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green lane! I didn't recognise you then, not till I saw a likeness to Gerald."
“ To who ?”
“Oh, I'll tell you about him afterwards. He's a new cousin ; a firstrate fellow-one in a thousand. But about that day ; I had been getting awfully spoony about Lilly. I never thought of your old sweethearting, Hal, or that there was anything serious in it, or, you may be sure, I'd have kept out of harm's way. Lilly seemed all so aboveboard, that I never doubted but that the kindness she showed me was meant for myself, not for your sake. You see what a selfish fellow I am still.”
Harry stretched out his hand and grasped his brother's.
“Not if I know it, Ro; not after you hunted me down like this to get quit of £15,000 a year.”
“Don't talk that way, Hal—I'm not a saint ; and the devil was hard at me for a time ; but it's over long ago, thank God. Let's talk of Lilly and my finding you—where was I? Oh, about the love ! Well, in walking home, I spoke out. I was jealous, you know ; for it seemed a queer game to catch her having meetings with a fellow she didn't have up at the house.”
“Ah, it's easy laughing now, but I was desperately cut up for about ten minutes! Then she let out just enough to show me that she had always thought of me as your brother, and, by letting down my vanity a peg, brought me to a clearer vision of things. Well, I went home that night, and thought a good deal as we drove ; I could not quite make her out. It seemed an odd game to be meeting a man on the sly, and all the while caring for you ; and, at that time, no suspicion of the truth had entered my head, not until I saw a likeness between Gerald and the man I'd seen in the lane ; then it all came upon me. But, by next day, I'd reasoned myself into doubt again, and couldn't see my way at all.”
" How is thịs Gerald you speak of a cousin? I don't remember him."
And Roger told him the story.
THE CROSS IN THE COPSE.
LILLY BABBINGTON acted strictly up to the letter and spirit of her promise to Roger. After sending off the telegram, which threw Harry into the most perplexing state of uncertainty, she rode over to Thornhill. Her mother, scarcely less excited than Lilly, wanted to drive with her; but Lilly felt the exercise and excitement of the gallop were necessary.
“I could not sit quietly in the phaeton, mamma ; so you must let me have a tearing gallop ; it will take it out of me, you know. Besides, I want to be home to meet papa ; if I am not, you must tell him.”
Lilly's medicine was a very good one, but then she had tried the prescription before, and always found it effectual. Lady Wimborne was alone, and looked a wee bit surprised to see Lilly following that young lady's predilection for the hunting-field—a surprise which was changed into wild delight and gratitude, when the cause of her appearance became known; and it would be difficult to say who was happiest, the mother or the maiden.
How Lady Wimborne passed the next four and twenty hours is known only to God and herself. No one saw her except the maid, who carried various cups of tea into the dressing room ; but she even did not get a glimpse of her mistress upon the following day, until about six o'clock, when the bell rang, and, going up, she found Lady Wimborne dressed for dinner.
“ Send Miss Wimborne here."
“What is it, mamma—what has been the matter ?” she asked, keeping her arms round her mother, and trying to read her face, which was flushed and wild-looking.
“Harry is found, darling. Roger heard of him yesterday from Lilly."
“From Lilly, mother?"
“Yes, Lilly has been better than any of us; she” but Lady Wimborne's voice began to tremble, and Silvia, who knew what she meant, prevented any further words by kissing her.
“Lilly came over to me directly she had told Roger, and while he was on his way to Harry, and they will be here to-night, darling; nowany minute—the train may be late, so it may be midnight, but it will be to-night, I feel it in my heart-I am glad Mr. Weymouth is gone."
“They are both gone, dear; Captain Elmes said he was very sorry not to see you, but he left a letter, and_and—I think-that is I am sure, it was better for him to go; he was not happy, and I could not help it. He told me that you had spoken to him, and that he had promised not to distress me; but that I was to ask you to let me read the letter, and perhaps I would write to him.”
“Poor Charley! perhaps you will, dear; I am thankful we are alone. Hush! What's that?”
Both started, Silvia ran forward to the window and threw it up, and then the sound of wheels was distinctly audible.
“Good God, it is my boy!" gasped Lady Wimborne, as she hurried away.
The servants were at tea, so there was no one in the way, and the wheels grated upon the gravel as Lady Wimborne opened the great door.
A minute more and a tall bearded man sprang from the cab, and she was clinging to her bor.
"Harry, Harry, my darling : Home, home at last"
The first hours that followed Harry Wimborne's return, with their tears and explanations, their sad memories, and story of the past, we shall leave to my reader's imagination.
The morning sun that rose so gloriously upon the morrow, awakened the little household to a new life. Long before anyone was astir, Harry had gone to the churchyard, and kneeling by his father's grave, prayed as he had never done before. As he came home he met Roger, and with him walked to the copse, where a white stone cross marked the place where Sir John's body was found.
Roger had not been there for some time, not since the leaves had fallen, and somehow the place looked different; the bushes had been crushed down, and in some places broken, the damp decaying leaves and long withered grass were trampled and pushed about, and in one place the earth had been turned up, then covered again with leaves; all this Roger took in as he stood a few steps behind his brother.
At first he did not think much of it, supposing the woodmen had been clearing out the scrub, then, as Harry still lingered, and there was more time for observation, he began to wonder why the men had chosen that particular spot to begin their work, especially as strict orders were given that nothing should be touched within several yards of the
Suspicion once roused soon finds food to feed upon. Leaving Harry, he began examining the traces, but there was no sign of systematic clearing, no branches lopped off, many were broken, but save in one or two instances, these remained hanging to the stem. Where they were off altogether was close to the ground, and apparently with the view of letting the leaves and grass underneath be more closely examined.
“I say, Harry,” said Roger, lifting up his head from a closer scrutiny of the newly turned over earth. “I wish you'd look here ; what's been at work?”
Harry turned, and came up to his brother, who was raking off the loose leaves with a branch, showing several feet of newly turned up earth, not dug up with a spade, but scratched up, either with a stick, a knife, or the hand. Harry looked closely for a few seconds, next examining the adjacent ground.
“Some one has been searching."
Roger looked up, his face deadly white. “What does it mean, Hal, who should look here, and what for ?”
But Harry shook his head, and Roger, half ashamed of showing his suspicions, raised himself; but, as he did so, the newly risen sun gleamed in among the bushes, and something glittered on the brown earth ; in an instant his suspicions were awakened again, and his hand on Harry's arm.
“What's that, Hal? Look, don't you see something shining ?"
Harry looked, and stooping lifted up the object; a common glass button, such as gipsies are fond of ornamenting their waistcoats with ; 4 small shred of coloured velveteen was attached to the button, as if it had been torn forcibly from its place.
For a time nothing was said ; then the brothers looked at each other, and knew, by the look of horror upon the other's face, that the same thought had been born in each heart.
There was no need of words to explain what made them return to the search; all the whispers of foul play that had been set afloat at the period of Sir John's death came surging up in Roger's memory.
Harry, too, had read the reports promulgated by the local papers, and there seemed something strangely fated, that on this his first visit to the place where his father's body had been discovered, such an occurrence as the present should have taken place; surely there was something more than chance in this; but the search, though procrastinated, and carried out faithfully, brought no further light upon the affair.
“ Perhaps the men can tell us something," said Harry, as he lingered, reluctant to give it up; “Richards has charge of this cover, we can look him up on our way home. When the body was found, you know it was dark, and no one seemed to have suspected anything wrong ; accidents are common enough, and we did not know of anyone likely to harm him, and he had not been robbed, that we knew of; his watch was safe my mother said something about a ring he used to wear, and had on that morning, but it was supposed to have slipped from his finger; he had grown very thin."
A groan burst from Harry's lips.
“It's all my doing, Ro; oh, my God! if I'd only had patience, if I'd only let the love I had for him cover the sin ; and if I'd only forgotten my poor miserable self, and my own notions, and let him judge for me!”
“No, no, Hal," and Roger put his arm over his brother's shoulder ; "you were right. He loved you better for it; we all do, though we have suffered. You could not have stopped this ; it could have had nothing to do with you."
But Harry only shook his head; he had forgotten his own sufferings when the need was proved visionary.
Passing the lodge, they called out the under-keeper, who, as Roger said, had charge of that particular beat.
“Do you know who's been at the Cross, Richards ?" asked Roger. “The Cross, sir ?" repeated the man hesitatingly. “No, sir. Least
“ ways, I don't know as I do. There was nothing when I seed it last."
“How long ago was that ?”
“ There,” said Roger, stopping so as to get a full view ; “who's been here now? You see what I mean."
The man's face was as white as a sheet, and he seemed unable to speak. At last he blurted out
“ It do be the ghost, sir. They allus said it wor to be seen, but I niver saw his work afore."
“The ghost, you fool! What do you mean ?”
“Oh, sir ! begging your pardon, I thought you'd heerd. They do say there's been a queer thing seen here o' nights—something going about on all fours, a scratchin', and a mutterin', and a cryin' like a babby. Bill Weaver seed 'im when he was a coortin' our Jane, and Joe Masters misses seed 'im, and had a mishap by consequence. There sartinly be some'at, that's blain.”
The lads looked at each other. There certainly had been something; Richards was right there ; something scratching, too, and that something human—so the manner of working showed.
“When did this begin !"
« Then we'll have it looked into. Get a couple of the beaters to your lodge to-night; don't tell them what for, and don't you go and blab, or it'll be the last time. Sir Harry and I"
“Oh, Lord !" cried Richard, who had been staring at Harry, “Sir Harry! I thought I knew 'is face, God bless 'im. Welcome 'ome, sir."
And while Harry was exchanging a hearty clasp with the man, Roger went on with his directions.
“What can it be?” Harry said, when they were alone again. “Why should anyone go on all fours ?”
“Some one shamming to elude suspicion; there's something important to be got there, or they'd not take so much trouble. Don't let the mother know anything, and we'll see to the bottom of it to-night. Oh, there she is ! You've brought back her girl's face again ; I never saw such a change."