PROOF POSITIVE

Shaking in the body and white in the face, Ferris looked upon the
jewellery, which seemed positive evidence of his father’s guilt, then
flung himself back on the couch with a groan, his hand over his eyes
to shut out the terrible sight–for terrible it was to him, the son of
Marmaduke Dean. Edith also gazed fearfully upon the heap of gold and
glittering stones, not doubting the truth of Gebb’s story.

“Yes!” said the detective, raking the jewels together and replacing
them in the bag. “In looking for Miss Gilmar’s confession I found
these in the room of Dean. They were hidden on the top of a tall press
in a dark corner, and I felt, rather than saw them. The case against
your father is clear enough, Mr. Ferris, although I was doubtful
of it at first. Mrs. Grix can prove that he spent the night of the
twenty-fourth of July away from the Hall. The ticket I found in Miss
Gilmar’s room shows that he must have been there, since no one but he
could have possessed, in this especial instance, a ticket from
Norminster to London. I’ll have the evidence of the station-master and
the ticket-clerk to prove his purchase of it shortly, and finally the
possession of this jewellery places the matter beyond all doubt.”

“There must be some mistake,” said Edith, when she found her tongue,
“for, although the evidence is against Mr. Dean, I can’t believe him
guilty. He is an old, broken-down man, timid and cowed. To plan and
carry out so ingenious and remorseless a crime would need more spirit
and determination than he is possessed of. Besides,” she added, very
reasonably, “If, as we all think, Mr. Dean is guiltless of Kirkstone’s
death, why should he kill Miss Gilmar?”

“That is rather an argument against than in favour of him,” said Gebb,
quietly. “If she condemned him unjustly, and bore false witness
against him, as I truly believe she did, that very fact would make him
all the more anxious to punish her for such perjury. What do you
think, Mr. Ferris?”

“What can I think?” groaned the young man. “The evidence seems to
prove my father’s guilt. Still, on the face of it, I agree with Miss
Wedderburn; he cannot be guilty. Innocent men have been hanged on
evidence as conclusive; yet afterwards the truth has come to light A
judge and jury found him guilty of Kirkstone’s murder, which we are
now certain he did not commit, so it is possible that, despite the
evidence to the contrary, he may be innocent of this second crime. Mr.
Gebb!” added Ferris, entreatingly, “you know the whole of this matter,
and are more experienced in such cases than Miss Wedderburn and
myself. Tell us truly–Do you believe in my father’s guilt?”

The detective hesitated, and, looking from one to the other, rubbed
his chin in a perplexed manner. “I shall answer you honestly, Mr.
Ferris,” said he, after a pause. “I am not certain of your father’s
guilt. I said that the possession of this jewellery placed the matter
beyond doubt; but against that I must place the fact–established by
strong circumstantial evidence–that Miss Gilmar received her assassin
as a friend. She was afraid of Dean, and even after the lapse of
twenty years she must have recognized him. In place of giving him wine
and cigarettes, her impulse would have been to cry out for help.
Moreover, without knowing all about her visitor–presuming he was
disguised–she would not have let him into her house. On the whole I
am doubtful. The fact of the jewellery being found in his room proves
his guilt; the fact that Miss Gilmar conversed with him as a friend
shows his innocence. Who can decide the matter?”

“I know!” said Edith, suddenly–“Mr. Dean himself. You say that he is
in Norminster gaol, Mr. Gebb. Well, that is only a mile from here, so
let us all three go there and question Mr. Dean. With this evidence
for and against him, he must either declare his innocence or admit his
guilt.”

“It is the most straightforward course,” said Gebb, with a nod. “What
do you say, Mr. Ferris?”

“I am content to abide by my father’s word,” replied Arthur, rising.
“Anything is better than this uncertainty. Let us go to Norminster
gaol.”

“It’s rather late,” said Gebb, glancing at his watch. “However, I dare
say we shall have no difficulty in seeing the prisoner. Come along!”

In the then tumble-down, deserted condition of Kirkstone Hall there
was no vehicle obtainable, but the evening was pleasant and Norminster
no great distance away, so the three walked briskly along the road in
the cool, grey twilight. Conversing about the case made the way seem
short, and they soon arrived in the little town and halted before the
gates of the gaol. A word from Gebb procured them instant admittance,
and they were shown into the presence of the Governor, a retired
major, with a bluff manner and a twinkling eye, which was not
unobservant of Edith’s good looks.

“Well, sir,” said Gebb, almost immediately, “and how is your
prisoner?”

“Clothed and in his right mind!” replied the Governor. “He has given
over his sulking and feigned madness, and evidently seems resolved to
make the best of things. Indeed, I shouldn’t be surprised, Mr. Gebb,
if he intended to make you his father-confessor, for he has asked
several times after you.”

“Good!” said Gebb, rubbing his hands. “This looks like business; he
has thrown up the sponge.”

“Will you see him now?” asked the Governor, with a side glance at
Edith.

“At once, if you please; and I wish this lady and gentleman to be
admitted with me.”

“Well, it is hardly regular to admit strangers at this hour, Mr.
Gebb,” said the Major. “Still, as you captured the man, and it is as
well for you to hear his confession, if he wishes to make it, I am
content to accede to your request. Have you any interest in the
matter?” he asked, looking at Edith inquisitively.

“Yes, The man was hidden in my place under the name of Martin,” she
replied with a blush, not deeming it wise to further enlighten the
Governor.

“Indeed. You are Miss Wedderburn, of the Hall? I thought so. Well, go
along, all of you, but don’t remain more than half an hour with the
prisoner. I have to lock up for the night shortly; and I may be
tempted to keep so fair a lady in my castle, you know.”

Laughing at his own mild joke, the Governor gave his visitors over to
the guidance of a warder; and they were soon ushered into a cell,
where they found Dean sitting on his bed, chatting cheerfully with the
man who watched him. He sprang up to receive them, and after the
warder had exchanged a few words with the watcher, they both withdrew,
leaving the lamp in the cell. Gebb was much gratified by this mark of
the Governor’s trust, and spoke to Dean with great complacency.

“I see you have come to your senses, Mr. Dean,” he said civilly
enough, but with point. “It is about time, I think.”

“As you say, about time,” replied Dean, who had been greeting Edith
and his son. “I have given over fighting against the injustice of the
world. I was condemned, an innocent man, some twenty years ago, and I
escaped from my prison in the vain hope of getting Ellen Gilmar to
prove my innocence; but she is dead, and I am again in the hands of–I
won’t say justice, but injustice.”

“But why did you kill Miss Gilmar?” asked Gebb; for Ferris and Edith
sat by quietly, letting him conduct the conversation, as the most
capable person.

“I did not kill Miss Gilmar,” replied Dean, firmly and sadly. “God
knows who sent that wicked woman to her last account, but it was not
I.”

“Yet you uttered a threat against her.”

“I did, in my first wrath at the injustice of my sentence; but nearly
twenty years of imprisonment removed revenge from my heart I came down
to Kirkstone Hall not to kill her, but to implore her to tell the
truth, and free me from undeserved shame. But she had fled, thinking
in her guilty mind that I intended to harm her. I told Miss Wedderburn
that I did not, also Ar–I mean Mr. Ferris.”

“You can call him Arthur,” said Gebb, coolly. “I know that he is your
son.”

“Is this so?” asked Dean, looking with some surprise at Ferris.

“Yes, father. I told Mr. Gebb the truth, or, rather, I admitted it, as
he had already learned my relationship to you from Prain. He knows
everything, and we have come to ask you to right yourself in his
eyes–to confess.”

“Confess, Arthur! Do you believe that I killed Kirkstone?”

“No,” said Arthur, with conviction, “I do not.”

“And you, Edith,” said Dean, looking at the girl, “is it your opinion
that I am guilty of Miss Gilmar’s death?”

“No,” replied Edith, in her turn. “Appearances are against you, but I
truly believe you to be guiltless.”

“And so I am, for—-”

“Before you go on,” interrupted Gebb, looking up, “I think it will be
best for you to approach this matter with more particularity. Were you
not at Grangebury on the night of the twenty-fourth of July?”

“Yes,” admitted Dean, promptly, “I was. I went to see Mr. Basson, who
had been my counsel.”

“About what?”

“About the confession of Miss Gilmar.”

“What!” cried Gebb, in surprise. “You found it?”

“I found it on the twentieth of July, concealed in the Yellow Boudoir,
where Ellen Gilmar had hidden it. I know now who killed Kirkstone.”

“Miss Laura!” cried the detective, knowing Dean’s belief.

“No. Miss Gilmar herself was the murderess.”

“Well, I never!” said Gebb; and looked at Edith and her lover, who
were not much astonished. “And where is the confession now?”

“Mr. Alder has it,” was the unexpected reply.

“Alder! Why, he believes you to be guilty. He said so several times.”

“I asked him to,” replied Dean, quickly; “Mr. Alder has been a good
friend to me all through.”

“He has been a good friend to us all,” said Edith, touching Arthur’s
hand. “Does Mr. Alder know who you are?”

“Yes. He had been present at my trial, you know, and, in spite of my
altered appearance, he recognized me on one of his visits to the Hall.
I begged him to keep my secret, and he did. I asked him to talk of me
as guilty, so that I might be the more effectually concealed.”

“I don’t see how that would help you,” interrupted Gebb, sharply.

“Why not? If Alder had gone about insisting that I was innocent, you
might have suspected that he had seen me lately; while by stating what
everybody believed, no questions would be asked.”

“True enough,” said Gebb, his brow clearing. “But I confess this
disjointed information of yours puzzles me not a little. Suppose you
tell us the whole story from the time you first masqueraded as Mad
Martin.”

“Certainly,” assented Dean, readily. “I intended to do so, as I wish
you to help me to establish my innocence. Also, I owe it to my son and
Miss Wedderburn to relate things I formerly kept from them.”

“We are all attention,” said Edith, and leaned forward eagerly.

“When I was feigning madness at the Hall,” said Dean, glancing at his
three auditors, “I was wondering all the time how I could prove my
innocence of Kirkstone’s murder. One night, Mrs. Grix–who had found
out my true name–told me that Miss Gilmar had written a confession of
the crime; and–as she believed–had hidden it in the house. She
gathered this from some words let fall by Miss Gilmar. Thenceforth it
became the aim of my life to find that confession; but although I
looked everywhere, I could not discover it. Then Mr. Alder came
visiting at the Hall, as you know, Edith, and he guessed who I was.
Feeling that I could not deceive him, I confessed that I was really
Marmaduke Dean, and consulted him as to the possibility of proving my
innocence. Alder scoffed at the idea of a confession being in
existence, as he said if Miss Gilmar were guilty, she would not put
the fact down in black and white. He advised me to consult Basson, who
had been my counsel, and to see if I could not be cleared; but this I
was afraid to do, lest Basson should hand me over to the police.”

“Oh, he would never have done that,” said Gebb, remembering the
personality of Basson, “he is good nature itself.”

“So Alder said,” continued Dean. “Still I was too afraid to venture,
and remained in hiding at the Hall, thankful that Alder kept my secret
I must say that in every way he acted like a true friend, for he could
easily have given warning about me to the authorities.”

“I wonder he did not do so for Miss Gilmar’s sake,” said Gebb.

“Had he deemed me guilty he would have done so,” cried Dean, quickly;
“but I told him the whole facts of the case, and declared that Laura,
being possessed of the knife, had killed her brother. Alder in the end
said he believed in my innocence, but he declined to look upon Laura
as the assassin. He fancied that Miss Gilmar had committed the crime,
and to shield herself, and punish me for not being in love with her,
she accused me. Still, he declined to believe that she had confessed
her guilt in writing. I was certain, however, from what Mrs. Grix
said, that she had, and—-”

“This is all very well,” interrupted Gebb, quickly, “but it does not
explain your visit to Grangebury.”

Impatient of the interruption, Dean looked at Gebb in a quick,
irritable way, like a man whose nerves are not under control; but, in
his own interests, he answered quietly enough–

“I am coming to the Grangebury visit shortly,” he said, “but it is
necessary for me to explain what led to it, so that you may not
misunderstand my reason for going there.”

“I beg your pardon, Mr. Dean,” replied the detective. “Pray go on.”

“As I said before,” continued the prisoner, “I was certain that Miss
Gilmar had left a confession behind her, and after months of search I
found it.”

“Where?” asked Edith, much interested.

“In the Yellow Room. It was sewn into the hangings, between the satin
and the lining, and, but for the particular minute search I made,
would never have been discovered. I dare say Ellen Gilmar hid it thus
safely so that she might not be accused of the crime in her lifetime;
but no doubt when dying she intended to indicate its hiding-place, so
that I might be set free and my character cleared, after she was safe
from the punishment of man.”

“As she is,” observed Ferris, bitterly.

“Leave her to God,” said Dean, slowly. “As she has sown, so shall she
reap, and I wish her no worse fate. Well,” continued he, “you will
understand that as soon as I discovered this proof of my innocence I
was bent upon clearing myself. But this was not so easy to do. I had
escaped from gaol, and were I discovered would be at once taken back,
when, as I fancied, the confession might go astray or prove useless.
It was towards the end of July last that I found it, and I consulted
Mr. Alder, who came down about the same time to visit Edith.”

“Yes,” said Edith, colouring. “He came to ask me again to marry him.”

“Alder advised me to place the confession in the hands of Basson, and
offered to take it up to him. But at the moment I was unwilling to let
this proof of my innocence leave my hands, and I determined to go up
to London myself and see Basson. But, thinking I might be discovered,
I feared to do so–or at all events to go to Basson’s office. I wrote
and told Alder this, so he suggested that I should go to Grangebury,
where Mr. Basson was giving a lecture, on the twenty-fourth of July,
and he said I could come up late and see Mr. Basson before the
lecture, place the confession in his hands with instructions what to
do, and then return by a late train to Norminster. Thus, he said in
his letter, I should be exposed to less risk of discovery. The advice
seemed good to me, and I adopted it.”

“But where did you get the money to visit London?” asked Edith. “For I
never gave you any.”

“I borrowed it from Mrs. Grix, and told her I was visiting a friend,”
explained Dean. “Also I asked her to tell you that I had gone into
Norminster, in case you missed me.”

“I didn’t miss you at all, and there was no need for Mrs. Grix to say
anything,” said Miss Wedderburn. “All the same,” she added
reproachfully, “you might have trusted me.”

“And me also,” interposed Ferris. “I should have had the confession,
not Basson.”

“You are right,” replied his father, with a sigh. “I behaved
foolishly, I admit; but I acted, as I thought, for the best. On the
twenty-fourth of July, by the five o’clock train, I went up to
Grangebury.”

“Did you know that Miss Gilmar was there?” asked Gebb, with a glance
at Edith.

“No, I did not,” answered Dean. “Why do you ask?”

“Because Miss Wedderburn knew of Miss Gilmar’s whereabouts.”

“That is true enough,” responded Edith, calmly; “but I did not think
it necessary at the time to tell Mr. Dean. No one but myself–and
later on Arthur–knew that Miss Gilmar was lodging in Paradise Row.
Continue, Mr. Dean!”

“I arrived late in Grangebury, about six o’clock, and went to a
public-house, where I had some tea, and made myself as respectable as
possible to go to the lecture. I intended to see Mr. Basson before it
began, and then take the nine o’clock train to Norminster.”

“Had you a return ticket?” asked Gebb, remembering the one found in
the Yellow Room.

“Yes; a third-class return. However, in the public-house I fell
asleep, being worn out with trouble and fatigue. I did not waken until
it was nearly nine o’clock, and then went to the Town Hall. Mr. Basson
was already on the platform, so I could not speak to him. Yet I was
anxious to get back to Norminster on that night, as I did not want
Edith to know I had been in London.”

“But why?” said Edith. “You must have been aware that you could trust
me.”

“I wished you to know nothing, my dear, until Basson proved my
innocence,” replied Dean, sadly. “But I should have trusted you. I see
it now. However, I did not go back that night, for I lost my ticket.”

“Where did you lose it?” asked Gebb, eagerly, for this was a most
important point.

Dean shook his head. “I can’t say,” he replied. “I saw Mr. Alder at
the door of the Town Hall, and told him that I was going back, but
gave him the confession, and asked him to show it to Basson. He tried
to get me to remain, but I was bent on returning, and knew that the
confession was safe in his hands. I ran to the station, but there
found I had lost my ticket, where I know not. I had no money to buy
another, so I went back to the Town Hall and saw Mr. Alder again about
half-past nine o’clock. Then, to my surprise, I saw Edith enter the
Hall.”

“I had just returned from getting the necklace from Miss Gilmar,”
explained Edith. “I came up to Grangebury after you did.”

“I did not know you were out of Kirkstone Hall,” said Dean. “Well, I
did not trouble to wonder why you were there; but lest you should see
me I kept myself out of sight. I then explained my position to Mr.
Alder. He gave me some money, and advised me to stay all night at
Grangebury. I was unwilling to do so, but as the last train had left I
was forced to stay. I slept in the public-house where I had been
before, and left by the early train next morning.”

“Did you hear of the murder before you left?”

“No, as I departed early. So you see, Mr. Gebb, I can prove an alibi;
for at the time of the murder–ten o’clock it was, the paper said–I
was asleep in the public-house. The keeper of it can prove that I
was.”

“What is the name of the public-house?”

“The Golden Hind, near the railway station.”

Gebb noted this name in his pocket-book, and rose to his feet “So this
is all you have to tell me?” said he, briskly.

“All!–and enough, too. I don’t know who killed Ellen Gilmar. It was
not I.”

“If the hotel keeper can prove your alibi that will be all right, Mr.
Dean. But this confession; you say Mr. Alder has it?”

“Yes. But I asked him to make no use of it,” replied Dean, “for, as I
was in Grangebury on the very night–about the very hour–that Ellen
was murdered, I was afraid, if Alder acted on the confession, I might
be accused of the second crime. Certainly I had a defence; but the
evidence was so strong against me that I did not wish to risk
appearing.”

“Do you know who killed Miss Gilmar?”

“No!” cried Dean, vehemently, “I do not.”

“Then what about these?” said Gebb, and suddenly produced the jewels
of Miss Gilmar. “These ornaments belonged to the dead woman; they were
taken off her body by the wretch who killed her. I found them hidden
in your room at Kirkstone Hall; yet you swear that you do not know the
name of the assassin. What am I to understand by this contradiction?”

“It’s a plot to ruin me,” said Dean, becoming very pale. “I did not
know that these jewels were in my room. I never saw them before.
Edith! Arthur! What do you know of this?”

“We know nothing,” they said simultaneously.

“Come, Mr. Dean,” said Gebb, imperiously, “these ornaments would not
have been hidden in your room without your knowledge. If your alibi is
to be believed you are innocent, but on this evidence you must know
who is guilty.”

Dean gave a long sigh, and lapsed into his old sullen manner.

“I know nothing about them,” he said in a piteous tone; “some one must
have put them there. I don’t know who. I have told you the truth, but
even that will not help one, and I shall be condemned for the second
time–an innocent man. Oh, God is cruel–cruel!” and the tears ran
down his cheeks.

After that there was little more to be said. The old man was ill and
feeble. For the moment he had braced himself to tell his story, and
the hope of being righted had given him unnatural strength; but now
that all was told, Nature claimed her own, and Dean fell back on his
bed thoroughly exhausted. Ferris desired to stay beside his father,
but when the warder came back they would not permit this, and in the
end the three left the prison. In the street Gebb turned to speak a
few words to Edith before leaving for town, as he had decided to do.

“What are your intentions?” he asked.

“I shall stay here until to-morrow,” she replied. “I am too exhausted
to return to London to-night But I must go up in the morning, as I
promised to see Mr. Alder.”

“Alder?” repeated Gebb, who had half forgotten the man; “how is he?”

“Very ill–dying, they say; and he sent for me to see him. I could not
go to-day, as I came here with Arthur to see what had been done about
his father. Do you think he is innocent?”

“Yes, I do,” replied Gebb; “but I am puzzled about the jewels. I
cannot help thinking that Dean knows something about them; but he
won’t speak.”

“He may to-morrow morning,” said Ferris, quickly. “I think he is too
exhausted to-night to remember much more. His memory has been severely
taxed to-day, you know. I shall speak to him to-morrow, and whatever
he tells me I shall tell you, Mr. Gebb.”

“Very well,” replied Gebb, dubiously, and walked briskly to the
railway station, as he was anxious to reach London, to see Parge and
tell him what he had discovered.

Also, he desired the advice of Parge regarding the jewels, for despite
Arthur’s promise, he did not trust him altogether. The young man had
deceived him before, and should occasion arise might do so again. So
Gebb determined to act independently of anything which might be said
by Dean in the morning. He was surrounded on all sides by people who,
with their own ends to gain, were more or less unscrupulous, so it
behoved him to be wary. Otherwise, he would never pluck out the heart
of this mystery.

On arriving in town Gebb went to his office, and there found three
letters for him. Two, from the station-master and the ticket-clerk of
Norminster Station, were corroborative of Dean’s visit to town on the
evening of the twenty-fourth of July; for both stated that Mad Martin,
the gardener of Kirkstone Hall, had purchased a return ticket, and had
left for London by the five o’clock train. But knowing what he did,
this evidence came too late to enlighten Gebb in any degree, so he
tossed the letters aside and opened the third one. It proved to be
from Parge, requesting him to call and see him at once on important
business concerning the Grangebury murder case, these latter words
being underlined.

“He has found out something,” thought Gebb. “I wonder what it is?
another mare’s-nest, I expect. However, we’ll see. I’ll call
to-morrow.”

At ten o’clock next morning he was in Pimlico, and in the presence of
Mr. Parge, who received him with a look of subdued triumph.

“Well, Absalom,” said he, “have you discovered who killed Miss
Gilmar?”

“No, I haven’t, Simon; have you?”

“Yes. I found out the truth from–who do you think?”

“I don’t know,” said Gebb, impatiently. “Mrs. Presk, perhaps.”

“No, not from the mistress, but from the maid–Matilda Crane.”

Gebb looked at the ex-detective in amazement. “Why, what did she know
about it?”

“She knew who visited Miss Gilmar on the night of the murder. I said
you had not examined that girl properly, Absalom, so I sent for her to
put a few questions myself. Then I discovered that she had found, cast
into the grate among other papers, a letter written by the assassin to
Miss Gilmar. Here it is.”

Gebb took the bit of paper handed to him, and read as follows:–

“Dear Miss Gilmar,

“I wish to see you on the evening of the 24th July, between nine and
ten o’clock, about some information touching Dean. Get rid of every
one in the house at that time, and expect me for certain. It will be
better for us to be alone. Burn this.

“Yours truly,
“John Alder.”

“Alder!” repeated Gebb, in amazement; “Alder!”

“Yes! it was Alder who murdered that wretched woman.”

Gebb quite agreed with Parge, regarding the guilt of Alder; and on
looking back over the collective evidence, he wondered that he had not
suspected him before. No wonder he had come forward to defend Ferris:
for bad as he was, the man had some conscience, and did not wish to
see a guiltless person hanged for his crime, even though that person
was his rival in love. What Gebb could not understand was, why Alder
had been so kind to Dean; and it was to ascertain this, amongst other
things, that he left Parge as soon as he was able, and went off to
Alder’s rooms. The man was dying; and for the clearance of all persons
concerned in the matter, it was absolutely necessary that he should
make a confession of his guilt, even at the eleventh hour.

“I could tell you much that I have discovered,” said Gebb, slipping
the incriminating letter into his pocket, “but as Alder is dying there
is no time to be lost in getting him to confess.”

“I agree with you,” replied Parge, promptly. “I knew that he was
dying, as I saw an account of his accident in the papers. Get him to
confess, and for that purpose take Mr. Basson with you as a witness;
then come back to me, and tell me everything. I wish to write out all
details concerning this very extraordinary case, and put the report in
my collection.”

“It certainly merits it,” replied Gebb, putting on his hat, “and I
dare say this confession will be the most wonderful of all. By the
way, why did not the servant give up this letter before?”

“Because she is a cunning, artful little minx!” burst out Parge, in
great wrath, “and wished to make money over it. She found it, as I
told you, while cleaning out the grate, when the room was stripped by
Alder. The letter was torn across, as Miss Gilmar evidently did not
think it worth while to adopt Alder’s advice and burn it. It was lucky
she did not, or her death would have gone unavenged; as it is—-”

“As it is, the man will escape the law,” interrupted Gebb, “but I dare
say hell be punished somehow. I’m sure he deserves to be. Did Mrs.
Presk know of ‘Tilda’s discovery?”

“No! ‘Tilda kept the discovery to herself, and intended to sell her
information to the highest bidder. It took me two hours to wring the
truth and the letter out of her; but I did in the end, and for the
evidence I paid her five pounds.”

“I’ve no doubt Miss Wedderburn will pay you when she comes into the
estate.”

“What, the five pounds!” exclaimed Parge, wrathfully. “Why, I expect
the reward.”

“But the reward was to be paid by Alder himself,” argued Gebb; “and
although it was a blind, you can hardly expect the man to pay for his
own detection.”

“His next heir must pay it!” said the ex-detective, doggedly.

“Miss Wedderburn is the next heir.”

“Then I’ll apply to her,” cried Parge, “I’m going to be paid for my
trouble.”

“Seems to me, Simon, I’ve had all the trouble,” said Gebb, dryly.
“You’ve sat in your armchair and done nothing.”

“I’ve found out the truth, if you call that nothing!” retorted Parge,
growing red. “I’ve used my brains, which is more than you have done.
There is life in the old dog yet, Absalom!”

“And temper also,” rejoined Gebb, who was rather sore about the reward
“Eh, Simon? Well! well! We’ll argue the matter hereafter. I must go to
Alder.”

“Don’t forget to take Basson!”

“No, I won’t. But if you are right about Alder, you are wrong about
Dean; he did not kill Kirkstone.”

“Then who did?” grunted Parge, rather displeased.

“Miss Gilmar herself!” retorted Gebb, and departed swiftly, leaving to
his friend this–to him–indigestible morsel.

Parge raged a trifle after Gebb had gone, as he did not like to be put
in the wrong; but when he recollected his triumph in the new murder
case, he was quite content to set it against his failure in the old
one. So he sat placidly in his armchair, and enjoyed his success, and
the prospect of getting two hundred pounds with so little trouble. All
of which was satisfactory to his wife also; as it kept Parge in a good
temper for one entire day, a state of things which was little less
than miraculous in that frequently disturbed household.

In the mean time Gebb, with a desperate fear in his heart that he
might be too late, went as quick as a hansom could travel to Basson’s
rooms. Keeping the cab at the door, he ran up the long staircase so
quickly that he arrived at the top with failing breath and beating
heart. The perennial legend, “Back in five minutes,” was still on the
barrister’s door, and Gebb on knocking was again greeted by the boy in
the small suit. This latter admitted that his master was at home, but
stated that he could not be seen.

“‘Cos he ain’t well,” explained Cerberus; “he’s had a shock!”

“What kind of a shock? An accident?” asked Gebb.

“No,” replied the boy, after some consideration, “not that sort of
shock. Quite another kind.”

“Well, I’m sorry to disturb Mr. Basson,” said Gebb, “but you must take
him my card and tell him that I must see him. It’s a matter of life
and death.”

The boy still seemed unwilling, but Gebb thrust the card into his
hand, and insisted; so in the end it was taken to Basson. In less than
a minute Cerberus returned with the information that his master would
see Mr. Gebb at once. With a nod the detective stepped into the dingy
inner office, and found Mr. Basson with his arms on the mantelpiece,
and his head bent down on them in an attitude of dejection. When he
heard the footstep of his visitor–and firm, quick, business-like
footsteps they were–he turned slowly, and displayed a very pale face
and eyes so red that they looked as though he had been crying.

“What is the matter?” asked Gebb, rather taken aback by this evidence
of grief.

“I’ve had a shock,” replied Basson, using the very same words as his
small clerk had done.

“Nothing serious, I hope?”

“Serious in one way, not in another. Still, I am glad to see you. If
you had not come to me I should have paid you a visit in the course of
the day. You have a right to know.”

“Know what?” demanded Gebb, beginning to feel uncomfortable; he knew
not why.

“That Alder is dead.”

“Dead!” Gebb, with a burst of anger unusual in one of his
self-control, dashed his hat on the floor. “By—-!” he used a strong
word, “so he has escaped me after all!”

“What!” cried Basson, leaning forward in the chair he had flung
himself into. “You know?”

“I know that Alder killed Miss Gilmar; I heard it this morning. I have
the evidence of his own handwriting to prove his guilt. When did you
hear of it? How did you hear of it?”

“I heard all about it at eight o’clock this morning, shortly before
Alder died.”

“Then he confessed his crime?”

“He did. I was sent for at seven o’clock at his particular request,
and he told me the whole story. In order to clear any innocent person
who might be suspected, I wrote down what he said, and got him to sign
it. The doctor and myself were the witnesses, and the confession is
locked in my desk yonder. I was coming round to your office later on
in order to place it in your hands. How did you find out the truth?”

“It’s a long story, Mr. Basson. I’ll tell it to you some other time.
But I learned that he killed his cousin, and I came here to get you to
go with me, and force him to confess.”

“He did so voluntarily,” said Basson, sadly, “and made what reparation
he could for his wickedness. Do you wonder that I received a shock,
Mr. Gebb? It was terrible to hear a man I had known so long, whom I
had liked so much, confess himself a murderer.”

“It is terrible, I grant you,” replied Gebb, somewhat moved by the
grief of the old Bohemian. “I should never have thought it of him
myself, as is proved by the fact that I never suspected him. He seemed
a kindly, honest, pleasant gentleman. Perhaps, however, there is the
excuse that he did the deed in a fit of rage. From what I have heard
of Miss Gilmar she was a woman to irritate an archangel.”

Basson shook his head. “There is not even that excuse,” he said. “The
crime was committed in cold blood. He planned and carried it out in
the most ruthless manner.”

“But why in Heaven’s name did he desire the death of his wretched
cousin?”

“Money, Mr. Gebb–money. Alder was desperately hard up–on the verge
of bankruptcy; and as his cousin refused to help him, he killed her.
To gain her wealth was the motive of the act. Well,” added Basson,
with a sigh, “he did not enjoy his ill-gotten gains long, for in the
midst of his prosperity the hand of God struck him down.”

“You have the confession, you say?”

“Here it is!” Basson unlocked the drawer of his desk, and took out a
sheet, or, to be precise, several sheets of paper, and handed them to
Gebb. The detective turned to the end, saw the three signatures, then
slipped the papers into his pocket.

“It will take too long reading this just now,” he said apologetically,
“and I have much to do. Will you be so kind, Mr. Basson, as to tell me
the facts in your own way? I am curious to know how so many people
concerned in the case came to be collected in Grangebury on the night
of the murder.”

“Alder collected them,” said Basson, nodding; “he planned the whole
affair in a most wonderful manner, so as to throw suspicion of the
crime on every one but himself. Had he lived he would have escaped all
suspicion.”

“I think not,” replied Gebb, feeling for the letter he had received
from Parge; “his own handwriting would have committed him. This is one
of those little accidents which mar the plans of the most accomplished
criminals. However, that is neither here nor there. Let me hear the
confession.”

Basson thought for a moment, then began. “It seems that Miss
Wedderburn was not the only person Miss Gilmar wrote to; she
corresponded also with Alder about business matters, for, as she had
left her property to him by will, she did not think that he would
betray her to Dean. As a matter of fact, she was simply putting
temptation in the man’s way, for Alder was desperately hard up, and
was looking forward to the time when he would come into possession of
Miss Gilmar’s money. However, she did not know that, and kept him
advised of her changes of address.”

“Did he know that she was in Grangebury?”

“Oh yes; but he did not visit her there, for already he was thinking
of getting rid of her by violent means. The difficulty was how to do
it without incriminating himself. Then two accidents helped him. The
first was that while on a visit to Kirkstone, Edith told him that she
was bent on getting the necklace for Arthur Ferris, and was going up
to Grangebury on the evening of the twenty-fourth of July to get it.
Ferris, she said, was to escort her. Later on, while Alder was still
in the hall, Dean told how he had discovered Miss Gilmar’s confession,
and wished to give it to me. He was afraid, however, to come to my
office lest he should be recognized. Afterwards Alder induced me to
lecture at Grangebury, and wrote to Dean telling him to come up and
see me there. Then he gave Ferris tickets for my lecture, and told him
he could wait for Miss Wedderburn in the Town Hall, while she went to
see Miss Gilmar. So now you see, Mr. Gebb, that on the twenty-fourth
of July Alder had these three people likely to be suspected on the
spot.”

“A very ingenious idea,” said Gebb. “I suppose he didn’t care on whom
suspicion fell?”

“I don’t think he did,” admitted Basson, candidly; “but he preferred
to be guided by circumstances, and he really wanted the suspicion to
fall upon Dean, as he had threatened to kill Miss Gilmar. Well, you
know about Arthur and Edith.”

“Yes, I know that he waited in the Town Hall, and that she got the
necklace and joined him later, and that they both returned to London.
Also, I know that Dean came up, and as he was too late to see you,
gave the confession to Alder. But I don’t know how Alder managed to
get away from the hall without suspicion.”

“Oh, that was easy,” replied Basson. “He was busy seeing after the
tickets on my behalf, and looking at the house; so none of the
attendants knew where he was at the moment, but believed him to be in
another part of the Town Hall. When Edith came back with the necklace
he sent her into the hall, and got rid of Dean, who had missed his
train, by giving him money and telling him to stay all night in
Grangebury–a fact which favoured his plans; then the coast being
clear, he went alone to Paradise Row shortly before ten o’clock, and
saw Miss Gilmar. In accordance with his instructions she was alone in
the house, as she had sent Mrs. Presk and ‘Tilda to my lecture.”

“She admitted him?”

“Yes, and locked the door after he was inside; but he did not see
where she hid the key. He then told her that Dean had found the
confession, and Miss Gilmar, as you may guess, was in a great state.
She immediately, with her usual superstition, got out the cards, to
see what would happen.”

“And she turned up the death-card?”

“Yes. How do you know?”

“Because I found it in her lap.”

“Yes,” said Basson again, “she picked up the death-card, and while
gazing at it in horror Alder, who was striding about the room smoking,
slipped behind her, and with a cord torn from the nearest curtain,
strangled her. He then robbed her of all her jewels and slipped them
into his pocket. Then he tried to get out, but found the doors locked,
and did not know where the keys were.”

“Mrs. Presk had the key of the back door, and Miss Gilmar that of the
front,” said Gebb.

“Quite so; but Alder did not know that. He did not dare to get out by
the window, lest he should be taken for a burglar, and arrested; so he
stepped down to the kitchen and waited till Mrs. Presk came home. He
heard her go upstairs and then call ‘Tilda, so that he knew the crime
had been discovered. When the servant went up to the Yellow Boudoir,
Alder ran out of the back door, and returned to the Town Hall. The
people in charge of the money and tickets thought that he had been
with me, I fancied he had been with them, and as no inquiries were
made, you see nobody could guess that he had been away and had
committed a crime.”

“And why did he leave the jewels in Dean’s room at Kirkstone Hall?”

“Ah, you know that?” said Basson, much surprised. “Why, he hid them so
as to throw the blame on Dean. Everything was suspicious against the
man. He was presumably guilty of the first crime, he had threatened to
kill Miss Gilmar, he was in Grangebury on the night of the murder, and
the jewels–as Alder arranged–were to be found in his room.”

“They were found,” said Gebb. “I found them, and for the moment
believed Dean guilty. But about that ticket found in the Yellow
Boudoir?”

“That was purposely dropped there by Alder to further incriminate
Dean.”

“How did he get the ticket?”

“In giving the confession it fell out of Dean’s pocket, and Alder
picked it up. So you see, Mr. Gebb, that in every way chance played
into Alder’s hands.”

“‘The wicked flourish like a green bay tree’; but not for long,” said
Gebb, grimly. “But tell me. Why was Alder so kind to Ferris?”

“Oh, that was his deceit,” said Basson, with a sigh. “He fancied that
when Dean was accused of this second murder Edith would never marry
Ferris, as being the son of such a man. He was kind to him because he
wanted to ingratiate himself with Edith: so that she might marry him
after parting, as he thought she would, with Ferris.”

“Infernal scamp!” cried Gebb, swearing, “when he knew that the poor
devil was innocent. Have you Miss Gilmar’s confession?”

“Here it is; Alder gave it to me. It clears Dean entirely, so I
suppose he’ll receive a free pardon.”

“I suppose so,” said Gebb, putting the confession of Miss Gilmar into
his pocket along with that of Alder. “But his life is ruined. I’m only
sorry for one thing: that Alder did not live to be hanged.”

“Well, I cannot agree with you; after all, he was my friend,” said
Basson, sadly.

“He was a blackguard,” retorted Gebb, and took his departure.

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