To the stricken wife there was a promise in the demand for light, and in broken phrases she poured out her story of shame and sorrow. With a feeling that everything was falling away from her the girl learnt from her visitor’s disconnected story that there had been a liaison between her murdered father and her friend. Mr. Holymead had discovered it after Sir Horace had gone to Scotland and husband and wife were away in the country. He was at first distracted at finding that his lifelong friend had seduced his wife, then he made her promise not to see or communicate with Sir Horace until he made up his mind what course of action to take. Three days later he caught an evening train to London and told her he was not returning, but would write to her.
It crossed her mind that he had gone up to London to meet Sir Horace, and in her distress at the thought of what might happen when they met she consulted her cousin Gabrielle, who had always been in her confidence. Gabrielle had offered to go to Riversbrook to see if Sir Horace had returned from Scotland, or was expected back. Her train was delayed by an accident, and when she arrived at Riversbrook it was after half-past ten. She arrived a few minutes too late to prevent the tragedy. She found the front door open and the electric light burning in the hall. She went up the staircase and in the library she found Sir Horace, who was lying on the floor at the point of death. She tried to lift him to a sitting position, but with a convulsive gasp he died in her arms.
She laid him down and then looked hurriedly around the room with the object of removing any evidence of how or why the crime had been committed, her main thought being to save her friend from the shame of a public scandal. She picked up a revolver which was lying on the floor near Sir Horace, turned out the lights in the library and in the hall so that the house was in darkness, and then closed the hall door after her as she went out. But Mr. Crewe had discovered in some way that Mr. Holymead had visited Sir Horace that night. Only a week ago Gabrielle had gone to him and tried to put him off the track, but it was no use.
The wretched woman made a pathetic appeal for her husband’s life. She deplored the sinfulness which had resulted in the tragedy. She took on herself the blame for it all. She had sent one man to his death, and her husband stood in peril of a shameful death on the gallows. But it was in the power of Mabel to save him. On her knees she pleaded for his life; she pleaded to be saved from the horror of sending her husband to the gallows. If Mabel’s father could make his wishes known he too would plead for the life of the friend he had betrayed.
The door opened and the parlourmaid entered. Miss Fewbanks stepped quickly across the room so that she should not witness the distress of Mrs. Holymead. The servant handed her a card and waited for instructions. Miss Fewbanks looked at the card in an agony of indecision. Then she made up her mind firmly.