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Title: Vellenaux - A Novel
Author: Forrest, E. W. (Edmund William), -1880
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Vellenaux - A Novel" ***

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                               VELLENAUX

                        A NOVEL BY E.W. FORREST

AUTHOR OF THE "BLUE JACKET," "CRONOTONTOLLIENS," "NED FORTESQUE," ETC.

                                 1874.



PREFACE


The consideration and favor accorded to the writer's former works by a
generous reading public, has induced him to try his hand as a novelist,
and the present effort "Vellenaux" is the result.

The Book, although essentially one of fiction, contains many episodes of
an historical character. In fact, truth and imagination are so blended
together, that the reader will scarcely discover where the one begins or
the other ends. Scenes and occurrences are portrayed which took place
during the Sheik Wars, the siege of Mooltan, the battle of
Chillianwalla, and the never to be forgotten Sepoy Mutiny, with the
simple alteration of names, dates and localities. On the shoulders of
the hero has been grafted many of the adventures, exploits and escapes
which in reality occurred either to the Author himself or some of his
many military acquaintances, in doing which the reader may rest assured
that no character or incident has been in any way overdrawn.

THE AUTHOR.



VELLENAUX.



CHAPTER I.


The bright rays of an Autumn sun fell upon the richly stained glass,
sending a flood of soft, mellow rainbow tinted light through the
quaintly curved and deeply mullioned windows which adorned a portion of
the eastern wing of that grand old Baronial residence, Vellenaux, on a
fine September morning, at the period during which our story opens. This
handsome pile, now the property of Sir Jasper Coleman, had been erected
by one of his ancestors, Reginald De Coleman, during the reign of the
fifth Henry.

This gallant Knight had rendered that Monarch great service during his
wars in France, especially at Agincourt, where his skill and bravery was
so conspicuous, and used to so great advantage, that King Henry, on his
return to England, rewarded his faithful follower with a grant of land
in Devonshire, on which he was enabled, with the spoils he had acquired
and the ransoms received from his French prisoners of note, to erect a
magnificent chateaux, which he called Vellenaux, after Francois, Count
De Vellenaux, a French noble, whose ransom contributed largely to its
construction. Here he continued to reside until his death, which
occurred several years after.

It was now an irregular edifice, having been partially destroyed and
otherwise defaced during the contests which ensued between the cavaliers
and roundheads at the time of the Commonwealth. Since then alterations
and additions had been made by his successors, and, although of
different styles of architecture, was now one of the handsomest and most
picturesque structures that could be met with throughout the length and
breadth of the shire.

A broad avenue of noble elms led from the lodge at the entrance of the
domain and opened upon a beautiful carriage drive that wound round the
velvet lawn, which formed a magnificent and spacious oval in front of
the grand entrance.

Beneath the outspreading branches of the venerable oaks, with which the
home park was studded, browsed the red and fallow deer, who, on the
approach of any equestrian parties, or at the advance of some
aristocratic vehicle bearing its freight of gay, laughing guests towards
the hospitable mansion, would toss their antlered heads, or, startled,
seek the cover of those green shady alleys leading to the beech woods
which adjoined the park and stretched away towards the coast of Devon.

Sir Jasper, who was still a bachelor, and on the shady side of sixty,
retained much of the fire and energy of his earlier years, although at
times subject to an infirmity which the medical faculty describe as
emanating from disease of the heart. He had served with great
distinction during the Peninsular war, under the iron Duke, but, on
succeeding to the Baronetcy, left the service and retired to his present
estate, where he spent most of his time at this his favorite residence,
as hunting, shooting and field sports generally had for him a charm
that no allurements of city life could tempt him to forego; besides he
had, in the earlier part of his military career, visited many of the gay
capitals of Europe and engaged in the exciting pleasures always to be
met with in such places, until he had become satiated and lost all taste
for such scenes. His kind heartedness and benevolence won for him the
esteem of the neighboring gentry.

On the morning in question the Baronet, who had but the evening previous
returned from London, entered his study, and seating himself in an easy
chair, drew towards him a small but elaborately carved antique
escritoire, and for several moments was deeply engaged in the perusal of
certain papers and memoranda; finally he drew from his pocket a sealed
packet which, having opened carefully, he read over; then as if not
quite satisfied with the contents, allowed the paper to slip from his
hand to the table before him and was soon lost in thought. An English
gentleman, unquestionably in the highest sense of the word, was Sir
Jasper Coleman; a true type of that class who, from the time of the
Norman conquest to the present day, whether beneath the Torrid or Frigid
Zone's; on the bloody battlefield, or launching their thunders on the
billows of the white-crested main, nobly upheld the honor of their
country's flag, whose heroic deeds and honorable names have been handed
down unsullied and untarnished for many generations. Since leaving the
service the worthy Baronet had taken no part in the political events of
the nation, but devoted himself entirely to the welfare of his numerous
tenantry, and those residing in the neighborhood of his large estate, to
whom assistance and advice was at all times needed, nor was it ever
withheld or given grudgingly when any case of real distress came under
his notice.

A fine subject fog poet's pen or artist's pencil was that aristocratic
old warrior, as he sat there gazing upon the rich woodlands warmed by
the glorious autumn sun, thinking over by-gone days--days when he had
loitered by some fair one's side in many a brilliant assembly, or when
his nerves were steady and his voice all powerful, leading the charge on
many a well-fought field. How long he might have remained ruminating on
things of the past it is impossible to say; the retrospect might have
continued much longer had not his attention been arrested by a slight
noise, when suddenly raising his head a smile of pleasure lit up his
finely cut features as the door opened and a lovely girl, just merging
into womanhood, stepped softly into the room. She was, indeed, very
beautiful; hair of the darkest shade of brown hung in long and glossy
curls from her perfectly shaped head, and rested on the exquisite white
neck and shoulders, the contrast of which showed to a great degree the
almost alabaster whiteness of her skin; grecian nose, and eyes of the
deepest blue, whose long lashes, when veiled, rested lovingly on her
damask cheek, and when raised, revealed a depth and brilliancy which
does not often fall to the lot of mortals; a mouth not too small, whose
beautifully shaped lips, when parted, disclosed to the beholder teeth of
ivory whiteness, small and most evenly set, dazzling indeed was the
effect of those pearly treasures; tall, slight, and elegantly formed,
with a bearing aristocratic and queenly in the extreme; what wonder that
she was the sunshine of old Sir Jasper's declining days and his much and
dearly loved niece.

Gliding up to her uncle she threw heir arms about his neck and
imprinted a kiss on his noble brow, then sinking on a stool at his feet
began to take him to task after the following fashion: "You truant, you
naughty uncle, to let me breakfast alone in my own room thinking you
hundreds of miles away, and not to let me know that you returned last
night; and Mrs. Fraudhurst is just as bad, and I will not forgive her or
you, unless you tell me where you have been and all you have seen and
done. Now, Sir Wanderer, commence and give an account of yourself; you
see I am prepared to listen," apparently waiting with much attention for
her uncle to enlighten her as to the why and wherefore he had journeyed
to London. It was evident that the Baronet had been in the habit of
making a confidant of his pretty niece, but on this occasion, for one
reason or another he had failed to do so; she had taken out of one of
her little embroidered pockets in her apron, some crochet work, and
applied herself diligently thereunto.

Edith was the orphan child of Sir Jasper's much loved and only sister,
who did not long survive the death of her husband, and on her decease
the Baronet had adopted the child, and as she grew up, her affectionate
disposition and natural simplicity wound themselves round the old man's
heart, and thus she soon became the apple of his eye, and he loved her
with all the tender solicitude of a father.

She was gentle and friendly to those beneath her, but dignified and firm
with those of her own station of life, with a fund of good practical
common sense, and was not easily dissuaded from doing any thing when she
had once made up her mind that it was her duty so to do. She loved her
uncle well and was ever ready to minister to his slightest wishes. She
used to delight him with the rich tone of her voice by singing
selections from his favorite operas, being an accomplished musician both
vocal and instrumental. They would frequently wander for hours through
the park or woods, but of late he had restricted his walks to the lawn,
or down the avenue to the lodge at the park gate, to hold converse with
the keeper, an old soldier who had served under him in his Peninsular
Campaigns, and often when relieved from the attendance on him would
Edith and Arthur Carlton, hand in hand, stroll down the said avenue to
listen to the wonderful stories related by the old lodge keeper. But
this was some time ago, for this youth (of which more will be heard
anon) was now, and had been for some time, at College at Oxford.

"Edith my darling," said the kind old man, bending over as he did so and
tapping her soft rosy cheek, "my visit to London was purely a business
one, and I delayed no longer than was necessary to complete it, but what
I saw and heard during my journey to and fro, I will relate to, you in
the evening."

The lively girl was about to make some reply to her good natured uncle
when a light rapping was heard; the door gently opened and a lady about
five and thirty entered; she was attired in a dress of black silk of
most undeniable Paris cut, which fitted her to a miracle; to Edith she
made a slight inclination of the head so as not to disarrange her
coiffure which was most elaborately got up doubtless with a view to
produce an effect.

"I trust, Sir Jasper, you slept well after your tedious journey."

"Very well, I thank you. Oh! I see you have the post bag, I am somewhat
anxious about some letters I expect to receive."

Moving around the back of the Baronet's chair she came between him and
Edith, who took the bag from her and held out her hand to her uncle for
the key to open it with, as was her usual custom of a morning; the key
was handed to her, and while they were thus engaged the eagle eye of the
lady in black fell upon the will which was still lying partially exposed
on the escritoire just as it had fallen from Sir Jasper's hand ere he
had sank into that reverie which had been disturbed by the entrance of
Edith; she obtained but a hurried glance, yet it was sufficient for her
to decipher its full meaning. As she realized this a dark cloud passed
across her features, she moved silently to the window and looked out;
when she again turned the cloud had vanished and her face was calm and
serene. So occupied with the mail bag had been both uncle and niece that
the action of the lady in question, in first glancing over the paper on
the desk and her subsequent movement towards the window, had remained
unnoticed by either.

"There is a letter for you, my dear," said the Baronet handing one to
Edith. "Oh!" said she joyously, "it is from Arthur. He is the dearest
old fellow, and one of the best correspondents alive; he tells the
funniest stories of the college scrapes he gets into, and how cleverly
he gets out of them, and makes all manner of fun in his caricatures of
the musty old professors."

"There, there now, away to your own room," said her uncle, "and let me
know what new scrape your dear old fellow has been getting in and out
of, during our walk after dinner." Edith blushed slightly and hurried
out of the apartment.

"There are no letters for you this morning, Mrs. Fraudhurst, but here
are the London papers, I have no time at present to look over them, and
would feel obliged if you would lay them on the library table." She took
them, and with a graceful courtesy, smilingly left the room, and went
direct to the library, sat down at the table and drew the writing
materials towards her as if about to write; but ere she commenced her
head sank on her hand and she appeared to be, for some moments, lost in
thought. As she will be brought prominently forward as our story
progresses, we had better inform the reader at once, all we know of her
antecedents.

Mr. Fraudhurst had been a lawyer of some standing in the village of
Vellenaux; he was reported wealthy, and when on the shady side of fifty
married the niece of his housekeeper, much to the disgust of the said
housekeeper, and several maiden ladies of doubtful ages who resided in
the neighbourhood, who had each in her own mind marked him as her
especial property, to be gobbled up at the first opportunity he or
chance might afford them for so doing, and they waxed wrath and were
very bitter against her who had secured the prize and carried it off
when as they thought it just within their grasp. The lawyer and the
Baronet had been upon terms of intimacy for several years prior to the
marriage, and Sir Jasper being a bachelor saw no objection to his
friend's wife visiting Vellenaux, although she had, as he would
facetiously observe, risen from the ranks.

The lady in question was, at eighteen, tall, pretty and ambitious. She
had at an early age determined to rise above the station in which she
was born, and for that object she had studied most assiduously at the
village school, where she attained the reputation of being the most apt
scholar of her class. A few years residence with a relative London
served to develop her natural abilities, and she lost no opportunity of
pursuing her studies or of affecting the tone and fashion of persons
moving in a far higher circle than her own.

Education and application she knew would doubtless do much to elevate
her in the social scale, but the position she so earnestly sought for
was to become the wife of some man of good standing in society, whose
means would be sufficient to support her in that style to which her
ambition led her to hope for, and for this she strove hard and was
rewarded for her perseverance by becoming the wife of a reputed wealthy
barrister some thirty years her senior, and for a few years enjoying the
position she had attained, visiting and visited by the uppercrusts of
the place and not unfrequently dining at Vellenaux and otherwise
enjoying the hospitality of its owner.

When little Edith was about seven years old, Mr. Fraudhurst was gathered
to his fathers, and the sorrowing widow was left in a very different
position than was anticipated either by herself or others who took any
interest in such matters; the house and grounds which she fully believed
to be her own property, passed into the hands of a distant relative of
the deceased barrister, and with the exception of the furniture and some
three hundred pounds in cash, she was no better off than she had been
prior to her marriage; but, being a woman of great tact, she contrived
to keep this circumstance from the knowledge of the enquiring
neighbours, and having applied to the new owner of the premises she
obtained permission to occupy them for a period of six months.

On the Baronet calling to pay his visit of condolence the lady, who had
previously arranged what she should say and do on the occasion, unfolded
to Sir Jasper her real position and out of friendship for her late
husband claimed his advice and assistance. The worthy old bachelor
declared his willingness to assist her if she could only point out the
way; as to advice he could realty give none on so difficult a matter.

"Oh! Sir Jasper," exclaimed the widow, in a voice so excellently
modulated to suit the occasion, that the old bachelor was beginning to
feel a real interest in her affairs, "so like yourself, so good of you
to allow me to suggest the way in which you can best serve me in my
peculiar and, I may say, awkward position."

"There is a way, my dear Sir Jasper, (and here the widow bent over and
placed her soft white hand on his arm) in which I believe you can
materially serve me, and at the same time advance the interest of one
who is, without doubt, more dear to you than any living being; I allude
to dear little Edith." At the mention of his niece's name he looked up
enquiringly as if not quite catching the meaning of her words.

"You must understand, Sir Jasper," she continued, "that the little
darling is now of an age that will require some person to guide and
direct the development of her young mind and superintend her studies. Of
course, old nurse Simms is an excellent and worthy woman, but not such
an one as the future heiress of Vellenaux should be entrusted to, as she
advances from childhood to maturity. It is an important and responsible
position, and should only be undertaken by those who have already passed
through the struggles and trials of the world, and drank of the cup of
affliction." Here a pearly tear fell upon the hand of the good-natured
Baronet, and here she applied her white laced cambric to her eyes.

This was the _coup de main_ that carried the day. The soft-hearted
bachelor was not proof against this, besides there was truth and reason
in her suggestions for his darling little niece, and he did not see how
he could, for the present, do better than to offer to Mrs. Fraudhurst
the charge of Edith, and before he took leave it was arranged that the
widow should call at Vellenaux daily and endeavor to gain the confidence
of the child, and at the end of the six months she should give up
housekeeping and be installed as governess and companion for Edith; and
so well did she play her cards that she had scarcely been there twelve
months when she ruled the household as though she were its legitimate
mistress; always heading the table when Sir Jasper entertained his
bachelor friends, and thus, we may say, for several years lived in
clover. Her chief duties consisted in educating Edith and Arthur, which,
for several years, was a task which did not require much mental
endowment or physical exertion. It was, in fact, more of a pastime than
otherwise, and as she always accompanied Edith when visiting the
neighboring families, there was but little monotony to complain of.

She had a double object in becoming an inmate of Vellenaux. First, that
of securing a comfortable home for several years. But her grand scheme
was that of making herself so necessary to the Baronet, that she could,
in time, undermine the defences, carry the Citadel by stratagem, and
finally become the envied mistress of Vellenaux. But a few months
residence under the same roof served to convince her of the fallacy of
the project; for there were two grand difficulties that she could not
overcome; his strong objection to matrimony, and his affection for his
niece. Therefore, the shrewd and cautious widow had to relinquish her
attack in that direction; and as Edith advanced towards womanhood, her
position became more precarious. There were two events to be dreaded,
and in either case she believed her occupation gone, and these were the
death of Sir Jasper or Edith's marriage. Her income during the years of
her residence with Sir Jasper had been a handsome one, and being at
little or no expense, she managed to accumulate a goodly sum at her
bankers; but the idea of losing her present abode was to her
disagreeable in the extreme, and her busy mind was continually at work
to devise how this could be averted, and this was the way matters stood
with her on the morning alluded to.

"He is coming home from College next month not again to return, and she
loves him, though she may not at present realize the fact, but that
knowledge will come, and I fear much too soon. Sir Jasper will not
object, and the youth will hardly refuse to accept Vellenaux and twenty
thousand a year, although there be an incumbrance in the shape of a wife
attached to the bargain. Yes, I see it all, they will marry and I shall
be thrown out in the cold unless I have wit enough to prevent it without
appearing to interest myself in any way with what ought not to concern
me. But Arthur Carlton must not remain here. He must be sent abroad, to
America, India, anywhere, it matters not where, so that they be
separated, and that ere long." These were the thoughts that chased each
other through the active brain of Mrs. Fraudhurst, as she sat alone in
the Library. Half an hour had elapsed ere she had quite made up her mind
as to what course she should pursue to avoid the impending evil. Then,
at length, seeming to grasp the difficulty, she took up her pen and
wrote what she thought was likely to transpire at Vellenaux should there
be no one sufficiently interested in the matter to prevent the estate
(which had been in the Coleman family for several generations) from
passing into other hands. This she sent to one whom she had every reason
to believe (for she had observed him well) would not scruple to use any
means to gain possession of the broad lands of Vellenaux. This letter
the cautious widow posted with her own hands, to prevent the possibility
of the address being noticed by either Sir Jasper or Edith. The matter
being thus satisfactorily arranged, she patiently awaited the
developments of the first fruits of the plot against young Carlton.



CHAPTER II.


It may be remarked, and with a great deal of truth, that the chapters of
a novel bear a certain resemblance to those pleasing illusions known as
dissolving views, where one scene glides almost imperceptibly into
another. The reader has been gazing mentally on woods, landscapes and
water in the South of England, when lo! in the twinkling of an eye, the
busy haunts of men in the world's great capitol, London, stands unveiled
before him. It must, however, be admitted that, so far as scenic effect
is concerned, the change is at times less pleasing than the one just
fading from view. Yet if we wish to realize the plot of the story, the
dark and uncertain shades of the picture should be looked on, from time
to time, as they present themselves.

On a door, which stood partially open, in the last of a row of gloomy
looking houses situated in one of those dark and narrow paved courts
leading from Chancery Lane to Lincoln Inn Field's, was painted in black
letters on a white ground--"Ralph Coleman, Attorney-at-Law."

In the ill lit passage to the right was a door that opened into the
front office, where, seated at an old-fashioned desk, was a youth, tall,
thin and pale, busily engaged engrossing some legal documents. A short,
quick step was heard coming up the Court, the handle turned, the door
opened, and a man about the middle height with a slight tendency to be
corpulent, and about thirty-five years of age, entered. "Are those
papers ready," enquired Mr. Coleman of the young clerk, who had ceased
writing on the entrance of his employer.

"I am finishing the last one now," was the ready reply.

"Good; and my letters?"

"They are in the usual place, on your desk," answered the youth,
re-commencing his work. The Attorney moved away and entered his private
office, and seating himself in his old leathern chair, commenced in a
methodical way to open and peruse his letters.

Ralph Coleman commenced life with very fair prospects. He came of a good
old family and had received a University education, and studied for the
Bar very assiduously for three or four years, but on the death of his
father he came in for five thousand pounds. He then neglected his
profession, and, for a time, led a very fast life in London. When he had
run through about half of his money he went abroad, and while there
married a lady who had a tolerable fortune. They travelled together over
the European Continent, and for several years enjoyed what is termed
life.

An accident happened to Mrs. Coleman in Switzerland which resulted in
her death. Ralph being again alone in the world, as it were, entered
into all the wild dissipations of Vienna and Paris, which ended in his
ruin; and he returned to England with only a five pound note between him
and beggary. As the cousin and only male relative of Sir Jasper Coleman,
he was heir to the Baronetcy but not to the property. This was
unentailed, and at the will of the Baronet; but should he die intestate
the whole would fall to Ralph.

But the hope of succeeding to the estate banished, or was at least, to
a considerable extent, quashed, when he learned that Miss Effingham had
been adopted by her uncle, and that likewise he had made a protégé of
the son of his old friend Eustace Carlton, and would no doubt eventually
make a will in their favor; but so far as he could learn, up to the
present time no will had been made. There was a degree of consolation in
this; but in the meantime he must live; he therefore resumed his
profession, and by energy, and the aid of his aristocratic friends,
succeeded in obtaining a tolerable practice.

He was on pretty good terms with his cousin, and usually went down to
Devonshire for a few days during the shooting season, and on more than
one occasion had Sir Jasper spoken to him of the future career of young
Arthur; but the lawyer generally managed to evade the subject by saying
there was plenty of time to think about that when the youngster should
leave College, and appeared to interest himself very little in the
matter, because he did not see in what way the youth's future career
could affect him; that Sir Jasper might assist Arthur with his interest,
at the outset, and perhaps give him a couple of hundred pounds to help
him on in his profession or calling, he did not at all doubt; but beyond
this Ralph did not believe the Baronet would assist him.

"Ah!" said the Attorney, as he took up the fourth letter and glanced at
the postmark, "from Devonshire, and the handwriting is that of Mrs.
Fraudhurst; what can that maneuvering woman have to communicate? but we
shall see, we shall see," and at once opened the letter. The contents
were evidently not of an agreeable character, for his brow darken and
his lips were firmly compressed as he read the long and closely written
epistle. At its conclusion he moved for a few seconds uneasily in his
chair, then re-folded the letter and placed it carefully in his
pocketbook. With his head resting on his hand he remained sometime in
deep thought; presently his brow became clear and, turning to his desk,
wrote rapidly for the space of an hour.

"Scrubbins," said he, addressing his confidential (and only) clerk, "I
am going to Devonshire, but will return the day after to-morrow; you
will find your instructions on my desk, and now give me the deeds; and
remember, should any one enquire for me tell them I am gone to the
country on business, and shall be back the day after to-morrow," and
without farther comment, Ralph Coleman passed out of the office.

It was a still, calm night in early autumn, the silvery moon looked down
from her deep violet throne amidst the starry heavens; the dull, heavy
sound made by the mighty ocean, as its huge waves were dashed upon the
sea-beat shore, fell audibly on the ear in the silent night. A light sea
breeze swept through the furze bushes that were scattered over the
Downs, across which lay the high road leading past the Park.

Bridoon, the old gate keeper, was seated on his wooden settle within the
porch of the lodge, smoking a long clay pipe, and occasionally quaffing
long draughts of rare old cider. He was just thinking of turning in for
the night, when a vehicle stopped, and a voice demanded admittance. As
the gates swung open a gig and its occupant passed through and proceeded
at a smart pace along the broad avenue towards the mansion.

The clock of the village church was striking ten as Ralph Coleman
pulled up at the principal entrance of Vellenaux, and was met in the
hall by Reynolds the old butler, and conducted to the room he usually
occupied when visiting there during the shooting season.

"Sir Jasper," said the old servant, "has retired for the night, and Miss
Effingham is on a visit to the Willows, but Mrs. Fraudhurst is, I
believe, still in the drawing room; will you please to step in there
until supper is prepared for you." This suited the lawyer exactly, as he
wished to have a few minutes conversation with that lady previous to
meeting the Baronet, for the letter he had received from Mrs. Fraudhurst
was so cautiously worded, that although sufficiently explicit on most
points, there were some portions of it which he could not exactly
understand, or see in what way he ought to act, but doubtless she would
put him right on all matters that were to be brought quietly to the
notice of Sir Jasper. While making some addition to his toilet, it
occurred to him that she might be only making a cat's paw of him to
feather her own nest, but as he could not see clearly how this could be,
dismissed the idea from his mind, and shortly after made his bow to the
widow.

She rose and received him courteously; apologised for the absence of the
host and his niece, supposed he would feel inclined to retire early, as
doubtless he would wish to rise at the dawn of day, to avail himself of
the excellent shooting which was to be had in the turnip fields, and was
altogether very chatty and agreeable; but she in no way alluded to the
letter she had written, to him, he was therefore compelled to broach the
subject, and before the supper bell rang, a mutual understanding as to
what was to be said and done was arrived at between them.

The Baronet and Mr. Coleman breakfasted alone on the following morning.
Edith had not returned, and Mrs. Fraudhurst excused herself on the plea
of indisposition, but doubtless she had some other motive for absenting
herself.

"And you found the birds plentiful, and in good condition," enquired Sir
Jasper, as he pushed away his plate, and turned his chair towards the
bright, cheerful fire which was blazing in the polished grate, and
stooping down to pat a couple of pointers that were crouching
comfortably on the hearth rug at his feet.

"Yes, indeed, quite so, I do not remember a season when the partridges
have been so plump or in such numbers, but had hoped to have had your
company this morning, but perhaps to-morrow."

"So I have heard, but you must really excuse me, it used to be my chief
delight to shoot over the grounds and preserves on a fine autumn morning
like the present one, but it is too much for me now, and I have given it
up, but I like my friends to enjoy it. How long can you stay this time?"

"Only three days; I cannot be absent from town more than that, but it is
well worth the journey to shoot over a friends property, even if only
for three days."

"Then you must make the most of your time; old Tom the game-keeper will
show you the best covers and general shooting ground. I wish you could
have remained for a week or two, the young fellows belonging to the
neighboring families will be home from school and college, and there
will be plenty of popping then, I promise you. Ah! that reminds me that
Arthur Carlton has finished his education, and is coming home, and it is
not my intention that he should again return to Oxford; and now we are
alone and not likely to be disturbed, I wish you would give me your
opinion as to what profession or occupation it would be best for him to
embark in. I should like to give the youngster a fair start in life. I
have given him the education of a gentleman, and I should like him to
retain that position."

This was the turn in the conversation the lawyer had been anxiously
waiting for, but he seemed in no hurry to take advantage of it; he
shifted his position so that the light might not fall on his features,
took a pinch of snuff and crossed one knee over the other before he
ventured an opinion on the subject.

"I know so very little of the young gentleman," he began, "as scarcely
to be able to advise you on a matter of such moment, and have hitherto
declined from so doing on that account, but as you so desire it, I will
give my opinion on the matter according to the best of my judgment."

"Thank you, thank you, that is all I ask. Then," resumed the lawyer,
"the road by which a young man of education can, by perseverance, hope
to earn for himself a competency and a good position in the social
scale, is that of the church, the navy or in the military service of his
country. As for the pulpit, unless the aspirant has a special tendency
for it, or some good friend who has a living to bestow, he will hardly
realize a sufficient income to support himself as a gentleman; and to
send him up to London to study law, or medicine for two or three years
would but expose him to the temptations and dissipations of that great
city, and it would take years of drudgery before he would be able to
obtain a competency. In my opinion the safest and most expeditious way
of proceeding is to put him into the army; his commission and outfit is
the only outlay, and can be done at once; his position is established,
and it only remains with himself to rise in his profession, and you will
be relieved from all care and responsibility on his account; but
understand me, I do not mean that he should enter one of the regiments,
now in England, to loiter his time away at some country quarters or
fashionable watering place, to fall into debt, difficulty, love, or some
other absurd scrape, but put him into some corps that is now and will be
for some years stationed somewhere abroad, India, for instance, for I
have been, by competent authorities, informed that there an officer can
live comfortably on the pay of his rank.

"If he is abstemious, and takes care of his health, his promotion must
ensue without purchase, and that, too, in a few years. It is a prospect
that thousands of youngsters would jump at, and one I think that is in
every way suitable for him; this Sir Jasper, is all I have to offer on
this subject."

This advice of Ralph Coleman's, although given to effect a preconcerted
scheme, was so in unison with the Baronet's views, that he could but
assent to what had been uttered by Ralph, and the lawyer had the
satisfaction of knowing, ere he left the breakfast room, that his
suggestions would be carried out to the letter; and prior to his return
to London he had another interview with the wily widow, at which he
informed her of the arrangement that had been decided upon by the
Baronet in regard to Arthur Carlton's future career. "He will," Ralph
went on to say, "be thus removed out of harm's way for several years,
and perchance may never again cross your path, and I have no doubt while
Sir Jasper lives your position will be secure. I have served your turn
without benefitting myself in any way."

"Not so," was the lady's reply, "you have but been paving the way for
your own advancement. Why not marry Edith, she is aware that the title
falls to you, but is ignorant of the fact that her uncle has made her
sole heiress, and girls brought up as she has been, will frequently
overlook much to gain a title, and become the envied lady of Vellenaux."

"With young Carlton out of the way, and separated, as they will be, for
years, any rising passion she may now feel for him will soon die out,
and if you make your advances with caution, and be not too precipitate,
I have no doubt that you will eventually secure both the lady and the
estate, so of the two, I fancy that you have rather the best of the
bargain." And after a little more conversation on the subject, this
worthy pair parted.

And now let us introduce the youth whose future welfare had been the
difficulty about which the widow and Ralph had given themselves so much
concern.

A tall, slight, but decidedly handsome youth, between eighteen and
nineteen years of age, wearing the Collegiate cap and gown, was pacing
somewhat impatiently up and down the quadrangle of St. John's College,
evidently expecting the approach of some person whom he was most
desirous of seeing. This was Arthur Carlton, the protégé of Sir Jasper
Coleman. He was an orphan, having lost both parents 'ere he knew them.
His father had been a Peninsular officer and companion-in-arms of the
Baronet, who, on the death of his friend, undertook to see to the
education and future welfare of the little Arthur. On losing his mother
he had been removed under the care of his nurse to Vellenaux, where he
had been only a few months, when the little Edith made her appearance on
the scene of action, and being nearly of an age they soon became good
friends and fond of the society of each other, because of mutual
assistance while pursuing their studies together, which they continued
to do until young Carlton was by his kind patron sent to school, prior
to his going to college at Oxford. Fond of study, he readily acquired
knowledge which he stored up to be used hereafter as circumstances might
demand; he was aware of his real position, and that his future success
in life must chiefly depend upon his own exertions.

His patron in caring for him during his early years, and giving him the
benefit of a university education, had, in the young man's opinion,
fully carried out the promise made to his father, on his death bed,
whether on the completion of his education his benefactor would continue
to assist him by using his interest to procure him some suitable
position in which he could carve out for himself, a road to name and
fame, he knew not, but nevertheless he felt a deep sense of gratitude
for what had already been done for him, by his father's old friend. He
was becoming restless when the friend expected advanced at a smart pace
to meet him, and proved to be Tom Barton, the youngest son of the
Bartons of the Willows, a worthy old couple who resided on their own
property, the so called Willows which joined the estate of Sir Jasper
Coleman. In this family besides daughters there were two sons, the
eldest Horace Barton had graduated at St. John's, and subsequently had
obtained an appointment in the civil service of the East India Company,
and had gone out to Calcutta, where he had now been for several years.
Tom, like his brother, had been educated at Oxford, and was now about
leaving college to return to his home for a few weeks, prior to his
leaving for London, to pursue the profession he had chosen, that of the
law.

"Carlton, my dear fellow, you must really excuse me for thus keeping you
waiting; I assure you I could not get away a moment sooner. You can
easily imagine the sort of thing, leaving the companionship of those
whom for years you have been associated with in many a frolic or
academical scrape; but to the point; in what way can I serve you?"

Carlton drew forth a sealed packet from the pocket of his gown, which he
handed to him, saying as he did so, "you will confer on me a great favor
by calling at Vellenaux and giving this packet into the hand of Miss
Effingham. I would rather she should receive it when alone, you will
manage this for me, will you not?"

"Certainly, most certainly. I perfectly understand, ah you sly dog;
after the pretty heiress are you? I admire your choice, and would I
think take the field against you, but for my darling cousin Kate, she
will not allow me to flirt with any but herself, so I will do my best
for you."

Arthur thanked him heartily, and after a few more words the friends
parted, one for his home at the Willows, the other for his small room in
the college.

Tom Barton kept his promise, and the packet was duly handed to Edith by
him, he having met her walking in the home park the very day of his
arrival.



CHAPTER III.


The time for Arthur's leaving College had now arrived. A few brief lines
from Sir Jasper, informing him that he was to leave College at the end
of this term for good, but in no way hinting what his future position
through life might be, with a small note enclosed from Edith, was all
that he had heard from Devonshire since his friend, Tom Barton, had left
Oxford; but it was evident from the tone of the Baronet's epistle that
he expected him to make Vellenaux his home, at least for the present or
until some arrangements could be made for his future.

He was now nineteen, nearly six feet in height and possessed an amount
of strength and muscular power seldom met with at his age. These had
been developed and matured by boat-racing, cricket and athletic
exercises, in which he took great delight. He was likewise an ardent
lover of field sports. From the old Lodge keeper, who had been a rough
rider in Sir Jasper's troop in the light Dragoons through the greater
part of the Peninsular Campaign, he acquired the knowledge of how to sit
the saddle and ride like a dragoon, likewise the complete management of
his horse; nor was the sabre (the favorite weapon of the old soldier)
forgotten, and many a clout and bruise did the youth receive before he
could satisfy his instructor as to his efficiency. Being of an obliging
disposition, the game keepers took a great deal of trouble to make him a
first rate shot, and their exertions were not thrown away, and very
proud they were at the way in which he brought down his birds.

Surrounded by some half dozen of his most intimate acquaintances, young
Carlton was eating his last collegiate breakfast, as he had to leave for
Vellenaux that morning by the 8.20 train, the usual toasts and
congratulations had been exchanged, and farewell bumpers of champagne
drank, when the porter put his head in at the door and announced in a
sharp short tone, "times up, cab at the door." A general rush was made
in the direction indicated, Arthur jumped into the vehicle, and amid the
shouts and cheers of his friends, was quickly rolled over the stones to
the railway terminus. Ding, dong, ding, dong, waugh, waugh, puff, puff,
and the train moved slowly out of the station, increasing its velocity
until it was whirling along at something very like fifty miles an hour.
On reaching Switchem, the station nearest to Vellenaux, Arthur found his
horse waiting for him, and from the groom he learned that Sir Jasper was
anxiously expecting him, for he had that day accompanied by Edith, gone
as far as the lodge gate, a distance much greater than he had walked for
some time past. This was very satisfactory for Carlton to know, and with
a light heart he sprang into the saddle and cantered merrily along the
high road, leading to the park gates, within which the happiest years of
his youth had been spent; and the welcome he received from all was of
such a character as at once to set at rest any misgivings or
apprehensions he might have felt on this score.

Sir Jasper was kind, courteous and almost paternal. Edith could
scarcely restrain her delight at the idea of again having in that social
circle the playfellow of her childhood and one who had ever been to her
as a dear brother, a companion and confidant, one from whom she could
always obtain sympathy and advice when annoyed with the petty vexations
of childhoods fleeting day. Even Mrs. Fraudhurst, always courteous and
polite since his exodus from her scholastic charge, was now more affable
and condescending than ever to the Baronet's _protégé_; but she could
afford to be so, for she well knew that he was about to be swept from
her path, for years, perhaps forever.

The conversation during dinner that evening was animated and general;
all parties appeared in the best possible spirits, and anxious to render
Arthur's return from college an event to be remembered hereafter with
feelings of infinite satisfaction. Soon after the removal of the cloth,
the ladies retired, leaving our hero and Sir Jasper alone; the latter
having finished a glass of fine old crusted port, settled himself
comfortably in his easy chair, and thrusting his thumbs in the armholes
of his waistcoat, thus addressed his _protégé_.

"Arthur, my boy, you are now, I think, of an age that would warrant you
in judging for yourself as to what particular profession or calling you
are best suited to pursue, in order to make a successful career through
life. Have you ever given this subject a thought? If so, now we are
alone, I should like to hear what your views or ideas may be concerning
that matter; it is one of great importance, and requires serious
consideration."

Now, although Arthur had anticipated that some such enquiry would be
made by the Baronet, he was not quite prepared as to the precise answer
it would be best for him to make; in fact he was taken a little aback at
the suddenness of the question. He had expected that some days would
elapse before Sir Jasper would broach the subject, but being of a
straightforward and truthful nature, he frankly stated what he thought
respecting his future. "Of course," he said, "Sir Jasper, I shall be
guided entirely by any suggestions you may kindly offer, for to you I
owe everything. The only path that I believe is open to me is that of
Law or Medicine; (and since you allow me) I must candidly acknowledge to
either of those professions I have an antipathy; but if it is your wish
that I should follow either of these, I can assure you that energy and
perseverance shall not be wanting on my part to attain a respectable
standing in whatever undertaking I embark in."

"Right, Arthur, right; there is nothing like energy and perseverance in
whatever situation, we may be placed in, and now listen to me." The
Baronet here took another glass of port, and motioned to Arthur to do
the same; then continued he, "Law and Physic are both distasteful to me,
nor do I think they are at all suitable for you. The Church is almost
out of the question, as I have no interest in that quarter, and could be
in no way of use to you. You are beyond the age that lads generally
enter the navy; but what say you to the army?" Arthur gave a start at
this proposal, and a beam of delight--which he could not conceal--lit up
his handsome, though somewhat thoughtful face.

"Oh, Sir Jasper," he exclaimed, "it is the very position I most prize,
but one that I had not ventured to hope could be realized; it has been
the day dream of my youth."

The kind-hearted old Baronet was evidently much pleased at his young
friend's reply and enthusiasm. He took another glass of wine, then said:
"I promised your father to give you a fair start in life, and I will
keep my word. I have already applied to the Horse Guards on your behalf,
and have the refusal of a cornetcy in the Light Dragoons. There, there,
say nothing; I see you accept it, so that part of the business is
settled so far; but the regiment is now in India, and likely to remain
there for some years. Have you any objections to leaving England? If so,
you are at liberty to withdraw your consent."

"There is no part of the world that I have so great a desire to visit as
British India. I have both heard and read a great deal of that
extraordinary country. Besides, is it not the land of my birth?" was
Arthur's immediate reply.

"Then consider the matter settled. You will not be required to join your
regiment until six months after your name appears in the Gazette. I will
write to headquarters and likewise see to your outfit. Of course, you
will remain here until after New Year's, and help us to keep up
Christmas in the good old English style, for probably it may be the last
of the sort you will see for some years; but whatever trials and
difficulties you may have to contend with out there, you may rest
assured that when the time arrives for you to have your troop, the
purchase money shall not be wanting. And now," continued he, as Arthur
was about to reply, "send Reynolds to me, I wish to see him on some
matters before I retire, and you seek Edith and let her know that you
have accepted a commission in the army, as I have not mentioned a word
to her concerning it. Please make my excuses to the dear girl for not
joining her in the drawing room," then shaking him cordially by the
hand, wished him good night.

On entering the drawing room, Arthur found Mrs. Fraudhurst poring over
her novel and Edith standing by the French window, looking out upon the
Terrace which was now bathed in a flood of pale moonlight. She was
wondering what her uncle could have to say to Arthur to detain him so
long: she had so much to ask about her ponies and her grayhounds and
improvements in her flower gardens, &c. He delivered Sir Jasper's
message, then asked her to step out on the Terrace with him. Hastily
throwing a mantle around her, she was ready to accompany him. Gently
drawing her arm within his own, they passed out of the room, and stepped
on to the Balcony that ran along the entire length of the South of the
building and joined the broad Terrace below by means of a flight of
marble steps. At the extreme end this Terrace overlooked the rich
_partierre_ which, although late in the season, still sent forth its
delicious perfume, borne upwards on the soft breeze of the evening.

"He has caught at the Indian bait. We have hooked our fish; our next
care is to have him safely landed. The poison of love has not, as yet,
developed itself. The Scarlet Fever will quench all other maladies, at
least until the seas will divide them," and with a self-satisfied smile
upon her still pretty features, Mrs. Fraudhurst betook her self to her
own apartments to concoct an epistle for the information of Ralph
Coleman.

For nearly an hour did the fair young creature and the youth, who had
ever been to her as a brother, pace up and down the moonlit Terrace.
Arthur related all that passed between him and her uncle. She was as
much delighted as himself at the prospect which had thus suddenly opened
before him; the only drawback was that he would be absent so long from
Vellenaux.

"But you will write frequently, and come home whenever you can procure
leave of absence. And to think that you will not leave us for three
months. We will have a merry time this Christmas, Arthur, will we not?
and wind up with a fancy ball on the eve of your departure. Oh, it will
be delightful," said the excited girl, carried away by the idea of such
an event.

Verily, Mrs. Fraudhurst had divined truly. Love's insidious poison had
not yet developed itself in the bosom of either. They returned to the
drawing room, and, after singing together some of their favourite
pieces, they retired for the night.

It was near morning before Carlton fell asleep; even then his brain
continued to be disturbed by exciting dreams. Now leading a charge of
horses or storming some Indian fortress. Finally he dreamed that he had
rescued some Princess or Rajah's daughter from becoming the prey of an
enormous Bengal tiger, the head of which, strange to say, bore a
striking resemblance to Mrs. Fraudhurst; that the Rajah, in return for
his services, gave his daughter to him for a bride; that the marriage
took place at the little church at Vellenaux. He thought that as the
bride approached the altar in gorgeous attire, and was about to place
her hand within his, a seraph-like form glided between them and his hand
was lovingly grasped by Edith Effingham, when all suddenly vanished in a
thunder storm. He awoke with a start and leaped from the bed, for there
was a loud knocking at the door and the voice of the old Butler
exclaiming, "Master Arthur, master Arthur, Miss Edith desires me to say
that she is going to ride over to the Willows this bright morning and
wishes to know if you would like to accompany her; she is now on the
lawn."

"Thank you, thank you, Reynolds. My compliments to Miss Effingham, and
say I shall be most happy to be her escort on the occasion," and
hurriedly dressing, was soon by her side, laughing and chatting merrily
as they cantered over the green turf on their way to the Bartons. Yet
Arthur could not altogether dispel the feelings that arose within him,
produced, doubtless, by the strange dreams that haunted his pillow
during the night, or early that morning.

"Is not that Tom Barton?" said Edith, pointing to the figure of a man,
dressed in sporting costume, seated on the step of a stile, engaged in
lighting a small German pipe, his gun leaning against one of the
uprights and some half dozen partridges lying on the grass at his feet.
As they rode up, Tom advanced to meet them, raised his hat politely to
Edith, and shouted out, "Hallo Arthur, old fellow, how are you. Glad to
have you back amongst us; not much fun in tramping through the turnip
fields alone, although the birds are by no means scarce this season."

"Thank you, I intend to be amongst them, and together, I think we can
do some execution. How are the ladies at the Willows? And is pretty
little Cousin Kate as capricious as ever?" And here Carlton gave his
friend a poke in the ribs with his riding whip.

Edith laughed heartily at the sallie; for his attachment to the lady in
question was no secret to her. Tom parried his friend's enquiries as
best as he could, and the trio proceeded at a walk in the best possible
good humour.

On reaching the Willows they found Tom's sisters and Kate Cotterell on
the gallery. Their approach had been observed by old Mrs. Barton, from
the window of the breakfast room. They were received with a shower of
welcomes, for both Edith and Arthur were general favourites with all the
neighbouring families, and especially so at the Bartons.

Of course, Arthur's appointment and approaching departure for India was
communicated; all were pleased to hear of his good fortune, though sorry
to lose his society.

"You will, of course, call upon Horace and Pauline when you reach
Calcutta," suggested old Mrs. Barton, "I dare say you may not recollect
him, but he will remember you, although you were but a curly-headed boy
when he was last in England. You must take out some letters from us to
them."

Edith had a hurried conversation with Kate Cotterell, Julia and Emily
Barton, on some little project of her own. This being finished, she
beckoned to Arthur, who was smoking and arranging some matters with Tom
Barton at the other end of the gallery; then mounting their horses they
rode slowly back to Vellenaux, in time to breakfast with Sir Jasper, who
was, by no means, an early riser.

With shooting, (with Tom Barton and some half dozen other College
chums,) visiting his acquaintances, and taking long rides through the
beech woods and over the downs with Edith, who was an excellent
equestrian, for his companion, the first six weeks of Arthur's return
passed pleasantly and rapidly away. He then had to post up to London to
get measured for his uniform, and general outfit, to say nothing of the
numberless commissions which he had been entrusted to execute by his
lady acquaintances, in view of the approaching fancy ball. Being his
first visit to the Metropolis, Arthur determined to see and hear all
that could be and seen heard during his short stay in that wonderful
city.

Jack Frost, with his usual attendant and companion, snow, heralded the
approach of old Father Christmas, who filed an appearance at Vellenaux
on the morning of the twenty-fifth of December, and right heartily was
the old fellow welcomed. His advent had been announced at daybreak, by
discharges from an old-fashioned field piece which Bridoon (with the
permission of his old commander) had mounted on a wooden carriage to
commemorate his Peninsular victories, while the Bell Ringers rang out a
merry peal from the belfry of the quaint old church in the little
village hard by. Then came troops of merry, laughing children, singing
and chanting old Christmas Carols, and were rewarded by the old
housekeeper with a piping hot breakfast of mince pies, etc., etc.

After morning service in the church, which was numerously attended, the
laborers and many of the poorer tenants of the estate were regaled with
roast beef and plum pudding, good old October ale and mighty flagons of
that cider for which Devonshire is so justly celebrated. During the
evening there was a dance and supper in the servants' hall, to which
many of the small farmers with their wives, sons and daughters, had been
invited, and a right jovial time they had of it. Dancing, songs, scenes
from the magic lantern, hunt the slipper, blind man's buff, kissing
under the mistletoe, and many other Christmas gambols were the order of
the evening,--and, if one might judge from the bursts of mirth and
laughter that prevailed, this was very much to the satisfaction of all
present.

The worthy Baronet, attended by Edith and Arthur, visited his work
people during the dinner in the great barn, addressing words of welcome
and kindness to all, nor did he absent himself from the merry-makings in
the servants' hall.

"Attention, form a line there!" shouted old Bridoon, the lodge keeper,
who was the Sir Oracle of the hour, and had seated himself in a large
arm chair beside the enormous fireplace, wherein the Yule logs burnt
brightly, darting out forked flames of blue, yellow, and crimson, and
sending forth great showers of sparks up the huge old-fashioned chimney
like fire-works on a gala night.

"Make way there for the Brigadier and his handsome aides-de-camp." The
sharp eye of the old campaigner had caught sight of the party from the
drawing room, which had halted in the door way and was looking on highly
amused at the merry groups that were footing it bravely, and with
untiring energy through the mazes of Irish jigs, Scotch reels and
English country dances. On entering, the mirth ceased for a moment out
of respect to Sir Jasper. "Go on, my good friends, we came to witness,
not to put a stop to your amusement," said the Baronet, as he took a
seat in the chimney corner, supported by Edith and Arthur. The dancing
was again resumed in about half an hour, and the party rose to retire.
Here Reynolds, the old butler, presented his master with a magnum of his
favorite port, which the old gentleman tossed off, wishing them all a
merry Christmas. This was the moment for which Bridoon had been waiting;
he rose and proposed the health of Sir Jasper, Miss Edith, and Master
Arthur, and said, "When lying wounded on the bloody field of Salamanca
little did I think that I should live to enjoy so many years of peace
and comfort in such snug quarters as is now provided for me by my old
commander and benefactor, God bless him," Then addressing Arthur he
said, "Master Arthur, it does my old heart good to know that you have
entered her Majesty's service. You are a good swordsman, a bold rider
('and the best shot in the country,' put in the head game-keeper), no
mean qualifications," continued he, "for a Light Dragoon; and I feel
certain you will turn out as fine a soldier as the Colonel, your
father,--I drink to his memory and your success." Whereupon the veteran
raised a massive tankard of sparkling cider to his lips and took a
mighty draught, which laudable example was immediately followed by all
the men present. The Baronet and his _protégés_ then left the hall.

There was open house to all comers until after the New Year, and in this
way Christmas had been kept up in that part of Devonshire from time
immemorial.

But the great event of the season to the upper tandem of Vellenaux, and
its vicinity was the approaching twelfth-night Ball. Sir Jasper had
given _carte blanche_ to his niece to do as she pleased on the occasion
and she did so accordingly.



CHAPTER IV.


Great was the excitement and preparation going on among those invited to
participate in the coming festivities. Of all the places in the county,
Vellenaux was considered the most suitable for the purpose of a Fancy
Dress Ball. There had not been anything of the kind within a circuit of
fifty miles, for at least as many years. The grand old hall, with its
banners and knightly armour of different periods, the magnificent
apartments filled with curiously carved antique furniture, ancient
mirrors and embroidered tapestries, all of which would harmonize with
the costumes of those who would figure about for the _nonce_. Of course
the characters to be assumed were to be kept a secret until they
appeared in the ball room. Edith entered with enthusiasm into all the
arrangements necessary on the occasion, and was materially assisted by
the good taste and judgment of Arthur, to whom she turned for counsel
when at fault as to the grouping of statuary or position of pictures,
and the _toute ensemble_ of the _salle-a-manger_.

The spacious old picture gallery with its Gothic windows of stained
glass was fitted up as the dancing hall. The statuary armour, banners,
and ancient weapons of past generations had been brought from the Hall
and placed in different positions along the oak pannelled walls, while
large bunches of dark green holly with the bright scarlet berries,
peeping out here and there was hung between the antique pictures of
brave Knights and fair Dames, ancestors of the Coleman family, that
seemed to look down from their massive frames upon the fantastic scenes
below. The oaken floor was covered with a cloth, figured to represent a
tesselated pavement. At the upper end a dais had been erected,
surmounted by an antique chair of state, with several others of the same
description, but smaller on each side. The orchestra was in a small
gallery that crossed the hall at the lower end, the whole brilliantly
illuminated by three massive chandeliers, the adjoining apartments were
arranged as refreshment and supper rooms.

The Ball was opened with a triple set of quadrilles. The top set,
nearest to the dais or place of honour, was composed as follows: Sir
Jasper as the fine old English gentleman in doublet and trunk hose, with
Edith, looking very lovely, as the Lady Rowena; their _vis a vis_ being
Julia Barton, in the character of Mary Stuart, attended by Arthur,
dressed as a Light Dragoon of the period. The side couples were, Kate
Cotterell, bewitchingly pretty, in the costume of Rebecca the Jewess,
assisted by Tom Barton as the famous Robin Hood. Emily Barton
represented, with very good effect, Maid Marion, under the escort of
young Snaffle of the Lancers, who rode over from the nearest Garrison
Town to captivate some stray heart by personating Young Lochinvar. The
other two sets, figuring in costumes as handsome as they were varied,
were made up of the youth and beauty of the neighbourhood, with the
exception of the bottom couple of the last set; here, Mrs. Fraudhurst
appeared, gorgeously attired, as Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, with no
other for her partner than Ralph Coleman in the garb of Mephistopheles.
At the conclusion of the first Quadrille, the Baronet seated himself in
the state chair, with his old friends on either side, for their dancing
days like his own was now as a thing of the past, but looking on with
inward satisfaction at the gay assembly, until the memories of their own
youthful days rose pleasantly before them, the rare old wines of the
choicest vintage, from the well-stored cellars of Vellenaux aiding to
keep up these associations, as Waltzes, Polkas, Mazourkas, followed in
rapid succession. Nor was the supper the least agreeable feature of the
entertainment, for country life, and country exercise, equestrian and
pedestrian, over the frozen earth, were wonderful auxiliaries to the
appetite, and both old and young did ample justice to the good things
that were provided for them.

The Duchess and Mephistopheles kept watchful eye on Edith and Arthur,
but their joyous light-heartedness, and that, too, on the eve of his
departure, convinced the two conspirators that all was going on as
satisfactorily as they could desire. After supper, Sir Roger de Coverly,
the Triumph, and other old-fashioned country dances were introduced,
followed by questions, answers and forfeits, and other Twelfth-night
games, which were entered into with such spirit and animation, that
showed how thoroughly they were enjoyed by those who participated
therein, and it was universally allowed by all present to be the most
charming thing of the kind they had ever attended, and the grey dawn of
day appeared on the eastern horizon ere the last vehicle drove away from
the hospitable mansion of Sir Jasper Coleman.

On the afternoon of the following day, Arthur was to leave Vellenaux
for Southampton en route for the East. He had put off his leave takings
until the last moment, and he now entered his patron's private library
to say farewell. The parting was more like what might have been expected
between a kind father and a favourite son. "Remember, Arthur," said the
kind old Baronet, in conclusion, "that, should your regiment be suddenly
ordered home, it will always afford me the greatest pleasure to receive
you here whenever the duties of your position will admit of your
visiting us." Here he shook him cordially by the hand, placing as he did
so, a draft on a Calcutta house for three thousand rupees.

Hastily ascending the grand staircase, Carlton made his way to the
drawing room. His adieu to Mrs. Fraudhurst was courteous and polite, but
there was no exhibition of kindly feeling or sympathy evinced by either.

Now, although Arthur and Edith in their long rides together had
canvassed over the subject of his departure repeatedly, and the great
benefit he was likely to derive therefrom till they had quite accustomed
themselves to the idea, yet, when the moment arrived, a deep feeling of
regret visibly agitated them both, a feeling which they had never before
experienced, and which there was now no time to analyze. The unbidden
tear rose to Edith's eye as he clasped her hand within his own, and
unable to control himself any longer, he gently drew her towards him and
imprinted a loving kiss on her rosy lips. The next instant he was gone.
No word of love had ever been spoken between them, and this was the
first time that their lips had ever met. At that moment Mrs. Fraudhurst
had looked up from her embroidery, but not in their direction; she was
too discreet for that, her glance rested on one of the large mirrors at
the opposite end of the room, wherein was reflected the full length
figures of the two young friends. The salute did not escape her notice,
nor did she fail to mark that the deep crimson blush that diffused
itself over Edith's beautiful features certainly was not one of
displeasure.

"Gone, but not a moment too soon," she muttered half aloud. Then turning
to address a few words to Edith found that she also had left the
apartment; gone, doubtless, to seek the privacy of her own chamber.

On reaching Calcutta, the young Cornet presented himself at the
hospitable Bungalow of the Bartons, and was by them cordially received.
The pretty little Mrs. Barton and Arthur had not previously met, he
being at College when she had paid her wedding visit to Devonshire, but
nevertheless, she was much pleased to have so handsome a cavalier, to
occupy a seat in her barouche while driving along the Chowringee road or
cantering by her side across the Esplanade or round and round the stand
while listening to the delightful music of the band, as was their usual
custom of an evening.

Good, easy Horace Barton had got over that sort of thing, for after
returning from the Suddur Aydowlett, he would seek the quiet of his
sanctum sanctorum, and with his Hooka and iced Sherbet, would regale
himself until the dressing bell rang for dinner, after which he would
entertain Arthur with stories of the Pindaree War, the suppression of
Thuygee, and relate wonderful feats of looting, perpetrated by the most
expert robbers in the world, the Bheel tribes.

"But, my friend," said Horace, on one of these occasions, "the greatest
drawback to a young soldier's advancement in this country, is the great
facility that is afforded him for getting into debt; and should you
unfortunately fall into the difficulty, I strongly advise you to draw on
your paymaster, go under stoppages or apply to a friend, but not under
any circumstances have recourse to those scourges of the country, the
native Sheroffs or money-lenders, and in order to fix your attention to
this matter, I will relate a circumstance that occurred to a friend of
mine some years ago, which will, I think, prove to you the danger of
having anything to do with those gentry, as you might not escape their
clutches as my friend ingeniously did.

"There was no denying that Harry Esdale was the handsomest, gayest and
most popular man in the station, and was generally to be found taking
the lead in any thing that promised fun and frolic. In fact, no ball,
party, picnic, cricket-match, race or private theatricals were
considered complete without him. Having little else to depend upon
besides his pay, no wander that his pecuniary affairs became embarrassed
and were to him a source of great annoyance and trouble. To extricate
himself for the time being from this unpleasant dilemma, he had recourse
to the native Sheroffs, from whom he had borrowed from time to time
certain sums of different amounts at an enormous rate of interest, until
at last he found that he was totally unable to free himself from his
difficulties, or evade his creditors, who haunted him night and day,
dogged his steps, and presented themselves most inopportunely when they
were least expected or desired.

"He had procured a furlough to Europe, which alone would relieve him
from his tormentors, but alas, he was too well watched to admit of his
leaving the Presidency. Affairs were in this unpleasant state when a
circumstance occurred, which he very adroitly took advantage of, in
order to elude the vigilance of his native persecutors.

"It so happened that in his troop there was a man that bore a striking
resemblance to him in height and figure, as well as in feature. Just at
this particular juncture, and when his creditors were most clamorous for
settlement, this man died in the Regimental Hospital. On this
circumstance coming to his knowledge, it struck him that he might turn
it to his own advantage, could he but obtain the co-operation of the
Surgeon and one or two of his brother officers. This he soon effected,
so great a favourite as he was could not be refused, besides, was it not
a glorious thing to outwit those native dealers in extortion?

"The body of the late Trooper was secretly removed from the Hospital to
Esdale's Bungalow, dressed in his full uniform and laid on the bed; a
pistol was then discharged into the mouth of the corpse, and the head
and pillow besmeared with blood, disfiguring the face considerably; the
pistol was then placed on the bed, close to the right hand, and there
was all the appearance that death had been caused by suicide.

"Fortunately there was a Ball at Government House that evening; this
accounted for his being in full dress. His absence was noticed by many,
and later in the evening the startling intelligence was announced that
Captain Esdale, had destroyed himself by blowing out his brains while
laboring under a fit of temporary insanity. This report spread like
wildfire throughout the native town and soon reached the ears of his
creditors, who flocked to the Bungalow like so many vultures, fighting
and scrabbling with each other for admission, in order that they might
secure for themselves whatever effects might be in the Bungalow, but
were informed by the guard which had been placed there that nothing
could be touched until after the funeral, which took place in a few days
with all the pomp and ceremony necessary on such occasions.

"All this time Esdale was snugly stowed away in a little room in the
Bungalow of one of his brother officers, and in about a fortnight, when
the hubbub caused by this event had subsided, and the vigilance of the
money lenders withdrawn, they being completely outwitted, he quietly
stepped on board the English Mail.

"A few months after reaching England, he obtained some cash from his
governor, and through the agency of a friend who offered his creditors
an amount equal to what Esdale had received with an interest of seven
per cent added. This they had at first rejected, but seeing no hope of
any other settlement, at last concluded to accept and delivered up the
I.O.U.'s they had against Esdale. Imagine the surprise and vexation of
these people some two years after on seeing the identical Harry Esdale,
who many believed they had seen buried, coolly smoking his cheroot in
the mess verandah, or basking in smiles of the fair ones as they
cantered gaily across the midan after the heat of the day had passed."
Horace would, doubtless, have added other words of warning and advice,
but Arthur was summoned to attend the Madame Sahib, either in her
drawing room or in the spacious verandah, where she entertained her
friends. And for nearly a month did he enjoy this kind of life, until he
began to believe that India was not the infernal hole that it had been
represented to him by Snaffle of the Lancers (who, by the way, had never
been there); and in his letters to Edith he gave a glowing account of
the city of Palaces and the fascinating Mrs. Barton.

But it must not be supposed that these matters dwelt long in Arthur's
mind, for a more engrossing subject was ever before him, and that was
the profession he was now entering upon, and the probabilities of his
attaining a position in the service equal to that held by his father,
and he started to join his regiment with a determination to accomplish
this desirable end, or perish in the attempt.

The district through which he had to pass in order to reach head
quarters was a wild one. There were also several Bheel villages along
the route, nor was there any scarcity of wild beasts in that region, but
to Arthur this was not at all alarming. He had read of adventures and
difficulties that had been met with by officers of the India army while
travelling from one station to another, besides he had a strong desire
to engage in the exciting sport of tiger hunting, boar spearing, etc.,
within the Indian jungles.

On quitting Calcutta, his good friends gave him a _carte blanche_ to
visit them whenever duty or pleasure should bring him into their
neighborhood.

Fortunately for him a small party of Sepoys escorting treasure to a
station not far distant from the one in which his regiment was
quartered, were to start from Calcutta the same morning. This party he
was directed to take charge of as far on the road as he was going. Nor
was his journey without an adventure as the following incident will
show:

Within the deep shadow of a grove of stately tamarind trees that grew
on the roadside, and distant about half a mile from a large and populous
Bheel village the tent of our young traveller had been pitched.

It was a lovely night, Corinnua in her glory diffused her soft silvery
light far and near rendering the shades of the jungle still more deep by
contrast. All was hushed in silence; the busy hum in the village had
ceased and no sound broke on the silent night, except the occasional
bark of the Parrier dog, or the cry of the lurking jackall and the
measured tread of the native sentinel, as he paced to and fro in front
of the door of the tent. The remainder of the small guard were soundly
sleeping in a little routie tent on the opposite side of the road.

Arthur had been out shooting the latter part of the afternoon and
evening, and had, as usual, taken from the village several natives as
guides and beaters. On his return he had called them to the door of his
tent, opened one of his trunks, and out of a bag, containing two or
three hundred rupees, paid them liberally for their trouble; one of the
party he noticed appeared to eye the bag with a greedy, covetous eye,
but he said nothing, and the party left, seeming well satisfied with
what they had received. After indulging in a bath he was ready for the
evening meal, which consisted of chicken, curry or broiled partridge
with several etceteras, which he washed down with a bottle of Allsopps'
pale ale, and betook himself to his easy chair and cheeroot under the
majestic Tamarinds, which were undulating gently in the soft breeze of
the evening.

There was a small shade lamp burning on the camp table by the side of
the iron cot, on which Arthur had thrown himself, being somewhat tired
of his ramble in the jungle. He had taken up a volume of the Pindaree
war, but had not perused more than a dozen pages when he felt drowsy and
sleepy. He had accustomed himself to sleep with his revolver under his
pillow, his right hand grasping the handle. Somewhere about eleven
o'clock he was lying on his back with his left arm thrown across his
chest, and his hand over his face, half asleep and half awake, he
fancied he heard a sound similar to that made by sand rats or rabbits
while burrowing. The sinister look of the Bheel he had paid in the
evening instantly flashed across his mind. Separating his fingers,
sufficiently to admit of his seeing through them, he glanced in the
direction from which the sound proceeded, and waited patiently, keeping
a firm grasp of his pistol. Presently the sand beneath the wall of the
tent near the foot of his cot gave way gradually, and a small aperture
presented itself, which increased by degrees. By and by the head and
shoulders of the identical Bheel showed themselves inside the tent; his
hawk eye darted a rapid glance all around, but most especially at the
prostrate and apparently sleeping form of Carlton he then drew the
remainder of his body, which was perfectly naked, through the aperture
and stood erect and for a few seconds remained at the foot of Arthur's
bed, and listened to the heavy breathing which he effected; then, with a
gliding motion, moved towards the trunk containing the rupees, but still
keeping his face half turned in the direction of the bed so that he
could observe the slightest alteration, should any be made in the
position of its occupant, he then endeavored to force open the lid with
his creese, but finding he could not succeed in this, he took from
behind his ear a small piece of wire, with which he attempted to pick
the lock, but in order to effect this he had to rest his eye on the key
hole for a second or two. This was the moment for which Arthur had been
anxiously waiting. Instantly the eyes of the Bheel were withdrawn from
him. He brought his revolver from under his pillow, and passing it
beneath the light coverlet, placed the barrel across his left leg, which
he gently raised, at the same time removing the cloth clear of the
muzzle, brought it in line with the ribs of the robber and fired. The
bullet went straight to the heart, and the ruffian Bheel fell dead
without uttering a groan or sound.

"What is the matter," enquired the sentry, stopping at the door of the
tent, which had been closed to keep out the night dews.

"Nothing," Arthur had promptly replied, "I have discharged my pistol by
accident, and am going to reload it, that is all. But when the Nique
comes with the relief tell him to send the Havildar to me, I wish to
speak to him." The sentinel then resumed his walk up and down his post.
Arthur then with his hands quietly enlarged the hole by which the robber
had entered, into which he pushed the body and covered it with the sand
which had been thrown up, and the tent resumed its original appearance;
then, after washing his hands and refilling the empty chamber of his
revolver, he dressed himself for the march.

At twelve o'clock the Havildar made his sallam at the tent door. "Come
in, Havildar," said Carlton, "I have changed my mind; instead of
marching at four a.m., the usual hour, I wish to start with as little
delay as possible. Go round, wake up the cart men and have the cattle
put to with as little noise as practicable, fall in the guard, and,
when we have moved off some distance, I will tell you the reason of this
change in the hour of marching. Let everything be done as quietly as may
be; also tell the Syce to bring my horse round directly." The Havildar
received his orders (native like) without remark, saluted and went to
see them carried out. When the escort had got about a mile from where
they had encamped, Arthur related what had taken place in his tent the
night previous. This was a sufficient inducement for them to accelerate
their speed to the utmost in order to get beyond the precincts of the
Bheel, as they well knew that in the event of the discovery of the body
the whole village would turn out _en masse_ to revenge his death, but
having some four hours start Arthur and his party arrived at the
station--where he was to part from them--without molestation or pursuit,
as far as he was aware of.



CHAPTER V.


This adventure fully developed his coolness and courage when aroused to
immediate action by any unexpected danger. This gained for Arthur the
favorable opinion of his brother officers. Although he, on joining, made
no mention of the circumstance, until in course of casual conversation
the affair leaked out. Soon after joining he wrote to Sir Jasper
informing him of his safe arrival, and to Edith a long and interesting
account of his journey from Calcutta to Karricabad, in which he
portrayed with faithful accuracy his encounter with a Bheel, and many
other incidents which he thought likely would interest or amuse her. In
describing the scenery and general features of the wild districts he had
to pass through, he said:

"After traversing for miles the hot and dusty plains of Hindostan, quite
unexpectedly you will come upon a tope or grove of fruit trees, planted
in regular rows, with a well or tank of spring water, and a place to
bathe in built in the centre, where the weary and way-worn traveller
could bathe and wash away the heat and dust of the road, and cool his
parched throat with a draught of the pure element, gather as much of the
rich fruit as he may wish, to appease his appetite if hungry; then, in
the soft mossy grass, beneath the overhanging branches which effectually
protect him from the heat and glare of the sun, enjoy a sound sleep,
awake refreshed and proceed on his way rejoicing. In European countries
where hotels and places of accomodation are to be met with at every
turn, this may appear of little moment, but in the East where there are
no such places to obtain food or shelter from the powerful rays of the
sun, this is an inestimable boon. On enquiring how these Topes or groves
came to grow in places so far distant from any other cultivation, I was
informed that they were planted by rich high caste natives, as a penance
that was imposed upon them by the Brahmin priests for sins of omission
or commission against their creed. By the way, I heard the other day a
good story concerning these said Topes. It appears that a certain ensign
of the Company's service, who had been furnished with his commission and
outfit by an elderly maiden aunt of a serious and pious turn of mind,
whose positive injunctions to him on leaving England were that he was
not to attempt to impose upon her with any account of dangers,
difficulties, or surprising adventures that were not strictly true, for
she hated liars, and would cut him out of her will if she detected him
indulging in anything of the sort; but requested that he would write to
her a full, true and particular account of his first battle, should he
be engaged in one.

"At the commencement of his first campaign he wrote to the old lady a
long descriptive letter, but unfortunately he did not pay sufficient
attention to his orthography, and so came to grief, for one paragraph of
the letter ran thus:

"'Our entire brigade, ten thousand strong, halted about six in the
morning, and by seven the whole of the tents were snugly pitched, and we
were taking our breakfast comfortably in the tops of trees which grew on
both sides of the road.'

"He spelt the word Topes without the capital or letter e. Tents for ten
thousand men pitched in the tops of trees. Oh, was there ever such a
monstrous falsehood, and the poor old lady fairly shook from head to
foot with pious indignation. The letter was returned to the writer
without remark or comment, and she was never again heard to mention the
name of her nephew, and on her death, which occurred soon after, it was
found that she had bequeathed the whole of her property to establish a
mission for diffusing the Gospel truth among the natives of the Fiji
Islands, and the unfortunate victim to bad spelling was left lamenting."

In another of his epistles to the fair young girl in merry England, he
winds up with the following: "Much has been said and written concerning
the sagacity of some animals, especially the elephant, horse and dog,
but the other day I was an eye witness to a fact which developed the
cunning, reason, instinct, or call it what you will, of the Indian
Jackall. Having sauntered from my tent in the cool of the evening
through some wild cotton plants, down to a clump of shady trees that
grew at no great distance from the river, I sat down to enjoy a cigar,
and while so doing I observed the following incident: A jackall, one of
the largest I believe I had ever seen, came quietly out from the cover
of the jungle and made for the river, having in his mouth a large bunch
of cotton; curious to know to what purpose he intended applying his
mouthful, I watched him. Having reached the water's edge he turned
deliberately round and faced in the direction where I was seated, but
not in view, then depressing his bushy tail he gradually backed into the
water; very slow, indeed, was his backward movement, but on gaining the
centre of the somewhat shallow stream his whole body became submerged,
leaving nothing visible above the water but the tip of his nose;
suddenly he dived, and reappeared on the opposite bank. After giving
himself a good shake, he scampered off, apparently in high glee, leaving
the cotton floating on the surface of the water. Determined to find out
if possible the meaning of this strange proceeding, I walked to the
river's bank, and wading some paces in contrived, with my long riding
whip, to get hold of the piece of cotton. You may judge of my surprise
on finding it to be actually alive with enormous flees. The cunning
jackall had taken this effectual means of ridding himself of his
troublesome companions."

But ere long scenes of a much more stirring character engaged the
attention of our young soldier, and letter-writing had to a considerable
extent to give way to the flashing of the sabre and the blurr of the
trumpet. The Punjaub was again swarming with a discontented population,
whose warlike natures rendered them a most formidable foe for everywhere
it was acknowledged that the Seik soldiery as a body were very
effective, and their cavalry the finest horsemen in the country. These
had yet to be conquered and the bloody fields of Mooltan and
Chillianwalla had to be fought and won, and the campaign on the Sutlej
brought to a successful termination, ere the troops about to be engaged
could return to peaceful quarters.

These brave, but now lawless people, rendered desperate by the internal
commotion of petty factions under different leaders, each seeking his
own personal aggrandizement, endeavored to throw the onus of the coming
struggle on the shoulders of the British Government, though it was
patent to all nations, European and Asiatic, that it had been brought
about by the Punjaubees themselves.

The bloody fields of Allewal and Sabranon, where they had been severely
beaten, was not sufficient to deter these dusky warriors or prevent them
from again trying their strength with the paramount power in India,
formidable as they knew it to be from past experience, but it is
doubtful whether the Seik soldiery ever seriously thought, although they
often hauntingly boasted of fighting with the greatest power in
Hindostan, until within two or three months of the first battle, and
even then the rude and illiterate yeoman considered that they were about
to enter upon a war purely defensive, although one in every way
congenial to their feelings of pride and national jealousy. To the
general impression of the Seiks, in common with other Indian nations,
that the English were and are ever ready to extend their power, is to be
added the particular bearing of the British Government toward the
Punjaub itself.

Throughout this campaign it was by the fortune of war determined that
Arthur's Regiment should serve, and among the brave men who rode in its
ranks no heart beat higher or bosom burned with greater military ardor
at the prospect of glory now opening before them, than that of Arthur
Carlton, for with him promotion was the oyster to be eagerly sought for,
but which could only be opened by the sword, and no service, however
dangerous, must be shirked, in order to attain this desired end.

"Gentlemen, it affords me much pleasure to be able to announce to you
that I have just received the order for the Light Dragoons to proceed
forthwith and join the field force now advancing towards the river
Sutlej, for the purpose of reducing the strong fortress of Mooltan, and
capturing its Dewan, the notorious Moolraj, who for some time past has
been sowing the seeds of disaffection amongst his subjects, and has at
last succeeded in inducing the Seiks and others to take up arms and act
offensively against our Government. This, of course, can lead to but one
result--their overthrow and ultimate defeat; but it will also give our
regiment an opportunity of gaining fresh laurels and again proving to
these fellows how dangerous it is to measure weapons with British
cavalry. We march the day after to-morrow."

Thus spoke Colonel Leoline, commanding the regiment in which young
Carlton was serving as a cornet.

This news, so pleasing to the ear of the soldiers, was received with the
utmost enthusiasm by every officer present. They gave three cheers for
their gallant leader, and another rouser for the service they belonged
to, which made the walls of their mess room ring again, so delighted
were they at the prospect of leaving their quiet, humdrum quarters for
the dash and excitement of the battle field.

The panorama which opened to the view on the mornings of the--was
glorious in the extreme, and one well calculated to awaken feelings of
emotion in the most obdurate breast. The dark waters of the Sutlej
glittering in the sun's rays as they flowed onward, all unconscious of
the bloody strife about to be enacted on its banks: the frowning
fortress, with its embattled walls bristling with cannon and swarming
with men, whose dusky figures beamed with hate and defiance; around the
outskirts of the town were the battalions of Seik soldiery, drawn up
under the Dewan Moolraj, watching with savage anxiety the approach of
the British force, whose regiments of cavalry that headed the advance
opened their glittering ranks to the right and left and made apparent
the serried battalions of infantry and the frowning batteries of cannon.

The scene was grandly magnificent. The eye included the whole field and
glanced approvingly from the steady order of one foe to the even array
of the other. All this spoke gladness of mind and strength of heart; but
beneath the elate looks of the advancing warriors there lurked that
fierce desire for the death of their fellow-men which must ever impel
the valiant soldier.

With the general details during the progress of the siege our story has
little to do,--suffice it to say that it was a bloody and protracted
affair. The Mooltanees fought with their usual desperate valor, but they
had to cope with men who never turned their backs upon a foe when the
fiat of battle had gone forth, who scorned to yield even when greatly
outnumbered, and regarded defeat, if not actually a crime, an
imperishable disgrace; and so the strife waged fast and furious up to
the closing hours of the conflict.

The siege and train heavy ordinance of the besieging force hurled their
ponderous shot and shell against the masonry and buildings that defended
the town and citadel, destroying, crushing, and burning with terrible
effect, while the field artillery poured forth continuous discharges of
lighter projectiles of every description then in use, sweeping with
dreadful result every opposing force that appeared on the walls or other
parts of the fortification. Amid the dire confusion and heavy clouds of
smoke caused by the incessant cannonading the Infantry effected an
entrance among the advanced mounds and trenches of petty outworks, and
animated by their partial success, formed themselves simultaneously into
wedges and masses, and headed by their brave leaders rushed forward in
gallant style. With a shout they leaped the ditch and up swarming
mounted the ramparts and stood victorious amid the captured cannon.

The cavalry were effectually employed around and about the outworks of
the town, and many a dashing charge and smart encounter took place
wherever the enemy's horse made a sortie or sally, which was of frequent
occurrence.

Wherever the blows from the tulwa's of the Seik horse rained heaviest
there was to be seen the flashing sabre of our young Cornet, cutting and
slashing with right good will. The early training of old Bridoon stood
him in good stead, and although scarcely twenty-one he had strength and
nerve far beyond his age, and on several occasions his conspicuous
bravery drew forth the hearty plaudits of his own men and others who
witnessed his dashing courage.

In one of the outworks captured from the enemy during the early part of
they siege had been erected a field hospital for the wounded, under
charge of Assistant Surgeon Dracott of the Light Dragoons. Now it so
happened that on the day of the grand attack a party of Seik horse in
attempting to effect a retreat from the town were met by the Dragoons,
and after a severe contest driven back and pursued as far as it was
thought advisable. A number of these fellows turned down a narrow
passage in hopes of escaping into the country at another point less
guarded, and in so doing came suddenly upon the hospital alluded to, in
which there was a considerable number of poor fellows who had been more
or less hurt during the attack. Filled with rage and discomfiture at the
failure of their first attempt, and seeing the place was guarded only by
a small party of Sepoys, for whom they had a supreme contempt--for the
independent yeomanry warriors of Afghanistan and the Punjaub held in
light estimation the hired native soldiery of Southern India. There were
numerous instances on record during the Afghan and Seik wars where the
men of the North were seen, sword in hand, to attack the Company's
Sepoys, beat down or turn aside their bayonets, and with the other hand
drag them from the ranks by their cross belts and slay them. Even when
run through the body they have been known to seize a firm grip of the
musket until they had dealt a fatal blow to their antagonist and both
fall together mortally wounded, so hostile and revengeful were they one
to another when engaged in conflict, creed against creed, for the Sepoys
of the South were, as a rule, Hindoos, while the Seiks and Afghans were
Mahomedans--they conceived the brutal design of destroying the Hospital
and ruthlessly putting to death all they could lay their hands on, in
revenge for the morning's defeat, then escape to the plains beyond the
town. After a few moments' consultation they commenced the onslaught;
the Sepoy guard made but a feeble resistance to these powerful horsemen,
they threw down their arms and fled in haste leaving the poor invalids
to their mercy.

Draycott the moment he guessed their design sprang on to his horse,
which fortunately stood ready saddled at the door of the Surgery, and
rode straight at the leader of the party, a huge, burly Seik, and
engaged him; but he with his light sabre, and less powerful arm, was no
match for the Mahomedan soldier, who with one blow smashed the
regulation toasting fork, and with his left hand seized the Surgeon by
the shoulder, and was forcing him backwards preparatory to giving him
the final thrust through the throat; the other scoundrels being engaged
in beating down the bayonets of the guard. At this critical moment, and
before a man of the wounded had been touched, about a score of troopers,
headed by Carlton, appeared on the scene of action, and entirely changed
the programme. With a single stroke of his flashing sabre, Arthur dealt
their leader such a blow that he was fain to release his hold on
Draycott and turn to defend himself; by this time the conflict had
become general fierce and bloody.

"Death to the cowardly ruffians; save our wounded comrades," shouted
Carlton, as, with a vigorous thrust he sent his weapon deep into the
chest of his dusky opponent, placing him at once and forever _hors de
combat_. Imitating the dashing conduct of their youthful leader the
Dragoons fought as British Soldiers can fight when their mettle is up,
and roused by the gallant bravery of their pet officers, in less than
twenty minutes from the striking of the first blow every one of the Seik
horse were either cut to pieces or taken prisoners. The report of the
encounter was spread far and wide, and not a man in the regiment, from
the colonel to the trumpeter stood so high in the estimation of both
officers and men throughout the Brigade as did our hero. Conspicuous
bravery on the battle field seldom fails to elicit rapturous applause
from every branch of the service.

The fall of Mooltan and the capture of its Dewan Moolraj did not, as
had been anticipated by many, put an end to the campaign. Disaffection
and disloyalty had spread throughout the country, and the Seiks were
everywhere arming to resist what they were pleased to assert was the
intention of the East India Company, namely: the subjugation of the
entire country of the five rivers; and large masses of soldiery, under
experienced leaders, had congregated on the plains eager for the fray.
Not many days elapsed after the reduction of Mooltan before the army
received orders and pressed on with all expedition to that part of the
country where the battle of Chillianwalla was to decide the question at
issue between the contending forces.

The result of the first day's struggle was undoubtedly very much in
favor of the Seiks, and can only be accounted for in this way: The
followers of the Prophet had for a considerable time been massing
themselves under experienced leaders and had established their position
in a manner best suited to resist the advancing foe, this they were
enabled to do by their thorough knowledge of the the country, without
any great exertion or hardship, being undisturbed, and certain that the
enemy could not approach but in a certain direction, and that point
alone had to be watched. But not so with the British. Long forced
marches, outlying pickets, advance guards, and all the harrassing
fatigues incident to moving through an enemy's country had to be borne.
This to a considerable extent wearied the European soldiery, though it
could not dispirit or discourage them, and again they were suddenly
attacked ere they were well prepared to do battled. Yet they pressed on
to a scene which was to terminate in so bloody a conflict. But the
second day told a very different tale; whatever advantage had been
gained, during the early stage of the fight, was not only nullified, but
their successes became a sort of _Ignis Futuris_ that lured them on to
their destruction, for during the night the British were reinforced by a
column of fresh troops from Bombay and the action opened with twofold
vigor, and so the mighty tide of battle rolled on. Towards evening the
decisive blow was struck; the Seiks were beaten at all points and fled
in wild confusion and dismay, leaving their unconquerable antagonists
masters of the field.

"Colonel," said an aide-de-camp, dashing up at full gallop, "your
regiment will move one hundred and fifty paces to the right," and then,
touching his horse with his spur, darted off in another direction.
"Threes right forward," and the Dragoons moved to the position assigned
them. A brigade of guns that had been brought up under cover of the
cavalry now opened upon the advancing Seik horse with terrible effect,
throwing them into such confusion as to prevent them from rapidly
reforming. At this moment the order was received for the Dragoons to
wheel into line and charge, and ere the Seiks had recovered, were among
them, and the flower of the enemy's cavalry had to give way before the
impetuous charge of our light Dragoons. There were more hand to hand
encounters in this affair than has been recorded in any other engagement
of the campaign. During the melee, one of the commanding General's
A.D.C.'s had a narrow escape. A powerful looking Seik rode at him, but
on coming within arm's length the staff officer's horse stumbled over
some dead or wounded men; the sword of the dusky warrior was raised to
give the blow, which must have proved fatal, and in another moment there
would have been a vacancy on the General's staff, but Arthur, who had
been hewing with might and main within a few yards of the spot, seeing
the imminent peril of his countryman, dashed up, shortening his sabre as
he did so, and, with a powerful thrust, sent it clean through the body
of the Seik; the blow intended for the head fell harmless on the plated
scales of the epaulet of the aide as he recovered himself in the saddle.

"Thanks, Carlton, my dear fellow, for this good service; I will not
forget it, should it ever come to my turn to assist you in any way," was
all that could be said in the hurry and excitement of the conflict, for
the tide of battle still rolled on. A two gun sheet battery which had
been committing great havoc on a column of infantry, was still throwing
grape and canister with murderous effect. These discharges had again and
again swept through the little party. The Seik gunners stood manfully to
their guns until the Infantry came within fifty yards of them. "Charge,
men, charge," shouted a very handsome officer of the Bombay Fusiliers,
"they cannot stand the bayonets of the old Toughs. Forward." The men
sprang to the charge, and about one hundred of the Fusiliers to the very
teeth of destruction, facing inevitable death with a coolness and
fearlessness so characteristic of the British soldier. But a body of the
enemy's horse suddenly appeared on the flank of the column of Infantry
compelling them to form square to resist cavalry, and thus the brave
little party were placed in a precarious position, being cut off from
their supports. A withering volley from the right and rear face of the
square, followed by a rapid file-firing from the standing ranks, emptied
quite a number of saddles and drove the troopers off.

An officer of Dragoons at the head of a party of his men rode at the
Seik artillerest, who, with the exception of two, abandoned their guns
and were endeavouring to escape by retreat, but they were all either cut
down or captured. The two who yet remained at their post waited for the
Infantry to advance sufficiently close to make their fire tell with
murderous effect, they then raided their lintstocks to fire, which must
have proved horribly fatal to the Fusiliers, when Arthur Carlton, for it
was he who led, appeared out of a cloud of dust and smoke close to the
Battery. Leveling his pistol, he shot down one of the Seik gunners, the
lintstock of the other was within a few inches of the vent. A second
more and a frightful gap would have been made in the ranks of the
advancing Fusiliers.

A shout that can only be given by a British throat, broke on the ear of
the unfortunate artillerest, who hesitated for a moment. It was his
last, for a down stroke from Arthur's flashing sabre fell upon his neck,
separating the head from the body. The Fusiliers dashed up, and the
battery that dealt so much destruction among the Infantry was captured
at last.

"Splendidly done, by Jupiter. Those men are the Fusiliers of the Bombay
column, are they not? and who is that cavalry officer?"

"Cornet Carlton, Light Dragoons, your Excellency; the same officer who
saved your Excellency's despatch and my life, that I mentioned to you
some half hour since," was the earnest reply, of one of the aides.
"Gallant fellow, bravely done, only a Cornet, must have his
Lieutenancy, Hargraves, see that I do not forget this in my despatches
to the Government to-morrow." Then, turning to his Chief of Staff, said,
"Give orders for the Dragoons and Light Artillery to pursue for half an
hour. The enemy is beaten at all points, and get the Infantry under
canvass with as little delay as possible." "The action is over," said
the Commander-in-chief, closing his field glass, and with his staff left
the ground. And thus, after two days hard fighting, the name of
Chillianwalla was added to the list of victories that has been
emblazoned on the page of history, showing the prowess and valour of
British troops in India, and the name of Arthur Carlton was added to the
list of Lieutenants borne on the muster roll of the Light Dragoons.

It is not our intention to take the reader over the battle fields of
Peshawa, suffice it to say that our Dragoon, with his regiment, scoured
the plains of the Punjaub up to the very mouth of the Iron Kybre itself,
which had proved fatal to so many of our gallant countrymen.

A group of officers had assembled around the withered and charred stump
of a large tree, chatting and smoking, the ruddy glare of the
neighboring camp fire throwing its fitful light upon the uniform and
accoutrements of the little party, showing them to be no other than our
old friends of H.M. Light Dragoons, waiting for the order to commence
their morning's march.

"Why are we not on the move?" enquired Major Hackett, as he joined them.

"Something gone wrong with the baggage, I suppose," responded one of the
party, "but here comes old Rations, (for it was by this name that the
Quartermaster was usually styled by the men of his Regiment) he,
perhaps, can tell us something about it."

"Well, Quartermaster, can you explain the cause of the delay. Have you
seen the Colonel, or are we to be kept here all day?" and the Major
flung away the end of his cigar with an air of annoyance. The
good-humored Quartermaster explained, in somewhat of a round-about way,
that everything would be all right in a few minutes.

"Out with it, Davison, tell us what is the row. You don't laugh all over
your face and half way down your back for nothing, I know," said Arthur,
reining up his horse alongside that of the Quartermaster, who, by the
way, was a special friend of our young Lieutenant. "Just illuminate and
turn on the gas a little, as it were."

"Well, then, gentlemen," resumed that worthy functionary, "it appears
that this morning, on the elephants being brought up to carry the mess
and Hospital Tents, one of the number was found to be missing, and the
Muccadem declared that it was useless to attempt to put anything extra
on the others, for that they would not stir a peg if so overloaded. I
did not know what to do in this dilemma; the tents could not be left
behind, so I sent for Fortescue, who was in charge of the Government
cattle, to ask his advice. In a few minutes he came cantering up. I
explained matters. The elephant cannot be far off." At this moment a
Muccadem came running up to say that the animal was in the jungle, about
a quarter of a mile off, but was refractory and would not budge an inch
in the direction of the camp.

"Divide his load among the other four," said Fortescue.

"But they will not carry it, sir," replied the native Inspector.

"I know that as well as you can tell me, but do as I order you."

The Inspector salammed and obeyed, but the animals would not move. "Now
take off the load from two and give them a couple of tether chains."
This was done, the loads removed, and a long chain, used for camp
purposes given to each, who caught them up with their trunks and seemed
to know exactly what they were expected to do with them. They were then
led into the jungle where the other one was said to be.

"You will see some fun presently," said Fortescue, and he was right, for
in a very short time the refractory animal was seen coming into camp at
the top of his speed, shrieking and crying, closely followed by the
other two, who were thrashing him soundly with the chains that had been
given to them for that purpose. There is no doubt they gave him to
understand that they did not intend to carry his load for him.

I have heard elephant stories before, but it was most ridiculously
absurd to see that great mountain of flesh crying like a whipped child,
go down on his knees and quietly receive his burden without any attempt
to hurt or molest his keeper.

All the baggage was by this time off the ground; the regiment got the
order to advance, which they did with right good will, for both officers
and men of the Light Dragoons were equally satisfied to find themselves
once more approaching their comfortable quarters in Karricabad.



CHAPTER VI.


Smiling Spring, with her ever-changing episode of sunshine and tears,
had twice come and gone. The gorgeous fields of golden grain had for a
second time bent their heads beneath the harvest side, and the autumnal
tints of every hue and shade had again fallen on the rich foliage of the
magnificent old woods of Devon, while the whirr of the pheasant in the
preserves, and the popping at the partridges among the turnips,
indicated that the shooting season had once more commenced over the
broad lands around Vellenaux.

Things wore much the same aspect as they had done on Arthur's return
from College and prior to his departure for the sunny plains of
Hindostan some eighteen months since. Sir Jasper was apparently hale and
hearty. Edith had finished her education, on which her uncle had spared
no expense, for masters and professors had been procured from London to
superintend her studies. She was perfectly happy, occasionally receiving
letters from Arthur, which always afforded her much pleasure to peruse
and think over, and frequently would she detect herself gazing upon his
photograph in the pretty little locket he had sent her from Oxford by
Tom Barton, and which, since his departure, she constantly wore.

Ralph Coleman's visits had become more frequent of late; this at first
did not attract Edith's notice. She had never been prepossessed in his
favour, but as her uncle's kinsman, and being heir to the Baronetcy, her
deportment to him had ever been polite and affable, but subsequently his
attentions became so marked that they aroused her to a sense of his real
meaning. Yet she could scarcely bring herself to believe that such was
really the case, and but for the delicate hints and inuendos that
occasionally fell from the double dealing widow, she would, there is no
doubt, have remained for a much longer time unconvinced of his
intentions towards her. However, time was passing on and Ralph made up
his mind to bring matters to the point. One lovely afternoon, as he was
entering the conservatory, he espied the fluttering of a woman's dress
among the shrubs and flowers, and on coming nearer, though still at some
little distance, perceived a lady walking slowly and as if in deep
thought. Feeling quite certain that it was no other than the one he was
in quest of, and thanking the fates for giving him the long wished for
opportunity, he advanced more quickly and was soon beside Edith (for she
it proved to be) before she was aware that any one was near. Turning,
with something of a surprised look on her lovely face, she exclaimed,
"Oh, how you startled me. I thought you were on the way to London. I am
quite amazed to find you here."

"I hope my presence is not distasteful to you," he said, gently, at the
same time lifting his hat and bowing low before her. He really cared
nothing for the beautiful girl at his side, for he was thoroughly
selfish; nor did he care by what means or how low he had to stoop to
gain possession of the object wished for.

Edith, knowing her own feelings, and not wishing to say aught to hurt
or offend him more than was actually necessary, scarcely knew how to
answer him, disliking him as she did. Still she had nothing to complain
of, for he had ever paid her the most marked respect. Before she could
frame her answer he spoke again, "Edith, I have for some time been
wishing to speak to you on a subject very near my heart. I love you
dearly and have long done so, will you be my wife, or, at least, give me
some hope that my suit may be acceptable at some future time? only give
me one encouraging smile, one ray of hope, and I will drudge on
patiently until you bid me come to you."

"Oh no," Edith replied, "you must not wait, you must not hope, I can
never be yours. Go, leave me." Before she had well finished, Ralph
Coleman had seized her little white hands in his strong grasp, and said
in a deep, hoarse voice, "Edith, I ask you again will you be mine?"

Surprise, astonishment, and a feeling very like indignation took
possession of Edith.

"Mr. Ralph Coleman," she said, "before I answer any more questions,
release my hands." As he did so she raised her head proudly, and turning
towards him with a heightened color, said, "I have already told you that
I cannot love you, and am surprised that it is not sufficient. I thank
you for the honor you intended, but beg that you will never mention this
subject to me again."

As these words fell upon his ear, Ralph Coleman's face changed and
darkened visibly, an evil light came into his eyes, and an ugly frown
contracted his brow, then, with a smile, whose meaning could not be
mistaken, he said:

"Take care, proud girl, I have sworn that you shall be mine, and by the
Heavens above us, I intend to keep my vow, and neither man nor devil
shall turn me from my purpose!"

Edith's eyes flashed, her beautiful lips curled in scorn, and her whole
face beamed with intense disgust, and with a voice low and deep she
said,

"Have a care, sir, beware how you threaten the niece of Sir Jasper
Coleman. Before to-morrow my uncle shall be made acquainted with what
has just passed, and the character of the man who has partaken so often
of his hospitality, and been ever treated with kind attention, he has
yet to learn how these courtesies have been returned," and sweeping past
him with a look of supreme contempt, Edith was about to pass on.

It was evident that he had gone too far and that she was not a girl to
be intimidated by anything that he might say, and at once changed his
tactics--for he was an excellent actor--"Pardon me, Miss Effingham, I
know not what I am saying, I am mad. Yes, lady, mad! for your beauty
like the moon, makes all men mad, who comes within the sphere of its
attraction. Forgive me for thus offending you." Edith turned towards
him, and with calm dignity replied, "Promise me never again to revert to
this subject, and in no way further molest me, and what has just passed
shall be forgiven." He gave the required promise. Edith then pursued her
way to the end of the conservatory, passed through the doorway, and on
to the terrace where she was met by her Uncle. He observed her
heightened color, but as she made no complaint he allowed it to pass
without comment.

Ralph Coleman stood for a few moments irresolute. She must, he thought,
either be aware that her uncle has left her sole heiress, or else is in
love with another, Carlton perhaps. Fool that I was to run so great a
risk, and that, at the instigation of that scheming woman. Should she
say aught to her uncle on this matter, it would ruin me with him. I will
at once seek an interview and endeavour to wheedle him out of a promise
to make a codicil in my favor.

Failing in the attempt to secure the hand of the beautiful Miss
Effingham, and not daring to risk another trial, as it might spoil the
plans he had been contemplating since Edith's dismissal of him, he had
kept shy of that young lady during the remainder of his stay, and prior
to his departure for London, he had contrived to have a long interview
with the Baronet, during which he very ably showed the position that he
would hold should the Baronetcy eventually descend to him who was
totally unable to support the dignity of the rank that would thus be
thrust upon him. So well and ably did he argue this point, that ere he
left Vellenaux he extorted a sort of promise from Sir Jasper that he
would think the matter over and make a bequest in his favor.

He returned to his office, in deed court, annoyed and disheartened to a
considerable extent by the failure of his designs as far as related to
Miss Effingham, but his wounded vanity he could afford to bear and hide
within his own breast, as he now confidently believed that Sir Jasper
would adopt the suggestions he had made to him, and settle, at least,
two or three thousand per annum on the successor to the Baronetcy during
the said successor's life; and in this frame of mind the Lawyer
determined to de vote himself entirely to his profession, and to avoid
the pretty Edith, Mrs. Fraudhurst, and Vellenaux, until the present
owner should have been gathered to his fathers.

There is perhaps no season of the year in the South of England so
pleasing to the eye or more genial to the corporeal faculties than that
of early autumn, especially that part of Devonshire which we have
selected for the opening and closing scene of our story. Vellenaux, with
its varied and picturesque styles of architecture, embosomed, as it
were, in rich woodlands, with a perfect amphitheatre of hills on three
sides, and ever and anon the soft breezes of the ocean sweeping over the
downs, and through the beech woods on the other. It was, indeed, a
domain of which any one might have been proud.

It was a lovely evening, the sun had just commenced to dip behind the
crest of the adjacent hills, and was sending its golden rays through the
bright foliage of the trees and down the long paths that led to the
woods hard by. Edith had strolled, book in hand, to her favourite knoll,
beneath a stately elm, and was engaged in reading. Her two favourite
dogs, fine specimens of the Italian greyhound, chased each other in
circles which gradually grew smaller until it brought them to the very
feet of their mistress. One placed his small smooth nose in the little
white hand that was thrown carelessly on the moss grown roots beside
her, while the other, to attract her attention, placed his paw on the
page she was reading and looked up in her face. Suddenly their ears
elongated and away they bounded, as the noise of horses hoofs were heard
approaching in her direction, aroused her from her recumbent position,
as Julia Barton, on her quiet little pony, trotted up. She was off in an
instant, and running up to her friend, greeted her in the animated,
lively way, as was her custom when she had anything to communicate that
she thought would please or interest her. "At your studies," she said,
taking up the volume that Edith had let fall on her appearance. "Long
engagements, a tale of the Affghan war. Oh, oh, thinking of our old
playfellow are we?" and the merry girl laughed heartily, "we shall soon
hear more of him, for my sister-in-law, Pauline, has just most
unexpectedly arrived, and I wish you to know her. She is very charming
and improves wonderfully on acquaintance, is very good-natured, and
tells such funny stories about the people she lived among, and has a
great deal to say about Arthur Carlton. You will come to the Willows
to-morrow, will you not, and call on her?" Edith gave the required
assent, and Julia, mounting her pony, cantered down the avenue to the
lodge gate, where she was joined by a tall, gentlemanly looking man,
mounted on a small bay mare, and the two walked their horses at an easy
pace down the green lane in the direction of the Willows, and Edith
returned to the house in time to dress for dinner, well pleased with the
prospect of hearing something of him who was scarcely absent from her
thoughts for any great length of time. She did not attempt to analyze
her feelings on the subject. It was pleasant to think of her absent
friend, and that was sufficient for the present.

Mr. Barton, Sen., or old Mr. Barton as he was usually styled, for he was
upwards of eighty years of age, and had been born in the house he now
occupied, a good comfortable and substantial, but old fashioned
dwelling, which had passed from father to son for several generations.
His father had been what is termed a gentleman farmer, and attended
personally to the superintending of his acres. His son, the present
occupant, had followed his example. He married early in life, but the
lady of his choice died young, leaving one son to remind the sorrowing
widower of his loss. This was Horace Barton, whom we have already
introduced; he chose a different field for his labors, and managed to
secure, while yet young, on appointment in India. Our friend Tom and his
two sisters, Julia and Emily, were the result of a second marriage, and
although there was every comfort to be had, and a good home for all
during the life of the old couple, yet it was absolutely necessary that
Tom should make his own road through life, and that the girls should, by
early marriage, secure for themselves suitable establishments, as the
Willows would fall to Horace on the death of his father, and it would
not be many years before his term of service in the East would expire,
and he would then, doubtless, return to England and occupy the old house
in Devonshire.

The arrival of Mrs. Horace Barton from Calcutta had been quite
unexpected at the Willows, as no preparatory letter had announced her
intentions or arrival in England. Nevertheless she found all delighted
to receive her. She had spent the most of her visit to Europe in the gay
capitals of Paris and London, and a couple of months was all the time
she could spare to remain in Devonshire.

On her first visit she had not been introduced to Miss Effingham, and
had only caught a casual glance at her while crossing the lawn, as Edith
was returning from a visit to Julia Barton; but on this occasion was
determined to become acquainted with her, and find out if she really
deserved the high encomiums that had been bestowed upon her by Arthur
Carlton. She had anticipated seeing a pretty lively English country
girl, but was totally unprepared for the brilliant beauty and perfectly
self-possessed manners of Edith, and she always found an attentive
listener in her to all she had to relate on the subject of India and
Arthur Carlton whenever they met, which was now frequent, for an
introduction had taken place between them very shortly after her
arrival, and they consequently became on the most intimate and friendly
footing. The magnificence of the ancestral dwelling of the Colemans,
with its Parks, Parterres and grounds, was quite a novelty to Pauline
Barton, and with Edith she traversed the long corridors, picture
galleries, and armories with wonderment, for they contrasted strangely
with the Pagodas, Temples, and Bungalows in the country where the
greater part of her life had been spent (for she had been born there),
and she thought that Edith's life must be one of never-ending delight,
and for a time it was so, but a sad change was about to come over the
bright spirit of her dream of happiness for a time, and perhaps for
ever, and dash the cup of joyous light-heartedness from her grasp.

The event so much desired by the man of law took place at a much earlier
date than had been anticipated by that gentleman, or, indeed, by any one
of his acquaintances as the sequel will show.

"Reynolds," said the Baronet, one evening after dinner, some few weeks
after his interview with his worthy cousin, the heir to the title,
"place candles in my study, and you need not wait up for me. It is
likely that I shall sit writing to a late hour." The old servant bowed,
and retired to do the bidding of his master.

After affectionately wishing his niece good-night, and a passing remark
to Mrs. Fraudhurst, Sir Jasper entered his study, closing the door
quietly behind him.

For a considerable time he paced the room, with his hands crossed behind
his back, as was his custom when in a meditative mood. Finally, seating
himself at his escritoire, he placed the massive silver candlesticks,
with their wax lights, in such a position that the glow would not effect
his sight, and arranged his materials for writing to suit him. For a few
moments he leaned back in his chair, then selecting a small key from a
bunch he always carried, unlocked the centre drawer which contained only
a few memorandums and drew it completely out. He next touched a small
spring at the side, when a panel of the back slid open, disclosing an
aperture from which he took the packet he had brought from London the
evening previous to the opening of our story. This was the will and
testament of Sir Jasper Coleman, in which he had left his niece, Edith
Effingham, sole heiress of all he possessed, with the exception of a
gratuity of five thousand pounds to be paid to his _protégé_, Arthur
Carlton, within six months after his (the Baronet's) decease, and to be
free from all legacy or other duties. Having re-read the document, he
laid it on the table beside him and then commenced writing.

Sir Jasper had thus acted without the knowledge of his lawyer, the man
with whom he had consulted on every other matter since his succession to
the Baronetcy, consequently that gentleman was in ignorance of any such
will being in existence. It had been drawn by a competent lawyer
residing in one of the suburbs of London, and had been properly
witnessed, and was, in every particular, a regular, complete document.
The parties present on the occasion knew nothing of Sir Jasper, had
never heard of Vellenaux or its owner, and in all probability would
never hear of him again, as there was no likelihood of the will being
contested. Why he had acted in this manner is hard to say.

The Baronet had finished his letter, and was again musing, and muttering
to himself, "Ralph Coleman, you are an unprincipled man. Do you think
your attempt to coerce my darling niece to listen to your suit has
escaped me. You have failed in that quarter and now come to me to assist
you. Well, well as she is safe I can afford to forgive you, and let you
have a couple of thousand a year, to enable you to support yourself like
a gentleman when the title descends to you." Here the Baronet resumed
his pen and commenced the writing of a codicil in behalf of his cousin,
Ralph Coleman.

Perfect tranquility reigned throughout the house, all, with the
exception of Sir Jasper, had retired to rest, and there was no sound,
save the ticking of the old-fashioned time-piece, with its monotonous
and never varying tick, tick, and the scratching noise made by the quill
as it traced its inky characters on the yet incomplete codicil the
Baronet was preparing. The candles had burned low in their sockets, and
the fire on the hearth had died out unheeded by him who sat writing line
after line. Suddenly a spasm seized him. He, with great difficulty,
raised himself from the stooping position over the escritoire, but as he
did so, another spasm, more violent than the first, attacked him. He
tried to call for assistance, but his tongue clove to his mouth. He was
suffocating. He stretched his arm towards the silver bell, which stood
on the table, but it was beyond his reach. His head sank on the cushion
of the chair. His eyes closed, another convulsive start, and all was
over. Sir Jasper Coleman was no more.

For many months past it was customary whenever it was known that Sir
Jasper would sit up late, for Mrs. Fraudhurst, on passing the door of
his chamber before descending to the breakfast room, to tap and enquire
whether the Baronet would come down to his breakfast or have it sent up
to him. On the following morning the widow on stopping at the chamber
door discovered that it was ajar, and on pushing it gently open found
the room was vacant, the bed undisturbed and, it was quite evident from
its general appearance, that Sir Jasper could not have passed the
night--or any part of it--there. Though startled a little at first, Mrs.
Fraudhurst was not long in coming to a conclusion as to what really had
happened during the night. It had more than once occurred to her active
mind that such might be the manner in which the Baronet's life would
terminate. "And the hour I so feared may have come at last," thought
she, as the consequences that might accrue to herself, should such turn
out to be the case, rose up before her; but she was equal to the
emergency; quickly and noiselessly she descended to the private library
and, without rapping, entered, closing the door quietly after her.

The morning sun streamed through the stained glass windows, casting
their brilliant hues full on the face of the corpse, rendering the pale
features more ghastly to look on than the convulsions had left them.
Mrs. Fraudhurst was a woman of strong mind, but no feeling, and the
presence of death had no terrors for her. She had entered, prepared in
her own mind for the spectacle that now presented itself. Her plans had
been already arranged, but she had hardly counted on their being so
easily executed. With a firm hand she took up the will and unfinished
codicil, folded them, and placed them carefully in the bosom of her
dress. She now took up the bunch of keys, and replacing the centre
drawer, locked it and dropped the bunch of keys into one of the pockets
of Sir Jasper's dressing gown, and finding that the open letter related
to general business connected with the estate and some charitable
institution, left them as she found them, and without one look of pity
or regret on her now flushed face towards him to whose liberality she
had for years been indebted for a home, with all the comforts and
conveniences of life, left the apartment and regained her own chamber
without meeting or being seen by any one. Her first act was to securely
lock up the papers so feloniously obtained, then, applying cold water to
her heated brow, to wait for the ringing of the second bell for
breakfast. She could hear the voice of Edith, as her laugh rang out upon
the lawn beneath her open window, at the gambols of the two greyhounds.

"Reynolds, ascertain whether Sir Jasper will have his breakfast sent up
to him," said Mrs. Fraudhurst, as she and, Edith took their seats at the
table, some twenty minutes later.

Edith did not speak, but waited patiently to know if her uncle would
come down. There had been a growing coolness between her and the lady
who headed the table. She could not but think that there was some
complicity between her and Ralph Coleman with respect to herself. She
could not tell why this should be, but could not divest herself of the
idea, nevertheless.

"My master is not in his own room, and has not slept in his bed,"
hurriedly exclaimed Reynolds, re-entering the breakfast room. Edith
started up, visibly agitated, but not so with the widow, she coolly
said, "you had better look in at the library, he was writing there late
last night and may probably have thrown himself on the lounge, and
fallen asleep there."

"I will go with you," Edith said to the old servant, as she proceeded a
little in advance of him.

Mrs. Fraudhurst sat staring blankly out of the window waiting for the
result, which she knew must ensue. A loud shriek from Edith rang through
the house, and breathless with excitement, Reynolds entered and
announced Sir Jasper's death and that Miss Effingham had fainted.

The time for action had now arrived. "He may be only in a fit," said
Mrs. Fraudhurst. "I will myself drive over for Dr. Martin. Call Miss
Effingham's maid and let her be carried to her own room and properly
attended to. I will return with all speed; in the meantime, Reynolds, be
sure that no one enters the room. You had better lock the door and take
possession of the key as soon as Miss Edith has been removed." After
quickly dressing, she proceeded towards the stables to hurry forward the
harnessing of the pony phaeton, which was at all times at her disposal,
and drove rapidly to the house of Dr. Martin, though she well knew his
services would be of no avail, but it was a part of the plan she had
matured, and was now carrying out.

Fortunately for her the Rector and Sir Jasper's lawyer and general
business agent were at the time with the Doctor in his surgery,
consulting on some Parish business and without a moment's delay they
proceeded to Vellenaux, the Rector riding with Mrs. Fraudhurst, whose
appearance and conduct were well suited to the occasion.

Life was pronounced extinct, and the cause of death was supposed to be a
sudden attack of his old complaint, disease of the heart. The lawyer, in
the presence of all, placed seals on the escritoire and doors of the
study immediately after the body had been transferred to the bedchamber,
and wrote to Ralph Coleman, as the only male relation of the late
Baronet, acquainting him with what had occurred, and it was not long
before that gentleman presented himself at Vellenaux.



CHAPTER VII.


The morning prior to the funeral it pleased Mrs. Fraudhurst, on meeting
Ralph Coleman in the long corridor, to request that worthy individual to
grant her a private interview in the general library at eleven o'clock,
precisely, the lawyer bowed in the affirmative and passed on.

At the time appointed the widow, in very deep but fashionable mourning,
entered the library by one door, and a few minutes later the new baronet
presented himself at another. After closing it he advanced to the centre
table and waited for the lady to announce the nature of her business
with him.

In a low, clear and cold, but perfectly steady voice she thus addressed
him, "Some two years since I informed you by letter of the existence of
a will in which the late baronet, after paying a gratuity of five
thousand pounds to Arthur Carlton, left Miss Effingham sole heiress. In
that will the name of Ralph Coleman does not appear. If this document be
read to-morrow," she continued after a slight pause, "Vellenaux is lost
to you forever."

"But, my dear madam," he replied, "among the late baronet's papers will,
doubtless, be found a codicil in my behalf, in fact my cousin distinctly
promised me that he would make a suitable provision for the successor to
the title."

"And so he would have done had he lived long enough to complete it," was
the lady's quiet reply.

"You do not mean to say that you are certain Sir Jasper made no such
provision," enquired the lawyer in a quick and excited tone.

"No document of that kind had been executed prior to the baronet's
death," she boldly asserted, advancing towards him. "Now listen to me:
providing the will in question be not forthcoming after the funeral, the
law will declare you heir to the estate. Now, if you swear to me by all
that you hold most sacred, that you will allow me one thousand per annum
and a suite of apartments at Vellenaux so long as I shall live, no will
shall appear, and within one hour after the body of the late Sir Jasper
has been consigned to the tomb, you shall become Sir Ralph Coleman and
master of Vellenaux and its broad lands."

"But," was the cautious reply of the wily lawyer, "how know I that any
will has been made or that the Baronet has not kept faith with me. Your
word is all that I have to depend on for the truth or falsity of the
statement." He knew her to be an unscrupulous woman, but shrewd withal,
and could not bring himself to believe that she would compromise herself
so far as to have fraudulently possessed herself of, Sir Jasper's
papers, yet her language indicated very strongly that something of the
kind was the case.

"If she really has them," he thought, "one thousand per annum would not
be too large a sum to purchase her silence concerning them; and as the
bargain would be a verbal one, and unknown to any but ourselves, she
could not hereafter, by any disclosures that she might make, convict me
as an accomplice to the transaction." These thoughts flashed through his
mind ere she again spoke.

"Your words, sir, though not complimentary to me, I can excuse, on
account of the peculiarity of your present position and frame of mind,
and you shall be satisfied of the truth of that which you pretend to
doubt," and drawing from her pocket two papers, Mrs. Fraudhurst held
them with a firm grasp before him, but in such a position that it
enabled him to read every line. "There," she continued, in a low tone,
"is the will in question, and the codicil which you so much depend on;
are you satisfied?" Then, refolding the papers somewhat hastily,
replaced them in her dress and turned to leave the room, remarking as
she did so, "I shall return in a few moments, and you must make up your
mind as to how you intend to act before I do so."

Ralph had read every line and word, and saw how hopeless was his case
unless he closed with the widow's offer, but he would make one more
trial to obtain the best position, and as she re-entered said, "Place
those documents in my possession and I will swear to fulfil the terms
you propose."

"Not so," she replied with a contemptuous curl on her lip, "they remain
with me, and I remain here; there will be no difficulty in that. Of
course Miss Effingham must find shelter beneath your roof for some time
at least, and as you are a single man, you will require some one to
superintend your establishment until the future Lady Coleman shall
appear on the scene, and ere that event takes place, other arrangements
can be made. Accept my conditions and you become one of the wealthiest
men in the county. Reject them, and I immediately place both documents
in the hands of the late Baronet's lawyer, who is now in the house. I
have merely to say that I gathered them from the floor of the study, on
the morning of Sir Jasper's death, and that, in the hurry and excitement
of the moment, carried them to my own room, unconscious of their
importance, until this morning. This statement, true or otherwise, will
suffice to account for their being in my possession"

Ralph Coleman would have still hesitated, but her's being the stronger
will of the two, he succumbed, took the required oath, and the compact
between them was complete. No sooner was this effected than both parties
left the place of meeting in the same order as they entered.

Having carried her point and thus secured for herself a comfortable
income, together with a handsome suite of apartments within the walls of
Vellenaux, which she very naturally concluded would be a permanent home,
at least during the life of Sir Ralph, he being completely in her power,
as she could at any time, by the production of the late Baronet's will,
drive him ignominiously from his present luxurious abode. It is true, in
effecting this she would have to seek refuge in a foreign land, yet a
vindictive spirit will often, as the old adage runs, cut off the nose to
be revenged on the face.

Having gained the mastery of the position, she turned her thoughts in
the direction of the new Baronet with a view of inducing him to submit
to the matrimonial yoke and by that means establish herself as
Vellenaux's envied mistress with the prefix of Lady before her name.
However, she could afford to bide her time, feeling certain that in the
long run Sir Ralph would yield, her stronger will working on his fears.


The funeral was over. The family vault of the Coleman's in the quaint
old church, a little beyond the Park limits, had received the mortal
remains of the worthy man, who for forty years had attended divine
service within that sacred edifice where the last sad rite for the
departed had just been performed. It had been a solemn and imposing
ceremony. The cortege passed slowly and silently down the broad avenue
of venerable elms, through the Park gate and up the road leading to the
old church yard. The superbly mounted coffin, borne on its funeral
hearse, whose black plumes, undulated in the soft winds that sighed
through the trees, was drawn by six velvet palled horses, and
accompanied by mutes, pall bearers and others in all the solemn
paraphernalia of woe, followed by the mourning coaches, and the long
line of private carriages, some occupied and others empty, for by one of
the conventionalities of English well-bred society, one can be present
on such occasions by proxy. Your carriage will suffice, should you not
feel equal to the task of attending in person. The full, deep, rich
tones of the organ poured forth the funeral dirge, as the coffin was
carried up the centre aisle and placed on trussels in front of the
altar. The pews, gallery and aisles were filled by rich and poor; so
much had the late Baronet been respected by friend and tenant. The
venerable Rector who performed the service, although accustomed to such
scenes, was deeply affected. He had been on the most intimate terms with
Sir Jasper, and had never solicited his kind offices on behalf of the
poor in vain. Besides, he was more advanced in years than the friend
whom he had now consigned to the cold embraces of the grave, for were
not his own days numbered and must soon draw to a close?

As the different parties separated on the conclusion of the ceremony,
various were the comments and conjectures as to the manner in which Sir
Jasper had divided his property, and it was almost universally believed
that Miss Edith would come in for a greater part of his wealth and the
estate of Vellenaux would undoubtedly become hers.

Sir Ralph, as he must now be called, and others interested in such
proceedings, returned, to Vellenaux to examine and hear read the will
and such other documents relating to the distribution of the property
real and personal of the late Baronet, and great was the surprise of all
present except one, when it was announced that, after the strictest
search, no will or other document of the kind had been found among the
papers of the late Baronet. Mr. Russell, a man of integrity, and well
known for the uprightness of his dealings, and who had for upwards of
thirty years transacted all the legal business and had the management of
the estate of the late Sir Jasper, declared that, to the best of his
knowledge no will had been made. This was followed by a statement from
Sir Ralph to the effect that it was but a few weeks since, that his
cousin, the late Sir Jasper Coleman, had declared to him his intention
of making a will in his (Sir Ralph's) favor. Miss Effingham, on being
asked, had sent word that she had never heard her uncle say anything on
the subject, and Mrs. Fraudhurst, on being interrogated, announced that
she had always been of the opinion that Miss Effingham was to be sole
heiress of her uncle's wealth, but had never heard Sir Jasper speak of
having actually made any will at all. Consequently the law gave to Sir
Ralph Coleman the entire property of the late Baronet, whose much-loved
niece was thus left a penniless orphan.

Old Reynolds, who had been in the library when it was announced the
Baronet had left no will, and that the entire property fell to his
cousin, Sir Ralph, immediately summoned the domestics in the servants'
hall and related to his astonished hearers what he had heard.
Consternation was depicted on the countenance of all, and a wordy
colloquy ensued as to what would become of their dear young mistress,
and whether they would be discharged to make room for others whom the
new Baronet might choose to appoint. The grey-headed old Butler had been
at Vellenaux since he was a lad of fourteen, and had known Colonel
Effingham, who had frequently, prior to leaving the service, visited his
old companion-in-arms, Sir Jasper Coleman, at his favorite residence,
felt much concerned that the niece of his old master should have been
left unprovided for. "Of course," Said Annette, Edith's own maid "I
shall have to return home, for I do not suppose Miss Effingham will
remain here very long, as Sir Ralph is a bachelor, and I know for
certain that she dislikes him exceedingly."

"But what will madam, the widow, do," enquired the footman.

"Set her cap at him as she did at our poor, dear old master," responded
the housekeeper, "No fear, she will take care not to be a loser by the
change." "She will, no doubt," suggested another, "keep house for Sir
Ralph until he brings home a Lady Coleman, or is persuaded into marrying
the widow herself."

It was quite evident, that sympathy ran high in Edith's favour, and that
they cared not a jot for the ex-governess or the new master. But they
were too well trained to betray what they thought concerning the two
last named persons.

The matter was duly talked over throughout the neighbourhood. Some shook
their heads but said nothing, and others said a great deal that meant
nothing. The Bartons sent a very kind and sympathizing letter to Edith
in which they offered her an asylum at the Willows, should she think a
little change of scene would in any way reconcile her to the loss she
had sustained, they having heard that Miss Effingham had in her grief
declined for the present to receive her most intimate friends and
acquaintances.

For many days after the funeral Edith kept within the seclusion of her
own chamber, alas, hers now no longer, but the property of another and
of one whose presence was repugnant to her. With returning consciousness
also came the realization of the sad spectacle that had met her view in
the private library. She had loved and respected her uncle, and had ever
looked up to him as a father, which he had indeed been since the death
of her parents, whom she did not recollect, and grief for his loss had
outweighed all other thoughts and considerations for the future, and for
the first week she gave herself up to inconsolable sorrow. But at length
that practical good sense with which nature had endowed her, came to her
relief. She stifled the rising sobs in her young bosom and prepared to
face the stern realities of life, which must ere long, she knew, force
themselves upon her.

To remain in the house of the man she so despised and whose proffered
vows of love she had so indignantly rejected, was impossible.

Of the malady which was the cause of her uncle's sudden death, she knew
nothing. He had never hinted of its existence, therefore she was totally
unprepared and inexpressibly shocked at the suddenness with which he had
been struck down, and it was some time before she could sufficiently
subdue her agitated feelings to enable her to give any instructions to
the household, who, like herself, had been almost stupefied by the
calamity.

But not so with Mrs. Fraudhurst; that cold, unfeeling woman cared only
for the safety of her own position, and had already arranged what she
should do. At her suggestion, no changes were made in the establishment.
Every servant was retained, and the business of the estate still left in
the hands of Mr. Russell, the former agent, and matters soon resumed
their usual routine, as though the late proprietor was merely absent on
a visit.

Notwithstanding the precautions taken in order to prevent suspicion from
gaining ground that there had been any complicity between Sir Ralph and
the widow, which might account for the absence of any legal document
making a suitable provision for that niece to whom Sir Jasper was so
sincerely attached, there were many who could not divest themselves of
the idea that there had been foul play practiced in some way, but as
there was nothing tangible to go upon they were compelled to confine
their suspicions within their own breasts, and show their sympathy for
Miss Effingham by letters of condolence and offers of friendship and
protection should she need them; for of course, it was understood by all
that her position was materially altered by the apparent fact that Sir
Jasper had died intestate.

Both Mrs. Fraudhurst and Sir Ralph were struck with the visible inroad
that grief had made in the pale but still beautiful features of Edith,
as she entered the drawing room for the first time since her uncle's
funeral.

The new Baronet rose as if to conduct her to a seat, but there was
something in her eye and manner that checked him, and he contented
himself with bowing to her somewhat stiffly, and resumed his chair. She
advanced toward the table at which he was seated, with a coolness and
self-possession so natural to her, whenever placed in any awkward and
trying position; her elegant figure fully developed by the tight fitting
habit she wore, and the ringlets of her rich brown hair falling upon her
magnificent shoulders from beneath her black riding hat, and in a voice
calm, clear and distinct, but without the least bitterness or anger,
thus addressed him: "Sir Ralph Coleman, the law, I am told, pronounces
you master of Vellenaux and its broad acres. The death of my uncle has
left me without a home, but, I trust, not without friends. Do not
interrupt me, sir," said she, seeing that he was about to speak, "Your
importunities and ungenerous conduct previous to the death of my late
lamented uncle and more than father, would, in itself, be a sufficient
inducement for me to take the step I am now about to do. It is my
intention to leave Vellenaux this morning for the Willows, and request
that my personal effects and such property as may have been presented to
me by my late uncle may be sent to me there." Then, with a slight
inclination of the head towards him, and without a word or glance in the
direction of Mrs. Fraudhurst, who was seated at the open window,
examining the contents of the post bag, turned and left the apartment.
Her intended departure had been made known to the whole of the household
by Annette, and, much to her surprise, she found all the servants
assembled in the hall to pay their respects to her as she quitted the
only home she had ever known. Edith felt deeply their respectful
sympathy and parted from them with unfeigned regret. Poor old Bridoon at
the Lodge felt keenly for his young mistress, and could not refrain from
expressing to her, as she wished him farewell, that there was something
wrong about the absence of any will or other document. He would not
believe that his dear old master would put off making a provision for
his niece until it was too late, and he sincerely hoped that he might
live to see the day of her return to Vellenaux as its mistress. This
feeling was shared alike by tenantry and servants, for they all had, in
some way, been indebted to her for acts of kindness.

"You have been too precipitate, and frightened the bird away," remarked
Mrs. Fraudhurst. "But," continued she, after a moment's pause, "perhaps
it is as well she has taken this step. Her presence here is now no
longer necessary. You have the property without the encumbrance."

Whatever Sir Ralph's opinions on the subject might have been he did not
express them; but in his inmost heart he wished that she had remained
under his roof, for time, he thought, would cause her to change her
mind, and think more favorably of his suit, and once his wife, she could
not give evidence against him should the affair of the stolen will ever
come to her knowledge. He distrusted his partner in crime, and avoided
as much as possible being left alone with her.

In the Bartons Edith found true friends, Julia and Emily doing
everything in their power to render her stay with them as agreeable as
possible. The pretty Mrs. Horace, who, from the first, had taken a great
interest in her, now felt a real desire to serve one who, by the force
of circumstances over which she had no control, had been left, as it
were, alone in the world, and that, too, at an age and with such
personal attractions as usually require the most careful watching of
parent or guardian, and it entered her pretty head that she could serve
her friend most effectually and at the same time secure for herself that
which was so much needed in her Indian home in the far East, a personal
friend and companion. Good, easy Horace, she knew, would not object, and
scarcely had Edith been one week at the Willows before she had unfolded
to her the scheme she had worked out for their mutual benefit; and
meeting the approval of the whole family, Edith was only too happy to
accompany Mrs. Barton on her return to Calcutta, for, thought she, I
have no relative in England to miss me, or mourn for me, but in India I
perhaps have, and her thoughts wandered to Arthur Carlton and the
probability of their meeting in the land beyond the seas. After a few
weeks' longer residence in Devonshire, the pretty little wife of the
Judge, accompanied by Edith, left by the overland route to return to her
home in the City of Palaces. And such was the effect on Edith of change
of scene and a life so entirely new to her, among a people whose habits,
manners and customs were strangely at variance with anything she had
hitherto experienced, and she now remembered, with feelings of emotion
softened by time, that uncle, whose death she had so deeply lamented,
that her health and spirits gradually returned, and with them that
beauty, which had adorned her before her sad bereavement, and for a few
years her residence in India was in no way distasteful to her. During
this time she had frequently heard of Arthur Carlton, but they had only
met twice, his regiment being employed at so great a distance from
Calcutta in settling some disturbances among the Rohillas of Rohilcund,
that it was very difficult for a subaltern to obtain leave of absence.

A few weeks after her return, Mrs. Barton had written to Arthur,
acquainting him with the fact of Edith's being in the country, and
certain circumstances connected with the death of Sir Jasper Coleman,
and wound up by giving him a special invitation to Chowringee for a few
weeks. This she had done out of kindness to Edith, for she had some
suspicion of how that young lady might be influenced by the presence of
the playmate of her childhood.

Carlton received this intelligence with the utmost astonishment. He had
been in complete ignorance of the Baronet's death and the changes that
had taken place at Vellenaux. His last two letters to Edith had remained
unanswered, or at least he had not received them. But he little knew
that Mrs. Fraudhurst had taken possession of the post bag and abstracted
therefrom Edith's letters to him as well as those he had sent to her.
She had some apprehensions that he might contrive to make his appearance
at Vellenaux at a time it was least expected or desired by either
herself or Sir Ralph Coleman. His next feeling was that of joy at the
thought of again meeting her, and at the idea that she was to remain in
the same country perhaps for several years. As has been mentioned
before, no direct words of love had passed between them, and it was not
until the mighty ocean had divided them that he had realized how dear
she was to him, or the strength or depth of his love for her. In his
heart he secretly rejoiced that Sir Jasper's estate had passed into
other hands, for what chance had he, a poor Lieutenant of Dragoons, in
aspiring to the hand of the beautiful Edith, heiress of Vellenaux.

He lost no time in procuring the required furlough, and at their first
meeting, the four missing letters were commented upon, and their
non-delivery ascribed to the right party, namely, Mrs. Fraudhurst, as
they wandered together down the pomegranate and orange groves in the
cool of the evening, or pacing the broad, open verandah beneath the star
lit sky.

"I think, Carlton, you must be in high feather with the Colonel, or your
lucky star is in the ascendant," said Captain Hastings to our young
hero, a few days after his return from Calcutta, as they rode home from
stables together.

"How so? What is in the mind now?" enquired Arthur, as he reined his
horse nearer to that of his companion.

"Why, there is another row among those fellows in Bundlecund, and a
squadron of our regiment has been ordered out. My troop and yours have
been selected for the business, and as your Captain is in Europe and the
other two troop commanders absent from headquarters, you are to have
charge on, this occasion. I command the squadron, so they may look out
for hard knocks if we get a chance at them. I will teach the blackguards
a lesson they will not forget for some time. They will find no
philanthropy or mistaken clemency about me, and to tell you the truth, I
would rather have you for my second in command than either Dalzell or
Harcly."

"Many thanks for your good opinion; and depend upon it I shall not be
backward in proving its correctness, should an opportunity offer,"
responded Arthur, as they entered the mess room.

The affair in Bundlecund proved a more obstinate contest than had been
at first expected, and lasted for a considerable time. But the coolness
and determination of the light Dragoons were too much for them,
consequently the disturbance was quelled, but not before a large number
of the rascals had been made to bite the dust. Here, as in
Chillianwalla, Carlton's bravery and skill, as a troop leader, were
conspicuous, and he well merited the encomiums that were poured upon him
by his brother officers on the return of the squadron from the disturbed
districts, now in a tranquil state.



CHAPTER VIII.


Such of our readers as may have been acquainted with the West end of
London some thirty-five years since, must recollect old Cavendish
Square. Prior to that date it had been very exclusive, but on Belgravia
and Tybernia springing into existence, the nobility and aristocratic
families moved from there to the new suburban localities, and their old
quarters were occupied by quite a different class, which had migrated
principally from that region east of Temple Bar, such as merchants,
bankers, eminent barristers, and physicians of first standing. One of
the main avenues leading from this square westward, and known as Harley
Street, was inhabited by another set, usually styled very respectable
people, chiefly consisting of maiden ladies of doubtful ages, who kept
their carriages and lived in good style, whist playing dowagers, who
kept their carriages but hired job horses, when it was necessary to
visit their friends whose circumstances were more flourishing than their
own, and the families of country members who usually remained in town
daring the session of Parliament, and often for a much longer period. It
was in this street and in this circle that the Cotterells lived and
moved. Mr. Cotterell, the father of Kate--the prettiest Kate in all that
locality, at least, so Tom Barton said, and he ought to know for he had
seen her often, and never failed to get his face as close to hers as
possible whenever a chance presented itself for his so doing--was a
retired stock broker who, having made a considerable hit in a great
speculation by which he realized a handsome sum, prudently took the
advice of his spouse and let well enough alone, retired from business,
left their dusky residence in the city, and moved to their present
abode, No. 54 Upper Harley Street. Mrs. Cotterell was the youngest
sister of Mrs. Barton of the Willows, in Devonshire, hence the
relationship between our friend, Tom Barton, and pretty cousin Kate, the
charm of whose gay and lively manners had made quite an impression on
the susceptible heart of cousin Tom, which increased and strengthened
during the frequent visits of that young lady to her aunt's in
Devonshire. Nor was it a one sided affair, for she had been captivated
by the handsome person and agreeable address of her cousin, but being
petit in stature, she was like most little beauties, very arbitrary and
capricious towards her lover, yet, with all this, she was a girl of
good, sound sense, and knowing that her portion on the death of her
parents would be but small, would not consent to entangle herself in the
meshes of matrimony until Tom had established himself in his profession,
and there was a fair prospect of their succeeding in life.

It will be remembered that Tom Barton left for London about the same
time that Arthur Carlton started for India. He had been more fortunate
than could have been expected in the profession he had chosen, for he
had scarcely been three years turning over musty deeds, copying legal
documents and other drudgeries appertaining to a lawyer's office, when
his employer died, leaving him the business and recommending him to the
notice of his clients generally. Now, although Tom's chambers were
situated in Lincoln's Inn Fields which everybody knows (who knows
anything of London) is a large, airy space, surrounded with iron
railings, wherein there are plenty of trees, flowers, grasses, and
gravel walks to stroll about in, all of which could be seen from his
chamber window. But this was not sufficient for him. He wanted something
more suburban and evidently considered the atmosphere north of Oxford
street more conducive to his health, or he would never have imposed upon
himself the task of walking from Lincoln's Inn so far westward up Harley
Street. Yet, although the air must have been more pure some half a mile
further on, he never by any chance, succeeded in getting beyond No. 54.

There was also another gentleman who found it convenient and agreeable
to walk in the same direction and stop at the same house. This for some
time perplexed our friend, Tom, and gave him considerable uneasiness in
the region of the heart. His first business was to discover who he was;
this did not take long to accomplish, but he was more puzzled than ever;
there was no one ill at No. 54, and the gentleman turned out to be a
physician of good standing, residing in Cavendish Square. He dared not
speak to Kate on the subject, for fear of committing himself and
becoming exposed to that little lady's raillery, for he well knew that
she would torment him unmercifully if he betrayed the least sign of
jealousy. Wishing to be satisfied on a point that so troubled him, he
determined to sound his aunt on the matter. He was a great favourite
with her, and she was not likely to betray him to his lady love.

"Very quiet, gentlemanly sort of person, Doctor Ashburnham; don't you
think so," he enquired of his aunt one evening, as they were seated
alone in the drawing room on Harley Street?

"It is well that you are that way of thinking, for he has the same
opinion of you," remarked Mrs. Cotterell with a quiet smile. "Do you
remember to have met him anywhere but in London?" she asked, after a few
moments' pause.

Tom shook his head and replied, "I think not, but perhaps I may have
seen him somewhere. I meet all sorts of people."

"Well, well, your sister Julia is coming up to town some evening next
week, and she is such a clever girl, perhaps she can enlighten you on
the subject."

Tom stared at his aunt for a moment, then the mist began to clear away.
It now struck him that he had never met the Doctor in Harley Street
except during the time that his sister was on a visit there, and it also
occurred to him now, that on his last flying visit to Devonshire he had
met a gentleman much resembling Doctor Ashburnham, riding with Julia in
one of the green lanes in Vellenaux. It was all dear enough now, it was
Julia's lover who had given him so much concern of late, and this fact
removed a great load from Tom's heart. On this discovery his face
brightened up. "But, my dear aunt, is there really anything in it."

"Anything in what?" enquired the good lady, looking up from her
knitting, somewhat amused at the manner in which her nephew had put the
question.

"Why, I mean, is there any love affair, engagement or that sort of thing
between Julia and the Doctor?"

"Well, Tom, all I can say is, that Doctor Ashburnham seldom calls here
except during the time your sister is in London, or occasionally pays
us a visit to enquire when she is likely to be in town again. They have
met, I believe, in Devonshire, and he has visited her at the Willows. He
is certainly very attentive to her when she is with us, and she appears
to be anything but indifferent to his addresses; you can draw your own
conclusions from that, but, as I before stated, she will be here next
week and then, perhaps, she may take you into her confidence. I can say
no more on the matter."

"By George! I hope it is as you say. It would be a capital match for
her. He has a first rate practice, keeps quite a stylish turn out, and
occupies a handsome house in Cavendish Square. I must become more
intimate with him, and see if I cannot worm out exactly what he is
driving at." Here Tom took his hat, and started down stairs three steps
at a time, nearly upsetting the Doctor in the hall in his great hurry.
"Beg pardon, my dear sir, quite accidental I assure you; in haste to
speak to Mr. Cotterell in the library," said Tom apologetically.

"Don't mention it, pray, Mr. Barton," was the reply, as that gentleman
quickly ascended the staircase leading to the drawing room.

Now, Tom really had no business with Mr. Cotterell that evening, nor
would he have intruded on that worthy person, but for his encounter with
the Doctor. He would, he thought, not remain long with his aunt, and it
would be a good opportunity to push his enquiries, could he but manage
to go out with him. His anticipations proved correct. The Doctor did not
remain long up stairs, and our friend Tom managed to meet him again as
he was passing through the hall.

"Fine evening, sir; which way are you walking?" said Tom, seeing no
vehicle in attendance.

"I am returning to Cavendish Square, sir," was the ready reply.

"I also am going in that direction, and if you have no objection will
walk with you," returned Tom Barton. The two gentlemen walked together,
chatting in a very friendly way on the different topics of the day until
they had reached the door of the Doctor's residence, when that gentleman
surprised Tom by saying, "Mr. Barton, will you do me the favor to step
in for a few moments? I wish to speak to you on a subject that cannot
very well be discussed in the public street." Nothing loath, Tom agreed
and was ushered into a very snug apartment, half library, half smoking
divan.

"You smoke, of course," said the Doctor, pointing at the same time to an
array of pipes and tobacco of different kinds on a small side table.
Fill, then, drop into that easy chair, and I will tell you why I have
requested you to enter my snuggery. Tom acted upon his suggestion, and
was soon sending great puffs of smoke half way across the room. His host
followed this very laudable example, and after a few whiffs, at once
opened the business by candidly, and in a straightforward, manner,
telling Tom the great love and admiration he felt for Miss Barton, whom
he had frequently met in Devonshire as well as in London, and that he
had vanity enough to believe that his love was reciprocated, and
declared his intention on Julia's arrival to decide the affair by making
her an offer of his hand and heart, and finished by requesting Tom to
forward his views to the best of his ability.

To this Tom readily assented. "The sly little puss," he continued, "not
to mention a word of it even to me. But I suppose it is not considered
by the fair sex quite the thing to speak to any one on so delicate a
subject until after the gentleman has popped the question." Shortly
after, he took his departure for his chambers at Lincoln's Inn, and it
was noticed that Doctor Ashburnham and Mr. Tom Barton were seen more
frequently together than had hitherto been the case.

Miss Barton arrived, as had been expected by her relatives in Harley
Street, and the physician from Cavendish Square called there every day,
although there was no illness or epidemic in the house, save that known
as the heart disease, and so earnestly did the Doctor press his suit
that Julia must have been hard-hearted indeed to have refused to add to
his happiness by encumbering him with a wife, and ere she returned to
Devonshire, it was finally settled that the wedding was to take place at
the end of the following month, and a very dashing affair it proved. The
lawn sleeves at Saint George's, Hanover Square, were called into
requisition on the occasion. There was a great display of white corded
silk, lace orange blossoms, muslins and wreaths of white roses. Gunter,
of Berkly square, was called upon to supply a wedding breakfast, which
was partaken of at the Cotterells', and after some champagne had been
drank, and the speeches usual on the occasion made, the happy pair
started on their wedding tour through the South of England, calling, of
course, at the Willows on their way. After visiting Scotland they
returned to London, and settled comfortably down to the humdrum of
every day life in the Doctor's handsome establishment in Cavendish
Square, which had been re-decorated and furnished for them during their
absence.

Not many months elapsed before the happiness of our young friends was
somewhat over-shadowed by the death of the worthy old couple at the
Willows, who expired within two months of each other. Mr. Barton died of
old age, and his wife from influenza, caught while attending church to
hear the funeral sermon.

Horace Barton not being expected in England for some time, the Willows
was let on a short lease, and Emily came up to London to reside with her
aunt in Harley Street, occasionally spending several weeks with her
sister, Mrs. Ashburnham.

Our young lawyer was slowly but surely increasing his practice. He had
used all his powers of persuasion to induce Kate to allow him to lead
her to the altar on the same day that his sister was married, but in
vain, for that young lady declared that she would rather take a second
class character in the interesting tableau this time, with the view of
being better able to sustain the role of the principal actress in a
similar pageant at some future time. With this decision Tom had to
remain satisfied for the present and attend to business. But in the
course of time circumstances transpired which prevented him from
attaining any eminence as a lawyer. A distant relative of Mr.
Cotterell's and Godmother to Kate, departed this life, leaving her
Godchild the very comfortable sum of six hundred per annum, secured in
the four per cents., and after wearing mourning for a suitable period,
Kate took the initiative by announcing to Tom, very much to his surprise
and delight, that she was both ready and willing to become his wife on
the following conditions, which were, that he should give up practising
law, take a snug cottage in Devonshire, and turn his attention to
haymaking, shooting, &c, and retire from London life altogether, for she
said that in the country they could live very comfortably on six hundred
a year and be thought somebodies, but they could scarcely exist in
London on that sum and then be thought nobodies.

If our young lawyer had any scruples on the score of giving up his
profession and thereby losing all chance of ever attaining to the
dignity of Lord Chancellor, he certainly kept them to himself, for he
had no wish to run counter to the inclination of Kate, or he might find
himself in the position of the dog in the fable, who had thrown away the
substance to endeavour to grasp the shadow. Tom, in reality, had never
liked a London life, and had a constant hankering after field sports,
shooting and fishing; and now he believed he could indulge in these to
the top of his bent. They could live very comfortably on their joint
income, for he had received a certain sum on the death of his parents,
and likewise made something during the past few years by his profession,
which he had increased by placing it out at interest. Moreover, he knew
exactly where to find a house and grounds that would suit them; the very
one that Kate had so admired during their strolls around Vellenaux. It
was picturesquely situated in a shady dell, through which ran a flowing
brook which deepened and widened as it flowed on towards the sea, and
was the favourite resort of the angler and amateur fisherman--about an
equal distance from the Willows and the Rectory, and but a short walk
from the woods and park of Vellenaux. There were Horace's grounds to
shoot over, and although Sir Ralph Coleman was not a neighbour best
suited to his taste, yet he felt certain that he would not object to his
occasionally using his preserves, or bagging a few brace of birds on his
turnip fields. All this, together with a pretty little loving wife for a
companion, was, to Tom's notion, something worth living for, and a
position he would not exchange for all the gaieties of London life with
a seat on the woolsack into the bargain.

Again No. 54 Harley Street was thrown into a state of bustle and
confusion. Millinery girls, with innumerable band boxes, and oddly
shaped parcels were continually arriving. In the drawing room there was
assembled daily a sort of joint high commission, consisting of a bevy of
pretty maidens with one or two handsome matrons, who were engaged in
deciding on the colour, material, and cut of certain wearables
appertaining to the wedding trousseau of Miss Cotterell. There were
continual visits made to the fashionable emporiums of silk, lace &c., in
Oxford and Regent streets, and other parts of the metropolis. The
wedding day at length arrived. A considerable distance up Harley Street
was lined with carriages of various descriptions, the coachmen and
footmen of which appeared in holiday costume and wearing white satin
favors, and there was quite an excitement in the immediate vicinity to
witness the arrival and departure of the wedding party to and from
church. Kate Cotterell, attended by her six bridesmaids all looking very
lovely in toilettes befitting the occasion, created quite a sensation
among the spectators as they stepped from No. 54 into the carriages that
were to convey them to Hanover Square.

After a very _recherche_ breakfast, served in Gunter's best style, in
the handsome drawing room of the Cotterells', in Harley Street, Tom and
his fair bride took their departure _en route_ for the Continent. They
were to make a tour of several months through France, Germany and
Switzerland, likewise enjoy several weeks on the banks of the beautiful
Rhine.

Mr. Cotterell undertook to arrange matters concerning the purchase of
the cottage so much admired, which he intended to present to his
daughter as a marriage gift, and aunt Sarah, Emily, and Mrs. Ashburnham
took upon themselves the responsibility of furnishing the said cottage,
and otherwise rendering it in every way suitable for the reception of
the happy couple, and thus enable them to commence housekeeping
immediately on their return to England.

The various events and proceedings were duly recorded and forwarded from
time to time for the information of Horace and Pauline Barton, in their
Eastern home on the banks of the Hoogly; and Edith, who still kept up a
correspondence with Kate and Julia, received a full account, descriptive
of the wedding trousseaus and paraphernalia incident to both ceremonies,
and followed up by a delicate enquiry as to when she intended to return
the compliment by favouring them with the details of an Indian wedding,
which they supposed must soon take place, and would, no doubt, prove a
gorgeous and magnificent affair in true oriental style. So wrote the
happy girls to their old friend and companion in Calcutta, for,
according to Pauline's account, she had no end of suitors among the
wealthiest in the land.

To all those enquiries Edith's usual reply was that the time was
somewhat distant when she could indulge in dreams of happiness. Her
position was somewhat changed, thus, probably, the event they so often
alluded to might never take place, and the reader must remember, that
although Edith and Arthur were, beyond doubt, devotedly attached to each
other, the word that would have made them both happy had not yet been
spoken; there was no engagement, or in fact, any advance towards one,
yet both, in their heart of hearts, realized the great love they felt
for each other. But prudential motives had kept Arthur silent. Edith
knew this and was content to wait for the developments of the future. In
the meantime she did not hesitate to participate in the amusements and
enjoyments which offered, and which were continually pressed upon her by
her kind friends, the Bartons.



CHAPTER IX.


The capital of Bengal was a very gay city. What with balls and public
breakfasts at the Governor General's, brilliant assemblages given by the
Civil Service Granders, with no end of picnics, theatricals, cricket
matches and races improvised by the military and naval officers, for the
especial benefit (at least so they said) of the beautiful, gay
butterflies that condescended to grace, with their presence, such
assemblages; and Pauline Barton never allowed these occurrences to
transpire without inducing the beautiful Miss Effingham, as she was
usually styled, to accompany her, for Pauline was, indeed, very popular
in Chowringee and around its vicinity, and her Bungalow was a constant
lounge for the gallants of all services. Horace was no niggard in his
hospitality, but preferred the ease and comfort of his own sanctum to
the gay rattle that was continually going on in his pretty little wife's
drawing room or verandahs. And Arthur was again, for a fourth time since
his arrival in the country, in Calcutta. He had contrived to get
appointed one of a committee for the purchasing of troop horses for his
regiment and this would detain him at the Presidency for a couple of
months. This was a source of much pleasure to Edith, for sometimes
accompanied by Mrs. Barton, but more frequently alone, would Arthur and
Edith, either driving or on horseback, wend their way through the shaded
avenues that crossed the Midan, along the strand by the river side to
Garden, reach and loiter in the Botanical Gardens; this being
considered by the Grandees the most fashionable resort for a canter in
the early morn or a pleasant drive about sunset.

It never entered the head of pretty Mrs. Barton that there could be any
serious love making between her friend and the handsome Lieutenant. She
knew that they had been brought up together from childhood and were more
like brother and sister than lovers, and had such an idea been suggested
to her by any of her friends, she would have pooh poohed it as mere
moonshine. She knew that it was out of the question for a Subaltern to
enter the matrimonial arena; besides the brilliant beauty of Miss
Effingham must command a suitable alliance and an enviable position
whenever she cared to enter upon the responsibility of married life, and
it appeared evident that Edith was in no hurry to take the initiative or
allow herself to be led away by the flattering speeches she daily heard
from those, by whom she was surrounded. Nor was Mrs. Barton at all
desirous that she should enter into any such engagement, for she was
well aware that it was the charm of her fair friend's manner that drew
to her house the most agreeable and handsomest men of the capital. She
knew likewise that it was Horace's intention to settle in England as
soon as his term of service should expire, and it would then be time for
Edith to select from her numerous admirers the one she most preferred,
but until that time she should be exceedingly sorry to part with her.

"Do you intend spending the day at Mrs. Deborah's?" enquired Mrs. Barton
of Edith as they rose from the breakfast table. Edith replied in the
affirmative. "Well, then, I will send the palkee for you; but do not be
late, my dear, for dinner." She had no intention of being too late, as
she knew that in all probability Arthur would make his appearance during
the evening. The distance from the Bartons to her friend's Bungalow was
not more than half a mile. The road lay through a very picturesque but
somewhat lonely part of the suburbs. The Date and stately Palms,
intermingled with the blossom of the gold Mohur trees, looked so very
lovely by the light of the setting sun. For some cause or other Edith's
palkee did not arrive at the time appointed, and not wishing to trouble
her friend--who usually sent her children at sunset in their palkee for
an airing--and attracted by the beauty of the scene, she started to walk
home, thinking of the pleasure of meeting Arthur. Her mind was engaged
on this subject when she reached a Date grove, a short distance from the
road side, and so busy was she with her thoughts, she had not noticed
that for the past few minutes she had been followed by a tall, burly
mussulman, and he came upon her before she was aware of his presence.
Without a word of warning, he threw his long arms around her waist, and
endeavored to drag or carry her to the Date grove. There could be no
mistaking his intentions, and he would no doubt have succeeded in
carrying out his villainous design--for the terrified girl was in a half
fainting condition, and unable from the suddenness of the attack, to
offer much resistance--when Arthur Carlton, who had been attracted to
the spot by her shrieks and cries for help, came to the rescue. He had
called at the Bungalow, and learning where she might be found, had set
out in search of her, and arrived just in time. The ruffian managed to
make good his escape, not, however, before he had received several
marks of Arthur's favor from the horsewhip he carried. He then supported
the still, trembling girl home, and she soon forgot, in his society, the
danger which had menaced her.

Exasperated beyond measure at so rare an occurrence as the attack made
on his beloved Edith, he at once sought the aid of the police, and from
the description given they soon succeeded in tracing the offender, who
proved to be a Subaltern of the native cavalry. The affair was reported
to head quarters, and a court of enquiry was summoned which resulted in
the court martial and dismissal from service of the blackguard, who
immediately left the station, vowing to have his revenge on Carlton,
should ever an opportunity occur for so doing, and this, with a
Mahammedan means mischief, for they never rest in their endeavors to
effect a purpose.

The duties which brought Carlton to Calcutta were now at an end, and the
Lieutenant had to return to head quarters. Edith, being of an enquiring
turn of mind, acquired a great deal of information respecting the
natives' character, their castes, customs and ceremonies, and by the aid
of a Moonshee soon learned to speak with ease and fluency the Hindostan
language. This she turned to account in the management of the household
servants.

Calcutta is the largest city in British India, and is situated on the
bank of the Hoogley, one of the branches of the river Ganges, held as
sacred by the natives. There are quite a number of Europeans and
professing Christians, numbering in the aggregate about fourteen
thousand, the principal portions of which are half castes, three
quarter castes, Euroasians, Portuguese and Hindoo Britons. The half
castes are the progeny of the European men and native women. The
three-quarter-castes, that of European fathers and half-caste mothers.
The Euroasians spring from European and three-quarter-caste parents,
while the Hindoo Britons are the children of European parents, born in
India. The Portuguese likewise intermarry with these classes. These
people make up the principal number of those professing Christianity
throughout the Presidency. The churches of England, Rome, and Scotland
were well attended by the officers of the civil service, army and navy,
with their families, among which there is very little sectarianism. But
the Roman Catholic faith is largely diffused among the other classes.
The native population of all castes number about six hundred thousand,
and although they have no regular Sunday or day of rest, they have quite
a number of religious festivals or holidays which they scrupulously
observe.

The principal festival, and the one most religiously kept of all the
holidays among the true believers--as the followers of Mahomet style
themselves--is that of the Moharum, which lasts ten days, commencing
from the appearance of the new moon, in the month of November, during
which time handsome temples and mosques are constructed of bamboo and
paper, and embellished with glass, paint and gilding. On the last day
they are carried in grand procession through the public thoroughfares,
proceeded by a band of music and accompanied by an immense concourse of
spectators. Many of the faithful prostrate themselves before these
Taboots, and in many instances rolling over and over in the muddy
streets for a considerable distance, being generally well primed with
bang or opium. There are occasional disturbances between the fanatics of
the different castes, for many of these work themselves up to a pitch of
frenzy by the use of narcotics and other stimulants, but the Government
always take steps to prevent any serious outbreak, by having the troops
posted in different parts of the town, ready to turn out at a moment's
notice, and a strong body of police mounted and on foot accompany the
procession to enforce order. At sunset they reach the river, and the
day's proceedings terminate by the Taboots being thrown into the water,
amid the shouts, gesticulation and vociferations of the now thoroughly
excited populace.

The Dewally Festival is equally recognized by natives of all castes and
denominations as a sort of New Year's Day. Accounts for the past year
are closed, and new books are opened. The dirt and rubbish of the past
twelvemonth is removed, the houses thoroughly cleansed and at night the
city or town is illuminated with lamps, Chinese lanterns, and other
descriptions of lights, and the houses thrown open for general
hospitality.

The Hooley, the most revolting of all Hindoo Festivals, draws together
an immense concourse of people. Large fires are made on the sides of the
public streets and liquid dye stuffs, with every description of filth is
thrown by the Hindoos on each other, and should any unfortunate Hindoo
woman show herself in the street on these occasions, she is assaulted
with language of the most obscene and disgusting nature. These festivals
have of late years been curtailed by the Government, and now seldom last
more than two days--that is, in large cities containing European
communities--but in native towns it is still of many days duration.

Accounts of these and other native ceremonies, together with the horrors
of the black hole, experienced by Europeans, nearly one hundred years
since at the suggestion of the native princes, had been related to Edith
by her Moonshee Ayah, but their dominion, or power for good or evil, has
now passed away, and Calcutta of the present day is one of the
pleasantest and finest cities to the European to be found throughout our
Indian possessions.

And were it not for the great change in her position, from absolute
affluence to becoming the recipient of another's bounty, Edith would
have been, if not quite happy, at least contented. Yet it must not be
imagined that she was ungrateful or the less thankful to her kind
protectors, the Bartons, for she could now well realize what might have
been her situation had she been compelled to act upon the plan that had
first suggested itself to her on leaving Vellenaux--that of becoming a
governess or companion to some antiquated Dowager in Europe.

The repeated assurances from Mrs. Barton that she would, at no distant
period, secure a brilliant alliance, fell coldly on her ear, but she
made no ostentative demonstration of her own ideas on the subject, but
with a gentle and quiet dignity, repelled the advances of certain
aspirants for her hand, who were continually to be found in her train
whenever she appeared abroad. She had a smile for all and a fascinating
and bewitching manner which was equally bestowed among her would-be
admirers. But beyond this all was calm and cold. Her heart had
imperceptibly slipped from her, and was now in the care of another, nor
would she wish it were otherwise. The future was before her and she was
willing to wait.

Let it not be imagined that Arthur Carlton was a lukewarm lover, coldly
prudential, or thinking it would be time enough to marry when he should
have obtained his Captaincy, and careless as to what trying position
Edith might be placed in, surrounded, as he knew her to be, by those who
would willingly wed her at any moment. Far from it. He loved her too
well to ask her to share at present the inconveniences incident to a
camp life, as experienced by the wives of subalterns, not that he
doubted she would yield up without a single regret the gay society and
splendid establishment of Mrs. Barton, and contentedly share with him
his home, be it ever so humble. But the thought of her having to make
any such sacrifice was to him one that could not be entertained for a
moment. He believed he knew her sufficiently well to trust implicitly in
her constancy, and await the happy time when he could in all honour
formally propose for her hand.

About a twelvemonth prior to the outbreak of the great Sepoy mutiny, it
pleased the authorities to change the scene of Mr. Barton's labors from
Chowringee, that Belgravia of Calcutta, to Goolampore, a military
station of some importance in the northwest provinces, or more properly
speaking in the Goozeratte country. This act of the Government, although
particularly objectionable to Mrs. Barton, was exactly what her lord and
master desired. His term of service would shortly come to a close, and
therefore, in his opinion, it became expedient, not only to retrench his
expenses, which he could not do at the gay Capitol, but likewise gather
in a few more of the loaves and fishes of office, which were said to be
found in greater abundance at a distance from the seat of Government,
besides Mr. Barton was in the decline of life, and felt that the harness
of office life did not fit so easily upon him while under the immediate
supervision of the Suddur Aydowlett, as it would do when removed from
its immediate influence. However, be this as it may, he was quite
content with the change, nor was he the only one to whom this change was
a sort of relief. The City of Palaces and its surroundings had become
distasteful to Edith; not that she disliked the Capitol or the pleasures
to be found there; but she felt wearied and annoyed by the attentions
that were showered upon her by the numerous suitors who thronged around
her, using all the powers of persuasion they had at command, to induce
her to listen to their respective suits. The parchment visaged Nabob,
with his sacks of rupees, the wealthy planter, whose fortune had been
wrung from either opium or indigo, perhaps both, the rich civil servant
and field officer, with numerous others, all jostling and hedging each
other in the race for the hand of the beautiful Miss Effingham; but the
prize was not for them. She cared not a jot for either their persons or
their purses and would not consent to be caught, and like a bird in a
golden cage, flutter without the means of escape.

But there was one for whom she did care, one whose image was indelibly
stamped on her heart, and whom she loved as woman only can love, and
this favored one was Arthur Carlton, Lieut. H.M. Light Dragoons--the
playmate of her childhood, and companion of her riper years in the
golden days at Vellenaux, in dear old England.

"It is absurd in the directors, or whoever has to do with it, to send
Horace off to the Northwest, just at the commencement of the season too;
besides, we shall scarcely be settled before we shall have to return to
England. I declare we are being treated shamefully," said Mrs. Barton,
as she stepped from the Chuppaul Ghat to the Budgerow that was to convey
them to the steamer, in which a passage had been provided by the
Government for them, to the nearest port on the coast of Goozeratte, _en
route_ for Goolampore, "and to think," again resumed the little lady to
Edith, as they sat together in the handsomely furnished cabin, "that
your brilliant prospects will be destroyed; for who is there in the
interior that will compensate for the loss of those eligible suitors for
your hand?" Edith disclaimed against brilliant alliances or the admirers
referred to.

"It is all very fine, my dear, for you to say so; but depend upon it,
for a young lady in your position and circumstances, there is nothing
equal to a wealthy husband, and an establishment of your own. But what I
shall do without you I really do not know; but I expect it must come to
that some day or other." Here the good lady sank back among her
cushions, and resigned herself to her fate, her Ayah, and her last new
novel.

For several months all went pleasantly enough with the Bartons, much
more so, indeed than had been anticipated by her little ladyship; for
she found that as wife of the judge, the highest civil functionary in
the station, she was leader of fashion, and took precedence of all other
ladies in Goolampore; and Edith, for a time, found herself relieved from
the importunities that beset her at Calcutta. Not that she lacked
admirers, but certainly at present their attentions were not
sufficiently marked to give her any annoyance.

The worthy judge was retrenching. His expenses were scarcely one fourth
of what they had been at the Presidency. He had attained his object, and
all things for the time being _couleur de rose_.

"Come here pretty one," said he as he noticed Edith dismounting, after
her usual ride around the race course and band stand, one beautiful
evening. "Listen! here is something in the papers that will greatly
interest you, or I am much mistaken." Edith was soon at his side, all
attention, when the gentleman proceeded to read as follows:--"Extract
from general orders. His Excellency the Commander in Chief has been
pleased to appoint Lieutenant Arthur Carlton, H.M. Light Dragoons, to
act as A.D.C. on the staff of General D----, at Goolampore. That officer
will proceed and assume his duties at that station forthwith." Edith
could not conceal her joy at this unexpected event, and retired to her
chamber in a flutter of agitation, but happier in heart than she had
been for many months past.

It was the anniversary of Her Majesty's birthday, and, as was customary
at all military stations, it was celebrated by a military display in the
morning, theatricals, and a supper and ball at night. The Assembly
rooms, as they were called at Goolampore, were built by Government. It
was a building of considerable length, divided into three rooms, eighty
feet long, by forty feet wide. The end one was fitted up in very
handsome style as a theatre, the other two communicating with it by
means of enormous folding doors, and were used on ordinary occasions by
the military department for holding courts martial, courts of enquiry,
committees, &c. The other was at the disposal of the political agents or
chief magistrate to transact such business as they might deem necessary.
But on such occasions as the present, or others of a similar character,
the whole three were brilliantly illuminated and thrown open for the
amusement of the _elite_ of the station.

"I say Hopkins, as you know everything and everybody, tell me, who is
that young fellow in staff uniform, dancing with Miss Effingham?"
enquired a Colonel of the N.I.

"That is young Carlton of the Dragoons, the new A.D.C. He only arrived
this morning. Capital fellow I am told; a tip top sportsman; goes in
strong for tiger shooting and all that kind of game," was the reply.

"He appears to go in--as you call it--pretty strong for another
description of game. Why, this is the third time he has danced with that
young lady. Rather strong, that, I should say for a first introduction,"
responded the Colonel, about to move off, when his friend continued:

"Oh, they are old acquaintances. I met him at the Bartons this
afternoon, where he appeared quite at home, turning over the music and
accompanying _la belle_, Edith, in one of her favourite songs,
apparently very much to each others satisfaction. But the next waltz is
about to commence," said Captain Hopkins, "and I must claim my partner,"
and the man who knew everything and everybody was soon waltzing with
great assiduity.

"You will allow me the pleasure of attending you in your morning and
evening rides, whenever my duties will admit of it, dear Edith,"
whispered Arthur as he handed her to the carriage at the close of the
festivities. With a sweet smile the promise was given, and the carriage
whirled off.

The new A.D.C. soon became a general favourite. Courteous and
gentlemanly in the drawing room, and ever ready to attend the ladies _en
cavalier_, he could not fail to win the esteem of the fair sex. He was a
first-class swordsman, a bold rider, and a keen sportsman; therefore
held in great repute by his companions in arms. He had scoured the
jungles for thirty miles around Goolampore, and knew the haunts of the
tiger and cheetah better than any man in the station. This was proved by
the numerous trophies in the shape of skins and heads that he brought
in. So our young friend, basking in the smiles of beauty, and especially
of hers whom he loved so well, was consequently envied by others less
fortunate in this respect than himself; and in this delightful manner
weeks passed away. But dark clouds were rising in the distance which
were gradually closing around them to destroy the tranquility of the
station.



CHAPTER X.


Reports began to arise of the disloyalty and insubordination of some of
the native regiments; but at first little notice was taken of the
circumstance, it being believed that the rumours were greatly
exaggerated, and that, if there was anything really in it, the matter
would soon be put to rights by the Government, either by proclamation or
by force of arms. But report followed report and the mutiny continued,
when the massacre at Cawnpore took place, and the affair at Lucknow, and
the horrors enacted at the Star Fort of Jansee, where the officer
commanding, after doing everything that could be done to protect the
unfortunate inmates, just as the mutineers were in the act of bursting
open the gates, well knowing what would be the result should they fall
into the hands of the remorseless natives, with his own hand shot his
wife and child, and then deliberately blew out his own brains. Those who
were captured met a death so horrible and revolting at the hands of and
under the immediate supervision of that incarnate fiend and she devil,
the Rannee of Jansee, the details of which are totally unfit for
publication. Then, and not till then, the magnitude of the danger was
realized.

Mr. Barton, whose health had been on the decline some weeks past, and
whose term of service in India nearly expired, declared that he would no
longer remain in the country, and obtained leave of absence to proceed
to Bombay, in anticipation of finally leaving for Europe. Mrs. Barton,
always nervous, became alarmed for her personal safety, and urged their
immediate departure with much vehemence, and it was arranged that they
should start at once for Rutlaum _en route_ for the sea coast, and that
Miss Effingham should remain and see everything packed up and the
servants sent on, then follow herself and overtake them at Rutlaum,
where they were to make a halt for a few days. Several other families
also left about the same time, for the tide of mutiny and rebellion was
now sweeping like the red pestilence through the whole of the North West
provinces. Mohow, Indore, Meidpoore, Mundasore, Neemuch and other places
of greater or lesser note, had already become the scene of many a bloody
drama and fiendish outrage. In fact, whenever native troops had been
located, ruin and desolation reigned triumphant. Public edifices were
thrown down, Bungalows burned and the Bazaars plundered, while helpless
and unprotected Europeans, irrespective of sex or age, were seized, and
after suffering the most brutal indignities, ruthlessly slaughtered by
the fanatical and blood-thirsty native soldiery.

Goolampore and its immediate vicinity, up to the present period, had
remained in perfect tranquility. The native mind was apparently
undisturbed by the great convulsions that were now shaking, to its very
centre, the supremacy of British power in India; but it was only the
lull before the storm, which was so soon to burst and fall like a
thunderbolt on the hitherto peaceful station.

The Brigade here consisted of the following troops: One troop of
European horse artillery, one regiment of native cavalry, and two
battalions of Sepoys. This force was commanded by a Brigadier of the
Bengal army; but, having been on the staff for many years, was unequal
to an emergency like the present, and such was his belief in the loyalty
of the men under his command, that he refused to listen to the reports
made to him from time to time by his staff, and others well qualified to
give an opinion on the matter, until it was too late and many valuable
lives had been sacrificed.

The evening was clear and calm, countless stars studded the dark purple
vault of heaven. The young moon shed her silvery light o'er lake and
mountain, the atmosphere was no longer influenced by the stifling heat
of the scorching sun; a deliciously cool breeze wafted from the ocean
that rolled into the Gulf of Cambay, and washed the shores of the
Goozeratte, played and rustled among the leaves of the trees and
flowers, imparting to the senses a delicious feeling of relief and
delight.

In a broad and spacious verandah of the cavalry mess house were
assembled a group of officers of different corps. Some stretched at full
length on ottomans, enjoying the music of an excellent band; others
smoking, laughing or chatting on the various events that were passing
around them.

"Listen to me, gentlemen," said a tall, handsome man, about thirty, and
the very _beau ideal_ of a cavalry officer, who had for some time been
leaning over the balustrade of the verandah, quietly puffing circles of
white smoke from his cheroot, and gazing thoughtfully on the moonlit
scene before him, and who had hitherto taken no part in the conversation
that was going on. "This deceitful calm," said he, drawing himself up to
his full height, and advancing to the centre of the group, "will not,
cannot last much longer, and it is high time that something should be
done for the protection of the families of the European Warrant Officers
and staff, Non-Commissioned Officers and others who are residing at
different parts of the station, and who would be the first to fall
victims to the licentious passion and murderous designs of the troops,
should an outbreak ensue before we are re-enforced by more Europeans."

"Right! Major Collingwood is right," exclaimed a Colonel of one of the
Sepoy battalions; "too much valuable time has already been lost. What
the deuce has come to the Brigadier? Huntingdon, of the Artillery,
proposed to him to give an order for the families of the Europeans of
his troop to move at once into the Fort, but he would not listen to him,
stating that there was no necessity for such a course, and that he would
answer for the loyalty and good behavior of the troops under his
command."

"This comes of trusting the lives and property of Europeans in the care
of General D---- and others of his stamp, who from a long association in
a civil capacity with the natives, have become so wrapped up in them,
and so hoodwinked, that they will see nothing, only through the
spectacles provided for them by the native functionaries, who always
toady and flatter their European masters," was the contemptuous remark
of one of the party. The last speaker was here interrupted by the
Brigade Major, who came bounding up the steps of the verandah, three at
a time. "What is the matter, Grey?" enquired several voices at one time.
"Oh! there has been the devil to pay at Headquarters, and no pitch hot,"
was the hasty reply of the staff officer. "Explain yourself, if you
please," said Major Collingwood. "What has taken place?"

"Why Huntingdon, in spite of the Brigadier's refusal to grant
permission, has sent the married people of his troop within the Fort,
and detailed several troopers to man the guns, and put the place in a
state of defence, in case of any sudden rising among the natives.
General D---- became furious when Huntingdon told him what he had done,
and threatened to arrest him. On young Carlton, the new A.D.C., taking
sides with the commander of the artillery, and applauding the act, old
D---- turned upon him like a lion. A violent squabble ensued, which
resulted in Arthur Carlton resigning his appointment on the Staff, and
expressed his determination to rejoin his regiment without delay."

"Well done, Huntingdon. That is a step in the right direction. It is a
pity that the non-commissioned staff of the station could not have been
included," responded several voices; and all praised the plucky way in
which young Carlton had acted, though sorry to lose the services of so
valuable a sabre as Arthur was known to be, especially at a time when
stout hearts and bold riders were necessary to the salvation of the
station.

"Pinkerton, Jones, and others acted wisely in sending their families
away last week; but I do not think it was quite the thing for the
Bartons to leave the pretty Miss Effingham behind to arrange their
household affairs, and then make her way to Rutlaum as she best could.
Who will see her there in safety?" exclaimed the staff Surgeon.

"Oh, as far as that matters, that young lady would, doubtless, have a
score of volunteers to act as her escort, should she require one," said
the first speaker; "but I do not think she would accept such an offer,
nor do I imagine Arthur Carlton would feel obliged to any one in
Goolampore for acting as her guide and protector, while he was at hand
to perform so delightful a service," responded Captain Hopkins, with a
light laugh, "for you must know that he has been a constant visitor at
the Bartons since his arrival, and are they not always to be seen riding
together at the race course and band stand? Why, he is her very shadow."

"Miss Effingham is too fine a girl, and has too much good sense to throw
herself away on a penniless Lieutenant of Dragoons, when she knows that
there are others of high standing in the service who are both able and
willing to offer her an establishment and position in society that he
will be unable to do for years to come," said a grey haired Colonel of
Infantry.

"Phew!" ejaculated a young Cornet. "Sets the wind in that quarter? I
wonder if the pretty Edith will be proof against three lacs of rupees? I
am afraid the A.D.C.'s chances for the lady will soon sink below par;
but there is no accounting for the doings of pretty women, for 'Love
levels rank--lords down to cellar-bears, etc.'"

The parties now began to disperse to their various quarters. No doubt
many were ruminating as to what might be the result of the fracas at the
Brigadiers quarters, just related to them by the Major of Brigade.

The following morning as the Brigadier was preparing to mount his horse
and take his usual ride through the cantonments, the Adjutant of one of
the Sepoy battalions came up at full gallop to where he was standing,
with the, (to him) astounding intelligence that, during the night, a
large body of irregular horse had entered the limits of the station,
visiting the cavalry and Sepoy lines, and had arranged with them to
unite in plundering the Bazaar, seize the guns of the artillery, put to
death all the Europeans that might oppose them, and that the men of his
own corps and those of the other battalion were then in the act of
breaking open the bells-of-arms and taking therefrom the muskets and
ammunition.

"Phew! There must be some mistake, your fears must have misled you. The
men may be somewhat excited. I will go down and reason with them--they
will listen to me, for they know I am their friend"--and the General
turned his horse's head in the direction of the Sepoy lines, requesting
him to follow. The Adjutant replied:

"My instructions from the Colonel were to report the circumstance to
you, then ride to the horse artillery and acquaint Major Huntingdon and
others with it," then, saluting his superior officer, he galloped off.
Bursting with indignation at the conduct of those around him, who, until
the last few hours, were ready to obey without scruple any order, he
might give, the General called his Brigade Major, and ordered him to
ride with him. That officer shrugged his shoulders, but obeyed the
command, and they rode off together. They were soon recognized by the
mutineers. A hurried consultation among the native commissioned and
non-commissioned officers took place. Some Were for arresting the
Brigadier and his Major of Brigade, and holding them prisoners until the
guns and Fort were surrendered to them; others were of a different
opinion, and insisted that the two officers should be put to death. They
argued that delay was dangerous; reinforcements of Europeans might
arrive at any hour, and that nothing would be left for them but to make
a rapid retrograde movement, and advised the immediate looting of the
town. This party, being the strongest and most clamorous, carried their
point; and three Sepoys thereupon leveled their muskets and fired, but
without having any effect, as the bullets flew wide of their mark. But
this was the signal that the irregular cavalry were so anxiously
watching for, and immediately encircled the two unfortunate gentlemen
who, drawing their weapons, prepared to defend their lives to the last.
But what could two men do against a score of fanatical ruffians,
thirsting for the blood of Christians. Some of the troopers fell from
the effect of the bullets from the Brigadier's revolver, and some were
severely wounded by the sabre of poor Captain Grey, but all to no
purpose; they were soon overpowered and literally hewn to pieces by the
sowars of the cavalry who, by this time, had been joined by the
regulars. The party then started off at a canter to the artillery lines,
to secure the guns and open the magazine, if they could but obtain the
key from the ordinance warrant officer, while the infantry made an
attempt to carry the Fort by storm; but having neither guns nor scaling
ladders, they signally failed in their attempt, and suffered
considerable loss from the spherical case and round shot that was hurled
at them from the guns of the fort. The party, to whom fell the work of
plundering the Bazaar, were, for a time, very successful, and numerous
large Bungalows were soon in a blaze.

The party of cavalry, regular and irregular, who were to attempt to
carry off from the magazine such ammunition as they might find, went in
the direction of the place, and on their way intercepted the European
ordnance conductor, who had charge of the keys, which they at once
demanded, but were promptly refused by that officer, who declared he had
them not, and immediately stood on the defensive; but a shot from the
carbine of one of the troopers, brought him bleeding to the earth. A
couple of them dismounted, and with oaths and imprecations, both loud
and bitter, stripped off his uniform in search of the magazine keys, but
they were not to be found. Drawing his creese, one of the villains cut
the throat of the wounded man, nearly severing the head from the body.
The others satisfied themselves by merely spitting upon the naked body.

"It is useless to go on without the keys," said a Havildar of the
regulars. "Let us move off at once to his Bungalow, they must be there.
I know the road, follow me!" and the whole party galloped off and soon
reached the murdered man's quarters, where they halted and dismounted.

The terrified woman, wife of the poor fellow who had just been so
savagely slaughtered, saw them approaching, and judging their
intentions, bolted and barred all the doors and windows, and with her
two young children, mere babes, the eldest being scarcely four years of
age, retreated to a small closet in an inner room, and locked the door.
For some time the troopers, who had now worked themselves up to a pitch
of frenzy, could not effect an entrance: but at length, tearing down one
of the wooden uprights of the verandah, used it as a sort of ram, and
soon battered down the door. Then, with a yell of triumph, rushed into
the house, searched every nook and corner far what they so much wished
to find, smashing and destroying everything that came in their way, but
they were doomed to disappointment. A bullet from one of their holster
pistols blew the lock from the door of the closet, and the poor mother
and her helpless babes were seized and dragged forth by these monsters
in human form. The mother was brutally outraged, and her clothing torn
and stripped from her person. A large empty chest, which usually
contained clothing, caught the attention of one of the number, and a
fiendish thought flashed through his mind, which he communicated to some
of the others, and they proceeded to carry it out. Collecting the broken
furniture, bed linen, etc., they made a large fire and placed the box in
question thereon; then tossed the helpless children into it and
literally roasted them alive in the presence of the agonized mother, who
made frantic attempts to break from her captors, and rescue her
offspring, but it was in vain; they held her firmly until the chest and
its contents were reduced to embers; then two of them plunged their
creeses into her naked bosom, and flung her bleeding body into the fire
to be consumed like those of her children. Other enormities were being
enacted in various parts of Goolampore during the short time the
mutineers remained there. But an act of unparalleled atrocity was
perpetuated on the Postmaster and his wife, who, it appears, had, on the
morning in question, gone to look at their new Bungalow which was in
course of erection in the suburbs, when they were pounced upon by a body
of Sepoys, who were making good their exodus from the station, having no
desire to come in contact with the horse artillery, the booming of whose
guns sounded not at all pleasantly in their ears. These inhuman wretches
dashed at their victims and, after tormenting them almost to madness by
their devilish cruelties, dragged them to a sawpit, where pieces of
square timber, which had been partially cut into planks for building
purposes, lay. The unhappy pair were then bound on two separate planks,
then another plank was placed on the top of each, and tightly bound
together with strips of fine bamboo; the monsters laughing and
gesticulating at what they termed the living sandwiches, dainty morsels
to be offered up as a sacrifice to their Deities. The crowning act of
this fearful drama was at last enacted by the remorseless villains: With
two large cross-cut saws, sawing into two feet lengths the planks which
encased their victims, commencing at the feet of each, and then throwing
the pieces into the unfinished Bungalow, set fire to it, and made off at
the top of their speed along the high road towards Islempoora, a small
village at no great distance, which had been appointed as a rendezvous
for the whole to assemble at, when their bloody work at Goolampore had
terminated.

Major Huntingdon had, early that morning, received private information
of the intended outbreak, and the general plan of the mutineers. He was
therefore prepared for the emergency, and acted accordingly; so that
when the party of horse, accompanied by the Goolandowz (native
artillery) arrived at the artillery lines, they found that the birds had
flown; the gun sheds were empty, and those whom they thought to have
found quietly taking their breakfasts, were, doubtless, then hovering
around, ready to fire upon them at the first convenient opportunity; nor
was there any one on whom they could wreak their vengeance, for the
whole of the families of the Europeans had, by the prudence and
determined conduct of their commanding officer, been removed to a place
of safety within the walls of the Fort, where, but for the obstinacy and
infatuation of General D----, the whole of the Europeans, unable to bear
arms, might have found a refuge ere it was too late. Foiled in their
attempt to capture the guns, without which they knew they could not hold
possession of the town, they turned in the direction of the Bazaar,
which they determined to plunder, then make their way to Islempoora.
They shortly fell in with the Sepoy battalions, which had made the
ineffectual attempt to carry the Fort by assault. Chafing with rage at
their disappointment, they accompanied the cavalry, vowing vengeance on
all the whites or other Christians that should fall into their hands.
But their villainous designs were frustrated, for on the head of the
column of cavalry, wheeling into the narrow road leading to the
principal Bazaar, they beheld, much to their consternation, four of the
guns of the horse artillery, which immediately opened upon them with
grape and canister, which told fearfully among them, as the number of
riderless and wounded horses plainly showed, and the irregular horse,
not being trained to act in concert with the regular troops, the whole
were thrown into confusion, and were unable to reform or advance upon
the guns. By a rapid movement, Major Huntingdon had brought his two
twelve pound Howitzers to play on the Sepoy battalion, with shrapnel,
shell and spherical case, with considerable effect. The native officer
who commanded them deployed his right wing into line, and sent the left
to endeavour to take the artillery in flank or rear. But in order to
accomplish this they had to make a _detour_ to the right, and in so
doing came to grief. The road they had taken led them across the open
plain and in front of the station gun, a long thirty-two pounder. This
movement had been anticipated by the artillery officer, consequently it
was loaded with as much canister as was considered safe, and a Sergeant,
who volunteered, was appointed to take charge, and act as circumstances
might require. A small pit had been dug, in which the Sergeant was
snugly ensconced, and there was nothing to indicate to those passing
within a short distance, that there was anything to be feared from that
quarter; but in this they were terribly mistaken, for at the right
moment the gun belched forth its storm of bullets into the very centre
of the little column of infantry with fearful effect. So unexpected was
the charge that the utmost confusion prevailed, which was considerably
increased by the sudden appearance of about one hundred well mounted
horsemen, acting as cavalry, sweeping down upon them, sabreing right and
left. This party of horsemen consisted of officers of all corps in
garrison, and every other available European that could sit on a horse
or handle a sabre, and had been quietly organized, in expectation of an
event like the present, by Major Collingwood.

Repulsed at all points, the mutineers retreated as fast as possible.
Their infantry, in many cases, mounting in rear of the cavalry. The
artillery limbered up and followed them to the outskirts of the town,
where, as they crossed the deep Nulla leading to the Islempoora road,
the gallant Huntingdon again blazed away at them, reducing their numbers
to a considerable extent; but it was not considered advisable to follow
them any farther. The troop was then divided and the guns sent in
different directions through the station, while the lately improvised
cavalry scoured the Bazaars and other parts, in order to capture any
small parties who might be engaged in the work of plunder or other
destruction.



CHAPTER XI.


The hour of eleven was ringing from the gurries or gongs at the
different guard rooms, as Arthur Carlton left the quarters of the
Brigadier commanding the station, for unlike most A.D.C.'s he did not
reside with his chief, but occupied snug little quarters in the staff
lines near the Suddur Bazaar. He was both annoyed and excited as he
mounted his horse to return home; but he soon became calm and
thoughtful, and his noble charger, as if knowing the mood of his master,
slackened its speed to a walk. "General D---- is an obstinate and
self-willed man, and his policy anything but what it should be at so
critical a time," muttered Arthur half aloud; "but was I wise to cross
him, and in the heat of the moment to throw up my appointment on his
staff; I who have nothing but my pay to depend on and no interest at the
Horse Guards to push me on in the service?" and his thoughts flew back
to Vellenaux, Sir Jasper Coleman and Edith Effingham. As her image
crossed his mind his countenance brightened, and his spirits rose. "Yes,
I will rejoin my regiment. She must return to Rutlaum in a day or two. I
will see her to-morrow and beg her to allow me to be her escort, that I
think she will not refuse; and when I get my troop I will seek her hand,
for her heart I know is mine already." He was aroused from his reverie
by the sudden stopping of his horse, and on looking up found that he had
arrived at the gate of the Compound which surrounded his dwelling.
Immediately on entering he summoned his butler, and gave him
instructions to pack up everything without delay, and to start with his
baggage and the other servants at an early hour on the following
morning, _en route_ for Rutlaum; to halt at the first Dawk Bungalow he
came to, and that he would follow on horseback in the evening. Then
calling Pedro, a Portuguese, who had entered his service on his first
arrival in India as a Kitmagar or Valet, he dispatched him to the Bazaar
to procure from the Kotwell the necessary hackarries, or baggage carts
and cattle; then, after enjoying several puffs from his hookah, he flung
himself on a lounge to snatch what sleep he could before the grey dawn
of day appeared. He was aroused at an early hour by the hurried entrance
of his Portuguese servant who, after carefully closing the door,
communicated the following startling intelligence: It appears that
Pedro, after executing the commission entrusted to him, called on a
friend in the Bazaar, who, like himself, was a Christian, to bid him
farewell, and remained for two or three hours; that on his way home he
heard voices in the angle of a small compound, which excited his
curiosity. Approaching the spot noiselessly, through a hole in the
prickly pear hedge he, by the light of the moon, saw four persons
conversing together, two of whom he recognized; one was a Jemidar of
Cavalry, the other, Soobadah, Major of one of the native regiments, the
remaining two were strangers, evidently belonging to some irregular
corps. The substance of their conversation was to the effect that, about
six hundred irregular horse, and a company of Goolandowz, (but without
guns or ammunition) were halted a short distance beyond the limits of
the cantonments ready to enter at a given signal; that all the native
corps in garrison were to rise, simultaneously, about eight a.m.; an
attempt was to be made to carry off the artillery guns while the
European gunners were at their breakfasts; the Fort was to be carried by
a sudden rush, and the town plundered; they were then to make off to the
next smallest station, where they were unlikely to meet with any
European force.

For some moments Arthur was undecided as to what course he ought to
pursue. "If," thought he, "I carry this information to the Brigadier, he
will pooh, pooh it as mere moonshine, besides I no longer belong to his
staff, and he would not listen to anything I might suggest; it would
only be time thrown away; but Huntingdon must be warned. Forewarned is
forearmed, and he is not the man to disregard a circumstance of this
kind." He at once wrote a note relating what had been told him, and sent
it by the Portuguese.

"You will deliver this into the hand of Major Huntingdon, and likewise
give him a full account of all you saw and heard, and return as quickly
as possible." The servant was soon on his way to the artillery lines.
The next thing was to start his servants' baggage and personal effects
by a road, directly opposite the one where the irregulars were said to
be halted. While dressing and arming, he resolved as to what step he
should now take. He would ride over to Edith, and, after placing her in
safety within the walls of the Fort, join the other officers of the
garrison under the direction of Major Collingwood and act as he deemed
best in the coming struggle. He was well mounted and thoroughly armed,
and likewise carried a double-barreled tiger-rifle, slung
carbine-fashion to his saddle, and was as formidable a cavalier as one
could meet with in the country. Giving his last instructions to Pedro,
who, by this time, had returned, he rode out of the compound and took
his way to the Bungalow, where all that he held most dear in life was,
perhaps, sleeping, all unconscious of the impending danger. When he was
near the house, a few shots were fired, and a hubbub was heard within
the Sepoy lines.

"I am almost too late," thought Arthur, as he dashed up to the door.
Edith, who had seen his approach met him in the verandah. A few words
sufficed to explain how matters stood, and she hurried away to put on
her riding habit, and gather together what valuables belonged to her.
Arthur lost no time in causing to be saddled one of the best horses in
the stable, and had it led round to the front of the Bungalow, where, in
a very short time, he was joined by Edith, fully equipped for any
emergency.

Placing her quickly and firmly on her saddle, and carefully examining
every strap and buckle, and finding everything secure, he sprang lightly
on his own steed. One glance at the space in front of the Bungalow, was
quite sufficient to realize, to a practical mind like Arthur's, the
imminent dangers that would beset them, should they attempt to cross the
open plain in the direction of the Fort. The only chance was in a rapid
flight. There was no time to arrange any definite plan of action, for a
very few minutes would elapse before the mutineers would surround the
Bungalow, and cut off all means of escape; so passing directly to the
rear of the compound, they sought the cover of the jungle that skirted
it. Advancing as rapidly as the narrow path and thickly interwoven
underbrush would admit of, they soon left the station far behind them.
At the foot of an eminence they emerged from the cover of the woods, and
struck into the highroad that wound round the hill in front of them.
This they ascended at a gentle canter, for Arthur was too good a rider
to push his horses at the commencement of a journey, in which both speed
and endurance might be required before its termination. His intention
was, if possible, to reach Rutlaum; should he fail in this he must reach
some station on the sea coast before night-fall, and place Edith under
the protection of the officer commanding such post, until he could
arrange for a passage for her to Bombay. On arriving at the crest of the
hill, they turned to take a parting look at the pretty little station,
where, for so many weeks, they had been supremely happy in the enjoyment
of each others society, and framing projects for their union, at some
future period, when the young Lieutenant should have advanced
sufficiently in his profession to warrant that consummation so devoutly
to be wished for.

Lurid flames and thick dark smoke shot up from many a burning Bungalow,
while the roar of Artillery and discharge of musketry, convinced the
fugitives that the conflict was still going on between the defenders of
the Fort and the miscreants who vainly endeavoured to effect an entrance
in order to put to death any Europeans who had taken shelter within its
walls. Parties of Sepoys were looting the Bazaars and residences of the
European officers of whatever they could lay their hands upon, while the
cavalry, both regular and irregular, were riding hither and thither in
search of Christian men, women, or children, who might have been
unfortunate enough not to have gained admission to the Fort, or make
good their escape from the fated place ere it was too late.

"Look, dearest Arthur," exclaimed Edith, pointing with her riding whip
to a bend in the road some distance below them, "what are those
horsemen? are they friends or foes? Oh! I see you change colour, and we
are lost. But is there no hope for us?"

For a few moments Carlton remained silent, measuring with a practised
eye the distance between those advancing and the spot on which they
stood. For himself he had not a single thought, but for her in whom his
whole soul was bound, the thought of what would be her fate, should she
fall into the hands of those who he well knew were bent on their
capture, it was this agonizing thought that caused a convulsive shudder
to run through his whole frame, and rendered him for the moment
speechless. But it was only for a moment; his deep love for the
beautiful being at his side, and her imminent peril, roused him to
immediate action.

"It would be wrong for me to attempt to conceal the fact of the great
danger in which we stand. Our pursuers are irregular troops; men who
have been taught to hate everything Christian, being the followers of
petty Rajahs, who for some act of their own, or some of their families'
treachery or disloyalty to our Government, lost their landed
possessions, and consequently their revenue and power; but, dearest,
they shall only reach you over my dead body. They would, in the long
run, overtake us; but could we reach a wooden bridge that crosses a
small river, a few miles up the road, I believe we could yet elude
them. For there is an old road leading from the ford and running
parallel with the one we are on. It has not been used for the past two
years, and they, being strangers in this part of the country, will, in
all probability, know nothing of it, and by this way we may escape.
Courage, dearest Edith, all may yet go well with us."

"Your love and devotion, dear Arthur, I have never for one moment
doubted, and confidently trust myself to your protecting arm and loving
heart. But what can one single arm do against numbers; but should those
wretches overtake us, the spirit of the Effinghams will teach me how to
act, and, if necessary, how to die." As she said this, she drew from the
folds of her riding habit, a handsome five-chambered revolver. "I will
never become their prey, nor shall you perish unavenged while I have
strength to draw a trigger," exclaimed the beautiful girl, now excited
beyond measure at the critical position in which she found herself
placed. "Brave and noble girl," responded Arthur, as he bent over and
imprinted a kiss on the lovely brow. And in another moment they were
bounding along the high road at a hand gallop.

"We are gaining on them," shouted one of the pursuers, as he caught
sight of the two lovers flying along a straight piece of road at no very
great distance in front of them. "But we shall have some tough work
before we capture the young fellow or I am much mistaken."

"Curse him," growled out a tall athletic fellow in the uniform of a
Russeldah. "I may thank him for my court martial and loss of commission
in the regulars; but my turn is coming now. He and his dainty lady shall
curse the hour of their birth before I have done with them. 'Remember,'
said he, turning to the party, of whom he was evidently the leader,
'they must, if possible, be taken alive. Their money and valuables--and,
doubtless, they have a good store about them--you can divide among
yourselves; I will not touch one rupee of it; but their lives are mine."
A shout of approval followed this last speech, and the whole party
pushed forward with increased speed.

The little wooden bridge, referred to by Carlton, was at length gained.
During the ride he had communicated to Edith the steps he intended to
take on gaining the cover of the old road. Turning sharply to the right
they entered the jungle, and made their way into the stream that crossed
the road, then passing up the centre and under the bridge, they landed
about one hundred and fifty paces higher up on the opposite bank, and,
having dismounted, Arthur sought for, and soon found, the entrance to
the road they were in search of, now overhung with brambles and creeping
plants. Pushing them carefully aside, they entered, and found themselves
in a narrow track, overgrown with soft grass. Assisting Edith to
remount, Carlton threw the bridle of his own horse over the stump of a
tree, then said to her, in a voice hoarse with emotion, and pointing to
a small opening between the bushes, "From this point you can watch the
results of my endeavours for our mutual safety. Should I fall, turn and
fly. This road will lead you to Rutlaum." Then snatching a hasty kiss, he
retraced his steps to the edge of the main road, taking up his position
under the cover of the thick bushes.

The road leading to the bridge was, for about one hundred yards,
perfectly straight, and much narrower than at other points, and the
jungle at both sides was both thick and dense. Rather an awkward place
for cavalry, should there be any infantry lurking in ambush, watching to
give them a hot reception. I have said that Arthur was thoroughly armed;
besides his two revolvers and sabre, he had his double-barreled
tiger-rifle, a breech-loader of the newest pattern, which had only
lately been introduced into India. Arthur had not long to wait for his
foes, for the clattering of the armed hoofs of their troop horses were
soon heard coming along at a rapid pace. There were nine of them, riding
three abreast. As soon as they were within range, Carlton coolly
levelled his rifle and discharged both barrels in rapid succession,
shooting the centre file through the chest, who fell dead instantly, and
lodging his other bullet in the shoulders of the horse of the file on
his right, bringing both steed and rider to the ground, the latter
underneath, his leg being crushed by the fall. So sudden and unexpected
was the attack, that the two men who were riding immediately in rear,
unable to check their speed in time, their horses stumbled and both
their riders were thrown. They were, however, not much hurt by their
fall and were soon in their saddles again. The dead and wounded men were
removed to some soft grass on the side of the road. But this delay,
short as it was, enabled Arthur to reload and shift his position, which
he did by rapidly passing under the bridge to the opposite side of the
road, being too good a soldier to neglect this opportunity.

"Forward!" shouted the Russeldah. "Follow me! I will soon unkennel the
foe. May the grave of his fathers be accursed, and his bones be burned,"
and, after uttering this anathema, he drove the rowels of his spurs into
his horse's flanks, springing him, at least, two lengths in advance of
his followers, and making a dash for the bush from whence the smoke of
the rifle was seen to issue. But ere the scoundrel reached it, a bullet
from Arthur's rifle went crashing through his brain. A second brought
another to the earth with a broken thigh bone. The others reined up in
time to avoid the accident they had before experienced. On finding their
leader to be quite dead, and only five of their number fit to carry on
the contest, they consulted together as to the expediency of any further
pursuit; besides, they could not understand being attacked from both
sides of the road. They had seen no one cross, and never dreamed of the
passage under the bridge, and imagined there must be others concealed in
the jungle. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Arthur returned the
way he came as quickly as possible, and, mounting his horse, regained
his beloved Edith, who had witnessed the whole affair. She was about to
thank, with ardent words of gratitude, her gallant lover, when he
silenced her with a motion of his hand, and whispered to her to follow
him. They proceeded slowly for a time, carefully avoiding the
overhanging branches, lest they should attract the attention of either
of the troopers, who were still halted on the high road at no great
distance, and as Carlton afterwards affirmed, a chance shot from one of
their carbines might have proved fatal to one or perhaps both of them.
After riding some distance they had the satisfaction, on looking back,
of seeing that their cowardly pursuers were returning the way they came,
carrying their dead and wounded with them. But still they had a very
long ride before them, under a scorching sun, before they could consider
themselves safe from further pursuit; and the deep shadows of the dark
jungle had closed around them as they pushed their way along the dusty
road. And it was not until the moon had risen in all her splendour, high
above their heads, that Edith, worn out with the excitement and fatigue
of the day's journey, attended by a gallant cavalier, reached Rutlaum.

Fortunately, they experienced no difficulty in tracing the whereabouts
of the Bartons, who had not, as yet, left the place. The news of the
disaster at Goolampore had not reached Rutlaum, the mutineers having
cut the telegraph lines, and the intelligence would not, in all
probability, be received for a couple of days; and it was agreed that it
should be suppressed as long as possible. It was arranged that the
family should leave on the following evening by the Palkee Dawk for the
coast. Carlton, of course, called on the officer commanding the post,
and explained to him all he knew concerning the outbreak, and exactly
how things stood when he left the station.

The Bartons were delighted to have Edith with them again, for nothing
had gone right during her absence. Mrs. Barton had not been accustomed
to take any part in the household arrangements or keeping the servants
in order, consequently everything had gone wrong.

Edith grew eloquent when describing the dauntless courage of Carlton in
rescuing her from a fate too horrible to be thought of. On hearing this,
Arthur rose at least fifty per cent. in the estimation of Mrs. Barton,
with whom he had always been a great favourite, and she warmly thanked
him for the exertion he had made in behalf of her young friend. Taking
advantage of the opportunity thus afforded him, Arthur, on the spur of
the moment, disclosed to her everything concerning his engagement to
Edith, and solicited their approval to the union on his attaining the
rank of Captain. He was warmly supported by Edith, who did not hesitate
to declare her affection for one whom she had known so long, and who had
risked so much for her. And when Mrs. Barton found that the wedding was
not to take place for some time, and that Edith was to return with them
to England, she professed herself to be satisfied on the subject,
whereupon it was arranged that the party should proceed to the sea
coast. On reaching Doollia, the lovers parted in hopes of meeting again
at no distant day in England, for the ratification of those vows that
were exchanged during their ride for life through the Goozeratte.

Independent of the inward satisfaction felt by Edith, that her
engagement to Arthur had met the approval of the kind friends to whom
she owed so much, she experienced a great deal of pleasure during the
overland journey to Europe. Both Horace and Pauline had twice traversed
the route, and therefore were enabled to point out the various objects
of interest that were met with in the different places they passed
through. The Egyptian Pyramids, Cleopatra's Needle, and the far-famed
Catacombs at Alexandria, with many a new and strange sight, encountered
during their short sojourn at Malta and Gibraltar, which had been
unheeded on her passage out, so depressed and sad at heart had she felt
at the death of her uncle. But, time having healed that mental wound,
and a bright future opening before her, she could now fully enjoy those
scenes and the associations they usually call up.



CHAPTER XII.


Arthur Carlton lost no time in making his way to the Capital and
reporting himself to the Commander-in-Chief. His Excellency was pleased
to accept graciously his reasons for throwing up his appointment on the
staff of General D----, at Goolampore. Our hero had expected to get a
good rap over the knuckles for acting as he had done without first
applying to headquarters, and this, doubtless, would have been the case
at any other time, but the blind folly and general mismanagement of the
late Brigadier had already been commented upon and censured by the
authorities, and no doubt if death had not interfered to prevent it, a
court martial and dismissal from the service would have been the result.
As it was, another officer was sent up and appointed to the command at
Goolampore, and Lieutenant Carlton ordered to join his regiment at the
earliest opportunity, which, of course, meant that he should proceed
with any corps, detachment, or party that might be moving in that
direction. But Arthur was too anxious for active employment to brook any
such delay; so, after a few days' sojourn at the Capital, attended only
by his servants, took the road to Runjetpoora, where his regiment was
reported to be stationed. Nothing, of interest occurred on the route,
until within a few miles of his destination where he expected to join
his corps.

It being his last day's march, he had sent his servants and baggage on
several hours in advance, and being well armed and well mounted, he
started from his halting place about daylight, alone, and pursued his
course along the high road, in the best possible spirits, feeling well
contented with the position of things in general, and his own in
particular.

About noon, being somewhat heated and thirsty, he turned his horse's
head to the right, and rode quietly some distance into the jungle, and
finding a cool shady spot by a small running stream, dismounted, and
taking off the saddle from his charger, gave him a feed of gram or corn,
and allowed a sufficient length of tether to enable him to crop the soft
grass which grew in the immediate vicinity of the running stream just
alluded to, while he rested and regaled himself with some biscuits,
brandy punnee, and his favourite German pipe. He had taken up his
position at the foot of a small tree, with his back against the trunk,
his famous tiger-rifle lying by his side and the hilt of his sabre
within convenient handling distance, for the time and place was such
that these precautions could not, with safety, be neglected. While thus
resting, he sank into a deep reverie; his thoughts wandering back to his
school boy days, in merry old England, ere he had sighed for a sword and
feather or longed to seek the bubble reputation at the cannon's mouth,
or dreamed of scenes by flood and field, beneath the scorching suns,
over the arid plains, or amid the wild trackless jungles of Industan.

Then Vellenaux, the home of his happy youth with its architectural
grandeurs, its magnificent parks and rich woodland scenery, passed in
review like a panorama before his mental vision, but fair as these
visions were, another far brighter rose before which all others paled
or faded by comparison. Edith, in all her glorious beauty, now riveted
his every thought, engrossed the whole stretch of his imagination, and
for the time rendered all else opaque and obscure; for had she not
promised to become his wife, to share with him the varied fortunes of a
soldiers' life, to be the joy and solace of his riper years, and heart
in heart and hand in hand, to glide together, as it were, almost
imperceptibly into the yellow leaf of ripe old age. Again, like the ever
varying pictures of light and shade, his thoughts turned on the
present,--this campaign over, the mutiny crushed out, and the command of
a troop conferred upon him, he would be in a position to return to
England, claim his bride, and thus would the dearest wishes of his heart
be fully realized. From this delightful train of thought, he was aroused
by the cracking and breaking of the dry leaves and brush wood at some
little distance, yet immediately in front of him, and ere he had time to
rise, an enormous tiger, a regular Bengalle, sprang over the intervening
bushes on the open space, within a few yards of where Carlton was
quietly smoking. This sudden appearance was as unlooked for by our hero
as was Carlton's figure by the royal beast himself, and, for a few
seconds, they gazed on each other. But Arthur's presence of mind on such
occasions never deserted him. Instantly bringing to his shoulder the
rifle that lay handy by his side, and without moving his position, he
covered and took deliberate aim at his--to say the least of it--just
then unwelcome visitor. Until the cocking of the rifle, the enormous
brute seemed undecided as to what course to pursue. But no sooner did
this sound reach the tiger, than his long tail began to sway slowly
backwards and forwards two or three times; and, with a low growl, fierce
and deep, settled himself gradually back on his haunches, preparatory to
making that spring which this class of animals are so famous for, and
which in many instances prove so fatal to those who pursue or oppose
them. But Arthur was a cool and energetic hunter, and had scoured the
jungles for weeks together, and had brought in more trophies of his
skill, as a Shirkarree, than any other man in the regiment, and ere the
spring could be completed, for the animal had risen in the air, Arthur
had planted a brace of bullets in the chest of the monster, literally
cracking, in their progress, the heart of the tiger, who fell forward
stone dead within six feet of where our hero was seated. His practical
eye in an instant convinced him that no danger was to be apprehended
from his late foe, and without changing his attitude, resumed the pipe,
he had let fall from his lips prior to firing, and, as unconcerned as
though nothing of moment had taken place, commenced carefully to reload
his rifle. While thus engaged, the crushing among the branches of the
jungle trees, and the cracking of the withered stocks and leaves again
attracted his attention; and presently some half dozen horsemen cleared
the adjacent bushes and reined up suddenly on the brink of the little
brook before alluded to, with surprise and astonishment depicted on
their glowing and excited features, as they gazed on the scene, thus
unexpectedly presented to their view.

"By Jove! did I not know that Arthur Carlton was hundreds of miles away
up in the North-West, I could swear that was he," pointing to the figure
of Carlton seated at the foot of the tree, exclaimed the foremost
rider, as he with difficulty curbed in his impatient steed.

"And who else but the Burra Shirkarree, the Carlton Sahib, would you
expect to find within a couple of yards of the carcass of a lord of the
jungle, just slaughtered by him, and cooly re-loading as if he had only
been shooting at a pidgeon match," said Travas Templeton in reply,
dismounting as he spoke, and advancing quickly, seized and shook warmly
the hand of our hero, who had by this time sprang to his feet.

"You guessed right this time, Travas, old fellow," said Carlton, giving
his friend another hearty shake of the hand. Then, turning to the first
speaker, whom he addressed as Dorville, said, "So you thought me miles
away, did you? I was sure you had seen the General's order for me to
rejoin. Pray, introduce me to your friends, and we can have a mutual
explanation of how we came to meet thus unexpectedly." This being done,
the whole party dismounted and threw themselves at full length within
such shade as the jungle afforded, and listened to Arthur's account of
the outbreak at Goolampore, and his reasons for throwing up his
appointment on the staff; the unexpected appearance of the tiger and the
death of the same.

"A ticklish thing to do, by Jove, to take the matter in your own hands in
that fashion. But all's well that ends well, and devilish glad will our
fellows be to learn that you will be so soon among us again, especially
as your troop and mine have been ordered out on some special service,
and that accounts for our presence in this neighborhood, and so far from
headquarters; but Travas will give you the particulars;" and lighting a
cheroot, Francis Dorville puffed out numberless circles of pale, blue
smoke, which he appeared to enjoy with infinite satisfaction.

"Then you must know, most redoubtable of tiger-slayers," began Travas
Templeton, who was a cornet in Arthur's troop, and an enthusiastic
sportsman, "that the Brigadier commanding, having secretly got wind that
a party of mutineers had ensconced themselves in a small fortress, among
yonder hills," pointing with his cigar in the direction as he spoke,
"has ordered a flying column, of which two troops of ours form a part,
to attack, and, if possible, to carry the place by assault or _coup de
main_; that we are encamped about eight miles to the South-West of this
spot. Last night some villagers came in and reported that a large tiger,
doubtless the identical one yonder, was causing great havoc among the
cattle; so some half dozen of us started this morning in pursuit. We
caught sight of the brute about a mile from here, and Dorville, being
green at this kind of sport, took a shot at him at too great a range,
and, of course, missed, sending the creature in your direction, and so
gave you the opportunity of bagging him, which you have most
successfully accomplished."

"I am sorry, gentlemen, to have deprived you of your day's sport, but
under the circumstances, I really could not have done anything less, for
the tiger came so suddenly upon me, that there was nothing else for it;
but this really will be capital fun, the expedition to the hill fort you
speak of," replied Arthur as he tossed off the remaining portion of his
brandy punnee, exclaiming at same time, "Here's all success to our new
undertaking."

"You will give up all idea, of course, of going on to Runjetpoora, and
return with us to our camp and join our troop, for we are to attack
these gentry to-morrow evening, I believe. Colonel Atherly, of the
engineers, commands the column. He has heard of your exploits at Mooltan
and Chillianwalla, and would be sorry to lose the services of so good a
Sabre on this occasion. You can report in writing to headquarters,
through his Deputy-Adjutant-General, that you have joined your troop.
Your tent and servants can be sent over to you during to-morrow; in the
meantime, you can share mine,"--"or mine,"--"or mine,"--shouted a chorus
of voices.

"Upon my word, Dorville, you are highly complimentary. It's very
flattering to a fellow's feelings to be so thoroughly appreciated,
especially, after so long an absence from the regiment. Devilish kind of
you, gentlemen, to offer me quarters among you; but, as I cannot divide
myself into half a dozen pieces, I shall only be too happy to accept our
friend Dorville's offer, he being first in the field. By George, it will
be rejoining with _eclat_ if that little fort up yonder, on the hill
side, could be carried by one bold dash, and the affair terminated in a
day or so," cried Carlton, his handsome face lighting up, and pleasure
beaming from his flashing eye at the bare idea of the coming contest.

"If I can only get my twenty-four pound howitzer in a good position I
will make the place so hot in a dozen hours that the blackguards will
curse their unlucky stars that caused them to unlimber for action in
such an owl's nest as that," put in another of the party, an artillery
officer, attached to the flying column.

"But what say you to a move, gentlemen. We have some miles to ride, and
that, too, before the trumpet sounds the mess call," said Travas,
raising himself from his sitting position and moving towards his horse.
This suited the views of the whole party. The greater number were
already in the saddle. While Arthur and the two others had their feet in
the stirrup, preparing to mount, the whole party were startled and
amazed by the very novel and unlooked for apparition of a female figure,
flying towards them, evidently in great terror and alarm. On reaching
Carlton, who was the nearest to her, she bent forward with supplicating
looks and clasped hands, passionately exclaiming, "Oh! for pity sake,
hasten to the rescue, ere it be too late. Fly! gentlemen, and stay the
bloody work of those miscreants, those fiends in human form. Oh! waste
not a moment, or your aid may come too late." The supplicant was a
handsome three-quarter cast. Her luxuriant hair, dark as a raven's wing,
hung in wild confusion about her neck and shoulders. Her well-fitting
dress, of fine Madras muslin, hung in shreds around her finely moulded
form, and blood was issuing from rents in her light kid slippers,
caused, doubtless, by the thorns and other prickly obstacles she had met
with on her passage through the tangled brushwood of the jungle.

"Pray, calm yourself, I beg, and endeavour to collect your thoughts. To
whom do you allude, and in what direction; do you wish us to go?" said
Dorville, as he handed her some sherry and water from his flask; this
she drank eagerly, then hurriedly continued--the whole group pressing
nearer and nearer to the excited woman, to learn by what mischance or
accident she had been thrown amongst them at such a time and place, so
suddenly--"The Collector of Runjetpoora, his wife, daughter, and
sister, with his four clerks, their wives and children, have been
attacked and captured by a band of twenty mounted mutineers, who have
sworn to massacre them, and some of the children have already been
cruelly butchered by these remorseless villains; I, alone, escaped, and
sought shelter in the jungle, where, from an opening down the ravine,
caught a glimpse of your party, and have struggled through brake and
briar to implore your assistance. Oh! do not lose a moment, if you would
be in time. Even now it may be too late to save them;" and, weeping
wildly, sank on her knees, convulsive sobs choking her further
utterance.

There was now no need to urge them on, for they at once realized the
horrors of the position in which the Collector and his party were now
placed. Exclamations of anger, and vows of bitter vengeance burst from
the lips of all, as they, with paling cheek, and flashing eye, their
teeth clenched fiercely together, listened to the appaling tale of the
half frantic girl before them.

"They are but three to one, the pack of mutinous scoundrels, and cannot
resist our charge five minutes, and must go down before well-tried
sabres," cried Carlton, springing into his saddle, and taking the lead,
saying, as he did so, "Point out the way we should take, my good girl,
and what courage, brave hearts, and trusty swords can effect, shall be
done to rescue your friends from the terrible fate which, doubtless,
awaits them."

"When you reach that single tree on the crest of yonder hill,"
indicating with her right hand the direction to be taken, "you will come
in sight of the place, where this villainous outrage has been
committed; your own judgment will then tell you what is best to be
done," she replied, evidently strengthened and refreshed by the wine she
had taken, and the comforting assurance held out to her by Arthur and
his companions. These words had scarcely passed her lips when, applying
the spur vigorously, the whole party, with one exception, dashed off in
the direction indicated. Captain Crosby of the artillery, who had not
started with the rest, feeling somewhat anxious for the poor girl's
safety--alone as she would be shortly in that dense jungle, for every
Sabre would be needed in the coming onslaught--approaching her, said
kindly and gently, "and you; what is to become of you? what will you do,
or where can you go?" "Oh, do not think of me," she replied, "I can
retrace my steps the way I came, alone and unassisted," moving a few
steps in that direction. "But stay one moment," said Crosby; "take this
it may assist you in clearing a pathway through the thicket and
underbrush," handing her, as he spoke, his long hunting knife. Raising
her beautiful eyes to his, with a look of thankfulness, she accepted the
weapon. In another instant, the ringing of horses' hoofs, now growing
fainter in the distance, told her that help was hastening on to where
help was most required.



CHAPTER XIII.


The spot where the Collector and his party had been surprised and
captured, was on the high road, midway between the Khandish Ghaut and
the large and populous town of Runjetpoora, the inhabitants of which,
with the exception of their Begum, or Princess, and a few of her
immediate followers, had thus far remained faithful to British rule, and
to which place he was now returning, after making a tour of inspection
through the districts, which inspection consisted in surveying and
valuing the crops while growing, the cattle and other properties of
those residing within his jurisdiction, so that taxes might be levied on
each individual according to their wealth and substance, during the
current year.

The baggage escort and principal servants had been sent on in advance.
This the mutineers were, doubtless, aware of, or counted on as being
likely to be the case, therefore little opposition was to be expected,
and so suddenly did they sweep down upon them that the little party were
surrounded and overpowered ere they could seize their weapons to defend
themselves. All were made prisoners save one, Mrs. de Mello, a handsome
three-quarter caste, the youthful bride of the Collector's clerk or
first assistant, who had alighted from her palkee to gather some wild
flowers that grew on the road side, a short time prior to the appearance
of the mutineers, and from where she stood witnessed the attack.
Terrified beyond measure at her dangerous proximity to the ruffians,
she fled for safety into the depths of the jungle, and so escaped.

The carriage and bullock games were drawn to an open space some little
distance into the jungle, the intervening bushes screening it to a
considerable extent from the road. The Collector and his clerks were
then brutally stripped of their clothing, and, having taken possession
of their money and other valuables, the wretches bound them, spread
eagle fashion, to the wheels of the vehicles. The terrified women were
next dragged forth, with more indignity and even greater brutality, and
secured in a similar manner, and in such a position that their tortures
might be witnessed by their helpless husbands. The children, with the
exception of the Collector's daughter, a bright, golden haired girl of
some ten summers, who had clung convulsively to her mother, were thrown
together into a small hollow in the ground about the centre of the
place, they being too young to make any opposition, the black devils
forming a complete semi-circle round their intended victims.

The first scene of the bloody drama they proposed to enact, to satisfy
their devilish thirst for the blood of the unfortunates, who had thus
fallen into their hands, was opened by a tall, burly ruffian bending
over, seizing one of the children, hurling it into the air, and yelling
with an awful imprecation while so doing, that he would wager a gold
mohur to five rupees, that he could, with his tulwa, strike off the
child's right arm at the elbow without touching any other part of the
body. This was accepted at once by half-a-dozen voices; the wretch
immediately raised his tulwa and, as the infant descended, made a sharp,
quick, upper cut, and ere it reached the ground its little arm was
disjointed, as though by the knife of an experienced surgeon. A groan of
horror burst from the lips of the agonized parents, and a convulsive
shudder ran through the remainder of the unhappy party; but this past
unheeded by their captors, being drowned by the yells of fiendish
delight and approval that broke forth from the throats of these hell
hounds, as the mutilated body of the child lay wreathing in agony at
their feet, absorbing for the moment all other feeling. "I will double
the stakes," cried another, "that I take off the head of a second of
these young imps close to the shoulder without making wound or scar on
any other part." "Done, and done again!" shouted several voices,
throwing up their weapons in the air, and re-catching them again, so
delighted were they at the idea of another spectacle so much in unison
with their blood-thirsty and relentless passions. A powerful ruffian now
dismounted, and catching up a second babe, a pretty little thing
scarcely two years old, hurled it with his utmost strength high into the
air. On gaining its greatest altitude, it turned completely, and was
descending, head downwards. When within six feet of the ground, the
brutal villain, with one lightning stroke of his tulwa, severed the head
from its shoulders, amid the shouts and gesticulations of the assembled
miscreants. By some, the wretch was pronounced a winner, but on
examining the body, the skin of one shoulder was found to be grazed or
cut. Many maintained it was done by the sword; others asserted that it
was caused by falling on a stone or some such substance. The dispute ran
high, and possible might have come to blows, but for the interference of
another of the party, who appeared to be a sort of leader among them,
shouting out "Come! No more of this fooling; too much time has been
already wasted on this Tumahsha. Give the cursed feringees a volley from
your carbines, loot the garries, and then make off with all speed, or
the cursed Kaffirs may get wind of the affair and follow in our track."

"Shumsodeen is right," called out another. "There is both truth and
reason in what he says. But there must be no firing, it might attract
the notice of any straggler from the camps of those dogs of Kaffirs, and
bring their infernal Dragoons down upon us. No! cut the throats of the
men, and as there are but twenty of us, and only five of these women,
tell off one of them to each four of us, and let us begone, for we must
put the broad plain, at the foot of the Khandish Ghaut, between us and
this place ere night fall, and on our camping for the night, each four
can decide what is to be done with their prize." This suggestion was
received with applause, and they immediately prepared to act upon it.
Already two or three had dismounted and drawn their creeses to slit the
throats of their male prisoners, when a youth, about eighteen, son of
the fellow called Shumsodeen, cried out, "Do as you please with the
women among yourselves, but I will have yonder curly headed cutcha
butchee for my prize, come what may," and he took a few steps in the
direction of the Collector's daughter, who was still clinging to her
parent for protection; but ere he reached her, a loud, clear voice at no
great distance rang out, "Fire! gentlemen, and charge!" Then came from
between the leaves and bushes a withering volley of bullets from rifle
and revolver, striking down the youth, and emptying three saddles, the
riders falling lifeless to the ground. In another instant the branches
parted, and Arthur Carlton, with his six companions, cleared the low
brushwood, and sword in hand dashed into the centre of the ruffianly
group.

Although taken completely by surprise--for they had not calculated upon
being interfered with, especially at so early a period of their
proceedings or by so formidable a foe--the mutineers instantly prepared
to give their unexpected assailants a fierce and bloody reception. They
fought frantically with a courage born of desperation, well knowing that
to cut through their foes and escape by flight was their only chance;
for should they not perish by the sword in the present contest, a
halter, or to be blown to fragments from the cannon's mouth, would be
their doom if made prisoners, consequently they rained down their blows
frantically, and made several desperate attempts to break through or
divide the small party that opposed them. But the cool and determined
courage and thorough discipline of the Dragoons, and their friends was
too much for them, fighting as they did, for a time, on the defensive;
warding off the cuts of the dusky villains, and giving only a few
thrusts here and there, when it could be done with fatal effect. Many of
their number had already bit the dust, and, as yet, no impression had
been made on the gallant little band, the Soaws being still two to one.
Thus Carlton and his party were still fighting under a disadvantage as
far as numbers were concerned. Had the combatants been less pre-occupied
with their deadly strife, they might have observed, at a short distance,
a female figure cautiously emerging from between the bushes and
stealthily creep beneath the vehicle, to the wheels of which the
Collector had been bound. This was the wife of the head clerk, the
pretty three-quarter caste, whose presence of mind, courage and
forethought had so largely contributed to their deliverance. Rapidly but
surely, with the hunting knife given her by Captain Crosby, she cut the
cords that bound her husband and his companions, who, when they found
they were released, rushed forward and possessed themselves of the
weapons of the fallen mutineers, and immediately commenced an attack on
their flank and rear, in hopes of rendering some assistance to their
brave defenders.

Moving quickly, but in such a way as not to attract notice, Mrs. de
Mello, released the Collector's wife and the other ladies from their
unpleasant and exposed position, and one by one removed them for safety
within the cover of the jungle in case of any chance shot or blow
injuring them. A brief time served to restore the ladies to something
like tranquility, and enable them to arrange their attire to the best
advantage under the circumstances, and evincing in the highest manner
their thanks and gratitude to her who had, with such peril to herself,
relieved them from a fate, to them, worse than death itself.

The unexpected release of the prisoners, and the attack made on their
flank and rear by them, totally confounded the mutineers, and rendered
all escape on their part impossible or nearly so, while Arthur and his
friends, seeing the addition to their number, and being about equally
matched--numerically speaking--changed their tactics from the defensive
to the offensive, and attacked their opponents in right good earnest,
and with such skill and determination did they use their weapons that
they very shortly brought the contest to a close. Eleven of the
mutinous rascals lay stone dead upon the blood-stained sod, and five
others so fatally wounded that it would be impossible for them to
survive another hour, three more were slightly injured, but sufficiently
so to render them for the present _hors de combat_, while the one
remaining wretch who had escaped scathless had sullenly thrown down his
arms and stood looking on in moody silence. Every one of the brave
little party that had come thus opportunely to the rescue, had been more
or less injured by the Tulwas and pistol shots of the black Sowas, but
in no case did their wounds render them unfit for active service; rest
for a few days, together with some sticking plaster, was all that they
needed to enable them to take the field again. Of the mutineers, the
five mortally wounded were left to keep guard over the eleven dead, the
remaining four were bound and lashed to one of the garries belonging to
the Collector. The oaths and imprecations of these wretched beings at
the failure of their project and the position they now found themselves
in, were something fearful to listen to.

After a brief time, for congratulations, rest and refreshments, which
refreshment consisted chiefly in brandy punnee, sherry and biscuit, from
the flasks and wallets of the party, (no bad thing by the way, under the
circumstance.) Matters then having been got _en train_, the whole party
proceeded leisurely to the camp near Laurieghur, and arrived just as the
sun was casting her golden rays on the slopes of the adjacent hills,
previous to its sinking for the night into the purple depths of
obscurity. Early the following morning, the Collector, with a suitable
escort, proceeded on their way to Runjetpoora, the place to which they
were returning when they were so ruthlessly set upon by the atrocious
mutineers.

The day proceeding the one on which Arthur had joined his troop, the
officer in command of the little force ordered a court martial to
assemble for the trial of the prisoners concerned in the late murderous
attack on the Collector and party. The finding of the court was, that
the prisoners were guilty of all the charges brought against them, and
the sentence pronounced was that of death, by being blown to fragments
from the cannon's mouth, the sentence to be carried into effect the day
succeeding the promulgation of the order for the execution. Preparations
were then to be pushed forward vigorously for carrying by assault
Laurieghur, the fortress among the hills. Already a heavy breaching
battery had been sent for to Runjetpoora, for on a party of Engineers
advancing more closely and with the aid of their field glasses, it was
found to be a more formidable place, and more strongly guarded than had
been anticipated by those in command at Runjetpoora; thus the delay in
commencing the attack.

On the evening prior to the execution of the wretched criminals, as
Arthur Carlton was quietly smoking a cigar and meditating on Edith, the
approaching siege, and things in general, an orderly came to his tent
and announced to him, that one of the prisoners desired to speak with
him on a subject that admitted of no delay. Surprised at so unlooked for
an event, Arthur at first felt inclined to refuse the man's request, but
presently, curiosity getting the better of the dislike he felt at having
any communication with the wretch, and wondering what he could possibly
have to communicate, sent word that he would visit him soon after sun
set.

"What is it you have to say to me?" enquired Arthur Carlton, an hour
later, as with stern composure and folded arms, he looked down upon the
wretched culprit who lay manacled on the floor of the guard tent, and
who proved to be the youth before alluded to, as the son of the man
called Shumsodeen.

The captive, with much difficulty raising himself to a sitting posture,
said, "You are a brave man, and the brave among the whites are always
truthful they tell me. I am told that I am to be blown from the cannon's
mouth to-morrow. Is this the truth? Is there no hope of pardon or
reprieve?"

"The sentence of the court has been read to you, and there is no hope of
remission. You will die at sunrise to-morrow morning, and have but a few
hours to live. This you might have ascertained from the sergeant of the
guard without sending for me," said Arthur, turning to leave the tent.

"Stay!" resumed the prisoner, observing Carlton's intention, "I have
that to say which nearly concerns yourself and companions. I have
learned that it is the intention of your commander to carry the Fort of
Laurieghur by assault; this cannot be done without great loss of life
among you, for the place is much stronger and better provisioned and
garrisoned than he has any idea of. Listen to my story, you will then
see that I have it in my power to render your General a very great
service if permitted to do so."

"Speak on," responded Arthur, getting somewhat interested, and seating
himself on a bag of tent pegs, the the only apology for a seat the tent
afforded.

The youth then proceeded with his story, from which it appeared that,
about five weeks previous, a party of cavalry Sowas, regular and
irregular, who had deserted their regiments, had arrived at the village
in which the speaker and his father, who was a mounted police patell,
resided. While there, the emissaries of the Begum of Runjetpoora, who
had established herself at Laurieghur, and was organizing a force and
getting together supplies of ammunition, provisions, etc., with the
intention of making a raid on Runjetpoora and looting it, had made
overtures to this party, and promised them high pay and a share of the
plunder if they would join her. This they had accepted, and some of the
men of the village, the father and son included, had cast in their lots
with the mutineers and entered the fort; but, dissatisfied with being so
long cooped up within its walk, and seeing no prospect of immediate
plunder, had attempted to leave the place, but were prevented from so
doing by the Begum's order. In sullen silence they received this
injunction, but determined to escape when opportunity offered. That one
day while he, (the prisoner) was passing through the ruins of a deserted
palace, he had discovered the entrance to a subterraneous passage,
leading under the walls and coming out about a quarter of a mile from
the fort. This he had communicated to his comrades, and the following
morning ere it was light, the party, led by himself, made good their
retreat, and keeping within the jungle for some miles, came upon the
high road, and chanced to meet the Collector's party; that he had taken
no part in the slaughter of the children, and had intended leaving the
band as soon as they came in sight of his own village, and in
conclusion said, "If you will swear to obtain my pardon, and liberty to
go where I please, I will lead you and any number of your men through
this same passage, and in less than two hours from leaving this place,
you shall be in possession of the fort and all it contains." This offer
our hero did not consider himself at liberty to refuse or accept, but
promised at once to bring the matter to the notice of the officer
commanding the force, and let him (the prisoner) know the result as
speedily as might be, and immediately left the guard room for that
purpose.


The prisoner's proposition was at once accepted by the authorities, and
very shortly a party of five hundred infantry, and one hundred
dismounted dragoons, led by Carlton and accompanied by the prisoner as
guide, left the camp and soon made their way without difficulty, or
exciting the notice of the insurgents, through the subterraneous passage
before alluded to into the fort, and the whole party were soon ensconced
within the ruins of the old palace, without the garrison having the
least idea of their presence in that quarter. On gaining this position,
the signal agreed on, a blue light, was burned for one minute, then the
whole force in camp turned out, and a demonstration was made from every
available cannon and musket, as if the storming of the fort had
commenced in earnest. The consternation of the mutineers at finding
themselves so suddenly attacked was very great, and imagine their dismay
on rushing to the walls, to find the ramparts lined with our men. Unable
to account their appearance there, and believing treachery to be at work
among themselves, and that the gates had been opened to admit the foe,
threw down their arms and surrendered at discretion.

Search was immediately made for the Begum, and while looking for this
mutiness Princess in one of her apartments, Carlton took up from a
teapoy or dressing table, a small but curiously carved steel casket.
Supposing it to contain cosmetics, or what was more probable, chinaum
and beetle nut, hurriedly slipped it into his sabretache; but not
succeeding in finding the Begum, who had evaded the pursuit, Arthur,
with his Dragoons, returned to camp. The same evening the three villains
already condemned were executed.

But the youth who had acted as guide was permitted to escape, which he
lost no time in doing. The little force was then broken up, and the
troop composing it sent back to their respective corps, while our hero
and his Dragoons joined their regiment, and with it saw a great deal of
hard fighting and rough service, and on more than one occasion his
dashing conduct had been brought to the notice of the Indian Government.

The return of the troop from Persia, and the efficient manner in which
the brigades under Sir Hugh Rose, Havelock, Mitchell, Whitlock and
others were handled, proved too much for the mutineers, and after an
obstinate contest which lasted over two years, during which time a heavy
loss of life had been sustained on both sides, the rebellious native
troops were beaten at all points, and law and order once more restored
throughout the country.



CHAPTER XIV.


Horace, on reaching London, had taken a house on Berkly Square. Old Mr.
and Mrs. Barton having died some two years previous, as already stated,
and the Willows in Devonshire had been let. He found his sister, Mrs.
Ashburnham, still living on Cavendish Square, and Emily residing with
her aunt in Harley street. Tom and his bride were still travelling on
the Continent. Mr. and Mrs. Barton therefore determined to remain in
town until the lease, for which the country seat had been let, should
expire, which would take place about the month of August in the
following year; and thus it was that the people of Vellenaux knew
nothing of their return to England. Fond of gaiety and fashionable life,
Mrs. Barton determined to make up for time lost during their sojourn in
the Goozeratte, by being very gay, attending balls, parties and operas,
and not unfrequently giving stylish entertainments at her house at
Berkly Square, in all of which Edith participated, as her kind friend
would go no where and do nothing without her, and thus she passed her
first season in London. In the spring of the year she received the
welcome intelligence that Arthur had been promoted to a troop, and that
if he could manage to obtain leave of absence, he would be in England
early in summer to claim his bride.

"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Barton, a few days subsequent to the receipt
of the letter, "Horace, dear old fellow, has arranged everything nicely
for you. He has still some interest with the authorities. He has been to
the India office. Arthur is to have eighteen months leave of absence,
and before the expiration of that time his regiment will be ordered
home; so you see, my dear, we shall be able to see a great deal of each
other. After you are married you will, of course, remain with us until
it is time for Arthur to rejoin his regiment." Edith felt very grateful
to her kind friends for all they had done to further her happiness, and
looked forward to the time when she should meet her affianced husband
with intense satisfaction and delight. She would not now be called upon
to return to India, to which country she had a strong aversion; and well
she might, for her residence there, with the exception of her episodes
of pleasure derived from the society of Arthur, had indeed been very
trying.

It was summer, bright, glorious, balmy summer. The birds sang and
chirped among the green leaves, and wood pigeons cooed in the hollow
trunks of the trees, beneath whose outspreading branches, little
four-footed creatures gamboled and made merry among the soft feathery
grasses that grew in the fine old beech woods of Devon. It was pleasant
to listen to the cool, gurgling sound of the brawling brook, whose
bright waters skipped, danced and glittered, as they forced their way
over the pebbles and other impediments in their serpentine course along
the shady dell that skirted the Home Park, wherein, under the venerable
oaks, the red and fallow deer rested, dreamily sniffing the delicious
fragrance that pervaded the air, borne upon the light summer wind from
the rich parterre which stretched the entire length of the south wing at
Vellenaux.

In a large octagon-shaped apartment that had been fitted up as a
library, the most pleasing feature of which was its Southern aspect,
were seated _tete a tete_ two personages, who figured somewhat
conspicuously in the early part of our story, these were Mrs. Fraudhurst
and Sir Ralph Coleman. They had met here at the request of the Baronet,
for Sir Ralph and the widow rarely met except by appointment or at the
dinner table.

Time had dealt kindly with the lady, and what was deficient by nature
was supplied by art, for she was one of those who always paid the most
scrupulous attention to their toilette. If we were to describe her as
fat, fair, and forty, we should certainly wrong her. Fair and forty she
undoubtedly was, but fat she certainly was not. There was a slight
tendency to embonpoint, but this was relieved by her tall and not
ungraceful figure. She was what might be termed a decidedly handsome
woman. The corpulent lawyer had subsided into the sleek,
well-conditioned country gentleman. But there was at times a certain
restlessness of the eye, and a nervous twitching at the corners of the
mouth, which, to a keen observer, would indicate that he was not always
the quiet, self-possessed person that he would have his neighbors to
believe. The business on which they had met had been interrupted by the
entrance of a servant with a note to Sir Ralph, but, on his leaving the
room, the conversation was resumed by Mrs. Fraudhurst saying:

"I would much rather, Sir Ralph, that this subject be now discontinued,
and never again reverted to. The papers to which you allude are
perfectly safe in my hands, and I do not see that any good could accrue
by my transferring them to you, certainly none to myself, and it might
militate against me; for the great anxiety you evince to get possession
of the documents leads me to believe that you have some particular
object in view, something which does not appear or, the surface, and
which you desire should not come to my knowledge."

"But, my dear madam, you surely do not imagine that I have any other
motive in requesting you to hand over to my safe keeping the deed in
question than a natural desire to be quite certain that our mutual
interests should not be imperilled by any accidental circumstance that
might disclose the existence of any such document."

The lady looked steadily at him for a few seconds, then in a clear
distinct, and deliberate tone, said, "For the last seven years the will
of the late Baronet has been in my possession, during which, time you,
Sir Ralph, have made frequent attempts to obtain it from me, sometimes
on one pretence, then on another. Were I to agree to your request, what
security have I that you, who have acted so vile a part against Miss
Effingham, would not act as treacherously towards me, were I once in
your power? While I possess that document, I hold my position here, and
can thus keep you at bay. And think you that I will thus surrender my
advantage to please the idle fancy of a man who would not hesitate to
stoop to perform any act however dastardly, so that he could effectually
escape the penalty of a crime he was ready to profit by, but cowardly
enough to shrink from the consequences it entailed? You say that our
interest in this affair is mutual,--it is not so, and you know it. You
gain nineteen thousand a year, I only one. Again, should the will by any
mischance be found in my possession, who would believe my statement
that you were a party concerned in the abstraction of the said deed, you
would deny all knowledge of the transaction and my unsupported evidence
could not commit you. Of course you would lose the estate; but what
would my condition be then. No! I have everything at stake--you,
comparatively nothing. I will not accede to so absurd a proposition."
There was a short pause, the widow resumed her embroidery with an air of
apparent indifference. The baronet sat abstractedly gazing out of the
window, evidently turning over something in his mind. As she had stated
he had tried to wheedle her out of the papers, but she had hitherto, by
great tact, adroitly managed to shift the conversation to some other
subject, in a quiet and playful manner. He was therefore not prepared
for this vehement outburst; she had not only refused to comply with his
demand, but taunted him with stinging words for his pusillanimous
conduct. He knew her great ambition, and that the sole object of her
life was to become mistress of Vellenaux, and to gain this she would
risk everything. It was her weak point, the only vulnerable part he
could attack with any hope of success. He had for months pondered over
this; it had this advantage, it is true, he thought a marriage would
secure him in the possession of both the will and her silence; but then
he hated her with a cordial hate. He had been for years in her power.
During her residence at Vellenaux she had every want supplied, and was
safe in her position. With the only evidence of the fraud that had been
practiced in her own keeping; she had outwitted him and had in reality
obtained the best of the bargain. The knowledge of this cut him to the
quick and he detested her in consequence.

Yet his only chance of obtaining that which he so coveted was by an
offer of marriage, not that he intended to fulfil any such promise,
quite the reverse, it would be a lie, a villainous deception, but had he
not willingly defrauded Miss Effingham out of her property? and what was
one lie, more or less, it would be but diamond cut diamond, and turning
the tables on Mrs. Fraudhurst. All these thoughts flashed through his
mind as he sat gazing out upon the sunny landscape below him, if it must
be done, as well now as at any other time, perhaps better. He at length
arose, and after taking two or three turns up and down the apartment in
order to nerve himself for action, stopped beside the chair of the fair
widow.

"Eleanor," said he, laying his hand on her arm. She looked up quickly,
for he had never before so addressed her. "Eleanor, you are unjust to me
and to yourself, ask yourself have I ever deceived or broken faith with
you since our compact after Sir Jasper's death, and the answer must be
in my favor. You may say that I have acted coldly and kept aloof from
you: this I grant is true, but it has been forced upon me; I felt that
the eyes of the world were upon us, watching our actions. Your constant
residence here has been talked of and cavelled at by some of the
neighboring families, who have not recovered from the surprise they felt
on hearing that Sir Jasper had died intestate and left his orphan niece
unprovided for. It was to prevent exposure that I have thus acted
towards you, and I believe that I have effectually succeeded, and now I
acknowledge that the charm of your society has become almost
indispensable to me, and I will no longer be held back by the world's
opinion. Listen to my proposal, accept it or reject it as you will, I
make it with all sincerity. Place the will of the late baronet in my
hands, and before this day month you shall be my wife and mistress of
the the manor."

"And should I survive you," she said, "Vellenaux and its broad lands--"

"Reverts to Miss Effingham on condition that she allows you five
thousand per annum and a suite of apartments in the west wing, during
the remainder of your life, which you can have fitted up to suit your
taste and convenience without delay, in case the contingency you mention
should arise sooner than I anticipate."

"And this you swear to fulfil to the letter," she replied, advancing
nearer and fixing her eyes upon him as if to read his inmost thoughts.

"On the day after our marriage I will cause a will to be drawn to that
effect, this I swear to do by the honor of knighthood."

Her countenance lit up and there was a sparkling brilliancy in her large
black eyes as she said, "I believe you--wait a few seconds and I will
prove that I do." She then quitted the room, but did not keep him long
in suspense; on re-entering she placed the parchment in his hands,
saying as she did so, "Remember I now trust you, but beware how you
betray that trust."

He opened the document and glanced over it, to satisfy himself of its
authenticity; his legal experience enabled him to decide at once that it
was genuine. "Eleanor." he then said, taking her hand, "our interests
are now identical, we cannot now but act in concert," and raising her
hand to his lips, he bowed courteously to her and left the room by one
door, while she passed out at another.

"I have carried my point, thought Sir Ralph as he entered his study, and
before this day month I shall have sank both name and title, and be an
alien from my native land."

"I have carried my point at last," exclaimed Mrs. Fraudhurst, as the
door of her dressing room closed behind her; "before this day month I
shall be Lady Coleman and mistress of Vellenaux."

It was late that night ere Sir Ralph retired to rest; before he did so
he had determined on his future career. For years he had striven to
wrest this document from the widow and now with it in his possession, he
lost no time in putting into execution the plans he had for so long a
time been maturing. This was to proceed without delay to London, raise
as large a sum as possible by mortgaging the Vellenaux property to its
fullest extent, then retire to the continent and spend the remainder of
his days in foreign travel, halting from time to time at the different
cities he had visited during the first years of his married life. For in
this mode of living he felt he would be more secure than he could ever
hope to be in England during the life of Mrs. Fraudhurst. It is true
that he could, by fulfiling his promise of marrying the widow, have
sheltered himself from the consequences that might arise should his
share of the concealment of the will ever appear, but he could escape
this alternative by pursuing the course he had marked out for himself.
He was aware that a desperate and revengeful woman like Mrs. Fraudhurst
would leave no stone unturned to bring about the ruin of the man who had
thus deceived and tricked her; but the old lawyer knew that she was
almost powerless to act against him with any chance of success, as the
only two persons interested in the matter were, to the best of his
belief, in India, and likely to remain there for some years at least,
and the only real proof that a will had been made by the late Sir Jasper
Coleman, was now in his possession, viz: the will itself, and her
unsupported testimony would not be taken as evidence in any court of
law; besides, in the transaction she was in the eyes of the law the more
culpable of the two, being the chief instigator of the plot, therefore
it was in a more complacent frame of mind that Sir Ralph, early the
following morning, ere the self-satisfied widow had awakened from those
slumbers that had been during the night partially and pleasantly
disturbed by means of her coming greatness as the wife of a Baronet and
the Lady of Vellenaux, had driven over to Switchem and taken his seat in
the up train for Southampton, in order to consult with the lawyer who
had the management of his estate. After effecting this he started for
London.

He was not naturally a bad man at heart, and had he not been legal heir
to the baronetcy he would never have entered into the conspiracy to
deprive the rightful owner of the property. He had always been of the
opinion that the late Baronet would make a will leaving the principal
portion of his property to his niece, but fancied that he would come in
for a couple of thousand a year, to enable him to support the title; but
finding that his name did not appear in the will, he felt both
disappointed and annoyed beyond measure, and quite ready to acquiesce in
the proposal made him by the intriguing ex-governess.

It was not his wish or intention from the first that the will should be
destroyed, and he had certain scruples of conscience which now
prevented his so doing. During his journey by train he argued the
subject mentally. "They are both young," he thought, his mind reverting
to Miss Effingham and Arthur Carlton, "and will, in all probability,
survive me many years; let them buffet the waves of fortune in their
youth, as I have done, they will then better appreciate their accession
to fortune than they probably would have done, had they come into it at
an earlier stage of their life; besides, who has a better right, during
his lifetime, to enjoy the estate, than the heir to the title. The will
must, of necessity, be found among my papers after my decease, so all
will come right in the end," and with this consoling plea he settled
himself snugly among the cushions of the first-class carriage of the
train that was now leaving Southampton far behind, on its upward course
to London, and soon fell into a doze.

In another carriage were seated two gentlemen conversing in a very
lively and animated strain, and were apparently much interested with
scenery, farm houses, and well trimmed hedges, as the train whirled
past. They were not foreigners by any means, decidedly English in every
look and action; about eight and twenty and thirty, respectively, and
very good looking; the tallest was decidedly handsome; he was dressed in
grey tweed of fine texture. They had entered the carriage at
Southampton. A man of the world would have pat them down, from their
general appearance and the well-bronzed hue of their features, as either
belonging to, or having served in, the military or naval service of
their country; and he would not have been wrong, for they were none
other than Captain Carlton and Assistant-Surgeon Draycott, of H.M. Light
Dragoons, just arrived from India on furlough.

"We are going along at racing speed," said Draycott to his companion,
"but it will hardly keep pace with your impatience to reach London. Gad,
I envy you the possession of so fair a bride. I remember the first time
I met her at Calcutta. I thought her the most loveable girl I had ever
seen; but what chance had a poor devil of an Assistant-Surgeon, only
just arrived in the country, surrounded, as she was, by a set of fellows
old enough to be her father, it is true, but with rupees enough to
freight a Pattima? I suppose that ride through the Goozeratte did the
business for you? She is just the girl to admire that sort of thing."

A suitable reply rose to Arthur's lips, but very different words escaped
him.

"What the devil is that? A collision, by thunder!" exclaimed he, as he
picked himself up from the opposite seat on which he had been thrown by
the violence of the shock. The door, fortunately, had been forced open
by the concussion. Our two travellers jumped out on to the track. Here a
scene of confusion met their view. They had run into a freight train
which was coming from an opposite direction. Women and children were
shrieking for help, mingled with the cries of those injured, with the
loud shouts and vociferations of the employees, and those engaged in
clearing the wreck and getting things into trim again; although a number
were hurt, some slightly, others more seriously, there were none
reported actually killed; and a great number of the passengers were more
frightened than hurt.

"This way," said an official to some four or five men, who were carrying
a gentleman that appeared to be more seriously injured than any of the
rest. "Lay him down softly on that grassy bank;" then raising his voice
called out, "Is there any medhal man at hand?"

"Here, Draycott, although on leave you must come to the rescue. Horrid
bore to be thus detained, is it not," said Arthur, as they hastened to
the spot.

"Fall back there, men, fall back; give the gentleman more air, and let
the doctor pass." At the decided and authoritative tone of Carlton's
voice the crowd, who by this time had gathered around the sufferer, gave
way. The surgeon went to work immediately and examined the unfortunate
man thoroughly. "Bad case," he said in a whisper to Carlton. "Broken
thigh bone, ribs crushed, and something worse internally, I am afraid."
At this moment Carlton got a good look at the features of the injured
man. "Can it be possible! Yes, it is Sir Ralph Coleman!" At the mention
of his name the Baronet opened his eyes and, for a second or two, looked
fully at the speaker, then said with a great effort, for pain had
hitherto kept him silent:

"Yes, Arthur Carlton, it is I. How came you here? Do not leave me." And
here Sir Ralph fainted from loss of blood.

"Is there a public house or farm near?" enquired Carlton.

"Yes," replied one of the bystanders, "there is farmer Wheatley's just
down there in the hollow; they will do what they can for the poor
gentleman."

"I will pay the men well that will carry him there," said Carlton,
addressing a number of farmers' men, who had by this time come up. The
rank of the injured man, and the offer of payment, had a wonderful
effect. A dozen volunteered, at once. A gate was taken off its hinges,
and some of the cushions of the injured carriage placed upon this litter
and, under the direction of Doctor Draycott, Sir Ralph was conveyed to
the farm house in the hollow.

"You seemed to be well acquainted with my patient," said Draycott.

"Oh, yes. He is Sir Ralph Coleman, of Vellenaux. He succeeded to the
title and estate on the death of Sir Jasper, Miss Effingham's uncle, by
which she was left almost penniless. You have heard her history, I
suppose, in India. These things always leak out somehow or other in the
service."

"In that case, my dear fellow, I must go no further than the door with
you. To the best of my belief he will not live more than eight hours,
and I must have other opinion and advice in his case. I think it would
be as well to have the clergyman and a lawyer without loss of time. He
may have something of importance to communicate to you or Miss Effingham
ere he dies, for I have some indistinct notion that I have heard
something very unfavorable spoken about the said Baronet, now I hear the
name again. Let him be got to bed as soon as possible. What is the name
of your nearest town, and the distance to it?" enquired Draycott of the
farmer.

"Fallowfield is about two miles from here, sir. There is a good road and
no one could miss it," was the reply.

"Let me have a horse and I will go myself and get what I require;
Captain Carlton will remain until I return," and the young surgeon was
soon on his way at a hand gallop. In the meantime the good people of the
farm were doing all in their power to render the sufferings of their
wounded guest as little painful as possible; and every attention was
shown him. He spoke but little; but several times asked for Carlton, and
on seeing him only repeated, "Do not leave me yet, Arthur, I may have
something to say concerning you and Miss Effingham."

In less time than could have been expected, Draycott returned,
accompanied by the best surgeon in Fallowfield, the rector, and a lawyer
of good standing in that town. Again the patient was examined, after
which a consultation was held in the farmer's parlour, which lasted
about a quarter of an hour; the medical men then returned to the
bed-chamber.

The Baronet scrutinized their features narrowly as they re-entered the
room. "Oh!" said he, breathing with intense difficulty, "I see there is
no hope for me; but tell me frankly, how long is it your opinion that I
can live?"

"Doctor Draycott and myself," replied the surgeon from Fallowfield--who
being much the senior took the lead--"deem it expedient that you should
send for your man of business as soon as possible," thus evading the
direct question.

Ralph passed his hand across his brow and remained silent a few moments.
"You may do so, but it is too late I am afraid. Get the nearest lawyer
you can, but be quick for my strength is failing fast, and send Captain
Carlton to me at once."

"Arthur," he continued, as the young man advanced, "I have deeply
wronged Edith and yourself: in the breast pocket of that coat yonder is
a paper packet, bring it to me." Arthur obeyed and placed it on the
counterpane. Ralph laid his hand upon it and said, "There is yet time
to make restitution. This is the will of the late Sir Jasper Coleman,
stolen from his desk on the morning of his death. Has the lawyer sent
for yet arrived? If so, I will give my deposition on oath, ere it is too
late: I am not a principal, but an accessory. After the fact--" Here Sir
Ralph fell back on the pillow, and remained motionless several minutes,
during which time the rector and lawyer had been summoned from the
parlor below. The rector being a magistrate undertook to put a few
questions to the dying man before he gave, his testimony. When
sufficiently recovered to speak, the baronet, in a husky voice, related
the whole of his interview with Mrs. Fraudhurst, her production of the
will and the compact entered into between them. The document was sworn
to, signed and duly witnessed by those present.

"Arthur give this will into the hands of Miss Effingham, or her legal
adviser, and obtain her forgiveness for me." This the gallant soldier
faithfully promised to do. The room was then cleared of all except the
rector and the dying baronet. He lingered until sometime after midnight,
and ere the light of another day dawned, his spirit had passed away, and
the baronetcy became extinct.

During the following day Mr. Russell, the agent, arrived, and Arthur, in
the name of Miss Effingham, authorized him to settle all claims, and
have the body of the late Sir Ralph conveyed to Vellenaux for interment.
Having thus arranged matters, Captain Carlton and his friend Draycott
started by the next train for London.



CHAPTER XV.


It was by no means an uncommon occurrence for Sir Ralph to absent
himself from home for a day or two without communicating to any one his
intentions or the direction in which he was going, therefore his absence
at the dinner table in the evening did not excite any misgivings in the
mind of Mrs. Fraudhurst, but his non-appearance at the breakfast table
the following morning caused considerable disquietude to that amiable
person. Hurried on by her ambition she had aimed at too high a prize,
and in so doing had let slip the reins of power. The possession of the
will was the only hold she had ever had on the baronet and now when too
late she perceived, to her dismay, the awkward position in which she
stood. Ever suspicious of the motives of others; she now tormented
herself with apprehensions concerning his absence, and the business that
could have taken him away at that particular time. From the servants she
could gain no information regarding his movements; but it occurred to
her that old Bridoon, the gate-keeper, could throw some light on the
subject, and therefore determined to lose no time in questioning him as
to the direction taken by his master.

The person who had been despatched to Southampton to summon Mr. Russell,
the agent, found the gentleman in question had gone to Vellenaux, and
thinking from what he had overheard that it was a matter of considerable
importance, made no longer delay in that good town than was actually
necessary, but took the first train to Switchem, and from thence on foot
to the lodge gates, and walked quickly up the avenue; when near the lawn
he encountered Mrs. Fraudhurst, who, noticing him to be a stranger and
in haste, accosted him and enquired his business.

"I am looking for Mr. Russell, my lady," was his reply.

"He resides in Southampton; but where have you come from, and who is it
that wishes to see him?"

"Sir Ralph Coleman, my lady, has met with an accident about two miles
from Fallowfield, and is not expected to live long. He has sent for his
agent, and I have been to Southampton, but was told that I should find
him here."

The widow started and turned deadly pale. "He has the will with him,"
she thought.

"I beg pardon, my lady, for being so abrupt,--perhaps you are Lady
Coleman," for he noticed her start and change color.

"Pray go on, my good fellow, and tell me all about that accident, where
the baronet is, and who is with him, and all you know concerning this
sad affair."

The man related all he knew, and something that he had heard. "The
gentleman that sent me for Mr. Russell they called Captain Carlton." At
this name she again started, and, in spite of herself, trembled
perceptibly, but the man went on--

"There was something said about a stolen will, which Sir Ralph wanted to
enquire about, or something of that sort, and I am in great haste."

"Stay one moment. Did you say Sir Ralph was not expected to live?"

"The doctors said he could not last more than a few hours."

By this time she had recovered her presence of mind. "Mr. Russell," she
said, "was here this morning, but has returned to Southampton; you must
have passed him on your way here; return my good fellow as quickly as
you can, and let him know all that you have told me." She gave him a
sovereign and said, "I will be there almost as soon as yourself."

The man took the coin with a bow, and started for the railway station,
and Mrs. Fraudhurst returned to the house, where she well knew Mr.
Russell then was settling home matters with the steward. She went
directly to her own apartment to form plans of immediate action. "Arthur
is in England, Sir Ralph dying, the will found in his possession; he has
made a confession of the whole, implicating me; he must have done so, or
how could that messenger have heard of the stolen will. Idiot that I
was, to trust it out of my own keeping. My only safety is in instant
flight. I must place the wide waste of waters between me and the
consequences that must inevitably await me should I remain here after
the disclosure becomes known throughout the country." She then
commenced to pack up her wardrobe and valuables. Her plan was soon
arranged. She then descended to the drawing room and rang for old
Reynolds, who answered the summons. "Has Mr. Russell left the house?"
she enquired, and on receiving an answer in the negative, desired that
he might be informed that she wished to speak to him, "and return
yourself, Reynolds, for I have something of importance to communicate to
both of you."

In a few minutes the agent entered, she requested him to be seated.
"Reynolds, you too will remain;" then addressing Mr. Russell said, "I
have just received the intelligence that Sir Ralph has met with an
accident, by rail, resulting, I am told, in a broken limb, which may
detain him for some days at the farm house where he now lies; he has
requested me to attend him, and bring such things as I may deem
necessary, and further directs that you will call over and see him
sometime to-morrow." She then gave orders to the butler to pack up
several changes of his master's linen, and underclothing in a large
trunk and have it sent to her room, as she had bandages, flannel, and
other things that it might be necessary to place therein. This was
accordingly done, but as soon as alone she emptied the trunk of its
contents, and filled it with her own apparel. The carriage was then
ordered round, the trunks put in, and Mrs. Fraudhurst, who had found a
home there for upwards of twenty years, left Vellenaux never again to
return to it.

"She has baggage enough for the Seik men of a whole troop," remarked
Bridoon as she passed through the Park gates.

On arriving at the station her first act was to dismiss the carriage,
the next to take a ticket for Exeter, and in a snug hostlery in that
city made an addition to her toilette, then ordered a cab and proceeded
to the principal bank.

"I wish to see the manager," she said, with a condescending smile. The
obsequious cashier led the way to the sanctum, and ushered her in, for
he knew the visitor well, and also knew that opposite her name in the
books of the establishment there was an array of figures, representing
a goodly amount of the current coin of the realm.

In about ten minutes the lady, accompanied by the manager, returned, and
presented a cheque for the full amount of her deposit, which was paid in
gold and notes. This circumstance did not much surprise the banker, for
she had done the same on three or four occasions during the last seven
years, re-depositing the same amount a few hours after. She was then
politely bowed into her cab and was driven off. Having settled her bill
at the hotel, she drove down to the railway station and procured a
ticket for Queenstown, Ireland, and by the time Mr. Russell arrived at
the farm house to attend Sir Ralph, Mrs. Fraudhurst was airing herself
at the Cove of Cork. Her object in misleading the man who had been sent
to acquaint the agent with what had occurred to Sir Ralph, had thus been
effected: that of gaining time to enable her to quit the country before
steps could be taken to arrest her.

"There is not a finer craft swims the ocean than the beauty that lays
out yonder," said a weather-beaten old seaman to a group of sailors,
watermen, and others, who were lounging about the dockhead and
commenting on the merits of a first-class, clipper-built, full rigged
vessel that was lying in the Cove, her sails loosed and the blue Peter
or signal for sailing, flying at the fore.

"You may well say that with your own purty mouth, for it's yourself that
knows that same, Cornelius O'Donovan, for wasn't it yourself that made
the first trip in her, and isn't Captain Costigan a blood relation of
your own, and sure a smarter boy than him that has the handling of her
isn't to be found between this and Bantry Bay."

"It is her fourth trip to the Cape of Good Hope," resumed the first
speaker, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, and preparing to refill it.
Just then a lady, dressed in the height of the prevailing fashion,
advanced, and of one of the party enquired the name of the ship, and the
port to which she was bound.

"The 'Kaffir Chief,' outward bound for the Cape of Good Hope," was the
reply of the waterman who had been addressed. "Shall I put you on board,
my lady?"

"Not at this moment,--but when does she sail?"

"She will up anchor and top her boom at sunset," answered another of the
bystanders.

"They are lowering a boat," said the old tar, who had first spoken, who
was now taking a squint at her through a small pocket telescope; "it is
the skipper coming ashore for his papers, mails, and perhaps to jack up
some stray passengers."

"You would oblige me by telling the Captain that a lady wishes to speak
to him as soon as he lands, and then see if you can manage to drink my
health at yonder little public house," and Mrs. Fraudhurst here held out
a crown piece to the old seaman, who gladly accepted the offered coin.
"What did you say the Captain's name was?" It was immediately given.
"Then be good enough to tell Captain Costigan that he will find me
waiting for him beneath those trees yonder," she said, as she turned and
walked in the direction indicated.

"Pretty spoken woman that; devilish good looting, too; what can she want
with old Castigan?" remarked one of the party.

"Missed her passage in the last ship, perhaps, and wants to know if
there be any room in the 'Kaffir Chief,'" replied another of the
bystanders, "Go over at once to the 'Jolly Sailor'; I will be with you
as soon as I deliver the lady's message, and then we will drink her
health," said the old salt who had received the lady's bounty.

"Captain Costigan, of the 'Kaffir Chief,' I believe," said Mrs.
Fraudhurst as she advanced from under the trees, from whence she had
been watching his approach.

"The same at your service madam," was the reply of the polite seaman, as
he lifted his glazed hat and bowed to the person who addressed him.

"I have, unfortunately, lost my passage in the 'Eastern Monarch,' which
sailed some days since from London, and am anxious to return to the Cape
with as little delay as possible. I noticed in the newspaper that your
vessel was bound to that port,--am I too late, or have you room for
another?" The Captain eyed her for a moment, and apparently satisfied
with his scrutiny, replied:

"I have but few passengers, and there is a first-class berth vacant,
with excellent accommodation. You will I trust take a sailor's word for
that, as the time is short, and I sail at sunset."

"The truth and honesty of our sailors are proverbial," said the lady
with one of her blandest smiles. He then accompanied her to the hotel;
here matters were quickly arranged, the passage money paid down, and
Captain Costigan promised to call for her, and convey her and her
effects on board on his return call. This had been so quietly
managed--no agent or go between employed--that no person, not even the
landlord of the hotel, was aware of her intentions. He was under the
impression that the lady, who occupied two of the best rooms in his
house, would in all probability remain there for the rest of the
summer. This he judged from what she had let fall during a conversation
he had had with her an hour after her arrival, and the worthy man was
quite taken aback when she paid her bill, and leaning on the arm of
Captain Costigan, left his establishment, to take up her quarters on
board the good ship, now lying with her anchor apeak in the offing.

From the quarter deck of the "Kaffir Chief," towards the close of that
beautiful summer day, could be seen a magnificent panoramic view of one
of the finest harbors in Europe, with the purple-tinted hills of Munster
in the distance, and the iron-bound coast standing boldly out on either
side, and beaten with the surges which impetuously dashed against the
rugged steeps. In stormy weather the billows rolled in from the dark
ocean in long arching waves, bursting with a deafening noise on the
beething cliffs, and scattering the salt spray hundreds of feet in the
air. Then again met the eye the fortifications on Spike Island, Convict
Depot, Carlisle Fort, Light House, Camden Fort, Black Point, and the
handsome City of Cork, with its bustling streets and its quays and
docks, crowded with vessels of all nations, presenting a picture well
worth travelling miles to behold. But what a bright change has come over
the spirit of the age, since the days of Elizabeth and religious
persecution, when Cork was made a howling wilderness, because its
inhabitants refused to attend the Protestant places of worship as
ordered by law. Verily, in every country, and in every age, mad
fanaticism has played such pranks before high heaven as to make even the
angels weep for poor humanity. But we live in happier times now, and
enjoy that great blessing, liberty of conscience, to its fullest
extent.

The wind was fair, and, with every sail set, the gallant bark, on the
top of the white crested foam of the rippling waves, floated proudly out
to sea, and was soon hull down in the distance, her tall tapering spars
fading from view, for the bright orb of day had already sank beneath its
ocean bed, and the golden tints of the horizon were fast deepening to
the purple shades of night. There were but three other passengers, an
old Major of Artillery, a merchant of Cape Town, and a juvenile Ensign
of Infantry, going out to join his regiment. There were no other ladies
on board; this was a source of infinite satisfaction to the flying
widow, who, from prudential motives, had engaged her passage under the
name of Mrs. Harcourt Grenville, and fears for her personal safety were
completely set at rest on finding that the news of the accident by rail,
which had cost Sir Ralph Coleman his life, had not reached the ear of
any person on board, and she, herself, was not quite certain but that
her accomplice in fraud might yet survive; if so, her condition was
still very precarious, but she argued that he would scarcely recover, or
he would not have committed himself by making known to the world his
share in the transaction concerning the stolen will, and under the
assumed name, and in a distant land, she would be secure from detection.
She had no intention of remaining at the Cape; her object was to try her
fortune in India, and had only come on board the "Kaffir Chief," as it
afforded her the earliest opportunity for evading pursuit. She was well
aware that she could easily proceed to India from the Cape in one of the
Indiamen that so frequently touched at that port, and so, on the whole,
she felt tolerably easy in her new position, and set to work, with her
usual tact, to make herself agreeable to the Captain and her fellow
travellers. Ensign Winterton she took under her especial protection,
which very much flattered his boyish pride; made considerable headway
with Major Dowlas, who, by the way, was a bachelor; and never failed to
accept the proffered arm of the attentive Captain, when on deck; for
although married and on the wrong side of fifty, being an Irishman and a
Corkonian, he was not insensible to the charms of a handsome woman some
years his junior.

Her account of herself was, that she was the wife of a surgeon at
Graham's Town, had been some time in England, and had spent the spring
and part of the summer in London, and intended to remain at Cape Town
until her husband came for her. She had several thousand pounds, the
savings of some twenty years, dressed with excellent taste, and had
taken such good care of her constitution, that she looked at least ten
years younger than she really was, and felt convinced from all she had
heard and read, that she would experience but little difficulty in
procuring a suitable husband and establishment in one of the Indian
Presidencies, she cared not which, and having no acquaintances in the
army, was not at all likely to be recognized as the ex-governess of
Vellenaux.



CHAPTER XVI.


There was another change that had taken place in the little village of
Vellenaux which has not been brought to the notice of the reader, and
may as well be introduced here as elsewhere, since it must be known
sooner or later. The venerable rector who had performed the last sad
rites over Sir Jasper, did not long survive his old and esteemed friend.
He had been ailing for several months prior to his decease, and had been
assisted in his clerical duties by a Curate, a gentleman of
pre-possessing appearance; about twenty-eight years of age. He appeared
to be eminently qualified for the profession he had chosen, and entered
with spirit and energy upon the various duties that now devolved upon
him; his quiet and unassuming manner gained him the respect of the whole
neighborhood. He read with a clear, distinct tone, and his sermons were
such as had not been heard in Vellenaux for many years. He was always
welcome whenever he visited his parishioners or attended the sick. He
took a very great interest in the Sunday school that had been
inaugurated by Edith who had, on leaving the Willows, transferred that
responsibility to Julia and Emily Barton, and on her sister's marriage
Emily presided over the classes. This just suited one of her tastes and
habits, who was ever ready to perform some errand of mercy to the poor
and the invalid, and was untiring in her efforts to teach the young
children. She had often been thanked by the clergyman for her valuable
assistance, without which, he was wont to observe, he scarcely knew what
he should do.

When the rector was removed from this sublunary sphere, the Rev. Charles
Denham, through the interest of Lord Patronage, whose fag he had been
while at Eton, obtained the vacant rectorship. This was considered by
the good folks of the district to be a fortunate circumstance, and
things went smoothly on as in the good old time. But on the death of her
parents Emily Barton, as the reader already knows, left Vellenaux to
reside in London. The Rev. gentleman did not know which way to turn; he
was sorely puzzled; he had depended so much on Emily that he began to
think seriously of the possibility of being able to induce Miss Barton
to exchange that name for the one of Denham. This matter had been
revolving in his mind for some time past, though he had given no
utterance to his feelings, and now she was about to leave that part of
the country, perhaps for a lengthened period. "If," thought he, "the
Sunday school had Emily at its head, it would materially assist me," and
he felt convinced that the rectory, without a wife to superintend it,
would be, after all, a very lonely place to pass his days in, would she
not consent to undertake the double duties. "I have never spoken to
her," he said musingly, as he paced up and down his study, "but I shall,
when grief for the loss of her parents will allow her to listen to such
a proposal."

On parting with him on the morning of her departure, she was somewhat
embarassed at his altered manner towards her. She could not but notice
his warm pressure of her hand, and his earnestness of manner, when
asking permission to visit her in London.

"My aunt and sister will, I am sure, be always happy to receive you when
in London," she quietly replied, and after a moment's pause, continued:
"I shall likewise still take an interest in the school, and shall be
glad to learn how my little scholars are getting on."

The young rector found it necessary to visit London on several occasions
during the next twelvemonth.

In one of the broad gravelled avenues of Kensington Gardens, slowly
walking beneath the magnificent trees, the soft mossy grass, yellow and
white daisy, bending beneath their footsteps, were two figures,--the one
a gentleman dressed in black, with a white clerical neck-tie, the other
a lady about the medium height, with pretty features, and decidedly
elegant figure, which was set off to advantage by the cut and fit of the
pale lavender silk dress she wore. They were progressing slowly towards
the gate leading into Hyde Park; their conversation was somewhat
interrupted by a knot of passing Guardsmen and other fashionable
loungers, to be again resumed when they were beyond ear shot. They
continued their walk along the bank of the Serpentine, and could the
passer by have peered through the lady's veil, he would have found her
face suffused with blushes at different turns in the conversation, but
they were those of pleasure, for certainly the crimson flush of anger
found no place there. They crossed the Park and passed out at Stanhope
gate and turned in the direction of Berkly square.

"You have made me so happy, dear Emily, since you grant me permission to
speak to your aunt and brother on the subject nearest my heart," and the
Rev. Charles Denham pressed the little hand within his own, made his
bow, and walked in the direction of Harley Street, while Emily Barton
entered the house of her brother Horace.

There is an old saying, familiar to most of us as household words, which
tends to show that the course of true love never does run smooth. Now
with all due deference to the talented authority who promulgated this
startling announcement, we beg to differ with him on the subject. It may
be as he says, as a rule, but our belief is that there are exceptions to
this rule, as well as to others; for we say without fear of
contradiction, that the loves of the pretty Emily Barton and her very
devoted lover, the Rev. Charles Denham, glided smoothly and sweetly
along its unruffled course, until it eventuated in that fountain of
human happiness or misery, marriage. On the lady's side there was no
stern, selfish parent who would burden the young shoulders, and drive
from her path those inmost pleasures so natural to the young and
light-hearted, and cause her to lose her freshness and bloom, by
attending solely to his whims and wishes, or crush her young heart with
hope deferred. There was no ambitious match making mother, ready to
sacrifice the hearts best affections, in order that she might become the
unloved wife of some shallow pated young dandy, with more aristocratic
blood than brains, and a coronet in perspective.

Nor was the reverend lover subjected to any trials of a similar nature;
he was an orphan, with but one near relative, a bachelor Uncle, who was
fond of his nephew, and proud of his talent and the position he had
attained as Rector of Vellenaux. The old gentleman had intended to leave
him his property, amounting to some five thousand pounds, in the five
per cents., at his death; but the kind-hearted relative on learning that
his brother's son had secured so estimable a lady for his wife;
belonging to a family who for so many years had resided in the
neighborhood of Vellenaux, the scene of the young Rector's labours; he
altered his will, placing half of the original sum to Charles Denham's
credit, at Drummond's Bank in London, subject to his cheque or order, so
that the rectory could be furnished and fitted up with all the
requisites befitting the position of the young couple.

It was a right joyous group that gathered around the wedding breakfast
table at 54 Harley Street, on that bright summer morn, that saw Emily
Barton made the happy bride of the equally happy Rector of Vellenaux. A
friendly Bishop tied the connubial knot in one of the most aristocratic
churches in London, and a few hours afterwards Emily and Charles
departed, not by rail, to some uncomfortable foreign hotel, but by
travelling, carriage and post horses to their home at Vellenaux. For the
guests who had assembled to witness the wedding ceremony, there was
another treat in store, they were invited to a ball given in honor of
the occasion by the brother of the bride, at his mansion in Berkly
Square, concerning which more anon.

The term for which the Willows had been rented, now expired, and Horace
determined to no longer delay his departure for Devonshire. This had
been ever in his mind while serving in India. He loved the old place and
there were now fresh inducements for him to give up the house in London,
and repair to the Willows. His brother Tom was married and settled at
Vellenaux, and Emily had just become the wife of the rector, and lived
within a stone's throw of her old home. Thus, with the visits of his
aunt and the Ashburnham's, Pauline would not be without society; besides
he would take her and Edith, whom he now looked upon as a sister, to
London during the height of the gay season, and this he thought would
not fail to please all parties.

Mrs. Barton was to give a farewell entertainment prior to her departure,
which should exceed anything that she had hitherto attempted, and the
evening of the day of Emily's marriage was fixed for the occasion.

It was somewhat late in the afternoon when Captain Carlton and Doctor
Draycott reached London, where the two friends and travelling companions
parted--Draycott for his father's house in Finsbury Pavement, and
Carlton for his hotel in Bond Street. His first idea was to go direct to
Berkly Square and inform Edith and the Bartons of the death of Sir
Ralph, and the declaration he had made concerning the will of the late
Sir Jasper; but while waiting in the coffee room of the hotel, looking
over the morning paper, he chanced to hear the following conversation
between two gentlemen standing at the bow window that looked out on the
street.

"And so the Bartons give their farewell spread this evening? Are you
going?"

"Well, I rather think so," was the other's reply. "It is a thousand
pities, however, to bury that lovely woman, Miss Effingham, in the
country. There is not her equal in town. If she only had a decent
allowance of cash or other property, she would have been sought for by a
Coronet, you may depend on that."

"But I heard," continued his friend, "that she was engaged to an Indian
Officer, who is expected in England shortly," and with these words they
passed out into the street.

On hearing this, Arthur determined to defer his visit a few hours
longer. There was a great rush of vehicles that night on the South side
of Berkly Square. The heavy family carriage, with its sleek horses,
driven at a sober pace by old John, the dashing curricle and smart
barouche, with the elegant private cab with its busy little Tiger in top
boots, whose single arm stops the thorough bred animal when his master
drops the reins.

"Is them 'ere hangels," enquired the butcher boy of his crony, Tom
Drops, the pot boy at the Crown and Sceptre, just round the corner, as
the two young ladies, who had acted in the character of bridesmaids in
the morning, stepped from their carriage on to the Indian matting which
had been stretched across the pavement to the hall steps, all tarletan
and rose buds, and ascended the grand staircase leading to the ball
room.

"Well, if they ain't they ought to be," was the response of Tom Drops.
At this moment a very stout and elaborately turbaned Dowager passed
slowly from her brougham along the matting and entered the hall.

"Is she a hangel too, do you think? Don't look much like one now,"
enquired the young butcher.

"In course not," said Tom, "they loses all the hangel when they marries,
leastways so I have heard. But who it this swell? he is bang up to the
mark; he's a horse sojer I knows, and a ossifer," as the embroidered
sabretache of Captain Carlton met his view while ascending the hall
steps. "Well, I am off," said one to the other and the two lads went
their way.

"Show me into the library, and hand this card to Miss Effingham," said
Arthur to a servant at the foot of the staircase. The footman first
looked at him, then at the name on the card, then said, with a low bow,
"Certainly, sir, certainly," and ushered the Captain to rather a snug
little apartment which was used as a library. Edith was dancing when the
footman entered. On the conclusion of the waltz he approached and
quietly handed her the card. A flush of pleasure lit up her beautiful
features, and joy sparkled in her brilliant eyes, as she read the name,
and without a word to any one, followed the servant and passed straight
to the room where her lover waited for her. We will pass over the
transports of their first meeting,--it can be easily imagined, as the
reader, is already aware of their engagement, and that he had returned
to England for the sole purpose of their union. After the emotion of the
first few moments had subsided Arthur related to her the accident by
which Sir Ralph had been killed, and of the existence of her uncle's
will, and the way it had been stolen by Mrs. Fraudhurst, and Sir Ralph's
complicity in the plot.

A feeling of regret at the untimely end of the unhappy man, as he had
been hurried into eternity without preparation, came over her for a few
moments, this was chased away by indignation at the fraudulent and base
part that had been played by her late governess and companion. "What has
become of her?" she inquired.

"Decamped, and no doubt fled the country ere this; all that is known of
her is that she left Vellenaux on the plea of rendering all the
assistance in her power to Sir Ralph, but she did not make her
appearance in that neighbourhood," was Arthur's answer. The reader knows
more of her movements than any of her acquaintances at Vellenaux or
London.

"And we shall have dear old Vellenaux to live in. Oh! Arthur dear, I am
so happy, with all the friends I hold most dear on earth residing around
us. You will of course leave the service now? How kind of my poor, dear
uncle to think of us both in his will. But Mrs. Barton may notice my
absence, and become uneasy, so let us return;" and in another moment or
two, leaning on the arm of her handsome affianced husband, Edith
re-entered the ball room, much to the relief and surprise of Pauline
Barton. Arthur Carlton took an opportunity during the evening of
relating to Mr. Barton the change that had taken place in Edith's
circumstances by the death of, and disclosures made by, the late
Baronet.

"Meet me at breakfast in the morning, and we will consult as to what
immediate steps should be taken on this extraordinary occasion; but of
course you will sleep here," said Horace. Arthur assented, and was soon
again at Edith's side, who had told confidentially to Mrs. Barton all
that he had told her: and that little lady could not restrain her
delight, and before eleven o'clock that evening, every one in the room
became aware that the beautiful Miss Effingham was worth twenty thousand
pounds a year as heiress of Vellenaux.

Mr. and Mrs. Denham, previous to the ball, took their departure for
Devonshire, and were comfortably settled in the Rectory before Horace
returned to the Willows. He had postponed their journey in order that
Arthur and Edith might have the benefit of his advice and assistance in
such matters as might arise during the establishment of their claims,
set forth in the will of the late Sir Jasper, now produced.

Mr. Septimus Jones was a lawyer of good repute, carrying on his practice
now, and had been doing so for upwards of fifteen years in the main
street of Hammersmith leading to the Suspension Bridge.

"Nicholas," said that gentleman one morning, as he laid on his desk a
copy of the _Times_ newspaper, which he had been carefully perusing for
upwards of an hour, "Nicholas, do you remember a youth named Edward
Crowquill, that I had in my office some ten years since?"

The old and confidential clerk ceased writing, and thrusting his pen
behind his ear, rubbed his hands softly together, and said, "Most
certainly I do. He was not fit for the business, and gave it up through
ill health; studied medicine for a time, and is now a chemist and
druggist, residing some hundred yards down the street."

"Exactly so," replied his employer, "you will be good enough to put on
your hat and go and request him to do me the favor to step up here for a
few moments." Nicholas did his master's bidding, and returned shortly,
accompanied by Mr. Crowquill. Mr. Jones, after requesting him to be
seated, and directing his clerk to pay attention, took up the newspaper,
and read, in a clear voice the following advertisement: "To Lawyers and
otters.--If the party who drew the will of the late Sir Jasper Coleman
of Vellenaux, Devonshire, and those who witnessed the same document some
ten years ago, will call at the office of Messrs. Deeds, Chancery, and
Deeds, Solicitors, Gray's Inn Lane, they will be handsomely rewarded for
their trouble." "Now, gentlemen," continued he, "I drew this will, and
you both witnessed it. Do you both remember the circumstance." After a
little reflection they both recollected the circumstance.

"Oh! since you have not forgotten the occurrence, I will show you a
rough draft of the will which I made at the time, and by reading this it
will refresh your memories, and you will be better able to swear to the
real will if it should be produced."

"When do you purpose calling upon the Solicitors?" enquired Crowquill.

"To-morrow morning we will call for you on our road to town," replied
Mr. Jones, politely bowing his visitor out of the office.



CHAPTER XVII.


Of the early history of Sir Lexicon Chutny very little was known. He was
of Dutch extraction that was obvious, had served for a time in the
Madras Civil Service, but on acquiring a large property by the death of
a distant relative, he retired from that service and settled on one of
his plantations in Pallamcotta. How he obtained his title no one knew or
enquired, his relative, now deceased, was so called, and in his will he
directed that his heir should assume his name and rank. He was
thoroughly Indian in his tastes and habits, sensual and self indulgent;
saw very little European society, and report said that he had several
native mistresses, and was reputed very wealthy. He had never married,
for European ladies at that period were rarely to be met with in
Pallamcotta. It must have been business of no ordinary importance to
induce him to leave the land wherein he had been born, to visit Hamburg,
where he made his stay as short as possible. He was not favorably
impressed with the Frauleins and fair-haired daughters of Holland, and
was now returning home in the "Great Mogul," a Dutch Indiaman bound to
Madras.

"Wreck on the lee bow!" shouted a look out from the mast-head. This
excited quite a commotion on deck, from whence the object was soon
discernable through the telescope, and soon after by the naked eye. The
ship's course was altered and she bore down upon the unfortunate craft
to render such assistance as might be necessary. She proved to be the
ship "Kaffir Chief," from Cork, bound to the Cape; she had been
dismasted in one of those terrific storms which so frequently occur in
these latitudes, and was now lying completely water-logged on the bosom
of the treacherous ocean. The day previous to the wreck had been
remarkably fine, but as night closed in the wind rose and continued to
increase until it blew a perfect hurricane. In spite of the utmost
exertions of the crew the sails were blown clear of the bolt ropes,
yards and spars were carried away, when the foremast went by the board
and the main topmast fell with a crash into the sea, seventeen of the
crew were hurled into the wild waste of waters. A little before daylight
a tremendous sea struck her stern, unshipping the rudder, carrying away
the wheel, round-house and lockers, rendering her unmanageable, and she
was tossed helplessly like a log upon the mighty billows. As the day
broke the storm somewhat subsided, a scene of wild desolation was
realized by those on board the unfortunate vessel, as the flashes of
broad sheet lightning, with which the heavy clouds were surcharged,
occasionally shot forth. The scene was startling and terrific, the wild
waves were breaking over her and three more of the crew were swept
overboard. As the light increased the sea began gradually to go down,
and spars and pieces of wreck were seen floating all around, lifted upon
the surging waves, to which some of the unfortunate seamen had clung
with the grasp of despair, only to be again thrown into the dark trough
of the sea to rise no more.

Although the hurricane had subsided, so much water had been shipped that
the pumps had to be kept continually going to prevent the hull from
going down: to this laborious task all had to exert themselves to the
utmost, and only by this means could the ship be kept afloat. The
self-styled Mrs. Grenville rendered good service in this hour of peril,
she voluntarily took the place of the steward, now called to the pumps,
and served out rations of biscuits and spirits to all hands, nor did she
forget herself on the occasion. The danger of her position appeared in
no way to appal her, and having to undergo no bodily fatigue beyond her
strength, she was very little affected by the disasters and hardships of
the past few days. Such of the officers and crew as had not been
swallowed up by the boiling surf were in a very weak and exhausted
condition, owing to their great labor at the pumps, when rescued from
their perilous position by the boats of the "Great Mogul." These
particulars were gathered from time to time from some of the crew, but
from Mrs. Grenville a more detailed account of the wreck was obtained.
That lady thought it necessary to keep to her cabin for the first week,
during which time she had to sketch out a fresh plan of action for the
future.

This she soon effected, having received all the required information
from the little fat Dutch stewardess concerning the ship, its
destination, and the names and positions of the passengers.

"My dear madam," said the polite Captain, addressing Mrs. Grenville,
"you really must allow me to recommend you to try an airing on the
quarter deck this beautiful morning; after the long seclusion of your
cabin you will, I am sure, find it both agreeable and refreshing." In a
graceful manner, and with a pleasing smile, she replied,

"I shall be happy to adopt your suggestion Captain Hanstein, and if it
is not interfering with your professional duties, may I request the
favour of your arm for a promenade, as I feel scarcely equal to the
effort unattended."

The Captain bowed and assisted the lady to the quarterdeck.

The Indigo planter, who had sat opposite Mrs. Grenville at breakfast,
felt somewhat annoyed that he had not solicited the pleasure of
accompanying the lady in her walk on deck; he had been struck with her
appearance at first sight, for the widow knowing the effect of first
impressions, had been exceedingly careful with her toilette that
morning, and certainly did look her best.

Sir Lexicon had never yet seen any one who came up to his idea of a
handsome woman, until he encountered Mrs. Grenville that morning; her
curling dark hair, superb neck and shoulders, stately figure and
sparkling black eyes, and well modulated voice fascinated him, as no
woman as yet ever had done. She was not young, it is true; but this he
regarded as fortunate. She was still some years younger than Sir
Lexicon; but as to who or what she was he was a stranger; but this he
was determined to ascertain if possible, and betook himself on deck for
the purpose. As the professional duties of the Captain called him for a
time away, he took his place beside the lady and endeavoured to interest
her in his conversation. He found her charmingly condescending, and
apparently frank and friendly in her remarks, and after about an hour's
chit chat allowed him to conduct her to her state room.

Poor Captain Costigan had been killed by a falling spar and knocked
overboard. The remainder of the crew and passengers that had been
rescued from their precarious situation on the wreck had been on board
the "Great Mogul" about a couple of weeks, when she let go her anchor in
Table Bay. These, with the exception of Mrs. Grenville, went on shore in
the first boat that came off to the ship. She, that morning, had an
interview with Captain Hanstein, and some hours after the others had
left, the obliging Captain took her ashore in his own boat, in which
also sat Sir Lexicon Chutny. He put up at the same hotel as Mrs.
Grenville, and was seen escorting her about Cape Town.

The "Mogul" remained only two days at the Cape, then resumed her voyage,
and Mrs. Grenville, the Captain, and Sir Lexicon Chutny, could be seen
pacing her quarterdeck as she sailed out of the bay, unquestionably
enjoying, with much pleasure, the clear, balmy, and exhilarating breeze
of the early day, which, with the assistance of the sun's rays, was
lifting from the table land on the summit of the great mountain, called
occasionally Table Rock. A large, heavy, white cloud that frequently
spread itself over the whole surface, resembling very much in appearance
an enormous table cloth, hence the origin of the name. This remarkable
mountain is steep, rugged and precipitous, and towers up hundreds of
feet towards the clear, blue vault of heaven. Very little brushwood or
vegetation is to be found thereon. At its base, snugly ensconced under
its protecting shade, is situated Cape Town, looking quite pretty and
picturesque as the day dawns and the rising sun appears. There are two
other smaller elevations in close proximity to the Table Rock, not
without interest, and called respectively the Lion's Head and Lion's
Rump, possibly because they are connected together by a ridge of rock,
which, to the imaginative mind, gives it the appearance of an enormous
lion, sleeping. The other objects of interest and the shipping in the
harbor were soon left far astern.

As they were sweeping out to sea, the Captain could, by the aid of his
glass, clearly distinguish the signal that was flying from the
flagstaff, situated on the lofty eminence mentioned before, as the
Lion's Rump signalling station, announcing the approach of an English
vessel from London. On hearing this the lady's face changed to an ashen
hue, and she trembled slightly. It was for an instant only; her strong
will conquered the emotion, and with her feelings now under perfect
control, she was again conversing and smiling in the most charming
manner until luncheon was announced, to which she was conducted by Sir
Lexicon, and while thus engaged she felt that she had good cause to
rejoice that a fine swelling breeze was carrying her rapidly away from
the Cape of Good Hope; for, doubtless, the newspapers brought out by the
new arrival, contained a full account of Sir Ralph's death, and her own
flight from the country, and it was quite possible that some suspicion
might have fallen upon her, had she remained a day longer at Cape Town.

The wealthy planter of Pallamcotta was not the only person on board who
had become infatuated with the lively widow; for in fact Captain
Hanstein, the honest-hearted seaman had been caught in her toils. He had
believed every word that had been confidentially told him by Mrs.
Grenville, her position in life, and her reason for visiting the Cape
and Madras. Of course there was scarcely a grain of truth in the whole
statement. She was not long in discovering the Captain's weak point, and
rather encouraged him than otherwise, but had no notion of engaging
herself to the fat honest Dutch skipper. Far from it, but she thought it
necessary to her project to mislead him on that point. This unscrupulous
and ambitious woman cared not how she wounded the feelings of others, if
she thought by so doing it would further her own interest. She was
determined to secure Sir Lexicon as a husband, and thus become Lady
Chutny; and so skillfully did she angle, and played her cards with such
great tact, that there was very little doubt of her succeeding.

The Dutch are naturally slow of action, and the planter's wooing was of
a rather passive character, and his attention to the lady did not excite
the suspicion of her other admirer, who did not think it would be
necessary to pop the momentous question until she was about to leave the
ship on reaching Madras. That Sir Lexicon was somewhat piqued at the
marked attention paid to her by that good-natured sailor was quite
evident, and was exactly what the widow had anticipated and desired. She
played both lovers off, one against the other, and the result proved
that her theory and practice were correct; for Sir Lexicon took
advantage of an opportunity that was afforded him one afternoon while
playing chess with Mrs. Grenville in the after cabin. They were quite
alone, and during a pause in the game, he formally made her an offer of
marriage, which, after a little skillful beating about the bush, she
accepted, but on the condition that nothing should be said about the
subject to any one on board. This was agreed to, and the game continued.
There were other passengers on board, but, as they are in no way
connected with our story, it would be needless to particularize them.

On the vessel reaching her destination, the gallant Captain mastered up
courage, and boldly and in a straightforward manner, asked Mrs.
Grenville to become his wife. The lady listened to him with polite
attention, and said in reply:

"Captain Hanstein, I should be very sorry if any act of mine has led you
to believe that I looked upon you in any other light than that of a
friend, from whom I have received many acts of kindness. I regret to
pain you by a refusal, but it must be so, for I now tell you in strict
confidence that I am engaged to Sir Lexicon Chutny." Then with a smile
and a graceful bend of the head, she left the bewildered Captain to his
own reflections; and shortly after, attended by Sir Lexicon, quitted the
ship.

After a sufficient time for procuring all the necessary paraphernalia
considered indispensable on such occasions had elapsed, the marriage was
celebrated in the Cathedral at Madras, and the ambitious views of the
mercenary woman were at length realized. "She could" she thought "play
the great lady in Pallamcotta, and somewhat astonish the good folks at
the Capital by the brilliancy of her entertainments periodically, for
Sir Lexicon, although self-indulgent, was by no means of a miserly turn,
and would, for a time at least, feel a certain pleasure at the
admiration that would be excited by the splendour of her ladyship's
assemblies."

Their stay at the Capital, on this occasion, was but of short duration,
as Sir Lexicon was anxious to return to Pallamcotta to finally arrange
the business that had taken him to Hamburg. To this arrangement her
ladyship made no objection, it suited her views exactly; her idea was,
that her advent in India should become known to the gay and fashionable
butterflies of the Presidency as quietly and gradually as might be. It
was necessary that they should be aware there was such a person as Lady
Chutny in existence; but for the present she would be heard of only and
not seen, so that when she appeared among them and threw open her
splendid rooms for balls and other entertainments it would be considered
a matter of course, a thing to be expected from the wife of so wealthy a
man as Sir Lexicon was reputed to be. Her ladyship's theory was the
correct one, for by acting in this manner she would be relieved from the
hubbub and cry of "Who is she?" and "Where does she come from?" that
would consequently follow, should she at once rush into the vortex of
fashionable life. She had no intention of burying herself at
Pallamcotta, now that she had attained the position for which she had
risked so much. She had played her cards boldly and unscrupulously, and,
during the shuffle had twice nearly come to ruin; but she had now, she
believed, won the odd trick that would secure her the game, and she
resolutely determined to hold on to the stakes thus acquired. From the
retrospect of her past life she turned herself steadfastly away, and
looked only into the brilliant future, which she fancied was opening
before her. What was there to fear? There was no one in India who could
recognize her, or knew anything of her antecedents. Edith and Arthur had
returned to England; restitution had been made and justice done them by
the unlooked for death of Sir Ralph Coleman. He was the chief culprit;
she merely an accessory, acting under his direction and guidance; and,
now that she had placed oceans between her and the scene of their crime,
nothing, she argued, could transpire to mar her triumph, and, laying
this flattering unction to her soul, her ladyship prepared for her
journey with a buoyancy of spirit that astonished even herself.

Lady Chutny found the establishment at Pallamcotta very different from
what she had anticipated. So unlike the Bungalows of rich civilians at
the Capital, where all was order and quiet, and the gardens well kept.
Here everything was slovenly and in confusion, only a small quantity of
the furniture that had lately arrived from Madras had been unpacked, and
this was strewn about the drawing-room and sleeping apartments without
the least attempt at arrangement. The Bungalow had been originally a
very handsome one, but from indolence and carelessness had been allowed
to fall into a partially dilapidated state. The only covering to the
floors of the large, handsome apartments was the common matting of the
country. The same was the case in the broad and spacious verandahs, up
to which the rank vegetation of the compound--for garden there was
none--spread their creeping fibres in wild luxuriance. But her ladyship
offered no ungracious remark on the state of things, but simply
requested her husband to summon the whole of the servants and, in her
presence, inform them that she was their mistress, and to be obeyed in
everything, without remark or hesitation. This was done, and in
forty-eight hours she had completely revolutionized the whole
establishment.

Fifty of the plantation hands were employed in clearing up the compound,
forming a garden and a lawn, while the edges of the verandah were lined
with pots of the most magnificent plants and fragrant flowers that could
be obtained, and before she had been in her new home one week,
everything was in complete order.

She had heard it reported previous to her leaving the capital that Sir
Lexicon had several native mistresses at his different plantations, and
by her ayah or lady's maid, a Madrasse who could speak English, these
stories were confirmed, and she determined to govern herself
accordingly, fully believing that her husband would have the good sense
to remove any such persons as might be at the Bungalow in Pallamcotta
before her arrival. Caring nothing personally for Sir Lexicon, it gave
her little or no concern whether he chose to keep native ladies at the
other plantations or not, but she certainly did not intend that any of
them should reside under the same roof with herself, therefore she was
much annoyed and disgusted to find that her husband had not thought it
necessary to give any orders concerning their removal, and she had only
been a few days at Pallamcotta, when she learned that there were three
Circassian beauties sumptuously cared for and absolutely residing in
apartments fitted up for them; though not actually in the Bungalow, they
communicated with it by means of a short covered way leading from the
back drawing-room.

Taking advantage of Sir Lexicon's absence shortly after, she sent for
the head servant, who dared not disobey her orders, and desired him to
have the ladies turned out of their quarters and expelled from the
premises, and their rooms put to another use.

This was accordingly done and they were afforded shelter and protection
at the house of the overseer of the plantation, but at some distance
from the Bungalow.

The history of these Circassian girls was anything but an uncommon one
in many parts of the country thirty or forty years ago.

Their father, a horse-dealer, had been lured by the glowing accounts of
the fortunes that were to be made at the different Presidencies of
India, by a traffic in horses, and he determined to test the truth of
the reports, and, if possible, to enrich himself by means of his
beautiful steeds, of which he had several; but this proved a ruinous
speculation, for ere he reached Bombay he lost two of the most valuable,
and being totally unacquainted with the tricks and chicanaries so
frequently resorted to by Europeans and others in the racing stables and
on the turf, he fell an easy prey to some of the sharpers that usually
infest the race course, so that by the end of the season he had not only
lost every horse that he brought with him, but likewise every rupee he
possessed. There were few of his countrymen on the Island, and they
either could not or would not assist him to return to Circassia. He had
brought with him, to see the wonders of the chief cities of the three
Presidencies, his wife and three daughters, the eldest only seventeen,
the youngest about fourteen. In his extremity he turned to the old
Eastern custom, still prevalent, that of selling his children; he had
applied to several European and native gentlemen, with whom he had
become acquainted on the turf, but without success. At length he fell in
with Sir Lexicon Chutny, to whom he had lost large sums of money during
that gentleman's visit to the Island. Here he found no difficulty, Sir
Lexicon having seen the beauty of the girls, and being assured by them
that, under the circumstances, they did not object to the transaction.
He used this precaution, well knowing, although they did not, that he
could not hold them to their bargain one moment after the purchase money
was paid, should they claim the protection of the police authorities;
besides, the poor girls had heard of similar cases to their own, in
their far distant home, and thought it must be so elsewhere. So the
arrangement was quickly completed, the horse dealer and his wife having
accepted the twenty-four hundred rupees, the price agreed upon for their
children, departed homeward. Nor did Sir Lexicon delay an hour longer
than was actually necessary in the Presidency of Bombay, but hastened
with all speed towards his estate at Pallamcotta, in Madras, taking his
fair bargains with him.

Here they dwelt in perfect harmony, their lives embittered by no petty
jealousies, and wonderfully attentive to their lord and master, over
whom they possessed considerable influence when they chose to exert it.
There was not a servant on the plantation but would have been discharged
had they dared to disobey any orders given by either, whether their
master was at home or abroad. For nearly four years this state of things
had existed, when lady Chutny's arrival totally altered the aspect of
everything, and created quite a hurricane of passion in the hitherto
quiet household, by driving the favorites forth with flashing eyes,
hatred in their hearts, and thirsting for vengeance on their hated
rival.

Lady Chutny had resided at Pallamcotta some six or seven weeks, and
began to think that the term of her probation had lasted quite long
enough for the purpose for which she had immured herself in the country,
and at length determined to visit the Capital. Her husband had
successfully, though unwittingly, paved the way for her reception among
the _cream de la cream_ of society; being a man of wealth, and likewise
a sporting character, he had the privilege of the entree to many of the
best houses in the city, and was always hand and glove with most of the
staff and other officers, both military and naval, who were glad to
welcome him at their mess-room or club-houses. Like a child with a new
doll, he was proud of his handsome wife, and could not refrain from
dropping a word here and there concerning her. The old Bungalow had,
under her direction, been restored to its ancient splendour. It was her
ladyship's intention to come up to town shortly, and give a series of
balls and receptions, when she would be much pleased to receive his
friends; and by this means Lady Chutny's advent among the big bugs at
Madras, was quietly heralded without the slightest effort or ostentation
on her part.



CHAPTER XVIII.


The firm of Deeds, Chancery and Deeds, of Gray's Inn Lane, the
Solicitors employed by Horace Barton, on behalf of Miss Effingham, and
who had caused to be inserted in the _Times_ newspaper the advertisement
alluded to in a previous chapter, had not long to wait for the
information sought after. For on the following morning Mr. Septimus
Jones, Mr. Crowquill and the firm clerk, presented themselves at the
office in Gray's Inn Lane. The rough draft was produced, and the will of
the late Sir Jasper Coleman, brought to London by Arthur Carlton, and
now in the hands of the Gray's Inn lawyers, compared with it, and after
careful scrutiny it was declared to be the identical will drawn by the
Hammersmith lawyer, and witnessed by his two clerks several years ago;
this was duly sworn to, and certain other documentary evidence taken
down, and the three gentlemen returned to their homes in Hammersmith,
each twenty guineas richer than when he had left it in the morning.

Now, although there was no one to contest the will, yet there were
certain legal technicalities and forms to be gone through before Edith
could take formal possession of Vellenaux, besides these same lawyers
had been empowered to draw up the marriage contract, settlements, etc.,
between her and Arthur, the doing of which would take a considerable
time, much longer perhaps than the ardent lover might think necessary.
Edith would not hear of her dear Arthur remaining in the service after
their marriage; so arrangements were made for the selling of his
commission; this sum, together with the amount bequeathed to him by the
late Sir Jasper, would put him in possession of seven thousand pounds.

It was planned that the wedding should take place at the old fashioned
church at Vellenaux. There was to be no wedding tour, but the bridal
party and a large number of friends were to proceed to Castle Audly, the
seat of Lord De Belton, who had served in Arthur's regiment, and had
been intimately acquainted with him for a few years in India. Castle
Audly was a very ancient and romantic pile, and quite the show place of
the country, here there was to be a magnificent _Fete Champetre,
Dejeuner a la fourchette_, with archery and other amusements provided by
the noble owner; the whole party were to return and dine at Vellenaux,
and wind up the entertainment by a grand ball at night.

"Of course, my dear Carlton," said Horace Barton to that young gentleman
one afternoon while lounging in the drawing room in Berkly Square
waiting to attend the fair Edith in a canter through Hyde Park, "of
course you will stand for the county at the next general election? Sir
Sampson French, who is too old to again take office, will, I am certain,
retire in your favour, if you will only come forward as a candidate; you
have plenty of friends and admirers in and around Vellenaux to ensure
your return if properly canvassed. A man of your ability and standing in
society cannot afford to remain idle at such a time, though he may have
a rich wife to back him."

"I should like to get into Parliament above all things, and certainly
shall endeavour so to do, providing Edith gives her consent, and the
good folks of the county will give me their support," was Arthur's reply
as the lady of his love made her appearance equipped for the ride.

It had been the intention of the Bartons, to return to Devonshire
immediately after, the ball in Berkly Square, but the sudden appearance
of Captain Carlton with the startling announcement of the accidental
death of Sir Ralph Coleman and the disclosures made by the unhappy man
ere he breathed his last, caused them to put off their intended
departure for some weeks, until matters were _en train_ for establishing
the validity of Edith's claim to the estate of her late uncle.

Aunt Cotterell and her good humored husband had, without the knowledge of
any of their friends, built a handsome house on the bank of the brook
which ran between Tom Bartons and the rectory; besides this, Mrs.
Ashburnham had confidently whispered to Cousin Kate that her dear
William was about to give up his practice which, for the last fifteen
years, he had labored at so assiduously and successfully, and that he
was now actually arranging for the purchase of that very pretty villa
and grounds just beyond the Willows, as its owner, Sir Edmund Wildacres
had, by racing and other gambling proclivities, managed to run through
and overdraw his cash account at his bankers, so that his landed
property had to come to the hammer, and, the young spendthrift was about
to retire to some cheap Continental watering place until some of his
antiquated relatives should be condescending enough to shuffle off this
mortal coil and resign their purses and property to his careful
control. And with Edith and Arthur settled at Vellenaux, there would be
formed at once a happy circle, bound together by ties of family
affection and disinterested friendship, and with such supporters as
these to canvass his cause, Arthur's return, as County member, might be
looked upon as amounting almost to a certainty.

The lovers did not fail to take advantage of the extension of time to be
spent in the great metropolis, and balls parties, operas, and galleries
of the arts and sciences, exhibitions of pictures and such other
amusements as best suited the tastes and inclinations of these two, for
the time being, devoted votaries of pleasures, were visited. There was
another most important matter that had to be attended to, and this was
one that entailed numberless visits to and from Madam Carsand's in Bond
street, Store & Martimer's, Waterloo Place, and other fashionable
emporiums, where the numerous articles, indispensable to the trousseau
and toilette of a young and beautiful heiress.

It will be remembered that in the search for the Begum of Runjetpoora,
Carlton had brought away with him in his sabretache a small steel casket
as a trophy; after his return from the fort, and while dressing for
mess, he remembered this circumstance, and was about to open and examine
the casket and had already taken it in his hand for that purpose, when
footsteps were heard approaching the tent, and not wishing others, to
see his little prize he carelessly tossed it into an open trunk, among
his wearing apparel, where it remained undisturbed until after his
arrival in England, when, in looking over his wardrobe he came across
the identical casket which had lain there so long and by him quite
forgotten. Unable without the key to open it himself, he sent for a
locksmith, who, in a very short time caused the lid to spring open,
when, to Arthur's surprise and delight it was found to contain a number
of precious stones of great value, in fact it was the Begum's jewel
case, containing diamonds of the first water, rubies of unusual size,
and pearls of great price, which, on being taken to a jeweler, proved to
be worth, somewhere about ten thousand pounds. Arthur, although by no
means a man of business habits, knew enough to convince him that this
sum, together with the five thousand pounds left him by Sir Jasper
Coleman, with what might be realized by the sale of his commission, if
properly invested, would secure to him an income of not less than twelve
hundred a year, a very pretty sum for a man to have of his own for
pocket money, although his wife should happen to possess twenty thousand
a year. He determined to carry out this arrangement as soon as any
suitable opportunity for so doing came to his knowledge, but with the
exception of Draycott he told no one of the Begum's jewels, or his
intentions concerning their disposal.



CHAPTER XIX.


The happy, light Dragoon, in order to be near the lady of his love, had
taken up his quarters at Harold's Hotel, in Albermarle Street, a very
quiet, but aristocratic place, leading into Picadilly. Beyond the
Bartons and their family circle, he had few intimate friends, in fact,
except Draycott, the surgeon of his regiment, with whom he had been on
the most intimate terms for years in India, and to whom he revealed all
his joys and sorrows, there was not one male friend he cared a jot for
in London; of course the men of his club, and those he had met abroad,
who, like himself, were now home on leave, dropped in upon him
occasionally at his rooms; but his constant visitor and companion in his
peregrinations through the labyrinths of the great Babylon during the
height of a London season, was Draycott: he was young, clever, high
principled, thoroughly good natured, and of an old county family. He had
but once only paid a flying visit to the metropolis previous to joining
his regiment in India, and now having a few pounds to spare, was
determined to enjoy himself in the gay Capital to his heart's content,
and whenever practicable, induced Arthur to give him his society.

They had been breakfasting together, one morning in the latter's
apartment, and were discussing numerous scenes and things at home and
abroad in which they had both participated; nor was Arthur's
approaching marriage with Edith Effingham, and his idea of leaving the
service, left uncommented upon by his old friend.

"Well," remarked Draycott, with a gay, good natured laugh, "after your
adventures and hair-breadth escapes, together with your great good luck
in winning the beautiful heiress, it would not surprise me in the least
if some old fairy godmother dropped from the clouds and transformed you
into a gallant young Prince of some beautiful isle of the sea, yielding
untold wealth, like the isle of the famous Count de Monte Cristo." Here
the conversation was interrupted by the entrance of the waiter, who
handed Arthur a card, which announced that a Mr. A.G. Capias, of the
firm of Docket & Capias, Solicitors, Bedford Row, desired to speak with
him on business of a private character.

"More parchment and red tape work cut out for you to-day," remarked the
surgeon, "so I am off, but will drop in later in the day."

"Now, my good fellow, oblige me by remaining where you are until this
matter--be it what it may--is disposed of, and I will then stroll out
with you," said Carlton. Then, turning to the waiter, said, "Show the
gentleman up at once." The obsequious attendant bowed and withdrew.

In a few moments the door was thrown open, and a spruce, dapper looking
gentleman, clothed in sombre colored garments, irreproachable linen, and
carrying a small merino bag in his hand, was ushered in.

"I believe I have the pleasure of speaking to Captain Arthur Carlton of
H.M. Light Dragoons," said that individual, as he advanced towards the
table, at which the two friends were seated.

"Late of the Light Dragoons," replied Carlton, "for I have sold out--or,
what amounts to the same thing, I have directed the Army Agent to do
so"--pointing as he spoke to a vacant chair.

The man of law availing himself of this piece of politeness took the
chair, placing his bag on the carpet at his feet.

"And what may be your pleasure or business with me? You may speak out,"
said Carlton, noticing the glance that his visitor threw at the surgeon,
"that gentleman is my most intimate friend and brother officer."

"I have a few questions to ask concerning your father and grandfather,
the answering of which may lead to something, I have no doubt, will, at
no distant date, prove of much importance to you and yours," was the
reply.

"Proceed then," said Arthur, "with your interrogations, and I will reply
to the best of my ability, though I must candidly confess that I know
very little of the early history of my father, and still less of my
grandfather, for they both spent so many years abroad, in India and on
the European Continent."

Mr. Capias hereupon drew from his bag a small bundle of letters and
papers and arranged them on the table in front of him, then commenced
his enquiries as follows:

"Will you be so good as to state the name and position of your father,
his place of birth, the school or college where he was educated, and the
place of residence at his decease."

"Arthur Howard Carlton, Colonel of Cavalry in the service of Her
Majesty, born at Montazuena, in Mexico, educated at Rugby, and died at
Exeter, Devonshire, England, in the fifty-sixth year of his age, leaving
but one son, your obedient servant," here Arthur bowed in a somewhat
stately manner to his, interrogater.

"Exactly so," said the lawyer, glancing at a paper he held in his hand,
which he then placed on the table, and taking up another, said:

"Will you now tell me all that you know concerning, your grandfather?"

"He was called Eustace Vere Carleton, I believe, from the fact of his
signing himself so in his letters to my father, wherein he desired that
he should enter the British service, and said that he should provide his
commission and make him a small yearly allowance as long as he remained
in the service,--these two letters are now in my possession and at your
service, should you require them," so saying, Carlton took from his desk
the papers in question, which he handed to the Lawyer. "But, pray, sir,
in what way and to what extent am I to be benefitted by the early
proceedings of my paternal relatives?" enquired the Dragoon, darting at
the same time a knowing wink at the surgeon, who at that moment happened
to look up, for until then he had appeared to be deeply absorbed with a
late number of _Punch_, though in truth he was very much interested in,
and had not lost a word of the conversation that had been going on
between the lawyer and his friend Carlton, but he only shook his head in
acknowledgment of the friendly wink, and continued to turn over the
pages of that comical but highly interesting periodical which he had
taken up at the commencement of the interview.

"Every lost link in the chain of evidence is, I believe, now complete,"
replied Mr. Capias, "and I am at liberty to communicate to you the
following circumstance which, doubtless, up to the present time you have
been a stranger to." He hereupon cleared his throat, and in a well
modulated voice said:

"Maud Chumly, your great grandmother, the daughter of a Church of
England Clergyman, at the age of eighteen married Arthur Eustace
Carlton, ninth Earl of Castlemere. The result of their union was a son,
a wild, harum scarum sort of a youth who, at the age of nineteen, was
provided with an appointment and sent out to the British Embassy at the
Court of Spain. While here he managed to get entangled and elope with
the wife of a Castillian Hidalgo; they were pursued and overtaken by the
enraged Grandee and his followers; the lady was recovered, but the
husband lost his life in a duel with the gay Lothario who, subsequently,
to avoid the vengeance of the family and the strong arm of the law, fled
to Mexico, where, a few years after, he married the daughter of a French
officer of high rank, by whom he also had an only son, but never
returned to England, nor did he, on the death of his father, assume the
title or take possession of the estate, but resided continually on the
Continent; nor did he by word or deed reveal to his beautiful wife or
child his real position in the Peerage of Great Britain. His son at an
early age was sent to England, and was educated principally at Rugby,
but he also graduated at Cambridge; he afterwards entered the English
army, and during his stay in India married the daughter of a Judge of
one of the native courts, and like his father and grandfather before
him, had but one son, his wife having died during her passage to
England. The bereaved officer served, subsequently, with great
distinction, through the Peninsular Campaign, became Colonel of his
regiment, and at the close of the war was placed on half pay, and at the
age of fifty-six, died at Exeter, in Devonshire; this only son, Arthur
Carlton, likewise entered the army and became a Captain of Light
Dragoons, and is now beyond the possibility of a doubt, the rightful and
lawful heir to the late Earl of Castlemere." Here Mr. Capias bowed most
deferentially, gathered his papers together, said that he trusted in a
few days to have the honour of another interview with his lordship, and
then vanished from the room.

"The fairy Godmother, in the garb of a limb of the law, by all that's
wonderful," burst forth Draycott, who was the first to speak after the
visitor had departed.

"The next lady presented to her Majesty, by her Grace the Duchess of
Opals, was the lovely and accomplished Edith, Countess of Castlemere, on
her marriage with the noble Earl of that name." "By jove! it sounds
well," exclaimed Arthur, starting out of a reverie into which he had
fallen, and springing to his feet. "Draycott" continued he, "am I awake?
Can it be all true what the little man in black has been telling us?"
and Carlton paced excitedly up and down the apartment.

"Not a doubt of it, my lord," resumed Draycott "these musty old lawyers
never commit themselves by letting out so much as this one has done,
unless they are quite sure that everything is all safe, cut and dried
and ready for use, as the saying is, and I think your lordship cannot
refuse to join me in drinking the health of the future Countess of
Castlemere;" and, suiting the action to the word, filled out two bumpers
of sherry, which he and Carlton, nothing loath, quaffed off.

"And now for the stroll. I must call at the Bartons and mention this
piece of news to Edith; but, my dear fellow, not a word of it at the
clubs. Of course, they will hear of it from the newspapers before the
world is many hours older."

Arthur was right, for the _Pall Mall Gazette_, of the following day,
announced the retirement from the service of Captain Carlton, Light
Dragoons, by the sale of his commission, and the _Court Circular_ of the
same date created quite an excitement in fashionable circles by the
following: "_On dit_.--Captain A. Carlton, late of the Light Dragoons,
has just succeeded to the title and estates of his great grandfather,
the late Earl of Castlemere, which title had lain dormant for several
years, in consequence of the only son of the late nobleman never having
assumed the title, and died in obscurity abroad, and we, learn that the
new Earl is about to lead to the hymenial altar the beautiful Miss
Effingham, heiress of the splendid estate of Vellenaux in Devonshire."

The news of the alteration in Carlton's social position was received
with the utmost satisfaction in Berkly Square. Edith was too firmly
convinced of the unalterable attachment of her lover to fear that a
change of fortune would, in any way, alienate or weaken the love he bore
her, believing, as she did, that Arthur loved her with all the devotion
of a long tried affection. Certain alterations in the programme had to
be made, consequent on the elevation to the Peerage of the Bridegroom
elect. The wedding, which, was to have taken place in Devonshire, was
now to be celebrated in London; this entailed a delay of some few weeks
in order that the family mansion of the Castlemeres, in Saint James'
Square, might be re-decorated and furnished in a style befitting the
occasion.

As the rent role of the Carlton Abbey property produced an income equal
to a clear ten thousand a year, Arthur now considered himself in a
position to carry out the great desire of his heart, that of presenting
to his beloved Edith the costly gems he had brought with him from India.
He therefore took them to one of the leading jewelers in London for
arrangement and re-setting, and among the beautiful and costly wedding
presents from the aristocratic connections of the Earl, from the Bartons
and others who had known Edith from her infancy, there were none that
could compare in any way with the magnificent diamond tiara ear rings
and bracelets, the cross rings and brooches of rubies, pearls and
diamonds, from the jewel case of that mutinous Indian Princess, the
Begum of Runjetpoora.

With such zeal and good will did the lawyers on both sides work, that in
less than three months from the death of Sir Ralph Coleman, Edith was in
possession of Vellenaux, and Arthur had been recognized and installed as
Earl of Castlemere, and master of Carlton Abbey, that being the name of
the estate in Nottinghamshire, where the old Earl died.

Having thus succeeded to the title and estates of his forefathers,
Arthur quitted his rooms in Albermarle Street, and located himself at
his mansion in St. James' Square, which, although undergoing extensive
alterations and decorations, had still a sufficient number of apartments
in thorough repair and handsomely enough furnished, to satisfy the
taste of a more fastidious person than our ex-Light Dragoon. It was
really astonishing the number of visitors he had to receive, and cards
and notes of invitation were showered upon him from people whose very
existence he had previously never heard of, connections by marriage of
the past generation crowded upon him, mothers with marriageable
daughters invited him to their assemblies, young men of his own order
sought to engage him in the various pursuits considered indispensable
among those by whom he now found himself surrounded. When it became
generally known that the new Earl was, beyond the possibility of a
doubt, engaged to be married, the connections just mentioned thought it
right and proper to recognize in Edith Effingham the future Countess of
Castlemere; and, on learning that she was the niece of a baronet, and
heiress, in her own right, to twenty thousand a year, she was sought
after and made much of by the aristocratic relatives of her affianced
husband, for the privilege of entering, as honoured guests, such places
as Vellenaux and Carlton Abbey was not to be lost for the want of a
little tact and polite attention to the bride elect, and so Edith's
circle of female friends enlarged rapidly, and it was from among these
that she selected the eight young beauties who were to act as
bridesmaids on her marriage day, now fast approaching.

The Bishop of Exeter, who had been well acquainted with Arthur's father,
offered his services on the interesting occasion, which were gladly
accepted. Exactly at 11 a.m., the family carriage of the Bartons,
containing Edith, Pauline Barton, and three of the bridesmaids, left
Berkly Square. In a second were seated the other five ladies acting in
that capacity. Then came the large, roomy vehicle of the good natured
stock broker, occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Cotterell, Horace Barton and Mr.
and Mrs. Denham, who had come up from Devonshire expressly to be present
at the ceremony. Tom Barton and Cousin Kate accepted seats in the
handsome barouche of the Ashburnhams.

The cavalcade reached Westminister Abbey just as the Bishop of Exeter,
attended by two other clergymen, drove up. Quite a number of
aristocratic equipages, with their occupants, had already arrived, and
just as the bride was descending from her carriage, a handsome
cabriolete, driven by the Earl of Castlemere; attended by his groomsman,
Draycott, dashed up at full speed. Quite a large assemblage had gathered
about the cloisters and aisles of the venerable structure, where it had
pleased Miss Effingham to have the marriage solemnized, all anxious to
get a glimpse of the wedding party, as they moved up to the chancel and
took the positions assigned them in front and to the right and left of
the altar, and a fairer scene than the one now presented to their view,
had, by many been rarely, if ever, witnessed. The warm, ruddy light of a
summer's sun, subdued by the gorgeously colored panes of the magnificent
oriel windows above the altar, fell softly, yet brightly, on the richly
dressed groups that composed the bridal party.

Attended by a bevy of young maidens, Edith, in the pride of her womanly
beauty, now fully matured and developed, advanced with a firm step and
knelt before the altar, her symmetrical and perfectly faultless figure
appearing to advantage in a rich white corded silk, with its superb
train of the same material, the whole trimmed with fine old point lace
of the most costly description; nor did the exquisitely worked veil she
wore conceal the tresses of golden brown hair that fell in luxuriant
ringlets on her alabaster shoulders. The magnificent diamonds of the
Begum encircled her fail brow, neck and arms, while pendants of the same
precious stones hung from her small, shell-like ears, their brilliant
prismatic hues shooting forth and glittering with lustrous and dazzling
brilliancy at each movement of the wearer; but far brighter than all was
the glorious rays of the light of love and joy that danced and
scintilated in the deep blue eyes of the bride as she stood forth and
plighted her troth to him she so fondly and devotedly loved, and the
face of the handsome Earl beamed with unclouded happiness as he placed
the small golden circle on the finger of his future Countess.

The ceremony was not a long, but an impressive one. The bridal anthem
was beautifully rendered by the choristers, accompanied by the clear,
full, deep tones of the grand old organ. As the clock in the square
tower was striking twelve the whole party left the Abbey, and were
driven to the Earl's mansion in Saint James' Square, where a luxurious
repast was prepared for them, to which ample justice was done. At two,
the Earl and Countess stepped into their traveling carriage and were
whirled off to Brighton, from which point they were to start on their
bridal tour through Continental Europe.

The Bartons and Cotterells left town a few days later for their homes in
Devonshire, where they hoped to be comfortably settled ere the honeymoon
of the happy couple should have terminated, as it was the desire of all
concerned to give them an enthusiastic welcome on their return, and
arrangements and preparations were at once entered upon to make the
occasion one of general rejoicing and festivity, and a general holiday
to all in and around Vellenaux.



CHAPTER XX.


The city of Madras, the seat of Government and Capital of the Presidency
of that name, although not possessing all the facilities for an
agreeable sojourn to the lover of pleasure and amusement that may be
found at the capitals of the sister Presidencies--Bengal and Bombay--it
having neither the healthy climate of the one, or the wealth of the
other. Yet there are times and seasons when Madras is very enjoyable:
just after the south-west monsoons, when all nature is clothed in
verdant beauty, and a delightful coolness pervades the air, the
Neilgerie Hills cannot be surpassed by those of Mahableshwa or any other
sanitary station in India, even the Capital itself, whose shores are
washed by the boiling surf from over the triple reefs of rocks during
the rainy season; but that time being past, a more tranquil state of
things pervades the ocean, and cool sea breezes waft over the city. At
the time of which I am writing, Madras was more than usually gay,
several vessels of war were in port and a number of crack corps had
arrived from Europe and elsewhere, officered by a set of men whose
fathers and great-grandfathers before them had served their country
either in the army or navy; they served not for pay but for honor, and
to uphold the high and honourable name bequeathed them by their
ancestors. Many of these came into the regiment not to save but to spend
money, and it was surprising to the calculating natives the enormous
sums they managed to get through during their short stay at any of the
large towns or stations where Europeans do most congregate.

The stream of fashionable life was now at its height, now in full force
when Lady Chutny's magnificent bungalow was thrown open for receptions;
and it was not long before the fame of her ladyship's fetes and
assemblies spread far and wide. Sir Lexicon was known to be exceedingly
wealthy, and it will be remembered that Mrs. Fraudhurst, on quitting
England, had drawn out of the bank her capital of ten thousand rounds.
This sum, together with a large amount given her by the planter for the
express purpose of giving entertainments in town, had been paid into the
bank of Madras, in Lady Chutny's name. The sum was actually only one lae
and a half of rupees, but dame rumour, with her hundred tongues, had
quadrupled it.

The season was now at its height, and her ladyship had issued cards for
an entertainment that was to exceed anything before attempted in Madras
The spacious verandahs to the right, left and rear of the bungalow were
converted into lounging halls, half drawing-room, half conservatory,
while the compound and gardens were brilliantly illuminated with
countless colored lamps and lanterns. Hundreds presented themselves for
admission to the fairy-like scene, and it was allowed by all to be a
perfect success, a gem of the first water of entertainments, and such,
as many of the guests had seldom witnessed. Her ladyship, elegantly
attired, and flushed with pride and pleasure at the triumph she was
achieving moved gracefully about from one room to another attending to
the comfort and convenience of her visitors. In passing along one of the
improvised conservatories, the figure of a cavalry officer attracted
her attention. His features were screened from her view by the leaves of
a magnificent orange tree, but there was something in his general
outline, as he stood leaning indolently against the trellis work
chatting with a drawl, real or affected, to a little lady seated, or
rather reclining on a low ottoman close by, something that caused her to
start as if the gallant officer was not altogether unknown to her, but
her memory would not at the moment serve her, yet a feeling of mistrust,
a sort of almost indescribable sensation of disquietude came over her as
she listened to the polite nothings that issued from his lips; but
fearing to attract observation she quietly withdrew, and entering the
upper end of the ball room summoned her chobdah and pointing out the
figures said, "When that gentleman leaves his present position, tell him
that Lady Chutny desires to speak with him." The native made his sallam
and withdrew. In a few moments the object of her enquiry advanced
towards her, and without preface or introduction, commenced, "I am
informed that your ladyship has done me the honor to request my
presence, and, like an obedient slave, I am at your ladyship's command,"
and he bowed with the most deferential politeness as he delivered
himself of this harangue; then recollecting for the first time that he
had no card of invitation from, or introduction to, her ladyship, began
to stammer forth his excuses, that he had dropped in on the strength of
having met Sir Lexicon for a few minutes at the mess of the Fusiliers,
and had accepted his general invitation as a _carte blanche_. He was
quickly relieved from his embarassment by his handsome hostess declaring
herself fortunate in numbering among her friends so gallant a
chevalier. "I was not aware that your regiment was in town, nor do I
believe that I have ever met your distinguished corps, and it was to
explain away the seeming slight in neglecting to forward cards that I
have requested a few minutes' conversation with you."

"Your ladyship is kindness itself, and our fellows will duly appreciate
your affability on reaching Madras; for, unfortunately for them, we are
still quartered at Secunderabad. I alone am here on court martial duty
and have, I fear, intruded upon your hospitality. But I believe I have
had the pleasure of meeting your ladyship before, though I must confess
that when and where has escaped my memory; unpardonable in me,
certainly, to forget the occasion that introduced me to so charming a
lady." They were standing opposite one of the large mirrors, and by a
skillful manipulation of her fan, the hostess contrived to obtain a
perfect view of the features of the gentleman who was now addressing
her, at the same time revealing but little of her own. For a few moments
she too was mystified as to who he was, or under what circumstances they
had met, or whether it was a case of simple mistaken identity; but
another searching glance at the mirror, and the truth flashed upon her
in an instant. Her thoughts travelled back to Vellenaux. Yes, it was he,
the same Snaffle of the Lancers, who had figured as young Lochinvar at
the fancy dress ball, and had subsequently lunched there on one or two
occasions during the shooting season, prior to Arthur's joining his
regiment. She felt certain that he had not as yet recognized her, but
that he must do so at length she felt convinced. To be recognized by him
after so many years was an event which she had not calculated on. It
was one to be dreaded, for, doubtless, the disclosures that he could
make, would bring her to disgrace and ultimate ruin; but she was equal
to the trying ordeal.

"If we have met, my dear sir," she said, in a low, soft voice, "it must
have been at the Cape, or in London. Although I do not think that your
regiment was in either of those places during my residence there, but
that circumstance need not prevent us from becoming better acquainted."
He bowed and retired, and the smiling hostess moved among her guests as
though nothing had occurred to disturb her. On the following morning the
card of Captain Snaffle was handed to her, but she excused herself from
appearing on the plea of indisposition. The sight of the Lancer's card
both startled and alarmed her. He had discovered her identity with the
ex-governess of Vellenaux, or he would never have presented himself at
so early an hour after the bail. What was to be done? She must return at
once to Pallamcotta, and an hour after the gallant Captain had left, she
quitted her bungalow. She need not have been so much alarmed, for,
although Snaffle, who, during the evening, had obtained a good look at
her unobserved, it was not until late in the morning that he remembered
her as the companion of Edith at Vellenaux. Nor had he heard anything of
Sir Ralph's death, or the crime which had caused her to fly from
England, but this she did not know, and as "conscience makes cowards of
us all," she sought the refuge of her bungalow at Pallamcotta.

With agitated feelings, and distracted with doubts and fears, it was in
no enviable state of mind that Lady Chutny re-entered her home on the
plantation. Judge then of her indignation to find that during her
absence the favourite mistresses had been re-established in their old
comfortable quarters, for, while she had been amusing herself at the
Capital with balls and parties, they had regained their ascendency over
Sir Lexicon, who, not expecting her ladyship's return for several weeks,
had consented to their returning to the bungalow until suitable
arrangements could be made for them. He ladyship's sudden and unexpected
return, together with her order for their immediate expulsion, aroused
their passions--which during her absence had remained dormant--to
intense hatred, and they were determined to sacrifice her at the altar
of jealousy and revenge, and resolved to execute their wicked project
without further delay. Sir lexicon's absence, they well knew, would
afford them an excellent opportunity for carrying out their design. The
servants, they were sure, would act in concert with them, by affording
them the facilities they required.

"Gopall," said one of the three, "bring the Madam Sahib's food into my
room before you place it on the table this evening." "And," responded
another, "I wish to act as her ayah, and carry the sherbet to her
chamber tonight. You understand, eh? You shall have a gold mohur from
us." The butler grinned with intense satisfaction, for he had no doubt
of their intentions, and his little black eyes twinkled with delight at
the idea of receiving the gold coin promised; and at once gave the
assurance that they might count upon his assistance, and likewise the
co-operation of the other servants.

During dinner Lady Chutny enquired whether her orders regarding the
three women had been attended to, and if they had left the house. The
crafty butler pretended not to understand the meaning of her words. She
could not speak the language, and her ayah, who had always acted as
interpreter, whenever she wished to issue her commands personally, had
been, owing to her hasty retreat, left behind at the Capital. Boiling
with rage at being, as it were, set at defiance in her own house and by
her own domestics, fatigued with her journey, and alarmed at the
prospect of being in the power of Captain Snaffle, also dreading the
disclosures he might make, it was no wonder that she sought the quiet of
her own chamber much earlier than was her usual custom. For several
hours she turned uneasily on her couch, her mind disturbed by
conflicting doubts and fears, when a strange attendant entered, bearing
a large goblet of sherbet, which had been rendered deliciously cool by
being placed for several hours in a mixture of saltpetre and glauber
salts. This was her favourite evening beverage, which, in her now heated
and excited state was very acceptable. Motioning the woman to place it
on the teapoy, near her pillow, she was about to give her further
instructions, when she noticed that she was a stranger, not from her
features, for they were concealed beneath the folds of her sarree, which
had been thrown completely over her head, revealing only a small portion
of the lower part of her face, but from her general appearance. Finding
that she was not understood, she stretched forth her hand for the goblet
and took a long draught, unconscious of the piercing dark eyes that
gleamed down upon her with jealous hatred and fiendish pleasure from
behind the silken sarree of her new attendant, as she took from her hand
the half-emptied goblet, which, after placing on the teapoy, she
quickly left the room. There was something suspicious about the action
of the woman, but Lady Chutny was too much occupied with her own
thoughts to notice it at the time, and soon after sank into a doze from
which she started in affright, as if from some dreadful dream, only to
fall into another. This occurred several times. At length, after
finishing the remainder of the sherbet, she dropped into a deep sleep.

The sun was high in the heavens when she again awoke. A burning fever
consumed her, and delirium had fastened on her with fearful spasmodic
and excruciating pains internally. She endeavored to rise, but fainted
in so doing. She shrieked wildly for assistance, but none heeded her
cries. For hours she was thus, left alone, the pains increasing, and her
brain in a constant whirl. Again she slept, how long she knew not. When,
on awaking, she found the same attendant who had waited on her the
previous evening, standing at her bedside. She had brought food, of
which her ladyship partook slightly but eagerly, and called for tea,
which was handed her.

"Has Sir Lexicon returned," she enquired. The attendant shook her head.
"Send for him immediately, and likewise a doctor. I am in great agony."
The woman muttered something, and left her. Through the long, lonely
hours of that dark night, the wretched woman, wracked by intense pain,
with insanity steadily gaining the ascendency, tossed to and fro on her
weary bed, and when overtaxed nature did succumb to slumber, wild
dreams, and wilder fancies haunted her between sleeping and waking. She
fancied she saw at her bedside the forms of Edith, Arthur, and Ralph
Coleman. The latter she denounced as a coward and traitor, from Carlton
she hid her face, but to Edith she stretched forth her hand and implored
her to save her from the torments she was now enduring, but only meeting
with a scornful laugh, fell back upon her pillow exhausted.

This had not been quite all fancy, for the three mistresses of the
planter had stolen into her chamber to feast their cruel eyes upon the
dying agonies of their helpless victim. Towards the middle of the fourth
day, reason had somewhat resumed its sway, and the violence of the pains
she had experienced were subdued, the ayah had arrived from the Capital
and now resumed her attendance upon her mistress. She had sought out the
native doctor who attended the sick of the plantation. He, although in
the pay of the three women, thought it best to visit Lady Chutny when
summoned.

"Is there no European doctor?" enquired the patient, as the native
practitioner felt her pulse and otherwise examined her.

"No, madam, but I will ride to the next station and endeavour to procure
one," replied the crafty little man. Then turning to the ayah, said, "I
should have been called in sooner. The Sahib must be sent for without
delay," and after leaving a few instructions, left the room. He knew
that death must soon ensue, and was determined to be absent on Sir
Lexicon's arrival under the pretence of doing all in his power to
procure European medical assistance. As he passed through the women's
apartment he said to them, "I am going for a European doctor. Of course,
I shall not find one. You understand? You have done your work
completely. She will die at sunset. You had better send for a
missionary or priest, and have her buried as soon as possible. Let the
grave be dug under the palm trees, on the south side of the plantation,
and have all done decently and in order, and the master will attach no
blame to any one or have any suspicion that foul play has been used,
then you can easily persuade him to allow the body to remain there."

The native doctor was right. The unhappy woman never saw the rising of
another sun, and in the white sands, beneath the waving palms, where the
hyena prowled and the wild jackall barked hoarsely through the night,
lies the mortal remains of this ambitious woman, who thus fell a victim
to the jealous and revengeful passions of those by whom she had been
surrounded by her unscrupulous husband.

The third day after the ball, Captain Snaffle again presented himself at
Lady Chutny's bungalow, and was informed that her ladyship had left
town, and would, in all probability be absent some weeks. The
fashionable world was in a great commotion at this unexpected event.
They could not understand it. To leave town at the height of the season,
and just as she had achieved so great a triumph as her last ball was
allowed to be, it was quite inexplicable. It was talked of, canvassed
over, and commented upon, at the band stand, race course,
conversaziones, and mess room, for several days, and, in fact, until the
mystery was cleared up by a startling _denouement_.

"I say, Snaffle, old fellow, who the deuce is she? You know, or I am
much mistaken. I saw you making great play, and coming it rather heavy
with her on the night of the ball. I watched you both for some time. You
two have met before under different circumstances. I wager my chestnut
mare against your bay colt that I am right. Will you say done?" and
Harry Racer, of the Fusiliers, here produced his book in hopes of
entering a bet.

"Not quite so fast Racer, my boy. There is no mystery in the matter, no
subject for a wager. We have met before, I knew it while talking to her,
but could not remember where. I recollect all now. Whether she
recognized me or not, I cannot tell. She is a very clever woman. If you
will say nothing about it, I will tell you all I know."

"Not I! not I," replied Racer, half despondingly at the prospect of
being able to enter a wager in his betting book disappearing.

"Well then," continued Snaffle, "she was a Mrs. Fraudhurst, a widow
governess and companion to a rich heiress, niece of Sir Jasper Coleman
of Vellenaux in Devonshire. How she got out here, and in what way she
managed to hook Sir Lexicon, I cannot imagine, but I will find it all
out at our next interview, depend upon it."

"Stop! By Jupiter! Did you say governess, Baronet, name Coleman, place,
Vellenaux, Devonshire? Here's a go! Not a word. Here, Ramsammy, bring
the fyle of English newspapers from the library, quick." The papers were
handed to him, and, selecting _Bell's Life_, Harry Racer commenced
reading the following paragraph:--

"Frightful railway accident. Death of Sir Ralph Coleman of Vellenaux,
Devonshire. Startling disclosures. Stolen Will. Heiress defrauded.
Flight from the country of accomplice, the family governess. Full
particulars in our next issue."

"That's her, the planter's lady. Large as life and twice as natural. The
thing is as clear as mud in a wine glass. All plain and smooth as a
three mile course. The mystery is solved. She recognized you at the
ball, saw that you were mystified, but would, doubtless, remember her if
you met again. You call the next morning. She refuses to see you on the
plea of indisposition. Takes the alarm, bolts off the course, and makes
for the open country, where she, doubtless, intends to remain until she
hears that you are safe on your road to Secunderabad; and now, old
fellow, what are you going to do? There is money to be made out of this
matter if you are not too squeamish," and here Racer tipped a knowing
wink to his friend of the Lancers.

But Captain Snaffle was a gentleman, and had no idea of trading upon the
necessities of others, be they who they might. He merely replied by
saying:

"Racer, you will not mention a word of this to any one at present. I
will go down to Pallamcotta and find out to what extent Lady Chutny has
compromised herself. After that we can decide what is to be done about
letting fashionable world into the secret." The two friends left the
Fusiliers' mess room, Harry Racer trotting off to inspect some new
horses that he had got scent of, and Snaffle to his own quarters.

The following morning saw him on his way to Sir Lexicon's plantation. On
the road he overtook the baronet, and they rode the remainder of the
distance together. Imagine their consternation on finding that lady
Chutny was both dead and buried.

The planter, with his usual indolence and procrastination, was for
allowing things to remain as they were. "There is no use," he said,
"now, that the matter is all over, of disturbing the body. I will have
a handsome monument erected over her remains, and the place shall be
nicely laid out with shrubs and flowers, and kept in good order while I
live;" But Captain Snaffle thought otherwise. He felt certain that the
woman had not been accessory to her own death, but that foul play had
been used by some one and he was determined to ferret it out.
Immediately on his return to Madras he communicated his suspicions to
the police authorities, and enquiries were instituted, a reward offered,
and the whole affair came to light.

But it was not until several months after this event transpired that our
friends at Vellenaux became aware of the ultimate fate of the
ex-governess. Captain Snaffle, in a letter to Arthur, gave an account of
the whole transaction, from which it transpired, that, on enquiries
being set on foot respecting Lady Chutny's sudden death, Gopall, the
butler, turned Queen's evidence, and confessed the whole of the
diabolical plot. Datura, a powerful narcotic poison, had been mixed with
the sherbet, this produced delirium, and a quantity of pulverized glass
had been introduced into the food given to the unsuspecting victim,
which produced inflammation of the bowels, and the combined effects of
these caused death. However, the perpetrators of the foul deed
unfortunately managed to escape, by what means the writer did not state.



CHAPTER THE LAST.


Carlton Abbey, the estate of the Earls of Castlemere for centuries back,
was situated near Ollarten, on the borders of Sherwood Forest, in
Nottinghamshire. It was formerly a religious house of the highest order,
largely and richly endowed, whose broad acres ran some distance into
"Merrie Sherwood" itself. It is reported that the renowned Robin Hood,
with a score of his followers, once sought and obtained shelter and
protection there, when pursued by the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire for
slaying the king's deer and other misdemeanors within the limits of the
forest; and later here also took place the celebrated meeting between
Cardinal Woolsey and the Duke of Buckingham, previous to that haughty
prelate's dismissal from royal favor and ultimate disgrace, and on the
death of the Marchioness of Cosingby who, for forty years reigned as the
Lady Abbess, the sisters of this order moved elsewhere, as the property
fell into the hands of Eustace, first Earl of Castlemere, heir-at-law,
by whom and his successors, alterations and additions were made becoming
the home of an English noble; but although the last Earl lived a retired
and secluded life, Carlton Abbey was not allowed to fall into decay, and
the manor, preserves, and grounds generally were kept in excellent
order, and so the Earl of Castlemere, as we must now designate our hero,
found it; for on being assured that he was, beyond the possibility of a
doubt, heir to the estate, had paid a flying visit to Nottinghamshire,
and while there had given orders to the housekeeper and steward to have
a handsome suit of apartments prepared for the reception of the Countess
and himself; he likewise gave directions to his agent to raise a troop
of volunteer cavalry, the cost of which was to be defrayed out of the
revenues of the estate, the men to be selected from among the tenantry
and well-to-do farmers residing on the Abbey lands.

On their return from the continent, the Earl and his bride took formal
possession of Carlton Abbey, received the visits of the neighboring
families, inspected the newly improvised cavalry, mustered and feasted
the tenantry, and made known to all concerned that they intended to
reside, for at least four months in each year, at the Abbey, then took
their departure, leaving a very favorable impression behind them.

On the return to London of Edith and Arthur from their wedding tour,
they were presented at Court. The Queen seemed to take considerable
interest in the handsome Earl and his beautiful Countess, for His
Excellency the Commander-in-chief had mentioned to Her Majesty some of
Arthur's gallant exploits while in India, and the romantic train of
events that had happened to both Earl and Countess prior to their
marriage. As a mark of royal favor they were invited to Windsor Castle.
This, in itself, was sufficient to give them _eclat_ in the highest
circles. They gave a series of brilliant entertainments in Saint James'
Square, which hundreds of the highest in the land made a point of
attending. Fortunately the London season was at its close; this allowed
Edith to carry out her long-cherished wish to return to Vellenaux as
its honoured mistress. There were associations connected with it that
could not be effaced by all the gaieties of the most magnificent courts
of Europe. Arthur too was somewhat tired of the exciting life they had
led for some months past, and was anxious to re-visit the quiet spot
where the happiest years of his early life had been spent; accordingly
they left London for their old home among the beech woods of Devon.

The day of high jubilee, the day of feasting and merriment, such as had
never been witnessed in Vellenaux by its oldest inhabitant, at length
arrived. High and low, rich and poor of the village and for miles
around, turned out in holiday costume to witness the return of Edith and
Arthur to their childhood's happy home. Triumphal arches of eve greens
and flags had been erected at different places between Switchem station
and the Park gates. The two troops of volunteer cavalry that had been
raised from among the tenantry of Carlton Abbey and Vellenaux, armed and
equipped at the expense of the Earl and Countess, already licked into
something like order and discipline by the non-commissioned officers of
the regular service, procured through Arthur's interest at the Horse
Guards, lined both sides of the road between the arches. Several bands
of music, sent down from London, were stationed in different parts of
the grounds, and enlivened the scene by playing many of the most popular
airs of the day. A deputation of about one hundred gentlemen and
well-to-do farmers, all mounted, and headed by the Lord Lieutenant of
the County, met the happy couple as they stepped from the platform into
their open barouche, with its four prancing and gaily decorated horses,
which was in waiting at the Switchem station. After several addresses
had been read and replied to, the cortege passed slowly on towards
Vellenaux, the cavalry filing in rear and the gay holiday seekers
following as best they could. On arriving at the principal entrance the
party alighted, the host and hostess, and their invited guests proceeded
to the grand hall, where a magnificent collation awaited them. The
remainder spread themselves over the grounds and Park, where, beneath
the outspreading branches of the fine old trees, were placed benches,
beside tables groaning under the weight of enormous sirloins, rounds of
beef, and pies of mighty dimensions, with sweet home-made broad, and
other edibles of various descriptions. Tents were pitched here and
there, where also could be obtained, all free, gratis and for nothing,
fine old October ale, rich sparkling cider, clotted cream, curds and
whey, tea and coffee, and confectionery in great abundance. Feasting and
merriment being the order of the day.

Games of various kinds were entered into with such alacrity and good
will, proving how thoroughly they were enjoyed by both participants and
lookers on. Cricket, pitching the quoit, and foot ball was going on in
one part of the grounds, single stick; and quarter staff playing, and
wrestling matches between the men of "Merrie Sherwood," Nottingham, and
the yeomen of Devon in another.

There were also foot races and a variety of other amusements taking
place in the home park, while the votaries of Terpsichore tripped it
gaily on the green, velvety award beneath the grand old oaks; and not a
few of the lads and lasses betook themselves down the green, shady
alleys to the woods in search of blackberries, or to gather bunches of
clustering hazel-nuts. The intimate friends of the lady of Vellenaux
amused themselves with archery and croquet on the lawn, and strolled
about the grounds watching the tenantry and others in their pursuit of
pleasure. All the servants and retainers, for none had been discharged,
hailed with delight the return of their young mistress and her handsome
husband, for both were alike looked up to and respected for their many
amiable qualities, by those among whom they had been brought up since
childhood. The two old veterans, Bridoon and Tom the game keeper, had,
in honor of the occasion, donned their uniforms and were the big guns of
the evening, presiding, as they did, at the upper ends of the tables
where the volunteer cavalry were regaling themselves to their heart's
content on the good things provided for them.

The day's festivities were closed with a grand display of fire works,
and bonfires were lit in many places, which crackled and sent upwards
millions of bright sparks, to the intense delight of the juvenile
portion of the community. The long rooms in the two public houses, in
the village, were thrown open for dancing. The servants' hall, and the
two great barns at Vellenaux were also decorated and arranged for the
same purpose, and a right joyous time was there kept up, almost until
the dawn of day.

Within the time-honoured walls, in one of the superb and luxuriously
furnished apartments of Vellenaux, did Edith and Arthur, on this, the
first night of their return, entertain the Bartons, Cotterells,
Ashburnhams, Denhams, and a large circle of acquaintances. It was not a
ball, not exactly a conversazione, but a sort of happy re-union, an
assemblage of old friends and familiar faces, many of whom, had, to a
certain extent, participated in the joys and sorrows that had attended
their host and hostess from their youth upwards, and, as this pleasing
picture fades from view, let us take a perspective glance through a
pleasant vista of progressive years, at another equally interesting
tableaux, whose back ground and surroundings are the same as the
previous one. Vellenaux, that magnificent pile of buildings, with its
beautiful and varied styles of architecture, embosomed, as it were, in
the rare old woods of Devon, its parks and wondrous parterres, its
fountains, marble terraces and statuary, all brought out in bold relief
by the glorious golden light of a summer's setting sun.

On a spacious terrace of the western wing, whose broad steps of fine
Italian marble led down to the clear, open, finely gravelled walk that
surrounded a beautiful and well kept lawn, were grouped, in various
positions, a number of ladies, gentlemen, and children, with all of
whom, the juveniles excepted, the reader is already acquainted.

The Earl of Castlemere, with his beautiful Countess leaning lovingly on
his arm, are pacing leisurely up and down among the assembled guests,
exchanging here and there words of courteous pleasantry. Lounging over
the back of a handsome fautiel, Colonel Snaffle, of the Lancers, is
conversing with Pauline Barton, in his usual gay and lively manner,
relating to some reminiscence which occurred to them while dwelling on
the sunny plains of Hindostan. Horace Barton, Aunt Cotterell and the
Rev. Charles Denham were discussing some knotty point concerning high
and low church, etc., while some political question was evidently
exciting the minds of the worthy old Stockbroker, Dr. Ashburnham, and
Tom Barton. The good natured Draycott was exhausting his powers of
pleasing by relating to Mrs. Ashburnham, her sister Emily and pretty
Cousin Kate, the last _on dit_ going the rounds of the fashionable
circles at the metropolis.

Light-hearted, happy children gamboled on the broad marble steps, or
seated on soft cushions at their parents' feet, listened to the
sparkling wit, repartee and agreeable rattle that broke forth among the
gay loungers on the terrace. Occasionally the eyes of the whole party
would rest with admiration and pride on the scene enacting before them,
and well they might, for on the smooth, soft, velvet-like sward of the
croquet lawn, eight youthful figures, the eldest scarcely sixteen, were
engaged in that most exhilarating, delightful and exciting of all out
door amusements, the game of croquet.

The Lady Eglentine Carlton, eldest daughter of the Countess of
Castlemere, a tall, graceful girl, inheriting all her mother's soft
beauty of form and features, stood with her small, exquisitely shaped
foot resting on a bright, blue ball, evidently listening to some
suggestion of her partner, Clarence Ashburnham, preparatory to giving
the final stroke that would croquet her adversary's ball to a
considerable distance. Not far off stood, in an easy position, the
Earl's handsome son and heir, Lord Adolphus Carlton, mallet in hand,
explaining to pretty Alice Denham, the rector's daughter, what effect on
the game his sister's stroke would have if correctly given. Kate Barton,
the little golden-haired fairy, as she was called generally, is
chatting merrily with the Honourable Eustace Carlton, a noble,
aristocratic looking youth, with chestnut curls and the bright, flashing
eyes of the Earl, his father, declaring with great animation that their
side must win, while Maud Ashburnham, the physician's dark-haired
daughter, a sparkling brunette, full of life and vivacity, announces to
her partner, Alfred Arthur Denham, that her next stroke shall carry her
through the last hoop, this will make her a rover, and she will then
come to his assistance; and thus the game progressed, first in favor of
one side and then the other, till at length a splendid stroke from the
youthful Lady Eglentine's mallet, put her own and her partner's ball
through the last wire arch, placing them in a triumphant position,
amidst shouts of applause from their own side.

The game was now nearly over, for the bright orb of day had already sank
behind the distant hills, and the silvery crescent of the summer's young
moon had risen above the tops of the tall chestnuts and was shooting
forth her rays of soft, pale light, rendering all objects shadowy and
indistinct, while the gently deepening purple shades of eve, and the
gray mists of twilight were fast closing in and around the happy group,
hiding from further view, as it were, with a veil of soft, fleecy
clouds, the family and fortunes of Arthur, Earl of Castlemere, and his
beautiful Countess, Edith, the Lady of Vellenaux.


THE END.





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