The End of the Ball

Miss Wharf looked at her excited little friend with an indulgent
smile. “Really I don’t see why you should trouble,” she said
with a smile. “Let the Major do what he likes.”

“He’s up to some mischief,” persisted the old maid, “and I’d
like to find out what it is. He is supposed to be keeping his
room, because of a cold, and I find he is not in. People with
colds,” added the lady, impressively, “do not go into the night
air.”

“How do you know Major Tidman has?”

“Because he would be at the ball, were he in the hotel. I shall
ask Clarence to see what he is doing.”

“Why?” asked Miss Wharf, puzzled.

“Because–oh, just because,” replied Miss Pewsey, tossing her
head in a sharp way, like the Red Queen in Alice’s Adventures.
“But the fan, dearest Sophia?–Can’t I take charge of it?”

Miss Wharf grasped the fan tighter. “No, certainly not. It is
worth five thousand pounds.”

“And perhaps more,” said Miss Pewsey. “Remember, dearest Sophia,
that is the sum offered, but you might ask more. It is very
important that this Mandarin should get the fan back. Dr. Forge
told me.”

“Why is it important?”

“Theophilus didn’t tell me that, but he said that this
Mandarin–I quite forget his queer name–would give even more
than five thousand to get it back.”

“His emissary didn’t seem very anxious to buy.”

“Oh, that is craft,” rejoined Miss Pewsey, tossing her head.
“The Chinese are very double, Theophilus says.”

“I don’t think so, Lavinia. I would have sold this fan for a few
pounds had I not known such a large sum was offered. Tung-yu is
not a good business man, or else the Mandarin must be a
millionaire.”

“He is–he is. I wish you would let me conduct the business, and
_do_ let me take the fan?”

“No, I shall keep it.”

“Sophia,” said Miss Pewsey, solemnly, “that is dangerous. Rupert
Ainsleigh hates you and needs money; he might kill you to get
that fan, and sell it for five—-”

“Nonsense. I cannot be murdered in a house full of people like
this. I know another Chinaman hints at murder–you told me
so—-”

“Olivia told me to tell you,” put in the little woman, quickly.

“Well, Hwei isn’t here, and I’ll sell the fan to Tung-yu
to-morrow.”

Miss Pewsey would have said more, but at this moment Dr. Forge
approached, with a crooked elbow and a dreary smile. “Allow me
to take you into supper, Miss Wharf.”

“Certainly,” she rose and took the arm. “I am really hungry.
Lavinia?”

“I shall look for Clarence. I must find out what has become of
Major Tidman,” and the old maid hurried away while the doctor
escorted Miss Wharf to the supper-room.

Clarence was not drinking at the buffet, though his aunt went
there to find him as the most likely place. Nor was he in the
ball-room, although a new dance had begun. She could not see him
in the card-room, but finally ran him to earth on the terrace,
where he was leaning against a tree-fern with folded arms and
with his wicked black eyes fixed on a couple some distance away.
Miss Pewsey followed his gaze and her eyes also flashed, for she
beheld Rupert talking with Olivia. Both their heads were bent,
and they conversed earnestly. The little woman hated Olivia and
detested Rupert, so the sight was gall and worm-wood to her.
“Why don’t you ask her to dance?” she demanded, touching her
nephew’s arm.

“Because there would only be a row,” he rejoined sullenly. “I
feel inclined to spoil that chap’s looks I can tell you.”

“Do you really love the girl, so?”

“Yes I do. I’d give anything to marry her, and I shall too.”

“There’s not the slightest chance. Ainsleigh will not surrender
her I can tell you.”

“Then why did you make me waste that fan.”

“You didn’t waste it on her,” said Miss Pewsey coldly, “she
refused to take it like a fool, and now Sophia has it, there is
no chance of getting it back. Had I known the fan was of such
value, you wouldn’t have caught me advising you to part with it.
If you knew what this Hwei said, why didn’t you tell me the fan
was valuable.”

“I did not see Hwei until I had parted with the fan,” said
Clarence crossly, “and we can do nothing now.”

“You are not so bold as Major Tidman,” she whispered.

“What’s that?” asked the buccaneer sharply.

“He’s not in his room,” rejoined Miss Pewsey in a low voice, “he
pretends illness, to carry out his plan to get the fan.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because Tung-yu is in the hotel. The Major will try and get the
fan to sell it to him.”

“In that case he would have come to the ball and have seen Miss
Wharf to get it from her.”

“No. He has some other plan. What it is I don’t know. But I wish
you would look round for him, Clarence, and watch him.”

“Bah! It’s all stuff.” Burgh turned to look at the sea and the
pier and the luminous night. “I’m getting sick of this business,” he
went on discontentedly, “and but for the chance of gaining Olivia, I
would bunk out on the long trail. There’s a barky out there,” he
continued pointing to the right of the pier, “yonder–the one with the
green light. I saw her anchor early in the afternoon–a kind of
gentleman’s yacht I fancy. She’d just do for me. I’d like to take a
boat and pull out to her, and then get up steam for the South Seas.
There’s a clear path leads there, down channel,” and he stared at the
flickering green light which winked amongst many red ones.

“You’ll never get Olivia,” said Miss Pewsey, in a sharp tense
voice, “and you can go away as soon as you like. Meantime, look
for Major Tidman and tell him I want him.”

Clarence lazily stretched himself, and moved off along the
balcony. At the end there was a flight of shallow steps leading
down to an iron gate which was open. Thence one could pass to
the Esplanade and the beach, if so inclined. But the guests kept
to the populous end of the balcony where the lights clustered.
Near the stairs, there were hardly any lamps, and a screen of
flowers curtained it off from the rest of the hotel. Clarence
passed through this floral arch, and Miss Pewsey lost sight of
him. Her eyes turned to the couple she hated, and she carelessly
moved near them. No one noted her as the balcony was not so
full, and she sat down behind a fern where she could hear
without being seen by the two, she was spying on. Their voices
were low, but hate sharpened Miss Pewsey’s ears, and she
listened intently.

“My aunt is much more amiable to-night,” Olivia was saying, “I
suppose the chance of making five thousand pounds has appealed
to her.”

“She gave me the chance of making it, provided I gave you up,”
said Rupert, “and she lost her temper with me because I
declined.”

“Will you never be friends with her?”

“I fear not, while Miss Pewsey is in the way,” said Rupert.
“Olivia, it is that woman who makes all the mischief.”

“I think it is,” replied the girl with a weary smile, “but she
seems to have a kind of hypnotic power over my aunt–”

“What do you mean?”

“Aunt Sophia has bad headaches and Miss Pewsey sometimes
hypnotises her to send away the pain.”

“Miss Wharf is foolish to allow her to do such a thing. That
little woman is no more to be trusted than her scamp of a nephew
is.”

“Well it doesn’t matter,” said Olivia, feeling in her pocket. “I
want to talk about ourselves. See Rupert you wanted a silk tie
the other day. I have knitted you one–red and yellow.”

Rupert took the tie and admired it in the lamp light. He would
have kissed Olivia’s hand after a few words of warm thanks, but
she prevented him.

“Someone might see and tell Aunt Sophia,” she said hurriedly, “I
should have given it to you the other day when I called at the
Abbey, but I forgot, so I decided to give it to you to-night.
It’s rather awkward your having it now. Give it to me again.”

“No! I’ll put it in my overcoat in the cloak room,” said
Rupert, rising, “but I must take you back to Miss Wharf, or she
will be angry.”

“I wish this deception was at an end and I could be with you
altogether,” said Olivia rising with a sigh.

It was at this moment that Miss Pewsey chose to come forward.
She was furious at the way in which the couple spoke of her, but
long habit enabled her to smooth her face to a treacherous
smile.

“Oh dear Olivia,” she said. “I have been looking for you
everywhere.”

“Does my aunt want me?” asked the girl calmly.

“No. She is in the supper-room with Mr. Forge. But Mr. Walker–”

“I don’t want him,” said Miss Rayner quickly, and with a change
of voice.

“Yes–yes,” said Rupert in a low voice. “Go with her, and dance
with Walker; it will prevent Miss Wharf being cross.”

“Very well,” rejoined Olivia quietly: then turned to Miss Pewsey
who smiled like a grotesque image. “Let us go to the ball-room.”

“Won’t Mr. Ainsleigh escort us?” asked the old maid, blandly. Rupert
bowed, and smothering his feelings, which always revolted at the sight
of the woman, he walked beside the two to the ball-room. Miss Pewsey
took Olivia’s arm and chattered effusively all the time. At the door
they met Chris Walker, who hurried up at once and asked for a dance.
Leaving the two ladies with him, Rupert went towards the cloak room.
Here to his surprise he saw Major Tidman clothed in a heavy fur coat,
talking to Tung-yu. Tidman looked white and uneasy, but the Chinaman
still preserved his impassive face. Rupert took no notice but simply
nodded to the Major as he passed, pulling out the yellow and red tie
as he did so. Tidman changed colour, apparently not pleased at being
found talking to Tung-yu, and laughed uneasily. “That’s a bright piece
of goods Ainsleigh.”

“It’s a present,” said Rupert thrusting the tie into the pocket
of his over coat. “I should think it would match your friend’s
dress.”

“Hush,” said Tidman quietly, “he speaks English. He will hear,”
then he added aloud. “Let me introduce you to Mr. Ainsleigh,
Tung-yu.”

The Chinaman turned and looked impassive enough. But his eyes
had an enquiring look in their black depths. “Tung-yu and I met
in Canton, where we had an adventure,” said the Major, with a
titter.

“About that famous fan?” asked Rupert smiling.

Tung-yu started and looked quickly at Tidman, who was again
pale. “I don’t remember about the fan,” said Tung-yu, “did our
friend find it in Canton.”

“No! No I never did,” said Tidman hurriedly,–“that is Forge
found the fan–”

“And gave it to Miss Wharf. Quite so,” replied Tung-yu blandly.
“I see her to-morrow about the matter,” then he bowed to Rupert
and moved away slowly.

“I thought you had a bad cold,” said Rupert to Tidman, who was
looking after the Chinaman with a scared expression.

“Yes–yes–but that is better now,” said the Major hurriedly,
“so Miss Wharf is here, and has the fan?”

“Yes, she offered to give it to me if I surrendered Olivia.”

“Refuse–refuse,” cried Tidman hurriedly: he approached his lips
to Ainsleigh’s ears. “There is death in the air to-night.”

“Tidman,” cried Ainsleigh starting away and staring.

“Yes–yes–say nothing. I wish you hadn’t mentioned about my
having the fan. Tung-yu never knew–but it can’t be helped.
Ainsleigh, is there another Chinaman here to-night?”

“I have seen none. Do you expect Hwei? If so we had better warn
Miss Wharf. She has the fan and–”

“No! No–say nothing. Don’t touch the accursed thing.”

“How do you know it is accursed?”

“I knew in Canton, and in a very unpleasant way. But I’ll tell
you my adventure to-morrow–yes I will–if nothing happens
to-night.”

Rupert stared still harder. “What can happen to-night man
alive?”

“Nothing–nothing,” said the Major hurriedly. “I’ll get back to
my room–you needn’t say you have seen me. I–”

“Just the man I want,” cried a bold free voice, and Burgh’s slim
hand fell on the Major’s shoulder. “Miss Pewsey asks for you.”

“For me. Any more trouble?”

“I guess not. She wants to fuss round about your cold. Heaping
coals of fire’s the English of it.”

“Let her leave me alone,” said the Major petulantly. “I’m quite
well. I am going back to my room,” and with a nod to Rupert, he
marched out.

Burgh looked after him with a smile and a shrug: then he turned
to Rupert who was moving towards the door. “Can I speak with
you?” he asked with a frown.

“Not here Mr. Burgh,” cried Ainsleigh, “this is not the place
for a quarrel.”

“And why not,” cried the other, advancing with clenched fists,
“I–”

“Keep your distance,” said Ainsleigh sharply starting back on
his guard, “the attendant is looking on,” and he pointed to the
man behind the counter who attended to the hats and cloaks.

Burgh tossed him a shilling, “Go and get a drink,” he ordered.

“Stop where you are,” commanded Rupert, “or I’ll report you.”

But the man, who was a dissipated-looking waiter pretended not
to hear this last remark, and disappeared from behind the
counter. The two men were alone, and Burgh spoke first. “I guess
I’m going to lay you out,” said he, “on account of–”

“Stop,” said Rupert, “mention no names.”

“I’ll mention what I like and Olivia–”

Ainsleigh let drive before he could finish the word and in a
second Burgh was sprawling on the floor. He rose with an oath
and slipped round his right hand. “You draw a revolver and I’ll
break your neck,” panted Rupert, “you bully, what do you mean
by–”

Burgh drew his hand away–perhaps he was afraid a shot would
bring in others to see the fray. But he dashed again at the
young man. A short struggle ensued, which ended in Burgh being
thrown again. Then Rupert, disinclined for a vulgar row, walked
away. He stopped at the door to give his antagonist a bit of
advice. “You touch me again,” he said, “and I’ll hand you over
to the police after giving you a good thrashing. It’s what a
bully like you deserves. And if you dare to speak to Miss Rayner
I’ll make Marport too hot to hold you.” When Rupert vanished,
Burgh raised himself slowly and with an evil smile. “Perhaps the
place will be too hot for you my fine gentleman,” he said
savagely, and began to think.

Meanwhile Rupert went to the ball-room and saw that Olivia was
dancing with Dr. Forge. Chris Walker told him that Miss Wharf
had gone on to the balcony for the fresh air. Miss Pewsey was
not to be seen or Rupert would have told her to look after her
disreputable relative in the cloak-room. The young man thought
he would go up to the Major’s room and have a smoke, when he
felt a light touch on his shoulder. There stood Tung-yu.

“Excuse me sir,” said the Chinaman in his excellent English, “I
am your friend. Major Tidman and Dr. Forge are your enemies, and
you have a third enemy in that young man Burgh.”

“But how do you know–” began Rupert.

Tung-yu bent forward and whispered. “I know how your father
died,” he said softly and before Rupert could detain him, he
vanished.

But Ainsleigh waited but for a moment. The speech was so
surprising, that he determined to learn more. At once he ran
after the Chinaman but could not see him. In spite of his
noticeable clothes, he was swallowed up in the crowd and Rupert
plunged into the gay throng determined to find the man who could
solve the mystery of Markham Ainsleigh’s death.

The night wore on and the fun became fast and furious. Towards
twelve the guests began to depart, but many choice spirits
declared they would keep the ball rolling till dawn. One of
these was Chris Walker, who had imbibed more champagne than was
good for him. While he talked excitedly Miss Pewsey came to him
hastily. “Where is my dear Sophia?” she asked, “I can’t find her,
and with her delicate health it is time she was home in bed.”

“I have not seen her. Have you, Dr. Forge?”

The lean doctor shook his head, “I have been in the card room
for the last hour,” he said, “and as Miss Wharf’s doctor I
assuredly say, she should go home, there’s midnight,” and as he
spoke the strokes boomed from a tall clock in the hall.

“Clarence, have you seen her?” asked Miss Pewsey of the
buccaneer who had Olivia on his arm.

“No! I’ve just been waltzing with Miss Rayner.”

“Then you Mr. Ainsleigh?”

“I have been smoking on the balcony,” said Rupert, who looked
tired.

“Oh, dear me,” said Miss Pewsey wringing her hands, “I wonder if
dear Sophia has gone to see Major Tidman. She is so kind-hearted
and he is ill–at least he says he is. Did he tell you Clarence?”

“I saw him only for a minute and he went back to his room I guess.”

“Then Sophia must have gone there,” cried Miss Pewsey and
hurried away. Olivia followed with Forge as she thought also,
that her aunt ought to go home, and Clarence’s attentions were
becoming so embarrassing that she feared there would be trouble
with Rupert. But soon, Miss Pewsey appeared again and said that
Miss Wharf was not in the Major’s room, nor was the Major there.
Taking Olivia and Clarence and Forge, she went to search for the
missing lady. Rupert lingered behind as he did not wish to come
into contact with the buccaneer.

The hunt proceeded for some time, and every room in the hotel
was searched. But Miss Wharf could not be found. Finally
everyone–for many of the guests were hunting by this time–,
went out on the balcony. Miss Wharf was not there. “Oh, dear
me,” cried Miss Pewsey, “wherever can she be.”

The balcony was searched from end to end. Then one of the guests
more venturesome, descended the steps. He gave a cry of horror.
“Bring a light,” he cried.

Lights were brought and everyone rushed after them. Half way
down the steps lay Miss Wharf–dead–strangled, and round her
throat tightly bound was a yellow and red silk tie.