“You villain. You have murdered your own child!”
Those who were in pursuit saw him suddenly stagger, as he realised that the girl, whose identity he had that day learnt for the first time, had received the bullet he had intended for Adrien Leroy.
With a short, sharp cry, like that of a wounded animal, he missed his footing, fell backwards into the stream, which at this point was both wide and deep, and was carried away; drowning before the very eyes of the man who had so loved and trusted him, and whom he had so bitterly wronged.
The suddenness of the tragedy which had taken place postponed all further discussion.
The sunlight, streaming through the latticed windows of one of the rooms in the Castle, shed its rays on the still form of the young girl, who had given her life for the man she loved so well.
Beside the bed knelt Adrien Leroy, his face buried in one hand, the other resting upon the still one that lay, white as marble, on the silken coverlet. He had come, overwhelmed with pain, from the scene on the terrace, to pour forth a passionate grief and remorse over this young life that had been so generously given up to save his.
It mattered nothing to him that the dead girl was the daughter of the man whom he had befriended, and who had used his generosity only as a means by which to betray him; it mattered nothing that his grief might even now be misconstrued by the tongues of the uncharitable. He knelt in the deepest humility by the dead girl’s side, deeming his life all unworthy to have been saved at such a cost; and while he implored the pardon of the great Creator for the follies of his past life he called on the Almighty to hear the vows which he now made—that for the future his steps would be in wiser paths.
When he arose from his knees his face had lost all its old languid self-possession; there was a graver, more earnest light in his eyes, and as his lips pressed the hand of the dead girl they muttered a farewell vow, which was never to be forgotten from that hour till his last.
Lady Constance, bravely overcoming her own pain and horror at the double tragedy—for Jasper’s body had been recovered and brought back to the house an hour after the death of Jessica—had retired with poor, remorseful Ada to her own rooms, where she did her best to soothe and comfort the unhappy woman. Overwhelmed with remorse at her previous neglect of the girl, Ada blamed herself bitterly for not watching her enemy more closely, and thus protecting all concerned from danger.
Meanwhile, the last painful duty had to be done. In the Blue Room were seated in expectant silence Lord Barminster, Mortimer Shelton, and Mr. Harker. On the table lay the papers which Mr. Harker had brought with him, amongst them the all-important roll which Jessica had rescued from the streets. The three men were waiting now for Adrien, with patient respect, knowing the cause of his absence.