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Title: A bitter reckoning : or, Violet Arleigh
Author: Collins, E. Burke, Mrs.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A bitter reckoning : or, Violet Arleigh" ***




_By Mrs. E. Burke Collins_


Copyright 1893 by

Published by
Cleveland, Ohio, U. S. A.




At Midnight                     5


A Bitter Reckoning             15


The Tragedy                    30


Driven to the Wall             33


A Strange Occurrence           41


Gone!                          50


A Mad Mistake                  57


“My Dark-Eyed Will!”           65


Escaped                        72


A Mystery                      77


Drowned!                       84


The First Move                 92


Gilbert Warrington’s Plot      96


Cross-Purposes                103


Alive!                        110


No Hope                       114


Jealousy                      121


At Yorke Towers               130


A Warning                     134


Violet Obeys                  141


In the East Chamber           148


Violet Attempts a Truce       154


In the Corridor               161


A Fearful Deed                168


A Terrible Secret             174


A Dark Suspicion              181


In a Trap                     188


In Durance Vile               194


Leonard Hears All             201


A Ray of Hope                 208


A Ray of Hope                 213


What Came Next                220


A Second Attempt              227


At Last                       233


Violet Hears the Story        240


Some Lessons Learned          247






 “Will be with you to-morrow at midnight. Prepare for a bitter

                                       “Gilbert Warrington.”

Rosamond Arleigh read the telegram over and over--once, twice, thrice,
and her face grew pale as death, while into her dark eyes there crept
a look of desperation. She glanced across the crowd of happy faces
before her--the merry, care-free throng that filled her brilliant
drawing-rooms to overflowing, and her pale face was convulsed with
pain, and she set her white teeth into her red under lip until the
blood started.

“I had nearly forgotten!” she muttered. “Heaven help me, I had almost
allowed myself to forget! The time will soon be up--the hour will soon
be here when he will come to extort a bitter penalty for that mad
mistake of the past. I am brought to bay at last; there is no escape!
May Heaven show me mercy, for I need expect none from man!”

She stood there, pale and queenly, her head, its dark locks just
touched with silver, resting against the door-casing, as she watched
the gleaming kaleidoscope of dancers floating dreamily away to the
sweet, sensuous waltz-music. Her dark eyes rested long and lovingly
upon a sweet face among the dancers--a fair face lighted up by great
dark eyes, the small head crowned by a mass of waving golden hair;
a girlish, graceful figure in white silk trimmed with fern leaves.
Some subtile instinct made the beautiful eyes of the girl turn in the
direction of that watching figure with a swift start of pleasure, and a
look of fond affection passed between the two.

Stifling a sigh, Rosamond Arleigh turned away and went out upon the
broad gallery which ran in front of the rambling old house--a real
Southern country home. Once there, she sunk wearily into a low lounging
chair. There was the sound of light footsteps, the soft _frou-frou_ of
silken skirts; then a tiny white-gloved hand came down lightly upon
Mrs. Arleigh’s shoulder and rested there like a snow-flake, while a
gay, girlish voice cried, lightly:

“Mamma! You dear little humbug! you said you would not be able to
come down-stairs to-night, and, lo! here you are. All my pleasure has
been spoiled until now; the sight of you cheers me once more! Aunt
Constance is doing her level best to make my ball a success; but dear
as she is, auntie isn’t _you_! And I----”

“You are enjoying yourself, Violet?” her mother asked, in an anxious
tone. “You are satisfied? Do you like your ball?”

“Like it? Mamma, it is divine! There never was another such ball--never
in the whole world, I am sure! I ought to be very happy to-night,
mamma; I have so much to be thankful for. My beautiful home, and you,
and--and all those who are so good to me. And it is my eighteenth
birthday, and this is my very first ball!”

She has summed it all up in those last words. In all the years to come
there will never be anything like this in her life--never again. She
may be surfeited with pleasures, may revel in wealth, and (natural
sequence) count her friends by the score; but never again will she
taste of the pure, unalloyed delight, the innocent rapture of her first
ball--her eighteenth birthday.

Rosamond Arleigh listens to her only child, and as she listens her
face grows pale to ghastliness--some hidden anguish seems tearing at
her heart-strings--but she tries to smile, and drawing the golden head
down, kisses the girl’s red lips.

“My little Violet,” she says, softly, all the beautiful mother-love
shining in her eyes, “enjoy yourself while you are young, ‘gather the
roses while you may;’ for, oh, my darling, the dark days are coming!”

Her white hand still clutches that crumpled telegram, and the look of
horror deepens in her eyes.

Violet uttered a low cry.

“_Mamma!_ you are ill again! I was afraid when I saw you in the
door-way that you were exerting yourself too much, and you still feeble
from your late illness. Go up to your room again, will you, dear? Come,
let me go with you.”

She put her white arm about her mother’s waist in a pretty, protecting
way, and laid her satiny cheek against the pale one with a caressing
little gesture.

Mrs. Arleigh forced a smile.

“I am better now. Forgive me, daughter. I had no right to mar your
happiness with my melancholy. Go back to the ball-room and dance; I see
Mr. Yorke looking for you.”

A swift wave of crimson suffuses the girl’s delicate cheeks, and the
big, dark eyes droop shyly; but a sweet smile curves her dainty lips,
and the white arms tighten their grasp about her mother’s form.

“Leonard Yorke?” carelessly. “Oh, yes; I see him now. Mamma, you _like_
Leonard, do you not?”

“To be sure; there isn’t a better young man in all Louisiana. But,
Violet”--a sudden terror flashing into her eyes and her voice trembling
audibly--“surely you do not mean--there is nothing between Leonard and
you, is there, my darling?”

She shook her golden head.

“No-o; of course not, _ma mère_--not exactly. Only--I like him. There,
‘I done tole you!’ as the darkies say.”

A spasm of pain convulsed Rosamond Arleigh’s fair face for a moment and
her form trembled perceptibly.

Violet started in alarm.

“What a selfish thing I am!” she exclaimed. “Here I am keeping you here
when you ought to go to your own room and lie down. Come, dear; I can
not return to my guests and know that you are out here alone and ill.
And there is Leonard coming now; he is looking for me. Will you not let
me go upstairs with you, mamma?”

More to satisfy Violet than for any other reason, Rosamond Arleigh
arose to her feet and allowed her daughter to lead her into the hall,
which runs through the center of the house, and up the broad staircase,
half hidden in flowers.

The band was playing sweetly, sadly, by way of interlude, “_Ah, che le

Rosamond Arleigh’s eyes grew misty.

    “‘Ah, I have sighed to rest me deep in the quiet grave!
      But all in vain I crave----’”

She stopped abruptly. She had spoken the words half aloud, and Violet
had heard them.

“Mamma,” her sweet voice full of wistfulness, “are not you happy?”


She has reached the door of her own room now, and opening it, passes
within, followed closely by her daughter.

“Happy? Why, of course--of course I am happy! Ha! ha! Why not? Why
should I be anything else but happy and--and gay? Now, go down-stairs,
dear, back to your guests and the dance. And don’t forget, Violet, that
you are only eighteen, and this is your first ball!”

The girl obeys unwillingly, for there is something strange in her
mother’s face, and the dark eyes glitter wildly.

“Kiss me, mamma,” she pleads, throwing her white arms about her
mother’s neck. “I shall be _awfully_ uneasy about you all the time, and
I will come back to you as soon as I can, and----”

“No, dear; don’t do that. I am going to retire now and rest. The music
does not disturb me. I--I rather like to hear it. Kiss me again,
Violet. Good-night, my baby. May God and the holy angels have you ever
in their keeping! Good-bye--good-bye!”

And long afterward it struck home to Violet Arleigh’s heart, with all
the force and intensity of a blow, how, instead of good-night, she had
said _good-bye_!

Violet left the room reluctantly, and went down-stairs--went to join
the handsome, dark-eyed young man upon the broad gallery overhung with
trailing rose-vines, awaiting her impatiently. A moment more, and he
had her in his arms, her golden head resting upon his breast.

“Violet--_my_ Violet! You are mine, are you not?” he whispered,

She smiled up into his face, her dark eyes full of a tender light.

“I am afraid that it is true Leonard,” she returned, demurely.

“Then you _do_ love me?” he cried, rapturously, drawing her closer to
his heart.

The shy eyes drooped.

“Yes; I love you,” she whispered, softly. “I think I have always done
that, Leonard, ever since--ever since I knew you.”

“And I may speak to your mother to-morrow, darling?” he persisted. “I
can not wait any longer. I want you, Violet; and my home is waiting for
a mistress--a queen to reign over it. And my mother will be glad, I am

Violet shook her head dubiously.

He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow--a very
dignified and arbitrary woman, with a pride second to none--an
overbearing, tyrannical pride which ruled and dominated all her life.

Would she welcome to her home the girl who would henceforth usurp her
place in that home, as she had already in the heart of her son?

Violet turned away with a strange, cold feeling settling down over her

“I am not so certain of that,” she returned; “but we will not trouble
ourselves about it now, Leonard. Of course you know that even if mamma
says yes--do you think she _will_, Leonard?--I could not _think_ of
such a thing as marrying--oh, not for ages!”

A look of amusement passed over his face; he bit his lip to suppress a

“Nice prospect for _me_!” he cried, ruefully. “Now, sweetheart, let
_me_ lay down the law. I shall seek an interview with your mother in
the morning--my poor darling, we are both alike fatherless--if she
is able to receive me. I am so grieved that her health is not good;
but I will try not to excite her; and if she will consent to give her
treasure into my keeping, I propose that our marriage take place--let
me see! this is April--_May_ is an unlucky month for weddings. What do
you say to the first of June, sweetheart?”

“June!”--with a frightened start--“oh, Leonard, _impossible_!”

“Nothing is impossible, my darling,” he returned, coolly. “And now,
Violet, the music has struck up the ‘Manola.’ Come, let us waltz
together once more. It will be your first dance in the capacity of my
betrothed wife!”

She laid her small gloved hand upon his black coat-sleeve, and they
returned to the ball-room, where they were soon floating away to the
sweet waltz-music.

And over their young, defenseless heads a cloud was gathering,
creeping nearer and nearer. Soon it would envelop them in its inky

       *       *       *       *       *

Upstairs in her pretty sitting-room Rosamond Arleigh was pacing slowly
up and down, her head bent, her hands clasped tightly together, her
face set and pale as death.

“There is no way of escape,” she muttered, hoarsely, coming to a halt
at length in her monotonous pacing to and fro. “I am like the doomed
wretch in the Italian prison, who felt its walls closing in around him
a little nearer, a little nearer every day. I shall soon be crushed
within the walls of destiny and a relentless hatred--a hatred which has
existed for years--a hatred which calls itself love, and which will
never be satisfied until it has wrought my ruin, body and soul! And
there is no escape, no way out--save death!”

Her eyes wandered restlessly over to a small cabinet which occupied a
corner of the room. There were a half-dozen vials standing upon the
upper shelf. One of them bore a grinning skull and crossbones, and was
labeled “Chloral--Poison.”

“I wonder,” she went on, thoughtfully, “how he intends to begin--how
and when he will strike--to deal the fatal blow which will devastate
my life and doom my child--my beautiful girl--to endless misery and
shame. _He_ says he will be here to-morrow at midnight--to-morrow!
Ha-a!” turning the crumpled telegram over in her shaking hand. “Why,
the message has been delayed. A common occurrence in these country
towns. They have neglected to send it to me here at The Oaks. Yet--yet
I have thus gained a few hours’ respite. Let me see. The message is
dated yesterday,” she went on, carefully examining it once more. “Good
heavens! he will be here this very night! May Heaven have mercy, and
help me to be brave!”

One! chimed from the little gilded clock upon the marble mantel of the
pretty room--two! three! Rosamond Arleigh clasped her hands, and her
eyes were riveted upon the time-piece. Four! five, six! Her breath came
thick and fast; her form trembled like an aspen. Seven! eight! nine!
ten! eleven! _Twelve!_

Before the last stroke had fairly died away into silence there was
a faint rap at the door of the room. A moment’s pause, during which
her white lips moved as though in prayer, and then, pale as a statue,
Rosamond Arleigh made her way unsteadily over to the door and threw it




There was a brief pause, a silence during which you could hear
distinctly the great strangling heart-throbs of the woman who stood
staring blankly into the face of her unwelcome visitor.

Below-stairs the revelry went on; the patter of light feet upon the
polished floor of the ball-room; the gay peals of merry laughter; and
over all the wailing notes of the music, with its tender, pleading, and
wordless entreaty, as the band played “Love’s Young Dream.”

Rosamond Arleigh started, and one white hand went to her heart,
pressing against it with a passionate gesture. She bowed coldly.

“So it is you, Mr. Warrington?” with affected indifference. “Come in.”

“Yes; it is I. Whom else should it be?” retorted the intruder, and a
tall, dark figure crossed the threshold, closed the door and locked it
carefully. “I am exceedingly punctual,” he went on, coolly, as he sunk
uninvited into a seat. “It is a rule of mine never to keep any one, and
more especially a lady, waiting. Why, Rosamond, my dear, you look ‘all
broke up.’ What is the matter with you?”

Rosamond Arleigh frowned.

“I have been ill, that is all,” she returned, coldly; “only a little
touch of the old heart trouble. You have called here to-night, Gilbert
Warrington, to--It is the old business, I suppose.”

“You are right; it is the old affair, that little slip of yours which
is fated to follow you through life like a dark shadow, fated to dog
your footsteps to the very grave. ‘The sins of the parents’--you know
the rest of it, my dear Rosamond. So your sin will fall, in all its
black horror and shame and disgrace, _upon your child_!”

Rosamond Arleigh covered her white face with her cold, trembling hands,
and her graceful figure swayed unsteadily.

“You would not!” she faltered, brokenly.

“Would I not? See here, Rosamond.”

Gilbert Warrington rose and stood before her, a man of some
five-and-forty years, tall and commanding, with keen gray eyes, and a
face as colorless as marble; a heavy black mustache and chin-beard;
thin, cruel lips; a restless glitter in the shifting eyes. Not a face
to trust.

“You understand me, Rosamond?” he went on, in a low, hissing tone,
transfixing his terrified listener with his beady eyes. “I wish to
settle this matter absolutely. You will have to marry me or see your
child eternally disgraced through the bad black blot upon her name
which your own mad deed in the dead and gone past has affixed there.
Ah, you need not wince; I mean to use plain words. I do not intend to
handle you with gloves just because _you_ are a purse-proud aristocrat,
while _I_ come from the slums. I intend that you shall feel the full
sting of the power that I hold over you. _You_, Rosamond Arleigh, sole
representative of an old aristocratic family, one of the best in the
land, you whose name is good for many thousands, who move in the most
exclusive circle among the rich and great, you are something from which
the proud and haughty dames of your select circle would shrink if the
truth were known. The veriest wretch in all the land would not take
your hand to-night if the truth concerning your past were made public,
Rosamond Arleigh.”

“Have--mercy!” she falters, brokenly. “Be human, Gilbert Warrington;
show me some pity, some consideration. For the sake of the past, in
memory of the dead and gone days when I took you by the hand and led
you up to prosperity, have pity, have some gratitude----”

“_Gratitude?_ Bah! Talk of something tangible, something that exists,
something that I can understand. Gratitude? Ha! ha! You make me tired.
No, no, my friend; we will confine ourselves to facts and drop all that
high-flown rhapsody.”

She lifted her white face for a moment, and her eyes rested upon his
with a look of imploring entreaty.

“Is there no alternative?” she gasped.

“None. You must marry me, you must become my wife at once, or the
whole world shall ring with the truth--that you were only Hubert

“Stop! For the love of God, do not speak that word. It is

“_Prove it!_”

“Alas! I can not, as you know too well. Gilbert Warrington, I offer you
all I possess in the world--all my wealth--_everything_--if you will
give me those papers in your possession and let me go free, let me take
my child and go away from here, so far that none here will ever learn
my whereabouts. Is that not enough to buy your silence?”

“No! a thousand times no! There is not money enough in all Louisiana
to purchase my silence. Rosamond Arleigh, _I love you_, and I mean to
make you my wife. I have loved you for years, I have held this secret
suspended over your head for years, but now--now--you shall marry me,
or the secret shall be made public, and you and yours ruined forever!
You will be shunned as a pestilence, and Violet, think of what her fate
will be!”

A low groan issued from the woman’s pallid lips, then all was still.
The silence grew oppressive.

Gilbert Warrington drew near the bowed figure and touched her lightly
upon the arm.

“‘Every man has his price,’ it is said,” he says, slowly. “You know
mine. There is no alternative. You will consent, Rosamond?”

No answer. The bowed head is lifted, the wild eyes are staring
straight before them into space, the cold hands twitch convulsively,
the white lips quiver; but not a word escapes her, not a moan.

“You have heard my proposition,” the smooth voice goes on, lowly;
“you must say ‘_Yes_’ at once, or I shall go down-stairs now and
expose your secret to the select society gathered here to do honor
to your daughter’s eighteenth birthday. You were scarcely eighteen
when this occurred of which you are guilty; but Violet will not think
of that--will show you no pity because you were so young when it
happened--and she, your own child, will look upon her mother--the
mother so dearly, so idolatrously loved--with scorn, contempt,
loathing. Will you consent, Rosamond?”

“No! no! no! A thousand times no!” she panted, defiantly. “I would
sooner take my own life! Better to commit suicide than to fall into
_your_ hands, you human tiger! Oh, Heaven! that I should be compelled
to listen to such insults beneath my own roof, and be powerless to
avenge them!”

She fell back into a seat; pale and gasping for breath, great drops
of perspiration standing upon her brow--the cold dew of agony--her
features convulsed with suffering, one hand clutching--clutching at her
heart, which was throbbing as though trying to break through its mortal
prison. Her dark eyes, bloodshot with suffering, wandered slowly over
to the cabinet in the corner, where stood the vial marked “Chloral.”

A fiendish expression crept over Gilbert Warrington’s face. With a
furtive glance around, as though fearing lest some human eye was upon
his movements, he flew to the cabinet, and snatching the bottle from
the shelf, thrust it into Rosamond Arleigh’s shaking hand.

At that moment the awful silence was broken by the sound of light
footsteps flying up the stairs. They paused at the door of the room,
and a timid rap sounded upon the panel.

“Mamma!” called Violet, softly. “Are you ill, dear? May I not come in?
It is I, your little Violet. I thought I heard you call me. Open the
door and let me in.”

There was no answer. Rosamond Arleigh could not speak. Twice she opened
her lips to utter Violet’s name, to answer her loving inquiries, but
no sound came forth. Trembling, panting in mortal agony, she crouched
there, her eyes upon Gilbert Warrington’s cold face.

Still as a statue, Warrington waited for Violet to go. She must not
suspect his presence there; neither she nor any one else in the house
must know of the midnight visitor who had entered in the midst of the
revelry. He would wait there until Violet, believing that her mother
was asleep and did not hear her, would go away.

At last the sweet voice ceased to plead for admission, and slowly and
reluctantly the girl retraced her steps to the ball-room. Once there,
she sought her aunt, Mrs. Rutledge, her mother’s widowed sister, who
made her home at The Oaks, together with her daughter Hilda. Mrs.
Rutledge was a tall, stylish woman, attired in black lace, with a
delicate, high-bred face and large, dark eyes, like Rosamond Arleigh’s

“Aunt Constance”--Violet’s voice was full of uneasiness--“I am so
anxious about mamma. I was dancing the Lancers just now, and all at
once I thought I heard her call me. It troubled me so that I induced
Miss Ray to take my place, made it all right with my partner, and
hurried up to mamma’s room. But though I rapped hard at the door, I
received no answer, and the room was so still--as still as the grave!
Aunt Constance, do you think there is anything wrong?”

“Wrong? No. You alarm yourself unnecessarily, my child. If Rosamond
wanted anything, she would ring. She is probably sleeping soundly. Go
now and enjoy your ball, my child; you will never have another like it.”

“I know it.”

The sweet voice was full of sadness, and held a ring of unconscious

As she turned dejectedly away, a graceful figure in floating white lace
and pink rose-buds glided swiftly to her side--a girl of some twenty
years, a beautiful, dark-eyed girl. It was Hilda Rutledge.

“Where is Leonard--Mr. Yorke, I should say?” she began at once. “I
promised to go down to the river with him to show him the new boat. A
_tête-à-tête_ stroll in the moonlight! Violet,” with a light, rippling
laugh, and a swift glance into the girl’s pale face, “Look out.
Leonard Yorke is fickle and likes to flirt. He has been saying no end
of sweet things to me to-night.”

“I do not believe it!”

Violet’s beautiful eyes flashed with indignant protest. Hilda laughed.

“What sublime trust, to be sure!” she exclaimed. “Violet, you will
learn the world better when you have seen more of it. My dear cousin,
whatever you do, never trust in a man; they are all false and fickle.”

“Leonard is not.”

“Ah! so you acknowledge that you are in love with Mr. Yorke? Really,
Violet, I am surprised, for he has not been in earnest with you, and I
have reason to believe that he cares a great deal for me.”

“It is false!” panted Violet, indignantly. “Hilda, I did not think that
you could be so cruel to me. Let me pass!”

She fled past the white-robed figure like some wild creature.

Hilda’s dusky eyes followed the flying figure, and a curious brassy
light crept into their depths. Glancing up, she saw Leonard Yorke
coming swiftly in her direction. A look of passionate love flashed into
her eyes, and under her breath she muttered, harshly:

“He is looking for her, but he shall not find her. He shall come with
me. I _will_ have him for a little while alone to-night, and I will
manage to find out if he cares a little for me. He has always been
so kind and gentle; he has been with me almost as much as he has with
_her_; and I don’t see why he can not love me the best. He _shall_ love
me! I swear it! Oh, Leonard! Leonard! for your dear sake I would lay my
life down! I would barter all my hopes of happiness!”

Leonard Yorke came swiftly to her side. At sight of Hilda standing
there alone, he stopped short.

“Why, Miss Hilda, I thought that Miss Arleigh was here,” he exclaimed.
“I am sure I saw her speaking with you a few moments ago.”

“To be sure; but she is gone now--gone to walk in the moonlight with
Captain Venners. Let us go and find them.”

Captain Venners! If there was a man in the world whom Leonard Yorke
detested, it was Will Venners--handsome, dashing Will Venners--an
outrageous flirt, and a general favorite with the ladies. And Leonard
did not dream that the tale was only a fabrication of Hilda to arouse
his jealousy, with a secret hope that, in his pride and pique, he would
turn to _her_. And so he did. Where is the man who would not have done
so? She was very beautiful and fascinating, and--Violet had gone to
walk in the moonlight with Venners. Leonard’s heart was very sore.

He offered Hilda his arm, and they left the house and wandered down to
the river-side--the beautiful silvery river which wound in and out
between its green banks and shone in the moonlight like molten silver.

“I can not imagine what’s the matter with Violet,” Hilda began,
pathetically, lifting her great dark eyes to Leonard’s thoughtful face.
“She seems actually absorbed in Captain Venners, and--and I’m afraid
that he is only flirting with her. You know what a dreadful flirt he
is. One glance from Will Venners’ dark eyes, and a poor woman’s heart
is subjugated--slain. And to think that, although he quotes poetry, and
writes it, too--such beautiful poetry--that he is only amusing himself!
Yet, no; I really think that Will believes it all himself. He means all
that he says in every flirtation in which he indulges. But as soon as
affairs begin to assume a serious aspect, like the knight in the old

    “‘He loves--
      And rides away.’

But poor, dear Violet seems quite infatuated.”

“Stop!” Leonard Yorke’s voice was hoarse and strained. “Miss Hilda,
stop, I beg of you. Don’t you know--you surely _must_ know--that she
and I are----”

“Good friends? I know it. Dear me, Leon--Mr. Yorke--of course,
everybody knows that; and I was about to suggest that you remonstrate
with Violet in regard to her infatuation. Yet, truly, their conduct
lately makes me suspect that they are engaged. Ah! there they are now.
Don’t they look like a pair of betrothed lovers?”

It is said that the devil always helps his own; and without any
personal allusions in regard to Miss Hilda Rutledge, it certainly
seemed as though his Satanic Majesty had intervened to assist her
cruel scheme, for whom should they come upon, standing in the silvery
moonlight under the branches of a live-oak not far away, but Violet
Arleigh, and at her side handsome Will Venners! He was gazing down into
her face with a tender look in those dangerous dark eyes. It looked for
all the world like a leaf from a love story. But in reality this is
what he was saying to her:

“So, Miss Violet, you think that there is hope for me? I have loved her
so long; it is no flirtation this time. Sweet Jessie Glyndon is the
only woman I have ever loved well enough to wish to make my wife.”

And Violet’s sympathetic tone responds:

“I think she likes you, Will. Shall I tell you why? Because, although
she laughs at you when you attempt to enact the lover, just let any
one venture a slighting remark concerning you, and she will fly into a
passion and defend you with all her might. Jessie Glyndon is a peculiar
woman--the very proudest woman I ever knew. But a woman doesn’t hate
a man whom she watches with her very soul in her eyes. An hour ago,
Will, I found her in the rose arbor all alone. She was watching you
in the distance--you were flirting awfully with some one, you naughty
boy!--and I heard her say, believing herself all alone, ‘Dear
Will--dear old Dark Eyes! He will never know--never know!’”

“Did she?”

Will Venners’ hand closes eagerly down upon Violet’s small gloved hand,
and Leonard Yorke’s jealous eyes observe the action.

“Did she really, Miss Violet? And yet she was so cold to me. Miss
Violet, will you give her this? It is a little poem I wrote for her.”

“With pleasure.”

A folded sheet of paper fluttered from Will Venners’ hand into Violet’s
grasp; she hid it in the lace of her corsage.

“I will give it to Jessie to-night if possible,” Violet says, softly;
“and now you had better take me back to the house; I must go and see
mamma for a moment; I am afraid she is ill.”

As the words pass her lips she lifts her eyes and they rest upon two
figures strolling leisurely on in the moonlight--Leonard Yorke, her
lover, and at his side Hilda Rutledge. Something in their attitude
makes a cold chill creep over Violet’s heart; she turns away and
hastens to the house.

In the entrance hall she pauses and glances eagerly about her in search
of Jessie Glyndon. She sees her at last, a brown-haired young woman
with blue-gray eyes and an air of quiet dignity which some people
considered out of place, for she was only a dependent, the hired
companion to Leonard Yorke’s mother, and had lived at Yorke Towers for
a year.

Wishing to deliver Will’s poem at once--for she felt certain that this
was more than a mere flirtation--Violet hastened in pursuit of Miss
Glyndon. On--on to the conservatory Violet made her way, and at last,
just beside the fountain, whose silvery spray fell into a marble basin
full of water-lilies, Violet found herself face to face with--Leonard
Yorke. Hilda had disappeared. He came swiftly to her side, his face was
pale, but he was determined not to betray his emotions.

“What is the matter, Violet?” he asked, gently. “You look troubled.
Tell me what it is that is making you unhappy?”

Her great dark eyes were lifted to his face. She forgot everything but
that she loved him.

“I am never unhappy when I am with you, Leonard,” she returned, simply;
“but I will confess that I am troubled about mamma. I never felt so
strangely in my life. Wherever I go I am haunted by the sight of her
pale face. Oh, Leonard, if anything should happen to her it would kill
me! She is so----”

She stopped short, and the words died away into silence upon her
quivering lips.

_What was that?_

A shriek, an awful shriek, had resounded throughout the house--a wild,
heart-rending cry of agony. Violet’s face grew ashen white.

“What has happened?” she moaned. “Oh, Leonard, Leonard, something awful
has happened! _What is it?_”

He turned to the door, then slipped back to Violet’s side and took her
in his arms. For the moment all jealous doubts were set at rest--for
the moment only--it is hard to kill jealousy.

“Be brave and calm, my darling,” he whispered, gently; “I will stand
between you and all harm!”

But, alas! there comes a time into all lives when human love is
powerless and human care can avail nothing. Such an hour had come to
Violet Arleigh now.

“Wait here a moment,” the young man went on, eagerly, pityingly, all
jealous distrust swallowed up in anxiety. “I will go and see.”

He left the conservatory hastily; but though he did not know it, Violet
followed close behind him. It is so hard to be told that you must sit
still, and wait in silent inaction, while others make all the effort,
do all that we so long to do for our loved ones in extremity. And some
unerring instinct warned Violet Arleigh that whatever had come upon her
now, to darken her life forever, it was connected with her mother.

As she left the conservatory she chanced to glance in the direction of
a glass door which opened into the grounds, and her quick eyes caught
a glimpse of a vanishing figure, which disappeared in the shrubbery
and was lost to sight--the tall, dark form of a man. It was Gilbert




Violet hastened back to the drawing-room to be met by anxious friends
with pale, frightened faces.

Some one tried to intercept her, but Violet’s eyes were riveted upon
one figure--Mrs. Rutledge.

That lady had fallen helplessly upon a sofa, and was weeping
hysterically, wringing her white hands in uncontrollable grief. The
shriek which had resounded through the house, terrifying the guests,
had issued from her lips. It was she who had first discovered the dread
thing that had occurred.

Secretly troubled by Violet’s anxiety over her mother, Mrs. Rutledge
had stolen up to Mrs. Arleigh’s room, only to come flying down again,
her face like the face of a dead woman, and shrieks of horror issuing
from her pale lips. She had found the door of the room unlocked, and
turning the knob, her eyes fell upon a ghastly sight.

Seated near the table in an easy-chair was her sister, Rosamond
Arleigh--_stone dead_! One cold hand had grasped a crumpled
piece of paper; on the table close by an _empty_ vial labeled

Had she died by her own hand?

How Violet found out all the particulars of the ghastly story, she
never knew. The first thing of which she was conscious, she was
kneeling at her mother’s side, her arms about the cold, dead form,
kissing the rigid lips, and begging her over and over again to speak or
give some sign that she still lived. In all the impotence of her awful
grief the child knelt there, weeping, moaning.

_Dead!_ Could it be possible? Her mother, who had been more like an
elder sister to her than a parent--her beautiful, sad-faced mother, who
had been to the girl the light of her eyes, the very soul of her!

Some one unwound the clinging arms from about the cold form at last,
and Leonard Yorke led Violet away, to make room for the physician and
coroner, who had arrived together.

Just as Leonard led the girl from the chamber of death the little
gilded clock on the mantel chimed forth the hour--_two_!

Such a short--such a very short time since she had been the happiest,
most care-free of creatures, and now all her happiness was over, all
the foam gone from the beaker of life! To her the whole world was

Leonard led the orphan girl into the library, and closing the door,
left her alone; and there Mrs. Rutledge found her, crouching in the
depths of an easy-chair, her wan little face drooping like a fading
lily. Mrs. Rutledge slipped into the girl’s cold hand a piece of
crumpled paper. It was the same that had been found between the
stiffened fingers of the dead woman.

“You had better try to read it, my dear,” she said, softly. “It seems
to be a paper of importance. The inquest is over, and the coroner
is puzzled. _There is no trace of poison in the body._ It is all a

She checked herself abruptly, for Violet had opened the crumpled paper,
and was reading what was written there--reading it with eyes dilated
and dark with awful horror, a slow change creeping over her girlish
face, a change that was fearful to see. Her features seemed to freeze
down into a stone mask, and an icy look of despair settled slowly over
her face. With a low moan, she crumpled the letter in her hand and
staggered to her feet. She did not swoon away, or moan, or cry out,
after the fashion of ordinary women. To her, as with many natures that
suffer most intensely, the boon of unconsciousness was denied.

Trembling like a leaf, she stood with that fatal letter clutched in one
shaking hand, her dark eyes staring straight before her, fixed and wild.

The library door opened softly, and a man crossed the threshold. Her
eyes fell upon his face, and she started with a low cry of horror and
hatred, a cry which ended in a broken moan of despair.

It was Gilbert Warrington.



Her eyes rested upon his face with a wild stare of terror, which grew
deeper and more intense as he crossed the threshold and closed the door
behind him.

Tall, dark, saturnine, he was not a pleasant person to look at as he
came to a halt upon the rug before the fireless grate and stood staring
into her frightened face with eyes full of cold scrutiny.

For years she had been accustomed to see this man at long intervals,
when he would suddenly and unexpectedly intrude upon her mother with
some mysterious errand. There would be a private interview, and then he
would disappear, leaving behind him a gloomy shadow--her mother’s face
sad and sorrowful, her manner constrained, and the evidence of intense
mental suffering.

As he stood before the girl now, she mentally decided that he was
destined to be the evil genius of her life. And she was right.

“Well, Miss Violet Arleigh,” he began at last, breaking the silence
which rested upon the room, “you have read your mother’s letter, I see.
What do you think of its contents--the communication made therein?”

Silence! The girl’s dark eyes blazed with wordless indignation.

“What do I think, Mr. Gilbert Warrington?” she made answer, her
voice trembling with scorn and contempt. “I think what I have always
thought--that you are the greatest villain unhung!”

He winced perceptibly, and a faint tinge of color suffused his sallow
cheek for a moment, then receded, leaving his face pale and resolute as

“Miss Arleigh is disposed to be complimentary,” he sneered, a baleful
light kindling in his deep-set eyes. “You would do well to choose your

“What is your business here?” she demanded, abruptly, after a brief
pause, during which she studied the face of the man before her, with
utter scorn in her eyes. “What has brought _you_ here so unexpectedly?
And answer me this, Gilbert Warrington: _how did you know the contents
of the letter which I have just read?_”

He starts, and his lips close down upon a stifled imprecation. He has
made a false move; let slip something which he should have guarded with
his very life. His eyes seek the floor for a moment, then are once more

“It is no concern of yours how I became acquainted with the contents of
that letter,” he said, slowly. “Let it suffice that I _do_ know. And I
ask you, Miss Violet Arleigh, what are you going to do?”

She smoothed out the crumpled sheet of paper in her hand, and glanced
over its contents once more.

“My mother states that you have a claim upon her--_you_!”--the girl’s
sweet voice rang out in clear, scornful tones--“and she directs me to
carry out your instructions. Mr. Gilbert Warrington, I do not believe
that this was really my mother’s wish. She has been influenced,
overpowered, coerced in this matter, or”--the great dark eyes transfix
the glittering orbs of the man as she goes on slowly--“or the letter
is a forgery, and Rosamond Arleigh never wrote a word of it. _You know

With an angry cry like the stifled howl of a wild beast, Gilbert
Warrington sprung forward and grasped the girl’s arm in a fierce grip.
His face was absolutely colorless, his eyes blazed.

“You devil!” he hissed, bending his head until his eyes seemed to
burn into her very soul, “you shall obey me, do just as I direct, or
you will live to regret it. I have come here at this hour--this sad
hour--when the discovery of your mother’s death has just been made,
simply and solely to confer with you before the lawyers get hold of the
business here, and the authorities have time to put in their oar. So
I slipped in here when I found that you were alone, and my object is
this: Whatever may be the terms and conditions of your mother’s will,
you will have to submit--whether you are pleased or not--and be silent
as the grave, too. Now that you have read your mother’s letter, you
have some idea of the burden that she bore in secret--the burden of
her own sin. I loved your mother, Violet Arleigh!”


The tone, the glance, the utter, stinging contempt, were enough to
drive a man wild. He flushed angrily, and ground out an oath between
his close-shut teeth. But he controlled himself.

“Never mind,” he snarled; “you are having your day now, _my_ time
will come before long. Scratch, bite, tear about your cage, my little
tigress, your claws will be cut soon, and you will find yourself
utterly powerless!”

“Leave me!” she commanded, her voice trembling with indignation. “How
dare you address me in this way? How dare you come to me with these
matters, and my poor mother scarcely cold in death? Go! or I will
summon the servants to put you out!”

“Ah, you will? But before many days shall pass you will find the tables
turned with a vengeance. Violet Arleigh, there is a dark cloud resting
over your life, a cloud which will never disappear, a stain that can
not be wiped out--the stain of black disgrace. When the time comes for
the truth to be known, how many of your present _dear friends_, think
you, will remain true? How many will rally around you and stand by you
through everything? My word for it, you will not find one. When the
truth comes out, who will care for you and seek you for a wife? Not
your handsome lover, Leonard Yorke; and even if his love is strong
enough to stand the shock of the disgrace and exposure of your family
secret, his mother--proud Helen Yorke--would sooner see her only son
dead than wedded to you, the child of----”

“Hush! I forbid you to speak such words to me. I forbid you to mention
the name of Leonard Yorke.”

“Yes! Too good to pass the lips of a reprobate like Gil Warrington, I
suppose? But I know the world better than you do, my dear Miss Arleigh,
and I assure you that, when this that I have to tell becomes known,
when the _truth_ is made public, you will prove your friends then, and
my word for it, Leonard Yorke will not be among the number. He will be
the very first to desert you.”

“It is false! Mr. Warrington, I will hear no more of this. Leave me!
Have you no pity, no compassion for me, whose mother lies upstairs dead
and cold?”

An ugly sneer disfigured his face.

“Business before pleasure,” he returned, coarsely; “and my errand with
you admits of no delay. Once more I ask you the question: Are you going
to act a submissive part, Miss Violet Arleigh, in that which is before

She turned away. She could not speak.

“Go!” she repeated, sternly, waving her hand in the direction of the
door. “I can bear no more of this. Listen! Some one is coming to me

There was a faint rap at the door of the room, and then Leonard Yorke’s
voice called softly:

“Violet! Violet! May I come in? Don’t stay there all alone, dear
Violet! Open the door and let me come in and comfort you.”

Gilbert Warrington’s lips parted in a cruel smile.

“Yes, to be sure! Let him comfort you while he may, my _dear_ Violet!
His days of comforting will soon be at an end. You had better promise
me what I ask,” he added, harshly. “If you do not, you will be sorry.
Say yes--just the one word _yes_! Violet--I know that your simple
verbal promise will be as good as another person’s guarantee--just say
_yes_, and I will step out of the window yonder and be gone before
Mr. Leonard Yorke suspects my presence here. You had better consent,

She stood hesitating, trembling, paling. Her whole soul revolted from
the bondage into which she would be selling herself by this promise;
for well she knew the nature of the man with whom she had to deal--knew
that he was unscrupulous and a thorough villain. And must she bind
herself to obey him blindly? How did she know to what evil purpose she
was pledging herself? He drew nearer, and grasping her arm once more,
glared down into her pale, frightened face.

“Promise me! Swear to obey me!” he hissed, bleakly. “I will only
require you to follow your mother’s instructions; your mother who
was--well, her letter tells you, does it not, that she had a bad, black
secret hidden away in her past life, and that I alone shared that
secret with her?--did she not write that in the letter that you have
just read?”

Violet’s head drooped, but the pale lips managed to falter forth the
two words:

“She did.”

“Very well. Then you will believe me and obey me? Quick, Violet--your
answer! Say _yes_, for Leonard Yorke is determined to get into this
room, and some one is with him! Upon my word, that some one is Hilda
Rutledge! People say that Leonard thinks so much of your cousin Hilda
that he really does not know which of you is the dearest. The door of
this room is locked; but he will continue to rap at it, and if you do
not open it he will summon the household and break it down. Speak,
Violet--at once! Do you promise to obey me? Is it yes?”

She can hardly speak, she is so faint and frightened, and the gaze of
the basilisk eyes riveted upon her white face seems to eat into her

Tap, tap, at the door again, and once more Leonard’s voice calls in
tones of alarm:

“Violet, dear Violet, open the door! What is the matter? Are you ill?”

And then the voice of Hilda Rutledge takes up the refrain:

“Violet, dearest, unlock the door; we are all so frightened about you.
Come, dear!”

“Will you obey me?” hisses the serpent at her side. “Is it yes?”

Her eyes, wild with horror, meet his; she sinks into a seat.

“Yes!” she gasps, in a feeble whisper.

“Very well. Remember!”

With a look of triumph upon his evil face, Gilbert Warrington leaps
through the open window and disappears.

Violet staggers slowly to the door and unlocks it; then she falls to
the floor in a swoon.




Leonard Yorke threw open the door of the library and rushed into
the room, Hilda following closely. His eyes fell at once upon the
huddled heap upon the floor. A moment later he was kneeling beside the
prostrate form, clasping the poor girl in his arms.

“Violet! Violet!” he cried, eagerly, anxiously, “open your eyes and let
me hear you speak! Oh, Hilda, she is dead!”

Hilda Rutledge made an impatient gesture.

“Nonsense! She has only fainted. Go and send mamma here, we will attend
to her.”

Leonard left the room, and Hilda bent over Violet and began to rub her
hands and bathe her temples. In one hand, clasped tightly between the
cold little fingers, was the crumpled letter which had nearly broken
Violet’s heart. Hilda’s eyes scintillated.

“Ha! there is some mystery here!” she muttered. “I must see the
contents of that letter!”

But she could not remove it from Violet’s grasp; and even while she
was endeavoring to do so, the girl opened her eyes. A fearful shudder
passed over her.

“Where is he?” she faltered, brokenly.


“That man----”

Violet stopped abruptly, as memory came slowly back to her. She
struggled to a sitting posture just as Mrs. Rutledge entered the room,
looking pale and frightened.

“My dear child!” she began at once. “Oh, thank Heaven, you are
conscious! Come up to your own room, Violet, and lie down. Yes, I
insist upon it.”

Violet arose, and leaning upon her aunt’s arm, moved slowly from the

Where was Leonard? Why had he deserted her? He had not returned to the
library, and Violet did not know that he had been with her. Somehow,
her heart sunk with a vague alarm. Something in the fact of his absence
struck to her aching heart like a blow. Had he forgotten her? Then he
had ceased to care for her--had never cared at all.

With all the usual inconsistency of a woman, she forgot that only a few
hours had elapsed since Leonard Yorke’s avowal of love for her. How
could he possibly have changed in that short time?

It was the wild outreaching of the loving, lonely little heart, and the
intense disappointment that crushed down upon it like a vise was almost
more than she could bear.

Once in her own chamber, she begged her aunt and cousin to leave her.
The guests had, of course, long since departed; only Leonard remained,
as he felt that he had a right to do. But Violet was ignorant of this
fact, and so she misjudged him. Ah! if we only knew each other’s
motives, how different life would be! And Violet never dreamed that
Leonard had been forbidden by Mrs. Rutledge to enter her presence, and,
with natural delicacy, the young man had held himself aloof.

Left alone in her own chamber, Violet’s first act was to lock its door
against possible intruders. Then she placed the letter, which she
still held in her hand, safely away in her little writing-desk; and
at that moment she remembered the poem which Will Venners had given
her--the pretty love verses written for the eyes of Jessie Glyndon
alone. She searched in the lace of her corsage, but the poem was gone.
Still, it was nothing of vital importance, and in the presence of
the awful affliction which had come upon her and that other trouble
which she felt certain was about to come into her life through Gilbert
Warrington, she thought no more about it.

And little did she dream of the important part which that poem was
destined to play in her own future. Little things sometimes sway and
alter our whole lives. The veriest trifle may possibly work great and
stupendous results. The mouse gnaws the rope which sets the prisoner
free; a file can sever iron bars; a word in due season, how much good
it can accomplish! Life is made up of trifles, after all. Victor Hugo
maintains that had it not been for the small circumstance of a shower
of rain, Napoleon would not have lost Waterloo, and the fate of two
great nations might have been vastly different.

Down-stairs, in the deserted library, Leonard Yorke was pacing to and
fro, his face pale and full of trouble. Something indefinable haunted
him; a feeling of doubt, of _distrust_ regarding Violet had taken
possession of his heart. Leonard was by nature inclined to be jealous,
and Hilda had contrived to arouse his latent jealousy.

Leonard thought it all over--all his supposed grounds for distrust of
Violet--and his heart grew heavy. His mother, too, did not like Violet,
and was always trying to influence her son against the girl, though
this Violet never suspected.

Up and down he paced restlessly, impatient for news of Violet before he
would go home. Yorke Towers was some two miles distant from The Oaks,
and he was determined to remain until he was assured of his darling’s
recovery from the indisposition which had prostrated her. As he paced
slowly up and down the library, his eyes fell upon a folded paper lying
upon the floor, just under the edge of a sofa. He stooped mechanically
and picked it up. It was a closely written sheet of note-paper,
evidently verses. Leonard Yorke’s brow contracted with an angry frown
as he recognized Will Venners’ plain, elegant chirography--the gallant
young captain who had seen service under Custer in the far West, but
now seemed more at home in luxurious drawing-rooms at the feet of
beauty. To sum it all up in a few words, Will Venners was the only man
whom Leonard feared as a rival.

He stood there now slowly turning over the poem which Will had so
carefully written to the woman he loved. But how was Leonard to know
that it was meant for Jessie Glyndon? Had he not seen Captain Venners
slip the paper into Violet’s willing hand out in the moonlight on the
river-bank, when neither of them thought themselves observed? A hot
flood of anger swelled Leonard Yorke’s heart. Slowly he read the lines,
and as he read, the anger grew and strengthened:

    “Dear, I tried to write you such a letter
       As would tell you all my heart to-day;
     Written love is poor, one word were better,
       Easier, too, a thousand times to say.

    “I can tell you all; fear, doubts unheeding
       While I can be near you, hold your hand;
     Looking right into your eyes and reading
       Reassurance that you understand.

    “But I wrote it through, then lingered, thinking
       Of its reaching you, what hour, what day,
     Until my heart and courage sinking
       With a strange, new, wondering dismay.

    “‘Will my letter fall,’ I wondered sadly,
       ‘Upon her mood like some discordant tone,
     Or be welcomed tenderly and gladly?
       Will she be with others, or--alone?

    “‘It may find her too absorbed to read it,
       Save with hurried glance and careless air;
     Sad and weary, she may scarcely heed it,
       Gay and happy, she may hardly care.

    “‘Shall I--dare I--risk the chances?’ Slowly
       Something, was it shyness, love, or pride?
     Chilled all my heart and checked my courage wholly;
       In wistful silence then I laid it all aside.

    “Then I leant against the casement, turning
       My tearful eyes toward the far-off West,
     Where the golden evening light was burning,
       Until my heart throbbed back again to rest.

    “And I thought, ‘Love’s soul is not in fetters;
       Neither space nor time keeps souls apart;
     Since I can not, dare, not, send my letters
       Through the silence, I will send my heart.

    “‘She will hear, while twilight’s shades infold her,
       All the gathered love she knows so well;
     Deepest love my words have even told her--
       Deeper still _all_ I can never tell.’

    “Wondering at the strange, mysterious power
       That has touched her heart, then she will say:
     ‘Some one whom I love, this very hour
       Thinks of me, and loves me far away!’

    “So I dreamed, and watched the stars’ far splendor
       Glimmering in the azure darkness start,
     While the stars of trust rose bright and tender
       Through the twilight shadows of my heart.”

With a muttered imprecation, Leonard Yorke thrust the paper into his
pocket and hastened from the room. In the hall outside he encountered
Miss Rutledge. Upstairs, in the chamber of death, the body of Rosamond
Arleigh was being prepared for its last resting-place. The house was
very still; the awful shadow of death rested over it.

Below stairs, the servants with busy hands were removing all traces of
the ball--the faded garlands and drooping evergreens, the _débris_ of
the supper. Everything was done in a swift, silent fashion to restore
the house to its usual order and decorum; and the drawing-room, where
only a few hours before merriment had reigned supreme, was being
prepared to receive the body of the mistress of The Oaks. The burial
casket was already ordered, and in a short time the place which had
known Rosamond Arleigh would know her no more.

“You look tired and troubled, Leonard,” began Mrs. Rutledge, kindly.
“Come and have some coffee. You are not able to ride home now.”

“Thanks, dear Mrs. Rutledge,” he returned, “but I could not take
anything, and I think I had better go home at once. Miss Glyndon will
break the sad news to my mother, and she will be looking anxiously for
me. Can I do anything for you--or”--with a slight hesitation--“for

Mrs. Rutledge shook her head.

“I will let you know, my dear boy, if there should be anything for you
to do,” she returned. “You will come back soon?”

“I will; to-night or to-morrow morning. And now good-bye.”

He pressed her hand warmly, and mounting his horse, rode swiftly away
back to Yorke Towers.

The day passed, and Violet kept her own room. Leonard did not return
that night, and no intelligence came from Yorke Towers.

Night came down calm and still, and when everybody had retired to
their own rooms, Violet Arleigh stole from her chamber and went softly
down-stairs to the drawing-room, where her mother lay sleeping the
long, last sleep--never to open her eyes again upon the scenes of this
world; never to speak a loving word to her child; to lie in the cold,
dark grave alone with the worm and corruption. Violet’s heart bled at
the thought. She opened the drawing-room door softly, and entering,
crept to the side of the couch upon which the body lay.

The burial casket would not arrive until a late hour that night, so the
body had been placed upon a low couch strewn with fragrant flowers. In
an adjoining room, Doctor Danton and a grave-faced man, a stranger to
Violet, sat alone. No one else kept watch, for it was a special request
of the old physician. He had been Rosamond Arleigh’s medical adviser
for years, and was like a brother to her. Violet crept to the side of
the couch where the cold form was lying, and knelt down. She buried her
face upon the pillow beside the cold cheek.

“Mamma, mamma!” wailed the girl in broken accents. “Come back to me,
mamma, for oh, I can not live without you!”

It was the burden of her cry--a cry which has gone up from many an
aching heart, but all in vain. The words died upon her lips in a
stifled groan. Powers above! could it be true? Was her brain turning,
or had she imagined it? Surely--surely she had seen the eyelids
flutter, and something like a feeble respiration stirred the snowy
linen on Rosamond Arleigh’s breast.




Pale and trembling with excitement, Violet knelt at the side of the
body, her eyes fastened with burning intensity upon the white, still
face. Had she deceived herself, or did she really see the linen upon
her mother’s breast move slightly? Who has not imagined similar
improbabilities when gazing upon the corpse of a loved one? The closed
eyes seem striving to open, the chest appears to rise and fall; even
one may fancy that the breath flutters feebly from between the parted
lips. But what Violet Arleigh saw as she knelt at the side of the couch
was this: A shiver seemed to run over the still, rigid form, and one
hand, lying upon the breast, _moved_ slightly. With a stifled cry, the
girl started to her feet, and rushing to the door of the room where the
physician sat, threw it open.

“Doctor Danton!”--her voice low and awe-stricken--“for the love of
Heaven, come to my mother; she is----”

The physician raised the fore-finger of his right hand and laid it
lightly upon her lips with a gesture of silence.

“Hush!” he whispered, cautiously; “do not let any one hear you, Violet.
Listen to me. You have known me all your life; you know that Rosamond
Arleigh was very dear to me; you will believe me when I say that I
have good reason to believe that a terrible crime has been attempted.”

“_Doctor Danton!_”

Her voice rang out in wild alarm.

“It is true, my dear. It is so apparently true, and I am so fully
convinced of foul play, that I have taken certain steps in the matter.
Wait a moment, my child; I will explain all when I have looked at your

He stepped swiftly, noiselessly to the side of the couch, and gazed
long and earnestly into the still, white face. The doctor nodded
gravely. He was a fine-looking man of middle age, with a face that any
woman would trust, with its deep, gray eyes, and dark hair just touched
with silver.

“It is as I thought,” he said.

He drew from his pocket a small leathern case, and opening it, selected
a vial from the half dozen that it contained. He proceeded to pour a
few drops between the teeth of the supposed dead woman.

“Violet, my child”--the doctor lifted his head, and his eyes met the
bewildered gaze of the girl--“I do not like to raise false hopes in
your heart, but I believe, I truly believe, that there is a hope of
saving your mother yet. I do not think that she is dead.”

“Oh, thank God! thank God! Let me go and call Aunt Constance at once.”

“Not for your life!” Doctor Danton’s hand came down upon the girl’s
shoulder. “Stop!” he commanded; “listen to me! If I restore Rosamond
Arleigh to life once more, no one must know or suspect the truth--no
one but yourself and the gentleman in the room yonder. Violet, he is a

“A--detective?” gasped the girl.

“Yes; and an exceedingly clever one at that. I sent for him to keep
watch with me to-night, having first, with some difficulty, induced
Mrs. Rutledge to consent to leave everything to me. But first I
administered a potion to your mother which will restore circulation
and keep her in this condition until I can go to work properly in the
case. Violet, I believe that some one has attempted her life. The empty
chloral bottle was placed at her side to give the impression that
she had died from an overdose of chloral, taken accidentally or with

“Good heavens! Doctor Danton, my mother would never have been guilty of

“I know it, my dear. She desired to live for your sake. But how can we
convince the public of that? Neither I nor any of the other attending
physicians could find anything that would justify a verdict of suicide;
and I, noting something unusual about the body, and acting upon certain
hints in regard to her condition lately given me by your mother, have
ventured to take the course that I have taken. I made a clean breast
of the affair to Mr. Dunbar, the famous detective. The result is that
he is here to-night, and his suspicions are fully aroused as to the
evidence of an attempted crime. Violet, can you be strong and brave,
and control your nerves? Will you be obedient? Can you help me in
everything, for your mother’s sake?”

The great tears rushed into the girl’s dark eyes.

“Try me--try me!” she cried. “Oh, Doctor Danton, I would do _anything_
for my dear mother!”

“I knew it. Well, then, the first thing you must do is to go straight
upstairs to your own room and go to bed.”


“You have promised to be obedient, Violet. Now trust me. I believe that
I can resuscitate your mother, but no one outside must know it, if
you would apprehend her would-be murderer. I want you to appear, and
be, perfectly ignorant of all that takes place. I will inform you of
all that transpires--all the results--as soon as possible. Trust me,

“I will--I do!” she sobbed.

“Listen; this is my plan: everybody must believe that your mother is
really dead. I have given her a potion which will keep her quiet, and
no one will suspect the truth. The potion must be administered every
two hours, or the effect will wear off. I intend to keep her as she is
at present for a few hours. In the meantime, Dunbar and I will fill
the coffin with lead and bricks, and it shall be buried. The funeral
is appointed for ten in the morning, you know. The coffin must be
buried, and the public be blinded to the fact that it contains no body,
otherwise the murderer will escape. I will arrange so that the lid
shall be fastened down, and no one will be permitted to open it. Then,
when everything is ready, I will have your mother’s unconscious body
taken to my house, and there she shall be restored to health, that she
may punish and expose her would-be murderer. Violet, I believe from the
bottom of my heart, that this man, Gilbert Warrington, was the man who
attempted your mother’s life.”

“Oh, Heaven!”

“I believe it. But it can not be proven without her assistance, no
matter how clever a detective we hire.”

“But,” panted Violet, wildly, “what object would Gilbert Warrington
have to attempt such a crime? It does not seem----”

“It _is_ quite possible,” interrupted the physician, hastily. “He has
been her evil genius for years, though what is the secret of the power
that he holds over her I could never learn. She guarded it as though
it would be death to reveal it. I have begged her to confide in me--to
give me the right to protect her--but she refused absolutely, and went
on in silence, with that black secret, whatever it may be, hanging over
her head like a shadow. I believe that Warrington has hounded her down
to her death. I believe that he has attempted her murder, and then,
wishing to throw suspicion upon her and make the world believe that she
committed suicide, he placed the chloral bottle at her side. He was
her bitter enemy in life, and in death would blacken her good name.
Violet, what was Gilbert Warrington to your mother? Do you know or

Violet shook her head. A slow horror stole over her heart as she
remembered her promise to obey this villain implicitly in whatever he
might bid her to do in regard to her future. This promise was binding;
to a girl like Violet Arleigh it seemed impossible to break a solemn
obligation. But she trembled with terror, and her heart was sore afraid.

“Go to your own room, Violet,” continued the physician, after a pause.
“Dunbar and I will attend to the rest. You must try and sleep, too.
Remember, my dear, that your mother _is not dead_, and all that human
power can do shall be done for her. Good-night, my dear.”

Violet laid her hand in his. He stooped and kissed the girl’s pale
cheek. Then she left the room and hastened upstairs to her own chamber.
Her heart was full to overflowing with a wild, mad joy. Her mother
would be restored to her in time, and together they would hunt down
that wretch, Gilbert Warrington, to his just punishment.

Down-stairs Doctor Danton and the detective sat conversing for awhile
in low, eager tones. Outside the grounds of The Oaks, near a rear
entrance, a closed carriage had been waiting for a half-hour or more,
the driver on the box waiting with calm patience for the coming of his
master. Danton and Dunbar were busily arranging every detail of the
hard work before them, going carefully over every point lest there be
some misunderstanding, which, even though slight, might wreck the whole
plot. Doctor Danton glanced at the clock on the mantel at last.

“It is nearly one o’clock,” he exclaimed, in a cautious tone. “It is
quite time for us to start, Dunbar; and I heard Tom’s whistle a moment
ago, which proves that my faithful coachman is in waiting. I will wrap
Mrs. Arleigh up in a cloak and carry her out to the carriage, and we
will drive like mad to my house. You remain here to close the coffin
lid. In your assumed character of my assistant, no one will recognize
the eminent New Orleans detective. Mrs. Rutledge must be told in the
morning--I will be back here to do it--that on account of decomposition
the body must not be exposed. I think that we will be able to carry out
our plans. Only one must be very, very careful, for one little slip
will ruin all. And----”

He came to a startled halt. The two men had entered the room where
Rosamond Arleigh’s supposed corpse lay upon the couch. But there was
nothing there; _the body was gone_!




Rosamond Arleigh opened her eyes. It was as still as death within the
room which had been prepared to receive her body. The mirrors were
draped in white; there were bouquets of white flowers, white roses,
bridal wreath, and lilies, pure white, and long-throated, pink-tinted
lilies. A faint, sickening perfume pervaded the apartment, and over the
whole house a dead silence rested.

How long she had lain in that state she did not know. She had been
dimly conscious of Violet’s presence there, knew that the girl was
sobbing forth her name, calling upon her mother to come back to her,
to stand at her side in the hard battle with the cold, cruel world.
Come back to her! Where had she, Rosamond, been? For a whole hour she
had lain there without moving a muscle, her thoughts--strange, wild,
disconnected--wandering back over the past, trying to disentangle the
threads, and smooth out the fabric of her life; but all was confused,
dim, irregular. All at once the sound of a voice fell upon her ears,
speaking in low, eager tones; it was Doctor Danton.

“I wonder what Jack Danton is doing here?” Mrs. Arleigh said to
herself, with a hazy impression that the hour was very late. “I
believe he is speaking to Violet. Poor child, she ought to be in bed.
She must be greatly fatigued after--after her ball.”

The ball! There! She has come back to first principles now; and now
Rosamond Arleigh begins to untangle the web which is woven about
her brain. She remembers the scene in her own sitting-room between
herself and Gilbert Warrington. She recalls it all, every word, every
look, every gesture. It struck home to her understanding, her memory,
with the sharpness of a knife. The poor woman uttered a low cry, and
struggled to a sitting posture.

Doctor Danton had by this time induced Violet to go to bed, and he had
returned to the next room and the company of Dunbar, closing the door
of communication between the two apartments.

Rosamond sat up on the flower-strewn couch and stared wildly about her.
Was she dead? Was her body really bereft of life; and this, that was
thinking and troubling itself so, was it her freed spirit, anxious to
soar away, yet earth-bound still? It was a strange, a grewsome thought.

Trembling like a leaf, she rose to her feet. They had arranged the
supposed dead body in a simple robe of snowy lawn trimmed with
lace. There was nothing suggestive of a shroud in the garment, yet
Rosamond’s eyes, as they rested upon it, closed involuntarily, and a
shudder passed over her. A swift, wild thought flashed into her brain.
Remember, it was not yet quite clear, nor had she recovered entirely
from the effects of her recent attack and the strange experience which
had followed it. Let any woman, no matter how strong her nerves, open
her eyes and realize that the world believes her dead, that she is
robed for the grave, and over in a corner of the room her _coffin_
stands waiting to receive her body, and my word for it, she would be
guilty of quite as insane conduct as that of which Rosamond Arleigh is
guilty now.

And the circumstances which surround Rosamond were so strange and
unusual, she had become the victim of such remarkable events, so
wildly romantic, no wonder her weak nerves had failed her now and she
had given way. Her brain was giddy with the crowd of thoughts and
fancies which beset it; she was possessed of but one aim--a wild, mad
resolution to escape forever from Gilbert Warrington’s power--even
though to do this--to gain her freedom--she would only find it in the

She wrung her white hands frantically.

“He has blighted my whole life, and I hate him!” she moaned. “I will
escape from him now while I can. He will return here in the morning,
and--and I must be gone. He has hounded me down, blackened my life with
that awful story of disgrace and shame. I must get away from here, I
must escape _him_, or I shall die indeed. He thinks me dead now, and
indeed I would be if I had not had the strength and courage to empty
the contents of the chloral bottle upon the floor when he pressed it
to my lips. I will try to escape; I must. I will go to Yorke Towers;
it is there that I must seek for those papers, there, where Harold
Arleigh--oh, Harold, Harold, my darling!--lived at the time to which
Gilbert Warrington refers. For Yorke Towers was long in possession
of the Arleighs. I think that is the real cause of Helen Yorke’s
ill-concealed dislike for me. But outwardly she is my friend, and I am
certain she can not refuse to aid me if I lay the case before her and
beg her to do so. Even her jealousy of the Arleighs must disappear in
the presence of this great calamity. Yes, I will go to Yorke Towers
to-night, and Gilbert Warrington will never find me, never dream that I
am hidden away at Yorke Towers, or that I still live!”

Her brain, dazed and weak, was incapable of sound reasoning. She was
nearly bereft of reasoning powers, and on the very verge of insanity.
Small wonder that her actions were henceforth those of a maniac. Had
she only known it, there were true hearts and helping hands in the very
next room, eager and anxious to strike a blow for her sake. But she did
not know, and so, like many another short-sighted mortal, looked far
away for that which was within her reach. And so the mad mistake was
made which neither time nor endeavor could rectify. Slowly and feebly
she staggered across the room. In her white robe she looked like a
spirit. Her eyes fell upon a long, dark cloak which Doctor Danton had
placed upon a chair, and which he had intended to wrap about her when
he would carry her out to the waiting carriage. She remembered in a
hazy sort of way that she had heard Doctor Danton say something about
his carriage in waiting at the rear entrance of The Oaks, and the swift
determination formed itself within her brain to reach the carriage and
order the driver to drive her over to Yorke Towers. Once there----

Her bewildered brain could go no further in the reasoning process; but
something, she knew not what, urged her on to reach Yorke Towers that

Something! Was it fate?

Slowly and hesitatingly, trembling like an aspen, Rosamond threw the
cloak about her shoulders and drew the hood over her head; then, with
wavering, uncertain steps, her feet clad only in thin silk stockings
and dainty slippers, she made her way over to the window, which stood
open and led out upon the lawn. She stepped forth into the cool, calm
night. The soft air fanned her cheeks and made her brain grow clearer.

She glanced swiftly, with eyes full of terror, up at the house--her own
home, from which she was flying as from a pestilence, turning her back
upon her best, her only friends, in the mad delirium of her clouded

Drawing the cloak closely about her, she darted away like a bird in the
direction of the rear entrance to the grounds of The Oaks.

Just outside the windows of the room where she had been lying, to all
appearance dead, there was a tiny arbor covered with honeysuckle all
in bloom. Within the arbor the dark figure of a man had been sitting
for the last hour or two, buried in meditation and cigar-smoke. Now, as
the slight form wrapped in the long, dark cloak stepped softly from the
window, and the gleaming lamp-light from within the room streamed full
across her face, he started to his feet with a stifled exclamation. He
tossed his half-smoked cigar into the shrubbery near, and turning upon
his heel, followed the flying figure with long, hurried strides.

She never dreamed that she was pursued. If she had, she would have
fallen dead at his feet, for life was burning with but a feeble flame
within her heart. Poor Rosamond could not endure much more. But,
blissfully unconscious, she made her way straight on with surprising
celerity for one who had lain for hours in a comatose condition--on,
on, until at last the rear entrance was safely gained. She opened the
little gate with swift, eager hands; and the moment consumed in this
action gave her pursuer time to reach her side, only he kept hidden
from view, and she never for a moment suspected that she was not alone.
Over and over she kept whispering to herself, as her clouded brain
revolved the situation:

“I must get away--anywhere, anywhere! I must not stay here, for Gilbert
Warrington will find me, and he will claim me. And, oh, God, I would
far rather be dead than his wife! Yorke Towers is my safe refuge.
Surely, Helen Yorke will help me to hide from Gilbert Warrington, and
to find the lost papers which will give me back my own again. There is
a room at Yorke Towers called the haunted room. If only she will let me
stay there and hide, I shall be safe--safe--safe! But here I would be
persecuted until I would have to take my own life to escape from him. I
_must_ reach Yorke Towers to-night. I must--I must!”

She had unfastened the little gate at last, and flitted through like a
bird. Her pursuer darts after her, and closing the gate, locks it, and
flings the key far out into the little strip of woodland which belts
the road.

It was still as death out here, only the occasional cry of a belated
night-bird and the monotonous cheep, cheep, cheep of a cricket hidden
in the tall grass near by to break the silence.

On, like a wild creature--for she is afraid of the night and the lonely
darkness--Rosamond Arleigh flies; the man who is in pursuit of her
keeps close in her wake--on, on!

Half hidden by a clump of great live-oaks, Doctor Danton’s carriage
stands patiently waiting, its driver, Tom, a faithful negro, nodding
upon the box.

All at once Tom became conscious of a slight, dark-robed figure, and a
woman’s voice broke the silence, calling swiftly, softly:

“Drive me to Yorke Towers at once. Quick, quick! Lose no time!”

Then the dark-robed figure stepped swiftly, noiselessly--“jes’ like
a ghos’!” so poor Tom was wont to declare--into the carriage, and the
door was shut.

Tom gathered up his reins obediently, and turned his horses’ heads
about. But at that moment a stinging blow descended upon his head;
heaven and earth seemed to come together with a shock. Some one, or
_something_--for Tom afterward described the apparition as a tall black
man, with fiery eyes and a tail; in fact, a veritable Satan--seized
him in an iron grip, and he felt himself descending rapidly earthward.
Another concussion, as something struck him upon the head and chest,
then darkness--the very blackness of darkness--gathered over him, and
Tom knew no more.

Prone upon the ground, under the clump of oaks, he lay until he was
rescued later on by Doctor Danton and Dunbar.

In the meantime, the tall dark figure that had pursued Rosamond Arleigh
from the grounds of The Oaks and into the carriage had mounted on
the box in Tom’s place, and was driving Doctor Danton’s horses like
mad--but _not_ in the direction of Yorke Towers.




When Leonard Yorke reached home after the tragic occurrence at The
Oaks, he was met in the hall by Jessie Glyndon. She was very pale, and
her eyes bore the traces of recent weeping.

“Oh, Mr. Yorke,” she began, as soon as she saw him, “your mother is
very ill! When I arrived home from The Oaks and broke to her the news
of Mrs. Arleigh’s sudden death, she was fearfully overcome. She had
retired, of course; but she was not sleeping, and as I passed through
the hall she heard me and called me. I went to her, and then I told her
what had taken place. She grew as pale as death, and started up in bed,
as though about to arise, and her eyes looked wild and frightened, and
she trembled in every limb.

“‘Oh, no, no!’ she cried, piteously, looking up into my face with
_such_ a pleading look, and something like terror--actual terror.
‘Rosamond Arleigh is not dead--not dead! Don’t say that she is dead,
Jessie! Heaven forbid! for then it would be too late--too late for

“And then she fell back upon the pillow in a dead faint, and it was a
full hour before the housekeeper and I could restore her. We sent for
Doctor Danton. He was at The Oaks; but his assistant came, and at last
she is quiet and has fallen asleep. Come into the breakfast-room, Mr.
Yorke; you look completely worn out. I have ordered breakfast served.”

He followed her obediently. He could not speak, for his heart was too
full. Leonard Yorke’s mother was the dearest thing on earth to him,
except the girl he loved, and the thought that she was ill cut his
tender heart like a knife. He went into the breakfast-room and seated
himself mechanically at the small round table covered with snowy damask
and glittering with delicate china and costly silver. Jessie Glyndon
began to pour the fragrant coffee from the steaming silver urn, and
as she waited upon him, Leonard’s eyes rested carelessly upon her
face. She was not a beauty, but the face was full of interest. Tall
and regal in figure, she had a pale, colorless complexion, lighted up
by deep-gray eyes. Her hair was golden-brown. Somehow, as her slender
hands fluttered in and out among the silver breakfast service, Leonard
felt a thrill of interest in his mother’s companion which he had never
felt before.

“Miss Glyndon,” he began, abruptly, “are you familiar with Captain
Venners’ handwriting?”

A swift crimson flushed her pale cheek, her head drooped, and her eyes
studied the pattern of the pretty green-and-white carpet at her feet.

“I? Yes, I believe that I know it very well. Why do you ask, Mr. Yorke?”

Leonard’s face grew stern.

“Because I have found a poem which I think he wrote,” he returned,
slowly--“a poem dropped upon the floor of the library at The Oaks by
Violet Arleigh, the woman I love. Will you look at it, Miss Glyndon?
Perhaps you can settle the question. For my part, I am confident that
Will Venners wrote it.”

He had drawn the unfortunate poem from his pocket as he spoke--poor
Will’s labor of love, which was destined to reach the one for whom it
had been intended at last, but not in the way that he had expected, nor
the results which truth compels us to record. Jessie Glyndon drew back
a little, and her face was very pale.

“No, Mr. Yorke, I don’t care to see it,” she was beginning; but
something in Leonard’s swift glance of surprise stung her woman’s
pride, and she took the poem from his hand.

Slowly she read it, and as she read it over with the belief that it was
written for Violet Arleigh--that the sweet, tender words were meant for
another woman, a stern, cold look settled down upon Jessie’s face, and
her heart grew hard as a stone toward dark-eyed Will. When she reached
the lines:

    “And I thought, ‘Love’s soul is not in fetters;
       Neither space nor time keeps souls apart;
     Since I can not, dare not, send my letters,
       Through the silence I will send my heart,’”

she laid the poem abruptly down upon the table and turned away.

“Well,” queried Leonard, with a ring of impatience in his voice, “is it
Will Venners’ work, Miss Glyndon? Do you identify the writing?”

Her heart was beating eighteen to the dozen, and she felt a strange,
cold sensation creeping over her; but with a wonderful effort she
controlled her agitation, and the voice which made answer did not even
tremble as she replied:

“Yes, it is Will--Captain Venners’--handwriting, Mr. Yorke; I know it.”

Leonard pushed back the empty coffee-cup from beside his plate.

“Then, by Heaven!--I beg your pardon, Miss Glyndon--what does he mean
by writing such stuff to Violet--Miss Arleigh? I may as well tell you
now as later that I fully expected to make her my wife!”

“He would not have _dared_ to write poems to her if she did not
encourage him!” cried Jessie, indignantly, with all a woman’s bitter
judgment of her sister-woman whom she believes to have come between
herself and happiness. “Of course Miss Arleigh was willing, or Will
Venners would never have spent all the time necessary to write a
poem--a lengthy one like that--to bestow upon her. You know how
indolent he is. A man with great natural ability and talent, he
requires an incentive--some deep motive to interest and urge him on.
He must certainly have cared for, and believed that he had a right to
care for, the woman for whom these lines were written!”

Ah, Jessie! quick-tempered, swift to judge, sensitive to a fault, you
have spoken truly! The pretty lines _were_ written for the woman whom
Will Venners loved, but not for Violet Arleigh.

It was a sad mistake all around, as complete a game of cross-purposes
as one would wish to see.

Miss Glyndon returned Will Venners’ unfortunate poem to Leonard Yorke,
then with her head very erect and a round red spot burning like a flame
upon each pale cheek, she left the breakfast-room and slowly ascended
the great circular stair-case which led from the immense entrance hall
up to regions above. A few moments later she opened the door of a
pretty sleeping-room all in pale pink and white--her own _sanctum_--for
here at Yorke Towers the hired companion was as well lodged and as
kindly treated as an honored guest.

Miss Glyndon locked the door behind her, then she went straight over to
an old-fashioned _escritoire_ which stood beside an open window, and
took from a small drawer a package of letters. Not many, nor were they
very lengthy, but they had been carefully preserved, bound with the
orthodox blue ribbon, and each letter bore the signature, “_Yours, as
ever, Will._”

Seating herself, she glanced over them. Not a word of love in any of
them, oh, no! but there was a certain something in the tone, and an
occasional word which his pen let slip, which betrayed strong inner
feelings. Their perusal sent the red blood into the reader’s pale
cheeks, and made the gray eyes grow misty. When the last one was read,
she laid the package upon the _escritoire_, and going over to the
mantel, took from a small silver easel a photograph of Will Venners.
One long, long look. I am afraid to attempt to translate the hidden
meaning of that eager, devouring gaze. She pressed the pictured face to
her lips.

“Good-bye, fair sweet dream,” she whispered, “my dark-eyed Will,
good-bye! Yet--no, he was not mine, he was never mine” (the gray eyes
flashed wrathfully); “he has only been amusing himself with me, the
poor dependent--Mrs. Yorke’s hired companion. He is an outrageous
flirt, I have known it all the time, yet still--fool that I have
been--I have allowed myself to dream, and to be led on and on, to
believe him, to--to--oh, Will, Will, I wish I were dead and could
forget you! I shall have to be dead before I _can_ forget you, my
beautiful, dark-eyed lover! So that dream is over.”

With trembling hands she placed the photograph with its bright smiling
face and firm, sweet mouth upon the package of letters, a regular
funeral pyre. Then with set lips and cold, shaking hands she placed the
entire package in a large envelope, sealed it decisively, and addressed
it in a plain hand to “Captain Will Venners, Southern Athletic Club,
New Orleans, La.”

Two hours later it was on its way to New Orleans and its unhappy
recipient, who immediately on its receipt decided that this world is a
delusion and a snare, and life is not worth living.




Doctor Danton’s carriage dashed away like mad, and the man on the box
smiled grimly to himself as he guided the spirited horses onward down
the long, white country road which led to an adjacent town.

“A bold stroke, and a sure one,” Gilbert Warrington muttered. “If ever
the devil helped his own, he has extended the right hand of fellowship
to me to-night. She is safe in my care now, and I imagine that I can
find a way to make her hold her tongue. Otherwise, she will tell her
pathetic, her strangely romantic story to the nearest magistrate,
and my game will be up. As long as I can keep her out of the way,
keep her safely concealed from the eyes of the world, I shall have
everything in my own hands. She will keep silent--she will have to--and
I shall control the fortune. With only that girl to manage, there
will be little trouble, I think. If I could have had my own way with
Rosamond”--he went on thoughtfully, after a brief pause, during which
he turned the horses’ heads into a new road, and applied the whip-lash
lightly to their backs as he did so--“I would have made her my wife,
and then all would have gone finely. But she hates me so--the little
spitfire--that she could not endure my presence. Not that I mind her
hatred so much, either; but it would have been _sauce piquante_ to me;
but I could not gain her consent. Neither persuasion, threats, nor
intimidation had any effect upon her; she was firm, and not afraid of
me. Because she was in her own house, surrounded by friends (old Danton
would give his eyes for her); it will be quite different now, with her
in my absolute power. Ah! my dear, you will live to regret the hour
when you scorned Gil Warrington.”

On went the carriage as though pursued by demons--on, on! Rosamond
Arleigh, nestling among the cushions inside, began to think that it was
time that Yorke Towers was reached. Opening the carriage door softly,
she called aloud:


The carriage did not halt; its speed was unchecked. Once more she
called loudly in accents of terror, a strange horror beginning to tug
at her heart-strings.

“Driver! Stop! Stop a moment!”

There was danger that the sound of her voice in its wild appeal might
reach the ears of a chance passer, although at this hour, in this
lonely country place, there was little danger. But still she might
contrive to make herself heard by somebody. The very thought drove the
life-blood from about Gilbert Warrington’s craven heart.

In a pretty clump of woodland he halted the carriage. Making up his
mind that now was the time to reveal himself to his prisoner, he got
down from the box and approached the carriage door. Rosamond had
unfastened it and sat clutching the handle desperately, with a suddenly
aroused instinct of terror. She had felt so safe with Tom, the old
negro coachman, whom she knew would drive her over to Yorke Towers, or
any other place that she might request; though, of course, Tom never
dreamed that the lady in the carriage was the supposed dead woman, the
preparations for whose funeral were going on at The Oaks. Had such a
suspicion intruded upon his mind, he would not have held the reins a
moment in the service of a ghost, or a “h’ant,” as the negroes call it.
But Tom had only observed that it was a woman, and she had requested
him to drive her to Yorke Towers. It must be Miss Glyndon, or some
friend of the Arleighs. Of course, he did not hesitate, therefore, to
obey her orders. But there followed the attack upon him, and being
totally unprepared for such a calamity, Tom was, of course, perfectly
useless. And all this time Rosamond, crouching within the carriage,
eager and anxious to reach Yorke Towers, and stand face to face with
Helen Yorke, to demand an explanation of a certain mystery, never
dreamed that Tom was not upon the box of the carriage. Had she known
the truth before, it would have driven her mad. Her poor brain was even
now trembling in the balance between reason and insanity. It would not
take much of a blow to quite deprive her of reason.

As Gilbert Warrington opened the carriage door, Rosamond started up,
pale and eager.

“Tom, this is not the road to Yorke Towers!” she exclaimed, wildly.
“What do you mean? I will report you to Doctor Danton. Drive me to
Yorke Towers at once. This is the road to Belleville. How dare you
disobey my orders in this way? I---- Oh, my God! my God!”

For a gleam of the dying moonlight falling athwart the man’s face
revealed the truth--and Gilbert Warrington.

He smiled, and his white teeth had a wolfish gleam as they glittered in
the pallid moon rays.

“Well, my dear, you see how useless it is to hope to escape me,” he
cried. “Even _death_ itself has no power to separate us.”

But still she sat staring into his hated face with eyes full of horror
and detestation.

“Heaven help me!” she moaned under her breath.

He laughed a hard, sneering laugh.

“Heaven will not help you,” he cried; “there is no help for you. Back,
Rosamond Arleigh!” for she had sprung lightly forward, as though to
leap from the carriage. “Back, I say, or I will have your life!”

With a swift movement he pushed her back into the vehicle, closed its
door, and sprung upon the box. A moment later they were flying onward
through the dusky shadows--the dark hour which comes just before day.
It was a dark hour to poor Rosamond Arleigh. She crouched down once
more among the cushions and gave herself up to bitter reflections.
Surely Heaven had turned a deaf ear upon her, and would not hear or
heed her prayers. She was lost--lost! An awful horror seized her. What
would become of her? Where would he take her? What would be her fate?
She closed her eyes as a deadly faintness stole over her and weakened
her heart and paralyzed her brain. Lost, lost! No hope for her now.
Heaven had forsaken her; she was in Gilbert Warrington’s power. A dull
apathy began to steal over her and deprive her of reason. But the
thought of her innocent child left to the machinations of this villain
aroused her, and in a moment her mind was made up.

“I will make one bold stroke for freedom, though I perish in the
attempt,” she said, resolutely.

The carriage was going at a furious pace. Close by was a deep, dark
stream brawling onward amid fallen trees and _débris_, between high,
steep banks. Rosamond remembered it, and knew that they were obliged
to slacken pace to cross the narrow bridge which spanned the stream
further on. They reached the bridge. She opened the carriage door
softly, and made a swift, mad leap out and downward. As she touched
the steep bank of the stream, the soft, sandy earth crumbled and gave
way. Down she went--down to the swift, swirling flood below, followed
by a shower of dislodged earth and stones! Down, down! And the carriage
crossed the bridge and dashed on.



The steep bank of sandy earth gave way and precipitated Rosamond
Arleigh downward--down, down! She closed her eyes and gave herself up
for lost. On, on she went, until at last she struck the water with a
splash, and all was still.

On, on over the narrow bridge, and away in the direction of Belleville,
Doctor Danton’s horses went tearing like mad--on, as though pursued
by demons. And the face of the man upon the box was indeed not unlike
the faces of the demons in old paintings. He set his white teeth hard
together, with a low, hissing laugh, as he guided the horses onward
down the long, straight country road.

“Caged at last, my dear Rosamond!” he ejaculated; “safe in my hands
like a snared bird! It will go hard with me if I do not handle the
Arleigh fortune before many weeks are over. Ah! what is that?” he
exclaimed as the carriage jolted over the gnarled roots of an immense
oak which had stretched themselves across the road. And at that moment
there fell upon his ears a sudden sharp sound, a clanging noise,
and turning about, he saw for the first time that the carriage door
was wide open. By the gray light of the early dawn he could see it
swinging to and fro. It was the sound of the door swinging against
the side of the carriage which had aroused him to a realization that
something was wrong.

“What can it be?” he asked himself, bringing the horses to a halt with
some difficulty, for their spirits were fully aroused now, and they
were eager to go on.

Swiftly, lightly Gilbert Warrington sprung from the box and rushed
wildly around to the door of the vehicle. It was open, and the bird was

With an outburst of angry oaths which there was no one to hear,
Gilbert Warrington searched the interior of the carriage. She could
not possibly be concealed within, yet the very thought that she must
have made her escape from the vehicle, tearing along at the mad pace at
which he had been driving, seemed incredible, absolutely incredible.

Having searched carefully, and having satisfied himself at last that
she was not inside the carriage, the discomfitted villain closed and
fastened its door, and then, taking the reins in his hands, proceeded
to lead the horses and carriage back in the road that he had come. It
would be slow progress, but it was necessary, for he meant to search
every foot of the way back to the spot where he had so precipitately
revealed himself to Rosamond (what a fool he had been, to be sure!),
and even back to The Oaks, should no trace of the missing woman be

But all in vain did he seek her; dead or alive, there was no trace of
Rosamond Arleigh to be found. It looked like magic or witchcraft.

He strode along the road, peering anxiously into every corner, leading
the horses--quite subdued now--and leaving nothing undone in his
anxious search. But all in vain; he could see nothing, hear nothing
that could in any way furnish a clew to her mysterious disappearance.

He would have believed her dead, that in her escape from the
fast-moving vehicle she had been instantly killed; but there was no
trace of her at all to be found.

Slowly and thoughtfully he led the carriage over the bridge which
spanned the brawling stream where the poor woman had really made her
escape. His keen eyes fell upon the bank, the steep descent with its
dislodged earth, and the _débris_ which had rolled downward to the
stream below. An exclamation of astonishment, of surprise and horror,
passed his lips. He checked the horses, and tying them to a tree near
by, began a patient search. Here was the trace of a falling body which
must have rushed with great velocity down to the stream below.

Gilbert Warrington’s eyes wandered to the swift, black water, and a
quick solution of the mysterious disappearance crossed his mind.

“So!” he muttered sharply between his teeth; “she has attempted
to escape here. There is really no other place where there is any
indication of such a thing having happened. It is quite likely that she
fell down the bank to the stream below. And, by Jove!” coming to a
sudden halt as his eyes fell upon a dark object which floated upon the
bosom of the brawling stream, “there is her cloak now!”

A swift descent; a moment later he held the dripping garment in his

“It is hers!” he cried. “The poor little fool has undoubtedly fallen
into the water, and is drowned. Well, since I could not conquer her and
make her my wife--or my slave--to do my will blindly, through fear of
me, the next best thing will be to manage the daughter. I think, with
my hold over Violet (she is a high-strung, honorable little creature),
I may hope to handle the Arleigh fortune yet. ‘It’s an ill wind that
blows nobody any good,’ and I intend to make the best of existing
circumstances. There is no doubt in my mind (how could any one doubt
it?) that Rosamond is drowned. She has certainly fallen down the bank
to the stream below, and how could it be possible for her to escape
from that cold, black flood in the gloom and darkness of the night? It
is just impossible. Why, a strong man and a good swimmer would have
great difficulty in getting out of that black flood. I think there
is no doubt that I am safe; I feel sure of it. Her escape is just

Just impossible! Ah, Gilbert Warrington, you forget that there is One
who watches over the helpless and unprotected, and that “there is
nothing impossible with God.”

At last, tired out by his fruitless search, he crept slowly and with
difficulty up the bank, and in the early morning, which was just
beginning to dawn, he stood once more beside the carriage with a
disappointed look upon his sullen face.

“Curse her!” he panted, harshly; “that woman has been the bane of
my life. She has led me a fine chase from first to last. But she is
dead now; I am sure of that. How could she survive such a fall? and
the water is very deep; and I happen to know that she can not swim a
stroke. Well, well! I’ve had a hard night’s work, and all for nothing.
Now I must get back and dispose of the team and carriage in some way to
avert suspicion from myself.”

He sprung upon the box once more and drove rapidly away, satisfied that
his prisoner must have perished in the black waters of the stream, yet
keeping a sharp lookout all the time, from his position upon the box,
lest something might have happened to save her from the fate to which
he had mentally consigned her.

But all search was vain. He found nothing; saw no trace of anything
which reminded him of the missing woman. He drove rapidly back, not to
The Oaks, but to the adjacent village--to Doctor Danton’s house. There
he left the carriage and horses as though they had simply run away,
only to bring up at last at their own stable. And so indeed Doctor
Danton believed when late in the day, tired and disappointed, chagrined
and angry with himself and the whole world at large, he returned
home and found the tired and hungry horses, with the carriage looking
none the worse for wear, standing at the open door of the stable,
demurely waiting for some one to attend to their wants. Tom’s story
of the assault upon him while seated upon the carriage box, patiently
awaiting the coming of his master, was set down to the phantasies of
his own brain overpowered by sleep; and then he must have fallen from
the high box of the carriage to the ground below, where, striking his
head against the gnarled roots of a huge oak-tree, he had been stunned
and lost consciousness. After which, no doubt, the horses, finding
themselves without a driver, had coolly run away. This was Doctor
Danton’s solution of the mystery, though that greater mystery, the
strange disappearance of his patient, he could not possibly account
for; yet there was no one to contradict his theory or set it right.
So this was the story that he repeated to Dunbar, the detective. That
gentleman listened in silence, and his face grew very thoughtful and

“Let me see the carriage,” he said, breaking the pause of silence which
had fallen suddenly upon the close of the physician’s speech.

Without a word, Doctor Danton led the way to the stable. It was useless
to talk over the matter. To him it was as plain as possible.

Dunbar made a thorough examination of the interior of the carriage,
while the physician stood quietly by, watching him with a slight
smile. It all seemed so foolish.

But, at length, with a low cry of triumph, the detective emerged from
the vehicle, where he had been half-hidden, and held up in one hand
before the doctor’s astonished eyes a small object.

It was a tiny kid slipper.

“See!” he cried, eagerly, his voice trembling with excitement. “She has
been here--inside of the carriage. That, at least, is proven. For don’t
you remember this slipper, Jack? It is the _facsimile_ of those worn by
Mrs. Arleigh, when she was placed upon the couch in the drawing-room,
supposed to be dead. To make assurance doubly sure, I will see Miss
Violet, and she will identify it. But I am convinced that Mrs. Arleigh
has been in this carriage. Danton, I ask you in the name of Heaven!
where can she be now?”

Doctor Danton shook his head.

“It is all a mystery to me!” he cried, blankly. “Yet, surely, there
must be some mistake, Dunbar. For how could she be inside the carriage,
and also have driven it away? Furthermore, I know that Rosamond Arleigh
could not manage a horse, much less two, to save her life. Clearly,
then, there must have been a driver. The question is: _Who was he?_”




Morning dawned over The Oaks--a fair, smiling April morning--but the
smiles turned into tears long before noon, and the green face of the
earth was drenched with the downpour from nature’s eyes.

It was really quite fortunate--so Doctor Danton declared in privacy
to Dunbar--for then there would not be a large attendance at Mrs.
Arleigh’s funeral service, consequently, less questions to parry; and
the task would be easier.

For the physician and the detective had decided, in solemn conclave, to
allow the sham funeral to take place; to say nothing of the strange and
startling events which had occurred at The Oaks, and allow the whole
country-side to still believe in the fact of Rosamond Arleigh’s death.

It seemed wrong, almost sacrilegious, to do this; but the two men
believed that they were pursuing the right course, and had pledged
themselves to leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of Rosamond, and
to bring her would-be murderer to justice. And as long as Violet was
not deceived, there was no real wrong done to anybody.

Early in the morning Mrs. Rutledge entered the drawing-room, prepared
to take a long, last look at her dead sister; but as she entered the
room and her eyes fell upon the closed coffin, her face grew ghastly
white, and she trembled with anger.

“Doctor Danton,” she exclaimed, coldly, “you are inclined to be
officious. I did not expect to find the coffin closed. Why, Violet and
I, and Hilda also, have been deprived of a last look at our beloved
dead. It is infamous! I order you to open the coffin at once!”

Doctor Danton had carefully weighed the question during the long,
slow hours which had elapsed since the strange events of the night.
He understood fully the responsibility that he was undertaking, but
still he could see no other way open. It seemed cruel and unnatural
to conceal the truth from Mrs. Rutledge, Rosamond’s own and only
sister; but then, on the other hand, if she were told, if the strange
news should be broken to her, would she not insist upon telling
Hilda? And Doctor Danton, in his inmost heart, entertained doubts of
Hilda Rutledge in some way; he did not trust her; and long ago he
had observed Hilda’s jealousy of Violet, and her own ill-concealed
_penchant_ for Leonard Yorke, which Leonard himself never suspected.
So, after conferring with Dunbar, the physician had decided not to
confide in Constance Rutledge, nor in any one but Violet herself. _She_
must be told; she must know of her mother’s strange disappearance, and
that her fate was even now shrouded in mystery.

Doctor Danton looked grave as he listened to Mrs. Rutledge.

“My dear Mrs. Rutledge,” he began, deprecatingly, “I beg you to listen
to my explanation. It is but natural, your desire to view your poor
sister’s remains for the last time; but, my dear madame, you were not
prepared for the consequences of Mrs. Arleigh’s sudden death, and
the change in the weather, which, as you know, has turned very warm.
It was--I grieve to say it--_impossible to keep her_.” (“Which I am
_sure_, is perfectly true,” the doctor added when he afterward repeated
the conversation to Dunbar.)

Mrs. Rutledge covered her face with her hands.

“Oh, this is dreadful!” she sobbed. “I--I beg your pardon, Doctor
Danton, for my insolence just now. To tell the truth, I am
half-demented over Rosamond’s sudden death, and the complications which
I fear will follow.”

Doctor Danton bowed coldly.

“She is thinking only of herself and Hilda,” he said to himself. “She
is alarmed for fear they will be set adrift. I will see that they
remain for the present, and I have hopes of finding Rosamond yet.”

But aloud he said:

“Everything that can be done has been done, I assure you. We have
closed the coffin for obvious reasons, and placed disinfectants in the
room. This sudden change of weather is very trying in a case like this.”

He turned aside with an air of resignation.

“Where is Miss Violet?” he asked, abruptly.

“She is still in her own room. I dread to break it to the poor child
that she will never see her mother again--never, never!” with an
outburst of sobs.

“There is always hope of future meeting, my dear Mrs. Rutledge,”
interposed the doctor, beginning to secretly enjoy the situation,
though despising himself for the part that he was forced to play.

And did he not have hope of a future, ay, a speedy meeting, when
Rosamond should be found; for he never for a moment doubted that she
would be found. Perhaps even now she might be at Yorke Towers, for
Leonard had not yet made his appearance at The Oaks. But on this point
Doctor Danton was soon undeceived. A little later a servant came riding
hastily from Yorke Towers bearing a letter from Leonard Yorke to Mrs.
Rutledge, stating that his mother was so very and alarmingly ill that
he feared within himself now Miss Glyndon would be able to attend the
funeral services. It was an affectionate letter, despite its brevity,
and Leonard had sent a tender message to Violet, of which the poor girl
never heard. Instead, Hilda informed her later in the day that Leonard
Yorke had written to her mother, and had inquired particularly for
herself. “And quite as though he was very anxious about me!” the young
lady added, with a swift glance into Violet’s pale face.

Doctor Danton, reading Leonard’s letter, read between the lines, and
felt certain that the young man was in trouble.

“As soon as I get through with this awful farce of a funeral, I will
ride over to Yorke Towers,” he decided.

Dunbar had disappeared at break of day. The first thing that he did
was to order his horse saddled, and once on its back, he rode around
to the rear entrance of The Oaks, to the spot where Doctor Danton had
left his carriage waiting under the control of Tom. Here was the mark
of the wheels where the carriage had stood; over yonder was the spot
where poor Tom had fallen, struck down by Satan himself, as the poor
fellow declared. And see! there is a beaten space just before a clump
of blackberry bushes, broken as though some one had been standing there
trampling the young grass with impatient feet.

Instinctively, like the sleuth-hound that he was, Dunbar peered into
the bushes, and the first object upon which his sharp eyes rested was a
key. He uttered an exclamation of surprise at sight of it.

“I believe it is the key to the gate!” he exclaimed.

Then he picked it up and fitted it into the lock of the gate.

The key was the first thing that Doctor Danton had missed--the first
cause for suspicion that something was wrong. So it was correct--this
suspicion. Some one had locked the gate and thrown the key into the
bushes, for the purpose, no doubt, of retarding the search for the
carriage and its probable occupant.

The detective’s eyes lighted up with an eager light. Had he struck the
right trail? Was he on the road to success? He did not dream of the
obstacles which were destined to loom up in his way as the hours went
by; but, like a true detective, he welcomed all such obstacles for the
simple pleasure of overcoming them.

“I will follow the tracks of the carriage-wheels,” he decided. “It is
very early, and in this secluded spot no other vehicle has passed this
morning, I feel sure. At all events, it is the only course left me to

He passed his arm through the bridle and led his horse slowly on,
while he searched anxiously down the road, following the freshly made

And so, on, on, he went, slowly and laboriously, mile after mile. His
eyes shone with the light of hope.

“It is plain that Doctor Danton’s carriage did not go home until it
had first taken a trip somewhere,” he concluded, astutely. “The more I
think of it, the plainer does it appear that somebody drove it away.
Those horses never ran away, in the living world!” he ejaculated.

On, on, he went; and so, at last, he reached the stream and the
little bridge. It was very early, the road unfrequented, no signs of
a passer-by. In fact, no one had passed upon that side of the stream
since Gilbert Warrington had crossed and had driven Doctor Danton’s
horses home.

All at once Dunbar’s sharp eyes caught a glimpse of the cloak which
Warrington had dropped half-way down the bank, with its crumbling sand
and _débris_.

At sight of it, Dunbar uttered a wild cry of surprise, for he
recognized the garment at a glance.

“It is the very cloak that Jack Danton had all ready to wrap Mrs.
Arleigh in!” exclaimed the detective. “I remember well the style of it
and the very peculiar buttons. I could not be deceived in it, and it is
the same cloak; there can be no manner of doubt about that.”

He proceeded to roll the cloak up into a small bundle, and fastened
it to the saddle-bow--a certain proof that Rosamond Arleigh had been
at this spot since midnight of the night before; then, with swift but
careful steps, he descended the steep bank to the very edge of the

“Good God!” he ejaculated, “can she have fallen into the water; or,
worse, can some one have thrown her in, to get rid of her?” he panted.

As he spoke, he stooped and drew from the wet sand, imbedded almost out
of sight, a little kid slipper, the mate to the one that he had found
in Doctor Danton’s carriage. Yes; there was no doubt of it.

The detective thrust the little slipper into his coat pocket, and
proceeded to carefully examine the stream.

No trace of anything. Of course, no human creature could long survive
in that black, swirling flood. The current was very rapid, and the
drift-wood, logs, and _débris_, which half-filled the stream, were
deadly obstacles, with which a falling body coming in contact would
surely be deprived of life.

Dunbar’s heart sunk. He was already deeply interested in the strange
case, both for the sake of his friend--and he had begun to suspect that
Jack Danton cared very much for his interesting patient--and in the
interests of his own profession.

“She has been drowned,” he said, sadly, as he climbed up the steep
bank and went back to where his horse patiently awaited his coming. “I
shrink from breaking the sad news to Danton; but I must, I suppose. And
poor little Violet! Well, at all events, it is better to know the worst
than to be in suspense.”

Then he mounted his horse and galloped away in the morning sunshine,
back to The Oaks, to break the sad news.




As soon as possible Doctor Danton broke the intelligence to Violet of
her mother’s strange and mysterious disappearance.

The poor girl listened to the story with a heart crushed and aching.
She had hoped so much when she had discovered that her mother was still
living; and now, to find that her fate was shrouded in awful mystery,
seemed more than she could bear.

Doctor Danton had concluded that it would be best to tell Violet all,
to keep nothing back. So he told her of the detective’s discovery, and
the slippers were at once identified by her as belonging to her mother.

Had Violet Arleigh told her kind friend, the doctor, of all that had
taken place between Gilbert Warrington and herself, and the promise
which the villain had exacted from her, everything would have been
different, and my story need not be written; but she feared Warrington
with a deadly terror which sealed her lips and held her tongue silent.
That Gilbert Warrington had kidnapped her mother, Violet did not for
a moment doubt; and her heart shrunk at thought of what had taken
place. She could see it all in her mind. Gilbert Warrington had driven
the carriage away with her mother inside; when they had reached the
stream, Rosamond had leaped from the vehicle, and had, no doubt, met
her death in the swift, black current below. It would be useless to
drag the stream in search of the body, for Violet knew that the bed
of the stream was full of deep holes hidden under the fallen logs and
drift-wood which had lodged there; and there was a tradition in the
country-side that once drawn down by the resistless current into those
yawning pits there was no hope for any living creature. So Violet
gave up all hope. Her mother was dead; there could be no doubt upon
that point, and as such she mourned her; and therefore her grief at
the funeral was heartfelt and spontaneous, even though she was well
aware that her mother’s body was not in the closed casket covered with
flowers which stood in the center of the drawing-room. She only wished
that it were true; since God had taken her mother from her, she felt
that it would be a sad consolation to follow the dear remains to their
last resting-place in the pretty, old-fashioned grave-yard not far from
The Oaks.

The funeral was over, and the household settled down into mournful
quiet once more. Mrs. Rutledge felt greatly relieved as to her own
future, for she had secretly feared a breaking up of everything at The
Oaks; but the old lawyer who had been Mrs. Arleigh’s adviser since her
husband’s death relieved the lady’s mind by informing her that for the
present all would go on as usual.

Violet said nothing; she was bound to silence; but her heart sunk
in secret as she realized how uncertain was her own hold upon her
childhood’s home; for well she knew that Gilbert Warrington held her in
his power.

The day after the funeral, Leonard Yorke called at The Oaks,
accompanied by Jessie Glyndon. She looked pale and sad; but that was no
wonder, and created no comment. She had liked Mrs. Arleigh very much,
and then Mrs. Yorke was still very ill, and that alone was sufficient
to affect Miss Glyndon and make her pale and sad; and no one for a
moment connected her sadness with dark-eyed Will Venners down in New

When Leonard and Violet met there was a strange constraint between
them. _She_ thought that, perhaps, his call had been intended solely
for Hilda; and _he_ thought of that unfortunate poem until his heart
grew hard and bitter. Ever before his mind there floated, in letters of
fire, the words:

    “And I said, ‘Love’s soul is not in fetters;
       Neither time nor space can keep souls apart;
     If I can not, dare not, send my letters,
       Through the silence I will send my heart.’”

And so, the foolish fellow, half-wild with jealousy, treated Violet
with cool reserve.

He could not return Will Venners’ poem to Violet, as he fully intended
doing at the first opportunity; for at a time like this, just after her
mother’s death, and Violet looking so pale and sad in her black dress,
how could he intrude such a matter upon her notice?

So the poem remained untouched in his vest-pocket, where it seemed to
burn into his very heart; while Violet, absorbed with her grief and her
dark fears of the future before her, never thought of the poem at all.

But Leonard’s strange coldness cut her to the heart and nearly broke
it. She felt actually relieved when at last the callers took their
departure. She stood at the drawing-room window watching the pair ride
away on horseback together, with a feeling of relief in her heart which
was new to it.

But she was not suffered to remain long in peace, for just then a
servant appeared at the door of the drawing-room, and announced:

“_Mr. Gilbert Warrington!_”




Gilbert Warrington!

For a moment Violet’s heart stood still, then began to beat eighteen
to the dozen. She pressed her cold, shaking hand upon it, as though
with a hope of quieting its tumult; then, pale and outwardly calm, she
turned and faced her unwelcome visitor. His sallow face was full of
ill-concealed triumph; his thin lips wore a mocking smile. He stepped
forward and extended his hand, but Violet drew back with a shudder.

“Ah, my dear Miss Arleigh!”--his voice had an unpleasant ring to
it--“so you refuse to take my hand? Well, all right. That is just as
you see fit. My word for it, you will be glad to accept any overtures
of friendliness that I may see fit to make you before many days have

Violet’s eyes flashed. It was with difficulty that she restrained her
anger; but she confronted him in outward quiet.

“What is your business with me?” she inquired, in a low, scornful tone.
“Be good enough to state it, and then leave me. I wish to be alone.”

He smiled, and his keen eyes shone with a dangerous glitter.

“Ah, you do?” he sneered. “Well, you shall be alone in good time, but
at present I have something to say to you, and you must listen to me.”

“Must I?”

Violet’s temper began to gain the ascendency. What right had this man
to come to her in her own home and command her to listen to _him_?

“You are inclined to be impudent, Mr. Warrington,” she added, sharply.

“Not at all.” He drew a little nearer. “See here, Violet, why can’t you
and I be friends? I prefer it so, and really you will find it much more
pleasant since we are compelled to come in contact with each other.”

“I do not understand you. Why am I compelled to associate with _you_?”

To save her life, Violet could not repress the contempt in her voice as
she spoke the personal pronoun. Gilbert Warrington’s face flushed for a

“You do not understand me. I have not yet explained to you,” he
returned. “Miss Violet Arleigh, you are aware that for years I have
transacted business with your mother--the late Mrs. Rosamond Arleigh?
You, of course, knew nothing of the nature of that business, as it was
of a wholly private nature; in short, a secret, a bad, black secret
between Mrs. Arleigh and myself.”

“If so”--Violet’s voice was cold and scornful--“it was not _her_
secret. She was never guilty of wrong-doing.”

“Ah, well! possibly not. But have you never heard, my dear young
friend, of a person being so hedged in by circumstances that they
have been forced to suffer for the mistake or wrong-doing of another?
Suppose now--just let us suppose the case--that your father, the
late Harold Arleigh, had been guilty of a sin or crime, and that its
consequences had recoiled upon the head of your innocent mother, would
not she be compelled to suffer from his wrong-doing, yet be herself
perfectly guiltless?”

“You are speaking in riddles,” returned Violet, coldly. “I do not
understand you, sir. Be good enough to explain. I am certain that
Harold Arleigh, my father, was not a criminal. He would never have
committed a crime, and then allow my poor mother to suffer the
consequences--to be driven to her death, and hounded down to her grave
by a man like you!”

An angry scowl disfigured the sallow face of Warrington. He clinched
his hands involuntarily, as though he longed to strike the girl down at
his feet.

Violet drew back and faced him with flashing, indignant eyes.

“Now, sir”--in a low, level voice--“I demand that you make a full
explanation. I wish to know exactly what you mean. I am tired of your
hints and insinuations. I _will_ know what sin my father committed and
left the shame and suffering for my mother to bear. Thank Heaven, she
has escaped its burden--and _you_!”

“Have a care, Miss Violet Arleigh!” he hissed, vengefully. “I advise
you to be careful, and weigh well what you are saying. You may get into
serious trouble. I am not the sort of man to stand idly by and allow a
woman to insinuate all sorts of crimes against my good name.”

“Your good name!”

Violet said no more, but the silence which followed was significant.

“No, Gilbert Warrington,” the girl’s cold voice broke in upon the pause
which followed, “you are not that sort of man! You are capable of
waging war against weakness, of leading a crusade against friendless
and unprotected women and children. There is no bravery or real courage
about you. From the crown of your head to the soles of your feet you
are an unmitigated coward!”

“By Heaven!”

He sprung to her side and laid his hand heavily upon her arm. But she
shook off his grasp and faced him bravely, her small head uplifted in
conscious pride, her beautiful dark eyes shining like stars.

“Dare to touch me again!” she panted, breathlessly. “Dare to lay your
hand upon me, Gilbert Warrington, and I will have you punished as you

“Who will make the attempt? Who will venture to make such an attempt,
pray?” he sneered. “Your fine gentleman lover, Leonard Yorke? Mr.
Leonard Yorke, of Yorke Towers, who makes fierce love to you one hour,
and in the next is pouring forth his very heart at the dainty feet of
your pretty cousin, Hilda Rutledge? Why, it is common talk throughout
the neighborhood that Leonard Yorke is playing fast and loose with you,
and really does not know which is the most charming, you or Hilda. They
hint, however, that while he is dead in love with Miss Rutledge, who
is poor, he still keeps his hold upon you, the supposed heiress to the
Arleigh fortune.”

She caught the tone of ill-concealed derision in his voice, and her
heart sunk low in her breast with a sharp pang.

“The ‘supposed heiress’?” she repeated, eagerly. “Will you kindly
explain your object in using the term ‘supposed,’ Mr. Warrington?”

His eyes glittered with a fiendish light.

“Oh, so you have come down to business at last?” he sneered. “To be
sure, I will explain with pleasure. My dear Miss Arleigh, you must
know that I hold in my possession a secret--a family secret of the
Arleighs--which, if it were made public, would ruin you forever in the
eyes of society and the world in general. Once known by the world of
society, and it will blight and destroy your happiness; it will make
you a very outcast, a pariah among men. Leonard Yorke will turn coldly
from you, and his love will die.”

“If his love is worth no more than that,” intervened Violet, hotly,
“it will be better for it to die. But I thought you said that he loved

Gilbert Warrington bit his lip. In his eagerness to wound and pique
Violet, he had forgotten his own words of a few moments previous.

He smiled coldly.

“Well, I do not care; he will drop you as he would a scorpion, when he
learns the truth concerning you, and the disgraceful secret for which
Harold Arleigh is responsible.”

Violet made no reply; she stood like one stunned, as gradually the
truth, the bitter truth, crept into her heart. She was in the power
of this villain. How, in Heaven’s name, could she escape? There must
be some way of escape, some road out of the dilemma, but she knew not
which way to turn. Gilbert Warrington seemed to read her very thoughts.

“Every man has his price, I have been told,” he observed,
sententiously. “_I_ have mine. Are you willing to pay a price for
keeping your unpleasant secret, Miss Arleigh? Tell me, are you?”

She caught her breath with a suppressed cry.

“What is your price?” she asked, coldly.

Yet no hint of what was coming had as yet intruded upon her heart. She
believed that he would ask a share of the Arleigh fortune, perhaps.
Well, better that than to be haunted by this bad secret, this ghost of
the past; and to escape from the clutches of this man Warrington she
would sacrifice all that she possessed in the world.

He smiled.

“My price? Oh, yes! Well, Miss Violet Arleigh, it is this.” His
eyes transfixed hers with their steady gaze, and his thin lips set
themselves into a straight, narrow line. “I know all about this secret,
the Arleigh secret,” he went on, slowly. “I am the only person living,
now that your mother is gone, who does know it. It is a secret which
would ruin you forever if it became known, or even suspected. But I
will promise, will swear, will bind myself in any way you like, to keep
it a dead secret forever, upon one condition. It is this, that you
consent to be my wife. Once my wife, our interests will be identical,
and I will shield you from all the world, from all harm. I will hide
this secret, and no one will ever suspect its existence. I will place
in your hands the _proof_, so that you may destroy it. You shall live a
life of ease and luxury. Only consent to be my wife. Will you, Violet?”




Violet recoiled with a cry of horror; she could not speak; the very
thought was enough to make her heart sink with a feeling of sickening

“You are mad!” she panted at last, when she could find words. “This is
an insult, and I will have you punished for it!”

A smile stole over Gilbert Warrington’s thin lips.

“Do not imagine for one moment that I _care_ for you,” he said,
harshly. “I have never loved any woman in all my life save your mother,
and she scorned me. Listen, Violet, while I tell you my story in as few
words as possible. Years ago, when I first met your mother, she and
Harold Arleigh were living as happily as ideal lovers, just for all
the world like romances one reads in old books. It was not the fashion
then to debate the question, ‘Is marriage a failure?’ and Harold and
Rosamond never once thought of such a thing. Their lives were perfectly
happy. Then it was that _I_ came to Yorke Towers; they lived there at
the time. You know that the place was known then only as The Towers;
but when the Yorkes came into possession they rechristened it Yorke
Towers, and so it has remained ever since. Well, I was the overseer on
the plantation--not a very elevated position, you will say; but I was
treated with great kindness by both your father and mother--too kind
was she, in fact, for I soon awoke to the knowledge that _I loved her_!”

“Loved her? And she a married woman?”

Violet’s voice was full of surprise, not unmixed with scorn.

A strange expression flashed into Warrington’s eyes.

“Now, Violet, you need not look so horrified. I learned to love
Rosamond Arleigh before I was aware of it, and when it was too late I
awoke to the truth, and then I could not crush out the affection from
my heart. It has lived and flourished ever since. But she is gone, and
I can never hope to win her heart.”

“You would never have won her had she lived!” cried Violet, scornfully.

Warrington smiled a meaning smile.

“We will not discuss that question now, my dear,” he said, softly.
“The business in hand is this: There is something connected with the
past--with your mother’s past--which, if it were known, would ruin
you. Nobody knows this secret but myself. I swear to keep it a secret
forever, on the condition already named--that you consent to marry me
and share the Arleigh fortune with ‘yours truly.’”

“I will die first!”

“Ah! Very well. But you will never marry Leonard Yorke, all the same,
my dear; and you will be sorry, I am sure, to have your dead mother’s
name upon the lips of everybody, coupled with dishonor.”

“_Dishonor?_ My mother? You villain!”

Violet moved swiftly over to the door and threw it open.

“Go!” she panted, in a low, tense tone, her voice full of dangerous
meaning, her eyes blazing.

He stood staring into her pale face for a moment, then drew a little
nearer her, and his voice was low and ominous as he hissed, vengefully:

“I will prove it to you, Miss Violet Arleigh!” he cried. “Rosamond
Arleigh was a base woman--a----”

But Violet, unable to bear any more, stepped quickly past him through
the open door, and hastening down the hall, left the house without a
word. Her heart was beating tumultuously, her eyes shone with a wild
light, her breath was coming thick and fast.

On, on, she went, like a mad creature, down the long walk which led to
the entrance to The Oaks. A turn to the right, and there, at the foot
of a huge magnolia-tree, she saw Leonard Yorke. He arose from his seat
upon a rustic bench, and, pale and agitated, came to meet her.

“Violet! Good heavens! what is the matter?” he cried. “Oh, my darling,
you are ill and in trouble! What has hurt you? Tell me all, Violet, for
I would lay down my life for you!”

She sunk upon the seat which he had just vacated, and pressed her hand
to her throbbing heart.

“I--I thought you were gone long ago,” she faltered, at last.

“We started for home together, Miss Glyndon and I,” he returned; “but
we met Captain Venners” (a frown darkened his handsome face as he spoke
the name); “he has just run over from New Orleans, upon business, he
says. The moment Miss Glyndon saw him she grew pale as death. Somehow,
I believe she hates him. She just bowed to Venners, and then excusing
herself to me, saying that she must go home to mother, who is very ill,
she galloped off as though for dear life, leaving me with Venners. But
he did not linger long. Violet, do you like Will Venners?”

Violet’s face flushed beneath Leonard’s strange searching gaze. She had
just recollected the poem which Will had intrusted to her, and which
she had failed to deliver. It was the memory of her own delinquency
which made her look confused; but how was Leonard to know that?

“Like him?” she repeated; “why, of course I do. Everybody does, I
think. He is so gentle and kind and thoughtful for everybody, and he is
so handsome and talented, and----”

“There, that is enough!” interposed Leonard, bitterly. “Quite a
piece of perfection, to be sure. But don’t forget to supplement his
perfections with the fact that he is an outrageous flirt--a trifler--a
man who thinks only of his handsome face and graceful figure, and cares
nothing for the hearts he breaks in his mad career.”

“I think you are hard on poor Will,” observed Violet, shyly.

But jealousy had the upper hand with Leonard Yorke now, and nothing
could stop him or check his mad heart and jealous hatred.

“Hard on poor Will, indeed!” he repeated, wrathfully. “How much you
must care for him to champion him as you do.”

“Care for him! I? Oh, no; only as a friend; but that, of course, you
know, Leonard, after--after what passed between you and me on my

Her shy eyes drooped, and the sweet face flushed faintly as she
recalled his loving words, his fond vows. Yet here he stood before her,
pale with anger, his dark eyes flashing, the very picture of an angry
man, and not at all like a lover--her own true lover, Leonard. Her eyes
wore a look of wondering surprise. She said to herself that he had
ceased to care for her; that he loved Hilda instead (perhaps, indeed,
he had never cared for Violet), and then a wave of passionate anger
surged over the girl’s heart, and made it bitter and sore.

“Well, if he regrets the past, and wishes to recall his vows, he must
suit himself,” she exclaimed under her breath, her heart hot with a
jealous anger. She rose slowly and turned away. “I must go back to the
house,” she observed, though her heart sunk at the thought of possibly
encountering Gilbert Warrington there.

She hesitated, and a keen pang of regret struck to her heart like a

Could she leave Leonard thus? Could she bear it that he should be angry
with her without a cause? She ventured to lay her hand upon his.


He turned, and his eyes rested upon her face, pale, sad, and troubled
exceedingly. He pressed the little hand to his lips.

“Violet! Violet!” he cried, “why do you torture me so? Surely you are
not deceitful, and----”

“Torture you!” she interrupted, in a clear, ringing voice. “Deceitful!
And I used to think that you loved me!”

“Loved you! My God----”

But the words died upon Leonard’s lips; the hand that held Violet’s
dropped to his side. He stared before him, pale and calm, and outwardly
indifferent. For at that moment, just around a curve in the adjacent
shrubbery, Hilda appeared. She looked like a picture in her long,
clinging black princess gown, which revealed every outline of her
graceful figure.

She looked pensive and thoughtful, too; but as she drew nearer the pair
beneath the magnolia-tree, she lifted her eyes. Her face flushed, and
then grew pale.

“Why, Leonard,” she cried, in affected surprise, coming to a halt
before the two, “I thought that you had gone--oh, ages ago!”

Leonard forced a smile.

“I had only reached the gate when Miss Glyndon and I met Captain
Venners. He had just arrived from New Orleans--came home upon some
business of importance, he said. He stopped his horse long enough to
speak with Miss Glyndon and myself, then rode on. But Miss Glyndon has
gone home to Yorke Towers,” he added, swiftly, “and I was feeling a
little blue and ‘off,’ and so I concluded to sit down here under this
grand old magnolia-tree to--to smoke. And then, after I had finished
my cigar, I saw Violet coming, and we remained here talking for a few

Hilda’s great dark eyes were fixed upon his face, as though striving to
read its every expression. It struck to poor Violet’s heart like a blow
that he had taken great pains to prepare an elaborate explanation to
satisfy fair Hilda.

“Violet,” she said, abruptly, “_I_ saw Captain Venners just now for
a moment. He asked me to say to you that he would call upon you this
evening.” Then, laying her hand upon Leonard’s arm, she added, softly:
“Come, Leonard; I want you to look at my bed of Mexican Torranias. They
are just lovely!”

And as though powerless to resist her, Leonard allowed her to lead him
away, and Violet was left alone.



When Rosamond Arleigh struck the water in her mad descent down the
steep sandy bank, she gave herself up for lost.

The cold, dark water closed swiftly over her, and she sunk for a moment
out of sight; then she rose to the surface, and with numbed hands
clutched wildly at the nearest object, even as the drowning man will
clutch at a straw. Her hands came in contact with a huge pine log. She
grasped its rough bark; her hands slipped, and she fell once more.

She had lost her slippers--one was in the carriage, the other imbedded
in the wet sand near the edge of the stream. Her cloak had slipped from
her shoulders; she was utterly unprotected from the cold water, and a
chill struck to her very heart.

It was intensely dark. She could not see which way the carriage had
gone; but it _had_ gone, and that was enough to revive a feeble hope
within her heart.

If only Gilbert Warrington would not miss her until he was so far away
that she might have time and a chance to escape, then indeed there was
hope. But how _could_ she escape?

It was dark and cold; the stream was deep and treacherous, and the
current swift and strong. Besides, the logs and _débris_ in the water
choked up its course, and it was positively dangerous for an expert
swimmer to attempt to make his way through the swift, dark tide, at
that hour.

It all flashed through her bewildered brain with the rapidity with
which thought flashes at such a time, when one is upon the verge of
drowning. She tried hard to grasp the situation, but her brain was weak
and numb from the strange experience through which she had passed, and
she could not collect her thoughts, nor do anything to help herself;
only, with a vague impulse of self-preservation, the first law of
nature, she struck out blindly, with a faint hope of reaching shore.

Clutching at the tall, tough grass and native shrubs which grew near,
she might have eventually succeeded, for she was desperate; but all
at once, with a rush and a roar and a plunge down the stream, a small
raft of cypress logs fastened together came tearing madly, under the
direction of a stout negro in a small boat, who evidently superintended
the raft.

On came the logs, and poor Rosamond, directly in their way, was utterly
powerless to escape, while the negro in the boat could not possibly see
what was ahead of him; and, of course, he would not be on the lookout
for such a phenomenon as a woman struggling in the cold, dark water
alone at that unearthly hour.

Somehow it flashed across Rosamond’s understanding; she realized her
awful danger. She half arose in the water and shrieked aloud at the top
of her voice:

“_Help! help!_”

On rushed the logs! The negro in the boat, half convinced that he had
seen a ghost in that one swift glimpse of a death-white face and long,
dark, streaming hair, which for a brief space confronted him, paused in
the act of rowing, and uttered an imprecation.

“Gor a’mighty! what dat?” he exclaimed. “‘Pears like thar’s a woman--a
white woman--or a _ha’nt_! Don’t jis’ know which a one, but ’twas one
or t’odder, _sho’_!”

He guided his boat dexterously around the side of the small raft, but
not in time to avert the threatened calamity, for with a mad rush the
logs dashed onward, striking poor Rosamond full in the head with a
blow which might have felled an ox. Without a cry or a moan, she sunk
swiftly out of sight, and all was still.

The negro, trembling like a leaf, had witnessed the catastrophe, just a
moment too late. He fastened his boat to the raft and sprung into the

“I isn’t gwine ter sit here and see no woman drowned,” he muttered as
he dived beneath the surface.

A moment later; then the water was agitated, and once more the negro
arose on the dark bosom of the water, grasping in his arms the
unconscious form of Rosamond Arleigh.

With some difficulty he succeeded in placing her in the bottom of his
boat, and getting in himself, began to pull for dear life, but not
to the shore that she had left. He was afraid of being punished for
allowing the lady to drown, and he firmly believed that she was dead.

He made up his mind in a moment. He would go on to New Orleans. There
were no more obstacles now in the way of his raft, which would glide
swiftly on into the lake, to be towed over by some schooner. He
determined, therefore, to convey the body to New Orleans, and have
it buried by the authorities. Perhaps it could be managed so that
no questions would be asked, and he would not be punished for his

He rowed onward with all his might, until the veins in his arms stood
out like whip-cords and the perspiration trickled in a steady stream
down his ebony face.

It occurred to him all at once that even when the lake would be
reached, it would be difficult to persuade a schooner captain to convey
the dead body to the city. Perhaps it would be better to bury it in the
sand at the mouth of the stream, and no one would be the wiser.

But the first faint gleams of morning sunrise showed an unexpected
sight. The woman was still alive!




Alive! Could it be possible?

The negro uttered an exclamation, half terror, half surprise.

“Lawd ha’ marcy!” he ejaculated, scratching his woolly head in blank
perplexity. “Dat ’ar ’ooman sho’ly is a quare ’un! Done got a lick side
de head ’nuff to knock over a mule! So ’pears to me,” reflectively;
“but den some folks kin stand a heap.”

Now it happened that the force of the blow was greatly exaggerated in
appearance; at all events, Rosamond had made a wonderful escape; for
the logs had rushed violently down the swirling stream just as she had
turned aside in her mad scramble for the shore, and had dipped beneath
the water like a sea-bird, coming up just in time to receive a blow
upon the head, but not the brunt of the collision.

It was bad enough, however, and the negro was certainly not to be
wondered at for looking upon her as a dead woman.

But now her eyes were open and staring wildly before her.

The man stooped and peered into the white face, removing his hat with
the natural deference of his race for the white woman.

“Good-mawnin’, lady!” he cried, eagerly. To tell the truth, he felt
wonderfully relieved to discover that she still lived. “Is you much

But there was no answer. The great dark eyes stared blankly into the
kindly black face, but there was no gleam of intelligence in their
depths. They seemed utterly devoid of expression, and to all appearance
sightless, as they stared up into the good-natured countenance of the
black man.

He felt a strange sensation of terror quite new to him.

“Kin I do anythin’ for ye, missis?” he persisted.

But still there was no answer, no sign or motion. She lay as still as a
graven image, and there was no sign of life.

But the man was relieved. She was living, and therefore, he was
guiltless of having caused her death. But what could he do for her?

“I’se gwine git her over to New Orleans,” he muttered at length,
decisively; “den I gwine git her inter de hospital.”

On, on, went the little boat. The still, rigid form of the woman lay
motionless. Not even her eyelids quivered nor a muscle contracted. And
so, at last, just about noon--at nearly the same hour when Rosamond
Arleigh’s funeral services were concluded, and the coffin hidden away
under the red earth piled high in the old grave-yard--poor Rosamond
reached the schooner, was placed on board, and the trip to the city

The negro, whose name was Clark, informed the captain of the vessel
that the lady had met with an accident; and he begged so hard that the
poor creature might be allowed to make the trip upon his schooner, that
the captain had not the heart to refuse.

The schooner reached the city the next morning. A little later, the
kind-hearted captain had made arrangements for the reception of
Rosamond Arleigh at the charity hospital.

She lay upon her white bed in the accident ward, and two of the most
learned physicians in the city bent over the silent form. A long
and careful examination disclosed the fact that the skull had been
fractured, and a bit of bone had been forced upon the brain. The
physicians looked at each other.

Doctor Dane shook his head. He was the younger and less experienced of
the two.

“She will die,” he said, slowly, “or----”

“Or she will live, but with a shattered intellect,” interposed Doctor
Bruce, quickly. “Perhaps it would be kinder to let her die, for the
alternative is horrible. But one must do the humane in such a case. One
can not stand idly by and see a human creature perish, when even one
frail chance remains.”

“Then you think that there may be a chance?” inquired the other
physician, softly.

Doctor Bruce nodded.

“There may be; but it is a frail one, and attended with great
difficulty and danger. You forget, Dane, that if the fractured skull,
or the bit of bone which presses upon the brain itself should be
lifted, and the brain relieved from the pressure, the probability is
that the patient will be restored to her right mind. On the other
hand, the prospect is that she will go down to her grave a hopeless
idiot. Fine-looking woman, isn’t she? And the entire case is shrouded
in mystery. Captain Cloyne, of the schooner _Reine_, brought her here
this morning, with a brief explanation that she had been placed in his
care by a negro who had rescued the woman from drowning in one of the
small rivers tributary to the lake. Cloyne is really to blame for not
finding out the particulars; but he looked overjoyed to get her off his
hands, and really no one can wonder at it; so I was obliged to accept
his meager explanation. Well, Dane, what do you say, my boy? Shall we
attempt the remedy? It is all that I can prescribe; and in her case
she is very frail and delicate evidently. I doubt if she can endure
the operation. And I dare not administer chloroform or anything of
the sort, for, if I mistake not, she has been suffering from a severe
affection of the heart, and I do not think it safe to administer such a

So at length it was decided to make the attempt; but, after a delicate
and tedious operation, the case was resigned as hopeless, for no good
results were apparent.

A tiny portion of the skull still pressed upon the brain. Small as it
was, it was enough to prevent the success of the operation, and the
case was relinquished, reluctantly enough, by the two physicians as one
beyond their skill.

So, after long days and nights of patient nursing, during which
Rosamond slowly recovered her strength, she was removed to the
Louisiana Retreat for the Insane. The case was entered upon the books
in the department for unknown and mysterious cases; the newspapers
published a brief paragraph; but as no one knew the name of the stream
in which the unknown woman had been found, neither of the parties
concerned in regard to Rosamond Arleigh’s fate for a moment thought of
connecting the heroine of the newspaper paragraph with Rosamond Arleigh.

And so the affair died away into silence, and in time it was no longer

In her cell at the retreat poor Rosamond sat in stolid silence day
after day, staring out between the bars of the iron grating which shut
out the world beyond. Nothing interested her; there was no gleam of
intelligence left within her brain. She was a hopeless idiot, perfectly
harmless, but incurable. So the wise physicians had decided.

The days came and went, and weeks glided into months, but still she
lived on in her dreary, aimless existence, surely the most pitiful
under the sun.

And away at her old home--The Oaks--poor Violet was mourning for her
mother, whom she felt certain had perished in the treacherous waters,
but whom the world believed to be lying in her little grave in the old
green cemetery.

Violet felt that it would be better far to _know_ that she was indeed
sleeping in the grave, rather than to feel this dreadful and secret
uncertainty as to her fate.

In the meantime, Dunbar had not been idle. He had haunted the
country-side; passed hours near the bridge where the cloak and slippers
had been discovered; interviewed every lumberman and laborer engaged in
work near the spot; but all in vain.

It chanced that the negro, Clark, who had befriended Rosamond, had
remained in New Orleans, having procured employment there; so there was
no chance for Dunbar to encounter him--no way for the truth to become

There seemed to be a strange fatality in regard to the entire affair.
Poor Rosamond seemed destined to be cut off from all hope and hold on
life and the world in which she no longer played her weary part. She
was like one who is dead, yet is still living.

Dunbar was indefatigable. He was a true detective, and would follow the
slightest clew with dogged persistency, tracking down the least hint
until it dwindled away into nothing.

Doctor Danton spent money like water in his mad efforts to find some
trace of Rosamond; and between the two, the truth must surely have
come to light, but for the perverse fate which detained the negro in
New Orleans--the only person capable of setting the detective upon the

It was like “looking for a needle in a bottle of hay,” so Dunbar
declared; but all the same, he had sworn never to give up the search
until every hope, every chance was exhausted, no matter how faint and
feeble it might be.

But at last the day came when even Dunbar ceased to hope, and
Rosamond’s fate was shrouded in mystery.




Leonard Yorke rode away from The Oaks with a heart full of angry
resentment. So, Captain Venners was coming to call upon Violet that
evening. Violet was evidently deeply interested in the handsome,
dashing young fellow who had won the reputation of a flirt, and who was
such an immense favorite with the ladies.

Could he have been deceived in Violet Arleigh? Could it be that she was
not the simple-hearted girl that he had believed her? She was fond of
admiration--too fond; and, worse than all, to Leonard’s jealous fancy,
she was too fond of handsome, dark-eyed Will Venners.

With a sore heart, he rode away from The Oaks, angry with Violet and
with himself, and detesting Will Venners with all his heart.

“So he is going to call there this evening!” Leonard repeated
half-angrily to himself, as he turned his horse’s head toward home.
“They will pass a quiet evening together, and she will never think of
me at all, I suppose. But Violet is my betrothed wife, and I have a
right to visit The Oaks. Why should I not call also?”

The idea seemed feasible and proper. He made up his mind at length that
he would ride over to The Oaks again that night, at the same time that
Captain Venners would call there.

Leonard rode up the long avenue leading to Yorke Towers, feeling a
little better after he had made up his mind to this step.

At the entrance to the fine old house he was met by Miss Glyndon.

“Your mother is asking for you, Mr. Yorke,” she said, as soon as he
entered the house; and there was a tone of relief in her voice at the
sight of him. “She is better, but she seems to be greatly troubled
about something. Please go right up.”

Leonard Yorke ascended the great staircase, which wound in a circular
form up from the center of the entrance hall, and a few moments later
he rapped at the door of his mother’s room.

“Come in!” called a faint voice; and Leonard turned the knob and

The room, a great Gothic chamber, was in semi-darkness; the windows
were draped in crimson hangings; the furniture was heavy and antique;
the walls were hung with paintings and lined with books. It was a
sumptuous apartment; but the woman who lay upon the bed, drawn up near
an open window, looked as if nothing in the world could make her happy
or contented. Her pale, delicate face was still quite beautiful. She
had not yet passed middle age, and the soft, dark hair, drawn back from
a broad, low brow, was scarcely touched with silver. Her features were
delicate and high-bred, but worn and grave to sadness.

As her eyes--calm gray eyes which, in spite of their calmness, could
flash with bitter anger and indignation--fell upon the face of her son,
she held out her thin white hand.

“Where have you been, son?” she asked, gently.

His face flushed.

“Over at The Oaks, mother. Poor Violet is nearly crushed by her
mother’s sudden and awful death.”

He hesitated, checking himself at the expression of suffering which
flashed over his mother’s pale face.

“I did not stay long,” he added, swiftly. “I shall call there again
this evening. Mother, I wish you were well enough to invite Violet and
Mrs. Rutledge and Hilda over here for a time. Violet has never visited
Yorke Towers; she has only called occasionally; and--and----”

His voice stammered into silence at the glance from his mother’s calm
gray eyes. He had not yet broken to her the news of his engagement to
Violet. How was she going to take it?

Mrs. Yorke sighed.

“I fear that I am too ill to entertain anybody,” she returned, slowly.
“Yet,” starting slightly, as though a sudden thought had struck her,
“perhaps it will be better for me to take your advice. I--I have a
reason for---- Son, I believe upon the whole that I will try and arouse
myself, and I will send the invitation to the ladies at once. There
is no use in their staying at home nursing their sorrow; and we are
neighbors and old friends, and, of course, here they will be perfectly
at home. There will be no rules of ceremony to follow, and the change
will benefit them all, I am sure.”

Low under her breath she was saying softly:

“I will get that girl here, and then I will try and find out if she
knows anything of the past, of her mother’s secret and mine. But I will
watch Violet well, for there must not be anything serious between her
and Leonard.”

Aloud she added, gently:

“I believe I will write the invitation now.”

“But, mother dear, you are not able to----”

“I am able to write a few lines, and I am able to sit up and to get
about my room a little. And I want them to come over here as soon as
possible,” she added, her eyes lighting up, her pale cheeks flushing
slightly. “Place writing materials on my desk, Leonard, and wheel it to
my side. There, that is right!”

She seemed strangely elated and quite excited over the prospect of
the visitors from The Oaks. Leonard could not understand it. But he
silently obeyed her directions, and in a few moments the note was
written, the most cordial and neighborly note that Mrs. Yorke had ever
written to any one at The Oaks. She laid before Mrs. Rutledge what a
benefit the change would be to herself and the young ladies, and then
it would be a charity to Mrs. Yorke and Miss Glyndon to have them come
to Yorke Towers.

The invitation was received in due time by Mrs. Rutledge, and promptly
accepted without reference to Violet. This was too good a chance to be
lost for Hilda to try and win Leonard Yorke.

Mrs. Rutledge smiled with a swift, furtive glance in the direction of
her daughter when she read the invitation aloud. Hilda returned the
glance with a significant nod.

“Strange that you have never visited Yorke Towers, Violet,” she

Violet smiled.

“Oh, no, not at all. There was something unpleasant, I have always
fancied, between Mrs. Yorke and my poor mother. What it was, I do not
know. Aunt Constance, do _you_ know anything about it? Or, perhaps, I
ought not to ask.”

Mrs. Rutledge smiled an acid smile.

“There was something like jealousy between them, I believe, over Harold
Arleigh,” she returned, in an indifferent tone; “but I do not think
it amounted to much; and, anyway, Rosamond won him, and so she could
afford to be magnanimous. But I must confess, Violet, that I do not
think your mother ever really liked Mrs. Yorke. I am sure that there
was no love lost between them, and that is why she opposed Leonard’s
calling here so often.”

“Opposed Leonard--Mr. Yorke--calling here?” repeated Violet, in
amazement. “Why, Aunt Constance, that is the first I ever heard of
it. Why--the very last night that she--the night of my ball, she was
speaking to me of Leonard in the kindest and most affectionate way, I
am sure you are mistaken, auntie; mamma _did_ like Leonard.”

“Well, well! you need not go into hysterics over it. I suppose it
is so since you say so. But suppose, Violet, that there was really
anything serious between you and Leonard--(why, you are blushing like a
peony)--would you marry him against your mother’s wishes?”

Silence! Violet shook her head.

“No, I would not marry any man of whom my darling mother did not
approve,” she said, slowly; “but then I know that mamma _did_ approve
of Leonard, for she told me so.”

“Mamma”--Hilda’s voice broke in upon Violet’s eager words--“why do you
speak of such folly as Leonard Yorke caring for Violet? You know that
he cares for some one else.”

Violet turned to her cousin, pale and trembling.

“Explain, Hilda!” she said, quickly. “I do not understand you.”

But Hilda tossed her pretty dark head and laughed derisively.

“Wait!” was all that she would say.

Just then the bell rang, and a servant appeared with a card for Violet.
She glanced at it, and her face flushed. The name upon the card was
Captain Venners. She rose at once.

“Will you come down, Hilda?” she asked, laying the card before her

Hilda glanced at it.

“He has called to see you,” she returned, shortly. “No, I will not go
down. ‘Two are company, and three a crowd!’ You know the old saying.”

So, feeling a little uncomfortable, Violet went slowly down to the
drawing-room, in her plain black dress with soft white ruffles at
throat and wrists, looking very fair and mournful.

“A sweet, true little woman!” thought Will Venners, as he took her
little hand in greeting.

“I am _so_ glad to see you, Miss Arleigh!” he began at once, in his
frank, boyish way. “I hope that you are feeling better. My poor little
friend, my heart aches with sympathy for you in your great loss!”

Her head drooped. The great tears welled up into her soft dark eyes;
her chin quivered; but she controlled her emotion. She sunk into a seat
at her visitor’s side.

“Have you seen Miss Glyndon?” she asked, after a brief silence.

Will’s bronzed face flushed crimson, then grew pale and stern.

“I have seen her for a few moments,” he returned, coldly, “and she--she
froze me out, Miss Violet.”

“I must tell you about the poem,” Violet was beginning, hesitatingly.

Poor child! she was half afraid to confess her delinquency and
acknowledge that she had lost his precious effusion. But, still fated
to go on in this odd game of cross-purposes, Will cut in sharply:

“No matter; I know. There is no need to explain, or, in fact, to
mention it at all. Jessie Glyndon is a flirt--a coquette. She has never
cared for me from first to last.”

“Oh, Will!”

“It is true--true--true!” he cried, rising to his feet and beginning to
pace up and down the room in mad haste. “She has proved the truth to me
this day. Violet, I believe that I shall go away from Louisiana--quit
the whole country--cut it all--run over to Texas and turn cowboy or
something. I’m dead tired of civilization as it is found here. And
then, some day, when I hear that Jessie is married to some one who
suits her--some one good enough and proud enough, and, above all,
_rich_ enough to please Miss Jessie Glyndon--I will come back.”

He paused, quite out of breath, his eyes flashing, his white teeth
gnawing fiercely at the heavy dark mustache which shaded his handsome
upper lip.

“Jessie is not mercenary,” ventured Violet, swift to speak in her
friend’s defense.

“No? Well, I am pleased to hear it; but I must beg leave to differ
with you there. I see it all. I am only poor Will Venners, a
retired army officer; but I am only thirty-three, and I have won my
shoulder-straps--won them in good, hard fights on the Colorado plains,
facing the red devils, under Custer. I am proud of my record, Miss
Violet, and I shall be proud of it should a dozen Miss Glyndons regard
me with contempt.”

“She does not--indeed she does not!” cried Violet, warmly. “How could

“Thank you, dear little friend! Thank God for your friendship, since I
can not win her love.”

He had her hand in his, and had raised it to his lips, when just at
that moment the door opened and Hilda appeared, and at her side, pale
and wrathful, stood Leonard Yorke. He had witnessed the scene between
Violet and Will Venners, and, of course, to his jealous nature, there
could be but one inference.




Violet started, and Will dropped her hand as though it were a live
coal, as Leonard entered the room with a slight greeting, and began at
once to converse with Mrs. Rutledge, who had also put in an appearance.
Poor Violet and Will looked the very pictures of guilty confusion, and
plunged into the first subject at hand for conversation. Violet felt
Leonard’s stern eyes upon her, and her heart sunk with its weight of

“I thought I would ride over this evening,” began Leonard, a little
stiffly, “to make arrangements for bringing you all over to Yorke
Towers to-morrow. I will send the carriage for Mrs. Rutledge and
Miss Hilda. Violet, you and I might ride. You will like to take your
saddle-horse to Yorke Towers, will you not?”

Violet’s eyes sparkled.

“Oh, yes; very much! I have not ridden in some time. Thank you, Mr.

“But, Violet,” interrupted Hilda, hastily, “Selim has cast a shoe, so I
heard old Andrew say, and he is a little lame; you can not use him.”

Violet looked disappointed; but before she could venture a reply, Will
Venners arose to take his departure.

“I shall not return to New Orleans for a day or two,” he observed;
“shall I not have the pleasure of meeting you ladies again?”

“We shall be pleased to see you at Yorke Towers,” said Leonard, a
little coldly.

Venners bowed.

“Thanks, very much,” he replied. “I may possibly be able to avail
myself of your invitation.” But, as he took Violet’s hand at parting,
he managed to whisper: “I shall not see you again. Will you write to
me--you know my address--and let me know all about her?”

Violet smiled uneasily; but she answered yes. Leonard knew that some
engagement had been made between the two, but he was too proud to ask
any questions when Captain Venners was gone.

The remainder of Leonard’s call was exceedingly unsatisfactory to
Violet; but Hilda monopolized him exclusively, and was the only one who
enjoyed the situation.

In the depths of her heart, Violet would have been glad of an excuse
to give up the visit to Yorke Towers; but she could not well withdraw
now. So she listened in silence to the arrangements made by the others,
and Leonard agreed to call at The Oaks in the morning with the Yorke

Morning came fair and bright. The carriage drove up to the entrance of
the house, and Mrs. Rutledge was assisted within, followed by Violet,
and Hilda was left to share the remaining seat with Leonard, much to
her secret satisfaction; and it was just what she had intended from
the first. They reached Yorke Towers in the bright morning sunshine,
and were ushered to their respective rooms. A strange oppression
settled down upon Violet’s spirits; she felt gloomy and sad, though
she knew not why. She closed the door of her own room behind her, and
went over to a window which opened upon an iron balcony, from which a
narrow staircase wound down to the grounds below. It was a very odd,
old-fashioned house, and there were many strange stories told of it.
For instance, there was a room called the east chamber. Violet had
never entered it, but she had heard the legend connected with it--a
wild tale of love and jealousy.

When Yorke Towers had belonged to the Arleighs, it was said that the
two brothers--Bertram and Wayne--had both loved the same woman. But
Bertram had won her, and had brought his bride to the Towers to live.
She was young and very beautiful--a golden-haired, blue-eyed fairy full
of life and sunshine. But she soon found that her husband was a jealous
tyrant. He kept her a virtual prisoner in the gloomy old house, shut
out from all society or the company of her own sex. Day after day she
pined away, and life lost all charm for her. Then Wayne Arleigh came
to the Towers. He had a right there, for it was the ancestral home of
the Arleighs. He began at once to try and secretly win the affections
of the lovely young wife. He succeeded, and she gave her heart to the
traitorous brother. But all the time her husband was watching her with
eager, jealous eyes, waiting to convince himself that she was false.
The day came when he was convinced beyond a doubt. It was a terrible
blow to him, but he said nothing; he only set his teeth together
sharply over a muttered oath.

That night he invited his brother to accompany him into the east
chamber, and, quite unsuspicious, Wayne followed him thither. Once
there, Bertram Arleigh closed the door upon his brother, locking it
upon the outside, and went swiftly away. The room was at the farthest
extremity of the great house; its one window was secured by an iron
grating; no possibility of escape. And there Wayne Arleigh lingered,
dying at last a horrible death from slow starvation. And the world
outside never knew the truth until upon his death-bed Bertram Arleigh
confessed his awful crime.

Violet recalled the old legend now as she glanced from her window
across the court-yard to the east chamber. No one ever entered it now.
She turned away with a low sigh, and just then her eyes fell upon a
letter lying upon the toilet-table. She picked it up in wondering
surprise. A sealed letter addressed to herself!




Violet broke the seal of the letter with a strange misgiving in her
heart. It was written in a plain though somewhat cramped hand, and ran
as follows:

 “Dear Miss Arleigh--You and yours have been cruelly wronged. If you
 would avenge your mother and gain possession of your own rights, visit
 the east chamber at Yorke Towers and search for certain papers which
 are said to be concealed there. I can tell you no more than this. I am
 your friend, though necessity compels me to conceal my identity from
 you. Be on your guard and act with prudence and caution, and God will
 help the friendless orphan.

                                                      “Your Friend.”

Violet read and reread this strange epistle, her heart full of
unpleasant forebodings. It flashed across her mind then, the strange
condition of affairs between her mother and Mrs. Yorke. There had
been polite intercourse between them as friends and neighbors, but at
the same time, under it all there had been something like distrust,
a certain ill-concealed jealousy. Violet thought of it all now, and
wondered what could be the reason for this condition of affairs.

She slipped the letter into her pocket, and removing her street-dress,
donned a pretty black lawn, with a jet necklace and bracelets. Then
she stepped out upon the balcony and stood gazing around her upon the
fair scene stretched out before her eyes. Off in the distance a gleam
of silver, where the pretty river wound in and out amid green hills
and smiling dales; overhead, a blue sky with a few fleecy white clouds
sailing over its azure bosom; below, a smooth, green lawn stretching
down to the river’s edge, and dotted with gorgeous flower-beds.

A lovely place was Yorke Towers. No wonder that Helen Yorke had clung
to it and fought for it, and would almost lay her life down in its

And then Violet’s eyes wandered over to the eastern portion of the huge
old building, to the room where that awful tragedy had taken place
so many years before, where the mysterious letter had told Violet to
search for the documents referred to.

What papers were they, and why must she search for them? In vain did
Violet turn the question over in her mind; she could find no answer to
it. But a strange feeling had taken possession of her heart, a feeling
for which she could not account, but which led her to feel that the
letter, no matter from whom it had come, spoke the truth, and was of
real importance to her.

“I will say nothing to any one,” she decided at length; “but I will
watch my opportunity to visit the east chamber; and once there, I will
search it thoroughly. But I really do not know what I expect to find,
and it does not seem proper to take such liberties with Mrs. Yorke’s

She felt greatly distressed and troubled over this matter; but at last
she decided to dismiss the subject from her mind.

She descended the narrow staircase which led from the balcony out into
the grounds, and was soon wandering through a green and shady arcade
with hedges of roses on either side and the air laden with fragrance.

All at once the sound of suppressed sobbing fell upon her ears,
followed by an outburst of weeping speedily controlled.

Violet came to a halt, uncertain whether to advance or retreat; and
then she saw, crouching at the foot of a large tree, a white-robed
figure with bowed head--a girl, weeping bitterly. A second glance, and
Violet saw that it was Jessie Glyndon. It did not seem possible that
the proud, self-possessed Miss Glyndon could be huddled up in that
crumpled heap at the foot of the tree, weeping and sobbing as though
her heart would break. And as Violet turned to leave the spot, her
light footsteps unheard upon the soft grass, she caught the sound of
a name which Miss Glyndon breathed forth in a tone of heart-break and
despair. That name was “_Will_!”

Violet felt a swift sensation of surprise. Why, who would ever have
thought that Jessie Glyndon cared enough for Will Venners to _cry_
about him? So thought Violet to herself. Yet, after all, it might not
be Will _Venners_, for there are hundreds of other Wills in the world.

Violet stole quietly away, and made her way to the house once more, and
Jessie Glyndon never dreamed that she had been a spectator to her grief.

Violet found Leonard in the hall. He looked relieved at sight of her.

“I began to fear that you were never coming, sweetheart!” he said, as
he joined her. “So you have been out in the grounds?”

Violet smiled. It was very pleasant to hear him speak in the same old,
tender way once more.

“Yes, I have been looking about,” she returned. “By the way, Leonard,
will you allow me to visit the east chamber while I am here? It has
long been a desire of mine to do so.”

His face grew dark. He disliked the legend; and then, it was told of
the _Arleighs_, and Violet was an Arleigh.

“It is nothing to be proud of, dear,” he said, quietly.

Violet’s face flushed.

“Indeed I am not proud of it, Leonard,” she cried; “but I wish to see
the room very much. And, after all, it was my ancestors of whom the
story was told. But there comes Hilda!”

Hilda floated into the room, a radiant vision, all in pure white
garnitured with black velvet, looking lovely, as she always did.

At sight of the two alone together, her face grew stern; but she forced
a smile to her red lips.

“Come, Leonard, let us go out into the grounds,” she began, gayly,
monopolizing Leonard, as usual.

It struck home to Violet’s heart in that moment that the engagement
between Leonard and herself ought to be made public, and then Hilda
would not be quite so officious. But just then Mrs. Rutledge made her
appearance, and they all went out into the grounds together, where they
remained until luncheon was announced.

At the lunch-table they found Jessie looking pale and subdued, but
outwardly calm. No one seeing her would have dreamed that she had been
going through the stormy scene such a little while before out in the
grim and silent grounds.

Luncheon over, they all made a call upon Mrs. Yorke. As they entered
the great Gothic chamber a tall, gaunt female in a rusty black gown,
and wearing a cap upon her scanty gray locks, strode out of the room
with the air of a tragedy queen.

“That is Betty Harwood--mother’s maid,” volunteered Leonard. “She is
quite a character, and mother thinks she could not exist without Betty.”

Something struck to Violet’s heart with an odd feeling of certainty,
that she was destined to know more of this woman before she left Yorke
Towers. She had caught a swift glance from her small gray eyes as she
had passed Violet in her exit from the room, and that glance had made
the girl slightly uneasy. She felt almost _afraid_ of the woman.

“I must be getting nervous and fanciful,” Violet said to herself, with
a smile. “Betty Harwood is Mrs. Yorke’s maid, and has been with her
for many months. She is devoted to the invalid. I am a foolish girl to
imagine any harm in her. The woman’s history is too well known to Mrs.
Yorke, doubtless, for her to be anything that she ought not to be.”

Yet, strive as she might, Violet could not divest herself of the
impression, and a feeling of uneasiness lingered in her heart.

Later in the day she encountered Betty in a deserted corridor. The old
woman gave her a furtive glance from her little gray eyes, with their
scant light lashes, and nodded mysteriously.

Violet turned coldly away. She certainly wished no secret understanding
with Mrs. Yorke’s servants. But as she passed on down the long
corridor, old Betty glided softly to her side, and bending her head,
whispered in a hissing tone:

“Be on your guard! There is fraud and wrong-doing around you. You have
been fearfully wronged, young lady. No; you need not shrink from me in
that cold, scornful fashion. Take my advice and visit the east chamber
at the first opportunity. Stay there as long as possible, and if you
_can_ stay there alone, do so. Never give up the search until you have
proved my words to be true.”

Violet lifted her head with a haughty gesture.

“I shall complain to Mrs. Yorke of you!” she said, sternly. “I share no
secrets with Mrs. Yorke’s servants; please remember that!”

But as she passed on down the corridor and descended the staircase,
Betty’s keen gray eyes followed the slight figure with a malignant
expression, and she muttered hoarsely:

“Ah, my fine young lady, you will be glad to take all that back, and
look to old Betty for assistance, before many days have come and gone.
There is trouble coming--awful trouble for you, Miss Violet Arleigh,
and I would save you if you would let me!”

Then she went slowly back to Mrs. Yorke’s chamber, that inscrutable
expression still upon her wrinkled face, and her gray eyes full of
sullen wrath.




As Violet passed Mrs. Yorke’s door, she heard a faint voice call her
name. She paused at the open door of the room.

“Did you speak, Mrs. Yorke?” she asked, timidly.

The invalid’s pale face flushed slightly.

“Yes. Will you come in here a moment?” she asked.

Violet entered the room and went over to the bedside. Mrs. Yorke was
dressed in a silken wrapper, and lay upon the bed, her eyes shining
with suppressed excitement.

“Violet Arleigh,” she began in a low tone, when the girl had come to
the bedside and paused awaiting her pleasure, “I invited you here to
Yorke Towers for a purpose. I have never liked you or your mother;
_she_ knew well the reason why. Violet Arleigh, I wish to ask you a
question: do you care for my son?”

Silence! You could hear distinctly the beating of the girl’s frightened
heart as she stood there before her censor--a little black-robed
figure, her bright head bent, her eyes fixed upon the pale, eager face
of the sick woman.

“You have asked me a question, Mrs. Yorke,” the girl said, quietly,
“which I have no reason to be ashamed of answering. Yet you should
have first spoken upon this subject to Leonard; the subject of my
engagement should have been first mentioned by him, and not forced upon
me. I do not deny the truth, Mrs. Yorke, I _do_ care for your son very,
very much--with all my heart, and I mean to make him a good, true,
devoted wife!”

“Ah! So that _is_ the situation, for sure?”

Mrs. Yorke’s voice was coldly sarcastic in its tone.

“I am quite pleased to be taken into your and Leonard’s confidence at
last; though it strikes me as being a little late, when you consider
that Leonard is my only son--my only child. Strange, that he should
have neglected to mention the matter to me!” she added, thoughtfully.
“I can scarcely believe that he is really in earnest. Why, I might
never have heard of the matter at all, and might not have suspected any
sentimental folly between you two, but for some remarks let fall by one
of the neighbors. Then I asked Miss Glyndon some questions in regard to
the affair, and although she was very prudent and careful concerning
what she said, I could see that she looked upon the matter in the same
light that I do. Miss Arleigh, I ask you, do you expect to marry my

The question was abrupt, not to say rude. Violet’s checks flushed, then
grew pale as marble; her eyes flashed.

“If I did not expect to become his wife some day, Mrs. Yorke,” she
said, firmly, “I would never have promised to marry him.”

“Humph! I suppose not. Well, you may go now; I wish to be alone,” Mrs.
Yorke added, curtly. And with flaming cheeks and flashing eyes, Violet
left the room and sought her own apartment. At its door she encountered
old Betty Harwood.

“So you have seen madame? And I rather guess you didn’t get too much
kindness and courtesy!” cried the woman. “I tell you, Miss Arleigh,
Mrs. Yorke is half crazy, and, in my opinion, she is a dangerous person
to deal with. She thinks that there is no one on earth but her son. If
I were you, I would have your engagement publicly announced.”

But without a word, trembling with indignation so that she could not
speak, Violet entered her own room and closed and locked its door.

“I will not stay here,” she pouted, angrily, as soon as she was alone.
“I have been outraged and insulted upon every side, by my hostess
herself and by her servant. How dared Mrs. Yorke speak to me as she
did? I am just as good as she. The Arleighs are every bit as good as
the Yorkes.”

For a moment Violet’s anger was so intense that she even forgot her
love for Leonard Yorke. She felt only indignation at his mother’s
insults and the insolence of old Betty. Yet all the time, away down in
the depths of her sore little heart, Violet was conscious of a feeling
which corroborated the words to which she had just listened. If Leonard
Yorke loved her well enough to wish to make her his wife, why did he
not openly announce the engagement between them? Why did he not at
least tell his own mother, and not leave it for her to find out from
strangers, or to put the delicate questions to Violet with which she
had just tortured her?

“I will go to Leonard at once,” decided Violet, when the first paroxysm
of anger was over and she was a little more calm. “He must explain to
me his reasons for this strange secrecy, and set it all right, or our
engagement shall be at an end.”

She descended the outer staircase which led from her own room to the
grounds, and the first person upon whom her eyes fell was Leonard
himself. But he was not alone; Hilda was with him--Hilda, with a pale
and eager face uplifted to his own, and a look of pleading in her
beautiful dusky eyes.

It was a pretty _tableau_ as the two stood together under a large tree,
with the evening sun, setting just behind the distant hills, casting a
golden glow over the green grass, and touching the silvery river with
jeweled finger-tips. But Violet, in the bitterness of her heart, could
see no beauty in the scene or the pretty picture.


Hilda’s voice was perfectly audible, and reached Violet’s ears
distinctly where she stood concealed from view by trailing vines of
Maréchal Neil roses which hung all around her.

“I have thought of this so many times,” went on the soft, sweet voice
of Hilda, “and I have wondered if you really cared for Violet, or
if--if you did not care a little for me.”

Pale and trembling, Violet still hesitated, while the soft, sweet voice
went on:

“_I_ have cared, Leonard, for, oh, ever so long! I thought that you
surely knew it, or at least suspected my secret.”

Not a word was spoken. With a low moan of heart-break, Violet turned
and swiftly retraced her steps up the narrow staircase, back to her own

“Hilda”--Leonard’s voice broke the silence at last, with a tone of
intense regret and grieved surprise--“Hilda, believe me, I never
dreamed of this. I--I thought that you knew how dearly I love Violet;
and our engagement would have been announced but for her mother’s
death. Violet is my promised wife.”

“Impossible!” Hilda Rutledge faced the young man with a pale, angry
countenance, and her voice rang out clear and cold. “Leonard, your own
common sense ought to show you that Violet is dead in love with Will

That old jealous pang contracted Leonard’s heart with a sharp pain. He
turned away. Then his eyes wandered to Hilda’s pale face, and his own
grew white as death.

“You are mistaken, Hilda,” he said, quietly; yet there was something in
his heart all the time which contradicted the assertion. “Violet is my
betrothed wife, and she loves me.”

“Oh, very well. I have no more to say. Only you will find out the truth
some day, then you will remember my warning.”

In the meantime, Violet had returned to her own room, pale and wrathful.

“Let her win him if she can!” she panted. “I will not stand in her way.
If Leonard cares for Hilda Rutledge, he shall have the chance to win
her. If Hilda cares for him--and I have suspected it long--she shall
have every opportunity to gain his love. I would not have his love
unless it was free and spontaneous. But he shall trifle with me no
longer. I am determined upon that point.”

As the words passed her lips, she heard the rustle of woman’s garments,
and a woman stepped over the threshold and entered Violet’s room.

It was old Betty. She held in her hand a huge key; upon her ugly face a
strange look of determination hovered.

“Here, Miss Arleigh,” she began at once, an ugly grin overspreading her
wrinkled countenance--“here is the key to the east chamber. Just you go
there yourself and see what you can find. It will be a grand thing for
you if you should find the papers that I have reason to believe are
hidden away there. Do not hesitate a moment, or be at all afraid. Mrs.
Yorke will never know. See? Now is your time. There is no one around.”

She seized Violet’s hand in a strong grasp, and before the girl could
utter a protest, she led her swiftly to a long passage which separated
the main building from the eastern portion of the house.

“There!” whispered Betty, in a stage whisper. “Just you follow that
passage to the end, then unlock the door before you, and you will be
in the east chamber. Once there, search everywhere for the package of
papers which will give you your own.”




For a moment Violet stood irresolute. It seemed wrong for her to obey
the instructions of Mrs. Yorke’s servant and visit the mysterious
chamber all alone; but then she knew that old Betty was a confidential
servant, that she had served Mrs. Yorke faithfully for years, and that
she knew much concerning the private history of the Yorkes. But that
Betty had some object in impressing upon Violet the desirability of
visiting the east chamber, was only too apparent.

Violet stood turning the question over in her mind for some moments.
A strange desire to visit the east chamber began to take possession
of her heart--a desire augmented by the unusual circumstances and
surroundings of the case.

“After all, Mrs. Yorke can have no objection,” she said to herself,
decisively; “and it is an understood thing that we are all to make a
visit to this historic room while we are at the Towers, and if I choose
to go there by myself, I do not know that I am doing anything very
improper. And if old Betty Harwood had not been intrusted with the key,
how could she have it in her possession? Therefore, she must have some
authority in the matter. On the whole, I believe that I will go.”

It seemed quite like visiting a modern Bluebeard’s chamber. There was
a spice of adventure in the affair, and the hour, too, was propitious
for such an adventure; for it was twilight now. The long, narrow
passage which led to the east chamber lay in darkness. Violet felt a
little thrill of terror creep slowly over her as she passed through the
deepening gloom.

“Well, if I intend to go at all I had better make a start,” she
exclaimed, half aloud, with a sudden movement in the direction of the
long, gloomy passage, “or I shall be compelled to get a light to find
my way.”

She moved on hastily down the long, dark, narrow passage--on, on!
Surely never was a corridor so long and gloomy before. On, on! Her
outstretched hands came in contact with the great oaken door of the
mysterious chamber at last, and Violet came to an abrupt halt as her
hands touched the stout panel. Then she guided the key to the lock,
inserted it, and turned it swiftly. She felt a nervous desire to get
the visit to this chamber of horrors over with. Now that she had begun
the adventure, she would not give up or retreat.

Slowly the heavy door creaked upon its rusty hinges, and a great dusty
space lay revealed beyond her--the east chamber. Trembling in spite
of herself, Violet crossed the threshold and stood within the room. A
damp, musty odor greeted her; the vault-like atmosphere of a room shut
up from fresh air for years, only opened at long intervals to gratify
some one’s curiosity. Violet drew a long breath, and stood gazing about
her with fear-dilated eyes. A large, bare room containing absolutely
no furniture--nothing, only over in one corner upon the dusty floor
a small heap of ashes, which had blown from the empty fireplace, and
lay piled up there suggestively. Violet thought involuntarily of the
dead man, the poor sinner who had met his awful fate, the lingering,
dreadful death from slow starvation, within this dreary room, and for
just a moment she half believed that the little heap of feathery gray
ashes lying before her at her very feet were the ashes of the dead--all
that remained of that which had been Wayne Arleigh, her ancestor. But
second thoughts assured her of the impossibility of such a thing.
Surely, neither the Yorkes nor Arleighs were such heathens as to leave
the ashes of the dead unburied, no matter what the crime of the dead
man might have been.

With slow, reluctant steps, and trembling all over like a leaf, Violet
stole softly to the furthest corner of the room and gazed eagerly
about her. Where could she search for papers hidden away in this bare,
utterly unfurnished apartment?

All at once a sound broke the awful silence of the place, the sound of
a stealthy footstep creeping slowly near.

Her heart beat so loudly that she could hear it distinctly; the cold
perspiration stood in clammy drops upon her forehead. She stood still
and listened.

It was enough to terrify a stouter heart than Violet Arleigh’s; for
she knew well that this portion of the great house was deserted, and
no one knew of her visit to the east chamber, save old Betty. The
footsteps must be those of some marauder, or else could it be something

A vague and undefined terror of she knew not what took possession of
the girl. Pale and trembling she stood there, not knowing which way to
turn; and slowly but surely the footsteps drew near and nearer. They
did not seem to come from the same direction from which she had come;
they sounded apparently from the left side; yet Violet knew that there
was nothing there but the wall of the house.

What should she do? Here in the darkness--for it was nearly dark now
within the ghostly chamber--she would be compelled to face an unknown
presence. It was enough to terrify a stronger heart than hers.

On, on, came the ghostly footsteps. Violet turned to fly. She _could
not_ stand quietly within that horrible chamber to face this unknown
terror. She would meet it half-way.

Pale and panting, she darted to the door. It was pushed softly open
wide, and a man stood before her. One glance into his face, and Violet
recoiled with a low cry of terror. Ah! this was worse than ghosts or
supernatural visions, for the man before her was Gilbert Warrington!

With an inarticulate cry Violet fell back. Warrington put his arms
about her and drew her to his breast.

“I have come to you here in this ghostly room,” he said, in a low,
impressive voice. “I have been waiting and watching for this hour to
come; and now that it is here, Violet Arleigh, you shall go with me
this very night!”

Violet drew back and faced the villain before her with pale face and
kindling eyes. Well, at least this was something tangible to combat.
Better to face a real danger than to fear some dreadful visitant from
another world.

“How came you here?” she demanded, harshly. “Who has betrayed me to

He laughed.

“Ah! so you come here alone, at dark, to search for certain documents
which you fondly believe concern your welfare?” he sneered. “But
between you and me, Violet, you will never get your hands upon them.
When you are my wife, then and then only will you come into possession
of the papers and secure your rights. You had better yield to me and
become my wife at once, Violet. I do not love you, but I intend to have
the Arleigh fortune.”

She waited to hear no more. With a stifled cry she darted past him so
swiftly that he had no time to detain her--on through the darkness,
down the outer staircase, out into the grounds, and straight into the
arms of a man coming swiftly up the walk from the opposite direction.
It was Will Venners. And just then, at the library window, a few feet
away, Leonard Yorke appeared, his moody eyes fixed upon the scene,
taking it all in.




Violet was so overcome with terror and surprise, and so nervous and
overwrought, that for a time she could only stand there, Will’s arms
about her, his face, pale and startled, bent over her own, his eyes
full of tender sympathy.

“Violet--Miss Arleigh!” he cried, and his voice trembled as he spoke,
“what _is_ the matter? What has frightened you so? For I am sure that
you were frightened at something. You came running down the staircase
yonder as though some dreadful creature were in pursuit. Come, let us
go over to that rustic seat under the magnolia-tree yonder, and sit
down for a few moments. To tell the truth, Miss Arleigh, I had wished
very much to see you, and it seemed as if my good fortune precipitated
you directly into my arms.”

Violet did not see the stern white face at the library window, where
her modern Othello stood glaring down in speechless wrath upon
the scene. It looked like a love-scene, certainly; to the jealous
imagination of the lover it looked like a meeting between two who cared
for each other.

“I would never have believed it, if I had not seen it with my own
eyes,” muttered Leonard, harshly; as if it were possible for him to
have witnessed the scene with any other eyes than his own.

In the meantime, the two unconscious culprits had seated themselves
upon the rustic seat under the drooping branches of the magnolia-tree,
with the pale silvery moon just creeping forth from behind a light
fleecy cloud, gazing down upon the pair with calm, smiling eyes--that
same old moon that has played so many tricks in its time upon lovers,
and has misled more than one jealous, suspicious swain such as I am
sorry to say--but truth compels me to admit it--that Leonard Yorke has
proven himself to be.

That same tricky moonlight, playing hide-and-seek among the green
leaves of the drooping magnolia boughs, showed Violet very pale and
still at Will Venners’ side. His handsome face was bent over her own,
and he was speaking in a low, earnest voice.

Not one word that he uttered could reach Leonard’s ears, and therefore
he naturally imagined that Venners was making love of the fiercest
description to his not unwilling listener. But in reality this is just
what Will was saying:

“I have ventured here to-night, Miss Arleigh, though it was quite a
time before I could make up my mind to come, for I know that for some
reason Yorke does not like me, and only invited me here from common
civility; but I felt that I _must_ make one more effort to see Jessie
Glyndon before I go. I have decided to go out to Texas, you see. There
is no use in my remaining here, and--and I love her so, Violet, I can
not bear to stay here, and in time see her wedded to another--not
that I know of any other that she cares for just now. Do--do _you_,
Violet?” with a wistful glance into Violet’s face, quite as though he
were anxious for her to say _yes_. Yet, in truth, he was half wild with
consternation lest she should corroborate his secret fears.

Violet shook her head, with a slight smile. She felt sorry for Will
from the very bottom of her warm, womanly, sympathetic heart.

“No; I am _sure_ there is no one else, Will,” she returned. “And,
indeed, I--I don’t see how Jessie can help caring for you. I
mean”--stopping short, with a vivid blush overspreading her pale face
as she realized what she had said--“I mean that I think that she _does_

“Bah! she has a strange way of showing it, then!” retorted Will,

A sudden impulse, a sweet, gentle impulse, came into Violet’s heart to
try and help these two who seemed playing at cross-purposes, all that
might lie in her power. Not to _interfere_--Violet had a horror of all
interference or meddling in such cases; to her they seemed sacred as
private--but perhaps she might be able to advise and counsel a little
in a time like this.

“Will”--her eyes shone like diamonds--“suppose you let me go into
the house now, this very moment, and ask Jessie to come out here to
see you? It would be so much nicer and more romantic out here in the
moonlight than to sit in state in the big, grand drawing-room, with
Aunt Constance playing propriety, and Hilda watching you with quizzical
eyes. I know Jessie would not like that, and she _would_ like the
moonlight and the _tête-à-tête_ with you. What woman could help it?”
with unconscious flattery. “Shall I go and ask Jessie to come out here,
Will? Remember you are going away, and it will be good-bye.”

Will’s face was pale as death, and his dark eyes shone like stars.

“I want to see her, Heaven knows I do!” he said, sadly; “but suppose
that she should refuse to come, Miss Arleigh? It would nearly kill me!”

“She shall not refuse! I will not give her the chance.”

Violet rose to her feet with an air of determination. She felt quite
maternal in her regard for this distressed young lover, and her heart
was full of the desire to help him and Jessie out of this slough
of misunderstanding; for somehow Violet felt that there _was_ a
misunderstanding somewhere.

“She shall have no chance to refuse, even if she meditates a refusal,”
said Violet, resolutely. “I will steal a march upon her. Just wait here
a few moments, Will--only a few moments--and I will see what I can do.”

She glided swiftly, softly away, a slight little figure in its black
gown, with pale face and resolute eyes.

Will’s glance followed the slender figure, and a slight moisture crept
into his eyes as he murmured softly:

“Heaven bless her kind heart!”

Into the house went Violet, swift and eager. In the hall she
encountered Miss Glyndon on her way upstairs to Mrs. Yorke’s room with
a sleeping-potion. After administering it, she was expected to sit by
the bed and read aloud to the sleepless, nervous invalid until at last
sleep should overtake her.

Violet went straight up to Mrs. Yorke’s companion and laid her hand
upon the white sleeve of Miss Glyndon’s dress.

“Jessie, let me take that up to Mrs. Yorke,” she said in a pleading
tone; “and you--you go out into the grounds for a little while. It will
do you good to get the fresh air. You are looking very pale.”

Jessie Glyndon’s large gray eyes met the earnest gaze of Violet’s with
a swift, half-startled expression in their depths.

“I--looking pale? Why, you must be mistaken, Miss Arleigh. I was never
better nor stronger in my life.”

“But that is not the question,” persisted Violet; “and I want you to go
out for a walk for a little while. Come with me, Jessie. Let Mrs. Yorke
wait for this for once. It will not hurt her to wait, and it is so very
early--hardly nightfall yet. Why should she wish to sleep at such an
early hour as this? No wonder she is wakeful and nervous later in the
night, if she goes to sleep with the birds in this fashion. Here, give
me the potion; I will assume all responsibility. Now come with me out
into the grounds. Really and truly, I will admit that I have a reason
for making the request--not half a bad reason, either; and as it is
the very first request I have ever made of you, I am sure you ought to
gratify it.”

Violet took the vial from Jessie’s hand, and slipping her arm about
the girl’s waist, led her half resisting (though never for an instant
suspecting the truth) out through the open door into the pearly,
moonlit night.

Violet’s face wore a look of determination that was really unique,
and her dark eyes gleamed with delight as she led her captive swiftly
down the broad walk in the direction of the magnolia-tree and the dark
figure, in its well-fitting suit of brown serge, seated upon the rustic

Jessie drew back with a startled exclamation as the moonlight glinted
across his face.

“There is some one there, Miss Arleigh,” she whispered. “See! it is a

“So it is,” cried Violet, innocently; “and as true as I live, Jessie,
it is Captain Venners! Why, Captain Venners!”--in a tone of Jesuitical
surprise--“when did you arrive?”

Will was shaking hands with Jessie, trying to ignore her very palpable
coldness, trying in vain to look into her eyes and read the story
hidden there. But, alas! it was Sanscrit to him.

“Now, I will hurry back to Mrs. Yorke,” interposed Violet. “And you
need not make haste at all, Jessie; Captain Venners will entertain
you, I am sure; so I’m off!” and before Jessie could attempt a word of
protest, Violet flitted away up the path to the house, and Jessie and
Will were alone together.




Silence! The moonlight, glinting down through the magnolia boughs,
showed two still figures standing there like statues. Jessie’s eyes
were fixed upon the ground; her graceful figure trembled perceptibly;
her two white hands were clasped tightly together. No sound to break
the silence, only the distant ripple of the shining river gliding on
in the moonlight. And then, all at once, just over their heads, a
mocking-bird burst forth into a perfect shower of song. Clear, sweet,
and silvery it rose and fell upon the silence like fairy music, faint
and soft, in a tender minor key, then, soaring aloft, was lost in the

Will’s voice broke in upon the silence which followed as the bird flew
swiftly away.

“Jessie”--his voice trembled audibly--“I am very glad--I can not say
how glad!--to see you once more. I have come to say good-bye!”

“_Good-bye?_” The word fluttered from her lips in a broken whisper.

Then, with a sudden return of the olden pride, she straightened her
graceful form, and the big gray eyes met Will Venners’ gaze, clear and
calm and straight-forward, without a shadow or a shrinking.

“Yes, I am come to bid you farewell. Let us sit down here, Jessie. It
is a lovely night--a divine night!--and I suppose it will be a long
time--a very long time, perhaps--before you and I will sit side by side
again; perhaps never--that is for you to say.”

She cast a swift glance into his eager, impassioned face, and her eyes
drooped once more.

“For me to say?” she repeated, falteringly. “I have nothing to say in
the matter, Captain Venners.”

“Jessie, see here!” He flashed about and caught her hand in a swift,
warm pressure. “I can bear this no longer, and I will not! Either
you love me or you do not. Tell me the truth. I can _try_ to bear
disappointment like a man. It will be very, very hard, but it must
be as you say. Listen, Jessie, and let me tell ‘the story of my
thralldom.’ I love you--love you with all my heart and soul. I have
been a wild sort of a fellow, flirting with every passably pretty woman
who was silly enough to let me. I have flirted away my best days in
this idle pastime, and have won for myself the unenviable reputation
of a flirt; but lately I have awakened to a new life, new hopes, new
ambition--say, rather, for the first time, _real_ ambition. A feeling
of disgust and aversion for my career as a trifler has taken possession
of me. I feel the need of a real aim, a true object in existence. I
have at last found the missing joy of my life which my heart has
ever been seeking. In other words, I have learned to love with all my
heart and strength--_you!_ Is my love in vain, my darling? Is there no
answering chord in your dear heart, no hope for me? Answer me, Jessie;
for I am very, very unhappy in this long suspense.”

How could she doubt him? his pale, earnest face; the dark, passionate
eyes, eager and beseeching, bent upon her own; the whole attitude of
the man breathing the true, unchanging love which filled his heart.

Yet how could she believe him? Before her memory there danced a
tantalizing vision--innumerable well-known flirtations, every one of
which might mean as much as this, and more.

How did she _know_? She would not be the first woman who had been
deceived by a man, and misled by specious pleading to her own
unhappiness. She was not the first, and she would not be the last.

And Will Venners was so much sought after and admired, and so welcome
in society, while she--what was she but a poor girl, a hired companion,
paid the same as Betty Harwood, or any other hireling at Yorke Towers?

Jessie Glyndon was proud--very proud; and she felt a horrible fear that
Will Venners was merely trifling with her, just for idle pastime. It
might be amusement for _him_, but for _her_ it would be death--worse
than death; for Jessie Glyndon was the sort of woman who could not
endure the burden of life if once deprived of love. She was all alone
in the world, and accustomed to her cold, loveless existence; but once
let the sun of affection arise upon her life, its setting would mean
her utter ruin and destruction. Better to grope on in the darkness in
her lonely way than to reach out and gather the proffered flower of
love, only to see it wither in her grasp.

Jessie could not believe, with the poet, that--

    “’Tis better to have loved and lost,
     Than never to have loved at all.”

She knew all that love would mean to her if once she should gain it;
and to lose it would leave her bankrupt indeed. And this love which
Will Venners was proffering her--how did she know, how could she be
certain that it would be firm and stable? How did she know that it
would last?

She sat still and white in the moonlight, and Will’s hand held hers and
his eyes were fixed upon her pale, calm face.

“Jessie,” he whispered, softly, bending his handsome head a little
nearer, “you surely are not altogether indifferent to me? Surely you
care a little for me, or have I been a conceited fool to imagine such
a thing possible? I have thought of you by night and day; I wrote to
you, but received no reply; I have thought and thought, and tried to
find some way to your heart, but you have seemed so cold, and hard,
and stern, that I began to despair. And then I concluded to go away;
to leave you and the sight of you forever; to say good-bye to my home
here, and return no more. For it all seemed so hopeless--this love of
mine. But at the last moment my courage failed me. I must see you and
tell you good-bye, even though you spurn me from you, Jessie. I leave
it all in your hands--my life--my love--my future. What are you going
to do with me?”

She lifted her eyes to his face. Strange that she could not still
that unquiet voice in her heart which kept whispering of perfidy and
deception, and reminding her of the endless flirtations in which Will
Venners had engaged until he was past master in the art.

“Answer me, Jessie!” he pleaded, softly, “do you care--or----”

He never finished, for across his words there came a strange
interruption. A wild shriek resounded through the silence--a piercing,
awful shriek. It came from the house--from the upper windows, not far
from where the two were sitting--from Mrs. Yorke’s chamber. Jessie
started to her feet, pale and trembling.

“It is Mrs. Yorke!” she cried. “Oh, heavens! what has happened? I ought
not to have left her so long. Let me go, Captain Venners--let me go!”
(for he had caught her hand as though to detain her). “I should not
have left my post so long. Let me go, Will, _darling_!”

The last word scarcely articulated as she wrenched her hand from his
eager clasp. But softly as the word was faltered forth, Will heard it;
he dropped the little hand, but not until he had hastily pressed it to
his lips.

Like a wild creature, Jessie fled to the house, followed by Will, in
no very enviable frame of mind. In after years, looking back upon that
moment, Will Venners was wont to say that only the thought of the
lone whispered word that Jessie had let fall had kept him from some
desperate deed.

In the meantime, let us go back to the time when Violet had left the
lovers alone under the magnolia-tree, with the prospect of a speedy
explanation. She entered the house and went hastily up the great
winding staircase to Mrs. Yorke’s room.

The upper corridor was quite dark, for the lamps had not been lighted.
The house was very still. She could hear distinctly Leonard’s voice in
the drawing-room below, reading aloud to Mrs. Rutledge and Hilda--

    “‘Sweet is true love, though given in vain--in vain!’”

All the rest of the house was wrapped in profound quiet as Violet
turned down the corridor in the direction of Mrs. Yorke’s room. She
was thinking to herself that if the sick woman would allow her to take
Jessie’s place that night, she would try hard to make Mrs. Yorke like
her, and for Leonard’s sake, who knew but that she might be beguiled
into a more tender feeling for her future daughter-in-law.

As Violet hastened down the corridor, she saw two dark forms standing
in the passage which led to the east chamber. Trembling with terror,
she halted to see what they were.

Through the gloomy shadows she was able at last to distinguish that it
was a man and a woman--Betty Harwood and Gilbert Warrington. And as
Violet paused, trembling and faint, she heard the man say softly:

“Well, _kill_ her, then! After all, it would only be legalized murder.”




Violet stood transfixed with horror as these strange words reached her
ears. What did they mean? How came Gilbert Warrington here, and upon
such apparently confidential terms with Mrs. Yorke’s trusted servant?

Violet’s heart swelled with bitter indignation against the old woman,
and she made up her mind to expose her villainy and have her punished
as she deserved.

All at once, like a flash, it occurred to Violet that Betty Harwood
had acted in conjunction with Warrington, and had plotted to betray
her into his hands. That was why she had planned and insisted upon the
girl’s solitary visit to the east chamber.

It certainly seemed quite probable that there was a conspiracy between
the two, and that Betty was in Gilbert Warrington’s employ--his tool
and confederate. Yet it was an awful thing to reflect upon. And what
could Betty’s object be in acting this traitorous part?

But there was no time for conjecture; the thoughts had flashed through
Violet’s brain and left no answer. She felt that she must _act_.

She glided like a small black-robed ghost a little nearer the entrance
to the passage where the two stood engaged in low, eager conversation,
and standing close against the wall, so as to escape observation, she
listened to what came next.

“True,” old Betty was saying, in a low, hushed tone. “But, then, there
is always fear of detection; and we have failed in one well-laid scheme
to get possession of the girl. I thought that you would have everything
your own way, when once you got her to visit the east chamber; and when
she would find herself alone with you in that gloomy place, I thought
the rest would be easy. But you let her slip through your fingers, and
now you must stand the consequences. Unless you forcibly abduct her,
you will never get a chance again. Hush-h! what was that? I thought I
heard something in the passage down there near the door. No; I suppose
it was imagination. Well, then you are ready to strike the decisive
blow? It shall be done to-night. Remember, we share equally.”

“Equally. But, Betty, the girl must not be hurt in any way.”

“Bah! you are getting soft-hearted in your old age!” snapped the woman,
viciously. “Of course, there shall be no violence done. Trust me for
that. And now comes the hard part. I must prepare for a trying ordeal,
Gilbert. We understand each other? There will be no failure this time
through mistake or misunderstanding?”

“There will be no failure,” he returned, grimly; “only carry out your
part, and I will do the same. Hist! the old woman is calling you.”

Through the silence there sounded the silvery tinkle of a little bell.
Betty uttered a low exclamation.

“She rings as if she is out of temper,” muttered Betty, harshly. “Oh,
well! I don’t believe she will trouble me with her overbearing tyranny
much longer. I’m off, Gilbert. Don’t forget the arrangements.”

“Of course not. Make haste, or the old woman will arouse the house.”

Betty disappeared swiftly in the direction of Mrs. Yorke’s chamber, and
Violet stood still in the darkness and waited for Gilbert Warrington
to leave before she would dare return to the inhabited portion of the

A strange feeling weighed down her heart like a load--a certainty that
_something was about to happen_. What was wrong? What awful calamity
was about to fall upon the house of Yorke?

She thought of the two faces dimly revealed by the faint light from
the hall-way--the face of the man dark and ferocious, the crafty eyes
glowing with evil fire, the thin, compressed lips, the huge yellow
teeth like the fangs of a wolf about to spring upon its prey. Then she
recalled the face of the woman--the wrinkled, sallow countenance, with
its cruel eyes and ugly mouth, and it was not pleasant to think of.

There was something sinister in it all, and Violet could only wonder
why Mrs. Yorke had retained her so long in her employ.

“I will follow her,” the girl said to herself, “and see what evil deed
she is about to do.”

Gathering her skirts closely about her, she glided down the narrow
passage, keeping close against the wall, and so emerged at last into
the outer corridor, leaving Gilbert Warrington still at the extremity
of the long, dark passage which led to the east chamber.

Once in the main corridor, Violet paused an instant to collect her
thoughts; then she darted swiftly, noiselessly along to the door of
Mrs. Yorke’s room. It stood wide open. Violet slipped into the room and
concealed herself behind it. The position of the door was such that she
could easily see, without being seen, all that was taking place in the

This is what she saw: Mrs. Yorke was lying in bed, propped up by
pillows. Her face was turned away from the door, consequently she had
not seen Violet’s sudden appearance in her room. At the bedside stood
old Betty. Mrs. Yorke’s back was turned to her, and she was speaking in
querulous tones.

“I don’t know what detains Miss Glyndon,” she was saying. “I sent her
down-stairs for a fresh bottle of the sleeping-draught, which was in
the store-room, and also to bring a book from the library to read to me
as usual. It must have been a full hour ago, but she has not returned.
I shall discharge her to-morrow. I can not trust her. She is not fit to
be in my employ. Nobody is prompt and punctual and reliable like _you_,

“No, ma’am; nobody could be more so, I am sure. But I work from the
heart, ma’am,” returned the old hypocrite, blandly; and Violet’s heart
swelled with indignation as she listened to the false words from the
wicked old woman.

“Will you have the sleeping-draught now, ma’am?” added old Betty,

“Yes; I _must_ sleep. You will find the old bottle on the table yonder.
There is still enough left for one more dose. Give it to me, Betty, and
let me sleep.”

“I will.”

There was something awful in the cruel voice. Violet felt the blood run
cold in her veins. She stood quite still, her eyes riveted upon the old
woman’s movements.

Betty drew a small vial from her pocket, and removing the cork, dropped
a portion of its contents into a wine-glass; then she returned the
cork to the vial and slipped it back into her pocket, after which she
stooped over the invalid, with pale face and stern, compressed lips.

“Here,” she said in a trembling tone; “here is your sleeping-potion,
ma’am. You will soon sleep well!”

She lifted Mrs. Yorke’s head upon her arm and held the glass to her
lips. The sight broke the spell which seemed to enchain Violet’s
faculties, and with a wild shriek which resounded through the house
she sprung forward, and with one swift blow dashed the wine-glass from
Betty’s hand.

“Don’t touch it, Mrs. Yorke!” cried Violet in a clear, ringing voice.
“It is poisoned!”

Quick as a flash, out went the light, leaving the room in total
darkness. A tall form glided swiftly into the room, and Violet felt
herself seized in strong arms, and a hand pressed over her mouth, and
then she was borne swiftly away.

When Leonard Yorke and Jessie Glyndon, startled by that awful shriek,
reached Mrs. Yorke’s room, they found her upon the bed in strong
convulsions, and old Betty in a dead swoon upon the floor.

And Violet--where was she?




Violet felt herself borne rapidly away in the strong arms which held
her; away, she knew not whither. It was melodramatic; it was like a
scene from a sensational novel; but this recollection did not lessen
the poor girl’s terror. In vain she struggled and tried to shriek aloud
for help; the heavy hand closed tighter down upon her month; her breath
grew shorter and fainter, and at last, in sheer self-defense, she
ceased to struggle or to try and raise an alarm. At length, after what
seemed an endless time, her abductor came to a halt, and she was placed
upon her feet.

“There, my lady,” said a harsh voice in her ear, “you are safe at
last--safe in my hands.”

That voice, that hated voice! She realized the truth at once; she was
in the power of Gilbert Warrington. A cold, sickening sensation crept
over her heart and chilled the blood within her veins. In the power of
this villain, what hope was left for her? Where was he taking her? Why
had he abducted her? And what was the meaning of the words to which she
had listened between old Betty Harwood and Warrington? She felt her
heart stand still with terror, then with a mad bound it throbbed on
once more. Panting in breathless silence, she extended her hands; they
came in contact with the trunk of a tree. The cloak was removed from
her eyes; she glanced wildly around her. She was in the woods somewhere
behind Yorke Towers, alone in the night with Gilbert Warrington.

He stood before her glaring down into her frightened face with wild
eyes full of triumph.

“So you know the situation at last, my lady,” he sneered. “You are in
my hands, and it will be many a long day before you get out again, I
can assure you, unless you will consent to my wishes. Violet, if you
will marry me at once, I will swear to leave you and never come near
you again. I want the Arleigh fortune, and if you will secure it to me
by marriage, I will never trouble you more. You shall be as free as the
bird of the air. What do you say, Violet?”

“I say that you are a villain, Gilbert Warrington, and that I would
sooner die than become your wife.”

“Humph! I fancy you will change that decision when you learn the full
extent of my power over you. Violet Arleigh, shall I tell you the
secret which I have held over your mother’s head for many a year, the
secret which I had threatened to expose the very night that she--she
died. It terrified her so that she attempted to take her own life.”

“I do not believe it! I do not believe that my mother would ever think
seriously of such a dreadful thing as suicide!” cried the girl,
excitedly. “I believe that you are speaking falsely. You are a bad
man--a false, bad man, and a villain, if ever there was one!”

Gilbert Warrington smiled. Even in the dense shadow of the trees,
through which the silvery moon-rays could scarcely penetrate, Violet
saw that smile, and a chill crept over her.

“This is all mere waste of time and breath, you know, my dear,” he
observed, harshly. “I am going to have my own way in this matter, and
you may as well yield peacefully as otherwise, for yield you _must_!
Now, Violet, I ask you once more, would you like to learn the nature of
the secret which blackened all your mother’s life and made her afraid
of her own shadow--a secret which I alone shared, and which I held over
her head until she longed to die to escape the knowledge--a secret for
which she paid dearly in more ways than one?”

“Yes, indeed,” panted the girl, desperately, “she paid _you_ well, you
blackmailer and extortioner! I knew that there was something hidden in
the past for which she was suffering and atoning with her very life. I
know nothing of the nature of that secret; but I do not believe that
it has anything to do with dishonor if it had any connection with my

“Ah, indeed! What confidence, to be sure! It is truly touching. What a
blow it will be for you, my dear, when you learn the truth--that your
mother was base and vile and wanton----”

“Stop! So help me Heaven, you shall not breathe such words against my
pure mother, a saint in Heaven! Dare to open your lips to speak such
vile words again, Gilbert Warrington, and I will find some way to
punish you!”

“Oh, will you? It is something like the mouse and the lion, now, isn’t
it, my dear? Yet the truth remains the same. There is a black and
awful secret connected with your mother’s past which, if it were known
to Mrs. Yorke, for instance--and I can not say how much that lady
already suspects--would effectually cut off all tender passages between
yourself and her beloved son. Helen Yorke is far too proud to allow her
only son to ally himself with disgrace!”

“He would never do that by marriage with an Arleigh!” cried Violet,

“No? There, now, you see just how little you know about it, my dear.
Disgrace is not a pleasant word, but it ofttimes blackens the fairest
escutcheons; and so it has done in this instance. Your mother, my dear
Violet, was an uncommonly fine woman--she must have been to have held
my heart captive for all these long years; but all the same, there was
a time in her life when she made a misstep as well as many another
woman. Many a proud lady of fashion and position carries a black secret
hidden away in her heart; and Rosamond Arleigh was thus burdened, for
she kept hidden away for years the knowledge that her marriage with
Harold Arleigh was a sham--a mere farce--and that you, her only child,
are illegitimate!”

“Oh, my God!”

The words fell from the girl’s white lips in a broken gasp, a bitter
cry of mortal anguish and wordless suffering. She fell upon her knees
upon the ground and wrung her small hands in bitter agony.

“Gilbert Warrington, beware!” she cried at length, a mad hope that
he was tricking her springing up within her heart; “beware how you
slander my mother, my poor dead mother! So help me Heaven!”--she arose
to her feet and stood gazing with eyes full of despair into the man’s
cruel face--“I will hold you accountable for this! I will go to the
authorities in the morning, and you shall prove what you assert, or
suffer as you deserve! It is beyond endurance! It is terrible that I
must stand here, helpless and alone, and listen to such fearful words
from the lips of a bad man like you! Monster! fiend! have you no heart,
no pity, no mercy, no feeling of humanity? Surely the world does not
need a devil while such men as you exist!”

Gilbert Warrington laughed softly, and his wicked eyes twinkled with
malicious satisfaction.

“Well done, well said, my dear little spitfire!” he sneered. “Storm
away, my little tempest in a teapot; I like to hear you. It is the most
amusing scene that I have witnessed in many a day. Reminds me of a tiny
toy terrier snapping at the huge heels of a great Newfoundland, and
has just about as much effect. All the same, Violet Arleigh, my words
are true. Do you think me silly enough to make such grave assertions
without being fully convinced of their truth? You must be mad! No, my
dear; I have known for several years that Rosamond and Harold Arleigh
were never legally married. What is more, Helen Yorke suspects the
truth. She was dead in love with Harold Arleigh, herself, and I was
dead in love with Rosamond, so we are fellow-sufferers, she and I. No,
Violet, I am not deceiving you nor slandering the dead from brutal
motives; I am telling you the plain, hard truth. It is time that you
knew it. And I am prepared to prove this grave charge, _if_ you wish
the secret exposed to the light of day, the secret which killed your
mother. But I offer you terms. Marry me, Violet, share the fortune with
me, and I promise to keep the secret to the end of time.”

The girl drew back, her eyes flashing fire.

“If I am not Harold Arleigh’s legitimate child, I am not his legal
heir,” she said, coldly; “therefore, the Arleigh fortune will not go
with my hand to anybody. Gilbert Warrington, you have overreached
yourself in this game. Even I, with my limited knowledge and
experience, know better than that.”

“But, Violet, you forget the fortune was bestowed upon your mother by
Harold Arleigh in the shape of a deed of gift. You are her legal heir,
and, at all events, the will which she left--oh, you know nothing of
it, I see!--leaves you sole heir. It is a comfortable fortune, and
that fortune I mean to have. But I must first make you my wife; so,
Violet, my dear, you had better listen to reason, for you can not
escape me again.”




All was confusion at Yorke Towers. Betty was soon restored to
consciousness, only to tell a wild and incoherent tale which astonished
her listeners.

She had been standing at the bedside of her mistress--Miss Arleigh
was present also--and Betty was about to administer Mrs. Yorke’s
sleeping-draught at her request, when all at once a man rushed into the
room. At the same instant the lights were extinguished, and Mrs. Yorke
uttered a piercing shriek, for she was fearfully alarmed.

After that there was the sound of retreating footsteps in the darkness,
and then Betty had lost consciousness and knew no more.

Leonard Yorke listened to the old woman’s absurd story with a pale,
stern face and dark, wrathful eyes. Jessie and Mrs. Rutledge had begun
to resuscitate Mrs. Yorke, while Hilda flew to summon the servants and
send for a physician.

All was excitement and confusion in the house, and a pale, terrified
group gathered around Mrs. Yorke’s bedside.

In the midst of it all Leonard stole away and went out into the open
air for a time, to collect his thoughts and try and arrange some plan
of action.

Where was Violet? Surely it was time that she was found! He sought
eagerly, anxiously, through all the lower rooms of the house, then
slowly and dejectedly ascended the staircase to return to his mother’s

At the head of the stairs he encountered Hilda. She was pale as death,
and her dusky eyes gleamed with a curious, brassy light.

Leonard laid his hand upon her arm with a force that made her wince.

“Hilda”--his eyes burned into hers as he gazed full into their
depths--“we must find Violet--find her at once! Do you hear me?”

She was trembling like a leaf; her hands were as cold as ice.

“Of course we will do all in our power to find her, Leonard,” she
returned, sweetly; “but is it not foolish to insinuate that she is

“True.” He looked relieved. “She may be in her own room all this time.
Go and see, Hilda, will you not?”

She smiled a cold smile, which chilled him somehow.

“I do not mean that she is still here,” she returned, slowly; “though
of course I will go to her room and see if she is there. I mean this,
Leonard: You know that she and--and Captain Venners were in the
grounds together to-night, do you not?”

Leonard Yorke’s face grew white as death. Across his memory there
flashed the scene in the shrubbery, where he had seen Violet--_his_
Violet--in Will Venners’ arms.

“I--know!” he gasped, hoarsely.

Hilda’s face wore a look of triumph.

“Well, since you know that he was here to-night, does it not strike you
as a little odd that he should not have entered the house, but should
meet Violet (of course by appointment) out in the grounds? They were
out there together ever so long. Leonard, it is my belief--you need not
say anything to anybody, of course, until we are sure--but it is my
belief that they have gone away together.”


“I can not help it; I can not help believing this to be the case. Of
course, you will say that no elopement would be carried out under such
circumstances; but I believe that old Betty Harwood knows or suspects
more than she cares to tell.”

“But, Hilda, I thought, I fancied that I saw Captain Venners with Miss
Glyndon when the alarm was given.”

Hilda looked blank.

“That is easily proven,” she returned. “I will see Jessie and ask her.”

By this time the physician had arrived and had taken charge of Mrs.

Jessie was standing alone in a deserted corner. Hilda hastened to her

“Miss Glyndon,” she began in a low tone, “was not Captain Venners here
a little while ago?”

Jessie’s face grew crimson, then went white as marble.

“Yes; he was here,” she returned, quietly; “but he has gone. He left
some time ago; in fact, just after the alarm was raised. I advised him
to go, for he could be of no assistance here.”

“Well”--Hilda’s dusky eyes were fixed full upon Jessie Glyndon’s honest
gray ones--“has it not occurred to you that he and--and Violet have
gone away together?”

“Impossible! preposterous! Captain Venners would never think of such a
thing--nor Violet, either,” she added, swiftly.

Hilda suppressed a smile.

“Dear me, what touching confidence, especially in Will Venners!” she
cried. “Why, Jessie, did you never hear of his escapade with Mrs.
Montford, the wife of a certain New Orleans merchant? He actually
eloped with her. Why, you _must_ have heard of it; all New Orleans was
ringing with the scandal at the time. _No?_ Well, that _is_ strange;
but it is true, nevertheless. I tell you, Will Venners is a seasoned
flirt--a wild fellow who will never get done sowing his crop of oats.”

“But, Miss Rutledge,” Jessie’s voice rang out in indignant protest, “if
you are convinced of Captain Venners’ baseness, at least you ought to
spare your cousin. Violet Arleigh would never be guilty of such an act
as running away with any man. And why, in the name of Heaven, should
she run away? She is virtually her own mistress, and will be legally so
in three years’ time, when she will come into a handsome fortune. She
need not elope with any man, for she can marry the man of her choice,
and no one has a right to object. Besides, she is engaged to Mr. Yorke.”

“It is not true!” cried Hilda, wrathfully. “I do not believe it.”

“Very well,” returned Jessie, quietly, “that is as you please. But at
all events, Mr. Yorke loves her--I am convinced of that.”

Hilda flounced angrily away, and went over to where Leonard was
standing pale and stern.

“The whole affair is shrouded in mystery,” she said in a low tone. “It
is only clear that Violet and Captain Venners were together a little
while before the alarm, and now they are both gone. That is all that
I can discover. You had better go over to town, Leonard, and make

But Leonard shook his head.

“If she has gone away with Captain Venners, I have no right to
interfere,” he returned, coldly; “such interference on my part would
be absurd. If it is really true--that dreadful surmise of yours,
Hilda--she will probably become the wife of this man at once and return
to The Oaks. But why, in Heaven’s name, should she have chosen to take
such a strange course, she who could have married as she pleased?
I do not understand it at all, and it is that which makes me doubt
appearances. But we have not yet searched the whole house. Go at once,
Hilda, and see if you can find her in her room, while I search the rest
of the building.”

Somewhat sullenly, Hilda obeyed. No, Violet was not in her own room or
any other. Leonard procured a lamp and went swiftly, silently through
every room in the unused portion of the great, old-fashioned mansion,
ending at last with a visit to the east chamber. There was nothing to
be found, no trace, no clew; only as Leonard retraced his footsteps
down the long, narrow passage which led from the east chamber his eyes
fell upon a small object which lay upon the dusty floor. He stooped
and picked up a gentleman’s handkerchief of fine soft cambric; in one
corner was an elaborately embroidered letter _W_.

“_W_--for _Will_,” he muttered, harshly; and Leonard Yorke’s
jealous heart gave a fierce mad bound, and then stood still at this
corroboration of his unpleasant fears.

In truth, the handkerchief belonged to Gilbert Warrington, and the
initial was intended for the first letter of his last name; but, of
course, Leonard knew nothing of Warrington and his visits to Yorke
Towers, consequently, he could not suspect anything even near the

Mrs. Yorke was now restored to a rational state once more, but quite
unable to converse, so nothing could be learned from her, though in
response to Leonard’s eager questions in regard to Violet, she would
shake her head mournfully and look very sad.

At last, in the early dawn, Leonard Yorke rode away from Yorke Towers,
his mind made up, in spite of pride, to ride over to the town and make
inquiries. But first he rode to The Oaks, and astonished and terrified
the servants there by asking for Miss Violet. No, indeed, she had not
been home; they one and all agreed upon that point. So, after his
fruitless search there, Leonard went on to the town. Here he found
food for reflection. Yes, Miss Arleigh had been in town late the night
before, accompanied by a tall, dark gentleman, with a military air, and
they had taken the midnight train for New Orleans.

The station agent, who was an old acquaintance of the Arleighs, had
wondered at the late trip, but had concluded that she had important
business which had called her to New Orleans at that late hour.




All Gilbert Warrington’s speeches were apparently wasted upon Violet’s
ears. She stood leaning against the trunk of the tree listening in
stolid silence to his words. She knew that there was no hope of escape
for her. All alone with him in the forest at that hour, how could she
hope to get away from him? A little bird caught in a wire trap might
just as reasonably expect to get free from its prison as this poor
child, caught in the snare of the relentless villain before her, bent
upon carrying out his own wicked designs.

All this flashed through Violet’s brain as she stood there pale and
trembling, facing Gilbert Warrington, her girlish heart quailing from
the thought of what might be before her.

“You had better come with me, Violet,” he said, persuasively, laying
his hand upon her arm as he spoke. “I will take you to New Orleans
to-night. Once there, we can be married, and you will then be at
liberty to go where you wish. I swear that I only want your money. Give
me the right to control it, and I will relinquish all claim upon you.
Your mother’s will leaves you the sole heir to the Arleigh fortune when
you reach your majority, or should you marry before that time. Now you
understand me?”

“I do. You are the vilest villain unhung!” she answered, fearlessly.

“Ah-h! Well, that is as you like. Your opinion can not injure me, my
dear. All I want is the money, and that I mean to have!”

“I will give it to you, every dollar of it, except what is necessary to
provide for my own living, only let me go in peace.”

“Quite sensible, my dear Violet. Well, then, I propose that you go
with me to New Orleans this very night. No time like the present. You
shall be treated with the respect due a lady. I will take you to the
St. Charles Hotel, and I will call for you in the morning with all
necessary arrangements for our marriage completed, after which you will
be at liberty to go where you like.”

“You need spare yourself the trouble,” intervened Violet, coldly. “I
shall never marry you, rest assured of that. You must be mad if you
imagine that you can intimidate me in such a way. But I am willing to
make a deed of gift to you of all my fortune, save a sufficient sum to
support me, the deed to come into effect when I am twenty-one--three
years from now. Will that be satisfactory, you miserable blackmailer?”

He smiled at her ignorance. But he must not let her suspect his
plan; he must get her to go to New Orleans, and that very night, if
possible. He can see his way to success.

“Very well,” he returned, quietly, “I will consent. All I want is the

But low under his breath he muttered savagely:

“But I will not wait three years to take possession of it. She is in my
power completely now.”

“Will you go with me to-night, Violet?” he asked, aloud, in a pleading
tone. “I must have this business settled immediately, for as soon as I
am in possession of your deed, I can realize enough on it for present
use, and will leave the country at once.”

Her face brightened at the prospect.

“Yes, I will go to-night--as well now as later; and if I return to
Yorke Towers and let everybody know I am going, there will be sure
to be some objection made, and probably Aunt Constance would put an
end to the whole thing. But first I must write a line to Leonard--Mr.
Yorke--and let him know that I am going away in this strange and abrupt
fashion, but will return to-morrow.”

Down in her heart she was saying to herself:

“I will humor this wicked man and obey him outwardly; but once in the
town, I will try and seek some one’s protection and escape him. I will
write to Leonard, so that if I fail in making my escape from Gilbert
Warrington, he will be able to save me.”

She went with outward willingness the rest of the way to the town and
the railroad station. Here Warrington procured writing materials, and
Violet wrote a hasty line to Leonard, telling him that she had been
forced to go with an old acquaintance of her mother to the city on
important private business which she would fully explain on her return
the following day.

The letter written, she gave it to a porter to drop into the mail-box
outside the station-house. He was just in the act of dropping the
letter into the box, when a hand came down upon his arm, and a voice
hissed in his ear:

“Hold, my man! Give me that letter. This will pay you,” slipping a
five-dollar bill into the man’s hand.

A moment later poor Violet’s letter was in fragments upon the ground,
and then Gilbert Warrington, his evil work done, went back to his

The train was steaming in as fast as it could. Violet had seen no one
whom she knew, even the agent had been too busy for her to get speech
with him. There was no chance to appeal to any one. Everything seemed
against her.

The tickets were purchased, and trying hard to feel that this was only
an ordinary trip, Violet allowed Warrington to place her on board, and
off they steamed for New Orleans.

She really felt little apprehension over her strange and late journey.
Her mind was filled with the one thought that the sooner it was
over with the sooner she would be free from Gilbert Warrington’s
persecutions forever.

She intended to go to a lawyer in New Orleans and state the case, then
see if nothing could be done to free her from this villain’s clutches
without the sacrifice of her fortune.

The train reached New Orleans in the early dawn, and Gilbert Warrington
assisted Violet to alight.

She wore a long cloak with the hood drawn over her head--a cloak which
he had taken from the hall outside Mrs. Yorke’s room, and had used to
envelop Violet in and smother her cries for help.

He led her to a cab, assisted her inside, then followed quickly, having
first given the driver some low-toned instructions. The cab rattled
away over the stony streets.

Violet began to feel a curious sensation of drowsiness stealing over
her senses. She closed her eyes wearily. She began to realize vaguely
that she had done a very imprudent thing in coming to New Orleans with
this man, her bitter foe. A foolish step had she taken in her ignorance
and her mad determination to rid herself of her tormentor forever at
all hazards.

But while these doubts and fears strayed through her brain, sleep
overtook her and she knew no more. She opened her eyes at last.

It was broad daylight now. But where was she?

All alone in a strange room. One window only, and that was shielded by
iron bars. An iron bedstead, a stool, and a small pine table made up
the furniture.

She was lying upon the hard bed. She lifted her head, and tried to
rise, but she was faint, and giddy, and sick. She began to realize then
that she had been under the influence of chloroform, and that was how
Gilbert Warrington had brought her to this place without her knowledge.

To what a fool-hardy expedition had she lent herself! What a foolish
act had she committed! what a senseless proceeding--to imagine that
she, a simple, innocent young girl, could outwit and circumvent a
hardened villain like Gilbert Warrington!

As these thoughts ran riot in her brain the key turned in the lock of
the door--until then she did not know that she was a prisoner--and a
woman entered--a coarse-featured, crafty-eyed old woman, with iron-gray
hair and a forbidding aspect.

With a mighty effort Violet conquered the sick, giddy sensation and
rose slowly to her feet.

“Where am I?” she demanded.

The woman’s grim features relaxed with a cruel smile.

“Where you are safe, young woman--where all of your kind ought to be.
You are in Langley’s Private Asylum for the Insane.”




Violet’s eyes flashed with indignation at the old woman’s words.
Surely, this was a grim jest; yet equally certain was the girl that the
announcement could not be true.

It seemed the very height of absurdity. In this enlightened age it was
not probable that a young woman could be carried forcibly away from
home and friends and be immured in a lunatic asylum.

At least, this is what Violet thought and believed. She did not know
that such crimes are frequently committed; that more than one innocent
life has been condemned to a lingering death behind the iron bars of
an asylum for the insane, when there was no trace of insanity in the
system of the unfortunate victim.

Influence and money have power to surmount the obstacles which are
usually placed in the way of a sane person being treated as one bereft
of reason.

There are always bad men to be found who for a sum of money will
consent to assist villainy like this--men in high positions very
often; and once in conjunction with an unprincipled person with an
object to attain--an object which can only be attained by the death,
or incarceration in a safe and secluded place, of the unfortunate
victim--a villain of this stamp can do almost anything.

For once let the name which is assigned to the victim in place of
his own proper cognomen be inscribed upon the books at Langley’s
as a lunatic just received there for treatment, and that person is
henceforth virtually dead to the outside world, to home and friends,
and all ties that are dear to the human heart.

Down in the cold, dark grave, hidden away forever from mortal eyes, the
poor wretch will not be more utterly lost to the world and its joys and

Langley’s no longer exists. It was a blot upon the fair name of the old
Crescent City, and has been removed forever from existence; but Violet,
in her innocent ignorance, had never heard of such a place at all. So,
as the woman stood boldly repeating her announcement that Violet had
been brought to Langley’s Private Asylum for the Insane, her words did
not bring their full weight of terrible meaning.

But it was bad enough for Violet to know that she was a prisoner in
this place whither she had been brought without her knowledge or
consent, and she turned upon the old woman with pale, wrathful face,
and angry eyes flashing with indignation.

“What do you mean?” she demanded, haughtily. “Who has dared to do such
a thing? Who brought me to this place, madame? Answer me, I command

The old woman’s thin, compressed lips parted with a cruel smile which
distorted her ugly face into still greater ugliness.

“_Who?_ Why, who but your guardian, Mr. Warrington, to be sure? He said
that you had become suddenly insane, your mind had lost its balance,
and so forth; and so he decided to leave you here for a time until you
came back to reason and common sense.”

Slowly the words, with their dreadful, hidden import, sunk into
Violet’s mind. She began to see in a vague way the real state of the
case. Of course this had all been Gilbert Warrington’s doings, and
the people here no doubt believed that he had a right to dispose of
her. Perhaps they really believed her to be insane. That they had
deliberately aided and abetted the villain in his wicked schemes seemed
too horrible to be true. She could hardly believe such depravity

“Gilbert Warrington is a villain!” she said aloud, her voice trembling
with indignation. “I will very soon prove his true character to the
physician in charge of this place. Go and tell the physician in charge
that I wish to see him, that I _must_ see him a moment.”

A slow smile once more crept over the woman’s stolid face.

“The physician in charge is Doctor Langley himself,” she returned,
tersely, “and he has seen you already.”

Violet started with a suppressed cry.

“Seen me already!” she repeated, in a startled tone. “Then it must
have been while I was in an unconscious condition!”

The woman nodded.

“He has seen you and has given his opinion as a physician,” she said in
a harsh voice. “That is all that is necessary. He is competent to judge
your condition, whether you are asleep or awake.”

“Go and send Doctor Langley to me,” repeated Violet, disdainfully. “I
wish to see him.”

The old woman hobbled away, closing and locking the door behind her.

The moments came and went--ten, fifteen, twenty. Violet began to
despair, when all at once she heard a soft, stealthy footstep in the
hall without. A moment later the key turned in the lock and the door
swung open.

Violet flashed about and saw standing before her a man of some
five-and-fifty years. He had a bald head and a fat, shiny face, blear
eyes and sandy mutton-chop whiskers. A man with a soft, shuffling gait,
a burly figure, and a generally unpleasant air. He looked what he
was--a hypocrite, a villain.

The girl felt her pure soul recoil from the sight of the creature, and
the glance of his small, crafty eyes made her shiver with disgust. She
felt like the helpless little bird which is safely caged and trapped.

“Well, my dear,” began the man in an oily, insinuating voice, “you
wished to see me, so Mrs. Carter says. What can I do for you, my dear?”

“What can you do? You can let me out of this place,” panted Violet,
desperately. “Doctor Langley, if you are he”--the bald head bowed like
a Chinese mandarin--“I have been brought to this place while in an
unconscious state by the worst villain unhung!”

She might have added, “present company excepted,” had she felt in a
facetious mood; but Violet had no thought for anything but her own
desperate position, and her wild desire to escape from it as soon as
possible. Doctor Langley bowed once more.

“Really now, is he, my dear? I am sure I would never have thought such
a thing of Mr. Warrington. He has been a pleasant friend of mine for
many a long year.”

A cold feeling of despair settled down upon the poor girl’s heart.

“That settles it, then!” she cried. “If you are Gilbert Warrington’s
friend, then you are as bad as he. There is no help for me in this

She sunk upon the iron cot once more, and hid her face in her hands.
After a while she lifted her eyes to the shining, self-satisfied
countenance before her.

“Doctor Langley, will _you_ not help me?” she pleaded in a broken
voice. “If you will, there is nothing within my power that I will not
do to repay you. Only let me out of this place, and give me money
enough to pay my fare home, and I will leave in your hands a written
guarantee to pay to you on your order, within a week, any sum of money
that you may name.”

His beady eyes glistened with a greedy light, and Violet’s heart leaped
up from zero to fever heat, only to go down again to the very depths of
despair, as the oily insinuating voice fell upon her ears once more.

“Impossible, my dear young lady, quite impossible,” he returned,
blandly. “You forget that you are a minor, and no written or verbal
guarantee of yours would be legal. I would have to trust to your honor
to furnish the sum you refer to, which would have to be a good round
figure, I assure you. And then, besides, you would be more than apt to
give away the secret of this institution--and its existence is a secret
from the city authorities--though, of course, everything is carried on
in a perfectly straight, square, and lawful manner. But I have reasons
of my own--private and weighty reasons--for wishing its existence kept
a profound secret from the authorities. So I am forced to decline your

“I swear to you----”

Violet’s voice was choked with tears. She fell down at his feet upon
the bare, dusty floor, and lifted her pale face and pleading eyes, from
which the tears were streaming. It was a sight to touch a heart of
stone. But this villain’s heart was harder than stone, in fact, he had
no heart to touch.

“Oh, hear me and believe me!” she moaned, wringing her hands in wild
supplication. “I will keep my word. I swear it! I will send you the
money--whatever amount you claim--and will swear by everything sacred
to keep the secret of this place. Oh, believe me, sir, I beg of you!
Indeed, I am incapable of false dealing.”

The greedy look in the small eyes deepened; he clinched and unclinched
his damp, unwholesome-looking hands.

“I really can not do it, my dear,” he repeated, firmly. “And, if I am
not mistaken, there is Warrington now, come to make a call upon you!”

For a loud ring at the gate bell had broken in upon the doctor’s words.
Violet’s face grew stern and set, and her eyes flashed fire.

“I will see him face to face, and he shall set me free, or”--she caught
her breath with a stifled groan--“there will be some dreadful deed
done. I will not endure this persecution any longer!”

The words died upon her lips; for there before her, facing her with an
evil smile, was Gilbert Warrington!




Half wild with jealous wrath, and nearly heart-broken, for he had loved
her well, Leonard Yorke rode like a madman back to Yorke Towers, back
to his mother to break the shameful news.

He took a different road home from the one by which he had traveled to
the town. This road lay through the dense forest which stretched out,
dark and gloomy, in the rear of Yorke Towers.

As he rode on through the sweet-scented pine woods, his eyes fell upon
a small object, a fragment of cloth, which hung upon a blackberry bush
and fluttered in the breeze as he passed by.

It was a little thing, an insignificant thing; but, somehow, Leonard
felt a strange impulse to stop and investigate.

Dismounting, he approached the bush and carefully examined the bit of
cloth. He uttered an exclamation of surprise.

It was a fragment of the very dress that Violet had worn the night
before--a bit of black lawn, soft and fine in texture. Surely there was
no mistake. He carefully detached it from the bush and placed it in his

As he was about to turn away, his eyes chanced to fall upon some
foot-prints plainly imbedded in the damp, moist earth at his
feet--small, dainty foot-prints--and near by a larger impress,
evidently the foot-prints of a man.

As Leonard paused to examine with eager anxiety those tell-tale signs,
he saw something black lying on the ground at the foot of a tree. It
looked like a small, black snake coiled up in the sunshine.

He stooped closely and gazed eagerly at the thing. Surely, he was on
the right track; he had made no mistake. _Violet had been at this
place_ the night before. What he saw lying at the foot of the tree was
a jet bracelet, one of the very pair which Violet had worn the previous
night when she had so strangely and mysteriously disappeared from Yorke
Towers. With a stifled groan he picked it up, and slipping it into his
pocket, turned away.

He _knew_ now; he was convinced; he saw it all. Violet had indeed gone
away with Will Venners; though why she should have taken such a course,
Leonard was unable to guess.

They had evidently come by this secluded and unfrequented route to the
town and the train; they had halted at this spot, perhaps to arrange
their future course; for at this lonely place they would be quite
alone, and in no danger of being interrupted or overheard.

Sick at heart, and fully satisfied that the woman he loved was false,
Leonard mounted his horse once more and turned to go back to Yorke
Towers. Overwhelmed with his trouble, his mind quite preoccupied, he
did not observe the course that his horse was taking. He sat with bowed
head, his thoughts busy; and as he forgot to guide his horse, the
animal had everything his own way. So he carried Leonard on, playing,
as it happened, into the very hands of Destiny.

When at last Leonard lifted his head, arousing himself with an effort
from the heart-broken reverie into which he had fallen, he found
himself in a lonely and secluded spot on the edge of a dreary swamp;
and there at his very feet, lying upon the ground, was the body of a

With a suppressed cry, Leonard leaped from his horse and made his way
hastily to the side of the prostrate man. Something familiar in his
aspect struck to the young man’s heart, and with a feeling of horror
stealing over him, he lifted the man’s head upon his knee and gazed
into the death-like face.

Powers above! it was Will Venners! He lay there utterly unconscious,
his head bleeding profusely from a severe wound just above the temple.
A trifle lower and he would have been dead. For, although at first
Leonard believed that it was a corpse upon which he was gazing, he soon
discovered that the poor fellow’s heart was beating a little--faintly
and feebly, it is true, but still it was beating.

Leonard laid the poor head gently down upon the ground once more, his
heart stirred to profoundest pity. Yet all the time he was conscious of
a wild thrill of joy and ecstatic delight to know that Violet had not
eloped with Will Venners, after all. And since it was not Will Venners,
why, then, there was some mistake, surely; for there was no one else
whom Leonard had the least reason to suspect or fear.

He brought water in his hat from the bayou near and bathed the brow
of the unconscious man, and stanched the blood, which, as it flowed
profusely, would doubtless be the means of saving his life.

At last Will opened his eyes.

“_Jessie_,” he murmured, faintly.

Leonard Yorke’s heart leaped up into his throat. Could he have been on
the wrong track all this time?

“What is the matter, old fellow?” he cried, feeling all at once a wild
desire to do something, anything, everything, for this man, whom, until
this moment, he had madly, unreasonably hated. “How came you here?”

Will tried to lift his head, but he was too weak. An awful, ghastly
pallor overspread his face, and he fell back upon the ground once more
at Leonard’s feet.

“I--I was coming to her rescue,” he murmured in a half whisper,
speaking with great difficulty. “For--oh, it is you, Yorke?” for the
first time recognizing his companion. “I am glad you are here, for you
will help to find her now. That man, that villain, I don’t really know
who he is, but it is some one whom Miss Arleigh fears and hates, has
carried her away!”


Leonard Yorke thundered forth the word like a madman.

“Explain!” he panted, fiercely.

“Very well, I will speak as rapidly and lucidly as possible, Yorke, but
I’ll confess I am pretty badly done up, and it is very difficult to
speak. You know, perhaps, that I called at Yorke Towers last night to
see Miss Jessie Glyndon? I wished to bid her good-bye, as I intended
going over to Texas to remain. I’ll tell you why: I love Jessie
Glyndon, and I fear that I shall never win her, she is so cold and
proud, and reserved. It is evident to me that she has heard frightful
tales concerning me. Some may be true, I am sorry to say, but no doubt
they have come to her highly spiced, and make me out much worse than I
am, or ever have been. Leonard, if I could win that woman for my wife,
I swear that I would be a better man, that I would turn over a new
clean leaf in the history of my life. Well, I called to see Jessie,
and I met Miss Arleigh in the grounds. She was running away from some
one who had frightened her, a tall dark man in a military cloak. She
was frightened half to death, and as I turned the corner of the avenue
which leads to the house, she nearly fell into my arms. After I had
quieted her, I begged her to let me see Jessie for a few moments,
and like the dear, good young lady that she is--she is an angel,
Leonard--she proposed to help me.

“Her plan was to go into the house and try and coax Jessie out into the
grounds; once there, she would leave us alone, and we might be able
to come to an understanding. She did all as she had proposed. Jessie
and I were sitting under the magnolia-tree near the library windows,
when we heard a fearful shriek which seemed to come from your mother’s
room. Jessie rushed to her assistance. I would have followed, but she
bid me not to come, and knowing that you were in the house to assist in
the emergency, and thinking that it might be embarrassing for Jessie,
I obeyed her, and with a hasty good-bye, I left her. I hastened away
from Yorke Towers, and attempting to take the shorter route, I lost my
way. About an hour afterward, while knocking about in the woods, I came
face to face with the same man who had frightened Miss Arleigh, and he
was carrying her in his arms. She was, to all appearance, unconscious.
I stepped boldly up to him and called him to account. But he struck me
over the head with something which he drew from his pocket--I think it
was a sand-bag--and I fell to the ground like a dead thing. He must
have brought me to this forsaken place and left me. I do not know, for
I became insensible, and knew no more until I opened my eyes just now
to see you bending over me. That is my story, told to the best of my
ability. Where Miss Arleigh is now, I do not know.”

Leonard grasped Will’s hand in a firm grip.

“I want to beg your pardon, Venners!” he cried. “I have wronged you
cruelly. I have accused you of gross wrong. I--I believed that you and
Violet had eloped.”

Will started up with a wild cry, forgetting his injuries.

“You must be mad!” he panted. “I have never thought of such a thing as
caring for Miss Arleigh, only as a dear, true friend. She loves you
with all her heart, even as I love Jessie Glyndon. It is the dearest
hope of my heart to one day win Jessie for my wife.”

Leonard caught the young man’s hand, and tears stood in his eyes.

“Can you ever forgive me, Will?” he cried. “I have a long story to tell
you; and then you will understand me better. But first I am going to
take you home with me to Yorke Towers--to Jessie--she will nurse you
all right. After you are safe in her care, I am going to search for my
lost darling--my pure, sweet Violet whom I have so foully wronged. I
will never rest until I have found her and begged her upon my knees to
forgive me.”




Violet’s eyes wandered coldly to Warrington’s dark, saturnine face, and
rested there with a look in their depths that boded him no good.

“Gilbert Warrington,” she cried, in a clear, ringing voice, which was
full of scorn and detestation, “I demand that you procure my freedom
from this place! Let me go free, or it will be the worse for you!”

Gilbert Warrington bowed, and there was a mocking devil in his crafty
eyes as he responded:

“My dear Miss Arleigh, I am really very sorry that I cannot comply with
your request. I do not like to refuse a lady anything, and especially
a fair lady like yourself”--with another mocking bow--“but truly,
circumstances over which I have no control, etc., etc., preclude the
possibility of complying with your demand. In short, my dear Violet,
not to put too fine a point on the argument, I _will not_ let you go
free until you and I are husband and wife!”

“Very well, sir. Then I suppose I may look upon this place as a living
tomb, for I shall certainly never be your wife! Death by inches in this
horrible place would be preferable to such a fate!”

Warrington fairly shook with rage, but he controlled his wrath; and
biting his lip to keep back the torrent of angry words which were
striving for utterance, he went on:

“Whatever you may wish, your wishes shall not be consulted. I am
determined to have the Arleigh fortune, and as I can legally obtain it
in no other way save by marrying you, I am going to make you my wife,
though I detest the sight of your white face and big, mournful eyes.
But _you_ are only the means to the end---the _desideratum_. Unpleasant
as you are, I shall have to use you as a stepping-stone to fortune.”

Violet’s eyes flashed indignantly.

“And suppose that I decline to be a stepping-stone for any one?” she

He smiled a slow, derisive smile.

“Unfortunately, my dear, your wishes will not be consulted,” he
returned, insolently. “You see, Violet, you are completely in my
power--completely. You might as well try to change the course of this
earthly planet of ours as to control me in any way. You are going to
marry me; there is no evading it in any way, so you may as well resign
yourself to the inevitable. To-night I shall be here with a clergyman,
and the ceremony shall be performed. Then, and not until then, shall
you be set free.”

“I decline to accept my freedom upon such terms!” cried the girl,
bravely. “I prefer to stay here until I die! Gilbert Warrington,
perhaps you may have heard of the Arleigh will? If so, you need not be
reminded that you are wasting your arguments and your valuable time.
_I_ have inherited the strong, unyielding will power of the Arleighs,
and I never give up when I am in the right!”

A dark frown disfigured Gilbert Warrington’s sullen face.

“The Arleigh will? Ah, I know it indeed full well. Harold Arleigh
wrecked his whole life by his indulgence in that unpleasant
characteristic of his race. All the same, I shall crush that will in
this instance. Think how absurd for you--a mere girl--to attempt to
defy _me_. And you are my prisoner, while I am free to carry out my
plans. In short, there is no use for further discussion, you shall
become my wife to-night!”

“I will die first!”

“You may die afterward,” returned the villain, brutally; “but not until
the conjugal knot is tied. After that you may ‘shuffle off the mortal
coil’ as soon as you like. It shall be just as you say. I only ask your
signature to a certain document, after which you may take a short cut
to Paradise, if you like.”

Sick at heart, the girl stood staring bleakly before her, her form
trembling, her heart sinking. What a terrible fate stretched out before
her, and she so young and fair! All for the sake of gold, the detested
wealth that her mother had left to her.

What should she do, what could she do? The question asked itself over
and over in her numbed, bewildered brain with tireless persistency. She
could not think; she was incompetent to plan or direct her thoughts.
She clasped her hands, and the look of suffering upon the white,
beautiful face would have wrung the hardest heart. Appeal was useless;
this creature before her had not the heart of a man. He was a wild
beast seeking whom he might devour, and she might as well appeal to the
mercy of the robbers of the desert or the panther in its jungle as to
Gilbert Warrington.

“You understand me?” he continued, breaking the silence which had
fallen over the room; “I will be here to-night at eight o’clock with a
clergyman, all in readiness to perform the marriage ceremony.”

She turned away as though she had not heard a word that he had spoken.

“A still tongue makes a wise head,” he said, with a coarse laugh. “If
silence suits you, well, so it does me. But to-night will end the
controversy. As soon as you have signed the document in my possession,
signed it with your new name of _Mrs. Violet Warrington_, I shall leave
you in peace and forever!”

She stood as silent and unresponsive as a stone image. He gave her a
glance of mingled hatred and triumph, then he left the room, locking
its door behind him.

Left alone, Violet started from the trance of numb despair which was
stealing slowly over her, and glanced wildly about the small room.
Thank Heaven, she was rid of his hateful presence at last! Scarcely
knowing what she did, she went over to the window, a small square
window too high up for her to look from, and protected by stout iron
bars. An impulse seized her to look forth and see where she was.
Pushing the small table over to the window, she climbed upon it, and so
was able to peep from between the bars. Below was a retired street with
only an occasional passer-by. But as Violet stood gazing eagerly forth,
she saw a man walking slowly down the street, and once in a while
casting a furtive glance up at the building. A wild flash of hope went
through her heart, for the man was Detective Dunbar.




For a moment Violet could scarcely believe the evidence of her own
senses. Could it be Dunbar, or was it only a fancy, a freak of the
imagination conjured up from the depths of her half-distraught brain?

She had become accustomed to the detective, after her mother’s supposed
death, and had become familiar with his personal appearance; so she
gazed from the iron-barred window now with eager, anxious eyes, to make
sure that she had not deceived herself.

Yes, it was Dunbar; there could be no doubt upon that score. He was
gazing up at the buildings with furtive eyes, as though seeking for
some one.

A negro girl lounged indolently out of the high, iron-barred gate of
the institution, and moved lazily on down the street. Dunbar moved
rapidly on after her. Could he be seeking some one within the grim,
forbidding walls, and was the negro girl his accomplice? Perhaps she
had even been sent inside the grounds as a spy in his service. And now
that she had emerged from the dreary confines of the asylum, had Dunbar
waited to receive her report, and was he following her now for that

Strange as it may seem, Violet had hit upon the real truth, the true
state of affairs. She stood there gazing forth upon the now deserted
street with eager, devouring eyes, a faint hope stirring feebly within
her heart. Somehow the glimpse she had had of Dunbar made her hope
in spite of her dreary surroundings and gloomy prospects. There was
something in the sturdy, cheery aspect of the man which was conducive
to hope and confidence. And as Violet stood there vaguely turning over
in her brain the fact of his presence near her, the wild idea crossed
her mind, _was he seeking her_?

Improbable as the idea appeared at first sight, it lingered within the
girl’s heart and would not be expelled.

Her eyes followed the tall, straight figure of the detective until he
halted in the rear of an out-building. The negro girl halted also.
Violet, watching with her very heart in her eyes, saw that Dunbar was
engaged in earnest conversation with the girl; and the way in which he
occasionally glanced up at the house made Violet hope that his business
with the girl had reference to some one within the building; and if
some one, why not herself?

It seemed absurd, but Violet Arleigh’s confidence and faith in the
detective’s powers were almost unlimited. She knew that he had sworn
never to give up his search for Rosamond Arleigh, her poor, unfortunate
mother; then why should he not seek Violet also? She knew that as
soon as she would be missed from Yorke Towers there would be great
excitement throughout the country; so Dunbar would know the truth at
once, and perhaps he had tracked her down to the dismal prison-house
in which she was confined.

A swift impulse darted into her brain. If she could only write a line
and convey it to him in some way, surely he would help her, even though
his business at the asylum should have no connection with herself.

Attached to her watch-chain was a tiny gold pencil. She had no paper;
but such obstacles are sometimes overcome when one is in dead earnest,
as Violet was now. Smoothing out her pocket-handkerchief upon the
table, she managed to write upon it with the pencil:

 “Mr. Dunbar--I am a prisoner in this place. If you do not get me
 out before night, I shall be forced to marry Gilbert Warrington, my
 mother’s hated foe.

                                                 “Violet Arleigh.”

Rolling the handkerchief up into a ball, she mounted the table once
more and peered eagerly forth, her heart contracting with a sickening
fear lest he should be gone. No, thank Heaven, he is still in sight!
The sash had been removed from the window to admit the air; it was an
easy matter for Violet to carry out her hastily formed plan. She drew
close to the iron bars, and called aloud, at the top of her voice, “Mr.

The detective glanced upward. With an inward prayer for help, Violet
pushed the handkerchief, rolled into a ball, through the bars; it fell
at Dunbar’s feet. He stooped and picked it up, his eyes seeking the
window with a swift, glad glance. He saw her and recognized her. Thank
Heaven! He lifted his hat with a little, expressive gesture, which
somehow made Violet’s heart glad, and filled her with confidence as he
walked away, the handkerchief still clasped in his hand. She felt that
she was in safe keeping, and that there was hope for her at last.

She watched the detective out of sight; then she descended from her
perch upon the table, and pushed it back into its place; then she
sat down to wait, she hardly knew for what. But it was wonderful how
that tiny hope, and her confidence in the detective’s ability and
willingness to help her, had power to buoy up the girl’s sinking heart,
and make her strong in mind and body.

As she sat buried in thought the door of the cell opened and old Mrs.
Carter made her appearance. Her ugly face wore a smile of triumph.

“So, my honey, ye seen the doctor, didn’t ye? And great good it done
you, eh, honey?”

Violet shrunk away from the coarse old creature, sick with horror at
being forced to endure her presence; and even Violet’s inexperienced
eyes could see that the old woman was half intoxicated. And she was in
the power of a creature like this!

“I saw Doctor Langley--yes,” returned Violet, quietly. “And what do you
want here?” she added, abruptly.

Mrs. Carter laughed.

“Oh, I thought I’d just ask if you ain’t ready for your breakfast!”
she responded. “Anything you want, jest you order it, and then sit down
and wait until it comes.”

It occurred to Violet then that she had better eat something and try to
keep up her strength; for that Dunbar would find some way to help her
before night, she was almost certain.

“I will take a cup of coffee and some toast,” she said.

The old woman nodded her head like an automatic figure.

“Oh! ye will, eh? Very well; you shall have it,” she said.

She was leering at Violet out of the depths of her crafty eyes, with an
expression which made the girl’s blood run cold.

“Go and bring my breakfast,” she commanded, coldly. “That is all I want
of you.”

“Oh! it is, is it? Humph! Well, you shall have more of me than you
want, afore you’re through here, I reckon. Your breakfast you shall
have, miss, at once.” And with a mocking obeisance she left the cell,
not forgetting to lock its door behind her.

Trembling like a leaf, Violet stood gazing after the retreating figure,
until the closing door cut off her view; then she turned dejectedly

Tap! tap! Surely that was something tapping at the iron-barred window.
Even as she gazed, a folded paper, attached to a long pole, appeared at
the bars.

How did it come there? For the room was in the third story.

She climbed upon the table once more, and secured the note, for such it
proved to be.

Then she saw that it had come from a neighboring balcony, where the
same negro girl whom she had seen with Dunbar was busily employed in
washing windows. Violet’s quick brain grasped the situation. Dunbar was
helping her, even as she knew he would.

Hurriedly descending from the table, she opened the note with trembling

       *       *       *       *       *

 “Dear Miss Arleigh,” it said, “don’t eat or drink _anything_ in this
 place, even though you perish of starvation. But you shall not do
 that; for I shall have you out of there this very night. Do all that
 you are told to do. Go with Gilbert Warrington to your marriage. Be
 quiet and obedient, and I will do the rest. _Trust me!_ I will not
 fail you.


With a glad thrill in her heart, Violet hid the precious letter away in
her bosom, and just in time; for at that moment the old woman appeared
with quite a tempting breakfast arranged upon a waiter. She placed it
upon the table, and after a quick, suspicious glance around the narrow
room, disappeared once more.

When Violet heard the key turn in the lock, she went over to the table,
and taking the cup of coffee from the waiter, emptied its contents into
the empty grate which occupied a corner of the room. The food she hid
away under the fender, where it would not be seen; and having disposed
of the contents of the waiter, she went over to the iron cot, and lay
down as though to sleep.

Hours passed. The day slowly declined; the sun set and night came down;
still Violet lay there quite silent. Several times during the day she
had heard the door open softly, and some one glanced into the room. She
understood. They were watching to see if the drug which had been placed
in her food had taken effect. They meant to stupefy her so that she
would be pliant as wax in the hands of Warrington.

The hours rolled slowly by. Eight o’clock struck. Then the door of the
cell opened once more, and Gilbert Warrington entered.




Violet shrunk back with an involuntary cry at sight of the man whom she
hated, and who had come to her now to lead her forth to that hateful
farce of a marriage, from the very thought of which her soul shrunk
back appalled. Only the recollection of Dunbar’s promise to help her
kept Violet’s heart alive within her breast. He had enjoined upon
her to show outward obedience to Gilbert Warrington, and to do as he
directed her; to even go through the farce of a marriage, if necessary,
but to trust to Dunbar to rescue her, even at the last moment. And so,
although the girl was half insane with horror over the peculiar and
terrible position in which she was placed, she had made up her mind to
follow Dunbar’s directions, no matter what the effort might cost her.
In fact, it seemed the only resource--all that was left to her to do.

As for Gilbert Warrington, he could only stand and gaze with wonder
at the girl whom he had fully expected to find under the influence of
the drug which he had caused Mrs. Carter to drop into the food and
drink prepared for her. He had entered the cell expecting to see the
poor girl lying upon her bed, half dazed and wholly helpless--in his
power, at his mercy. But there she stood before him, pale and calm,
outwardly brave, her large dark eyes fixed upon his hated face with a
look in their depths which made his bad heart quail. But he recovered
his self-control and moved swiftly toward her.

“Good-morning, my dear Violet,” he began in a bland tone. “I am glad
to see you ready and waiting for your bridegroom. Sorry that you could
not have had a pretty and more suitable wedding-gown; and it is said
to be unlucky to marry in black; but then, we can afford to laugh at
superstitious follies, and our marriage will be a very happy one. Of
course, I do not intend to insist upon your living as my wife. As I
remarked to you before, you are at liberty to go to the antipodes if
you see fit, as soon as you are Mrs. Gilbert Warrington, and have
signed your name to the paper which I wish you to sign. But it is quite
eight o’clock; it will not do to keep the clergyman waiting, and he is
already arrived. Come, my dear, let us go down. You are ready?”

She drew back, her lip quivering, her eyes flashing with scorn and

“Ready to marry _you_, Gilbert Warrington?” she cried, her voice
ringing out clear and scornful. “No, never! I shall never be that. But
I have decided to obey you, and I must submit to this horrible outrage
since you have me in your power. But, mark me, Gilbert Warrington”--she
paused, and her eyes wandered over his face with a slow glance of scorn
and hatred--“mark me, sir, you will regret this step, and the hour is
not far distant when you will wish that you had died before you forced
me into this hated marriage!”

“Bah! My dear, I will chance all that. I understand women and their
ways and notions. I understand your nature, my dear Violet, like
a book, and I repeat that I am willing to take all risks. As for
regretting this step, how can you say such a thing? I could never do
that. It means future fortune and position for me, and you may go
to--the ends of the earth, for all I care--afterward!”

She shivered and turned away.

“Well, are you ready?” he asked, after a moment’s silence. “Eight was
the hour appointed for the ceremony. I don’t see the need of keeping
the clergyman all night. Come!”

He drew her hand through his arm and led her from the cell, out into
a long, bare corridor, and down a staircase, another, and another,
pausing at last before the open door of a large, bare-looking
reception-room. Violet glanced hastily within, and her eyes rested
upon a scene which photographed itself upon her memory, never to be
forgotten while she lived.

In the center of the room stood the clergyman. He was no impostor,
no sham, for Violet had seen his face before in the pulpit. He was a
well-known minister residing in the city, a good man who never for
a moment dreamed the truth in regard to the infamous wrong which he
was about to perpetrate, or at least be a party to, and who never for
a moment thought or suspected that the house to which he had been
brought to perform the ceremony was a private asylum for the insane, or
those whom cruel enemies wished to make the world believe were insane,
and who immured within its gloomy walls the unfortunates who chanced to
stand in the way of their wicked schemes.

When Violet saw this man, she realized that all hope was gone, save her
trust in Dunbar. If he should fail her, then she was lost indeed. For
there had been a faint hope lurking in the depths of her heart that if
she appealed to the clergyman he might feel some pity for her, and, at
least, would investigate the case before he performed the ceremony.
But the girl realized intuitively that here all hope was in vain. The
clergyman evidently fully believed that he was doing his duty, and
nothing that she could say would cause him to swerve a particle from
the path marked out for him. So she gave up all hope in that direction,
and with a cold, sinking feeling at her heart, prepared for what was to
come, while she resigned herself outwardly to the inevitable.

What if Dunbar should fail her now in her extremity? After all, she had
only his word--the promise of a man who was a stranger to her, save for
the part he had played in the search for her mother, and the fact that
he was Doctor Danton’s best friend. But this fact alone was a passport
to her confidence. Violet’s heart grew brave, and hope revived within
her breast.

“God help me!” she whispered, softly; then, still leaning upon
Warrington’s arm, she advanced to the center of the room. The clergyman
made a few trivial remarks, then he opened the prayer-book in his hand,
and an awful silence settled down.

Violet observed then, for the first time, that Doctor Langley and old
Mrs. Carter were present, seated in a corner of the room, evidently
acting as witnesses. She felt like the captive tied to the stake,
around whom the fagots are being heaped, while one stands ready with
lighted torch to apply to the pile, and certain and awful death is

Slowly the clergyman began to read the marriage service. But the first
few words only were uttered, when there came a loud and violent ring at
the gate-bell.

Doctor Langley and Mrs. Carter started to their feet, pale and
terrified. There was something ominous in that sound which brought
terror to their craven hearts. Langley darted to the door of the
room and laid his hand upon the knob. _The door was locked upon the
outside!_ The windows were barred with iron, like the others in the
building. With a hoarse, inarticulate cry he fell back, and his face
wore the look of a baffled fiend, an abandoned wretch just betrayed
to well-merited punishment. Mrs. Carter crept to his side, trembling

“The game is up!” he muttered in a low aside to the old woman.
But softly as the words were spoken, they reached the ears of the
clergyman. He closed the prayer-book.

“There is evidently something wrong here,” he observed, sternly. “I
will defer the ceremony until all is explained.”

Violet darted wildly forward and caught his hand in both her own.

“Oh, sir, help me----” she was beginning; but at that moment the
door was thrown open and Dunbar the detective marched into the room,
followed by half a dozen police officers in uniform. He went straight
up to Warrington and laid his hand upon the villain’s arm.

“Gilbert Warrington,” he thundered, “I arrest you in the name of the
law! Boys,” turning to the officers, “secure yonder villain known as
Doctor Langley. I accuse him of being the owner and proprietor of an
illegal institution known as Langley’s Private Asylum for the Insane,
where _perfectly sane_ people are imprisoned until death releases them,
or until the wicked purposes of cruel and unscrupulous enemies are
served. I rather think, Mr. Warrington, that my charges against _you_
are too numerous to be specified. They run through the whole scale
of crimes, from attempted murder down to abduction and embezzlement.
Here, men,” addressing the police officers once more, “just march
this precious pair, the old woman, too--quite a notorious trio--to
the parish prison, where they shall be dealt with as they deserve, or
Dunbar is out of his reckoning. Miss Arleigh”--he drew Violet’s hand
through his arm--“you will come with me. I will protect you with my
life. Did I not tell you to trust in me, and that I would save you?
I am here also to find your mother. I have traced her to this city.
Doctor Danton is also here; and, with the help of God, Rosamond Arleigh
shall be found!”




Half dazed with the strange occurrences of the day, Leonard Yorke rode
like a madman back to Yorke Towers to procure assistance and bring poor
Will Venners to its hospitable shelter. Galloping up the avenue which
led to the house, Leonard threw his bridle to the servant who met him
there, and springing from the horse, ordered that the low phaeton be
brought around at once to convey Captain Venners to York Towers, with a
hurried explanation of the finding of the poor fellow, badly hurt, in
the swamp a half mile away.

While the man hastened away to obey his commands, Leonard ran into
the house. He was met in the hall by Hilda. Her face wore a look
of triumph; her glorious dark eyes sparkled; she was wondrously
beautiful--the subtle, seductive beauty of a sleek tigress of the
jungle, with its shining eyes and satiny skin; its cruel claws hidden
by the velvety skin, but _there_, all the same, and ready for use at
the least provocation.

Hilda was perfectly happy, for she saw that Leonard was returning
_alone_. Violet had not been found, therefore Leonard must still
believe her false. False she _must_ be, or she would never have gone
away from Yorke Towers as she had done.

But, all the same, Hilda _knew_ that Violet had not eloped with Will
Venners. She laid one white hand lightly upon Leonard’s arm, and lifted
her lovely dark eyes to his pale, anxious face.

“Dear Leonard,” she began in a soft, sweet, purring voice, the little
hand grasping his coat-sleeve tighter, “I am so sorry--_so_ sorry!
She is my cousin, and I am deeply attached to her; but I can not
close my eyes to her glaring faults, her many imperfections. And now
this fearful disgrace! Poor, misguided Violet! she has gone away with
handsome Will Venners, and we shall never see her again.”

With an impatient movement which he could not repress, Leonard released
the clinging hand. He was thoroughly aroused, and had no patience with
Hilda’s nonsense now.

“You are mistaken, Miss Rutledge,” he said, sternly. “Violet may have
faults--we are all of us only human, and liable to err--but if she
has, I have never perceived them. To me she is blameless--and she has
_not_ eloped with Will Venners or any other man. She has been abducted;
and Will Venners lies down in the swamp below Yorke Towers, badly
wounded--perhaps dying.”

A low cry fell upon the silence, and turning swiftly, Leonard saw
coming down the stairs, just at his side, Jessie Glyndon, pale as
death, and looking as though she had received her death-blow. Her eyes
were dark as night, and dilated wildly, her hands were tightly clasped
together, and she was trembling like an aspen.

“Oh, no, Mr. Yorke!” she cried, wildly; “it can not be true! He is not
dying--not dying, surely! Let me go to him--let me go! Perhaps I can do
something to relieve him. Oh, do not refuse me!”

Leonard turned coldly away from Hilda, and took Miss Glyndon’s hand.

“Be brave,” he said in a gentle, reassuring tone. “I am about to have
him brought here. You will nurse him, Jessie? He has told me all,”
he added in a low tone, which brought the red blood to Jessie’s pale

“Will I?” she cried. “Indeed--indeed I will, Mr. Yorke! I will do
anything in my power for Captain Venners.”

“Order the red room prepared for him,” said Leonard. “I will have him
here in half an hour;” and as he turned away to enter the phaeton,
which was now ready, he said to himself: “Please Heaven, all their
troubles are at an end now.”

But Hilda Rutledge had no intention of allowing Leonard to escape so
easily. She darted down the steps, and as he was about to enter the
phaeton she detained him once more.

“Leonard,” she whispered, softly, “tell me that you forgive me for my
rash judgment of Violet! I meant no wrong, only--I have seen more of
her than you have, you know.”

His eyes rested coldly upon her beautiful face.

“I forgive you, of course,” he returned; “but I warn you, in the
future, if you wish to retain my respect, to be more charitable in your
judgment of as pure a woman as ever lived!”

He stepped into the phaeton, and it drove rapidly away. He had taken
one of the servants with him, while another followed on horseback, that
they might be enabled to lift the wounded man into the phaeton without

In a brief time they had reached the spot where Will Venners lay. He
was quite unconscious now, and Leonard felt his heart sink, as they
lifted the tall, soldierly figure into the phaeton and arranged him as
comfortable as possible.

The drive would be of only a few moments’ duration, and a physician had
already been summoned. They reached Yorke Towers at last, and the short
drive, which had seemed endless to Leonard, was accomplished.

The still unconscious man was borne into the house to a sleeping-room
upon the first floor. The physician took possession of him, and a long
examination followed.

After a time Leonard came to where Jessie Glyndon was standing beside a
window, gazing forth with sad gray eyes which saw nothing of the fair
scene without.

“Jessie,” he said in a low tone--it was quite wonderful what good
friends these two had suddenly become--“the doctor says that he is
more seriously injured than we thought. Only the best of care and
nursing will save him, if he can be saved at all.”

“He shall have that, Mr. Yorke, if you will permit me to act as his
nurse,” she said in a trembling voice. “I can get the housekeeper to
assist me; and I am willing to lay my life down in his service!”

Leonard pressed her hand.

“I understand,” he said, softly; “and I pray God that you and he will
be united yet.”

But there seemed little prospect of his recovery, or any explanation
being adjusted between the two lovers suffering through a strange

For Will Venners was delirious now, his dark eyes full of a wild,
unnatural light as they rested upon the pale, sorrow-stricken face of
the woman who loved him so, yet whom he did not recognize, as he raved
on in a vacant, meaningless fashion, which filled the hearts of his
listeners with consternation and nearly drove Jessie distracted.

That night a strange occurrence took place. Chancing to pass his
mother’s door at a late hour, Leonard saw something which nearly drove
the life-blood from his heart and deprived him of his senses.

The door of his mother’s chamber stood partly open, and Mrs. Yorke lay
quietly resting, but over her stooped old Betty Harwood, and as Leonard
involuntarily hesitated he saw her drop some drops from a small vial
in her hand, swiftly and deftly, as though accustomed to the task,
between Mrs. Yorke’s pale lips.

The invalid stirred uneasily.

“No, no, Betty!” she moaned. “Take it away. It makes me feel faint. It
is killing me!”

With a stifled cry, Betty Harwood’s claw-like fingers closed upon the
sick woman’s throat. But Leonard darted into the room, and caught the
would-be murderess in a vise-like grip.




Dunbar led Violet out of the room and the house, out through the tall
iron gate, which closed with a loud clang behind them, and into the
waiting carriage which stood there.

Violet had no hat, but the thoughtful detective had provided a cloak
which he had left in the carriage, and this he now proceeded to wrap
around the trembling form of the girl, drawing the hood over her head.

“Pardon me,” was all he said as he adjusted the garment about her
slight form. “I fear that you will be cold; for even at this season the
night air is chilly.”

Violet felt a thrill of gratitude for the man’s kindness.

“You are very good, Mr. Dunbar,” she returned, gratefully. “I can never
thank you enough for all your kindness to me. What, in Heaven’s name,
would have become of me but for you? But--where are you taking me?” she
added, after a slight pause.

“To my own house,” he returned. “Ah! you did not know that I am a staid
married man, with the best of wives and the sweetest of baby girls?
Yes, I am a sober, settled Benedict, Miss Arleigh, and my wife will
be more than pleased to receive you. Besides--you are going to meet
Doctor Danton there.”

“I shall be very glad,” murmured Violet, faintly, her head drooping
among the cushions of the carriage.

To tell the truth, the poor girl was beginning to feel the effects of
her long fast; for she had not eaten anything since dinner at Yorke
Towers, the evening before.

Dunbar understood the case at once.

“Try and keep up, Miss Arleigh,” he said, encouragingly. “We will soon
be at my house, and there you will get refreshment. See! this is the
street, and there is the house at last.”

For the carriage had stopped before a neat white cottage in whose
windows a bright light burned cheerfully.

Dunbar alighted from the carriage and took Violet in his arms.

“Come, Miss Arleigh,” he said; “my wife will take care of you now.”

He carried the half-fainting girl into the house and deposited her upon
a sofa in the cheery little parlor.

Mrs. Dunbar--a bright-faced, gentle-looking lady--came to Violet’s side
and removed the cloak.

“Why, she is fainting!” cried the lady in a tone of alarm.

“And so would you, too, my dear,” observed her husband, bluntly, “if
you had not eaten or drunk a mouthful for over twenty-four hours,
besides being subjected to an intense strain of excitement and
terror--actually in peril of your life. Ask no questions now, Bertha,
but get some wine and crackers--something very light. She must be
brought around by degrees.”

Mrs. Dunbar flew to obey his directions, and soon returned with wine
and a little light refreshment.

After a time Violet revived and was able to sit up. She grew rapidly
better, and when Mrs. Dunbar had assisted her to retire, and sat down
at the bedside, watching the white lids flutter down over the beautiful
dark eyes, Violet felt that her great peril was over, and she was safe
in a very heaven of comfort and rest. A good night’s sleep restored
her entirely, and when morning came and Mrs. Dunbar entered her room
bearing a tempting breakfast in her own hands for her young charge,
Violet could not repress her tears of gratitude for this kind care.

“Dear Mrs. Dunbar,” she said, starting up, “you are making too much of
me. Let me wait upon myself.”

The lady smiled as she placed the waiter upon a table near.

“No; I prefer to take care of you myself,” she said. “Mr. Dunbar says
that you must be very careful, and try to be as strong as possible. You
will have to go with him this morning to the prison, for the charge
against Warrington must be substantiated; also you must identify old
Langley as the physician in charge of that horrible institution. The
morning papers are full of his arrest and the _exposé_ of the asylum.
Just think of it! people who lived right there in the very neighborhood
did not know the real character of the place! Eat your breakfast, my
dear; but first let me help you bathe your face and hands. I will have
the bath prepared for you later; then you will feel better.”

An hour afterward, feeling herself refreshed, Violet entered the cozy
parlor, where Mrs. Dunbar with her golden-haired fairy of a child
awaited her. A moment more and Mr. Dunbar appeared, accompanied by
Doctor Danton.

At sight of his familiar face, Violet started to her feet. Jack Danton
went swiftly forward and took the slender form in his arms, kissing her
pale cheek.

“My child”--his voice was low and trembling--“thank God and Dunbar that
you are safe! Now listen to me. With Mrs. Dunbar’s assistance I have
procured you a change of clothing, so that you can make a respectable
appearance in the street. Not a very gallant speech to make to a fair
lady,” he added, his eyes twinkling with merriment; “but you are really
quite dilapidated as you are. And you must go with me to the prison
upon business connected with that villain Warrington, after which I
have a little business for you to attend to.”

Violet obeyed in dazed silence. So many strange events had come into
her life that the girl felt as though she had lost her own identity. In
bewildered silence she went back to her room, where she found a neat
street-dress of gray, with hat, gloves, and veil to match. Everything
fitted her quite creditably, and she soon returned to the parlor
looking more like her own sweet self than when she had last entered it.

Doctor Danton smiled in a fatherly way as his eyes rested upon the
sweet, pale face.

“Well, my dear, are you ready? Then we will drive at once to the
prison, and get this unpleasant business over with. Come, Dunbar!”

Violet was soon in the carriage which waited outside, and, accompanied
by the two gentlemen, was driven rapidly to the parish prison.

To the day of her death Violet never forgot that morning and the scene
which followed.

Gilbert Warrington’s scowling face, the ugly countenance of the oily
old hypocrite Langley, and Mrs. Carter’s cringing ways as she pleaded
with Violet to help her out of the trouble. But Violet’s heart was
adamant to all appeals from such as she. She went bravely through
what was required of her, and all was soon over. The result of the
examination was that Gilbert Warrington was remanded to prison without
the benefit of bail, while Langley and Mrs. Carter eventually went to
the State penitentiary. The various charges against Warrington would
consume time in their trial before justice could be done. As they were
leaving the court-room, Violet caught his cruel eyes fixed upon her
with a threatening expression and such bitter hatred, that the blood
ran cold within her veins.

“He will find some way to be revenged!” she murmured, faintly,
trembling with apprehension. “I can see it in his eyes. He means to be
even with me yet, and somehow--although he is safe in prison--I can
not help dreading him, and fearing that he may succeed in his designs.
Heaven help me if I ever fall into his hands again!”

She re-entered the carriage, still with Doctor Danton and Mr. Dunbar,
and they were driven rapidly uptown. Violet asked no questions as to
their designation. She knew that she was safe with these two good
friends. The drive was a very long one; the carriage turned down Henry
Clay Avenue at last, and then for the first time Violet expressed
surprise at the very lengthy drive. Doctor Danton took her hand in his.

“My dear,” he said, kindly, “trust to me; I am taking you to a person
whom I wish you to identify. We are going to--to--the Louisiana

Violet had heard of this asylum, but she had never visited it. She felt
a strange feeling of terror steal over her heart. Did they consider her
insane, or that her brain was in any way affected, after all? But she
restrained her emotions and kept quiet, feeling that soon all would be
explained. The carriage halted before the retreat at last. She alighted
and followed the two men into the building.

“My dear,” said Doctor Danton, “do not be afraid. I wish you to look
at this lady and tell me if you have ever seen her before. This is very

Violet followed him, with a strange feeling of awe creeping over her,
into a small, neatly furnished room, where upon a bed a female form lay
quietly sleeping. The room was in semi-darkness; but as they entered,
the physician threw open the blinds and let a stream of sunlight into
the room.

“Come here, Violet,” he said, gently.

She approached the bedside and stood with eyes riveted upon the face
which lay upon the pillow, her heart overflowing with a wild delight
which nearly suffocated her. For there before her--could it be
true?--in an apparently sound slumber, her thin, white hands folded
upon her breast, her beautiful face, like the face of a marble statue,
lay her own dear mother--Rosamond Arleigh.




For a time Violet stood like one bereft of her senses. Her brain was
in a whirl, her heart throbbed painfully; she was overcome by emotion,
and the strange, wild joy of this meeting, which was more than she had
dared hope for.

Rosamond Arleigh lay there before her, pale as death and greatly
emaciated; but it was her mother, all the same. Starting at last from
that rapt trance of delight, Violet stooped as though to take the
wasted form in her hands.

“Mamma!” she cried, joyfully. But Doctor Danton laid his hand upon her
shoulder and drew her gently away.

“Be quiet, my dear,” he said, softly; but his kind voice was trembling
in spite of himself. “Do not awaken or disturb her. If you do, she--she
may die.”

With trembling horror Violet fell back, and then Doctor Danton led her
from the room. He seemed perfectly at home in the premises. No one came
near him to inquire his business there; he seemed to have a right to
take possession.

“You see, my child,” he began, as Violet sunk into a seat and leaned
her head against its cushioned back, worn and weary, “I have quite a
long story to tell you. But first you must have a glass of wine, and
something to strengthen you.”

He soon procured the necessary refreshment, and after Violet had eaten
and had drunk a glass of wine, she felt stronger and better.

“Now, tell me,” she urged, persuasively.

Doctor Danton smiled.

“Well, you have to thank our astute friend, Dunbar, over there, for all
that has been done. He swore that he would never give up the search
until Mrs. Arleigh was found, or proof positive that she was really
dead--drowned in the little river on the road to Belleville. For Dunbar
had never put much faith in the belief that she had met her death
there, although he had found her slipper and cloak upon the very brink
of the stream.

“Such evidence, purely circumstantial, is not always reliable. So said
our wise and learned Dunbar, and Dunbar, as usual, was right. But he
gave up the case apparently, and the few who interested themselves
in the attempt to prove that Rosamond Arleigh was not dead--oh, they
are very few, I assure you, Violet; for the world at large believes
her lying in the grave-yard near The Oaks!--they looked upon Dunbar’s
theories as absurd. But all that did not daunt our detective.

“Swiftly and silently he went on with his hunt. He spent days traveling
up and down the river, and at last, one day, near its mouth, he
chanced upon a schooner, whose captain told him a wild tale in regard
to the body of a woman which had been brought on board his vessel by a
negro named Clark some weeks previous. The captain declared that the
body had been found by Clark at the very spot where Mrs. Arleigh’s
cloak and slipper had been picked up by Dunbar.

“The detective put two and two together; then got on board the schooner
and went to New Orleans.

“Once there, he went to the Charity Hospital, whither, the captain
declared, the woman had been taken when signs of life had been

“At the hospital Dunbar made the acquaintance of two physicians, who
remembered the case, and showed him the entry in the books which
recorded the arrival of the unknown woman, describing her appearance
and dress, and stating that she was suffering from certain wounds about
her head which had produced fracture of the skull.

“The two physicians had performed an operation for the purpose of
lifting the portion of the skull pressing upon the brain. That
operation had failed. The consequence was that the woman would be
insane--be brave, Violet; try, try, my child!--for the balance of her

“Oh, Doctor Danton, I can not--can not bear it!” sobbed the girl.
“Perhaps it would be better if she were indeed at rest!”

“Not so, my child. Listen. The physicians stated that a second
operation might be performed in time, when the patient would be a
little stronger and better able to endure it.

“The second attempt might be successful; the case was not utterly
hopeless, they declared. But, in the meantime, the patient must be
removed from the hospital--that grand refuge for the suffering, which
is a boon and blessing to the people of New Orleans--ay, to the whole
state of Louisiana.

“Although supported by the munificence of a chartered institution
which is bitterly opposed by the cranks and ultra-‘moral’ people of
the state, it is the only reliance upon which Louisiana can lean for
means to defray its expenses. I am no politician, my child, but, as a
_physician_, I would feel very sorry to see the New Orleans Charity
Hospital closed for lack of means with which to support it. But let me
hasten my story.

“Your mother was discharged from the hospital, and because of her
condition was sent to the retreat. This institution is a good one, and
here she has remained ever since, very well cared for.

“And to this place the wise Dunbar tracked her down, saw and identified
her, then telegraphed for me at once. Of course, I did not let the
grass grow under my feet, but came to New Orleans on the first train
after receiving Dunbar’s message. I came straight to the retreat;
fortunately I am so well known here that no one in control interfered
with my actions. The case was placed in my hands. I have worked over
it faithfully, and now--now--Violet, comes the most important part.
Yesterday I performed the second operation, assisted by one of the
physicians from the Charity Hospital of which I have spoken--a clever
fellow he is, too. The result of that operation will be made known to
us when--Rosamond Arleigh awakes. She has been sleeping ever since the
operation was performed. I thought best to tell you the whole story
now, my child, and place the matter before you in its true light. When
she opens her eyes again, she will either be as well as ever, or--she
will be insane for the rest of her life.”

Violet uttered a groan of despair.

“Try and be brave, my child,” he whispered. “Violet--Violet, you are
like my own child to me, for, oh! my dear, I love her, I have loved
your mother for years, and if she recovers I shall ask her to become my
wife. If she never recovers, I will devote the rest of my life to her
care and protection.”

Violet lifted the doctor’s hand to her lips.

“God bless you, Doctor Danton!” she said, softly; “you are a true
friend. How can I be helpless and alone with two such friends as you
and Mr. Dunbar?”

“And Leonard Yorke!” interposed the doctor, shyly.

Violet’s sweet face flushed.

“Leonard is very jealous and unreasonable at times,” she said; “but
one can not turn from a person because of his faults. We all have our
faults, and I _do_ love him, Doctor Danton, I do, indeed!”

The doctor smiled serenely.

“And quite right in you, my dear. I believe that he is worthy of you,
with the exception of that cranky jealousy of his. But that in time may
evaporate, especially if you do not give him just cause to indulge in

“I never will. But tell me, doctor, do you think she will sleep much
longer? And when she awakes----”

The doctor rose abruptly, drawing his hand across his eyes as though to
clear away a mist.

“We must leave that to God, my child,” he said, solemnly. “All that
human skill can do has been done. We can only hope and pray. But if
the worst comes, you must not forget that there is a Comforter, a
Refuge for us in our sorrow. But, oh, my God! it will be a bitter,
heart-breaking grief to me!”

He broke down completely and sobbed like a child. All at once he
started up.

“Violet, forgive me!” he cried. “But I love her so dearly, and I have
controlled my feelings for so long! Listen! I thought I heard a sound
in her room.”

He crept softly to the door of the room where that poor wreck lay
alone, and stooping, applied his ear to the key-hole, while he listened

“Yes,” he whispered, after a moment’s silence; “I really believe that
the crisis is come, and that she is awaking. Now, Violet, my child, a
great deal depends upon you and your power of self-control. Go into
the room as though nothing had happened, as though you were both at
home at The Oaks, and--see how she is.”

It was an awful ordeal, but the girl nerved herself to endure it.
Pale as marble, and shaking with nervous excitement which she bravely
conquered at length, Violet opened the door and entered the room.

A pause of silence ensued, during which Doctor Danton and Dunbar, in
the other room, could hear the throbbing of their own hearts--a long,
awful silence, yet in truth, it did not last three seconds; then--then
there was a slight movement as the sick woman raised herself slowly
from the pillows; then a wild exclamation, “_Violet, my child!_” a
stifled cry of “Mamma! oh, mamma!” and the two listeners knew that all
was well.




When Leonard Yorke seized the old woman in his strong grasp she
flashed about, uttering a mad cry of rage and despair. One glance into
the young man’s white, stern face and flashing eyes, and the wretch
realized that she was at last unmasked, and her hideous purpose laid
bare to the censorious gaze of the young man whose only parent she had
been about to murder.

“You murderess!” panted Leonard, wildly, his grasp tightening upon the
woman’s shoulder, “you miserable murderess! I know all at last! It is
your work, all this! You are to blame that my mother lies here slowly
dying! By the Heaven above me, I have a mind to choke the life from
your body!”

The woman’s eyes fell guiltily from before his wrathful, burning gaze.
With a groan of horror she sunk upon her knees at his feet.

“Oh, Mr. Leonard! Mr. Leonard!” she whined. “I’ve been here so long,
and I’ve worked so faithfully----”

“Hush, you murderess!” he interrupted, sternly. “Nothing that you can
say will save you from your just punishment. First, you shall confess
your object. Why did you seek to take my mother’s life?”

Old Betty began to sob.

“Well, sir. I’ll confess the truth,” she moaned. “Mrs. Yorke knows
where the papers are hid away in the east chamber; somewhere there, but
no one can find them. I only wanted to frighten her into telling me;
for those papers--well, sir--_you_ would give a heap of money for them,
to say nothing of what Miss Arleigh would give.”

Grimly and silently Leonard drew his handkerchief from his pocket, and
without a word proceeded to tie the woman’s hands together. In the
struggle which ensued her hair was disarranged, and to his astonishment
he found that she wore a wig, and that the seemingly old woman was not
old at all. He fell back in utter amazement.

“Who are you?” he demanded. But Betty made no reply. Having fastened
her hands securely, he pushed her into a small closet, and closed and
locked its door upon her. There was an open transom over the door, so
she need not suffer for want of air. Then, trembling with apprehension,
he hastened to his mother’s bedside. She gazed into his face with a
troubled look.

“Thank Heaven, my son,” she whispered; “for that woman has been the
terror of my life for the past few days. But I dared make no complaint,
for I found that I was in her power. Leonard, sit down by my side; I
have something to say--a confession to make. Yes, I must tell you all
now; and I believe that when it is off my mind, I shall get well. It
concerns poor Rosamond Arleigh. I was so jealous of her, for I loved
Harold Arleigh dearly; he was the first and best love of my life. But
he did not return my affection; his whole heart and soul belonged to
Rosamond. In my jealous rage after their marriage, I formed a horrible
plot, which a strange combination of circumstances helped me to carry
out. The church in which Harold and Rosamond were privately married
was burned to the ground, and the marriage record consumed. The old
clergyman died of fright after the horrors of the conflagration; the
two witnesses of the marriage were both lost at sea soon after. The
strange complication of events went to form a tragedy. _I stole their
marriage certificate_--may God forgive me!--and hid it away in the
east chamber here, at York Towers. There was no way of proving the
marriage, and the shock of the calamity broke Harold Arleigh’s heart.
He was very weak and frail in constitution, and it killed him. Violet
was half grown then, and the horrible fact that her legitimacy could
not be proven to the world--killed her father. It might have killed
her mother also, only we women will keep alive in emergencies where a
man succumbs, simply for the sake of our children. Leonard, you know
my guilty secret at last. In the east chamber, where old Betty, I
am certain, has often vainly sought it, you will find full proof of
Violet’s legitimacy. Look in the right-hand corner of the wall as you
enter the room. Some five feet from the floor you will find a _figure
six_. Press upon it; it will open and reveal a secret receptacle which
contains the certificate of Harold Arleigh’s marriage to Rosamond, also
some other papers as proof. Can you ever forgive me, Leonard? I know
that you and Violet love each other, and she is worthy to be your wife.”

What could he do but forgive her? After that Mrs. Yorke grew rapidly
better, and was ere long able to take her place once more with the

Will Venners improved rapidly under Jessie’s tender care, and when
he was able to sit up, a clergyman called one evening, and in a few
impressive words made Will and Jessie husband and wife.

In the meantime, a letter from Doctor Danton had broken the news of
Violet’s safety, and stated that they would arrive at Yorke Towers in
time for the wedding. Imagine the astonishment and delight with which
Rosamond Arleigh was welcomed as one arisen from the dead, alive, and
in her right mind. Mutual explanations followed, and in the midst of it
all Leonard produced the missing marriage certificate. But out of pity
for his penitent mother, he merely explained that he had found it in
the east chamber. But even before he had sought the hidden document, he
had begged Violet humbly to forgive his foolish jealousy, and be his
wife as soon as possible. And Violet’s reply had been all that he could

That very day Leonard chanced to find in a pocket of a cast-off coat
Will Venners’ unfortunate poem, which had so wofully miscarried.
Leonard brought it straight to that gentleman.

“Now, Will,” he began, trying hard to keep back the little green-eyed
monster which threatened to arise within his heart, “be good enough to
explain to me why you wrote such a poem to Violet, yet loving Jessie
Glyndon all the time?”

Will laughed aloud. He began to see the truth at last.

“This poem was not intended for Miss Arleigh,” he said; “I wrote it for
Jessie, and begged Miss Arleigh to deliver it to her the night of Miss
Arleigh’s birthday ball. I had been a flirt--an unmitigated flirt--for
so long that I shrunk from anything that might look like trifling with
Jessie, as she was so proud and reserved, and yet I _did_ want her to
believe the sentiments of that poem, and I made a fool of myself, as
usual,” he broke off merrily. “Leonard, old boy, I’ve learned a lesson,
though, of course, I shall never need it now. It is this: Never court
a woman by proxy. If you love her, tell her so; do not trust your
confession to paper. Nine times out of ten it will cause trouble.”

“_I_ have been a jealous brute!” cried Leonard, frankly; “_my_ lesson
shall last me as long as I live. Violet shall have no cause hereafter
to dread my jealous wrath.”

And he kept his word.

Leonard and Violet were quietly married, and live at Yorke Towers with
Mrs. Yorke, quite sweet and amiable now.

Jack Danton and Rosamond Arleigh are husband and wife, and live at
The Oaks, where Dunbar and his good wife and golden-haired child are
always welcome. Captain Venners and his wife reside in New Orleans,
where Will has a good Government position, and talks no more of going
to Texas to do the cow-boy act.

Hilda Rutledge married a rich old man, a merchant in the Crescent City,
and, with her mother, leads fashionable society, and makes her elderly
husband frantic with her numberless flirtations.

And Gilbert Warrington? He was sentenced to a long term in the state
penitentiary, but at the last moment some one succeeded in smuggling
poison into his cell, and in the morning when the officers entered
to lead him forth for his journey to the penitentiary, he was dead
and cold. The poison had been conveyed to him by Betty Harwood, whom
Leonard, in the softness of his heart, had allowed to go free. She
proved to be Gilbert Warrington’s _wife_, and for his sake she had
sinned. She still lives in New Orleans, a wicked, soured old woman.

This is a true tale, made up of the incidents which really occurred.
And if there is a lesson to be learned by its perusal, it is this: If a
man loves a woman, he should tell her so plainly and frankly. Also, to
beware of _jealousy_, that fiend which can turn heaven into hell, and
which is “strong as death and as cruel as the grave!”


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Transcriber’s Notes:

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in
the original publication, except that obvious typographical errors have
been corrected.

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