en-fr  THE BISHOP’S SECRET by Fergus Hume, CHAPTER 15
THE GIPSY RING Almost at the very time Mosk was congratulating his daughter on the conquest of the curate, Captain Pendle was paying a visit to the Jenny Wren nest. He had only succeeded in obtaining a Saturday to Monday leave from his colonel, who did not approve of young officers being too long or too often absent from their duties, and was rejoining his regiment that very evening. As soon as he could get away from the palace he had left his portmanteau at the station and had come up to the Cathedral Close to see Mab. Much to his gratification he found her alone in the quaint old drawing-room, and blessed the Providence which had sent him thither at so propitious an hour.

'Aunty is lying down,' explained Mab, who looked rather worried and pale; 'she has been so upset over this horrid murder.'

'Egad! it has upset everyone,' said George, throwing himself into a chair. 'My father is so annoyed at such a thing happening in his diocese that he has retreated to his library and shut himself up. I could hardly get him to say good-bye. Though, upon my word,' added George, waxing warm, 'I don't see that the death of a wretched tramp is of such moment; yet it seems to have annoyed everyone.'

'Including yourself,' said Mab, remarking how worried her lover looked, and how far from being his pleasant, natural self.

'Yes, my dearest, including myself. When the bishop is annoyed my mother fidgets over him until she makes herself ill. Knowing this, he is usually careful not to let her see him when he is out of sorts, but to-day he was not so discreet, and the consequence is that my mother has an attack of nerves, and is lying on her sofa bathed in tears, with Lucy in attendance. Of course, all this has upset me in my turn.'

'Well, George, I suppose it is natural that the bishop should be put out, for such a terrible crime has not been committed here for years. Indeed, the Chronicle of last week was remarking how free from crime this place was.'

'And naturally the gods gave them the lie by arranging a first-class murder straight away,' said George, with a shrug. 'But why everybody should be in such a state I can't see. The palace is like an undertaker's establishment when business is dull. The only person who seems at all cheerful is that fellow Cargrim.'

'He ought to be annoyed for the bishop's sake.'

'Faith, then, he isn't, Mab. He's going about rubbing his hands and grinning like a Cheshire cat. I think the sight of him irritated me more than the mourners. I'm glad to go back to my work.'

'Are you glad to leave me?'

'No, you dear goose,' said he, taking her hand affectionately; 'that is the bitter drop in my cup. However, I have brought you something to draw us closer together. There!'

'Oh, George!' cried Mab, looking in ecstasy at the ring he had slipped on her finger, 'what a lovely, lovely ring, and what a queer one!—three turquoise stones set in a braid of silver. I never saw so unique a pattern.'

'I daresay not. It's not the kind of ring you'll come across every day, and precious hard work I had to get it.'

'Did you buy it in Beorminster?' asked Miss Arden, putting her head on one side to admire the peculiar setting of the blue stones.

'No; I bought it from Mother Jael.'

'From Mother Jael!—that old gipsy fortune-teller?'

'Precisely; from that very identical old Witch of Endor. I saw it on her lean paw when I was last in Beorminster, and she came hovering round to tell my fortune. The queer look of it took my fancy, and I determined to secure it for our engagement ring. However, the old lady wasn't to be bribed into parting with it, but last night I rode out to the camp on Southberry Common and succeeded in getting it off her. She is a regular Jew at a bargain, and haggled for an hour before she would let me have it. Ultimately I gave her the price she asked, and there it is on your pretty hand.'

'How sweet of you, George, to take so much trouble! I shall value the ring greatly for your sake.'

'And for your own too, I hope. It is a lucky ring, and came from the East, Mother Jael said, in the old, old days. It looks rather Egyptian, so perhaps Cleopatra wore it when she went to meet Anthony!'

'Such nonsense! but it is a dear, lovely ring, and I'll wear it always.'

'I think I deserve a kiss from you for my trouble,' said George, drawing her lovely, glowing face towards him. 'There, darling; the next ring I place on your finger will be a plain golden one, not from the East, but from an honest Beorminster jeweller.'

'But, George'—Mab laid her head on his breast—'I am not sure if I ought to accept it, really. Your father does not know of our engagement.'

'I intend to tell him when I next visit Beorminster, my love. Indeed, but that he takes this wretched murder so much to heart I would have told him to-day. Still, you need not scruple to wear it, dearest, for your aunt and my mother are both agreed that you will make me the sweetest of wives.'

'Aunty is always urging me to ask you to tell your father.'

'Then you can inform her that I'll do so next—why, here is your aunt, my dear.'

'Aunty!' cried Mab, as Miss Whichello, like a little white ghost, moved into the room. 'I thought your head was so bad.'

'It is better now, my dear,' replied the old lady, who really looked very ill. 'How do you do, Captain Pendle?'

'Hadn't you better call me George, Miss Whichello?'

'No, I hadn't, my dear man; at least, not until your engagement with Mab is an accomplished fact.'

'But it is an accomplished fact now, aunty,' said Mab, showing the ring. 'Here is the visible sign of our engagement.'

'A strange ring, but very charming,' pronounced Miss Whichello, examining the jewel. 'But does the bishop know?'

'I intend to tell him when I come back next week' said George, promptly. 'At present he is too upset with this murder to pay much attention to my love affairs.'

'Upset with this murder!' cried the little lady, dropping into a chair. 'I don't wonder at it. I am quite ill with the news.'

'I'm sure I don't see why, aunty. This Jentham tramp wasn't a relative, you know.'

Miss Whichello shuddered, and, if possible, turned paler. 'He was a human being, Mab,' she said, in a low voice, 'and it is terrible to think that the poor wretch, however evil he may have been, should have come to so miserable an end. Is it known who shot him, Captain Pendle?'

'No; there are all sorts of rumours, of course, but none of them very reliable. It's a pity, too,' added George, reflectively, 'for if I had only been a little earlier in leaving Mother Jael I might have heard the shot and captured the murderer.'

'What do you mean, Captain Pendle?' cried Miss Whichello, with a start.

'Why, didn't I tell you? No, of course I didn't; it was Mab I told.'

'What did you tell her?' questioned the old lady, with some impatience.

'That I was on Southberry Heath last night.'

'What were you doing there?'

'Seeing after that gipsy ring for Mab,' explained George, pulling his moustache. 'I bought it of Mother Jael, and had to ride out to the camp to make the bargain. As I am going back into harness to-day, there wasn't much time to lose, so I went off last night after dinner, between eight and nine o'clock, and the old jade kept me so long fixing up the business that I didn't reach home until eleven. By Jove! I got a jolly ducking; looked like an insane river god dripping with wet.'

'Did you see anything of the murder, Captain Pendle?'

'No; didn't even hear the shot, though that wasn't to be wondered at, considering the row made by rain and thunder.'

'Where was the body found?'

'Somewhere in a ditch near the high road, I believe. At all events, it wasn't in the way, or my gee would have tumbled across it.'

Miss Whichello reflected. 'The bishop was over at Southberry yesterday, was he not?' she asked.

'Yes, at a confirmation service. He rode back across the common, and reached the palace just before I did—about half an hour or so.'

'Did he hear or see anything?'

'Not to my knowledge; but the truth is, I haven't had an opportunity of asking questions. He is so annoyed at the disgrace to the diocese by the committal of this crime that he's quite beside himself. I was just telling Mab about it when you came in. Six o'clock!' cried Captain George, starting up as the chimes rang out. 'I must be off. If I'm late at barracks my colonel will parade me to-morrow, and go down my throat, spurs, boots and all.'

'Wait a moment, Captain Pendle, and I'll come with you.'

'But your headache, aunty?' remonstrated Mab.

'My dear, a walk in the fresh air will do me good. I shall go with Captain Pendle to the station. Make your adieux, young people, while I put on my bonnet and cloak.'

When Miss Whichello left the room, Mab, who had been admiring her ring during the foregoing conversation, was so impressed with its quaint beauty that she again thanked George for having given it to her. This piece of politeness led to an exhibition of tenderness on the part of the departing lover, and during the dragon's absence this foolish young couple talked the charming nonsense which people in their condition particularly affect. Realism is a very good thing in its own way, but to set down an actual love conversation would be carrying it to excess. Only the exaggerated exaltation of mind attendant on love-making can enable lovers to endure the transcendentalism with which they bore one another. And then the look which makes an arrow of the most trifling phrase, the caress which gives the merest glance a most eloquent meaning—how can prosaic pen and ink and paper report these fittingly? The sympathetic reader must guess what George and Mab said to one another. He must fancy how they said it, and he or she must see in his or her mind's eye how young and beautiful and glowing they looked when Miss Whichello, as the prose of their poetry, walked into the room. The dear old lady smiled approvingly when she saw their bright faces, for she too had lived in Arcady, although the envious gods had turned her out of it long since.

'Now, Captain Pendle, when you have done talking nonsense with that child I'm ready.'

'Do call me George, Miss Whichello,' entreated the captain.

'No, sir; not until your father gives this engagement his episcopalian blessing. No nonsense. Come along.'

But Miss Whichello's bark was worse than her bite, for she discreetly left the room, so that the love-birds could take a tender leave of each other, and Captain Pendle found her standing on the steps outside with a broad smile on her face.

'You are sure you have not forgotten your gloves, Captain Pendle?' she asked smilingly.

'No,' replied George, innocently, 'I have them with me.'

'Oh!' exclaimed Miss Whichello, marching down the steps like a toy soldier, 'in my youth young men in your condition always forgot their gloves.'

'By Jove! I have left something behind me, though.'

'Your heart, probably. Never mind, it is in safe keeping. None of your tricks, sir. Come, come!' and Miss Whichello marched the captain off with a twinkle in her bright eyes. The little old lady was one of those loved by the gods, for she would undoubtedly die young in heart.

Still, as she walked with Captain Pendle to the station in the gathering darkness, she looked worried and white. George could not see her face in the dusk, and moreover was too much taken up with his late charming interview to notice his companion's preoccupation. In spite of her sympathy, Miss Whichello grew weary of a monologue on the part of George, in which the name of 'Mab' occurred fifty times and more. She was glad when the train steamed off with this too happy lover, and promised to deliver all kinds of unnecessary messages to the girl George had left behind him.

'But let them be happy while they can,' murmured Miss Whichello, as she tripped back through the town. 'Poor souls, if they only knew what I know.'

As Miss Whichello had the meaning of this enigmatic speech in her mind, she did not think it was necessary to put it into words, but, silent and pensive, walked along the crowded pavement. Shortly she turned down a side street which led to the police-station, and there paused in a quiet corner to pin a veil round her head—a veil so thick that her features could hardly be distinguished through it. The poor lady adopted this as a kind of disguise, forgetting that her old-fashioned poke bonnet and quaint silk cloak were as well known to the inhabitants of Beorminster as the cathedral itself. That early century garb was as familiar to the rascality of the slums as to the richer citizens; even the police knew it well, for they had often seen its charitable wearer by the bedsides of dying paupers. It thus happened that, when Miss Whichello presented herself at the police-station to Inspector Tinkler, he knew her at once, in spite of her foolish little veil. Moreover, in greeting her he pronounced her name.

'Hush, hush, Mr Inspector,' whispered Miss Whichello, with a mysterious glance around. 'I do not wish it to be known that I called here.'

'You can depend upon my discretion, Miss Whichello, ma'am,' said the inspector, who was a bluff and tyrannical ex-sergeant. 'And what can I do for you?'

Miss Whichello looked round again. 'I wish, Mr Inspector,' said she, in a very small voice, 'to be taken by you to the dead-house.'

'To the dead-house, Miss Whichello, ma'am!' said the iron Tinkler, hardly able to conceal his astonishment, although it was against his disciplinarian ideas to show emotion.

'There is a dead man in there, Mr Inspector, whom I knew under very different circumstances more than twenty years ago.'

'Answers to the name of Jentham, perhaps?' suggested Mr Inspector.

'Yes, he called himself Jentham, I believe. I—I—I wish to see his body;' and the little old lady looked anxiously into Tinkler's purple face.

'Miss Whichello, ma'am,' said the ex-sergeant with an official air, 'this request requires reflection. Do you know the party in question?'

'I knew him, as I told you, more than twenty years ago. He was then a very talented violinist, and I heard him play frequently in London.'

'What was his name, Miss Whichello, ma'am?'

'His name then, Mr Inspector, was Amaru!'

'A stage name I take it to be, ma'am!'

'Yes! a stage name.'

'What was his real name?'

'I can't say,' replied Miss Whichello, in a hesitating voice. 'I knew him only as Amaru.'

'Humph! here he called himself Jentham. Do you know anything about this murder, Miss Whichello, ma'am?' and the inspector fixed a blood-shot grey eye on the thick veil.

'No! no! I know nothing about the murder!' cried Miss Whichello in earnest tones. 'I heard that this man Jentham looked like a gipsy and was marked with a scar on the right cheek. From that description I thought that he might be Amaru, and I wish to see his body to be certain that I am right.'

'Well, Miss Whichello, ma'am,' said the stern Tinkler, after some deliberation, 'your request is out of the usual course of things; but knowing you as a good and charitable lady, and thinking you may throw some light on this mysterious crime—why, I'll show you the corpse with pleasure.'

'One moment,' said the old lady, laying a detaining hand on the inspector's blue cloth sleeve. 'I must tell you that I can throw no light on the subject; if I could I would. I simply desire to see the body of this man and to satisfy myself that he is Amaru.'

'Very good, Miss Whichello, ma'am; you shall see it.'

'And you'll not mention that I came here, Mr Inspector.'

'I give you my word, ma'am—the word of a soldier. This way, Miss Whichello, this way.'

Following the rigid figure of the inspector, the little old lady was conducted by him to a small building of galvanised tin in the rear of the police-station. Several idlers were hanging about, amongst them being Miss Bell Mosk, who was trying to persuade a handsome young policeman to gratify her morbid curiosity. Her eyes opened to their widest width when she recognised Miss Whichello's silk cloak and poke bonnet, and saw them vanish into the dead-house.

'Well I never!' said Miss Mosk. 'I never thought she'd be fond of corpses at her time of life, seeing as she'll soon be one herself.'

The little old lady and the inspector remained within for five or six minutes. When they came out the tears were falling fast beneath Miss Whichello's veil.

'Is that the man?' asked Tinkler, in a low voice.

'Yes!' replied Miss Whichello; 'that is the man I knew as Amaru.'
unit 6
'Egad!
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it has upset everyone,' said George, throwing himself into a chair.
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I could hardly get him to say good-bye.
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'Yes, my dearest, including myself.
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Of course, all this has upset me in my turn.'
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'But why everybody should be in such a state I can't see.
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The palace is like an undertaker's establishment when business is dull.
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The only person who seems at all cheerful is that fellow Cargrim.'
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'He ought to be annoyed for the bishop's sake.'
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'Faith, then, he isn't, Mab.
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He's going about rubbing his hands and grinning like a Cheshire cat.
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I think the sight of him irritated me more than the mourners.
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I'm glad to go back to my work.'
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'Are you glad to leave me?'
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However, I have brought you something to draw us closer together.
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There!'
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'Oh, George!'
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I never saw so unique a pattern.'
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'I daresay not.
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'Did you buy it in Beorminster?'
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'No; I bought it from Mother Jael.'
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'From Mother Jael!—that old gipsy fortune-teller?'
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'Precisely; from that very identical old Witch of Endor.
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'How sweet of you, George, to take so much trouble!
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I shall value the ring greatly for your sake.'
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'And for your own too, I hope.
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'Such nonsense!
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but it is a dear, lovely ring, and I'll wear it always.'
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Your father does not know of our engagement.'
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'I intend to tell him when I next visit Beorminster, my love.
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'Aunty is always urging me to ask you to tell your father.'
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'Aunty!'
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'I thought your head was so bad.'
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'Hadn't you better call me George, Miss Whichello?'
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'But it is an accomplished fact now, aunty,' said Mab, showing the ring.
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'Here is the visible sign of our engagement.'
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'But does the bishop know?'
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'I intend to tell him when I come back next week' said George, promptly.
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'Upset with this murder!'
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cried the little lady, dropping into a chair.
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'I don't wonder at it.
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I am quite ill with the news.'
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'I'm sure I don't see why, aunty.
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This Jentham tramp wasn't a relative, you know.'
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Miss Whichello shuddered, and, if possible, turned paler.
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Is it known who shot him, Captain Pendle?'
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'What do you mean, Captain Pendle?'
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cried Miss Whichello, with a start.
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'Why, didn't I tell you?
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No, of course I didn't; it was Mab I told.'
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'What did you tell her?'
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questioned the old lady, with some impatience.
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'That I was on Southberry Heath last night.'
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'What were you doing there?'
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By Jove!
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'Did you see anything of the murder, Captain Pendle?'
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'Where was the body found?'
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'Somewhere in a ditch near the high road, I believe.
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Miss Whichello reflected.
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'The bishop was over at Southberry yesterday, was he not?'
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she asked.
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'Yes, at a confirmation service.
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'Did he hear or see anything?'
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I was just telling Mab about it when you came in.
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Six o'clock!'
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cried Captain George, starting up as the chimes rang out.
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'I must be off.
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'Wait a moment, Captain Pendle, and I'll come with you.'
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'But your headache, aunty?'
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remonstrated Mab.
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'My dear, a walk in the fresh air will do me good.
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I shall go with Captain Pendle to the station.
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Make your adieux, young people, while I put on my bonnet and cloak.'
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'Do call me George, Miss Whichello,' entreated the captain.
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No nonsense.
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Come along.'
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'You are sure you have not forgotten your gloves, Captain Pendle?'
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she asked smilingly.
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'No,' replied George, innocently, 'I have them with me.'
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'Oh!'
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'By Jove!
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I have left something behind me, though.'
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'Your heart, probably.
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Never mind, it is in safe keeping.
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None of your tricks, sir.
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Come, come!'
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'Poor souls, if they only knew what I know.'
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Moreover, in greeting her he pronounced her name.
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'I do not wish it to be known that I called here.'
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'And what can I do for you?'
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Miss Whichello looked round again.
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'To the dead-house, Miss Whichello, ma'am!'
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'Answers to the name of Jentham, perhaps?'
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suggested Mr Inspector.
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'Yes, he called himself Jentham, I believe.
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Do you know the party in question?'
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'I knew him, as I told you, more than twenty years ago.
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'What was his name, Miss Whichello, ma'am?'
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'His name then, Mr Inspector, was Amaru!'
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'A stage name I take it to be, ma'am!'
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'Yes!
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a stage name.'
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'What was his real name?'
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'I can't say,' replied Miss Whichello, in a hesitating voice.
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'I knew him only as Amaru.'
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'Humph!
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here he called himself Jentham.
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Do you know anything about this murder, Miss Whichello, ma'am?'
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and the inspector fixed a blood-shot grey eye on the thick veil.
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'No!
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no!
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I know nothing about the murder!'
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cried Miss Whichello in earnest tones.
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'Very good, Miss Whichello, ma'am; you shall see it.'
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'And you'll not mention that I came here, Mr Inspector.'
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'I give you my word, ma'am—the word of a soldier.
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This way, Miss Whichello, this way.'
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'Well I never!'
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said Miss Mosk.
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'Is that the man?'
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asked Tinkler, in a low voice.
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'Yes!'
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replied Miss Whichello; 'that is the man I knew as Amaru.'
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THE GIPSY RING

Almost at the very time Mosk was congratulating his daughter on the conquest of the curate, Captain Pendle was paying a visit to the Jenny Wren nest. He had only succeeded in obtaining a Saturday to Monday leave from his colonel, who did not approve of young officers being too long or too often absent from their duties, and was rejoining his regiment that very evening. As soon as he could get away from the palace he had left his portmanteau at the station and had come up to the Cathedral Close to see Mab. Much to his gratification he found her alone in the quaint old drawing-room, and blessed the Providence which had sent him thither at so propitious an hour.

'Aunty is lying down,' explained Mab, who looked rather worried and pale; 'she has been so upset over this horrid murder.'

'Egad! it has upset everyone,' said George, throwing himself into a chair. 'My father is so annoyed at such a thing happening in his diocese that he has retreated to his library and shut himself up. I could hardly get him to say good-bye. Though, upon my word,' added George, waxing warm, 'I don't see that the death of a wretched tramp is of such moment; yet it seems to have annoyed everyone.'

'Including yourself,' said Mab, remarking how worried her lover looked, and how far from being his pleasant, natural self.

'Yes, my dearest, including myself. When the bishop is annoyed my mother fidgets over him until she makes herself ill. Knowing this, he is usually careful not to let her see him when he is out of sorts, but to-day he was not so discreet, and the consequence is that my mother has an attack of nerves, and is lying on her sofa bathed in tears, with Lucy in attendance. Of course, all this has upset me in my turn.'

'Well, George, I suppose it is natural that the bishop should be put out, for such a terrible crime has not been committed here for years. Indeed, the Chronicle of last week was remarking how free from crime this place was.'

'And naturally the gods gave them the lie by arranging a first-class murder straight away,' said George, with a shrug. 'But why everybody should be in such a state I can't see. The palace is like an undertaker's establishment when business is dull. The only person who seems at all cheerful is that fellow Cargrim.'

'He ought to be annoyed for the bishop's sake.'

'Faith, then, he isn't, Mab. He's going about rubbing his hands and grinning like a Cheshire cat. I think the sight of him irritated me more than the mourners. I'm glad to go back to my work.'

'Are you glad to leave me?'

'No, you dear goose,' said he, taking her hand affectionately; 'that is the bitter drop in my cup. However, I have brought you something to draw us closer together. There!'

'Oh, George!' cried Mab, looking in ecstasy at the ring he had slipped on her finger, 'what a lovely, lovely ring, and what a queer one!—three turquoise stones set in a braid of silver. I never saw so unique a pattern.'

'I daresay not. It's not the kind of ring you'll come across every day, and precious hard work I had to get it.'

'Did you buy it in Beorminster?' asked Miss Arden, putting her head on one side to admire the peculiar setting of the blue stones.

'No; I bought it from Mother Jael.'

'From Mother Jael!—that old gipsy fortune-teller?'

'Precisely; from that very identical old Witch of Endor. I saw it on her lean paw when I was last in Beorminster, and she came hovering round to tell my fortune. The queer look of it took my fancy, and I determined to secure it for our engagement ring. However, the old lady wasn't to be bribed into parting with it, but last night I rode out to the camp on Southberry Common and succeeded in getting it off her. She is a regular Jew at a bargain, and haggled for an hour before she would let me have it. Ultimately I gave her the price she asked, and there it is on your pretty hand.'

'How sweet of you, George, to take so much trouble! I shall value the ring greatly for your sake.'

'And for your own too, I hope. It is a lucky ring, and came from the East, Mother Jael said, in the old, old days. It looks rather Egyptian, so perhaps Cleopatra wore it when she went to meet Anthony!'

'Such nonsense! but it is a dear, lovely ring, and I'll wear it always.'

'I think I deserve a kiss from you for my trouble,' said George, drawing her lovely, glowing face towards him. 'There, darling; the next ring I place on your finger will be a plain golden one, not from the East, but from an honest Beorminster jeweller.'

'But, George'—Mab laid her head on his breast—'I am not sure if I ought to accept it, really. Your father does not know of our engagement.'

'I intend to tell him when I next visit Beorminster, my love. Indeed, but that he takes this wretched murder so much to heart I would have told him to-day. Still, you need not scruple to wear it, dearest, for your aunt and my mother are both agreed that you will make me the sweetest of wives.'

'Aunty is always urging me to ask you to tell your father.'

'Then you can inform her that I'll do so next—why, here is your aunt, my dear.'

'Aunty!' cried Mab, as Miss Whichello, like a little white ghost, moved into the room. 'I thought your head was so bad.'

'It is better now, my dear,' replied the old lady, who really looked very ill. 'How do you do, Captain Pendle?'

'Hadn't you better call me George, Miss Whichello?'

'No, I hadn't, my dear man; at least, not until your engagement with Mab is an accomplished fact.'

'But it is an accomplished fact now, aunty,' said Mab, showing the ring. 'Here is the visible sign of our engagement.'

'A strange ring, but very charming,' pronounced Miss Whichello, examining the jewel. 'But does the bishop know?'

'I intend to tell him when I come back next week' said George, promptly. 'At present he is too upset with this murder to pay much attention to my love affairs.'

'Upset with this murder!' cried the little lady, dropping into a chair. 'I don't wonder at it. I am quite ill with the news.'

'I'm sure I don't see why, aunty. This Jentham tramp wasn't a relative, you know.'

Miss Whichello shuddered, and, if possible, turned paler. 'He was a human being, Mab,' she said, in a low voice, 'and it is terrible to think that the poor wretch, however evil he may have been, should have come to so miserable an end. Is it known who shot him, Captain Pendle?'

'No; there are all sorts of rumours, of course, but none of them very reliable. It's a pity, too,' added George, reflectively, 'for if I had only been a little earlier in leaving Mother Jael I might have heard the shot and captured the murderer.'

'What do you mean, Captain Pendle?' cried Miss Whichello, with a start.

'Why, didn't I tell you? No, of course I didn't; it was Mab I told.'

'What did you tell her?' questioned the old lady, with some impatience.

'That I was on Southberry Heath last night.'

'What were you doing there?'

'Seeing after that gipsy ring for Mab,' explained George, pulling his moustache. 'I bought it of Mother Jael, and had to ride out to the camp to make the bargain. As I am going back into harness to-day, there wasn't much time to lose, so I went off last night after dinner, between eight and nine o'clock, and the old jade kept me so long fixing up the business that I didn't reach home until eleven. By Jove! I got a jolly ducking; looked like an insane river god dripping with wet.'

'Did you see anything of the murder, Captain Pendle?'

'No; didn't even hear the shot, though that wasn't to be wondered at, considering the row made by rain and thunder.'

'Where was the body found?'

'Somewhere in a ditch near the high road, I believe. At all events, it wasn't in the way, or my gee would have tumbled across it.'

Miss Whichello reflected. 'The bishop was over at Southberry yesterday, was he not?' she asked.

'Yes, at a confirmation service. He rode back across the common, and reached the palace just before I did—about half an hour or so.'

'Did he hear or see anything?'

'Not to my knowledge; but the truth is, I haven't had an opportunity of asking questions. He is so annoyed at the disgrace to the diocese by the committal of this crime that he's quite beside himself. I was just telling Mab about it when you came in. Six o'clock!' cried Captain George, starting up as the chimes rang out. 'I must be off. If I'm late at barracks my colonel will parade me to-morrow, and go down my throat, spurs, boots and all.'

'Wait a moment, Captain Pendle, and I'll come with you.'

'But your headache, aunty?' remonstrated Mab.

'My dear, a walk in the fresh air will do me good. I shall go with Captain Pendle to the station. Make your adieux, young people, while I put on my bonnet and cloak.'

When Miss Whichello left the room, Mab, who had been admiring her ring during the foregoing conversation, was so impressed with its quaint beauty that she again thanked George for having given it to her. This piece of politeness led to an exhibition of tenderness on the part of the departing lover, and during the dragon's absence this foolish young couple talked the charming nonsense which people in their condition particularly affect. Realism is a very good thing in its own way, but to set down an actual love conversation would be carrying it to excess. Only the exaggerated exaltation of mind attendant on love-making can enable lovers to endure the transcendentalism with which they bore one another. And then the look which makes an arrow of the most trifling phrase, the caress which gives the merest glance a most eloquent meaning—how can prosaic pen and ink and paper report these fittingly? The sympathetic reader must guess what George and Mab said to one another. He must fancy how they said it, and he or she must see in his or her mind's eye how young and beautiful and glowing they looked when Miss Whichello, as the prose of their poetry, walked into the room. The dear old lady smiled approvingly when she saw their bright faces, for she too had lived in Arcady, although the envious gods had turned her out of it long since.

'Now, Captain Pendle, when you have done talking nonsense with that child I'm ready.'

'Do call me George, Miss Whichello,' entreated the captain.

'No, sir; not until your father gives this engagement his episcopalian blessing. No nonsense. Come along.'

But Miss Whichello's bark was worse than her bite, for she discreetly left the room, so that the love-birds could take a tender leave of each other, and Captain Pendle found her standing on the steps outside with a broad smile on her face.

'You are sure you have not forgotten your gloves, Captain Pendle?' she asked smilingly.

'No,' replied George, innocently, 'I have them with me.'

'Oh!' exclaimed Miss Whichello, marching down the steps like a toy soldier, 'in my youth young men in your condition always forgot their gloves.'

'By Jove! I have left something behind me, though.'

'Your heart, probably. Never mind, it is in safe keeping. None of your tricks, sir. Come, come!' and Miss Whichello marched the captain off with a twinkle in her bright eyes. The little old lady was one of those loved by the gods, for she would undoubtedly die young in heart.

Still, as she walked with Captain Pendle to the station in the gathering darkness, she looked worried and white. George could not see her face in the dusk, and moreover was too much taken up with his late charming interview to notice his companion's preoccupation. In spite of her sympathy, Miss Whichello grew weary of a monologue on the part of George, in which the name of 'Mab' occurred fifty times and more. She was glad when the train steamed off with this too happy lover, and promised to deliver all kinds of unnecessary messages to the girl George had left behind him.

'But let them be happy while they can,' murmured Miss Whichello, as she tripped back through the town. 'Poor souls, if they only knew what I know.'

As Miss Whichello had the meaning of this enigmatic speech in her mind, she did not think it was necessary to put it into words, but, silent and pensive, walked along the crowded pavement. Shortly she turned down a side street which led to the police-station, and there paused in a quiet corner to pin a veil round her head—a veil so thick that her features could hardly be distinguished through it. The poor lady adopted this as a kind of disguise, forgetting that her old-fashioned poke bonnet and quaint silk cloak were as well known to the inhabitants of Beorminster as the cathedral itself. That early century garb was as familiar to the rascality of the slums as to the richer citizens; even the police knew it well, for they had often seen its charitable wearer by the bedsides of dying paupers. It thus happened that, when Miss Whichello presented herself at the police-station to Inspector Tinkler, he knew her at once, in spite of her foolish little veil. Moreover, in greeting her he pronounced her name.

'Hush, hush, Mr Inspector,' whispered Miss Whichello, with a mysterious glance around. 'I do not wish it to be known that I called here.'

'You can depend upon my discretion, Miss Whichello, ma'am,' said the inspector, who was a bluff and tyrannical ex-sergeant. 'And what can I do for you?'

Miss Whichello looked round again. 'I wish, Mr Inspector,' said she, in a very small voice, 'to be taken by you to the dead-house.'

'To the dead-house, Miss Whichello, ma'am!' said the iron Tinkler, hardly able to conceal his astonishment, although it was against his disciplinarian ideas to show emotion.

'There is a dead man in there, Mr Inspector, whom I knew under very different circumstances more than twenty years ago.'

'Answers to the name of Jentham, perhaps?' suggested Mr Inspector.

'Yes, he called himself Jentham, I believe. I—I—I wish to see his body;' and the little old lady looked anxiously into Tinkler's purple face.

'Miss Whichello, ma'am,' said the ex-sergeant with an official air, 'this request requires reflection. Do you know the party in question?'

'I knew him, as I told you, more than twenty years ago. He was then a very talented violinist, and I heard him play frequently in London.'

'What was his name, Miss Whichello, ma'am?'

'His name then, Mr Inspector, was Amaru!'

'A stage name I take it to be, ma'am!'

'Yes! a stage name.'

'What was his real name?'

'I can't say,' replied Miss Whichello, in a hesitating voice. 'I knew him only as Amaru.'

'Humph! here he called himself Jentham. Do you know anything about this murder, Miss Whichello, ma'am?' and the inspector fixed a blood-shot grey eye on the thick veil.

'No! no! I know nothing about the murder!' cried Miss Whichello in earnest tones. 'I heard that this man Jentham looked like a gipsy and was marked with a scar on the right cheek. From that description I thought that he might be Amaru, and I wish to see his body to be certain that I am right.'

'Well, Miss Whichello, ma'am,' said the stern Tinkler, after some deliberation, 'your request is out of the usual course of things; but knowing you as a good and charitable lady, and thinking you may throw some light on this mysterious crime—why, I'll show you the corpse with pleasure.'

'One moment,' said the old lady, laying a detaining hand on the inspector's blue cloth sleeve. 'I must tell you that I can throw no light on the subject; if I could I would. I simply desire to see the body of this man and to satisfy myself that he is Amaru.'

'Very good, Miss Whichello, ma'am; you shall see it.'

'And you'll not mention that I came here, Mr Inspector.'

'I give you my word, ma'am—the word of a soldier. This way, Miss Whichello, this way.'

Following the rigid figure of the inspector, the little old lady was conducted by him to a small building of galvanised tin in the rear of the police-station. Several idlers were hanging about, amongst them being Miss Bell Mosk, who was trying to persuade a handsome young policeman to gratify her morbid curiosity. Her eyes opened to their widest width when she recognised Miss Whichello's silk cloak and poke bonnet, and saw them vanish into the dead-house.

'Well I never!' said Miss Mosk. 'I never thought she'd be fond of corpses at her time of life, seeing as she'll soon be one herself.'

The little old lady and the inspector remained within for five or six minutes. When they came out the tears were falling fast beneath Miss Whichello's veil.

'Is that the man?' asked Tinkler, in a low voice.

'Yes!' replied Miss Whichello; 'that is the man I knew as Amaru.'