en-es  THE BISHOP'S SECRET by FERGUS HUME - Chapter 32
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CHAPTER XXXII - THE INITIALS.
As has before been stated, Dr Graham had another conversation with his persecuted friend, in which he advised him to tolerate the presence of Cargrim until Baltic captured the actual criminal. It was also at this second interview that the bishop asked Graham if he should tell George the truth. This question the little doctor answered promptly in the negative.
'For what is the use of telling him?' said he, argumentatively; 'doing so will make you uncomfortable and George very unhappy.
'But George must learn the truth sooner or later.
'I don't see that it is necessary to inform him of it at all,' retorted Graham, obstinately, 'and at all events you need not explain until forced to do so. One thing at a time, bishop. At present your task is to baffle Cargrim and kick the scoundrel out of the house when the murderer is found. Then we can discuss the matter of the marriage with Mrs Pendle.
'Graham! '—the bishop's utterance of the name was like a cry of pain—'I cannot—I dare not tell Amy!
'You must, Pendle, since she is the principal person concerned in the matter. You know how Gabriel learned the truth from her casual description of her first husband. Well, when Mrs Pendle returns to Beorminster, she may—I don't say that she will, mind you—but she may speak of Krant again, since, so far as she is concerned, there is no need for her to keep the fact of her first marriage secret.
'Except that she may not wish to recall unhappy days,' put in the bishop, softly. 'Indeed, I wonder that Amy could bring herself to speak of Krant to her son and mine.
'Women, my friend, do and say things at which they wonder themselves,' said the misogynist, cynically; 'probably Mrs Pendle acted on the impulse of the moment and regretted it immediately the words were out of her mouth. Still, she may describe Krant again when she comes back, and her listener may be as clever as Gabriel was in putting two and two together, and connecting your wife's first husband with Krant. Should such a thing occur—and it might occur—your secret would become the common property of this scandalmongering place, and your last condition would be worse than your first. Also,' continued Graham, with the air of a person clinching an argument, 'if you and Mrs Pendle are to part, my poor friend, she must be told the reason for such separation.
'Part!' echoed the bishop, indignantly. 'My dear Amy and I shall never part, doctor. I wonder that you can suggest such a thing. Now that Krant is dead beyond all doubt, I shall marry his widow at once.
'Quite so, and quite right,' assented Graham, emphatically; 'but in that case, as you can see for yourself, you must tell her that the first marriage is null and void, so as to account for the necessity of the second ceremony.' The doctor paused and reflected. 'Old scatterbrain that I am,' said he, with a shrug, 'I quite forgot that way out of the difficulty. A second marriage! Of course! and there is your riddle solved.
'No doubt, so far as Amy and I are concerned,' said Pendle, gloomily, 'but so late a ceremony will not make my children legitimate. In England, marriage is not a retrospective act.
'They manage these things better in France,' opined Graham, in the manner of Sterne; 'there a man can legitimise his children born out of wedlock if he so chooses. There was a talk of modifying the English Act in the same way; but, of course, the very nice people with nasty ideas shrieked out in their usual pig-headed style about legalised immorality. However,' pursued the doctor, in a more cheerful tone, 'I do not see that you need worry yourself on that point, bishop. You can depend upon Gabriel and me holding our tongues; you need not tell Lucy or George, and when you marry your wife for the second time, all things can go on as before. "What the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve at," you know.
'But my eye sees, and my heart grieves,' groaned the bishop.
'Pish! don't make an inquisition of your conscience, Pendle. You have done no wrong; like greatness, evil has been thrust upon you.
'I am certainly an innocent sinner, Graham.
'Of course you are; but now that we have found the remedy, that is all over and done with. Wait till Jentham's murderer is found, then turn Cargrim out of doors, marry Mrs Krant in some out-of-the-way parish, and make a fresh will in favour of your children. There you are, bishop! Don't worry any more about the matter.
'You don't think that I should tell Brace that—?
'I certainly don't think that you should disgrace your daughter in the eyes of her future husband,' retorted the doctor, hotly; 'marry your wife and hold your tongue. Even the Recording Angel can take no note of so obviously just a course.
'I think you are right, Graham,' said the bishop, shaking his friend's hand with an expression of relief. 'In justice to my children, I must be silent. I shall act as you suggest.
'Then that being so, you are a man again,' said Graham, jocularly, 'and now you can send for George to pay you a visit.
'Do you think there is any necessity, Graham? The sight of him—.
'Will do you good, Pendle. Don't martyrise yourself and look on your children as so many visible evidences of sin. Bosh! I tell you, bosh!' cried the doctor, vigorously if ungallantly. 'Send for George, send for Mrs Pendle and Lucy, and throw all these morbid ideas to the wind. If you do not,' added Graham, raising a threatening finger, 'I shall write out a certificate for the transfer of the cleverest bishop in England to a lunatic asylum.
'Well, well, I won't risk that,' said the bishop, smiling. 'George shall come back at once.
'And all will be gas and gaiters, to quote the immortal Boz. Good-day, bishop! I have prescribed your medicine; see that you take it.
'You are a tonic in yourself, Graham.
'All men of sense are, Pendle. They are the salt of the earth, the oxygen in the moral atmosphere. If it wasn't for my common sense, bishop,' said the doctor, with a twinkle, 'I believe I should be weak enough to come and hear you preach.
Dr Pendle laughed. 'I am afraid the age of miracles is past, my friend. As a bishop, I should reprove you, but—.
'But, as a good, sensible fellow, you'll take my advice. Well, well, bishop, I have had more obstinate patients than my college chum. Good-day, good-day,' and the little doctor skipped out of the library with a gay look and a merry nod, leaving the bishop relieved and smiling, and devoutly thankful for the solution of his life's riddle. At that moment the noble verse of the Psalmist was in his mind and upon his lips—'God is our refuge and our strength: a very present help in trouble.' Bishop Pendle was proving the truth of that text.
So the exiled lover was permitted to return to Beorminster, and very pleased he was to find himself once more in the vicinity of his beloved. After congratulating the bishop on his recovered cheerfulness and placidity, George brought forward the name of Mab, and was pleased to find that his father was by no means so opposed to the match as formerly. Dr Pendle admitted again that Mab was a singularly charming young lady, and that his son might do worse than marry her. Late events had humbled the bishop's pride considerably; and the knowledge that George was nameless, induced him to consider Miss Arden more favourably as a wife for the young man. She was at least a lady, and not a barmaid like Bell Mosk; so the painful fact of Gabriel setting his heart so low made George's superior choice quite a brilliant match in comparison. On these grounds, the bishop intimated to Captain Pendle that, on consideration, he was disposed to overlook the rumours about Miss Arden's disreputable father and accept her as a daughter-in-law. It was with this joyful news that George, glowing and eager, as a lover should be, made his appearance the next morning at the Jenny Wren house.
'Thank God the bishop is reasonable,' cried Miss Whichello, when George explained the new position. 'I knew that Mab would gain his heart in the end.
'She gained mine in the beginning,' said Captain George, fondly, 'and that, after all, is the principal thing.
'What! your own heart, egotist! Does mine then count for nothing?
'Oh!' said George, slipping his arm round her waist, 'if we begin on that subject, my litany will be as long as the Athanasian Creed, and quite as devout.
'Captain Pendle!' exclaimed Miss Whichello, scandalised both by embrace and speech—both rather trying to a religious spinster.
'Miss Whichello,' mimicked the gay lover, 'am I not to be received into the family under the name of George?
'That depends on your behaviour, Captain Pendle. But I am both pleased and relieved that the bishop consents to the marriage.
'Aunty!' cried Mab, reddening a trifle,'don't talk as though it were a favour. I do not look upon myself as worthless, by any means.
'Worthless!' echoed George, gaily; 'then is gold mere dross, and diamonds but pebbles. You are the beauty of the universe, my darling, and I your lowest slave.' He threw himself at her feet. 'Set your pretty foot on my neck, my queen!
'Captain Pendle,' said Miss Whichello, striving to stifle a laugh, 'if you don't get up and behave properly I shall leave the room.
'If you do, aunty, he will get worse,' smiled Mab, ruffling what the barber had left of her lover's hair. 'Get up at once, you—you mad Romeo.
George rose obediently, and dusted his knees. 'Juliet, I obey,' said he, tragically; 'but no, you are not Juliet of the garden; you are Cleopatra! Semiramis! the most imperious and queenly of women. Where did you get your rich eastern beauty from, Mab? What are you, an Arabian princess, doing in our cold grey West? You are like some dark-browed queen! A daughter of Bohemia! A Romany sorceress!
Mab laughed, but Miss Whichello heaved a quick, impatient sigh, as though these eastern comparisons annoyed her. George was unconsciously making remarks which cut her to the heart; and almost unable to control her feelings, she muttered some excuse and glided hastily from the room. With the inherent selfishness of love, neither George nor Mab paid any attention to her emotion or departure, but whispered and smiled and caressed one another, well pleased at their sweet solitude. George spent one golden hour in paradise, then unwillingly tore himself away. Only Shakespeare could have done justice to the passion of their parting. Kisses and sighs, last looks, final handclasps, and then George in the sunshine of the square, with Mab waving her handkerchief from the open casement. But, alas! workaday prose always succeeds Arcadian rhyme, and with the sinking sun dies the glory of the day.
With his mind hanging betwixt a mental heaven and earth, after the similitude of Mahomet's coffin, George walked slowly down the street, until he was brought like a shot eagle to the ground by a touch on the shoulder. Now, as there is nothing more annoying than such a bailiff's salute, George wheeled round with some vigorous language on the tip of his tongue, but did not use it when he found himself facing Sir Harry Brace.
'Oh, it's you!' said Captain Pendle, lamely. 'Well, with your experience, you should know better than to pull up a fellow unawares.
'You talk in riddles, my good George,' said Harry, staring, as well he might, at this not very coherent speech.
'I have just left Miss Arden,' explained George, quite unabashed, for he did not care if the whole world knew of his love.
'Oh, I beg your pardon, I understand,' replied Brace, with a broad smile; 'but you must excuse me, old chap. I am—I am out of practice lately, you see. "My love she is in Germanee," as the old song says. I wish to speak with you.
'All right. Where shall we go?
'To the club. I must see you privately.
The Beorminster Club was just a short distance down the street, so George followed Harry into its hospitable portals and finally accepted a comfortable chair in the smoking-room, which, luckily for the purpose of Brace, was empty at that hour. The two young men each ordered a cool hock-and-soda and lighted two very excellent cigarettes which came out of the pocket of extravagant George. Then they began to talk, and Harry opened the conversation with a question.
'George,' he said, with a serious look on his usually merry face, 'were you on Southberry Heath on the night that poor devil was murdered?
'Oh, yes,' replied Captain Pendle, with some wonder at the question. 'I rode over to the gipsy camp to buy a particular ring from Mother Jael.
'For Miss Arden, I suppose?
'Yes; I wished for a necromantic symbol of our engagement.
'Did you hear or see anything of the murder?
'Good Lord, no!' cried the startled George, sitting up straight. 'I should have been at the inquest had I seen the act, or even heard the shot.
'Did you carry a pistol with you on that night?
'As I wasn't riding through Central Africa, I did not. What is the meaning of these mysterious questions?
Brace answered this query by slipping his hand into his breast-pocket and producing therefrom a neat little pistol, toy-like, but deadly enough in the hand of a good marksman. 'Is this yours?' he asked, holding it out for Captain Pendle's inspection.
'Certainly it is,' said George, handling the weapon; 'here are my initials on the butt. Where did you get this?
'It was found by Mother Jael near the spot where Jentham was murdered.
Captain Pendle clapped down the pistol on the table with an ejaculation of amazement. 'Was he shot with this, Harry?
'Without doubt!' replied Brace, gravely. 'Therefore, as it is your property, I wish to know how it came to be used for that purpose.
'Great Scott, Brace! you don't think that I killed the blackguard?
'I think nothing so ridiculous,' protested Sir Harry, testily.
'You talk as if you did, though,' retorted George, smartly. 'I thrashed that Jentham beast for insulting Mab, but I didn't shoot him.
'But the pistol is yours.
'I admit that, but—Good Lord!' cried Captain Pendle, starting to his feet.
'What now?' asked Brace, turning pale and cold on the instant.
'Gabriel! Gabriel! I—I gave this pistol to him.
'You gave this pistol to Gabriel? When? Where?
'In London,' explained George, rapidly. 'When he was in Whitechapel I knew that he went among a lot of roughs and thieves, so I insisted that he should carry this pistol for his protection. He was unwilling to do so at first, but in the end I persuaded him to slip it into his pocket. I have not seen it from that day to this.
'And it was found near Jentham's corpse,' said Brace, with a groan.
The two young men looked at one another in horrified silence, the same thoughts in the mind of each. The pistol had been in the possession of Gabriel; and Gabriel on the night of the murder had been in the vicinity of the crime.
'It—it is impossible,' whispered George, almost inaudibly, 'Gabriel can explain.
'Gabriel must explain,' said Brace, firmly; 'it is a matter of life and death!
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CHAPTER XXXII - THE INITIALS.
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This question the little doctor answered promptly in the negative.
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'For what is the use of telling him?'
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'But George must learn the truth sooner or later.
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One thing at a time, bishop.
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Then we can discuss the matter of the marriage with Mrs Pendle.
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'Graham!
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'Part!'
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echoed the bishop, indignantly.
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'My dear Amy and I shall never part, doctor.
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I wonder that you can suggest such a thing.
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The doctor paused and reflected.
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A second marriage!
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Of course!
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and there is your riddle solved.
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In England, marriage is not a retrospective act.
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"What the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve at," you know.
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'But my eye sees, and my heart grieves,' groaned the bishop.
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'Pish!
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don't make an inquisition of your conscience, Pendle.
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You have done no wrong; like greatness, evil has been thrust upon you.
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'I am certainly an innocent sinner, Graham.
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There you are, bishop!
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Don't worry any more about the matter.
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'You don't think that I should tell Brace that—?
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Even the Recording Angel can take no note of so obviously just a course.
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'In justice to my children, I must be silent.
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I shall act as you suggest.
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'Do you think there is any necessity, Graham?
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The sight of him—.
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'Will do you good, Pendle.
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Bosh!
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I tell you, bosh!'
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cried the doctor, vigorously if ungallantly.
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'Well, well, I won't risk that,' said the bishop, smiling.
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'George shall come back at once.
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'And all will be gas and gaiters, to quote the immortal Boz.
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Good-day, bishop!
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I have prescribed your medicine; see that you take it.
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'You are a tonic in yourself, Graham.
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'All men of sense are, Pendle.
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They are the salt of the earth, the oxygen in the moral atmosphere.
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Dr Pendle laughed.
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'I am afraid the age of miracles is past, my friend.
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As a bishop, I should reprove you, but—.
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'But, as a good, sensible fellow, you'll take my advice.
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Bishop Pendle was proving the truth of that text.
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'I knew that Mab would gain his heart in the end.
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'What!
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your own heart, egotist!
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Does mine then count for nothing?
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'Oh!'
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'Captain Pendle!'
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'That depends on your behaviour, Captain Pendle.
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'Aunty!'
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cried Mab, reddening a trifle,'don't talk as though it were a favour.
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I do not look upon myself as worthless, by any means.
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'Worthless!'
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He threw himself at her feet.
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'Set your pretty foot on my neck, my queen!
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'Get up at once, you—you mad Romeo.
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George rose obediently, and dusted his knees.
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Semiramis!
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the most imperious and queenly of women.
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Where did you get your rich eastern beauty from, Mab?
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What are you, an Arabian princess, doing in our cold grey West?
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You are like some dark-browed queen!
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A daughter of Bohemia!
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A Romany sorceress!
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But, alas!
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'Oh, it's you!'
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said Captain Pendle, lamely.
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I am—I am out of practice lately, you see.
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"My love she is in Germanee," as the old song says.
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I wish to speak with you.
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'All right.
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Where shall we go?
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'To the club.
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I must see you privately.
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'Oh, yes,' replied Captain Pendle, with some wonder at the question.
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'For Miss Arden, I suppose?
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'Yes; I wished for a necromantic symbol of our engagement.
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'Did you hear or see anything of the murder?
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'Good Lord, no!'
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cried the startled George, sitting up straight.
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'Did you carry a pistol with you on that night?
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'As I wasn't riding through Central Africa, I did not.
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What is the meaning of these mysterious questions?
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'Is this yours?'
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he asked, holding it out for Captain Pendle's inspection.
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Where did you get this?
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'It was found by Mother Jael near the spot where Jentham was murdered.
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'Was he shot with this, Harry?
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'Without doubt!'
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replied Brace, gravely.
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'Great Scott, Brace!
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you don't think that I killed the blackguard?
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'I think nothing so ridiculous,' protested Sir Harry, testily.
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'You talk as if you did, though,' retorted George, smartly.
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'But the pistol is yours.
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'I admit that, but—Good Lord!'
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cried Captain Pendle, starting to his feet.
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'What now?'
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asked Brace, turning pale and cold on the instant.
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'Gabriel!
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Gabriel!
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I—I gave this pistol to him.
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'You gave this pistol to Gabriel?
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When?
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Where?
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'In London,' explained George, rapidly.
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I have not seen it from that day to this.
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'And it was found near Jentham's corpse,' said Brace, with a groan.
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For more info, please see "discussion tab" by clicking on the title of this chapter.

CHAPTER XXXII - THE INITIALS.
As has before been stated, Dr Graham had another conversation with his persecuted friend, in which he advised him to tolerate the presence of Cargrim until Baltic captured the actual criminal. It was also at this second interview that the bishop asked Graham if he should tell George the truth. This question the little doctor answered promptly in the negative.
'For what is the use of telling him?' said he, argumentatively; 'doing so will make you uncomfortable and George very unhappy.
'But George must learn the truth sooner or later.
'I don't see that it is necessary to inform him of it at all,' retorted Graham, obstinately, 'and at all events you need not explain until forced to do so. One thing at a time, bishop. At present your task is to baffle Cargrim and kick the scoundrel out of the house when the murderer is found. Then we can discuss the matter of the marriage with Mrs Pendle.
'Graham!'—the bishop's utterance of the name was like a cry of pain—'I cannot—I dare not tell Amy!
'You must, Pendle, since she is the principal person concerned in the matter. You know how Gabriel learned the truth from her casual description of her first husband. Well, when Mrs Pendle returns to Beorminster, she may—I don't say that she will, mind you—but she may speak of Krant again, since, so far as she is concerned, there is no need for her to keep the fact of her first marriage secret.
'Except that she may not wish to recall unhappy days,' put in the bishop, softly. 'Indeed, I wonder that Amy could bring herself to speak of Krant to her son and mine.
'Women, my friend, do and say things at which they wonder themselves,' said the misogynist, cynically; 'probably Mrs Pendle acted on the impulse of the moment and regretted it immediately the words were out of her mouth. Still, she may describe Krant again when she comes back, and her listener may be as clever as Gabriel was in putting two and two together, and connecting your wife's first husband with Krant. Should such a thing occur—and it might occur—your secret would become the common property of this scandalmongering place, and your last condition would be worse than your first. Also,' continued Graham, with the air of a person clinching an argument, 'if you and Mrs Pendle are to part, my poor friend, she must be told the reason for such separation.
'Part!' echoed the bishop, indignantly. 'My dear Amy and I shall never part, doctor. I wonder that you can suggest such a thing. Now that Krant is dead beyond all doubt, I shall marry his widow at once.
'Quite so, and quite right,' assented Graham, emphatically; 'but in that case, as you can see for yourself, you must tell her that the first marriage is null and void, so as to account for the necessity of the second ceremony.' The doctor paused and reflected. 'Old scatterbrain that I am,' said he, with a shrug, 'I quite forgot that way out of the difficulty. A second marriage! Of course! and there is your riddle solved.
'No doubt, so far as Amy and I are concerned,' said Pendle, gloomily, 'but so late a ceremony will not make my children legitimate. In England, marriage is not a retrospective act.
'They manage these things better in France,' opined Graham, in the manner of Sterne; 'there a man can legitimise his children born out of wedlock if he so chooses. There was a talk of modifying the English Act in the same way; but, of course, the very nice people with nasty ideas shrieked out in their usual pig-headed style about legalised immorality. However,' pursued the doctor, in a more cheerful tone, 'I do not see that you need worry yourself on that point, bishop. You can depend upon Gabriel and me holding our tongues; you need not tell Lucy or George, and when you marry your wife for the second time, all things can go on as before. "What the eye does not see, the heart does not grieve at," you know.
'But my eye sees, and my heart grieves,' groaned the bishop.
'Pish! don't make an inquisition of your conscience, Pendle. You have done no wrong; like greatness, evil has been thrust upon you.
'I am certainly an innocent sinner, Graham.
'Of course you are; but now that we have found the remedy, that is all over and done with. Wait till Jentham's murderer is found, then turn Cargrim out of doors, marry Mrs Krant in some out-of-the-way parish, and make a fresh will in favour of your children. There you are, bishop! Don't worry any more about the matter.
'You don't think that I should tell Brace that—?
'I certainly don't think that you should disgrace your daughter in the eyes of her future husband,' retorted the doctor, hotly; 'marry your wife and hold your tongue. Even the Recording Angel can take no note of so obviously just a course.
'I think you are right, Graham,' said the bishop, shaking his friend's hand with an expression of relief. 'In justice to my children, I must be silent. I shall act as you suggest.
'Then that being so, you are a man again,' said Graham, jocularly, 'and now you can send for George to pay you a visit.
'Do you think there is any necessity, Graham? The sight of him—.
'Will do you good, Pendle. Don't martyrise yourself and look on your children as so many visible evidences of sin. Bosh! I tell you, bosh!' cried the doctor, vigorously if ungallantly. 'Send for George, send for Mrs Pendle and Lucy, and throw all these morbid ideas to the wind. If you do not,' added Graham, raising a threatening finger, 'I shall write out a certificate for the transfer of the cleverest bishop in England to a lunatic asylum.
'Well, well, I won't risk that,' said the bishop, smiling. 'George shall come back at once.
'And all will be gas and gaiters, to quote the immortal Boz. Good-day, bishop! I have prescribed your medicine; see that you take it.
'You are a tonic in yourself, Graham.
'All men of sense are, Pendle. They are the salt of the earth, the oxygen in the moral atmosphere. If it wasn't for my common sense, bishop,' said the doctor, with a twinkle, 'I believe I should be weak enough to come and hear you preach.
Dr Pendle laughed. 'I am afraid the age of miracles is past, my friend. As a bishop, I should reprove you, but—.
'But, as a good, sensible fellow, you'll take my advice. Well, well, bishop, I have had more obstinate patients than my college chum. Good-day, good-day,' and the little doctor skipped out of the library with a gay look and a merry nod, leaving the bishop relieved and smiling, and devoutly thankful for the solution of his life's riddle. At that moment the noble verse of the Psalmist was in his mind and upon his lips—'God is our refuge and our strength: a very present help in trouble.' Bishop Pendle was proving the truth of that text.
So the exiled lover was permitted to return to Beorminster, and very pleased he was to find himself once more in the vicinity of his beloved. After congratulating the bishop on his recovered cheerfulness and placidity, George brought forward the name of Mab, and was pleased to find that his father was by no means so opposed to the match as formerly. Dr Pendle admitted again that Mab was a singularly charming young lady, and that his son might do worse than marry her. Late events had humbled the bishop's pride considerably; and the knowledge that George was nameless, induced him to consider Miss Arden more favourably as a wife for the young man. She was at least a lady, and not a barmaid like Bell Mosk; so the painful fact of Gabriel setting his heart so low made George's superior choice quite a brilliant match in comparison. On these grounds, the bishop intimated to Captain Pendle that, on consideration, he was disposed to overlook the rumours about Miss Arden's disreputable father and accept her as a daughter-in-law. It was with this joyful news that George, glowing and eager, as a lover should be, made his appearance the next morning at the Jenny Wren house.
'Thank God the bishop is reasonable,' cried Miss Whichello, when George explained the new position. 'I knew that Mab would gain his heart in the end.
'She gained mine in the beginning,' said Captain George, fondly, 'and that, after all, is the principal thing.
'What! your own heart, egotist! Does mine then count for nothing?
'Oh!' said George, slipping his arm round her waist, 'if we begin on that subject, my litany will be as long as the Athanasian Creed, and quite as devout.
'Captain Pendle!' exclaimed Miss Whichello, scandalised both by embrace and speech—both rather trying to a religious spinster.
'Miss Whichello,' mimicked the gay lover, 'am I not to be received into the family under the name of George?
'That depends on your behaviour, Captain Pendle. But I am both pleased and relieved that the bishop consents to the marriage.
'Aunty!' cried Mab, reddening a trifle,'don't talk as though it were a favour. I do not look upon myself as worthless, by any means.
'Worthless!' echoed George, gaily; 'then is gold mere dross, and diamonds but pebbles. You are the beauty of the universe, my darling, and I your lowest slave.' He threw himself at her feet. 'Set your pretty foot on my neck, my queen!
'Captain Pendle,' said Miss Whichello, striving to stifle a laugh, 'if you don't get up and behave properly I shall leave the room.
'If you do, aunty, he will get worse,' smiled Mab, ruffling what the barber had left of her lover's hair. 'Get up at once, you—you mad Romeo.
George rose obediently, and dusted his knees. 'Juliet, I obey,' said he, tragically; 'but no, you are not Juliet of the garden; you are Cleopatra! Semiramis! the most imperious and queenly of women. Where did you get your rich eastern beauty from, Mab? What are you, an Arabian princess, doing in our cold grey West? You are like some dark-browed queen! A daughter of Bohemia! A Romany sorceress!
Mab laughed, but Miss Whichello heaved a quick, impatient sigh, as though these eastern comparisons annoyed her. George was unconsciously making remarks which cut her to the heart; and almost unable to control her feelings, she muttered some excuse and glided hastily from the room. With the inherent selfishness of love, neither George nor Mab paid any attention to her emotion or departure, but whispered and smiled and caressed one another, well pleased at their sweet solitude. George spent one golden hour in paradise, then unwillingly tore himself away. Only Shakespeare could have done justice to the passion of their parting. Kisses and sighs, last looks, final handclasps, and then George in the sunshine of the square, with Mab waving her handkerchief from the open casement. But, alas! workaday prose always succeeds Arcadian rhyme, and with the sinking sun dies the glory of the day.
With his mind hanging betwixt a mental heaven and earth, after the similitude of Mahomet's coffin, George walked slowly down the street, until he was brought like a shot eagle to the ground by a touch on the shoulder. Now, as there is nothing more annoying than such a bailiff's salute, George wheeled round with some vigorous language on the tip of his tongue, but did not use it when he found himself facing Sir Harry Brace.
'Oh, it's you!' said Captain Pendle, lamely. 'Well, with your experience, you should know better than to pull up a fellow unawares.
'You talk in riddles, my good George,' said Harry, staring, as well he might, at this not very coherent speech.
'I have just left Miss Arden,' explained George, quite unabashed, for he did not care if the whole world knew of his love.
'Oh, I beg your pardon, I understand,' replied Brace, with a broad smile; 'but you must excuse me, old chap. I am—I am out of practice lately, you see. "My love she is in Germanee," as the old song says. I wish to speak with you.
'All right. Where shall we go?
'To the club. I must see you privately.
The Beorminster Club was just a short distance down the street, so George followed Harry into its hospitable portals and finally accepted a comfortable chair in the smoking-room, which, luckily for the purpose of Brace, was empty at that hour. The two young men each ordered a cool hock-and-soda and lighted two very excellent cigarettes which came out of the pocket of extravagant George. Then they began to talk, and Harry opened the conversation with a question.
'George,' he said, with a serious look on his usually merry face, 'were you on Southberry Heath on the night that poor devil was murdered?
'Oh, yes,' replied Captain Pendle, with some wonder at the question. 'I rode over to the gipsy camp to buy a particular ring from Mother Jael.
'For Miss Arden, I suppose?
'Yes; I wished for a necromantic symbol of our engagement.
'Did you hear or see anything of the murder?
'Good Lord, no!' cried the startled George, sitting up straight. 'I should have been at the inquest had I seen the act, or even heard the shot.
'Did you carry a pistol with you on that night?
'As I wasn't riding through Central Africa, I did not. What is the meaning of these mysterious questions?
Brace answered this query by slipping his hand into his breast-pocket and producing therefrom a neat little pistol, toy-like, but deadly enough in the hand of a good marksman. 'Is this yours?' he asked, holding it out for Captain Pendle's inspection.
'Certainly it is,' said George, handling the weapon; 'here are my initials on the butt. Where did you get this?
'It was found by Mother Jael near the spot where Jentham was murdered.
Captain Pendle clapped down the pistol on the table with an ejaculation of amazement. 'Was he shot with this, Harry?
'Without doubt!' replied Brace, gravely. 'Therefore, as it is your property, I wish to know how it came to be used for that purpose.
'Great Scott, Brace! you don't think that I killed the blackguard?
'I think nothing so ridiculous,' protested Sir Harry, testily.
'You talk as if you did, though,' retorted George, smartly. 'I thrashed that Jentham beast for insulting Mab, but I didn't shoot him.
'But the pistol is yours.
'I admit that, but—Good Lord!' cried Captain Pendle, starting to his feet.
'What now?' asked Brace, turning pale and cold on the instant.
'Gabriel! Gabriel! I—I gave this pistol to him.
'You gave this pistol to Gabriel? When? Where?
'In London,' explained George, rapidly. 'When he was in Whitechapel I knew that he went among a lot of roughs and thieves, so I insisted that he should carry this pistol for his protection. He was unwilling to do so at first, but in the end I persuaded him to slip it into his pocket. I have not seen it from that day to this.
'And it was found near Jentham's corpse,' said Brace, with a groan.
The two young men looked at one another in horrified silence, the same thoughts in the mind of each. The pistol had been in the possession of Gabriel; and Gabriel on the night of the murder had been in the vicinity of the crime.
'It—it is impossible,' whispered George, almost inaudibly, 'Gabriel can explain.
'Gabriel must explain,' said Brace, firmly; 'it is a matter of life and death!