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.
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."