' So the conspiracy was hatched. Ivy Mellor was to be the means, the condition of her success the bestowal of her spotless hand upon the rightful heii of Wildshott--a splendid dream, a transpontine melodrama. But John saw at once that a first condition of its success lay in a scrupulous obliteration of all clues pointing to the identity of his confederate: hence his anger on discovering the portrait, and the immediate measures taken by him to wipe it out of existence.
' Well, we know the rest-how the beautiful accomplice betrayed her trust; how she developed a passion for the very man whom she was scheming to disinherit; how, to be sure, she came to recognize that she could much more fully and satisfactorily realize her own ambitions by baulking than by furthering the designs of her fellow-plotter. To be the wife of the problematic heir of Wildshott might be a good thing; to be the wife of the heir of Wildshott in esse, a gentleman, a soldier and an Antinous, was certainly a better. So, having surrendered to love, she played for the greater stake-and she lost. We can pity her : she was frankly an adventuress. We could pity him, were it not for the thought of that inhuman revenge. Yet he had provocation perhaps beyond a gambler's endurance. To find the very woman, for worship of whom he had been scheming away his position, his reputation, his soul of truth and honour, not only turned traitor to his best interests, but faithless in the worst sense, and for his rival's sake, to her pledge to him-well, one must pause before utterly condemning. And after all it was only a moment's madness served by opportunity. Yes, I can pity him. I have a notion, too, that she told him what was not the truth--that she had already destroyed for her love's sake the evidence of the prayer-book. If she had--it was the last touch. Yes, I can pity him.
'Gentlemen, that is the story'.
M. le Baron ceased speaking, and for a time a silence held among them all. Then presently Mr Bickerdike asked :-
'There is only one thing, Baron, which remains to puzzle me a little. Was not Ridgway's employment in the case originally agreed to by Sir Calvin in response to a suggestion of yours?'
'That is quite true'.
'Was Sir Calvin himself, then, never moved tú any sort of emotion or curiosity over the association which the detective's name would naturally awaken in his mind?'
'Emotion?-I think not. It would hardly describe a psychology so little superstitious as that of the General. The similarity of the names would have struck him as no more than an inconsiderable coincidence. With all his practical qualities, imagination is the last thing he would care to be accused of. But curiosity?-well, perhaps to a certain extent-though neither deep-seated nor lasting. You have to remember that from first to last, I suppose, he never knew, or troubled to know, what the Sergeant's Christian name was; and even had he learned it, it would have conveyed nothing to him, as he knew no better; nor again, probably, had ever troubled to know, by what name his own disowned son was called. And very certainly he had never condescended to note the name of the Quartermaster-Sergeant's individual offspring'.
'I see. And had you yourself, in suggesting the Sergeant for the case, any arriere pensee at that time, connecting----?'
'I had merely a curiosity, my friend, to observe the owner of a name--really ipsissima verba to me- so oddly associated in my mind with the teller of a certain fantastic story in Paris'.
'Then you did not know-but of course you didn't.' He turned to the Baronet: 'I congratulate you with all my heart, Orsden'.
"Thanks, old fellow,' said Sir Francis. 'It's all due to him there. I'll give his health, in B-Bob Cratchit's words. Here's to M. le Baron, " the Founder of the Feast " I'