BAFFLED, NOT BEATEN.
The time came when Gilbert Fenton was fain to own to himself that there was no more to be done down in Hampshire: professional science and his own efforts had been alike futile. If she whom he sought still lived—and he had never for a moment suffered himself to doubt this—it was more than likely that she was far away from Crosber Grange, that there had been some motive for her sudden flight, unaccountable as that flight might seem in the absence of any clue to the mystery.
Every means of inquiry being exhausted in Hampshire, there was nothing left to Gilbert but to return to London—that marvellous city, where there always seems the most hope of finding the lost, wide as the wilderness is.
“In London I shall have clever detectives always at my service,” Gilbert thought; “in London I may be able to solve the question of John Holbrook’s identity.”
So, apart from the fact that his own affairs necessitated his prompt return to the great city, Gilbert had another motive for leaving the dull rural neighbourhood where he had wasted so many anxious hours, so much thought and care.
For the rest, he knew that Ellen Carley would be faithful—always on the watch for any clue to the mystery of Marian Holbrook’s fate, always ready to receive the wanderer with open arms, should any happy chance bring her back to the Grange. Assured of this, he felt less compunction in turning his back upon the spot where his lost love had vanished from the eyes of men.
Before leaving, he gave Ellen a letter for Marian’s husband, in the improbable event of that gentleman’s reappearance at the Grange—a few simple earnest lines, entreating Mr. Holbrook to believe in the writer’s faithful and brotherly affection for his wife, and to meet him in London on an early occasion, in order that they might together concert fresh means for bringing about her restoration to her husband and home. He reminded Mr. Holbrook of his friendship for Captain Sedgewick, and that good man’s confidence in him, and declared himself bound by his respect for the dead to be faithful to the living—faithful in all forgiveness of any wrong done him in the past.
He went back to London cruelly depressed by the failure of his efforts, and with a blank dreary feeling that there was little more for him to do, except to wait the working of Providence, with the faint hope that one of those happy accidents which sometimes bring about a desired result when all human endeavour has been in vain, might throw a sudden light on Marian Holbrook’s fate.
During the whole of that homeward journey he brooded an those dark suspicions of Mr. Holbrook which Ellen Carley had let fall in their earlier interviews. He had checked the girl on these occasions, and had prevented the full utterance of her thoughts, generously indignant that any suspicion of foul play should attach to Marian’s husband, and utterly incredulous of such a depth of guilt as that at which the girl’s hints pointed; but now that he was leaving Hampshire, he felt vexed with himself for not having urged her to speak freely—not having considered her suspicions, however preposterous those suspicions might have appeared to him.