Paul looked from the fresh-colored
woman who spoke so smoothly and so firmly to the apish
lawyer hunched in his chair with a sphinx-like look
on his wrinkled face. For the moment, so taken
aback was he by this astounding announcement, that
he could not speak. The younger woman stared
at him with her hard blue eyes, and a smile played
round her full lips. The mother also looked at
him in an engaging way, as though she rather admired
his youthful comeliness in spite of his well-brushed,
“I don’t know what you
mean,” said Beecot at length, “Mr. Pash?”
The lawyer aroused himself to make
a concise statement of the case. “So far
as I understand,” he said in his nervous, irritable
way, “these ladies claim to be the wife and
daughter of Lemuel Krill, whom we knew as Aaron Norman.”
“And I think by his real name
also,” said the elder woman in her deep, smooth
contralto voice, and with the display of an admirable
set of teeth. “The bills advertising the
reward, and stating the fact of the murder, bore my
late husband’s real name.”
“Norman was not your husband,
madam,” cried Paul, indignantly.
“I agree with you, sir.
Lemuel Krill was my husband. I saw in the newspapers,
which penetrate even into the quiet little Hants village
I live in, that Aaron Norman had been murdered.
I never thought he was the man who had left me more
than twenty years ago with an only child to bring
up. But the bills offering the reward assured
me that Norman and Krill are one and the same man.
Therefore,” she drew herself up and looked piercingly
at the young man, “I have come to see after the
property. I understand from the papers that my
daughter is an heiress to millions.”
“Not millions,” said Pash,
hastily. “The newspapers have exaggerated
the amount. Five thousand a year, madam, and
it is left to Sylvia.”
“Who is Sylvia?” asked
Mrs. Krill, in the words of Shakespeare’s song.
“She is the daughter of Mr.
Norman,” said Paul, quickly, “and is engaged
to marry me.”
Mrs. Krill’s eyes travelled
over his shabby suit from head to foot, and then back
again from foot to head. She glanced sideways
at her companion, and the girl laughed in a hard,
contemptuous manner. “I fear you will be
disappointed in losing a rich wife, sir,” said
the elder woman, sweetly.
“I have not lost the money yet,”
replied Paul, hotly. “Not that I care for
“Of course not,” put in
Mrs. Krill, ironically, with another look at his dress.
“But I do care for Sylvia Norman - ”
“With whom I have nothing to do.”
“She is your husband’s daughter.”
“But not mine. This is
my daughter, Maud - the legal daughter of
Lemuel and myself,” she added meaningly.
“Good heavens, madam,”
cried Beecot, his face turning white, “what do
Mrs. Krill raised her thick white
eyebrows, and shrugged her plump shoulders, and made
a graceful motion with her white, be-ringed hand.
“Is there any need for me to explain?”
she said calmly.
“I think there is every need,”
cried Beecot, sharply. “I shall not allow
Miss Norman to lose her fortune or - ”
“Or lose it yourself, sir.
I quite understand. Nevertheless, I am assured
that the law of the land will protect, through me,
my daughter’s rights. She leaves it in
“Yes,” said the girl,
in a voice as full and rich and soft as her smooth-faced
mother, “I leave it in her hands.”
Paul sat down and concealed his face
with a groan. He was thinking not so much of
the loss of the money, although that was a consideration,
as of the shame Sylvia would feel at her position.
Then a gleam of hope darted into his mind. “Mr.
Norman was married to Sylvia’s mother under
his own name. You can’t prove the marriage
“I have no wish to. When did this marriage
Beecot looked at the lawyer, who replied.
“Twenty-two years ago,” and he gave the
Mrs. Krill fished in a black morocco
bag she carried and brought out a shabby blue envelope.
“I thought this might be needed,” she said,
passing it to Pash. “You will find there
my marriage certificate. I became the wife of
Lemuel Krill thirty years ago. And, as I am still
living, I fear the later marriage - ”
She smiled blandly and shrugged her shoulders again.
“Poor girl!” she said with covert insolence.
“Sylvia does not need your pity,”
cried Beecot, stung by the insinuation.
“Indeed, sir,” said Mrs.
Krill, sadly, and with the look of a treacherous cat,
“I fear she needs the pity of all right-thinking
people. Many would speak harshly of her, seeing
what she is, but my troubles have taught me charity.
I repeat that I am sorry for the girl.”
“And again I say there is no
need,” rejoined Paul, throwing back his head;
“and you forget, madam, there is a will.”
Mrs. Krill’s fresh color turned
to a dull white, and her hard eyes shot fire.
“A will,” she said slowly. “I
shall dispute the will if it is not in my favor.
I am the widow of this man and I claim full justice.
Besides,” she went on, wetting her full lips
with her tongue, “I understood from the newspapers
that the money was left to Mr. Krill’s daughter.”
“Certainly. To Sylvia Krill.”
“Norman, sir. She has no
right to any other name. But I really do not
see why I should explain myself to you, sir. If
you choose to give this girl your name you will be
doing a good act. At present the poor creature
is - nobody.” She let the last
word drop from her lips slowly, so as to give Paul
its full sting.
Beecot said nothing. He could
not dispute what she said. If this woman could
prove the marriage of thirty years ago, then Krill,
or Norman as he called himself, had committed bigamy,
and, in the hard eyes of the law, Sylvia was nobody’s
child. And that the marriage could be proved
Paul saw well enough from the looks of the lawyer,
who was studying the certificate which he had drawn
from the shabby blue envelope. “Then the
will - the money is left to Sylvia,”
he said with obstinacy. “I shall defend
“Of course,” said Mrs.
Krill, significantly. “I understand that
a wife with five thousand - ”
“I would marry Sylvia without a penny.”
“Indeed, sir, that is the only
way in which you can marry her. If you like I
shall allow her twenty pounds for a trousseau.”
Paul rose and flung back his head
again. “You have not got the money yet,
madam,” he said defiantly.
Not at all disturbed, Mrs. Krill smiled
her eternal smile. “I am here to get it.
There is a will, you say,” she added, turning
to Pash. “And I understand from this gentleman,”
she indicated Beecot slightly, “that the money
is left to Mr. Krill’s daughter. Does he
name Maud or Sylvia?”
Pash slapped down the certificate
irritably. “He names no one. The will
is a hasty document badly worded, and simply leaves
all the testator died possessed of to - my
“Which of course means Maud
here. I congratulate you, dear,” she said,
turning to the girl, who looked happy and flushed.
“Your father has made up to us both for his
cruelty and desertion.”
Seeing that there was nothing to be
said, Paul went to the door. But there his common
sense left him and he made a valedictory speech.
“I know that Mr. Krill left the money to Sylvia.”
“Oh, no,” said the widow,
“to his daughter, as I understand the wording
of the will runs. In that case this nameless girl
“Pash!” cried Beecot,
turning despairingly to the little solicitor.
The old man shook his head and sucked
in his cheeks. “I am sorry, Mr. Beecot,”
said he, in a pitying tone, “but as the will
stands the money must certainly go to the child born
in wedlock. I have the certificate here,”
he laid his monkey paw on it, “but of course
I shall make inquiries.”
“By all means,” said Mrs.
Krill, graciously. “My daughter and myself
have lived for many years in Christchurch, Hants.
We keep the inn there - not the principal
inn, but a small public-house on the outskirts of
the village. It will be a change for us both to
come into five thousand a year after such penury.
Of course, Mr. Pash, you will act for my daughter
“Mr. Pash acts for Sylvia,”
cried Paul, still lingering at the door. The
lawyer was on the horns of a dilemma. “If
what Mrs. Krill says is true I can’t dispute
the facts,” he said irritably, “and I am
unwilling to give up the business. Prove to me,
ma’am, that you are the lawful widow of my late
client, and that this is my late esteemed client’s
lawful daughter, and I will act for you.”
Mrs. Krill’s ample bosom rose
and fell and her eyes glittered triumphantly.
She cast a victorious glance at Beecot. But that
young man was looking at the solicitor. “Rats
leave the sinking ship,” said he, bitterly;
“you will not prosper, Pash.”
“Everyone prospers who protects
the widow and the orphan,” said Pash, in a pious
tone, and so disgusted Paul that he closed the door
with a bang and went out. Tray was playing chuck-farthing
at the door and keeping Mr. Grexon Hay from coming
“You there, Beecot?” said
this gentleman, coldly. “I wish you would
tell this brat to let me enter.”
“Brat yourself y’ toff,”
cried Tray, pocketing his money. “Ain’t
I a-doin’ as my master tells me? He’s
engaged with two pretty women” - he
leered in a way which made Paul long to box his ears - “so
I don’t spile sport. You’ve got tired
of them, Mr. Beecot?”
“How do you know Mr. Beecot’s name?”
asked Hay, calmly.
“Lor’, sir. Didn’t you and
me pull him from under the wheels?”
“Oh,” said Grexon, suddenly
enlightened, “were you the boy? Since you
have washed your face I didn’t recognize you.
Well, Beecot, you look disturbed.”
“I have reason to. And
since you and this boy pulled me from under the wheels
of the motor,” said Paul, glancing from one to
the other, “I should like to know what became
of the brooch.”
“I’m sure I don’t
know,” said Grexon, quietly. “We talked
of this before. I gave it as my opinion, if you
remember, that it was picked up in the street by the
late Aaron Norman and was used to seal his mouth.
At least that is the only way in which I can conjecture
you lost it.”
“You never saw it drop from my pocket?”
“I should have picked it up
and returned it had I seen it,” said Hay, fixing
his eye-glass. “Perhaps this boy saw it.”
“Saw what?” asked Tray,
who was listening with both his large ears.
“An old blue-velvet case with
a brooch inside,” said Beecot, quickly.
Tray shook his head vigorously.
“If I’d seen it I’ ha’ nicked
it,” he said impudently; “catch me givin’
it back t’ y’, Mr. Beecot. There’s
a cove I knows - a fence that is - as
’ud give me lots fur it. Lor’,”
said Tray, with deep disappointment, “to think
as that dropped out of your pocket and I never grabbed
it. Wot crewel luck - ho!” and
Paul looked hard at the boy, who met
his gaze innocently enough. Apparently he spoke
in all seriousness, and really lamented the lost chance
of gaining a piece of jewellery to make money out of.
Moreover, had he stolen the brooch, he would hardly
have talked so openly of the fence he alluded to.
Hay the young man could not suspect, as there was
positively no reason why he should steal so comparatively
trifling an article. Sharper as he was, Hay flew
at higher game, and certainly would not waste his
time, or risk his liberty, in stealing what would bring
him in only a few shillings.
“Why don’t you ask the
detectives to search for the brooch,” said Hay,
“It is in the detective’s
possession,” said Paul, sullenly; “but
we want to know how it came to pin Norman’s
“I can’t imagine, unless
he picked it up. If lost at all it must have
been lost in the street the old man lived in, and you
told me he wanted the brooch badly.”
“But he wasn’t on the spot?”
“Wot,” cried Tray, suddenly,
“the one-eyed cove? Ho, yuss, but warn’t
he? Why, when they was a-gitin’ the ambulance,
an’ the peelers wos a-crowdin’ round,
he come dancing like billeo out of his shorp.”
Beecot thought this was strange, as
he understood from Deborah and Bart and Sylvia that
Norman had known nothing of the accident at the time.
Then again Norman himself had not mentioned it when
he paid that visit to the hospital within a few hours
of his death. “I don’t think that’s
true,” he said to Tray sharply.
“Oh, cuss it,” said that
young gentleman, “wot d’ I care. Th’
olé cove come an’ danced in the mud, and
then he gits int’ his shorp again.
Trew is trew, saiy wot y’ like, mister - ho.”
Beecot turned his back on the boy.
After all, he was not worth arguing with, and a liar
by instinct. Still, in this case he might have
spoken the truth. Norman might have appeared
on the scene of the accident and have picked up the
brooch. Paul thought he would tell Hurd this,
and, meantime, held out his hand to Hay. In spite
of the bad character he had heard of that young man,
he saw no reason why he should not be civil to him,
until he found him out. Meantime, he was on his
“One moment,” said Grexon,
grasping the outstretched hand. “I have
something to say to you,” and he walked a little
way with Paul. “I am going in to see Pash
on business which means a little money to me.
I was the unfortunate cause of your accident, Beecot,
so I think you might accept twenty pounds or so from
“No, thank you all the same,”
said Paul gratefully, yet with a certain amount of
caution. “I can struggle along. After
all, it was an accident.”
“A very unfortunate one,”
said Hay, more heartily than usual. “I shall
never forgive myself. Is your arm all right?”
“Oh, much better. I’ll be quite cured
in a week or so.”
“And meantime how do you live?”
“I manage to get along,”
replied Paul, reservedly. He did not wish to
reveal the nakedness of the land to such a doubtful
“You are a hard-hearted sort
of chap,” said Hay coldly, but rather annoyed
at his friendly advances being flouted. “Well,
then, if you won’t accept a loan, let me help
you in another way. Come and dine at my rooms.
I have a young publisher coming also, and if you meet
him he will be able to do something for you.
He’s under obligations to me, and you may be
certain I’ll use all my influence in your favor.
Come now - next Tuesday - that’s
a week off - you can’t have any engagement
at such a long notice.”
Paul smiled. “I never do
have any engagements,” he said with his boyish
smile, “thank you. I’ll look in if
I can. But I am in trouble, Grexon - very
“You shouldn’t be,”
said Hay, smiling. “I know well enough why
you will not accept my loan. The papers say Sylvia,
your Dulcinea, has inherited a million. You are
to marry her. Unless,” said Hay, suddenly,
“this access of wealth has turned her head and
she has thrown you over. Is she that sort of
“No,” said Paul quietly,
“she is as true to me as I am to her. But
you are mistaken as to the million. It is five
thousand a year, and she may not even inherit that.”
“What do you mean?”
“I am not at liberty to say.
But with regard to your dinner,” added Paul,
hastily changing the conversation, “I’ll
come if I can get my dress-suit out of pawn.”
“Then I count on you,”
said Hay, blandly, “though you will not let me
help you to obtain the suit. However, this publisher
will do a lot for you. By Jove, what a good-looking
He said this under his breath.
Miss Maud Krill appeared on the doorstep where the
two young men stood and stumbled against Grexon in
passing. His hat was off at once, and he apologized
profusely. Miss Krill, who seemed a young woman
of few words, as Paul thought from her silence in
the office, smiled and bowed, but passed on, without
saying a “thank you.” Mrs. Krill
followed, escorted by the treacherous Pash who was
all smiles and hand-washings and bows. Apparently
he was quite convinced that the widow’s story
was true, and Paul felt sick at the news he would
have to tell Sylvia. Pash saw the young man, and
meeting his indignant eyes darted back into his office
like a rabbit into its burrow. The widow sailed
out in her calm, serene way, without a look at either
Paul or his companion. Yet the young man had
an instinct that she saw them both.
“That’s the mother I expect,”
said Hay, putting his glass firmly into his eye; “a
handsome pair. Gad, Paul, that young woman - eh?”
“Perhaps you’d like to marry her,”
said Paul, bitterly.
Hay drew himself up stiffly.
“I don’t marry stray young women I see
on the street, however attractive,” he said
in his cold voice. “I don’t know
either of these ladies.”
“Pash will introduce you if you make it worth
“Why the deuce should I,” retorted Hay,
“Well,” said Beecot, impulsively
telling the whole of the misfortune that had befallen
him, “that is the wife and that is the daughter
of Aaron Norman, alias Krill. The daughter
inherits five thousand a year, so marry her and be
“But your Dulcinea?” asked Grexon, dropping
his eye-glass in amazement.
“She has me and poverty,”
said Paul, turning away. Nor could the quiet
call of Hay make him stop. But at the end of the
street he looked back, and saw Grexon entering the
office of the lawyer. If Hay was the man Hurd
said he was, Paul guessed that he would inquire about
the heiress and marry her too, if her banking account
was large and safe.