The House of the Whispering Pines, by Anna Katharine Green

vii

Clifton Accepts My Case

This hand of mine

Is yet a maiden and an innocent hand,

Not painted with the crimson spots of blood.

Within this bosom never enter’d yet

The dreadful motion of a murd’rous thought.

King John.

My first thought (when I could think at all) was this:

“She has some feeling, then! Her terror and remorse have maddened her. I can dwell upon her image with pity.” The next, “Will they find her wet clothes and discover that she was out last night?” The latter possibility troubled me. My mind was the seat of strange contradictions.

As the day advanced and I began to realise that I, Elwood Ranelagh, easy-going man of the world, but with traditions of respectable living on both sides of my house and a list of friends of which any man might be proud, was in a place of detention on the awful charge of murder, I found that my keenest torment arose from the fact that I was shut off from the instant knowledge of what was going on in the house where all my thoughts, my fears, and shall I say it, latent hopes were centred. To know Carmel ill and not to know how ill! To feel the threatening arm of the law hovering constantly over her head and neither to know the instant of its fall nor be given the least opportunity to divert it. To realise that some small inadvertance on her part, some trivial but incriminating object left about, some heedless murmur or burst of unconscious frenzy might precipitate her doom, and I remain powerless, bearing my share of suspicion and ignominy, it is true, but not the chief share if matters befell as I have suggested, which they were liable to do at any hour, nay, at any minute.

My examination before the magistrate held one element of comfort. Nothing in its whole tenor went to show that, as yet, she was in the least suspected of any participation in my so-called crime. But the knowledge which came later, of how the police first learned of trouble at the club-house did not add to this sense of relief, whatever satisfaction it gave my curiosity. A cry of distress had come to them over the telephone; a wild cry, in a woman’s choked and tremulous voice: “Help at The Whispering Pines! Help!” That was all, or all they revealed to me. In their endeavour to find out whether or not I was present when this call was made, I learned the nature of their own suspicions. They believed that Adelaide in some moment of prevision had managed to reach the telephone and send out this message. But what did I believe? What could I believe? All the incidents of the deadly struggle which must have preceded the fatal culminating act, were mysteries which my mind refused to penetrate. After hours of torturing uncertainty, and an evening which was the miserable precursor of a still more miserable night, I decided to drop conjecture and await the enlightenment which must come with the morrow.

It was, therefore, in a condition of mingled dread and expectation that I opened the paper which was brought me the next morning. Of the shock which it gave me to see my own name blotting the page with suggestions of hideous crime, I will not speak, but pass at once to the few gleams of added knowledge I was able to gather from those abominable columns. Arthur, the good-for-nothing brother, had returned from his wild carouse and had taken affairs in charge with something like spirit and a decent show of repentance for his own shortcomings and the mad taste for liquor which had led him away from home that night. Carmel was still ill, and likely to be so for many days to come. Her case was diagnosed as one of brain fever and of a most dangerous type. Doctors and nurses were busy at her bedside and little hope was held out of her being able to tell soon, if ever, what she knew of her sister’s departure from the house on that fatal evening. That her testimony on this point would be invaluable was self-evident, for proofs were plenty of her having haunted her sister’s rooms all the evening in a condition of more or less delirium. She was alone in the house and this may have added to her anxieties, all of the servants having gone to the policemen’s ball. It was on their return in the early morning hours that she had been discovered, lying ill and injured before her sister’s fireplace.

One fact was mentioned which set me thinking. The keys of the club-house had been found lying on a table in the side hall of the Cumberland mansion — the keys which I have already mentioned as missing from my pocket. An alarming discovery which might have acted as a clew to the suspicious I feared, if their presence there had not been explained by the waitress who had cleared the table after dinner. Coming upon these keys lying on the floor beside one of the chairs, she had carried them out into the hall and laid them where they would be more readily seen. She had not recognised the keys, but had taken it for granted that they belonged to Mr. Ranelagh who had dined at the house that night.

They were my keys, and I have already related how I came to drop them on the floor. Had they but stayed there! Adelaide, or was it Carmel, might not have seen them and been led by some strange, if not tragic, purpose, incomprehensible to us now and possibly never to find full explanation, to enter the secret and forsaken spot where I later found them, the one dead, the other fleeing in frenzy, but not in such a thoughtless frenzy as to forget these keys or to fail to lock the club-house door behind her. That she, on her return home, should have had sufficient presence of mind to toss these keys down in the same place from which she or her sister had taken them, argued well for her clear-headedness up to that moment. The fever must have come on later — a fever which with my knowledge of what had occurred at The Whispering Pines, seemed the only natural outcome of the situation.

The next paragraph detailed a fact startling enough to rouse my deepest interest. Zadok Brown, the Cumberlands’ coachman, declared that Arthur’s cutter and what he called the grey mare had been out that night. They were both in place when he returned to the stable towards early morning, but the signs were unmistakable that both had been out in the snow since he left the stable at about nine. He had locked the stable-door at that time, but the key always hung in the kitchen where any one could get it. This was on account of Arthur, who, if he wanted to go out late, sometimes harnessed a horse himself. Zadok judged that he had done so this night, though how the horse happened to be back and in her stall and no Mr. Arthur in the house, it would take wiser heads than his to explain. But he was sure the mare had been out.

There was some comment made on this, because Arthur had denied using his cutter that night. He declared instead that he had gone out on foot and designated the coachman’s tale as all bosh. “I was not the only one who had a drop too much down-town,” was the dogged assertion with which he met all questions on this subject. “I wouldn’t give a snap of my finger for Zadok’s opinion on any subject, after five hours of dancing and the necessary drinks. There were no signs of the mare having been out when I got home.” As this was about noon the next day, his opinion on this point could not be said to count for much.

As for myself, I felt inclined to believe that the mare had been out, that one or both of the women had harnessed him and that it was by these means they had reached The Whispering Pines. The night was too cold, a storm too imminent, for them to have contemplated so long a walk on a road so remote as that leading to the club-house. Arthur was athletic but Adelaide was far from strong and never addicted to walking under the most favourable conditions. Of all the mysteries surrounding her dead presence in the club-house, the one which from the first had struck me as the most inexplicable was the manner of her reaching there. Now I could understand both that fact and how Carmel had succeeded in returning in safety to her home. She had ridden both ways — a theory which likewise explained how she came to wear a man’s derby and possibly a man’s overcoat. With her skirts covered by a bear-skin she would present a very fair figure of a man to any one who chanced to pass her. This was desirable in her case. A man and woman driving at a late hour through the city streets would attract little, if any, attention, while two women might. Having no wish to attract attention, they had resorted to subterfuge — or Carmel had; it was not like Adelaide to do so. She was always perfectly open, both in manner and speech.

These were my deductions drawn from my own knowledge. Would others who had not my knowledge be in any wise influenced to draw the same? Would the fact that the mare had been out during those mysterious hours when everybody had appeared to be absent from the house, saving the one young girl whom they afterwards found stark, staring mad with delirium, serve to awaken suspicion of her close and personal connection with this crime? There was nothing in this reporter’s article to show that such an idea had dawned upon his mind, but the police are not readily hoodwinked and I dreaded the result of their inquiries, if they chose to follow this undoubted clew.

Yet, if they let this point slip, where should I be? Human nature is human all the way through, and I could not help having moments when I asked myself if this young girl were worth the sacrifice I contemplated making for her? She was lovely to look at, amiable and of womanly promise save at those rare and poignant moments when passion would seize her in a gust which drove everything before it. But were any of these considerations sufficient to justify me in letting my whole manhood slip for the sake of one who, whatever the provocation, had used the strength of her hands against the sister who had been as a mother to her for so many years. That she had had provocation I did not doubt. Adelaide, for all her virtues, was not an easy person to deal with. Upright and perfectly sincere herself, she had no sympathy with or commiseration for any lack of principle or any display of selfishness in others. A little cold, a little reserved, a little lacking in spontaneity, though always correct and always generous in her gifts and often in her acts, her whole nature would rise at any evidence of meanness or ingratitude, and though she said little, you would feel her disapprobation through and through. She would even change physically. Naturally pallid and of small inconspicuous features, her eyes on these occasions would so flame and her whole figure so dilate that she looked like another woman. I have seen her brother, six feet in height and weighty for his years, cringe under her few quiet words at these times till she absolutely seemed the taller of the two. It was only in these moments she was handsome, and had I loved her, I should probably have admired this passionate purity, this intolerance of all that was small or selfish or unworthy a good woman’s esteem. But not loving her, I had merely cherished a wholesome fear of her displeasure, and could quite comprehend what a full display of anger on her part might call up in her sensitive, already deeply suffering sister. The scathing arraignment, the unbearable taunt — Well, well, it was all dream-work, but I had time to dream and opportunity for little else, and pictures, which till now I had sedulously kept in the background of my imagination, would come to the front as I harped on this topic and weighed in my disturbed mind the following question: Should I continue the course which I had instinctively taken out of a natural sense of chivalry, or face my calumniators with the truth and leave my cause and hers to the justice of men, rather than to the slow but righteous workings of Providence?

I struggled with the dilemma for hours, the more so, that I did not stand alone in the world. I had relatives and I had friends, some of whom had come to see me and gone away deeply grieved at my reticence. I was swayed, too, by another consideration. I had deeply loved my mother. She was dead, but I had her honour to think of. Should it be said she had a murderer for her son? In the height of my inner conflict, I had almost cried aloud the fierce denial which would arise at this thought. But ere the word could leave my lips, such a vision rose before me of a bewildering young face with wonderful eyes and a smile too innocent for guile and too loving for hypocrisy, that I forgot my late antagonistic feelings, forgot the claims of my dear, dead mother, and even those of my own future. Such passion and such devotion merited consideration from the man who had called them forth. I would not slight the claims of my dead mother but I would give this young girl a chance for her life. Let others ferret out the fact that she had visited the club-house with her sister; I would not proclaim it. It was enough for me to proclaim my innocence, and that I would do to the last.

I was in this frame of mind when Charles Clifton called and was allowed to see me. I had sent for him in one of my discouraged moods. He was my friend, but he was also my legal adviser, and it was as such I had summoned him, and it was as such he had now come. Cordial as our relations had been — though he was hardly one of my ilk — I noted no instinctive outstretching of his hand, and so did not reach out mine. Appearances had been too strong against me for any such spontaneous outburst from even my best friends. I realised that to expect otherwise from him or from any other man would be to play the fool; and this was no time for folly. The day for that was passed.

I was the first to speak.

“You see me where you have never thought to see a friend of yours. But we won’t go into that. The police have good reasons for what they have done and I presume feel justified in my commitment. Notwithstanding, I am an innocent man so far as the attack made upon Miss Cumberland goes. I had no hand in her murder, if murder it is found out to be. My story which you have read in the papers and which I felt forced to give out, possibly to my own shame and that of another whom I would fain have saved, is an absolutely true one. I did not arrive at The Whispering Pines until after Miss Cumberland was dead. To this I am ready to swear and it is upon this fact you must rely, in any defence you may hereafter be called upon to make in my regard.”

He listened as a lawyer would be apt to listen to such statements from the man who had summoned him to his aid. But I saw that I had made no impression on his convictions. He regarded me as a guilty man, and what was more to the point no doubt, as one for whom no plea could be made or any rational defence undertaken.

“You don’t believe me,” I went on, still without any great bitterness. “I am not surprised at it, after what the man Clarke has said of seeing me with my hands on her throat. Any man, friend or not, would take me for a villain after that. But, Charles, to you I will confess what cowardice kept me from owning to Dr. Perry at the proper, possibly at the only proper moment, that I did this out of a wild desire to see if those marks were really the marks of strangling fingers. I could not believe that she had been so killed and, led away by my doubts, I leaned over her and — You shall believe me, you must,” I insisted, as I perceived his hard gaze remain unsoftened. “I don’t ask it of the rest of the world. I hardly expect any one to give me credit for good impulses or even for speaking the plain truth after the discovery which has been made of my treacherous attitude towards these two virtuous and devoted women. But you — if you are to act as my counsel — must take this denial from me as gospel truth. I may disappoint you in other ways. I may try you and often make you regret that you undertook my case, but on this fact you may safely pin your faith. She was dead before I touched her. Had the police spy whose testimony is likely to hang me, climbed the tree a moment sooner than he did, he would have seen that. Are you ready to take my case?”

Clifton is a fair fellow and I knew if he once accepted the fact I thus urged upon him, he would work for me with all the skill and ability my desperate situation demanded. I, therefore, watched him with great anxiety for the least change in the constrained attitude and fixed, unpromising gaze with which he had listened to me, and was conscious of a great leap of heart as the set expression of his features relaxed, and he responded almost warmly:

“I will take your case, Ranelagh. God help me to make it good against all odds.”

I was conscious of few hopes, but some of the oppression under which I laboured lifted at those words. I had assured one man of my innocence! It was like a great rock in the weary desert. My sigh of relief bespoke my feelings and I longed to take his hand, but the moment had not yet come. Something was wanting to a perfect confidence between us, and I was in too sensitive a frame of mind to risk the slightest rebuff.

He was ready to speak before I was. “Then, you had not been long on the scene of crime when the police arrived?”

“I had been in the room but a few minutes. I do not know how long I was searching the house.”

“The police say that fully twenty minutes elapsed between the time they received Miss Cumberland’s appeal for help and their arrival at the club-house. If you were there that long —”

“I cannot say. Moments are hours at such a crisis — I—”

My emotions were too much for me, and I confusedly stopped. He was surveying me with the old distrust. In a moment I saw why.

“You are not open with me,” he protested. “Why should moments be hours to you previous to the instant when you stripped those pillows from the couch? You are not a fanciful man, nor have you any cowardly instincts. Why were you in such a turmoil going through a house where you could have expected to find nothing worse than some miserable sneak thief?”

This was a poser. I had laid myself open to suspicion by one thoughtless admission, and what was worse, it was but the beginning in all probability of many other possible mistakes. I had never taken the trouble to measure my words and the whole truth being impossible, I necessarily must make a slip now and then. He had better be warned of this. I did not wish him to undertake my cause blindfolded. He must understand its difficulties while believing in my innocence. Then, if he chose to draw back, well and good. I should have to face the situation alone.

“Charles,” said I, as soon as I could perfectly control my speech, “you are quite just in your remark. I am not and can not be perfectly open with you. I shall tell you no lies, but beyond that I cannot promise. I am caught in a net not altogether of my own weaving. So far I will be frank with you. A common question may trip me up, others find me free and ready with my defence. You have chanced upon one of the former. I was in a turmoil of mind from the moment of my entrance into that fatal house, but I can give no reason for it unless I am, as you hinted, a coward.”

He settled that supposition with a gesture I had rather not have seen. It would be better for him to consider me a poltroon than to suspect my real reasons for the agitation which I had acknowledged.

“You say you cannot be open with me. That means you have certain memories connected with that night which you cannot divulge.”

“Right, Charles; but not memories of guilt — of active guilt, I mean. This I have previously insisted on, and this is what you must believe. I am not even an accessory before the fact. I am perfectly innocent so far as Adelaide’s death is concerned. You may proceed on that basis without fear. That is, if you continue to take an interest in my case. If not, I shall be the last to blame you. Little honour is likely to accrue to you from defending me.”

“I have accepted the case and I shall continue to interest myself in it,” he assured me, with a dogged rather than genial persistence. “But I should like to know what I am to work upon, if it cannot be shown that her call for help came before you entered the building.”

“That would be the best defence possible, of course,” I replied; “but neither from your standpoint nor mine is it a feasible one. I have no proof of my assertion, I never looked at my watch from the time I left the station till I found it run down this very morning. The club-house clock has been out of order for some time and was not running. All I know and can swear to about the length of time I was in that building prior to the arrival of the police, is that it could not have been very long, since she was not only dead and buried under those accumulated cushions, but in a room some little distance from the telephone.”

“That will do for me,” said he, “but scarcely for those who are prejudiced against you. Everything points so indisputably to your guilt. The note which you say you wrote to Carmel to meet you at the station looks very much more like one to Miss Cumberland to meet you at the club-house.”

It was thus I first learned which part of this letter had been burned off.1

1 It was the top portion, leaving the rest to read:

“Come, come my darling, my life. She will forgive when all is done. Hesitation will only undo us. To-night at 10:30. I shall never marry any one but you.“

It was also evident that I had failed to add those expressions of affection linked to Carmel’s name which had been in my mind and awakened my keenest apprehension.]

“Otherwise,” he pursued, “what could have taken her there? Everybody who knew her will ask that. Such a night! so soon after seeing you! It is a mystery any way, but one entirely inconceivable without some such excuse for her. These lines said ‘Come!’ and she went, for reasons which may be clear to you who were acquainted with her weak as well as strong points. Went how? No one knows. By chance or by intention on her part or yours, every servant was out of the house by nine o’clock, and her brother, too. Only the sister remained, the sister whom you profess to have urged to leave the town with you that very evening; and she can tell us nothing — may die without ever being able to do so. Some shock to her feelings — you may know its character and you may not — drove her from a state of apparent health into the wildest delirium in a few hours. It was not your letter — if your story is true about that letter — or she would have shown its effect immediately upon receiving it; that is, in the early evening. And she did not. Helen, one of the maids, declares that she saw her some time after you left the house, and that she wore anything but a troubled look; that, in fact, her countenance was beaming and so beautiful that, accustomed as the girl was to her young mistress’s good looks, she was more than struck by her appearance and spoke of it afterwards at the ball. A telling circumstance against you, Ranelagh, not only contradicting your own story but showing that her after condition sprang from some sudden and extreme apprehension in connection with her sister. Did you speak?”

No, I had not spoken. I had nothing to say. I was too deeply shaken by what he had just told me, to experience anything but the utmost confusion of ideas. Carmel beaming and beautiful at an hour I had supposed her suffering and full of struggle! I could not reconcile it with the letter she had written me, or with that understanding with her sister which ended so hideously in The Whispering Pines.

The lawyer, seeing my helpless state, proceeded with his presentation of my case as it looked to unprejudiced eyes.

“Miss Cumberland comes to the club-house; so do you. You have not the keys and so go searching about the building till you find an unlocked window by which you both enter. There are those who say you purposely left this window unfastened when you went about the house the day before; that you dropped the keys in her house where they would be sure to be found, and drove down to the station and stood about there for a good half hour, in order to divert suspicion from yourself afterwards and create an alibi in case it should be wanted. I do not believe any of this myself, not since accepting your assurance of innocence, but there are those who do believe it firmly and discern in the whole affair a cool and premeditated murder. Your passion for Carmel, while not generally known, has not passed unsuspected by your or her intimates; and this in itself is enough to give colour to these suspicions, even if you had not gone so far as to admit its power over you and the extremes to which you were willing to go to secure the wife you wished. So much for the situation as it appears to outsiders. Of the circumstantial evidence which links you personally to this crime, we have already spoken. It is very strong and apparently unassailable. But truth is truth, and if you only felt free to bare your whole soul to me as you now decline to do, I should not despair of finding some weak link in the chain which seems so satisfactory to the police and, I am forced to add, to the general public.”

“Charles —”

I was very near unbosoming myself to him at that moment. But I caught myself back in time. While Carmel lay ill and unconscious, I would not clear my name at her expense by so much as a suggestion.

“Charles,” I repeated, but in a different tone and with a different purpose, “how do they account for the cordial that was drunk — the two emptied glasses and the flask which were found in the adjacent closet?”

“It’s one of the affair’s conceded incongruities. Miss Cumberland is a well-known temperance woman. Had the flask and glasses not come from her house, you would get no one to believe that she had had anything to do with them. Have you any hint to give on this point? It would be a welcome addition to our case.”

Alas! I was as much puzzled by those emptied cordial glasses as he was, and told him so; also by the presence of the third unused one. As I dwelt in thought on the latter circumstance, I remembered the observation which Coroner Perry had made concerning it.

“Coroner Perry speaks of a third and unused glass which was found with the flask,” I ventured, tentatively. “He seemed to consider it an important item, hiding some truth that would materially help this case. What do you think, or rather, what is the general opinion on this point?”

“I have not heard. I have seen the fact mentioned, but without comment. It is a curious circumstance. I will make a note of it. You have no suggestions to offer on the subject?”

“None.”

“The clew is a small one,” he smiled.

“So is the one offered by the array of bottles found on the kitchen table; yet the latter may lead directly to the truth. Adelaide never dug those out of the cellar where they were locked up, and I’m sure I did not. Yet I suppose I’m given credit for doing so.”

“Naturally. The key to the wine-vault was the only key which was lacking from the bunch left at Miss Cumberland’s. That it was used to open the wine-vault door is evident from the fact that it was found in the lock.”

This was discouraging. Everything was against me. If the whole affair had been planned with an intent to inculpate me and me only, it could not have been done with more attention to detail, nor could I have found myself more completely enmeshed. Yet I knew, both from circumstances and my own instinct that no such planning had occurred. I was a victim, not of malice but of blind chance, or shall I say of Providence? As to this one key having been slipped from the rest and used to open the wine-vault for wine which nobody wanted and nobody drank — this must be classed with the other incongruities which might yet lead to my enlargement.

“You may add this coincidence to the other,” I conceded, after I had gone thus far in my own mind. “I swear that I had nothing to do with that key.”

Neither could I believe that it had been used or even carried there by Adelaide or Carmel, though I knew that the full ring of keys had been in their hands and that they had entered the building by means of one of them. So assured was I of their innocence in this regard that the idea which afterwards assumed such proportions in all our minds had, at this moment, its first dawning in mine, as well as its first outward expression.

“Some other man than myself was thirsty that night,” I firmly declared. “We are getting on, Charles.”

Evidently he did not consider the pace a very fast one, but being a cheerful fellow by nature, he simply expressed his dissatisfaction by an imperceptible shrug.

“Do you know exactly what the club-house’s wine-vault contained?” he asked.

“An inventory was given me by the steward the morning we closed. It must be in my rooms.”

“Your rooms have been examined. You expected that, didn’t you? Probably this inventory has been found. I don’t suppose it will help any.”

“How should it?”

“Very true; how should it! No thoroughfare there, of course.”

“No thoroughfare anywhere to-day,” I exclaimed. “To-morrow some loop-hole of escape may suggest itself to me. I should like to sleep on the matter. I— I should like to sleep on it.”

He saw that I had something in mind of which I had thus far given him no intimation, and he waited anxiously for me to reconsider my last words before he earnestly remarked:

“A day lost at a time like this is often a day never retrieved. Think well before you bid me leave you, unenlightened as to the direction in which you wish me to work.”

But I was not ready, not by any means ready, and he detected this when I next spoke.

“I will see you to-morrow; any time to-morrow; meantime I will give you a commission which you are at liberty to perform yourself or to entrust to some capable detective. The letter, of which a portion remains, was written to Carmel, and she sent me a reply which was handed me on the station platform by a man who was a perfect stranger to me. I have hardly any memory of how the man looked, but it should be an easy task to find him and if you cannot do that, the smallest scrap of the note he gave me, and which unfortunately I tore up and scattered to the winds, would prove my veracity in this one particular and so make it easier for them to believe the rest.”

His eye lightened. I presume the prospect of making any practical attempt in my behalf was welcome.

“One thing more,” I now added. “My ring was missing from Miss Cumberland’s hand when I took away those pillows. I have reason to think — or it is natural for me to think — that she planned to return it to me by some messenger or in some letter. Do you know if such messenger or such letter has been received at my apartments? Have you heard anything about this ring? It was a notable one and not to be confounded with any other. Any one who knew us or who had ever remarked it on her hand would be able to identify it.”

“I have heard the ring mentioned,” he replied, “I have even heard that the police are interested in finding it; but I have not heard that they have been successful. You encourage me much by assuring me that it was missing from her hand when you first saw her. That ring may prove our most valuable clew.”

“Yes, but you must also remember that she may have taken it off before she started for the club-house.”

“That is very true.”

“You do not know whether they have looked for it at her home?”

“I do not.”

“Will you find out, and will you see that I get all my letters?”

“I certainly will, but you must not expect to receive the latter unopened.”

“I suppose not.”

I said this with more cheerfulness than he evidently expected. My heart had been lightened of one load. The ring had not been discovered on Carmel as I had secretly feared.

“I will take good care of your interests from now on,” he remarked, in a tone much more natural than any he had before used. “Be hopeful and show a brave front to the district attorney when he comes to interview you. I hear that he is expected home to-morrow. If you are innocent, you can face him and his whole office with calm assurance.” Which showed how little he understood my real position.

There was comfort in this very thought, however, and I quietly remarked that I did not despair.

“And I will not,” he emphasised, rising with an assumption of ease which left him as he remained hesitating before me.

It was my moment of advantage, and I improved it by proffering a request which had been more or less in my mind during the whole of this prolonged colloquy.

First thanking him for his disinterestedness, I remarked that he had shown me so much consideration as a lawyer, that I now felt emboldened to ask something from him as my friend.

“You are free,” said I; “I am not. Miss Cumberland will be buried before I leave these four walls. I hate to think of her going to her grave without one token from the man to whom she has been only too good and who, whatever outrage he may have planned to her feelings, is not without reverence for her character and a heartfelt repentance for whatever he may have done to grieve her. Charles, a few flowers — white — no wreath, just a few which can be placed on her breast or in her hand. You need not say whom they are from. It would seem a mockery to any one but her. Lilies, Charles. I shall feel happier to know that they are there. Will you do this for me?”

“I will.”

“That is all.”

Instinctively he held out his hand. I dropped mine in it; there was a slight pressure, some few more murmured words and he was gone.

I slept that night.

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37