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26: The End of the Story

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Author Topic: 26: The End of the Story  (Read 45 times)
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« on: March 25, 2023, 11:27:11 am »

SO in this way the truth was discovered, and Ellis returned to show the confession of Captain Garret to Mrs. Moxton. Laura was so overcome that her innocence was proved, her dread was removed, that she fainted during the recital. While Ellis and Janet were looking after her, Cass arrived. Mrs. Moxton recovered her senses, and retired to lie down; while Harry, having read the confession, discussed what was to be done with it.

"If you show it to the police, I am afraid Schwartz will get into trouble, as he has permitted a criminal to escape."

"That is true enough," replied Ellis. "For my part, now that we have absolute proof of Mrs. Moxton's innocence, I don't think it is necessary to make the matter public."

"Mr. Busham may do so, out of revenge," said Janet.

"Don't you believe it, Miss Gordon. Busham, by the showing of this confession, knew all about the crime. He saw it committed, he tampered with Garret, and held his tongue in order to secure Moxton's money. On the face of it, he is an accessory after the fact, and, terrified by the fear of punishment, will keep silence. Besides, even if he does speak, we can first warn Schwartz to leave England, and then inform the police. Busham does not know, and never will know, that Schwartz has been implicated in Garret's escape."

"What Harry says is very true," chimed in Ellis. "I think all danger is over."

"Thank God for that!" cried Janet, clasping her hands. "Oh, how terrible these past months have been!"

"You will have no more trouble if I can help it," said the doctor, taking her hand. "What I said when I believed you to be Mrs. Moxton, I say now; and I ask you to be my honoured wife."

Janet sobbed. "You forget! I have a shady past!"

"A noble past. You have been tested in the furnace of affliction, and have come out pure gold."

"I sold programmes at a low music-hall."

"Bless you, my children, and let me be your best man."

"There is one thing to be said," observed Ellis, uneasily. "Janet cannot marry me here, where she is known as Mrs. Moxton. Mrs. Basket may make trouble, and I cannot afford to give up my practice---such as it is."

"Leave that to me," said Janet, nodding. "My sister Laura owes you everything, and when she gets her fortune she will give you enough money to buy a practice far away from Mrs. Basket and this horrid little place. I am sure I do not wish to live in this district after what I have undergone. When I leave Myrtle Villa, I leave Dukesfield for ever."

"But, Janet, I don't like taking money from Mrs. Moxton."

"Why not? Because it is red money?"

"Red money!" repeated Cass, struck by the phrase, "and what is red money?"

"Ah!" said Janet, smiling, "then there is something you don't know of which I am aware. Red money is a term given by gipsies to that which comes by a violent death. My sister inherits her fortune through the murder of her husband; therefore, according to Romany lore, it is red money. But if Robert will not take the money from Laura, she shall give it to me. She owes me something, I think."

"She owes you everything, my dearest," said Ellis, kissing her, "and you will do what you please."

"Oh, by the way," cried Cass, suddenly, "I thought I had something to tell you. Schwartz has given up his secret gambling salon."

"Did it ever exist?" said Ellis, sceptically.

"Yes," replied Janet, blushing. "I never saw it, but in one way and another I heard of it. Often and often I implored Papa Schwartz to give it up, telling him he would get into trouble."

"Well, he has given it up at last. It appears that the police got to know of it, and contemplated a raid, so Schwartz shut it up a few nights ago; and I rather think he is going to give up the hall itself."

"A very wise thing for him to do," said Ellis, approvingly. "He has made a sufficient fortune---he told me so; therefore he can retire and live happily."

Shortly there came news from Madrid that Garret had been stabbed in a gambling-house row. By the irony of fate he met with the same death as he had meted out to Moxton. On hearing of Garret's death, Schwartz went to reside in Munich. He sold the music-hall and the cottage, invested his money well, and he now lives a calm and happy life in the German Athens; and in spite of his late business of a gambling-house keeper and the many flaws in his character, Schwartz deserved to be happy. That was his reward, and so he passes out of the story.

Janet never did have much belief in Laura's gratitude, and said as much to Ellis. Her belief came true, for when Laura, relieved from her terrors, blossomed into a wealthy young widow on her father-in-law's money, she forgot all that her sister had done and sacrificed for her. It was no easy task to settle the estate, for, when Busham was informed by letter that Garret had confessed, he was seized with panic and went to the States.

But he did not go away empty-handed; that was not Mr. Busham's way of doing things. Already he had ample money, but he managed also to secure a good deal of loose cash which belonged to the Moxton estate, and left behind him an insulting letter to Ellis. In America, Busham changed his name, but as wickedness was born in him he could not change his nature. What became of him Ellis never heard. He vanished into the vast unknown of the States; but, having regard to the money he took with him and his known capabilities of screwing it out of others, it is quite possible that he is flourishing at present like a green bay tree. The wicked are not always punished in this world, and Busham's escape is an illustration of this fact. Still, his inherent rascality may some day bring him before Mr. Justice Lynch, and he may end as he deserves.

Dr. Ellis worked loyally to put Mrs. Moxton's affairs in order, and received from her the same gratitude as she gave to Janet. For very shame's sake she was obliged to give her sister a sum of money in compensation for all she had done. Ellis did not wish to take a sum so grudgingly given, but Janet looked upon it as her right, and took it without false shame. She was as disgusted with Laura as with Rudolph, and was glad to see the last of them. All her years of self-sacrifice and work were as nothing in their eyes, and now that Janet had found a good husband she thought it was only right to look after her own happiness. A few months after the discovery of Garret's guilt she departed to a country town, where Ellis, with Mrs. Moxton's money, bought a practice. Neither Laura nor Rudolph came to the wedding, as they had already gone to the Continent. After he had confessed his traitorous behaviour, Rudolph called on Janet and tried to cajole her into forgiving him. But she was so disgusted with him that she refused to have anything more to do with the rascal. He was more successful with Laura, and as she was now rich, he paid great attention to her. Notwithstanding her knowledge of his contemptible character, Laura went abroad with him and kept him in idleness with her wealth. The pair travelled to Vienna and there lived as happily as a memory of the terrible past would let them. This means that they had not a care in the world, for both their natures were too frivolous to be impressed by the perils they had escaped. So, like Busham, they flourished also, and deserved their immunity from punishment as little.

Mrs. Basket lamented bitterly when she lost her lodger, and tried to find out why and where he was going. But Ellis, having had experience of his fat landlady's malignity, refused to gratify her curiosity. Also he wished to cut himself and Janet off from the old life of trouble at Dukesfield, and so vanished from Mrs. Basket's gaze. Cass remained with her for a time, but as his circumstances improved, he decided to move into town, and took chambers in St. Clement's Inn. In this way and in a few years all the actors in the Moxton tragedy disappeared from Dukesfield, and no reminder was left of it but the tombstone erected over the wretched man's grave by Laura. The inscription, "Erected by his sorrowful wife," was rather ironical, when it was considered how Laura hated the man she thus honoured. But Laura was fond of posing as a disconsolate widow. She thought it attracted the men.

A year after the tragedy Harry Cass paid a visit to the country town where Ellis lived, and in which his practice was rapidly increasing. He possessed a charming house on the outskirts of the old town; he had set up a carriage, and possessed a good hack. Aided by Janet's good sense and strict notions of an economy instilled by poverty, the sum of money grudgingly given by Laura had done wonders, and Dr. Ellis started his new life on an excellent basis. He was not a great physician, but he was clever and also popular. The ladies in the neighbourhood called on Mrs. Ellis and found her charming, for Janet's life, and travels, and experience led her to adapt herself skilfully to the provincial narrowness of these good people. She was quite as popular as her husband, and in time there is no doubt that Ellis will become the most sought-after physician in the county.

"But Harley Street, Bob," urged Harry, as he sat with husband and wife in the garden after dinner. "What about Harley Street?"

"That must wait," laughed Ellis; "and if it does not come I really don't care. Do you remember my expressed wishes, Harry, on the night Moxton was killed? 'A good practice, a moderate income, a home, and a wife.' Well, I have got them all, and that is better luck than falls to the lot of most men. I am quite content to stay here and be happy."

"And you, Mrs. Ellis, after your stormy, early life?"

"I am content to remain in this haven," smiled Janet. "I have a good home and a loving husband. What more can a woman want?" "Egad! some women want a sight more. Your story is not known here?"

"No," replied Ellis, promptly. "Janet and I have cut ourselves off completely from the past. We never think of it."

"Except when we are obliged," said Mrs. Ellis. "I received a letter from Laura the other day. She is going to be married to an Austrian officer, a young Count."

"H'm! or with her money?" said Cass. "However, if she buys a title in that way I suppose she will be satisfied. And her husband has only been dead a year! She is soon consoled. I hope she will have better luck with her second husband than she had with her first. And Zirknitz?"

"He is in Italy, in attendance on an American heiress."

"Oh, poor heiress! He will marry her and spend her money."

"Laura says nothing about marriage."

"But it will take place all the same," said Cass, promptly. "Zirknitz is the most fascinating scoundrel I ever met. Even though a woman knew he was a scamp she would love him. Oh, he'll marry money and be rich, and, having no heart, be as happy as the day is long."

"Well, Edgar never liked him."

"I know that, else he would not have accused him of being his murderer."

"As to that," said Ellis, musingly, "I can never quite understand Moxton's reason. If he did not wish to harm Zirknitz, why did he write the initials of his name at all? If he did, why put them in a secret writing known only to his wife and Janet?"

Janet shook her head. "I think at the last he had some compunction for the way in which he had treated Laura. He believed that Zirknitz had killed him, and wished to give Laura power over him lest he should take her money."

"That is not a very satisfactory explanation," said Cass, with a shrug. "But I suppose no other can be given. At all events, Zirknitz did get some of Laura's money."

"Red money," said Mrs. Ellis," with a shudder.


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