Pratt sat alone in his library.
He was not reading, for although he had many books
he rarely looked into one of them. He collected
rare editions, he indulged in gorgeous bindings, and
placed all his gatherings on shelves behind glass
doors. It was the look of the thing Pratt liked.
If his collection had been so many volumes of blank
pages he would have been just as well pleased.
As the evening was cold there was
a fire in the steel grate. The room looked comfortable
and luxurious. It was decorated in dark red, with
bookcases of rosewood, and many busts of celebrated
men. On the desk stood a reading lamp, and this
was the only light in the room. Before the desk
sat Pratt. He was playing with a small pile of
precious stones which he had shaken out of a leathern
belt. The jewels gleamed in the light with rainbow
hues, and Pratt fingered them with loving care, recalling
where each one had been bought and found. He was
crazy about his gems, but never showed them to anyone.
Moreover, in addition to his liking for such things,
it was a portable way of carrying about his wealth.
The door opened softly and a servant
entered. Pratt did not turn his head, for he
knew the footstep. But when he heard that Leo
wished to see him, he poured the jewels back into
the belt, flung it into a drawer and told Adam - that
was the man’s name - to admit Mr Haverleigh.
Adam was a tall, soldierly looking man, of the fair
Saxon type. He had been with Mr Pratt for years,
knew all his secrets and was absolutely devoted to
him. As well he might be, for Pratt had once saved
his life. Adam never forgot the obligation, and
was Pratt’s devoted slave.
“Hullo, Leo!” said Pratt,
rising, when the young man entered the room.
“Where did you come from?”
“From London, if you want to
be precise,” said Leo, after shaking hands.
“My bag is in the hall, Pratt.”
“What? Have you not been to the castle?”
“I have been there, and I have
come away. In fact, Pratt, she has turned me
out at last. I always knew that it would come
As Leo sat down Pratt frowned, and
when he frowned he did not look pleased. “Ah!”
said he, calmly, “so she has turned you out - on
account of this theft, I suppose?”
“Yes. It is the first I
ever heard of it!” said Leo, looking up.
“Your wire said nothing about such an accusation.
I don’t suppose you could very well have mentioned
it in a telegram. However, Mrs Gabriel insisted
that I had stolen the cup and sold it in London in
order to pay my debts. We had a few words on
the subject and parted. I am now here to ask
you for a bed!”
“My dear fellow, you shall stay
here as long as you please. Let me ring for Adam
to bring you some supper!” and Pratt touched
“A few sandwiches and a glass
of port will be sufficient,” said Leo. “I
am not in the humour to eat. By the way,”
as Adam entered, “I see he has got back?”
“Who? Adam? Yes. Where did you
“At Portfront,” said Leo,
with a nod to Adam, who smiled. “He told
me he had been up to London on your business.
I gave him a lift part of the way. Didn’t
“I shouldn’t have got
home otherwise, sir,” said Adam, respectfully,
and departed to get food for his benefactor.
Pratt seemed pleased that his servant was so friendly
with Leo. He had a great opinion of Adam’s
intelligence. Also, Adam was a power in the house - but
Leo did not know that. Later on, he learned all
about it, to his great astonishment.
“Come now,” said Pratt,
when Leo had eaten and had finished a glass or two
of port. “Tell me about this cup. Did
you take it?”
“I certainly did not!”
said Leo, stiffly. “I wonder at your asking
me such a question, Pratt! I am not a thief!”
His host laughed somewhat nervously.
“I only wanted to be sure, my dear lad,”
he said. “Don’t get angry with your
best and only friend.”
“I have another friend,”
said Leo, looking up from the cigar he was cutting,
“and that is Sybil. She does not believe
that I am guilty.”
“Have you seen her, then?”
“No. But I do not want
to see her in order to know that. She loves me,
Mr Pratt, and would never believe me guilty. No;
not though the evidence was twice as strong against
“The evidence is strong,”
said Pratt, rubbing his chin. “You were
seen at the chapel, and - ”
“And I have paid my debts,”
finished Leo. “So I have, and I can explain
how I paid them; also my movements on that night.”
And he forthwith related to Pratt the story he had
already told Mrs Gabriel. The man believed him
much more readily than the woman. But then Pratt
liked Leo, and Mrs Gabriel - as she had shown
plainly - hated him with all the intensity
of her stern and cruel nature.
“You say that Hale lent you the money?”
“As I told you - in gold.”
“And he now denies that he did so?”
“So Mrs Gabriel says. But I shall see for
Pratt reflected, staring into the
fire. “It seems to be a conspiracy,”
he said slowly. “I wonder what his game
Leo remembered that Sybil had also
been uncomfortable when she heard that Hale intended
to lend him the money. A thought flashed into
his mind as Pratt spoke. “I believe that
Hale is in love with Sibyl,” said he.
“Humph! And his sister Edith is in love
Leo coloured a little at this very
direct remark. “I believe she is,”
said he, with an embarrassed laugh; “but I assure
you, Pratt, the feeling is not reciprocal. The
only woman I have ever loved, whom I shall ever love,
is Sybil Tempest. And the course of our true love
does not run smooth,” he finished, with a sigh.
“A conspiracy,” repeated
Pratt, who was not paying much attention to what Leo
was saying. “Yes! I believe it to be
one. By lending you that money Hale hoped to
get you into his power, so as to induce you to give
up Sibyl to him and marry Edith.”
“If he ever did have so ridiculous
an idea,” said Leo, angrily, “he has thrown
away the fruits of it by denying the loan.”
“No! The unforseen has
happened and he is simply making use of the new development,”
said Pratt. “You are accused of having sold
this cup to pay your debts. If Hale acknowledged
that he gave you the money he would take away the
motive and would in a measure prove your innocence.
That is exactly what he will not do. Unless - ”
“Unless I give up Sybil and marry his sister?”
“Precisely,” replied Pratt.
“However, this is only a theory. You had
better wait until you see Hale before you make up your
mind. I don’t mind making you a bet, Leo,
that what Mrs Gabriel says is true.”
“Do you think Hale will deny the loan?”
“I am certain of it. I
have studied human nature a great deal during a not
uneventful life, and if ever I saw a crafty scoundrel
Hale is the man. I wish you had told me that
he was the friend who was to lend you the money.
I would rather have found it for you myself than have
let you go to him.”
“I wish I had spoken out.
But it’s too late now. And how did I know
the man would be such a scoundrel? Not that we
yet can be certain that he is, Pratt. Only the
worst of it is,” added Leo, wrinkling his young
brows, “that I cannot now repay the money.”
“If he denies the debt you will not need to
“I shall insist upon doing so
when I am able!” cried Leo, vehemently.
“But Mrs Gabriel won’t help me.”
“I will let you have the three
hundred pounds,” said Pratt.
“I don’t see why you should,
Pratt. As it is, you are too kind to me.
No! I will borrow no more. This interview
with Mrs Gabriel has fixed my mind as to enlisting.
I shall see if I can’t arrange about the money
for Hale. I have some jewellery and other things
I can sell. In some way or another I’ll
contrive to get out of his debt.”
“He won’t admit that you
are in his debt,” persisted Pratt; “but
it is no use talking all night about these things,
Leo. You have a friend in me, and as I know you
are innocent I’ll get you out of this trouble
somehow. To-morrow you can see Hale and Miss Sybil.”
“I’ll see him first,”
said Leo, grimly, after which speech - ominous
of evil - he retired to bed. Worn out
with his long journey and by the anxiety attendant
on his new position - which was that of an
absolute pauper - he soon fell into a dreamless
sleep. Pratt remained in the library and for
a long time sat watching the dying fire. He also
saw trouble ahead, but it had to do more with himself
than with his guest.
Since the illness of Pearl, Sybil
had attended to the decorating of the altar.
Sometimes she had the assistance of Peggy Bathurst.
But Mrs Bathurst, still fearful lest Peggy might become
engaged to the curate, would not let her come as often
to the chapel as Sybil wished. So Miss Tempest
usually decked the altar alone. The morning after
Leo’s arrival she was in the chapel at mid-day
with her arms full of flowers. Taking these and
the altar vessels into a quiet corner she began to
arrange the blossoms. While thus engaged she
heard a step. At once she sprang to her feet
with the love-light in her eye. She had no need
to see the newcomer. Her heart told her it was
“My dear!” She took him
into her arms. “How glad I am to see you
again! Oh, Leo, I have so many sad things to
“I know all, my love,”
said the young man, kissing her. “I arrived
last night and saw Mrs Gabriel. She did not
“She is no more mother of mine,
Sybil. She told me she hated me; called me a
thief, and turned me out of the castle. I shall
never enter it again - never! Last night
I slept at Pratt’s. He was a good Samaritan
and took me in. This morning I went to see Hale.”
Sybil clapped her hands. “Oh,
then it is all right!” she cried joyfully.
“I could have told my father that you had got
the money from him, but I thought it better you should
do so yourself.”
“I can’t do that without Hale calling
me a liar.”
“Leo! What do you mean?”
“That in the eyes of the people
here I am both a liar and a thief. Hale, whom
I saw this morning, denies having given me the money.”
“Has he spread that all about
the town?” asked Sybil, scarcely able to believe
“No, he is too clever for that.
Now I know, Sybil, why he gave me the money in gold.
So that he might be able to deny the debt if occasion
arose, as it has done. Had he given me a cheque
his signature would have given him the lie.”
“But what does he mean by denying
that he lent you the money?”
“Well, I’ll give you Pratt’s
theory. I believe it is the true one,” and
the young man rapidly repeated the conversation he
had had with the American on the previous evening.
“So you see you were right, Sybil.”
“I knew it,” said Sybil
in low tones. “Do you remember how I told
you on the day of Mrs Bathurst’s picnic?
What is to be done now?”
“There is nothing to be done
save to fight,” said Leo, fiercely, “and
fight I shall. I had intended to enlist, but I
shall not do that until I have cleared my name.
To leave here now would be to give colour to the lies
that are being told about me. I shall stay with
Pratt. He is my friend, and you, Sybil, also.
We three will fight it out.”
“Mr Raston is also your friend,
Leo. He says he does not believe for one moment
that you did what you are accused of doing.”
“Thank God for that! How
can anyone who knows me believe me guilty of so terrible
a crime? To rob a church! Think of it, Sybil.
Your father? Does he believe I did this vile
“He suspends his judgment, Leo,
until he has heard your defence.”
“Alas, Sybil, what defence can
I make save state that I am innocent? I cannot
make Hale confess that he lent me the money, and I
cannot prove, independently of him, that he did so.
This morning he coolly denied all knowledge of the
loan, but said that for my sake he would not speak
of the visit I had made or the threats I had used.”
“Did you use threats, Leo?”
“I am afraid I did, dear.
But is it not enough to make an honest man’s
blood boil to be placed in such a position? I
threatened to give him a thrashing. But when
I remembered that he was a cripple, of course I could
not do that. But for all his physical weakness,
he is a venomous beast. No, Sybil, without Hale
I can do nothing.” He paused for a moment,
and then went on. “I think the best way
to do is to wait,” he said. “If this
is a plot on Hale’s part he will continue to
carry it out - that is, he will make some
proposition to me about giving you up. I don’t
suppose he will want me to marry his sister, now that
I am called a thief.”
Sybil placed her hand over his mouth.
“You must not be so bitter, Leo. I will
not have you revile yourself in this way. Don’t
you think you had better see my father?”
“What good would that do, my
dear? I can only tell the story I tell you, and
as I have no evidence to prove its truth, he probably
will not believe me. No, Sybil. It is best
for me to remain quietly with Pratt, and wait until
Hale makes some move. Besides, Pratt is a clever
man of the world, and can guide me. No doubt
everyone will be disagreeable, but I must put up with
that. I refuse to go away, as though the charge
against me were true. You will see me sometimes,
“Whenever I can,” she
replied; “but it will not be easy. When
my father hears that you are back he will be more
particular than ever to keep me from meeting you.”
Leo mused. “I wonder why
he has changed so, Sybil? He used to like me.”
“I think Mrs Gabriel said something
which has turned him against you.”
“Very probably,” replied
Leo, bitterly; “for some reason she hates me.
But all is at an end between us. I wait here,
Sybil, to vindicate my character, and afterwards I
shall carry out my plan of enlisting. I may be
years away from you, but you will be true, I know.”
“I swear to be true, Leo! I marry no one
“Not even Hale,” whispered Leo, straining
her to his breast.
Sybil laughed. “If I disliked
him before, think how I hate him now!” she said.
“He is acting a mean part. But his punishment
will come. Now go, Leo, for my father may come
at any moment.”
The two lovers embraced and parted.
Leo went away much comforted by the belief Sybil had
in his innocence. He returned to The Nun’s
House, and spent the day with Pratt talking over the
position of affairs. It was a disagreeable position,
and at the present moment he could see no way of mending
it. Hale alone could prove his innocence, and
Hale refused to speak out. Bitterly did Leo regret
that he had ever been tempted to believe in this fox.
The days went by, and the position
remained much the same as it was. By this time
the excitement consequent on the loss of the cup had
died out. Leo remained mostly within doors, as
he did not care about meeting the cold looks of those
he had known from childhood. Mrs Gabriel gave
no sign, but secluded herself within her own grounds.
Once or twice Pratt saw her on Leo’s behalf,
but he could do nothing with her. However, he
told Leo to keep up his spirits, that all would come
right. But how this alteration was to be brought
about he did not say. Pratt knew when to keep
his own counsel.
Towards the end of the week Mrs Jeal
returned. Her father was much better, she said,
and she had come back to look after Pearl. The
mad girl was now out of bed, but, as yet, unable to
leave the cottage. Someone had conveyed to her
the news of the loss - Raston shrewdly suspected
Joan Barker - but, strange to say, she was
not so upset about it as had been expected.
“The Master has taken His cup
to use in heaven,” she told the curate, who
often came to sit with her. “When he thinks
fit he will bring it back again to the altar.”
Raston was puzzled by this queer view,
but as it prevented the girl from fretting he outwardly
agreed with her. Having settled the matter thus,
Pearl rarely referred to the loss. She was quite
content to wait until the cup was restored. Taking
a hint from Raston, Mrs Jeal never discussed the matter.
All the same she knew more about the missing cup than
the Colester people knew. And it was in this way
she explained the matter to Harold Raston.
“Sir,” she said one day
shortly after her return, “I want you to get
me speech with his reverence. I wish to make
a statement to him.”
“Indeed, Mrs Jeal! What is the statement?”
“It is about the cup, sir.
But I prefer to speak to the vicar and to Mr Haverleigh.
I hear he is staying with Mr Pratt.”
“I believe he is. Some
foolish people accuse him of having stolen the cup,
Mrs Jeal. I hope you will be able to give us some
information likely to lead to its discovery, so that
Mr Haverleigh’s character can be cleared.”
Mrs Jeal screwed up her mouth, and
sent out a flash from her wicked eyes. She absolutely
refused to speak save in the presence of Mr Tempest
and Leo. Therefore, after a consultation with
the vicar, Raston went to see Leo, and asked him to
come to the Vicarage. Leo was surprised at the
summons, and not very willing to obey it. He resented
the way in which he had been treated by Mr Tempest.
Still, from what was hinted by Mrs Jeal, he fancied
that she might be able to clear his character, so
he accompanied Raston to the place of meeting.
Mrs Jeal was already in the study,
seated beside the vicar’s desk. She was
dressed in her best, and looked demure as any cat.
Tempest reddened when he saw Leo, and held out his
hand. Leo refused to take it. “No,
sir,” he said coldly; “you have not treated
me well. I thought you were my friend, but I
find you believe me to be a thief.”
“Pardon me,” replied Tempest,
suddenly growing hard, “I do not say that you
took the cup. I refuse to believe anything against
you until I hear what you have to say in your own
“I make no defence, Mr Tempest,”
rejoined Leo. “Sybil believes me guiltless;
so does Pratt; Raston also is my friend. I can
only wait until I am vindicated by time. Or perhaps
Mrs Jeal will prove to you that I did not steal the
cup,” and Leo looked at the crafty face of the
Mrs Jeal at a nod from the vicar,
rose and folded her hands. “I can prove
that you did steal it, Mr Haverleigh,” she said.
“I saw you pawn the cup in London.”