is Flora?” asked Audrey. “I know that my mother’s name was Dora,
and–”

“Flora is, or was, your mother’s sister, for I don’t know if she’s
alive or dead. She was the clever one, and nearly as pretty as your
mother, who was always a fool. But I was caught by the prettier face,
and so married Dora–to my cost. Well”–Sir Joseph waved his arm, as
though dismissing the subject–“she is dead and gone, so let us talk
no more about her.”

“I think it will be as well, papa, since you find nothing but bad to
say about her,” remarked Audrey, wincing at her father’s brusque
speech.

“I don’t say anything bad,” retorted Branwin, sharply. “Your mother
was a good woman, and kind-hearted, and all that sort of thing. But
she was a fool, and I should never have married her.”

“Perhaps if you had married my Aunt Flora it would have been better!”
said Audrey, sarcastically.

“It would. You are right there, my girl. Flora had brains and a will
of her own, and would have been a help to a man, instead of a
hindrance.”

“You never mentioned my aunt to me before.”

“There was no need. I wished to forget all that lot and all that time
of poverty and struggle. But your mother must have–”

“She never did,” interrupted the girl, quickly. “Until you mentioned
the name just now, I never knew that I had an aunt. If you think so
much of her, why not seek her out and marry her? The Deceased Wife’s
Sister Bill is law now, and you can make her the second Lady Branwin.”

Sir Joseph winced at the scorn in the young voice. “No!” said he. “I
have had enough of the Arkwright family. I married one sister; I don’t
intend to marry the other, let alone the fact that I don’t know where
she is. She may be married–she may be dead. I don’t care. For me,
Flora is as dead as Dora, and when I marry again–” He hesitated.

Audrey clasped her hands together tightly, and her face was whiter
than pearls. “I spoke in joke,” she said, in a low voice. “Surely,
papa, you will not marry again?”

“Why should I not?” cried Branwin, irritably. “I am not so very old. I
want someone to sit at the head of my table and to receive my guests.”

“I can do that, papa.”

“You!” said the millionaire, contemptuously. “Oh, yes, so long as it
suits your own purpose. But when you feel inclined you will marry that
young fool.”

“Ralph is not a fool, papa.” Audrey drew herself up. “Everyone says
that he is extremely clever, and has a great future before him.”

“Well, it couldn’t very well be behind him,” said Sir Joseph,
sneeringly. “It’s all rubbish, Audrey; you must marry a title.”

“I shall marry Ralph, and no one else,” said Audrey, fiercely.

“We’ll see about that,” roared the millionaire, indignant at being
thus defied. “Don’t you know that I can turn you out of this house
without a single penny? And I will, too, if you dare to disobey me.”

Audrey clenched her hands to keep herself from speaking, and turned
away to look out of the window. What her father said was perfectly
true. She was an absolute pauper, dependent on his whim and fancy.
Never having been taught how to earn her own living, she could see
nothing but starvation ahead if Sir Joseph chose to carry out his
threat. And that he would do so she felt very certain, as she knew
from experience how brutal was his nature when aroused to action by
opposition. In the meantime, and until she had consulted with Ralph,
it was wiser not to fan the flame of his wrath to fiercer heat.
Silence on this occasion was veritably golden.

“Listen to me,” said Branwin, somewhat mollified by his daughter’s
silence, which he mistook for victory. “For a few months at least we
must mourn in the conventional way for your mother. During that time
you shall be the mistress of my house, with Mrs. Mellop to help you,
since you are more or less inexperienced.”

“I don’t want Mrs. Mellop in the house,” cried Audrey, glowing with
anger.

“It is not what you want, but what I wish,” said her father, tartly.
“Mrs. Mellop must come here on a visit to look after you, and see that
you act properly as mistress. Meanwhile I shall look out for a husband
for you amongst some of these pauper noblemen, who will be glad enough
to sell a title for your dowry. Not a word,” he cried, raising his
voice, when he saw that she was about to speak. “And I may tell you
straightly, Audrey, that I wish you to marry at the end of our
necessary period of mourning, as I do not think you will get on with
your stepmother.”

“My–my–my stepmother!” stammered the girl, aghast.

“Yes,” said the man, curtly; and the two stared at one another until
Sir Joseph, unable to bear the reproach in his daughter’s eyes, broke
into a furious rage. He felt that he could only meet that look and
defend his position by giving way to an outburst of temper. “Why do
you stand there without a word, and look as though I had told you I
was about to commit a crime? Why shouldn’t I marry and be happy? I was
never happy with your mother, and you are ready enough to leave me for
that barrister sweep. Yes, I’m going to give you a stepmother–in name
only, that is, for you will be out of this house, and married to the
man I choose for you, before my wife enters.”

“I shall assuredly be out of the house before the second Lady Branwin
appears,” said Audrey, very white but very courageous. “I owe that
much to my mother’s memory.”

“Leave your mother’s name out of it.”

“But,” went on the girl, just as though she had not been interrupted,
“I go out to marry Ralph, and not a husband of your choosing.”

“You’ll do what you’re told, or starve,” said her father, gruffly.
“Let us have no more of this nonsense.” He looked at his watch. “The
motor is at the door, and I have to catch the Brighton train. I made
up my mind to have an explanation before I left. That you should
receive my expressed wishes in this way, when I am still weak from
illness, shows how much you really care for me. But you understand.”

“I understand that you intend to marry a second time, and that I am to
be the mistress of this house until your wife enters it.”

“Quite so; and you understand also that you are to ask Mrs. Mellop to
come and stay here during my absence. Good! That’s all. Good-bye,” and
without offering to kiss her, the man walked to the door.

“Papa,” cried Audrey, before he could reach it, and struck with a
sudden thought, “are you going to marry Mrs. Mellop?”

“No,” retorted Sir Joseph, pulling open the door with a swing, “I am
going to marry Miss Rosy Pearl”; and, flinging the name at her with a
snarl, he marched out sullenly. The way in which Audrey had received
his news was displeasing to a man who always had his own way.

The girl sank into a chair, for her limbs now refused to support her,
although pride had hitherto held her up. With a blank, bewildered
stare she looked round the dainty, bright breakfast-room, the white
walls of which were painted gracefully with cupids and wreaths of
flowers bound with knots of airy blue ribbon. Sorrow seemed out of
place in so frivolous an apartment; yet its mere beauty enhanced the
grief felt by the girl. The loss of her mother had been terrible to
her, for although mother and daughter, educationally speaking, were
leagues asunder, yet they had been greatly attached, and Audrey loved
the uncouth, stupid woman at whom so many people laughed. And Audrey
alone had been kind to poor Lady Branwin, who was scorned even by her
own husband. No one regretted the simple creature’s death but her
daughter, who was unlike her in every way. As for Sir Joseph, Audrey
saw that he was quite glad to be relieved of his ill-fated wife’s
presence.

Now he intended to marry again, and after the first feeling of natural
resentment Audrey could not condemn him. Had her father only broken
the news more kindly; had he only behaved less like a bully and more
like a parent, and had he delayed to announce his determination for a
few months, the girl would have received the intelligence differently.
But the information coming with such indecent haste, coupled with his
fiat that she was not to think of marrying Ralph Shawe, had brought
the worst elements in Audrey’s nature to the front. Her affections
were deep and her temper was strong, so she felt anxious to resent the
insult conveyed by the entire interview. But reflection calmed her
early determination to leave the house before her domestic tyrant
could return from Brighton. She had nowhere to go to, and she had no
money, so it was necessary to wait for at least a time before deciding
what to do. But she arose with a shudder, and felt that the luxury
around was repellent to her. In fact, her feeling was that she dwelt
in the house of a stranger, so hostile and self-centred did her father
now appear to be. And yet, even at the best, they had never been
parent and child.

“I shall see Ralph and tell him, and be guided by what he says,”
Audrey murmured to herself. “But–who is Rosy Pearl?”



She had never heard the name, and yet in some way it sounded familiar.
As she walked out of the breakfast-room reflecting on her father’s
abrupt announcement, and wondering what the future Lady Branwin was
like, a servant respectfully informed her that Mrs. Mellop had arrived
and was in the drawing-room. Audrey frowned, as she felt that, after
such a trying interview, it would be somewhat difficult to put up with
the widow’s frivolous chatter. However, while she remained under her
father’s roof, she felt bound to obey his orders, and remembered that
Mrs. Mellop was to be invited to stay during Sir Joseph’s absence at
Brighton. She therefore composed her face, and rubbed her cheeks to
bring a little colour into them. When she opened the drawing-room door
Mrs. Mellop rushed at her, cooing like a dove.

“You dear child, you sweet child, my heart aches for you,” said the
widow, who was all chiffons and scent, and gush and restlessness.
“This dreadful death, the illness of your poor father”–she put a tiny
lace handkerchief to her eyes–“it’s too awful for words.”

“Thank you,” said Audrey, coldly, and then irrelevantly asked a
question which haunted her mind, and was on the top of her tongue.
“Mrs. Mellop, you usually know everyone. Who is Rosy Pearl?”

Mrs. Mellop stared aghast. “My dear child,” she said, in a shocked
tone, “you should know nothing about such a creature.”

“A creature! What creature?” asked Audrey, colouring vividly.

“She is a music-hall artist,” said Mrs. Mellop, solemnly–“a painted
butterfly.”

“A painted butterfly!” Audrey’s lip curled at the phrase. It exactly
described the kind of woman her father’s animal nature would be drawn
to. In her mind’s eye she saw the pathetic figure of her mother trying
to recover her faded prettiness with Madame Coralie’s assistance, so
as to win back a love that required to be stimulated by mere beauty of
form and face. And a music-hall artist!

“Is she respectable?” asked Audrey, suddenly.

“Oh, quite,” said Mrs. Mellop, laughing artificially. “But I wonder
why you ask?”

“Oh, I merely heard her name,” answered Audrey, quietly. “Why do you
laugh?”

Mrs. Mellop tried to stop tittering. “Oh, my dear, I can see it all,”
she said gaily; “your face betrays you. To think that he should run
after her!”

“He? Who?” asked Audrey, drawing up her slight figure, and wincing at
the thought that this gossiping woman was about to pronounce her
father’s name.

“Why, Mr. Shawe, of course.”

“Mr. Shawe!” The girl grew violently red. “He doesn’t run after Miss
Pearl.”

“Oh, I know he loves you, dear,” said the widow, in a tantalising way.
“Anyone can see that when he’s in the room, and everyone knows that he
is as good as engaged to you, although your father won’t hear of your
marrying the poor man. But”–she made a gesture of contempt–“he’s a
man after all.”

“Have you any ground to say that Mr. Shawe runs after–”

“Only your face, dear, and your strong desire to know about Miss
Pearl.”

“If that is all,” said Audrey, with quiet scorn, “you can exonerate
Ralph from being an admirer of Miss Pearl. I know that he is true to
me.”

“And you call him Ralph,” said her visitor, glibly; “my dear, what
will your father say? He wants you to marry Lord Anvers.”

“What! That puny little racing man? He has never said anything to me
about it, Mrs. Mellop, and if he does I shall certainly refuse to
entertain the idea. And since you have hinted that all the world knows
my business,” she went on, looking the widow straight in the face,
“you can inform everyone, on my authority, that I intend to marry Mr.
Shawe, and that we are engaged.”

“With your father’s consent, dear?”

“Never mind.” Audrey was glad to see that Mrs. Mellop’s attention had
been taken off the name of Rosy Pearl, as she did not want, for
obvious reasons, to talk about the lady. “My father and I understand
one another.”

“Oh, I dare say, dear; but do your father and Mr. Shawe understand one
another? I’m sure I hope so, as it means so much money to Mr. Shawe.”

“Ralph marries me for myself, and not for my money,” said the girl,
hotly.

“No doubt, dear; but he’s got an eye to the main chance, like the rest
of us.”

Audrey again looked straightly at the pretty, artificial, frivolous
face. “I think not,” she said coolly; “Ralph is not like other men.”

“Ah!”–Mrs. Mellop became serious–“we all think men are angels until
we marry them, dear. And this Rosy Pearl attracts–”

“She doesn’t attract Ralph,” interrupted Miss Branwin, resolutely, and
saw the necessity of drawing another red herring across the trail. “I
told you that I merely asked about her because the name had struck my
fancy. And now I have to give you a message from my father.”

“Yes, dear?” said Mrs. Mellop, anxiously; for now that Sir Joseph was
a widower she had a sudden vision of possible matrimony.

“He has gone to Brighton for a week or so, since the doctor has
ordered him the sea air. He told me to ask you to chaperon me while he
was absent, as he does not like the idea of my being alone. But I am
afraid you will find it rather dull here. I am in mourning, you know.”

The widow gasped with delight. That Sir Joseph should select her
from amongst all his friends to stay at Camden Hill as a temporary
companion to his only daughter surely showed that he took a deep
interest in her; and such interest could only mean that
marriage– “Oh,” cried Mrs. Mellop, shutting her eyes to conjure up
more clearly the golden vision, “how sweet of you! I like a quiet
time, as my poor husband did not leave me very well off, and it is so
expensive to go about in London; besides, your darling mother was a
good friend to me, and my heart is wrung.”

Audrey knew perfectly well that Lady Branwin had been a very good
friend indeed to Mrs. Mellop, who was something of a parasite, and
knew also that the lady’s heart was not wrung in the least. She had
used the phrase because it sounded well, and because she wished to
ingratiate herself with the heiress. Not that Mrs. Mellop was a
bad-hearted woman. She was simply frivolous and incapable of feeling
any deep emotion. In her own silly way she had been attached to the
late Lady Branwin, because she had found her a useful friend. In the
same way she was prepared to lavish her shallow affections on Audrey.

Mrs. Mellop duly arrived with many boxes, and was given a charming
suite of apartments, luxuriously furnished with all that civilisation
could provide in the way of comfort. Certainly the life was somewhat
quiet, as Audrey rarely left the grounds, and even when in the house
preferred to be alone with her books and music. But the surroundings
were costly, the food was excellent, and there were innumerable
servants ready to obey the widow’s beck and call. Mrs. Mellop, during
her three weeks’ stay, felt that she was already the wife of the
millionaire, and took advantage of the opportunity to go out daily in
one of the luxurious motor-cars to shop extensively and run up many
bills, on the assumption that Sir Joseph would certainly pay them when
he proposed. And the shopkeepers, who hitherto had been rather shy of
the pretty little widow, trusted her readily when they knew that she
was chaperoning Miss Branwin, and saw that she used Sir Joseph’s
up-to-date vehicles. Also, she might have dropped a hint or two that
she had come to stay at the Camden Hill house. But, at all events,
during that halcyon time Mrs. Mellop assuredly gathered together a
wardrobe and a quantity of jewellery which stood her in good service
afterwards when the gates of this millionaire Eden closed behind her.
But as yet she never believed that they would close; or, if they did,
that she would be within as the second Lady Branwin.

Meanwhile, since the chaperon was discreet, and Sir Joseph was at the
seaside, Audrey saw a great deal of Ralph. Because of her mourning for
her mother she could not meet him as usual in Kensington Gardens; but
he came to afternoon tea, and sometimes to dinner. Mrs. Mellop, only
too anxious to get Audrey married, so that she could prosecute her
matrimonial plans when the millionaire returned, was rarely present at
these meetings, or if she was speedily got out of the way on the plea
of fatigue, or that she had to write letters. Audrey might have had no
chaperon, so far as Mrs. Mellop was concerned, and it was evident that
the little widow had taken the hint given by the girl at that first
candid interview. But Mrs. Mellop wrote Sir Joseph gushing letters
about his sweet child, without mentioning the almost constant presence
of the young barrister.

Audrey and Ralph did not talk like lovers now. The girl was consumed
by a fierce desire to hunt down the assassin of her mother, and talked
of little else but the chance of tracing the murderer. Ralph assured
her that he had kept in touch with Inspector Lanton and with the
police generally, to say nothing of his frequent visits to the
detectives at Scotland Yard. “But nothing can be found out,” said the
barrister, sadly.

“Something must be found out,” cried Audrey at the last of these
interviews; “and if the police fail we must succeed.”

“But your father–”

Audrey made a gesture of contempt. “My father thinks that he has done
his duty by offering this thousand pounds’ reward. He will not lift a
finger to find the assassin of my poor mother. He is glad she is
dead.”

“Oh! surely not,” remarked Ralph, rather shocked by this blunt speech.

“Surely yes,” said the girl, bitterly. “I did not tell you before,
Ralph, because I was ashamed to tell you, but my father is going to
marry again.”

Shawe was startled. “Mrs. Mellop?” he asked, after a bewildered pause.

“No. Although his mere invitation to Mrs. Mellop that she should be my
chaperon has caused her to entertain ideas of marriage. Do you know
Rosy Pearl?”

“The music-hall dancer? Yes.”

“Well, she is to be the future Lady Branwin.”

“Oh! Audrey,” cried Shawe, greatly astonished, “you must be mistaken.”

“I had the information from my father’s own lips,” insisted Audrey.
“What do you know of this woman?”

“Very little. She is a handsome woman in the style of Juno, and is a
wonderful dancer. I heard that Sir Joseph had been paying attentions
to her, but I did not dream that he contemplated marriage with her.”

“He does, then. Mrs. Mellop calls her a painted butterfly.”

“She’s a very substantial butterfly,” said Shawe, with the ghost of a
smile; for Audrey was too much in earnest to tolerate lightness of any
sort. “And I believe she is rather a respectable woman.”

“Such a woman as should stand in the place of my dead mother?”
asked Audrey, looking searchingly at his face.

“No,” rejoined Ralph, promptly. “And yet I can’t say that I have heard
a word against Rosy Pearl. I simply mean that you would not like one
who had been a dancer to be your stepmother.”

“I certainly should not,” said Audrey, decisively; “and yet if I
object, my father–as he hinted–is quite capable of turning me out of
doors. He will do that in any case, unless I marry Lord Anvers.”

“What!” Shawe flushed. “That little reptile, who–”

“I know a great deal about him,” said Audrey, cutting him short, “and
I do not wish to hear any more. I shall leave this house rather than
marry him, and rather than see this Pearl woman occupying my mother’s
place.”

“Come to me, darling,” said Ralph, holding out his arms. “Let us get
married at once and defy your father.”

“I should lose my money then, dear.”

“Oh, what does that matter? I want you and not your money.”

“Dear”–she placed her hands on his shoulders and looked deeply into
his keen grey eyes, now filled with the love-light–“I am too fond of
you to allow you to ruin yourself for my sake.”

“Ruin myself”–his arms slipped round her waist, and he placed his
cheek against hers–“how could you do that, you silly darling?”

“Very easily,” she replied, in a tired voice; for all she had gone
through was wearing her out. “You have just enough money to get along
with, as a bachelor. But what is enough for one is not enough for two,
in spite of the proverb. If I married you in haste we should both
repent at leisure. Not only would we be poor, but my father, being
thwarted, would do his best to hinder you.”

“He could not do that,” declared Shawe, who believed that he was
capable of defying the world, much less Sir Joseph.

“Oh, yes, he could, and he would. He would use his money and his
influence to prevent any solicitor giving you a brief. He would turn
people against you, and would give you a bad name. I know my father’s
hard nature, and his pertinacious way of following up things. My poor
mother told me how he had ruined and disgraced several people who had
crossed his path.”

Ralph pushed her slightly away from him, and taking her hands looked
into her eyes. “And do you think that I am ready to give you up
because your father would act in this way?” he demanded. “I am not
afraid of Sir Joseph, or of any man. Two people can play at every
game, and if your father tries to crush me, he will find that I am not
a man to be cast out of his path. If he has money, I have brains, and
I am quite willing to pit my intellect against his wealth. Hang Sir
Joseph, and a dozen like him; I beg your pardon, dear, for, after all,
he is your father.”

“A father in name only,” said Audrey, admiring her lover’s
indignation, which was righteous and masterful in her eyes. “You know
what I think of him, Ralph. I wish I had a better opinion of his
nature, but my experience and my mother’s experience–what she has
told me–show that my father is a hard man with a strong will. He does
not care what anyone suffers so long as he gets his way. The mere fact
that he has already decided to marry again–and marry a music-hall
artist–shows how callous he is. It’s like Hamlet’s mother,” ended
Audrey, bitterly, “with the funeral baked meats not yet cold, as in
the play.”

Ralph took a turn up and down the room, with a frowning brow and
looking deeply perplexed. “What’s to be done, then?” he demanded,
stopping before the girl. “Things can’t go on in this way. You won’t
marry me–”

“For your own sake I won’t marry you at present,” interpolated the
girl.

“Audrey, you say that your father intends to marry Rosy Pearl as soon
as he possibly can without shocking public opinion. When he does, you
can’t stay in the house, as you declare, and also you say that you
will not marry Lord Anvers. Your father, so you tell me, is bound to
turn you out if you refuse to obey him, so it seems to me that the
evil day is only postponed for a few months.”

“I daresay, Ralph. But much may happen in a few months. For one thing,
we–you and I–may find out who killed my mother. And even if you had
money and could offer me a home, I should refuse to marry you until
that truth comes to light.”

“But it’s impossible, and, after all, can do little good.”

“It’s not impossible, and can at least punish the assassin. No one but
myself cares for my poor mother’s memory, and I must avenge her death.
Come, dear”–she placed her arms round his neck–“you will be my
knight-errant?”

“Yes,” said Ralph, promptly, and kissed her. “But where shall I
begin?”

“Begin?” replied Audrey, seriously. “Begin at Madame Coralie’s–at the
Pink Shop.”

“At the Pink Shop?” repeated her lover. “Good! I shall start
to-morrow.”