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Augusta, fat and helpless, reclining on a Louis Seize couch among embroidered cushions, and clothed in flowing lace draperies, was in very little case to speak quickly or plainly. * Everything has happened, she wailed—" everything at once. It is appalling ! I sent for you—what more could I do? I am sure you cannot reproach me more than I reproach myself for ever undertaking the charge of another person's child. But he wished it. I can’t realise what has hpppened. I am like a person in a dream. Oh, Catherine ! he can’t really be dead—all in a moment like that'—her voice rose to a scream — ‘ and you to come and reproach me!’ She hid her face in her lace handkerchief, really unable to continue, and Catherine wrung her hands in distress and impatience. ‘Where is Roper ? I trusted my child to her, she said, turning to the door. ‘Roper knows nothing. I will tell you, since Miladi cannot,’ said Mme. Minart. “Miladi took your daughter to a ball last night, and returned about three in the morning. Philippa came to my room to tell me of her enjoyment, and I told her that in the morning she must sleep late after a fatigue so great. Also I unfastened her dress, for she had forbid Roper, who is old, to sit up for her; and she knew that to me it is nothing to be disturbed. At seven this morning I rise and go to seek Roper, that she may not disturb the child; and I meet her on the stairs, crying, for she has seen the servant who brought the letter from Devonshire for Miladi, and he has told her of the terrible news. I still forbid that the child should be waked to hear this.” Catherine put out her hand impulsively, as though to thank Mme. Minart for this thought of Philippa, but the Frenchwoman did not pause in her rapid low-toned recital. “I say to Roper, “Let her sleep as long as she will; it will be time enough that she should know. What can she do 2 " And Roper agree, but say I am not to tell her, she will tell herself. What would you? The vulgar find a certain joy even in the telling of bad news,” said Mme. Minart disdainfully. “I say I will certainly not tell her, and I go to seek the maid of Miladi. She too says Miladi will know soon enough, and will let her sleep on, and give the letter only when she wakes, since there is nothing— no more to be done for the poor gentleman. And since Miladi is 'there was an inflection of satire in Mme. Minart's tones—‘so weak, so delicate, that she will need all her strength in a grief so terrible. At nine o'clock Holland dares no longer wait, and she goes to Miladi, who has, as was to be expected, an attack of the nerves.” ‘Of the heart,” supplemented Augusta with a sob. ‘Of the heart.” Mme. Minart accepted the correction without a change of expression. “And Holland is obliged to call for assistance. I go, and Roper, and others. There is a great confusion. When Roper goes upstairs to her young lady she finds that she has already risen and left her room. She looks for her downstairs in the room where we breakfast, and finds her not, and someone says she is with Miladi. Later we find that she is not with Miladi, and that Miladi has not seen her. We search here and there; no one has seen her, no one has told her the news. That is all,” said Mme. Minart. “What did you do?’ ‘What could we do,” said Augusta, weeping, “but wait for her to come back, or let us know where she had gone I made up my mind she had heard the news somehow and raced off to you. It would be just like her, so headstrong—and without a word to anybody. It never occurred to me to telegraph and ask you. I waited to hear from you. And then it turned out that nobody could have told her, since nobody had seen her, so I grew frightened and telegraphed to you. It was Pilkington who made me wire a second time, for he had wired privately himself meantime to the station-master at Ilverton and learnt that she had not arrived there.” As she spoke the butler brought a telegram into the room, and waited, breathless with anxiety, while Catherine tore it open, heedless to whom it might be addressed. It was from Miss Dulcinea. ‘Philippa has not come home. Are we to expect her ? Cannot understand your wire.” ‘I took the liberty of telegraphing myself to Mrs. Jones at the Abbey,” said Pilkington in subdued tones to Catherine. ‘Miss Philippa has not arrived there, my lady. I put it very guarded, not to rouse any talk like. I think, my lady, no more time ought to be lost, if you’ll excuse me.” “Of course no more time ought to be lost,” said Catherine, trembling. “Where is Colonel Moore ? Have you sent to him, or to Mr. Chilcott And Lady Sarah 2 ' * I sent round to her ladyship's house the first thing this morning. Miss Philippa has not been to Curzon Street, my lady. And Colonel Moore and Squire Chilcott is out of town, just left to spend the week-end at Ralte.’ * Yes, yes! Colonel Moore said last night that they were going —and Grace Trumoin too. So like Blanche, luring all my friends away from me!’ sobbed Augusta. * Saturday's a awkward day for everything, my lady,” said Pilkington, “but I don't think we ought to lose a moment, now you’ve come, in going to Scotland Yard. They'll telegraph her description all down the line to Devonshire and all over the country. It's the best thing we can do.” ‘Yes, yes, we can do that. It is something,” said Catherine, ‘and I will telegraph to Ralte; they will come back when they hear. Come at once, Pilkington.’ ‘Catherine, you must rest—you must eat something, or you will be ill yourself,’ cried Augusta. “I am as ill as I can be. I feel as if I should go out of my mind with all this on the top of what has happened.” “Do you think I shall ever rest again, day or night,” said Catherine fiercely, “until I know my child is safe 2 Come, Pilkington, we will take Roper with us, and I can question her as we go.” And she went away without another word or look to spare for the weeping new-made widow.
‘WHAT am I to do 2 I determined I would come and ask you— for Catherine will not pay the least heed to what I say. I do not think she even hears me. She never went to bed at all last night. She will be out of her mind if this goes on.’ “And no wooder,’ said Lady Sarah grimly. “Of course I’m not fit to come and see you. No one could expect it of me,’ sobbed Augusta. “It’s not decent that I should come even here, but at your age I did not feel justified in asking you to come to me. Of course, if this—this extraordinary complication had not happened, I should have gone down at once— at once to the Abbey, able or not able, as everyone would have expected of me. As it is I am stunned, simply stunned, as anyone would be (and everyone knows what we were to each other). But here am I, a widow only a day old, and nobody thinking about me or my feelings at all. Mr. Ash writing for instructions, when I don’t know what ought to be done under the circumstances— and if Philippa doesn’t appear at-at the oh, how can I say the word ' ' faltered Augusta, with a fresh burst of tears—‘what will people say? Oh, it is dreadful to have no one—no one to take the responsibility off my hands !’ “Mr. Ash can settle all details about the funeral,” said Lady Sarah, without faltering at all. There were no traces of tears about her shrunken yet handsome old face, but the waxen purity of her complexion was paler, and there was a curious ashen greyness about her sunken mouth and fine-cut nostrils that told of the shock she had suffered. Grief is often softened mysteriously to the very old, who have outlived the loss of many loved ones and have grown almost accustomed to the chill visitations of Death stealing about them on all sides, and leaving them at last alone in a world full of strangers and memories. Lady Sarah's sardonic humour had not deserted her; she showed little more sympathy than usual with her granddaughterin-law, and would have died rather than relax her own self-control in Augusta's presence. ‘Mr. Ash is quite a young man; he must have someone to direct him. I couldn’t think of leaving it to him. And here is George Chilcott, poor Cecil's oldest friend and neighbour, shocked as he is—as he must be—yet he can give his attention to nothing but this dreadful business of Philippa; and Colonel Moore is the same. They came down with Blanche and Bob from Ralte this morning. And the police in and out of the house; even I am being questioned and cross-examined as though I were a convict. Catherine seems to suspect everyone in turn of having made away with her daughter, especially Mme. Minart.” ‘Pray, who is Mme. Minart 2' ‘My companion, who—’ ‘Dear me! And since when have you found it necessary to start a companion ?” said Lady Sarah, raising her eyebrows in affected surprise. ‘Oh, grandmamma! you must remember I told you a fortnight ago she was coming; and here she was so attached to Philippa, poor thing, following her about from morning till night, and never letting her out of her sight. No one can say I was not careful of Philippa. I was afraid of leaving her even with her own maid.’ ‘It appears to me that she was rather Philippa's companion than yours.”
* In a sense she was ; and that is what makes it so ridiculous to suspect her. She is absolutely devoted to Philippa, and how could she have hidden her away against her will ? The thing is absurd. The fact is Catherine has spoilt her daughter so, that Philippa has just taken it into her head to be off no one knows where, and then they all come down upon me. One would think they would have respected my first day of widowhood.’ ‘You are responsible for Philippa,” said Lady Sarah in cutting tones. “She cannot have vanished into thin air. She must have gone somewhere out of your house, and they must look for the clue of her disappearance there.” “But I know no more than the babe unborn where she went,’ wailed Augusta. “All I can say is that she enjoyed herself at the dance, and young Kentisbury paid her a great deal of attention. It was my suggestion to send round to their house and tell them in confidence.” ‘He is the last person who ought to have heard anything about it,” said Lady Sarah sharply. “It may be nothing but a childish freak. She will probably turn up to-morrow, and then he need never have known. A girl’s reputation is a brittle thing; you should have had more sense.” Poor Augusta looked helplessly at her grandmother-in-law. ‘What is the use of trying to hush it up when it is sure to get into the papers?’ she said tearfully. “And Charlie is almost frantic. He says he will never rest day or night till he has found her. The Scotland Yard people thought it must be an elopement at first ; but now they understand who she is and all about her, they think it is more likely a blackmailing business, and that she has been abducted against her will. But who could have abducted a strong powerful girl like Philippa against her will ? The whole thing is a complete mystery.” ‘Why has Catherine not been here ?' said Lady Sarah. “Send her to me.” * She was out all night with Roper and Pilkington. He is quite knocked up to-day. But Catherine is as strong as a horse; she always was,” said Augusta resentfully. “And all to-day she has been with this Detective Mills, questioning and cross-questioning every servant in my house, as I tell you; and bullying me about Mme. Minart's references, and Philippa's fondness for her, and her being left alone with her every evening, and taking meals with her. One would think the girl had been utterly neglected. But