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´╗┐Title: Eveline Mandeville - The Horse Thief Rival
Author: Addison, Alvin
Language: English
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EVELINE MANDEVILLE.

Or, The Horse Thief Rival

by

ALVIN ADDISON

Author of "The Rival Hunters."

Cincinnati:
Published by U. P. James,
167 Walnut Street.

1837



CHAPTER I.


"Why do you persist in refusing to receive the addresses of Willard Duffel,
when you know my preference for him?"

"Because I do not like him."

"'Do not like him,' forsooth! And pray, are you going to reject the best
offer in the county because of a simple whim? the mere fancy of a
vain-headed, foolish and inexperienced girl? I did not before suppose that
a daughter of mine would manifest such a want of common sense."

"Whether my opinions of men are made up of that rare article so
inappropriately called 'common sense' or not, is a question I shall not
attempt to decide; it is sufficient for me to know that I have my 'likes
and my dislikes,' as well as other folks, and that it is my _right_ to have
them."

"Oh, yes! _you_ have rights, but a _parent_ has not, I suppose!"

"You know very well, father, that I do not deserve an insinuation of that
kind from you: I have always regarded your wishes, when expressed, save in
this one instance, and I have too much at stake, in so serious a matter, to
lightly throw aside my own opinions."

"Yes, yes, you have been the most obliging of daughters, to hear your own
story; but no sooner does a point of any moment come up, upon which we
happen to disagree, than my wishes are as nothing--a mere school-girl whim
is set up in opposition to them, and that, too, without even a shadow of
reason! A _very_ dutiful child, truly."

"Father, how _can_ you talk so? You surely are but trying me; for you
_know_ I do not merit the rebuke conveyed by your words and manner."

"Why not?"

"Why do I?"

"Because you are willfully disobedient."

"No, not _willfully_ but _sorrowfully_ disobedient to your wishes. Glad,
indeed, would I be if I could comply with them, but I cannot. Nor should
you expect me to, until you show some good grounds why you entertain them."

"Have I not already done so repeatedly? Have I not told you that Duffel's
prospects are fairer than those of any other young man of your
acquaintance? Is he not wealthy? Has he not one of the best farms in the
country? What more do you want?"

"A man of principle, not of property."

"And is not Duffel a man of principle? Is he not strictly honorable in all
his dealings?"

"He may or may not be honest in his dealings; I do not allude to business,
but _moral_ principle, and in this I think he is decidedly wanting."

"Why do you think so?"

"His actions and manners impress me with such a belief; I _feel_ it more
than _see_ it, yet I am as fully satisfied on that point as if he had told
me in so many words that he had no regard for the restraints of morality
and religion, save such as a decent respect for the customs and opinion of
society enjoins."

"Mere fancy again! I'd like to know if you expect to live in any of the
air-castles you are building?"

"I think there is not quite as much probability of my inhabiting one of
them as there is of Duffel's incarceration in the penitentiary."

"What do you mean, girl?"

"To be plain, I do not believe Duffel's wealth was honestly obtained, or is
honestly held. You have heard of the Secret Gang of Horse Thieves, I
suppose. Well, I overheard this immaculate Duffel of yours, without any
intention on my part, conversing with a 'hale fellow well met,'--no other
than the stranger you yourself suspected of being a villain--and from the
tenor of their remarks, they belong to some clique of rascals. I could not
gather a very distinct idea as to what the organization was formed to
accomplish, for I could not hear all that was said; but I learned enough to
satisfy myself that all was not right. I had not mentioned the circumstance
before, for the simple reason that I wished to obtain stronger evidence
against the parties, but you have my secret--act upon it as you think
best."

This conversation will sufficiently explain itself. A father desires his
daughter to marry against her will, because a wealthy suitor proposes for
her hand, but she cannot accede to his wishes, because, we presume, she has
a romantic notion that _love_ ought to have something to do, in making
matrimonial connections.

The father was somewhat taken aback by the revelations of the daughter at
the close of their interview, and left her to ponder on the subject, and,
if possible, to ascertain the truth as to the guilt or innocence of the
parties suspected.

Duffel, from some source, obtained an inkling of how matters stood, and
seeing the father, had a long interview with him in private. What was the
purport of his part of the conference, and the object he had in view, may
be gathered from the following passage between father and daughter.

"So, ho, my girl, you thought to deceive me concerning young Duffel, did
you?"

"What do you mean?"

"You would have me believe him a horse-thief and a bird for the
penitentiary?" he went on, without seeming to notice her interposition.
"Well, your well-devised scheme has failed of its object, and I have at
once revealed to me its purpose and end, and its originator."

"I do not understand you, sir!"

"Oh, no! very ignorant all of a sudden! You forgot one of the most material
portions of your revelation to me the other day, and that was _the name of
your confederate_ in concocting that story of the guilty associations of
Willard Duffel."

"I had no associate, and I have never mentioned the circumstance to a
living soul except yourself. Now, please be equally frank, and tell who
your confederate is in this plot to make your daughter out a hypocrite and
a liar?"

The father was startled by this bold demand, which, indeed, opened his eyes
to the enormity of his child's wickedness, if his charges against her were
true; but he had set his face to one point, and not being easily turned
aside from a purpose, proceeded:

"I am not to be deceived by a show of indignation and virtue, when it is
assumed for effect. You need not put yourself to the trouble of a denial or
confession; I know who is associated with you to traduce Duffel; it is no
other than the one who stands between you and the man of my choice--a poor
beggarly fellow, to whom you have taken a fancy because of his
worthlessness, I suppose. You understand who I mean. Well, he shall stand
between me and my wishes--or rather between you and good fortune--no
longer."

Indignation, surprise, wonder, fear, resentment, and a hundred other
emotions filled the mind of the daughter during the delivery of this
address; but amid them all, there was a purpose as fixed as that of her
sire's to have a voice in the matter of her own disposal. But before
anything further transpired, the father cast his eyes out of the open
window, and seeing a gentleman approaching, said:

"There comes that beggarly dog now! I must go and meet him."

And without further ceremony or explanation, he immediately left the house.

It would be a difficult task to portray the feelings of the daughter at
this moment. She saw that her father was incensed, but the sorrow that this
circumstance would otherwise have engendered in her bosom, was lost in the
feeling that an outrage had been perpetrated upon her rights and
sensibilities, and she felt the blood of indignation coursing through her
veins, and mounting her temples and brow. How could she help these
emotions, when she _knew_ that injustice had been done--that she had been
insulted by an implication of falsehood, when she was conscious of a free,
full and honorable rectitude of purpose, and that, too, by her own father!
These thoughts rushed through her mind with lightning speed, and the tears
forced themselves to her eyes--tears half of sorrow, half of anger.

But now a new source of anxiety, mixed with alarming apprehensions, took
possession of her distracted mind. Her father had left the house abruptly,
and looking in the direction he had taken, she beheld him in violent
conversation with Charles Hadley, the only man for whom she had ever
entertained sentiments of tender regard, the only one to whose "tale of
love" she had listened with quickened pulses and beating heart, the only
one to whom she had plighted her faith, with whom exchanged vows of love
and constancy. And her parent had just termed him beggarly! What could be
the cause of his dislike? and for what purpose had he sought the young man
in so strange and unaccountable a mood? and what was the nature of the
interview between them?

Such were the thoughts that hurried across the mind of the young girl; and,
hardly knowing what she did, she stole up to her chamber-window, which was
in full view of the gentlemen, and placing her ear in a listening attitude,
bent all her energies to gain a knowledge of what was said; and, having so
much at stake, we must excuse the exceptionable act.

"It is not worth while for you to deny it, Hadley, as I have the most
positive proof of your designs."

These were the first words that greeted the daughter's ears, and they sent
a chill to her heart. She knew that her lover was impetuous, and feared the
charge made against him, which she could not but perceive was a grave one,
would cause him to commit some rash or unguarded act, the results of which,
in the existing state of affairs, would be unfortunate. His reply, however,
was calm, and his manner cool and self-possessed, and she listened to the
remainder of the conversation with breathless attention and intensely
absorbed interest.

"Pray, sir, will you be so kind as to give me the name of the individual
who has dared to accuse me of a base plot? You certainly cannot refuse so
small a request, and yet of such great importance to me, as it gives me the
only possible chance of clearing myself from the groundless charges
preferred against me so invidiously."

"I do not feel disposed to reveal the name of my informant, as it would
lead to an unpleasant rencounter, and result in no good. Suffice it to say,
he enjoys my entire confidence, and that I give to his words the fullest
credit."

"Sir, I must consider this a very strange course for a gentleman to pursue.
You are evidently laboring under a serious mistake, and it would give me
the greatest pleasure to convince you of the fact, would you allow me to do
so; but as I cannot do that, will you permit me to hold a moment's
conversation with your daughter?"

"Why, sir, it was to prevent that very thing that I met you here. No, I
cannot grant your request; and hereafter you will please consider my
daughter as a stranger, and my door as closed against you! Not a word, sir;
not a word--my resolution is taken unchangeably. I can not and will not
permit my child to associate with those whom I know to be unworthy. Sir, I
will hear no word of explanation! Go!"

Hadley felt the unkindness and injustice of Mandeville's remarks, and had
he merely consulted his own feelings, he would have retired at once, and
never again intruded himself upon the society of one who could show himself
so destitute of the characteristics of a gentleman. But there was another
than himself that must suffer should he go, as his feelings prompted, from
the premises of her father forever. Love was all-powerful in his breast at
that hour, and choking down the rising emotions of anger and excitement, he
attempted to reason with the stern man before him.

"But you surely," he commenced, "do not mean to drive me from your door
without a hearing? You certainly are too much of a gentleman for that."

"I mean, sir, that I will allow no base, thieving miscreant to enter my
house; nor will I permit a daughter of mine to hold intercourse with such
villains! And more than that, I will tell you, sir, that I am not to be
dictated to, as to whose company I shall keep, or whom admit to my house,
by any such worthless, gallows-deserving scamp as yourself!"

This was more than Hadley could bear. He had resolved not to become
excited, but anger rose in his bosom in spite of his will, and he answered
in deep, excited tones:

"Sir, no man can apply such epithets to me and go unchastised. I demand a
recantation of your unfounded charges, and an apology for their utterance."

And as he spoke he assumed a menacing attitude. Rage at once filled the
breast of Mandeville, and instantly rendered him altogether ungovernable.
He raised his clenched fist, as if to strike the young man, and hissed
savagely between his set teeth:

"Insolent villain! do you dare to insult me thus at my own door! Away in a
moment, or I'll smite you to the earth without another word!"

Hadley stood still.

"Go, vile dog! I say; go!" and he drew back his arm to strike.

At this moment, a piercing shriek arrested the attention of both gentlemen.
It was a deep wail of agony, as though it came from a crushed heart. It
emanated from the house, and the first motion of the two in conversation
was to start forward in that direction; but recalling the words of the
proprietor, that he was never to enter his dwelling again, Hadley paused
and turned away, but loitered about the premises till he saw the father
ride off in great haste toward the nearest village, and speedily return,
quickly followed by a physician; then he left, with a vague feeling of
dread laboring at his heart.



CHAPTER II.

THE EAVESDROPPER.


As Eveline Mandeville had mentioned the circumstance of having overheard
the conversation between the two worthies, related, in the first chapter,
to no one but her father, it becomes a matter of curiosity to know how
Duffel had come in possession of the secret. A very few words will explain
the matter. Like most persons who feel a consciousness of want of rectitude
of purpose, he felt desirous to learn what other people thought of him,
fearing his evil intentions might possibly manifest themselves in some
manner unnoticed by himself; and as he had most at stake with the
Mandevilles, he was proportionally more interested in the opinions they
might entertain respecting his life and character, than in those of any
others. He accordingly resorted to the mean and cowardly expedient of
eavesdropping, in order to gain a knowledge of the standing he occupied in
the estimation of this family, particularly with regard to the father and
daughter. He would approach the house unobserved and listen at some point,
to overhear the conversations that took place in the family circle!

He was thus occupied during the conference of parent and child, above
referred to, and learned, to his great joy, that in the father he had a
warm advocate, but with equal chagrin that the daughter had no good-will
toward him; a fact, however, that he had more than suspected before; but,
having taken a fancy to her, and the prospect of obtaining with her hand a
good property being a still stronger motive, he had set his heart upon
making her his bride, even though she might detest him as a companion.

But when he heard the revelation made by the daughter to her father, at the
close of their interview, concerning his association with the suspicious
stranger and probable connection with some secret body of villains, and
perceived the marked effect it had upon the latter, he became alarmed for
the success of his schemes, and seeing the conversation was ended, hastened
away, ere he should be discovered, to invent some plan whereby to
counteract the effects likely to produce a permanent feeling against him.

After long and deep thought, during which scheme after scheme was suggested
to his mind, turned over, examined, and abandoned, he finally hit upon an
expedient that suited his purpose exactly, and at once resolved to act upon
it. For this purpose he sought and obtained a private interview with Mr.
Mandeville, as already intimated, in which he began the development of his
plot as follows:

"I have sought this interview with no idle purpose, Mr. Mandeville," he
began. "You are already aware of the deep interest I feel in your daughter,
and how intimately my future happiness is interwoven with her good
opinion. That good opinion, I have the best of evidence to believe, is
being undermined by one to whom you have ever been kind, but who, I am
sure, you would not wish to become your son-in-law, though he has the
audacity--if I may be allowed so strong an expression--to aspire after your
daughter's hand! Having nothing of his own to recommend him, and knowing
that I am in his way, he does not cease to traduce me to your daughter on
every occasion, and I fear the insidious poison of his oily tongue has
already had a serious effect on her mind, which, if not put an end to, will
turn her good opinion of me into dislike or even aversion. Why it was but a
few days ago that he and another fellow, a stranger in these parts, and a
very suspicious-looking chap, had a conference in private, of, to say the
best of it, a very sinister character; and, would you believe it, this
fellow disguised himself so as to appear the very personation of myself?

"I was struck dumb, sir, when these facts were put in my possession by one
of my workmen, who happened to see the villains and overhear a part of
their talk. But the worst of the story remains to be told. Either by chance
or design--and with the facts in the case I leave you to determine
which--these confederates placed themselves near a bower to which your
daughter had resorted but a few minutes previously, so that she, however
unwillingly, must have heard a good portion of what passed between them!
Only think of it! She for whom I would sacrifice all else, beholding me, as
she must suppose, under such criminal aspects!"

This most artfully told tale was not without its effect upon the father. He
believed it: how could he help it when so strongly corroborated by what his
daughter had previously told him? At the conclusion of it, he demanded,
with something of vehemence in his manner:

"Who was the despicable villain that thus dared to plot against the
interest of my family?"

"Ah, there is the difficulty," said Duffel, craftily. "I fear to divulge
names for several reasons. In the first place, I know you cannot but feel
highly indignant, and will desire to punish the criminal as he deserves;
but I have no proof that will stand in law, and--!"

"Will not the testimony of my daughter added to yours be sufficient to
convict the rascal, I'd like to know?"

"You forget that your daughter's testimony would criminate me--that she
must fully believe it was I, and no other, that was in conversation with
the stranger; for I am told that the disguise was perfect, so much so that
it is impossible your daughter should not be deceived."

"I see the difficulty."

"Well, as I was going to say, being unable to substantiate my charges, I
would lay myself liable to prosecution for slander, which must be far from
pleasant, beside giving my adversary a decided advantage over me. In the
next place, my name would be coupled with those of blacklegs and secret
villains, a circumstance far more to be dreaded than the other. But I have
a still higher motive for wishing this affair to be kept quiet--your
daughter's welfare and fair name. Pardon me for being compelled to speak of
her in this connection; it is, I assure you, sorely afflicting to me; but I
shall strive to do my duty, even with the fear of offending before my eyes.
As already shown, your daughter's evidence, either publicly or privately
given, must lay upon me the weight of crime; in addition to this, I must
now undertake the formidable task of informing you that my enemy, who I
have already told you has an eye to your daughter's hand, is regarded by
her with favor. Do not be startled; I am but telling you the plain truth,
which, unless a stop can be put to the plotting now on foot, you will but
too soon find out to your sorrow. This fellow, who desires to rival me in
the affections of your daughter, has been pouring into her ear tales of
every sort to prejudice her against me--and I fear with but too much
success. Lately, she avoids me whenever it is convenient to do so, while
she often walks out with my--no, he is too contemptible to be called a
rival.

"You now see the state of the case; you see on what a slippery place I
stand, and how much need there is of being wary and cautious where and how
I step. My fair name is in danger of being tarnished; my prospects for life
blighted; my hopes destroyed and myself suspected of being the associate
of villains. And all this has been so artfully contrived, I find myself in
the meshes of the net woven to entrap me, ere I had become aware of any
designs being formed against me, or that I had enemies who were endeavoring
to compass my ruin; and, worse than all, when these overwhelming truths are
made manifest to me, and my very soul burns to extricate myself from the
difficulties that surround me, and fasten the crime where it belongs, and
crush the miscreant with his own guilt, I am tied. So encircled am I, that
every attempt I might make to escape the toils of the cowardly foe who has
laid his plans so deep and darkly, will only add to the horrors of my
situation. Pardon me, then, for withholding the name of him who is striving
to rum me; but oh, if possible, save your daughter from his grasp!"

"How can I without knowing his name? Eveline has much company and many
admirers; but of all the number, I can fix upon no one to suspect."

"There it is again! My God! what am I to do?"--and with these words, Duffel
paced up and down in the greatest apparent distress.

"You surely can trust _me_ with his name?" suggested Mr. Mandeville.

"True, I can trust you with anything, only that I fear your indignation
will betray me."

"Never fear; for once I will keep cool at all hazards."

"I make one solemn condition: you must never, under any circumstances,
reveal the name of your informant to either your daughter or my enemy."

"Why this restriction?"

"I have already explained why as far as _he_ is concerned."

"But Eveline?"

"Oh, I have a different reason for desiring her to be kept ignorant of my
connection with her friend's exposure,"--and as he said this, the fellow
actually blushed and seemed much embarrassed.

"I do not understand you."

"Well, you see this friend of hers--I must again ask pardon for associating
her name with his so frequently, be reassured I do it with pain--as I have
already remarked, has ingratiated himself into her good opinion, and
knowing me to be in the way of the accomplishment of his wishes, he has
prejudiced her against me, and done so in such a manner as to induce the
belief in her mind that I am his bitterest enemy, and would use any means
to do him an injury or blacken his character. Hence, if she were to know
that anything came through me, she would at once set it down as false and
slanderous, which would drive her farther from me and nearer to the other,
thereby hastening the very calamity we would avert."

"I see you are right, having given more attention to the subject than I
have. I will never mention your name in connection with this matter, to
either my daughter or any other, without your permission."

"Thank you. Leaving all after action on your part to be as your judgment
shall dictate, I have nothing more left me to do in this trying interview,
than to reveal the name of the intriguer--it is Charles Hadley."

"_Charles Hadley!_" exclaimed the father in astonishment.

"It is none other than he."

"I could hardly have believed it of him."

"Nor I. Such depth of depravity is truly inconceivable to an honorable
mind."

"I remember now, he has been somewhat familiar with Eveline; but I had no
idea the beggarly dog would dare think of marrying her. I must see to this
immediately."

"Remember to be cautious for my sake."

"Don't fear on that ground."

Thus the interview ended, Duffel having accomplished more by it than he had
expected. The more Mr. Mandeville thought on the subject, the more
thoroughly he became convinced of Hadley's guilt. Did not Duffel's
statement correspond precisely with that of his daughter? and how could it
be so without being true? It was an impossibility. The more he reflected,
the deeper became his conviction of the guilt of Hadley and of the
existence of a plot to defame Duffel. Another idea suggested itself: "Was
his daughter an intentional or an unintentional party to these
transactions? Might not her dislike of Duffel and her preference for Hadley
induce her to seek for some means to accomplish the disgrace of the
former?" While he was weighing this supposition in the balance of his mind,
he chanced to see his daughter walking with Hadley, and their manner of
conversation and the evident good-will existing between them, led him, in
his bewildered state, to conclude that Eveline was not as free from
implication as she might be. After harboring this thought for a day or two
longer, he charged her with the crime of confederating to injure Duffel, as
already related. Had he known that Duffel's story was made so fitly apt,
simply because he had basely eavesdropped and sacrilegiously listened to
the sanctitude of a conversation at the domestic hearth, how different
would have been the result!



CHAPTER III.

THE INVALID.


When Mr. Mandeville entered the house, as related at the close of the first
chapter, he found Eveline lying on the floor of her room, in a state of
insensibility. All his efforts to arouse her were unavailing, and leaving
her in the care of the distracted housemaid, he hastened off for the
doctor. When the stunning influence was removed, Eveline was still
unconscious. A burning fever was in her veins, and delirium in her brain.
All night long the doctor remained by her bedside, and when morning at
length compelled him to visit other patients, he left with an expression on
his countenance, which caused anything but a hopeful sensation in the
father's breast.

Days of anxiety and nights of sleepless watching passed away, and yet the
father, with pale cheeks and heavy heart, sat by the bedside of the
afflicted. No mother had she, that kind parent having several years before
been laid in the cold grave; and the father strove to make up for the loss
as far as he could understand the necessities of a sick-room; and, indeed,
he became wonderfully gentle in his attentions. His touch was trained to be
light and soft as a woman's, his step quiet, and his manner subdued. He
would leave the room only for a few minutes at a time, and then return with
an air of impatience, but it often happened that for hours together he
would allow no one to share the duties of nurse with him, though the best
of aid was always at hand. And he had a reason for this singular course of
conduct. Eveline frequently raved in her delirium, and words would then
fall from her lips which he would not have others to hear for the wealth of
India. Why? Listen for a few moments:

"Oh, how dark! all dark! Nothing but clouds! No sun, no moon, no stars!
When _will_ morning come? Who made it dark? Oh, God! that my father, my own
father, should do this!"

Thus would the unconscious child talk into the very ear of her parent,
often wringing her hands and manifesting the utmost distress. Then her
thoughts would take another direction, on this wise:

"What a load is on my heart; oh, so heavy! It weighs me down to the earth.
Who will take it away? Alas, there is no one to pity me! No one will come
to me and lift this great burden from my bosom; and it is crushing the
life-blood from my heart! Hark! don't you hear the drops fall as they are
pressed out? Patter, patter, patter! Well, it will soon be over; they will
see the blood; yes, and _he_, my once good, dear, kind father; oh, may he
never know that _his_ hand wrung it out and wrenched my heart in twain!
Poor father! he knew not that he was killing me--me his only daughter. May
he never be wiser! Ah, I am going."

She would sink down exhausted, and lay sometimes for hours in a stupor,
after these paroxysms of excitement, and the heavy-hearted father often
feared she would never rouse again. But a higher stage of fever would
awaken her from the state of lethargy, and then the ears of the agonized
parent would be greeted and his heart pierced by words like these:

"Oh, hear him, father, hear him! I know he can explain it to your
satisfaction. How can Charles bear such charges? I wonder at his patience
and self-command. Father, father! How unjust! How cruel! Do let him speak!
Convinced! Yes, on what grounds? Whose word is entitled to more credit than
that of Charles? That's it! The name--the name of the base slanderer. I
know it is some villain. Father! how _can_ you deny him the only means of
defense? 'Unpleasant rencounter!' yes, to the vile miscreants, no doubt.
'Confidence!' My life! isn't Charles worthy of confidence, too? His word
alone is worth a thousand oaths of such heartless slanderers as those that
stab in the dark! Don't get angry, Charles, he's my father. Nobly done!
How respectfully he acts when so abused and insulted! All will yet be
right. Ah! I'll tell him how I spurn the accusation! How my soul burns with
indignation that his fair name should be assailed! I am so glad he is
coming; I know he feels deeply the wrong--What!"

At this point the startled look of the poor girl alarmed the father. She
bent her head, in a listening attitude, as if eager to catch every word
that was spoken by some one in the distance. Ah, too well the wretched
parent knew on what her thoughts were running. Too well he knew where and
when the blow had fallen that smote his child to the dust--perhaps had
opened to her the gate of death. A deep, stifled, half sigh, half groan
escaped from her lips, and she murmured in a hoarse whisper:

"Father, father! you will kill your child. Oh, God! this is too much!
Turned from our door! without a word of comfort! How deadly pale he is! My
own parent to call him 'unworthy!' and then forbid him to speak!"

At this point a shriek from her lips would lift the father to his feet, the
cold drops of agony on his brow. That soul-rending cry he had heard before,
but it lost none of its horrors by being repeated. Alas, it told but too
plainly of the wreck his cruel words had made, and he trembled lest only
the beginning of sorrows was upon him. How he blamed himself for being so
rash and precipitate; and, as Eveline sunk back in exhaustion, the awful
thought kept forcing itself into his mind:

"If she dies, I am her murderer!" What a reflection for a parent over an
almost dying child! Who can measure the anguish it created in his breast?

There lay his precious child before him, prostrated by his own act,
hovering on the very brink of the grave, life trembling on a breath--and
he, oh, he might never whisper a word of comfort in her ear! Poor man! For
all this there was no repentance in his soul; it was only regret and
remorse--but oh, remorse how bitter! Not that his belief was changed as to
the guilt and innocence of the parties, for he still had confidence in
Duffel, and was fully persuaded of Hadley's evil intentions. He was glad
that the designs of the latter had been frustrated, but blamed himself for
the manner in which it had been done.

But the reflections of the unhappy man, whether of reproach, sorrow, or
regret, were ended for the time by another phase in the ever-changing
condition of the invalid. In tones expressive of the deepest wretchedness,
the daughter, once more arousing from the stupor of exhaustion, would
piteously exclaim, in low, sad accents, whose inexpressible woe pierced the
afflicted watcher's heart as with scorpion daggers:

"Gone! gone!--gone without a parting word or look! Gone, and my aching eyes
shall behold him no more! Gone, and the darkness comes over me! Oh, this
horrid gloom!--this load on my heart! Father! Charles! why do you both
leave me in this dreadful place?"

"Eveline, Eveline, my dear; your father is here; he has not left you; see,
I am by you; give me your hand."

"Did somebody call me? Who is there?"

"It is I, my child, your father. Come with me; let me lead you from this
place."

"Ah, it's a strange voice! I hoped it was dear father or Charles; but, no,
no, Charles was driven away; he is gone forever! Oh, my poor heart!--and
father, he has left me too: they are gone, and I shall die here. Oh, what
will father say when he finds me dead? Well, it is best that he is away,
for now he will not know that he has killed me. Poor, dear, kind father! I
would so much like to say farewell before I go. It might be some
consolation for him to know when I am gone that I love him still!"

Every word of these last sentences went to the father's heart. How strong
must be that affection which could still cling to him so tenderly, though
he had committed such an outrage upon her feelings with regard to another!
The distressed sire bowed his head and smote his breast. Then he knelt down
by the bedside and prayed. It was the first prayer he had offered up for
years; but, oh! how earnestly he suplicated that his child might be spared
to him. In his agonized pleading, so great was the commotion in his spirit
and the emotions of his heart, that tears, the first that had bedewed his
eyes since the death of his wife, streamed down his face. May we not hope
that his prayer was heard? But the horrors of the sick room were not yet
over. Eveline kept sleeping and waking, or rather, she lay in a state of
stupor or raved in a delirium of fever, with occasional intervals of quiet,
which sometimes lasted for hours, and excited delusive hopes in the heart
of the father, that she was better, only to plunge him again into doubt and
fear when the fever fit returned. He arose from his knees, and bending over
his child, imprinted kiss after kiss, "with all a mother's tenderness,"
upon her brow and lips. O, how rejoiced would he have been could those
kisses have conveyed to her an understanding of his feelings at that
moment! How a knowledge of his affection would have gladdened her heart!
But, no; for all the return manifested, he might as well have pressed his
lips to cold marble. After a time, the fever returned in violence, and she
resumed her distempered and broken discourse:

"Never! never! I will stay with you, if you wish me to; but marry Duffel, I
never will! Force me to? No, father, you cannot! You may drive me from your
house; you may turn me off and disown me, but you cannot make me perjure
myself before God at the altar. No, father, I will obey you in all else; in
this I cannot, and will not. If I were to go and forswear my soul in the
solemn rites of marriage, my adored mother would weep over me in sorrow, if
angels _can_ weep in heaven. No, never, never!"

"My child, my dear Eveline," said the father, tenderly endeavoring to quiet
her, "you need not fear that your father will be so cruel"--and he laid his
hand gently upon her, to assure her of his presence; but it had a contrary
effect from that he intended; she seemed to apprehend violence, and cried
out:

"Help! help! They are dragging me away to marry a villain! Will no one help
me? Where is Charles? Leave me! help!" She began to scream very loudly, and
Mr. Mandeville knew not what to do. The doctor, however, opportunely came
at this moment, and administered a soothing potion, and she became quiet.

This was the recurring succession of events in the sick chamber for the
first ten days of Eveline's illness; then there was a change; the violent
symptoms of disease were reduced, and a state of dreamy languor succeeded,
with rare intervals of excitement, and those of the mildest type; but
consciousness did not return, and the father had the satisfaction of
knowing that the secrets of the place were his own. He had now but little
fear that others would learn them, but this gleam of comfort was
overshadowed by the increased apprehensions that his child's sickness must
prove fatal. Indeed, hope had almost fled from his bosom, but he clung with
a death-grasp to the desire for her recovery, if for nothing else, that a
good understanding might exist between them. He could not endure the
thought of her leaving the world under a wrong impression of the _motives_
by which he had been actuated in the course he had pursued. As his long and
continued watching had worn him down, he now left the bedside frequently to
snatch a little rest, and recuperate his exhausted powers.

And where was Hadley all this time? No fond mother ever hovered about the
cradle of her sick darling with deeper solicitude, than did he about the
residence of his beloved. He made friends of the nurse and maid, and from
them and the doctor kept himself advised of her condition. Oh, how his
heart ached to be by the bedside of the sufferer! How, at times, his spirit
rebelled at the injustice of the father! But when he was told of his
devoted attention, tireless care, and deep distress, he forgave him in his
heart and blessed him for his devoted kindness to the invalid.

But where was Duffel? Let the sequel tell.



CHAPTER IV.

DUFFEL--THE SECRET CAVE AND CLAN.


For the first few days of her illness, Duffel came to inquire after
Eveline. Finding that she was likely to remain sick for a length of time,
if she ever recovered, he excused himself from further attentions by
pleading the necessity of a previous engagement, which would probably
require his absence for a week or possibly a fortnight. With apparently the
deepest solicitude for the recovery of Eveline and of sympathy for Mr.
Mandeville, he took his leave.

When a little way from the house, he muttered to himself:

"Well, I am free from the necessity of keeping up appearances here any
longer. Now for the _cave_!"

In a short time, he was threading his way through the forest, mounted on a
fine animal. A narrow path lay before him, which he followed for some
miles, and then turned into the untrodden wilderness and wound his way
through its trackless wastes. There were no signs indicating that the foot
of man or domesticated beast had ever pressed the earth in those solitary
wilds; yet Duffel seemed familiar with the place, as was evident from his
unhesitating choice of ways and careless ease. He knew by marks, to others
unseen, or, if seen, their significance unknown, that he was moving in the
right direction. Having traveled several miles in this way, he at length
came to a beaten path, at right-angles with the course he had been going,
into which he guided his noble beast. After pursuing this latter course at
a rapid rate for more than an hour, he again turned off into the woods,
and, guided by the same mystic signs as before, shaped his course with
unerring precision, notwithstanding the forest was so dense and overgrown
with underbrush as to render it almost impervious to sight, and to an utter
stranger a bewildering labyrinth, from whose mazes he might labor in vain
to extricate himself, unless, indeed, he possessed the almost instinctive
tact of the Indian, or the thorough knowledge of the most experienced
backwoodsman.

Why Duffel was so obscurely careful in selecting his way, will presently be
seen. In the direction last taken, he traveled on until the sun was bending
to the western horizon, when he came to a thicket of bushes and vines, so
compact in growth it seemed an impossibility to enter it, even in a
crawling position, without the aid of an ax and pruning-knife. Glancing
this way and that, as if to assure himself that no one was near, a
precaution that might almost be set down as a useless exhibition of
timidity in that wild out-of-the-way place, so far from the habitation of
civilised man. Duffel, when satisfied that no human eye was upon him,
dismounted, and leading his steed by the bridle a short distance to the
left, paused, looked around him again, and then lifting a pendant prong of
a bush, with a very slight exertion of strength, he moved back a large mass
of vines and branches, which had been with great care and ingenuity, and at
the expense of much labor, wrought into a door or gate of living
durability.

Through this gate-way he first sent his horse, then entered and passed
through himself, carefully shutting the verdure-hidden door behind him, and
no eye could discover the place where he had disappeared.

From this entrance, a road, some five or six feet wide had been cut out
into the middle of the thicket, which was a large open area covered with
grass and shaded by bushy trees, of small altitude, with wide-extended
branches. Arrived at this spot, Duffel unsaddled his horse and turned him
loose to crop the luxuriant grass. A dozen others were there before him,
and as it was impossible that they should get there unaided, their riders
were no doubt somewhere near. But this was something expected by the
new-comer, as he manifested no surprise thereat, but appeared well pleased
at the discovery.

After looking about to see that all was well, Duffel bent his steps toward
a certain point in the environing thicket, and lifting a small bough,
opened another verdant door, but this time of such small dimensions as to
barely admit a single person. A narrow path led away from this
artfully-contrived entrance into the dark and tangled recesses beyond. It
was now growing late; twilight was over the world, but it was quite dark
where the intertwined foliage of vines and branches wove their impenetrable
net above and at the sides of the lonely path, and Duffel was obliged to
feel his way with care. A few minutes' walk, however, brought him to the
border of a stream of some considerable size, the banks of which formed the
boundary of the thicket. Precisely at the spot where he reached the stream,
was a projecting rock, covered with a luxuriant growth of underwood, vines
and flowers, which overhung its outer edge and draped down, like a thick
curtain, to the depth of eight or ten feet. This rock extended some fifty
yards up the stream from the place where Duffel stood, and outwardly about
an average of four feet. Its peculiar formation, however, was hid from view
by carefully trained bushes at its lower extremity. This care had been
taken to hide a secret passage, which led along the bank, under the
table-leaf rock just described.

Duffel again took the precaution to cast wary looks about him, in all
directions; then parting the bushes at its opening, he entered the secret
passage under the rock and groped his way along. About midway, he came to a
pillar-like rock, which entirely blocked up the path. Turning sharply to
the left, he felt his way a short distance, and came to an aperture in the
wall-like stone. Here he paused a moment, and bent his ear in a listening
attitude; then gave three distinct raps upon some substance that filled up
the gap.

"Who is there?" was demanded in a stern voice from within.

"A friend," was the reply.

"The pass-word."

"_Death to traitors!_"

"Enter!"

And a massive door was thrown back, through which Duffel passed and found
himself in a dimly-lighted and damp entrance-way, which pursuing for a
short distance led him to a spacious cave, which was now brilliantly
illuminated by many lights that were reflected from a thousand polished
surfaces of crystalline rock. So soon as he entered, a sentinel-watchman,
whose duty it was to proclaim the names of all new-comers, announced him
thus:

"Lieutenant Duffel!"

"Welcome to the Secret Cave!

"Welcome is a brother brave!" was the greeting he received from a score of
voices whose owners came forward and took him cordially by the hand.

Most of the band there assembled were rather good looking men; but there
were a few dare-devil marked fellows, whose sinister countenances bore the
imprint of crime and an expression of anything but honesty or goodness;
hard-featured and hard-hearted, they had doubtless committed deeds
entitling them to a familiar acquaintance with the halter.

Duffel had been in the cave but a short time, when the attention of all was
arrested by the announcement:

"The captain! Let the brethren of the _Secret League_ do him honor."

Every one present immediately uncovered his head and stood up, observing
the most profound silence.

The captain did not enter at the place that had given ingress to Duffel,
but made his appearance from an inner chamber, which communicated with the
outer or large cave by a narrow passage between two pillars of rock. A door
was nicely adjusted to work upon one and fasten upon the other of these
pillars. When shut, the most experienced eye, unless by the closest
scrutiny, could not detect its existence, so perfect was the workmanship,
and so exactly perfect in match of color with the surrounding walls of the
cavern. This inner room was set apart for the captain's special use, and no
one dared to enter it, except by his permission or invitation. More of it
hereafter.

The captain wore the same dress as the other genteel portion of the band,
and there was nothing to distinguish him from the rest, except the military
hat and epaulets which he wore, or omitted to wear, as circumstances or
inclination dictated. As he advanced from the door of his chamber, he was
respectfully saluted by all his followers, and then, by two officials,
escorted to a carved seat, on a raised platform, at one end of the cave.
There was very little form or ceremony used on ordinary occasions, as it
was an established custom among the members of the Secret Clan to conduct
all their affairs on the most republican plan. In certain cases, the
captain's word was law, and the penalty of disobedience to it, death; but
all the laws, rules, and regulations of the order were passed by a vote of
the clan.

The captain himself was a full-sized and rather good looking man, with the
exception of a sinister expression of countenance, which instantly conveyed
the impression:--beware of him! Had Eveline been present, she would
instantly have recognized him as the stranger whom she had seen and heard
in conversation with Duffel.

After he had taken his seat, Duffel was placed in one at his right, and
another of the staff in one at his left hand.

"Is there any unfinished business before the order to-night?" demanded the
captain.

"None," replied an individual who acted as secretary.

"Any reports from committees?"

"I have one from the committee appointed to investigate the charge
preferred against Mayhew, of treason to the order. It is brief, as follows:
The committee, on whom was imposed the duty of investigating the charges
entered against Philip Mayhew, beg leave to report, that they have had his
case under strict advisement, and after a careful examination of all the
evidence, and a patient hearing of his own allegations, found him guilty as
charged. He will give the order no more trouble--his tongue is silenced!

"B. HUBBEL, _Ch'n._"

The report was accepted, and the committee discharged. No other written
report was made, and the captain said:

"The secretary will burn the parchment containing the report just read, in
the presence of all the brethren, that they may know nothing remains on
record, which, under any possible contingency that might arise, could be
used against them."

The paper was burned, as directed, in accordance with the usages of the
order.

"What success have the brethren had in the way of _business_ since our last
meeting?"

"I have taken two horses," said one; "they are both in the stable of the
order."

"I have taken one horse and fifty dollars," said another; and as he spoke,
he walked up and laid down a pile of money on a salver, prepared for the
purpose, in front of the captain. All moneys were placed there for
distribution.

"Well done, Simon! How did you get the money? No foul play, I hope?"

"No, your honor; I was at Louisville, and saw the money paid to a
'subject.' I kept an eye on him, followed him into a crowd, and--put the
money in my pocket."

This brief history of rascality brought smiles to the faces of all present.

"Here are five hundred dollars," said a third, bringing forward the cash;
"it was won at the 'table.'"

Twenty others made similar reports, and when all the funds were handed
over, there was more than seven thousand dollars for distribution and
twenty horses in the "stable" of the clan.

"An unusually profitable month's work," said the captain, when this branch
of the night's proceedings was finished. "I hope the brethren will not
weary in their efforts. What other business have we to transact? Are there
any cases of delinquency to report?"

"If your honor please," said one of the hard-featured fellows before
mentioned, "I perceive Amos Duval is not with us to-night. Can any of the
brethren give an excuse for his absence?"

In response to this inquiry, another of these ill-looking customers arose,
and made known his belief, that the said Amos was not to be relied
on--that, in his opinion, he was a traitor at heart, and would betray the
order at the first opportunity.

"Are you aware," said the captain, "of the grave nature of the accusation
you have made? Permit me to remind you, gentlemen, one and all, that it is
made a crime by our laws, punishable by death, for one brother to accuse
another falsely."

"I am well aware of our wholesome laws on this subject," said the
insinuating accuser; "I do not charge Duval with being certainly
disaffected, but I have my suspicions that all is not right, and suggest,
that your honor and the brethren will do well to watch his movements. If in
my over-zeal for the good of the order I go too far in this matter, I crave
the forgiveness of the brethren."

"We appreciate your motives, but advise great care and the possession of
very strong evidence of guilt, by the accuser, ere charges are preferred
against a member of our order. The rule on this subject must and shall be
enforced. Our worthy lieutenant, who often meets with our brother Duval,
will see him and ascertain the cause of his absence, as, also, his feelings
toward the order."

The captain was evidently not well pleased with the course pursued by these
men in regard to Duval; most likely, he suspected there was a conspiracy
between them, having its foundation on some ill will these desperadoes had
conceived against the absentee. This was really the case, whatever were the
leader's thoughts. The two had sworn to stand by each other, in all times
of need and in all matters of rascality. Duval had unintentionally insulted
one of them, hence the insinuation against him in the order. Perhaps their
case will come up again in the course of our story. So soon as this matter
was disposed of, the captain inquired:

"Are there any applications for admission into our order?"

"One, if you please," replied the secretary. "Abram Hurd wishes to become a
member with us."

"Has he been adequately examined, as to his qualifications to be numbered
with us?"

"He has, your honor, and the result is eminently satisfactory."

"Will the order pass upon the application of Abram Hurd?"

Voted affirmatively.

"The tellers will attend to their duty." Two men came forward; each
received a box from the captain. One was empty; the other contained white
and black balls. These boxes were passed to every member; that containing
the balls first.

"White balls elect; black ones reject," said the captain.

When the voting was over, the result was announced: "All white."

"Abram Hurd is then elected to become a member of our order, and will be
initiated at our next regular meeting. Let the brethren bear this in mind.
Is there any other business to be transacted?"

"None."

"The order then stands adjourned until the first Friday night of next
month."



CHAPTER V.

CONSPIRACIES.


After the adjournment of the clan, the members collected together in
various little squads about the cave, and engaged in conversation, some in
a loud, braggadocio, swaggering tone, others in low, murmuring voices,
audible only to themselves, and still others in confidential whispers. Of
those who have figured heretofore in the incidents of this story, we may
mention the hard-featured, desperado-looking fellows who had conceived a
dislike to Duval, as being very earnestly engaged in some matter among
themselves, doubtless of a vile character; it would seem, too, from their
manner, that others than themselves were not to be admitted into their
counsels, or to know the nature of their scheme, be it what it might, for
they kept casting wary glances about on all sides, as if with the intention
of guarding their circle from intrusion, and their words from being heard
by ears for which they were not intended. All the clan, however, were too
busily engaged in concerns of their own, to notice others. This fact was
observed by the ruffians, and they became less reserved and cautious in
their movements. Had one been near them at the closing of their confab, he
would have heard this fragment of a conversation among them:

"League or no League he's got to die!"

"Better be careful, or you'll have the cap'n down on you."

"---- the cap'n!"

"Beware what you say! that is treason!"

"Treason be it then! When Bill Mitchel says he'll do a thing he does it,
and all the Leagues and captains in or out of h----l can't stop him!"

"Come, come! be cool and don't make a fool of yourself; it can all be done
without so much bluster."

But, as we are not so deeply interested in the proceedings of these fellows
as in some other of our characters, we will pass from them and their
villainous plot, whatever it may be, and look after Duffel and the captain.

These two worthies had drawn aside, and were deeply absorbed in
confidential intercourse. As their conversation is of considerable
interest, we give a part of it:

"Well, Duffel, how is that affair with Miss Mandeville prospering?"

"Not so well as I could wish. The truth is I shall have a pretty hard time,
if my suit wins at all."

"Indeed! I am sorry for that; for I was strongly in hopes of receiving a
little assistance from you in the way of cash. I have been at great expense
the past few months, and need a little aid just now, to finish the
necessary fixtures for our south-western branch. You know it takes a mine
to fit up a cave such as that was and is to be."

"I am really sorry that things have turned out as they have. I expected,
when I mentioned this matter before, that ere this time I should have
consummated the affair; but I am far less sanguine of success now than at
any previous time. Mr. Mandeville favors my suit, but the daughter has
taken a dislike to me and--"

"Ho, ho! I thought you were always victorious with the women."

"So I have been until now, and I am by no means vanquished yet, in this
instance; but I have a rival in the way, one, too, that had possession of
the citadel of her heart, ere I became a candidate for her hand; that makes
a great difference, you know; then, to make the matter worse, I knew
nothing about the state of the case until I had spent a length of time in
wooing, all to no purpose, because of my ignorance. But enough of this. If
worst comes to worst, rivals must be got out of the way."

"Be guarded there, Duffel; a resort to foul means must never be had until
every other method has been 'tried and found wanting.' Remember that. One
murder will do more against us than fifty thefts or robberies."

"I know all that, captain, and shall not peril the existence of our
organization, or even the safety of one of its members, except necessity
compels to the act; but I think there will be no need of adopting extreme
measures in the present case. I have a different plan of operations marked
out, which, with your assistance and approval, I will first act upon, and
if _it_ fails, then something else afterward."

"Well, proceed; I am all attention, and will not fail to render such
assistance as shall be in my power, though you know my time is limited."

"I shall not draw upon you for much aid; an hour is all the time it will
require for your part of the performance. But before you can appreciate the
merits of my scheme, it is necessary that I should make some explanations.
You remember the conversation we held in old Marshall's garden?"

"Yes."

"Well, it turned out that Miss Mandeville was in the arbor and overheard a
part of what passed between us."

"The devil she did!"

"Yes, but only enough to excite her suspicions that there was something in
the wind--nothing definite or satisfactory, so that we may consider
ourselves safe on that score."

"But, between you and me, Duffel, I don't like these suspicions; they are
apt to lead to something worse."

"True; but in this instance I think such will not be the result. However, I
must be frank with you, and I hope, if I have gone too far in any point,
you will pardon me, for I did the very best that could be done under the
circumstances, I think. As I said, Miss Mandeville heard a few words that
passed between us at the time referred to, and when, a short time
afterward, her father urged upon her the propriety of accepting me as a
suitor for her hand, she must needs tell him of this little incident!"

"Worse and worse!"

"Not so fast. I know it is bad, and I knew then that something of a
decisive kind must be done in order to relieve myself from the dilemma into
which this little untoward circumstance had placed me. I remembered that on
that occasion you were somewhat disguised, so that in your natural state,
or in any other disguise you might wish to assume, it would be impossible
to identify you as the same individual. Well, after long deliberation, and
the formation and abandonment of many projects, I finally had to settle
upon one, which, in your then appearance, compromised your character to
some degree; but I hope the course I pursued, notwithstanding this
unpleasant part connected with it, will meet your entire and cordial
approbation. Indeed, had I not felt certain of this, I should not have
adopted the measures I did."

Here Duffel gave the captain a history of the events narrated in chapter
second. When he finished his recital, the captain said:

"Why, Duffel, you are the very devil at a plot! I had no idea you could act
the part so well--I shall certainly use you hereafter. But now for the rest
of your scheme; if it is half as well matured as the first part, I shall
certainly join you in it with all my heart."

"Well, you see, I have already deceived the old gentleman, but he must be
kept deceived; it will not do to let first impressions wear off, or all
will be lost. From all that I can learn, he is very tender toward his
daughter since her illness, and it is not unlikely will yield to her
wishes, if she recovers, more than he has done heretofore; but in order to
keep his suspicions of Hadley excited, while he still retains his good
opinion of your humble servant, his mind must be plied and his prejudices
kept alive, so as to counteract the effect likely to be produced by a
father's feelings for a suffering child. In other words, the growing
sympathy for his daughter, must be met by a countervailing distrust and
aversion toward Hadley. To accomplish this I have hit upon the following
plan."

Here he drew the captain still further from the others, and, in low and
smothered tones, imparted to him his scheme, which was no doubt a
villainous one, as it drew from his auditor and confidant an exclamation to
this effect:

"By my soul, Duffel, you are an adept in these matters! I never dreamed of
your being so deep a plotter! The world and your friends, also, have done
you injustice by not giving you credit for so ample a development of such
rare ability to deceive. Success to your plans. I will gladly second them,
as far as the part allotted to me is concerned, with a hearty good will.
But what think you I had best do?"

"Taking everything into consideration, I think the best thing you can do
for us all is to go down south, or to St. Louis, and remain for a length of
time, perhaps till I send you word of what is transpiring in this part of
the world."

"What will be done about our next meeting? You know we have an application
on hand."

"Let the meeting be postponed; or, if you see fit, I will attend to the
initiation in your absence. Choose yourself between the two measures."

"I will let you preside at the meeting, then; we have need of a few
additions to our number, when we can find the right kind of fellows; and
from all I can learn, this Hurd is made of the right stuff. See that
everything is done strictly in order."

"I will attend to that. But had you not better announce this arrangement to
the members present? They are all here yet, I believe."

In accordance with this suggestion, those of the clan present were notified
of the captain's probable absence at their next meeting, and that
Lieutenant Duffel would act in his place in the interim, to whom all
reports must be made, and from whom all orders must emanate and be obeyed.
After this was arranged, Duffel, who was highly pleased at the working of
things, again drew his superior aside, and said:

"I have now a request to make of you, captain, which, if compatible with
your wishes and convenience, I hope you will see fit to grant."

"I shall be most happy to grant anything in my power, be assured of that
fact."

"I know your good will and generosity are great, or I should not ask the
favor I am about to crave, which is, that you will allow me the use of your
private room here during your absence. I have a particular reason for
desiring this favor."

"I perceive so by your earnestness. I hardly know how to grant your
request, without delaying my departure."

"Oh, never mind, then, I can manage to get along without it."

"No, you shall have it. I mind now of a method by which all necessary
arrangements can be made to-night; and you may find it a very convenient
place to tame some obstinate fair one. Oh, not a word; I understand these
matters. Excuse me for a couple of hours, and I will bring you the key."

With these words, the captain went to his room, into which he had no sooner
entered, than Duffel sought the presence of the desperadoes, two of
whom--the ones that had taken a dislike to Duval--he engaged in
conversation. When assured that no one was sufficiently near or attentive
to hear what passed between them, he said:

"My good fellows, I see we are alone, and I should be pleased to have a
little private and confidential conversation with you."

"We shall be happy to hear anything Lieutenant Duffel may be pleased to
communicate, and feel highly flattered by his confidence," replied one of
them, speaking for both.

"Thank you. I presume it is not necessary for me to pledge you to secrecy
in regard to any transactions that may take place, either in word or deed,
as you will feel bound by honor to look upon all confidential
communications and proceedings as sacredly and faithfully to be kept in
your own bosoms."

"You but do us justice in entertaining such opinions, and, without the
asking on your part, we most solemnly pledge our word, even unto death,
that what your honor may please to say to us shall be kept a most
inviolable secret, which nothing shall extort from us."

"I have always found you faithful, and have no hesitation in trusting you
again; but this time I have a peculiar request to make of you, one that may
lead to business out of the ordinary line of operations to which you have
been accustomed. Can I rely on you in any emergency?"

"Yes, to the very death."

"Are you easily moved by the tears and prayers of persons in distress?"

"Do we _look_ tender-hearted, your honor?"

"Well, no; I can't say that you do; but then the looks are not always a
true criterion by which to judge of the heart. A smooth face and a hard
heart may go together, so may a rough visage and warm sympathies."

"You may rely on us in that particular."

"Even if the suppliant be a helpless and beautiful woman?"

"Well, I must confess, I don't fancy meddling with feminines much. What do
you say to it, Dick; shall we pledge?"

"Dang the women! It allers looked kinder cowardly to me to see men turn
agin' the weak things and abuse 'em; it don't seem nateral, but 'pears like
a feller didn't remember his mother, or his sisters, if he had any. But if
the lieutenant has any work to do, we'll do it, women or no women. Them's
my sentiments, Bill, exactly."

"Give us your hand on it, then," said Bill. "And now, give us yours,
lieutenant, and the thing's settled."

With this, they all shook hands in token of agreement, and thus their faith
was pledged. But what a rebuke Dick inadvertently administered to Duffel in
his quaint remarks! How his vicious heart, bad as it was, must have felt
the blow, and all the more severely that it came from such a source!
However, the villain was not to be turned from his purpose, and so,
pocketing the unintentional affront, he proceeded:

"As you have already heard, our most worthy captain will be absent on
important business for some time to come, and during the period of his
absence the duties of command will devolve on me. I have long been
contemplating a measure, which, if carried out, will be of great and
lasting benefit to our order. In order to conduct the affair to a
successful termination, it may become necessary to imprison a female, a
young lady of great beauty and accomplishments, in this cave. I do not know
that it will require such extreme measures as this, I hope it will not, but
should it become needful to go to this extreme, I shall desire your aid in
carrying her off."

"We'll be with you, as we have already pledged ourselves; but we must ask,
as a favor in return, that you allow us to settle a personal affair with
Amos Duval."

"Of what nature? You know he is a member of the _League_, and that it is a
crime to lift a hand against him."

"We know all about that; but Duval is a traitor at heart, and we can prove
him such."

"Then proceed against him in the order, and I will stand by you."

"That's just what we want; first to prove him worthy of death by our laws,
and secondly, to be allowed to execute the sentence pronounced against
him."

Duffel could not but see that there was a discrepancy between the first and
last request of these fellows, though they tried to make them appear as
one, and he knew there was personal enmity at the bottom of the whole
affair. His duty, as a member of the order, made it obligatory for him to
discourage any ill feeling among the members; but he needed the services of
these two rascals, and so forbore to reprove them.

"I will aid you as far as my duty to the League will permit, provided you
will do me still another service."

"Name it."

"There is a fellow standing in my way in the prosecution of a scheme for
the benefit of our order, and I would like to have him removed. I
understand you with regard to Duval; you wish to be revenged upon him for
some injury or insult, and that revenge looks to his death. You need not
say, yea or nay; well, we will stand by each other all around. I will give
you further instructions at another time. Hold yourselves in readiness at
any moment to aid me. Meet me in the forest by the old oak, on the path to
the 'Swamp,' every day, and be always prepared for either of the services I
may require at your hands."

"You may rely on us."

Thus these worthies parted. What a series of villainous conspiracies had
been developed in this one night, in that secret den of iniquity! Will
these murderers succeed in all their plans? Alas! the wicked often triumph.

The captain soon returned, and placed the key of his room in Duffel's
possession--and then the clan dispersed.



CHAPTER VI.

PLOTS DEVELOPING.


"Charles, Charles! Where is Charles?"

This name and inquiry were often repeated by Miss Mandeville as she still
lay "between life and death," on her couch of fever, pain and
unconsciousness, and the tones of her voice were so full of sorrow, the
father's heart melted at last, and he began to relent. And when, after a
pause, his daughter would continue:

"He is gone! gone!--gone forever!--ah, my poor heart!"--in accents more
sadly plaintive than any words that had over fallen upon the parent's ear,
he said to himself:

"It must not be! Hadley shall be, sent for; she loves him, and his voice
may call her back to consciousness. I cannot bear to think of her leaving
the world in ignorance of her father's good will; better a thousand times
that Hadley should be with her for a few hours. He may not be guilty after
all. Why ought I to believe Duffel's word before his? Yes, and before that
of my own daughter, too? and that without a word of explanation! No, it is
unnatural. I wonder I have been blinded so long! Yes, Hadley shall be
heard, and if he can show a clean hand, Eveline shall no longer mourn over
his absence and my rashness."

This was going a step farther than Mr. Mandeville had ever gone before: for
he had never been known to recede from a position once taken or to change
an opinion once formed, unless the most positive evidence compelled him to
do so, and then it was a silent acquiescence to the right rather than a
willing change of opinion.

But a long continuance in the sick room, and the great distress of his
child, had had an effect upon his mind, which no amount of reasoning could
have produced--he was constrained to acknowledge himself in error, and
brought his mind up to that point where he was willing to confess the wrong
he had perpetrated, by "undoing what he had done amiss." This was a great
achievement for one of his temperament--a conquest over self in a very
selfish and stubborn nature--which gave evidence that there was yet an
under strata of good, a foundation to the character of the man, which,
though covered up by the rubbish and rank growth of pride and other
unamiable dispositions, still existed, and was capable of exciting to good
and noble deeds.

Having once gained the consent of his mind and formed a resolution to
retract, he was not long in taking the initiatory step toward amendment.

He inquired of the maid and nurse if Hadley had been seen, and learned from
them that he had been in the daily practice of asking after the condition
of Eveline, and that for this purpose he came to a certain designated spot,
where one of the two met him to impart such information as he desired. No
sooner was Mr. Mandeville put in possession of this piece of news, than he
resolved to meet Hadley at the place of conference himself, and then and
there recall his words and invite him to the house, from which he had been
excluded so unjustly. Verily this was a change!

Acting upon this resolve, he walked out in the direction of the place where
Hadley was expected to make his appearance. As he leisurely sauntered down
the path and neared the spot, his eye fell upon a piece of paper folded up
in the shape of a letter. He picked the document up and examined it. It was
directed in a bold hand to

  "_Charles Hadley_, ---- ----, ----."

On the back of the letter and above the seal were the words: "_Private and
strictly confidential_," placed in such a manner as to catch the eye at a
first glance on either side of the letter. The seal was broken and the
letter bore ample evidences of having been carefully and repeatedly read.

An irresistable desire to examine the contents of this paper took
possession of Mr. Mandeville, and in spite of the breach of good manners,
and the violation of every principle of honor, he retired to an obscure
corner of his garden, opened and read so much of the epistle as was
intelligible to him, which ran as follows:

"_Dear Hadley_:--According to agreement, as entered into by us at our
conference in old Marshall's garden, I now impart to you the following
information, which you will receive at the hands of one of our most
trustworthy associates. You will please note the contents of this
communication, so as not to fail in the execution of that part of the
transaction assigned to you, and then burn the letter immediately, that you
may prevent the possibility of its falling into other hands, which would
lead to the most disastrous consequences--perhaps to the destruction of our
organization. When taken, bring the horses at once to the rendezvous, with
such other valuables as may come in your possession; and be sure that
everything is done secretly, and in such a manner as to avoid detection. Be
bold and determined in resolution, but cautious and guarded in action.
Yours, ---- ----, Capt."

The captain's name was written in characters, as well as all the body of
the letter, which Mr. Mandeville did not understand, and which were
evidently to be intelligible only to the members of some band of villains,
by whom the signs had been adopted as mediums of communication. At the
bottom of all was a line to this effect:

"P.S. What will the old man say when he is gone? It will be using him right
for the scaly trick he served you so recently; eh!"

What a change the perusal of this document brought about in the mind of Mr.
Mandeville! The softened expression of benevolence, which had lit up his
countenance with a glow, left it in a moment. A dark frown settled upon his
brow and clouds of blackness over his face.

All his former prejudice against Hadley returned in ten-fold strength; for
had he not the most positive proof of his villainy? Not a moment longer
waited he for an interview, but with the letter carefully stowed away in a
side pocket for future reference and use, he bent his steps back to his
house, revolving in his mind how to proceed in the present emergency. That
some great scheme of theft and robbery had been planned, with a design to
be speedily executed, was evident from the contents of the letter; but
where and when the act or acts were to be committed, it was impossible to
tell, and consequently, a very difficult matter to decide upon a course of
policy likely to thwart the designs of the rogues. After much reflection,
Mr. Mandeville concluded it was best to lay the case before the magistrate
and take legal advice how to proceed He did so. In a private conference
with that functionary, they talked over the matter. The justice was a
worthy man and a friend to Hadley, and though the evidence was overwhelming
and nearly positive of his guilt, yet he could not find it in his heart to
condemn the young man without a hearing, and was equally unable to get the
consent of his mind to make the matter public, thereby injuring the
reputation of his friend, until he could see and converse with him on the
subject. He advised Mr. Mandeville thus:

"I think the best thing we can do is to keep an eye on the movements of
this young man, Hadley, as well as upon others who may be associated with
him, if he is the villain he is here made to appear. If we institute
proceedings against him, we have only this letter to rely upon, which is
not sufficient to convict him, as there is no legible name at the bottom of
it, and no witness to corroborate the statements. If he is guilty,
premature action will give him all advantages, and enable him to clear
himself; whereas, by instituting a strict surveillance over his acts, we
may be able to get at the truth of the matter, and can then act
understandingly in the case."

Mr. Mandeville coincided with the magistrate, and then they agreed to keep
the matter strictly to themselves for the present.

"Shall I retain the letter?" inquired the justice.

"No, I wish to use it, first, and will then leave it with you," was the
reply--and thus the matter was settled between them.

While the events just related were transpiring, and at the very hour when
Mr. Mandeville was consulting the man of law, Duffel was engaged with his
two ruffian associates in a plot of villainy, which, for deep cunning and
calculation, was superior to anything he had yet conceived and carried out,
though it was but a link in the chain of criminal acts he had forged out
and was about to follow up. The two held their consultation in the
tongueless and earless solitude of a dense swamp, where none could hear
their words or learn the purport of their schemes and give warning.

"You understand about the horses, do you?" queried Duffel, after he had
been explaining some intended operation, in which horses were to be stolen.

"Yes, fully," was the reply.

"Well, the horses will be missed, and, of course, it will be known that
_somebody_ has taken them. I have a measure to propose which will throw
suspicion on the wrong track and relieve us from any fear of being charged
with the theft or even suspected of guilt."

"That's the sort! do the killing and get the halter around some other
rascal's neck. Let us hear your proposition, lieutenant."

"You have not forgotten that I mentioned to you in the cave the other
evening, that I might need your services in getting rid of a troublesome
fellow who was in my way. I did not then expect to need your services so
soon, if at all, in this branch of our agreement; but, as the horse
business is agreed upon, and as the fellow may possibly be something of a
hindrance to my plans of operation in the future, I think this will be a
first-rate occasion on which to dispose of him. As I said, somebody will be
accused of stealing the horses, and as it is known that you, gentlemen,
have recently been in these parts, and as suspicion has long since pointed
to you as having had a hand in several transactions held to be unlawful,
you will, as a matter of certainty, be designated as the thieves in this
instance, unless, by some master-stroke of policy, you can fairly show that
you are not guilty. Do you see this?"

"It all looks mighty likely, certain."

"Don't it look more than likely? Don't it look just as if it could not be
otherwise?"

"Why, yes; it does look so, that's a fact."

"Of course you would like to cast the blame somewhere else?"

"We would, that's certain."

Well, you can do it. I have already prepared the way, and if you will
follow my instructions to the letter, the thing is done?"

"Give us our parts and we will act them to the life," said Bill, who had
been spokesman for both, as was usual at such times.

"Ay," said Dick, "and to the death, too, I guess."

"Quite likely, quite likely!" rejoined Duffel. "Do you think you will have
the nerve to perform this extreme act Should it become necessary?"

"Does Lieutenant Duffel take us to be cowards, that he makes such a
white-livered insinuation?"

"By no means; I only wished to know if you were _now_ prepared for any
emergency that might come up?"

"Yes, any time and always. Go on."

"My plan is this: So soon as the horses are in our possession, we must
convey them to the middle of the 'Swamp,' and be back by morning, or noon
at furthest, _and show ourselves_. If we are about early, say as soon as
possible after the animals are missed, and _take part in the search_, few,
if any, will think of us as being the thieves, as they are pleased to term
such operators, while we can, at the same time, turn the hunt after the
horses in the direction in which they are not to be found, if we can do so
without exciting suspicions of our aims. Mark that! we must be cautious and
not overdo the thing, or it will be worse for us than to do nothing."

"We understand."

"Well, that is all on that point; but there is something more to be done;
we must direct suspicion to some one else; some one must be accused, and
_he must not be about_. You comprehend?"

"Perfectly."

"Well, I have the sheep already prepared for the sacrifice."

"Who is he, and where will we find him?"

"_Charles Hadley_ is the man, and you will find him just in the right
place--the dark passage in the road to C----; he passes that point every
night about nine or ten o'clock. You know what to do with him."

"Would it not be as well to carry him to the save and imprison him? You
know, it would not be murder, then."

"I had thought of that; but if we take him there, it will not do to let him
out again, for, if we did, it would be the end of us all; so we should
have to both imprison and murder him in the end, which would be much worse
than to put him out of the way at once, let alone the risk attending the
plan you suggest."

"Right."

"You see, then, we will have some one on whom to lay the theft?"

"Exactly! Huzza for Lieutenant Duffel!"

"Silence!"

"I beg pardon."

"Remember the time, next Thursday night, and don't fail to be at the 'dark
passage' in time."

"We'll be there, don't fear; and the thing shall be done up handsomely."

"But what's to be done with the feller's body when he's dead, I'd like to
know?" interposed Dick.

"Sure enough," replied Duffel; "I had forgotten to instruct you on that
point. Take him to the sink in that black swamp, and be sure to make him
_stay under_. We want no tell-tale carcasses showing themselves."

"You need have no fears on that point; once there and he'll never see the
light again, nor the light him."

"I will now leave you to make such arrangements between yourselves as may
be necessary for the work before you. Leave nothing incomplete, and be
punctual to the very minute in every instance."

With this parting injunction, Duffel left his villainous companions, who
began at once to prepare themselves for the dastardly business their
superior had allotted to them in his schemes of rascality and black-hearted
crime. This was Monday, in the afternoon, and consequently, but three days
until Hadley was to be waylaid and slain, and immediately afterward
somebody's horses stolen and run off, the crime of stealing which was to be
laid upon the murdered man. This was a plot worthy of the wretch who
conceived it, and, with the aid of villains as unscrupulous as himself, was
about to be put in execution.

From the moment the command of the "_Order of the League of Independents_"
(it ought have been named the Order of the League of Murderers and
Horse-Thieves) was vested in him, during the captain's absence, he had
resolved to make the most of his time and authority to bring all his plans
to a crisis and an issue. Hadley was to be disposed of; Mandeville was to
be blinded, his daughter, through him, forced to wed the rascal, or,
failing in this, _she_ was to be forced into measures, by fair means or
foul, of which hereafter.

       *       *       *       *       *

Friday morning was ushered in amid clouds and storm. The heavens were
shrouded in a pall of darkness and the rain came down in torrents. Mr.
Mandeville had spent most of the night with his daughter, and did not
retire until some hours past midnight. Having been deprived of so much
rest, during the previous two weeks and more, his slumbers were unusually
heavy, and it was a late hour in the morning when he awoke, and the dismal
weather adding to his drowsiness, he continued to lay and rest after
consciousness had returned. His half-waking, half-dreaming meditations were
broken in upon by a gentle tap at his bed-room door. In a moment he was
wide awake, care for his child having quickened his senses, and demanded if
Eveline was any worse.

"No, sir," was the reply, "it is only Mr. Duffel, who has called and
inquired for you."

"Tell him I will be down in a few minutes."

Wondering what could bring his visitor at such an early hour, Mr.
Mandeville hastily dressed and went into the parlor, where he met and was
saluted by Duffel in the most cordial manner.

"I reached home at a late hour last night," said the hypocrite, "and felt
so great an anxiety to hear from you and your daughter, I could not wait
for the storm to abate, but hastened at this unseasonable hour to inquire
after her welfare and yours. I hope I have not intruded so far but that you
will pardon my unfashionable call and seeming impatience. How is Eveline?"

"You are always welcome, come at what hour you may. I can hardly answer
your last question; I think Eveline is better in some respects, but she is
greatly reduced, and when the fever leaves, will, doubtless, be very
weak.--I both hope and fear for her. The fever will run its course, and if
she has constitution enough to outlive it and recuperate, she will
recover; otherwise the result will be fatal."

"It is impossible, then, for the most skillful and far-seeing to foretell
the issue?"

"Quite impossible. Will you now excuse me for a short time? I have not
looked after my stock this morning."

"With pleasure."

Mr. Mandeville left his guest around whose mouth a peculiar smile was
playing as he passed out at the door. That smile had a meaning.

After a brief absence the host returned, and in some consternation
announced that his best horse had been stolen during the night.

"Is it possible!" said Duffel, feigning the utmost surprise. "What villain
could take advantage of the sickness of your daughter, to plan and execute
such a cowardly act?"

"I am persuaded there are more than one connected with these thefts;
indeed, I may say, I know there are numbers of thieves infesting the
country. They are regularly banded together; and, would you believe it,
that Hadley, of whom we were once speaking, is an officer in the band, as I
have every reason to believe."

"That will exactly correspond with what I told you in the interview to
which you allude."

"True."

"Have you seen him lately?"

"I have not."

"Can he be found this morning?"

"Ah, I perceive your thoughts are running in the same direction as my own.
We will inquire after him."

The inquiries were instituted, but no Hadley was to be found; he had left
the day previous, but no one could tell whither he had gone, or what had
called him away. When these facts were ascertained, Mandeville and Duffel
exchanged a significant glance, as much as to say: "Just as we expected!"

The horse stolen was one of great value, and Mr. Mandeville was resolved to
make a desperate effort to recover him; and he was the more fixed in this
determination, because the horse was intended as a gift to Eveline on her
recovery, in case she _did_ recover, and, also, because, as he believed,
the detection of the culprit would expose the baseness of her lover to his
daughter, and cause her to discard him at once from her thoughts.--Full of
these thoughts, he offered a handsome reward for the horse, and a very
large one for the apprehension of the thief. In prospect of obtaining these
rewards, as well as to render a service to community, some six individuals
banded themselves together with the avowed intention of ferreting out the
matter, and immediately set out for that purpose.



CHAPTER VII.

FATHER AND DAUGHTER--DUFFEL.


A few days after the transactions recorded in the preceding chapter, the
fever left Eveline, and consciousness was restored to its empire and reason
to its throne. But alas! what a wreck of her former self she was! Mr.
Mandeville could scarcely restrain his tears while gazing upon her pallid
countenance and wasted form. She was helpless as a child, and so weak it
was feared the recuperative powers were exhausted, and she must die from
prostration; but a day or two of careful nursing, aided by cordials and
tonics, produced a change for the better, and in the course of ten days,
she was able to walk in the open air and happy sunshine, supported by her
father. How lightly his heart beat in his bosom, as the child of his pride
and affection leaned upon his arm, as he gently led her whither she desired
to go.

She had a little arbor in the garden, the vines about which had been
carefully trained by her own hands; it had always been a favorite resort,
and of late had become a thousand times more dear, because it was there
that she and Hadley had spent most of their happy hours. So soon as she had
sufficient strength to bear the fatigue, she requested to be taken there,
and her wish was granted. What a throng of memories came crowding through
her mind as she once more sat in that verdant bower! Every flower had a
tongue and a reminiscence, and the entire place and scene spoke of the past
in language mute but eloquent. How her heart beat with excitement, as the
many associations of other days rushed over her spirit with the lightening
wings of thought, and awakened emotions of joy and grief. While with the
past she was happy; but when the cheerless present occupied her mind,
sadness filled her heart, while shadows gathered upon her brow, and tears
in her eyes.

The father saw all this, for he watched the changes of her countenance with
the deepest solicitude. When he noted the saddened expression that came
over it, his heart was heavy, for he divined the cause. How his feeling of
bitterness toward Hadley increased, as he saw the wreck of happiness he had
made; and how he longed to expose the blackness of his character to his
infatuated daughter! He felt certain that his child would cease to regard
him as she had done, the moment she was put in possession of the facts
which so clearly established his guilt. But it would cost her a severe
struggle, and he feared she was yet too weak to sustain the shock.

At length, however, as he perceived that internal grief was preying upon
her spirits, it occurred to him that the evil resulting from this eating
sorrow, which was brooded over in secret, would be greater in the end than
the quick pang, though it should be sharp and powerful for an hour or a
day. Approaching her affectionately, and with great tenderness of manner,
he said:

"You are sad, Eveline; you are not happy, I know you are not; and yet you
do not confide your sorrow to me. Is this kind, my dear?"

"Oh, father!" and she burst into tears. He drew her head upon his bosom,
and for a short period permitted sorrow to have its way, then inquired:

"May I share my daughter's grief?"

"Father, father, do not wound my heart afresh! I fear me now it will never
heal!"

"Eveline, child, you misunderstand me. God forbid that I should add to your
sorrow; my only desire is to relieve and heal!"

"May I indeed trust in my father? Oh, what a question to ask myself! Yet--"

"Yet what? Speak fully, and let us for once open our hearts to each other
without reserve."

"Yet I fear I have had cause to make the inquiry."

"I fear so too, my dear; but let us now understand each other. I hope much
from such an understanding."

"What would you draw from me?"

"The secret of your unhappiness."

"Do you not know it already?"

"I surmise the cause."

"And you think--"

"I _fear_ it is because you love Charles Hadley."

"Why do you _fear_ that is the cause?"

"Because he is unworthy of your love."

"Oh, do not say so! Is poverty a mark of unworthiness?"

"No, it is not; if he was only poor I would give my consent to your union
to-day; but I am sorry to say he is wicked as well as poor."

"What mean you? You surely can allege nothing against one so noble, and
possessed of such pure principles, as Charles Hadley?"

"Alas, my daughter, he has basely deceived you."

"Father!"

"I would not say so on slight grounds, but it is too sadly true."

"I must have proof, strong proof, ere I can believe that he is false."

"Could you bear such an exposure?"

"Yes."

"Then you shall have the evidence of his guilt at once."

Saying this, he produced the letter before spoken of, and placed it in her
hands for perusal.

It would be impossible to describe Eveline's feelings while examining the
contents of the letter. At first, the evidence appeared so conclusive and
overwhelming her strong faith in her lover was shaken; but a second reading
and second thoughts restored her confidence, yet she could hardly account
for the change in her feelings and judgment, the evidence was just as
strong as before, and she could not help acknowledging the fact; she only
knew that she _felt_ Hadley was innocent; and she would trust this
intuitive conviction in preference to any anonymous communication that
could be produced against him. But what should she say to her parent? How
could she impress him with her own feelings, or even fix a doubt of
Hadley's guilt in his mind? While she was revolving these things in her
mind, Mr. Mandeville kept his eye upon her, and noted every change of
expression that passed over her face. At length he said:

"What do you think of that?"

The question found her still in doubt as to what she should say in defense
of her lover, but with the query came decision of purpose, and she readily
replied:

"I think it is a forgery."

"A forgery?"

"Yes, so far as Hadley is concerned. I do not believe he has ever seen it."

"You surely do not believe I would be guilty of such baseness as your words
imply."

"Oh! no, no; I do not for a moment doubt your good faith and perfect
sincerity; but I think you are deceived. How did you get possession of this
document?"

"Well, I must confess, not in the most upright manner, or rather, my
knowledge of that portion of its contents which is intelligible, was
obtained ignobly; but I cannot blame myself for the act, since it has
placed such important facts at my disposal."

Here he related the circumstance of finding and reading the letter, and
then added:

"You see the whole train of circumstances renders it impossible that Hadley
should not be the one to whom the letter was addressed. I found it just in
the place where he was in the habit of coming, a spot that no one else
frequented, and so secluded as to forbid the idea of a casual passenger
dropping it. Beside, where is there another person of the same name?"

"I frankly own there is a mystery connected with the subject which I cannot
explain, but that mystery does not convince me of Hadley's guilt."

"What incredulity! What stronger evidence do you want to convict him?"

"I desire positive assurance that the letter was actually written to and
for him; at present I do not believe that it was."

"Love is truly blind!"

"Love?"

"Yes."

"What has that to do with the case under consideration?"

"It is not worth while for you to disguise the fact that you have loved
Hadley; I know that you do or did, and your own heart knows full well how
much it has suffered through that love. Alas, that I, your own father,
should have caused you so much anguish!"

"Does my father really say that?"

"Yes, Eveline, and much more. If you only knew how deeply I have suffered,
what anguish I endured, as your fevered and broken exclamations fell upon
my ear while watching by your bedside, I think you could find it in your
heart to forgive me for the unintentional wrong, it was my misfortune, and
not my wish, to inflict upon you."

"Father, I have wronged you," said she, leaning forward and winding her
arms about his neck. "Forgive me for accusing you of cruelty and unkindness
in my thoughts."

"You had cause for such accusation, though it was farthest from my thoughts
to injure you. I did, however, once think of forcing you to wed Duffel, and
this is the only real wrong I meditated against you, and I was persuaded it
was for your good; but I see differently now--you shall never be coerced
into a union with any man against your will."

"Thank you for that assurance; it relieves me from one source of disquiet."

"I am entitled to no thanks; it is not a parent's prerogative to use
violence in such cases, though I once held differently. And let me here say
to you, that in all I have done my _motives_ were pure. I desired your good
above all else, and that I was endeavoring to procure happiness for you in
the wrong way was only an error of judgment, the incorrectness of which I
now see clearly."

"How much I have misunderstood you, and how much you have misconceived your
own heart."

"True; the world, and the opinions of worldly men, had almost buried up the
good that was in me; but the light of Heaven has shone into my spirit, the
fog is dispelled, and I see where I have departed from the right way."

"Thank Heaven for that!"

"I hope, now that we understand each other, I may dare to make a request of
you, which you may or may not feel free to grant."

"Name it."

"It is this, that you will hold no communication with Hadley until this
matter is satisfactorily cleared up, or until he can show that he is
innocent of the crimes this letter would fasten upon him."

"If it is your wish I will do so, though I should be pleased to know what
he could say in his own favor. I feel strongly confident he will be able to
prove himself innocent of all and any participation in the many thefts and
other villainies which have of late become so common. Where is he now?"

"Ah, there it is again! I have not told you that Tom was stolen some time
ago."

"Tom stolen!"

"Yes; he was taken very soon after this letter came into my possession, and
Hadley has never been seen or heard of since!"

"How?"

"On the very night that Tom was taken from the stable, Hadley disappeared,
and neither he nor the horse have been heard of since! Have I not strong
reasons for believing him guilty, as held out in this letter?"

"I must confess, this last piece of intelligence staggers my faith."

"You will now begin to understand why I took such decided steps toward him,
as a visitor here, on that memorable occasion which resulted so
disastrously. I had the strongest assurance of his being associated with
bad men for bad purposes, ere I forbid him the house. I only regret that I
acted so precipitately. I hope, however, all will come right in the end."

"God grant that it may."

Here their intercourse was interrupted by the announcement that Duffel had
called and inquired for Mr. Mandeville.--They returned to the house, and
the two gentlemen had a private interview to the following effect:

"How is Eveline?" inquired Duffel.

"I am happy to say she is very much better."

"I am truly glad to hear that she is convalescing. What do you think is the
state of her feelings in certain delicate matters?"

"I am persuaded her good opinion of Hadley has received a shock from which
it will never recover. That letter, in connection with his present
disappearance, was too much for her faith."

"And well it might be! I do not see how any one could doubt his guilt in
the face of such evidence."

"Yet I think Eveline does doubt; but that the doubt will soon give place to
full conviction, I am quite sure. Once you can fix a partially formed
belief of crime in the mind, and if the evidence continues, especially if
it accumulates, there is a moral certainty of its producing the effect we
desire in the present instance."

"How long do you suppose it will take Eveline to forget any preference she
may have had for Hadley?"

"I do not know."

"Do you not think the exercise of a little paternal authority would
accelerate the accomplishment of your wishes? I hope you will pardon me if
the suggestion is ill-timed or out of taste; it is made in accordance with
a declaration to that effect you will remember to have made to me a short
time previous to your daughter's illness."

"I have not forgotten the declaration to which you allude; it was made in
the heat of a moment of excitement; but I am frank to own that it was then
my determination to use parental authority toward Eveline, in case it
became necessary to do so, in order to bend her will to my purposes. This
intention I have entirely abandoned. I have reflected more dispassionately
on the subject; and I now see clearly that my daughter has rights as well
as myself, and that first in importance among these, is the right to bestow
herself in marriage to whom she chooses. I will continue to give you my
influence, but I have already pledged her my word that she shall be free to
make her own selection of a husband."

"You are right, sir, right. I see wherein we have both erred in our former
views; but then we were blinded, at least I was; for you know love has
always been blind. I must crave your pardon, as I would the forgiveness of
Eveline, were she present, for having entertained so unjust a thought
toward her for a single moment. Be assured, if she cannot be won by
gentleness and love, I shall never consent to make her my wife, though she
is dearer to me than life itself."

"Very well; I still feel that all will come out right, and that a peaceful
calm of sunshine will succeed the season of storm and clouds; but we must
not hurry matters; time will do more for us than we can for ourselves,
whereas haste might defeat all our hopes. At present, I do not think it
would be advisable for you to urge your suit to her; her mind is not yet
prepared to receive you with that degree of favor desirable."

"I shall act in the matter as your better judgment and clearer perception
shall dictate, and hope for the best."

And thus the interview ended. How strange that Mr. Mandeville should be so
easily deceived in regard to Duffel! and how debasingly hypocritical was
the dissembling villain! Will he never be overtaken by his crimes?



CHAPTER VIII.

THE "DARK PASSAGE"--THE THEFT.


On the appointed night, the two ruffians, Bill and Dick, repaired to the
"dark passage," according to arrangement, and with daggers and pistols (the
latter only to be used in case of necessity, as the report of firearms
might lead to detection,) awaited the arrival of their victim. About nine
o'clock, the sound of horses' feet, approaching at a rapid gait, gave them
to understand the hour of their deadly work was at hand. Taking their
stand, one on either side of the road, they silently awaited the horseman's
coming.

It was a dismal place, a low, wet valley, densely shaded and overgrown by
trees, whose thick foliage scarcely admitted a single sunbeam to penetrate
to the earth beneath. This gloomy passage was about half a mile in extent,
and at its dark center the villains had posted themselves. Their plans were
all fully matured, even down to the minute details. They were both to
spring out and seize the horse by the bridle; then, while Bill held the
animal, Dick was to strike the fatal blow to the heart of the rider. Not a
word was to be spoken. As the man entered the passage, his pace was
slackened, and he kept his eye about him, as if in fear of an attack. When
within about a hundred yards of the concealed assassins, Bill whispered to
his companion across the road:

"Now, Dick, make sure work of it; let the first blow tell the tale, while
it silences his tongue!"

"Never fear for me; take care of your own part, and I'll do the same by
mine," was Dick's reply.

In a few seconds, the horseman came abreast of the ambuscaders, both of
whom sprang out at the same moment, and seizing the bridle-reins, checked
the horse so suddenly as to throw him back on his haunches, to the imminent
peril of the rider, who was nearly thrown from his seat. In a moment, the
glittering blade of steel was at his breast. Just then, the moon broke
through a rift in the clouds, and being directly in a line with the road,
shone fully on the group and into the face of the traveler.

"By Jove! it's the wrong man!" exclaimed Dick, as he lowered his blade and
looked at Bill inquiringly.

"So it is!" said Bill; and then, addressing the stranger, continued: "Beg
pardon, sir, for our interruption. We have mistaken you for a notorious
villain, thief, and robber, who was to pass this way to-night, and who, as
the laws are too weak to protect us, we have determined to punish
ourselves. The fact is, these, horse-thieves must be dealt with, and that
speedily, too, or there will be no such thing as safety for our stock. For
our parts, we have resolved to defend our property at all hazards, and
others will have to do the same thing, or keep nothing of their own, for
these thieves are banded together, and they are so numerous, and some of
them so respectable, it is impossible to convict them before a jury; they
swear each other off. Hope you will not think evil of our plans."

"To tell the truth, gentlemen, (for I take you to be gentlemen in
disguise,) there is too much reality in what you say. I fear we shall have
to take the law into our own hands, for these depredators are becoming so
numerous and bold, there is no telling to what length their wickedness may
run. These thieving operations _must_ be stopped, cost what it may; but it
seems to me this is a bad place to commence the work; it looks too much
like secret murder. When I have recourse to the last resort in defense of
my property it will be upon my own promises, and while the villains are in
the act of crime."

"That is doubtless the best method in all ordinary cases; but the rascal
whom we were expecting to pass this way to-night is too cunning to be
caught at his work. He is well known to be guilty, and has more than once
been arrested and tried; but always with the same result; his friends have
sworn him clear; and now, we've sworn he shall go free no longer."

"Well, be careful, and don't kill the wrong man."

"We'll take care. Excuse the manner in which our introduction was made."

"Certainly, gentlemen, certainly; but don't miss your man again."

"We'll not."

"Good night."

"Good night, and a pleasant journey for you."

The man rode on and was soon out of hearing. He was the more easily
deceived as to the character of his assailants, because he knew that the
sentiments they expressed were held almost universally by the honest
portion of the community, and already several thieves had been shot at,
some of whom were known to have been wounded, though not fatally. The
miscreants knew this state of public feeling, and hence their ruse. When
the man was beyond hearing, Bill said, exultingly:

"Didn't I wool the fellow's eyes beautifully?"

"It was well done, Bill, well done--the best job you ever bossed. But say,
do you know the man?"

"No, not from the devil."

"Well, sir, it's 'Squire Williams, sure's I'm a living son of my mother!"

"'Squire Williams?"

"Yes, it is. I've known him ever since I had such hard work to get off from
him; I tell you, when I thought of the trial, I felt mightily like payin'
him off for his advice on that occasion, after I was cleared; but, think's
I, it won't do."

"It's well you come to that conclusion; we don't want over one dead man on
our hands at once. But say, what shall we do?"

"Wait a while longer for that Hadley, and if he don't come, then go to meet
Duffel."

This suggestion was accordingly acted upon. After remaining nearly three
hours longer for their victim, who came not, they repaired to the place of
rendezvous, to report to their employer and superior, and finish up the
other branch of the night's business.

Arrived at the spot, they found Duffel pacing up and down in a state of
impatience and disquietude. So soon as he was cognizant of their presence,
he inquired:

"How now? What has kept you so late? Is all right?"

"If your honor will take breath a moment between the questions, we will
endeavor to answer them," replied Bill.

"Well, proceed. Did you do the job?"

"No, not exactly as laid down in the bill, but--"

"What! did you let him go?"

"Why, no, your honor, we didn't let him go, for the very good reason that
he didn't give us a chance to show him so much mercy."

"How?"

"You see the fellow didn't come himself, but sent a substitute!"

"The deuce, he did! How's that?"

"That's what we can't tell; we only know, that instead of young Hadley, we
came within an ace of killing 'Squire Williams!"

"'Squire Williams!"

"Yes, sir. He came along at the precise hour that should have brought the
other, and it being too dark to distinguish one man from another, or from
old Nick for that matter, we fell on to him, and but for the merest chance
would have finished him."

Here the enactment of the early part of the evening was rehearsed in full.

"It is well you got off so easily, and I must give you credit for your
ingenuity; but I am exceedingly sorry the bird we were after has escaped.
However, as that cannot be helped or amended just now, we will proceed with
the rest of our work."

"What hour of the night is it?"

"About one o'clock; and that reminds me of the fact that we will not have
time to take all the stock to-night; we shall, therefore, confine our
operations to a single item--the taking of Mandeville's horse."

"Mandeville's?"

"Yes; why not?"

"I thought your honor was playing for another stake in that quarter?"

"And if I am?"

"Why, I just thought it was a queer way of gaining the old gentleman's good
will--that thing of taking his horse."

"Not so queer as you might think for."

"Oh! I remember now; excuse me; this Hadley was to be made the scapegoat;
you were to get a horse and have the blame of the theft thrown on a rival,
whose non-appearance should condemn him. I see it all now, though I did not
perceive this delicate undercurrent in the plan of affairs. Lieutenant
Duffel against the world, I say!"

"Silence! Dick, you are familiar with Mr. Mandeville's premises, I
believe?"

"Yes, tolerably so."

"Well, I want you to bring Tom here in about half an hour; and do the job
up nicely, too."

"I'll try, sir."

"You must _do_ it. Be quick; it is going to rain soon, and we must get him
away before the tracks will show; but don't so much as disturb the sleeping
grasshoppers by your noise."

"All right."

"Go now, and be here again in the shortest possible time. Bill and I will
arrange matters for future operations while you are gone."

Dick hastened away to do the bidding of his master, and Duffel communicated
to Bill the following piece of intelligence:

"I was very much in hopes the whole of our plan for to-night would succeed,
though I heard that in the evening which caused me to have misgivings on
the subject. I learned that Hadley received intelligence that his mother
and uncle were both sick and not expected to recover.--They live in
Philadelphia: the uncle, his mother's brother, a bachelor, by the way, with
whom she is living, is reputed wealthy, and, it is said, has willed his
property to young Hadley. The news of these events was brought to him
yesterday, and he made immediate preparations to go east, but did not
expect to get off until this morning. I presume, however, he must have
started yesterday in the after part of the day; but be this as it may, I
wish you and Dick to follow after him, and don't fail to finish him somehow
and somewhere. If you could only manage to get ahead of him and waylay him
at some point in the mountains, it would be the best place for you to do
the deed and conceal the commission of the act."

"Yes, if he should be alone."

"Which will most likely be the case, at least a portion of the time. But
should no such opportunity occur, or should you fail to get beyond him on
the way, you must watch for him in the city; follow him as closely as his
shadow, and in some dark alley, or at some unseasonable hour, put him out
of the way."

"Exactly."

"You understand that this _must_ be done, do you?"

"If Lieutenant Duffel says so."

"Well, I do say so, most emphatically. I am more anxious than ever to have
him settled, since this new phase of affairs has come up."

"I understand; but when are we to start?"

"Early in the morning. We will find out as soon as possible whether he
started yesterday; then you must show yourselves for a little while, as was
before determined; and as soon afterward as possible be off. Be sure to get
on the right track, and don't lose it."

"Never fear on that head. We will follow him as the lion does his prey."

"Well, I leave the matter with you; see that you acquit yourself as a good
soldier. Give Dick such instruction as may be needed.--Here he comes."

Dick rode up on the horse he had stolen, and they all immediately repaired
to the swamp, where the scheme of villainy had been planned, in the middle
of which the horse was concealed for the present, as they were unable to
take him further then without incurring great risk of detection.

The next morning after mingling awhile with the indignant crowd of
citizens, who were collected together on hearing of the theft, and pouring
out invectives on the "villain of a thief" in no measured quantity, the two
ruffians, Bill and Dick, set out on their errand of death? Learning that
Hadley had started the previous afternoon, they followed after him on two
of the fleetest horses in the possession of the clan.

It might be well enough to remark, that in those early days most of the
traveling was done on foot or on horseback.



CHAPTER IX.


On the evening of the second day of their pursuit, Dick and Bill found
themselves in the immediate presence of their victim, they having reached
the same inn at which he had already put up for the night. The meeting was
unexpected to them, and at first they feared it might frustrate their
designs; but as they had taken the precaution to throw off their usual
habiliments and character, and to assume the dress and address of
gentlemen, Hadley did not recognize them, though the impression fastened
itself on his mind, that he must have seen them and heard their voices
before, but where and when he could not remember.

The villains, from his musing manner, half suspected that he was trying to
call to mind who they were, and one remarked to the other that they had
better go out and see after their horses; but it was more for the purpose
of consulting about the affair they had in hand than for the good of their
beasts, that they wished to leave the house. When assured that they were
beyond hearing distance, said Bill to Dick:

"Well, we have treed the game at any rate."

"Yes, but I don't see as it signifies much if we have, for we can't keep
him treed, nor bring him down neither, in this place."

"But we know where he is, and that is something."

"I take it, it's but little. What can we do with him?"

"Why, we can get ahead of him and select our place for the next meeting,
and then--"

"How do you know that? We can't tell which road he will take."

"We'll find out, though."

"How?"

"By asking him."

"And exciting his suspicions. Yes, a pretty way of doing, certain."

"Never do you mind; leave that to me; and if we don't know all we want to
know by morning, you may call Bill Mitchel a fool; and the fellow won't
suspect anything, either."

"Well, go ahead, but don't make a fool of yourself, nor spoil the job we
have in hand, neither."

"I'll take care for that; only you be cautious, and don't say too much, and
when you do speak, throw off your rough manners and talk and act like a
gentleman. I am afraid you will forget yourself, and instead of being Mr.
Richard, will act the part of ruffian Dick."

"Never do you fear; 'ruffian Dick' knows what he's about, and you'll see
how handsomely he can act 'Mr. Richard' to-night."

"Very well."

With this understanding between them, they returned to the inn, which, by
the way, was a very primitive establishment, not only in construction, but
also in the character of the entertainment.

Bill worked his card so as to draw Hadley into conversation, and
incidentally, but designedly, remarked that they (himself and his
companion) had passed through C---- two days before.

"Indeed!" said Hadley; "I am well acquainted in C----. Did you hear any
news there?"

"Well, no, not in C----, but a little way beyond the town a horse had been
stolen the night previous, which caused considerable excitement in the
neighborhood."

"How far beyond was it?"

"About five or six miles, I should think."

"Did you learn any of the particulars?"

"Why, yes, pretty much all of them, I think."

"I know pretty much everybody in that region, and it may be that it was
some of my friends from whom the horse was stolen. What was the owner's
name, if you heard it?"

"Mandeville, I think; yes, Mandeville."

"Mandeville! I know him well. Has he any idea who took the horse?"

"I think he _suspects_ some one for the theft--a young man that had been in
the neighborhood, but disappeared the same night of the theft, and no one
knew where he had gone."

"In the neighborhood," repeated Hadley, musingly, as if thinking aloud. "It
must have been the stranger; and yet I thought he was gone some time ago."

"I don't think it was a stranger; they told us his name, but I do not know
whether I can call it to mind or not. Let me see, I think it was Hardy or
Hartly, or some such name."

At this juncture, Dick caught Bill's eye, and gave him a look, as much as
to say: "What the d----l do you mean?--Are you going to excite his
suspicions and send him back home to clear himself from imputation?" And
Bill as plainly replied by looks: "Never do you mind. I'll fix it up
right."

While these magnetic looks were exchanged between the murderous reprobates,
Hadley was engaged in trying to think if there was anybody by either of the
names mentioned in the vicinity where Mandeville lived, but he could
remember no one. All at once the thought struck him that he himself might
be the person accused, and the bare idea that such _might_ be the case sent
the blood to his heart and a cold shudder through his frame.--He was pale
as marble, for a moment, and the rascals saw it. Mastering his emotions, he
inquired calmly:

"The name you heard wasn't _Hadley_, was it?"

"No, that wasn't it. I heard his name mentioned, but they said he had
started for Philadelphia the day before the theft."

At this announcement, in spite of himself, Hadley drew a sigh of relief,
and as he did so Bill gave Dick a knowing look. Hadley replied:

"Perhaps the name was Huntly?"

"That's it!" said Bill; "that's the name; I remember it now."

"I should hardly have thought him capable of such a crime."

"Just what the people said, exactly."

"And to take advantage of the sickness of Mandeville's daughter, at that; I
can hardly believe it of him."

"You talk precisely as his neighbors talked."

"I do not believe he is guilty; no, I am sure he is not. There are others I
would suspect a thousand times of such an act before I would him."

"Well, I am sure I can't tell as to that. But, to change the subject, may I
be so bold as to inquire which way you are traveling?"

"Certainly, sir; I am on my way to Philadelphia."

"I was in hopes you were going the same way as ourselves; perhaps you are;
we are bound for Wheeling, Virginia.--Do you go that way?"

"No, I go by way of Pittsburgh."

"Do you tarry long at Pittsburgh? We may have to go there before we
return."

"No sir. My mother is very sick at her brother's house in Philadelphia, and
I shall hasten to her with all dispatch."

"Then, I perceive, we shall have to part company."

"I am sorry for that, as I should be pleased to have companionship on my
lonely journey."

Having found out all that concerned his purpose, Bill changed the
conversation, and all of them being fatigued with hard riding throughout
the day, the three soon retired for the night. Bill and Dick roomed
together, and when alone the former said:

"Didn't I do it up about the right way, Dick?"

"Better than I expected; but, ---- me, if I didn't think you'd got on the
wrong track once."

"I knew what I was at all the time; but I saw you were scared."

"Well, what's to be done next?"

"We must get ahead of him, and do the thing up while he is crossing the
mountains, as Lieutenant Duffel suggested, and as I told you before."

"We can do that easy enough; but what do you think; shan't we make Duffel
side with us in the Duval affair for putting us to so much trouble?"

"Yes, and that is one reason why I wish to get through with this job as
soon as possible. We must get back in time for the League meeting somehow."

"We'll have to ride like the d----l, then; for the meeting is on Friday
night week."

"Well, we must be there if it is next Friday night, and we must finish our
work before we go."

"I'm with you."

"And then, if Duffel don't assist us to fix Duval, or at least, if he don't
let us have our own way in the matter, we will raise Hadley's ghost before
his eyes, and threaten to 'blow' on him."

"He'll do it."

"He shall do it."

"Well, as that's settled, let's go to sleep."

"Yes, for we have a hard day's ride before us to-morrow."

       *       *       *       *       *

The shades of evening were gathering over the rugged steeps and deep dells
of the Alleghanies, as two horsemen, leaving the summit of the mountains,
descended to a deep, dark valley, shaded and environed by a dense growth
of pine and other wood, on the eastern slope leading to the Atlantic. As
they entered this dismal looking spot, one of them broke the silence by
remarking:

"This is the place."

"Shall we rob him after he is dead?" inquired the other.

"Certainly. He has a pile about him; and it was for this I was trying, when
he accused me of attempting to rob him, and resenting the accusation
brought on the quarrel, and with it the insult. Yes, I must have his life
and his money, too."

"I'm with you. But hold! What's that? Horses' feet, as I'm alive. He's
coming; we must be quick to our place of concealment."

In the briefest possible time their horses led out of sight of the road,
and hid away among the bushes, while the two murderers took their stand at
the side of the road in ambush, to await the arrival of their victim.

They had only a few minutes to wait, when other two horsemen made their
appearance, and took their stations exactly as they had done, but about a
hundred yards further up the mountain.

"What the d----l does this mean?" inquired one of the other.

"I don't know, unless some others have an eye on the gold, as well as
ourselves."

"That's it, I'll warrant. Good! They may do the murdering, and we'll rush
up in time to secure the booty, by frightening them away. Then we can take
the body to the next tavern, and tell how we came upon the robbers and
murderers, just as they had finished their work.--Good! Let us get our
horses nearer at hand, and be ready to dash upon them."

While the first two villains were preparing for the new phase the affair in
which they were engaged had taken, as they supposed, the two who had
arrived last busied themselves in making ready for some damnable work which
required darkness and that secluded spot to hide it from the sight of man.
We will look after them.

"Well, here we are at last," said Bill to Dick, for it was these that had
arrived last. "How soon will he be here, think you?".

"In a few minutes. When I last saw him, I don't think he was to exceed half
a mile behind us."

"He is coming now. Be sure of your aim."

"Better take that advice yourself."

"I intend to, for I don't want any botch work of the job."

"Think those men have got ahead far enough?"

"Yes, they were more than a mile ahead of us, and they will ride like Satan
was after them through these wild glens."

"Yonder's Hadley!"

"Prepare! put your pistol close to his heart when you fire!"

"All right; do the same."

And the other two concealed villains were equally ready for action.

"There he comes!" said one. "Their attention will be taken up that way now:
let us mount, and as soon as they fire, put spurs for the scene."

"Perhaps they will not use pistols," suggested the other.

"Then, as soon as they strike or spring upon him."

In a few seconds, Hadley came abreast of the villains who were lying in
wait for him.

"Now!" said Bill in a hoarse whisper, and the two at once sprang upon the
lone rider, and fired the contents of their pistols into his breast. He
fell from his seat, with a deep groan. The murderers were about to rifle
his pockets, when they were arrested in their work of robbery by the
approach of the other two horsemen, and seeing their danger, hastened to
mount, and left the scene of their bloody deed, at the top of their horses'
speed. The others pursued for a mile or more, and then returned to look
after the slain man and their booty.

"By heavens, it's not the man!" they exclaimed in a breath, as they knelt
by the side of Hadley.

"As I live, it is our acquaintance of yesterday! Poor fellow, he deserved a
better fate."

"He did, indeed. Let us return his kindness by seeing that he is decently
buried; we owe him this much at least."

"So we do. If I had known it was him he should not have died in this way."

"Shall we go back or forward with him?"

"Forward; it is nearest that way to a hamlet."

"Does he breathe yet?"

"No; he is quite dead."

Gathering up the body of Hadley, they bore it along in silence toward the
nearest habitations of men, some five miles ahead.

The two had proceeded with their burden but a short distance, when they
were suddenly startled by a groan from the wounded man, who they had
supposed was dead. They laid him down carefully, and one of them produced a
flask, from which he poured a little brandy on his lips, and the stimulant
penetrating his mouth, revived Hadley, and this, with the aid of other
restoratives, soon brought him to consciousness. Seeing he was not dead,
his companions now dressed his wounds as well as they could, under the
circumstances. It was soon perceived that they were not of a very dangerous
order. One bullet had struck a button and glanced off, leaving only a
bruise on the breast; the other had penetrated the chest, but not in a
fatal direction. The fall from his horse had stunned Hadley; there was also
a mark on the side of his head, indicating that the horse had struck him
with his foot, adding materially to the effect of the fall. After his
wounds were properly dressed, he was assisted into his saddle, and,
supported by his benefactors, was enabled to ride to the next village,
where he received every attention, and was so far recovered in a week as to
proceed on his journey. His escape was almost miraculous, and seemed a
direct interposition of Providence. On the previous day he had assisted the
two men out of a difficulty before a magistrate, where they were accused of
the crime of setting fire to a man's house on the previous night. It so
happened that they were not guilty of the act as charged, but had passed
the night in question at the same inn with Hadley, who, fortunately for
them, heard of the affair, and went before the magistrate and testified to
the facts in the case, and by so doing cleared them. This kindness,
volunteered on his part, was repaid by the men, as we have seen, though
they were desperate characters, and ought to have been in the penitentiary,
and, as we have noticed, went out to kill and rob some man at whom they had
become offended.

Had not this train of circumstances led to the result we have chronicled,
there would have been but one fate for Hadley, _death_; for even if the
ruffians had left life in him, ere the lapse of three hours he would have
been devoured by wild beasts, a pack of which, howling dismally, and
thirsting for blood, crossed the road where he had lain, and licked up the
few drops that had run from his bosom!

Bill and Dick were pursued, but escaped without the slightest clue to their
whereabouts or identity being ascertained.

Perhaps we had as well remark, at this point, that Hadley's departure was
known to but two personal friends and their families, in the Mandeville
settlement, and by them was to be kept a secret, as he did not wish Duffel,
or any of his supposed companions, to know of his absence until he had been
gone long enough to reach his destination, for he believed Duffel was bad
enough at heart to stop short of no wickedness to carry his ends, and felt
fearful he might send some of his minions to waylay him. How nearly he
guessed the truth! He, however, gave another reason for wishing the fact
kept among his friends and though they thought a little singular of the
request, they acted as desired.

Duffel overheard a part of the conversation between him and a young
friend--hence his knowledge of Hadley's movements. Mandeville did not know
anything about the matter until some time afterward, and this ignorance led
him to suspect Hadley of the theft, as already recorded.

He and Duffel agreed to keep their suspicions to themselves, until they
could get at some tangible evidence to prove Hadley guilty. This exactly
suited Duffel's purpose, as it gave him just the time and advantage he
desired, in order to perfect his own schemes.

How easily a few words would have exonerated Hadley in the eyes of
Mandeville: and had he made a confidant of the magistrate in this second
instance, those words would have been spoken, to his enlightenment, and the
great relief and joy of his daughter. But, by an unfortunate combination of
circumstances, the reverse was the case.



CHAPTER X.


When Duffel learned that Mr. Mandeville would not interpose parental
authority to compel his daughter to acquiesce in his wishes for her in
regard to marriage, he set his scheming wits to work for the purpose of
devising some means whereby to accomplish his ends. As we have already
said, Duffel had taken a fancy to Miss Mandeville, with whom he was better
pleased than with any other lady of his acquaintance. He called his passion
_love_, but it was too sordid and selfish to be worthy of a name so sacred.
More than once he called to see Eveline, and though she treated him
civilly, he saw plainly that she had an aversion for his society, and that
it cost her an effort to treat him with politeness, even though it was
formal; so, as we were saying, he endeavored to hit upon some more
successful mode of furthering his wishes.

"If Bill and Dick were only here," he thought to himself, "the matter could
be easily come at; but, as it is, I don't see my way exactly. I should not
like to trust every one, even of the League, with my secret, much less with
the execution of such a difficult undertaking as that of placing her there.
I wish I had not sent them after Hadley; I might have accomplished all
without that; and it is not the pleasantest thing in the world to have a
murder laying on one's conscience. But then, I thought other means would
succeed: I had no idea that old Mandeville was becoming so tender-hearted.
The old devil himself must have been playing mischief with my calculations.
Well, let him play away; once Bill and Dick return, and I'll try my hand at
heading his sulphurous majesty, and all others that oppose me."

In this mood, Duffel found himself when the duties of his office, in the
absence of the captain, required his presence at the cave, to preside over
the League at the regular meeting, as already known to the reader. The
night of the meeting came, and found him undecided as to the course of
action to pursue. Time was short; the captain might return any day and
resume command; and what was to be done must be done soon.

In this state of uncertainty, he repaired to the cave, with the vague and
indefinite hope that his associates in crime might be there also. Arrived
there, he began pacing up and down in a state of uneasy and restless
disquiet, looking expectantly At every new-comer, but with the same
result--disappointment. It was but a few minutes until the hour for
business, and he retired to the captain's room to make such preparations as
were necessary for the occasion.

When he returned, the members present were all masked, a rule of the order
making this a duty at initiating meetings, and he could not tell whether
Bill and Dick were among the number or not.

The business proceeded until the question was asked:

"Is there any one who, having knocked at the door of our order, is now
waiting for admission?"

"There is, your honor, Abram Hurd, who has been found worthy of a place
among us."

"Is he present?"

"He is in waiting, your honor."

"Let him be conducted into the presence of the order."

It is not our intention to enter into all the details attending the
ceremony of initiation into the order, as we apprehend that a few of the
leading features in the process of villain-making will be more entertaining
and acceptable to the reader.

When the candidate for admission entered the cave, he found himself
_vis-a-vis_ with fifty masks, of all shapes, forms and appearances; some
horrible, some odd, some commonplace, and some fantastical, and altogether,
a medley of strange, undecipherable, yet impressive combination of devices,
well calculated to excite a feeling of awe, and, with the timid, of terror,
in the mind of the beholder. Into this singular assemblage Hurd was
ushered, a wilderness of confused images before him. He was taken through a
course introductory to the more serious parts of the formula of induction
into the order, which were intended to increase the first bewildered
impressions on entering the cave, and was then led up in front of the
captain, who addressed him thus:

"Abram Hurd! by your presence here, I am to understand that you desire to
become a member of our order?"

"I do."

"Have you considered well before taking this step? The duties of members
are often laborious, and their performance attended with the most imminent
danger! We want no unwilling hands; are you ready to incur the risks?

"I am."

"Suppose the requirements exacted at your hands should cause you to look
the penitentiary in the face, have you the courage to do so?"

"I have."

"But further yet; should the good of our order require you to take the life
of a fellow-being, would you, in obedience to the commands of your
superior, perform that extreme act?"

"I was not aware that _murder_ was included in the catalogue of duties
imposed upon members of the order."

"Nor do I say that it is; I only wish to know if you are willing to go _any
lengths_ for the preservation or advantage of the order, in case of
necessity? You will mark the difference between murder and killing in
_self-defense_. With this explanation, are you willing to take the required
obligation?"

"I am."

"With the understanding, then, that you may have to face imprisonment or
death and obligate yourself to do all that shall be required of you for the
_good_ of the order, even to the taking of life, including all other acts
that are held criminal among men, are you still willing to proceed?"

"I am!"

"I must furthermore inform you, that if you falter in the discharge of any
duty imposed upon you, or manifest the least disposition to betray the
order, your life will fall an immediate sacrifice for such delinquency. Are
you prepared for this?"

"I am!"

"Will you take upon yourself these obligations in the form of an oath?"

"I will!"

"The oath is a most solemn and binding one; perhaps you may consider it
horrible, and we want no faltering."

"I will take it."

"It involves life and death."

"I am prepared if it does."

"You cannot release yourself from its binding force; it is for life; and
whether you abide with us or not, it binds you to secrecy. No
after-thought, no change of feeling, no repentance can unchain its iron
links from your soul. Are you still resolved?"

"I am!"

"Let me here advise you, that one more step will place you beyond the pale
of retreat. Consider well what you are about to do. Until the oath is
administered, you are at liberty to retire, and, blindfolded as you came,
will be escorted to a place of safety to yourself and us, where we will
leave you as we found you; but once you have taken upon yourself the
obligations of the oath, all is fixed and immutable. Are you yet willing to
take this last step?"

"I am!"

"Enough! you are worthy to become a member of our order. Lay your right
hand upon your heart, your left upon the Book, and receive the oath."


THE OATH.

"I, Abram Hurd, calling heaven, earth and hell to witness, do most solemnly
swear, in presence of these, my fellow-beings, and into the ears of the
spirits of the invisible world, that I now take upon myself the obligation
of a member of the _Order of the League of Independents_, as laid down in
the rules ordained for the government of said Order, and explained to me
this night; and I also obligate myself to obey the officers of the League
who shall be appointed over me for the good government of the same, in the
performance of all and singular the duties that shall be required at my
hands; and I furthermore obligate myself to advance the interests of the
Order to the utmost of my ability, in all things and in all ways, even to
the taking of property and life, if need be; and in so doing will use all
the means of aid in my reach, including fire, steel and powder. And I most
solemnly swear, in the presence aforesaid, of the visible and invisible
worlds, that I will faithfully keep the secrets of the Order, and of all
the members of the same that shall be intrusted with me, and no torture of
body or mind shall extort them from me. And I hereby bind myself, in the
same solemn manner, and in the same presence, that I will defend the
members of the Order in all circumstances and places, us far as in me lies,
even to the giving up of my own life, if such a sacrifice shall be
required--that I will stand by them one and all in every emergency, and, if
occasion require, will not hesitate to give false testimony in courts of
justice, to clear them in suits at law, or in criminal prosecutions,
choosing rather to brave the penalties of perjury than violate this my most
solemn oath. And as I faithfully perform this my oath to the Order, in
whole and in part, may I prosper; but if I willfully fail in anywise, to
fulfill all that I have herein obligated myself to perform, may the heavens
become black above me, may the earth become thorns and thistles, and a
curse to me in body and in soul; may my life be devoid of peace, and
harassing care be my portion, with blight and mildew on all my hopes, and
all that my hand shall touch; may my friends desert me, and my own blood
rise up and curse me; may I become an outcast, among men, a wanderer and a
vagabond on the face of the earth, a prey to fear, and to the lashings of
conscience: and, finally, when death comes, may he send me from the
tortures of this life, to those of endless perdition hereafter."

After taking this horrible and blasphemous oath, the initiated was required
to sign a compact with his own blood, when he was duly pronounced a member
of the Order, which might truly be termed hellish. This done, the captain
said:

"Brethren of the Order, remove your masks, and welcome your brother!"

In a minute the fifty masks were cast aside, and Hurd looked around him in
amazement, for in that company were more than a dozen of his acquaintances
and neighbors, who passed in society--most of them--for honest men; but
most of all was he surprised to see _Duffel_ there, in the character of
first officer.

All came and shook him by the hand, and to their friendly greeting he could
reply to many:

"Why, A., B., C., D., are you here? and here's 'Squire F., and Constable
H., as I'm alive!" and such like expressions of recognition.

When the masks were removed, Duffel had the satisfaction of seeing Bill and
Dick among those present, and so soon as the League adjourned, he drew them
one side, and began a confidential conversation with them; but fearing that
they might be overheard, before entering upon the secrets of their own, he
conducted them into the captain's room.

This room was a curious structure. Its walls were solid rock, naturally of
a brownish-gray color, but had been painted in a tasteful style of art,
with graceful nymphs, winged cupids, vases of flowers, and many other
embodiments of fancy, or representations from nature. The effect on the
beholder was pleasant and cheering at first view, but a more critical
observation would lead to the conclusion that there was too much of the
voluptuous in the design and execution of the penciling. In one corner of
the room was a door which opened into an inner room of small dimensions, in
which was a downy couch, and all the paraphernalia of a luxurious and
elegant bed-room. It was a place that contrasted very strangely with the
misery and crime it had sheltered--with the tears of unavailing agony that
had been wrung from eyes that sparkled above once happy hearts--alas! no
longer the abode of peace, hope or joy. Ah! had those walls the power of
speech, what tales of horror they could rehearse! what anguish reveal! what
eloquent pleadings for mercy disregarded! what silencing of hope in
despair! But they reveal not the secrets of the place, which are known to
but One, from whose eye no dark dells or earth-emboweled caves can hide the
transgressor; and the tears, the sighs, the blood--aye, the _blood_--of
that solitary cavern are all known to Him, are all put down by the
recording angel in the archives of heaven. But we digress.

When the three confederates were securely to themselves, Duffel inquired:

"How did you succeed in that affair. Well, I hope, as you are so soon
back."

"Yes, better than we expected. We passed Hadley and awaited him in the
mountains. Two pistol balls were sent through his heart, and in less than
an hour his body was devoured by howling and hungry wolves, from a ravenous
pack of which we escaped ourselves with difficulty, so fierce had a taste
of blood rendered them!"

It will be noticed that Bill drew largely upon his imagination in this
brief account of their adventures, and that he never once hinted at the
real truth of the matter, and how they were driven away, and had to flee
for their lives. He knew that his story had the characteristics of
probability; and he had an object in view in imposing on his superior,
though he had no doubt at all of Hadley's fate, believing him to be
certainly dead.

"So far good," replied Duffel; "but are you sure the act was undiscovered
and undiscoverable?"

"Quite sure, your honor; it was dark at the time, and no one near, and
therefore impossible that any one should know of the transaction."

"Very well, I am pleased with your promptness and dispatch in the execution
of this plot. You shall have your reward for the diligence and faithfulness
of your labors. But just now I have another affair on hand, in which I
shall need your aid."

"We are your men."

"I know I can rely upon you, and that is the reason I have chosen you from
among all the other members of the League to assist me."

"And you shall never regret the choice. What is the nature of the work you
would have us perform?"

"I have heretofore spoken to you concerning its principal feature. It
relates to a lady, and you may remember what was formerly said in regard to
the matter."

"Oh, yes, perfectly well."

"Well, I wish the young lady to be taken--kidnapped--and brought to this
place. Can I rely upon you to do the deed?"

"We have already pledged ourselves to that effect."

"So you did, I had forgotten. I shall soon need your services, if all
things proceed as present appearances indicate that they will. When
everything is ripe for action, I will inform you of particulars, and give
you the necessary instructions. Till, then, meet me every day in the
'swamp,' for I may wish your aid at any moment."

"All right; we'll be there."

And thus the conference of the villains ended.



CHAPTER XI.

THE INTERVIEW--THE PLOT--THE ABDUCTION.


Before proceeding to extremities, Duffel resolved to try the effect of
smooth words and persuasive eloquence on the mind of Eveline. For this
purpose he called upon her with the express intention of urging his claims
to her hand in a personal interview. She received him, as she had been
accustomed to do of late, with cold politeness. Had he been a real lover,
actuated by pure motives, he would have been deterred from prosecuting his
suit, or even mentioning the object of his visit, for he could not but
perceive that he was not warmly received. But he had resolved upon a course
of action, and was determined that nothing should influence him to turn
aside from the line of conduct he had marked out for himself. After a
little conversation on commonplace matters, he attempted to introduce the
subject uppermost in his thoughts, but finding no encouragement, addressed
his companion thus:

"Why this coldness, Miss Mandeville? would that I dared to call you,
Eveline! You have ears for others, for me you have none; you have smiles
for others, but on me you never bestow a gladdening look; and yet, of all
the world, I most long for a smile, for the privilege to talk to you as a
friend."

"I hope I have always treated you with kindness; it has certainly been my
intention to do so."

"No, Miss Mandeville, not with _kindness_, pardon me, but it has only been
with cold civility. I am sure that if you only knew how my heart yearns for
a gentle and hopeful word from your adored lips, how it bleeds and recoils
within my bosom when your cold words pierce it as with an arrow, you would
certainly relent."

"The heart, Mr. Duffel, is not master of its own emotions; they come
unbidden often, and not unfrequently remain when we would gladly have them
depart."

"May I trust that in those words there is hope for me--that you would
really banish old memories and old prejudices, and receive me as my heart
continually pleads to be received?"

"I am not aware that any such changes as those of which you speak have
taken place in my mind or memory. I have no old and dear memories that I
wish to banish; and I believe my feelings toward you have not materially
changed."

"Oh, what crushing words! Surely your heart cannot be so hard as to drive
me away in despair, when my spirit is bleeding at the wounds your cruel
words have made."

"As I was saying, when you were so impetuous as to interrupt me, a few
moments ago, we cannot bid our feelings go and come as we would. The heart
will not love this one or that, at the dictates of cold, calculating
intellect, and the more it is urged to do so, the farther it is from
yielding, especially when harsh means or commands are used to bend it. If
you have permitted your feelings to rest upon me as you say they do, it is
your misfortune, not my fault; and because I cannot reciprocate your
feelings and wishes, you have no right to task me with cruelty or
hard-heartedness; and I hope you will not forget this in any future remarks
you may have to make on the subject."

"Pardon me, my dear Miss Mandeville, if, in the bitterness of my
disappointment, I have spoken harsh or unguarded words. When we are in deep
distress and anxiety we are apt to say and do things that we should not. It
was farthest from my design to wound your gentle heart, or say one
ungenerous word to you, the best beloved of my friends. Should you ever
have the misfortune to endure the pangs of unrequited love, which may
Heaven forbid, you will know how to feel for me, and to appreciate my
situation."

"Perhaps it would be well for you to cease conversing on a subject so
painful."

"Ah, there it is. Great sorrows are uppermost in the mind, and though every
word brings a tear to the eye, and sends a pang to the heart, we _must_
talk about them."

"I was always impressed with the idea that such griefs as lay hold upon the
soul, were too deep for utterance."

"Yes, when the last ray of hope is gone, and the night of despair settles
upon the soul. But, oh, must I go out into that unillumed darkness, forever
shut out from light and hope? Is there no hope that I may some day call you
more than friend? that in time, even though it be years in the future, I
may be able to awaken emotions of tenderness in your heart?"

"I think I have answered that question often enough and plain enough. I do
not know why you wish to put me to the unpleasant necessity of repeating
that answer. But if I have, by any misconception of the use of words, and
the meaning of language, failed to be sufficiently definite in my speech,
please now, once for all, understand me distinctly. I cannot bid you hope
for any change in my feelings toward you so far as love is concerned. I
never can look upon you as an accepted suitor for my hand, nor will it ever
be in my power to love you."

"Perhaps you may think differently hereafter."

"Never!"

"Then my purpose is fixed. You shall not wed another! You, too, shall feel
what it is to be disappointed. You love Charles Hadley. Ah, I knew you did!
but mark me, you shall never wed him--_never_! I would sooner imbrue my
hands in his blood, than that you should! But he is a guilty culprit, a
wandering fugitive from justice, and will never dare return."

"Mr. Duffel, I have heretofore borne your persecutions with patience; I
will do so no longer. _You_, sir, are more guilty this day than Charles
Hadley. Look at the blood spots on your hand."

"What! ha! said the villain, taken aback by the bold remark.

"Yes, you may well flush and turn pale when your crimes stare you in the
face!"

"Crimes? Who dares to accuse me of crimes?"

"I do, sir!"

"You will repent it, madam."

"I do not fear your threats any more than I regard your hypocritical
protestations of esteem."

"I will make you fear, then," and with the words he left the house in a
rage.

While together, Eveline and Duffel were both defiant, though they felt
internal fear of each other, she at his threats, and he in alarm lest she
should know something of his secret villainies; and when alone each gave
way to the feelings uppermost in the mind; she after this manner:

"God grant that no harm come to Charles from this wicked plotter! And yet I
fear he has already contrived to do him mischief. How he was agitated when
I threw out the accusation. Oh, my God! if his hands really are stained
with innocent blood! Charles is no where to be found; what if he has fallen
by the hands of his enemy? What a terrible suspicion! Would to Heaven I
knew the truth!"

But the more she thought the more she feared, until the subject became so
painful she tried to banish it from her mind.

Infuriated and alarmed, Duffel raged on this wise when alone:

"It's all over now! this palaver about love and money! I shall never win my
way to the old man's purse in that manner; but I'll try my skill at taming
that proud, free spirit! Blast the girl! I wonder if she knows anything?
But pshaw! what a thought! How could she?--What a fool I was to be so
startled!--Well she is shrewd, and I give her credit for her penetration;
but she must not be left to surmise and publish her suspicions: I've too
much on hand just now to be set upon by spies; and so the sooner I get her
out of the way the better. Once in my power I'll see that she tells nothing
to my hurt.--Oh, but won't I have a glorious time!--But enough of
anticipation; I must be up and doing lest the captain return and spoil all
my calculations; so now for my precious rascals, Bill and Dick--and
then!--" And with this he started for the "swamp."

When Duffel reached the place of meeting, his accomplices were not there,
and he sat himself down on the trunk of a fallen tree to ruminate until
they should come. As was customary with him under such circumstances, his
thoughts commenced running on schemes of villainy; and he became so deeply
absorbed in fitting out the details of his present all-absorbing operation,
as to be scarcely conscious of anything else, either as regarded time or
place. At length his corrugated brow relaxed, a kind of sardonic smile of
joy spread over his countenance, and he exclaimed in gleeful elation of
spirit:

"I have it! By Jove! it's the crowning cap on the climax! I have been
afraid of the consequences until now, for I know old Mandeville will raise
earth and hell when he finds his daughter is missing. But now I have him!
What a glorious idea! But it is a wonder I had not thought of it before.
Well, it will not be the first time a dead man has served a good purpose!"

At this moment Bill and Dick made their appearance, and he immediately
opened business with them.

"Well, you are here at last! I have been waiting on you this half-hour!"

"If it please your honor we are here at the appointed time. You must have
some urgent business to be done that you are in such haste?"

"I have. The time has come that I shall need your service in the matter on
hand. Miss Mandeville is in the habit of visiting the spot I pointed out to
you, daily. To-morrow her father is going to C---- and there will be no one
at home but the daughter and the house girl. You must be in waiting as
agreed upon. You, Bill, must cautiously approach her and represent yourself
as the friend of Hadley, for whom you must be the bearer of a message. If
that does not succeed, then you must have recourse to the other means, as
already arranged. So soon as you get her fairly in your possession and
secured, bear her to the cave, with all dispatch, by the secret route. I
will meet you on the way."

"All right. We understand the plan, and will take good care that it be
properly carried out; but afterward we shall expect your aid, or at least
your non-interference in a little affair of our own."

"Oh, certainly. Go ahead; but don't make a fuss about it. Who is she?"

"Oh, dang the women, we don't meddle with them; it is with Duval that we
have an account to settle."

"Be careful there! Remember your oath to the order!"

"We do; but he is a traitor, and if you expect us to work for you in such
life-taking business as we have lately been engaged in, you must let us
have our way in this instance."

"Very well; if you will be cautious and commit no others but yourselves I
shall not oppose you."

"We'll take care on that point."

"Remember to-morrow."

"Never fear. She shall be yours before the setting of the sun."

Again the villains parted; but Duffel was not well pleased with the demand
the ruffians had made of him, until a new thought struck him, and he said
to himself:

"That will do. I will get all I want out of them; and then to save trouble
and _to be sure of my own secret_, I will have them arraigned before the
Order for killing a member, and they shall suffer the penalty, _death_. I
will then be free from fear. Capital! Everything is working to suit my
purposes!"

Exulting wretch! would to heaven the vengeance of an angry God could
overtake you, ere your schemes of fiendish crimes and dark murders are
completed. But, alas for the innocent, crime is yet in the ascendant!

       *       *       *       *       *

In a pleasant grove, a part of the old forest yet standing near to the
dwelling of the Mandevilles, sat Eveline, beneath the shade of a friendly
tree, in a spot rendered sacred to her by endearing associations and holy
memories, musing on the past with heart cheering pleasure, on the present
with sadness, and the future with hope. So absorbed had she become in her
own meditations, time fled unheeded, and the world was forgotten--forgotten
all, save only two beings, the loved and absent Charles--with whose
well-being or misfortunes her own fate was strangely blended--and herself;
but of herself in the single light in which the mysterious ties of love
united her to him.

How long she had thus remained absorbed in her own reflections she knew
not, when her attention was drawn from her own thoughts to outward things
by the approach of a very neatly dressed gentleman, who, addressing her in
the most respectful manner, inquired:

"Does Mr. Mandeville live in this vicinity?"

"Yes, sir," she replied, at the same time rising to her feet. "That is his
residence yonder, which you can just distinguish through the surrounding
trees."

"A beautiful place!--May I be so bold as to inquire if you know whether I
will find him at home to-day?"

"No, sir, he is not at home."

"Perhaps I might still presume on your kindness, and inquire if he has not
a daughter that is or has been afflicted, and if she is already
convalescent, or is likely so to be soon."

"His daughter has been very sick, but has recovered."

"Would she--? But perhaps you do not know her history? Has she any friend
now absent, from whom she would be pleased to hear, do you know?"

"What is the object of the question, sir?"

"I hope you will excuse me, if I should presume too far; but I am the
bearer of a message from one who esteems her above all the world beside,
and--"

"How! do you know Charles Hadley?" she inquired, with deepened interest.

"Ah, I perceive you are not unacquainted with the history of the young
lady. Perhaps I am addressing Miss Mandeville in person?"

"Your supposition is true, my name is Mandeville. But you have not answered
my question yet."

"Pardon me, fair lady, for my seeming rude neglect. Yes, I know Mr. Hadley
well, and a better man does not live. He is my near and dear friend."

"Do you say so much? Then it is from him you have a message?"

"It is."

"Oh! tell me, is he well?"

"He is, but is longing to hear from you, to see you, to know that you are
still spared by the hand of death."

"You speak as though he were near. Is it indeed so?"

"It is, fair lady; he awaits your presence, or such word as you may be
pleased to send him, a short way from here, in the denser portion of the
forest, not wishing to transgress your father's commands contrary to your
wishes, or to expose himself to the displeasure of your parent, lest it
bring trouble and disquiet to your own heart. But please read the note he
commissioned me to bear to you; it probably explains the matter better than
I can, as he only confided to me such facts as were essentially necessary
for me to know, in order to an intelligent performance of the part he has
allotted to me as his friend."

Saying this he presented a letter, which Eveline received with a
joy-beaming countenance, and read with a wildly-throbbing heart. It ran as
follows:

"DEAREST EVELINE: For some weeks past, I have been in a distant
city, at the urgent call of duty, to attend the bedside of a sick mother. I
left while you were yet very ill, and bore with me the heavy fear that you
might never recover to bless me with a kind word or gentle look. So
terrible has been the suspense, and so deep the anxiety of mind under which
my spirit has labored, I could only perform my duties to a beloved mother
by resolutely bending my energies to the task, and with the first hour of
assured convalescence hastened to learn your fate. Oh, best beloved, may I
not hope to see you again? I have learned that you are better, and the
first great burden is removed, but I so long to behold you once more,--to
hear you speak--to know that I am not forgotten. But you know I dare not
come to you without incurring your father's deep displeasure; and I have
been in doubt and perplexity how to act. This note will be borne to you by
my most confidential friend, who will not betray us. If you can come to me,
even if it be but for a few brief moments, I beseech you to do so; but do
in this matter as your own better judgment shall determine. If you cannot
come, send me a note, even though it be but a line, that I may have some
precious token of remembrance to gaze upon. I am but a short distance from
your home, and a few steps will bring you to me; if you come, place
yourself under the guidance of my friend. Leaving you to act as prudence
and your own heart shall dictate, I remain, impatiently,

  "Yours, most faithfully,

  "CHARLES."

"P.S. Do permit me to entreat you to come if you can. I have a thousand
things to tell you, and some of them are cheering. I have not time to write
more now."

As we have said, Eveline read this letter with the wildest emotions
thrilling through her heart. A tumult of joy was in her bosom--joy more
exquisite than had gladdened her spirit since the hour when her young heart
knew that its deep love was reciprocated. Hadley was near her--he had been
falsely accused, and instead of the vile criminal he was represented, he
was a loving and dutiful son, fleeing to the bedside of a sick mother! What
a consolation to her heart! Without a moment's hesitation, she resolved to
see him, and turning to the gentleman, from whom she averted her face,
while reading, to conceal her feelings, she said, deeply blushing as she
did so:

"Mr. Hadley wishes me to see him, and directs me to place myself under your
guidance. Will you be so kind as to show me the way to him?"

"With the greatest pleasure; for I know he will be but too happy to behold
you. Pardon me, if, in my zeal for my friend, I should say aught that may
be out of place."

He led the way into the deeper recesses of the forest, and she followed
him. All this had been done in a moment, as it were, and without time for
the slightest consideration. Under other circumstances, or with a little
reflection, Eveline might have acted differently.

The two had proceeded a quarter of a mile or more, when Eveline, in passing
a large tree, was suddenly seized by rude hands, and ere she had time to
scream, a covering was placed over her mouth, and her hands secured. In
these operations her recent guide took an active part, and when they were
completed, he said:

"You shall not be injured by us, fair lady, and we only regret that we are
compelled, by the force of circumstances, to put you to the inconvenience
of a journey on so short a notice. You must go with us; but we will deal
tenderly with you so long as you are peaceable and quiet; but you must
beware how you attempt to make any noise; for we will not suffer ourselves
to be betrayed by such means."

With these remarks the two kidnappers, one on each side of their captive,
started off through the wilderness at as rapid a rate as their fair
prisoner could move.

To attempt a description of Eveline's feelings at this hour would be a vain
task. In a moment, she was brought down from the pinnacle of hope to the
depths of despair; for she saw in all this that had passed the hand of
Duffel, her avowed enemy; and, indeed, as the reader has doubtless already
concluded, she was in the hands of none others than Bill and Dick, who were
bearing her off to the cave.



CHAPTER XII.


When Mr. Mandeville returned home in the evening, he found the maid in
great trouble on account of Eveline's long continued absence, and he
himself became alarmed on learning that she had not been seen since early
in the forenoon. He knew that she often recreated in the grove, and, after
finding her in no more likely place, he proceeded thither. No Eveline was
there, and no voice answered to his repeated calls; but in his search he
found two billets of paper, and hastening to the house, for it was too dark
to read them in the woods, he eagerly perused them.

One of the two was the letter to Eveline, purporting to be from her lover,
which she had accidentally lost in her agitation, at the moment of setting
out on her at first hopeful but sadly terminated errand; its contents are
already known to the reader; and the other read as follows:

"MR. MANDEVILLE:--Being aware of your dislike to me, and having
learned that you charge me with a crime of great magnitude--no less than
that of stealing your horse, (of which, permit me to say, I am as innocent
as yourself,) and feeling assured, from these circumstances, that there was
no hope for me ever to gain your consent to wed Eveline, I have taken the
only alternative left me in the premises--that of persuading your daughter
to elope with me. She has consented; and ere you read this note, will be my
wife. I hope you may find it in your heart to pardon us for taking this
step, as it appears to us the only way in which our ardent wishes can be
accomplished; but if you cannot pardon me, at least forgive Eveline, who
has had a hard struggle between filial affection, duty and regard, and the
strong pleadings of her heart; though her deep love at last conquered.

"But as we feel certain you will be highly exasperated at the first on
receiving this intelligence, we have deemed it best to absent ourselves for
a time. You will not be able to find us, if you choose to institute a
search, until such time as we please to show ourselves; hence you need not
put yourself to the trouble of looking after us. So soon, however, as you
feel a willingness to receive us as your children, we will gladly return to
you. To ascertain your feelings on this subject, we will voluntarily open a
correspondence with you at some period in the future, perhaps in a month,
when you can communicate to us your wishes and commands.

"With sentiments of high esteem, and deeply pained feelings that I am
compelled to take this step, I am, my very dear sir,

  "Your obedient servant,

  "CHARLES HADLEY."

Mandeville read this letter a second time to assure himself that its
contents were what they seemed, and when satisfied on this point, he stood
mute for a brief space of time, as if to fully take in the astonishing
truth that Eveline, his only, his beloved child, had so far forgotten her
duly and her promise, yes, her solemn promise, as to leave her home and
_his_ care, for the love of a stranger! At last the great reality seemed to
enter his soul in all its crushing force, tearing from his heart the
affections that had clustered around his only child for years, from his
bosom the hopes of a lifetime, and leaving him a desolate, smitten,
soul-chilled being, with all the beauty and brightness of life departed!

Oh, ye children of affectionate parents! beware how you crush the hearts
that have "nourished and cherished" you as only parents' hearts can do! God
will smite the undutiful child with a curse! Bear and forbear, even if the
commands of those appointed over you should seem to be unjust. Remember
their labor, and toil and suffering in your behalf, and spare, oh! spare
them in their old age, when their bodies are ripening for the grave, and
their spirits for the skies. Let not their gray hairs go down to the
chambers of the dead in sorrow, nor their failing strength be suddenly
brought low by the anguish _you_ have inflicted upon their spirits; but
spare them as you would be spared!

Several minutes elapsed before Mr. Mandeville could collect his scattered
and stunned thoughts together. The blow was so sudden, the shock so
terrible, they almost prostrated him. He walked up and down the room, with
paleness on his cheeks, and a load in his bosom. The only evidence he
manifested of the great grief that was consuming him was an occasional
groan, which came up from the great deep of his heart, as though they were
forced out by some unseen or over-mastering power. He was like the tall oak
of the forest when blasted by the fiery thunderbolt! What a sad picture!

At length the exclamation burst forth from his lips, as though the
overcharged heart would relieve itself in words:

"Oh, my God, pity me!" and he clasped his hands, and pressed them upon his
laboring breast, as if to still its tumult. Then came another groan,
accompanied by a deep, soul-desponding "Oh!"

And the strong man was calm. But such a calmness! It seemed as if years of
suffering had stamped their impress upon his brow, and in his face, in
those brief moments of agony! Ah, how true it is, that the soul may grow
old in a day!

After a time he again took up the letters and perused them.

"How artful!" he mused to himself, as he read the one to Eveline. "Every
word is written with studied care, and every sentence conceals a
temptation. Then the last, the postscript, so much to tell her, to excite
her curiosity, as well as operate upon her affections!--The villain! But
she ought not to have yielded to his solicitations; even in her great love
I can find no adequate excuse for her. She knew he was accused of a crime,
and pledged me her solemn word that she would never see him until the
accusation was proved false. But she is gone--_gone_! Oh, what desolation
in the thought! And I am left alone and forsaken in my woe! Ungrateful
child! may heaven reward you as you have dealt by me! No, no, God forbid!
Heaven be merciful to her! But on _him_, on the miscreant who is at the
bottom of all this undutiful conduct, of all the pain it inflicts, may the
fierce lightning of God's vengeance descend in burning wrath, and as a
consuming fire! God of heaven! thou who beholdest the anguish of a stricken
parent's heart, smite him with a curse; aye, pour out upon his forsaken
head the vials of thy hot anger! Give him no rest to his soul, day or
night, until the hour of reckoning shall come!"

Amen! Let that prayer enter the ear of Him who sitteth upon the Throne; and
may He commission the angels of wrath to bear the curse, and heap it upon
the head of the guilty author of all this wretchedness, and of the
unutterable pain inflicted upon _another_ heart!

       *       *       *       *       *

Bill and Dick proceeded with their prisoner through the denser portions of
the wilderness for two or three miles on foot, when they met Duffel, who
had prepared horses for their flight, as it was a good long way to the
cave. The villain approached Eveline, and said:

"I hope you will pardon the seeming rudeness which necessity compels me to
manifest toward you in the present emergency. I hope soon to find you a
pleasant resting-place, where I shall have leisure and opportunity to make
explanations and amplify on this brief apology."

To this insulting speech Eveline made no reply, but she cast a defiant and
piercing look upon the miscreant, which made him quail with cowardly fear,
and took from his manner much of its bold assurance. He saw in that one
glance of her eye an unconquerable resolve to meet him as a foe, and _never
to be vanquished_; the victory he had flattered himself as being nearly
won, he now saw afar off, unless the most beastly violence should be
resorted to. But without a moment's delay, she was placed upon a horse,
himself and accomplices mounted on others, and, he by her side, with Bill
and Dick in the rear, the whole party pushed forward for the cave, where
they arrived a little past the middle of the afternoon without any serious
adventure.

Duffel placed his captive in the Captain's room, with the bed-room to
retire to at her pleasure.

"I trust," said he, "you will find this a comfortable place; and be assured
I shall strive to do all in my power to make your stay here as agreeable as
possible. Books you shall have whenever you desire them; there are a number
in the case yonder, and any others you may wish for shall be procured. The
length of time you will remain my guest depends upon your own choice, with
one condition annexed, of which I will speak to you more fully to-morrow.
At present I have urgent business to attend to elsewhere, which cannot be
delayed; I regret to leave you so soon; I hope you will pardon me, and I
will endeavor to make amends in the future for any apparent neglect at the
present. You will find the key to the bed-room in the lock on the inside;
make yourself easy during my absence. I shall lake the precaution to lock
the door of egress and ingress to this room, so that you may rest in
perfect security that no one can harm you. And now good evening, for I must
be off, and may pleasant dreams attend your slumbers."

With this mockingly polite address and adieu he left the room and the cave,
securing the door after him, and was soon on his way back.

Eveline had sustained herself with the most determined and heroic fortitude
during all the trying scenes of the day, and until Duffel was gone. By a
great effort of the will to seem calm, she had kept herself from betraying
any emotions of fear while her enemies were near to observe her bearing;
but now that she was alone, the unwonted tension to which her powers of
endurance had been subjected, caused a reaction to take place; she was
overwhelmed by the flooding tides of thought and despair that rushed in
upon her. What a day of calamity it had been! What a night of rayless
darkness was before her!

She knew that she was in the hands and at the mercy of an unscrupulous
villain, who was incapable of performing a noble or magnanimous act, but
base enough to resort to any means in the use of which to carry an end, or
gain a point. She but too well knew the fate before her, if no means of
resistance were placed in her hands; and where to find these she knew not.
She was, as we said, overwhelmed with dismay. But gradually, as she had
time to reflect, to collect her thoughts, and form resolves, she began to
grow calm. There was a strength in firmness of will which could surmount
many difficulties. It was, indeed, a kind of wall of defense about her,
which might materially aid her in the contest she clearly saw before her,
with her unprincipled enemy. He was, she knew, like all villains, a coward,
and she determined, among other things, to operate upon his fears.

It might be supposed that she would feel little like sleep under the
circumstances by which she was surrounded; but having overheard part of an
aside conversation between Duffel and his confederates, in which he
mentioned meeting them at some place designated, and about something to be
done on the morrow, she felt assured of what she could not have been
certain on his own word merely, that he had business which would detain him
until the next day, and, consequently, would not return to molest her for
the present. She retired to the inner room, locked and bolted the door,
(she had not expected to find a bolt on the inside, and the fact that there
was one gave her a feeling of greater security,) then knelt down and
offered up a fervent prayer to heaven for protection, for shielding care
and final deliverance; after which she laid down, and composed herself to
rest. Her slumbers were peaceful and undisturbed, attended with pleasant
dreams; and she awoke, in the morning, as she supposed--for the light of
day never visited the dark recesses of her abode, which were lighted by
artificial means alone--much refreshed, with her spirits quite restored to
their former elasticity.

She went out into the other room, and selected a book for perusal; it
chanced to be a work on metaphysics, and after poring over its abstruse
pages for some time, she became drowsy, and finally fell into a dreamy
sleep. In her fitful slumbers, she was visited by a dream or vision of
extraordinary vividness, which made an indelible impression upon her mind,
because she felt personally interested in the characters that appeared
before her, and by alluding to the scenes, she might alarm the guilty soul
of her persecutor; so, at least, she hoped and believed; with what reason
we shall see hereafter.

       *       *       *       *       *

After leaving the cave, Duffel hastened back to Mr. Mandeville's as fast as
his fleet steed could bear him. It was after dark before he drew up in
front of that gentleman's house, his horse covered with sweat and foam, and
well-nigh exhausted. It was his wish to be there before the father should
institute any search for his missing daughter, that he might succeed in
throwing the blame upon Hadley, in case the letters dropped for the purpose
of implicating him should not have fallen into the hands of the parent; and
with this view he had a story already made up, to the effect that some one
had seen the fugitives in their flight. As was his custom, he paused on the
outside of the house to listen, hoping by that means to obtain a knowledge
of affairs, and of the feelings of Mr. Mandeville relative to his
daughter's desertion or abduction as the case might be. He soon heard the
hurried footsteps of that gentleman, as, in his deep distress, he paced the
floor--heard, also, his broken exclamations and heavy groans, and the only
sentiment all these things awakened in his callous soul was expressed in
the unfeeling words spoken to himself, in thought:

"The old man takes it hard."

It was a very extraordinary thing for Mr. Mandeville to express his
thoughts aloud, but he did so on this occasion, and Duffel heard his
comments on the letters, and his execration of the writer, as also his
reflections upon his daughter's conduct; then there was a crumpling sound
like that of paper, as though the sheets were crushed in the hand of the
reader. All this was music to the crime-stained soul of the guilty
listener, who exulted in the success of his scheme, and felt additional
assurance of ultimately triumphing in all his undertakings. But when the
spirit-bowed father, in his hopeless agony, called down the curse upon the
head of the author of the wrong, and appealed to Heaven for vengeance, the
villain cowered as if truly smitten with a bolt; and the bare thought that
the fate prayed for _might_ be his, sent a cold chill to his heart and
forced out great drops of perspiration on his brow. He trembled in every
limb, like one in an ague fit, and it was some seconds before he could
regain command of his faculties. At last he felt something like himself
again, and not wishing to hear anything more of the same kind, he knocked
at the door, and the next minute stood face to face with Mr. Mandeville.
Black as his corrupt heart had become, he could not look unmoved upon that
countenance, and behold the ravages made in a short hour by the pains of
soul _he_ had inflicted.

"Are you sick, Mr. Mandeville?" was his first inquiry.

"No, sir; but worse, much worse than sick."

"Indeed! How is that?"

"Eveline is gone!"

"Gone?"

"Yes, gone forever!"

"What!" and the miscreant evinced the utmost surprise and astonishment.
"You do not mean to say she is dead?"

"No, no! Would to God she was! I would a thousand times rather have
followed her to the grave! But read, read, and know for yourself what has
happened." Saying which, he placed the letters in the hypocrite's hands,
and then, while he was reading them, buried his face in his own hands, and
sat in mute but agonized grief.

Duffel read the letters with secret delight, repeating to himself at every
particular place where it suited him best, "Glorious!" and at the close of
all, "I must reward Bill for this. He's a perfect gem of a devil for such
work."

But to Mandeville, in well-feigned amazement, he exclaimed:

"Charles Hadley!"

"Yes," said the afflicted parent, lifting his bowed head, "of all the
world, _him_! a criminal and vagabond, who had fled from justice to hide
himself from the face of man! Oh, my God! to think that she would forsake
home, friends, a good name, and trample upon a parent's love for such a
villain!"

"Perhaps it is not yet too late to save her?" suggested Duffel.

"How? what?" ejaculated the other, catching at the words as a drowning man
would at a straw.

"I say it may be possible that the marriage-rites have not yet been
performed. This may be written for a blind to prevent pursuit."

"No, no; I cannot doubt its truth, and would not have a hope raised in my
heart to be crushed out again by despair. Beside, whither should I go in
pursuit of them?"

"I see you are in hopeless despondency, but I do not feel like giving over
without a struggle--I have too much to lose in Eveline. Shall I try to
rescue her?"

"Oh! yes, if you wish to do so."

"And if, by any means, I can circumvent this Hadley, and prevent their
union, I have your consent to make her my wife?"

"Certainly."

"And will you interpose parental authority in my behalf?"

"Yes, after this I will."

"I have still one request more to make, and that is, that you will permit
me to act in my own way, and according to my own judgment in this matter."

"Do so; I have no advice to give."

"Very well; I am to understand, then, that if by _any means_ I can rescue
Eveline from Hadley, she is to be my wife?"

"Yes."

"Then I will try. I will follow them to the end of the world if need be.
Perhaps you may hear from me soon, perhaps not for a month. Good-by."

In a few moments he was galloping away at full speed, as if to impress his
recent host with the idea that he was in great haste to be after the
fugitives.

Mr. Mandeville had been too deeply absorbed with his own feelings to pay
very strict attention to what Duffel was saying; but the words _by any
means_ now rose vividly up in his mind, and like a flash came the thought--

"He may intend to _murder_ Hadley!"

Starting to his feet, he hastened out for an explanation; but Duffel was
already gone, and turning back, he entered his dwelling with the
expression in his thoughts--

"Let him die: it matters not!"

Ah, had he known the true state of the case, and the devilish import of
those words in the mind of the abominable wretch who had uttered them, how
suddenly would he have aroused himself to action. But now he cared not.

"If," thought he, "Eveline is so ungrateful, if she thinks so little of a
father's love, let her go! Why need I seek to force her to stay with me
when she prefers the society of another? Oh, if I had not loved her so
tenderly, I could endure this trial better. But why mourn and lament? No,
rather let me forget her, as she has forsaken me."

But he could not forget her with all his resolving, and we will leave him
with his sorrow.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE INTERVIEW.


Faithful to his wicked intentions, Duffel presented himself before Eveline
on the day succeeding the one in which she was placed in confinement at the
cave, and having no choice in the matter, she was obliged to become a
participator in the conversation he was pleased to introduce and force upon
her. She was seated on an elegant sofa--for the apartment was luxuriously
furnished--when he entered; and with all the assurance of an accepted
friend, he walked up and took a seat by her side. She was reading at the
time, and when he entered she barely raised her eyes from the pages of the
book, as if to assure herself who it was that intruded, and then, without
further notice or any sign of recognition, continued to peruse the work in
hand. This unexcited, cool and self-possessed conduct was not what the
villain seemed to expect or desire; he hoped to find a suppliant in tears,
instead of a calm and apparently unconcerned woman; he was prepared for
such a subject, but for the one before him he was not, and he was at a loss
how to proceed; indeed, just at that moment he was the most uneasy of the
two. But he must do something, and so opened the interview on this wise:

"You seem to be deeply absorbed in the contents of that book, Miss
Mandeville, and I am pleased to see you so well entertained in this rather
solitary abode."

As this remark did not positively require a reply, Eveline continued to
read without opening her mouth; Duffel bit his lip in vexation, but after a
pause of some duration continued:

"I am very sorry to interrupt you when so agreeably employed, but necessity
often compels us to do things abhorrent to our feelings; and as I have some
important communications to make, which it is best for you to know
immediately, I must beg to be permitted to disturb you for a few minutes.
Perhaps it will be some compensation for the brief interruption to give you
the latest intelligence from your father and former home."

At these words Eveline for the first time raised her eyes to the face of
the villain, as if to ascertain the expression of his countenance, and
learn whether he was in a serious or mocking humor. He went on:

"I had the pleasure of a long interview with Mr. Mandeville last evening.
He was in much distress at your absence, and thought you were very
undutiful to leave him in his old age without even a parting word."

At this unfeeling recital, Eveline cast upon the heartless wretch a look of
indignation, and her dark eyes fairly shot fire; he quailed under the
scathing rebuke of those orbs, as he had often done before, but was
chagrined that he had been unable to draw a single word from her lips, and
mentally resolving to bring her to the speaking point, he proceeded:

"But sorry and indignant as he was at _your_ conduct, he was far more
deeply exasperated at Hadley."

"Hadley!" repeated she, in the first moment of surprise.

"Yes; that very loving letter he addressed to you fell into your parent's
hands, together with another one from the same writer, directed to himself
wherein Hadley asks forgiveness for himself, and especially for you, fair
lady, whom he represents to be in deep distress, that love irresistibly
draws you to him and away from home."

"Villain!" ejaculated Eveline, with flashing eye.

"Be careful of your words, my dear; you are not now in your father's
house, and it may not suit my purpose to allow you the use of such
epithets, as applied to myself."

With this remark, Eveline at once turned to her book and commenced reading
again, as much as to say:--"Have the conversation all to yourself, then!"
and the miscreant so understood and interpreted the act, and felt that he
was outgeneraled by the superior tactics of his opponent, notwithstanding
the immense advantage he was master of in the contest.

"Nay, fair lady," he said, "I did not intend to cut you off from the
privilege of speech, but only to advise you to be a little careful in the
use of terms and epithets."

"Sir, if after forcing a conversation upon me on your own terms, and at an
advantage of your own choosing, you are too cowardly to hear what I please
to say, you must talk to yourself. When I speak at all I select my own
words. I do not belong to that class of contemptible poltroons, who slink
behind others to hide themselves and their crimes, basely exposing the
innocent to the censures and punishment that should fall upon their own
guilty heads. No, sir; woman as I am I would scorn to stoop to such a low
depth of infamy to screen myself from any position, even from death itself;
and if you, with all this littleness of mind and cringing cowardice of
soul, expect to intimidate me by any menaces, all I have to say is, you
have 'reckoned without your host.' And permit me to tell you that there are
no words in any language half adequate to express my contempt of you as a
man, or my abhorrence of your acts as a criminal, of whom, thus far, the
gallows has been shamefully cheated."

This bold speech fairly took the rascal out of himself. He ground his teeth
in rage and seemed on the point of committing some desperate deed, but
those unquailing and flashing eyes were fixed upon him with a look that
seemed to burn into his innermost soul, and penetrate its dark recesses of
guilt. He was again conquered by that look; there was a magnetic power
about it he could not withstand; and swallowing his rage as best he could,
replied after this manner:

"I perceive you have that implement for which your sex is so distinguished,
a ready tongue, and I must confess it points words sharply and drives them
home with force, and under some circumstances I might feel like
retaliating; but here, as my guest, I shall not presume to do so; it will
accord much better with my wishes to proceed with the matter in hand,--As I
was saying, your father fully believes that Hadley has persuaded you to
leave home and elope with him, and he is so shocked by your want of filial
affection, as to be totally disqualified for acting with his usual energy;
beside, he says if you care so little for him as to desert him and the home
of your childhood for a horse-thief and a vagabond, he cares not to seek
after you, but says you may go."

At the first, Eveline felt like weeping, and for a moment buried her face
in her hands; but then she felt it would not do to give way to feelings of
tenderness and sorrow in her present situation, and choking down the great
grief that swelled up in her bosom on her father's account, she suddenly
assumed a commanding attitude, and addressed the calculating human fiend as
follows:

"Inhuman monster! how long do you expect thus to dare the vengeance of
heaven? You have stained your soul with crimes that would darken the pit of
night; you have committed robberies, and thefts, and _murder_! Ay, start
and turn pale when your crimes stare you in the face, you have done so
before, and you will again. You thought there was no eye to witness your
plotting deeds, no ear to hear your murderous plans except those of your
vile confederates, but you see I am aware of your crimes."

"Who told you these things?" he demanded, breaking in upon her discourse.

"That is a question I shall not take the trouble to answer; it is enough
for you to understand that _I know what you are_, and that long-delayed
justice will overtake you, perhaps, sooner than you deem it possible your
secret acts can be brought to light; for you seem to have forgotten that
there is One, whose eye never slumbers, whose ear is always open to the
prayer of the distressed and to the voice of the blood of the innocent,
which crieth from the ground as did the blood of Abel."

"Ah, what a pity it is you are not a parson, or at least a parson's wife!
You really talk like a preacher; but I fear your discourse has produced
little more effect upon _your_ auditory than do the polished words of a
fashionable divine upon _his_; all very fine, but fancy sketches are not
apt to effect as much with sober, common-sense people, as is the truth."

This was said with something of returning assurance, Duffel having tried to
work himself into the belief that all was guess-work on the part of
Eveline, so far as her accusations were concerned. She saw this, and in a
moment the remembrance of her dream that morning flashed across her mind,
and she determined to try the effect a reference to the scenes which passed
in review before her mental vision would have upon him:

"Sir, your assumed assurance would soon leave you if you were in a
court-room, and the evidence of your guilt, as I have it, detailed by
witnesses. When your secret conference with those vile instruments--not yet
so vile as yourself--whom it has pleased you to use as tools, were made
known before a court and jury, your brazen impudence would depart, and the
specter of a gibbet in the distance--and but a short distance, too--would
pale your unblushing cheek and palsy your false tongue, skillful as you may
have been in casting blame upon others by deceptive and lying words. When
it was proved that _you_ stole my father's horse; that _you_ are
responsible for the absence of Mr. Hadley; that _you_ pointed the knife and
the pistol at his heart, and then mendaciously represented him as the thief
and kidnapper who is found in your own person; then, sir, would you vail
your face and go out no more among men, but upon your forehead, as _now_
upon your soul, would be the brand of _thief_, _robber_, _murderer_! Ay,
well may you cower! well may the cold sweat force itself out upon your
brow! Did it never enter into your debased mind that the villain who is
degraded enough to sell himself to crime for a little sordid dust, will,
for a larger sum, betray his employer? Do you suppose that when _you_
meditate vengeance upon your tools, they will idly await your pleasure and
plans, and lift no hand in their own defense?"

At this point Duffel actually sprang to his feet, the great drops oozing
from every pore! How had his secret thoughts become known to her?--thoughts
that no mortal ear had ever heard him utter?

"Girl! girl!" he shouted, "who and what are you? demon, witch or spirit?"

Then he paused a moment, as if to collect himself, and decide upon a course
of action. Becoming a little more composed, he continued:

"If you are in league with hell, then are we of one family if you have not
belied me, and I shall take it upon myself to strengthen the affinity by--"

"Sir!" she said, with a commanding look which awed him into silence, (for
his superstitious feelings were already in the ascendant, and he began to
_fear_ her) "I have no connection with the household of his Satanic
majesty, _nor do I intend to have_, albeit you have intimated to the
contrary."

"Don't be too sure of that," he interrupted. "You must know that when I set
my heart upon a measure, I never allow myself to be defeated in its
accomplishment; and just now the darling object I have in view is a union
with yourself."

This was _said_ with much of his usual assurance, though the expression of
his face gave indications of internal uneasiness, and a trembling of soul,
which belied the ostensible bravery put on for the occasion.

"You speak as though there was but one will in the world, of which you were
the fortunate possessor; permit me to disabuse your overweening confidence
and selfishness on this point. I have no wish to pass words with such an
unmanly representative of mankind as you, sir, but let me assure you it is
my very calm and fixed determination to show you that all your intentions
cannot be carried out."

"We will see, then," he said, with something of aroused indignation, "whose
will is the stronger, or, rather, who has the advantage in this contest.
You seem to forget your situation at the present moment, and that you are
entirely and completely in my power."

"I forgot nothing, sir: I am in the hands of One, before whom you are as a
grasshopper; and His justice does not always slumber."

"Turning parson again! It is all very well; but just now that high
authority seems to be engaged in some one else's behalf, and, much to my
satisfaction, has left you to take care of yourself. I, on the contrary,
having an immediate interest in your welfare, have undertaken to care for
you; and inasmuch as your very powerful ally has given you into my hands, I
esteem it my interest and privilege to find a home and provide for you."

These words of derision were spoken with mock politeness, and the manner of
the speaker indicated that much of his wonted assurance had returned.

"May that God you impiously defy, whose attributes you daringly and
deridingly blaspheme, let fall upon your guilty head the just punishment
for your crimes; I ask for you no greater curse--Heaven knows that will be
dreadful enough!"

"There, that will do! We have had enough preaching for one day; let us now
proceed to business. I was just remarking how completely you are in my
power, and a glance at your situation will at once reveal to you the fact
that I have you where I can compel a compliance with my wishes; but I do
not propose to use force, unless compelled to do so by your own obstinacy
and willfulness. I have already, on former occasions, spoken to you of my
deep and unquenchable love for you, and it is not my purpose to repeat the
declarations made at those several interviews farther than to say, that my
feelings toward you remain unchanged; I regard you too highly to permit
another to wed you; I may be selfish, but that is a natural result of love;
no one ever loved but he desired to possess the object of his affection. In
this respect I do not claim for myself any superior excellence; my love is
human in kind, it only differs from others by being stronger in degree; and
the deeper the love, the more ardent the desire to win the beloved. This is
my only apology for bringing you here; and, as it is a very flattering one,
I hope you will accept it, and pardon the act to the performance of which I
was irresistibly driven by this strongest passion of the human heart."

Seeing the direction he was giving the conversation, Eveline took up her
book and commenced reading. Duffel was exceedingly vexed, but this time he
was not to be balked in his designs, and so took the book from her hands,
saying as he did so.

"I beg pardon, but now I _must_ and _will_ be heard. I have already
informed you of your father's feelings toward yourself and Charles Hadley:
I have now another piece of intelligence to communicate to you; and that
is, that your parent gave you to me in case I should be able, by _any
means_, to save you from a union with Hadley."

"It is false! My parent gave me his solemn promise never to interpose his
authority to compel me to marry against my will."

"Very well: you at the same time gave him your word never to see Hadley
until he was cleared of the crime imputed to him; he believes you have been
unfaithful on your part, and that he, therefore, is no longer bound to
observe the compact entered into between you."

"Again you are guilty of misrepresentation. My father's word was pledged to
me before he had even asked me not to see Mr. Hadley, and there was,
consequently, no compact between us, but a voluntary promise on either
side."

"Which you violated by going to meet Hadley, as you supposed."

"No, sir, I did not. My word was given to be observed so long only as Mr.
Hadley appeared to be guilty. I know him to be innocent, and that knowledge
absolves me."

"As you please on that point; for it matters but little, and does not
change the view taken of the subject by Mr. Mandeville, who, as I said, has
given you to me on the one condition of preventing a union between you and
Hadley; _and I am at liberty to act just as I see fit_ in order to
accomplish this end. Don't you see that I have everything my own way, and
your father's sanction, also, to any measures I may adopt?"

"What you say _may_ be true, though I have no evidence whatever that it is;
for if you would lie to my parent, you would lie to me also. One thing,
however, I _do_ know, and that is, that you have not yet obtained _my_
consent to your proposed measures, and being of age, I have the legal right
to make such disposition of my hand as I may see proper; and be assured I
will never bestow it upon _you_! Sir, I would prefer to wed the vilest
wretch in the Penitentiary of any State before you."

"You may repent the use of such words, fair lady; and, indeed, but for my
merciful feelings toward you, ere this you would have been glad to beg the
boon I now offer and you reject."

"Infamous villain! never!"

"We shall see."

"And we _shall_ see!"

She fixed upon him that look from which he had so often shrunk before, and
again he quailed beneath it.

"From what you have already said," he replied, avoiding her gaze, "I am led
to suppose you suspect me of crimes in the eyes of the law, which it would
not be pleasant for the world to know. This is an additional reason why I
cannot permit you to leave this place except as my wife; for I am not
prepared just yet to enter the court-room. I am persuaded that one of your
strongest reasons for refusing to marry me, has its foundation in a former
preference, and is kept active by the hope of a union with the object of
that preference; if so, permit me to say to you that Charles Hadley is
_dead_!"

"Perhaps, but I must have better evidence of the fact than your simple,
unsupported word, or I will not believe it. _I know you bargained to have
him killed_, but I hope God overruled your wicked intentions."

"Your hope is vain, and I will bring you the necessary witnesses to-morrow
to prove my words; at present I will state the fact, and add; for your
benefit, that, whether true or false, your destiny is the same, and from it
you cannot, shall not escape. I will now lay down the unalterable decree of
fate, which you may as vainly attempt to avoid, as to pluck down the stars
of heaven, or to blot out the sun from the firmament!"

"Perhaps."

"I give you one week in which to con the matter over in your mind; if at
the end of that time you willingly consent to become my wife, well and
good; if not, then I will make you mine whether you will or not!"

"Perhaps."

"Girl! don't presume too far on my patience. I warn you it is not the most
enduring in the world."

"I am not so sure of that. Cowards are generally very patient when there is
no danger at hand."

"You will repent this, girl!"

"And you, sir! what will you do when the rope dangles in your face?"

"Kiss my pretty wife and commend her to the compassion of her friends."

"You will never have a wife, sir. God in His infinite mercy, will spare all
my sex from such a fearful calamity."

"Enough words for this time. To-morrow I will bring the witnesses of
Hadley's death, as I promised you; and this day week I will receive your
final answer to my last offer of a peaceable marriage."

So saying, he left the room and the cave.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE EVIDENCE--DUFFEL THWARTED.


It would be difficult to tell which of the two, Eveline or Duffel, was most
uneasy, or least alarmed, during the progress of the conversation recorded
in the last chapter. Duffel feared that Bill and Dick had played him false,
and he also saw that his antagonist was too much for him in a fair contest.
Eveline felt an internal dread of her adversary, though she gave no outward
manifestation of fear, having firmly resolved to withstand his every
attack, and if need be die in defense of her virtue. When alone, however,
the feelings uppermost in her mind were those of distress and apprehension;
and as she took a survey of the position in which she was placed, and
contemplated the hopelessness of her situation, a tide of emotions, long
suppressed, swept over her spirit, and yielding to her feelings, she bowed
her head, and wept.

When Duffel was alone, he called up all that had passed, and as he dwelt on
the revelation of his plots as made to him by Eveline, he came to the
conclusion that the sooner he could get rid of Bill and Dick the better;
for it must have been through them that she came in possession of the
secrets known only to themselves.

"I'll teach them a lesson!" he said, "and once clear of these fellows I
will never trust rascals again. I wish they would, hurry and make way with
Duval; I would then have them! However, I must have an interview now, and
use them awhile longer."

He proceeded to the "swamp," where his associates were to meet him. They
were already in waiting when he arrived, and without ceremony or
circumlocution, he accosted them as follows:

"So, then, you have turned traitors, have you?"

"_Traitors!_"

"Yes, and been developing my secrets."

"If any tongue but yours should dare make the accusation, it would be
silenced forever," replied Bill, in much excitement. "Who dares to make
such a charge against us? We demand to know, and his lying lips shall be
sealed with his own blood!"

"There, that will do. It was only a woman that intimated to me that you
were unfaithful; and I thought then, as I think now, that it was all
guess-work with her."

Here he narrated so much of the interview with Eveline as related to
themselves, and concluded by asking if they had held any private
conversation that she could by any possibility have overheard.

"Not a word, your honor; we did not so much as make a sign by which she
might suspect us or you."

"Very well, I am satisfied; but it seems she either knows or suspects
something, and we must be more than ever on our guard. What I wish to say
to you now, is, that this lady, either for willfulness or out of disbelief,
affects to discredit my statement concerning Hadley's death, and I wish you
to accompany me to the cave to-morrow, and confirm my statements. You need
not implicate yourselves, but give the facts as you saw them transpire."

"All right we'll be there; and I guess we can fix up the right kind of a
story for the occasion."

"And to-morrow night you must make a descent upon 'Squire Williams'
pasture-field, and save a little of his grass by removing a part of his
stock. You understand?"

"Perfectly. We will try, but it's getting to be rather a dangerous business
of late. Since Mandeville's horse was stolen, the men have taken it into
their heads to defend their property. Only a few nights ago, two of our men
went over with the intention of taking Thompson's fine bay; but he was on
hand, and shot one of them through the arm; and they were glad to get off
without the horse."

"Indeed! that's bad news, for we must make a raise somehow. I don't want
the captain to come back and find we have done nothing in his absence."

"Well, we will do the best we can; but it is about time we were leaving
this part of the country, at least for awhile. I don't think we can effect
much, and we run great risks of being detected."

"Do you think suspicion rests on any of our members?"

"Well I can't say as to that. People are beginning to suspect everybody
they don't know, and some that they do. If a man hasn't any particular
occupation, he is pretty certain to be suspected of getting his living by
dishonest means."

"We must get away from here. I will be ready to look out some other
location within the next fortnight. In the meantime, do the best you can,
and all that you can; but be very cautious. Remember to-morrow."

"We will be there, be assured."

With this the villains departed.

Eveline continued to weep for some length of time and then, arousing
herself, she summoned all the courage of which she was master, and braced
herself to meet the fate in store for her, be it what it might.

In passing through the room, her eye fell upon a strip of paper, which lay
in such a position as to indicate that it had been brushed from a table
which was sometimes used by Duffel to write upon. She listlessly took it up
and glanced over it, when her eye caught a few lines penciled upon it.
Seating herself, she examined the writing more closely, and in a moment
became interested. On the paper were some characters, the meaning of which
she could not comprehend, though she recognized them in a moment, as being
the same in form and character as those on the letter which had fallen into
her father's hand, purporting to be from some one to Hadley, as related in
the former part of this story, and in connection with these were clearly
traced the following words:

"And then Bill and Dick! They are first rate fellows in their way, and have
been very serviceable to me; but I don't think it is best to have too many
confidants. I must get rid of them in some way, either by fair or foul
means. Then I shall feel safe and at ease."

These few lines, it seemed to Eveline, had been written unintentionally, as
a man would unconsciously "think aloud;" and she was persuaded in her own
mind, that Duffel knew not of their existence, or he would have destroyed
them. And this was the fact. He had written a letter to the captain on the
day previous to Eveline's abduction, the first draft of which was now in
her hand. This paper was on the table at his side, and after finishing the
letter, he sat for some moments in deep thought, the burden of which was
his own situation. His pencil was in his hand, and in the course of his
secret communion, the words we have quoted were spoken to himself, and
recorded with the pencil--his mind the while too completely absorbed in the
current of his reflections to note the act or be aware of the mechanical
action of his hand.

It instantly flashed across her mind that this document might be made
serviceable to her, if, on the morrow, unperceived by Duffel, she could
find an opportunity of slipping it into the hand of one of his
confederates. She turned it over, and wrote on the other side:

"I found this paper in the room where I am confined. You will know whether
or not the writing is in the hand of your employer; should it prove to be,
as I suspect it is, you will at once perceive his intentions toward you,
and can act accordingly. If, in this new phase of affairs, you feel willing
to desert his service, and aid me to escape out of his hands, and from this
place, you shall be abundantly rewarded, and I will ever be your debtor.

"E. MANDEVILLE."

She then folded the note into as small a compass as possible, and placed it
about her person for future use.

The next day, Duffel visited the cave in company with Bill and Dick, whom
he introduced into the captain's room for the purpose already named.

"You have not forgotten our conversation yesterday, Eveline," said he, "nor
have I my promise. In these gentlemen you have the witnesses of Hadley's
death, which, for your own good, I have taken this pains to establish
beyond a doubt. My friends will now speak for themselves."

Bill at once addressed himself to her as follows:

"It is with much pain, fair lady, that we are before you as witnesses of
the sad occurrence referred to by Mr. Duffel; but as circumstances have
placed us in this unpleasant situation, we crave your pardon most heartily,
and the more so, if what we have to say should be a source of grief to you.
It so happened that my friend and myself were crossing the mountains, a
short time since, and being somewhat belated, were urging our passage
through a dark and gloomy valley, in some apprehension, when we suddenly
came upon two villains, who had just slain a man, and were about to rob
him. We rushed to the spot before their work was completed, and they fled
from the scene of murder in the greatest alarm. We dismounted, and found
that the individual was Mr. CHARLES HADLEY, with whom we had been
acquainted some years before. He was not yet quite dead, and spoke a few
words about his mother and some other lady; but his articulation was so
indistinct and his words so broken, we could not gather the import of what
we supposed to be his dying messages to those of whom he spoke. He expired
in a few moments, and we then hastened to the nearest hamlet for
assistance. I would fain stop here, lady, for the rest of the recital is
very shocking; but I have been requested to tell all, and must do so. It
was something over an hour before we, with some four or five others, who
had accompanied us, returned, when, oh, horror! what were our feelings on
beholding a pack of hungry wolves devouring the body of Mr. Hadley! We
lighted torches and drove them away, but nothing remained of the dead man
but his bones! God grant that I may never witness another such a sight!"

Eveline, who was much shocked at this story, lest it _might_ be true,
though she was by no means certain it was not made up for the occasion,
appeared to be much more deeply affected than she really was, and made
appear as though she was about to faint, seeing which, Duffel stepped up
with the intention of supporting her. She sprang from him, and, in great
apparent agitation, seized Bill by the arm, and demanded of him if what he
had said was the actual truth, and at the same time pressed the note in his
hand, giving him an intelligent look. He very dextrously transferred the
little billet to his left vest pocket, as though he was simply laying his
hand upon his heart to give greater solemnity to his reply, and said:

"I assure you, madam, what I have told you is the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth, and my friend will confirm the statement I have
made."

"Yes," said Dick, thus appealed to, "the sad story is but too true; I wish
for your sake it was not."

This was said with some feeling, and it had more effect upon Eveline than
even the horrid recital given by Bill, but she felt the necessity of
crushing down all tender feelings, and with a masterly effort succeeded in
doing so, then replied:

"You will pardon me, gentlemen, for having seemed to express a doubt on the
subject of your narrative; we are apt to judge persons by the company they
keep, and knowing your friend here," (pointing to Duffel,) "is very much
given to telling falsehoods, I thought it possible you might have formed
that detestable habit through his example; I trust, however, it is not the
case."

Duffel boiled with internal rage at this remark; but suppressing his anger,
he conducted his allies out of the room, gave them some directions, and
then returned to impose his unwelcome presence and conversation upon
Eveline, who had no means of avoiding him, but was compelled to hear his
words.

"I hope," said he, "you are now satisfied of the truth of my declaration,
that Hadley is dead."

"He may be; but I say now, as I said before, I do not _know_ that he is;
but admitting that he _is_ dead, what difference does it make?"

"Why not much, it is true, and I think I took the liberty of saying so
yesterday. I only wish, by proving the certainty of this event, to show you
the folly of continuing longer to set your affections upon him, provided
you have been doing so heretofore."

"And suppose I should cease to remember him, what would that avail you?"

"I would then hope to be able to convince you of my own deep love, and in
so doing of exciting a kindred sentiment in your own bosom."

"Have you the presumption to believe that I could be brought to such a
state of degradation of feeling, now that I know who and what you are, when
I rejected you under far more favorable circumstances? If you have, let me
at once tell you, that in this instance, as in many others, your vanity has
led you to entirely over-estimate your ability to please. Perhaps some of
my sex might be silly enough to listen to your well-turned speeches, but I
can assure you the less you speak to me of _love_ the better."

"People often change their minds."

"So they do; but I think you have pretty good reason to believe that _I_ am
not particularly liable to be charged with that failing."

"Well, no, I believe I cannot charge you with that weakness; but I am sure
you are very obstinate for one of your sex, which is not usually adjudged
to be among the amiable characteristics of a lady."

"A lady that has no mind of her own is no credit to the sex; but I am sorry
to say there are too many of that class, at least we might readily suppose
so by the easy manner in which they are taken captive with soft, silly
nonsense, and smooth, flattering words. If you admire such, the best thing
you can do is to go and make love to them; you will progress much faster
than you do here."

"There now, by my troth, I like that! I wouldn't give a cent for a girl
that had no spirit about her. If you keep on at such a rate, I shall be
more madly in love with you than ever! Come, be a good girl, and give us a
little more of that kind of spice!"

"You like it, do you? Very well, I will change the key a little then, just
a little, and let you have a peep at yourself. You pretend to entertain
sentiments of regard for me; but you know, and I know also, that it is my
father's wealth of which you are enamored."

"No, I swear to you, I love _you_!"

"And I know that is a false oath. You base hypocrite! do you think for a
moment that I cannot and do not see through your flimsy gauze of deception?
I can read your guilty soul as a book; I know your motives, and I know that
a pure, generous, or noble sentiment never had a lodgment in your breast.
You are base, corrupt, cowardly and unmanly in every sense of the word.
There is not a redeeming trait in your character. You are false to your
friends, you cajole your enemies, and prey upon community. You _know_ this
is a true picture of yourself, only that 'the half has not been told;' and
yet you have the unblushing audacity to talk to me of _love_!"

"Yes; and what is more, I am going to wed you."

"Sir! never dare to utter such a word in my presence again!"

"Ha, ha, ha! That _is_ rich, any how! Ha, ha! A weak prisoner to dare a
mighty captor in that way! You certainly must forget where you are, my
pretty little defiant beauty! Why I could just as easily compel a
compliance with my wishes, as make you a listener to my discourse."

"Not quite, sir; you might possibly find yourself slightly mistaken should
you attempt too much, and I give you fair warning to beware what you do!"

"Ha, ha, ha! Why, my love, I could conquer you with one hand."

"You had better not try it, sir!"

"I certainly would make an effort had I not already allowed you a week to
make up your mind. But to show you how completely you are in my power, I
will just plant a kiss on your ruby lips--"

"Never, sir; _never_!" said she, with flashing eye. "Dare to touch me with
your polluted hand, and you die on the spot!"

"Ha! what's that I hear? Talk of killing, do you? Well, we shall see."

And he took a step toward her, with the intention of carrying out his
threat.

"Stop, sir!" she said; and there was that in the tone of her voice which
arrested him as suddenly as would a bar of iron interposed across his way.
"Know," she continued, "that lips polluted as yours are can never come in
contact with mine! I would sooner press mine to the slimy carcass of a
decaying animal, than permit them even to touch yours! and I would far
rather inhale the atmosphere from putrid flesh, aye, from the vilest
carrion, than that your foul breath should enter my nostrils! This, sir,
will give a faint idea of the utter detestation, the inexpressible
loathing, I feel for you."

"By heavens! you shall repent of this in sackcloth and ashes! Detest and
loathe as you please, you _shall_ feel my lips upon your own! and that
now!"

With this, the infuriated villain stepped forward and made a pass,
intending to encircle Eveline in his arms, but she eluded his grasp, and
placing the sofa between them, drew from the folds of her dress a small
dagger, and pointing it at his heart, said:

"One step, one movement toward me, and your life pays the forfeit!" and she
pressed the point of the weapon against his breast.

The cowardly wretch was taken aback, and the moment he felt the instrument
touch him sprang away, as if the sharp steel was truly entering his flesh.

"Base coward!" she, in her excitement, hissed between her teeth in the most
contemptuous manner. At his discomfiture and these words, his rage knew no
bounds; he was beside himself with anger, and but for the weapon which she
held, would have wreaked his vengeance upon her at once in the most beastly
manner. As it was, his cowardice did not permit him to make the attempt,
and he contented himself with pouring out his wrath in words:

"You incarnate child of h----l! I'll make you weep in sorrow and shame for
this! I have given you a week for reflection, but now your time is at hand,
any hour that I shall please to crush you! and I will not keep you long in
suspense. You have called up a thousand furies in my breast, all clamorous
for revenge, and I will not resist their cries! No, it will be manna to my
soul to see your proud spirit humbled, or behold you a suppliant for mercy
at my feet!"

"_Never!_"

"Oh, yes; you may talk, and by my dalliance I have learned you to become
insolent; but now I am done with temporizing. I throw down the gauntlet,
since you have entered the lists, and will compel you to accept the
challenge."

"No, sir, I accept it freely! Don't talk of compelling _me_ to do a thing."

"I'll show you what I'll do! I'll bring tears into those flashing eyes, and
prayers from that venomous tongue! Yes, I will! I have engagements ahead
for two days, and after that you shall have no peace day or night, until I
have forced you to become my wife! I wouldn't marry you at all, but that I
have sworn to you to that effect, and I will keep my word."

"You have uttered many false oaths before; they are so common I do not
regard them."

"Your boasting will soon be done! If need be, I have fifty men under my
command, upon whom I can call for assistance, and not one of them will dare
to disobey my orders."

"Poor, contemptible poltroon! Fifty men against one feeble woman! Verily,
you have a brave set of fellows under a brave commander! But you dare not
call upon your men; I could make forty friends of the number in quick time;
but, even if I should fail, you are too much of a coward to trust fifty men
with your secret, especially as they all know you have a superior in
command, to whom _you_ are amenable."

"Who told you this?"

"Find out as best you can. Perhaps I might suggest to you the possibility
of having already made friends among the members of the Order."

"Order! Who the d----l told you there was an Order?"

"Well, find out."

"I will, then!"

"And you will not!"

"Then there's treason in the League, and I'll ferret it out."

"Do so, by all means!"

She was gaining the victory again, and he changed his tactics.

"I care but little who you may have in league with you, so long as you are
here in my power. No one can enter this room without my consent, and in it
I am safe even from the attack of an army without. Here you are my
prisoner; you think you are safe in the other apartment with the door
locked and bolted on the inside, but you are not. There is a secret passage
to the room, of which you are in total ignorance. I can avail myself of it
at any moment: and you will some time be compelled to sleep. Don't you see
I have you, now?"

This was sheer folly; for it was evidently his best policy to have kept the
knowledge of the secret passage to himself if he expected to avail himself
of it; but he was for inflicting all the pain he could, and this he fancied
would be a deep thrust.

"I thank you, villain, for this timely piece of information; and be assured
I shall not fail to be prepared for your reception, should you dare to
intrude into my presence while there."

"Hooty-tooty! as if I am not to be master in my own house! Well, well;
flatter yourself with foolish fancies if you will; but know that your
destiny is fixed. You shall never leave this cave, except as my wife. This
is your fate, and you may as well make up your mind to it at once. I will
have no more words with you at present, but will leave you to reflect on
what I have said, with the hope that a little calm thought will show you
the folly of resistance, the certainty of your fate and the wisdom of a
peaceful acquiescence therein."

Saying which, he left the cave, as much vanquished as victor, though with a
firm resolve to carry his purpose, even if he had to disable her first, by
shooting her through the arm, with a pistol, in order to overcome her!



CHAPTER XV.

BILL AND DICK--HORSE-STEALING--ANTI-THIEF LEAGUE.


On leaving the cave, after the interview with Eveline, Bill and Dick
resorted to a place where they were in the habit of holding consultations
on their own affairs, arrived at which, Bill produced the note which
Eveline gave him, from his pocket, and at once perused it. A dark scowl
gathered on his face as he read, and when he had mastered the document, an
exclamation broke from his lips to this effect:

"Infernal villain and coward!"

"What now?" queried Dick, not a little surprised at his companion's violent
language.

"What do you think?"

"That's a pretty question to ask! as if I could know anything contained in
that paper, when I've never seen it except in your hand."

"This rascal, for whom we have been working these three months, wants to
get clear of us, so soon as he has obtained from us all the aid he
desires."

"What, _Duffel_?"

"Yes, Duffel."

Dick stood a moment, as if in doubt whether to believe Bill's words or
not; at length he inquired:

"How do you know this?"

"Why, here it is, in his own hand-writing."

That he wants to betray us?"

"No--yes--that is, he wants to get us out of the way!"

"How?"

"By fair means or foul; he don't seem to care which. But I will read his
words," and Bill read the billet to his accomplice.

"So he's afeard of us!" commented Dick. "Well, it ain't much wonder that he
is. Ef I had as many crimes to account for as he has, and others knew of my
guilt, I'd be skeered, too."

"See here, Dick, what the d----l does he mean by wanting us to hurry off
that affair with Duval?"

"Fool! can't you see nothin'? Why, he wants us to kill a member of the
Order, and then have us shot as traitors!"

"Egad! plain enough, truly. Well, Mr. Duval, you may pass this time; we'll
pitch into higher game. What do you say, Dick?"

"Say? Why, that this friend of ours will have to git up mighty airly in the
mornin', ef he finds us nappin'."

"Let me tell you, it is no very pleasant fix, this, that we are in. Duffel
fears we will betray him, and is resolved to prevent it by having us
killed. That's the 'long and short' of the matter; and he has fifty men at
his back, all sworn to obey his orders. He can accuse us of treason, try,
condemn, and have us shot, in the shortest possible time. Now, how are we
to help ourselves?"

"Well, we can't be tried till the next regular meeting of the League, and
it is more than two weeks till that time. We can watch his movements, and,
ef need be, kill him or give him over into the hands of the law on a charge
of murder."

"Yes, give him over to justice, and who is to prove him guilty, unless it
be ourselves, and then we would have the whole League down upon us in quick
time! a pretty way, indeed, to get rid of him. True, we might kill him at
our next meeting in the 'swamp' and then be hung for it, which would be a
poor recompense for our trouble and bad pay for taking the life of such a
dastard. No, I am for revenge--a revenge that will thwart his designs, and
save us from his power at the same time."

"But how are you going to accomplish so much? that's the rub."

"See here; on the back of this note, Miss Mandeville writes a few lines,
asking our aid, and promising a reward for any service we may be willing
and able to render her. My plan is this: To take the lady from the cave,
which will be the deepest blow we can strike the villain, and then--"

"Well that'll do for the present. I want to know, before you go any
further, how you are to git the gal out without the _key_, which, I take
it, Duffel is very careful to secure about his own person?"

"Key! the deuce!" replied Bill, taken aback, for a moment, by the query. "I
hadn't thought of that, but it's no difference; my plans are not alf made
out in the details yet; but this is no bar to them; for I'd like to see the
lock that Bill Mitchel can't make a key to fit, if he has a fair chance. I
can make a false key in a day that will open the door to the captain's
room. So that difficulty is settled."

"And now for the rest of your plan."

"Well, when we get all ready, I'll just drop a note to some of the
vigilance men, and tell them when and where they can find Duffel taking
care of a stolen horse. This will save us from the malice of any of his
confederates, as they will not suspect us, and place Duffel in the hands of
the officers of the government; and he will not get away soon, I'm
thinking!"

"So you expect to have Duffel captured about the same time you are
liberating his gal. Well, that's pretty sharp; I think you have not wasted
your time in Duffel's service, and after all, ought to thank him for giving
you such good lessons in plotting. But you have left one loophole yet, for
all that."

"What is it?"

"I've been tryin' to think what you will do with the gal when she's brought
out of the cave. She'll have to tell where she's been, and that'll fix all
of us."

"I have that matter all settled. It won't do to take the girl home, that's
certain; and this is my plan for action on that score: You see I have been
thinking this matter over in my mind before to-day. I didn't know but we
should have a split with Duffel on the Duval affair, and I was preparing
for such a state of things in case it did come. As I have told you before,
I know where there is a magnificent cave for our purpose in the mountains
of Virginia, to which it has been my determination to retreat, should
anything go wrong here. Well, I intend to take this young lady along with
us to that cave."

"Dang the women! I don't like to be bothered with 'em. Ef you are goin' to
that place, why not let the gal go home and 'blow' all she's a mind to? It
wouldn't hurt _us_, ef she did let out the secret."

"It might, though. Some of the members of the League might chance to find
us hereafter, and inform on us out of revenge."

"But we can swear the gal to keep still about who let her out."

"Pooh! do you suppose she would or _could_ do it?"

"Why, yes, I think it's more'n likely she'd keep her tongue out of
gratitude. She's no common gal, that, and you may put a peg there."

"Ah, that's it exactly. She's no common girl, as you say; and I have been
envying Duffel his good fortune ever since she has been in the cave. The
truth is, I was smitten by her charms the first time I saw her, and was
half tempted to play Duffel false then; and now that I can serve myself and
disappoint him at the same time, I shall not be slow to avail myself of the
opportunity."

"I don't like this business of runnin' off women, nohow you can fix it. It
allers looked mean and cowardly, somehow, and I despise meanness and
cowardice above all things."

"Well, that is a pretty speech to come from you, anyhow! as if you had not
been engaged in mean acts half your life, for which you would have to
swing, if the law should once get his clutches upon you."

"I know I have done some _bad_ things; of _mean_ acts I have performed but
few, and the meanest of these was helping to carry off this very gal to the
cave; and it was by far the most cowardly. Two men to one woman! It's
actually a disgrace, and I never think of it without feelin' little!"

"I am willing you should think as you please about the matter, so you give
me a little help in the affair."

"I don't know about that; I am tee-totally opposed to meddlin' with women,
and I don't think it's manly."

"Yes, but in this instance we are compelled, as it were, to take the girl
with us. That changes the case, you know, very materially."

"I'm not so sure as we need to take her. I believe she'd keep our secret ef
we'd let her go."

"Well, I don't; and so we differ. But that is not the question. Go she
must--go she _shall_! Will you assist me?"

"Why, I reckon I'll have to; it wouldn't hardly be fair to refuse a friend
after helpin' an enemy. I'll stand by you."

"That's a good fellow! Well, so much is settled. To-morrow Duffel will be
away, and I will take the impression for the key. By Jove, won't it be rich
when he finds that he has been robbed and the bird is flown!"

"I think he'll conclude this partic'lar part of God's footstool is likely
to become a leetle too hot for him."

"Yes; and about the time he begins to prepare for leaving, he'll find
himself taken care of in a way he doesn't dream of."

"And there will be one coward less at large in the world."

"And he will be paid for his treason to his friends."

"But how are we to manage him till the time for action comes?"

"Oh, we must be friendly as ever; he is not quite done with us yet, and we
must seem to enter into his plans as fully as ever we have done, and, above
all, give him no cause to suspect anything is wrong, or that we have any
idea of his intentions toward us."

"Then we must go after them horses to-night?"

"Certainly; I would not miss the opportunity, because, if we succeed in
taking the horses, they will be under our care, and we can use them for our
own purpose."

"Sure enough. But if we don't get them, what then are we to do?"

"Why, we will take some from the stable."

"I don't like that much. Ef it is found out, as it will be when we are
missed, we shall have the enmity of the Order."

"I know, and have prepared for such an emergency."

"How?"

"I will let you know in good time. We must away, now, to meet Duffel in the
'swamp.'"

Thus terminated the interview between these bad men. Had Eveline dreamed
that such would have been the effect of her revelation to them of Duffel's
purpose, she would have burned the paper sooner than have placed it in
their hands. From one snare she falls into another, and there appears to be
no end to her misfortunes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Night was upon the world. In peaceful slumbers the innocent reposed, while
the wicked, the thief and robber, stole out upon errands of vice and crime.

'Squire Williams, though in common a follower of that old proverb:

  "Early to bed and early to rise,
  Make a man healthy, wealthy and wise;"

was, on this evening, up until past eleven o'clock, in social chat with a
neighbor, who had "dropped in to spend the evening" with him. During the
conversation between them, the subject of most engrossing and universal
interest in that community, that of horse-stealing, was amply discussed.

"What do you think is best to be done?" inquired the neighbor.

"Well, others may do as they please; but I intend to _defend_ my property,"
was the 'Squire's reply.

"Just the conclusion I have arrived at; and I shall not be surprised if we
are called upon very soon to put our resolves into practice."

"Have you heard anything new?"

"Well, no, I haven't heard anything, but I've seen a little, and that, I
take it, is about as good."

"Why, yes, it might be better, if it was good for anything at all."

"I do not know how good it is, but my suspicions were excited."

"It is quite an easy matter to have our suspicions excited these exciting
times, and on this very exciting subject. There is Mr. Mandeville, has been
made to believe that one of the best young men who ever lived, is guilty of
stealing his horse first, and his daughter afterward."

"You don't mean to say that he suspects Mr. Duffel of such crimes?"

"No; he judges a thousand times better man than Duffel; for, between you
and me, I have my doubts about this Duffel. I have seen him on two
different occasions in company with a couple of, to say the least, very
suspicious looking characters."

"You don't say so!"

"Yes; and what is more, he was evidently on good terms with them, though he
did not appear to wish me to think so, and passed the matter off
indifferently. I might not have thought so much of the circumstance were it
not for the fact that he does not attend to business at all, and yet lives
in a better style and more extravagantly than any other young man in the
country. I tell you a man can't live these times, and spend money as he
does, without having an income much greater than his."

"Perhaps he is making inroads on his capital."

"That may be, too, though I do not know that it is the case; but I _do_
know that he is absent from home much of the time, occasionally for days
together, and nobody can tell where he is."

"I have noticed the fact of his absence myself."

"Mr. Mandeville was here to-day, and gave me a history of his troubles. It
appears that this Duffel was in love with his daughter--or, as _I_ suppose,
with his money--and had proposed to him for her hand, which he was willing
to bestow, but the daughter was not. She had placed her affections upon
another, and, in my belief, a far worthier object, and to the importunities
of both her father and Duffel, she gave a firm and constant refusal. The
parent forbid her favorite the house, and he believes that it was through
his persuasions that Eveline left her home, of which you, of course, have
heard."

"Why, yes, I heard the fact, but none of the particulars."

"Well there are no particulars, except that Mr. Mandeville found a couple
of notes, purporting to be from her lover, one addressed to herself and the
other to him, in the former of which he persuades her to meet him at a
certain place, and in the latter informs the parent of their elopement and
asks forgiveness. Now it strikes me that these notes or letters were
placed there by design, and that they are both forgeries. I know the
hand-writing of the young man he accuses, and though the manuscript of the
two letters is a very good imitation of his, yet it is not the same.
Beside, I do not believe him capable of such an act."

"Why, then, is the daughter gone?"

"I believe she has been kidnapped!"

"_Kidnapped!_"

"Yes, I do!"

"But who would do it? Who would _dare_ to do it!"

"Who so likely as the true lover's rival?"

"Heavens! you don't believe _Duffel_ would commit such a crime?"

"I do; but mind, this is to go no further until I can find _proof_ to
sustain my belief. I am going to keep a strict watch upon the movements of
this fellow, and I think I shall be able to find out where he keeps himself
a part of the time during his absence."

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing more nor less than that there is a secret gang of thieves and
villains of all kinds, whose head quarters are somewhere in this region of
country, and that I intend to ferret out their hiding-place."

"I am with you in that work with all my heart!"

"Very well. Here, then, is a paper I wish you to sign. It is a pledge. The
villains have banded together to prey upon us, and I am for banding
together to frustrate their plans and bring them to justice. This is simply
the form of agreement we enter into among ourselves, and it binds us to use
all honorable efforts, to further the cause in which we engage, and to
expose the guilty wherever and whenever we can find them, even if the
offender should be our nearest kin."

"I'll sign it, sir, with a hearty good will!"

"It further obligates us to aid each other to the utmost of our ability in
recovering stolen property, in case any of us should meet with such a
misfortune."

"All right, that's a good feature, I'm one of you, heart and hand!"

"Then you may sign, understanding, however, that all which passes between
us, as members of this body, is to be kept an inviolable secret. We
administer no oath, depending solely upon the honor of our members, all of
whom are expected to be honorable and honest men, whose word will be better
than the most terrible oath of a criminal."

The document was signed, and the 'Squire continued:

"Now, I wish you to consider all that has or may pass between us this
evening as strictly confidential. At the last meeting of our body it was
made the duty of every member to protect his property, and to shoot down
all thieves who were caught in the act of stealing horses. Some, however,
were for first warning the depredators, and if they did not then desist, to
fire upon them."

"Indeed! is it supposed that the rascals are so bold?"

"Certainly they are! Why, it was but two or three nights ago that two
thieves went into the pasture to take old Marshall's horses, supposing he
was too aged and infirm to thwart them, even if he should learn their
designs; they went early in the evening, before people usually retired to
rest; they caused a disturbance among the horses, which called out a couple
of neighbors who chanced to be there, who went to the pasture and demanded
of the thieves what they wanted; when they had the insolence to reply, that
they came after the horses and were going to have them. With this the men
fired upon them, but only with the intention of frightening them away; but
they were not so easily scared, and continued to follow up after the
horses, which were not easily caught, especially by strangers. Seeing this,
the men reloaded their rifles, and, taking the best aim the darkness would
allow, fired again; this time with the desired effect, as it was believed
one of the villains was wounded."

"I had no idea they were getting so bold!"

"No doubt they are numerous, and numbers beget confidence, you know. But we
must teach them a lesson or two they will not soon forget."

"By the way, George Gordon came home from a hunt a day or two ago, with a
wound in his arm. Do you think it possible he could have been one of the
thieves that night?"

"The truth is, I don't know who to trust nor who to suspect. I have no
doubt there are numbers of seemingly honest people who belong to the
secret gang of thieves. I should hardly have believed it of Gordon; but
there is no telling. How does he account for the wound?"

"He says his gun accidentally went off while he was leaning upon it with
his arm over the muzzle."

"Guns are not apt to play such scaly tricks as that; and we had better
watch him."

"By-the-way, I heard a report yesterday, to the effect that Thompson had
shot, or shot at, some thieves the other night."

"Yes, and you will hear of more shooting; mark that! And if the thieves do
not cease their operations, you will hear of some of them being shot dead
pretty soon!"

At this point in the conversation, a trampling among the horses in the
pasture attracted the attention of the 'Squire.

"Thieves, now!" he exclaimed; and taking down a couple of rifles, he gave
one to his neighbor and retaining the other himself, the two sallied forth
to ascertain what was going on. It was a starlight night, and they could
see some distance tolerably clearly. No sooner did they come in full view
of the field in which the horses were, than they espied two thieves
attempting to coax the 'Squire's favorite horse to them. The animal,
however, had always been shy of strangers, and would never suffer itself to
be caught by one even in the day-time. It was a noble animal, and the
thieves, as well as the lawful owner, had set their hearts upon it. They
would approach as near as prudence dictated, and then hold out corn and
salt to entice the beast; it would come near, but the moment they made the
least motion to catch it, would wheel about and let fly at them with its
heels in such a manner as evinced to the thieves that it was best to keep
at a respectful distance. They were yet unwilling to go without him, and
made repeated attempts to win him over to their way of thinking, but he was
entirely too honest to be wheedled into such bad company.

The 'Squire watched their operations until he thought it was about time to
stop the play, and then fired near, but not at the rascals, at the same
time calling out to them that they had better leave in short meter if they
wanted to get away alive. Supposing that he was alone and his gun empty,
they returned an insolent answer, to the effect that they would leave
shortly on a couple of his horses; and turned to try their hand at taking
some of the others in the pasture. To such a bold pass had the thieves
arrived!

"Aim _at_ the rascals, and fire!" said the 'Squire to his companion; and
they did so.

"By jing, Bill, we'd better be moving, I believe. That ball took a lock of
hair off by my ear!"

"The devil it did!"

Everything being still at the moment, the 'Squire heard this scrap of
conversation between the thieves, and called out:

"Yes, you _had_ better leave, or I'll put the next ball through one of your
hearts!"

"Do it, then, and be ----!" said one of them; and leveling a horse pistol
at the 'Squire he fired, the ball from which struck the fence close by.
This climax of insolence aroused the 'Squire fully. His gun was just
reloaded, and taking the best aim at one of the miscreants, both of whom
were now retreating rapidly, he fired. The fellow clapped his hand to his
face, but continued to run. They were soon out of sight.

The incidents here related are strictly true; but the truth is not half
told. Many such scenes took place, and numbers of the thieves were killed,
and some of them proved to be neighbors to those who had shot them!

The villains on this occasion were Bill and Dick, as the reader is aware,
and this was the termination of their attempt to save the 'Squire's
pasture, as Duffel suggested, or to get his horses as they themselves
desired.

So soon as the thieves were gone, the neighbor remarked to the 'Squire:

"This reminds me of what I was going to say in the early part of the
evening, but was led from the subject by the turn our conversation took."

"I remember, now, you mentioned having seen something, which excited your
suspicions that all was not right, in some quarter."

"Well, it was two men, very dare-devil looking fellows, whom I have seen
prowling about on several occasions, looking out, as I thought, for
chances to steal; and if I am not greatly mistaken, these are the same
men."

"No doubt of it at all.--This night's operations have convinced me more
than ever of the necessity of strong measures; and the next time I see
thieves at their work, I will not stop to scare them, but the first fire
will be to wound or kill!"

"I think I shall act on the same principle."

"I advise you to, and all other honest men. I am satisfied nothing else
will do."

With this they parted, each going to his own home.

It may be well enough to explain more fully than has yet been done, that
Bill and Dick acted in two capacities, one of ruffians, the other as
gentlemen. Bill was equally at home in either character, and could act the
latter quite _a la mode_. Dick was rather out of his element when it came
to the gentleman: he was a little awkward, and by no means at his ease; but
give him a daring or desperate act to perform, and he was entirely at home.
Yet for all this there was a streak of the man about him, and at heart he
was better than either Bill or Duffel.

It was at Dick that the 'Squire aimed the last shot, and the bullet grazed
his cheek, doing him no serious injury, however, though it drew the blood
and left a scar.

The two villains notwithstanding that they were foiled in their attempt
upon the horses, prepared for the prosecution of the rest of their schemes
on the morrow with great energy. But leaving them for the present, we will
turn to other scenes and characters.



CHAPTER XVI.

EVELINE--THE ANTI-LEAGUE.


Eveline did not sit down in supine idleness, and mourn over her sad fate.
True, at times she gave way to her feelings, when the hopelessness of her
situation came upon her, as she strove to penetrate the future, in all its
crushing force; and she would then weep for a time. But there was a
firmness about her character and a strength of determined resolution in her
purposes, which braced her spirit and filled her bosom with feelings such
as only have birth and nourishment in heroic souls. She looked her intended
fate in the face, with the fixed purpose to meet and conquer it, or perish
in the attempt.

In Duffel's absence, she had, on several occasions, searched the rooms of
the cave in which she was confined, to see if there was no secret passage
which communicated with the outer world. Her search had proved unavailing;
but instead of the outlet she was seeking, she found a small, jewel-hilted
dagger in a rich and costly case. It struck her at once that this weapon
might prove of great value to her, and with much care she concealed it in
the folds of her dress, where it was made fast. It was this dagger that
served her so excellently in the interview with Duffel, recorded in a
preceding chapter.

During the interview just referred to, it will be remembered how admirably
she sustained her part, and how triumphantly she thwarted Duffel in all his
villainous calculations, and especially in his attack upon her person.
After the wretch was gone, and she found herself alone, a train of sad
reflections came crowding in upon her mind. Was Hadley indeed dead? she
thought--and then the circumstantial narrative of the two accomplices of
her captor arose fresh in her mind.

"Oh, my God!" she exclaimed, "can it be that ravenous beasts fed upon his
flesh? that those arms upon which I have leaned, and which I hoped would
protect me, were torn from his body? that those lips which have smiled so
sweetly and spoken so hopefully and tenderly, and that noble face and brow
were gloated over by howling and bloody jaws! No, no; it cannot be! God is
just! and the wicked shall not triumph."

She tried to drive the horrible picture from her thoughts, and after a time
succeeded; for she felt the necessity of self-control in her trying
situation, and bent all her energies to that point. Then she reflected upon
all that had transpired that day, and she felt that with Duffel there was
no mercy. But she was not overcome by the thought. If worst come to worst,
she resolved that death should save her from the spoiler.

As these reflections occupied her mind, she remembered the declaration of
the villain concerning the secret communication between the two apartments
in which she was imprisoned. Until now it had been a source of no small
consolation to her, that, in case of an emergency, she could retreat to her
own room, and there abide in safety. But now this small comfort was taken
from her, and she felt how completely she was in the power of her
adversary. This feeling, however, did not crush her spirit; for she had
already brought herself to the sublime point of martyrdom, and was prepared
to die for virtue, rather than yield, _in any case_, to become the victim
of sin, or to the wishes of the base wretch who hoped to conquer her.

Life is sweet, and it will never be surrendered by one who has a correct
appreciation of its Author, until every consistent effort has been made to
preserve it. Hence, Eveline determined to use every means to save herself
before having recourse to this last resort.

As she was reflecting upon this matter, the suggestion came, that, perhaps,
she might find this secret passage between the two rooms, and possibly be
able to fasten the entrance way to her apartment on the inside, and thus
bar the miscreant out, who would dare intrude upon her privacy. Acting upon
the supposition that this idea was not beyond the pale of possibility, she
commenced a diligent examination of all that part of the wall of the outer
room which extended as far as the inner one; but she could find no
resemblance to a door, no crack in the solid rocks, no spot on the floor
which gave the least indication of what she sought. All was apparently an
unbroken mass, through which no mortal or living thing had ever passed. She
began to think that, after all, Duffel might possibly be deceived himself,
or else was only trying to frighten her. Determined, however, if there was
such a communication as he spoke of, to find it, if it could be found, she
went into the other room, and commenced the same minute search, having
first locked and bolted the door, so as to make certain of not being
discovered or interrupted, unless the intruder should come by the secret
way. After the closest examination of the wall, with her eyes, to no
purpose, she commenced trying the efficacy of touch, pressing her fingers
over every portion of the surface of the room; but, as no appearance of
what she was laboring to find rewarded her search, she began to despair of
success.

"If there is such a passage," she thought within herself, "it is so guarded
that none may find it, save the possessors of the secret: and my only hope
is in sleepless watchfulness. How long I shall be able to live without
sleep, God knows."

In this manner the night was passed--night in the outer world; for to her
the night and day were alike, and she could only guess as to which
prevailed above her. She sat down to collect her thoughts and form, if
possible, some plan of action by which to be governed. While thus engaged,
she recollected the note she had given to Bill, the memory of which had
been crowded from her mind for the past few hours by the pressure of other
things.

"Oh, if I but knew how it would affect them!" she said, as she suffered her
thoughts to dwell upon the subject. "They will certainly see the folly of
trusting in Duffel, and the imminent danger they are exposed to in his
service; but will they, can they help me? I will hope even if it is vain to
do so. It is a fearful thing to be compelled to throw one's self into the
hands and upon the mercy of such bad men; but God can overrule the evil
intentions of the wicked, and very bad men sometimes perform noble and
generous deeds."

Ah! had she known that at the very moment she was thus endeavoring to
console herself, Bill was taking an impression of the lock to the door of
the outer room, for the purpose of taking her to another prison, farther
from home and hope than the one she was now confined in, how the little
hope from that source would have died in her bosom!

After remaining for some length of time in a state of attempted repose, her
mind, the while, completely absorbed in contemplating her own situation,
she finally concluded to go out into the other apartment, and make another
effort there, to find the entrance, if such there was, to her own room.

She had not been thus employed long, when a knocking at the outer door
attracted her attention. She listened a moment, and then, supposing it to
be Duffel, was about to retire to the inner cavity and bar him out; but
just as she started to put this resolve in execution, her steps were
arrested by hearing her own name called in a voice not like Duffel's. She
instantly paused, and the call was repeated:

"Miss Mandeville! If you are present and hear me, please step to this door
and look into the keyhole. It is a friend, who will aid you, that is now
addressing you."

With a beating heart, she quickly reached the door, and from the place
designated drew a small, compact roll of paper. On it were traced some
lines by one who was evidently a highly accomplished penman. She hastened
to examine the purport of the billet, which read as follows:

"Your appeal to us for assistance was not made in vain. We are fully
satisfied of Duffel's wicked and base intentions toward us, and are
resolved to thwart them. You shall be brought out of this den, and behold
again the sunlight of heaven. By the day after to-morrow we will have our
arrangements completed, when you may expect to hear from us again. Hold
yourself in readiness to leave this place at any moment. Is this
satisfactory to you, fair lady?"

There was no name to this; but it needed none to tell Eveline from whom it
came. She knew it was from Duffel's accomplices, and rejoicing in the
success of her plan, she replied to the inquiry at the close with alacrity:

"Yes, my good friends, this is eminently satisfactory. May God bless you,
as you help me."

"Thank you for the confidence you place in us! we will endeavor to reward
your expectations by delivering you from this dismal prison, at the very
earliest moment possible. Will you now be so good as to burn the little
strip of paper, lest by some unfortunate accident it might betray us to our
mutual enemy, and thereby frustrate our plans?"

"Yes, sir, I will burn it immediately."

"Thank you. Keep up your courage, and be of good cheer."

"Accept my warmest gratitude for your generous aid, gentlemen; and be
assured you shall not go unrewarded for the great service you render me."

"We ask no pay. The service you speak of will be most cheerfully and gladly
rendered; and in your enlargement and the defeat of Duffel, we shall be
more than a thousand times rewarded for the small efforts we shall be
compelled to put forth in your behalf. And now adieu!"

"Adieu, gentlemen, and may Heaven bless you, in your efforts on my behalf."

It would be impossible to describe the feelings of Eveline at the close of
this interview, separated though she was from her expected deliverers by a
door of adamant. She did not take time to think into whose hands she was
about to fall; in her gratitude and enthusiasm she forgot that they were
ruffians, and clothed them in garments and with the glory of heroes, who
for her sake risked their lives! Oh had she seen the blackness of heart
which lay at the bottom of their seeming heroism and noble deeds, how her
poor heart would have grown sick, and her bright hopes gone out in midnight
darkness!

She retired to her room, bolted herself in, again read the note, then
burned it, and gave herself up to the enjoyment of the first delicious hope
that had sent joy to her troubled heart since the sad hour of her capture.
Only two more days, and she would be at liberty! What a joy to her
desponding spirit! Two more days, and she would be free from her fiendish
persecutor, and could fly to her parent, to pour the balm of consolation
into his rent breast, and bind up his lacerated heart! Only two more days!
How the thought swelled her bosom! Alas! that from this high pinnacle of
hope she must so soon be hurled!

From the interview Bill went out to meet Dick, whom he had left on guard,
to give warning if Duffel or others should be coming to the cave.

We may as well remark here as at any other point, that the arrangements of
the order with regard to the cave were these: One of the number was always
expected to be within its precincts, to admit members who wished to obtain
entrance, either to escape the pursuit of officers of justice, or to
deposit booty. If by any possible chance this guarding sentinel should be
called away, without being able to give warning of his departure from the
post assigned him, he was to leave the key in a designated spot, where any
member might find it in case of need. As Bill did not wish any one to know
what he was doing at the door, he very generously offered to take the
sentinel's place for a half-day, and permit him to go out and breathe the
fresh air. The offer was gladly accepted; and Bill succeeded, to his entire
satisfaction, in getting an impression of the lock, while on duty in the
sentinel's stead.

There was, also, in a far corner of the outer cave, or rather, in an
apartment by itself, a kind of kitchen, where food was prepared. It was
from this place that Duffel supplied Eveline with nourishment, taking her
meals to her himself, which, by the way, though ample and of good quality,
were generally served up cold, or, to speak plainly, were left in the
captain's room for her to partake of when and as she saw proper; for she
would touch nothing that he brought, in his presence, nor would she have
done so at any other time, could she have lived without food; it was only
to be preserved from starvation, that she forced herself to eat in that
cheerless abode.

In another part of the cave, separated from the main room partly by natural
and partly by artificial means, was a kind of magazine, where powder, lead
and arms were kept. To this the men had access at any time, and always
resorted when in need of weapons or ammunition. With this brief
explanation, the reader will be able to understand how things were managed
by this band of freebooters, as, also, some of the succeeding portions of
this story.

As we said, Bill left the cave and went out to see Dick, who was stationed
along the passage-way in the bank of the stream, to impart to him the
success of their operations thus far, and to finish the details of some of
their arrangements for the future. The two worthies remained in
conversation some two or three hours awaiting the return of the sentinel;
and then Bill, becoming impatient, left the cave in Dick's care, and
hastened away to get his key made. A portion of their conversation while
together will be given hereafter, when a third party will be introduced as
a listener; a party who at _once_ became most deeply interested in their
plans, and caught every word with the greatest eagerness, and with such
emotions as may be supposed to agitate a human bosom only in cases where
life and death are pending in the balances.

Will the contest be villain for villain? and life against life? We shall
see! What, in the meantime, will become of the so recently hopeful Eveline?
Will she be lost in the strife where murderer wages war against his brother
murderer? Let us not anticipate.

Before proceeding with the direct thread of our narrative, we will again
glance at the action of the "Anti-Horse-Thief League," organized, as
already intimated, to put down the bold land-pirates, whose depredations
upon property had become so unbearable the honest portion of community had
no alternative left but to "become a law unto themselves," and by direct
and combined action clear the country of the host of desperadoes with which
it had become infested and overrun. Many of our aged readers will remember
those exciting times; perhaps some of them can call to mind the very hour
when _they_ were forced to take their rifles in hand and go forth to defend
their property.

On the very night that Bill and Dick made their ineffectual attempt on
'Squire Williams' horses, two others of the "Horse Thief League," as the
gang of thieves were christened by the honest portion of community, went on
a similar excursion into a different neighborhood, some five or six miles
away, and met with a still warmer reception from the farmer whose stock
they endeavored to remove without his consent, than did Bill and Dick in
their attempt; for one of them was so badly wounded as to be scarcely able,
with the assistance of his companion, to get away from the field and to his
own home. Next day it was rumored that such a neighbor was badly wounded,
and it was very doubtful if he recovered. Of course the wound was accounted
for on strictly honorable grounds; but people understood the matter; and
when, the second day, his remains were borne to the tomb, people shook
their heads, but kept their lips compressed. If his children could grow up
honest men, the crime for which their father died should never be imputed
to them, or cast reproach upon their after lives. Then, too, it would not
do to speak too plainly about a man's being killed, as it might lead to
unpleasant consequences in after years, perhaps; for men were acting
unlawfully in thus defending their property with arms.

These things caused still more active and energetic measures to be adopted
by the Anti-League. A vigilance committee was appointed, consisting at
first of three, and afterward of five men, who were to serve one month, and
then be relieved by other five, each member taking his turn, until all had
served. The duty of this committee was to keep a constant watch upon the
movements of all suspected characters; and when a horse was stolen, to
follow up the thief until, if possible, the offender was taken and the
horse recovered. 'Squire Williams volunteered to serve on this committee as
one of the first five, and four others joined themselves with him. For
himself, without naming his suspicions to any one, he kept an eye upon
Duffel's movements, resolved, if he was guilty, to prove him so, by the
collection of such facts as would convict him in a court of justice. The
neighbor who was with him on the night of the attack became his companion
on the committee, and took upon himself the task of watching Bill and Dick.
This arrangement was made the day after the thieves had been shot at; so
that while Duffel was busy making his arrangements with the members of the
Thief League, in anticipation of a speedy removal of the head quarters of
operations to another part of the country, and while Bill and Dick were
busy with their plans of villainy, having in view the defeat of Duffel and
the possession of Eveline, the committee were also busy, endeavoring by the
most active and vigilant efforts, conducted at the same time with great
celerity, to circumvent the villains; not that they knew the particular
plots and counter-plots that were going on among the common enemy, for of
these they were ignorant; but they were determined to hunt them up and stop
their depredations.

Thus it will be seen that the elements are at work; and from the determined
character of all the operators and their great desire to have things done
speedily, we may expect stirring times.



CHAPTER XVII.

HADLEY.


It will be remembered, that after his recovery from the wounds inflicted by
Bill and Dick, as recorded in a former chapter, Hadley proceeded to
Philadelphia. When he reached that city he found his mother and uncle both
very sick, and in need of constant care and attention. She had no kind
daughter to sit by her couch and smooth her pillow; and he had no
affectionate wife to bathe his fevered brow with her soft hand, and by such
gentle attentions as no one else can bestow, alleviate his pain. Hadley
endeavored, to the best of his ability, to fill the place of daughter to
one, and of wife to the other, in his assiduous efforts to watch over, aid
and comfort them; and though he did not possess all that sweet softness of
manner and voice that belongs especially to woman, and though he could not
perceive, with the quick intuition of the other sex, yet by constant
attention he was enabled to ease many a pain and throw comfort into many an
otherwise sad and lonely hour.

At first his mother was in need of the most attention, and was hardly
expected to live from one day to the next; but he soon had the satisfaction
of seeing her disease yield to nature and treatment, and she began to grow
better. But almost before he could relax anything in his attentions to her,
the uncle became much worse; and he shared his time between the two,
scarcely taking time to eat or sleep.

Between the uncle and nephew there had existed a coldness for some years,
which was caused by the following circumstance:

In his youth the uncle was the companion of an estimable young man, between
whom and himself there existed the warmest friendship and sincerest
attachment. They were indebted to each other for many kind acts, and thus
became mutually endeared one to the other. At length they were separated,
by the uncle going to the West Indies on business, expecting to be detained
a length of time, perhaps for years, which proved to be the case. While he
was away the friend of his younger days met with that fate so common to
mankind--fell in love and got married. The union proved to be a happy one;
and when, after years of separation, the uncle returned, he found in the
house of his friend a joyful wife and a beautiful, smiling daughter, a
child of seven years, with a sweet disposition, and a heart to love
everybody.

To this young child, Mr. Scofield--James Scofield was the uncle's
name--soon became very deeply and fervently attached, as did also the child
to him; He saw that the father had found a nearer and dearer friend than
himself, and he was glad in his heart to witness the happiness which
reigned in the peaceful home so sweetly cheered by love. Many persons would
have been jealous of the wife's ascendency in her husband's affections; but
instead of envying the wife, or feeling ill toward her, he came to love her
as a friend, not only for her own sake, but, also, because she made his
friend such a kind and amiable companion; and in the endearment of their
little girl, who soon learned to be his pet, he was repaid for any
exclusive companionship from her father that he might have monopolized had
he remained, like himself, a bachelor.

Four years after his return from the Indies, Mr. Scofield was called to the
bedside of his dying friend. In their last interviews he was charged with
the guardianship and care of the young girl, conjointly with the mother,
who was also recommended to his friendship, with the injunction ever to be
to her as a brother and a counselor. These trusts he accepted, with a
promise to be all to the dear ones he left behind that his friend could
wish; and this promise he faithfully kept. No friend, brother, father, or
husband could have been more attentive to the wants, or more solicitous for
the welfare of those entrusted to their protection or dependent upon them
than he was. He endeavored to anticipate their desires and necessities--of
advice and friendship, not of goods, for the friend was in good
circumstances, and had left them with plenty of means to live well and
comfortably all their lives--and in all things to be to them the kind
friend they needed.

A warm attachment existed between them. Many thought--and idle gossips
whispered it about--that the widow was soon to console herself for the
great loss she had sustained, by taking Mr. Scofield as a second husband;
but no such idea ever entered _their_ minds. Her heart was buried in the
grave with her husband; and he--ah, he had a secret. A gentle being,
beautiful to him as an angel, had once crossed his path; but before taking
her to the altar, the angels came and took her to their homes, beyond the
reach of blight or death; and since then his thoughts often wandered away
to the regions of perfection; and with the memory of his loved one in
heaven, he never coupled a thought of a second love on earth.

It was not long that the widow and her husband's friend remained in
ignorance of each other's feelings; the secret he had kept from all others
he confided to her; and in mutual explanations and confidences, they soon
came to understand each other; and thenceforth their intercourse was
unrestrained and cordial. What knew or cared they for the busy tongue of
rumor? Nothing. Secure in each other's esteem, with a high rectitude of
purpose, they continued their good offices to each other, careless what the
world might say, so they gave no cause for vicious tongues to speak evil of
them.

We need hardly say that with such intimate association, Mr. Scofield
learned to love little Ida as a father loves his own child. Had it not been
for the judicious watchfulness and careful training of her excellent
mother, she might have been spoiled by his petting. As it was, no child
could be gladder to see a parent than she was to see her friend. She would
bound away to meet him; and when seated, would climb upon his knee while
young, and when older seat herself by him and listen to the stories he
would tell her, or play in his locks with her childish fingers.

About a year after his friend's death, Mr. Scofield's only sister lost her
husband; and, at his earnest solicitation, she and her little boy came to
live with him.

Mrs. Hadley was not wealthy, though she could not be called poor, as her
husband had left her a small property, which, by careful management, would
school Charles and keep them both until he should arrive at manhood, when,
by his own exertions, he could carve out a fortune for himself.

Mr. Scofield soon learned to love Charles very dearly, for he was an
amiable and affectionate boy, and always strove to be kind and dutiful to
his uncle. It was one of the brother's first acts to introduce his sister
to his friend's wife; and they were not long in forming a warm attachment
for each other; so much so that Mr. Scofield became almost jealous of each
of them for cheating him out of so much of the society of both. He might
have become quite jealous had it not been for the fact that while the
mothers were entertaining each other, he was left to entertain the
children, who, of course, were soon almost constantly together, and were
not long in becoming as familiar and affectionate as brother and sister.

It was not long until Mr. Scofield conceived the idea of a marriage between
these two children when they should arrive at proper age; and this finally
became the darling wish and object of his life.

It does not come within the scope of this sketch, to dwell upon particulars
in regard to the affairs of these two happily situated families, and so we
pass over the intervening years, until Charles, at seventeen, was sent to
College. About the same time Mr. Scofield was called away to the West
Indies on business, and by his advice, the two widows were to live together
during his absence.

He had never breathed his intentions concerning the young people to any
one, and he hoped no interference would be required, but that the constant
association of the two would naturally result in an attachment like the one
he so anxiously desired to spring up between them.

Charles made rapid progress at college, and in three years graduated with
honor. During these three years he had seen his uncle but once, as his
India business was much more complicated than he had expected to find it,
and detained him, with the exception of a brief visit home, a little over
three years in arranging it, which, was finally done by closing it up and
removing his funds nearer home.

He was very proud of Charles as a student, and often prophesied great
things for him; but he was sorry to be able to perceive no signs of an
attachment like that of lovers existing between the young folks. Still he
was hopeful. They might love and not know it themselves; if so, it would
require something to awaken them to a consciousness of the fact. He
resolved on trying an experiment. Meeting Ida alone, he said:

"Do you know, my dear, that I am about to send Charles away?"

"No. Where is he going?"

"Where there is a possibility we may never see him again."

"Oh, don't say so, uncle!" (She had learned to call him uncle.) "What would
we do without him? Do send some one else, and let him stay!"

The uncle thought he saw the evidence of a deep affection in her evident
distress, and, as this was his object, he replied:

"Oh, I had only thought of sending him to the West Indies; but if you
insist so hard, I suppose I shall have to find some one else to go."

"There, that's a good, dear uncle, as you always are. Oh, I am so glad
Charles will not be sent away from us!"

With secret delight--for he felt sure she loved his nephew as he
wished--Mr. Scofield next sought Charles, to see if an interview with him
would result as satisfactorily to his wishes as with Ida. He was
disappointed; Charles evidently loved Ida, but it was only with a brotherly
affection. He waited a few weeks longer, and then spoke plainly to his
nephew on the subject that lay nearest his heart. He told the young man how
much he desired to see him and Ida united, and hoped if he did not already
love her, that he would try to do so. As Charles had formed no attachment
at that time, he readily consented to converse with Ida--ascertain whether
her affections were engaged to him, and if so, to reciprocate them, if
possible. He did so; but he found that Ida's attachment was like his own,
and then he plainly told her of his uncle's wishes.

"I had never thought of that," she said; "but if it is his desire and yours
also, that we should be united, I think I could live happily with you."

This was said in a matter-of-fact way, that, more clearly than anything
else, showed her want of that peculiar kind of love which sanctifies
marriage. Charles saw this, and replied:

"I have no doubt, Ida, but you would make one of the best of wives; but I
should fear to wed you, when neither of us loved more ardently than we do."

"Why would you _fear_?"

"That either or both of us might afterward see some one that we could love
as those are expected to, who enter into the solemn obligations of the
marriage covenant. The heart is not master of its own emotions; they come
and go, regardless of our calls and commands, and we may not count upon
being able to control them. How wretched it would cause either of us to be
united to each other, while a third party was loved, I leave you to
determine for yourself. I have been so accustomed to regard you as a
sister, it seems strange to think of you in any other light; and I hope
this little passage between us will not mar the freedom of our
intercourse."

"I am sure I do not intend that it shall; and I think in consenting to
become a nearer companion to you than even a sister, I have given ample
assurance of my esteem and regard."

"We will then continue to be friends, and I will go at once and communicate
our decision to my uncle."

When Charles related to Mr. Scofield what had transpired between himself
and Ida, he saw that his uncle was deeply disappointed and dissatisfied.

"Boy!" he said, in more of a passion than Charles had ever seen him, "Boy,
you've made a fool of the matter and of yourself, too!"

"Why, uncle!" replied Charles, in utter astonishment.

"Yes, you have!" continued the old gentleman, "and I am provoked at you. I
have always intended to make you my heir, but I shall not do it now, at
least, not until you consent to wed Ida."

"Ida does not wish to marry me."

"She'll not object, I know she will not. I have set my heart upon the
match, and you must marry her, Charles."

"I am deeply pained to say so, but I cannot."

"You _must_!"

"Nay, then, I _will not!_"

"Boy! do you wish to drive me to disinherit and disown you?"

"Disinherit me if you will, but I beg you will not disown me. I have a
conscience in this matter; if it was only a whim, I would yield to your
wishes."

"And you utterly refuse to accede to my desires?"

"I do."

"Well, I am sorry for you, but I am resolved, seeing you care so little for
me, to substitute Ida's name for yours in my will."

Charles could bear to be treated harshly, but to be accused of want of
affection and gratitude toward the benefactor to whom he owed so much,
called tears to his eyes.

"You know, uncle, that I love you as I would a father, and it is unjust of
you to charge me with a want of affection."

Mr. Scofield was moved by the evident distress his words had caused in his
nephew's mind, and relenting a very little, he said:

"I will try you, then; instead of cutting you off at once, I give you a
week to consider the matter over; if, in that time, you find you love me
well enough to accede to my wishes, well and good; if not, I will surely do
as I have said."

Saying this, he abruptly closed the interview, and left Charles in a state
of the deepest distress and sorrow. His mother tried to persuade him to
yield to his uncle's good pleasure; and, finally, Ida and her mother joined
in entreating him not to break all their hearts by suffering himself to be
driven from home. He had most difficulty to overcome Ida's pleadings, for
she told him no fate could be so bad as for him to be sent away, to wander
in the world, and die, perhaps, among strangers, with no kind mother,
sister or friend to minister to his wants or smooth his dying pillow.

"Spare me, Ida!" he said with emotion. "You will yet see the day when you
will thank me for my firmness. If I did not think so--if I could be
convinced that you loved me, as every woman's heart must love some one at
some period in life, I would not hesitate to comply with the wishes you all
express, and remain on my uncle's terms. As it is, I shall go."

The week expired, and at its close Charles had everything arranged to leave
home. He formally told his uncle of his determination to seek his own
fortune, as it was impossible for him to comply with his wishes; but that
he did not go in anger. For his fortune he cared but little, though it was
a great grief to be compelled to go from him bearing his ill-will.

The uncle was much affected, and a word of entreaty from the young man
would have induced him to recall the sentence of his doom; but as that
word was not spoken, he could not quite unbend enough to voluntarily ask
his nephew to remain. Charles left on the morning after the interview, for
the west, having, after due reflection, arrived at the conclusion that a
competence could be secured there as speedily as anywhere else. Fortune led
him to the Mandeville settlement, where he soon became a favorite, and
where he was in a fair way to accumulate a reasonable share of this world's
goods, when the incidents occurred and the mishaps befel him, which have
already been narrated.

With these digressive remarks, thrown in to give the reader a fuller
knowledge of the character and position of one of our most interesting
characters, as, also, that what follows may be understood, we return to
that portion of our story now supposed to be more deeply interesting to
those who have followed us thus far, in the perusal of this more than
merely romantic tale.

As we said, Hadley's time was taken up first, in waiting upon his mother,
and then upon his uncle. In the midst of these trying but cheerfully
performed duties, he found but little time to think upon his own prospects,
though not an hour passed that the image of Eveline was not called up
before his mental vision, and if left to the current of thought for a brief
period, his reflections became of the most agonizing character, and the
topics upon which he dwelt something like these:

Was she sick? or, worse for his hope, had she passed to that "bourne from
whence no traveler returns?" If alive, was she still persecuted by Duffel?
was her father still resolved to force her to wed the villain against her
will?

As such thoughts rushed through his mind, he almost became impatient of
duty and ready to leave his post to fly to the rescue of his love. But a
groan from either of the invalids would instantly call back his wandering
mind, and in the active labor of kindness and sympathy, he always forgot
his own troubles. It was well for him he knew not of the charge preferred
against him by his base rival, and still better that he knew nothing of the
villain's intentions in regard to the idol of his heart, or he would
probably have left the sick ones to care for themselves, and flown to the
rescue of her he loved, ere she was stolen and conveyed to the cave.

In the midst of his duties at the bedsides of the afflicted, he had
forgotten to inquire after his old friends, Ida and her mother; but so soon
as Mrs. Hadley began to mend, she told him they were away from the city on
a visit to some friends, but were expected to return in a few days. He was
glad to hear this, for as soon as he could leave, he wished to return to
the west. He made a confidant of his mother, and told her she must excuse
his impatience to learn the fate of his affianced bride. She remembered but
too well the days of her youth to chide him, telling him he should go as
early as he felt it safe to leave his uncle. They had scarcely finished
their little communications, when Charles was called to minister to the
other invalid. After making him as comfortable as possible, Mr. Scofield
requested him to be seated, and then opened a conversation with him, on
this wise:

"I suppose, Charles, you have not forgotten the cause that separated us?"

"No, uncle, I have not?"

"And do you still adhere to your old determination?"

"I do?"

"Well, I have repented of my rashness, and I hope you will forgive me."

"I have nothing to forgive, but much to be thankful for."

"I was very cruel, for I had set my heart on the marriage, and it was a
deeper disappointment to me than you could well imagine; but it is over
now, and I am satisfied all has turned out for the best, seeing you did not
love each other. I have finally arranged my affairs, and my will bequeathes
ten thousand dollars to Ida, and the rest, about fifty thousand, to
yourself. I may not live long, or I may linger for years; but whether I go
soon or remain long, be a friend to Ida and her mother when I am taken from
them."

"I could not be otherwise, my dear uncle; it will be truly a pleasure to
serve and protect them. But now let me thank you from the bottom of my
heart, for your kindness. I am unworthy to become your heir, but if it so
please Providence and you to permit me to become the recipient of your
bounty, I shall make it my endeavor to use and not abuse your wealth."

"God help you there, my boy! It is a difficult thing to make good use of
riches."

We shall not dwell to narrate all that transpired. In a few days Ida and
her mother came home, and learning the situation of their friends,
immediately installed themselves as nurses to the sick.

Hadley was now relieved from the weight of care and duty he had assumed,
and took more rest.

His meeting with Ida was cordial, and it was not many hours till they were
mutual confidants, and Ida said:

"So, you see, I _do_ thank you for your firmness. But, oh, I so much wish
to see Eveline. You must go back soon. She may need your aid."

And he did go soon. Mr. Scofield soon began to convalesce; his mother was
out of danger, and bidding all an affectionate adieu, with the hope soon to
meet again, he started in the early dawn of a beautiful morning for the
scene of his hopes and fears.

On the second day of his journey, a sad presentiment of impending evil took
possession of his mind. Ah! had he known the situation of his beloved at
that hour, how his heart would have died within him, and his soul burned to
inflict merited retribution on the heads of her enemies. But the dark fate
that hung over her at that hour was vailed from his view, and hope mingled
with fear in his bosom. Fear, however, kept increasing, and before the
close of the third day, a voice seemed to Whisper:

"Haste, Hadley, haste! Wings of lightning can scarcely bear thee swift
enough to the rescue of her thou lovest so dearly!"



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE UNKNOWN LISTENER.


Eveline continued to indulge in her pleasing reverie of hope, and in the
cheering thoughts that came crowding upon her mind in anticipation of a
speedy release from her dungeon, and restoration to her father and friends,
she forgot that her situation, in the meantime, was one of peril, even if
her newly found friends should be able to accomplish their object. Duffel
might return at any moment, and, in vindictive fury, bring about her ruin
or death. Such dark pictures, however, were, for the moment, driven from
her mind by those of a more enlivening nature, and she ceased to search
after, or even to bear in mind, the secret passage.

As she sat in peaceful quiet, thinking of home and dear ones, her eye
chanced to fall upon a spot in the wall, where, the light striking it to
advantage, a clear, crystaline stone, flashed back the rays from her lamp,
as it sparkled with a brilliancy scarcely inferior to that of a diamond.
Curiosity led her to a more minute examination of this singularly bright
object; and approaching, she placed her finger upon it. It seemed to be
imbedded firmly in the solid rock, but projected out a very little beyond
the surrounding portions of the wall, just far enough to be perceived by
the touch. She pressed upon it to ascertain if it was really unmovable,
and, as she did so, open flew a small door, barely large enough to admit a
single person through its portals. In a twinkling her labors of the past
day and night came to remembrance, and she exclaimed:

"_The secret passage!_"

In a moment all her former feelings returned; and, taking a lamp in her
hand, she prepared to explore the mysterious avenue thus opened before her.
Before committing herself to the unknown, perhaps tortuous passage, she
took the precaution to place an obstruction in the doorway, so that the
door could not, by any possibility, swing to and shut her on the outside.
She took the forethought, also, to see that her dagger was safely secured
about her person, not knowing whither she was going, or into what company
she might fall.

Having thus prudently provided against accidents and emergencies, Eveline
entered the passage, which was dark, damp, and dismal, with trembling
nerves and a timid heart. Slowly, cautiously, step by step, she felt her
way, aided by the light of her lamp. It seemed strange that she should have
to go so far to get into the other room; yet still she moved on and on
without coming to the end of the passage or to any place of egress.

The way was narrow and somewhat zigzag, and in several places she had to
stoop in order to proceed. Where did the underground passage terminate?
With what did it connect? Was it a natural one? or had it been made by man?
Perhaps it was the connecting line between the cave she had left and some
other den of wickedness known and occupied by this band of villains? With
such and a hundred similar suggestions her mind was occupied, and she began
to feel unpleasant. Perhaps she was venturing into the presence of those
who would have even less regard for her than Duffel. An undefined terror
for a moment seized upon her, and she was about to yield to the dictates of
fear, and return to her room, when a kind of murmuring sound, as if of
voices in the distance, met her ear. Listening a moment she felt quite sure
there were living persons somewhere near; and summoning all her resolution,
she boldly pushed forward, determined to solve the mystery in which she was
involved, and if human beings were in her vicinity, to ascertain who and
what they were.

Advancing with a cautious but firm step, she was not long in doubt as to
the nature of the sound; it evidently proceeded from human lips. As she
drew nearer words became distinguishable; and then she came to the end of
the passage, which abruptly terminated against a solid wall, like those of
the cave. But the wall was evidently a thin one, and on the immediate
outside--or other side--were the persons, who were engaged in conversation.
She stood there but a brief moment when her attention became fixed and all
absorbed in the conference going on between the interlocutors, both of whom
(she could distinguish but two voices,) seemed to be deeply interested in
some matter under consideration.

"I tell you what it is, Bill, I don't like this here bizness of runnin' off
that gal a bit. I've been thinkin' the matter over, and the more I think,
the more I don't like it."

These were the first words that Eveline heard distinctly and connectedly.
Who were they? and who was the girl? There seemed to be something familiar
about the voice of the speaker, and yet she could not tell where or when
she had heard it before. In a moment came the reply:

"I thought that point was settled. I tell you I'd take her if it was only
to spite Duffel."

"Duffel!" ejaculated Eveline in thought, and she came near making the
exclamation aloud. "Duffel! then these men know him!" In a moment the truth
flashed upon her mind. It was Duffel's friends, her captors, the ones from
whose aid she was so soon to be delivered! Yes, now she remembered the
voices! And for a moment her heart bounded in gratitude to the last
speaker, whose words she understood to express his firm resolution to
liberate her. The moment the rejoinder came from the other, however, her
mind was perplexed, but as she listened further the whole matter was
untangled:

"And wouldn't it spite Duffel just as much if we should take her back?"

"No, I don't think it would. Beside, I want to show him how completely we
can beat him at his own game; and then, too, I wish to be revenged on him
to the fullest extent; he likes the girl, and to know that she is in the
hands of another, who has entirely outwitted him, will be a source of
chagrin, and the spark to light the fires of jealousy."

"You don't intend to let him know that you have taken the gal!"

"Certainly I do!"

"And then have the whole League after us! A fine plot, truly!"

"League the h----! I tell you I'm going to blow the whole thing to nothing,
cave and all!"

"What!"

"When I leave this region there will be no League here. This cave will be
in ruins, and the whole order scattered to the four winds of heaven!"

"Are you crazy, Bill Mitchel!"

"No, I am just coming to my senses. Here we have been these many years,
doing all the most dangerous and daring work of the order--work that others
were too chicken-hearted to undertake--and what is our reward? We are
esteemed as the meanest of the Clan, and as being hardly fit to associate
with those who claim to be the gentlemen of the League. Why, I believe the
officers would cut our throats at any time to save themselves. See what
Duffel is after at this very time. Never was a man served more faithfully
than we have served him, and now that we have rendered him all the aid he
needs or desires at our hands, he would cut us off; aye, worse, he would
murder us--murder us as we have murdered for him. Do you think I would let
an opportunity to be revenged on him pass unimproved? _Never!_"

"But how are you goin' to do all this mighty work?"

"I'll tell you. The captain is away; I intend that Duffel shall be secured
by the officers of the law; the rest of the members I will take measures to
frighten; and when they resort to this infernal cave for refuge, counsel,
or concert of action, they will find it in ruins."

"How in ruins?"

"Isn't there powder enough in the magazine to blow it to atoms?"

"Powder!"

"Yes, _powder_! Is there anything in that explosive material that need
cause you to look so wild? I thought you were better acquainted with its
properties."

"I believe I begin to understand your intentions; but they don't exactly
chime with your plans of yesterday."

"Yesterday! I tell you I was only half awake then. I hadn't considered all
the sides to the question; and the more I think, the madder I get. I tell
you we have been imposed upon; and I am going to pay back the debt with
interest. I had another idea yesterday; but my plans were then immature and
unsettled, now they are arranged even to the details. I tell you I have
been thinking for the last twenty-four hours; and it has been to some
purpose, as you and the rest of these fellows, and Duffel in particular,
will find out."

"Very well; if the order is to be destroyed, then there is no need of
fearing to let the girl go home, as she could do us no harm if she _did_
reveal our secrets."

"I tell you I have taken a fancy to the girl myself and have set my heart
on possessing her, _and I will do it_. It's true I don't care for the order
now. I defy all its members; but that makes no difference about the girl.
She goes with us."

"I don't believe any good will come of takin' her, but there is a plaguy
good chance for evil to come of it."

"Let it come, then, and we'll face it like men! I tell you I am desperate;
I have fixed my stakes and I don't intend to be driven from them. The more
I think, the more determined I become."

"But it looks so mean and cowardly to abuse a woman."

"Who said I was going to abuse her?"

"I say so."

"You'd better be a little careful of your speech, my good fellow!"

"I'll say what I please; and you know what I have said is the truth. Haint
you goin' to deceive the gal? Didn't you jist tell her that you was her
friend? and that we'd liberate her? And don't she expect us to take her
home, instead of away off to that cave in Virginny, where she'll be no
better off than she is here? And haint it cowardly to lie and deceive them
as trust in your word and honor?"

"Honor! a pretty word that for such a fellow as you to use! How long have
you entertained such high notions, pray?"

"Allers, sir, allers! Did you ever hear me tell a lie? Did you ever see me
betray any one that put themselves under my care? Say, sir, have you?"

"Well, no, I don't know as I have; but what of that?"

"A great deal, sir; a great deal! It means that I'm not a mean, cowardly
dog; that I don't go to a woman with a lie in my mouth, and sneakingly
deceive her! No, sir, I am above such work."

"That will do, I can't bear everything, even from you, and I warn you not
to go too far!"

"Warn away, then; I'm not the man to be skeered by any woman-stealer that
ever walked the earth. No, sir, I'm not! And I say ag'in, the man that'll
impose on a woman is a coward, and a mean one at that."

"Come, come, Dick, it's no use to be talking in that manner. You know I am
no more of a coward than yourself; and so what's the use of such an ado
about nothing. Didn't you tell me yesterday you would stand by me in this
affair? Come, now, keep your word, and don't prove yourself a liar after
such a boast of truthfulness, just a moment ago?"

"Yes, there it is ag'in. You told me it was for our personal safety, and
such like stuff, that you were goin' to take the gal along; and now you
defy the whole order, and are goin' to blow them all to atoms! I take it
that makes quite a difference."

"Didn't I tell you the girl was to go any how? And didn't you say it would
hardly be fair to help an enemy and not a friend? Come, where is your honor
now?"

"That promise, I tell you, was obtained under false pretenses, and is not
binding!"

"A pretty excuse, indeed!--Well to bring the matter to a point at once, I
now state distinctly that I am going to take the girl with me, because I
wish to do so, and for that reason alone; and I want you to help me. Will
you do it? That's the question, and I want a positive answer, yea or nay,
and no more palaver on the subject. Say, will you stand by your old friend
in this last great hour of need?"

"I s'pose I'll have to; but it goes mightily ag'in' the grain, to be mixed
up in these women affairs, and I feel as mean as a kill-sheep dog, when I
find myself at such a dirty work.

"Well, that matter is settled, then, and I hope we shall have peace and
agreement between us hereafter. I know when you say you'll do a thing,
you'll do it, and I want a reliable companion to stand by me just now. Once
we get into our new quarters, in old Virginia, I shall feel safe, as we can
bid defiance to our enemies."

"Well, let us be off, then, as quick as possible; for, to tell the truth, I
don't like this part of the country much; it's gittin' entirely too hot for
our bizness, and is by no means as safe as it might be."

"We must be off to-morrow, if we can finish all our arrangements, which I
hope we shall be able to do, if we lose no time. We must have our horses
ready to-night, at all events; for it may suit to start in the night, if we
fail to get away to-morrow. I am not sure but it will be the best plan to
leave in the night, any how."

"Certainly, it will be."

"Well, it's settled, then, that we leave to-morrow night; and that being
the case, I must hasten away to get the key made. You stay here till the
sentinel returns, and then meet me at the usual place this afternoon, and
we will have everything arranged in order."

With this the villains parted, Bill going out of the passage, and Dick into
the cave.

To all this Eveline was an absorbed, but to them unknown, listener. How the
great hope of the morning died in her bosom, as the fearful truth was
revealed to her, that another snare was laid to entangle her feet--that her
newly found friends were but enemies in disguise. Instead of liberators,
who would restore her to home and friends, they were vile miscreants,
destining her to a fate no better than that which now surrounded her, and
removed still further from the possibility of succor. For a little time she
clung to the hope that Dick would hold out in her behalf; but this last
prop was taken away, and she felt that there was no help from any quarter,
and that self-dependence was her only safeguard.

Ah, how desolate was her heart in that hour! How like a lone reed in the
pelting tempest did she feel herself to be! Surrounded by enemies on all
hands, a prisoner in a dungeon, with no friendly arm to lean upon, no kind
voice of sympathy to encourage and strengthen her, she felt almost like
giving over the struggle, and lying down to die where she stood.

But this feeling of despondency was of short duration. Arousing to a lively
sense of her situation, this apathy was thrown off, and the native energy
of purpose which she had exhibited so strikingly on former occasions,
quickened her spirit and restored vigor to her frame. Immediately she began
to collect her thoughts, and cast about to see if there was no way of
escape from this new danger. At first she thought of making a confidant of
Duffel, and throwing herself upon his generosity; but remembering all that
he had done, she felt that this would be vain, so far as _she_ was
concerned, while it might save _him_ from merited exposure and punishment;
and so she at once abandoned the idea.

In the midst of perplexity and doubt, the thought struck her with the
vividness of a flash of intelligence, that the passage she was in might
communicate with the outer world! The very suggestion caused her to heave a
sigh of relief. What so probable as this supposition? At any rate she had
something to do, a definite object to call forth her energies; and this was
no small matter, in the state of mind under which she was laboring at that
hour.

Raising her lamp to a level with her face, she passed the light close to
the wall, scrutinizing every spot, to see if there was no sign indicative
of another spring-closed door. But no brilliant fragment of stalactite
appeared as a reward for her search, and she turned away with a feeling of
disappointment, and heaviness at her heart. As she did so, for the first
time her eye fell upon a polished surface, much resembling the face of a
mirror, upon the opposite wall. Looking more attentively, she discovered,
as it were, trees, shrubs, a running stream of water, and all the
accompaniments of a finished landscape painting. Fearful as was her
situation, she could not help pausing to admire the beauty, the
naturalness, the perfection of the scene. She had never beheld any thing
half so vivid, so truthful, from the pencil of the artist. It actually
seemed as if water was running over its gravelly bed, as if the bushes
moved in the breeze; in a word, the whole looked far more like a reality
than a cold painting. As she was gazing in admiration upon this singular
appearance, a bird actually flew over the scene! She could hardly believe
her senses; but soon another one followed, and she knew there was no
deception in her eyes this time.

Philosophy was not universally taught in those days, as it is now, and
Eveline did not know how to solve this mystery as well as many a school
girl could do at the present day; but she had read of the tricks of the
magicians of Egypt and India, and what seeming wonders they could show in
their magic mirrors; and she came to the conclusion that the robbers of the
cave had learned the same art, and that before her was one of the
soothsayers' glasses.

But what was the design had in view in placing it in that obscure and
unfrequented place? As this query suggested itself to her mind, a man
passed along on the bank of the stream! and in a few minutes another in the
opposite direction; and in the last one she recognized one of her captors!
She at once comprehended the design of the apparatus; it was to reveal what
was passing without to the eye of the individual within, who had doubtless
adopted this method of informing himself of passing external events, as a
means of personal safety in case of need. It was, she supposed, a device of
the captain of the thieves, to save himself, either from the ministers of
the law or from the violence of those under him, in case of revolt.

It is not our design to enter into an elaborate description of this piece
of mechanism, as every student of philosophy, who is well acquainted with
the reflection and refraction of rays of light, will understand how an
ingenious contrivance produced the results spoken of. The same principle
enters into the arrangement of the _camera obscura_. There was an aperture
very artfully cut through the wall, and so guarded on the outside as to
escape notice; and in this a tube was placed with a set of happily
contrived fixtures, by the aid of which the scene without was accurately
depicted on the polished surface within. It was the work of the captain, as
Eveline supposed.

As this contrivance was evidently intended to give information of danger
from without, it must certainly be connected in some manner with the means
of escape; else what was it worth? Such was the conclusion to which Eveline
arrived, as she philosophized upon the matter. And she reflected further,
what other method of escape was there, save a secret medium of
communication with the outer world? None at all, except it be a quiet
waiting within the passage she now herself occupied, which she could not
bring herself to believe was the case; so she renewed her search for the
door of egress.

On minutely examining the mirror, she saw at one side of it a small
projection, like a ball of ivory, and pressing hard upon it, a door, of
which the mirror itself was a section, sprang a little way open. She threw
it back wide on its hinges, and holding her lamp in the opening, saw at her
feet a flight of stairs leading down into the gloom below. A damp current
of air came up from this subterranean cavity, and its clammy coldness sent
a chill almost of horror through the frame of the agitated girl. One less
resolute than herself would have shrunk at the idea of exploring so dismal
a looking place; but not so she. Summoning all her energy, she boldly
descended the steps, which had evidently been cut out by the hands of man,
and soon found herself at the bottom of the course. In front of her, all
was solid earth and rock; but on turning to the right she discovered an
opening, following which it was but a little while till she saw light
ahead, and a few more steps brought her to the margin of the stream, along
the bank of which was the path to the cave. That path, then, was
immediately above her! And here she was with the wide world before her! How
her heart bounded!

Her first thought was to fly immediately; but prudence dictated a cautious
survey of the place before venturing her all in an attempt at flight.

She accordingly ventured out in the most guarded manner, to make
explorations. The water was but a little way below where she stood, and
when in a high stage must evidently flood the place she occupied and the
steps leading up out of it. But as the stream was now very low, she had a
fine opportunity for making observations. Stepping down to the edge of the
water, she had an excellent view of the stream both ways. The banks were
very high on each side, steep, and inaccessible; so much so, indeed, that
for a moment she was in despair of getting from her prison, now that she
had found the way out. A closer inspection of the bank where she stood
showed her the possibility of escape, by following the water's edge to some
point below or above, where the high bank receded. This was enough; all she
wanted was the bare likelihood or possibility of escape, and she would
venture all upon the trial.

Having made these hasty observations, she started back, to make
preparations for an immediate departure. When she reached the upper passage
and closed the door, she glanced at the mirror to see what was going on
without. What was her disappointment and horror, to see Duffel's image
passing before her on his way to the cave! She had hoped to get off before
his return; but now that hope was gone. She must meet him again; and to
what desperate extremities might he not proceed in the interview in which
she must now be compelled to take a part! Then she remembered that she had
left the door from her room to the passage ajar, and he might reach it
before she could get there, and revealing to him her secret, cut off her
last and only hope of escape. The thought awoke all her energies, and
dashing along the narrow way at the top of her speed, stooping as she ran,
to avoid the low places, she reached her room and closed the door of the
passage, just as she heard a knock at the other one, opening into the
larger room.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE THREAT AND ITS EXECUTION--EVELINE LOST.


Quickly arranging things in her room, and restoring the lamp to its
accustomed place, so that every article should appear in usual order and
nothing betray her secret, Eveline--the knocking at her door being just
then repeated--demanded:

"Who is there?"

"It is hardly worth your while to ask that question, when you know there
can be but one person having access to this place."

"Excuse me, sir; but I have understood that _you_ were only here by
courtesy, the rooms belonging to another."

"Well, I am here, at any rate, and have the mastery as well as the
occupancy of the place. Will you open the door?"

"If I please."

"Well, _do_ you please?"

"And if I do not?"

"Then I shall enter by another way."

"As I am not overly anxious to see a _master_, you may enter as you can."

"Very well."

Eveline chose not to open the door for two reasons: first, she wished to
ascertain whether or not there _was_ a secret passage between the rooms;
and, secondly, if Duffel's assertion in regard to the matter should prove
true, she wished to know at what point the entrance was situated, that, if
need be, in any future movements she might make, obstructions could be
placed in the way of ingress. One thing, however, perplexed her a little;
she could not keep her eyes on all sides of the room at once, and Duffel
might come from some quarter unawares, and take her at advantage, ere she
could meet his attack. Thought is very rapid in times of danger, if
presence of mind is retained, and the difficulty stated had fixed her
attention but a few seconds, ere several plans of release had suggested
themselves and been abandoned; but at length it occurred to her, that as it
was impossible for the secret door to be in the same place as the other
one, she would be perfectly safe, in taking a position against the latter,
from any possibility of surprise, and standing there she could seem more at
her ease than in any other position, where her continued watchfulness would
betray anxiety.

She had scarcely placed herself in the posture desired, before she saw a
portion of the wall to her right slowly move from its place, and presently
a mass, the size of a small door, stood out fairly into the room, and from
behind it stole the villain, in such a manner as to leave no doubt of his
intentions to surprise her, if possible. Seeing she was prepared for his
reception, and aware of his entrance, he closed the door, and, boldly
stepping into the room, addressed her thus:

"So, incredulous fair one, you see I am here, notwithstanding your
disbelief in my word."

"Yes; I see you are here."

"Well, that is a very cordial welcome to an old friend, certainly. In what
school have you taken lessons in hospitality and politeness?"

"In one where I have learned to treat insolence according to its deserts."

"Indeed! then I think we must have graduated at the same institution.
Perhaps we had as well try each other's skill and proficiency, and the one
that shall prove the aptest scholar be declared victor in the contest
between us. Do you accept the challenge?"

"I accept nothing from you; your pretended friendship I despise; your
threats I hold in as much contempt as I do their author; your intended
insults I will pay back even to death, sir!" and as she spoke, there was a
flashing light in her eye which gave the villain to understand she meant
all she said; but assuming not to heed his convictions on that point, here
plied, with as much seeming ease as he could command:

"Oh, I have heard such talk before."

"Yes, and like the base coward you are, you sprang from the dagger at your
breast, even though it was but a woman's hand that held it."

"Girl! don't presume too far on my forbearance! I warn you in time to
beware of that!"

"I presume nothing on any good trait of character or nobleness of soul you
may possess, sir, but on your _cowardice_!"

"Do you wish to drive me to extremes?"

"You are already on the extremest verge of all that is vile and loathsome."

"By the furies of h----, I'll not endure this longer!"

"Oh, yes, you will; you need not expect any other treatment so long as you
continue to force your unwelcome and disgusting presence upon me. I have
not taken lessons in the school of which you were talking, in vain: and as
you set yourself up as a rival, just exercise your skill; I ask no favors,
and fear not your opposition."

"Yes, you do; with all your boasting, you fear me, coward though I be, at
this very moment."

"Yes, exactly as I fear the proximity of any other corrupt thing with which
it is unpleasant to come in contact. There is a certain small animal of the
cat species, bearing, however, another and very significant name, with
which it would be about as disagreeable to come in contact as with
yourself; as I would fear it, so I fear you; in my estimation you are
equally vile and equally to be avoided."

Again Duffel grew red in the face with rage, and he was on the point of
seizing and overpowering Eveline; but his eye fell upon the dagger, which
she held in her hand, and prudence or cowardice held him back. His response
was given with savage malice:

"I'll take the fire out of your temper, ere you are many hours older; mark
that! You have gone too far for me longer to continue my gentle dealings
toward you. I have endeavored to persuade you, I have expostulated with
you, and made all reasonable offers to induce you to acquiesce peaceably in
your fate, which I would have made an honorable and enviable one; but you
have treated all my kindness with contumely and misconstrued my forbearance
into cowardice. Now you must prepare for the worst."

"Sir--villain, rather, every word you have uttered is as false as the pit
of night, and you know it! Yes, sir, you know that as you stood there and
spoke, unmitigated falsehoods fell from your lips while every declaration!
And knowing this, and knowing that _I_ know it, also, you have the
audacity and the insolent impudence to say that you have offered me an
honorable position in life! Is it possible that you are so fallen as not to
know that in a truthful, virtuous, and noble soul there can be nothing so
abhorrent as lying, villainy, and cowardice? Talk of honor! Better might
Satan take of goodness!"

"Go on! you are only placing thorns in your path, every one of which will
pierce you as a pang of agony."

"I have no doubt you would like to intimidate me by such ominous remarks;
but I have heard similar ones from the same source before; and knowing the
distance which separates their author from truth, you may well rest assured
I place implicit confidence in their falsity."

"I'll prove to you how true they are, then; in one thing, at least, you
shall be convinced of my veracity; and that is, that I am now in earnest,
and mean to remain in earnest until my wishes are accomplished, and you,
the victim of my pleasure, become a suppliant for mercy and restoration to
an honorable position in society."

"_Never!_"

"We shall see; I have been talking,--from this time on, I _act_!"

Saying this he drew a pistol from his pocket, and holding it before her,
went on:

"You see I came prepared this time! I was fully resolved to bring matters
to an issue at any rate, and more especially if you persisted in your
insulting course of address. You have done so; the cup of your
transgressions is full, and the time of your probation expired. Now comes
the judgment!"

He had expected to see her turn pale and tremble, and, perhaps, become a
suppliant for more time to consider the matter; but with the exception of a
little closer compression of the lips, and, if possible, a little more
determined expression, he saw no change pass over her countenance. If
terror she had, it was kept out of sight. She made no reply, and he
proceeded:

"You think because your dagger served you once it will do so again; but it
will not. I could execute my plans immediately and at once have you
helplessly in my power; but I prefer to give you one more and the last
opportunity of deciding for yourself. Know, then, that as soon as I find
this offer rejected, I will send the contents of this pistol through your
right arm, and if that is not enough I have another in my pocket here,
which shall pay the same respects to your left arm. You will then be at my
mercy as completely as though you were an infant. I leave your own fancy to
picture what will follow, understanding my intentions as you do. With this
certain doom before you, will you, Eveline Mandeville, consent to be my
wife, now or at some future day?"

"I WILL NOT!"

The reply was clear, bold, decided, without a tremor of voice or the
quivering of a muscle. The fiendish wretch was awed by her courage, but
having, as he said, resolved to bring matters to a crisis, he went on:

"You have chosen your fate, be the consequences upon your own head!" He
raised the pistol.

"Will you throw away that dagger and permit me peaceably to approach you?"

"_No!_"

"I will ask you three times, and with your third refusal I shall fire; so
beware! Will you throw away the dagger?"

"_No!_"

"This is the third and last time I shall ask the question," and he repeated
it slowly: "Will you throw away t-h-e d-a-g-g-e-r?" and he brought the
weapon to his eye.

"NO!"

There was a pause of a second, and then a flash of fire, a cloud of smoke,
and the report of a pistol told that his threat was executed. The brutal
monster waited a moment for the smoke to clear away from his vision, not
liking to venture upon that ominous looking dagger until assured of a
bloodless victory. Poor, despicable coward!

As he kept his eye fixed toward the spot where Eveline stood, eager to see
the result of the shot, he felt something strike his breast, and, turning
his eyes downward, he beheld the glittering dagger glance along his left
side! A button had turned its course and saved his life! He sprang away,
uttering an affrighted oath, and grasped for his other pistol. It was not
in his pocket! and there he stood unarmed, before the unhurt but outraged
woman he had attempted to destroy!

Eveline, though excited, was unusually self-possessed during all the
interview just related. She felt the imminence of her danger, but it only
aroused her faculties to a more acute observation of every incident and
circumstance that might, by any possible chance, be turned to advantage.
When she saw that Duffel was resolved to put his threat in execution, she
determined to make him the victim instead of herself, if it were possible
to do so. In speaking of this reserved pistol he unconsciously placed his
hand in his pocket--a side coat pocket--and drew the weapon up, so that the
breech rested upon the upper and outer edge of the receptacle in the
garment. Eveline noticed this, and in a moment her plan of action was
formed. She did not like the thought of killing a human being, but as
Duffel had proceeded to such extremes, she felt that if it was not her duty
to slay him under the circumstances, she would, at least, be justifiable in
so doing. She, therefore, settled it in her mind to go to this extreme
length, much as she shrank from a deed of blood, in case the monster fired
at her. She took in the idea at once that a puff of smoke would conceal her
movements for a moment, and, under its friendly cover, feeling sure of her
ability to avoid the shot, she would smite the villain to the heart and
seize the pistol at the same instant, to use in case the thrust should
prove ineffectual. Having her mind divided between the two acts, both of
which must be done in the same breath, she did not aim the dagger with as
much precision as under other circumstances she might have done, and the
result was as already stated; the pistol, however, she safely secured; and
when she saw Duffel feel for it, and perceived his disappointment and alarm
at not finding it, she said:

"Here it is, sir, and for once you are in my power! It is now my turn!"

The miscreant cowered before her determined gaze.

"Prepare for your end!"

"I crave your mercy."

"_Mercy!_ You, vile, unmanly wretch! did _you_ show mercy?"

"I was excited,--spare me!"

"Down on your knees, then, and beg for your life!"

He hesitated to demean himself thus, she raised the pistol, and there was a
fire in her eye which spoke volumes to the craven soul of the poltroon. He
obeyed, fell upon his knees and begged his life at her hands, promising to
liberate her if she would grant his prayer. When he ceased pleading, and
paused for her reply, she answered:

"Know, base coward, that, woman as I am, I would scorn to take the life of
an unarmed enemy. I was only trying you to ascertain how low you would
degrade and how debasingly demean yourself to beg for mercy. I would have
made you swear to take me from this place, but I knew you would perjure
yourself the moment an opportunity afforded, and I did not care to burden
your guilty soul with another crime. For the same reason I decline
accepting your proffer to take me away. I know you would prove treacherous,
and I will not trust myself in your hands. Go, now, and remember that the
next time you enter this room in my presence, you die! I will not permit
another insult of the kind; no, sir, _never_! Open that door and leave!"

He obeyed; she followed him with the pistol presented, until he was out of
the captain's room. He closed the door into the outer cave with a slam, and
locked it, and then called out:

"Madam, you were a fool for not securing the keys while you had me in your
power. I now curse and defy you, and swear that I will make you repent this
day's work in the dust and ashes of humiliation. I shall not come alone
next time, but with fifty men; and you _shall_ be overpowered and feel the
weight of my vengeance! I'll wring your proud heart till it bleeds, and in
your degradation will scorn you!"

She did not wait to hear more of his harangue, but hastened back into her
room, shut and bolted her door, placed every movable object in the
apartment against the one by which Duffel had entered, and then entering
the secret passage, ran to the mirror to see if the villain left. She had
been there but a few minutes when he passed, cursing as he went, and
swearing to be revenged.

The reader may wonder why Eveline did not shoot the wretch when she had him
in her power, but the truth was, she knew nothing about using fire-arms,
and feared to make the attempt, lest, failing, she should be again in his
hands. She knew, too, that it would not be prudent to trust herself to be
led out of the cave by him, as the moment he met one of his followers he
would betray her, and she would be again a prisoner. Still she would have
made this venture, had not the secret passage held out to her a more
hopeful mode of escape.

All these considerations, dangers and probabilities flashed through her
mind with the fleetness of thought, and she came to conclusions with the
same rapidity. Doubtless, she pursued the best course. She could presume on
Duffel's cowardice, but she dare not trust his word or his oath.

So soon as her persecutor passed out from the cave, as shown by the mirror,
she hastened back to her room to make preparations for leaving the den of
infamy in which she had been confined, feeling well assured that but a few
hours would be suffered to elapse, ere Duffel, with as many adherents as he
deemed necessary to accomplish his ends, would return, to wreak his
pitiless vengeance upon her. Making everything ready for her departure, she
awaited the darkness of the approaching night, that in its friendly mantle
she might find protection and shelter. But ere the light of day had
withdrawn, she again ventured out into the stream for the purpose of more
fully reconnoitering the place, and fixing in her mind the relative
position of things, obstacles and distance, and to obtain such knowledge in
general as might facilitate her escape.

Night came; she left her room, the common door locked and bolted, the
secret one clogged with the furniture of the room, so that it would require
the united strength of several men to force it open. The door of the secret
passage which she had learned to open and shut from both sides, was closed
after her, and alone she passed along that damp aisle, paused a moment
before the mirror to note whether it reflected the scene without, and
seeing upon its face but blank darkness, she opened the last door between
herself and the world into which she was going, closed it as she passed
through its portals, descended the stairs, reached the outer extremity of
the passage, put out her lamp, and the next minute stood on the pebbles at
the margin of the stream. A brief survey of the coast in all directions
satisfied her that she was not observed, and without more delay she moved
down the stream as rapidly as the nature of the ground and her want of
experience in such places and mode of travel would permit.

It was about a mile from the starting point before she reached the first
recession of the high bank, that afforded an opportunity to leave the
stream, which she improved without delay, and after a laborious ascent of
an inclined plane, more than a hundred yards in extent and quite steep, she
found herself on the high bluff, with the cave in the distance.

But now a new and before unthought of difficulty faced her. She was in a
wilderness, with no compass by which to direct her course, and no friendly
guide to conduct her to the habitations of men. For a moment she was almost
paralyzed by the magnitude of this untried danger, and hope well nigh fled
from her breast. But rousing her energies she boldly looked her fate in the
face, and committed herself into the hands of that Providence who had so
often befriended her in former times of peril, and then shaping her course
as well as she could by the stars, she plunged into the dense forest, with
her face, as she believed, toward home, which she hoped to reach some time
the next day.

Alas for her hopes! in less than an hour she was totally bewildered and
lost in the wilderness! She felt her loneliness and helplessness now more
than when facing her malignant enemy; and to add to the horrors of her
situation, howls of wild beasts soon greeted her ears!



CHAPTER XX.

THE TABLES TURNING.


When Duffel left the Cave, as shown in the preceding chapter, he went
immediately to the place where he had appointed to meet Bill and Dick,
boiling over with rage all the way, and "breathing out vengeance" on the
head of Eveline. He had entered her room so confident of triumphing, that
the humiliation of defeat was tenfold greater than if he had doubted of
success. And then the degradation to which he had been forced to abase
himself! The very remembrance of it set his blood to boiling! He cursed
himself for his cowardice; he cursed Eveline for her manifestation of
courage and for everything else she had done. To be forced to kneel and beg
his life of a woman! and that woman his own prisoner, on his own terms, in
his own dungeon! The thought burned into his very soul! and the more he
thought the fiercer became his wrath.

In this frame of mind he reached the rendezvous, and found his accomplices
awaiting his arrival, for they had work of their own on hand and did not
wish to be detained too long by their old leader but now secret foe.

"I'm glad to find you here," he said, as soon as he came up, and his tools
saw in a moment that something unusual had happened or some extraordinary
work was to be done.

"We are always punctual," Bill replied.

"And it is well you are this time; for there is work to do immediately. I
want you to collect together as many of the members of the League as can be
found, and assemble them in the cave by midnight."

"Why, what in the world has happened?" inquired Bill in some alarm, lest
his own scheme should be frustrated by these demonstrations on the part of
Duffel.

"Not much of anything; indeed I may as well tell you at once, that this
movement has reference to Miss Mandeville. I have just returned from the
cave where I called upon her, and from her obstinacy and a number of hints
thrown out, I am fully persuaded she expects deliverance from some quarter;
and I am determined to put an end to such anticipations without further
delay. I think the sooner she is conquered the better. I should have
proceeded to extremes at once, but I wished to persuade her into a
voluntary marriage, so that I might come in for the old man's money; but
she has found some means of arming herself and is firmly bent on having her
own way, while I am as fully resolved she shall not. But I must have a dip
into the old gentleman's purse; that's another fixed fact; and so I am
going to marry the girl whether she will or not; and I want you, Bill, to
act the parson. I know you can do it. Disguise yourself and--. But you know
all the details as well as any reverend pastor in the land. Do it up right,
and give each of us a certificate in due form, so that it will stand in
law; and you shall be liberally rewarded; yes, and promoted, too. You shall
not serve me for nothing. Come, now, away as fast as possible to get the
men together, and report to me at midnight precisely, in this place."

Duffel had managed to smother his wrath during the brief moments he was
giving his orders; but no sooner had the seemingly pliant tools of his will
left, than he again foamed over, and pacing back and forth, continued his
cursing, as though he would spend his impotent fury in blasphemy.

Bill and Dick started off, as if in the most cheerful manner and with the
greatest alacrity they would do their leader's bidding. But no sooner had
they reached a safe distance than they began to consult how they were to
manage this new and unlooked for phase of affairs, which seemed destined to
undermine all their former arrangements and to overthrow their entire
calculations and plans. But Duffel could not be more determined to avoid
defeat than they were, and they set down the thwarting or overreaching him
as the first object to be accomplished. Bill reflected awhile, and then
said:

"I think we can manage it. Instead of going after the men, you must get
three horses ready for our immediate departure, while I go and prepare the
lady for the journey. We must endeavor to have everything arranged by
eleven o'clock, so as to be sure of success."

"But how are we to manage Duffel?"

"Leave him to me; I can do that part of the business effectually, I think."

With this understanding, the rascals parted, each to carry out his part of
the work for the evening and night; and they had but little time in which
to work, for the afternoon was far advanced, and they had many miles to
travel, in order to accomplish their ends.

Before proceeding to the cave, Bill sat down and dated and signed a note,
already written, which he folded and addressed to 'Squire Williams, and
procured the service of a little boy to carry it to him. We shall hereafter
learn its import and object.

When he reached the cave it was already night. He found the sentinel in a
very uneasy mood, and very anxious to get off till morning, to carry out
some design of his own. He had engaged a member to take his place, but from
some cause he had not arrived. Bill gladly assumed the post, and in a few
minutes was alone with his thoughts and plans.

When assured that the other was far enough away, he closed the door to the
cave and locked it. Then, going to the armory, he selected several braces
of the best pistols, and secured them about his own person, for his and
Dick's future use. He next opened the money-chest, and took from it all the
gold that had been collected since the last division, some two thousand
dollars in all. This he fastened in a belt worn next to his person. After
making every other arrangement about the room according to his wishes, he
went to the magazine and brought out all the powder it contained, and so
placed the kegs and other vessels containing it, as to secure the greatest
amount of destructive force from the whole. All these he then connected by
trains of the explosive material, which were united in one wider one
leading out at the door of the cave.

These preparations made, he went to apprise Eveline of their readiness for
departure, intending while she was making the few preparations necessary
for starting, to go out and see after Dick.

When he opened the door to the captain's room, he was struck with the
profound stillness which everywhere pervaded the place. No Eveline was
there; but he remembered having seen the door to the small room open on a
former occasion, and supposing her to be within, went and rapped on the
door, at first gently. No answer. Then louder, and louder. All was still.
He called her. No response came. Wondering if she was asleep, or what could
prevent or deter her from answering his call, he proceeded to break open
the door. This he succeeded in doing, after considerable effort; but when
he perceived she was not there, his surprise and astonishment were
unbounded. He knew not that while he was robbing robbers, and placing
powder for the demolition of the cave, she had left its dismal precincts by
a way unknown to him or Duffel, and was now far away in the wilderness.

"Where is she? What does it mean?"

These questions he put to himself, but could not answer. A thousand
conjectures rushed through his brain; but no satisfactory clue to the
mystery was hit upon. Had Duffel deceived them? No, his anger and
earnestness were too real for that. Had she other friends? Had not the
sentinel turned traitor, and having liberated the prisoner, was anxious to
get away, lest his perfidy should be discovered, or to gain a reward for
his treachery? This, though hardly probable, was the most plausible
supposition, and Bill concluded to act upon it. He was resolved to carry
out his plans in, all their details; except that Eveline could not be taken
with them; for he was not going to yield up his stolen gold, nor forego his
revenge on Duffel.

Looking at his watch, in the midst of these perplexing reflections and
strengthened resolves, he saw that it was time for him to be off to see
Duffel, as the place of meeting was some ten miles from the cave, and a
part of the distance had to be gone over on foot. He reached the spot about
the hour appointed, and found the miscreant already there, impatiently
awaiting his arrival.

"What success?" inquired Duffel, the moment he came up.

"None at all, your honor."

"How?"

"Bad news, _very_."

"What?"

"I fear there is treason in the League. The doors of the cave are all open,
even to the inner door of the inner room, and no living person is within
its walls!"

Duffel was speechless with surprise and terror, the astonishing
intelligence seeming to paralyze all his powers; at last he made out to
loosen his tongue and queried:

"She is gone, then?"

"Yes, and the sentinel, too!"

"Then we are betrayed! What shall we do?"

The terrible news Bill brought, completely unmanned Duffel, and his
presence of mind entirely forsook him; hence his last query, which was
propounded with all the imbecility of helplessness.

"I'll tell you what I am going to do," said Bill; "and that is, leave this
part of the country as speedily as possible."

"But won't the officers be upon us immediately?"

"No; if at all, not before to-morrow. We can make our arrangements
to-night, lay in the swamp all day, and leave to-morrow night. You have a
horse already prepared in the swamp; I would advise you to go home without
a moment's delay, and make all necessary preparations for your journey, and
be back in the vicinity of your horse before daylight, or as soon after as
possible; and to-morrow night we can set out for the cave in the
south-west."

"I believe your plan is a good one; but when shall we meet again?"

"Not until we get away from this section of country; perhaps not until we
reach our ultimate destination. But we have no time to lose, all depends
upon dispatch, and we had best be about our preparations. Good-by,
captain."

"Good-by, my fine fellow. I thank you for your advice, and hope that when
we meet again it will be under more cheering skies, and with brighter
prospects before us. Good-by."

And thus they parted, to meet again--where?

Bill hastened back to the cave, where he found Dick in waiting with the
horses. In as few words as possible, Bill explained to his confederate how
matters stood, and what measures he had taken; then sending Dick back some
distance with the animals, he laid a long train of powder from the cave
outward, and at the farthest extremity placed a can of the explosive
compound, wherein he had adjusted a slow match, to which he now set fire,
and then hastened away with Dick to a place of safety.

Duffel, as we have seen, was thoroughly alarmed by the intelligence
communicated by Bill; and like all who depend more on stratagem than on
courage, he cowered before the danger which seemed to stare him in the
face. The suddenness of the announcement had not a little to do in
producing the result; but when on his way home from the interview, after
having more time to contemplate the calamity and his own situation, his
fear did not abate. Every little noise startled him, and his mind was
constantly harassed with the idea that officers of justice were after him.
One cause of his trepidation may be traced to the fact of his many and
fearful crimes; he knew how deeply he had involved himself in guilt by the
abduction of Eveline and the murder of her lover, as he believed, at his
own instigation and command; and he felt well assured, now that his
intended victim was at large, she would not be slow to act with vigor for
his apprehension and punishment. He knew full well, too, that Mr.
Mandeville, when once his eyes were opened, would pursue him with
unflagging energy and tireless perseverance, until his crimes were duly
expiated to the full extent of the law. With such knowledge and reflections
for companions, well might the guilty wretch quake with fear. If
"conscience makes cowards of us all," how much more so _him_, reeking as he
was with blood and crime!

Notwithstanding all his fears, he reached home in safety, made a few hasty
preparations for his journey, placed his effects left behind in as good
order as the shortness of the time would allow, gave them in charge to his
servant, with such orders for their disposal as pleased him, and then
started for the swamp, which he reached about daylight, and into which he
plunged with as much pleasure as ever a hunted fox entered its secure
burrow. Though still very uneasy, he breathed more freely than before since
receiving the unwelcome tidings from Bill.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Squire Williams was seated in his easy chair after the labors of the day,
quietly enjoying himself in a train of dreamy reflections, when he was
aroused from his state of languor and but half wakefulness by a knock at
the door. Feeling tired, he did not get up to open for the visitor, but in
the old fashioned style, requested the knocker to "come in."

A neighboring boy entered, and handed him a letter, saying:

"The man who gave me the letter for you told me to tell you, you had better
read it immediately."

"Indeed! Then it must be of some importance," said the 'Squire as he opened
the document. It read as follows:

"'SQUIRE WILLIAMS:--Having learned that you take a deep interest
in the movements of young Mr. Duffel, who is supposed to be connected with
a body of outlaws and thieves by yourself and others, I take the liberty,
though a stranger, to address a line relative to the individual named,
which may be of some service to you in detecting him, and to community, by
preventing his further operations.

"If you will go to the swamp, nine miles from C----, early to-morrow
morning, and watch closely all day and all the next night, should he not
make his appearance sooner, you will detect him in the act of leaving the
place on a horse which he has forgotten to pay for. I would advise that you
take a few confidential friends with you, and, if possible, induce Mr.
Mandeville to be one of them; you will understand my reasons for making
this request in the end. Make all your arrangements with great caution and
secrecy, _and be sure to trust no one in whom you have not the most
implicit confidence, or you may be betrayed_. I make this remark, on the
supposition that you are not aware of the fact, that some of your neighbors
are associated with a class of men who do not live by lawful avocations,
but are members of an organization which has for its object union of
strength and harmony of action among those who prey upon community. I would
further advise, that you do not go to the swamp before daylight--_give him
time to get into the trap_. I will cut the letter B on a beech-tree at the
south-western corner of the swamp, which will be a sign and guide-mark that
you are in the right way; from that tree keep a direct north-east course
until you reach a large walnut tree, then turn at right angles with your
former course, and cross the marsh on the logs which you will find placed
there for that purpose. Beyond the marsh, or rather in the center of it,
there is an island, which it is extremely difficult to reach by any other
route than the one pointed out. On it you will find Duffel, _provided you
are cautious and wary in your movements_. You will wonder how I am so
familiarly acquainted with the operations of these bad men: without fully
satisfying your curiosity, let me say, that whatever I may have been, I am
now desirous of handing over to justice one who is deeply guilty--guilty of
crimes of which even you, perhaps, have never dreamed of accusing him. On
this point I have only to say, you yourself came near losing your life in
place of one of his victims. I allude to the attack made upon you by two
persons in the 'dark passage,' some weeks ago. You will remember it! I know
all, though revealing but little; and as it will be known that treason is
in the camp of the League of Thieves, I shall leave the country at once. Go
to the swamp as directed, and you will satisfy yourself of all that I have
told you; but let me advise you to note strictly the directions I give you,
and be extremely careful in your movements and choice of confidants. Yours,
for law and justice,

"EX LEAGUEIST."

So soon as he finished reading this singular communication, the 'Squire
asked the boy:

"What sort of a man was he, that gave you the letter?"

"He was large, with dark eyes, and sun-burnt face."

"You did not know him, then?"

"No, sir; he was a stranger."

"That will do."

The 'Squire was puzzled to know what to do. The man might be acting in good
faith, or he might be only leading him into a snare. After mature
deliberation, he came to the conclusion that his informant was not
deceiving him, and resolved to act upon the suggestions of the unknown
writer, be he friend or foe.

He accordingly set about making preparations for the adventures of the
morning, without delay. By midnight all his arrangements were completed,
and he lay down to snatch a little rest before setting out on the
expedition. At three o'clock in the morning, the little company, numbering
five in all, of whom Mr. Mandeville was one, set out for the swamp.

Bill and Dick had scarcely reached a safe distance from the cave, when a
sound as of ten thousand thunderbolts rent the air, and the ground at the
same time trembled as in a violent earthquake. The horses plunged and
snorted, and then stood still in mute fear. The villains, who were looking
in the direction of the cave, saw a column of fire, smoke, earth, and rocks
heaved up in the air--a huge mass like a mountain--some portions to the
height of several hundred feet, and then fall again with a heavy crash,
making the earth vibrate beneath them. They knew then that the cave was in
ruins, and its place occupied by a shapeless mass of matter.

The explosion took place a little after three o'clock in the morning, and
consequently but a few minutes after 'Squire Williams and his party had set
out for the swamp. They heard it, and felt the quivering of the earth,
though twenty-five miles distant, and for a moment paused in alarm, fully
believing it was an earthquake. But as no repetition of the sound or shock
took place, they concluded the danger was past, and proceeded on their way.

Duffel also heard the report and felt the shaking, and it filled him with
alarm. He was nearing the swamp at the time, and for a little while
hesitated to proceed, but finally did so, arriving at the same conclusion
as did the party in his rear.

It became the general belief in the neighborhood, and for forty miles
around the cave, that the noise and its accompaniments were to be
attributed to a veritable earthquake; and we believe a report to that
effect finally went the rounds of the press.



CHAPTER XXI.

EVELINE PURSUED BY WOLVES--BILL AND DICK--DUFFEL.


Terrible was the condition in which Eveline felt herself to be placed when
the deep-toned howls and piercing screams of the ferocious denizens of the
forest fell upon her ear! In a moment all the wild and horrible stories of
adventures with wild beasts she had ever heard or read about, came vividly
up in her memory, and from a hundred places her disturbed fancy pictured
the glaring eyes of savage monsters which she imagined were in the act of
springing upon her. From these she would turn in affright, and hasten away
as fast as her trembling limbs could bear her. In this way her confusion
became more aggravated, until, finally, every trace of knowledge as to
distance or courses, was obliterated in her mind, and she wandered without
method or aim, save that she always went in an opposite direction to that
from which the last sound proceeded. But this indefinite way of fleeing
from harm did not answer her wishes; for soon she heard the baying of
wolves in her rear, and the constancy of their howling, and the directness
of their movements convinced her that she was pursued! What a thought was
that! Alone, and lost in the wide wilderness, and the fiercest and most
daring of its ferocious inhabitants on her track!

No sooner was this conviction fixed in her mind, than she flew rather than
ran, tearing her clothes and lacerating her flesh against the brush and
thorns which beset her way. She scarcely felt the wounds and thought as
little of the destruction of her garments, but kept on, on, on, she knew
not whither, and cared not, so that she escaped from her dreaded pursuers.
All would not do. Ever and increasing, nearer and nearer, came the dismal
sound! How her heart died within her, as the increased loudness of the
baying of the wolves told her they were fast overtaking her! In vain she
exerted all her remaining strength, and taxed every nerve and muscle to its
utmost capacity! There was no help! As unerring as mistakeless instinct,
and as certain as the decree of fate came the blood-thirsty pack! Despair
began to settle down upon her spirit, and she was almost ready to wish
herself back in the cave. But at this juncture, a sound seven-fold louder
than any thunder she had ever heard, broke with stunning violence through
the solemn forest, and at the same moment, far in the distance, flashed up
a column of fire sparkling and scintillating, and sending a gleam, as of
lightning, among the shades of the dim wilderness. It was the knell and
funeral light of the cave.

Instantly everything was as hushed as the chamber of death; not a sound
disturbed the stillness of the deep solitude that reigned around her, and
Eveline herself paused, and held her breath in alarm and wonder. The
illumination lasted but for a moment, and all was dark again; but in that
moment the affrighted girl saw a large tree before her, with a cavity at
its base, sufficiently large to admit her person; and, as soon as she could
collect her thoughts after the surprise of this unexpected and mysterious
phenomenon, she resolved to make the cavity an asylum for the night. She no
longer heard anything of the wolves; the unaccountable light and noise
seemed to have frightened them away, and with deliberation she rolled up
pieces of timber to block up the mouth of her retreat, then entered and
barred herself in as securely as she could, and patiently and sleeplessly
awaited the dawn of day. The night being already far advanced, she had not
long to wait, though to her it seemed like an age ere the welcome light
appeared; but it did at last, without the anxious moments being disturbed,
and she stepped forth from her hiding-place to renew her efforts to reach
home. But she was at a loss to know which course to take, or what method to
adopt in order to extricate herself from the mazes of the pathless
wilderness in whose impenetrable shadows she was enveloped. She stood for
some moments in a state of perplexing irresolution, and then resolved to
walk in the direction of the rising sun, thinking that if she did not reach
home in that way, it was probable she would arrive at some settlement; and
she was anxious to see the habitations of men, even if the occupants were
entire strangers, for she felt a deep dread of remaining another night in
the wilderness, and knew that once among honest men, it would be quite an
easy matter to get home, even if the distance was great.

Having settled upon a line of action, Eveline began to execute her purpose
with all the energy and promptness for which she was distinguished. She had
proceeded some distance, and the sun whose dim approach was only heralded
by a few faint streaks of light when she set out, was now pouring a flood
of light through the interstices of the forest, when her attention was
suddenly arrested by the appearance of two horsemen wending their way amid
the intricacies of the wild-wood. Her first thought was to call to them for
help, but on more mature deliberation she was fearful they might belong to
Duffel's band, and if so, would betray her into the hands of that
unprincipled and enraged villain, when she knew but too well that death or
a fate infinitely worse, was the the alternative left for choice; she
therefore kept silent, preferring to take the chances of her lone
pilgrimage to casting herself into unknown and suspected hands.

It soon appeared, however, that the discovery was mutual, and that the
horsemen had less fear of her than she of them; for, after a moment's pause
to satisfy themselves of the reality of her presence, they turned their
horses' heads toward her, and in a few seconds arrived at the spot where
she stood, silently awaiting their approach. She had feared they were
members of the association of thieves, and as such, was expecting to see
hard features with a brigand's expression upon them; but, much to her
surprise and pleasure, the men before her bore none of the marks she had
pictured to herself, but were genteelly dressed and quite fine-looking
fellows. One of them addressed her in the most polite manner and with a
grace that showed plainly he had been in good society:

"Will you pardon me, fair lady, a stranger, for being so bold as to presume
to address you? but it is so strange to see one so delicate as yourself in
the midst of a wild wilderness at such an early hour. May I inquire if
misfortune has overtaken you? or why it is that you are here? and if we can
be of any service to you?"

There was something in the voice that sounded familiar to Eveline, and she
looked at the speaker to see if she could recognize him as a casual
acquaintance, but she could not; his features and face were entirely
strange to her; and though every word he uttered seemed to be in a tone she
had heard before, it was impossible for her to tell where or when, and she
concluded it must be a singular coincidence and nothing more. When he
concluded, she replied:

"I have been so unfortunate, sir, as to lose my way in the forest, and have
wandered I know not whither, in my nightlong efforts to extricate myself
from the unpleasant situation in which I am placed. If you can aid me to
get to C----, or to any other neighborhood, I will take it as a great
favor, and will reward you for your trouble."

"We will escort you with the greatest pleasure to any point you may wish to
go. You must have wandered a long way if you started from C----, for it is
more than fifty miles to that place."

"Indeed! I had no expectation it was so far. I cannot think of asking you
to take me such a distance."

"We will do so with the utmost pleasure without being asked; it is exactly
in our way, and very fortunately we have a horse at hand, already
caparisoned for a lady's use, which is at your service." Then turning to
the other he said:--"Bring up the led horse for the lady," and his
companion started as directed. The speaker then continued, again directing
his discourse to Eveline:

"By the appearance of your apparel, I should suppose you had not found the
underbrush of the forest a very pleasant impediment to travel; your face
and hands, too, I perceive, have suffered severely."

"Yes, I have found darkness and the brush and thorns rather difficult
opponents to contend with;" saying which, she glanced at her habiliments
for the first time, and their tattered appearance caused her to blush; but
in explanation, she narrated the adventures of the night, except such parts
as related to the cave and her captors, which she deemed it best not to
divulge, not knowing into whose hands she was falling. As she finished the
narrative, the other man came up with the horses, and she was assisted to
mount the one adapted to her use, when the three immediately started on
their journey.

We have only to say--and the reader, most likely, has already anticipated
us--that these two men were none other than Bill and Dick disguised, who
had accidentally fallen in with her in that unexpected place, to the great
delight of the former, and with ill-concealed disappointment on the part of
the latter. They had intended to remain in the woods that day, and had just
left the led horse for the purpose of making observations, when the
unexpected event caused them to change their original intention, and set
out on their journey for Virginia immediately. Little dreamed Eveline that
she had fallen into such hands--that these, her seeming friends, were the
very villains she had heard plotting their schemes of rascality and crime.
How different from what they were would have been her feelings, had she
known the truth in relation to her situation!

       *       *       *       *       *

'Squire Williams and his party had no difficulty in finding the way into
the swamp, as pointed out in Bill's note, and ere the sun was two hours in
the heavens they had passed the marshy place spoken of, and were on the
island, where, if the note of information was correct, they might expect to
find Duffel and the stolen horse.

Here the 'Squire directed the men to remain while he went forward to
reconnoiter and ascertain, if possible, where the animal and the villain
were. He returned in less than an hour, bringing the intelligence that he
had found the whereabouts of the former, but had been able to discover no
traces of the latter.

A consultation was held as to what should be done, but opinions were
divided. At this juncture Mr. Mandeville, who had manifested but little
interest in the affair until now, and who was not apprised of the
individuality of the persons they were after, seemed suddenly to become
himself again, and taking in the whole subject at a glance, threw in his
opinion to the following effect:

"The horse being found as stated in the letter, we have every reason to
believe that the thief is not far off; and as the beast cannot live without
food, at some time during the day the thief, who is, doubtless, secreted
somewhere about the vicinity of the horse, will come out to feed him. I
think all we need to do is to hide ourselves near the animal and wait for
the fellow to appear."

This advice was at once adopted, and moving forward under the 'Squire's
guidance as noiselessly as Indians, the whole party secreted themselves in
ambush, within shooting distance of the horse, which was hid away in a
thicket of bushes so nicely, that it was a mere accident the 'Squire
discovered him. Here they remained in whispered silence for several hours,
until some time in the afternoon, and were about to despair of seeing the
culprit, when their attention was directed by Mr. Mandeville, who had kept
a sharp look out, to a man descending from a thick, bushy topped tree. He
was a good way off, and they could not distinguish his features; but he
paused and looked around in all directions, as if to satisfy himself that
there was no one near to observe his motions; then going to a large tree,
and taking another look around to be sure of safety, he removed some bark
from its base, which was very dextrously fitted to its place, and revealed
a large hollow caused by the decay of the inner portions of the tree, from
which he drew forth a bag of oats, and, cautiously approaching the horse,
gave him a mess.

"Now is our time!" whispered the 'Squire. "Two of you go on either side so
as to cut off his retreat, while Mandeville and I march directly upon him.
You, Jake, look out for, and take charge of the horse. Move rapidly, but
with as little noise as possible. Strike out!"

With the concluding words all five rose from their hiding-place and
proceeded to execute the parts assigned them.

Duffel, whose senses were quickened by fear, heard the breaking of a small
stick under the tread of one of the party, and looking out, saw his danger;
for he recognized his pursuers, though they had not, as yet, ascertained
who he was. In a moment he decided upon his course of action, which was to
flee for life; and, mounting the horse, which he had in preparation for any
emergency, he bounded away at as rapid a rate as he could force the animal
into going.

The 'Squire called out to him to stop; but he seemed not to hear.

"Stop!" repeated the 'Squire, "stop, or I'll shoot you!"

Still he heeded not the command or the warning, but made only the greater
exertions to get out of reach of gun-shot and make his escape.

Without losing more time, the 'Squire leveled his rifle and fired. The
rider tottered for a moment and then fell from his seat. In a minute or two
he was surrounded by his pursuers.

"You have killed me, 'Squire," were his first words, as that gentleman came
up.

"Well, why did you not stop; I should not have fired if you had done so."

"I did not wish to be taken alive."

At this juncture Mr. Mandeville came round where he had a view of the
thief's face, and, with unfeigned horror and amazement, he recognized him,
and exclaimed:

"_Duffel!_"

"Yes, Mandeville," said Duffel, "it is I, and there is Tom, _your_ horse."

"So he is, as I live," said the bewildered individual. "How is this? I
certainly am not dreaming."

"No," replied Duffel. "I would to God it was a dream. You see before you
the very man of all others you had chosen for a son-in-law, and but for
your daughter's opposition, I would this day have stood in that relation to
you, which I am now glad is not the case. But I have much to reveal to you
and little time to do it in."

"Well, first of all, have you seen anything of Eveline?"

"Yes, I have both seen and conversed with her, and until last night I knew
where she was, but now I do not."

He then entered into a brief history of his past conduct in relation to
Hadley and Eveline, keeping nothing back.

"So, then, Hadley is dead?" queried the 'Squire, who felt a deep interest
in that young man's welfare.

"Yes, sorry enough I am to say it, for it is the only murder that rests on
my conscience, and a heavy burden and a deep stain it is with which to
appear in the presence of an offended God!"

"And you know nothing of Eveline?" interposed Mr. Mandeville.

"Nothing more than I have told you. She may be on her way home, or she may
have fallen into the hands of those who will have as little regard for her
feelings and wishes as I had. I think she has been taken from the cave by
some of our number, but with what design is more than I can tell."

"Where is the cave?"

"I am bound by the most solemn oath never, under any circumstances, to make
known its location, and if I were to do so, it would avail you nothing now;
she is not there."

"Well, can't you give us some clue to its whereabouts?"

"No, I dare not. I know how great must be your anxiety to learn the fate of
Eveline, but I can assist you no further in prosecuting a search for her.
She is either safe, or her doom is sealed, and I know not which is the most
probable, safety or destruction. In fact I am as much in the dark as you
are in relation to her last disappearance; it is a mystery which I can only
account for on the supposition already stated, that there is treason in the
League."

All this was said with difficulty by Duffel, who suffered great pain from
his wound, but would not allow himself to be disturbed until he had
revealed what was on his mind. He now permitted himself to be placed on a
rude litter, which was prepared by the men out of the branches of trees,
and was carefully borne toward his home.

But before they had emerged from the swamp he motioned them to stop, and
they did so.

"I am going!" he said, in a voice scarcely above a whisper. "I thank you
for your kindness. Whoever bears the tidings of my death to my mother,
please break the news to her as gently as possible."

The thought of his mother seemed to awaken the better part of his nature,
and at the same time to quicken his pulses. He grew stronger under the
excitement, and ejaculated in a louder tone:

"Oh, my God! that I should come to this! I fear the intelligence will kill
her!"

He covered his face with his hands and groaned in agony. Every eye in that
solemn group around him was moist with tears.

"Take me on!" said the sufferer, after a pause. "Possibly I may be able to
hold out till I reach home. If I do not, Mr. Mandeville, and you should
ever see Eveline again tell her that almost with my dying words I craved
her forgiveness."

Duffel the man and villain was subdued, and Duffel the boy was again come
to life. The memory of a mother's love opened the long-sealed fountain of
affection in his sin-encased heart, and he felt once more, in a little
degree, as he had done in the days of his innocence.

As he was carried along the current of thought again changed, and he cast a
retrospect over the years of crime, which had made him an outlaw, and
brought him down to the gate of death. The dark picture shut out the light
of more pleasant memories, and his soul sunk back into the night of
darkness which the blackness of his crime had cast around it! Again he
groaned in anguish of spirit and closed his eyes, as if by so doing he
would shut out the phantoms of his evil deeds from his soul's vision.

The excitement of conflicting emotions threw him into a fever, and before
he reached his home, which was not till after night, he was delirious. A
broken hearted mother laid her soft hand affectionately upon his head, and
called his name in such endearing tones as only a mother's lips can
breathe; but he knew not that it was her, he felt only the touch of a
horrid specter, and heard but the mocking of fiends!

Then he raved and bid the ghostly phantoms begone! Oh, it was terrible to
witness his soul-disordered agony, and hear the awful words that fell from
his fevered lips!

"Why, in Satan's name," he said, "have you come to torment me with your
jeers and scoffs, ye minions of h----? Away with you! Back! back! I say, to
your black home in the pit!"

Then covering his eyes he lay and shuddered for a brief period, but soon
screamed out:

"Keep your forked tongues out of my face, you hissing devils!"

These paroxysms, upon the horrors of which we have no wish to dwell, lasted
all the night, but subsided about the dawn of morning. The last image
conjured up by his distempered fancy seemed to be one of Hadley:

"Oh, Hadley," he pleaded in piteous tones, "do not look upon me in that
way! Take from me those mournful eyes, oh, take them away! for that look
burns into my heart! Hadley! Hadley! have pity on me! and spare me! Am I
not tormented enough already?"

But we will not linger to depict this harrowing scene. When the fever
subsided he was weak as an infant. His mother asked him if he knew her, and
he whispered:

"Yes, oh, yes! God forgive me for bringing your 'grey hairs in sorrow to
the grave!' Oh, that I could die with your forgiveness graven upon my
heart; but I dare not hope--I dare not pray for it!"

"God bless you, my son! and forgive you as I do!" passionately exclaimed
the parent; and her heart was writhing with agony!

What a fearful thing it is to bow a parent's head with shame! to crush out
the joy from a tender mother's heart, and shut the light from her spirit
forever! And, oh, what a fearful thing to die with this consciousness
burning into the soul like the sting of scorpions!

None of the horrid visions that visited his fevered brain in the hours of
delirium were half so painful as the anguished expression on that mother's
face. It sunk to the great deep of the guilty son's soul; and, with that
pale face bending over him, his last glimpse of earth, his sight paled and
his spirit left its clay tenement for eternity. What a lesson in his life
and death!



CHAPTER XXII.

THE DISGUISED VILLAINS MEET HADLEY--THE RESULT--CONCLUSION.


As already stated, Bill and Dick had disguised themselves in the garb of
gentlemen, and with certain disfigurements of countenance which completely
hid their features and rendered it impossible to identify them, either in
their character of villainous murderers, or as the abductors, on a former
occasion, of their present captive. When Bill first discovered Eveline in
the woods, he was about to make known to her that he and Dick were the
friends who had promised to liberate her, but on second thought he deemed
it best to keep up the disguise, and learn, if possible, whether she had
any knowledge of his real intentions and their ultimate destination. Hence
her inability to trace the voice, which sounded so familiar, to the wily
villain who had enticed her to meet Hadley for the purpose of placing her
in Duffel's power.

Bill endeavored by every indirect means, not calculated to excite
suspicion, to draw from Eveline the facts of her situation, with the view
of informing himself of her sentiments toward the friends who had promised
her freedom; but she kept her own counsels, and completely baffled him in
his object. He knew that the present course of deception could not long be
persisted in, as, at furthest, on the morrow a development of facts must
take place, or, at least, a continued persistence in the disguise as to
destination would be impossible. How to make himself known in his real
character was a matter which puzzled him not a little; for he well knew
from her manners and from the resistance she had made to Duffel, that it
would be no easy task to force her all the way to Virginia. If he could
only manage to keep up appearances until a certain point was gained, which
he hoped to reach by night on the second day, he felt pretty sure of final
success; for he would then be on a route along which friends were numerous,
and he knew where to stop for refreshments and at what places to put up for
the night. But how to reach that point was the difficulty.

After bestowing much thought on the subject, he at last hit upon the plan
which he concluded would enable him to accomplish his ends without being
mistrusted by Eveline. His plan was simply this: To give Eveline to
understand that it would be impossible for them to reach C---- that day;
and when, on the morrow, it should appear to be time for the termination of
their journey, he would, in seemingly well disguised uneasiness, inform her
that they were lost in the wilderness! and as the day wore away, that it
might be possible they would have to remain in the forest all night, if
they did not happen to stumble on some settlement or lone cabin. In this
way he could gain the time desired; and he well knew _what_ solitary cabin
he would reach at night!

Poor Eveline was again in the toils of an enemy, and it would seem now that
nothing but death could release her from the snare in which she had
unconsciously fallen. In her situation, "ignorance was certainly bliss;"
for while the web of fate was weaving so surely around her, she was
thinking of home and friends with joy at heart, that soon she would return
to the one and be greeted by the others. Alas! how little knew she of the
dark purposes of the vile wretches who were confided in as friends!

Without lingering to describe the particulars of the day and night, except
to mention that the latter was spent at a first class public house, and
without the occurrence of any note worthy of incident, we will simply state
that Bill, who let Dick into his secret, carried out his plans to the
letter; and on the second day, about noon, communicated to Eveline the
unwelcome and, to her, startling intelligence that they had missed their
way and were somewhat bewildered, but still hoped all would come out right.
All the horrors of her former night's adventure in the wilderness came up
in her mind, and she shuddered at the thought that a repetition of its
dreadful experience might be before her, but concealed her feelings as well
as she could, though Bill saw that a sudden pallor overspread her face,
and that she was really alarmed.

Bill produced a pocket compass, and pretended to take directions and shape
their course from it. Toward evening, he announced the fact, that he was
quite confident they were near a secluded dwelling occupied by an old
half-hermit sort of a fellow and his family, which, though affording but
poor accommodations, would be preferable to the forest as a shelter for the
night. As predetermined by him, they reached this desolate looking
habitation, and put up for the night. Seeing that Eveline was ill at ease,
he found means to whisper in her ear:

"Do not be alarmed at appearances; these people are rough, but honest; and
in any emergency, be assured we will defend you with our lives!"

But this whispered assurance of defense had the contrary effect from what
was intended, for Eveline at once had her fears confirmed that there _was_
danger to be apprehended. She did not, however, manifest her increased
apprehensions of evil, but seemed as calm as possible until she was shown
her sleeping apartment for the night, which was a room on the first floor,
with a bolt to the rude door on the inside. She fastened herself in; but
instead of sleeping, put out her light, and listened with sharpened ears to
every noise that disturbed the stillness of the night. She had been in her
room but a little while when she was startled by a call from without:

"Halloo, the house!"

She waited a moment, and then heard the owner go to the door and demand:

"Who's there?"

"A benighted traveler, who has lost his way, and wishes to obtain shelter
for the night."

"The house is already full of guests, and I cannot take any more."

"Let him in;" said Bill, whose voice Eveline recognized. "He may be worth
taking in, you know."

The man then called out:

"My guests think you can be accommodated; so you may come in, I reckon, and
share such fare and lodging as we can give, which are none the best."

"If you will show me the way to the stable, I will first see to my horse,"
said the traveler.

The host pointed out a shed where the beast could stand, and soon the two
returned to the house.

The moment the new-comer entered the door, Bill and Dick cast inquiring
glances at each other; paleness as of death was on their cheeks, and
superstitious alarm at their hearts; for in the stranger they beheld
CHARLES HADLEY! Was it his ghost come to torment them in the hour
of their triumph and security? Several minutes passed before they could be
assured of his identity, that he was veritably flesh and blood, and not a
spirit. It was well for them that the obscure light of the room cast their
features in shadow, or their blanched cheeks and disquiet looks might have
betrayed them. In a very short time they found it convenient, as on a
former occasion, when seeking the life of the same man, to go out to see
after their horses.

"Well, Dick!" said Bill, when they were alone, "What now?"

"D----n me, ef I didn't think the dead had come to life, when I first seen
that feller! He must be bullet proof, for I placed my pistol plumb ag'in'
him when I fired. I'm half a mind to believe yet that it's his ghost."

"But it is not his ghost, that's certain, though I could have sworn that he
was dead; and we must get rid of him, some way, or he'll play the d----l
with us."

"I think the best thing we can do is, to leave the gal in his care, and cut
stick for Virginny as straight as we can shoot."

"Nonsense! We can easily get old Sampson to kill him for his money, and
that will save us from any further fear of his revealing our secret."

"I don't like this bizness of killin'; 'taint human, no way you can fix
it."

"Come, Dick, don't make a fool of yourself. I want you to stand by me now,
like a man."

"I shall have nothing to do with killin' Hadley; you may jist put a peg
there, and say no more about it."

"Well, let me alone, then, and don't interfere with my plans, and I'll do
it myself."

"Ef it's to be done at all, better let old Sampson do it. I'd a good deal
rather his hands should be made red with Hadley's blood than mine. The
truth is, Hadley is a first rate chap, and it's a mean, cowardly act to
take his life." "Come, come! no more of that sort of talk. If you don't
want to help me, just let me alone; with old Sampson's aid, I can get along
without you; but I don't see what has come over you, of late."

"Well, I ken soon tell you that I'm down on this wimen bizness, and allers
have been; and it is mean, low, dirty work--this steelin' poor things--any
way you ken fix it, and I've told you so often. I don't believe any good
will come of it in the end, either; ef I could have my way, there
shouldn't, that's certain. Ef you _will_ go ahead, why, go; but I tell you
no good will come of it at last. I would be glad ef you would quit now; but
I'll not stand in your way, becoz I've agreed to stand by you already."

With this understanding, the rascals returned to the house--if house it
could be called--and very soon afterward intimated that they would retire.

"As the stranger seems very tired," said Bill to the host, "we will
willingly remain until you show him his room," and he gave the proprietor
of the premises a knowing wink.

As Hadley rose to follow the host, he thanked the men for their kindness,
and Dick turned away to conceal his feelings, for he was really sick at
heart, bad as he was, at the thought that so noble a fellow should fall a
sacrifice for such a base purpose; and he half resolved to give him warning
of his danger, and save his life. While his thoughts were thus occupied,
the host returned, and he and Bill very soon went out together, Dick too
well knew for what purpose.

"Ef I could only let them out and get them off safely, I'd do it," mused
Dick; "but there it is, I can't do it, and it's no use tryin'."

But notwithstanding he came to this hopeless conclusion, he continued to
think about the matter. At last he concluded:

"Well, ef I can't do anything else, I ken give the feller a friendly word
of advice, jist to kinder put him on his guard, like."

So he stepped to the door of Hadley's room, and gently tapping it until he
gained the occupant's attention, whispered in his listening ear:

"There is danger about, stranger, and ef you take the advice of a friend,
you'll not sleep over heavy to-night. Better have your arms ready for
anything that may happen."

"Thank you! my friend," whispered Hadley, in response.

"No thanks, stranger; I'd help you more, if I could; but my hands are
kinder tied like, and if they were free, sarcumstances would prevent me
from givin' you any aid."

Having thus compromised the matter with his conscience, Dick walked away,
resolved to have nothing to do with the affair. Indeed, his sickness of the
"wimen bizness" was hourly increasing, and he was half tempted to leave
Bill, unless he would relinquish Eveline.

While these events were transpiring, Eveline, wide awake and excited by
fear, continued to listen to every sound without, remaining perfectly still
herself, so that the inmates of the house supposed she was sleeping.

We will here remark, that the house was a double-cabin, with a kitchen
attached to one of the ends, and a sleeping-room to the other. The family
were in the kitchen, and Eveline was in the room opposite to it on the same
side, but at the other end of the house. The part of the cabin leading to
and from the kitchen, was in one large room; but the part leading to and
from Eveline's room, was divided into three apartments, two small
sleeping-rooms, and one large hall-shaped one, extending the full length of
the house, which was a kind of sitting-room, and into it opened all three
of the bed-rooms, two at the side and one at the end. There was a rude
chamber above these rooms, furnished with beds; for old Sampson's was a
rendezvous for thieves and pickpockets, who often assembled there in
considerable numbers, rendering it necessary for him to have these various
accommodations for their benefit. Old Sampson himself was an outlaw, and
many a murder had been committed in his house, and always in the room
occupied by Hadley, with which there was a secret communication, and
beneath it a vault for the reception of the dead bodies of his victims,
until such time as they could be removed without detection.

With this brief explanation, we return to the thread of the narrative.

When Eveline heard the voice of the stranger, she was struck with its
peculiarity, but, as it was louder than she had been used to hear Hadley
speak, she did not recognize it, and the few brief words she afterward
heard him utter, were too indistinctly heard by her to elicit the truth.
When, however, she heard that well-known voice thanking the men for their
kindness, she recognized it in a moment, and but for the fact that he was
just retiring, she would have rushed out and thrown herself in his arms.

Hadley had not long been gone, when she heard a low murmuring of voices
back of her room, and noiselessly approaching the side of her apartment
nearest the speakers, she placed her ear to a crevice in the logs, and
listened.

"I don't want to go to extremes unless there is good reason to believe he
has considerable money about him."

These words, spoken by the host, were the first she heard distinctly.

"I think there is no doubt on that point," was the reply, "for to my
certain knowledge he has just inherited an estate from a rich uncle."

"Has he indeed? Then he may be worth plucking. But can we rely on your
companion?"

"Oh yes; Dick is true as steel. He will not take an active part in the
affair, because he does not like my taking the girl, on one side, and for
the reason that Hadley has never wronged him, on the other, but he will be
as far from betraying us as we ourselves; I will answer for him there."

Dick! Hadley! In the quickness of the lightning's flash, the whole truth
beamed into Eveline's soul. Her pretended guides were none other than
Duffel's accomplices, and the plotters, afterward, of her own destruction,
and she was now on her way to that cave in Virginia!

But the horrors of her own situation were lost sight of in contemplating
the fate that was hanging over Hadley, who was to be killed for his money!
As the light of these great truths broke in upon her mind, she came very
near screaming out in affright, but fortunately did not. She still listened
to see if she could learn how the dark deed of blood was to be consummated,
but the mode of dispatching victims seemed to be understood by both and was
only alluded to and not explained, and the villains soon left the spot and
re-entered the house.

What a world of conflicting emotions and thoughts now contended in the
bosom of the long and deeply tried girl! She knew Hadley lived; but oh,
what a fate hung over him! Could she save him? Alas! it seemed an
impossibility. Should she make the effort, it might only hasten the
catastrophe she would prevent. If she could only put him on his guard; but
that was out of her power, for she could hear Dick walking to and fro
across the large room, and she believed he was a sentry on guard.

In this dilemma she sat down on the only chair in the room, and leaned her
head upon her hand. She then found that her brow was covered with large
drops of cold perspiration, which the intensity of her feelings had forced
out. What to do she knew not; and so she sat, in an agony of suspense,
while the slow moments passed away. At length she thought of her arms,
which she still retained, and as she did so, resolved to use them in case
of emergency, either for the preservation of her lover, or to preserve
herself from the fate in store for her if Hadley should be murdered and she
carried off.

From the first, Hadley did not like the appearance of things about the
house, nor the looks of his host, who was not only rough in features and
manners, but carried with him a countenance with a very sinister expression
upon it, and an eye that spoke of crime and a guilty soul; but when Dick
gave the warning, he was doubly confirmed in his first impressions, and
resolved to profit by the advice so singularly volunteered. He did not
undress, but before extinguishing his light examined his pistols, a brace
of which he had procured for defense, to see that they were in proper order
for immediate use. After making all needful preparations, he put out his
candle, and remained in perfect quiet. Soon he heard the two men return,
and then Dick went above to rest, and the others were left alone.

For a long time all was still; not a sound was heard; not a whisper broke
the profound silence; yet there were four pairs of sleepless eyes in that
house, whose owners were all within a few feet of each other!

At length Hadley, who had taken a position by the door, heard the softest
tread of feet, then a suppressed breathing close by his ear, and he knew
that some one was listening. He turned his face away that his own breathing
might not betray him, and awaited the result of the other's observation. It
was but a little while till a low whispered conversation fell upon his
attentive ear!

"Does he sleep?"

"Yes, apparently very soundly."

"Then the sooner it is done the better."

"Yes; bring me the lantern. Now when I go in, close the door and stand
near, but do not open it till I call; I don't want the bird to escape."

"All right. Be careful to make sure work of it."

"Trust me for that; he'll never know who struck him."

Hadley knew the decisive moment had come, and he prepared himself for the
crisis; but he felt that the odds was fearfully against him, and his hope
of escape was small; still he was resolved to make a desperate effort for
his life.

As already remarked, the room was small, and the head of the bed came
within a few feet of the door, so near, that by taking one step, Hadley
could touch it with his hand. Around the bed were long curtains reaching to
the floor. It was but the work of a moment for him to secrete himself
behind these in such a position as to face the murderer when he turned to
look after him in the bed. He had just secured his situation when the door
gently opened, and the man of the house entered with the noiseless tread of
a cat, bearing a dark lantern in one hand and a monstrous knife in the
other. Stealthily he approached the bed, and then gradually lifted the
shade and threw the light around the room to be sure his victim was not out
on the watch; then he gently parted the curtains and slowly brought the
light to bear upon the pillows.

Now! thought Hadley; and as the surprised assassin raised himself up to
take a closer scrutiny of the position in which he had expected to find his
victim, he leveled his pistol within two feet of his breast and fired! With
a heavy groan the old man fell to the floor. Bill rushed into the room, and
as he did so, Hadley fired his other pistol, but the uncertain light and
Bill's rapid motion caused the shot to be thrown away.

At the same instant a piercing shriek from Eveline's room told that she was
alive to all that was passing.

Bill immediately drew a pistol and fired at Hadley, but the latter made a
quick movement to one side and avoided the bullet. Then the two sprang at
each other and closed in for a life struggle.

It was man to man with them, but Bill had the advantage of much practice,
and his strength being equal, his skill must finally gain him the victory,
unless fortune should greatly favor Hadley. Life was the prize at stake,
and every nerve and muscle was taxed to its utmost capacity. At length they
fell, Hadley being uppermost. The knife which had fallen from old Sampson's
hand, lay within reach, and Hadley stretched forth his hand to grasp it,
but as he did so, Bill, who was watching his opportunity, by a sudden and
tremendous effort, turned his antagonist, and seizing the knife, the moment
he felt his enemy safely beneath him, raised it for the fatal plunge at his
heart, and with an oath exclaimed:

"Die, now, like a dog! and be out of my way!"

But the words were scarcely uttered, when his uplifted hand relaxed its
grasp of the deadly weapon, and at the same precise point of time, a flash
and report told that a third party had taken part in the deadly conflict.
Bill fell over upon his dead companion a corpse, and springing to his feet,
Hadley stood face to face with Eveline! Each spoke the other's name, fell
into the other's arms, and Eveline fainted away! At this juncture Dick made
his appearance, and taking in the whole scene at a glance, hastened out and
soon returned with a vessel of water. Hadley took a handful of the fluid
and sprinkled Eveline's face, who soon revived.

We shall not attempt to describe the joy of the transported lovers. But the
family had been aroused by the unusual noise, and soon the wife and her two
daughters stood with the dead. In their horror and distress, Hadley and
Eveline forgot their happiness.

There was no more sleep for the inmates of that lonely dwelling that night,
and with the early dawn, the lovers, guided by Dick to a public road, left
the scene of death and wretchedness for home, where they arrived in
safety, the next evening, to the unspeakable joy of Mr. Mandeville, who had
just returned from a fruitless search after his daughter, in despair.

Dick went back and buried his dead companion, and old Sampson, after doing
which he left the country, and was never afterward heard of.

The League was never revived in that section of the country after the
destruction of the cave, though many of the members went to the south-west
to join their captain, and the Order is still in existence in a little
different form.

We have little more to add. Charles and Eveline were married with the full
and free approbation of Mr. Mandeville, who ever after loved Hadley as his
own child, and acknowledged that for once the daughter's was better than
the FATHER'S CHOICE, and often shuddered as he contemplated how
narrowly his beloved daughter had escaped becoming the wife, first, and
afterward, the victim, of THE HORSE THIEF RIVAL.





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