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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bag - Chapter 7. Yellow Roses
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The Gold Bag - Chapter 7. Yellow Roses Post by :ayush Category :Long Stories Author :Carolyn Wells Date :May 2012 Read :3811

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The Gold Bag - Chapter 7. Yellow Roses

CHAPTER VII. YELLOW ROSES

If any one expected to see Miss Lloyd faint or collapse at this crisis he must have been disappointed, and as I had confidently expected such a scene, I was completely surprised at her quick recovery of self-possession.

For an instant she had seemed stunned by my question, and her eyes had wandered vaguely round the room, as if in a vain search for help.

Her glance returned to me, and in that instant I gave her an answering look, which, quite involuntarily on my part, meant a grave and serious offer of my best and bravest efforts in her behalf. Disingenuous she might be, untruthful she might be, yes, even a criminal she might be, but in any case I was her sworn ally forever. Not that I meant to defeat the ends of justice, but I was ready to fight for her or with her, until justice should defeat us. Of course she didn't know all this, though I couldn't help hoping she read a little of it as my eyes looked into hers. If so, she recognized it only by a swift withdrawal of her own glance. Again she looked round at her various friends.

Then her eyes rested on Gregory Hall, and, though he gave her no responsive glance, for some reason her poise returned like a flash. It was as if she had been invigorated by a cold douche.

Determination fairly shone in her dark eyes, and her mouth showed a more decided line than I had yet seen in its red curves, as with a cold, almost hard voice she replied,

"I have no idea. We have many flowers in the house, always."

"But I have learned from the servants that there were no other yellow roses in the house yesterday."

Miss Lloyd was not hesitant now. She replied quickly, and it was with an almost eager haste that she said,

"Then I can only imagine that my uncle had some lady visitor in his office late last evening."

The girl's mood had changed utterly; her tone was almost flippant, and more than one of the jurors looked at her in wonderment.

Mr. Porter, especially, cast an her a glance of fatherly solicitude, and I was sure that he felt, as I did, that the strain was becoming too much for her.

"I don't think you quite mean that, Florence," he said; "you and I knew your uncle too well to say such things."

But the girl made no reply, and her beautiful mouth took on a hard line.

"It is not an impossible conjecture," said Philip Crawford thoughtfully. "If the bag does not belong to Florence, what more probable than that it was left by its feminine owner? The same lady might have worn or carried yellow roses."

Perhaps it was because of my own desire to help her that these other men had joined their efforts to mine to ease the way as much as possible.

The coroner looked a little uncomfortable, for he began to note the tide of sympathy turning toward the troubled girl.

"Yellow roses do not necessarily imply a lady visitor," he said, rather more kindly. "A man in evening dress might have worn one."

To his evident surprise, as well as to my own, this remark, intended to be soothing, had quite the opposite effect.

"That is not at all probable," said Miss Lloyd quite angrily. "Mr. Porter was in the office last evening; if he was wearing a yellow rose at the time, let him say so."

"I was not," said Mr. Porter quietly, but looking amazed at the sudden outburst of the girl.

"Of course you weren't!" Miss Lloyd went on, still in the same excited way. "Men don't wear roses nowadays, except perhaps at a ball; and, anyway, the gold bag surely implies that a woman was there!"

"It seems to," said Mr. Monroe; and then, unable longer to keep up her brave resistance, Florence Lloyd fainted.

Mrs. Pierce wrung her hands and moaned in a helpless fashion. Elsa started forward to attend her young mistress, but it was the two neighbors who were jurors, Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Porter, who carried the unconscious girl from the room.

Gregory Hall looked concerned, but made no movement to aid, and I marvelled afresh at such strange actions in a man betrothed to a particularly beautiful woman.

Several women in the audience hurried from the room, and in a few moments the two jurors returned.

"Miss Lloyd will soon be all right, I think," said Mr. Porter to the coroner. "My wife is with her, and one or two other ladies. I think we may proceed with our work here."

There was something about Mr. Lemuel Porter that made men accept his dictum, and without further remark Mr. Monroe called the next witness, Mr. Roswell Randolph, and a tall man, with an intellectual face, came forward.

While the coroner was putting the formal and preliminary questions to Mr. Randolph, Parmalee quietly drew my attention to a whispered conversation going on between Elsa and Louis.

If this girl had fainted instead of Miss Lloyd, I should not have been surprised for she seemed on the very verge of nervous collapse. She seemed, too, to be accusing the man of something, which he vigorously denied. The girl interested me far more than the Frenchman. Though of the simple, rosy-cheeked type of German, she had an air of canniness and subtlety that was at variance with her naive effect. I soon concluded she was far more clever than most people thought, and Parmalee's whispered words showed that he thought so too.

"Something doing in the case of Dutch Elsa, eh?" he said; "she and Johnny Frenchy have cooked up something between them."

"Nothing of any importance, I fancy," I returned, for Miss Lloyd's swoon seemed to me a surrender, and I had little hope now of any other direction in which to look.

But I resumed my attention to the coroner's inquiries of Mr. Randolph.

In answer to a few formal questions, he stated that he had been Mr. Crawford's legal adviser for many years, and had entire charge of all such matters as required legal attention.

"Did you draw up the late Mr. Crawford's will?" asked the coroner.

"Yes; after the death of his wife--about twelve years ago."

"And what were the terms of that will?"

"Except for some minor bequests, the bulk of his fortune was bequeathed to Miss Florence Lloyd."

"Have you changed that will in any way, or drawn a later one?"

"No."

It was by the merest chance that I was looking at Gregory Hall, as the lawyer gave this answer.

It required no fine perception to understand the look of relief and delight that fairly flooded his countenance. To be sure, it was quickly suppressed, and his former mask of indifference and preoccupation assumed, but I knew as well as if he had put it into words, that he had trembled lest Miss Lloyd had been disinherited before her uncle had met his death in the night.

This gave me many new thoughts, but before I could formulate them, I heard the coroner going an with his questions.

"Did Mr. Crawford visit you last evening?"

"Yes; he was at my house for perhaps half an hour or more between eight and nine o'clock."

"Did he refer to the subject of changing his will?"

"He did. That was his errand. He distinctly stated his intention of making a new will, and asked me to come to his office this morning and draw up the instrument."

"But as that cannot now be done, the will in favor of Miss Lloyd still stands?"

"It does," said Mr. Randolph, "and I am glad of it. Miss Lloyd has been brought up to look upon this inheritance as her own, and while I would have used no undue emphasis, I should have tried to dissuade Mr. Crawford from changing his will."

"But before we consider the fortune or the will, we must proceed with our task of bringing to light the murderer, and avenging Mr. Crawford's death."

"I trust you will do so, Mr. Coroner, and that speedily. But I may say, if allowable, that you are on the wrong track when you allow your suspicions to tend towards Florence Lloyd."

"As your opinion, Mr. Randolph, of course that sentiment has some weight, but as a man of law, yourself, you must know that such an opinion must be proved before it can be really conclusive."

"Yes, of course," said Mr. Randolph, with a deep sigh. "But let me beg of you to look further in search of other indications before you press too hard upon Miss Lloyd with the seeming clues you now have."

I liked Mr. Randolph very much. Indeed it seemed to me that the men of West Sedgwick were of a fine class as to both intellect and judgment, and though Coroner Monroe was not a brilliant man, I began to realize that he had some sterling qualities and was distinctly just and fair in his decisions.

As for Gregory Hall, he seemed like a man free from a great anxiety. Though still calm and reserved in appearance, he was less nervous, and quietly awaited further developments. His attitude was not hard to understand. Mr. Crawford had objected to his secretary's engagement to his niece, and now Mr. Crawford's objections could no longer matter. Again, it was not surprising that Mr. Hall should be glad to learn that his fiancee was the heiress she had supposed herself to he. Even though he were marrying the girl simply for love of her, a large fortune in addition was by no means to be despised. At any rate, I concluded that Gregory Hall thought so.

As often happened, Parmalee read my thoughts. "A fortune-hunter," he murmured, with a meaning glance at Hall.

I remembered that Mr. Carstairs, at the inn had said the same thing, and I thoroughly believed it myself.

"Has he any means of his own?"

"No," said Parmalee, "except his salary, which was a good one from Mr. Crawford, but of course he's lost that now."

"I don't feel drawn toward him. I suppose one would call him a gentleman and yet he isn't manly."

"He's a cad," declared Parmalee; "any fortune hunter is a cad, and I despise him."

Although I tried to hold my mind impartially open regarding Mr. Hall, I was conscious of an inclination to despise him myself. But I was also honest enough to realize that my principal reason for despising him was because he had won the hand of Florence Lloyd.

I heard Coroner Monroe draw a long sigh.

Clearly, the man was becoming more and more apprehensive, and really dreaded to go on with the proceedings, because he was fearful of what might be disclosed thereby.

The gold bag still lay on the table before him; the yellow rose petals were not yet satisfactorily accounted for; Miss Lloyd's agitation and sudden loss of consciousness, though not surprising in the circumstances, were a point in her disfavor. And now the revelation that Mr. Crawford was actually on the point of disinheriting his niece made it impossible to ignore the obvious connection between that fact and the event of the night.

But no one had put the thought into words, and none seemed inclined to.

Mechanically, Mr. Monroe called the next witness on his list, and Mrs. Pierce answered.

For some reason she chose to stand during her interview, and as she rose, I realized that she was a prim little personage, but of such a decided nature that she might have been stigmatized by the term stubborn. I had seen such women before; of a certain soft, outward effect, apparently pliable and amenable, but in reality, deep, shrewd and clever.

And yet she was not strong, for the situation in which she found herself made her trembling and unstrung.

When asked by the coroner to tell her own story of the events of the evening before, she begged that he would question her instead.

Desirous of making it as easy for her as possible, Mr. Monroe acceded to her wishes, and put his questions in a kindly and conversational tone.

"You were at dinner last night, with Miss Lloyd and Mr. Crawford?"

"Yes," was the almost inaudible reply, and Mrs. Pierce seemed about to break down at the sad recollection.

"You heard the argument between Mr. Crawford and his niece at the dinner table?"

"Yes."

"This resulted in high words on both sides?"

"Well, I don't know exactly what you mean by high words. Mr. Crawford rarely lost his temper and Florence never."

"What then did Mr. Crawford say in regard to disinheriting Miss Lloyd?"

"Mr. Crawford said clearly, but without recourse to what may be called high words, that unless Florence would consent to break her engagement he would cut her off with a shilling."

"Did he use that expression?"

"He did at first, when he was speaking more lightly; then when Florence refused to do as he wished he said he would go that very evening to Mr. Randolph's and have a new will made which should disinherit Florence, except for a small annuity."

"And what did Miss Lloyd reply to this threat?" asked the coroner.

"She said," replied Mrs. Pierce, in her plaintive tones, "that her uncle might do as he chose about that; but she would never give up Mr. Hall."

At this moment Gregory Hall looked more manly than I had yet seen him.

Though he modestly dropped his eyes at this tacit tribute to his worthiness, yet he squared his shoulders, and showed a justifiable pride in the love thus evinced for him.

"Was the subject discussed further?" pursued the coroner.

"No; nothing more was said about it after that."

"Will the making of a new will by Mr. Crawfard affect yourself in any way, Mrs. Pierce?"

"No," she replied, "Mr. Crawford left me a small bequest in his earlier will and I had reason to think he would do the same in a later will, even though he changed his intentions regarding Florence."

"Miss Lloyd thoroughly believed that he intended to carry out his threat last evening?"

"She didn't say so to me, but Mr. Crawford spoke so decidedly on the matter, that I think both she and I believed he was really going to carry out his threat at last."

"When Mr. Crawford left the house, did you and Miss Lloyd know where he was going?"

"We knew no more than he had said at the table. He said nothing when he went away."

"How did you and Miss Lloyd spend the remainder of the evening?"

"It was but a short evening. We sat in the music-room for a time, but at about ten o'clock we both went up to our rooms."

"Had Mr. Crawford returned then?"

"Yes, he came in perhaps an hour earlier. We heard him come in at the front door, and go at once to his office."

"You did not see him, or speak to him?"

"We did not. He had a caller during the evening. It was Mr. Porter, I have since learned."

"Did Miss Lloyd express no interest as to whether he had changed his will or not?"

"Miss Lloyd didn't mention the will, or her engagement, to me at all. We talked entirely of other matters."

"Was Miss Lloyd in her usual mood or spirits?"

"She seemed a little quiet, but not at all what you might call worried."

"Was not this strange when she was fully expecting to be deprived of her entire fortune?"

"It was not strange for Miss Lloyd. She rarely talks of her own affairs. We spent an evening similar in all respects to our usual evening when we do not have guests."

"And you both went upstairs at ten. Was that unusually early for you?"

"Well, unless we have guests, we often go at ten or half-past ten."

"And did you see Miss Lloyd again that night?"

"Yes; about half an hour later, I went to her room for a book I wanted."

"Miss Lloyd had not retired?"

"No; she asked me to sit down for awhile and chat."

"Did you do so?"

"Only for a few moments. I was interested in the book I had come for, and I wanted to take it away to my own room to read."

"And Miss Lloyd, then, did not seem dispirited or in any way in an unusual mood?"

"Not that I noticed. I wasn't quizzing her or looking into her eyes to see what her thoughts were, for it didn't occur to me to do so. I knew her uncle had dealt her a severe blow, but as she didn't open the subject, of course I couldn't discuss it with her. But I did think perhaps she wanted to be by herself to consider the matter, and that was one reason why I didn't stay and chat as she had asked me to."

"Perhaps she really wanted to discuss the matter with you."

"Perhaps she did; but in that case she should have said so. Florence knows well enough that I am always ready to discuss or sympathize with her in any matter, but I never obtrude my opinions. So as she said nothing to lead me to think she wanted to talk to me especially, I said good-night to her."

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