I set down the candle and made off, closing the door behind me. The horror of it held me by the hair, but I flung it off and pelted down the lane and through the mews. Once in the street I breathed again, pulled myself together, and set off at a rapid walk, southwards, but not clearly knowing whither.
As a matter of fact, I took the line by which I had come: with the single difference that I made straight into Berkeley Square through Bruton Street. I had, I say, no clear purpose in following this line rather than another. I had none for taking Lennox Gardens on the way to my squalid lodgings in Chelsea. I had a purpose, no doubt; but will swear it only grew definite as I came in sight of the lamp still burning beneath Gervase’s portico.
There was a figure, too, under the lamp—the butler—bending there and rolling up the strip of red carpet. As he pulled its edges from the frozen snow I came on him suddenly.
“Oh, it’s you, Sir!” He stood erect, and with the air of a man infinitely relieved.
The door opened wide and there stood Elaine in her ball-gown, a-glitter with diamonds.
“Gervase, dear, where have you been? We have been terribly anxious—”
She said it, looking straight down on me—on me—who stood in my tattered clothes in the full glare of the lamp. And then I heard the butler catch his breath, and suddenly her voice trailed off in wonder and pitiful disappointment.
“It’s not Gervase! It’s Reg—Mr. Travers. I beg your pardon. I thought—”
But I passed up the steps and stood before her: and said, as she drew back—
“There has been an accident. Gervase has shot himself.” I turned to the butler. “You had better run to the police station. Stay: take this revolver. It won’t count anything as evidence: but I ask you to examine it and make sure all the chambers are loaded.”
A thud in the hall interrupted me. I ran in and knelt beside Elaine, and as I stooped to lift her—as my hand touched her hair—this was the jealous question on my lips—
“What has she to do with it. It is I who cannot do without him—who must miss him always!”
AN OLD MAID’S GHOST-STORY
“Yes,” said Miss Le Petyt, gazing into the deep fireplace and letting her hands and her knitting lie for the moment idle in her lap. “Oh, yes, I have seen a ghost. In fact I have lived in a house with one for quite a long time.”
“How you could—” began one of my host’s daughters; and “You, Aunt Emily?” cried the other at the same moment.
Miss Le Petyt, gentle soul, withdrew her eyes from the fireplace and protested with a gay little smile. “Well, my dears, I am not quite the coward you take me for. And, as it happens, mine was the most harmless ghost in the world. In fact”—and here she looked at the fire again— “I was quite sorry to lose her.”