The Warning

The idea that the end of the year would see him ruined and
homeless was terrible to Rupert. Even if his home had been an
ordinary house, he would have been anxious; but when he thought
of the venerable mansion, of the few acres remaining, of the
once vast Ainsleigh estates, of the ruins of the Abbey which he
loved, his heart was wrung with anguish. How could he let these
things depart from him, for ever? Yet he saw no way out of the
matter, although he had frequent consultations with his lawyers.
One day, shortly before the ball at the Bristol, he returned
from town with a melancholy face. Old Petley ventured to follow
his young master into the library, and found him with his face
covered with his hands, in deep despair.

“Don’t take on so. Master Rupert,” said the old butler, gently,
“things have not yet come to the worst.”

“They are about as bad as they can be, John,” replied Ainsleigh.
“I have seen Mr. Thorp. It will take thirty thousand pounds to
put matters right. And where am I to get it? Oh,” the young man
started up and walked to and fro, “why didn’t I go into the law,
or take to some profession where I might make money? Forge was
my guardian, he should have seen to it.”

“Master Rupert,” said the old butler, “do you think that
gentleman is your friend?”

“What makes you think he isn’t, John?”

Petley pinched his chin between a shaky finger and thumb. “He
don’t seem like a friend,” said he in his quavering voice. “He
didn’t tell you or me. Master Rupert, how bad things were. When
you was at college he should have told you, and then you might
have learned some way of getting money.”

“My father trusted him, John. He was appointed my guardian by
the will my father made before he left for China.”

“And Dr. Forge went with the master to China,” said the old man,
“how did the master die?”

“Of dysentery, so Dr. Forge says.”

“And others say he was murdered.”

“Who says so, John?”

“Well sir, that Mandarin gentleman sent your father’s papers and
luggage back here when your mother was alive. A Chinaman brought
the things. He hinted that all was not right, and afterwards the
mistress died. She believed your father was murdered.”

Rupert looked pensive. He had heard something of this, but the
story had been so vague, and was so vague as John told it, that
he did not believe in it much. “Does Dr. Forge know the truth?”
he asked.

“He ought to, sir. Dr. Forge came from China with a report of
this gold mine up in Kan-su, and your father was all on fire to
go there and make money. The mistress implored him not to go but
he would. He went with Dr. Forge, and never returned. The
doctor, I know, says that the master died of dysentery, when the
doctor himself was at Pekin. But I never liked that Forge,”
cried the old servant vehemently, “and I believe there’s
something black about the business.”

“But why should Forge be an enemy of my father’s?”

“Ah sir,” Petley shook his old head, “I can’t rightly say. Those
two were at college together and fast friends; but I never liked
Forge. No, sir, not if I was killed for it would I ever like
that gentleman, though it’s not for a person in my position to
speak so. I asked the doctor again and again to let me know how
bad things were, when you were at school, Master Rupert, but he
told me to mind my own business. As if it wasn’t my business to
see after the family I’d been bred up in, since fifteen years of
age.”

“I’ll have a talk with Dr. Forge,” said Rupert after a pause,
“if there is any question of my father having been murdered,
I’ll see if he knows,” he turned and looked on the old man
quickly. “You don’t suppose John that if there was a murder,
he–”

“No! no!” cried Petley hurriedly, “I don’t say he had to do with
it. But that Mandarin–”

“Lo-Keong. Why Forge hates him.”

“So he says. But this Mandarin, as I’ve heard from the Major, is
high in favour with the Chinaman’s court. If the doctor was his
enemy, he could not go so often to China as he does. And since
your father’s death fifteen years ago, he’s been back several
times.”

“Well I’ll speak to him, John.”

“And about the money, sir?”

Rupert sat down again. “I don’t know what to do,” he groaned. “I
can manage to stave off many of the creditors, but if Miss Wharf
forecloses the mortgage at Christmas everyone will come down
with a rush and I’ll have to give up Royabay to the creditors.”

“Never–never–that will never be,” said John fiercely, “why the
place has been under the Ainsleighs for over three hundred
years.”

“I don’t think that matters to the creditors,” said Rupert
wincing, “if I could only raise this thirty-thousand and get the
land clear I would be able to live fairly well. There wouldn’t
be much; still I could keep the Abbey and we could live
quietly.”

“We sir?” asked the old man raising his head.

Rupert flushed, seeing he had made a slip. He did not want to
tell the old man that he was married, as he was fearful lest the
news should come to Miss Wharf’s ears and render his wife’s
position with that lady unbearable. “I might get married you
know,” he said in an evasive way.

“Lord, sir,” cried Petley in terror, “whatever you do, don’t
cumber yourself with a wife, till you put things straight.”

“Heaven only knows how I am to put them straight,” sighed
Rupert. “I say, John, send me in some tea. I’m quite weary.
Thorp is coming to see me next week and we’ll have a talk.”

“With Dr. Forge I hope,” said old John, as he withdrew.

Ainsleigh frowned, when the door closed. Petley certainly seemed
possessed by the idea that Forge was an enemy of the Ainsleighs,
yet Rupert could think of no reason why he should be. He had
been an excellent guardian to the boy, and if he had not told
him the full extent of the ruin till it was too late to prevent
it, he might have done so out of pity, so that the lad’s young
years might be unclouded. “Still it would have been better had
he been less tender of my feelings and more considerate for my
position,” thought Rupert as he paced the long room.

While he was sadly looking out of the window and thinking of the
wrench it would be to leave the old place, he saw a tall woman
walking up the avenue. The eyes of love are keen, and Rupert
with a thrill of joy recognised the stately gait of Olivia. With
an ejaculation of delight, he ran out, nearly upsetting Mrs.
Petley who was coming into the Library with a dainty tea.
Disregarding her exclamation of astonishment, Rupert sprang out
of the door and down the steps. He met Olivia half way near the
ruins of the Abbey. “My dearest,” he said stretching out both
hands, “how good of you to come!” Olivia, who looked pale,
allowed him to take her hands passively. “I want to speak to
you,” she said quickly, “come into the Abbey,” and she drew him
towards the ruins.

“No! No,” said her husband, “enter your own house and have a cup
of tea. It is just ready and will do you good.”

“Not just now, Rupert,” she replied, laying a detaining hand on
his arm. “I can wait only for a quarter of an hour. I must get
back.”

Rupert grumbled at the short time, but, resolved to make the
most of it, he walked with her into the cloisters. These were
small but the ruins were very beautiful. Rows of delicately
carved pillars surrounded a grassy sward. At the far end were
the ruins of the church stretching into the pines. The roofless
fane looked venerable even in the bright sunshine. The walls
were overgrown with ivy, and some of the images over the door,
still remained, though much defaced by Time. The windows were
without the painted glass which had once filled them, but were
rich with elaborate stone work. This was especially fine in the
round window over the altar. As in the cloisters, the body of
the church was overgrown with grass and some of the pillars had
fallen. The lovers did not venture into the ruined church itself
but walked round the pavement of the cloisters under the arches.
Doubtless in days of old, many a venerable father walked on that
paved way. But the monks were gone, the shrine was in ruins, and
these lovers of a younger generation paced the quiet cloisters
talking of love.

“My darling,” said the young husband fondly, “how pale you are.
I hope nothing is wrong.”

“My aunt is ill. Oh it’s nothing–only a feverish cold. She
hopes to be well enough to attend the ball to-morrow night.”

“I did not hear of it,” said Rupert, “though Tidman generally
tells me the news. I have been in London for the last few days.”

“So I see,” said Olivia, and glanced at her fair stalwart
husband in his frock coat and smart Bond street kit, “how well
you look.”

Rupert appreciated the compliment and taking her hands kissed
both several times. Olivia bent forward and pressed a kiss on
his smooth hair. Then she withdrew her hands. “We must talk
sense,” she said severely.

“Oh,” said Rupert making a wry face, “not about your aunt?”

“Yes. I can’t understand her. She has shut herself up in her
room and refuses to see me. She will admit no one but Miss
Pewsey.”

Ainsleigh shrugged his shoulders. “What does it matter,” he
said, “you know Miss Wharf never liked you. You are much too
handsome, my own. And that is the reason also, for Miss Pewsey’s
dislike.”

“Oh, Miss Pewsey is more amiable,” said Olivia, “indeed I never
knew her to be so amiable. She is always chatting to me at such
times as she can be spared from my aunt’s room.”

“Well, what is worrying you?”

“This exclusion from Aunt Sophia’s room,” said Olivia with tears
of vexation in her dark eyes. “I am her only relative–or at all
events I am her nearest. It seems hard that she should exclude
me, and admit Miss Pewsey who is only a paid companion.”

“I don’t think it matters a bit,” said Rupert, “hasn’t your aunt
seen anyone lately?”

“No,–yes, by the way. She has seen her lawyer several times.”

“I expect she is altering her will.”

Olivia laughed. “She threatens to do so in favour of Miss
Pewsey, unless by the end of the month I give you up, and engage
myself either to Mr. Walker or to Mr. Burgh.”

Rupert grew very angry. “What a detestable woman,” he exclaimed.
“I beg your pardon, dear, I forgot she’s your aunt. But what
right has she to order you about like this? You are of age.”

“And I am married, though she doesn’t know it. But I’ll tell you
the real reason, I am vexed I can’t see my aunt. Can’t we sit
down?”

“Over there,” said Ainsleigh, pointing to a secluded seat.

It was placed at the far end of the cloisters under a large oak.
There were four oaks here, or to be more correct, three oaks and
the stump of one. “That was destroyed by lightning when I was
born,” said Rupert, seeing Olivia’s eyes fixed on this. “Mrs.
Petley saw in it an omen that I would be unlucky. But am I?” and
he fell to kissing his wife’s hands again.

“Really, Rupert, you must be more sensible,” she said, in
pretended vexation. “What a pretty tree that copper-beech is.”

“Yes! But do you see the blackened square?”

“It is not so very black,” said Mrs. Ainsleigh, pausing to dig
the point of her umbrella into the ground, “there’s hardly any
grass on it, and the earth is dark and hard. Curious it should
be so, seeing the grass is thick and green all round, I suppose
this is where Abbot Raoul was burnt.”

“Yes. I’ve told you the story and shown you the spot many
times,” said Rupert, slipping his arm round her waist.

“Dearest,” she whispered, “I was too much in love, to hear what
you said on that point. And remember, all my visits to the Abbey
have been secret ones. My aunt would be furious did she know
that I had been here, and I often wonder that Pewsey, who is
always watching me, has not followed me here.”

“If she does I’ll duck her in the pond for a witch,” said
Rupert, and drew his wife to the seat under the oak, “well, go
on.”

“About my aunt. Oh, it’s what Major Tidman told me. He’s been
trying to see Aunt Sophia also. Have you heard what Mr. Burgh
told the Major about that horrid fan?”

“No. You forget, I have just returned from town. What is it?”

Olivia related to Rupert the story which Clarence had told the
Major. “So you see,” she ended, “this man Hwei wants to kill any
one who has the fan, and Tung-yu desires to reward the person
who brings it back.”

“It seems contradictory,” said Ainsleigh thoughtfully, “and if
Hwei put in the advertisement it is strange that Tung-yu should
have received me in the Joss-house mentioned in the paper.
Well?”

“Well,” said Olivia rather vexed, “can’t you see. I want my aunt
to know that she is in danger and get rid of that horrid fan.”

“Pooh,” said her husband laughing, “there’s no danger. Hwei
can’t kill an old lady like that for the sake of a fan she would
probably sell for five shillings.”

“She wouldn’t,” said Olivia with conviction. “Aunt Sophia has
taken quite a fancy to that fan. But she ought to be told how
dangerous it is, Rupert.”

“Or how lucky,” said Ainsleigh, “let her sell the fan to Tung-yu
for five thousand pounds and then she can let Hwei kill
Tung-yu.”

“But would he do so.”

“I can’t say. On the face of it, it looks as though these two
were working against one another, seeing they propose to reward
the owner of the fan in such different ways. Yet Hwei, according
to Burgh, put the advertisement in and Tung-yu received me. I
don’t understand.”

“Well, don’t you think I should tell the whole story to my
aunt?”

“Yes. Go in and see her.”

“Miss Pewsey won’t let me, and my aunt refuses to admit me. I
sent in a note the other day saying that I wished to speak very
particularly, and she sent out another note to say that she
would not see anyone till she was well. The note was kind enough
in Aunt Sophia’s cold way, but you see—-”

“Yes! Yes! Well then let Tidman see her.”

“Rupert, how annoying you are. She won’t see anyone but
Miss—-”

“Miss Pewsey. Well then, tell her the story, and she can repeat
it to your aunt. Though, by the way,” added Ainsleigh, “Burgh
may have told Miss Pewsey about it already.”

“Yes,” said Olivia, her face brightening, and rising to go away,
“but I’ll ask Miss Pewsey to tell Aunt Sophia herself.”

As they walked towards the ruined entrance, Mrs. Petley’s bulky
form appeared in the archway. She threw up her hands. “Sakes
alive, Master Rupert, come off Abbot Raoul’s burning-place.”

Ainsleigh, who was standing on the square of blackened ground,
obeyed at once, and drew Olivia away also. “I forgot,” he
murmured.

“Forgot what?” asked Olivia.

“Why miss,” said the old housekeeper, “don’t you know it’s said
that if an Ainsleigh stands there, some trouble will befall him
before the year’s end, You’re not an Ainsleigh miss, but Master
Rupert–well there–oh sir, how can you be so foolish. The tea’s
ready sir,” and Mrs. Petley, with this prosaic ending trotted
away.

“She doesn’t know that you are an Ainsleigh,” said Rupert kissing his
wife, “pah. Don’t think of that foolish superstition. Come to–”

“No, Rupert,” said Olivia, planting herself firmly against the
wall, “you know I said a quarter of an hour. It’s half an hour
we have been talking. I must get back.”

The young husband urged, implored, scolded, cajoled, but all to
no effect. Olivia made up her mind to go, and go she did, Rupert
escorting her to the gates. “You are very unkind,” he said.

“I am very sensible,” she replied, “I don’t want to disturb my
new relations with Miss Pewsey. She has such power over my aunt
that it is necessary I should keep on good terms with her. Now,
Rupert, you must not come any further.”

“Just along the road.”

“Certainly not. All the gossips of Marport would talk. Good-bye.
I won’t be kissed again. Someone may be looking.”

Ainsleigh muttered a blessing on anyone who might be about, and
shook hands with his wife just as though they were strangers.
Then he remained at the gate till she turned the corner. There,
she looked back and Rupert threw her a kiss. Olivia shook a
furious sunshade at him for the indiscretion.

“The silly boy,” she said to herself as she went along, “if
anyone saw him, there would be a fine story all over Marport.”