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Chapter 24 - The Fulfilled Prophecy


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Author Topic: Chapter 24 - The Fulfilled Prophecy  (Read 7 times)
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« on: December 30, 2022, 09:55:03 am »

When Rupert came to his senses, the surroundings seemed to be familiar. He had lost consciousness on the banks of the Thames, and during a fierce struggle with a treacherous foe. He opened his eyes to find himself in his own bed in his own room at Royabay. But he felt strangely weak and indisposed to talk. After a glance, he closed his eyes again. Then, after what seemed to him to be a few minutes—it was really half an hour—he opened them again, and this time he saw Olivia bending over him with an anxious face. "Dearest," he murmured weakly.

"Oh Rupert, do you know me?"

"Yes. Where am I—what are you doing here?"

"You are at the Abbey. Don't speak. Take this," and some beef tea was held to his dry lips.

Ainsleigh drank a little and then fell asleep again. When he did so there was an artificial light in the room, but when he woke the sun was streaming in through the window. But his wife was still beside his bed, and still looked anxious. However, she gave a little cry of joy when Rupert spoke in a stronger voice. He was beginning to collect his scattered senses. "Have I been ill long?" he asked.

"Four days," she replied, "don't talk, darling."

"But the packet?"

"The Marquis has it safe."

"Burgh?"

"He has escaped. Don't talk."

"Miss Pewsey," said Rupert faintly.

"She is dead."

"Then Miss Pewsey did strangle your aunt."

"Yes—yes—the doctor says you are not to talk."

"Just one more question. Those Chinamen?"

"Hwei and Tung-yu. They were drowned."

Rupert smiled weakly, and turning on his side went off into a deep sleep. The doctor who called later, said it was the best thing he could do. "He has had a severe shock," said he to Olivia, "and his nervous system is shaken. You may be thankful he did not wake with a disordered brain."

"Oh, doctor, you don't think—"

"No! No! It's all right. He would not have asked those questions if anything was wrong with his mind. In a few weeks he will be quite himself. But I think, Mrs. Ainsleigh, that you should take him abroad for a time."

Olivia gladly promised to do this, the more so, as she wanted to escape herself from Marport for a time. The news of Miss Pewsey's death had caused a great sensation, and a still greater one was caused by the publication in the paper of her crime. Everyone, now knew that the bitter little woman had strangled Miss Wharf, and everyone was very severe on her. The funeral had to be conducted quietly, as the mob showed signs of intending to interrupt. However, the police kept back the irate crowd, and Miss Pewsey was buried in a quiet corner of St. Peter's church-yard, where a few weeks before, she had hoped to be married. But her intended bridegroom was in America, and Miss Pewsey's mortal part was in the grave. Where her immortal soul was and what would become of it, was talked over by people, who were less forgiving than they ought to have been.

Ainsleigh recovered his strength quicker then the doctor thought he would. Olivia nursed him with devoted tenderness, and often wept as she thought how nearly she had lost him. When Rupert was better able to hear the recital, she gave him a short account of his rescue. "Those three shots you fired brought up Rodgers and his men, who were searching for Hwei and Tung-yu. They came, just in time to pull Mr. Burgh off you. He was holding you down under the water, and Mr. Rodgers thought you were dead. However the doctor was called, and they brought you round. Then I was telegraphed for, and I insisted that you should be taken back to Royabay. I had my way, although the doctor in London said it would be dangerous. So here you are, darling, in your own home, and soon will be all right."

"Thanks to your nursing," said Ainsleigh, kissing her, "but Olivia, tell me about Miss Pewsey."

"She made a confession before she died," said Mrs. Ainsleigh, "oh Rupert, even though she is dead, I can't help saying, that she was a wicked little woman."

"Wicked indeed," said Rupert, recalling what Burgh had said, "she wished you to marry Burgh, because he was married already."

"In which case he would have deserted me," said Mrs. Ainsleigh with a crimson face, "he was as bad as she. But listen, Rupert, if you feel strong enough."

"Go on," said Ainsleigh, and held his wife's hand while she talked.

"Well, then," began Mrs. Ainsleigh, "after the Marquis pushed you out of the Penter's Alley room, he went and got a doctor, who said that Miss Pewsey was dying. She heard him, having regained her senses, and then began to cry, saying how wicked she had been. For the sake of everyone, Lo-Keong asked her to make a confession. As soon as she knew there was no hope of her recovery, she agreed to do so. A clergyman was called in, and he took down what she said. The confession was witnessed and signed, and Mr. Rodgers has it."

"What did she confess?" asked Rupert.

"Oh," Olivia covered her face, "it was really awful. She said that she was always jealous of Aunt Sophia, and of me. She wished to get the five hundred a year. At first she thought she would get it by marrying me to her nephew, and then she could finger the money, when my aunt died. But she soon saw that I was not to be guided in the way she desired, and cast about for a new plan."

"But, Olivia, if she knew Burgh was married—

"Oh, that didn't matter to her. She intended he should marry me and then if I got the money she intended to say there was no marriage, unless I gave her the five hundred a year. She wished to disgrace me.

"A kind of blackmail, in fact."

"Yes. But I can't understand, how she intended to reckon with Mr. Burgh, who is not an easy person to deal with. Well Rupert, when she found that I would not marry Mr. Burgh, she tried to get a new will made. She did not succeed for a long time. Meanwhile, she heard about the fan and wrote to Lo-Keong. When she saw the advertisement she was alarmed, thinking Aunt Sophia would be killed before the new will was made. Luckily for her, she overheard about our secret marriage and told Aunt Sophia, who made a new will, and who intended, after the ball, to turn me out of the house."

"But your aunt was so kind to you at that time."

"So as to make things harder for me," said Olivia sadly, "poor Aunt Sophia, she was quite under the thumb of Miss Pewsey, who really did hypnotise her—at least she confessed she had power over her in the confession. But I don't think it was difficult to get Aunt Sophia to alter her will, seeing she hated you so, and could not bear to think that the five hundred a year, should go to the son of the man, she thought, had scorned her."

"That was not true: my father—"

"Yes! Yes! I know. Don't talk too much, Rupert you are weak yet. But let me go on," added Olivia, passing her hand over her husband's forehead. "Well then, when the new will was made, Miss Pewsey let Tung-yu know that Aunt Sophia would have the fan at the ball. She didn't know whether Tung-yu or Hwei was to kill the possessor of the fan, and when she learned that Aunt Sophia was to sell the fan next day, she was very angry."

"Why. With her influence she could have got the money."

"Not all to herself, and besides she wanted the five hundred a year, and Aunt Sophia out of the way. Moreover, that scarf I knitted for you gave her a chance of throwing the blame on you. She got Clarence to get it, and then lured Miss Wharf—my aunt—to the steps where she strangled her."

"Yes. Burgh told me. I know the rest. Her nephew made her give up the fan, learned the secret, and stole the packet. Then he made his aunt take it to Penter's Alley."

Olivia nodded. "And Miss Pewsey thought she would get the money, as Burgh said it was Tung-yu's hour."

"So it was. He spoke truly enough, although he didn't risk giving up the packet himself. Well."

"But Tung-yu killed Miss Pewsey after all. She asked twenty thousand pounds and refused to give it for less. Clarence Burgh who had come up with her, came into the room with Hwei, who saw the packet pass, but could not interfere."

"Because it wasn't his hour."

"Yes. And all would have been well, had not Tung-yu suddenly disobeyed the god Kwang-ho's commands and stabbed Miss Pewsey. Of course, Hwei was released from his oath by this act and tried to get the packet. But Clarence Burgh snatched it from both and ran away. Tung-yu went after him, and then Hwei followed, after wiping the knife. Then—"

"I know the rest. I got the packet from Burgh."

"Yes, and he tried to drown you. Hwei and Tung-yu were struggling together, as Tung-yu wanted to get the packet from you. But Hwei stabbed him with the same knife he had used to kill Miss Pewsey, and in his death grip, Tung-yu drew Hwei into the water. Both were dead and still locked in each other's embrace when they were drawn out. Lo-Keong said that Tung-yu deserved his doom for having trifled with Kwang-ho, but he mourns for Hwei."

"It seems to be much of a muchness," said Rupert, "and Burgh?"

"Rodgers threw himself on him, and he was secured. You were taken away, and I was telegraphed for. But while Burgh was being taken to prison he contrived to escape, and got away in the darkness."

"But Olivia, it was a bright, moonlight night."

"At first it was, but the moon set and darkness came on. The police have been searching for Burgh, but he has not been found, and it is supposed he has got away from England."

"I hope so," said Rupert with a shudder. "I never wish to set eyes on him again. So that's the end of it all."

"Not quite. Lo-Keong is in the library with Mr. Asher. Oh, Rupert, you must prepare yourself for the best of news."

The young man rose, and was led downstairs by his wife, "I am quite ready to hear the good news," he said, as they descended. "I have had far too much bad news in my life."

As Olivia said, the lawyer was waiting in the library, and stood before the fire with an expectant face. Lo-Keong, in even more gorgeous robes than he had worn on the occasion of his first visit, was seated in his stately manner near the window. He rose as the master of Royabay entered, and came forward with a serious smile.

"My young friend," said the Mandarin. "I have to thank you for saving my life. The papers which would have ruined me, and which would have cost me my head, have been burnt. Hwei is dead, and Tung-yu; so no one but yourself knows what those papers meant. My august mistress will never have proof that I was engaged in the Boxer rebellion, and Hop Sing will be degraded for ever."

"And you, Marquis?"

"I shall receive the yellow jacket," said the Mandarin, proudly, "now I remain but a short time here. I go to London in an hour, and this evening I leave for the Continent on my way to China. We shall never meet again Mr. Ainsleigh, unless you come to Pekin."

"No," said Olivia, instinctively protecting Rupert, "we have had enough of China, Marquis. Sit down, Rupert."

Ainsleigh took a chair, and the Marquis smiled blandly. "Well, well, well," he said, "it is natural you should feel rather nervous of my countrymen, though I assure you, if you do visit me, that you will be quite safe and highly honoured."

"No, thank you Marquis," said Rupert wearily, for he was beginning to feel fatigued.

"I see you are tired," said Lo-Keong, in his stately manner, "so I will merely say I hope to send you some presents from my own country, and then Mr. Asher can speak," he bowed to the solicitor.

"I am glad to tell Mr. Ainsleigh," said the lawyer, "that the Marquis has handed me securities which show that the sum of one hundred thousand pounds is invested in your name. We can transfer the securities to English investments if you like but—"

"I'll leave them in Chinese," said Rupert quickly.

Lo-Keong bowed in a gratified manner. "You will be wise," he said, "they are safe investments and all my interest at the Imperial court, will go to make you richer, if I can."

"You have done enough, Marquis," said Ainsleigh gratefully, "you have given me back my old home."

"And we will be rich besides," said Olivia delightedly.

"There's another thing," said Mr. Asher, looking at the girl, "Miss Pewsey made a will in your favour, Mrs. Ainsleigh."

Olivia drew back with a red face. "Impossible! She hated me."

"Well," said Asher dryly, "I expect she repented of her evil deeds, or perhaps she hated her nephew more than she did you. That gentleman wrote from a Continental address to Mr. Paster asking if his aunt had left him the money as she promised. I expect the address is a false one, as Mr. Burgh won't wish to be caught."

"He is a bold man that," said Lo-Keong.

"He is," assented Asher, "but he won't benefit. Mrs. Ainsleigh gets the five hundred a year, the freehold of Ivy Lodge, and also the mortgage which Miss Wharf bought to ruin Mr. Ainsleigh."

"We have everything—everything," cried Olivia.

"I am very thankful," said Rupert. "Mr. Asher—"

"I'll see you about the investments when you are stronger," said the lawyer, "meanwhile here is the carriage at the door. The Marquis is kind enough to give me a lift," and Mr. Asher took his leave, with a profound bow, to so opulent a client as Rupert.

The Marquis Lo-Keong came forward with his kind smile. "Before I wish you good-bye and all happiness," he said, holding out the famous fan, "will you take this?"

"No," said Olivia, preventing Rupert from accepting it, "I hate the very sight of the thing. It has blood on it."

"I think you are right, Mrs. Ainsleigh," said the Chinaman gravely, "and, as it has done its duty, it may as well go the way of the packet which now is ashes," and advancing to the fire, he flung the fan on the burning coals. It burst into a blaze, and in a few minutes all had vanished save the slivers of jade and the beads. The housemaid collected these next morning and gave them to Olivia, who threw them off the Marport pier. So that was the end of the Mandarin's fan.

"And now," said Lo-Keong, bowing, "good-bye, and great happiness to you both."

Rupert and Olivia shook hands warmly, and thanked him heartily. The Mandarin walked out of the room in his stately way, and they went to the window to see him drive off. At the bend of the avenue, he waved his hand graciously, and that was the last the master and mistress of Royabay saw of the man who had owned the fan.

A chuckle at the door made the couple turn from the window. There, peering in, stood Mrs. Petley, who had stuck with her husband to Rupert during his troubles. Her face was shining, and old John seemed to be years younger. Mrs. Petley, for some queer reason, threw a shoe at the pair. "Health and happiness," she said, "begging your pardons both. But to think of money and happiness, and no walking of that blessed monk, who—"

"He never walked," said Rupert smiling, "it was Hwei—"

"Begging your pardon, sir, Hwei—whosoever he is, didn't walk all the time. Abbot Raoul did appear, as I can testify, and so can John here. But now the prophecy has been fulfilled, perhaps he'll rest quiet in his grave, drat him."

"The prophecy?" said Olivia, who was holding her husband's hand.

From behind Mrs. Petley came the quavering voice of the ancient butler, declaiming the rude rhymes:—

     "My curse from the tyrants will never depart,
      For a sword in the hands of the angel flashes:
      Till Ainsleigh poor, weds the poor maid of his heart,
      And gold be brought forth from the holy ashes."

"And that's quite true," said a jovial voice, and Major Tidman, as smart and stout as ever, entered. "How do, Ainsleigh, I'm glad to see you looking so well. Yes," he added, sitting down, "you were poor Ainsleigh when you married—"

"And I was poor also," cried Olivia.

"Very good, the third line is fulfilled and the fourth—"

"Was gold brought forth from the holy ashes?" asked Rupert.

"Yes, Master Rupert," said old John, "you picked up the fan in the place where the ashes were, and out of the fan has come gold. The prophecy is fulfilled, sure enough, and I hope Abbot Raoul will stop walking for ever."

"Of course he will," cried Mrs. Petley, dragging her husband outside, "there's no more trouble for you, Master Rupert and Miss Olivia."

"Mr. and Mrs. Ainsleigh, of Royabay," said Tidman, laughing, "give them their proper titles, Mrs. Petley. And I think the present occasion deserves a bottle of port."

The ancient butler went away with his wife, to bring forth one of the last bottles of that priceless vintage. Major Tidman, gloating in anticipation, sat still, and smiled with a bland face. But Rupert drew Olivia to the sofa, and they sat down where they had often mourned on many a weary day. "Dearest," said Ainsleigh.

"We can be happy now," said Olivia putting her arms round his neck, "for we are rich. We shall take again our proper place in the county."

"We are rich and we are happy," echoed the master of Royabay.

"Ha! ha! You have one hundred thousand pounds, Ainsleigh," said Tidman.

THE END

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