In Maurice Kynaston’s passion of despairing grief he read the story of her sad life’s trouble.
Truly, Maurice had enough to bear; for he alone, and one other, who spoke no word of it to him, knew the terrible secret of her death; to all else it was “an accident;” to him and to Denis Wilde alone it was “murder.” To him, too, the motive of the foul, cowardly deed had been revealed; for, tightly clasped in that poor dead hand, true to the last to the trust that had been given her, was the fatal packet of letters that had been the cause of her death. They were all blotted and blurred, and sodden with the water, but there were whole sentences in the inner folds that were sufficient for him to recognize his wife’s handwriting, and to see what was the drift and the meaning of them.
Whom they were written to, when they had been penned, he neither knew nor cared to discover; it was enough for him that they had been written by her, and that they were altogether shameful and sinful. With a deep and sickened disgust, he set fire to the whole packet, and scattered the blackened and smouldering ashes into the empty grate. They had cost a human life, those reckless, sinful letters; but for them, Vera would not have died.
The terrible tragedy came to an end at last. They buried her beneath the coloured mosaic floor of the new chancel, which Sir John had built at her desire; and Marion smothered herself and her children in crape, and people shook their heads and sighed when they spoke of her; and Shadonake was shut up, and the Millers all went to London; and then the world went its way, and after a time it forgot her; and Vera Nevill’s place knew her no more.
* * * * *
After Christmas there was a wedding in Eaton Square; a wedding small and not at all gay. Indeed, Geraldine Miller considered her sister next door to a lunatic, and she told herself it would be hardly worth while to be married at all if there was to be no more fuss made over her marriage than over Beatrice’s. For there were no bridesmaids and no wedding guests, only all the Millers, from the eldest down to the youngest, uncle Tom, and an ancient Miss Esterworth, unearthed from the other end of England for the occasion; and there were also a Mr. and Mrs. Pryme, a grave and aged couple—uncle and aunt to the bridegroom.
There was, however, one remarkable feature at this particular wedding: when the family party came down into the dining-room to take their places for the conventional breakfast upon the plate of the bride’s father were to be seen some very curious things.
These were a faded white lace parasol with pink bows; a pair of soiled grey peau de suede gloves, and a little black wisp of a spotted net veil.
“Bless my soul!” said the member for Meadowshire, putting up his eye-glasses; “what on earth is all this?”
“I think you have seen them before, papa,” says the bride, demurely, whilst uncle Tom bursts into a loud and hearty guffaw of laughter.