“We had better let the people
clear off,” said Thorndyke, when the first greetings
were over and we stood around Reuben in the fast-emptying
court. “We don’t want a demonstration
as we go out.”
“No; anything but that, just
now,” replied Reuben. He still held Mrs.
Hornby’s hand, and one arm was passed through
that of his uncle, who wiped his eyes at intervals,
though his face glowed with delight.
“I should like you to come and
have a little quiet luncheon with me at my chambers all
of us friends together,” continued Thorndyke.
“I should be delighted,”
said Reuben, “if the programme would include
a satisfactory wash.”
“You will come, Anstey?” asked Thorndyke.
“What have you got for lunch?”
demanded Anstey, who was now disrobed and in his right
mind that is to say, in his usual whimsical,
“That question savours of gluttony,”
answered Thorndyke. “Come and see.”
“I will come and eat, which
is better,” answered Anstey, “and I must
run off now, as I have to look in at my chambers.”
“How shall we go?” asked
Thorndyke, as his colleague vanished through the doorway.
“Polton has gone for a four-wheeler, but it won’t
hold us all.”
“It will hold four of us,”
said Reuben, “and Dr. Jervis will bring Juliet;
won’t you, Jervis?”
The request rather took me aback,
considering the circumstances, but I was conscious,
nevertheless, of an unreasonable thrill of pleasure
and answered with alacrity: “If Miss Gibson
will allow me, I shall be very delighted.”
My delight was, apparently, not shared by Juliet, to
judge by the uncomfortable blush that spread over
her face. She made no objection, however, but
merely replied rather coldly: “Well, as
we can’t sit on the roof of the cab, we had
better go by ourselves.”
The crowd having by this time presumably
cleared off, we all took our way downstairs.
The cab was waiting at the kerb, surrounded by a group
of spectators, who cheered Reuben as he appeared at
the doorway, and we saw our friends enter and drive
away. Then we turned and walked quickly down
the Old Bailey towards Ludgate Hill. “Shall
we take a hansom?” I asked.
“No; let us walk,” replied
Juliet; “a little fresh air will do us good
after that musty, horrible court. It all seems
like a dream, and yet what a relief oh!
what a relief it is.”
“It is rather like the awakening
from a nightmare to find the morning sun shining,”
“Yes; that is just what it is
like,” she agreed; “but I still feel dazed
We turned presently down New Bridge
Street, towards the Embankment, walking side by side
without speaking, and I could not help comparing,
with some bitterness, our present stiff and distant
relations with the intimacy and comradeship that had
existed before the miserable incident of our last
“You don’t look so jubilant
over your success as I should have expected,”
she said at length, with a critical glance at me; “but
I expect you are really very proud and delighted,
“Delighted, yes; not proud.
Why should I be proud? I have only played jackal,
and even that I have done very badly.”
“That is hardly a fair statement
of the facts,” she rejoined, with another quick,
inquisitive look at me; “but you are in low spirits
to-day which is not at all like you.
Is it not so?”
“I am afraid I am a selfish,
egotistical brute,” was my gloomy reply.
“I ought to be as gay and joyful as everyone
else to-day, whereas the fact is that I am chafing
over my own petty troubles. You see, now that
this case is finished, my engagement with Dr. Thorndyke
terminates automatically, and I relapse into my old
life a dreary repetition of journeying
amongst strangers and the prospect is not
inspiriting. This has been a time of bitter trial
to you, but to me it has been a green oasis in the
desert of a colourless, monotonous life. I have
enjoyed the companionship of a most lovable man, whom
I admire and respect above all other men, and with
him have moved in scenes full of colour and interest.
And I have made one other friend whom I am loth to
see fade out of my life, as she seems likely to do.”
“If you mean me,” said
Juliet, “I may say that it will be your own fault
if I fade out of your life. I can never forget
all that you have done for us, your loyalty to Reuben,
your enthusiasm in his cause, to say nothing of your
many kindnesses to me. And, as to your having
done your work badly, you wrong yourself grievously.
I recognised in the evidence by which Reuben was cleared
to-day how much you had done, in filling in the details,
towards making the case complete and convincing.
I shall always feel that we owe you a debt of the
deepest gratitude, and so will Reuben, and so, perhaps,
more than either of us, will someone else.”
“And who is that?” I asked,
though with no great interest. The gratitude
of the family was a matter of little consequence to
“Well, it is no secret now,”
replied Juliet. “I mean the girl whom Reuben
is going to marry. What is the matter, Dr. Jervis?”
she added, in a tone of surprise.
We were passing through the gate that
leads from the Embankment to Middle Temple Lane, and
I had stopped dead under the archway, laying a detaining
hand upon her arm and gazing at her in utter amazement.
“The girl that Reuben is going
to marry!” I repeated. “Why, I had
always taken it for granted that he was going to marry
“But I told you, most explicitly,
that was not so!” she exclaimed with some impatience.
“I know you did,” I admitted
ruefully; “but I thought well, I imagined
that things had, perhaps, not gone quite smoothly and ”
“Did you suppose that if I had
cared for a man, and that man had been under a cloud,
I should have denied the relation or pretended that
we were merely friends?” she demanded indignantly.
“I am sure you wouldn’t,”
I replied hastily. “I was a fool, an idiot by
Jove, what an idiot I have been!”
“It was certainly very silly
of you,” she admitted; but there was a gentleness
in her tone that took away all bitterness from the
“The reason of the secrecy was
this,” she continued; “they became engaged
the very night before Reuben was arrested, and, when
he heard of the charge against him, he insisted that
no one should be told unless, and until, he was fully
acquitted. I was the only person who was in their
confidence, and as I was sworn to secrecy, of course
I couldn’t tell you; nor did I suppose that
the matter would interest you. Why should it?”
“Imbecile that I am,” I murmured.
“If I had only known!”
“Well, if you had known,”
said she; “what difference could it have made
This question she asked without looking
at me, but I noted that her cheek had grown a shade
“Only this,” I answered.
“That I should have been spared many a day and
night of needless self-reproach and misery.”
“But why?” she asked,
still keeping her face averted. “What had
you to reproach yourself with?”
“A great deal,” I answered,
“if you consider my supposed position. If
you think of me as the trusted agent of a man, helpless
and deeply wronged a man whose undeserved
misfortunes made every demand upon chivalry and generosity;
if you think of me as being called upon to protect
and carry comfort to the woman whom I regarded as,
virtually, that man’s betrothed wife; and then
if you think of me as proceeding straightway, before
I had known her twenty-four hours, to fall hopelessly
in love with her myself, you will admit that I had
something to reproach myself with.”
She was still silent, rather pale
and very thoughtful, and she seemed to breathe more
quickly than usual.
“Of course,” I continued,
“you may say that it was my own look-out, that
I had only to keep my own counsel, and no one would
be any the worse. But there’s the mischief
of it. How can a man who is thinking of a woman
morning, noon and night; whose heart leaps at the sound
of her coming, whose existence is a blank when she
is away from him a blank which he tries
to fill by recalling, again and again, all that she
has said and the tones of her voice, and the look
that was in her eyes when she spoke how
can he help letting her see, sooner or later, that
he cares for her? And if he does, when he has
no right to, there is an end of duty and chivalry
and even common honesty.”
“Yes, I understand now,”
said Juliet softly. “Is this the way?”
She tripped up the steps leading to Fountain Court
and I followed cheerfully. Of course it was not
the way, and we both knew it, but the place was silent
and peaceful, and the plane-trees cast a pleasant shade
on the gravelled court. I glanced at her as we
walked slowly towards the fountain. The roses
were mantling in her cheeks now and her eyes were
cast down, but when she lifted them to me for an instant,
I saw that they were shining and moist.
“Did you never guess?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied in
a low voice, “I guessed; but but then,”
she added shyly, “I thought I had guessed wrong.”
We walked on for some little time
without speaking again until we came to the further
side of the fountain, where we stood listening to the
quiet trickle of the water, and watching the sparrows
as they took their bath on the rim of the basin.
A little way off another group of sparrows had gathered
with greedy joy around some fragments of bread that
had been scattered abroad by the benevolent Templars,
and hard by a more sentimentally-minded pigeon, unmindful
of the crumbs and the marauding sparrows, puffed out
his breast and strutted and curtsied before his mate
with endearing gurgles.
Juliet had rested her hand on one
of the little posts that support the chain by which
the fountain is enclosed and I had laid my hand on
hers. Presently she turned her hand over so that
mine lay in its palm; and so we were standing hand-in-hand
when an elderly gentleman, of dry and legal aspect,
came up the steps and passed by the fountain.
He looked at the pigeons and then he looked at us,
and went his way smiling and shaking his head.
“Juliet,” said I.
She looked up quickly with sparkling
eyes and a frank smile that was yet a little shy,
“Why did he smile that old gentleman when
he looked at us?”
“I can’t imagine,” she replied mendaciously.
“It was an approving smile,”
I said. “I think he was remembering his
own spring-time and giving us his blessing.”
“Perhaps he was,” she
agreed. “He looked a nice old thing.”
She gazed fondly at the retreating figure and then
turned again to me. Her cheeks had grown pink
enough by now, and in one of them a dimple displayed
itself to great advantage in its rosy setting.
“Can you forgive me, dear, for
my unutterable folly?” I asked presently, as
she glanced up at me again.
“I am not sure,” she answered.
“It was dreadfully silly of you.”
“But remember, Juliet, that
I loved you with my whole heart as I love
you now and shall love you always.”
“I can forgive you anything
when you say that,” she answered softly.
Here the voice of the distant Temple
clock was heard uttering a polite protest. With
infinite reluctance we turned away from the fountain,
which sprinkled us with a parting benediction, and
slowly retraced our steps to Middle Temple Lane and
thence into Pump Court.
“You haven’t said it,
Juliet,” I whispered, as we came through the
archway into the silent, deserted court.
“Haven’t I, dear?”
she answered; “but you know it, don’t you?
You know I do.”
“Yes, I know,” I said;
“and that knowledge is all my heart’s desire.”
She laid her hand in mine for a moment
with a gentle pressure and then drew it away; and
so we passed through into the cloisters.