“Arthur give this will into the hands of Miss Effingham, or her legal adviser, and obtain her forgiveness for me.” This the gallant soldier faithfully promised to do. The room was then cleared of all except the rector and the dying baronet. He lingered until sometime after midnight, and ere the light of another day dawned, his spirit had passed away, and the baronetcy became extinct.
During the following day Mr. Russell, the agent, arrived, and Arthur, in the name of Miss Effingham, authorized him to settle all claims, and have the body of the late Sir Ralph conveyed to Vellenaux for interment. Having thus arranged matters, Captain Carlton and his friend Draycott started by the next train for London.
It was by no means an uncommon occurrence for Sir Ralph to absent himself from home for a day or two without communicating to any one his intentions or the direction in which he was going, therefore his absence at the dinner table in the evening did not excite any misgivings in the mind of Mrs. Fraudhurst, but his non-appearance at the breakfast table the following morning caused considerable disquietude to that amiable person. Hurried on by her ambition she had aimed at too high a prize, and in so doing had let slip the reins of power. The possession of the will was the only hold she had ever had on the baronet and now when too late she perceived, to her dismay, the awkward position in which she stood. Ever suspicious of the motives of others; she now tormented herself with apprehensions concerning his absence, and the business that could have taken him away at that particular time. From the servants she could gain no information regarding his movements; but it occurred to her that old Bridoon, the gate-keeper, could throw some light on the subject, and therefore determined to lose no time in questioning him as to the direction taken by his master.
The person who had been despatched to Southampton to summon Mr. Russell, the agent, found the gentleman in question had gone to Vellenaux, and thinking from what he had overheard that it was a matter of considerable importance, made no longer delay in that good town than was actually necessary, but took the first train to Switchem, and from thence on foot to the lodge gates, and walked quickly up the avenue; when near the lawn he encountered Mrs. Fraudhurst, who, noticing him to be a stranger and in haste, accosted him and enquired his business.