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Chapter 45 ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL.

  • Granville helped him on his arm into the judge's room amid profound silence.
  • All the court was deeply stirred. A few personal friends hurried after hi_agerly. Among them were the Warings, and Mrs. Clifford, and Elma.
  • The judge staggered to a seat, and held Granville's hand long and silently i_is. Then his eye caught Elma's. He turned to her gratefully. "Thank you,
  • young lady," he said, in a very thick voice. "You were extremely good. _orget your name. But you helped me greatly."
  • There was such a pathetic ring in those significant words, "I forget you_ame," that every eye about stood dimmed with moisture. Remorse had clearl_lotted out all else now from Sir Gilbert Gildersleeve's powerful brain sav_he solitary memory of his great wrong-doing.
  • "Something's upon his mind still," Elma cried, looking hard at him. "He'_ying! he's dying! But he wants to say something else before he dies, I'_ertain. … Mr. Kelmscott, it's to you. Oh, Cyril, stand back! Mother, leav_hem alone! I'm sure from his eye he wants to say something to Mr. Kelmscott."
  • They all fell back reverently. They stood in the presence of death and of _ighty sorrow. Sir Gilbert still held Granville's hand fast bound in his own.
  • "It'll kill her," he muttered. "It'll kill her! I'm sure it'll kill her!
  • She'll never get over the thought that her father was—was the cause o_ontague Nevitt's death. And you'll never care to marry a girl of whom peopl_ill say, either justly or unjustly, 'She's a murderers daughter'…. And tha_ill kill her, too. For, Kelmscott, she loved you!"
  • Granville held the dying man's hand still more gently than ever. "Si_ilbert," he said, leaning over him with very tender eyes, "no event on eart_ould ever possibly alter Gwendoline's love for me, or my love for Gwendoline.
  • I know you can't live. This shock has been too much for you. But if it wil_ake you die any the happier now to know that Gwendoline and I will still b_ne, I give you my sacred promise at this solemn moment, that as soon as sh_ikes I will marry Gwendoline." He paused for a second. "I don't understan_ll this story just yet," he went on. "But of one thing I'm certain. Th_ympathy of every soul in court to-day went with you as you spoke out th_ruth so manfully. The sympathy of all England will go with you to-morrow whe_hey come to learn of it…. Sir Gilbert, till this morning I never admired you,
  • much as I love Gwendoline. As you made that confession just now in court, _eclare, I admired you. With all the greater confidence now will I marry you_aughter."
  • They carried him to the judge's lodgings in the town, and laid him ther_eaceably for the doctors to tend him. For a fortnight the shadow o_ildersleeve still lingered on, growing feebler and feebler in intellect ever_ay. But the end was certain. It was softening of the brain, and it proceede_apidly. The horror of that unspeakable trial had wholly unnerved him. Th_reat, strong man cried and sobbed like a baby. Lady Gildersleeve an_wendoline were with him all through. He seldom spoke. When he did, it wa_enerally to murmur those fixed words of exculpation, in a tremulou_ndertone, "It was my hands that did it—these great, clumsy hands of mine—no_—not I. I never, never meant it. It was an accident. An accident. Justifiabl_omicide…. What I really regret is for that poor fellow Waring."
  • And at the end of a fortnight he died, once smiling, with Gwendoline's han_ocked tight in his own, and Granville Kelmscott kneeling in tears by hi_edside.
  • The Kelmscott property was settled by arrangement. It never came into court.
  • With the aid of the family lawyers the three half-brothers divided i_micably. Guy wouldn't hear of Granville's giving up his claim to the hous_nd park at Tilgate. Granville was to the manner born, he said, and brought u_o expect it; while Cyril and he, mere waifs and strays in the world, would b_uch better off, even so, with their third of the property each, than the_ver before in their lives could have counted upon. As for Cyril, he was to_appy in Guy's exculpation from the greater crime, and his frank explanatio_f the lesser—under Nevitt's influence—to care very much in his own heart wha_ecame of Tilgate.
  • The only one man who objected to this arrangement was Mr. Reginald Clifford,
  • C.M.G., of Craighton. The Companion of the Militant Saints was strongly o_pinion that Cyril Waring oughtn't to have given up his prior claim to th_amily mansion, even for valuable consideration elsewhere. Mr. Clifford dre_imself up to the full height of his spare figure, and caught in the tigh_kin of his mummy-like face rather tighter than before, as he delivere_imself of this profound opinion. "A man should consult his own dignity," h_aid stiffly, and with great precision; "if he's born to assume a position i_he county, he should assume that position as a sacred duty. He shoul_emember that his wife and children—"
  • "But he hasn't got any wife, papa," Elma ventured to interpose, with a brigh_ittle smile; so THAT can't count either way."
  • "He hasn't a wife AT PRESENT, to be sure; that's perfectly true, my dear; n_ife AT PRESENT; but he will probably now, in his existing circumstances, soo_btain one. A Man of Property should always marry. Mr. Waring will naturall_esire to ally himself to some family of Good Position in the county; and th_ady's relations would, of course, insist—"
  • "Well, it doesn't matter to us, papa," Elma answered maliciously; "for, as fa_s we're concerned, you know; you've often said that nothing on earth woul_ver induce you to give your consent."
  • The Gentleman of Good Position in the county gazed at his daughter aghast wit_orror. "My dear child," he said, with positive alarm, "your remarks ar_othing short of Revolutionary. You must remember that since the_ircumstances have altered. At that time, Mr. Waring was a painter—"
  • "He's a painter still, I believe," Elma put in, parenthetically. "Th_cquisition of property or county rank doesn't seem to have had the ver_lightest effect one way or the other upon his drawing or his colouring."
  • Her father disdained to take notice of such flippant remarks. "At that time,"
  • he repeated solemnly, "Mr. Waring was a painter, a mere ordinary painter; w_now him now to be the heir and representative of a great County Family. If h_ere to ask you to-day—"
  • "But he did ask me a long time ago, you know, papa," Elma put in demurely.
  • "And at that time, you remember, you objected to the match; so of course, a_n duty bound, I at once refused him."
  • "And what did your father say to that, Elma?" Cyril asked, with a smile, a_he narrated the whole circumstances to him some hours later.
  • "Oh, he only said, 'But he'll ask you again now, you may be sure, my child.'
  • And I replied very gravely, I didn't think you would. And do you know, Cyril,
  • I really don't think you will, either."
  • "Why not, Elma?"
  • "Because, you foolish boy, it isn't the least bit in the world necessary. Thi_as been, all through, a comedy of errors. Tragedy enough intermixed; bu_till a comedy of errors. There never was really any reason on earth wh_ither of us shouldn't have married the other. And the only thing I now regre_yself is that I didn't do as I first threatened, and marry you outright, jus_o show my confidence in you and Guy, at the time when everybody else ha_urned most against you."
  • "Well, suppose we make up for lost time now by saying Wednesday fortnight,"
  • Cyril suggested, after a short pause, during which both of them simultaneousl_ad been otherwise occupied.
  • "Oh, Cyril, that's awfully quick! It could hardly be managed. There's th_resses, and all that! And the bridesmaids to arrange about! And th_nvitations to issue!… But still, sooner than put you off any longer now—well,
  • yes, my dear boy—I dare say we could make it Wednesday fortnight."
  • **THE END.**