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The Secret of the Tower

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"Just in time, wasn't it?" asked Mary Arkroyd.

"Two days before the—the ceremony! Mercifully it had all been kept very quiet, because it was only three months since poor Gilly was killed. I forget whether you ever met Gilly? My half-brother, you know?"

"Only once—in Collingham Gardens. He had an exeat, and dashed in one Saturday morning when we were just finishing our work. Don't you remember?"

"Yes, I think I do. But since my engagement I'd gone into colors. Oh, of course I've gone back into mourning now! And everything was ready—settlements and so on, you know. And rooms taken at Bournemouth. And then it all came out!"


"Well, Eustace—Captain Cranster, I mean. Oh, I think he really must have had shell-shock, as he said, even though the doctor seemed to doubt it! He gave the Colonel as a reference in some shop, and—and the bank wouldn't pay the check. Other checks turned up, too, and in the end the police went through his papers, and found letters from—well, from her, you know. From Bogota. South America, isn't it? He'd lived there ten years, you know, growing something—beans, or coffee, or coffee-beans, or something—I don't know what. He tried to say the marriage wasn't binding, but the Colonel—wasn't it providential that the Colonel was home on leave? Mamma could never have grappled with it! The Colonel was sure it was, and so were the lawyers."

"What happened then?"

"The great thing was to keep it quiet. Now, wasn't it? And there was the shell-shock—or so Eustace—Captain Cranster, I mean—said, anyhow. So, on the Colonel's advice, Mamma squared the check business and—and they gave him twenty-four hours to clear out. Papa—I call the Colonel Papa, you know, though he's really my stepfather—used a little influence, I think. Anyhow it was managed. I never saw him again, Mary."

"Poor dear! Was it very bad?"

"Yes! But—suppose we had been married! Mary, where should I have been?"

Mary Arkroyd left that problem alone. "Were you very fond of him?" she asked.

"Awfully!" Cynthia turned up to her friend pretty blue eyes suffused in tears. "It was the end of the world to me. That there could be such men! I went to bed. Mamma could do nothing with me. Oh, well, she wrote to you about all that."

"She told me you were in a pretty bad way."

"I was just desperate! Then one day—in bed—the thought of you came. It seemed an absolute inspiration. I remembered the card you sent on my last birthday—you've never forgotten my birthdays, though it's years since we met—with your new address here—and your 'Doctor,' and all the letters after your name! I thought it rather funny." A faint smile, the first since Miss Walford's arrival at Inkston, probably the first since Captain Eustace Cranster's shell-shock had wrought catastrophe—appeared on her lips. "How I waited for your answer! You don't mind having me, do you, dear? Mamma insisted on suggesting the P.G. arrangement. I was afraid you'd shy at it."

"Not a bit! I should have liked to have you anyhow, but I can make you much more comfortable with the P.G....