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22: Janet's Discovery

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« on: March 25, 2023, 09:14:05 am »

ON leaving Goethe Cottage, Ellis jumped on his bicycle, and was soon spinning along the country roads which connected rural Parkmere with the more urban suburb of Dukesfield. Usually Ellis enjoyed the exhilaration of riding and the pleasure of admiring the scenery; but on this occasion, beyond the necessary guidance of his machine, he was preoccupied. It seemed strange to him that Garret should so strongly object to Janet as a companion for his daughter. The Captain was a supremely selfish man, as selfish in every way as Zirknitz, and more vicious. He was indifferent to his daughter, save that he looked upon her as a necessary link to bind him to Schwartz. Schwartz was clever and generous; he had plenty of money, and Garret, the idle and dissipated, could not do without him. For the furtherance of his plans, he usually let Schwartz manage as he pleased. It was, therefore, surprising that he should have taken so unusual a step as to object to Miss Gordon.

"Garret and Schwartz can have nothing to do with the murder!" mused Ellis; "they knew Moxton only slightly, and they had no motive to get rid of him. Indeed, his untimely death has lost Schwartz a good customer to his gambling table, if that exists, as is reported; at any-rate, an assiduous attendant at his music-hall. Garret was anxious on Schwartz's account, hence he warned him not to have Janet in the house. He thinks she is too clever; perhaps he fancies she may learn too much. I am too fanciful---too suspicious. Yet Garret certainly mentioned the murder. What is best to be done? Janet must go to Goethe Cottage; but shall I tell her of the objections---or this discussion? No, I will not bias her in any way. If there is anything to be found out, she shall discover it herself."

To this wise determination Ellis adhered.

"Tell me, Miss Gordon, what is your opinion of him?"

"I think he is a good man, doctor. Several times I have been under the necessity of testing his kindness of heart, and it has never failed me."

"I daresay," said Janet, somewhat cynically; "it is that frame of mind which created the proverb about virtue being its own reward. People who do most are thought least of, and it is your selfish person who gets all the love and the praise. Look at my own case. All my life I have put myself aside for Rudolph and Laura; yet they think nothing of me."

"They say they do."

"Mere lip-service!" exclaimed Miss Gordon; "they would not do me a good turn however little trouble it might be. Laura is grateful to me now, because she is yet in danger, and I stand by her; but when all is well, she will think nothing of my services. As for Rudolph, he would borrow my last sixpence, and see me dying of starvation without returning so much as a single penny. Oh, I am under no illusion about my own folk, doctor! What I do, I do from a sense of duty."

"With regard to your sister I can say nothing, Miss Gordon, as I do not know her sufficiently well; but Zirknitz---well, he is a thoroughly bad lot, and would sell his nearest and dearest at a price."

Janet demurred. "I cannot believe that he is so wicked as that!"

"But he is, and he proved it to me only the other day. He told Busham all about your impersonation of Mrs. Moxton; betrayed all your schemes and plans while you were fighting single-handed against overwhelming odds; and this because Busham paid him. Now, thinking Mrs. Moxton will recover her husband's fortune--for I told him that the real will still existed--he has betrayed all Busham's secret doings to me. What do you think of him now?"

"He is a scoundrel! I will never speak to him again. Oh, doctor, if you only knew what I have done for that man. I knew he was heartless and selfish, but I did not think he was wicked."

"Heartlessness and selfishness usually terminate in wickedness," said Ellis, sententiously. "However, one good result has come out of his evil ways. I have learnt all about Mr. Busham's intrigues, and I have given him a few days to own up."

"That he killed Edgar?" asked Janet, breathlessly.

"No, he did not kill him---at least, I don't think so. But I have insisted upon his revealing the name of the assassin, as I am certain he knows it. In another three days he must tell the truth, or I shall place the matter in the hands of the police."

"Oh! but, Laura; she will be arrested."

"No! I do this to save her from arrest. Busham knows nothing about the false will, because I do not wish to drive him into a corner by telling him how he has been tricked. But he might learn the truth from Zirknitz, to whom it had to be told, that I might learn his true attitude in this matter. If he does learn it he will have Mrs. Moxton arrested. Only by a threat against himself could I keep him in hand."

"What do you think he will do?"

"Ah! that I can't say. I know much, but not all; and the smallest amount of ignorance in any matter is a bar to giving a reasonable opinion on it. However, Time works for me, and I shall be able to defend Mrs. Moxton from her enemies.

"Alas!" said Janet, with a melancholy smile, "I have too much experience of the world to be gay. However, I will do my best."

It will be seen from this last observation that Janet was rapidly coming under the influence of Ellis. She was a clever woman, and, in her own way, masterful; therefore, on finding someone stronger than herself, she was prepared to obey him. This sounds paradoxical, but it is so, especially in the relations of sex. A woman must always succumb to a man, if he be a man; obedience is in the feminine blood, notwithstanding the New Woman. Janet knew from experience that Ellis was kind and generous, and was willing to help to the extent of his powers those in whom he believed; now his duel with Busham---no mean adversary---had given her an impression of his strength. Moreover, she loved him, and perhaps this was why she obeyed him without a struggle. She felt the happier for such obedience, although it was new to her. When a woman finds her master in an honourable, generous, kindly man, her happiness is assured.

Therefore, Janet was at Goethe Cottage, and inspected the big desk. She closed and locked the top drawers without looking much at their contents. In the bottom right-hand drawer, however, she made a discovery which amazed her. On the top of other articles she saw the red pocket-book.

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