anything to do with her husband's death. I believed her when she said she never saw him from the time she left the hotel till she found him dead in the studio." "And that opens up another theory," Ravenspur exclaimed. "If it wasn't Maria De

lahay the witness Stevens saw that night in Fitzjohn Square, then it must have been her sister Carlotta." "My word, that neve

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r occurred to me!" Walter cried. "And yet the solution is as simple as it is probable. I wonder if it is possible to obtain a photograph of the Countess?" "There were plenty of them published at the time of the trial," Ravenspur said. "Of course, I mean in the illustrated papers. I ha


ve got the whole of them somewhere upstairs. Not that I pay much attention to newspaper photographs, as they are rarely any use. I'll go and see if I can find one." Ravenspur turned hurriedly and left the room. He was gone some considerable time, leaving Walter to stand there and ponder over the resu


lt of his night's adventure. The more he thought the matter over, the more complicated it became. He put the thing away from him almost petulantly. He was suddenly conscious of the fact that the music in the drawing-room was very soft and soothing. Then it flashed across him that Ver

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a had something to say. Ravenspur might be a little time longer, and there was no opportunity like the present. Only a portion of the drawing-room lights were on, together with the piano candles, and Vera sat there half in the shadow, a pathetic looking figure enough, in her white dress. As Walter approached he could see that her face was very pale, and that her eyes showed sign


s of recent tears. "What is the matter?" he asked. "What fresh trouble is this?" Vera's hands fell away from the keys. She rose from her seat. "It is not altogether a fresh trouble," she murmured; "it is only the old one become more acute. Do you remember my telling you the other day that I felt how impossible it is for me to remain here any longer? But


I must go away." "My dearest girl, why?" Walter asked. "You know perfectly well how much I care for you. You know perfectly well that you could not look me in the face and declare that you do not love me as well as I love you. Now, could you?" "That is what makes it all the harder," Vera whispered. "Oh, I am not going to prevaricate about it. We have always b

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een good friends, Walter, and in the last few months I have realised that friendship has given way to a more tender attachment. Perhaps it was that which opened my eyes. Perhaps it was that that made me ask myself some questions. I felt quite sure that Lord Ravenspur had guessed nothing of our secret. In fact, it was a secret to me till one afternoon in this v

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ery room. . . ." "I am not likely to forget," Walter said tenderly. "Well, then, you see I began to think. No father could have been kinder to me than Lord Ravenspur. I owe him a debt that I can never repay. But, though he has taken me into his house, and brought me up as if I belonged to his own flesh and blood, it does not follow that he considers me good enough for his


nephew, the future holder of the title. And when he did find out not long ago, I saw at once what a dreadful disappointment it was to him." "I am afraid it was," Walter said grudgingly. "But he did not set his face against it when I placed the thing before him in a proper light. He merely stipulated that our engagement must be a secret between us for the present. I am sure he is

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much too just a man, much too kind-hearted to spoil our happiness. You are too sensitive, Vera; your sense of honour is too high." The girl's lips quivered piteously. "Perhaps I am," she whispered. "But there is another thing which I have learned tonight, a thing which prevents me from remaining here an hour longer than is necessary. It is the question of my birth. I learned that tonight for the first time. Oh, do not humiliate me any further. Do not force me to speak any more plainly. If you knew the shameful story

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of my parents you would realise at once how unfitted I am to become----" The girl said no more. She covered her face with her hands, and burst into tears. As to Walter, he was too astonished to speak. In the tense silence that followed the hall bell rang violently again and again. Vera looked up swiftly. "You had better go yourself," she said.

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"It may be important." (She was deeply grateful for the interruption.) "Go yourself; everybody else is in bed." CHAPTER XXIV. A BLOOD RELATION. Walter choked down an ugly word that rose to his lips. He resented the intrusion just at a moment when he particularly desired to be alone with Vera. Who was

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it, he wondered, who came so late? And who rang so imperiously and persistently for admission? He flung back bolt and chain, and opened the door. With her nerves all unstrung, and with a certain intuition of impending calamity upon her, Vera had followed him into the hall. She had dried her eyes now; she showed little sign of

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must be taking place in connection with the studio. He had not forgotten the vivid incident of the other night. Perhaps at this very moment the clue to the puzzle was in his hands. He turned round, and his gaze fell upon Vera, who was watching Mrs. Delahay curiously. "Take this lady into the drawing-room," he said, "and wait till I come back. I shan't be very long." Vera came forward with a sympathe

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tic smile upon her face. A light was shining on her features. Maria Delahay could see how fair and sweet she was. And so this, she thought, was her sister's child. This was the girl from whom her mother had voluntarily separated herself for upwards of eighteen years. It seemed impossible, incredible to believe, but there it was. And the girl's hand was under Mrs. Delahay's arm now. She was being gently assisted as far as the drawing-room. "I am sure you are Mrs. Delahay," Vera said, in her most sympathet

ic voice. "If all had gone well we should have met before now. I cannot tell you how sorry I am for you. I do hope this dreadful mystery will be cleared up before long. And now can I get you anything? I suppose you came to see Lord Ravenspur?"

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in Vera's eyes that she realised the full extent of her imprudent speech. "Did you know my father?" Vera cried. "What am I saying!" Mrs. Delahay exclaimed. "My head is so dazed and confused that I don't know what I am talking about. Just for a moment I was filled with a foolish idea that you were Lord Ravenspur's daughter. It would be strange if you bore a likeness to him, seeing that he is only your guardian." Vera was silent for a m

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