staggered towards

For the first time in her careless, happy life Ruth knew the torments
of an anxious mind. A chill struck through her very being at the
suggestion that her dearly-loved father might be implicated in the
sordid tragedy. Yet she did not lose her presence of mind, but wheedled
the so-called brooch out of Mildred on the strict understanding that it
should be restored next morning.

Her thoughts were painful in the extreme. For an examination of the
piece of gold proved beyond doubt that it belonged to the same set of
links as did the one she found under the window. Now Ruth recollected
that in some Bond-street shop she had seen a similar set of links,
the four ovals of which were enamelled respectively with a horse,
a champagne bottle, a pack of cards, and a ballet girl. They were
playfully denominated the four vices.

“Of course it is utterly impossible that he can have anything to do
with it,” she thought as she paced her bedroom. “There could have been
no motive. Yet again, how did he, of all men, come into possession of
that link?”

She remembered now the horror she had felt at the idea of marrying Neil
when she had come to know that his mother was–at least to all outward
appearances–a murderess. She judged that if her father should be
guilty then Geoffrey would feel the same towards her. Again and again
she tried to find some explanation, and again and again she failed.
Only by her father himself could her doubts be set at rest, and he was
absent. True, he would return in three days; but how to live during
that time with this hideous doubt in her mind? She could imagine now
how people felt when they were going mad. Sending down an excuse for
not appearing at dinner, she went to bed. To face the world, even her
own small world, was more than she could bear. Her only relief was in
solitude.

Of course, as might have been expected, Amy came up to fuss over her
and offer advice and blame her for having made herself ill in some way
which Mrs. Chisel herself would have avoided.

Then in came Jennie, creeping like a mouse, with soothing speech and
cool hands for the burning brow of the sick girl.

“I am not well dear,” she said, in reply to Miss Brawn’s inquiries.
“All I want is a good night’s rest. In the morning I shall be myself
again.” And with this answer Jennie had to be content.

Left to herself, Ruth began her self-communings. It crossed her mind
that her father, who had always been a great admirer of beauty, might
have been attracted by Mrs. Jenner’s good looks. But even as she
thought of it she dismissed the idea with a blush of shame. Who was
she to think ill of her father? But she would certainly question Mrs.
Chisel about her former governess, and would learn what had been Mr.
Cass’s attitude towards her.

Ruth, anxious to propitiate her, offered on the following morning to
help with the work, but was told she could not do it as Mrs. Chisel
wished. In spite of which disagreeable speech she waited patiently for
an opportunity of introducing the subject of Amy’s childhood and Amy’s
governess, and kept her temper, as best she might, under a deluge of
platitudes and self-glorification on the part of her sister.

At length, after having made attacks upon several of her acquaintances,
the good lady indirectly introduced the subject upon which Ruth wished
to speak by giving her opinion as to the incapacity of Jennie Brawn as
governess.

“I do not say she does not do her best,” she said, magnanimously, “but,
oh, dear me! Jane Brawn”–so she invariably referred to Jennie–“has no
more idea of teaching than a Hottentot. I know how the thing should be
done, as I have told her a dozen times, but she will not take advice.”

“What about your own governess?” put in Ruth, artfully. “Was she any
good, Amy?”

“She was excellent–as a governess,” returned Mrs. Chisel, with a sniff
of disparagement; “but as a woman she left much to be desired.”

“But, my dear Amy, how do you know that? You were only a child.”

“Children are much sharper than their elders give them credit for. I
was ten years of age when Miss Laurence left and quite old enough to
see through her designs.”

“Miss Laurence? Was that her name, Amy?”

“Yes. She afterwards married a man called Jenner, a clerk in papa’s
office, and we saw no more of her as I had gone to school. A very good
thing, too,” went on Mrs. Chisel, with an air of offended virtue.
“My mother never liked her. And she did turn out badly, after all,
murdering her husband. I can only say it was a mercy it was not papa.”

“Why should it have been papa?” asked Ruth, with a beating heart.

Mrs. Chisel tossed her head and observed that men were always men.
“Papa is as good as the best of them,” she added, “but all the same, he
is a son of Adam, like the rest. And when an artful minx—- Ah, well,
it does not do to talk of these things.”

“I see,” said Ruth, taking the bull by the horns. “Miss Laurence was
pretty, papa was weak, and mamma—-”

“Ruth!” screamed her sister, stopping her ears. “I will not hear these
things! How can you speak so of papa? Pretty, indeed! I never thought
her pretty. If you like–oh, yes, she would have made a fool of papa if
mamma had not dismissed her.”

“I thought she left here to get married?”

“You may think what you like,” Mrs. Chisel said with dignity. “No one
can say that I talk about the weaknesses of my parents. All the same,
Mrs. Jenner, as she now is, was a minx, And made eyes at papa. I saw
something of that, and I heard more. Though I was a child, I was not a
fool, Ruth. Oh, it was as well that she left Hollyoaks, I can tell you.
What an escape for poor, dear papa!”

And more than this Mrs. Chisel would not say. But Ruth had gathered
that Miss Laurence had been an apple of discord in the house. From all
that she had heard, in the strange way in which sharp children do hear
things, Ruth had come to think that her mother had been more than a
trifle jealous. Doubtless, if Amy’s story could be believed, she had
hated Mrs. Jenner for her beauty and had got her out of the house. She
anxiously awaited the return of Mr. Cass from Bordeaux.

In due time he arrived, looking all the better for his journey, and was
welcomed by Mrs. Chisel with enthusiasm. He was more pleased to see his
grandchildren than their mother, for, like everyone else, he found her
a trifle wearisome. As for Ruth, when she saw once more her father’s
grave face and kindly eyes, she was ashamed of all that had been in her
mind; and she displayed so much affection that Mr. Cass was surprised,
for as a rule his younger daughter was not demonstrative.

“You don’t look well, Ruth,” he said. And indeed her face was worn and
thin. “What is the matter?”

“Nothing, papa. What should be the matter?”

“You are worrying about young Webster?” he asked, rather sharply.

“No, indeed,” she protested. “I have quite got over my feeling for him.
It was a mere girlish fancy.”

“Of course it was,” put in Mrs. Chisel, with superior wisdom. “And she
is taking my advice, papa, about Mr. Heron.”

“Is this true, Ruth?”

“Well, it may be,” she said, hesitatingly. “I like him much better
than I did. Have you heard anything of Mr. Webster, papa?” For she was
anxious to hear if her father knew that Neil was at Bognor.

“No, nothing. I believe he is abroad, and I sincerely hope that he will
stay there. Marry Heron, my dear Ruth, and forget all about him.”

Ruth found it impossible to say more then, but determined to wait until
her sister had retired for the night before seeking speech with her
father.

Mr. Cass was pleasantly surprised when Ruth came into the library about
ten o’clock. As a rule he saw her only for an hour in the drawing-room
after dinner. He had quite expected that the two sisters would be
chatting in their own rooms by this time.

“Well, my dear,” he said, gaily, “have you come to give your old father
some of your company? I suppose this is to make up for my absence.”

“Yes,” she said, as gaily as she could. “You have been away so long,
and I do see very little of you, papa. I want to see as much of you as
possible.”

“Until you leave me for Heron,” he said, patting her hand. “Seriously,
my dear, I hope you will marry him. He is a good fellow, and will make
the best of husbands for my Ruth.”

“He wants me to be his wife,” Ruth said, gloomily enough. “I have not
decided yet; I may or may not marry him. But you can set your mind at
rest about Neil Webster, papa. I would not marry him if there was not
another man in the world.”

Something in her voice struck Mr. Cass unpleasantly and he looked
sharply at her. “Why not?” he demanded.

She returned his look boldly. “Because I know now why you did not wish
me to be his wife,” she said.

He lifted his eyebrows. “Woman’s curiosity again,” he said, harshly.
“What do you know?”

“I know that his real name is Jenner, and that his mother—-”

“Stop!” cried her father, his face growing haggard before her eyes.
“Who told you this nonsense?”

“It is not nonsense,” she cried in despair. “Oh, why will you not trust
me? I know that it is true. Mrs. Jent told me.”

“Oh! Then that was why you went to Brighton?”

“Yes. I was quite determined to find out why you forbade the marriage.”

“I see,” he said, ironically. “Well, are you any the happier for this
discovery?”

She hid her face with a cry. “Heaven knows I am the most unhappy girl
in the world!” she moaned.

“Ah!” said her father, a word of meaning in his voice. “So you do love
the man after all?”

“No; but–never mind. Tell me, papa, is it true?”

“Yes. You know so much now that you may as well know more. Mrs. Jenner
murdered her husband and has suffered imprisonment all these years.”

“She did not murder him!” cried Ruth.

Mr. Cass, who was swinging the poker in his hands, dropped it with
a crash. “Ah! and how do you know that she did not?” he asked in a
stifled voice.

“Because Geoffrey says—-”

“Heron!” He rose to his feet. “What has he to do with all this?”

“He is a friend of Neil’s, and—-”

“A friend of Neil’s?” Mr. Cass said, incredulously. “How can that
be? They never even got on well together; they were rivals. I do not
believe it.”

“Will you believe me when I tell you that Geoffrey is nursing Neil at
Bognor in Mrs. Jent’s house? He is, then. And Geoffrey wrote telling
you that he was abroad–and Neil, too–to keep you away from Bognor.”

Mr. Cass stood as though turned to stone, and the haggard look on his
face seemed to grow more marked.

“There appears to be a lot of plotting going on behind my back,” he
said, quietly. “My own daughter is plotting against me. Why did you not
tell me all this? No, never mind. You have told me so many lies that I
cannot believe you. Do not answer that question. But I must ask you to
tell me what this means?”

“I have told no lies,” cried Ruth, indignantly. “If you had been more
open with me, papa, I would never have set to work to find out this
affair. I will tell you all, just as it happened, and you can judge for
yourself if I have been wrong.”

“Nothing can excuse your silence,” he said, bitterly. “You don’t know
what harm may come of this meddling with what does not concern you.
Well, I will hear your story.”

He sat down again and looked at the fire, while Ruth related all that
had happened, and how Geoffrey and she had made up their minds to
discover the truth. Mr. Cass listened without a word. Only when she had
finished did he make an observation.

“You have done wrong,” he said, sternly. “You should have told me all
this at once. I am the best friend that Neil Webster has, and it was my
place to look after him, not Heron’s.”

“But is Mrs. Jenner innocent?” Ruth asked, anxiously.

“I cannot answer that question,” he said, evasively, but he clenched
his fist. “At all events I will see Heron and Neil, and hear what
grounds they have for believing that she did not kill the unhappy man.
I can only hope, Ruth, that you will refrain from meddling in the
matter any more.”

“Oh, I have done with it, papa. I’m sorry if you think I have behaved
badly; but I thought I was acting for the best. You can depend upon my
doing nothing more. The matter is in Geoffrey’s hands now.”

“And it will soon be in mine,” her father said, coldly. “If Mrs. Jenner
is to be released I am the person to see to it.”

Ruth noticed that he did not say “If Mrs. Jenner is guiltless,” and
her heart was like lead. She made up her mind to try the effect of the
link, and, rising as if to go, drew it from her pocket.

“I will go to bed now,” she said, quietly. “By the way, here is
something of yours,” and she placed the piece of gold before him. “Yes,
it is mine,” he said, glancing at it. “I gave it to Mildred for her
doll. How did it come into your possession?”

She burst into teats. The strain was getting too much for her. “Oh,
papa, say it is not yours,” she wept, stretching out her hands.

“Ruth, you are hysterical,” Mr. Cass said, with some severity; and the
girl noticed even then that he was a trifle nervous. “Why should I deny
that it is mine? I had a set of these links made many years ago when
I was foolish enough to wear such things. One pair I lost, the other
remained in my desk amongst a lot of rubbish, until one day I gave one
piece of it to Mildred. I had intended to have the other pair replaced,
but time went on, and somehow I never had it done. Why should you cry
about these things, and why do you shew me this link?”

“Because I found one oval like this under the window of the Turnpike
House.”

Mr. Cass rose from his chair and looked at her with a frown. “Go on,”
he said.

“I have nothing more to say,” she cried with a fresh burst of tears. “I
know now that the links did belong to you. How did you lose the one at
the Turnpike House? The blow–”

“Was struck through the window, you would say,” her father finished,
with a cold smile, “and that I struck it!”

“No, no!” she cried. “I am sure you did not. Oh, I am sure you did not,
father. But ever since I have found these links I have been in terror
for you. What if the one I gave Geoffrey should be traced? Oh, I wished
I had kept it myself?”

“It is too late to wish anything now,” he said, bitterly, but very
quietly. “I must say you are a dutiful daughter. I suppose you really
mean to accuse me of having murdered Jenner?”

“I do not–I do not. I am sure you never did. You can explain.”

“I explain nothing,” he interrupted, sternly. “The links are mine.
Whether I dropped a portion of one at the Turnpike House or not does
not matter to you. I will see Heron and explain to him. All I ask of
you is to hold your tongue.”

“I will, I will,” sobbed the girl. “But, oh, father, don’t be hard on
me. I’m very sorry that I meddled at all.”

Mr. Cass looked at her in silence, and his stern face softened. “I know
you do not credit me with this crime,” he said, “and I am glad you have
so much grace. But even to you I cannot explain. You must trust me.”

“I do. Whom should I trust but my own dear father?”

“I wish you had thought of that before, and had not acted in this
underhand way. However, it is of no use talking now. The thing is done
and I must put it to rights as best I can. I will see Heron and Webster.
Put all these things out of your mind, child.”

“How can I until I know the truth?” she said, passionately. “I am sure
you are innocent, but I am certain, too, that it was not Mrs. Jenner
who committed the murder. For Neil’s sake, for my own sake, I want the
horrible thing explained.”

“Whether it will be explained or not does not rest with you or with me,
my dear girl. I cannot say to you what I should wish to say. All I can
advise you is to hold your tongue. If you do not Heaven knows what will
happen!”

“I will say nothing,” she said, faintly, and staggered towards the
door. Her father had not insisted upon his innocence as she had
expected him to do; he had taken refuge in vague phrases which meant
nothing. Yet she could not believe–she thrust the thought away from
her. “I will go. I will say no more,” she repeated.

“Ruth,” he cried as she opened the door, “one thing I must tell you.
You have either done great good or great harm. But, in either case, you
have brought sorrow to this house.”

The next day Mr. Cass informed Ruth that Geoffrey Heron was coming to
spend a few days at Hollyoaks. He made no attempt to conceal his reason
for asking the young man.

“It is necessary,” he said, “that I should talk over this deplorable
matter with him. Anything further that has to be done in connection
with the possible release of Mrs. Jenner must be done through me. I am
her oldest friend; I am her son’s best friend; and I have a right to
bring the matter to a creditable issue. Do you not agree with me?” He
looked at her keenly.

“Yes, papa, I do,” she replied, feeling more at ease in her mind now
that she saw he did not shirk the investigation. “I only wish I had
told I you before. But you must do me the justice to own that I never
expected to find you in any way connected with it.”

“The wonder is that you did not find me mixed up in it earlier,” he
said. “I have had so much to do with Mrs. Jenner and her son that
I could hardly help being concerned in their trouble. But you need
not worry about me, child. I am quite able to protect myself and to
explain, when the time comes, how that broken link came to be lost.”

“If you will only do that—-”

“Ruth, is it possible that you believe your father guilty of this
crime?”

“Oh, no, I do not; but—-”

He turned away. “Well, say no more about it,” he said, in a softer
tone than was usual with him, for he saw that the girl was terribly
troubled. “There is, on the face of it, some ground for you to doubt
me. I do not for a moment deny that such is the case. But I hope to
right myself in your eyes. Still, you must give me time to consider the
matter.”

“You are not angry with me, then?” she asked, anxiously. “I am
displeased that you should have undertaken this investigation without
telling me your intention. But I can forgive you, for I know how
impulsive you are. Let us say no more about it. My task is to get at
the truth of this matter; and with Geoffrey’s assistance I hope to
do so. All I ask is that you should be silent and leave things in my
hands. And never conceal anything from me again.”

“I will do all you say,” replied his daughter, and kissed him.

In due time Geoffrey arrived. He was in high spirits and brought the
best of news from Bognor. Neil was mending rapidly and would soon be on
his feet again. Since he had found a friend and brother in Geoffrey he
had become much less morbid, and was beginning to take quite a cheerful
view of life. If his mother could only be proved innocent and set at
liberty he would have little left to wish for. As for Ruth, his love
for her had by some strange mental process been obliterated during his
illness, and he rose from his sick-bed with nothing more than a strong
feeling of friendship for the girl who had so recently been all the
world to him. And, indeed, when Miss Cass came to hear of this she was
not over well pleased. But it was not long before she blamed herself
for her vanity, and reminded herself that this was quite the best thing
that could have happened to her former lover.

After dinner Mr. Cass carried Geoffrey off to the library; he
particularly wanted to have a few words alone with him, he said. Heron
had not the least idea what the subject of their talk was to be, Mr.
Cass having merely invited him to spend a few days at Hollyoaks, saying
he had an important subject to discuss with him. And it had passed
through Geoffrey’s mind that Ruth must have confided in her father
their tacit engagement. He was a good deal astonished, therefore, when
Mr. Cass abruptly informed him that the matter referred to was that of
the Jenner murder.

“Why, Mr. Cass!” exclaimed the young man. “How do you know about that?
And what do you know?”

“Ruth told me that you were interesting yourself in it,” was the reply,
“and I know all that she could tell me. I was not very pleased to find
that she had been getting mixed up in the affair.”

“It was her own wish,” Heron said. “I did not like it myself, and I
should have been the last person in the world to tell her anything
about it. But, after all, it was but the curiosity of a young girl. No
one can blame her.”

“No one can blame any woman for being curious,” Mr. Cass said, drily.
“All the same, feminine curiosity can do a lot of mischief when it is
not properly directed–as in this instance. Will you please to tell
me, Heron, exactly how Ruth found it out?”

Not knowing that Mr. Cass wished to compare his story with Ruth’s,
Geoffrey willingly consented, and informed him of Ruth’s visit to Mrs.
Jent, and how the outcome of it all, so far as he was concerned, had
been his discovery of the fact that Ruth was willing to marry him. “And
that is, after all, what I care most about,” he said, with a happy look
in his eyes.

“I am very glad of it,” Mr. Cass said, soberly. “I always wanted her to
marry you; I think you will be able to control her. I was afraid at one
time that she would have run away with Webster.”

“I don’t think that he would have run away with her,” replied Geoffrey.
“He decided to give her up when he learnt the secret of his parentage.
Now he has got over his love, and is quite willing that she should
marry me. Poor Neil! He has had a bad time.”

“That could not have been prevented. I did my best to spare him the
knowledge of his mother’s fate. She asked me to make her the promise,
and I did so.

“Do you think she is guilty?

“I really can’t say,” replied Mr. Cass with some hesitation. “When she
was arrested I implored her to defend herself if she could. But she
obstinately refused to open her mouth. She certainly never told me that
Neil had killed his father.”

“Do you believe he did?”

“No, certainly not. I believe the child got up
from his bed in a dazed condition on suddenly waking out of the trance.
He came into the room and found his father lying dead with the knife on
the floor beside him. Naturally enough the child picked up the knife.
Then, no doubt, his reason became unsettled, added to which the cold to
which he was exposed that night when his mother fled, was altogether
too much for him, and he fell seriously ill.”

“He remembers nothing of all that,” Heron said. “I asked him myself. He
remembers his childhood up to the time his mother put him to bed that
night, or rather, I should say, up to the time when he struck at his
father with the knife. His memory re-commences from the time of his
recovery from the illness which followed, but the interval is a blank.
Of course, he might have seen the assassin. But I am sure,” continued
Heron, firmly, “that his mother is not the guilty person. She denies
having committed the murder, and says she was silent on Neil’s account.”

“Does she suspect anyone?” asked Mr. Cass; and Heron noticed that he
did not give an opinion as to her guilt or innocence.

“No, she cannot think who did it. I asked her about the links, or
rather about the part of one which Ruth found under the window. I
suppose, she told you of her discovery?”

“Yes, she did. By the way, have you the link with you?” Heron took it
out of his pocket-book and laid it on the table. “It is a curious one,”
he said. “The pattern is an odd one and not in very good taste.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Mr. Cass said, with studied carelessness. “I have
seen the same kind of thing. They were in vogue some years ago. Each
oval has a different design on it–a ballet girl, a bottle, a horse,
and a pack of cards. They were known as the ‘four vices.’ What does
Mrs. Jenner say about this?”

“She cannot think who can have worn them; she says she never saw such a
set before.”

Had Geoffrey Heron been an observant man he would have seen a distinct
expression of relief pass over the face of his host; but he remarked
nothing, and Mr. Cass went on.

“It is possible the person who killed Jenner may have dropped it,” he
said. “But I am afraid it is but a slight clue after all these years.
Besides, if Mrs. Jenner cannot guess the motive for the crime, I don’t
see how we can.”

“She thinks the motive was fear of blackmail on the part of the
assassin,” said Geoffrey.

“Ah!” said the merchant, significantly. “I am not astonished. Jenner
was a clerk in my office, and as thorough a blackguard as ever walked.
He was exactly the man who would have blackmailed another if he could
have done so with safety. But what reason has Mrs. Jenner for thinking
this?”

“Because her husband had boasted to her that in a red pocket-book which
he flourished in her face he had the materials for getting money. Now,
that pocket-book was not produced at the trial.”

“I see,” said Mr. Cass, his chin on his hand. “You think the murderer
stabbed Jenner as he stood by the window, stole the pocket-book, and
had his link wrenched off in the struggle?”

“That is the only way in which I can account for the crime.”

“It seems feasible enough,” replied the merchant, musingly. “But I
do not see how I can help you to trace the man. After Jenner left my
office I saw very little of him. If Mrs. Jenner cannot tell whom it was
he intended to blackmail no one else can.”

“She does not know, Mr. Cass. Her husband gave her no hint. All he said
was that he could make money out of what he had in that pocket-book.
She held her tongue, as you know, for her son’s sake; now she sees that
it was wrong. But she did it for the best.

“I suppose she did,” said Mr. Cass, giving the link back to Heron. “But
I wish she had spoken out when I asked her. I could not induce her to
be frank. She merely declared that she was prepared to suffer. Well,”
Mr. Cass rose to his feet, “I don’t think there is anything more to be
said, Heron.”

“But how are we to continue the search?”

“Leave it in my hands for the moment. I will see Mrs. Jenner, and
between the two of us, seeing we knew Jenner better than anyone else,
we may find out who it was he intended to blackmail. If that should
fail, I really don’t know what to suggest.

“Well, I will wait till you have seen her,” Geoffrey said, and went off
to bed.

He rose early, and was out walking up and down the terrace before
breakfast. Ruth was not down, but he could see Jennie Brawn playing
with little George Chisel and Ethel. Mildred was not visible, but in a
few minutes he found her seated in a disconsolate attitude on the steps.

“What is the matter?” he asked, for he was fond of children.

“It’s Aunt Ruth,” said the child, tearfully. “She won’t give me back my
doll’s brooch.”

“Oh, I’ll ask her to give it back. What is it like?” He asked the
question carelessly, little dreaming of what the answer would be, nor
guessing the consequences which would ensue.

“It’s a gold brooch, with a horse on it, a dear little horse.”

Even then it did not enter his mind that the brooch referred to had any
connection with the links of which he had spoken to his host the night,
before.

“How big was it?” he asked. “If Aunt Ruth won’t give it back I’ll try
and get you one like it.”

“Oh, I think grandfather will give me another,” Mildred said, hopefully.
“He gave me this. It is this size,” she drew a small oval in the dust
with her finger, “and that shape, with a horse on it in pretty colours,
and a little thing on the back to put a thread through so that my
doll can wear it. It is so pretty.” Heron felt as if he had received
a blow. For was not the child describing, with the exception of the
design, the broken link he had in his pocket? And she had got it from
her grandfather! Without a word he took the link out of his pocket and
shewed it to the child. She pounced on it with a scream of delight.

“Why, that’s my brooch!” she cried. And then on a nearer view: “No, it
isn’t. Here’s a nasty bottle! Mine had a horse on it.”

The young man remembered the description given by Mr. Cass of the links
known as the “four vices,” and he could no longer refuse to believe
that it was he who had given Mildred the link which matched the one now
in her hands. And that link had been found under the window of the very
room in which the crime had been committed! “Could it be possible—-
No! No!” cried Geoffrey, staggering back, his ruddy face pale. “It
cannot be!”

“What is the matter, Mr. Heron? Are you ill?” asked the child, rising.

“No, I am not ill, dear. But give me back my brooch.”

“I don’t like it,” she said, thrusting it into his hand. “A nasty
bottle! Mine with the horse was much nicer. I’ll ask grandfather to
give me another. Now I’m going to play, Mr. Heron, do ask Aunt Ruth to
give me back my dear little brooch.”

The prattle of the child worried him terribly. “Yes, yes,” he said,
impatiently; “but run away and play now, dear.” And as Mildred
scampered off “Great Heavens!” he thought. “Can Cass have murdered the
man? Impossible! He could have had no motive.”

He was thankful to be alone, for he felt that in his present state of
mind he could speak to no one. Therefore, still thinking of the new
discovery he had made he felt annoyed to see Jennie Brawn leave the
children and come towards him. He would have escaped her by walking
off, but she called to him, and he had, perforce, to remain. She looked
anxious and worried.

“Mr. Heron, I wish to speak to you particularly,” she said. “I am so
glad to find you alone. You look ill.”

“I have had rather a shock, but really I am all right,” he said, with
an attempt at a smile. “What is it, Miss Brawn?”

“Well,” she said, “it is a somewhat curious story. You know Ruth
brought back with her a toy horse which she put into a drawer in her
bedroom. She gave the children permission to open the drawer, and
there they found the horse, George took possession of it and hid it
away. Well, he produced the animal the other day; pulled it out of its
hiding-place and proceeded to cut it open-to see what was the matter
with it he said: I was in the room and watched him without paying much
attention. If I had had my wits about me I should have recognised
Ruth’s horse and would not have allowed him to touch it. But, however,
he did so and pulled out all the stuffing. I saw that he was making
a mess on the carpet and went to stop him. Then I found among the
stuffing a paper with your name on it. I waited for an opportunity of
giving it to you, and here it is.” And Jennie put into his hand a bill
of exchange, old, discoloured and crumpled.

Hardly knowing what he was doing Heron glanced at the document and saw
that his father’s signature–Geoffrey Heron–was written across the
bill, while the signature at the foot was that of Frank Marshall.