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Title: The Diamond Coterie
Author: Lynch, Lawrence L.
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 "The Diamond Coterie" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                          THE NEW DETECTIVE STORY.

                            THE DIAMOND COTERIE

                            BY LAWRENCE L. LYNCH

            AUTHOR OF "SHADOWED BY THREE" "MADELINE PAYNE," ETC.


    CHICAGO:
    HENRY A. SUMNER AND COMPANY.
    1884.

    Copyright, 1882, by
    DONNELLEY, LOYD & CO.,
    CHICAGO.

    Copyright, 1884, by
    R. R. DONNELLEY & SONS,
    CHICAGO.

    R. R. Donnelley & Sons, The Lakeside Press, Chicago.



[Illustration: "Really this is a sad affair."]



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I. Two Shocks for W----

CHAPTER II. W---- Investigates

CHAPTER III. A Sample of the Lamotte Blood

CHAPTER IV. Sybil's Letter

CHAPTER V. The Deductions of a Detective

CHAPTER VI. Doctor Heath at Home

CHAPTER VII. A Falling Out

CHAPTER VIII. One Detective too Many

CHAPTER IX. The Deductions of Detective Number Two

CHAPTER X. Evan

CHAPTER XI. The End of the Beginning

CHAPTER XII. The Beginning of the End

CHAPTER XIII. Constance's Diplomacy

CHAPTER XIV. John Burrill, Aristocrat

CHAPTER XV. Diamonds

CHAPTER XVI. In Open Mutiny

CHAPTER XVII. The Play Goes On

CHAPTER XVIII. John Burrill, Plebeian

CHAPTER XIX. Nance Burrill's Warning

CHAPTER XX. Constance at Bay

CHAPTER XXI. Appointing a Watch Dog

CHAPTER XXII. The Watch Dog Discharged

CHAPTER XXIII. Father and Son

CHAPTER XXIV. A Day of Gloom

CHAPTER XXV. That Night

CHAPTER XXVI. Prince's Prey

CHAPTER XXVII. A Turn in the Game

CHAPTER XXVIII. Introducing Mr. Smith

CHAPTER XXIX. Openly Accused

CHAPTER XXX. An Obstinate Client

CHAPTER XXXI. Beginning the Investigation

CHAPTER XXXII. An Appeal to the Wardour Honor

CHAPTER XXXIII. "I Can Save Him if I Will"

CHAPTER XXXIV. A Last Resort

CHAPTER XXXV. A Strange Interview

CHAPTER XXXVI. Two Passengers West

CHAPTER XXXVII. Some Excellent Advice

CHAPTER XXXVIII. Belknap Outwitted

CHAPTER XXXIX. "Will Love Outweigh Honor?"

CHAPTER XL. "Too Young to Die"

CHAPTER XLI. Sir Clifford Heathercliffe

CHAPTER XLII. A Tortured Witness

CHAPTER XLIII. Justice, Sacrifice, Death

CHAPTER XLIV. A Spartan Mother

CHAPTER XLV. Told by a Detective

CHAPTER XLVI. The Story of Lucky Jim

CHAPTER XLVII. After the Drama Ended



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


"Really, this is a sad affair."

"I have a clue."

"I am ready to do that at any and all times."

"John Burrill! Why, he is a brute!"

So he dines at Wardour Place

"Who are you?"

"Ah! This phial is one of a set."

"Are we alone?"

The tramp turned and looked back

"Doctor Heath flatters himself."

"Here is this man again."

"Poor Frank! don't let this overcome you so."

"Why, Evan, you look ghostly."

"You must not have a third attack."

"Conny, it has come."

"I am happy to know you."

"I have never once been tempted to self destruction."

Only a moment did Sybil listen

Evan saw Sybil and Frank canter away

"It is not in his power or yours to alter my decision."

"Then take that, and that."

"It's the other one," he muttered

"Stay a moment, sir."

"I'll be hanged if I can understand it."

"I hope you will excuse me."

"Well, Roake, are you ready for business?"

"If you ever see me again, you'll see me sober."

"You promise never to marry Francis LaMotte?"

The cottage stands quite by itself

"Prince, come away, sir!"

"Why, boy, bless me."

"Any of the stiff's friends in this gang?"

"Did you ever see that knife before?"

They find Corliss at the Sheriff's desk

"Softly, sir; reflect a little."

"Sybil Lamotte shall die in her delirium."

"Constance Wardour, you love Clifford Heath."

"Another, Miss Wardour, is--yourself."

"Mr. Belknap, it is I."

"Cap'n, you're a good fellow."

"My friend, come down off that."

"That hope is ended now."

"Prisoner at the Bar, are you guilty or not guilty?"

"It was found close beside the body of John Burrill."

They come slowly forward

"There is a flash--a loud report."

Bathurst telling the story



THE DIAMOND COTERIE.



CHAPTER I.

TWO SHOCKS FOR W----.


On a certain Saturday in June, year of our Lord 1880, between the hours
of sunrise and sunset, the town of W----, in a State which shall be
nameless, received two shocks.

Small affairs, concerning small people, could never have thrown
W---- into such a state of excitement, for she was a large and wealthy
town, and understood what was due to herself.

She possessed many factories, and sometimes a man came to his death
among the ponderous machinery. Not long since one "hand" had stabbed
another, fatally; and, still later, a factory girl had committed
suicide.

These things created a ripple, nothing more. It would ill become a town,
boasting its aristocracy and "style," to grow frenzied over the woes of
such common people. But W---- possessed a goodly number of wealthy
families, and some blue blood. These were worthy of consideration, and
upon these calamity had fallen. Let us read an extract or two from the
W---- _Argus_, a newspaper of much enterprise and exceeding veracity:

     MONSTROUS DIAMOND ROBBERY--BOLD BURGLARY.

     This day we are startled by the news of a robbery in our midst, the
     like of which it has never been our fate to chronicle.

     When the servants at Wardour Place arose this morning, they found
     confusion reigning in the library, desks forced open, papers strewn
     about, and furniture disarranged. One of the long windows had been
     opened by forcing the shutters, and then cutting out a pane of
     glass, after which the bolts were easily drawn.

     Miss Wardour was at once aroused, and further examination disclosed
     the fact that her dressing room had been invaded, and every box,
     trunk and drawer searched. The beautiful little affair, which has
     the appearance of a miniature combined desk and bookcase, but which
     contains a small safe, that Miss Wardour believed burglar proof,
     had been forced, and the jewels so widely known as the "Wardour
     diamonds," stolen. Quite a large sum of money, and some papers of
     value, were also taken.

     Most of our readers are familiar with the history of the Wardour
     diamonds, and know that they represented a fortune.

     The burglary was effected without noise, not a sound disturbing
     Miss Wardour, or any of her servants, some of whom are light
     sleepers, and they have not a single clue by which to trace the
     robbers.

     Miss Wardour bears the loss with great calmness. Of course every
     effort will be made to recover the jewels, and capture the thieves.
     It is rumored that Mr. Jasper Lamotte, in behalf of Miss Wardour,
     will visit the city at once and set the detectives at work.

This was shock number one for the public of W----.

Miss Constance Wardour, of Wardour Place, was a lady of distinction. She
possessed the oldest name, the bluest blood, the fairest face, and the
longest purse, to be found in W----; and, the _Argus_ had said truly,
the Wardour diamonds represented a fortune, and not a small one.

Emmeline Wardour, the great grandmother of Miss Constance, was a belle
and heiress. Her fondness for rare jewels amounted to a mania, and she
spent enormous sums in collecting rare gems. At her death she bequeathed
to her daughter a collection such as is owned by few ladies in private
life. She also bequeathed to her daughter her mania. This daughter,
after whom Constance was named, added to her mother's store of precious
stones, from time to time, and when, one fine day, a bank, in which she
had deposited some thousands of her dollars, failed, and she found
herself a loser, she brought her craze to a climax, by converting all
her money into diamonds, set and unset.

At her death, her granddaughter, Constance, inherited these treasures,
in addition to a handsome fortune from her mother; and, although the
original collection made by Emmeline Wardour contained a variety of rare
stones, opals, amethysts, pearls, cameos, etc., besides the many fine
diamonds, they all came to be classed under the head of the "Wardour
diamonds."

It is small wonder that W---- stood aghast at the thought of such a
robbery, and it is impossible to say when the talk, the wonderment, the
conjectures, suggestions, theories, and general indignation would have
ended, had not the second shock overborne the first. Once more let the
_Argus_ speak:

     A STARTLING DISCOVERY.

     Yesterday afternoon, while the town was filled with the excitement
     caused by the Wardour robbery, Miss Sybil Lamotte, the beautiful
     daughter of our wealthy and highly respected citizen, Jasper
     Lamotte, Esq., eloped with John Burrill, who was, for a time,
     foreman in one of her father's mills. Burrill is known to be a
     divorced man, having a former wife and a child, living in W----;
     and his elopement with one of the aristocracy has filled the town
     with consternation.

     Mr. Lamotte, the father of the young lady, had not been from home
     two hours, in company with his wife, when his daughter fled. He was
     _en route_ for the city, to procure the services of detectives, in
     the hope of recovering the Wardour diamonds; both his sons were
     absent from home as well. Mr. Lamotte has not yet returned, and is
     still ignorant of his daughter's flight.

Thus abruptly and reluctantly ends the second _Argus_ bombshell, and
this same last bombshell had been a very different thing to handle. It
might have been made far more sensational, and the editor had sighed as
he penned the cautiously worded lines: "It was a monstrous
_mesalliance_, and a great deal could be said in disparagement of Mr.
John Burrill;" but Mr. Lamotte was absent; the brothers Lamotte were
absent; and until he was certain what steps they would take in this
matter, it were wise to err on the safe side. Sybil was an only
daughter. Parents are sometimes prone to forgive much; it might be best
to "let Mr. Burrill off easy."

Thus to himself reasoned the editor, and, having bridled his pen, much
against his will, he set free his tongue, and in the bosom of his family
discoursed very freely of Mr. John Burrill.

"My dear, it's unendurable," he announced to the little woman opposite,
with the nod of a Solomon. "It's perfectly _incomprehensible_, how such
a girl could do it. Why, he's a braggart and a bully. He drinks in our
public saloons, and handles a woman's name as he does his beer glass.
The factory men say that he has boasted openly that he meant to marry
Miss Lamotte, _or_ Miss Wardour, he couldn't decide which. By the by,
it's rather odd that those two young ladies should meet with such
dissimilar misfortunes on the same day."

Mrs. Editor, a small woman, who, from constantly hearing and absorbing
into the vacuum of her own mind, the words of wisdom falling from the
mouth of her husband, had acquired an expression of being always ready
and willing to be convinced, looked up from her teapot and propounded
the following:

"W-what do you s'pose she eloped with him for?"

"Maria, I believe I have told you frequently that there is no such word
as 's'pose.' I don't _suppose_ anything about it. It's enough to make
one believe in witchcraft. Miss Sybil Lamotte held her head above _us_;
above plenty more, who were the peers of Mr. John Burrill. Last year, as
everybody knows, she refused Robert Crofton, who is handsome, rich, and
upright in character. This Spring, they say, she jilted Raymond Vandyck,
and people who ought to know, say that they were engaged. Why, Ray
Vandyck comes of the best old Dutch stock, and his fortune is something
worth while. I wonder what young Vandyck will say to this, and how that
high-stepping old lady, his mother, will fancy having her son thrown
over for John Burrill. I wish I knew how Jasper Lamotte would take it."

So, in many a household, tongues wagged fast and furious; misfortune had
smitten the mighty ones of W----, and brought them within range of the
gossiping tongues of their social inferiors; and, while the village
oracles improve their opportunities, and old women hatch theories, the
like of which was never heard on earth, let us make the acquaintance of
some of the "mighty ones."



CHAPTER II.

W---- INVESTIGATES.


Wardour Place, the home of Miss Constance Wardour, and the scene of the
"_great_ Diamond robbery," lies a little east from the town, away from
the clamor of its mills, and the contamination of its _canaille_.

It is a beautiful old place, built upon a slight elevation, surrounded
by stately old trees, with a wide sweep of well-kept lawn, bordered with
rose thickets, and dotted here and there with great clumps of tall
syringas, white lilacs, acacias, and a variety of ornamental trees and
flowering shrubs.

The mansion stands some distance from the road, and is reached by a
broad, sweeping drive and two footpaths that approach from opposite
directions.

In the rear are orchard and gardens, and beyond these a grassy slope
that curves down to meet the river, that is ever hurrying townward to
seize the great mill wheels and set them sweeping round and round.

The mansion itself is a large, roomy edifice, built by a master
architect. It at once impresses one with a sense of its true purpose: a
home, stately, but not stiff, abounding in comfort and aristocratic
ease; a place of serene repose and inborn refinement. Such, Wardour
Place was intended to be; such, it has been and is.

Miss Constance Wardour, mistress of the domain and last of the race, is
alone in her own favorite morning room. It is two hours since the
discovery of the robbery, and during those two hours confusion has
reigned supreme. Everybody, except Miss Wardour, has seemingly run wild.
But Miss Wardour has kept her head, and has prevented the servants from
giving the alarm upon the highway, and thus filling her house with a
promiscuous mob. She has compelled them to comport themselves like
rational beings; has ordered the library and dressing room to be closed,
and left untouched until the proper officer shall have made proper
investigations; and then she has ordered her maid to serve her with a
cup of strong coffee in the morning room; and, considering the
glittering wealth she has just been bereaved of, Miss Wardour looks very
calm and unruffled, and sips her coffee with a relish.

Presently the door opens and a lady enters: a very fat lady, with florid
complexion, restless, inquisitive, but good-humored gray eyes, and
plenty of dark crinkly hair, combed low about her ears.

This is Mrs. Honor Aliston, a distant relative of Miss Wardour's, who
has found a most delightful home with that young lady, ever since the
death of Grandmamma Wardour, for Constance Wardour has been an orphan
since her childhood.

Mrs. Aliston comes forward, rather rolls forward, and sinking, with a
grunt of satisfaction, into the largest chair at hand, fixes two gray
eyes upon the heiress, which that young lady, perceiving, says: "Well?"

"Don't say 'well' to me. I've just come down from the mansard," gasped
the widow Aliston.

"From the _mansard_?"

"Yes," fanning herself briskly with the pages of an uncut magazine.

Constance laughs musically. "Why, Aunt Honor, you didn't expect to see
the robbers running across the country, did you?"

"Not I," disdainfully. "I wanted to see how long it took the news to get
to--Mapleton."

"Oh!" indifferently.

"And--they're coming."

"So soon!"

"So soon! and the sheriff, or constable, or coroner,--_who_ is it that
make these investigations? He's coming, at any rate, whoever he is, with
a mob at his heels. Who did you send for, Con?"

"For Mr. O'Meara, of course, and--I would like to see Ray Vandyck."

"What for?"

Constance laughed. "Oh, I am fond of Ray, you know, and I think he would
offer some unique suggestions; besides--dear me, auntie!" breaking off
suddenly, "I wish this farce was at an end."

Mrs. Aliston's gray eyes twinkled. "Why, child, you may be thankful it's
no worse. Suppose--"

"Hush, Aunt Honor. 'Walls have ears,' you know. I have half a mind to
take Mr. Lamotte into my--"

"Constance Wardour, _what_ are you thinking about? 'Take Mr. Lamotte!'
that means Frank Lamotte and Madame Lamotte, and _that_ means all the
rest."

"I said '_half_ a mind,' auntie. I don't think the notion will ever get
its growth. I think we will see the end of this affair through our own
spectacles; but--hear that noise! Are they bringing a legion of people?
Auntie, I don't believe you have had a cup of coffee yet."

"Don't you? Well, I _have_, my child. Let's go out and meet those
people. They will bring all the dirt that lay loose on the highway on
the soles of their boots. Con," turning suddenly, "you don't look solemn
enough."

Without heeding this last remark, Constance Wardour throws open the
door, and passes out and down the hall to meet the party just entering.

There is Mr. Soames, the mayor of W----, very bustling and important;
Corliss, the constable, exceedingly shrewd in his own opinion, and
looking on this occasion as wise as an owl; Thomas Craig, Esq.,
sub-editor of the _Argus_; and some lesser lights, who, on one pretext
and another, hope to gain admittance and sate their curiosity.

"Really, Miss Wardour," begins the bustling mayor, "really, this is a
sad affair! miserable affair! Must have given you a terrible fright, and
then the loss!--but we will find them. Of course your jewels, such
valuables, can't be kept hid from sharp detectives--a--Corliss, what had
we better do first?" for Mayor Soames, like many another mayor, is
about as capable of fulfilling his duties as an average ten-year-old.

Corliss, however, comes gallantly to the rescue. He is equal to any
emergency; there is nothing, if you take his word as proof, that Corliss
is _not_ equal to.

"First," says Corliss, "I think we had better--ahem--investigate."

"To be sure--investigate, of course--Miss Wardour, you have--"

"Closed up the disturbed rooms," interrupts Constance, promptly. "Yes,
sir; I fear you will find little there to assist you. Nelly, throw open
the library."

The servant, thus commanded, took from her mistress' hand a key,
unlocked the library door and threw it open; and then the farce began.

If there is anything in all our dispensations of law and order that is
calculated to strike astonishment to the heart and mind of a foreigner,
it is our off-hand way of conducting a police investigation. In other
countries, to be a magistrate, a notary, means to be in some degree
qualified for the position; to be a constable, means to possess a
moderate allowance of mother wit, and a small measure of "muscular
christianity;" and to discover a crime, means to follow it up with a
thorough and systematic investigation. Such is not our mode. With us, to
hold office, means to get a salary; and to conduct an investigation,
means to maunder through some sort of farce, which gives the criminal
time to make good his escape, and to permit the newspapers to seize upon
and publish every item, to detail every clue, as fast as discovered; all
this being in favor of the law-breakers, and detrimental to the
conscientious officers of justice.

In France, they complain of too much red tape in the police department.
Let them supply us out of their superabundance; we have too little.

While Corliss "investigates," the mayor delivers an impromptu oration;
and Mr. Craig, of the _Argus_, takes notes, according to his own light.

Out of his inner consciousness, the _Argus_ man evokes an idea, which
Corliss is not slow to adopt and use as his own.

"I suppose they will have a detective down as soon as possible," says
Mr. Craig, as Corliss lays one ruthless hand on an overturned chair. "If
I were you, Corliss, I would leave everything exactly as I find it, for
the benefit of whoever works up the case."

Corliss slowly lowers the chair to its former position, and turns upon
Craig a look of offended dignity.

"Why, what did you suppose I intended to do?"

"Umph!" retorted Craig, with a disrespectful sniff, "I rather thought
you intended to sit down in that chair."

Turning his back upon the flippant young man, so sadly lacking in
respect for the "powers that be," Corliss pursues his investigations. He
has read, in many novels and sensational newspapers, vivid descriptions
of similar examinations, and he goes to work after the most approved
fashion. He scrutinizes the window, the open blind, the cut pane, the
hangings within and the down-trodden shrubbery without; he darts out,
and dives in; he peers under every thing, over every thing, into every
thing; he inspects, over and again, the mutilated writing case, or safe,
from which the treasure was actually taken; and raps and sounds it as if
in search of some private receptacle that the thieves had overlooked, or
Miss Wardour never found out. He goes down flat upon his stomach, and
scrutinizes Miss Wardour's scrupulously swept carpets, in search of a
footprint in the dust that is not there.

While he performs these feats, the mayor follows him about solemnly, and
full of wondering admiration; and the man of the _Argus_ scribbles, and
chuckles and grins maliciously.

Meantime, there have been other arrivals at Wardour Place; and
Constance, leaving the inspectors to their own devices, is standing in
her drawing-room, talking earnestly with a broad-shouldered, handsome
man, who looks much surprised at the tale she is telling.

"How unfortunate, and how fortunate," he says, depositing his hat upon
the table beside him. "I came here to speak of our river excursion, and
lo, I am in the midst of a sensation."

Constance laughed.

"And surrounded by forlorn females," she supplemented. "Aunt Honor won't
recover from the fright in a week, although she looks so fierce at
present."

Mrs. Aliston, who is seated at the farthest window, half buried by the
lace draperies, and looking steadfastly down the road, pops out her head
to retort:

"It's time to look fierce; don't I know that those Vandals in the next
room will make as big a muddle as if they were in sympathy with the
burglars?"

Constance laughed easily.

"They can't do much harm, auntie; the burglars did not leave a trace; I
am positive of that." Then turning to the new comer, "I am very glad you
came just now, Doctor Heath; you may help me with your advice. I have
sent for my lawyer, Mr. O'Meara; but, for some reason he does not come."

"Mr. O'Meara left for the city last night."

"Oh! I am sorry for that; he would be sure to know how to proceed, and
who to employ. Doctor Heath you are of course acquainted in the city;
tell me of a good man, a _really_ good one. I intend to spare no expense
in hunting these robbers."

"And these diamonds," from behind the curtain.

"Aunt Honor, you are like the ghost in the pantomime; come out and be
one of us."

"I won't."

"Very well, then; but seriously, Doctor Heath, if I can't secure but the
one, let it be the robbers. Do you know I have a fancy that if we caught
them or him, it would put an end to some of our mysteries. You have not
been among us very long; but, don't you think we have more than our
average of crime?"

"I had not observed, Miss Wardour."

"Less than a year ago, Brant, the jeweler, was a heavy loser. Within the
year, three banks in this vicinity have been robbed. Last summer, Mark
Olson, a farmer, drew from the bank several thousand dollars, intending
to purchase land. Half way between W---- and his home he was waylaid,
knocked from his horse, robbed, and left in the road senseless. I could
name to you no less than seven private residences that have been
burglarized within the past ten months, and if I related to you the
circumstances attending each robbery, you would be satisfied, as I am,
that, _in every case_, the robbers knew their ground, and did not work
at random."

"And you have noted each of these events so accurately, Miss Wardour,
and yet, were not--warned."

"I have noted all these events, Doctor Heath, and yet--have been
robbed."

Doctor Heath bends his eyes upon the floor, and remains silent; there is
no possibility of reading his thoughts in his face. It is a fine face,
however, and Miss Wardour must be pardoned if she takes advantage of
this temporary abstraction, to gaze full at him for one moment. The
close cropped thick brown hair displays a well shaped head, the forehead
is broad and full, the eyes large, dark gray, and capable of almost any
expression; usually they look out from his handsome face with a half
contemptuous indifference to all things, that leads one to fancy those
eyes may have a history; this may or may not be the case. Doctor Heath
came to W---- less than a year ago, armed with a personal certificate of
merit from the first of the great New York physicians, bought out the
practice of a broken down old resident doctor, fitted up a handsome
office, and settled down to his business. He hired a small cottage as a
place of residence, installed a deaf old woman as housekeeper and maid
of all work, and lived a quiet bachelor life, riding a good horse,
smoking a good cigar, and growing in favor with polite W---- society.

And this is absolutely all that W---- can tell concerning Dr. Clifford
Heath. What was his past, whence he came, what the length of his purse
or pedigree, no one knows. People have tried to find out something--of
course--but Doctor Heath has a wonderful way of setting aside the hints
of the curious, and he ignores the right of W---- to know his private
history, with a cool impertinence that is as exasperating as it is
effectual.

As he thinks, Miss Wardour watches; but no change comes over the calm,
smooth shaven face, every feature expresses firmness and strength, and
nothing more.

"And so you want an able officer to take this business in hand, Miss
Wardour," says Clifford Heath, at length. "If it is as you suspect, it
will need a shrewd man, and you have no clue, save those that are now
being inspected," with a light laugh, "by our worthy constable and his
supporters."

Constance Wardour arose and came close to the table, speaking in a low
voice.

"Yes, Doctor Heath, I will trust _you_, although I intended saying
nothing of this until an officer arrived. I have a clue, slight,
although it may be, it is--"

[Illustration: "I have a clue."]

She drew from her pocket a small white roll, and unfolding it, held up
for his inspection _half_ of a fine cambric handkerchief, and a tiny
stoppered vial of finest cut glass.

Doctor Heath glanced at the vial and uttered one word.

"Chloroform."

"Chloroform," repeated Miss Wardour; "when I was awakened, by the
knocking at my door, I found this," shaking the fragment of cambric,
"lying lightly across my face; and the vial, on the little night stand
beside my bed. Aunt Honor was rapping for admittance, and when she had
made me comprehend the situation, we decided that it was best to say
nothing of this. What seems most strange is, that it was administered
with so much care; I am affected by the smallest quantity of the drug,
and an ordinary dose would have put me under medical treatment. I could
not have left my bed for a week, had they given me as much as would
serve only to stupify Aunt Honor there."

"No," interrupted Mrs. Aliston, once more half emerging from her window.
"It would have been worse than that; I think an overdose of chloroform
would kill Constance. It seems as if they knew just how much to give."

Was it fancy, or did a troubled look rest for a moment in the eyes of
Doctor Heath, and on his countenance a shade of pallor?

"This is, to my mind, the most serious aspect of the affair," he said
gravely. "Mrs. Aliston is right; an overdose of that drug would be fatal
to you. Your life has been jeopardized. I agree with Mrs. Aliston, your
investigation _is_ in the hands of bunglers; let us hunt these fellows
down."

"I will see that an officer is telegraphed for at once; but--shall I
send to the regular bureau, or--how?"

"There is one man in the city, if he _is_ in the city now, who is
qualified for the position he holds. He has withdrawn himself from the
regular force, and acts solely on his own responsibility. He is much
sought after, and possesses wonderful abilities; some of his exploits
have been truly astounding."

"And this man is--"

"Mr. Lamotte; Mr. Francis Lamotte," announced a servant.

"Show them in," said Constance, at the same time gathering up the piece
of cambric and the little vial and putting them in her pocket.

Doctor Heath arose, and taking up his hat, murmured an apology.

"I have a patient at this hour, Miss Wardour, and will call again during
the day. You will not stand in need of my counsel now," smilingly. "Mr.
Lamotte can give you all needful advice, and he is sure to be right,"
and Doctor Heath bowed himself out.

"The Wardour diamonds," he muttered, as he mounted his horse. "And to
think that they almost cost her her life; a skilled hand was it? Well,
when the detective comes, I, too, may have a clue for him."



CHAPTER III.

A SAMPLE OF THE LAMOTTE BLOOD.


Mr. Jasper Lamotte is a tall man, a dark man, and a stately man. He is
grave of speech, yet very suave and pleasing. He is open handed and
charitable, and a very popular man among the people of W----. He will
rein in his blooded horses to ask after the health of his factory hands,
and doff his hat to the wife of his humblest tenant. He has been for
many years a resident of W----. Years ago he was a great traveler,
coming and going almost incessantly, but, after a time, he built the
largest and newest of the W---- mills, and settled himself down to rear
his family, and attend in person to his "bales and shekels."

Francis Lamotte is, what his father has been, a tall, dark eyed, sallow
skinned young man, with a Greek profile, a profusion of curling dusky
hair, a soft slow voice, a sweet and most pleasing smile; aristocratic
hands and feet, a most affable manner; a very agreeable companion, and a
dutiful son and brother. So saith W----. Such is Francis Lamotte, and
being such, he is voted, with one consent, the handsomest young man in
W----. Francis Lamotte, too, is popular with the people of W----;
handsome and fascinating, the son of a father whose fortune is said to
be enormous; he is welcomed in every household circle, and he brings
pleasure and courtesy wherever he enters.

"Constance, my child, what is this that I hear?" exclaims Jasper
Lamotte, taking the hand of Miss Wardour as she advances to meet him.
"Have they not exaggerated the truth? The village is full of rumors."

"Constance, good morning," breaks in Francis Lamotte. "Father's head is
a little turned by all this. _Have_ you had a burglar? _Have_ they
stolen the Wardour diamonds? And _are_ you frightened to death? And,"
with a malicious glance toward Mrs. Aliston, who had forsaken her window
and was rolling slowly towards them, serene, and dignified, "did they
bind and gag dear Mrs. A--?"

"Yes, yes! and no, no!" says Constance, cutting off the retort that was
rising to the lips of her aunt. "Be seated, Mr. Lamotte; sit down Frank.
I have 'had a burglar,' they did steal my diamonds. But--well, they did
not frighten me for I was not aware of their presence, and they did not
bind Aunt Honor for they--"

"Hadn't rope enough," interrupts that lady, at which they all laugh.

"But seriously, Constance," resumes Lamotte _pere_, "this is a bad
business; a _very_ bad business; good gracious! are we all to be robbed
at the pleasure of these rascals? plundered whenever their pockets run
dry? It's abominable! What has been done? There should be an officer on
the spot now."

"So there is," breaks in Aunt Honor, with suspicious sweetness.
"Constable Corliss and Mayor Soames, are examining the library and
dressing room."

Mr. Lamotte retains his gravity, but after exchanging demure glances,
and in spite of themselves, Constance and Francis Lamotte laugh
outright.

"Then, my friends, let us await a revelation," Francis drawls in the
most approved "camp meeting" fashion.

"Poor Corliss!" Mr. Lamotte smiles slightly; "at any rate he will try to
do his duty. But, Constance, you should have an officer here as soon as
possible; I should not come here venturing my suggestions but I learned,
accidentally, that your lawyer O'Meara, is absent; that is another
misfortune. O'Meara has a long clear head; would not make a bad
detective himself. As he _is_ away, and you need some one to act for
you, why, I place myself at your disposal; if you have not already
appointed an agent," with another smile.

"I have made no move in the matter, Mr. Lamotte; indeed, I have hardly
had time to think, as yet. I suppose, too, that we have lost valuable
time, and yet we can't get a detective down here in a moment. Pray take
what measures you deem best, and let us have the _best_ officer that we
can get. I am especially anxious to capture the thieves if possible--and
the diamonds--of course."

"England expects every man to do his duty," quoted Francis. "Constance
give me an appointment, too."

"So I will," retorted Constance, wickedly. "I think you are eminently
fitted to assist--Mr. Corliss."

"Frank, be serious," says Mr. Lamotte, with a touch of severity. "Now
Constance, let us do what we can to make up for this unavoidable loss of
time; first tell me, as minutely as you can, just how this robbery was
discovered."

"It's a very brief story," says Constance, smiling slightly, and then
she narrates, in a somewhat hurried manner, as if she were weary of the
subject, and wanted to have done with it, the events of the morning,
omitting, however, to mention the finding of the chloroform vial, and
the half square of cambric.

"Mr. Soames and the constable--and several more, were on the spot with
great promptness," finished she, with a comical glance toward Mrs.
Aliston.

"We overlooked their proceedings until we discovered that they would do
no actual damage, but would leave everything exactly as they found it,
and then--"

"Yes," interrupted Francis, with a queer smile upon his lips, "and then
you found a more agreeable occupation."

"And then," continued Constance, as if she had not heard him, but
returning his half-malicious look with interest, "Dr. Heath called, and
I told him all about it. He is very clear headed and sensible, and I was
sorry his time was so limited; he might have been of some assistance,
and--"

"Too bad," again broke in young Lamotte, with something very like a
sneer upon his handsome face. "Let me repair the damage. I'll tell him
to call--"

"Oh, not at all, Frank; pardon my interruption," said the girl, turning
her eyes full upon him with artful artlessness. "You are very good, but
it's quite unnecessary. Dr. Heath promised to call again during the day
or evening."

Frank Lamotte bit his lip, but kept silent; and the elder man came to
the rescue. He had been thinking, and without seeming to have noticed
the little passage at arms, he arose and said: "Well, Constance, I don't
see that talking will do much good just now; what the occasion demands
is action. My first impulse was to telegraph at once for an officer from
the city force, but, on reflection, I think it better not to use the
telegraph. Our every movement may be closely noted, and to send a
message would be to set some one watching for the arrival of a
detective, and once his identity becomes known, farewell to his
prospects of success. It will take a few hours longer to get him here,
but I think I had better visit the city in person, lay the case before
our man, and so enable him to enter the town prepared for his work, and
able to maintain his incognito. I have business of my own in the city,
and Mrs. Lamotte is anxious to do some shopping. Women are always
anxious to shop, I believe. I will return home at once, and give her
warning; it will look less like a business trip if she accompanies me.
How does this plan suit you?"

"Any plan that brings us a competent officer as early as possible, will
suit me," replied Constance. "It's _very_ good of you to take all this
trouble, Mr. Lamotte."

"Nothing of the sort," expostulated Mr. Lamotte, heartily. "I am always
at the service of my daughter's dearest friend. By the by, Sybil is not
yet aware of your loss. I did not enlighten her, for I knew she would
insist upon coming with me, and that," smiling a little, "would have
necessitated waiting for toilette."

"And apropos of toilettes," cried his son, springing up. "There is
_Mere_, she will want due warning, for nothing short of a full hour will
she take. So, sir, let's take a look at Soames and Corliss, and hasten
our departure."

"Right; quite right, Frank, I will appoint you as my representative in
my absence. You are to execute any and all of Miss Wardour's commands."

"I am ready to do that at any and all times," replied the young man,
with sudden gravity, and letting his dark eyes rest for a moment upon
the face of the lady in question. And then, without waiting for an
answering remark, he turned from the room, followed by his father and
the two ladies.

[Illustration: "I am ready to do that at any and all times."]

They found Corliss making his final sprawl, and the entire committee of
investigation ready with any quantity of newly hatched theories,
probable and improbable. Cutting short their eloquence, however, Mr.
Lamotte recommended them to talk as little as possible among the
townspeople, and to pursue the investigation quietly, after their own
light. Then, after a few more words with the fair heiress, father and
son took their leave.

Left alone, Constance sprang lightly out from the open library window,
and began pacing the graveled walk, with a brow wrinkled in thought.
Hearing a step behind her, she turned to encounter once more the gaze of
Francis Lamotte.

"I beg your pardon," he said, quite humbly. "I was commissioned by Sybil
to give you this," extending a dainty white note. "In the excitement of
the morning I quite forgot it. Sybil gave me it last evening, asking me
to deliver it this morning," and lowering his voice, "knowing it would
be for me an exceedingly delightful mission."

Constance took the missive, and twisting it carelessly in her fingers,
said:

"Of course, Frank; many thanks. And now, as you are under my commands, I
forbid any more flattery and nonsense, sir. I am not in the mood to
retort."

"So much the better for me," muttered the young man, moodily.
"Constance, I--"

"Silence, sir! Have you not received your orders? My mind is on my
losses. If you can think of no way to further our search, I shall
dismiss you."

"I have thought of a way, then," he replied, with a touch of dignity. "I
think one point has been overlooked. Those robbers have undoubtedly fled
the town with their treasure, but it is hardly likely that they went by
any very public thoroughfare. Now one, two or more strangers, traveling
across the country, may have been seen by some cottager, farmer, or wood
cutter; and I think it would be a mistake to neglect what might give us
a clue. Probably the rascals took to their heels during the hours of
darkness, making for some small railroad station. Now, I propose to go
straightway, mount my horse, and scour the country in search of
information. If I find a clew I shall follow it up; and so, if you don't
see me by to-morrow morning, Constance, you may know that I have struck
the trail."

"Why, Frank," cried Constance, in a burst of outspoken admiration. "I
didn't think it was in you! Really, I admire you immensely; and you will
really abandon your ease and comfort for--"

"You."

"No, don't put it in that way; say for justice."

"I don't care a fig for justice!" impatiently. "My motive is purely
selfish. If I can be instrumental in recovering your diamonds, may I not
hope for some very small reward?"

"To be--sure, Frank. I had overlooked that; a reward of course. I mean
to have posters out right away, and--you may as well earn it as any
one."

Francis Lamotte turned swiftly and stood for a moment with bent, averted
head; then turning once more toward her a set, white face, he said:

"Even your cruelty shall not prevent me from serving you to the fullest
extent of my power. And while I am gone you will receive--" he broke off
abruptly, then went on, speaking huskily. "Constance, a girl like you
can know little of the life led by a man who is an enigma even to his
fellow men. I wish I could teach you to distrust--"

She lifted one hand, warningly. "You can teach me to distrust no one
but yourself, Frank; and please don't perpetually talk of me as some
unsophisticated school girl. I am twenty-one, nearly as old as you, my
child,--old enough, certainly, to form my own judgment of people and
things. Don't let's quarrel, Frank; you know I have been taught
self-reliance, and never submit to dictation."

"As the queen pleases;" he lifted his hat with a graceful gesture.
"Good-morning, Constance," and he turned and strode rapidly away.

"Frank."

He stopped and turned toward her, but did not retrace his steps.

"Are you really going, _a la Don Quixote_?"

"I really am," gravely.

He lifted his hat once more, and without uttering a word, resumed his
rapid walk down the graveled footpath. Reaching the entrance to the
grounds he paused, leaning for a moment against a stone pillar of the
gateway; his hands were clenched until the nails left deep indentations
in the flesh; his face was ghastly and covered with great drops of
perspiration, and, whether the look that shone from his glittering dark
eyes betokened rage, or despair, or both, an observer could not have
guessed.

Meanwhile, Constance stood as he had left her, gazing after him with a
mingled expression of annoyance and regret.

"It was very ungracious of me," she thought, half penitently, "but
there's no other way with Frank, and his love-making annoys me
exceedingly, especially since Aunt Honor's discovery. How she detests
him, and Aunt Honor is too easy to lavish her hate upon many."

As if conjured up by her words, Mrs. Aliston appeared at the window.

"Handsome fellow, isn't he?" that is what her lips said, but the tone
and look said quite as plainly, "detestable, abominable, odious." For
Mrs. Aliston believed that she had discovered a good reason for
disliking Frank Lamotte.

"Don't be exasperating, Aunt Honor," retorted Constance, re-entering the
window with a slow, languid movement, as if the events of the morning
had wearied her vastly. "Everybody has outdone themselves in the
disagreeable line, myself included. I wish the burglars had carried me
off along with my jewels. I am going up-stairs and try another dose of
burglarious chloroform. But, first," dropping into the nearest chair,
and assuming a tragic tone, "Let me peruse the letter of my beloved
Sybil."

She broke the seal of the dainty envelope, to find that it enclosed
another and still smaller one; and on this she read:

     Constance, if I did not trust you so fully, I would not dare risk
     this: Do not open this envelope until sunset of to-morrow
     (Saturday); the contents will enlighten you as to my reasons for
     this strangeness _then_.

There was no signature, but the handwriting of Sybil Lamotte was too
familiar to be mistaken. And, Constance Wardour sat silent and
motionless, gazing at the little envelope with such a look of intense
gravity upon her face as had not rested there during the entire
morning.

Mrs. Aliston, who was a woman of tact, and understood her niece
thoroughly, seemed not to have noticed the unopened envelope, and asked
for no news from Sybil.

Presently, Constance arose, and, still wearing that weary air and solemn
face, crossed the room; with her hand upon the door, she turned her face
toward Mrs. Aliston, saying:

"Auntie, you hear about all that's going; did you ever hear that there
was a streak of insanity in the Lamotte blood?" And then, without
waiting for the astonished lady to reply, she quietly passed out and up
the broad stairs.



CHAPTER IV.

SYBIL'S LETTER.


It is almost sunset, and Constance Wardour is standing alone at her
dressing-room window, which faces the west. It is still in confusion,
but she cares little for that. Her thoughts are far away from the
"Wardour diamonds" at this moment. Several things have occurred to vex
and annoy her to-day, and Constance Wardour, heiress and autocrat, is
not accustomed to being annoyed.

In fact, so peculiar is her nature, that very few things have power to
annoy her; but, just now, she is annoyed because she _is_ annoyed.

"As the queen pleases," Frank Lamotte had said; and all her fair
twenty-one years of life events had been ordered "as the queen pleased."
She had been taught self-reliance, so she told him; she had inherited
self-reliance, she might have said, inherited it along with the rich,
strong, fearless blood, the haughtiness, the independence, and the
intolerance of the Wardours.

The haughtiness was only for those who presumed; the intolerance for
those she despised; and Miss Wardour was quite capable of that strong
sentiment, or feeling. The independence was an ever present element of
her nature.

Of medium height, she was neither slender nor plump, graceful curves,
perfect outlines, faultless gait and gesture; she, "slew her tens of
thousands," and bore herself like a princess royal toward all.

Without being regularly beautiful, her face is very fair to see. Being,
in spite of her haughtiness, most kind and considerate toward inferiors
and dependents, and withal exceeding lovable, she is disqualified for a
novel heroine by her excessive humanness; and, by that same humanness,
eminently qualified to be loved by all who know her, gentle and simple.

Just now her firm little mouth is pursed up, and her brow is wrinkled
into a frown, such as never is seen on the face of any orthodox heroine;
but, her thoughts are very orthodox, as heroines go. She is wondering
why Doctor Heath has not made his second appearance at Wardour Place,
when she so plainly signified her desire to see him there, again, and
soon.

Not that she had bidden him come in so many words; but, had she not
looked? had she not smiled? Not that she felt any special interest in
Dr. Heath; oh, not at all, only she was bored, and worried, and wanted
to be amused, and entertained; and Clifford Heath _could_ be
entertaining.

Sybil Lamotte's unopened note lies on the dressing table. She has
pondered over that half the afternoon, and has wondered, and guessed, at
its meaning; turning over in her mind every explanation probable, and
possible, but satisfied with none. She is wonderfully lacking in
curiosity, for a woman, but for this she might not have withstood the
temptation to anticipate the sunset; for she never has felt so curious
about a mystery in her life.

She turns abruptly from the window, and her eyes fall upon Sybil's note,
her thoughts return to it again. But it is not quite sunset.

Picking it up, she re-reads for the twentieth time the puzzling lines,
then she throws it down impatiently.

"Bah!" she exclaims; "You wretched little white enigma! you are tempting
me to forget myself. I shall flee from the fascination of your
mysterious face, for I am quite certain that Joshua's chariot is abroad,
and the sun is standing still in the skies."

So saying, she goes out, closing and locking the dressing-room door, and
descends the stately stairs; at their foot she pauses in full view of
the entrance, for there, hat in hand, appears the subject of her recent
discontent, Doctor Heath. Surely there must be something depressing in
the atmosphere, Constance thinks, as she goes forward to meet him; for
his face wears a grave, troubled look not usually seen there.

"Oh, Doctor Heath," she says, half reproachfully, and fabricating after
the manner of her sex, "here I have been trying to evoke from my 'inner
consciousness' what manner of man your great detective might be. You
barely introduced him, and then you flitted; and I do so much dislike
the 'To be continued' style."

"So do I," he replies, soberly, as he follows her into the drawing room.
"So much that I shall make the story I have come to tell, as brief as
maybe. Miss Wardour, have you heard any news from the town--since
noon?"

"Not a word," moving across the room, and drawing back the curtain so
that the last rays of sunlight fall across the floor. "Is there any
news? Have they found a trace of my robbers?"

"For the time being, your robbers, are forgotten," smiling slightly.
"W---- has had a fresh sensation this afternoon."

"So! and I have become a lesser light? Well, so goes the world! Of
course it won't be as interesting as the story of my own woes; but, who
is the newest candidate for sensational honors?"

"Your friend, Miss Sybil Lamotte."

Instantly her careless tone changes to one of gravity. For a moment she
has forgotten Sybil, and her note; now she remembers both, and
involuntarily glances out toward the west. The sun is almost gone, but
still darts red gleams across the sky. Moving nearer she seats herself,
and scans his face a moment, and then, while she motions him to a seat
opposite her, says, in that low even tone that is usual to her in all
serious moods.

"And what of Sybil Lamotte?" Her eyes search his face; instinctively she
knows that something serious has happened; she dreads, yet, with her
natural bravery, resolves to hear the worst at once.

"She has--eloped."

"Eloped! But why? Sybil eloped--then it must be with Ray Vandyck,"
drawing a breath of relief.

"No," gloomily. "It is _not_ Raymond Vandyck. That would have been
simply a piece of romantic folly, since no one would long oppose Ray,
but this--this thing that she has done, is worse than folly, it is
crime, madness."

"Not Ray! and yet Sybil lo--Doctor Heath tell the whole truth, the very
worst, quickly."

"Sybil loved Raymond Vandyck, that is what you were about to say, Miss
Wardour. You would have betrayed no secret; poor young Vandyck honors me
with his confidence. I left him, not half an hour ago, prostrate, half
maddened with grief and rage; grief, when he thinks of Sybil lost to
him, and fury when he thinks of the man she has chosen. I never saw him;
but if the public voice speaks truth, John Burrill is all that is vulgar
and corrupt."

"_John Burrill!_" Constance springs to her feet with eyes flashing.
"John Burrill! Why, he is a brute; mentally, morally, physically, _a
brute_. And you couple his name with that of Sybil Lamotte? Doctor
Heath, this is an infamous trick. Some one has lied to you. You have
never seen him, you say; if you _had_ you could not have been duped. _I_
know him, as one grows to know any notorious character in a town like
this, from seeing him reeling intoxicated through our streets, from
hearing of his most startling escapades; a common lounger, a drunkard, a
man with a divorced wife in our very midst. Doctor Heath, I know you are
incapable of such a jest, but tell me who has caused you to believe a
thing so shameful?"

[Illustration: "John Burrill! Why, he is a Brute!"]

"I thank you for your faith in me," he says, with the shadow of a smile
upon his face. "The story is shameful indeed, but it is _true_. Sybil
Lamotte has eloped, and with John Burrill. Listen, before you
remonstrate. This afternoon at two o'clock, John Burrill, with a swift
horse and shining new carriage, drove boldly up to the side entrance of
Mapleton Park. There, Sybil Lamotte was awaiting him; he handed her to
his carriage and then drove ostentatiously through the town taking the
west road. It appears, that for several days, Burrill had been dropping
hints in his sober moments, and boasting openly in his cups, of his
coming marriage with one of the belles of W----, and, last evening, he
openly avowed that to-day, he should 'carry off Miss Sybil Lamotte, in
spite of her high and mighty family, and in the face of all the town.'
Of course, no one who heard regarded these things, save as the bombast
of a half drunken braggart and liar. To-day, young Evarts and his still
wilder chum, encountered him just setting forth with his fine turnout
and wonderfully gotten up. They jested on his fine appearance, and for
once he evaded their questions, and seemed anxious to be rid of them.
This piqued their curiosity, and, ripe for mischief, as usual, they
resolved to follow him.

"They were mounted when they met him, having just ridden into town. They
saw him stop at Mapleton and take up Miss Sybil, from there they
followed them westward. Burrill drove at the height of his horse's
speed, and the boys, who followed at a distance, arrived at Milton (you
will see their policy in avoiding the railroad towns), ten miles
distance, to find that Burrill had changed horses there, and driven
away, still westward, at the same break-neck pace. Burrill's horse was
badly used up, short as the drive had been, and the man who took it in
charge said that the fresh horse was brought there by him, Burrill,
yesterday, and that he had heard the lady complain that they 'could not
go fast enough.'"

He ceases, and his eyes rest anxiously on her face. She does not seem to
have observed that he is not speaking. She has heard every word, and,
somehow, the conviction has been growing even in advance of his story,
that it is all true. This will explain Sybil's strange letter, and--that
letter! what does it contain? She turns and gazes, as if fascinated,
towards the west. There are no more golden gleams athwart the windows,
only a dull red flush upon the horizon. The sun, at last, has set.

At last! She turns, rises slowly and without once glancing toward him
begins to pace the length of the room, and he sees that the queenly Miss
Wardour is for once, unnerved, is struggling for composure.

Finally she speaks, still keeping up her slow promenade.

"Dr. Heath, I am bewildered. I am terrified! I--" She breaks
off suddenly, as if to modify her speech. "This can be no
common--elopement," she winces at the word. "Sybil is refined, honest
and true-hearted, and she loves--another. There must be something yet,
to be understood, and," with a sudden startled look in her eyes,
"perhaps this might have been prevented; perhaps _I_ might have
prevented it if--" another break; then, "Doctor, it is just possible
that I may find a clue to this strangeness. Will you pardon my absence
for a short time, and await me here? This is a strange request, but--"

"It's a day of strange things," he interrupts, kindly, seeing her
agitation. "Go, Miss Wardour; I am at your service this evening."

He crosses the room, seats himself at a table, and takes up a book; and
Constance stands irresolute for a moment, then, without a word, hurries
from the room.

Up the stairs she flies, hastily unlocks her dressing-room door, enters,
and, in a moment, with a courage born of a nervous determination to know
the worst at once, seizes the mysterious note and breaks the seal. A
moment's hesitation, and then the page is opened, and the lines, only a
few, dance before her eyes. She tries to steady her hand; she can not
read them fast enough.

     _Constance, Dear Constance:_

     When you read this, you may have become already aware of the fate I
     have chosen for myself. I have no explanation to offer. Think of
     Beauty and the Beast; think of Titania's strange choice; think me
     mad. But oh, Constance, never censure me; never think that all the
     happy days, when you have been my friend, I was not worthy that
     friendship. And, Con., don't let _others_ say things too bitter
     about me. Am I not dead to myself, and to you all? and for the
     dead, have we not charity only? Constance, I wish I were buried,
     too.

     SYBIL

     P. S.--Con., never let my relatives see this note. They will have
     enough to bear.

So runs the note.

Half an hour later, Constance Wardour comes quietly into the
drawing-room. So quietly, that her approach is not observed by Dr.
Heath, until her voice breaks the silence, and he starts up from the
reverie in which he has been indulging, to see her standing before him,
with pale cheeks, and troubled, anxious eyes.

"Has my rudeness been quite unpardonable?" she says, appealingly.
"Truly, I have had no idea of the flight of time. I have been sitting up
there," motioning toward the upper floor, "stunned, and yet trying to
think. I have gained a little self-possession," smiling slightly, as she
sinks into a seat, "but not my senses. I thought myself equal to most
emergencies, but this is more than an emergency,--it is a mystery, a
terror! For the first time in my life, I can't think, I can't reason. I
don't know what to do!"

It is her turn to speak in riddles; his, not to comprehend. But, being a
man, he closes his lips and waits.

"Something terrible has befallen Sybil Lamotte," she goes on, gradually
regaining a measure of her natural tone and manner. "I need an adviser,
or I had better say, a confidante, for it amounts to that. You know
Sybil, and you know poor Ray. You are, I believe, a capital judge of
human nature. This morning, just after you left, as you know, Mr.
Lamotte and his son called here, and Frank put in my hand this note from
Sybil." For the first time he observes the letter which she holds
between her two hands. "For reasons stated on the outside of the
envelope, which was enclosed in another, I did not break the seal
until--now. It may seem like violating Sybil's confidence, but I feel
justified in doing what I do. I have no one to advise me, Aunt Honor
being worse than myself in a crisis like this; and I believe that both
Sybil and I can trust you. Dr. Heath, please read that letter."

He looks at it doubtfully, but does not take it from her extended hand.

"You are sure it is best?" hesitatingly. "You wish it?"

"I wish it," with a touch of her natural imperiousness; "I believe it is
best."

Silently he takes the letter from her hand, silently reads the lines
upon the envelope, while she thinks how sensible he is not to have
uttered some stereotyped phrase, expressive of his sense of the high
honor she does him by giving him so much of her confidence.

Still in silence, he opens and reads the letter, then lays it down and
thinks.

At last she grows impatient. "Well," she exclaims, "are you, too,
stricken with something nameless?"

He leans toward her, his arm resting upon the table between them, his
eyes fixed gravely upon her face,

"Miss Wardour, does your faith in your friend justify you in complying
with her wishes?"

"Most assuredly," with a look of surprise.

"In spite of to-day's events?"

"In spite of _any thing_!"

He draws a long, sighing breath. "Oh," he says, softly, "it would be
worth something to possess _your_ friendship. Now,--do you really wish
for my advice?"

"Have I not asked for it, or, rather, demanded it, like a true
highwayman?"

"Then here is your case: You have a friend; you trust her fully; nothing
can shake your faith in her. Suddenly, she does a thing, shocking,
incomprehensible, and, in doing it, asks you not to question, for she
can not explain; asks you to think of her kindly; to trust her still.
Here is a test for your friendship. Others may pry, drag her name about,
torture her with their curiosity; she has appealed to you. Respect her
secret. Let her bury it if she will, and can; you can not help her. If
she has become that bad man's wife, she is past human help. Undoubtedly
there is a mystery here; undoubtedly she has acted under the control of
some power outside herself; but she has taken the step, and--it is
_done_!"

She draws a long, sighing breath. "You are right," she says, wearily,
"your wisdom is simple, but it _is_ wisdom, and I thank you for it; but,
oh! if they could have been intercepted. If I could have known--have
guessed."

He smiles oddly. "You do not consider," he says, "how cunningly their
plans were laid; doubtless they have been waiting some such opportunity.
At twelve o'clock, Mr. Lamotte and wife started for the city."

"In my service, alas!"

"At one, Frank Lamotte mounted his horse and rode eastward."

"Alas! also to serve me."

"At two o'clock, the coast was clear, and the flight commenced. When it
became known, search was made for Evan, as the only member of the family
within reach of a warning voice. They found him in a beer saloon, in a
state of beastly intoxication."

"Oh!"

"Of course he was surrounded by a crowd, eager to see and to hear how he
would receive the news; and the work of sobering him up was at once
commenced. It took a long time to make him comprehend their meaning, but
after a while the name of his sister, coupled with that of John Burrill,
brought him staggering to his feet, and a few moments later, a plain
statement of the facts, hurled bluntly at him by one of the loungers,
sobered him completely. In an instant he had laid his informant
sprawling in the saloon sawdust. He declared it a calumny, as you did,
and declared war upon the lot of them. Soon kinder hands rescued him
from these tormentors, and men he could not doubt convinced him of the
truth of the unhappy affair. And then, any who saw would have pitied
him. The boy is wild and bad, but he has a heart, and he loves his
sister. Poor fellow! he is not all bad."

"Poor Evan!"

"He telegraphed at once to his father, and then set out for Mapleton,
looking like the ghost of himself, but carrying a freshly filled flask."

"Of course," mournfully.

"He would have started in pursuit, had they not convinced him of the
folly of such an undertaking."

"Folly, indeed, for him."

"And now, Miss Wardour, we have arrived at the end of certainty, and to
enter into the field of conjecture is useless. The time may come when
some of us may be of actual service to this most unhappy friend of
yours. I confess that I wait with some curiosity the movements of her
parents in the matter."

"They will take her from him, at once. They will buy him off; compel
him--anything to get her back."

"Perhaps; but--she may resist them. Think of that letter."

"True. Ah me! I can't think. Doctor Heath, I have kept you here
starving. I had forgotten that dinner ever was, or could be. You shall
dine with Aunt Honor and myself; and, for the present, we will not speak
of poor Sybil's flight to her. She would run the entire gamut of
speculation, for she is very much given to 'seeing through things,' and
I can't bear to talk too much on this subject. I should get angry, and
nervous, and altogether unpleasant. I say, 'you will stay;' _will_ you
stay?"

He has never before been invited to dine at Wardour Place, except when
the dinner has been a formal one, and the guests numerous; but he
accepts this invitation to dine _en famillé_, quite nonchalantly, and as
a thing of course.

So he dines at Wardour Place, and talks with Aunt Honor about the
robbery, and listens to her description of the splendid Wardour
diamonds, and looks at Constance, and thinks his own thoughts.

[Illustration: So he dines at Wardour Place.]

After dinner Aunt Honor occupies herself with the evening paper; and,
after a while, Constance and Doctor Heath pass out through the low,
broad French window, and stand on the balcony. The light from within
falls upon them and that portion of the balcony where they stand. There
is a young moon, too; and just beyond is a monster oak, that spreads its
great branches out, and out, until they rustle, and sway above the lower
half of the long balcony, and rap and patter against the stone walls.

"Have you thought," asks Constance, as she leans lightly against the
iron railing, "that to-morrow is Sunday, and that Mr. Lamotte, unless he
has already returned, can not reach home until Monday?"

"It has occurred to me."

"And poor Sybil! Where will she be by then?"

"Miss Wardour! What disinterestedness! I thought you were thinking of
your detective."

"My detective! Why, what a lot of stupid people! He might as well not
come at all. Why didn't you tell me to telegraph at once?"

"Because Mr. Lamotte was coming. I depended upon him."

"And he has made a blunder."

"Not necessarily."

"Why?"

"He may have seen an officer immediately, and the man may be now on the
way, by the night train. He will be sure to be here before Monday, or he
is no detective. They depend very little on the regular trains."

"Oh; I am enlightened! All the same, I shall never see my diamonds
more."

"You don't seem much troubled."

"Pride, all pride! I'm heart broken."

"You are a most _nonchalant_ young lady."

"Yes,--it's contagious."

Then they both laugh, and relapse into silence. Presently, she says:

"We are sure to have the wrong man. Why did you not tell me the name of
your great detective, so that I might have commissioned Mr. Lamotte to
bring him? That man has been in my mind all day. You have made me
enamored of him."

"Why?" laughing indulgently; "I barely mentioned him."

"No matter; you say he is a splendid officer?"

"There is no better. I know of none as good."

"And his name?"

"A very romantic one: Neil J. Bathurst."

"Why!" stepping suddenly to the window. "Aunt Honor!"

"Well," replies Mrs. Aliston, from behind her newspaper.

"What is the name of your wonderful detective, who brought those two
murderers from Europe, and had them properly hung?"

"Mr. Neil Bathurst. Why, my dear?"

"Oh, nothing special, auntie;" then returning to the window, "Auntie
never loses trace of a crime or a trial in high life. I have heard her
talk of this man's splendid exploits, by the hour. She is a walking
catalogue in all aristocratic sensations. So this is your great man?
Well, if he is in the city, we must have him. Mr. Lamotte shall bring
his man, or send him; there should be work for two. As for me, I intend
to secure the services of Mr. Neil J. Bathurst."

"He may not be within reach; he is constantly moving, and always busy."

"No matter. I tell you I want to see this man."

"That being the case, I may as well present myself."

They start at the sound of a strange voice near them. There is a
rustling of leaves, and from one of the great oak's extended branches, a
form swings downward, and drops lightly upon the grass, just before the
place where they stand.

"Who are you?" demands Doctor Heath, sternly, as the eavesdropper
approaches. "And what does this impertinence mean?"

[Illustration: "Who are you?"]

Before they can think, the man approaches the balcony, puts his hands
upon the railing, and springs lightly over; standing in the full light
that falls from within, he doffs his hat like a courtier, and bending
before Constance, says, in a voice that is, for a man, singularly rich
and mellow:

"Madame, I am here at your service. I am Neil J. Bathurst."



CHAPTER V.

THE DEDUCTIONS OF A DETECTIVE.


Both Constance and Dr. Heath fancy that they comprehend the situation
almost instantaneously. The stranger's movements have been so cat-like,
his voice so carefully modulated, that Aunt Honor reads on, never
dreaming that an addition has been made to the party. Dr. Heath is the
first to speak.

"Upon my word," he says, with a touch of coldness in his tone; "this is
quite dramatic."

"It's a very good tableaux," admits the new comer, "but dramatic as the
present day drama goes? No, it's too naturally brought about, as you
will admit, when I explain my presence here. Your mention of my name,
while I lay sprawled across the great branch, within easy hearing, was
rather sensational, to me, but, of course you can explain that."

By this time Constance has recovered herself, and rises to the occasion;
in fact, she rather enjoys the situation; this is one of the emergencies
wherein she is quite at home. Without stopping for commonplace remarks,
or expressions of surprise, she goes straight to the point.

"How we came to be discussing you, you must understand, if you are
really Mr. Bathurst, and--have been very long in that tree."

"I have been 'very long' in that tree, I feel it," ruefully. "And I _am_
Neil Bathurst, detective; never was anybody else, and by the by, here is
this doctor; I heard him giving me a capital 'recommend;' now bid him
step up and identify me," and he laughs as if he had uttered a capital
joke.

Doctor Heath laughs now, as he comes closer and scrutinizes him by the
light from the drawing room.

"Oh, I recognize you by your voice, which you have not attempted to
disguise, and by your--a--assurance."

"I thought so!" rubbing his hands with a satisfied air.

"But that physiognomy, I never saw before."

The detective laughs.

"No, this is one of my business faces, and you, sir, are one of the few
who have known me simply as a man, without inference to my occupation; a
man like me may be expected to turn up anywhere, but you, sir, are the
last man I expected to see in this place."

"Nevertheless, I have been an inhabitant of W---- for a year; but enough
of me for the present. Mr. Bathurst, this lady is Miss Wardour, in whose
service you have been retained."

Miss Wardour extends a gracious, welcoming hand.

"Mr. Bathurst has heard me express my desire to know him," she says,
with a little ripple of laughter, "so no more need be said on the
subject. Mr. Bathurst you came as opportunely as a fairy godmother; and
now let us go in and take my aunt into our counsels."

She lifts the lace curtains and passes in; as she goes, Dr. Heath lays a
detaining hand on the detective's arm.

"Mr. Bathurst," he whispers; "in W---- I am Dr. Heath, from nowhere."

"I comprehend," significantly.

"Thank you;" then they too pass through the window, and the detective
goes through the ordeal of presentation to Aunt Honor.

Mrs. Aliston, being a thorough woman, who knows her perquisites, gets
through with the necessary amount of astonishment, ejaculations,
questionings, and expressions of delight; all things are overcome by
time, even a woman's volubility. And during the flow of her discourse
the detective is communing thus with his "inner consciousness:"

"So we have been retained by this handsome young lady? Well, that's
intelligence! and what does the old lady mean by supposing that Mr.
Lamotte has told me this and that? Who the deuce is Lamotte? Why the
deuce don't somebody ask me how I came to be perched in that tree? Do
they think it's the proper thing for detectives to tumble in among them
out of the trees and the skies? After all, it is like a drama, for I'll
be blessed if I see any sense in it all."

"I see you are all more or less attracted by my personal appearance," he
says, after Aunt Honor has given up the floor. "Now that I think of it,
it's _not_ just the thing for a drawing room."

Mr. Neil Bathurst, or his present presentment, is a medium sized man,
attired in garments that have once been elegant, but are now frayed,
threadbare, travel worn; his feet are encased in boots that have once
been jaunty; his hat is as rakish as it is battered; his face wears that
dull reddish hue, common to fair complexions that have been long exposed
to sun and wind; his hair and beard, somewhat matted, somewhat
disordered, may have borne some tinge of auburn or yellow once, but they
too, have, unmistakeably, battled with the sun, and have come out a
light hay color. As Constance looks at him, she, mentally, confesses
that he _is_ certainly the oddest figure she has ever entertained in her
drawing room.

"I have been wondering just what grade of humanity you are supposing
yourself to represent just now," says Doctor Heath, eyeing him
quizzically.

"What!" with mock humility, "am I thus a failure? Miss Wardour, look at
me well; do you not recognize my social rank?"

Constance surveys him afresh, with critical eye.

"I think," she says, "I recognize the gentleman tramp; one of the sort
who asks to wash his face before eating, and to chop your wood after."

"Right!" says the detective. "My self-respect returns; I am _not_ a
bungler. In the morning I shall be on the ground, to wash my face, and
chop your wood; which reminds me, your servants, they must not see me
here. I must depart as I came, and soon."

"And your search," asks Constance, "when will that begin?"

"My search?" hesitating oddly. "Oh, that has already commenced."

"What a curious thing it is that Mr. Lamotte should have secured you, of
all men," breaks in Aunt Honor. "I did not think it possible Mr.
Lamotte--"

"Pardon me, all of you," breaks in the gentleman tramp. "Something must
be set right; I will come to the point at once. Who _is_ Mr. Lamotte?
_What_ is Mr. Lamotte? I have never seen him; never heard of him."

"What!" from Constance.

"Oh!" from Mrs. Aliston.

"But--" from Doctor Heath.

"Let me finish," he interpolates. "Let me tell you just how I happened
to drop down among you to-night. Recently we have had in the city
several robberies similar to this of yours, Miss Wardour, as I
understand it. Several times we have had a trace or clue, and have hoped
to find the robbers, but so far have been baffled. We must necessarily
have many ways of gathering up information, and I have some methods of
my own. This is one of them. I have access to the offices of our daily
papers. I have a friend or tool in each. When a special telegram, in the
line of criminal intelligence, comes to one of these papers, I am in
possession of its contents before it has reached the compositor's hands.
This morning a 'special' arrived at the office of the _Evening
Bulletin_. I have not with me a copy. It ran:

     MONSTER DIAMOND ROBBERY.

     [Special dispatch to the Evening Bulletin.]

     Intelligence has this moment been received, that Wardour Place has
     been burglarized; and the splendid Wardour diamonds, valued at more
     than one hundred thousand dollars, stolen, besides money and papers
     of value. No particulars as yet.

"This is what brought me here. I came to see if this burglary was the
handiwork of the thieves I have been trying to catch. I came solely on
my own responsibility, not intending to make myself known to the inmates
of this house, but to ferret out things quietly and go my way. While
lurking in that tree I was surprised to hear myself made the subject of
conversation; and then, impulse led me to respond to this lady's
expressed desire to see me, and--I presented myself."

All sit silent, all are astonished, and inclined to think this odd
complication out quietly.

Constance is the first to see the absurdity of the situation, and she
breaks into a peal of laughter, in which she is presently joined by the
others. Finally, she regains her composure and says:

"And so after all you are not our detective. Well, that shall not
prevent us from appropriating your services. And you want to identify
these robbers if possible? We are all at your disposal--tell us how we
can help you most."

"You came with scant information," says Doctor Heath, "and you can't
have been here long, but I'll wager you have picked up something."

"As to that," replies the detective, smiling slightly, "I left the city
by the early afternoon express, before your Mr. Lamotte had arrived,
you see. Twelve miles from W---- I left the train and boarded a freight;
about three miles out I abandoned the freight, quite unceremoniously,
while she was pulling up a heavy grade, and tramped into town. I lounged
about, confining myself to the more obscure streets until I had got the
story of the robbery, with full particulars, as far as the gossips knew
it. Toward sundown I started in this direction. Stopping on the way, I
begged a drink of water and a slice of bread, of an old woman, in a
little brown house. She thought me a very well behaved tramp, and
inquired after my private history and the condition of my soul."

Constance laughs.

"That is old Mrs. Malloy," she says. "She's very pious and very full of
gossip."

"Precisely!" replies the detective, wickedly; "she told me how many
lovers you had, Miss Wardour; and how many dresses; and just the color
of your eyes, and hair; she told me all about the robbery, and a great
many more things that were not quite to the point."

"Of course," assents Miss Wardour, not at all abashed. "Mrs. Malloy is
an oracle."

"As soon as I could make my escape from her, I came nearer Wardour
Place, and made a circuitous survey. Still later, I came upon your
gardener, sitting, ruminating, upon a stone fence, in the rear of the
premises. I found him inclined to be communicative, in fact, he seemed
rather desirous to air his notions, and he has some peculiar ones,
concerning this robbery. I gave him a drink out of my black bottle, and
he grew quite eloquent."

"Oh, dear," interrupts Constance once more. "Then, no doubt, he has
pruned away half the garden shrubs. Old Jerry always _is_ seized with a
desire to prune things, the moment he has taken a drink."

"It was getting too dark for pruning, Miss Wardour, and he went to his
supper. Then, I approached the kitchen cautiously, found a comfortable
lurking place, close to an open window, and listened to the table talk
of the servants. From them I learned the bearings of the library, and
so, while you were at dinner, I entered, without difficulty, and have
explored that room to my entire satisfaction."

Amazement sits on the face of all three listeners.

"Well!" ejaculates Dr. Heath, "You are a modest tramp! What did you do
next?"

"Next I prowled 'round and round the house,' examining all the windows,
and drawing some conclusions; and then, having seen you, Doctor Heath,
through the drawing-room windows, I established myself in yonder tree to
wait until you should go home, and to waylay you."

"Much obliged, I'm sure," says the Doctor, gratefully. "What demoniac
design had you on my defenseless self?"

"Several; to appeal to your hospitality; to renew an acquaintance, which
in the beginning did me honor; and to quiz you unmercifully."

"Then I forgive you," grandiloquently. "And my doors are open to you,
and my hand is extended, and the secrets of my bosom are laid bare. But
Miss Wardour has something to say; I see it trembling on her lips."

"Right," smiles Constance. "I was about to ask if Mr. Bathurst, having
effected his object thus far independently, will be satisfied to inspect
my dressing room, the real scene of action, in the ordinary manner and
without any obstacles in the way."

"Perfectly," says the detective, dropping his tone of badinage and
becoming alert and business like at once. "And the sooner the better. I
am anxious to complete my deductions, for my time is limited, and I must
wait for daylight to overlook the grounds more closely than I could
venture to do to-day."

"We are all anxious for your opinion, and so, will you take one of those
lamps and my keys, or will you have an escort?"

"I wish you to point out to me the exact position of everything this
morning, Miss Wardour. I think we may all go up."

So they all ascended to the disordered dressing room, and the detective
seats himself, deliberately, upon the first unoccupied chair, and begins
to look slowly about him. It is not a long survey, and then the safe is
examined. Here he looks at Constance.

"This has not been done without noise; not loud enough to be heard
across the hall, perhaps, but enough to be heard by a light sleeper, or,
indeed, any one who did not sleep too soundly and with muffled ears,
say, in that room," pointing through the curtained arch which divided
the dressing from the sleeping room.

"Did you sleep there, Miss Wardour?"

Constance nods, then goes through the arch and returns with a little
phial of chloroform, and a fragment of cambric in her hand.

She places them before him, telling him quietly how they were found
before her that morning.

The detective takes them, turns them over in his hand, and examines them
closely.

"Ah!" he exclaims, drawing out the fancifully carved stopper, "this
phial is one of a set."

[Illustration: "Ah! this phial is one of a set."]

Doctor Heath nods. "So I thought," he says, glancing at Constance.

Once more, and in silence, the detective examines the safe, then he goes
quietly about the room not overturning or handling, simply observing
closely; then he says:

"Now, I think I am done here. We will go down, if you please, and I will
give you the benefit of my conjectures." He puts the bottle and the
piece of linen in his pocket, and turns from the room. Instinctively he
takes the lead, instinctively they follow, naturally according him the
leadership.

When they are once more seated, he turns to Constance.

"They gave you a very light dose of chloroform, Miss Wardour."

"Very light," she replies; "and that was most fortunate for me."

"How fortunate?"

"Allow me to explain," interrupts Doctor Heath. "Miss Wardour possesses
one of those peculiar constitutions upon which all opiates act with
disastrous effect. It is fortunate that a cautious hand,--I was about to
say a skilled hand,--administered the drug. I could swear that not the
half of an ordinary dose was given her, for a full dose would have
prostrated her for days; and the quantity it would require to make you
or me sleep soundly for half the night, would kill her outright."

"Ah!" says the detective, softly, to himself. "Ah-h-h!"

"Now I wonder;" it is Mrs. Aliston who speaks. "I _wonder_ how in the
world you knew that they had given my niece only a small dose."

"Very easily, madame. The phial is very small, and it is now over
two-thirds full."

"That, indeed!" murmurs Mrs. Aliston, feeling somehow extinguished,
while the others smile at his simple explanation.

"And now," says the detective, "for my deductions. First, then, the
robbers did not enter these grounds last night for the first time. They
did not enter the library at random, or because that window could be
easily forced. They, whoever they were, knew their grounds, not only
from without, but from within. The disturbance in the library is only a
ruse,--the robbers wanted nothing, knew they should find nothing, there.
They were not amateurs; yet, somehow, in this case, they bungled
somewhat in their work. Before they approached this house, every thing
was planned, and all was done as planned. They were systematic,
therefore successful; and yet--they bungled. They came by the
river,--came in a boat, with oars muffled; they came by the footpath
over the river slope, and entered your garden by leaping the fence just
below the gate, which was locked. Then they followed the footpaths
through the shrubbery, and straight to that library window. They came
there because they knew it to be the library window, and they wished to
cross the library because they knew that from the door of that room they
stepped at once upon the stairs, thus having the nearest, easiest and
safest route to Miss Wardour's rooms. Either they found her door
unlocked, or they were prepared with skeleton keys. Was the door locked,
Miss Wardour?"

"It was locked."

"It was locked. They then used a skeleton key, entered, and knowing just
the proportion of chloroform Miss Wardour could bear, they administered
it carefully, secured the booty without further trouble, and made their
escape without detection."

No remarks from his listeners. They sit amazed, incredulous, admiring,
yet speechless.

"Now, I see I had better prove my statements," goes on Mr. Bathurst,
looking from one to another with a smile of easy superiority. "Miss
Wardour is beginning to think that I _do_ belong to the godmother
species, and yet, it's all very simple."

"No doubt," retorts Doctor Heath, drily; "yet we are willing to endure
your simple explanation."

"I say the robbers came by the river," continues the detective. "Before
sundown I sauntered along the river bank; to-morrow I can show you
traces, indistinct but sufficient, to prove that a boat has been drawn
out of the water, and overturned upon the grass; keel, prow and
oar-locks have left their traces. There is also the print of a clubbed
and muffled oar, above the water mark, where an impatient hand has
pushed off the boat. Here is blunder number one. All these traces might
have been avoided or obliterated."

He pauses a moment, but his listeners sit, a very respectful audience,
and are inclined neither to question or argue. So he continues:

"I said that the robbers entered purposely at that particular window,
and because they were familiar with the interior of the house. Now I
have examined all of the windows of this floor, and I find that a person
unfamiliar with the inside of the building, and not aware which of the
upper rooms were occupied, would have chosen differently. The
dining-room windows, from without, would seem much more inviting; still
more, the drawing-room windows. Naturally, our burglars would select a
window which was tolerably easy of access, and where they knew there was
the least chance of being overheard and observed from above. Now, the
dining-room windows are close to the ground, and the awnings cut off all
chance for observation from above; but--they knew that Miss Wardour's
coachman sleeps in a small room just in the rear of the dining-room."

This was too much for Mrs. Aliston.

"Now, how _did_ you find that out?" she asks, with staring eyes.

"From my friend, the gardener," he replies. "Oh, I am quite familiar
with things about here. The very best place for a burglar to operate
would be these windows," motioning toward the front of the drawing room;
"he could stand in comfort on the lower balcony, screened by the upper,
and cut away at shutters and panes; but, our burglars knew that Miss
Wardour's rooms were directly above, and that Miss Wardour is a light
sleeper. Now, the very place that would be shunned by an unfamiliar
robber, is this very library window; it is higher than the others, has a
little thicket of shrubs just beneath it, and is overlooked from above,
being near an angle, by six windows. But our burglars knew that not one
of those rooms to which the six windows belong, are occupied; and that
the servants all sleep on the opposite side of the house. Now, then, I
say that the robbers knew Miss Wardour's sensitiveness to the effects of
chloroform; how else can we account for the fact of their giving just
enough to cause her to sleep, and not enough to cause any unpleasant
after effects. We can call it a coincidence, but it is one not likely to
happen; Doctor Heath knows that."

"True," responds Doctor Heath; "in a matter of this sort one would
hardly be likely to make so fortunate a blunder, or guess."

The detective pauses a moment, and then concludes: "My reasons for
saying that the robbers entered the garden by leaping the low fence just
below the gate, are, first, that gate creaks loudly when opened or shut,
and they knew this, and therefore avoided it; and, second, one of them,
the heavier of the two, came over with sufficient force to leave the
imprint of his right boot heel in the ground. It was the right heel,
because the deepest side of the indentation is to the right, and he
would naturally strike the ground with the weight resting on the outside
of the foot; and here, my friends, as the lawyers have it, I rest my
case."

"And a very clear case it looks," says Doctor Heath.

"How easily and naturally you come at these things," exclaims Constance,
in admiration. "It is a, b, c, to you, but it's awful Greek to the rest
of us. I begin to think detectives are born, not made."

"You think right, Miss Wardour," replies Bathurst. "It is the made
detectives who spoil and disgrace our profession."

"But," says Constance, with a look of anxiety upon her face; "I am sorry
to have it proved that this thing was done by some of our people. I am
reluctant to institute a search that may implicate some poor man whose
wife and children may live in our very town."

The detective laughs softly.

"There it is," he exclaims. "An amateur must always judge by what
appears uppermost. We detectives, as a rule, always distrust the most
plausible theory. Now look, a skilled burglar is a man of many
resources; a burglar studies his business as I study mine. You have no
idea how much misapplied talent goes roaming about of nights with a
jimmy and a dark lantern. Now let us suppose this case. A professional
burglar in the course of his wanderings, hears, as would be quite
natural, of the immense value of the Wardour diamonds, and he desires to
possess them. Now it's a great prize, and he goes to work with his
utmost care. He has confederates; they come, one or all, and manage to
gain the necessary information; they may come as tramps, pedlars, what
not; a talkative servant, a gossiping neighbor, like Mrs. Malloy, or
fragments of information picked up here and there may help them to get
the 'lay of the land;' they may even have entered the house, probably
have, and it may have been last month, or last year; our burglar
nourishes his job and studies it carefully. Finally he is ready; he
strikes; he succeeds. I do not say this is the case, understand; I
simply put it as a thing possible; and quite as probable as that the
thieves are here in W----."

Constance muses; she is thinking of various other depredations committed
in and about W----; and, as once before she recounted them to Doctor
Heath, she enumerates them now, and closes by saying:

"Your burglars keep a sharp eye on us, at all events, Mr. Bathurst."

"Naturally," assents the detective; "W---- is a capital field for that
sort of chap. It's a little mine of itself, and will always receive due
attention from the law breakers. By the by, Miss Wardour, these facts
you mention are worth noting; after considering, I think I will remain
in W---- during to-morrow. I want to explore about the river, and about
this place, a little more. If I may see you to-morrow I would like your
version of these other older robberies. I keep a record of every crime
reported, and, no doubt, have each of these upon my register, but not as
I would receive them from you. I do not wish to be seen or known, as
acting in this matter; your friend will be here to-morrow, or Monday,
and the officer he has chosen should be on the ground before to-morrow
morning. No doubt he will be all that you wish for, and my duties will
call me elsewhere very soon."

Then they all rise, and standing in a group begin talking. They so much
regret that they can not retain his services, and they are very grateful
to him for so much light as he has thrown upon the subject of the
robbery.

"But wait," he says, "you are to bear in mind that you _have_ no light;
you are in total darkness and ignorance; to-morrow you will have a new
officer, he may evolve a totally different theory. Then discard mine, or
not, as you think fit; in any case, let it be kept exclusively to your
three selves, for I am very likely to make a second appearance here. I
think that these burglars of yours are the chaps I am wanting. And, Miss
Wardour, this reminds me," drawing from his pocket the chloroform vial
wrapped in its accompanying linen bit, "may I keep this until morning? I
will return it to you by Doctor Heath, and, if your officer is not too
much in the way, will try and see you in person, if you will kindly give
me what facts you can recall concerning those robberies."

Constance expresses a hope that the officer will not be in the way, and
after they have talked a little more, the detective repeating his
cautions, Constance repeating her regret that he is not to take the
case, as _her_ case; and Mrs. Aliston repeating everything that comes
into her head, they separate, and the two men, looking so oddly unlike,
go out into the night.

Mrs. Aliston is ready to talk, but Constance is in no mood to listen.
She cuts short her aunt's elocution, and goes with listless weariness to
her own apartments.

Since the appearance of the detective, a shade of perplexity rested on
her face, and over and again her thoughts have repeated the question
which now falls from her lips.

"What does it mean? I am not mistaken; he said, 'here, I am Doctor Heath
from nowhere.' I begin to think that life is a mystery."

For Miss Wardour, hesitating a moment as she passed in from the balcony,
had caught the words uttered for the ears of the detective only.



CHAPTER VI.

DOCTOR HEATH AT HOME.


Doctor Heath and the detective went in silence down the wide
shrub-bordered walk, to the spot where the doctor's horse awaited him.
Here the detective paused suddenly and listened a moment.

"We should not be seen together," he said in a low tone. "Do you mount
your horse and ride on slowly, I will follow."

"But----"

"No buts; I can follow you, never fear; that's my business; do you go
straight home and prepare to admit me on the quiet. Stay--have you any
gelatine?"

"No."

"Any plaster of Paris?"

"No."

"Any wax?"

"Only a small quantity."

"Too bad; I must have some. There will be a drug store open?"

"At this hour? oh, yes."

"Then get me some, half a pound at least. Now move on, I hear a horse
coming down the road."

"Some farmer going home. Well, I'm off, then."

"And so am I."

Half an hour later Doctor Heath was standing in his open doorway,
wondering what had become of the detective, when a light touch upon his
shoulder caused him to start suddenly, and turning, he saw the man for
whom he watched, standing behind him, and within the dimly-lighted hall.

"Are we alone?" whispered the detective; "is the coast clear?"

[Illustration: "Are we alone?"]

"Quite clear; but how the mischief did you get in there, man?"

"Through the door," replied Bathurst, as he followed his host into a
cozy parlor, where a shaded lamp burned. "You are not a good sentinel;
why, I all but brushed you; have you no sense of feeling, then; why,
man, I can recognize a near presence in the darkest room."

"Now that I think of it," retorts the doctor, maliciously, "I did feel a
queer sensation in the ends of my thumbs. Make yourself at home now;
take that chair," rolling a comfortable-looking monster close to the
round table; "there are segars and--why--I say man, have you eaten any
thing since you started on this chase?"

"Now you mention it, I distinctly recollect, that I have not."

"Of course not; I will wake up Mrs. Gray."

"Pray don't; I couldn't think of eating Mrs. Gray."

"Nonsense!" laughs his host; "Mrs. Gray is my housekeeper, and she is
deaf as a post."

"Well, that's a comfort, the deafness. Is she dumb, too?"

"Unfortunately, no; but as I have not been home to dine, she will think
she is preparing my supper, and I will tell her you are a patient come
to be treated, and that I am going to give you a bed; here," tossing
something which he finds upon a bookcase, across to his guest, "tie your
face up in that rag, before she comes in. She will not give you a second
glance; she never troubles her head about my patients."

So saying, he goes out, and the detective proceeds to spread out the
"rag," to prepare his bandage. Suddenly he starts; scrutinizes closer,
turns it about, and looks again, then----

"Ah!" says Mr. Bathurst; "Oh! really!"

And he folds up his bandage, and puts it in one pocket, whips a clean
pocket handkerchief from another, and substituting it for the "rag,"
awaits the coming of his host.

"Very comfortable quarters," he muttered, looking about him, "Luxurious
too; quite so. Our doctor has not forgotten how people ought to live."

The doctor's "quarters" were all that he described them. Luxurious,
comfortable; and luxury and comfort do not always go hand in hand;
tasteful, too. Nothing too much; nothing lacking--just the beau-ideal of
a bachelor's parlor. Warm browns brightening here and there into bronze.
Books, a great many and of the best. Pictures, a very few, and all rare
and beautiful. Bronzes and statuettes in plenty. Bric-a-bric, not any,
for no fair and foolish woman has trailed her skirts through these
apartments, leaving traces of her presence in the shape of those small
and costly abominations, yclept "ceramics."

Presently Doctor Heath reappears, and not long after, Mrs. Gray bears in
a heaped-up tray of edibles. Then Doctor Heath sets forth brandy and
wine, and informs Mrs. Gray, through the medium of his ten fingers, that
she is dismissed for the night.

When she has retired the detective unties his face, and falls upon the
food spread before him, as a hungry man will. While he eats he talks a
little, just a random remark now and then, and his host sits opposite
him, answering his infrequent questions and observations, and thinking.

In past days, and under very different circumstances, these two men have
met and known each other, and Doctor Clifford Heath is wondering how
much of his story it will be necessary to tell, in order to explain his
present position, which, he knows, must seem a most strange one to his
former acquaintance; for Doctor Clifford Heath, like most of us who have
not passed a vegetable existence, has a history, and a past.

Of that fact, however, Mr. Bathurst seems quite oblivious, as he washes
down his repast with a glass of brandy and water, and pushes back his
chair from the table.

"Now, then," he begins, with his usual brisk business manner, "I'm
rested and refreshed, and all ready for that white wax, if you please,
Doctor Heath."

"I'm quite curious about that wax," says the doctor, rising. "Just let
me draw away this table and bring up another, it's the easiest way of
disposing of the dinner things, and will furnish Mrs. Gray with food for
comfortable comment; she takes all such opportunities to disparage
'men's ways,' and as she seems to enjoy them, I make it a point to
afford her as many as possible," making the proposed change as he talks.
"Now, then, there's a table and there's your wax."

"Now something to melt it in and over; I'm going to take an impression."

There is a little difficulty about getting the necessary articles
together, but after a while they are all there, and the wax is simmering
in the melting cup. Then the detective takes from his pocket the
borrowed bottle of chloroform, and asks for an empty vial. This being
given him he pours out the chloroform carefully, and wipes the emptied
bottle.

"It's a pity I can't keep this bottle just as it is," he says, eyeing
the cut-glass stopper regretfully, "but it must be returned, of course;
and I must do the next best. What's your notion of the original use of
that little gimcrack?"

He reaches out the bottle and the doctor takes it in his hand saying:
"Why, it's from one of those dainty toilet cases used by ladies
principally; there will be a set, uniform in size, that are filled with
perfumes of various sorts, and larger bottles, of the same pattern, for
goodness knows what use. I have seen the kind, but not the pattern."

"Well," says the detective, slowly, "I _think_ that I have seen the
pattern; but where? However," dipping a stick into the melting wax, "I
shall find out, and before very long."

"I wonder," says Doctor Heath, stretching out his hand for a fresh
segar, "at the fellows leaving such a testimonial as that behind them.
What's your theory?"

"I have expected that question from both yourself and Miss Wardour. I am
glad she did not ask me."

"Why?"

The detective takes a spoon and dips up his wax, letting it drip from
the spoon, drop by drop. It is ready for use, and, without seeming aware
of the doctor's presence, he busies himself with his impression
taking--seeing which, Doctor Heath smokes on, and is silent.

Finally, his mould is set to cool, and the detective resumes his seat;
and, quite ignoring that long neglected monosyllable of inquiry, uttered
by his host, begins:

"When the burglars, for, no doubt, there were two of them, entered Miss
Wardour's dressing room, they carried one dark lantern. This, one of
them took, and crept with it into the sleeping room; here, he was, for a
moment, troubled. He had prepared himself with the chloroform, but must
use his own handkerchief, and that is marked."

"Oh! a burglar with marked linen!"

"Even so. It's nothing unusual. You reason like a reader of too many
novels. Burglars are not all escaped convicts, blear eyed and hideous;
nor do they all go about in fustian. It's the burglar in broadcloth
that makes us the trouble. Fustian starves, and steals, and is soon
found out; runs away with its booty, as a dog runs away with its bone.
Broadcloth is wiser, just as a skilled workman is wiser than a hod
carrier. It brings to its service tact, study,--who knows what, of
scientific skill? It looks before it leaps; it plans before it executes;
and it covers up all traces of its progress, or else leaves a network of
false clues and misleading evidences. Bah! if we had only fustian to
deal with, it would not be worth while to be a detective."

"Granted," says the doctor, drumming impatiently upon the table, with
the fingers of his strong, white, right hand. "We have to deal with a
broadcloth burglar, who marks his linen, and, perhaps, perfumes it.
_Was_ it perfumed? I forgot."

"It was not perfumed. I wish it had been. Yes, ours is a broadcloth
burglar. When he approached Miss Wardour's bedside, he produced from a
convenient pocket, his stupefying drug; and then he looked about for
something with which to apply it, and at the same time, no doubt, he
berates himself for omitting to provide himself with a plain, small
napkin, or piece of linen. There was nothing at hand that was not too
large for his purpose, and too coarse, for he understood the delicacy of
his undertaking. So, he produced his pocket handkerchief, which, as I
said before, was marked; he tears off the half bearing the name, but, in
his haste, does not observe that he has left evidence that the name was
there. He then saturated the linen, and set the bottle upon the night
stand, leaving his two hands free to apply his drug with utmost care.
Then he pauses for a moment, to note the effect of his application, or
to gaze upon the fair sleeper. And then comes a sound from the outer
room, an impatient call, the click of steel implements, no matter
what,--he snatches up the dark lantern and, forgetting the bottle, goes
out to his comrade."

"You believe there were two?"

"Yes; there were two. These affairs are seldom operated by one man."

"You said this evening that they had blundered. It seems to me that they
made a very neat job of the affair."

"They did blunder. It does look like a neat job to a non-professional,
but they have left several flaws in their work. They felt very confident
of future safety, I am sure, for they were shrewd fellows; that's
established in my mind. There's a something about this case that puzzles
me, and some queer ideas are drifting through my head, but for the
present I shall keep them there. About those blunders now. That boat
business was the first. There's plain proof; then look at the manner in
which they stirred up the library. Why, man, didn't you reflect that
those heavy chairs never could have been overturned by a hasty careless
hand, without coming down with a loud bang? and there are three of them,
all thrown down in different positions; every one of them was lowered
slowly, carefully. Why, look at that pile of books upon the floor! do
you imagine they were ever tossed down from their shelves, as they
appear to have been, without striking upon the floor or each other, with
a thud? I can see the whole operation; one man held the lantern while
the other disarranged the room. But they did not do it well. That much
of the business looks like the work of an amateur. Perhaps you wonder
why I did not speak of this to Miss Wardour. I said enough to convince
her that I had studied the matter; I did not wish to exhaust the
subject, that is the business of the man who is to come. And now I think
I will remove my cast, and then, my dear fellow, I am quite ready to
retire, for I feel the need of all the sleep I can get between now and
sunrise."

"Shocking confession," laughs the doctor, lazily. "Let me tell you it's
highly improper for a detective to get sleepy, or hungry, or tired; they
never do it in print."

"Which should convince you that they always do out of it. Detectives, my
dear sir, are like doctors, their success depends upon the people's
faith in them, not on their own merits. Now I know that you can't see
through the anatomy of old Mrs. Grundy, and tell what she had for
dinner, unless, to be sure, she had been eating onions; but if Mrs.
Grundy doubted for a moment your ability to don your professional
spectacles and peer into the innermost depths of her disordered old
being, she would write another name than yours on her books, as favorite
physician."

"Guide, philosopher and friend," quotes the doctor, composedly. "Let
Mrs. Grundy alone, will you, she is one of my best customers."

"She is not one of my worst, but the world is not _quite_ filled up with
Mrs. Grundys, else our fortunes were soon made; for instance, up at
Wardour Place to-night, that seraphic old lady was prepared to receive
all my statements, as Mrs. G---- takes your pills, on faith. But the
young lady; oh, no! she has too much head for a woman."

"Why, for a woman?"

"Not got scope enough. 'Woman's kingdom' too small for her; too much top
to her head; brow too broad; eyes too full; won't believe a thing is
true, because you say it is true; got to convince her reason. Such
people make chaps like you and me lots of bother; won't take us for
granted."

"Granted we wish them to."

"Bah! Of course we wish them to! everybody wants to be taken on trust;
but there, we can waive this discussion; Miss Wardour will find
occupation for that head of hers for a time at least. My head must
rest."

"I should think so; you are as full of whimsies as ever, when off duty,
and since to-night I accept you as a detective, _a la_ 'Mrs. Grundy,'
just follow me now, Sir Tramp. By the way, how will you get out of here
in the morning?"

"Leave that to me. By the way, don't disturb my wax work. I will leave
the bottle and linen; do you restore them to Miss Wardour to-morrow at
the earliest hour possible to a caller. I shall present myself in my own
time and way, governed, of course, by circumstances, and it is probable
that you will not see me again for some time. Therefore let me say,
thanks for your hospitality. Call on me when you want a service, and
good night."

So saying he vanishes into an inner room, the door of which the doctor
has just now thrown invitingly open. As the door closes quickly, and in
his very face, Clifford Heath stares blankly at it, and for a moment
stands so, looking half bewildered.

Finally a look of amusement crosses his face, and he returns slowly to
his seat beside the table, slowly selects a segar, and slowly lights it.

"There's a queer customer," muses he, as he settles himself for a
comfortable meditation. "He can go to sleep in the very teeth of
mystery, and wake up, clear headed, in a fog. Now I can't sleep, and
I've been awake longer than my allotted time, too. Shades of my
ancestors! What a day! And, oh, my prophetic soul, what will it bring
forth? Well, Doctor Clifford Heath, _as_ Doctor Clifford Heath, what is
it to you? You have been honored by the confidence of Constance Wardour,
what then? There was no one else in whom she could confide; may she not
honor your judgment without coveting your adoration. Bah! the very fact
that she confides in you proves that she cares nothing for you. However,
she has a heart for somebody; that is proved by her agitation upon
hearing the story, and reading the letter telling of poor Sybil
Lamotte's misery. For undoubtedly in some manner she has been made a
victim; can it be that wretched Evan? His agitation to-day bore the look
of remorse, and God knows where dissipation will not lead a man. I know
something of that, too." Here he frowns darkly, and sits for a long time
looking the incarnation of resentment and defiance.

"Bah!" he mutters presently, "what a blot upon the record of a proud
family! A father who is a philanthropist and public benefactor; a mother
who is '_une dame sans reproche_;' a brother against whom I can bring no
charge save that he is my rival; a sister, beautiful and good and
accomplished, but that beauty, goodness, culture, are all shipwrecked;
how could either live in the same atmosphere with John Burrill, as I
have heard him described. Evan Lamotte is a black sheep; I should take
it Burrill must be a black dog, or worse, and sheep and dog are owned by
the same family. After all, what is race? a fig for pedigree. It's the
deed that tells. Here in the next room I have a man who claims to be
nobody. Nothing is said or known about his blood; a great deal is said
and known about his brain, favorably said, too, and honorably known. He
is a detective, and as such, dead to the blue book; it's his business to
hunt men down, to pry into secret places, to unmask villainies, and drag
to light shameful family secrets; and, for the second time, he has
stumbled upon a secret of mine, and treated it most generously.

"To-night I say to him, 'know me only as Doctor Heath, from nowhere.'
Another man would have asked for an explanation, when the opportunity
came; but not he. He sits with me, sups with me, sleeps under my roof,
and makes no sign that he ever knew me save as I now am. He treats me as
a man worthy his confidence, yet asks none of mine. That's what I call
splendid behavior; that's a man worthy to be called a gentleman. I
wonder;" here his countenance darkens, and his eyes look gloomy. "I
wonder what this honorable officer would say if he knew what I did
to-night? if he knew, say I! does he not know? how can I tell? he is
sharp, a lynx; and heaven only knows what mad impulse prompted me to do
a mean thing. Bah!" rising and stretching himself; "we are all fools or
knaves, or both; when a beautiful woman has dethroned reason and common
sense, and sways us body and soul. I wonder what Constance Wardour would
say if she knew? A keen witted detective takes me on trust; will she do
the same?"

There is little of the look of a despairing swain on his face, as he
concludes his soliloquy, and goes out to see that the outer door is
secure, before retiring. A trifle pale, a trifle bored, a trifle
cynical, and a trifle sleepy he looks. He also looks, for a man who has
just been indulging in a fit of severe self-depreciation, exceedingly
confident and full of faith in himself. And why not? Let that man
despair who has lost confidence in his own ability to wrest favors from
the fingers of Fate or Fortune. Despair is not for the brave.



CHAPTER VII.

A FALLING OUT.


Constance Wardour arose early on Sunday morning. In spite of youth,
health, and her splendid self-poise, she had slept but little; and such
slumber as had visited her eyelids, had been haunted by hideous dreams,
in which detectives and burglars mixed their identity in the most
remarkable manner; and through all, more vivid than all, shone the face
of Sybil Lamotte, always agonized, always appealing, always surrounded
by dark shadows, and always seeming menaced, terrified, helpless. Such
nights of tormented slumber, and uneasy wakefulness, were new to the
mistress of Wardour; and now, while the dew was yet on the grass and
flowers, she was promenading her pretty rose garden, where the sun shone
full, looking a trifle paler than was usual to her, and somewhat
dissatisfied.

Mrs. Aliston was still snugly ensconced in her bed, for she never rose
early, and always retired late, her motto being, "Mrs. Aliston first,
the world afterward." That lady of portly dimensions had her peculiar
theory of life. To eat the best food obtainable, and a great deal of it;
to wear the heaviest silks, and the softest cashmeres; and to sleep in
the downiest of beds; these were to her the necessities of life. That
the food was provided from the larder of her niece; that the silks and
cashmeres were gracious gifts, and that the downy couch cost her
nothing, mattered little; her niece needed her, she needed her niece;
_ergo_, her niece sought in every way possible to render her happy and
comfortable; and she, in return for her comfort and happiness, was a
model duenna; never questioning, never criticising, humoring all that
young lady's whims, yet retaining that free, hearty out-spokenness, that
made her seem not in the least a dependent, and which was, as Mrs.
Aliston well knew, most pleasing to the heiress.

Altogether, they were a pair of very sensible women. Mrs. Aliston ate
when she liked, and slept when she liked; Miss Wardour did what _she_
liked, and both were satisfied.

While Miss Wardour was promenading her garden, and Mrs. Aliston was
comfortably sleeping, two men were approaching each other on the sandy
road that ran from the town past Wardour Place.

The one coming from townward was our detective tramp, looking all that a
tramp should be.

The other, approaching from the opposite direction, was a sleek,
respectable looking, middle aged man, who might have been some small
farmer dressed in his Sunday clothes, which fitted him none too well.

Almost opposite the gates of Wardour Place they met and passed each
other, the tramp saluting respectfully, the other responding with a
stolid stare.

A little further on the tramp turned slowly and looked back. The
farmer-looking individual had entered the grounds of Wardour Place, and
was hurrying straight on toward the entrance, looking neither to the
right nor left.

[Illustration: "The tramp turned and looked back."]

"So!" muttered the tramp, with the air of a man who would have been
astonished then, but for the fact that he never allowed anything to
astonish him. "So _he_ is mixing himself up in this affair! I wonder in
what capacity? Can it be that by some means he has been selected to work
up this case? Oh! oh! Bless my soul! What a coincidence that would be!"

Evidently he had grasped at a new idea, and one that was somewhat
startling. He quickened his pace until, unconsciously, it became almost
a trot. The mask of studied vacancy dropped from his face, leaving it
alert, keen, analytical. His mind had grasped at a problem, and he was
studying it with knitted brow and compressed mouth, as he hurried on
countryward, not heeding anything save the thought which possessed him.

It was Sunday morning, too early for church goers, and too late for cow
boys. So he met no one on his hurried march, and when at last he began
to moderate his pace, he was a full mile from Wardour Place. As his walk
grew slower his face relaxed, and gradually resumed its mask of careless
stupidity.

Finally he paused, looked about him, laughed a short half laugh, and
crossing the road, vaulted a high-wired fence, with the ease of a
harlequin, and took his way across a meadow toward the river.

"Tra-la, tra-la-la-la-la," chirped he, softly and contentedly. "_What_ a
pretty kettle of fish. How I should love to sit down right beside it and
see it boil, stir it occasionally; instead, I must go far away, and
meantime, who knows, the kettle may boil over. But I hope not,--I trust
not. I will try and prevent it; and, to do that, I must drop a little
shell before I go. I must bind Miss Wardour over to my aid. I must show
her that it is wise to trust me. I must have a confidante here, and
there are only two to choose from. Doctor Heath, 'from nowhere,' and
this clear-eyed lady. I choose her; for, with all due regard for my
friend, the doctor, and all due faith in the propriety of his motives, I
must know _why_ he throws that bit of circumstantial evidence in my way,
before I show him any part of my hand. Why Doctor Heath is here, is none
of my business, strange as his presence and present occupation seem to
me. Why he is mixing himself up in the affair of Miss Wardour's
diamonds, however, _is_ my business, just now. But, first of all, to
know how much or little Jerry Belknap knows of this affair, and of these
people, and whether he is at his old crookedness once more. Now, here is
the river; here the footpath. I must see the mistress of Wardour Place,
and at once; so, _en avant_."

And he struck into the river footpath, and strode rapidly along toward
Wardour Place, whistling softly as he went. Meantime, Constance Wardour,
pacing the walks of her garden, with her brows wrinkled into a frown,
was interrupted by her housemaid.

"If you please, miss, there's a man in the front hall, that's wanting
to see you, and says I am to tell you it's important that his business
is."

Constance made a slight gesture of impatience; she had been thinking of
Sybil Lamotte, to the exclusion of all other subjects, and this message
brought her suddenly back to her own affairs.

"Important!" she muttered to herself. "Then it must be--the other one.
Nelly," raising her voice, "what is this man like?"

"Like, miss?" inquiringly.

"Yes. How does he look?"

"Oh! Well, it's very ugly he looks, to my notion."

"Does he look like a gentleman, Nelly?"

"Oh, murther! no."

"Like a tramp, then?"

"No; his clothes is too new."

"Well, Nelly, I will go and see him," said Constance, beginning to
despair of finding out whether this visitor were the tramp of the night
previous, or the new actor expected on the scene. "You know I never
allow you to turn a tramp away hungry, and if one comes who seems worthy
of help, I wish you always to let me know it."

This she said, thinking of the manner in which it was probable the
detective tramp would seek access to her presence.

"By the way, Nelly," pausing with one foot on the steps of the
dining-room terrace. "You may wake Mrs. Aliston and tell her that if I
wish her to join me in the little parlor I will send you to her," then
_sotto voce_, as she entered the house and went carelessly toward the
drawing-room: "If this visitor proves a bore I will turn him over to
Aunt Honor; I can't have two days of constant boredom."

Coming forward from the lower entrance, Constance encountered the gaze
of the strange man, whom, arriving at the front door, Nelly had not
ventured to set down as a tramp, and whose clothes made her doubt the
propriety of showing him the drawing-room. Being of Hibernian
extraction, and not to be nonplussed, Nelly had adapted a happy medium,
and seated the visitor in the largest hall chair, where he now awaited
the approach of Constance.

"I think you wished to see me," said Constance, in the unaffected kindly
tone usual to her when addressing strangers or inferiors, "I am Miss
Wardour."

The stranger arose, making a stiff salute, and saying in a low, guarded
tone:

"Yes, Miss Wardour, I have a message for you;" at the same moment he
presented her a card, and glanced in a suggestive manner toward Nelly,
who was traveling up the stairs in a very leisurely manner, _en route_
for Mrs. Aliston's rooms.

Constance glanced at the card which bore the inscription,

     "JERRY BELKNAP,
     _Private Detective_."

"Come this way," she said, throwing open the drawing-room door and
preceding him into that apartment.

Jerry Belknap, private detective, followed close behind her, and himself
closed the door carefully. Constance crossed the room, drew back the
curtains, and pushed open the shutters of the terrace windows, thus
letting in a flood of light. Then turning, she seated herself upon a
fauteuil, and, motioning the detective to a chair opposite, said:

"Now, sir, I am ready to receive your message."

"It's a verbal one," returned the detective, in a voice soft and smooth,
not at all in keeping with his disguise, "and from Mr. Lamotte. I am the
officer chosen by him to investigate for you, Miss Wardour, and as much
time has been lost, I only wait your sanction and acceptance to begin
the work."

The soft voice and polished accent were in very marked contrast to his
dress and facial appearance. His manner of boorish discomfort had been
dropped when the door closed upon outside observation.

Mentally contrasting the ease and suavity of this new comer with the
cat-like movements and brusqueness of his predecessor, Constance, who
began to realize the ludicrousness of the situation, in fact seemed to
have some special private reason for finding it exceedingly absurd,
replied that Mr. Lamotte's chosen officer must of course be acceptable
to her, and that she only awaited his commands, if she could be of any
service to him.

"Then," said Detective Belknap, "I may as well look over the premises,
unless," turning upon her a searching look, "there are particulars
concerning the robbery which Mr. Lamotte was not in possession of."

Constance lowered her eyes, in seeming effort to remember if Mr. Lamotte
knew absolutely all; she thought of the chloroform, but the bottle had
not yet been returned to her. What should she do? Before telling this
part of the story she must have the bottle. Suddenly her woman's wit
came to her aid. Looking up with sweetest candor into the detective's
face, she said,

"I am the only one who possesses any information that was not known to
Mr. Lamotte. It is a mere trifle, but as it will take some time in the
telling, I will, if you please, order breakfast. You can scarcely have
breakfasted at this hour. I will show you the library now. Will you look
over that and the other rooms, and kindly excuse me for a short time?
Then join me at breakfast, and I will give you my version of the story."

She arose as if considering the matter decided beyond question, and
moved toward the door, and with a bow and a murmur of assent, Mr. Jerry
Belknap fell into his assumed shamble, and followed her to the library.
Leaving him there, Constance went out to order breakfast served in half
an hour, and to send Nelly with the key to her dressing room.

"Nelly must be taken into my confidence," mused she, as she went in
search of that damsel. "I can trust Nelly in spite of her Irishries, and
if Doctor Heath does not appear soon she must help me out in some way."

Nelly was not at her post, having been dispatched kitchenward by Mrs.
Aliston, and Constance went up to her own rooms, thinking, as she went,
how best to defer a further interview with Mr. Belknap.

"I must take him the key myself," she muttered, as she moved about the
dressing room, and then a sudden thought came, and she moved quickly to
an open wardrobe, pulled down the dress she had worn on the previous
afternoon, and searched hurriedly in the pockets.

All at once a look of dismay overspread her features; again and again
she shook out the silken folds, again thrust her hands in the dainty
pockets, and fluttered her fingers among the intricacies of the
trimming. The thing she searched for was gone. Sybil Lamotte's strange
letter, the letter that was a trust not to be violated, was not to be
found.

Thoroughly distressed now, Constance renewed her search--about the
room--everywhere--in the most impossible places; but no letter.

Down stairs she went; and hopeless as was the chance of finding it
there, hunted in the drawing room and on the terrace.

She distinctly remembered placing it in her pocket, after receiving it
back from the hands of Doctor Heath; of bestowing it very carefully,
too.

Who had been in the drawing room since Doctor Heath? Mrs. Aliston; the
two detectives; herself. Who had seen her put the letter in her pocket?
Only Doctor Heath. Could it have dropped from her pocket? That seemed
impossible. Could he have removed it? That seemed impossible, too, and
very absurd. But what could she think, else? Then, she remembered what
he had said to the detective the night before, and all the mystery
surrounding his past. Hitherto, she had scoffed at the prying ones, and
advocated his perfect right to his own past and future, too. Now, she
felt her ignorance of aught concerning the life of Doctor Clifford
Heath, to be a deep personal injury. Hitherto, she had reasoned that his
past was something very simple, a commonplace of study, perhaps, and
self-building; for she, being an admirer of self-made men, had chosen to
believe him one of them. Now, she bounded straight to the conclusion
that Doctor Heath had a past--to conceal; and then she found herself
growing very angry, with him first, and herself afterward.

Why had he not presented his passports before seeking her favor? How had
he dared to make himself so much at home in her drawing room, with his
impertinent _insouciance_ and his Sultan airs? How had he gone about,
indifferent, independent, ignoring when he pleased, courting no one's
favor, and yet, be--nobody knew who.

And what a fool she had been, trusting him with her personal secrets;
putting her private letters into his hands. How he must be laughing at
her in his sleeve! Exasperating thought. Worse than all else, to be
laughed at. What worse calamity can befall poor, arrogant human nature?

Constance was now thoroughly angry, and, "by the same token," thoroughly
unreasonable. It is highly objectionable in a heroine; but Constance, as
we have said before, is a very human heroine. And, dear reader, however
sensible you be, if you have ever been in just the state of mind in
which Constance Wardour found herself that morning, and most of us have,
I promise you, you were not one whit more reasonable; not one whit less
capable of being aggressive, unreasonable, and generally disagreeable.

And now, the perverse imp who goes about, concocting horrible practical
jokes, and stirring up _contretemps_, seemed to take possession of the
field; for, just at the moment when he should have been at least five
miles away, Doctor Heath, unannounced, appeared at the drawing-room
door,--smiling, too, looking provokingly sure of a welcome, and
handsomer than usual.

Miss Wardour's self-possession was as instant as her indignation.

"Good morning, Doctor Heath," frigidly. "I am sorry you found it
necessary to admit yourself in this manner. I suppose my servants _are_
neglectful."

"Not at all," replied he, discovering that she was out of humor, but not
divining the cause. "Your housemaid admitted me, and thinking you in
your own room, was about to usher me in here, and go to announce me,
when I saved her the trouble, telling her that my time was limited, and
admitting myself; had I known you were here, I should not have intruded
without permission;" then perceiving that her face retained its
frigidity, his voice took on a shade of haughtiness as he laid a packet
upon the table, saying: "I have brought back your 'proofs;' Mr. Bathurst
wished me to say, if I chanced to see you first, that is," hesitating.

"I have not seen Mr. Bathurst."

"No!" Doctor Heath seemed to be somewhat affected by the chill of the
atmosphere. "Then I am to say that he has something for your private
ear, and that when he comes, he begs that you will contrive in some way
to see him, whether your other officer is here or no."

A grave bow from Lapland. Then,

"Officer Belknap is here, and in the library. I presume," consulting her
watch, "he is waiting for me at this moment."

Doctor Heath had been standing a few feet from her, hat in hand; now,
and in spite of this implied dismissal, he coolly deposited his hat upon
the table beside Miss Wardour's package, and advanced nearer to that
young lady, speaking calmly, gently even, but without the slightest
touch of entreaty, penitence, or humility of any sort in his manner or
voice.

"Miss Wardour, pardon me for alluding to it, but I would be blind indeed
not to see that something has annoyed you exceedingly. Indeed, I could
almost fancy that, in some way, I have become the cause of your
displeasure; if this is so, tell me how I have been so unfortunate as to
offend?"

Now this was a very pacific and proper speech, and uttered in the right
spirit. But had its effect been salutary, then Doctor Heath would stand
alone, the first, last, and only man who ever yet attempted to argue
with, reason with, or pacify an angry woman without blundering
egregiously in the beginning, and coming out worsted at the end. There
are a _few_ things in this world that mortal man can't compass, and to
attempt to pour oil on the waves of a woman's wrath when they are just
at the boiling point, and ready to overflow their confines, is like
sitting down on a bunch of fire-crackers to prevent their going off. Let
the water boil over, and there will still be enough left to brew you a
cup of tea. Let the crackers explode, and you may sit down on them with
impunity.

Dear brethren, the moral is homely.

How had he offended? That he should ask the question, was the acme of
his offense. As if she could tell how he had offended. Was there ever so
impertinent a question and questioner? "How had he been so _unfortunate_
as to offend?" Any other man would have said "unhappy," whether he meant
it or not, but this man, oh! he would not even _look_ a culprit.

She raised her haughty head a trifle higher, as high as it could be; she
drew back as many steps as he had advanced; the room had become a
refrigerator.

"Doctor Heath flatters himself; in what manner _could_ he offend me?"

[Illustration: "Doctor Heath flatters himself."]

Still he retains his composure, not guessing at the truth.

"I have never presumed Miss Wardour, therefore can not have flattered
myself. I _may_ have offended by coming one moment too late with this
packet. Miss Wardour is accustomed to unqualified obedience. If I fail
in that it is not from lack of inclination, but--because I am just
learning submission." He uttered the last words in a lower, softer
tone, and fell back as he uttered them, laying his hand upon his hat.

Anger, self-shame, and a strange thrilling emotion, she could not, or
would not recognize or define, urged her out of herself, beyond herself,
and beyond the bounds of propriety or courtesy. Sweeping toward him with
one swift movement, she extended one hand with downward turned palm, in
a quick, meaning gesture, and said,

"Doctor Heath, I have lost Sybil Lamotte's letter."

"Lost it! How?"

"That I should be glad to know; since I showed it to you last night and
replaced it in my pocket, I have not seen it, and, Doctor Heath, as I do
not wish without your knowledge, to be in possession of any secret of
yours, I may as well tell you now that I overheard your warning to the
detective last night."

"My warning!" he repeated, parrot-like.

"Your reminder that you must be to him, _Doctor Heath from nowhere_!"

Doctor Heath from nowhere, gazed at her for a moment as if petrified,
his mind seeming reluctant or unable to grasp at once her full meaning;
then he came close to her, straight and tall, and paler than her own
pale robe; the blood of all the Howards flashing from his eye, and
speaking in his bearing. Thus, for a moment, they faced each other,
pale, passionate, mute; then a voice, soft and suave, broke the spell.

"I trust you will pardon me."

They turned swiftly, neither had faced the door; both had been too
preoccupied to observe or hear. How long he had been a listener he alone
could tell; but there stood Mr. Jerry Belknap, private detective, one
hand resting on the handle of the closed door, the other holding an open
note book.

Doctor Heath vouchsafed him one dark glance, then bending above the
uplifted hand of Constance Wardour, he looked straight down into her
eyes, and said in a low, tense voice,

"Miss Wardour, your words have been not an accusation, but an insult; as
such, I can only accept them--in silence; good morning."

Then he turned, waved the private detective haughtily from before the
door, and strode out, his heels ringing firm upon the hall marble as he
went.

"I fear I intruded," said Mr. Belknap, innocently. "I have just finished
making some notes in the library, and am ready to proceed to the upper
floor."

"Breakfast." It was Nelly who appeared with this announcement, which was
welcome, at least to Mr. Belknap, and pale, silent, subdued, Constance
motioned him to precede her to the dining room.

"I'm sure to be in a situation," mused the girl with a rueful grimace.
"If it's only a _tête-á-tête_ breakfast with a detective."



CHAPTER VIII.

ONE DETECTIVE TOO MANY.


"Aunt Honor," said Miss Wardour, sweeping unceremoniously into her
aunt's dressing room, "you really must come to my relief."

Mrs. Aliston seated in a big dressing chair, with a tempting breakfast
tray drawn close beside her, looked up serene and comfortable, and said,
after setting down her porcelain chocolate cup with great care.

"Yes!" with the rising inflection.

"I'm exhausted, bothered, bored," continued the young lady, flinging
herself down upon the nearest ottoman. "I wish my old diamonds had never
had an existence. I wish Grandmama Wardour had had better sense."

"Have a cup of chocolate," suggested Mrs. Aliston.

"I won't," snapped Constance, belligerently. "I have breakfasted if you
please; auntie," lowering her voice to a tone of mock mystery, "we have
got another detective in the house."

"So Nelly tells me," reaching out for another roll.

"And, he has breakfasted with me."

Mrs. Aliston laid down the roll, turned for a moment to gaze at her
niece; and, reading in that fair upturned face, the fact that its owner
was in a state of mutiny against the proprieties and all things else
that might come in opposition to her will, she took up her roll and
buttered it carefully as she said:

"Well! that's quite like you. What sort of a man is he?"

"Splendid," with a shrug of the shoulders, "smooth as oil, polished as
ivory; a Chesterfield in ill fitting clothes."

"And, a detective?"

"Well, why not? Somehow he has picked up all the arts and graces of a
gentleman."

"Really! Not much like the other one then."

"Not in the least. The other is eccentric, explosive, amusing. This one
is like a lawyer; very non-committal, not at all inclined to tell all he
knows."

"Oh! have you told him about the chloroform?"

"Yes; he has the bottle."

"Well, what did _he_ say?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing!"

"Not a word."

"Goodness gracious! and you breakfasted with him?"

"Yes; and he has spent half an hour or more in the drawing room. I have
told him all I had to tell, and he is now prowling about my dressing
room."

"But what does he think about this affair?"

"I don't know;" indifferently.

"Why, it didn't take you all breakfast time to tell _your_ story?"

"Oh, no; I told my story and Mr. Belknap listened very attentively; made
some entries in his note book, remarked that he would have a report
ready for me in the course of the day, and then turned his back upon the
subject."

"Mercy!"

"He discussed the new opera, asked me if I had seen Neilson in Twelfth
Night, gave a brilliant description of a young French drama by a young
French author, gave me his opinion of Dickens, and looked his opinion of
myself."

"What a remarkable person."

"Exceedingly so. His remarks have quite exhausted me."

"Now, Con.;" reproachfully.

"Now, auntie, don't plead, my heart is adamant. If you don't go and
interview that man for the remainder of his stay I shall order William
to throw him out of my dressing-room window; not that I have a rooted
antipathy for him, he is certainly a clever man, and no doubt a good
officer. But I am worn out, unfit for duty, and--I have another matter
to attend to."

"Oh!" ejaculates Mrs. Aliston arising, "then, my child, I am ready, or
almost ready, to go and inspect your new detective."

Accordingly Mrs. Aliston goes to her mirror, touches up her
dressing-cap, gives a pat here, a shake there, and then ruffling her
plumage like some huge old bird, follows her niece.

Across the hall they find the detective inspecting the little safe, and
hurriedly introducing Mrs. Aliston, and making her own excuses,
Constance hastens away and down stairs.

Down the stairs and out of the house, first because she felt oppressed
and needed the soothing effects of fresh air and exercise, and, second,
because she expected the tramp detective to be somewhere in the
vicinity, and, for some reason, she wanted to see him. In spite of the
fact that she had just declared herself bored, and desperate, and
anxious to be alone; in spite of the fact that she had fled from
detective number two, she wanted to see number one for a woman's reason.
Having quarrelled desperately with Clifford Heath, she was immediately
possessed by an insane desire to hear some one speak of him, and speak
well of him. This man had treated Doctor Heath from the first with the
utmost respect. He was undoubtedly pleased at their chance meeting;
after all might not this secret which lay between the two be a perfectly
honorable one?

In fact, Miss Wardour wanted to see Detective Bathurst, not as Detective
Bathurst, but as the man who knew Doctor Clifford Heath better than she
herself knew him. Of her diamonds, she never thought at all.

She felt depressed, dissatisfied, yet not quite prepared to blame
herself in any way. She was possessed by more uncomfortable feelings
than she could have analyzed or described, yet was too consistent a
woman to be so soon ready to admit, even to herself, that she had
wronged Doctor Heath. Indeed, she was more angry than ever with that
unfortunate man. Had he not capped the climax of his iniquities by
flying off at a tangent, and leaving her in a most uncomfortable
position?

The grounds about Wardour Place were large, well shaded, and laid out
with a network of walks. With a view to the avoiding of those paths
overlooked by the windows of her dressing room, or other rooms where her
aunt and the detective were likely to be, Constance kept to the north
and east walks, thus coming near the river, which ran north and south,
and toward which the eastern, or near, portion of the grounds sloped
down.

Walking thus, and gazing riverward, Constance saw a form approaching,
which she soon recognized as that of the detective tramp.

Glancing quickly about to see if any of the servants were in the
grounds, and assuring herself that the way was clear, she went forward
to where he could see her, before approaching too near.

Gazing fixedly at him, a slight movement of his hand told her that he
had seen, and was alert; and then she made a gesture northward, and,
turning that way herself, disappeared from his sight among the
shrubbery.

On the north, the grounds were bounded by the orchard wall, over which
drooped the branches of huge old apple trees, and down close to the
eastern boundary of this same orchard, a small iron gate opened into it.
Toward this gate Constance walked, avoiding any appearance of unseemly
haste, and toward the eastern wall, hard by, went the tramp detective,
looking innocent of any thought or purpose, save to intercept the lady,
and beg for a dinner, a dollar, or a dime.

Reaching the gate, Constance passed through it into the orchard, and,
almost at the same moment, the tramp bounded over the wall, and stood
bowing beside her.

"Come into the grounds," said Constance, waiving all ceremony. "If we
are seen talking there, it will look less suspicious. My servants are
quite accustomed to see me interviewing tramps."

She led the way back into the grounds, closed the wicket, and walked
along the orchard wall to a rustic bench close under the bending boughs
of a great tree. Here she seated herself, and the tramp, leaning against
a tree a few paces from her, turned upon her a look of proper
supplication, and said:

"Now I think we are ready for observers."

"Quite. None of my servants saw you last night, and they are not likely
to come here in any case. We shall hardly be disturbed."

"You think so? May I ask how long you have been absent from the house?"

"About fifteen minutes, I should think."

"Well, in fifteen minutes more Mr. Belknap will be out looking at the
grounds, and for you."

Constance uttered a low exclamation of surprise.

"Ah!" said she, "you know that already. Pray tell me how? you are more
puzzling than a Chinese juggler."

"No jugglery about this, however," he replied, looking somewhat amused.
"I met Mr. Belknap, face to face at your very gate; I have seen him wear
that farmer disguise before, hence I recognized him."

"And he?"

"Did _not_ recognize me."

"Yet you know each other."

"Slightly, yes;" with a droll look in his eyes, of which Constance took
note.

"Now tell me, Mr. Bathurst, is Mr. Belknap a good detective?"

"Mr. Belknap is a smart man, Miss Wardour; he understands his business
thoroughly."

"He equivocates," thought Constance; aloud she said,

"And I need not fear to trust my business in his hands?"

"You need not fear," he replied, with odd emphasis. "And now," he
continued, "time presses; you received your package, Miss Wardour?"

Constance felt uneasy, this man seemed to find out everything; did he
know of what she had accused Doctor Heath?

"I received it an hour ago," she replied.

"Miss Wardour," asked he, fixing his eyes upon her face, "have you any
suspicion as to who these robbers were?"

For a moment Constance seemed half paralyzed with fright; then she
answered firmly,

"No, sir; not the shadow of a suspicion; but--you have."

"If I have, it is not more than a shadow--at present. Now, may I ask you
some questions, not just to the point but which, for my own reasons, I
wish answered."

She nodded assent.

"Can you tell me how many medical men you have in W----?"

Constance reflected; finally she said,

"I think there are seven, in all."

"Ah! all in practice?"

"Not all; two are retired, one is an invalid, doing but little."

"Thank you; and how many of them have assistants or students?"

"Only two, to my knowledge, Doctor Benoit and--Doctor Heath."

"And who are these young men--I suppose they _are_ young men? Can you
give me any information concerning them?"

"The young man with Doctor Benoit is a stranger to me, he comes, I
believe, from one of the neighboring towns; the one with Doctor Heath,"
here, in spite of herself, Constance colored slightly, "is the son of
one of our wealthiest citizens. He had, I believe, been reading a little
in the city during the winter before Doctor Heath established himself
here; since when he has remained in W----, and read in Doctor Heath's
office, when it has suited him to do so; he is like many young men of
great expectations."

"And his name?"

"His name," hesitating a little, "is Francis Lamotte."

"Thank you; and now, Miss Wardour, I want to ask at least three favors
of you, in return for which you may command me to any extent."

"Ask them," replied Constance, feeling inwardly that she was outgrowing
surprise.

"First, will you promise me--I know that you keep your promises--not to
repeat one word of this conversation to Doctor Heath."

"Doctor Heath is not my father confessor," she said coldly; and then
remembering the sort of man she was addressing, she added as best she
could. "Although from what you saw last night, you might almost have
fancied him such. I promise in any case to keep secret this interview."

"Will you promise, above all, to keep it from Mr. Belknap; to keep
_everything_ concerning me from his knowledge?"

Constance laughed.

"So far as I can," she replied. "Mr. Belknap is a detective; let him
find out things as you seem to do."

"I don't find out everything, more's the pity," he replied; then
hesitating slightly over the question. "May I rely on your aunt?"

"I promise for my aunt," replied Constance, laughing again; "she is very
loyal."

"Thank you. Now there is one thing more I very much wish, for reasons
which no doubt you will know in good time, to see or hear the report of
Mr. Jerry Belknap, private detective. This I know, is asking much, but
you will have no cause to regret it if you enable me to obtain this
knowledge."

Constance looked perplexed, and hesitated in her answer.

"You distrust Mr. Belknap," she said finally. "I thought--"

He throws up his hand somewhat impatiently.

"You jump at conclusions," he interrupted; "a detective's motives must
be taken for granted. It is not distrust that causes me to ask this
favor; I could not tell you my reason without unraveling a long web, and
it is not time to begin the process; I am still in the realm of
conjecture. So you won't help me to the result of Mr. Belknap's
investigation, Miss Wardour? I am sorry; it would save time for me, for
I fully intend to find it out in some way."

Constance smiled in spite of herself; she admired this man's cool way of
mastering the situation; she felt that it would be policy to let him
have his way, since he would take it whether she would or no. But the
imp of caprice had not quite deserted her, and now he goaded her on to
her own downfall. Looking up suddenly, she asked:

"Mr. Bathurst, why did you ask me if I suspected who stole my diamonds?"

"I didn't," smiling oddly.

Constance stared.

"I asked if you guessed who the robbers were."

"But--," began she; but the detective drawing a step nearer, and
speaking in a guarded tone, interrupts her.

"I am satisfied that you were _robbed_ on Saturday night, Miss Wardour;
I am sure that you have no clue to the burglars; no suspicion as to
their identity; but, I am not so sure that you do not know _precisely
where to look for the Wardour diamonds at this moment_?"

Constance flushed, and then turned pale. She had found her match; she
was cornered, mastered, but she must give one last scratch.

"Having divined so much," she said bitterly. "I suppose you intend to
find them too?"

He drew himself up haughtily. "I am a detective, madam, not a spy; so
long as your diamonds give _you_ no uneasiness they have no interest for
me. When you need my services they are yours. I do not investigate
mysteries from mere curiosity."

Constance felt a twinge of self-reproach. "I am behaving like a fool,"
she thought, in severe condemnation. "I am losing my own identity; this
man is a friend to rely on, an enemy to fear. He will not bow to my
whims and caprices. What has come over me? Let me try and redeem
myself."

She had been musing with downcast eyes; now she looked up, straight into
her companion's face. It had undergone a sudden change; the eyes, a
moment since so full of fire and subtlety, were dull and expressionless.
The face was vague to apathy, the mouth looked the incarnation of
meekness or imbecility; even his hands had taken on a helpless
feebleness in the clutch in which he held his worn-out hat. Before she
could withdraw her gaze or open her lips in speech, he said in a low
guarded tone:

"Some one is approaching. Look behind me, Miss Wardour, and carefully,
not to excite suspicion."

She turned her gaze cautiously in the direction indicated, and saw
coming slowly toward them, Mr. Belknap and Mrs. Aliston.

"It is Mr. Belknap," she said, nodding easily at the new comers as she
spoke, "and my aunt. Have no fears, sir tramp, everything shall be as
you wish. I will engage you, I think."

Constance was herself again.

"Aunt Honor," she said, as the two came within hearing distance, "you
find me at my old tricks."

"Old tricks indeed!" replied her aunt, with more subtlety of meaning
than she often employed.

Constance arose and swept past the supposed tramp, without bestowing a
glance upon him.

"What would you do aunt?" she said, with an air of honest anxiety that
would have done credit to an actress, "here is this man again. You know
I promised to try and help him when he was here before. Simon needs an
assistant, he tells me; would you try him as under gardener?"

[Illustration: "Here is this man again."]

Thoroughly drilled in the art of aiding and abetting her niece, Mrs.
Aliston proved equal to the emergency.

"It couldn't do any harm," she said surveying the gentleman tramp
somewhat superciliously. "He looks quite respectable, for that sort of a
person."

Constance stifled an inclination to laugh as she said, briskly:

"Then we will try him, and I'll just take him to the kitchen, and tell
cook what to do with him until Simon comes."

"Now just let me do that Con.," remonstrated Mrs. Aliston, "Mr. Belknap
wishes to talk with you about the servants; remain here, and I will
attend to this person."

"Very well," responded Constance, indifferently, at the same time
realizing the expediency of allowing the detective an instant
opportunity for dropping a word of warning in the ear of her relative.
"Tell the cook to give him something to eat, and now Mr. Belknap, you
and I may walk on."

"Just follow me, my man," called Mrs. Aliston, in a tone of loftiest
patronage, and the newly appointed under gardener, beaming with
gratitude, passed by Miss Wardour and Mr. Belknap, and followed the
portly figure kitchenward with eager alacrity.

Meantime, Constance, eager to engross Mr. Belknap's attention, turned
toward him a smiling face, and said:

"Now, Mr. Belknap, I am at your disposal for a short time; fate seems
against my obtaining the rest I came out here to seek, but _your_
business is in my interest, and I am not ungrateful; you wished to say
something about my servants."

"I wish to question your servants separately, Miss Wardour."

Constance opened her eyes in quick surprise, then she answered quietly:

"To question my servants! Oh, certainly, Mr. Belknap; when, and where?"

"This evening would suit me; I am going to look about the surrounding
country during the day."

"This evening then, after dinner; will that suit you?"

"Admirably, say at half past eight;" and having completed his
arrangements in this business-like manner, Mr. Belknap asked permission
to pass through the orchard, received it, and, bowing gravely, went
through the wicket, and walked swiftly between the rows of apple trees
straight northward.

At six o'clock that evening, Miss Wardour sent for the gardener.

"Simon," she said sweetly to the cross looking old man, "I engaged a new
man to-day, perhaps you have seen him. I don't expect he can be very
useful to you just at first, and I want you to give him very light
tasks, and treat him kindly; he is a very unfortunate man. If we find
that we can't make him useful after a few days' trial, we will pay him a
month's wages and let him go. That will help him a little."

Then she sent for the new man.

"I thought you might wish to hear the latest report from Mr. Belknap,"
she said graciously. "If I am to be your ally, I intend to keep nothing
back; but I can't help fearing that he may suspect your identity."

"You need not," he replied with confident ease. "He has every reason
for supposing me in California at this moment; besides, he does not know
me well enough to be able to recognize me under a good disguise; our
acquaintance," he added dryly, "has been somewhat one sided, with the
advantage so far on my side. When I told you that I knew Mr. Belknap
well, I did not intend to imply that he knew me equally well."

"Then I will trouble myself no more about the matter," said she lightly.
"Mr. Belknap wishes to examine the servants, that is what I wished to
tell you."

"Very proper in Mr. Belknap."

"Oh! is it? I thought it very absurd. My servants are honesty itself."

"So much the better; Mr. Belknap knows how to go to work, Miss Wardour,
pray feel no prejudice."

"Oh, not at all," ironically. "Now about the report. Be within easy call
to-morrow morning, please, I think we will have it then."

"Thanks."

"I suppose it will be best to have you present, that is, within hearing.
I will arrange that the interview will take place in the dining room,
and can easily get you into the butler's room adjoining, where William
sleeps; this room was arranged with a view to the overlooking of the
dining room, and plate closet, as you discovered for yourself; from
there you can both hear and see."

"So much the better." Then admiringly, he added, "Miss Wardour you are a
splendid ally; you have thought of everything."

She laughed; then answered with artful frankness: "I am trying to get
back into my normal condition. I have been out of balance somehow, ever
since this business commenced; have been as testy as an old woman of
eighty. It is time I began to redeem myself. But I must not detain you.
I see you begin to look uneasy. Until to-morrow, I commend you to the
tender mercies of Simon and the cook."

"I wonder how that man looks, devoid of all disguise," mused she, after
he had withdrawn. "I don't believe he is tow-haired and freckled by
nature. I wonder what has become of poor Sybil's letter; and if I had
better ask his aid in finding it. But he is going away so soon. Now that
I reflect, soberly, what motive could Doctor Heath possibly have for
taking that letter? I think I must have been mad, or in hysteria. The
man may be an imposter, a man of mystery, and all that; but why must I
accuse him of taking a letter that could be of no possible use to him. I
had worked myself into a rage. Well, it's done; I can't recall it.
Doctor Heath will think me a vixen, and why not? What is Doctor Heath's
opinion to me?"

What, indeed!



CHAPTER IX.

DEDUCTIONS OF DETECTIVE NUMBER TWO.


The fates seemed propitious on Monday morning. The day dawned fair and
balmy, and Constance arose, feeling refreshed and like her own serene
self once more.

The events of the two previous days no longer seemed to her imagination
a chaotic disturbing mass of tribulations; they had arranged themselves
in their proper order, been reviewed sensibly, and assigned their
rightful places, as things to be overcome, or overlooked, as the case
might be.

Mrs. Aliston, too, at once discreet and talkative, was in fine spirits,
and the two, having ascertained the precise time when Private Detective
Belknap might be expected to make his report, had breakfasted
comfortably, stowed away Mr. Bathurst, according to previous
arrangement, and were now calmly awaiting the coming man.

They had not long to wait. Mr. Belknap, ushered in by Nelly, found the
ladies seated near the breakfast tray, as if just about completing a
repast, which had in reality been finished some time before.

"Good-morning, ladies," said he, laying down his hat, and at once
drawing a chair to the table, with the air of a man whose time is
money. "Having completed my investigations here,--that is, in this
immediate neighborhood,--I am prepared with my written report, which I
submit to you, Miss Wardour. Will you please read it, and then give me
further instructions?" and he proffered her a neatly-folded paper, of
goodly proportions.

Constance glanced at it dubiously, but did not take it from his hand.

"Please read it, Mr. Belknap," she said, appealingly. "I am sure I shall
comprehend it better, and my aunt shares my anxiety to hear and
understand its contents."

"As you please," assented he, opening the manuscript. "I have made it as
brief as possible; of course, it was necessary to be statistical."

The report began with the usual form, day and date, circumstances under
which his services were retained, etc., a statement of the case as it
was made to him, then came the following:

"Arrived in W---- early on Sunday morning, walking from the first
station northward. Found Wardour Place easily from Mr. Lamotte's
description. Gained admittance, and was at once permitted to inspect the
room where the robbers found an entrance; found that it had been
previously examined, and could not feel quite sure that some clue had
not been effaced or something disturbed that might have evolved a clue.
Miss Wardour assures me that nothing of value was taken from this room,
and I am inclined to think that the robbers had hoped to find
themselves in the dining room, and gain access to the plate closet.

"Finding themselves instead in the library, a room where, there being no
man of the house, it could hardly be supposed valuables were kept, or
money or papers of worth locked away; they, after a vigorous search,
opened the door of the hall; here they found themselves at once at the
foot of the stairs and, naturally, one ascends to explore. The first
door that he tries is the door of Miss Wardour's dressing room; and,
having examined that door, I am compelled to think that Miss Wardour,
for once, forgot to lock it. Had it been locked the explorer would
naturally have passed on, trying the other doors and some of these other
doors were certainly not locked.

"The burglary was effected with the utmost quiet, and there are no
indications that any thing was disturbed on the second floor, save in
Miss Wardour's rooms, therefore (I cite this presumptive evidence), Miss
Wardour's door was _not_ locked as she supposed it to be; finding this
to be the case the man signaled to his confederate to come up, and then,
having a dark lantern, they entered, and surveyed the room. The rest is
evident; one of them, skilled in his profession, and in the exigencies
that must arise in the practice of it, administered to Miss Wardour the
chloroform. Now the operation must have been a delicate one, and the
length of time necessary to open the safe and get possession of its
contents covered some minutes; having heard Miss Wardour's statement in
regard to the effect a powerful dose of chloroform has on her physical
system, I incline to the opinion that the drug was administered to her
in minute doses, not once, but two or three times at least; this
accounts for the bottle and the linen being left in the sleeping room.
Probably, just at the moment when they had stowed away the last of their
booty, some slight sound alarmed them and they made a hurried escape,
forgetting the bottle entirely.

"The robbers left behind them no clues beyond the established fact that
they were professional burglars. This is proved by the manner in which
they did their work, and by the tools they must have carried.

"I see plainly here the work of city-bred burglars, and the remainder of
the work of finding them is to be done in the city, where they will
eventually try to dispose of some of the jewels, no doubt.

"In order to satisfy myself that there has been no accomplice here, who
may have been acquainted with the premises, I have searched most
thoroughly. I have examined the servants closely, and I find nothing to
indicate that there has been any one concerned in this affair, who is an
inhabitant, or habitual visitor in the town.

"In a field to the northward, I have found what may be, I think is, a
trace of the robbers. Two or more men have leaped a ditch, running
across the field from east to west; and the footmarks in the first
instance are coming southward, or toward Wardour. These footmarks are
within a few rods of the road, as if the parties had suddenly abandoned
that highway, fearing observation from travelers. My supposition is,
that they approached Wardour Place, keeping to the field, after having
leaped the ditch, until the northern boundary of the orchard was
reached; here they must have kept close under the wall, until they came
to the roadside fence, which they climbed. The fence bears freshly
scraped marks, as if made by boot heels in climbing over, and some tall
weeds, growing by the roadside, give evidence of having been hastily and
heavily trampled. The thieves probably returned after the robbery, in
the same way; for, one crossing of the fence would not have left so many
marks visible, either on the boards or among the weeds; and in the
darkness they fell a little eastward of their first course; for I find,
at the ditch again, but nearer to the river, the same footprints where
the ditch has been leaped, this time the footsteps going northward.

"It is probable that the thieves tramped northward under cover of the
darkness, until they struck the railroad at some previously selected
point, and from thence took the first train cityward."

The reading came thus abruptly to an end, and the reader looked up to
note the effect upon his hearers. They both sat in most attentive
attitudes, and each face wore an expression of puzzled astonishment. Not
being able to reach their "inner consciousness," and read the mental
comparisons there being drawn between this report and the very
dissimilar summing up of the tramp detective, Mr. Belknap drew his
inferences, as do we all, poor mortals that we are, seeing only the
outside of the cup and platter. He saw the surprise, the puzzled look,
that might denote a partial inability to grasp his thoughts and theories
at once, and a feeling of satisfaction took possession of the breast of
the astute detective.

Pausing for a comment, and receiving none, he said, with dignified
gravity:

"I trust that I have made my report sufficiently plain to you, ladies,
and that you find no flaw it."

Constance, who with her keen sense of the ridiculous, had been fancying
the effect this report would have upon the detective in ambush, and
struggling hard with her own risibilities, mastered herself finally, and
preserving her gravity of expression, replied with a wicked undercurrent
of meaning:

"It is quite plain to me, sir; I am a poor critic of such matters, but I
should think it a masterpiece for directness and comprehensiveness."

"And you see nothing in the theory to object to? You think that working
from these findings, there will be a hope of success?" he queried.

Constance hesitated once more to consider her answer and collect herself
generally.

"Why, you know, Mr. Belknap," she said at last, and with charming
ingenuousness, "this is not a matter for my judgment; I rely upon you
entirely; pray do not hesitate, but continue your investigations in
whatever direction your judgment leads you. I wish Mr. Lamotte was here
to confer with you; but, if he were here," and her face became sad as
she thought of his home coming; "he would hardly be in spirits for such
a consultation. Mr. Lamotte has bad news awaiting him. We must venture
this matter without his aid for the present."

The detective's face showed grave concern.

"Bad news for Mr. Lamotte," he murmurs; "I deeply deplore that. He seems
such a genial, kindly gentleman, so much above the average business man.
It is not too serious, I hope."

"It is something you would have heard from the first gossip, if you had
mingled with the town people at all," replied Constance sadly. "I may as
well tell you what every one knows. Mr. Lamotte's only daughter has
eloped during his absence, with a very worthless man."

"His only daughter!" repeated the detective in a hushed sympathetic
voice; "what a blow! what a bitter blow to a father's heart. Ah, madam,"
turning to Mrs. Aliston, "these things are common, especially so to men
in my profession, but we can never adjust ourselves to them for all
that; each one comes to some one with the shock of a never before
experienced horror. Death is common, the commonest thing of all, but, it
is the 'king of terrors' still."

His voice, low, splendidly modulated, sadly cadenced, seemed thrilling
with sympathy, and he sighed as he lowered his eyes to the floor, and
relapsed into meditation, seemingly forgetful of the business in hand.

Suddenly he started, seeming to recover himself with an effort.

"Pardon my abstraction," he said, a shade of pensiveness still lingering
in his voice. "In contemplating another's sorrow, I am forgetting your
business. I can only hope that this matter is not so bad as it might be,
as such things sometimes are."

"It's as bad as it can be," responded Constance, gloomily. "It won't
bear discussion; I mentioned it to you, Mr. Belknap, in order to show
you how entirely absorbed Mr. Lamotte will of necessity be in his own
affairs when he reaches home, and that we will be obliged to move in
this matter without him."

"Perhaps there is some one else you may desire to consult, in Mr.
Lamotte's absence?" hazarded the private detective.

"No," replied Constance; "my lawyer is out of town, and there is no one
else upon whom I can rely. You must act alone, Mr. Belknap."

"Authorized by you I shall not hesitate to do so," he replied, bowing
courteously. "The case looks very clear to me. It will be a matter of
time of course, these old birds are sly; but eventually they will try to
market their wares, and then we shall have them. You can give me an
accurate description of all the stolen jewels, Miss Wardour?"

"Oh, certainly."

"Then the sooner that is done the better."

At this moment a soft rap sounded on the door. Constance crossed the
room and admitted Nelly, who said in a low tone:

"Mr. Francis Lamotte wishes to see you, Miss. I told him you were
particular engaged, just as you told me; but he said to tell you he had
just come from his search, and would only detain you for a moment."

Constance paled slightly, and after a moment's thought, said:

"Wait a moment, Nelly." Then she went back and addressed the detective
and her aunt.

"It is Francis Lamotte," she said, adding, by way of explanation, to the
detective, "the eldest son of Mr. Lamotte, and brother of the young lady
who has brought trouble to herself and family. He, Francis, went on
Saturday, on a self-imposed search through the surrounding country, in
the hopes of finding some trace of these robbers. If he is but now
returned he cannot yet have heard of his sister's flight. We cannot let
him go away in ignorance, and yet," turning a look of swift appeal upon
her aunt, "Aunt Honor, will _you_ lay aside old prejudices and tell him
of this sad misfortune?"

Mrs. Aliston looked doubtful for a moment, then a look of satisfied
commiseration came into her face as she thought:

"She can't be very much infatuated with him or she would herself
undertake this delicate task, and I can afford to pity the poor fellow,
since she does not pity him overmuch," hence the strange mingling of
pleasure and pity in her face as she said aloud:

"Certainly I will break the news to him, my dear, and as gently as is in
my power."

Constance was turning to give her answer to Nelly when the voice of the
detective interposed.

"Pardon me," he said, "you tell me this young man has been scouring the
country in search of information. Would it not be well to hear what
report he brings? To allow me to see him here in your presence, and then
let Mrs. Aliston tell him her story. Ill news you know," smiling
slightly, "come soon enough, at latest."

"Your suggestion is good," replied Constance, whose face continued to
look anxious and troubled. "We will receive him here, then, and after
hearing his story, you and I can withdraw."

In the hurry and embarrassment of the moment, and the situation,
Constance had entirely forgotten the proximity of the concealed
detective, as also had Mrs. Aliston; and that invisible gentleman began
to scent the prospect of a long imprisonment.

Obedient to a nod from Constance, Nelly vanished, and soon re-appeared,
ushering in Francis Lamotte, looking somewhat jaded and travel-worn, but
quite confident and smiling.

In a few words, Constance made him acquainted with the detective, and
gave him an outline of the doings at Wardour, including Mr. Belknap's
discoveries, since he was last there; and the subdued kindness of her
manner, caused him to wonder not a little and rejoice greatly, within
himself.

"And so you have been bringing things down to a fine point," said
Francis, after the greetings were over, and he had listened to
Constance's explanation of the present state of affairs.

"It appears then that I come just in time; and perhaps you sir," bowing
to Mr. Belknap, "may conclude that my amateur work has not been quite
thrown away, or misapplied."

"Pray give me details," said the detective, consulting his watch, which
was a huge silver affair, quite in keeping with the disguise he still
wore. "I must economize my time, as much as may be, and shall be glad to
hear all you have to tell--at once. Miss Wardour instructs me to act in
this matter, according to my best judgment, and that tells me to shorten
my stay here, and commence a search in the city."

"All I know is soon told," said young Lamotte, with a light laugh. "I
rode a great many miles, and asked a great many useless questions.
Yesterday, however, I learned that two men had boarded a freight train
bound cityward, at daybreak, Sunday morning, at Blair, a little watering
station, some fifteen miles from here. I could not get a very accurate
description of them. They were below the medium size, I should judge,
wearing loose-fitting dark gray garments, and soft hats, pulled well
down over their faces. The man at the tank tells me, he noticed
distinctly that one of them wore very large and heavy boots, and that
they were daubed here and there with red clay. Acting upon this hint, I
rode some four miles south-east from Blair, knowing that there is a
piece of marsh field, which the highway crosses, that has a reddish,
clayey soil. Here, after asking a good many wrong persons, I found at
last the right one, in the person of a farmer who, hearing some unusual
noise among his cattle, arose before daybreak, and, going toward his
barn, noticed two shadowy forms crossing the field just beyond. They
were coming from the south, he said, and he watched them until they
climbed the fence and struck into the road leading toward Blair. It was
too dark for him to see them distinctly, but as they were then crossing
a red loam field, we are safe to conclude that they were the two who, a
little later, took to the freight cars at the water station."

Mr. Belknap had been for some moments writing rapidly in a small
memorandum book, and as Francis ceased speaking, Constance, after a
moment's silence, said, more to relieve the stillness than with a desire
for any further intelligence:

"And is that all, Frank?"

"That is enough," interposed the detective, before the young man could
reply. "Mr. Lamotte, let me congratulate you; you have done well. This
confirms my theory, and gives me something to start from when I reach
the city. I shall go now with a light heart, and a more than moderate
hope of success."

"Then your business here is about accomplished?" asked Francis.

"It is accomplished, thanks to you. I would like," glancing as he spoke,
into his note book, "to talk this matter over with you further. It is
possible I might see you again before leaving for the city. At present,"
he broke off abruptly, and glanced at Constance.

"I understand," laughed she nervously; "at present you require my
assistance about that list of jewels. Frank, you will remain here with
Aunt Honor for a short time; she has, I think, something to say to you.
We will go to the library, Mr. Belknap," and she turned toward the door.

"Don't hurry matters so, please," expostulated Francis. "Let me say a
little word to Mr. Belknap before you carry him off. His business here
being so nearly done, the necessity for extra caution ceases, does it
not? At least, it would not injure the cause if I carry him over to
Mapleton to luncheon; will it, think you? You won't leave for the city
before night, Mr. Belknap, I hope?"

"You are very good," said the detective, with some hesitation. "But, if
you please, we will renew this subject a little later; now, just excuse
me," and before the bewildered young man could raise his voice to
intercept them, Constance and Mr. Belknap had passed from the room, and
he found himself alone with Mrs. Aliston. Turning toward that lady, he
was surprised at the look of intent pity she was bending on him, and,
remembering the words of Constance, he came close beside her, saying:

"You had something to say to me, madam?"

"Yes Frank," he almost started upon hearing his name falling so gently
from her lips. She was not used to familiarity in addressing him.
"Prepare yourself to receive a shock, a terrible shock." A look of
uneasiness, but not of alarm, came over his countenance.

"What is it?" he asked hastily. "Has Evan--done something worse than
usual?"

"Not to my knowledge. It is not Evan."

"Not Evan, what then; tell me Mrs. Aliston," his face becoming paler and
paler.

"Frank, your sister has eloped!"

He fell into the nearest chair, white and limp.

"Go on," he whispered hoarsely, lifting a haggard face towards her;
"tell me--the worst, Mrs. Aliston."

"She has eloped with John Burrill," went on Mrs. Aliston, a shade of
coldness in her voice. "They ran away on Saturday afternoon."

His head dropped forward and fell upon the table before him. Thus for a
moment he remained motionless, then his voice broke the stillness,
sounding faint and hollow.

"Is that--all--you can tell me?"

"All! Yes!" exclaimed Mrs. Aliston in a burst of nervousness. "I wish I
had not told you so much. Frank don't take it so hard."

He lifted his head, showing her a ghastly face and pale trembling lips.

"Did Constance see Sybil? Does she know--" he broke off abruptly and
half rising from his chair, stretched out to her an imploring hand.

"Mrs. Aliston," he said hoarsely. "I must see Constance. I _must_. For
God's sake send her to me, just for one moment."

"But--" began Mrs. Aliston.

"I tell you I _must_ see her," he cried, with sudden fierceness. "I
shall go to her if there is no other way."

Great drops of sweat stood out on his forehead; once more he looked as
he had two days before, when he stood alone under the trees of Wardour
Place, after his parting with Constance.

Seeing that look upon his face, Mrs. Aliston went slowly towards the
door.

"I will send Constance to you," she said gently and went out, closing
the door softly.

When he was alone the look upon Francis Lamotte's face became fierce and
set. Springing to his feet he paced the floor like a mad man.

"That letter," he hissed, "that accursed letter, what has it told? I
must know! I must know the worst! blind fool that I was to let my own
hand bring this about. Oh! this is horrible! Am I lost or--"

Suddenly he seemed to recollect himself and dropping into a chair he
buried his passion-distorted face in his arms and so awaited the coming
of Constance.

He had not long to wait; soon his listening ear caught the gentle
opening and closing of the door, and then he felt a light hand upon his
arm, and a sweet pitying voice said: "Poor Frank, poor boy, don't let
this overcome you so."

[Illustration: "Poor Frank, don't let this overcome you."]

One hand reached up and clasped the soft hand that rested on his arm,
but he did not lift his head, as he said brokenly:

"Tell me the worst, Constance."

"Why, Frank! the worst is told."

"But," his hand tightened its clasp, "_you_ know more than she has told
me."

"No, Frank, nothing more."

He lifted his pale face again.

"Constance--that letter."

She started and flushed.

"What letter, Frank?"

"You know," his eyes scanning her face hungrily. "Her letter. The one I
brought you two days ago. What was it?"

She drew away her hand.

"It was a note of farewell, Frank. Nothing more."

"Then she told you?" he gasped,--caught his lips between his teeth, and
waited for her to finish the sentence.

"She told me nothing, Frank. Oh, I wish she had."

He sprang up, overturning his chair in his hasty excitement.

"Nothing!" he cried "she told you _nothing_?"

"Absolutely nothing. The letter was an enigma. How strangely you act,
Frank. I can't understand you."

Slowly the life color returned to his cheeks and lips, as he answered,
or stammered:

"Pardon me, Constance. I thought--I feared--I hoped there might be some
explanation. I thought she must have given you some reason for so
horrible a step. Are you sure there is no hint, no clue to help us?"

"Frank, listen: Sybil's note explained nothing. It only implored me not
to think harshly of her, when I should know what she had done, and bade
me farewell. I could not comprehend its meaning until the news reached
me that she had fled."

"And you can not guess why she did this thing?"

"No."

He turned away, putting his hand up before his face, and uttering a
groan. Then he moved toward one of the French windows, pushed it open,
and leaned out.

"I feel as if I were going mad," he muttered. "Constance, pardon me; I
must have the air. I must be alone to think, and to face this--this
disgrace that has come upon us."

And he stepped through the open window, and reeled rather than walked
down the steps, and out among the trees.

Constance watched him until the shrubbery hid him from view, and then,
with a quick, nervous glance about the room, and out at the windows, she
went to the door which shut our tramp detective from view, but not from
hearing.

"Come out," she whispered, hurriedly. "Now is your time to escape."

He came out, shaking himself like a water dog.

"Ugh!" he exclaimed. "I have been in one position too long."

"I am sorry," began Constance.

"Not for me," he interrupted. "Like most listeners, I heard what I did
not bargain for; but--I have not heard too much. Miss Wardour, don't
reproach yourself, or Fate; that little extra hearing was a godsend.
And now, let me out, quickly, before some one else claims your time."

She looked cautiously out into the hall, then closed the door again.

"I wish I could know your opinion regarding this business--all of it,"
she said, wistfully. "I begin to feel helpless, like a rudderless
mariner."

"It's a hard knot," he said, going toward the door; "a very hard knot.
But we will untie it, Miss Wardour, and then you will understand all
these things. Now tell me, where is your detective going next?"

"I do not know."

"You must find out," imperatively.

"I think I can."

"And come to me in the garden."

"Very well," looking out once more. "Your way is clear, sir; go straight
to the kitchen entrance."

He passed out, and went his way, swiftly, quietly, and unobserved; and
Constance returned to Mr. Belknap, and the completion of her jewel list.

"The combat deepens," mused the tramp detective, as he paced slowly down
the garden walk. "The plot, thickens. I come for a catfish,--I may catch
a whale. Oh, what a knot; what a beautiful, delightful, horribly hard
knot; and how my fingers itch to begin at it. But soft--easy; there is
more to be tied in. Let us pay out the rope, and wait."



CHAPTER X.

EVAN.


Miss Wardour and the private detective had just completed their work of
transferring to paper a minute description of the Wardour diamonds, when
the door opened quietly, and Francis Lamotte, pale, heavy-eyed, but
quite composed, appeared before them.

"Have you finished your work?" he asked wearily. "If so, may I intrude?"

"Come, by all means," replied Constance, gently. "You are not intruding,
Frank."

"Thank you." He came forward, and sank listlessly into a chair.
"Constance, who brought you this news about--Sybil?"

Constance glanced toward the detective, and Francis, interpreting the
look, hastened to say:

"It is known to Mr. Belknap, I presume--this shameful business. There is
no use of secrecy, where all the world is already agape. My sister, you
tell me, has eloped with a low brute. I am numbed with the horror of it.
But I must hear it all; every word, every particular. Who brought you
the news, Constance?"

"Doctor Heath," replied the girl, icily.

"Ah!"

The interjection came through shut teeth, and just for a moment the
dark shadow flitted across his features; then he said, with quiet
composure:

"Heath? ah, yes; and he gave you all the particulars,--all that he had
gathered?"

"Doctor Heath told me all that he had learned," she replied, still
coldly.

Frank Lamotte arose slowly, wearily.

"I must see Heath," he said, taking up his hat. "It is small wonder that
you speak so frostily to the brother of a girl who has disgraced
herself, Constance. However, I realize my fall; henceforth, I know my
place."

The detective arose and moved uneasily to the window.

"I am sorry to hear this absurdity, Frank," said Constance, with some
severity. "You know my position always in these matters; only yourself
can injure yourself in my eyes; and I am sorry to hear you speak thus of
Sybil. I have yet to be convinced that in some manner, she is not more a
victim than disloyal. _I_ have not condemned her; why should you, her
brother?"

A hot flush came over the young man's face, and his eyes glowed with a
strange light. He shifted his position uneasily; then, abruptly, he
turned to the detective.

"If under the circumstances, and having seen my mood, you care to accept
my hospitality, it is still extended, sir," he said, somewhat awkwardly;
"will you accompany me to town, and afterwards lunch with me?"

"I will accompany you to the town," replied the detective, coming back
from the window; "but I fear I must decline your hospitality for to-day;
another time, perhaps."

Francis bowed stiffly, then turned to Constance.

"Constance, good bye," he said, mournfully, and holding out his hand. "I
will not displease you again; I will keep at a safe distance."

"You will displease me by doing that," she replied, kindly, at the same
time extending her hand. "I mean by staying away; I want you to come
often, and to bring me any news that may come from Sybil. Remember, I
intend to be her champion, and you must be mine."

"Then I _may_ come as a bringer of news?" he asked.

"You may come as usual," she retorted, a trifle sharply, "and come
_especially_ when there is news."

"Thank you;" he bowed over her hand, then turned to the private
detective.

"Good morning, Miss Wardour," said that individual, coming forward; "it
is probable that I shall not see you again, as I will leave for the city
this evening, but you will hear from me as the case progresses, or it is
possible that I may find it expedient to pay this place another visit."

"In which case, you will of course present yourself," smiled Constance.
"May I ask where you intend to pass your time until you leave for the
city, sir?"

"I can hardly say; about the town, as it may happen."

"Ah! Pardon the question; I was thinking of the business in hand; you
can hardly hope to find anything new in the village."

"One can never tell, Miss Wardour. If I do learn anything new, you shall
hear from me. Present my adieus to Mrs. Aliston, and once more good
day."

Constance watched the two as they walked away together, the handsome
lithe form of the younger man in such marked contrast with the shambling
gait of the detective. Only for a moment, however, then she went swiftly
through the halls, out at a rear entrance, and down the path toward the
rear gardens.

Here she found the tramp detective busy, or pretending to busy himself
with a small pruning knife.

"If you want to follow him, you must make haste," she said,
breathlessly; "he is walking townward with Mr. Lamotte; intends to
loiter about the town and take some evening train."

"Pray don't appear so much excited," said the tramp detective, dropping
his pruning knife, and picking it up again with great deliberation.
"There is a man coming up from the river, he must be getting pretty near
us. No, don't look now."

"Dear me!" began Constance.

"Listen," he went on, without regarding her ejaculation. "I am going to
leave here in two minutes; you can say that you have discharged me. I
may not see you again for months. I may return at any time. I may as
well warn you here, not to _confide_ anything to Mr. Belknap; at another
time you will learn why. Another thing, it is just possible that you
may need my services at some future time. I was about to give you an
address that will reach me at any time, but we may be observed by that
fellow who is coming. I will send you by mail a card containing the
address. Pray call upon me if you need my aid. I hope Belknap will find
your robbers, but you were wise not to tell him that you had saved your
diamonds. Keep your counsel on that subject always, Miss Wardour, it
will save you trouble. And now you had better move on. I intend to
follow and overtake your two departing guests."

He turned carelessly away as he spoke, and Constance, after a pretense
of examining the shrubbery, faced about and walked a few paces down the
path, then lifting her eyes carelessly, they fell upon the intruder.
Uttering a low ejaculation of surprise, she hastened toward him.

"Evan! why Evan!" she cried, anxiously. "You look ghostly, and you must
be in trouble."

[Illustration: "Why, Evan, you look ghostly!"]

"Or I would not be here," said Evan Lamotte, bitterly. "Evan, the
ne'er-do-well, does not seek his friends when the sun shines. Eh, Conny?
Don't go in," laying one hand upon her arm, as she was about to turn
toward the house, "I--I came to talk with you."

"But you will come in, Evan?"

"No, I should fall out with your old cat--I beg pardon, Con., I mean
your old aunt, directly."

"Aunt Honor shut herself in her own room an hour ago, child; she has
been worn out with too much excitement. We have had a detective here all
the morning, not to mention Frank, who has made a wonderful discovery."

"I dare say," muttered the young fellow, dryly, "Frank will make another
wonderful discovery soon. Conny," clutching at her arm again, "_have you
heard_?"

"Have I heard what, Evan?"

"About Sybil--my sister," his voice broke, ending in a sob.

"Yes, Evan," she replied, very gently, "I have heard."

It was noticeable, the difference between her treatment of this younger
brother of Sybil Lamotte and the one who had just gone.

With Francis she had preserved, even while her heart was full of
sympathy and pity for his trouble, a certain dignity even in her
kindness, an arm's length repellant stateliness, that galled and
tormented the ardent, impulsive, and too eager young man. With Evan she
was all pity, all sympathy, full of familiar sisterly kindness and
patience.

Women are strange creatures; we may be as handsome as the Apollo, and
they will steel their hearts against us. If we would have the
confidence, the caresses, the tenderest love of a pitying woman, we must
be mentally, or morally, or physically maimed, or halt, or blind.

Evan Lamotte was one of the world's unfortunates, and the pitying heart
of the fair heiress had no scorn for such as he. A black sheep, so they
called Evan Lamotte, not yet of age, with a slender physique, a pale,
handsome face, handsome in spite of his dissipations. He seemed
possessed of an evil spirit, that cried incessantly, "drink, drink,
drink." Every means had been tried to win him from his dissipation;
tears, entreaties, threats, bribes, were alike unavailing. In spite of
himself, against himself, Evan Lamotte seemed driven downward by a
relentless, unseen enemy.

"Reckless, worthless, hopeless." These were the adjectives commonly
coupled with his name, and yet his sister had deemed him worth her
loving; his mother had deemed him worth her tears, and Constance Wardour
had deemed him worth her pitying kindness.

"Constance," he choked back the sobs that arose in his throat; "don't
think that I have been drinking; when a fellow like me is grieved almost
to madness, you call him maudlin, but I never cry in my cups, Con. And I
have been perfectly sober since Saturday night, or if you like,
yesterday morning. I drank hard all that day after they told me, Con.,
but not one drop since; not one. Con., tell me what have you heard?"

"About all that is known, I think, Evan. Oh! Evan, do you know, can you
guess why she has done this--this terrible thing? Come down this walk,
Evan; let us sit under that tree, on that bench."

She moved toward the spot indicated, he following mechanically, and
seating himself beside her, in obedience to her gesture.

"Do I know the reason?" he repeated. "Do I guess it? Oh, if I could
guess it; it has haunted me every moment; that strong desire to know
what drove my sister to this fate? It is the question I came here to
ask. Con., help me to think; she must have said something; must have
given you some hint."

"Alas. But she never did."

"And you can not guess; you have no clue to help us unravel this
mystery?"

Constance shook her head.

"Con., oh, Con., _you_ don't think--you can't think that she loved
that--that beast?"

"No, Evan, I can't think that."

"Then," excitedly; "you must think as I do; that there is a mystery;
that there has been foul play. Con., I don't care for anything on earth,
except Sybil; I _must_ know what has driven her to this; I must help
her; I can help her; I can take her from that brute."

His face was livid, and his eyes glowed with the fierce light that we
have seen in the eyes of his elder brother. Constance saw the growing
excitement, and sought to soothe it.

"Evan, let us not anticipate," she said, gently. "All that we can do for
Sybil shall be done, but it must be with her consent. When does your
father come?"

"I don't know," sullenly; "I telegraphed him Saturday; he will come
to-day, no doubt. But he will come too late."

"Alas, yes; I regret so much that it was for my sake he was absent from
home at such a time, and Frank, too."

"Frank? bah! What could he do? What could any one do?"

She turned, and scanned his face keenly.

"Evan, you suspect, or you know something."

"I have a thought," he replied. "I hardly dare call it a suspicion. If I
could know it to be the truth," he hissed, between set, white teeth, "I
should know what to do, then."

"Don't look like that, Evan; you look wicked."

"I feel wicked," he cried, fiercely. "You can never guess how wicked.
When I think of that brute, that beast, that viper; of the power he must
hold over _her_, I am mad, crazed. But he will come back, and then--then
I will murder him, and set her free."

With his gleaming eyes, his clenched hands, his white, uplifted face, he
looked like a beautiful evil demon. Constance shuddered as she gazed,
and then her hand closed firmly upon his arm, as she said:

"Evan, listen: Do you think it would lighten Sybil's burden to hear you
rave thus? Do you want to make her lot still harder to bear? Sybil loves
you. Would it make her heart lighter to have you embroil yourself for
her sake? You know your faults. If you let this hideous idea take place
in your mind now, it will break out some day when the demon possesses
you. If Sybil Lamotte returns, and hears you utter such threats, she
will have an added torture to bear; she will have two curses instead of
one. You can not help Sybil by committing an act that would cut you off
from her forever. You have caused her heart-aches enough already. See,
now, if you can not lighten her burden in some different, better way.
But all this is superfluous, perhaps. I wonder if Sybil will come back,
at all?"

Lower and lower sank his head, as he listened, and then something that
she had said seemed to chain and hold his thoughts.

Slowly the evil light faded from his eyes, and into his face crept a
strange, fixed look. Forgetful of time, or of his companion's presence,
his thoughts followed this new course, his hands clenching and
unclenching themselves, his teeth burying themselves from time to time
in his thin under lip. So long he sat thus, that Constance herself, from
watching and wondering at his strange mood, wandered off into a sad
reverie, the subject of which she could hardly have told, it was such a
vague mixture of Sybil's sorrows and her own unrest.

After a time he stirred as if arousing himself with difficulty from a
nightmare; and Constance, recalled to herself, in turn, looked up to
encounter his gaze, and to be astonished at the new, purposeful
self-restraint upon his face, and the inscrutable intentness of his eye.

"Con.," he said slowly, even his voice seeming to have gained a new
strange undertone, "Con., you are an angel. You have set me on my feet."

"On your feet, Evan?"

"Yes, on my feet, mentally at least. I don't suppose any one could set
me permanently on my physical, corporeal pins. Beg pardon for the slang,
Conny, I don't forget how you and Sybil used to lecture me for that, and
my other vices. Poor sis, she had given up the drink talks latterly,
given me over as hopeless, and so I am. Con., I have made a new
resolve."

Constance smiled faintly.

"Oh, you smile. You think I am going to swear off again. No, Con.,
that's of no use, I should know myself for a liar all the time. I shall
never quit liquor; I _can't_ and I tell you," he whispered this
fiercely, "they _know that I can't_, and they know _why_ I can't. Oh!
you need not recoil; we are not the first family that has inherited a
taint; and I am the one unfortunate in whom that taint has broken forth.
Let me tell you a secret; since my first potation, my mother has never
once remonstrated with me; never once upbraided; my proud, high tempered
mother. She knows the folly of trying to reclaim the irreclaimable.
But," lowering his voice, sadly, "my mother never loved me."

She shuddered at the tone, knowing that this last statement, at least,
was all too true, and, to direct his thoughts from so painful and
delicate a subject, said:

"And your resolve then, Evan?"

"My resolve," his mouth settling into hard lines once more. "Oh, that!
well, it is a resolve you put into my head, Con.; although I'll swear
the thought was never in _your_ mind. I have resolved to act upon your
advice; to curb my heathenish temper, and to _help Sybil_, when the
_right time comes_, in the right way."

She looked at him fixedly.

"Evan, are you sure this last state of your mind is not worse than the
first?"

He laughed, ironically.

"How hard it is to make you believe that any good exists in me."

"Oh, not that, Evan, but you look so strange; not so wild as before,
but--"

"Just as wicked."

"Well, yes!"

"Well, Con., you can't expect a fellow to feel pious all in an instant;
mine is a pious resolve, and the proper feeling must follow. Isn't that
about how they preach it?"

"That's about how they preach it, sir. Now listen, I don't intend to
stir one step, or allow you to stir, until you have explained some of
your dark sayings; you are going to tell me what this new resolve is."

Evan glanced at her from under his long lashes, and seemed to hesitate.
He knew that Constance, in what he had sometimes termed her "imperative
mood," was a difficult element to contend with. But he was not quite
prepared to divulge just the precise thoughts that were in his mind.

"Con.," he said, slowly, "do you think, if my sister came back very
penitent, or very miserable, that my father would take her home?"

"I don't know, Evan."

"Well, that's another of the things that brought me to you. I was
overwhelmed with misery, and my head was chaos. I was wild to wreak
vengeance upon that man, and filled with dread at the thought that Sybil
might come back and meet with no welcome. I believe she will come. I
know that man would not miss the triumph of bringing her back among us.
Now, Con., my father thinks you infallible, and you can do anything with
Frank. I want you to see them, and make them take Sybil home, when she
comes. Yes, and John Burrill, too, if she _will_ have him."

"Why, Evan!"

"Then," he went on, breathlessly, "the world must have a reason for this
marriage; for, not the greatest fool in W---- will believe that Sybil
freely chose that villain. Do you pave the way for Sybil's return; I
will find a reason for the marriage,--a bone to throw to the dogs. For,
I tell you, Con., the true reason will never be told."

Thinking of Sybil's letter, Constance could but agree with him in this;
and that letter, too, had caused her to think that Sybil had expected,
or hoped, or feared, a return to W----; which, she could only guess.

"You will furnish a reason, Evan? You are mystifying me."

"Never mind that. I, Evan Lamotte, worthless--black sheep--sot; _I_ will
find a reason, I tell you; one that will not be questioned, and that
will spare Sybil."

"And what then?"

"Then, aided by you, Sybil can come back to us. Aided by my new strong
resolve, I will receive that Burrill,--it nearly chokes me to speak his
name,--just as Sybil shall dictate; and then, aided by the old man's
money, we may be able to buy him off and get him out of the country."

"Why, Evan Lamotte," cried Constance, with a burst of hopefulness, "you
have actually evolved a practical scheme. I begin to feel less
hopeless."

"Oh, I have a brain or two left, when a firm hand, like yours, shakes me
up, sets me straight, and gets me in running order. Will you help,
Con.?"

"Will I help! Sybil Lamotte, if she comes back, will be warmly welcomed
by me, and by all W----, if I can bring it about."

He sprang to his feet and seized her hands. "Thank you, Conny," he
cried; "my heart is lightened now; I can 'bide my time,' as the novels
say. Only do your part, Con."

"Trust me for that. Now come to luncheon, Evan."

He dropped her hands, and turned away abruptly.

"I wont! I can't," he said, almost gruffly. "Go in, Con., and be
prepared to welcome Sybil back; and I," he added, moving away, and
turning a wicked look over his shoulder, "will be prepared to welcome
Burrill;" a low, ironical laugh followed these words, and Evan Lamotte
leaped the low garden palings, and went back as he had come, by the
river way.

"What can that strange boy mean," thought Constance, gazing after him;
"he makes me nervous, and yet he was reasonable after his fashion. Poor
Evan, he is indeed unfortunate; here he has been breaking his heart over
Sybil, and before night he may be singing in some saloon, in a state of
mad intoxication. Altogether, they are a very uncomfortable pair to
entertain in one half day, Frank and Evan Lamotte."



CHAPTER XI.

THE END OF THE BEGINNING.


Doctor Clifford Heath sat alone in his office at half-past eleven
o'clock. His horse, "all saddled and bridled," stood below in the
street, awaiting him. On a small stand, near the door, lay his hat,
riding whip, gloves. On the desk beside him, lay a small pyramid of
letters and papers, and these he was opening, and scanning in a
careless, leisurely fashion, with his chair tilted back, his heels on
high, his entire person very much at ease.

Over one letter he seemed to ponder, blowing great clouds of smoke from
the secret depths of a huge black Dutch pipe the while. Finally, he laid
letter and pipe aside, lowered his feet, wheeled about in his chair,
drew pen, ink, and paper before him on the desk, and began to write
rapidly only a few lines, and the letter was done, and signed, and
sealed, with grim satisfaction; then he gathered up his scattered
missives, and locked them away carefully.

"I won't go back," he muttered, picking up his pipe once more. "I
wouldn't go now for a kingdom; I won't be put to rout by a woman, and
that is just what it would amount to. I'll see the play played out, and
I'll stay in W----."

Again the smoke puffed out from the black pipe; again the heels were
elevated, and, drawing some papers toward him, Dr. Heath began to absorb
the latest news, looking as little like a jilted lover or a despairing
swain, as possible.

Presently the office door opened to admit a tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed
young man, of aristocratic bearing and handsome countenance, but looking
extremely haggard and heavy eyed.

Doctor Heath turned his head lazily at the sound of the opening door,
but seeing who his visitor was, he laid his pipe aside and arose with
kindly alacrity.

"Come along, Ray, old fellow," he said cheerily, "why you look as if the
witches had made your bed."

"It's about the way I feel, too," said the new comer, dropping wearily
into the easy chair pushed toward him. "Heath, you are a good fellow,
and I can't blame you for thinking me a cad. Don't stop your smoke."

"Why as to that," replied the doctor, easily, and taking a long pull at
his pipe, "we are all cads, more or less, in certain emergencies, and
yours was an unusually severe blow. We all have to take them in some
shape or other, at one time, or another; these soft hands hit hard,
but--it's the penalty we pay for being sons of Adam. Although now that I
come to think of it, I can't recall that I ever insisted upon being a
son of Adam."

"Why!" said Raymond Vandyck, opening his eyes in languid surprise, "you
talk as if _you_ had received one of those hard hits."

"So I have, my boy; so I have," he replied _debonairly_. "If I were a
woman I would get out a fresh handkerchief and tell you all about it.
Being a man I--smoke."

Young Vandyck sighed heavily, and picked up a newspaper, running his eye
listlessly over the columns. Here was another upon whom the flight of
Sybil Lamotte had fallen a heavy blow. He had loved Sybil since they
were boy and girl, and lately for a few short months they had been
betrothed, then Sybil had asked to be released, and in such a manner
that it left him no room for remonstrance. The engagement had been
broken, but the young man had not quite abandoned hope.

Now, however, hope had deserted him. Sybil was lost to him utterly, and
hearing the news of her flight he had rushed into Doctor Heath's
presence a temporary madman. He could not have found a wiser or more
sympathetic friend and adviser, and he fully realized this fact. The
doctor's patience, delicacy and discretion had screened him from the
prying eyes and prating tongues of the curious ones, who were anxious to
probe his wounds, and see how "Vandyck would take it," and had made him
his firm friend for always.

Ever since the advent of Doctor Heath, Vandyck had been one of his
warmest admirers, and this admiration had now ripened into a sincere and
lasting friendship.

"You are a good fellow, Heath," said Vandyck, suddenly, throwing down
his paper. "I want to tell you that I appreciate such kindness as you
did me. I don't suppose you would ever go off your head like that. I
shan't again."

"No, I don't think you will," responded the doctor soberly. "As for
going off my head, Lord bless you, man, it's in the temperament. I might
never lose my head in just that way. We're not made alike, you see. Now
I should be struck with a dumb devil, and grow surly and cynical as time
went on, and of all contemptible men a cynic is the worst. You will have
your burst of passion, and carry a tender spot to your grave, but you
can't squeeze all the sunshine out of your soul, any more than out of
your Saxon face."

Vandyck laughed dismally.

"It's hard lines, however," he said. "But I'm bound to face the music.
Only--I wish I could understand it."

"So do all her friends. Ray, let me give you a little advice."

"Well."

"After a little, go call on Miss Wardour and talk with her about this
affair. I think she knows as much as is known, and I am certain she has
not lost her faith in her friend."

"Thank you, Heath; I will."

Just here the office door admitted another visitor in the form of
Francis Lamotte.

He, too, looked pale and worn, but he carried his head erect, if not
with some defiance. "Do, Heath. Morning, Vandyck," he mumbled, flinging
himself upon a settee with scant ceremony. "You will excuse me from
asking 'what's the news?'"

"I should ask what's the matter?" retorted Clifford Heath, eyeing him
closely.

"Fix me up one of your potions, Heath," replied Francis, drawing a hard
deep breath. "I've had another of those cursed attacks."

Dr. Heath arose and went slowly toward a cabinet, slowly unlocked it and
then turned and surveyed his patient.

"Another attack," he said somewhat severely, "the second one in three
days, and not a light one, if I can judge. Let me tell you, Lamotte, you
must not have a third of these attacks for some time to come."

[Illustration: "You must not have a third attack."]

"I won't," replied Lamotte, with a nervous laugh. "This one has done me
up; I feel weak as a kitten, meek as a lamb."

"Humph," this from Doctor Heath, who proceeded to drop into a druggist's
glass, sundry globules of dark liquid, which he qualified with other
globules from another bottle, and then half filling the glass with some
pale brandy, handed it to Lamotte who drained it off eagerly.

"Physician, heal thyself," quoted Raymond Vandyck, watching the patient
with some interest. "Why don't you do your own dosing, Lamotte?"

"I'm shaky," replied Lamotte, lifting an unsteady hand. "And then we are
advised to have faith in our physician. I should swallow my own mixture
with fear and trembling."

"And pour it down your neighbor's throat with entire satisfaction,"
interpolated Doctor Heath.

"Precisely, just as you pour this stuff down mine. Thanks, Heath,"
handing back the glass. "Now then, we are all friends here, and you two
know what I wish to learn. Heath," shading his eyes with his hand as he
reclined on the settee. "I came back, from a two day's tramp about the
country in search of Miss Wardour's robbers, or of traces of them, this
morning. Let that pass. I called at Wardour Place first of all, have
just come from there in fact--and Constance tells me--"

He paused as if struggling with some emotion, and Ray Vandyck stirred
uneasily, flushed slightly, and partially turned away his face. Only
Clifford Heath retained his stoical calm.

"Well!" he said coolly, "Miss Wardour tells you--what?"

"That my sister has run--away."

"Oh! Well, Lamotte, I am glad you know it. It's a hard story to tell a
friend."

"So thought Constance, and she would give me no particulars, she told
me," letting his hand fall from before his face, "to come to you."

"And why to me?" coldly.

"She said that you knew the particulars--that you brought her the news."

"True; I did. Still it's a hard story to tell, Lamotte."

"And no one will tell it more kindly, I know. Say on, Heath; don't
spare me, or mind Vandyck's presence--I don't. I know that I must hear
this thing, and I know that Ray is my friend. Go on, Heath; get it over
soon."

Raymond Vandyck arose and walked to the window, standing with his back
toward them while Doctor Heath, in a plain, straightforward, kindly
manner, told the story of Sybil's flight, just as he had told it to
Constance Wardour.

For a long time after the story was done, Lamotte lay with his face
buried in his arms, silent and motionless, while young Vandyck stood
like a graven image at his post by the window.

Finally, Lamotte brought himself to a sitting posture, and, with the
look and tone of a man utterly crushed, said:

"Thank you, Heath. You have done me a kindness. This is the most
terrible, most unheard of thing. My poor sister must be mad. She has
_not_ been herself, now that I remember, for some weeks. Something has
been preying upon her spirits. There has been--by heavens! Ray, Ray
Vandyck, can you guess at the cause of this madness?"

Raymond Vandyck wheeled suddenly, and came close to his interlocutor,
the hot, angry blood surging to his face.

"There was plenty of 'method in this madness,'" he sneered. "As to the
_cause_, it may not be so hard to discover as you seem to imagine." And,
before they could recover from their astonishment, he was out and away,
banging the door fiercely as he went.

For a moment the lurid light gleamed in Frank Lamotte's eye, and it
seemed that another "attack" was about to seize him, but he calmed
himself with a mighty effort, and turning toward Doctor Heath, said,
plaintively:

"Has all the world run mad, Heath? What the devil does that fellow
mean?"

"I know no more than you, Lamotte," said the doctor, upon whose face sat
a look of genuine surprise. "I don't think he quite knows himself. He
has been sadly worked up by this affair."

"Humph! I suppose so. Well, for Sybil's sake, I forgive him, this once;
but--I hope he will outgrow these hallucinations."

"Doubtless he will," replied the doctor, somewhat drily. "I say,
Lamotte, you had better run down to my house, and turn in for a couple
of hours; you look done up,--and you can't stand much more of this sort
of thing. I must go now, to see old Mrs. Grady, over at the mills."

"Then I will just stretch myself here, Heath," replied Lamotte. "I don't
feel equal to a start out just now; and, look here, old fellow," turning
a shade paler, as he spoke, "deal gently with a fallen rival after
this--disgrace. Of course, I quit the field; but--don't ride over me too
hard."

The doctor drew on his riding gloves with grave precision, put his hat
on his head, and took up his riding whip; then he turned toward Lamotte.

"I suppose you refer to Miss Wardour?" he said blandly.

"Of course."

"Then rest easy. I do not pretend in that quarter. Miss Wardour is yours
for all me; and--you are not such a fool as to think that she will let
your sister's affair alter her feelings for you--if she cares for you?"

Lamotte sprang up, staring with surprise.

"Why, but--Heath, you owned yourself my rival!"

"True."

"And--upon my word, I believe you were ahead of the field."

"True again; but--_I have withdrawn_." And Doctor Heath went out, closed
the door deliberately, and ran lightly down the stairs. He found Ray
Vandyck loitering on the pavement.

"I knew you would be down presently," said Vandyck, anxiously; "I want
to say, Heath, don't notice what I said to that cad. He maddened me;
above all, don't think that one word I uttered was intended to reflect
upon _her_."

"He has withdrawn," muttered Francis Lamotte, settling himself back as
comfortably as possible, and clasping his hands behind his head.

"And _he_ means what he says; something has happened in my absence; I
can't understand it, but it's so much the better for me."



CHAPTER XII.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END.


Saturday, Sunday, Monday, three days; three nights. The events
chronicled in the foregoing chapters, crowded themselves into the space
of three days.

But these were exceptional days; life does not move on thus, especially
in the usually staid and well regulated town of W----. Men and women are
not qualified to run a long, high pressure race. Action, and
then--reaction. Reaction from every emotion, every sorrow, every joy.
God help us.

We weep for days, but not for years. We suffer, but here and there comes
a respite from our pain. We live in a delirium of joy for a brief space,
and vegetate in dullness, in apathy, in hardness of heart, in
indifference, or in despair, according to our various natures, for the
rest of our natural lives. So let it be, it is the lot common to all.

    "No man can hide from it, but it will find him out,
    Nor run from it, but it overtaketh him."

After the robbery, after the flight, after the coming and departure of
the two detectives, dullness settled down upon our friends in W----.

It is needless to chronicle the effect of the news of their daughter's
flight, upon Mr. and Mrs. Lamotte.

That is a thing we can all understand; we can picture it for ourselves.

Mrs. Lamotte shut herself up in her chamber, and refused to be comforted
by family or friends. Mr. Lamotte, bitterly grieved, terribly shocked,
did all that a father could do, which was in effect, nothing.

One day, the mail brought them a copy of the marriage certificate of
Sybil Lamotte and John Burrill; but that was all. Where the fugitives
had gone, could not be discovered.

Francis Lamotte went about as usual; with a little more of haughtiness,
a little more reserve, and just a tinge of melancholy in his manner. He
took Constance at her word, and came and went very much as of old, but
was so watchful over himself, so subdued, and as she thought, improved
in manner, that she declared confidentially to her aunt that he had
become "really quite a comfortable person to have in one's parlor." She
ceased snubbing him altogether, and received him with the frank
graciousness that used to charm Doctor Heath; assuring herself, often,
that "trouble was improving poor Frank."

Evan Lamotte was Evan Lamotte still. Now drunk, now sober; a little more
furious and ready to quarrel than usual, when in his cups; a little more
taciturn and inclined to solitude in his sober moments.

Doctor Heath went about among his patients, wearing his usual cheery
smile, speaking the usual comforting word, smoking, philosophizing,
rallying his friends, satirizing his enemies, genial, independent,
inscrutable as ever. He never called at Wardour Place, of course. He
never sought an opportunity for meeting or seeing Constance, and he
never avoided her; altogether, his conduct, from a romantic standpoint,
was very reprehensible.

And Constance; perhaps of them all, these three days had effected the
greatest change in her, as any chain of startling or strange events
must, in a measure, change the current of thought and feeling in a life
that has hitherto floated under a roseate cloud, on a sea without a
ripple. She had been rocked by storm waves; had seen a bark shipwrecked
close beside her; had even encountered mutiny in her own craft; when the
lull came, and she drifted quietly, she found herself forever face to
face with the facts that sorrow and trouble were abroad in the land,
that crime existed outside of the newspapers; that heartache and self
dissatisfaction were possibilities, and that even a queen absolute might
come under the shadow of each and all. Not that Constance had never been
aware of all these things, but we never can _realize_ what we have never
experienced.

We look sadly sympathetic, and murmur "poor things," when we see some
mourner weeping over a dead loved one, but we never comprehend the
sorrow until we bury our own dead.

Constance had loved Sybil Lamotte as a sister; she thought and sorrowed
not a little over the strange freak Fate had played with her friend's
life, and she wondered often if Doctor Heath had really lost all regard
for her; she knew, as what woman does not, that a warm regard had once
existed; and she assured herself that whether he had or not, was a
matter of no consequence to her. "She had not the slightest interest in
Doctor Heath," so she told Mrs. Aliston, and, like him, she never sought
nor avoided a meeting.

It is singular, however, that a man who possessed for her "not the
slightest interest" should so often present himself to her thoughts, and
certain it is that at this period of our story her mind had a most
provoking habit of running away from a variety of subjects straight to
Clifford Heath, M. D. But women at best are strange creatures, and
subject to singular phenomena.

Mrs. Aliston just here experienced some dissatisfaction; Clifford Heath
was with her a favorite; Francis Lamotte was her pet hatred. To see the
favorite made conspicuous by his absence, and have his name, like that
of a disinherited daughter, tabooed from the family converse, while the
obnoxious Francis, because of his provokingly good behavior, made rapid
strides into the good graces of the queen of the castle, would have
exasperated most good, maneuvering old ladies, but Mrs. Aliston
maneuvered principally for her own comfort, so she sighed a little,
regretted the present state of affairs in a resigned and becoming
manner, ceased to mention the name of Doctor Heath, and condescended to
receive Francis graciously, after that young man had made a special
call, during which he saw only Mrs. Aliston, and apologized amply and
most humbly for his unceremonious ejectment of that lady in favor of
Constance, on the day when the former undertook, "as gently as
possible," to break to him the news of his sister's flight.

To make an apology gracefully is in itself, an art; and this art Francis
Lamotte was skilled in; indeed but for a certain physical weakness, he
would have been an ornament to the diplomatic service. Alas, that there
must always be a "but" in the way of our moral completeness, our
physical perfection and our life's success.

Days and weeks passed on, and the household of Wardour remained in
utmost quiet; that at Mapleton, shrouded in gloom and sorrowful
seclusion. Mrs. Lamotte saw no one. Mr. Lamotte went out only to look
after his business interests.

When the copy of Sybil's marriage certificate came, Frank, like a loyal
knight, came to Constance with the news, told it with a sad countenance
and in few words, and went away soon and sorrowfully.

One day, not long after, Mrs. Aliston returned from the town where she
had spent four long hours in calling upon the wives of the Episcopalian,
the Unitarian and the Presbyterian ministers, for Mrs. Aliston was a
liberal soul, and hurled herself into Constance's favorite sitting room,
in a state of unusual excitement.

"Well, Con.," she panted, pulling hard the while at her squeezed on
gloves, "I've found it out;" and she dropped into the easiest chair, and
pulled and panted afresh.

Constance looked up from a rather uninteresting "Novel with a Moral,"
and asked, as indifferently as possible:

"What have you found out, auntie?"

"About Sybil."

Constance laid down her book, and her tone underwent a change.

"If it's any thing more than gossip, auntie, tell me quick."

"Oh, it isn't gossip; at least they all say it's true. And as for
gossip, Con., I tell you, you have done something toward stopping that."

Con. laughed like one who is conscious of her power.

"Yes, indeed," rattled on Mrs. Aliston. "Mrs. Wooster says, and if she
_is_ a Unitarian she is certainly a very good and truthful woman, that
she has heard from various ones that you have openly declared against
the handling of poor Sybil's name among the people who have called
themselves her friends, and accepted so often her mother's hospitality.
And she said--these are her very words, Con.--'I was delighted, dear
Mrs. Aliston, for we all know that these gossip lovers, every one of
them, will deny themselves the luxury of tearing Sybil to pieces,
knowing that she has a champion in Miss Wardour.' So much for influence,
Con."

"Bah!" retorted Con., wise in her generation. "So much for money, and
how do I know that I have not lost my prestige along with my diamonds.
Auntie, you have lost the thread of your discourse; you always do."

"So you always tell me," laughed the elderly chatterbox. "Well, Con.,
they say that Sybil has sacrificed herself."

"Do they?" said Con., sarcastically; "the wise heads. I hope that
conclusion has not exhausted their keen intellects, whoever 'they' may
be. As if the sacrifice were not patent on the face of the thing."

"Con. you talk like a--a stump orator."

"Do I? Well, I'm glad of it; it would not be so bad to be a 'stump
orator,' or any other sort of male animal, for the older I grow the more
I incline to the belief that women are fools. But go on, auntie; I
believe I get 'riled' every time I hear Sybil's name. What else do
'they' say?"

"You don't deserve to be told, you are so impatient; but I will tell you
this once. I was about to add that it seems to be an accepted fact that
Sybil sacrificed herself to save Evan from some sort of exposure and
disgrace. And they say that some of those rough men in a saloon threw
the thing in Evan's teeth, and that he replied in his odd way:

"'Yes, she did it for my sake, and now the first man of you that
mentions my sister's name in my hearing will go under.' You know they
are afraid of Evan in his rages."

Constance opened her mouth impulsively, but she choked back the words
that rushed forward for utterance, and closing her lips tightly, sat
staring straight before her, a strange expression creeping into her
face.

She seemed to hear anew Evan's words: "Do your part, I will do mine. I,
Evan Lamotte, worthless, black sheep, sot; I will find a reason that
will not be questioned, and that will spare Sybil."

And he had found a reason. The black sheep was offered up a sacrifice.
Evan Lamotte had flung away his last rag of respectability for his
sister's sake. Henceforth he would appear in the eyes of the people
doubly blackened, doubly degraded, the destroyer of his sister's
happiness, the blight upon her life, and yet, he was innocent of this;
he was a martyr; he the ne'er-do-well, the inebriate.

Constance was strangely moved by this self-sacrifice, coming from one
who was so morally weak; if it had been Frank, but here her lip curled
contemptuously; instinctively she knew that such self-sacrifice was not
in Frank's nature, any more than was such self-abandonment to weakness.
Constance began to wonder if Frank and his parents knew the truth. If
they had permitted the weakest shoulders to bear the burden; or, if Evan
had deceived them too, and then she murmured, almost in the language of
the tramp detective:

"It's a thing for time to unravel. It's a play just begun. It's a hard,
hard knot."

And, then and there, she took Sybil and Evan to her generous heart of
hearts, and mentally resolved to be their champion and friend to the
uttermost, while she would judge their parents and their brother
according as these dealt by the unfortunates.

It was many days before she saw Evan, for, although in true woman
fashion, she longed to scold him first for so sacrificing himself, and
praise him after for his generous true heartedness, she knew that he
would only be distressed by such an interview, and would obey a summons
from her reluctantly if at all.

But one day, just as she was driving her ponies out through the gates of
Wardour Place, she saw a horseman riding furiously up the road, and a
nearer view revealed Frank Lamotte's fine horse and mounted by Evan.

His eyes were flaming with excitement, and there was a burning spot of
red on either cheek as he reined up his horse beside her, and Constance
saw at a glance that, again, he was perfectly sober.

"Conny," he cried breathlessly, "it has come."

[Illustration: "Conny, it has come."]

"What has come, Evan?"

"The day we hoped for; we have heard from Sybil."

"A letter! Oh Evan, tell me all about it."

"I can't, there is no time; only, Con., it's your turn now. It's your
time to strike for Sybil. They are holding council over the letter, and
can't decide, whether the old gentleman shall go at once and see Sybil;
whether they shall bring her back and swallow the Burrill; for, it seems
he must be swallowed, and what society will think about it, are the
questions that they are agitating. Mother says, that Sybil must and
shall come back; father says he will go and see her; and Frank--" he
broke off abruptly and bent down to look at his saddle girth.

"And Frank; what does he say, Evan?"

"Frank is a fool," snapped Evan irrelevantly. "What _he_ says is no
matter; only, Conny, now is your time, if you will only have faith in
what I say. You are out with your ponies; drive straight to Mapleton,
and don't mention me. You will be admitted to mother. Father is there,
and Frank; give them the least chance, and they will tell you about
Sybil, and then you can manage the rest. Tell them to bring her back,
even with that beastly incumbrance. They will listen to you; they won't
to me. If you fail me here, then--"

"Then your sacrifice goes for nothing. Oh, Evan, did you think I would
not understand that? You have wronged yourself for Sybil's sake. But you
shall have a tithe of your reward. And, dear boy, you should not have
done this thing; we might have found another way."

"Nonsense, Conny! It was the only way. And what is my life worth, or my
reputation, either? It can't hurt a poor devil like me. Con., will you
go?"

"I will go straight to Mapleton, Evan. You shall see that I have faith
in you. I will do just as you direct, and all will go well."

"Then I'm off. I stole Frank's horse. I must get him back to avoid a
row. Thank you, Conny; you are a true friend."

"Good-bye, Evan. Come to me with all the news, or when you want help."

"I won't forget," wheeling his horse about; then, in a choking voice,
"God bless you, Conny," and a moment later, he was away down the road,
galloping in a cloud of dust.

Constance followed in his wake, keeping her ponies at a sober pace.

"I wonder how he found out these things. Poor boy!" she murmured, half
aloud, "he is not one at their family councils; of that I am sure. His
father has lost all patience with him; and yet, he knows all that is
going on. I wonder how."

If Evan Lamotte had heard this query, and had chosen to answer it, he
would have said: "_I watch and I listen._"



CHAPTER XIII.

CONSTANCE'S DIPLOMACY.


Miss Wardour, being Miss Wardour, was apt to succeed in most things, and
it is fair to suppose that her visit to Mapleton, in the character of
intercessor for the erring Sybil, was not a fruitless one. Certainly, it
was not barren of results.

On the day following the call from Constance, Mrs. Lamotte came forth
from her seclusion; her carriage bore her out from the gates of
Mapleton, and straight to Wardour Place. Here she took up the heiress
and Mrs. Aliston, and the three drove ostentatiously through the streets
of W----, bowing smilingly here and there, as calm, serene, and elegant
a trio, to all outward seeming, as ever passed before admiring eyes on
velvet cushions.

This act informed W---- that Mrs. Lamotte was once more visible, and "at
home," and when a day or two later, Constance and her aunt, in splendid
array, drove again into W----, calling here and there, and dropping upon
each hearthstone a bit of manna for family digestion, the result was
what they intended it should be.

"Have you heard the news?" asks Mrs. Hopkins, fashionable busybody,
running in for an informal call on Mrs. O'Meara, who is warm-hearted
and sensible, and who listens to the babblings of Mrs. Hopkins, with a
patience and benignity worthy of a Spartan mother.

"No! Well, I am dying to tell it, then. Sybil Lamotte is coming
back--actually coming back--and that man with her; and--won't it be
queer? We shall have him in society, of course, for I am told, from the
_best_ of sources, that the Lamottes will accept him as Sybil's choice,
and make the best of him."

"But _we_ need not accept him, my dear," comments the Spartan mother,
whose lawyer husband is rich and independent, and does not count fees.
"As for Sybil, she was always a favorite with us; we shall be glad to
have her back."

"Yes, that's very well for you and Mr. O'Meara, who are very exclusive,
and go out little, but we poor society people will have to submit to the
powers that be. Constance Wardour, the Lamottes, the Vandycks, have led
us as they would, and queer as it may seem, the Lamottes are backed up
in this business of forcing John Burrill upon us, by Constance, on one
hand, and the Vandycks, mother and son, on the other."

"And Mrs. Aliston?"

"Mrs. Aliston, of course. When did she ever oppose Constance? It's
making a great furore, I can tell you; but no one is going to step
forward and openly oppose Constance and the Vandycks. I for one am
Sybil's staunch friend, and--well, as Constance says, 'let us take it
for granted that this bear of Sybil's has some good qualities, or he
would never have won her,' and then, too, it's so romantic, about Evan
you know, and how Sybil, in some way, saved him from something, by
marrying this man. I never could get the right end, or any end of that
story, nor have I found any one who knows the plain facts. Well, Mrs.
O'Meara, I must go; I have seven more calls to make, and I really have
talked too long."

"_She'll_ take him up fast enough," mused Mrs. O'Meara, in solitude.
"That's the way of society; they can't oppose wealth and prestige, even
when prestige and wealth command them to fellowship with a grizzly bear;
rather they will whitewash their bear, and call him a thing of beauty,
and laugh in their silken sleeves to see him dance."

It was quite true, that bombshell of Mrs. Hopkins'--Sybil Lamotte was
coming back. Mr. Lamotte went somewhere, nobody could name just the
place, and returned, having done, nobody knew precisely what; and as the
result of that journey, so said W----, Sybil and John Burrill were
coming soon, to breast the waves of public opinion, and take up their
abode in Mapleton.

When this fact became well established, tongues wagged briskly; some
were sorry; some were glad; some eager for the advent of the ill
assorted pair.

The sorriest one of all was unhappy Ray Vandyck, who realized how hard a
task would devolve upon him; and the gladdest of the glad was poor Evan,
who celebrated his rejoicing with one of the wildest and most protracted
of all his sprees.

Constance had won Sybil's battle. In accordance with the hint given by
Dr. Heath, Raymond Vandyck had called at Wardour Place, and the result
of that call was patent to the eyes of all W----. Ray, the rejected, had
gone over to the support of his lost love and taken his mother with him.

At last they came, after the nine days' talk had subsided, after
W---- had become accustomed to the idea, quietly, unostentatiously.
Before their arrival had become known, they were established at Mapleton.

Everybody admitted that they displayed good taste and judgment in the
manner of their home coming, but when, except in the case of this
horrible choice of Sybil's, did not the Lamottes display good taste.
People said "The Lamottes," without so much as recognizing the existence
of poor Evan.

Meantime the days were numbering themselves. It was June when Sybil
Lamotte fled away with her Bear. It is September before they return;
during these three months Constance has heard from Detective Belknap. He
is always afar off, always on the track of her robbers, and she reads
his reports, honors his drafts for "expense money," and troubles her
head no more about the "Wardour robbery" or the "Wardour diamonds."

Of Detective Bathurst there came never a word or sign, either to the
heiress or to Doctor Heath.

But it is time to introduce our Bear.



CHAPTER XIV.

JOHN BURRILL, ARISTOCRAT.


Mapleton stands high on an eminence, which may have arisen expressly to
hold, and to exhibit, the splendid edifice erected thereon by Mr. Jasper
Lamotte. It is the only hill within sight on that side of the river, and
renders Mapleton a most conspicuous as well as most beautiful abiding
place.

In front of the dwelling and its grounds flows the river, broad and
glittering in the sunshine, on this day of which I write. In the rear
stretches a grove, large enough to be termed "the grove" by the people
of W----; and dense enough for Robin Hood and his merry men to find
comfort in, for Jasper Lamotte has chosen to let it remain _en
naturale_, since it first came into his possession.

To reach Mapleton from Wardour Place one must drive directly to the
center of W----, turn eastward, then cross a handsome new iron bridge,
and go southward a short distance, coming finally to the broad curve
which sweeps up to the mansion, and away from the river, along which the
road winds.

In the old days, when Sybil Lamotte and Constance Wardour found
excellent reasons for meeting and chatting together, at least once in
every twenty-four hours, this fair river was a source of alternate
pleasure and annoyance to them. Of pleasure, when the days were fair,
and Sybil and Frank could pull their boat up stream, and land at the
grassy slope in the rear of Wardour Place, where, often, they found
Constance and a gay party awaiting them. Or, when Constance could drift
down stream with scarcely the stroke of an oar necessary, until she came
opposite "the hill," as Mapleton was often called. Of annoyance, when
winds blew cold and rough, and the waters of the river turned black and
angry, and surged high between its banks. Then the two young ladies
voted the iron bridge "the coldest place possible," and wished that no
dark, wintry river flowed between them.

The river is very calm to-day, however; it is flowing gently, murmuring
softly, and gleaming silver and blue, beneath a soft September sun. Away
down, where the factories stand, and the great wheels turn, it loses its
blue and silver, flowing under that ever moving, never lifting curtain
of smoke, that darkens and dims the skies themselves, and gives to the
sun's face the look of a disreputable celestial tramp.

It's always gray, "down at the factories," and why not? What need have
the toilers there for sunlight? They have work and sleep.

There is nothing gray or dreary about Mapleton, as we enter there and
survey the inmates who, just now, are loitering about the lunch table.
Nothing gray, if we except a few silver threads in the hair of Mrs.
Lamotte; nothing dreary, unless it may be a look which, now and then,
and only for an instant, creeps into the eyes of Mrs. John Burrill.

They sit about the lunch table,--all but Sybil. She has arisen, and
reseated herself in a great easy chair, which seems to swallow up her
slight form, and renders her quite invisible to all at the table, save
Evan, who, from time to time, glances furtively across at her.

There may be dissension in this family, but they look the embodiment of
high-bred ease and serene contentment.

Jasper Lamotte turns his paper, sips his light wine, speaks suavely, and
looks as placid as the sky overhead.

Mrs. Lamotte speaks slow and seldom; smiles when she does speak; and
looks as if nothing ever ruffled the placidity of her mind, or the even
tenor of her pleasant existence. She looks all this, sitting directly
opposite John Burrill, her reluctantly accepted son-in-law, for what
Mrs. Lamotte cannot overcome, she ignores, and her proud calm is the
result of a long and bitter schooling.

Sybil looks paler than is usual for her, but no other expression than
one of calmness and _ennui_ can be detected on that lovely, inscrutable
face; and the dusky eyes keep well veiled, and tell no secrets.

Evan Lamotte is sober, and good humored, for his sister's sake; and
Frank is simply lazy.

But John Burrill! there is no contentment equal to his; seated in the
easiest of chairs, before a table laden with viands upon which he has
just gorged himself, he contemplates his legs and his surroundings with
extreme satisfaction; his legs first, because, being stretched directly
before him, they come first under his eye; and he is delighted with
their size, and shape; they are a fine pair, such as would do credit to
a bull fighter, or a "champion pedestrian," and with the quality and cut
of the pantaloons that adorn them. It has not always been his good
fortune to sit at a rich man's table, and to wear fashionable clothing;
and John Burrill appreciates his "marcies." He has feasted his stomach,
and John Burrill's stomach comes in for a large share of his
consideration; and now he is feasting his senses: this richly appointed
room is his room; this splendid stately lady, how he delights to call
her "mother," varied occasionally by "mother-in-law;" how he glories in
the possession of a pair of aristocratic brothers-in-law; and how he
swells with pride, when he steps into the carriage, and, sitting beside
"the rich Mr. Lamotte," is driven through W---- and to the factories;
and last, and best of all, there is his wife, a beauty, a belle, an
heiress, possessing a score of lovers, yet won by him.

Only one thing troubles John Burrill, he does not quite understand
Sybil; he has "got the hang," so he thinks of the other members of the
family, but sometimes Sybil's wordless glance operates upon him like a
cold shower bath, and Mr. Burrill, like all the "gutter born," rather
fears a shower bath.

Coarse in sense and sentiment, plebeian in body and soul; whatever else
Sybil Lamotte's husband may be, let our story develop.

Quitting his place now, he crosses the room, and, taking up a position
where his eyes can gloat upon Sybil's face, he rests one elbow upon a
mantel, and so, in a comfortable after-dinner attitude, continues his
pleasant meditations. Sybil stirs uneasily, but notices his proximity in
no other way. Presently her eyes shoot straight past him, and she says
to Evan who has also risen, and stands stretching himself, lazily, with
his face to the window, and his back toward the assembly:

"Evan, just hand me that book on the mantel. No, not _that_ one," as he
lays his ready hand on the book nearest him, "the other."

"Oh!" ejaculates Evan, at the same moment laying hand upon a volume
directly underneath John Burrill's elbow. "Hoist up your arrum, Burrill.
'My lady's up, and wants her wollum.'"

John Burrill's face reddens slowly. He is an Englishman, and sometimes
his H's and A's play him sorry tricks, although he has labored hard to
Americanize himself, and likes to think that he has succeeded.

"D--n it!" broke out the man, suddenly losing his after dinner calm.
"You might have asked _me_ for the book, Sybil; it was near enough."

Sybil received the book from Evan's hand, opened it, turned a page or
two, and then lifting her eyes to his face, replied in a voice, low,
clear, and cutting as the north wind:

"Evan is my slave, Mr. Burrill, _you_--are my lord and master."
Indescribable contempt shone upon him for a moment from her splendid
eyes; then she lowered them, and became, apparently, wholly absorbed in
her book.

John Burrill muttered something very low, and probably very ugly, and
dropped back into his former attitude; and the others, never by word or
glance, noticed this little passage at arms. Only Evan returned to the
window, and standing there with hands in pockets, glowered down upon the
frost-touched rose trees and clustered geraniums, savagely, and long.

Presently, Evan turns from the window, which commands a view of the
drive.

"Constance is coming," he says, addressing Sybil.

She starts up, looking anxious and disturbed; Constance has visited her,
and she has driven over once to see Constance; but it has so happened
that John Burrill has always been absent; and Sybil has a shuddering
horror of this meeting that must be.

The announcement seems to galvanize them all into life. Mr. Lamotte
looks up with a gleam of latent anticipation in his eyes; Frank smiles
his pleasure; and John Burrill steals a deprecatory glance at a mirror,
smoothes a wrinkle out of his waistcoat, and outsmiles Frank. Here is
another triumph; he is about to be introduced to the richest girl in the
country; to meet her on an equal footing, in the character of husband to
her dearest friend.

Sybil rises and goes to the window; her pale face flushing. There is a
rolling of wheels, a sound of swift, firm footsteps without, and then
the door opens, and Constance is announced.

She follows her name in her usual free, at home fashion, and in a moment
is kissing Sybil, shaking hands with Mrs. Lamotte, exchanging smiling
salutations with Mr. Lamotte, and gay badinage with Francis. And then,
while Sybil still hesitates, Evan comes to the rescue.

With a face of preternatural gravity, he advances, seizes the arm of
John Burrill, drags him toward Constance, and says, with elaborate
politeness:

"Constance, allow me to present my new brother-in-law, Mr. Burrill.
Brother-in-law, this is Miss Wardour, of Wardour Place."

In spite of themselves, they smile; all except Sybil. John Burrill feels
that somehow, he is made ridiculous; that another man in his place would
not have been thus introduced. But the eyes of the heiress are upon his
face, her daintily gloved hand is proffered him, and she lies in her
softest contralto, and unblushingly:

"I am happy to know you, Mr. Burrill."

[Illustration: "I am happy to know you."]

Somehow, they all breathe freer after that pretty falsehood. John
Burrill regains his composure, and relapses into his former state of
comfortable gloating. Another face is added to the circle of high-bred
people around him. He does not talk much, for he is not yet quite at his
ease when in conversation with them. As they talk, he thinks what a fine
nest this is which he has gained for himself; what a lovely woman is his
wife; and how splendidly handsome is Miss Wardour. He thinks how, by and
by, he will boast to some of his choice spirits, of his friendship for
Miss Wardour, and of the value in which she holds his esteem. He thinks
how good is the Lamotte cook, and how, presently, he will sample the
Lamotte wines, and smoke a splendid segar; and then he pricks up his
ears and listens, for the conversation has drifted away from the
commonplace, and Miss Wardour is saying:

"It really is a forlorn hope, I fear, Mr. Lamotte. I don't know what to
reply to Mr. Belknap, but I think he is wasting his time, and I my
money; and, if you will communicate with him, as he failed to name his
address in his note to me, we will close up the case."

"And say farewell to your diamonds?"

"I have performed that ceremony some time since. I really am worn out
with the subject. At some other time I may resume the search."

"You are getting discouraged."

"Call it that, if you like."

"Excuse me, if I pursue so wearisome a subject, Constance; but--does not
Mr. Belknap hint at a new clue in this note of his? You must know he has
written me also."

"He hints, and very vaguely."

"Well, I am anxious to look into this matter a little further. As a
special favor to me will you retain the services of Mr. Belknap a little
longer?"

"As you make such a point of it, yes, Mr. Lamotte; but--do you really
hope to find anything new, at this late day?"

"I really do, my child, but can not put my ideas in shape, as yet. I
think we shall have Mr. Belknap among us soon."

"Well, don't let him persecute me, that's all," stipulated Constance. "I
have lost my faith in detectives."

"All this talk reminds me, Constance," interrupted Sybil, "mamma has had
her diamonds reset for me, and they are really beautiful; besides which,
papa and Mr. Burrill have added to the collection, so that in the
absence of yours, I may set myself up as diamond queen. Come to my room
and be dazzled."

"And leave us under a cloud," chimed in Frank. "Burrill, come, let's
adjourn to the billiard room, and have a segar;" and intent upon keeping
his brother-in-law in order during the time Constance should be under
the roof, he slapped him cordially on his brawny shoulder, and they went
out in most amiable and brotherly fashion, and entered the billiard
room, where Frank permitted Burrill to cheat at the game, and eventually
win it, much to the delight of that personage.

When they had left the morning room, Evan Lamotte, too, sauntered out
and down the hall, and, hearing their voices in amiable dialogue,
interspersed by the click of the billiard balls, he muttered:

"Ah, Constance, you are a witch indeed! you have made my magnificent
brother adopt my _rôle_ for once; so long as you are here we may depend
upon Frank to keep our bull out of the china shop. So, as one good turn
deserves another, I will just give your mare a turn and look in at 'Old
Forty Rods;' I'm safe to go off duty for the day."

And ten minutes later the reckless youth was galloping Frank's blooded
mare along the highway _en route_ for the saloon known to the initiated
as "Old Forty Rods."

Left alone together, Mr. Jasper Lamotte and his wife gazed at each other
in silence for a moment, and then he said:

"Do you think it safe to leave them alone together too long?"

"Who, Frank and----"

"Pshaw, no; the girls."

"It is quite safe; nevertheless I will go up to them," and Mrs. Lamotte
arose and went slowly up the stairs, and softly past the door where
Sybil and Constance sat together, straight to her own room, which she
entered, closed and locked the door carefully, and allowing the look of
haughty calm to die out of her face, she threw herself into a dressing
chair, and pressed two feverish hands against a face that was sad and
bitter and full of weariness.

Left to his own devices, Jasper Lamotte seated himself at a desk and
dashed off a few hurried lines, which he directed to

    "Mr. Jerry Belknap,
    "No. --, Room 7, Blank St.,
    "N. Y."



CHAPTER XV.

DIAMONDS.


Constance followed her friend up to the room where they had so often
passed long hours together, wondering idly at Sybil's composure and
seeming resignation, and shudderingly recalling the blank devouring
stare of the man who was her husband.

It was the first time since Sybil's return that they had been alone
together, and Constance half dreaded the interview, as well as wondered
not a little that the opportunity was of Sybil's own making; hitherto
she seemed anxious to avoid a _tête-à-tête_.

Sybil moved straight on in advance of her friend, and never turned her
head nor spoke, until the door of her _boudoir_ had shut them in; then
she turned and faced her companion, uttering as she did so a low
mirthless laugh.

"Well!" she asked abruptly, "how do you like him?"

Constance bent a searching gaze upon her friend, and read her state of
mind with a woman's keen intuition. The tensely strung nerves, the dread
of this interview, the determination to have it over, and to bear her
part bravely; a proud and stubborn nature, battling with despair, and
unspeakable heartache. She understood it all, and her own heart bled
for her friend. But, being a wise little woman, she held her pity in
reserve, and replied, as if the question concerned a new dancing master:

"I don't like him at all, child; let's talk about something more
interesting," and she threw herself down upon a _fauteuil_, and tossed
off her hat; just as she had tossed it aside a hundred times, in that
same pretty room. The simple action, brought a thrill of tenderness, and
sad recollection, to the heart of Sybil. She seated herself beside her
friend, and her face lost a shade of its bitterness.

"It's like a shadow of the old days, Con.," she said sadly, "and the
substance I can never have any more. But, you must let me talk, I feel
as if I must talk, and you will let me say what I will, and ask me
nothing. Con., you saw that--that creature down stairs? You saw him, but
you did not _hear_ him."

She shuddered, and paused for an instant; but Constance did not speak,
and so she continued:

"I had made up my mind never to speak of him to you, but the very thing
I had dreaded has happened; you have met, and, in the generosity of your
soul, for my sake, you have extended to him your hand; have openly
accepted his acquaintance. Oh, Con.! I could have struck him dead before
he touched your hand. _He!_ Ah, there is a limit to my forbearance; he
has forced himself into my life to blight it; he has forced himself into
my family to be an added curse. But he shall not force himself upon my
friends. Con., treat him with the disdain he deserves, else, he will
force his way into your very drawing room. Never, never, never, extend
to him the courtesies due to an equal. He is not an equal, he is not a
man at all; he is a fat, sleek, leering, ruminating animal, at his best;
he is a wolf, a vampire, a devil, at other times; ignorant, vain,
avaricious, gross. Rather than see him force himself upon you, as he has
forced himself upon us here, I will myself sever our friendship, I will
never see, never speak with you again. John Burrill shall find a limit,
which even his brute force cannot pass." She was growing more and more
excited and a bright spot burned on each cheek.

Constance was startled, but fully understanding the necessity for
perfect coolness, now that Sybil's composure had almost given way, she
never attempted to interrupt the words that were but the overflow of
long pent up feelings; but sat quietly stroking one of Sybil's slender
hands, and becoming more amazed and mystified as she listened.

"Sometimes I find myself wondering at the tenacity of my life," went on
Sybil, more hurriedly and with increasing excitement. "Sometimes I feel
my strength leaving me, and think the battle is almost over; but somehow
it is renewed, and I find myself growing strong instead of weak. For
months I lived with my inevitable fate constantly before my eyes. I knew
that there was no escape; that what has transpired, must happen. I have
suffered tortures, passed nights without sleep, and days without food. I
have grown a little paler, a little thinner, and a great deal wickeder,
and that is all. I am strong, as strong as in the beginning, and yet,
what am I but a galvanized corpse? I am dead to all that is worth living
for. My one wish is to be free, and yet, Con., do you know I have never
once been tempted to self-destruction."

[Illustration: "I have never once been tempted to self-destruction."]

Constance Wardour sprang impetuously to her feet, and paced the length
of the _boudoir_ again and again in perfect silence. The terrible weight
of torment that was crushing Sybil's heart, and maddening her brain,
seemed to rest, too, upon her, and weigh down her spirits; she was
tortured with the sight of Sybil's misery, and the thought of her own
helplessness. Could nothing be done? Struggling for an appearance of
composure, she paced to and fro, and at last, having mastered her
feelings, and arranged her thoughts, she resumed her seat beside Sybil,
whose eyes had followed her movements with curiosity.

"Sybil, listen;" she began with that clear, concise energy of manner
that, in itself, inspired confidence. "If you do not wish me to make any
overtures of friendship, rest assured I shall make none. I at least am
not under the spell which this man seems to have thrown about you all.
There, don't draw back, child, I have no more to say on this part of the
subject. I may ask a few questions, however, without treading on
forbidden ground. You say John Burrill is avaricious; can he not be
bought off?"

Sybil shook her head.

"Not with the Wardour estate," she replied, sadly. "Not with all our
fortunes united?"

"Cannot he be frightened then?"

"Frightened! You don't know what you are saying."

"Then, I can think of one other way. He is a bad man; he must have led a
wicked life; can we not find something in his past, which will place him
in our power? Can he not be driven into banishment, through fear of
justice?"

Sybil turned her eyes full upon her friend; eyes dark with the shadow of
despair, but unwavering in their sad firmness.

"If that could be done," she said, slowly. "The very day that witnessed
his downfall, would bring about the catastrophe I have sacrificed myself
to avert. Constance, say no more; we can do none of these things; there
is no help for me on this side of the grave."

Constance looked once more at her friend; looked long and earnestly
then.

"Sybil," she cried, with swift resolution. "Do you know what you are
bringing upon yourself? Do you want to go mad, and so be at the mercy of
John Burrill? It is what will come upon you if you don't throw off this
torpor. Your eyes are as dry as if tears were not meant to relieve the
overburdened heart. Let your tears flow; shake off this lethargy; battle
royally for your life; it is worth more than his; do not let him put
your reason to flight, and so conquer. Sybil! Sybil!"

The words ended in a sobbing cry, but Sybil only gazed dumbly, and then
looked helplessly about her.

"There, there, Conny," she said at last, as if soothing a hurt child;
"don't mind me. It's true my life is worth more than his, but--I can't
cry, I don't _feel_ like crying."

"Then laugh," cried Constance desperately; "laugh and defy your
tormentor; harden your heart if you must, but don't let it break."

"I won't," said Sybil, with quiet emphasis. "Now come and see my
diamonds, Con."

She crossed the room as she spoke, bent over a dressing case, and came
back with a tray of sparkling newly set jewels.

"Bah!" she said, as she dropped the glittering things one by one into
her friend's lap. "How I loved their glitter once, and how I envied you
your treasure of jewels; now you have lost your treasure, and I have no
more love for mine."

Constance laughed oddly, as she bent to recover her hat from the floor,
where it had lain during their interview.

"Secret for secret, Sybil," she said, with forced gaiety. "I have one
little secret of mine own, and I am inclined to tell it you, because I
know you can appreciate it, and can keep it; and I choose to have it
kept. Bend down your head, dear, walls may have ears. Listen."

Sybil bent her dark head, and Constance whispered a few short sentences
that caused her to spring up erect and excited.

"Constance! you are not jesting?"

"Honestly no. I have told you the truth, plain and unvarnished."

Sybil stood as if transfixed with surprise, or some sudden inspiration.

"Why, how amazed you look, dear; after all it's an old, old trick, and
easily played. Come, don't stare at me any longer; put away your
diamonds and come below with me, my ponies must be dying with
impatience, and I am anxious to avoid our mutual foe, for I make common
cause with you, dear, and I have told you my secret, that we may be in
very truth, fellow conspirators. Make my adieus to the family, and be
sure and come to me just as you used; if your ogre insists upon coming,
trust me to freeze him into an earnest desire to be in a warmer and more
congenial place. Courage, _mon ami_, somehow we must win the battle."

Sybil took the diamonds from her hands and put them away, with far more
care than she had displayed in bringing them forth; then she followed
her friend from the room, closing and carefully locking the door behind
her.

Constance observed the unusual caution, but made no comment. Only when
many days after she remembered that day she wondered how she could have
been so stupidly blind.

She effected her departure without being seen by Frank or Burrill, and
drove homeward, revolving in her mind various plots for the confusion of
the latter, and plans for awakening Sybil from the dangerous melancholy
that would surely unseat her reason.

"If I could only move her to tears," she murmured, "only break that
frozen calm once. How can I touch, move, melt her? It must be done." And
pondering this difficult task, she drove slowly on.

"I wonder if I blundered in telling her my secret," she mused. "I know
she will keep it; and yet, somehow, I fear I was too hasty. One would
think it had grown too big for me to keep. But, pshaw! it's not a life
and death matter, and I wanted to give a new impulse to that poor
child's thoughts. But I must try and cure myself of this impulsiveness,
just as if it were not 'bred in the bone,' for it was an impulse that
made me whisper my secret to Sybil; and once, it has got me into serious
trouble." And her brow darkened, as she thought of the feud thus raised
between herself and Doctor Heath.

While she was thus pondering, Sybil Burrill had hurried back to her own
room, locked herself in, and with hands clasped and working nervously,
was pacing restlessly up and down, as Constance had done a little
earlier.

"It's the only way," she muttered between shut teeth, "the only possible
way." And then she unlocked the dressing case, took out her jewels once
more, handling them with greatest care. She spread them out before her,
and resting her elbows on the dressing table, and her chin in the palm
of one slender hand, gazed and thought with darkening brow and
compressed lips; and with now and then a shudder, and a startled glance
behind and about her.

"It's the only way," she repeated. "They have left me but one weapon,
and it's _for my life_;" and the lips set themselves in hard lines, and
the dark eyes looked steely and resolute. What wild purpose was taking
shape in the tortured brain of Sybil Burrill? planted there by the
impulsive revelation of Constance Wardour.

While the lurid light yet shone from her eyes, there came a tap upon the
door, and then Mrs. Lamotte's voice called:

"Sybil, are you there?"

"Yes, mamma."

Sybil gathered up the jewels once more, hastily and putting them under
lock and key, admitted her mother. Mrs. Lamotte was never a
demonstrative parent. She glanced anxiously at her daughter, and the
look upon the pale face did not escape her eye; but she made no comment,
only saying:

"I heard Constance drive away, and thought I should find you alone. Do
you feel equal to a drive, Sybil?"

Sybil hesitated, and then answered: "I think so mamma, if you wish to go
out."

"I have some shopping to do, and--it's best for us to go out a little.
Don't you think so?"

"It's best that we keep up appearances, certainly mamma; for what else
do we exist? Shall we take the honorable Mr. Burrill?"

Mrs. Lamotte shrugged her shoulders. "By no means," she replied. "Mr.
Burrill, if his feelings are too much hurt, shall drive with me
to-morrow. It's an honor he has been thirsting for."

"He has indeed, mamma; the creature is insatiable."

Mrs. Lamotte arose with one of her cold smiles.

"For the present let us ignore him, Sybil," she said. "Make an elaborate
driving toilet, we want the admiration of W----, not its pity." And
having thus uttered one article of her creed, Mrs. Lamotte swept away to
prepare for the ordeal, for such that drive would be to those two proud
women.

No one could have guessed it, however, when an hour later, the elegant
barouche, drawn by two superb grays, rolled through the streets of
W----. Two richly dressed, handsome, high-bred, smiling women; that is
what W---- saw, and all it saw; and light-hearted poverty looked, and
envied; little knowing the sorrow hidden underneath the silk and lace,
and the misery that was masked in smiles.

Meantime John Burrill, left to his own devices, found time drag heavily.
Frank had abandoned him, as soon as it became known that Constance was
gone; and had abandoned himself to a fit of rage, when he became aware
that his black mare was also gone. Mr. Lamotte had driven to town with
his own light buggy; Sybil was gone, Evan was gone; even his stately
mother-in-law was beyond the reach of his obnoxious pleasantries.

He ordered up a bottle of wine, and drank it in the spirit of an ill
used man. Always, in his perfectly sober moments, John Burrill felt
oppressed with a sense of the difference existing between himself and
the people among whom he had chosen to cast his lot.

Not that he recognized, or admitted, his inferiority; had he not
demonstrated to the world, that he, John Burrill, sometime mill worker,
and overseer, was a man of parts, a self-made man.

When he had quaffed a bottle of wine, he began to feel oppressed in a
different way. He was overburdened with a sense of his own genius, and
in a very amiable frame of mind, altogether. In this mood, he joined the
family at dinner; after which meal, a few glasses of brandy added fire
to the smouldering element within him, and straightway he blazed forth:
a gallant, a coxcomb. In this frame of mind, he always admired himself
excessively, took stock of his burly legs and brawny shoulders, and
smiled sentimentally before the mirror, at his reflected face.

There were people who called John Burrill a handsome man; and if one had
a fancy for a round head, with depressions where bumps are desirable,
and _vice versa_, and an animal sort of attractiveness of feature,
consisting of a low, flat forehead, straight nose, large, full red
lipped mouth, fair florid complexion, set off by a pair of dark blue
eyes, that were devoid of any kindly expression, and hair, full beard,
and moustache, of a reddish brown hue, coarse in quality, but plentiful
in quantity, and curling closely; then we will admit that John Burrill
was handsome. Why not? We can see handsome bovines at any fat cattle
show.

After this elation, came the fourth stage; a mixture of liquors as the
evening advanced, and then John Burrill became jealous of his rights,
careful of his dignity, crafty, quarrelsome, and difficult to manage.
Next he became uproarious, then maudlin; then blind, beastly drunk, and
utterly regardless where he laid him down, or fell down, to finish the
night, for his last stage usually dragged itself far into the small
hours.

Gluttonous and meditative in the morning; beginning to swell with a
growing sense of importance about midday; amorous, obtrusive, and
consequential later; hilarious after dinner; quarrelsome before tea; and
down in the ditch before dawn. This was Burrill's notion of enjoying
life in leisurely, gentlemanly fashion. And this was his daily routine,
with variations to suit the occasion.

But sober or drunk, morning, noon, or night, he never ceased to remind
the Lamottes that he was one of them, their equal; never forgot his
purpose, or allowed them to forget it, or him. He was their old man of
the sea, their blight, their curse, and, they could never hope to shake
him off.



CHAPTER XVI.

IN OPEN MUTINY.


Sybil sat alone in her boudoir. It was yet early in the evening, but,
feeling little inclined to remain in the society of her family, who
assembled, with all due formality, in the drawing room on "at home"
evenings, and most of their evenings were spent at home now, she had
withdrawn, pleading fatigue after their drive.

The night outside was balmy enough, but Sybil had ordered a light fire
in the grate, and she sat before it with all the rays from a fully
illuminated chandelier falling directly over her.

She still wore the rich dress she had put on for her drive; and
excitement, exercise, _something_, had lent an unusual glow to her
cheeks, and caused her dusky eyes to shine clear and steady, almost too
clear, too steadfast, was their gaze as it was fixed upon the glowing
coals; she had not looked so thoughtful, so self forgetful, yet self
absorbed, since she came back to Mapleton, John Burrill's wife.

Sitting thus, she heard a shambling step in the hall, and the heavy
voice of her husband, trolling out a snatch of song, caught up most
likely in some bar-room.

He was approaching her door, and quick as thought, she sprang from her
chair, and noiselessly examined the fastenings, to assure herself
against him. Then, while her hand still rested on the door, his hand
struck a huge blow upon the outside, and he called out gruffly:

"Sybil."

No answer; she dared not move, lest the rustle of her silks should
betray her. "S-Sybil, I say, lemme in." Still no reply, and John Burrill
shook the door violently, and ground out an oath.

Just then came the sound of another door further up the hall, her
mother's door. It opened easily, and closed softly, and then quick,
cat-like steps approached, and the voice of Jasper Lamotte, low and
serene as usual, arrested the noise of the baffled applicant for
admittance.

"Less noise, Burrill." Sybil had not heard her father address him in
that tone of familiar command. "Sybil's not there."

"Jes zif I didn't know better."

"Nonsense, man; your wife is below with her mother at this moment. Now
stop that fuss, and shake yourself out. I've some private words for your
ear."

"Oh;" the man's voice dropped a tone lower; "quite a time since we've
'ad many private words. 'Bout Sybil?"

"No, sir." The tone was lower than before, and so stern that it caused
the listener to start. "It's about _your_ business and _mine_."

"Oh! maybe you want to settle up and discharge me. Maybe you don't need
me any more."

"Curse you for a fool! You know your own value too well. Bully as you
please, where the rest are concerned, but drop your airs with me. Settle
with Sybil later, if you must; I want you now."

Could it be Jasper Lamotte that uttered these words; rather, hissed
them? Sybil almost betrayed herself in her surprise; but the gasp that
she could not quite stifle, was drowned by the voice of Burrill, saying:

"All right. I'll settle with Sybil later."

And then she heard them enter her mother's room, and close the door
softly.

For a full moment, Sybil Burrill stood transfixed; then the silken folds
that she had instinctively gathered about her at the first, slowly
slipped from her hand; gradually the color that had fled from her cheeks
came back, and burned brighter than before. She seemed to control
herself by a strong effort, and stood thinking--thinking.

Only for a few moments; then she lifted her head with a gesture of
defiance. Swiftly and noiselessly she moved under the chandelier, drew
it down, and extinguished every light. Then softly, cautiously, she
opened her door and looked out, listened thus a moment, and then stepped
boldly out, and, gliding to the head of the stairs, leaned down and
listened.

From the drawing room there came to her ear the sound of the piano,
lightly touched, and Frank's tenor humming over the bars of a Neapolitan
boat song.

Then she understood her father's mistake. Some unwonted impulse had
caused her mother to seat herself at the piano, and accompany Frank, who
did not reckon piano playing among his accomplishments; and the thing
was so unusual, that Sybil was not surprised at her parent's mistake.

Evan being absent, Jasper Lamotte naturally supposed that floor
deserted, and therefore had not observed too much caution.

Only a moment did Sybil listen, and then, gathering up the silken train,
and crushing it into a soft mass under her hand, she crept noiselessly
as a cat to the door of her mother's room, bent down her head and
listened there.

[Illustration: Only a moment did Sybil listen.]

Five minutes, ten, and still they talked, and still Sybil stood,
moveless and intent. Then, drawing back suddenly, she ran hurriedly down
the hall, and had gained the foot of the stairs before the sound of the
opening door admonished her that she had escaped none too soon.

In a moment she had entered the drawing room, and, with more of her
olden gayety than they had seen in her manner for many long days,
approached the loiterers at the piano.

"Mother! mother! your hand is out of time!" and, in a moment, she had
drawn her astonished mother from the stool, and seated herself in the
vacant place.

"Sing, Frank," she commanded, striking the keys with a crash that died
away in discord. "We have been dull too long."

When Jasper Lamotte and his model son-in-law entered the drawing room,
they found Frank singing, Sybil accompanying him with dextrous fingers,
and Mrs. Lamotte half resting near them, with veiled eyes, and her
serenest cast of countenance.

Casting one keen glance toward Burrill, which, being interpreted, meant,
"I told you so, you fool," Mr. Lamotte seated himself beside his wife.

John Burrill, during his interview with his father-in-law, had become a
shade more reasonable, and less inclined to think that, in order to
vindicate his wounded sensibilities, he must "have it out with Sybil."
But his face still wore a surly look, and Frank, who was not over
delicate in such matters, looked askance at him, and then whispered to
Sybil, under cover of a softly played interlude that he "scented battle
afar off."

Sybil's only answer was a low, meaning laugh, and when he had finished
his song, she played on and on and on. _Sonata, bravura, fantasia,
rondo_; a crash and whirl--rapid, swift, sweet, brilliant, cold; no
feeling, no pathos. A fanciful person might have traced something of
exultation and defiance, in those dashing, rippling waves of music.

Presently she stopped and turned to Frank.

"What shall you do in the morning?" she asked, abruptly.

Frank ran his fingers through his hair, after a fashion he much
affected, and replied, slowly:

"Well, really! Nothing important. Going to ride to the office--meaning
Heath's office, not the mills. Can I do anything for you, sis?"

"I was thinking," began Sybil, as unconcernedly as if she did not know
that she was about to astonish, more than she had already done, every
one of her listeners, "that it would be a fine morning for a canter;
that is, if to-morrow should be a counterpart of to-day; and I am hungry
to be in the saddle."

Frank roused himself from his lazy position, and looked interested. He
took a secret delight in annoying Burrill, when he could do it without
too much openness or display of _malice prepense_; and here was one of
his opportunities.

"Well, Sybil, you shan't be hungering in vain," he replied, gallantly.
"Name your hour, and your steed, and I will even sacrifice my last best
morning nap, if need be."

Sybil laughed lightly.

"We will have a moderately seasonable breakfast, Frank, not to make your
sacrifice too great; and I will ride Gretchen. Poor thing! she will have
almost forgotten me now."

"Then that is settled," replied Frank, tranquilly, and glancing
furtively toward Burrill, who was beginning to wriggle uneasily in his
chair. "Do you want to go anywhere in particular, sis?"

"No, unless you leave me for awhile at Wardour Place; I want to see some
of Con.'s new dresses. You can ride into town and call for me later."

"Ah! very nice arrangement; then _I_ can't call with you?"

"Decidedly not, sir. Who wants a man always about? They are
conveniences, not blessings."

"Oh, well, I'm extinguished. I promise to vanish from your gaze as soon
as you are within the gates of the Princess of Wardour, and now I think,
after so much vocal effort, and so much self-humiliation, I will go and
smoke. Adieu, sister mine; adieu mamma. Will you smoke, Burrill?"

"No, sir, thank you;" replied Burrill, with brief courtesy, and Frank,
who knew beforehand what his answer would be, went toward his own room,
smiling contentedly.

"I wonder what's up with Sybil?" he said to himself. "She has waked up
decidedly; but she has let herself in for a rumpus with Burrill."

When he had gone Sybil arose, and seating herself near her mother, said:

"Mamma, you were saying something about going to the city yesterday;
have you decided about it?"

Mrs. Lamotte, who had had no thought of going to the city, and who was
fully conscious that she had made no remarks on the subject, looked up
without a ruffle upon her placid countenance and replied, like a wise
and good mother.

"No, my child, I have not decided."

"Then, when you decide to go, inform me beforehand, mamma. I think I
should like to accompany you and do some shopping for myself."

Here Burrill showed such marked symptoms of outbreak that Mr. Lamotte
who, throughout the hour they had passed in the drawing room, had been a
quiet but close observer, thought it wise to interpose, and artfully
attempted to avert the impending storm by saying:

"Now that sounds natural. I'm glad that you feel like shopping, Sybil,
and like getting out more. Very glad, aren't you, Burrill?"

But Mr. Burrill had no notion of being thus appeased; instead of spiking
a gun Jasper Lamotte had opened a battery.

"I'm delighted to hear that Mrs. Burrill has stopped moping," he said
gruffly; "but I'll be hanged if I'm glad to hear myself left out of all
the programmes, and I'll be cussed if I'm going to put up with it,
either," and Mr. Burrill, being full in more senses than one, arose and
paced the room with more fierceness than regularity.

Mr. Lamotte forgot himself so far as to utter an angry imprecation
between his shut teeth, and to wrinkle his forehead into a dark frown.
Mrs. Lamotte allowed a shade of contempt to creep about her lips as she
turned her eyes upon her daughter, but Sybil looked not one whit
disconcerted.

"I've got something to say about my wife," went on Mr. Burrill, "and I'm
blessed if I don't say it."

What had come over Sybil? Heretofore she would in any way, in every way,
have avoided an encounter with him; she would have quitted the field or
have remained deaf as a post; but now, "Say it, then, Mr. Burrill, say
it, by all means, here and now," she retorted in the coolest voice
imaginable.

And Mr. Burrill did say it.

"I've had enough of being made a fool of, Mrs. Sybil Burrill; I've had
enough of being a carpet under your feet, and nothing better. I'm your
equal, and anybody's equal, that's what _I_ am, and I'm going to have
_my_ rights. It's very well for you to announce that you're going here
and going there, Mrs. Burrill; but let me tell you that you go _nowhere_
except John Burrill goes with you, that's settled."

Sybil laughed scornfully.

"Not quite so fast, Mr. Burrill, just stand still one moment, if you
_can_ stand still, which I doubt. You say you will accompany me wherever
I go; I say you may accompany me wherever people will tolerate you,
nowhere else. You are not the man to force into a gentleman's parlor;
you would disgrace his kitchen, his stable. The streets are free to all,
you can accompany me in my drives; the churches are open to the vilest,
you can go with me there; but into the houses of my friends you _shall
not_ go; I will not so abuse friendship. You have counted upon me to
gain you _entrée_ to Wardour and to a dozen houses, the thresholds of
which you will never cross. If you are not satisfied with this, then you
must be suited with less. I will not be seen with you at all."

Again Jasper Lamotte, vexed and alarmed for the _denouement_,
interposed; knowing she was striking at Burrill's chief weakness:

"But Sybil, Miss Wardour, here in her meetings with Burrill, tacitly
recognized his right to call."

She turned upon him swiftly.

"You know why she did it, sir; it is useless to discuss the question.
You may calm Mr. Burrill in any way you please, or can. You know the
terms on which he became my husband. He will continue my husband on my
own terms. He shall not cross the threshold of Wardour, protected by my
presence, and without it the door would close in his face. If Mr.
Burrill does not like my terms, let him say so. _It is not in his power
or yours to alter my decision._" And Sybil once more gathered together
her silken skirts, lest in passing they should brush the now collapsed
Mr. Burrill, and swept from the room.

[Illustration: "It is not in his power or yours to alter my decision."]

Mr. Lamotte turned to his wife.

"You must talk with that girl," he said, savagely, "what the devil ails
you all?"

Mrs. Lamotte arose and faced him.

"I should be wasting my breath," she replied, looking him straight in
the eye. "You have tried that girl a little too far, Mr. Lamotte," and
she followed after her daughter.

A roar, not unlike the bellow of a bull, recalled Mr. Lamotte to the
business of the moment. John Burrill, having recovered from his
momentary stupor of astonishment, was dancing an improvised, and
unsteady _can can_, among the chairs and tables, beating the air with
his huge fists, and howling with rage.

Seeing this, Mr. Lamotte did first, a very natural thing; he uttered a
string of oaths, "not loud, but deep," and next, a very sensible thing;
he rang for brandy and hot water.

And now the battle is in Mr. Lamotte's hands, why need we linger. Brandy
hot will always conquer a John Burrill.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE PLAY GOES ON.


When Sybil Burrill, after uttering her defiance in the face of father
and husband, had swept from the room, closely followed by her mother,
another form moved away from the immediate vicinity of the most
accessible drawing-room window,--the form of Evan Lamotte. Crouching,
creeping, shivering, cursing, he made his way to the spot where he had
left Frank's horse, and led it toward the stables.

Anything but sober when he commenced his vigil underneath the
drawing-room windows, he had been shocked into sobriety by his sister's
violence, and his own rage against her tormentors. Growing more and more
sober, and more and more sullen, he stabled the ill-used thoroughbred
with his own hands, and then, avoiding alike both servants and family,
he crept into the house, and up to his own room.

In the morning he awoke betimes, and arose promptly; he had come to know
the habits of his father and John Burrill, and he had good reason for
knowing them, having of late made their movements his study.

Burrill would sleep until nine o'clock; he always did after a debauch,
and he, Evan, had recently formed a habit of appearing late at breakfast
also. From his room he kept up a surveillance over all the household
after a method invented by himself.

He knew when his stately mother swept down to the breakfast room,
followed soon after by his father.

The family all aimed to breakfast before the obnoxious Burrill had come
to his waking time, and so were rid of him for one meal, all but Evan.
He and his brother-in-law breakfasted together later, and in the most
amiable manner. After a time he heard Frank go down, and the ring of his
heels assured Evan that he was equipped for the saddle.

A little later, and, from his post at his front window, screened by the
flowing curtains, Evan saw the horses led around, saw Sybil come down
the steps in her trailing, dark cloth habit, saw her spring lightly to
the saddle, and heard a mocking laugh ring out, in response to some
sally from Frank, as they cantered away.

[Illustration: Evan saw Sybil and Frank canter away.]

"Act one in the insurrection," said Evan, as he turned away from the
window. "Now let _me_ prepare for action." His preparations were few and
simple; he removed his boots and coat, and crept out, and softly along
the hall until he reached Burrill's door. Here he paused, to assure
himself that he was not observed, and then softly tried the door; as he
had expected, it opened without resistance, for Burrill had been
escorted to bed, by his faithful father-in-law, in a state of
mellowness, that precluded all thought for the night, or the dangers it
might bring forth. Evan entered, cautiously closing the door as he had
found it, and approached the bed. Its occupant was sleeping heavily, and
breathing melodiously. Satisfied on this point, Evan opened a commodious
wardrobe near the bed, threw down some clothing, spread it out smoothly,
and then stepping within, he drew the doors together, fastening them by
a hook of his own contrivance, on the inside; for Evan had made this
wardrobe do service before. Then he laid himself down as comfortably as
possible, and applied his eye to some small holes punctured in the dark
wood, and quite invisible to casual outside observation.

He had began to grow restless in his hiding-place, and fiercely
disgusted with the sleeper's monotonously musical whistle, when his
waiting was rewarded. The door once again opened cautiously, and this
time, Jasper Lamotte entered. He looked carefully about him, then
closing and locking the door, he approached the sleeper.

"I knew it," thought Evan; "the fox will catch the wolf napping, and
nail him before he can fortify himself with a morning dram."

It took some time to arouse the sleeper, but Jasper Lamotte was equal to
the occasion; this not being his first morning interview with his
son-in-law; and, after a little, John Burrill was sufficiently awake to
scramble through with a hasty toilet, talking as he dressed.

"Business is getting urgent," he grumbled, thrusting a huge foot into a
gorgeously decorated slipper. "I'd rather talk after breakfast."

"Pshaw, you are always drunk enough to be unreasonable before noon. Turn
some cold water upon your head and be ready to attend to what I have to
say."

What he had to say took a long time in the telling, for it was a long,
long hour before the conference broke up, and the two men left the room
together.

Then the doors of the wardrobe opened slowly, and a pale, pinched face
looked forth; following the face came the body of Evan Lamotte, shaken
as if with an ague. Mechanically he closed the wardrobe, and staggered
rather than walked from the room. Once more within his own room he
locked the door with an unsteady hand, and then threw himself headlong
upon the bed, uttering groan after groan, as if in pain.

After a time he arose from the bed, still looking as if he had seen a
ghost, and, going to a desk, opened it, and took therefrom a capacious
drinking flask; raising it to his lips he drained half its contents, and
the stimulant acting upon overstrained nerves, seemed to restore rather
than to intoxicate.

"At last," he muttered to himself, "I am at the bottom of the mystery,
and--I am powerless." Then, like his sister on the previous day, he
muttered, "There is but one way--only one--and _it must be done_!" Then
throwing himself once more upon the bed, he moaned:

"Oh, that I, the accursed of the family, heretofore, should live to
be--but pshaw! it is for Sybil I care. But--for to-day let them all keep
out of my sight--I could not see them and hold my peace."

He pocketed the half empty flask, and made his way from the house to be
seen by none at Mapleton for the next twenty-four hours.

After that morning interview with his father-in-law, John Burrill
blusters less for a few days, and makes himself less disagreeable to the
ladies. He accepts the situation, or seems to; he rides out on one or
two sunny afternoons with Mrs. Lamotte and Sybil, and on one of these
occasions they meet Constance Wardour, driving with her aunt. The
heiress of Wardour smiles gayly and kisses the tips of her fingers to
the ladies, but there is no chance for him--he might be the footman for
all Constance seems to see or know to the contrary. This happens in a
thoroughfare where they are more than likely to have been observed, and
John Burrill chafes inwardly, and begins to ponder how he can, in the
face of all the Lamottes, gain a recognition from Constance Wardour. In
his sober moments this becomes a haunting thought; in his tipsy ones it
grows to be a mania.

One day, during this lull in the family siege, Sybil and her mother
visit the city, doing a mountain of shopping, and returning the next
day. Sybil keeps on as she began, on the night when she listened to her
father and husband, while they held council in her mother's room. She is
full of energy and nervous excitement always, and the old stupor of
dullness, and apathetic killing of time, never once returns. But Mrs.
Lamotte likes this last state not much better than the first; neither
does Constance; but they say nothing, for the reason that it would be
useless, as they know too well. Sybil goes out oftener, sits with the
family more, and seems like one waiting anxiously for a long expected
event.

John Burrill is a little disturbed at Sybil's visit to the city. He
knows that she will go and come as she pleases there, unquestioned, and,
if she choose, unattended by her mother. And, without knowing why, he
feels inclined to rebel; but he is still under the spell of that morning
interview, and so holds his peace.

Evan, too, under the same uncanny spell, goes about more morose than
usual, more silent than usual, more sarcastic than usual. More and more,
too, he attaches himself to John Burrill; they drink together in the
dining room, and then repair together to "Old Forty Rods," or some other
favorite haunt. Together they seek for pleasure in the haunts of the
vilest, Evan continually playing upon the vanity and credulity in
Burrill's nature, to push him forward as the leader in all their
debauches, the master spirit, the _bon vivant, par excellence_.

And Burrill goes on and on, down and down. He begins to confide all his
maudlin woes to Evan, and that young man is ever ready with sympathy and
advice that is not calculated to make Jasper Lamotte's position, as bear
trainer, a sinecure.

But Evan contrives to leave Sybil tolerably free from this nuisance for
a time; but only for a time. John Burrill has other advisers, other
exhorters, other spurs that urge him on to his own downfall.

Burrill begins to throw himself in the way of Constance Wardour; to meet
her carriage here and there; to stand near by as she goes and comes on
her shopping excursions; to drive past Wardour Place alone and often.

At first, this only amuses Miss Wardour; then it annoys her; then, when
she finds her walks in the grounds so often overlooked by the slowly
passing Burrill, she begins to mark his maneuvers with a growing
vexation.

But Burrill perseveres, and the more nearly he approaches the fourth
stage of his intoxication, the more open becomes his stare, the more
patent his growing admiration.



CHAPTER XVIII.

JOHN BURRILL, PLEBEIAN.


It is night, late and lowering; especially gloomy in that quarter of
W---- where loom the great ugly rows of tenements that are inhabited by
the factory toilers; for the gloom and smoke of the great engines brood
over the roofs night and day, and the dust and cinders could only be
made noticeable by their absence.

In a small cottage, at the end of a row of larger houses, a woman is
busy clearing away the fragments of a none too bountiful supper. A small
woman, with a sour visage, and not one ounce of flesh on her person,
that is not absolutely needed to screen from mortal gaze a bone. A woman
with a long, sharp nose, two bright, ferret-like brown eyes, and a
rasping voice, that seems to have worn itself thin asking hard questions
of Providence, from sunrise till dark.

The table has been spread for two, but the second party at the banquet,
a gamin son aged seven, has swallowed his own and all he could get of
his mother's share, and betakened himself to the streets, night though
it be.

The woman moves about, now and then muttering to herself as she works.
The room is shabbily furnished, and not over neat, for its mistress
spends her days in the great mill hard by, and housekeeping has become
a secondary matter. Only the needs of life find their demands honored in
this part of W----. Too often needs get choked and die of the smoke and
the cinders.

It is late, for the woman has been doing extra work; it is stormy, too,
blustering and spattering rain. Yet she pauses occasionally and listens
to a passing footfall, as though she expected a visitor.

At last, when the final touch has made the room as tidy as it ever is,
or as she thinks it need be, there comes a shuffling of feet outside,
and a tremendous thump on the rickety door. After which, as if he was
sufficiently heralded, in comes a man, a big man, muffled to the eyes in
a huge coat, which he slowly draws down and draws off, disclosing to the
half curious, half contemptuous gaze of the woman the auburn locks and
highly tinted countenance of Mr. John Burrill.

"So," she says, in her shrillest voice, "It's _you_, is it? It seems one
is never to be rid of you at any price."

"Yes, it's me--all of me," the man replies, as if confirming a doubtful
statement. "Why, now; you act as if you didn't expect me."

"And no more I did," says the woman sullenly and most untruthfully.
"It's a wonder to me that you can't stay away from here, after all
that's come and gone."

"Well, I can't," he retorts, amiably rubbing his hands together.
"Anyhow, I won't, which means about the same thing. Where's the little
duffer?"

"He's where you were at his age, I expect," she replies grimly.

"Well, and if he only keeps on as I have, until he gets up to my present
age, he won't be in a bad boat, eh, Mrs. Burrill the first."

"He's got too much of his mother's grit to be where _you_ are, John
Burrill, livin' a lackey among people that despise you because you have
got a hand on 'em somewhere. I want to know if you don't think they will
choke you off some day when they are done using you?"

John Burrill seated himself astride a low wooden chair, and propelling
it and himself forward by a movement of the feet and a "hitch" of the
shoulders, he leaned across the chair back in his most facetious manner,
and addressed her with severe eloquence.

"Look here, Mrs. Burrill number one, don't you take advantage of your
position, and ride the high horse too free. It's something to 'ave been
Mrs. J. Burrill once, I'll admit; but don't let it elevate you too much.
You ain't quite so handsome as the present Mrs. Burrill, neither are you
so young, consequently you don't show off so well in a tantrum. Now the
present Mrs. Burrill--"

"Oh, then she does have tantrums, the present Mrs. Burrill," sneered the
woman, fairly quivering with suppressed rage. "One would think she would
be so proud of you that she could excuse all your little faults. Brooks
says that they all talk French up there, so that you can't wring into
their confabs, John."

"Does he?" remarked Burrill, quietly, but with an ominous gleam in his
ugly eyes. "Brooks must be careful of that tongue of his. You may
reckon that they all stop their French when _I_ begin to talk. Now,
don't be disagreeable, Nance; it ain't every man that can take a rise in
the world like me, and _I_ don't put on airs, and hold myself above my
old friends. Do you think that every man could step into such a family
as _I_ belong to, Mrs. Burrill? No one can say that John Burrill's a
common fellow after that feat."

"No, but a great many can say that John Burrill's a mean fellow, too
mean to walk over. Do you think the men as you worked along side of, and
drank and supped with, don't know what you are, John Burrill! Do you
think that they don't all know that your outrageous vanity has made a
fool of you? Chance threw into your hands a secret of the Lamottes; you
need not stare, we ain't fools down here at the factories. Maybe I know
what that secret is, and maybe I don't. It's no matter. I know more of
your doings than you give me credit for, John Burrill. Now, what must
you do? Blackmail would have satisfied a sensible man; but straightway
you are seized with the idea that you were born to be a gentleman. You!
Then you form your plan; and you force, by means of the power in your
hands, that beautiful young lady to marry you."

"Seems to me," interrupts the man who has been listening quite
contentedly, "that you are getting along too fast with your story."

"Yes, I am too fast. When you first hatched out this plan, you came to
me and put a pistol to my head, and swore that if I didn't apply for a
divorce from you at once, you would blow my brains out. I had swore
more than once to have a divorce; and Lord knows I had cause enough;
what, with the drunkenness and the beatings, and the idleness, and the
night prowlin', and all the rest; but I never expected that."

The woman paused for a moment, and then resumed her tirade of mixed
eloquence and bad grammar.

"I didn't expect to be drove into the divorce court at the point of a
pistol, but that's how it ended, and you was free to torment Miss
Lamotte, poor young thing! Don't you let yourself think that I envied
_her_! Lord knows I had had enough of you, and your meanness, but I
pitied her; and if I had knocked out your brains, as I've been tempted
to do a dozen times, when you have rolled in here blind drunk, I'd have
done her a good turn, and myself too. The time was when Nance Fergus was
your equal, and more too; but you left England with the notion that here
you would be the equal of anybody, and you've never got clear of the
idea. I've tried to make you understand that there's a coarse breed of
folks, same's there is of dogs, and that you are of a mighty coarse
breed. I've lived out with gentle folks over the water, and they were
none of your sort. But, go on John Burrill, the low women you are so
fond of, and the girls at the factory, have called you good lookin',
until your head is turned with vanity. You have got yourself in among
the upper class, no matter how, and I suppose you expect your good looks
to do the rest for you. I mind once when I was at service in
Herefordshire, the Squire had a fine young beast in his cattle yard,
black an' sleek, an' handsome to look at, and the young ladies came down
from the big house and looked at it through the fence, and called it a
'beautiful creature,' but all the same they led it away to the slaughter
house with a ring in its nose, and the young ladies dined off it with a
relish."

John Burrill stroked his nasal organ fondly, as if discerning some
connection between that protuberance and the aforementioned ring; but he
made no attempt to interrupt her.

"You was bad enough in England, John Burrill; what with your poaching
and your other misdeeds, and sorry was the day when I left a good place
to come away from the country with you, because it was gettin' too hot
for you to stay there. You couldn't get along without me then; and you
can't get along now it seems, for all your fine feathers, without you
come here sometimes to brag of your exploits, and pretend you are
lookin' after the boy."

"Nance," said Burrill, "you're a fine old bird! 'Ow I'd like to set you
at my old father-in-law, blarst him, when he rides it too rough
sometimes, and, what a sociable little discourse you could lay down for
the ladies too, Nance; but, are you about done? You've been clean over
the old ground, seems to me, tho' I may have dozed a little here and
there. Have you been over the old business, and brought me over the
water, by the nape of the neck; because, if you haven't--no, I see you
have not, so here's to you, Nance, spin on;" and he took from his
pocket a black bottle, and drank a mighty draught therefrom.

"No, I'm _not_ done," screamed the woman. "You've come here to-night, as
you have before, for a purpose; one would think that such a fine
gentleman could find better society, but it seems you can't. You never
come here for nothing; you never come for any good; you want something?
What is it?"

He laughed a low, hard laugh.

"Yes," he said, taking another pull at the black bottle; "I want
something."

"Umph! I thought so."

"I want to tell you," here he arose, and dropping his careless manner,
laid a threatening hand upon her arm. "I want to tell you, Nance
Burrill, that you have got to bridle that tongue of yours; d'ye
understand?"

She shook off his hand, and retired a few paces eyeing him closely as
she said:

"Oh! I thought so. Something has scared ye already."

"No, I'm not scared; that thing can't be done by you, Nance; but you
have been blowing too much among the factory people, and I won't have
it."

"Won't have what?"

"Won't have any more of this talk about going to my wife with stories
about me."

"Who said I threatened?"

"No matter, you don't do much that I don't hear of, so mind your eye,
Nance. As for the women at the bend, you let them alone, and keep your
tongue between your teeth."

"Oh! I will; one can't blame you for seeking the society of your equals,
after the snubbing you must get from your betters up there. But that
don't satisfy you; you must drag that poor fellow, Evan Lamotte, into
their den; as if he were not wild enough, before you came where you
could reach him."

John Burrill took another pull at the black bottle.

"Evan's a good fellow," he said somewhat thickly. "He knows enough to
appreciate a man like me, and we both have larks, now let me tell you."

"Well, have your larks; but don't sit and drink yourself blind before my
very eyes. Why don't you go?"

"Cause I don't want'er--," growing more and more mellow, as the liquor
went fuming to his head, already pretty heavily loaded with brandy and
wine. "Where's the little rooster, I tell yer."

"In the streets, and he's too much like his father to ever come home,
'till he's gone after, and dragged in."

"Well, go and drag him in then, I'm goin' ter see 'im."

"I won't!" shrieked the woman, now fairly beside herself with rage; "go
home to your lady wife, and take her my compliments; tell her that I
turned you out."

John Burrill staggered to his feet, uttering a brutal oath.

"You'll turn me out, will you? You say _won't_ to me; you are forgetting
my training, Mrs. Nance; I'll teach you that John Burrill's yer master
yet; go for the boy."

But the woman did not stir.

"You won't, eh!" clutching her fiercely, and shaking her violently, "now
will you?"

"No, you brute."

"Then, take that, and that, and that!"

[Illustration: "Then take that, and that."]

A rain of swift blows; a shriek ringing out on the stillness of the
night; then a swift step, the door dashed in, and John Burrill is
measuring his length upon the bare floor.

The woman reels, as the clutch of the miscreant loosens from her arm,
but recovers herself and turns a bruised face toward the timely
intruder. It is Clifford Heath.

"Are you badly hurt?" he asks, anxiously.

She lifts a hand to her poor bruised face, and aching head, and then
sinking into a chair says, wearily:

"It's nothing--for me. Look out, sir!"

This last was an exclamation of warning, John Burrill had staggered to
his feet, and was aiming an unsteady blow at the averted head of Doctor
Heath.

The latter turned swiftly, comprehending the situation at a glance, and
once more felled the brute to the floor.

By this time others had appeared upon the scene,--neighbors, roused by
the cry of the woman.

Doctor Heath bent again to examine her face. He had scarcely observed
the features of the man he had just knocked down; and he now asked:

"Is--this man you husband, madam?"

The woman reddened under her bruises.

"He _was_ my husband," she said, bitterly. "He is--John Burrill."

Clifford Heath started back, thinking, first of all, of Sybil, and
realizing that there must be no scandal, that could be avoided, for her
sake. He had never seen Burrill, save at a distance, but had heard, as
had every one in W----, of his divorced wife.

Turning to one of the neighbors, he said: "I was passing on my way home
from Mrs. Brown's, when I heard this alarm. I think, good people, that
we had better let this fellow go away quietly, and attend to this woman.
Her face will be badly swollen by and by." Then he turned once more
toward Burrill.

Once more the miscreant was struggling to his feet, and at a command
from Doctor Heath, he hastened his efforts. Hitherto, he had had only a
vision of a pair of flashing dark eyes, and an arm that shot out
swiftly, and straight home.

Now, however, as he gained an erect posture, and turned a threatening
look upon his assailant, the onlookers, who all knew him, and all hated
and feared him, saw a sudden and surprising transformation. The red all
died out of his face, the eyes seemed starting from their sockets, the
lower jaw dropped abjectly and suddenly, and, with a yell of terror,
John Burrill lowered his head and dashed from the house, as if pursued
by a legion of spectres.



CHAPTER XIX.

NANCE BURRILL'S WARNING.


The sudden and surprising exit of Burrill caused, for a moment, a stay
of proceedings, and left the group, so rapidly gathered in Nance
Burrill's kitchen, standing _en tableaux_, for a full minute.

Dr. Heath was the first to recover from his surprise, and as he took in
the absurdity of the scene, he uttered a low laugh, and turned once more
toward the woman, Nance, who seemed to have lost herself in a prolonged
stare.

"Your persecutor does not like my looks, apparently," he said, at the
same time taking from his pocket a small medicine case. "Or was it some
of these good friends that put him to flight?" And he glanced at the
group gathered near the door.

A woman with a child in her arms, and her husband with two more in
charge, at her heels; a family group to the rescue; two or three old
women, of course; and a man with a slouching gait, a shock of unruly red
hair, and a face very much freckled across the cheek bones, and very red
about the nose; the eyes, too, had an uncanny squint, as if nature had
given up her task too soon and left him to survey the world through the
narrow slits. This man had always an air of being profoundly interested
in the smallest affairs of life, perhaps because the slits through which
he gazed magnified the objects gazed upon, and he peered about him now
with profoundest solicitude. This was Watt Brooks, a mechanic, and
hanger-on about the mills, where he did an occasional bit of odd work,
and employed the balance of his time in gossiping among the women, or
lounging at the drinking saloons, talking a great deal about the wrongs
of the working classes, and winning to himself some friends from a
certain turbulent class who listened admiringly to his loud, communistic
oratory.

Brooks had not been long in W----, but he had made rapid headway among
that class who, having little or nothing to love or to fear, are not
slow to relieve the monotony of very bare existence by appropriating to
themselves the friendship of every hail fellow whom chance throws in
their way.

Accordingly Brooks had become a sort of oracle among the dwellers in
"Mill avenue," as the street was facetiously called, and he was ready
for any dish of gossip, not infrequently making himself conspicuous as a
teller of news; he was faithful in gathering up and retailing small
items among such ladies of the "avenue" as, being exempted from mill
work because of family cares, had time and inclination, and this latter
was seldom lacking, to chatter with him about the latest mishap, or the
one that was bound to occur soon.

Prominent among the gossips of Mill avenue was that much abused matron
Mrs. John Burrill number one, and she had not been slow to discover the
advantages of possessing such an acquaintance as Mr. Brooks; accordingly
they gravitated toward each other by mutual attraction, and it was quite
a common thing for Brooks to drop in and pass an evening hour in the
society of Mrs. Burrill, sometimes even taking a cup of tea at the table
of the lone woman on a Sunday afternoon.

As Doctor Heath laid his case upon the small pine table, and prepared to
deal out a soothing lotion for the bruised Mrs. Burrill, Brooks advanced
courageously, supported on either hand by an anxious old lady, and the
chorus commenced.

"It warn't _us_ as scared him out, sir," said Brooks, positively. "He's
seen all o' us, first and last. Maybe as he's had cause for remembering
_you_, sir?" and Brooks peered anxiously at the doctor, as if hoping for
a prompt confirmation of this shrewd guess.

"Sure, an' it was a guilty conscience, if ever I seen one, as made the
brute beast run like that, from the sight of the doctor," chimed in
first old lady, who quarreled with her "old man" on principle, and
seldom came out second best. "Faith, an' the murtherin' wretch has half
killed ye, Burrill, dear."

"I was that scart with the screamin'," said the mother of three, "that I
nearly let the baby fall a-runnin' here."

And then they all gathered around Mrs. Burrill, and talked vigorously,
and all together, while Brooks, hovering near the doctor, pursued his
investigation.

"A bad lot, that Burrill, sir. I've seen him, frequent; and so he's had
occasion to know you, sir?"

"No, my good fellow; I never had the honor of meeting Mr. John Burrill
before," replied Doctor Heath, smiling at the man's pertinacity.

"Now, I want to know," exclaimed Brooks, in accents of real distress,
"then what _could_ have set him off like that?"

"I suppose we were getting too many for him," replied the doctor,
easily.

"Not a bit of it, sir. Burrill ain't no coward, especially when he's in
liquor; and he and me's on good enough terms, too; though, of course,"
said Brooks, recollecting himself, and glancing anxiously at the
reclining figure of the injured one, "of course, I would never stand by
and see a lady struck down, sir."

"Manifestly not," replied the doctor, drily. "Then, as he would not fear
you, and could not fear me, he must have been in the first stages of
'snake seeing.'"

"It's my opinion, he took you for somebody else, as he has reasons to be
afraid of," said one of the women, with an emphatic nod.

But here the voice of the heroine of the occasion rose high above the
rest.

"John Burrill wasn't so drunk as to run away from a man he never saw, or
to see crooked," she said, fiercely. "I saw the look on his face,
blinded tho' I was, and he's afraid of _you_, Doctor Heath. I don't know
why. There's some secrets in John Burrill's life that I don't know, and
there's more that I wish I didn't know; but here, or somewhere else, he
has known you, sir. Perhaps only by sight; but he's afraid of you,
that's certain."

There was no reply from Doctor Heath; he was busy over his medicine
case. He prepared a lotion, to be applied to the bruises, and a
sedative, to be applied to the nerves of the patient, who was beginning
to recover herself in a measure, and launched out into a torrent of
invective against the author of her trouble; after which she rushed into
a wild recital of her wrongs, beginning at the time when she left a good
place in England, to follow the fortunes of John Burrill, and running
with glib tongue over the entire gamut of her trials since. And all of
this, although it was far from new to the dwellers of Mill Avenue, was
listened to, by them, with absorbed interest, and the proper
accompaniment of ejaculations, at the proper places. During this
discourse, to which Brooks listened with evidences of liveliest
interest, Doctor Heath remained seemingly inattentive, waiting for a
lull in the storm; when it came at last, he ascertained as briefly as
possible, who among the women would remain, and pass the night with Mrs.
Burrill; gave her direction, as to the use she was to make of the
medicines he had prepared, and buttoned his coat about him, preparatory
to departure.

As his hand was upon the latch, the voice of his patient arrested him.

"Doctor," she said, earnestly. "It wouldn't be gratitude in me to let
you go away without a word of warning. I don't want to pry into your
affairs, but let me tell you this: You are not done with John Burrill;
you took him by surprise to-night; but, I'll wager he is over his scare
by now, and he is plotting how he can get another sight at you,
unbeknown to yourself; and, if he has reason to be afraid of you, then
look out for him; _you_ have reasons for being afraid too."

Doctor Heath hesitated a moment, and a shade of annoyance crossed his
face, then he said in his usual careless tone:

"Give yourself no uneasiness about this matter, madam; I never saw the
scoundrel before, and he was simply afraid of my fist. However, if he
ever should cross my path, be assured I shall know how to dispose of
him;" and Clifford Heath bowed and went out into the night, little
recking that he had left his life in the hands of five old women.

In a short time, Brooks arose and shuffled out, and then the tongues
were once more loosened, the husband attendant had been ordered home
with his two charges, and the chief subject of their converse was Doctor
Heath, and the strange influence he had exerted upon John Burrill; and a
fruitful theme they found it.

Meantime, John Burrill, who had fled straight on down the gloomy length
of Mill avenue, found himself, and his senses, together, close under the
shadow of one of the huge factories, and at the river's very edge.

Here, breathless and bespattered, he sat down upon a flat stone to
recover himself, and review the situation.

"Curse the man," he muttered. "I would not have made such a fool of
myself for a gold mine; but I couldn't have helped it for two," he
added, after a moment's reflection, "if it's the man I supposed it to
be! But it can't be! It is not."

He was by this time, comparatively sober, and he arose to his feet,
finally, feeling his courage returning, but still deep in thought.

"Hang the luck," he muttered, kicking viciously at a loose stone. "If
that's the man I fear, then Jasper Lamotte would be glad to know him.
Why!" starting suddenly erect, "I can find out, and I will. I must, for
my own safety," and John Burrill faced about and retraced his steps.

Cautiously this time, he went over the ground, heeding where he set his
foot, lest some misstep should betray his presence in Mill avenue still;
more and more cautiously as he neared the house from which he had so
lately fled.

Closer and closer he crept, until at last he was under the window of the
kitchen, and here he crouched, listening. He heard the mingled confusion
of voices, then the firm tones of Clifford Heath, clear above the rest.
Hearing this, he moved quickly away, for he was in instant danger of
detection, should the door open suddenly, as it might at any moment.

He crossed the street and standing under the shadow of a small tenement,
waited.

It was not long before the door opened, and the light from within showed
him the tall form of Clifford Heath, clearly outlined against the
darkness.

Out strode Heath, walking so rapidly, that the not yet quite sober, John
Burrill, found himself compelled to exercise care, and expend some
breath, in keeping him within sight.

On and on, went the pursued and the pursuer, and presently, out of the
darkness, came a third form, gliding shadow-like; as if every step of
the way were too familiar to render caution necessary; this third form,
drew nearer and nearer to Burrill, who, all unconscious of its
proximity, labored on after Doctor Heath.

Straight to his own cottage went the doubly shadowed young physician; he
opened the door with a latch key, and the followers lost him in the
darkness of the unlighted vestibule. Presently, however, a light was
seen to glimmer through the partially closed blinds, and then John
Burrill crept cautiously nearer, and feeling his way carefully, lest
some obstacle at his feet should cause him to stumble; he gained the
window, pressed his face close to the shutters and peered through.

Clifford Heath was pacing up and down his cosy sitting room, seemingly
lost in perplexed thought, and, as again and again his face was turned
to the light, the watcher studied it closely; finally he seemed
satisfied with his scrutiny, for he turned away and groped back to the
street once more.

"It's the other one," he muttered, drawing a long breath of relief. "I
might have known it from the first; so he is the young Doctor they tell
of! Well, it's a rum game that brings him here, and it's certain he
don't want to be known. He can't know me, and--Jove, I'd like to pay him
for the hits he gave me," and he fell to pondering as he turned his
steps, not the way he had come, nor yet toward Mapleton, but in the
direction of "Old Forty Rods." But long before he reached his
destination, the creeping, stealthy shadow, had ceased to follow, and
had vanished down a side street.

[Illustration: "It's the other one," he muttered.]

A few lights were glimmering, here and there, as he turned down the, not
very elegant, street on which was located the haven of "Forty Rods," and
when he was within a block of the place, a man, coming suddenly around
the corner, ran square against him.

Burrill uttered an oath, as he with difficulty regained his balance, but
the new-comer called out in a voice, a little unsteady from some cause:

"Helloa! B--Burrill, that yer, ole feller? Didn't mean ter knock against
yer, give-ye my word I didn'. Give us a tiss, ole man, an' come-long to
Forty's!"

"Brooks," said Burrill, taking him sociably by the arm, and facing
toward the saloon in question. "Brooks, you're drunk; you're beastly
drunk; drunk as a sailor by all that's sober." And together they entered
"Old Forty Rods."



CHAPTER XX.

CONSTANCE AT BAY.


"It is impossible, sir! utterly impossible! and, pardon me for saying
it, most absurd! This matter has been dragged on too long already. And
on such evidence I utterly refuse to follow up the case. You have done
well, undoubtedly, but it was only at the urgent request of Mr. Lamotte
that I have allowed it to continue, and now I wash my hands of the whole
affair."

It is Constance Wardour who speaks, standing very straight and with head
very firmly poised, and wearing upon her face what Mrs. Aliston would
have called her "obstinate look." Her words were addressed to a well
dressed, gentlemanly looking personage, who is neither young nor yet
middle aged, and who might pass for a solicitor with a good run of
clients, or a bank cashier out on special business. He is looking
somewhat disconcerted just now, but recovers his composure almost as she
ceases speaking.

"But, madam," he expostulates mildly, "this is unheard of, really. You
employ me upon a case which, just now, has reached a crisis, and when
success seems almost certain you tell me to drop the case. I never like
to drag forward my own personality, Miss Wardour, but really this is a
blow aimed directly at my professional honor."

There is an ominous flash in the eye of the heiress, but her voice is
smooth and tranquil, as she replies:

"I am sorry if this should injure _you_, Mr. Belknap, but, pardon me, I
scarcely see how it can; you, as I understand, are a '_private
detective_,' answerable to no one save yourself and the one employing
you. I, as that one, pronounce myself satisfied to drop the case. I
decline to use the circumstantial evidence you have brought against a
man who is above suspicion, in my mind, at least. Let the Wardour
diamonds rest in oblivion. Mr. Belknap, I am ready to honor your draft
for any sum that you may deem sufficient to compensate you for the
trouble you have taken, as well as for the _hurt_ done your professional
pride."

Private Detective Belknap stood for a moment, pondering, then he lifted
his head and said, with an air of injured virtue beautiful to
contemplate:

"Miss Wardour, of course there is no appeal from your decision. In my
profession it often happens that we are compelled to unmask fraud and
deceit in high places, and to wound the feelings of some we profoundly
respect. While in your employ, I was bound to work for your interest; I
owed a duty to you. Being dismissed from your service, I owe a duty
still to society. As an officer of the law, it becomes my duty, being no
longer under your commands, to make known to the proper authorities the
facts in my possession. I do not know this Doctor Heath, consequently
can have no object in hunting him down; but, believing him guilty, and
holding the proof that I do, I must make known the truth, otherwise I
should be compromising myself, and compounding a felony." Here Mr.
Belknap took up his hat. "I will send in my statement of expenses, etc.,
to-morrow, Miss Wardour. This withdrawal of the case has been so sudden,
so unexpected, that I am not prepared for a settlement of accounts." And
Mr. Belknap turned slowly toward the door.

But the heiress stopped him by a gesture.

"Stay a moment, sir," she said, and the ominous gleam was intensified
into a look of absolute hatred, for an instant. "I hope I do not quite
understand your meaning. Did you intend to tell me that if I dismiss you
from my service, you will still continue the search for my diamonds?"

[Illustration: "Stay a moment, sir."]

"No, madam: I will simply place the facts I have gathered before the
town authorities, and leave them to use the knowledge as they see fit. I
then withdraw from the field, unless called upon as a witness, when, of
course, I must do my duty."

Miss Wardour stood for some moments in silent thought, one small foot
tapping nervously the while, a sure sign of irritation with her. At last
she said, slowly, and with an undertone of sarcasm, that she made a
futile effort to conceal:

"I think I comprehend you Mr. Belknap, and I withdraw my dismissal. You
are still retained on the Wardour robbery case; I suppose, therefore,
you are subject to my orders."

Mr. Belknap laid down his hat, and returned to his former position.
Without a trace of triumph or satisfaction in his face or manner, he
said:

"I am subject to your commands, certainly, Miss Wardour; but I beg that
you will not misapprehend me."

"Be easy on that point," interrupted Miss Wardour, somewhat impatiently.
"Now then, Mr. Belknap, I want a little time to consider this matter,
and to consult with my aunt; also to see Mr. Lamotte. During this time I
desire you to remain passive, to make no move in the matter; above all,
to mention your suspicions to no one. You can, of course, keep as close
a watch as you may please over Doctor Heath, but it must be done
quietly, do you comprehend? You are to say nothing of this matter not
even to Mr. Lamotte."

Once more the detective took up his hat.

"I comprehend," he said, gravely; "you shall be obeyed to the letter,
Miss Wardour; for three days, then, my task will be an easy one. On
Friday morning I will call on you again."

"That is what I wish," she said; "I will have further instructions for
you then."

With the bow of a courtier, the private detective withdrew from her
presence, and for a moment the heiress stood as he had left her, gazing
at the door through which he had disappeared, as if she were seeking to
transfix an enemy with the angry fire of her eyes. Then she struck her
hands together fiercely, and began a rapid march to and fro across the
room.

"Ah!" she ejaculated; "the sleek, smooth, oily-tongued wretch! To dare
to come here and make terms with _me_; to fairly compel me to keep him
in my service! and to bring such a charge against _him_. If he had an
enemy, I should call it a wretched plot. But I'll not be outwitted by
you, Mr. Belknap; I have three day's grace."

She continued to pace the room with much energy for a few moments, and
then seating herself at a writing table, rapidly wrote as follows:

     NEIL BATHURST, ESQ,
     No.---- B---- street. N. Y.

     _Dear Sir:_--If in your power, be in W---- in two days, without
     fail. Danger menaces your friend, Dr. H----, and I only hold
     detective B---- in my service to bridle his tongue. I fear a plot,
     and can only stay proceedings against the innocent, by proclaiming
     the truth concerning my diamonds; acting under your advice, I will
     withhold my statement until you arrive.

     Hastily, etc.,
     CONSTANCE WARDOUR.

There was yet an hour before the departure of the eastern mail, and
Constance sealed her letter, and dispatched it by a faithful messenger;
this done, she pondered again.

The private detective had waited upon her that morning with a strange
statement. For weeks he had been working out this strange case, guided
by the fact that the chloroform administered to Constance was
scientifically meted out. He had commenced a system of shadowing the
various medical men in W----, without regard to their present or
previous standing. Nothing could be found in the past or present of any
to cause them to fall under suspicion, until he came to investigate
Doctor Heath. Here what did he find? First, that his antecedents could
be traced back only so far as his stay in W---- had extended. Nothing
could be found to prove that his career had been above reproach,
previous to his sojourn here; hence, according to the reasoning of Mr.
Belknap, it was fair to suppose that it had not been. "For," argued the
astute private detective, "where there is secresy, there is also room
for suspicion." And Constance felt a momentary sinking of the heart,
when she recalled the words she had overheard, as they fell from the
lips of Clifford Heath: "Here, I am Clifford Heath, from nowhere."
Starting with a suspicion, the private detective had made rapid headway.
He had ascertained beyond a doubt that Doctor Heath's expenses, taken
all in all, were in excess of his professional income. He might have a
private income, true; but this was not proven, and then there _was_ a
mystery that the accused had tried in vain to hide from the eyes of the
hunters. There was a correspondence that was carried on with the utmost
caution, letters received that had thrown him quite off his guard, and
that were destroyed as soon as read. Finally and lastly, there was the
bottle broken into fragments and thrown to the dust heap; but, without
doubt, the counterpart of the one found at Miss Wardour's bedside on the
morning of the robbery; while, among some cast-off garments, had been
found the _half of a handkerchief_, that matched precisely the one found
over the face of the heiress. All these facts Mr. Belknap had laid
before her with elaborate explanations, and "notes by the way," but
instead of drawing from her the expected indignant demand for the
instant arrest of the accused one, Miss Wardour had listened coldly, and
with marked impatience, and had finally declared her decision not to
move in the affair, nor to allow any one to act in her behalf.

As Constance reviewed the arguments of the detective, a new thought came
to her. Doctor Heath, all unconscious of the danger menacing him, might
in some way, do himself an injury, and add to the chain of
circumstantial evidence that was lengthening for his overthrow. He must
be warned.

This was a delicate task, and she hesitated a little over the manner of
accomplishing it.

Finally, she seated herself once more at her desk and wrote another
letter, or rather a note.

It contained only a few lines, and was addressed to, "_Mr. Raymond
Vandyck._"

Meanwhile, private detective Belknap was driving slowly in the
light buggy, that had brought him to Wardour Place, toward the
residence of Jasper Lamotte. His features wore a look of complacent
self-satisfaction, and he hummed softly to himself, as he drove easily
over the red and brown leaves that were beginning to flutter downward
and carpet the highway.

Arriving at Mapleton; he drove leisurely up the avenue, and lifting his
eyes toward the stately edifice crowning the hill, he saw, standing on
the broad piazza, and gazing directly toward him, a beautiful woman,
clad in trailing silk, and wearing a shawl of richest crimson cashmere,
draped about her head and shoulders; as he drew nearer, he was startled
at the strange mingling of pallor and flame in her face; the temples
were like blue veined ivory, and the slender hands, clasping the folds
of crimson, seemed scarcely strong enough to retain their hold; but the
lips and cheeks were a glowing crimson, and the eyes burned and glowed
with a steady intense light.

"So," thought private detective Belknap, "I have not left all the beauty
behind me, it seems. I suppose this is the daughter of mine host."

And so thinking, he reined in his horse upon the graveled drive and,
lifting up his hat, with elaborate courtesy, said:

"I believe this is Mapleton."

The lovely brunette allowed the crimson shawl to drop from about her
head as she came slowly down the steps, never once removing her dark
searching eyes from his face.

"This is Mapleton, sir. May I ask if this is Mr. Belknap?"

Somewhat surprised, he answered in the affirmative.

"Mr. Belknap, the detective," she persisted, and then seeing that he
hesitated over his answer, she added, "I am Jasper Lamotte's daughter,
and know that he expects you."

"I am the man Mr. Lamotte expects," he said, throwing down the reins
and springing from the buggy. "Is Mr. Lamotte at home?"

"My father is in the library," she replied, coming still nearer him,
"follow me, Mr. Belknap, I will send a servant to take your horse."

He followed her up the steps, and across the broad piazza; as they
passed under the shadow of the arched doorway, she paused, looked about
her, and then, drawing close to the detective and laying one hand
lightly on his arm, she whispered:

"Mr. Belknap, I have a word for your ear alone. Can you meet me to-night
where we shall be secure from intrusion?"

Her burning eyes searched his face, and accustomed as he was to strange
situations, Mr. Belknap was startled for a moment out of his
self-possession.

"I have need of your professional services," she hurried on, "and they
must be rendered very secretly. Will you hear what I have to say?"

The beautiful face was full of wild eagerness, and Mr. Belknap was not
insensible to the piquancy of the situation.

"I am yours to command, madam. Name the place and hour," he replied
gallantly.

"Then meet me at the boat house, you can see it from here, to-night at
nine. Be sure you are not followed, and--above all, do not mention to my
father, or any one, this meeting of ours. You will be punctual?"

"As the hour itself."

"Thanks. Come in now, sir; I will send a servant to announce your
arrival."

She threw open the door of the drawing room, motioned him to enter,
inclined her head in a graceful adieu, and swept down the hall.

Two minutes later he stood in the library bowing before Jasper Lamotte
and his son Frank.

"Ah, it's you, Belknap," said the elder Lamotte. "And what news?"

"Very little, sir."

"But," interrupted Frank, "surely you have fired your train?"

"Yes, and I have run against the worst impediment that ever comes in a
detective's way."

"And what is that?"

"A woman."



CHAPTER XXI.

APPOINTING A WATCH DOG.


Doctor Heath stood at his office window looking out upon the street, and
whistling softly. Below and directly under his gaze, stood a fine bay
horse, harnessed to a new light road wagon; and horse and owner were
somewhat impatiently waiting the arrival of Ray Vandyck, who was under
engagement to drive with Doctor Heath, and pass his opinion on the
"points" of the handsome bay, a recent purchase of the doctor's, who was
a lover of a good horse and a fine dog, and was never without one or
more specimens of each.

A quick step behind him caused him to bring his tune to an abrupt close,
and he turned to see Ray, who had entered hurriedly, leaving the door
ajar, and was busy breaking the seal of a small cream tinted envelope.

Clifford Heath favored him with a quizzical glance, and came away from
the window.

"That's a dangerous looking document, Ray," laughed the doctor, throwing
himself down in his own favorite chair with the air of a man resigned to
any thing.

"I've a shuddering horror of any thing so small and delicately tinted.
But read it, my boy; it's your fate to be persecuted, you are so
amiable."

Ray lost no time in opening and scanning the dainty note, and he now
turned a perplexed face toward his friend.

"I'll be hanged if I can understand it," he said, filiping the note
between his thumb and fingers.

[Illustration: "I'll be hanged if I can understand it."]

"Of course you can't, 'it' having emanated from the brain of a woman. I
only hope your inability to comprehend the incomprehensible is the worst
feature in the case."

"But it isn't," protested Ray. "I must renounce my drive, and your
charming society."

"Really! is she so imperative, and are you so much her bond slave?"

Ray laughed. "Imperative," he cried. "You need not have asked, had you
known the name affixed to this missive, and you would obey it with as
much alacrity as I shall. Listen, Heath: I can trust you with a secret,
if this be one." And, unfolding the note, he read:

     RAYMOND VANDYCK, ETC.

     _My Friend_: By coming to me, _at once_, on receipt of this note,
     you will do me a great favor, and perhaps do one who is your
     friend, an essential service. Come at once, to

     Yours in waiting,
     CONSTANCE WARDOUR.

"There," said Ray, refolding the note; "now what say you?"

"That Miss Wardour's commands are to be obeyed; and--as your horse is
stabled, and mine is at the door, you had best take mine and lose no
time. Perhaps you may be dismissed as speedily as you are summoned, and
we may take our drive after all. Go, go, my son;" and he waved his hand
theatrically.

"Thank you, Heath. You are a generous fellow; but don't look for your
red roan steed until you see it back. I shall place that and myself at
Miss Wardour's disposal. She shall find that she has summoned no laggard
knight."

"Who talks of playing the knight to Miss Constance Wardour's 'fair
ladye?' Let him have a care!" cried a gay voice from the doorway. And
turning their eyes thither, they saw the dark, handsome face of Frank
Lamotte.

A shade of annoyance crossed the face of young Vandyck, but he retorted
in the same strain:

"I am that happy man. Stand aside, sir. I go to cast myself and all my
fortune at her feet." Then, turning a wicked look back at his friend in
the big chair, he cried, "Heath, adieu! look your last on the red roan
steed. I may be going 'O'er the hills and far away,'--who knows?"

"You may be gone--"

"Deep into the dying day."

"That's the thought that distresses me," retorted the doctor. "But go,
go, egotist!"

With a laugh, and another backward meaning glance at the doctor, young
Vandyck pocketed his note, took up his hat, and murmuring a mocking
adieu in the ear of young Lamotte, ran lightly down the steps, and, a
moment later, the swift fall of hoofs told them he was off.

"What the deuce ails the fellow?" said Lamotte, sourly, tossing his hat
and himself down upon the office divan. "Prating like a school-boy about
a summons from Miss Wardour."

"He means to get to Wardour Place without loss of time, if one may judge
from the manner of his going. You know," smiling behind his hand, "Ray
is a prime favorite at Wardour."

"I did not know it," returned Lamotte, sulkily. "Vandyck don't seem to
realize that I have a prior claim, and that his twaddle, therefore, only
serves to render him ridiculous."

Clifford Heath dropped his hand from before his face, and turned two
stern, searching eyes upon the young man.

"_Have_ you a prior claim?" he asked, slowly.

For a second the eyes of Frank Lamotte were hidden by their long lashes;
then they were turned full upon the face of his interlocutor, as their
owner replied firmly:

"I have."

       *       *       *       *       *

Raymond Vandyck lost no time on his drive to Wardour Place; and before
he could frame any sort of reasonable guess as to the possible meaning
of Constance's note, he found himself in her very presence.

"Ah, Ray!" she exclaimed, extending a welcome hand, "you are promptness
itself. I hardly dared hope to see you so soon."

"I met your messenger on the road, as I was riding in to keep an
appointment with Heath," exclaimed Ray, "but as I was in company with
Bradley, our new neighbor, you know, I did not open the note until I got
to Heath's office. Then, as your note was urgent, and Heath's horse at
the door, I took it, and here I am, very much at your service, Conny."

"And I don't know of another who _could_ be of service to me just now,
Ray," she said, seriously; "neither do I know just how to make use of
you. Ray," suddenly, "are you burdened with a large amount of
curiosity?"

"About the average amount, I think."

"Well! I am about to give that curiosity a severe test."

"Seriously, Conny, unless your secret concerns some one especially dear
to me, I can survive being kept in the dark."

"And being made to work in the dark?"

"Yes, that too, under your orders, for I know I should risk nothing in
obeying them."

"I should set you no dangerous or dishonorable task, of course, Ray."

"I am sure of that, Conny; command me; don't hesitate."

But she did hesitate, not knowing just how to tell him that she was
Doctor Heath's friend, in spite of appearances, without telling, or
revealing otherwise too much. How could she set the matter before him,
as she wished him to see it?

Seeing her hesitate, Ray unwittingly came to the rescue, and Constance
seized upon the idea he gave her, with hasty eagerness, little thinking
of the results that were to follow her implied deceit.

"I can't feel too grateful for your confidence at any price," he said,
laughingly; "when I think how Lamotte glowered at me when he saw me
coming here. But, then, if rumor speaks the truth, he has a right to be
jealous, eh, Constance?"

Here was a way out of her dilemma; let Ray imagine her engaged to Frank
Lamotte, and he would not misconstrue her interest in Doctor Heath; as
for Frank, he had been a suitor, and a most troublesome one, for so
long, that she thought nothing of appropriating him to herself, as a
matter of convenience, and only for the moment, and she never thought at
all of the injury she might do herself by this deception.

"Oh, yes!" she replied; "I have given Frank the right to be as jealous
as he pleases." And the hot blood flamed into her cheek, as she saw how
readily he had taken her words as she had meant them to be understood.

"Lamotte's a lucky fellow," said Ray, "although I know a better man I
would like to see in his shoes. But we won't quarrel over Frank. Is it
him that I am to serve?"

"No," she replied, coloring again. And once more he misapplied her
confusion.

Constance was silent and thoughtful for a few moments, and then she came
directly to the point.

"Some strange things have come to my knowledge concerning Doctor Heath,
Ray. They have come in such a manner that I would be in a measure
violating the confidence of another were I to make a statement in full,
and yet--in some way Doctor Heath must know that danger menaces him."

"Ah!" uttered Ray Vandyck, and Constance, lifting her eyes to his face,
caught there a fleeting look that caused her to ask suddenly:

"Ray, have you heard anything about Doctor Heath? anything strange, I
mean, or unexpected?"

"Why," replied Ray, slowly. "I have nothing very strange to relate,
but--Heath's encounter with Burrill a short time since has made some
talk."

"I don't understand you."

"Then is it not about this affair that you have sent for me?"

"Ray, explain yourself. What of this 'affair,' as you call it?"

"Why, you see," began Ray, plunging into his recital after a fashion
peculiar to himself, "about a week ago, yes, it was quite a week ago, on
that stormy blustering Monday night, when sensible people staid in
doors, Heath, after the manner of doctors, was straggling about that
lovely precinct known as Mill avenue, trying to find the shortest way
out after paying a visit to some sick child, or woman, I won't swear
which; as I was saying, he was on his way out of that blessed avenue,
when he heard screams coming from the cottage he was passing. It was the
voice of a woman, and Heath made for the house, and rushed in just in
time to see that latest addition to society, Mr. John Burrill, in a
state of partial intoxication, raining blows about the head and
shoulders of the woman who was once his wife. Heath rained one blow upon
him and he went down under it. Then he got up, not quite satisfied and
thirsting for more fight, and Heath felled him once more.

"It seems that the thing had been done so rapidly, that Burrill had not
had time to get a fair look at the face of his assailant; but the second
time he scrambled to his feet, Heath stood facing him full, braced and
ready, when, behold, Burrill, after one look, turns as pale as a
spectre, utters a yell of fear, and dashes out of the house like a
madman. By this time, several people had come in, and the thing puzzled
them not a little. Heath asserted that he had never, to his knowledge,
seen Burrill before; and yet there stood the fact of Burrill's fright at
sight of him. Some believed it a case of mistaken identity; others, that
Heath was trying to mislead them, and that he did know Burrill. The
affair became noised about as such things will be, and some were curious
to see another meeting between Heath and Burrill. And here comes the
queer part of the business. In his sober moments, Burrill avoids Heath,
and can not be brought to mention his name. But when he gets a little
too much on board--beg pardon, Conny--I mean, somewhat intoxicated, he
becomes very loquacious; then he throws out strange hints, and gives
mysterious winks; states that he could tell a tale about Heath that
would open everybody's eyes. He talks of 'borrowed plumage,' and
insinuates that Heath would like to buy him off. He says that he took to
his heels because he knew that Heath did not mean fair play, etc.
Finally, two or three evenings ago, when Burrill was remarkably tipsy,
and therefore, unusually ripe for a combat with any one, Heath and I,
crossing the street opposite Spring's Bank, encountered him coming
toward us, surrounded by a party of roughs. As we approached them,
Burrill making some uncouth gestures, came forward, in advance of the
rest, and as he came opposite Heath, leaned toward him, and whispered a
few words in his ear. I don't know what he said, but the effect on Heath
was magical. For a moment, he seemed staggered, as if by a blow, and
then he took the fellow by the throat, and shook him until his teeth
rattled; then loosed his hold, so suddenly, that his man dropped to the
ground. Heath by this time was a little cooler; he stooped over the
prostrate man, took him by the collar, and fairly lifted him to his
feet, then he said:

"'Understand this, fellow, I allow no man to interfere with my business.
This is only a sample of what will happen to you if you ever try this
dodge again; keep my name off your tongue in public, and private, if you
want whole bones in your body;' then he marched past the whole
astonished crowd, minding them no more than if they were gnats. I
followed, of course, and said as I came up with Heath:

"'Quite an adventure, upon my word; you seem to possess a strange
attraction for Burrill?'

"'Burrill,' he exclaimed; 'who the mischief _is_ the fellow, Ray?'

"'He is Mr. Lamotte's son-in-law,' I answered.

"'Ah,' he mused; 'so Jasper Lamotte has married his daughter to a
blackmailer;' and after that, he said never a word more on the subject.
I had it in my mind to tell him of the hints and insinuations, Burrill,
in his unguarded moments, was putting into circulation, but his
reticence closed my lips."

He paused, and looked to his auditor for some comment, but she sat with
her eyes fixed upon the carpet, and a troubled look on her face.

"Don't think, Conny, that I am one of those who construe this against
Heath," said the loyal fellow. "He is the best fellow in the world. The
whole thing, for me, lies in a nutshell. Heath is not a man to disturb
himself about his neighbor's concerns, and he don't expect his neighbors
to interest themselves in his. This Burrill has picked up, somehow, a
little information; something concerning Heath, or his past life, that
is not known to W----, and he is trying to make capital of it. The
secret in itself may be a mere nothing, but Heath is the first man to
resent impertinences, and the last man to make explanations. And he's
right, too, especially under the present circumstances. I like him all
the better for his pluck, and his reticence; let him keep his secrets,
so long as he gives me his friendship, I am quite content."

Constance felt a thrill of satisfaction, and a return of courage, as she
listened. Here was a friend, loyal, enthusiastic, not to be alienated
by slander or suspicion. She had known Ray from his childhood, and they
had always been the best of friends, but she had never admired and
honored him, never valued his friendship so much, as she did at this
moment.

His enthusiasm was contagious; she forgot all her fears, of a personal
nature, and became in an instant the true woman and unselfish friend.

"Ah, Ray," she exclaimed, lifting two admiring gray eyes to meet his,
"you are a friend indeed! a friend to be proud of; but tell me, did you
hear nothing more of Burrill after that second encounter?"

"He made some pretty loud threats," replied Ray, "and a fellow named
Brooks, a sort of crony of Burrill's, took it upon himself to call upon
Heath the next day, and advise him to keep a pretty close lookout for
Burrill, as he was quite likely, in one of his drunken rages, to make an
assault upon him. Heath thanked the fellow, and assured him that he was
quite capable of taking care of himself, and Burrill, too, if need be;
and Brooks backed out, declaring that he 'meant no 'arm by intrudin'.'"

"Ray," said Constance, earnestly, "John Burrill is not the only man
Doctor Heath has to fear. I may have acted hastily in sending for you,
but I was so troubled by certain facts that have just come to my
knowledge, that I could not rest without doing something. It's almost an
abuse of confidence to ask so much of you and tell you so little, but in
a few days I hope to be mistress of my own tongue, and then you shall
have all the particulars. For the present, Ray, promise to follow my
instructions blindly."

"I have promised that, Conny."

"And, Ray, you will keep this all a secret; you will do your part
without hinting to Doctor Heath your true motive, unless circumstances
compel an explanation?"

"I promise that, too."

"When I sent for you, it was to ask you to warn Doctor Heath, in the
most delicate way you could devise, that he was menaced by an enemy, and
under hourly surveillance; but, since you have told me of this, Burrill,
it occurs to me that in some way he may be mixed up in this matter,
and--I have thought of a better plan."

Ray nodded, and looked full of interest.

"Your description of his manner of receiving Burrill's interference, and
of his reticence throughout, makes me feel that it might be only
precipitating a catastrophe if we warned him, and so, Ray, I want you,
for three days, to be his constant shadow. Devise some excuse for
remaining in town; thrust yourself upon his hospitality; observe any
strangers who may approach him. If possible, do not let him get out of
your sight, even for a short time; in three days you shall be relieved."

"By whom?"

She lifted her hand, warningly. "No questions, Ray. Can you manage all
this?"

He pondered a while, then said: "I think I can; I am a pretty good
actor, Conny. What do you say to my feigning illness?"

"He would find you out."

"Not if I did it well, perhaps. I think I could manage for a few days."

"It won't do, Ray. He would send you to bed and walk away and leave
you."

Ray groaned.

"Tell him your room is undergoing repairs, and throw yourself on his
mercy; then feign low spirits, and make him think it is his duty to
entertain and cheer you up."

"Capital, Conny! we can make that work I know; your wit is worth more
than my wisdom. For three days then, I am your watch dog."

"And your friend's guardian."

"Precisely. I begin to swell with importance. But seriously, Conny, let
me have your confidence at the earliest moment. For, whoever does battle
with Heath, will find me arrayed against him, and--it's difficult
fighting in the dark."

"You shall know all, as soon as possible, Ray, and now--"

"And now," repeated he, rising with alacrity. "Heath's horse stands
outside, and Heath himself waits my return; so, lest he should grow
impatient, and go where mischief awaits him, I will go now and begin my
task."

"Thank you, Ray, I know I can depend upon you. All this seems like a
scene out of a melodrama, but it's wretchedly real for all that. Ray, I
am just waking up to a knowledge of how much plotting and wickedness
there is in this world; even in our little world of W----."

"We all wake to that knowledge," he said, a spasm of pain crossing his
face. "You know how the lesson came to me, Conny."

"Yes, poor Ray! and I know that another suffers, even more than you,
because of it."

"And the cause of it all is another mystery. But no more of this; unless
something noteworthy occurs, you will not see me again for three days."

She gave him her hand, and a look of gratitude, and trust; and, in a few
moments more, the red roan steed was speeding back townward.

Francis Lamotte had found the doctor dull company; and, as he scarcely
ever remained in the office to read now-a-days, he had taken himself and
his dissatisfaction elsewhere, long before Ray returned to the office
ready to begin his new _rôle_.

He found the doctor sitting in a despondent attitude, almost where he
had left him, holding in his hand a crumpled letter.

Without appearing to notice his abstraction, Ray came at once to the
point at issue.

"Heath," he said, "your red roan is returned to you, and the loan of him
encourages me to ask another favor."

"Well!" said the doctor, without looking up or changing his attitude.

"The fact is," said Ray, with splendid ingenuousness, "I am a sort of
outcast. My quarters are undergoing that misery they call 'repairs,'
and--the truth is, Heath, I want you to tender me your hospitality, for,
say two or three days. I can't go to a public place; I don't feel like
facing the music, for I am a little sore yet, and I find that I am still
an object for commiseration, and I do get low spirited in spite of
myself. It's cheeky, my asking it, I know, and you'll find my constant
society a terrible bore; but my heart is set on quartering with you, so
don't say no, Heath."

Clifford Heath threw off his listlessness and looked up with his usual
cheery smile.

"Why, Ray, you young dog," he cried, "you beseech me like a veritable
tramp, just as if you were not as welcome as the sunshine; come along,
you shall share my bed, and board, and--I'll be hanged if you shan't
share the daily dose of abuse I have to take from my old housekeeper.
I'll make a special arrangement to that effect."

"Thanks, Heath," replied Ray, and then he turned to the window to hide
the fire that burned in his cheeks, because of the deceit he was
practicing upon this open-hearted friend. "But it's all for his
benefit," he thought; "at least I hope so."

"Well!" said the doctor, moving uneasily in his chair; "I hope your
mission prospered."

"Oh, yes," carelessly.

"You--found Miss Wardour well, I hope?"

"Quite well; only wanting my valuable assistance in a little scheme she
has on foot, a sort of benefit affair." And Ray congratulated himself on
the adaptability of his answer.

"Is it too late to drive, Heath?"

But the doctor made no answer to this question, nor did he seem to hear
it. Rising, he walked to the window, looked down thoughtfully into the
street for a moment, then, without turning, he said:

"Rumor says, that Miss Wardour will marry Lamotte."

"Yes."

"Lamotte just now made the same statement."

"Ah!" contemptuously, "it's like him to boast; but I'm afraid he tells
the truth; Constance admitted as much to me to-day."

A long time Clifford Heath stood motionless and silent at the window;
then turning as if spurred by some sudden thought, he threw the crumpled
note, which all the time had been clasped in his hand, upon the table
between them, saying:

"Here's a mystery, sir; read that and pass your opinion on it; as you
are to become my guest, you should know what society you will find
yourself in."

Ray eyed the letter with his head on one side.

"What is it?" he asked in a stage whisper.

"A note, a _billet doux_, a solemn warning; came under the door a little
while ago, while I was off in a reverie; came by a spirit hand, maybe,
for I never heard a sound, but there lay the letter waiting to be
observed and perused." And the doctor laughed contemptuously, and
turned away to prepare for his drive. But Ray's face lengthened
perceptibly, and he took up the note with sudden eagerness, and read:

     DOCTOR HEATH:--Take the advice of a friend and leave W---- for
     a time; a plot is ripening against you, and your only safety lies in
     your absence, for your enemies are powerful and have woven a chain
     about you that will render you helpless, perhaps ruin you utterly.
     TRUTH.

     Lose no time, for the blow will soon fall.

The note was written in a cramped, reversed hand, and, after a hasty
perusal, Ray bent his head and scanned the pen strokes closely, then he
looked up with all the color gone from his face, and a strange gleam in
his eyes.

"How--how do you say this came, Heath?"

"I didn't say, for I don't know, my lad. It made its first appearance
lying just there," and the doctor pointed with his wisp broom, which he
had been vigorously applying to a brown overcoat, at the spot just
inside the door where he had first perceived the letter, and then
resumed his occupation without observing the trouble in Ray's face.
"Sensational, isn't it? but I can't think of quitting W---- just as it
begins to grow interesting."

"Then you take no stock in this warning?"

"Bah! why should I?"

"But if you should have secret foes?"

"Let them come on," quoted the doctor, theatrically; "bring along that
precious document, Ray, and come along yourself."

Ray Vandyck, still looking troubled and anxious, arose, and, with
lagging steps, followed his friend; as he noted with a new curiosity the
tall, lithe, well knit figure striding on before him, the handsome,
haughtily poised head, and the careless indifference of mien, he asked
himself:

"What can it be, this mystery and danger that surrounds him, that has
caused Constance Wardour to take such unprecedented measures to insure
his safety, and has wrung from Sybil Lamotte this strangely worded,
oddly and ineffectually disguised warning," for Ray, seeing not as the
world sees, but with the eyes of love, had recognized in the strange
scrawl the hand of the woman he had loved and lost.

"Heath _is_ in some peril," thought he, and then, with a rueful sigh,
"Oh! I would risk dangers too to be watched over by two such women."



CHAPTER XXII.

THE WATCH DOG DISCHARGED.


The three days that followed were days of unrest to Constance Wardour.
The intangible, yet distinctly realized trouble, and fear, and dread,
were new experiences in her bright life.

The mystery round about her, her inability to cope with the unknown, the
inaction, the waiting, was almost more than she could calmly endure; and
all this distress of mind and unrest of body was for others. Personally,
she had nothing to fear, nothing to annoy her; but the warm-hearted
heiress made a friend's cause her own. From the first she had grieved
over the sad fate of Sybil Lamotte; not lightly, not as society sorrows
over the fall of its some _protegés_; but deeply, from her heart of
hearts. And now there was added to this, her concern for Clifford Heath,
and the danger that menaced him tormented her.

If her own honor were threatened she could not have been more troubled
and full of fear; for in rebellion, in self-contempt, in a fierce burst
of rage against the heart she could not control, Constance Wardour,
heiress and queen absolute, was forced to confess to that heart that
Clifford Heath's happiness was her happiness too.

Having been forced to recognize this fact, against her wish and will,
Constance came to a better understanding with herself, and she confessed
to herself, with cheeks aflame at the recollection, that her petulant
outbreak, and shameful accusation against Doctor Heath, was but the
mutinous struggle of the head against the heart's acknowledged master.
Too late came this self confession. Sybil Lamotte's letter had never
been found; the mystery surrounding its disappearance, remained a
mystery; and, how could she recall her accusation, while the
circumstances under which it was made remained unchanged? Realizing that
she owed him reparation, she was yet powerless to make it.

"It would be equivalent to a confession, that I could not be happy
without his friendship," she said, hotly. "And he would not accept an
apology while his innocence remained unproven. Let me suffer the
consequences of my own folly; I deserve it; but," setting her white
teeth resolutely, "no harm shall come to him that I can avert; and, I am
not the weakest of women."

Oh, the perversity of women. Who can comprehend it? Who analyze the
mysterious creatures?

When there was against Clifford Heath only a breath of suspicion, a few
whispered words from his own lips, that might mean nothing of
importance, when calmly reconsidered; a missing letter, with the
contents of which he was familiar, and which, therefore, could be of
little value to him, and it was enough. He stood before her accused, and
went out from her presence wronged, insulted, splendid as King Arthur in
his helpless indignation.

Now the detective's strong chain of evidence, John Burrill's strange
insinuations, and still stranger conduct, his words when he spoke, his
reticence when he kept silence, all were arrayed against him, with
telling effect, and in spite of them all, Constance Wardour angrily
assured herself, and fully believed, that Clifford Heath was a wronged,
and innocent man. She did not reason herself into this belief; and it
was absurd, of course. She arrived at her conclusions, as all loving
women do, through her feelings, and her instinct. A woman seldom
reasons, but in many cases her ready intuition is worth more than all
man's wisdom. Her delicate instinct strikes directly at the truth, when
man's reason gropes in darkness.

Constance went out very little during these troubled days, and for this
there were several reasons. John Burrill's obtrusiveness was at its
height, and he fairly haunted the vicinity of Wardour; and since the
advent of Mr. Belknap, Constance had an uneasy feeling that she was in
some way, under surveillance. Nelly, who was argus-eyed, and always in
armor on behalf of her mistress, had, on one or two occasions, spied a
lurker about the premises; and Constance was resolved to give Mr.
Belknap as little trouble, on her account, as possible. She had not
visited Sybil for some days, for, although she had informed the
detective that she desired to consult Mr. Lamotte, she had no such
intentions; and, since the day when she had promised Mr. Lamotte to
retain the detective for another week, she had avoided meeting him, and
being forced to resume the conversation.

To know herself under the watchful eye of one detective, while anxiously
expecting the advent of another, and to be aware that the presence of
the one must not be made known to the other, afforded her a new and
strange sensation; not altogether an unpleasant one either, for
Constance was no coward, and had a decided taste for adventure.

She realized, too, the absurdity of being thus shadowed in her own
house, by her own hired agent.

"I should go down to posterity as the first woman who ever hired a spy
to watch herself," she mused with a little laugh. "I begin to think that
I _am_ an absurd creature, throughout."

Two days passed, and Constance endured them, although the hours crept
slowly. On the third, her anxiety was almost beyond control.

If Bathurst should fail her! If her letter had not found him! If he were
absent from the city! Oh, what a chance was here for disaster. Mr.
Belknap would soon be in the field, and Ray's time had almost expired.

"Oh," she said, anxiously, "if he disappoints me, what _shall_ I do. I
must trust Ray, and will he be strong enough to battle with this
danger?"

While she mused thus, growing wild with anxiety, a half grown boy,
bearing on his head a small tray of delicate ivory carvings, was
applying for admittance at the servants' entrance. He was shabbily
dressed, but possessed a fine, intelligent face, and bore himself with
cool confidence.

"I have brought the carving for Miss Wardour," he said, briskly. "Can I
see her, please?"

Nelly hesitated.

"She expects me," said the boy, quickly; "and, as I am a little late, I
would like to show her the wares and be off, for I've more to sell in
the village. Just tell her it's the chap she's looking for."

Constance stared in surprise when Nelly delivered this message.

"The chap I am looking for," she repeated slowly; then, with a sudden
brightening of her whole face, she added: "Oh, to be sure? I had almost
forgotten. Send him here, at once, Nelly."

"I hope you will excuse me," began the boy, apologetically; then, as
Nelly closed the door, he dropped his voice, and said, "I come from Mr.
Bathurst;" and, taking off his cap, he produced from thence a letter,
which he put in her hand.

[Illustration: "I hope you'll excuse me."]

"I'm to wait for the answer," he said, and took up his position beside
his wares.

Constance opened the letter, with a hand trembling with eagerness. It
ran:

     MISS WARDOUR:--By all means keep the secret of the diamonds, and
     trust all to me. I think it best not to come to you, as Belknap
     keeps a constant watch upon your movements; dismiss him as soon as
     you like. Have no fears regarding Heath, I have his enemies well
     roped; be assured that I shall be on hand when needed, and when you
     see me expect to have the question of the diamond mystery forever
     set at rest. If you have anything to say, send verbal instructions
     by boy; he is to be trusted.

     Yours sincerely,
     NEIL J. BATHURST.

Constance heaved a sigh of relief, as she finished the perusal of this
note, and after a moment's reflection, she said:

"Tell Mr. Bathurst that I will obey his instructions, and that Mr.
Belknap will be dismissed from my service to-day."

"Yes, madam. Now if you will please to select some of these things for
the sake of appearance."

"Of course. You are very thoughtful. Are you a young detective too?"

The boy looked up with a gleam of pride in his eyes.

"I have been in Mr. Bathurst's service two years, madam."

"Oh, then I have no fears as to your discretion; so I will ask you a
question, knowing that you are wise enough to refuse me an answer if I
am asking too much."

The boy smiled, and stood attentive.

"May I ask if Mr. Bathurst is really now in W----, and when he arrived?"

The boy laughed an odd laugh, and full of mischief.

"Mr. Bathurst is here," he said. "I can't tell just _when_ he did
arrive."

"Then you did not come together?"

"We! Oh, no, indeed!" laughing again. "Mr. Bathurst is too smart for
that."

Constance smiled with a returning feeling of ease and restfulness.

"Ah, I see I can trust Mr. Bathurst--and you, and lest I ask the wrong
question if I continue, I will not ask another one; tell Mr. Bathurst I
rely on him to straighten all the tangles; and that I like his messenger
almost as much as his message."

"My, but ain't she a rum young lady," mused the boy, as he trudged away
from Wardour Place with his lightened tray of ivories, "and handsome!
jingo! if I was Mr. Bathurst I'd work for her, just to see her smile,
and no pay; but Lord, _he_ don't care, he don't; he'll work just as hard
for any old crone; he's another rum one."

"Ah, what a relief," breathed Constance, reading for the third time
Bathurst's reassuring note. "I begin to feel like myself once more. Now
I am ready for you, Mr. private detective Belknap."

And, truly, Constance _was_ herself once more. Poor Mrs. Aliston,
sitting aloof, and almost abandoned during the days of her niece's
perturbation of mind, was the first to receive the benefit of the
returning sunshine. Constance, for reasons which any woman can guess,
had kept her anxiety, concerning Doctor Heath, a profound secret from
this good lady; and she, watching the signs of the times, made no
comments, but speculated profoundly--and, wide of the mark.

"You should have gone with me to drive, yesterday, Con.," said Mrs.
Aliston to Constance, who, sitting in her aunt's room, half an hour
after the departure of her small messenger, was endeavoring to atone for
her neglect of the past few days by chatting cheerily upon every
subject but the one which was of deepest interest to herself.

"You should have been with me and seen Sybil Lamotte."

"Sybil! Did you call there?"

"Oh, no. I can't get on with Mrs. Lamotte well enough to brave such a
call alone; she is too stately and non-committal for me."

"You don't understand her, auntie; but Sybil, did you speak with her?"

"Yes, we met just over the bridge, and Sybil stopped the carriage to ask
after you; I think she is anxious to see you."

"Poor Sybil," said Constance, contritely, "I _have_ neglected her of
late; but we will drive there to-morrow; to-day I don't just feel like
going out. Does Sybil look well, auntie?"

Mrs. Aliston leaned forward and lifted a plump forefinger to give
emphasis to her words.

"Con., Sybil is dying or going mad, I can't tell which."

"Auntie! why?"

But Mrs. Aliston went on rapidly. "I never saw such a change; two weeks
ago, one week ago, even the last time she came here, Sybil seemed nerved
to bear her trouble, she carried herself well and seemed firm as a
rock."

"Outwardly."

"Outwardly of course, one couldn't feel much secret pride, compelled to
live under the same roof with that low man she has married; but Sybil
is not calm _outwardly_ now, she has lost all that brilliant color."

"So much the better, it was the outward token of a mental excitement
that would soon drive her mad; Sybil should never have attempted to
brave criticism, and bear her shame so publicly. Every time she has
allowed that man to appear beside her in the streets of W----, has
shortened her life as surely as slow poison could do it."

"Well! mark my word, she won't undergo the ordeal much longer; her eyes
have lost their steady light and luster, and have a wild, frightened,
expectant look impossible to describe; when a horse came suddenly up
behind us, she started and almost screamed with fright, and I could see
her hands tremble and her lips quiver for minutes after; hands, they are
mere claws! and she is growing more shadowy every day."

"Auntie, hush! you have made me as nervous as you picture Sybil. I shall
not rest until I see her."

"There is a gentleman to see you, Miss Constance," said Nelly, from the
doorway, which position she had gained unnoticed by the two ladies.

Constance gave a nervous start, and then arose hastily.

"Who is it, Nelly?" she asked, merely for appearance sake, for she fully
expected to see Mr. Belkhap.

"He didn't give his name, Miss, but said he come by appointment. It's
the same gentleman as called a few days ago."

"Oh! then he won't detain me long," said the young lady, a resolute
look coming into her eyes. "Auntie, I'll be with you again in a very few
moments."

"He won't be very graciously received," was Mrs. Aliston's mental
comment. "I know that gleam of the eye, and what it means."

But Mrs. Aliston was mistaken for once.

"Oh, Mr. Belknap," Constance said, sweeping into his presence with her
proudest air, and smiling upon him her sweetest smile. "I am glad you
have come."

"Promptness is our first lesson in my profession," replied he, with an
affable smile.

"Yes! and have you learned anything new since Monday?"

"Nothing of importance. The party under suspicion has been entertaining
a friend, and has been out very little."

"Oh!"

"One thing occurred on Monday last, not long after I had left you, which
I can't help looking on with suspicion."

"Indeed! and may I hear it?"

"I think so. Without stopping to explain my modes of taking
observations, I will give the bare fact. On Monday afternoon, while
Doctor Heath was alone in his office, a boy, carrying on his head a tray
of carvings, stopped at the foot of the stairs, set down his tray, ran
up the flight like a young cat, and just as quietly, and slipped a note
underneath the office door."

"Really!" in real surprise, and some disturbance of mind. "And you know
nothing more about the note?"

"Nothing; but I shall soon I trust."

"Then you intend following up this case, Mr. Belknap?"

He looked up with a start of astonishment.

"Is not that your intention?"

"Decidedly not."

"But--have you consulted with Mr. Lamotte?"

"I have consulted with no one, sir. I thought over the matter once more,
and decided to let my own mind guide my actions."

"But Mr. Lamotte thinks the case should be pushed."

"Mr. Lamotte is my neighbor, not my guardian. He is good enough to
advise me sometimes; I think he would scarcely presume to dictate."

"Ah! then I am to consider myself no longer in your service?"

She bowed her head.

"After I have cancelled my indebtedness to you," she said, serenely.

With a look of vexation that he could not hide, the private detective
drew from his pocket a memorandum book, and from thence a slip of paper,
which he handed to Constance.

"That is my statement," he said.

She ran her eye over the itemized account, smiling a little as she did
so. Then, rising swiftly, she said:

"Excuse me for one moment."

He bowed silently, and she went out, returning soon with a bank cheque,
which she placed in his hands, saying:

"So ends the case of the Wardour diamonds. I shall not take it up
again."

"What! do you really mean that?"

"I really do."

The detective opened his lips, as if about to remonstrate, then closed
them suddenly, and moved toward the door.

"Do you still cling to your intention of notifying the town authorities,
and setting them upon Doctor Heath?" she asked.

He turned toward her, with a peculiar smile upon his face.

"You have offered a reward for your jewels, I believe?"

"You mistake, I have offered a reward for the apprehension of the thief
or thieves."

"And--as you have withdrawn the case, shall you withdraw your reward
also?"

"By no means."

"Then--if I bring you both the jewels and the thieves my reward should
be doubled?"

A queer gleam shot from her eyes, as she answered, without hesitation:

"And so I shall. Place my robbers in the county jail, and put my
diamonds in my hands, and you shall receive a double reward."

"Then, for the present, I shall keep my clews in my own hands; Miss
Wardour, I wish you good morning." And the private detective stalked
from the room with the air of a man who was overflowing with desirable
information.

"That's a queer woman," mused Mr. Belknap, as he turned his face away
from Wardour. "I can't make her out. If it were not altogether too
fishy, I should say she had a suspicion concerning those diamonds. I
intend to look a little closer into the doings of Miss Wardour; and,
blow hot, or blow cold, I'm bound to have my reward, if not by this, why
by that."

With this enigmatical reflection, he looked up to behold, sitting by the
roadside, a tramp of sinister aspect, who turned his head indolently as
the detective approached, and then applied himself closer to a luncheon
of broken victuals, eating like a man famished. Mr. Belknap, who, on
this occasion, had visited Wardour on foot, came quite close upon the
man, and then halted suddenly, putting his hand in his pocket, as if
with charitable intent; instantly the tramp dropped his fragment of
bread, and sprang to his feet, with outstretched hands, as if greedy for
the expected bounty. He was a dirty, ragged fellow, undersized, but
strong and sinewy, with an ugly scarred face, and a boorish gait and
manner. As the private detective withdrew his hand from his pocket and
tendered the tramp a small coin, a passer-by, had there been such, would
have called the scene a tableaux of alms-giving; but what the detective
said was:

"Well, Roake, here you are; are you ready for business?"

[Illustration: "Well, Roarke, are you ready for business?"]

And the tramp replied: "You bet, if it's a solid racket."

"Then follow me, at a distance, until we reach a place where we can talk
things over." And Mr. Belknap moved on, never once glancing back.

The tramp once more seated himself beside the fence, and resumed his
occupation. When the last scrap of food was devoured, he arose, and,
taking up a rough stick that served as a cane, he followed the receding
form of the private detective.

At sunset, Ray Vandyck presented himself punctually for further
instructions, at Wardour.

"You are released, Ray," said Constance, coming to meet him, with a
bright face and a warm hand-clasp. "You are free to follow your own
devices; Doctor Heath has a better guardian than either you or I."

"Cool, upon my word," said Ray, with a grimace. "So I am discharged
without references?"

"Even so, and you must be content without an explanation, too, for the
present. My tongue is still tied."

"Worse and worse, Conny; can't I even know who has supplanted me?"

"It's a great secret, and must be carefully guarded, but, I believe I
will confide that much to you, as it does not conflict with any
promises."

"Well! I listen."

"Doctor Heath is protected by an able detective. His name I must not
communicate."

Ray Vandyck opened wide his handsome eyes, and gave vent to a long, low
whistle.

"Conny, you are too deep for me," he said; "I am all at sea; I will drop
the subject, as it is working severely upon my curiosity."

For a few moments they sat in silence, Constance thinking how much she
regretted not asking Mr. Bathurst to make himself known to this loyal
friend, who must now be kept in ignorance, however worthy he might be of
all confidence, and Ray thinking of something that caused his face to
sadden, and his eyes to darken with inward pain. Presently he drew a
little nearer his hostess, and asked, in a low, sorrowful tone:

"Conny, have you seen her lately?"

"Not for a week or more, Ray."

"I saw her yesterday."

"And she," anxiously; "did she see you, Ray?"

"No, thank God! she was driving with her mother, and, Con.," his voice
broke and he turned his face away; "I wish you would go to her."

"Why, Ray?"

"Because--oh, you should have seen her face. She is suffering horribly;
she is dying by inches."



CHAPTER XXIII.

FATHER AND SON.


At early morn on the next day, Jasper Lamotte and his son, Frank, were
seated together in the dining-room of Mapleton.

Jasper Lamotte was hurriedly eating a bountiful and appetizing lunch,
and washing it down with plenty of light claret; and Frank was seated
near the table, smoking a strong segar, and giving an attentive ear to
the words of his sire.

"This is the first time that we have got the lead on Burrill," said the
elder Lamotte, "and in some way it must be made to count. Drunk or
sober, heretofore, he has looked after his interests too closely to
serve ours."

"The devil's got into Burrill," replied Frank, bending forward to knock
the ashes from his black segar; "and into the rest of the family too, I
should say; Evan has been bad enough any time within the memory of man,
but look at him now. Why, he has not been sober for ten days."

"Well, he is sober this morning."

"Really, have you seen him?"

"Yes. I went to his room to ask him some questions about Burrill. I
found him white as a cloth, and quite as limp; he had overdone himself
at his last carouse; is as sick as a dog, and on the verge of delirium
tremens if a man ever was. He won't get out of his bed for a few days,
if I am a judge; the room was full of medical perfumes, and his mother
was trying to induce him to drink some hot coffee."

"And Burrill?"

"He knew nothing of him, and recommended me to look after my own
vermin."

"He's a sharp tongued cur," said Frank, with a short laugh.

"Next, I went to Sybil's rooms; she was sitting over a roasting fire,
wrapped in a shawl, and shivering from head to foot; she almost shrieked
at the mention of Burrill's name; Sybil looks bad, very bad. When we get
these other matters safely settled, we must do something for the girl."

"And that means----"

"That we must master Burrill. We will soon be in a position to do it, I
hope."

"I hope so," gloomily.

"We must be, or be ruined. You will settle this business with Constance,
at once, to-day?"

"Yes--I suppose so."

"You suppose! man, you talk as if you were leading a forlorn hope. Do
you _expect_ a refusal?"

"I don't know _what_ to expect," flinging away his segar, angrily, "I
can't understand Constance; I wish that cursed Heath were safely out of
my path."

"Can't you trust him to Belknap?"

"There we are again! what is that confounded detective doing? He has
been here five days, or nearly that; four days ago, Constance asked
three days to consider upon the case. What did that mean? Belknap should
have been here with his report long ago. Why don't he come?"

"That I can't tell you; he has his own way of doing things; his absence
does not alter the fact, that I must use this opportunity for getting to
the city; and you must press this business with Constance, and bring it
to a settlement. I don't think there is much doubt as to her answer."

"Well, I wish I could feel as sanguine, that's all."

At this moment there came the sound of wheels on the gravel outside, and
glancing toward the window, Frank sprang up exclaiming:

"There's Belknap, and not a minute to lose. I'll go meet him," and he
hurried out, wearing a look of relief, mingled with expectancy.

In a moment he returned, closely followed by the smiling detective.

"Quick, Belknap," said Frank, closing the door, carefully, "give us the
important points. The carriage will be here in a short time, to take the
old man to town, and he must be on time, for trains won't wait."

"True," said Mr. Belknap, seating himself near the table. "I should have
reported to you last evening, but thought it best to remain about town,
and let myself be seen by the hotel loungers; people, in a place like
this, are curious about a man who keeps too much to himself, and one
must always conciliate suspicion."

"True," from Mr. Lamotte.

"I saw Miss Wardour yesterday, gentlemen; she entirely withdraws the
case."

"What! entirely?" asked Frank.

"Entirely; she asked for my account, paid it, and dismissed me, saying,
that she should not resume the search, but should double the reward."

"Double the reward!" repeated Frank.

"Yes, _provided_ both the diamonds and the thieves were found."

A moment's silence and then the elder Lamotte emptied his glass and set
it down, saying as he did so:

"Well, but the point is not yet reached. Did you explain the necessity
you were under if the case left your hands?"

"I did. She was surprised, of course, and incredulous, but she made no
remarks, and seemed not at all discomposed at the danger menacing Doctor
Heath. After we had settled our business, she asked me if I should now
drop the case and let the authorities work it out, or if I would
continue to work independent of her."

"And you said what?" asked Frank.

"I said that circumstances must decide that."

"And she was not disturbed about Heath?"

"Evidently not; she was as cool as myself."

Frank drew a long breath of relief.

"And now, Mr. Lamotte," said the private detective, "what is the next
move?"

"Perfect quiet for the next two or three days; like Miss Wardour, we
will take time to consider. I am going to the big city to-day, Mr.
Belknap, if you need any funds before I return, call on Frank. I shall
be back in two days, and then we will decide upon our next move. Is that
the carriage, Frank?"

It was the carriage, and almost before Mr. Belknap could realize it or
gather together his scattered forces, Mr. Lamotte had shaken hands with
him, nodded to Frank, donned his hat, gathered up his traveling coat,
cane, and gloves, and was on his way to the carriage, followed by a
servant, who carried his small traveling bag.

As may be seen, Mr. Belknap had made his "reports" according to his own
lights, as for instance, giving his first interview with Constance in
brief, on the same day it took place, merely stating that Miss Wardour
requested time to consider; and reserving all that portion concerning
Doctor Heath, until to-day, when he gave that too, in brief, and with
many "mental reservations."

Mr. Belknap was a little bit nonplussed at this sudden journey of Jasper
Lamotte's; he did not like to be so widely separated from his patron,
even for a few days, and especially now; but it was too late to make an
amendment to this state of affairs, so he contented himself with a segar
and Frank's society. Not finding the latter of the best, and being able
to enjoy the former anywhere, he soon took his leave, and drove back to
his hotel, the best in W----, where he went straight to his room,
ordered up a hot brandy, complained of a slight indisposition, and spent
the remainder of the day and the entire evening in and about the hotel,
lounging, smoking, reading, chatting and always visible.

Meantime, Mr. Lamotte, arriving ten minutes early at the W---- depot,
sauntered out among the people swarming about, and waiting the arrival
of the fast express.

There was always a bustle about the W---- depot at this hour of the day,
and Mr. Lamotte nodded graciously here and there, and stopped to extend
a patronizing hand to a chosen and honored few. Presently he came face
to face with a man who, with hands in his pockets, was watching the
unloading of a belated dray.

"How do you do, Brooks," said he, glancing at the hands and face that
were a little cleaner than usual, and at the pretence of a toilet that
made the awkwardness of the fellow unusually apparent. "You seem taking
a holiday. Are you bound to leave us?"

"That's what I am, sir," said the man, touching his hat. "Work's too
scarce for me, sir, and bad company's too plenty. I've said I would go a
dozen times, sir; and now I'm off."

"I am sorry we could not keep you on at the mills, Brooks; but--you know
who was to blame."

"Oh, it was me, sir; I don't deny _that_. It's hard for me to keep away
from the liquor. But look here, Mr. Lamotte, sir: If you ever see me
again, _you'll see me sober_."

[Illustration: "If you ever see me again, you'll see me sober."]

Mr. Lamotte uttered a skeptical laugh and turned away. The train was
there, and it bore cityward the gentlemanly Mr. Lamotte, and the
half-inebriated loafer, Brooks.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A DAY OF GLOOM.


All that day, or what remained of it after his father's departure, and
the almost simultaneous withdrawal of the private detective, Frank
Lamotte passed in an uneasy reverie. He had much at stake; and, now that
the crisis of his fortunes was so near at hand, he began to review his
ground, and every word, look, and tone of Constance Wardour, as he
recalled them, one by one, was to him a fresh puzzle.

Six months ago, Frank Lamotte would have scoffed at the suggestion of a
refusal even from the proud Constance. Now, somehow, he had lost his
self-confidence. Again and again he imagined the words that he would
say, and the words he hoped, that she would answer. Then, as he forced
himself to face the possibility of defeat, the veins upon his temples
swelled out, his teeth clenched, and one of those "attacks," to which he
was subject, and against which Doctor Heath had warned him, seemed
imminent. Again and again he gazed, with proud satisfaction, upon his
reflected image, in the full length drawing-room mirror, and turned
away, vowing himself a fitting mate for any woman. Again and again, when
the image of his own physical perfections had ceased to dazzle his
vision, his heart sank within him, and a dismal foreboding put his
courage to flight.

"Confound it all," muttered he, as he wandered aimlessly from one
deserted room to another: "the very house seems under a spell. Sybil,
sitting like a recluse in her own rooms, growing pale, and wild-eyed,
and spectre-like, every day. Evan, in _his_ room, sick with drink, and
verging on the D. T. Mother, gliding like a stately ghost from the one
to the other, or closeted in her own room; she has not been down stairs
to-day. Burrill, the devil knows where _he_ is, and what took him out so
unusually early this morning. He's been cutting it worse than ever for
the past week; the fellow, seemingly, can't find company low enough for
him, in one stage of his drunkenness, nor high enough for him in
another. It's fortunate for us that liquor has at last relaxed his
vigilance; the old man has taken a leading trick by the means. Curse the
brute! Why won't he die in a drunken frenzy, or from overfeeding, but he
won't!" Thus soliloquizing, he lighted a segar and went out into the
grounds. "I'll try the effect of a little sunshine," he muttered; "for
the house feels like a sarcophagus; one would think the family pride was
about to receive its last blow, and the family doom about to fall."

So, restless and self-tormented, Frank Lamotte passed the long
afternoon, in the double solitude of a man deserted, alike by his
friends and his peace of mind.

"We make our own ghosts," said somebody once.

Frank Lamotte's phantoms had begun to manifest themselves, having grown
into things of strength, and become endowed with the power to torture;
thanks to the atmosphere into which he had plunged himself and them.

Late in the afternoon, John Burrill came home, but Frank avoided him,
not caring to answer any questions at that time.

Burrill seemed to care little for this, or for anything; he was in a
wonderfully jubilant mood. He rambled through the tenantless rooms,
whistling shrilly, and with his hands in his pockets. He commanded the
servants like a Baron of old. He drank wine in the library, and smoked a
segar in the drawing room, and when these pleasures palled upon him, he
ascended the stairs, and went straight to the room occupied by Evan.

For some time past, Jasper Lamotte had made an effort to break the bond
of good fellowship, that, much to the surprise of all the family, had
sprung up between the wild young fellow, and the coarser and equally or
worse besotted elder one. How even reckless Evan Lamotte could find
pleasure in such society, was a mystery to all who knew the two. But so
it was, and Jasper Lamotte's interdict was not strong enough to sever
the intimacy. John Burrill responded to his exhortations with a burst of
defiance, or a volley of oaths; and, Evan received all comments upon his
choice of a companion, with a sardonic smile, or a wild mocking laugh.

They had not been much together for the past few days, owing to the
indisposition which had kept Evan away from their favorite haunts, but
had not kept him away from his favorite beverage.

As Burrill entered his room, Evan received him with a shout of welcome,
and for more than an hour they were closeted there, some times
conversing in low, guarded tones, and sometimes bursting into roars of
laughter, that penetrated even through the shut doors of Sybil's rooms,
causing her to start nervously, and shiver as with a chill.

A little before sunset the carriage from Wardour deposited Constance and
Mrs. Aliston at the door of this home of little harmony, and even
Constance noted the unusual stillness, and whispered to her aunt, as
they waited in the drawing room the appearance of Mrs. Lamotte:

"Bah! I sniff the ogre here, auntie. 'The trail of the serpent' is over
the entire house."

"I sniff the dead odor of a vile segar," retorted Mrs. Aliston. "As for
the ogre--if he won't appear in person, I'll try and survive the rest."

"I am very glad you have come, Constance," said Mrs. Lamotte, entering
at this moment. "We are so dull here, and Sybil has wished much to see
you." And then she extended a courteous but more stately greeting to
Mrs. Aliston.

"It grieves me to hear that Sybil is not so well, dear Mrs. Lamotte.
Does she employ a physician?" asked Constance, presently.

"She will not have a physician called, much to my regret. The very
suggestion makes her wildly nervous."

"And--she keeps her room too much. I think Frank told me."

"Yes, recently. But, Constance, go up to her; Mrs. Aliston and I will
entertain each other for awhile, and then we will join you. Sybil heard
you announced, and will expect you."

Thus commanded, Constance lost no time in making her way, unattended, to
Sybil's room.

In the upper hall she met Frank, who started, and flushed at sight of
her, and then hurried forward, with extended hand.

"Constance," he exclaimed, eagerly, "how glad I am to see you."

"I'm such an uncommon sight!" she laughed, too much absorbed with
thoughts of Sybil, to notice the extra warmth of his greeting, or a
certain change of manner, that was a mingling of boldness, bashfulness,
humility and coxcombery.

"How do you do, Frank?"

"Well in body, Constance--"

"Oh! then we can easily regulate your mind. I'm going to see Sybil, and
I don't want your company; so adieu, Frank."

"One moment, please. I want to--I _must_ see you, this evening. Shall
you remain with us?"

"No. Aunt Honor below; we go home, soon."

"Then--may I call, this evening, Constance?"

"What a question! as if you did not call whenever the spirit moved you
so to do; come, if you like, child; I shall have no better company, I am
afraid," and on she swept, and had vanished within his sister's room,
before Frank could decide whether to be chagrined, or delighted, at so
readily given, carelessly worded, a consent.

The start, the nervous tremor, the terrified ejaculations, with which
Sybil greeted, even this expected and welcome guest, all told how some
deadly foe was surely undermining her life and reason. And Constance
noted, with a sinking heart, the dark circles around the eyes that were
growing hollow, and heavy, and full of a strange, wild expectancy: the
pale cheeks, thinner than ever, and the woful weariness of the entire
face.

Greeting her tenderly, and making no comments on her changed appearance,
Constance chatted for a time on indifferent subjects, and noted closely,
as a loving friend will, the face and manner of her listener. Sybil sat
like one in a trance, rather a nightmare, her eyes roving from her
visitor's face to the door, and back again, and this constantly
repeated; her whole attitude and manner, that of one listening, rather
for some sound, or alarm, from afar, than to the words of the friend
beside her.

At last, Constance finding commonplace about exhausted, said:

"Congratulate me, child! I have thrown off a burden from my shoulders; I
have brought my diamond investigations to a close."

"Ah! diamonds!" Sybil almost started from her chair, and the exclamation
came sharply from lips white and trembling.

"Yes, my lost diamonds, you know; I have dismissed Mr. Belknap."

"Belknap!" an unmistakable look of horror crossed her face. "Dismissed
him; oh, I wish _I_ could!"

Sorely at a loss, yet thinking it best not to seem surprised at what she
believed to be the efforts of a wandering mind to grasp and master the
subject under discussion, Constance talked on, answering questions and
making observations, without allowing Sybil to see the surprise and
sorrow that filled her heart; and, not until many days later did she
recall her friend's wild words, to see how much of method there might be
in this seeming madness.

"Mr. Belknap was conducting the search for the diamonds, you know,
Sybil?"

Sybil seemed making an effort to collect her scattered senses.

"Yes, yes, Conny, go on," she whispered.

"I have paid him off and am done with him; that's about all, dear."

"Conny," in a half whisper, "is he _gone_?"

"I don't know about that; he said something about remaining here for a
time."

"Oh!" ejaculated Sybil, and then, under her breath, "My God!"

Constance shuddered as she looked upon the shivering figure before her,
the wavering eyes, the hands clenching and unclenching themselves; she
found conversation difficult, and began to wonder how she could avoid
subjects that brought painful thoughts or suggestions. But suddenly a
change came over Sybil; sitting erect, she looked fixedly at her friend,
and asked:

"Conny, has _he_ tormented you of late?"

"He! Sybil; you mean--"

"I mean my curse! has he dared to annoy you? He has sworn that he will
be accepted and recognized as your friend."

Constance laughed a short, sarcastic laugh.

"Be at rest, Sybil; he never will."

"No;" with a strange dropping of the voice. "_He never will!_"

Again she seemed struggling to recover herself, and to recall some
thought; then she looked up and asked abruptly:

"Conny, have you promised to marry my--Frank Lamotte?"

"No, Sybil."

"Then--promise, _promise_ me, Constance, as if I were on my dying bed,
that you never will."

"Why, Sybil, dear?"

"Don't ask for reasons, don't; promise, _promise_, PROMISE!"

She was growing excited, and Constance hastened to say:

"You are laboring under some delusion, dear child; Frank has not offered
himself to me."

"But he will! he will! and I tell you, Constance, it would be giving
yourself to a fate like mine, and worse. The Lamottes have not done with
disgrace yet, and it shall not fall on you; promise me, Con."

"I promise, Sybil."

"You promise;" she arose from her chair and came close to Constance;
"you promise," she said, slowly, "never, _never_ to marry Francis
Lamotte?"

[Illustration: "You promise never to marry Francis Lamotte?"]

"I swear it."

A coarse laugh, a smothered oath; they both turn swiftly, and there, in
the doorway, smelling of tobacco and brandy, and shaking with coarse
laughter, is John Burrill, and beside him, with clenched hands, swollen
temples, drawn, white lips, stands Francis Lamotte. Stands! No. He
reels, he clings to the door-frame for support; his _enemy_ is upon him.

Sybil draws herself erect; the red blood flames to her face; the fire
darts from her eyes; she lifts one slender arm and points at the reeling
figure; then there rings out a burst of mad, mocking laughter.

"Ha! ha! ha! Frank Lamotte, I have settled my account with you."

Then turning swiftly upon Burrill, and with even fiercer fury she
shrieks:

"Out, out, out of my sight! I am almost done with you, too. Go back to
your wine and your wallowing in the gutter; your days are numbered."

The awful look upon her face, the defiant hatred in her voice, the
sudden strength and firmness of her whole bearing, Constance shuddered
at and never forgot. Frank Lamotte, making a monstrous effort for
self-control, gasped, let go his hold on the door frame, lifted his hand
to his temples, and came a few steps into the room. Outside, on the
stairway, was the rustle of woman's garments, the light fall of swift
feet. In another moment Mrs. Lamotte, followed by Mrs. Aliston, enters
the room, pushing past the gaping and astonished Burrill with scant
ceremony. Then, Sybil's strength deserts her as John Burrill, recalled
to a sense of his own importance, advances, and seems about to address
her. She utters a cry of abhorrence and terror, and, throwing out her
hands to ward off his approach, reels, falls, and is caught in the
supporting arms of Constance and Mrs. Lamotte.

While they are applying restoratives, Frank sees the propriety of
withdrawing from the scene, but no such motives of delicacy or decency
ever find lodgment in the brain of John Burrill, and leering with tipsy
gravity, he presses close to the bedside and poisons the air with his
reeking breath. Constance flushes with anger, and glances at Mrs.
Lamotte. That lady looks up uneasily, and seems to hesitate, and then
Mrs. Aliston rises to the occasion, and covers herself with glory.

Looking blandly up into the man's face, she lays one fat, gloved hand
upon his arm, and says, in a low, confidential tone:

"Come this way one moment, sir, if you please," and she fairly leads the
wondering and unsuspecting victim from the room. A second later he is
standing in the passage, the chamber door is shut swiftly and locked
securely. John Burrill has been led out like a lamb, and the fat and
smiling strategist comes back to the bedside.

"I suppose he thought I would tell him a secret when I got him outside,"
she laughs, softly.

Whatever he thought he kept to himself. After uttering a few curses he
went below, "returned to his pipe and his bowl," and waited the dinner
hour.

"I shall send for Doctor Heath," said Mrs. Lamotte, as she bent above
her daughter, who had slowly returned to consciousness, but lay passive,
seeming not to see or know the friends who stood about her. "Sybil does
not know us; I feel alarmed."

Mrs. Aliston nodded sagaciously. "He can not come too soon," she said;
then to Constance, with a mingling of womanly tact and genuine
kindliness, "my child, you had better drive home soon. If Mrs. Lamotte
wishes, or will permit, I will stay to-night. It will be better, believe
me, Mrs. Lamotte, than to share a watch with any servant; and I am a
good nurse."

So it is arranged that she shall stay, and Constance proposes to return
alone to Wardour.

As she goes down stairs to her carriage, from out the shadow of the
drawing room comes Frank Lamotte, still very haggard, and trembling with
excitement suppressed.

"Constance!" he whispers, hoarsely, "one moment, please."

She pauses before him, very pale and still.

"Constance," speaking with an effort, "I--went up there, hoping to keep
Burrill from intruding; he was too quick for me, and--and I heard
Sybil's last words--and yours."

No answer from the pale listener.

"My sister asked you to refuse me. Am I right?"

"You heard."

"And you promised?"

"I promised."

"Constance, Sybil is half mad. You surely were only humoring her whim in
so replying."

"Sybil _is_ half mad. I begin to think that you know why."

"We all know why. She has sacrificed herself for an ingrate; she has
saddled us all with a monster, to save a brother who is not worth
saving."

"Frank Lamotte, stop; I can not listen to this; for, let me tell you
that I know this charge against Evan Lamotte to be false, and I know
that you know it; and yet you have sanctioned the fraud. Who has
blighted Sybil's life, you may know, but it is not Evan."

"Constance do you mean--"

"I mean all that I say. Let me pass, Frank."

"Not yet. Constance, Constance! had you never any love for me? Is there
no shadow of hope?"

"At first," said Constance, coldly, "I liked you as Sybil's brother;
later, I tolerated you; now you are teaching me to despise you. Long ago
I told you that only yourself could injure yourself in my eyes. There
might have been a reason, an excuse even, for allowing poor Evan, who
has willingly assumed the position, to become the family scape-goat.
There is none for your unbrotherly and false accusation. Whatever his
faults may be, poor Evan is unselfish, and he truly loves his sister."

"Is this your answer?"

"What do you expect? do you want my assurance that my promise to Sybil
was made in good faith, and that I intend to keep it? If so, you have
it." She went swiftly past him, with the last words on her lips. And
again Frank Lamotte was the prey of his enemy; like a drunken man, he
reeled back into the parlor, gnashing his teeth, cursing his fate, half
mad and wholly desperate.

Meanwhile, above stairs, John Burrill was rehearsing to Evan, after his
drunken fashion, the recent scene in Sybil's room, not even omitting his
own expulsion by wily Mrs. Aliston. As he repeated, with wonderful
accuracy, considering his condition, the wild words uttered by Sybil,
his listener sat very erect, with wild staring eyes, and lips held
tightly together, his teeth almost biting through them; with burning
eyes, and quivering frame, and a strange fear at his heart.

Having finished his narrative, Burrill arose:

"I'm to meet some fellows at Forty's," he said, thickly. "I'll stop with
them a couple of hours, or three, maybe; after that--" and he winked
significantly.

"After that," repeated Evan, and winked in return.

An hour later Evan, pale and shivering, knocked softly at Sybil's door;
Mrs. Lamotte appeared.

"How is Sybil, mother?"

"Quiet, but not rational. Doctor Heath has just gone. Evan, why! how
badly you look!"

"I feel badly. I'm going to bed; good night, mother."



CHAPTER XXV.

THAT NIGHT.


At ten o'clock that night, business was running lively at the low
ceiled, dingy, riverside saloon, that was most popular with the factory
men, the colliers, the drovers, and the promiscuous roughs of W----, and
that bears the dignified title of "Old Forty Rods."

The saloon is well patronized to-night. At the upper end, nearest the
door, "Old Forty," in person, is passing liquors across the bar, and
bawling orders to a nimble assistant, while every now and then he
addresses a coarse jest to some one of the numerous loafers about the
bar, mingling them strangely with his orders, and his calling of the
drinks, as he passes them across the rail.

"Here's your beer, Lupin; Jack, half a dozen brandies for Mr. Burrill's
party; Little, you are out on the brown horse--rum and water? Yes, sir,
yes."

"Burrill's beastly high to-night," said a factory hand, setting down his
beer glass and wiping his mouth; "and the boys freeze to him since he
handles old Lamotte's rocks."

"Of course, of course. Burrill don't forget old friends; Jack, bring the
rum flask; they've been here a plum hour, them chaps, sir; 'ere's your
punch, mister, and they keep the stuff runnin' down their throats, now
I can tell you. Burrill foots the bill, of course; and they can do
anything with that big chap when the wines get the upper hands of him.
I'll be sworn, they're up to mischief to-night, for I see Rooney and Bob
Giles, they delight in getting Burrill into scrapes, are drinking light,
and plying him heavy," and "Forty" turned about to draw a glass of beer
for a low-browed, roughly-dressed man who had just entered, and who was
in fact, none other than the tramp who had feasted by the roadside, on
the day before, and whom Mr. Belknap had called Roake.

Roake drank his beer, and lounged over the bar for a short time, then
called for a second glass, and after drinking it, went quietly out.

At the lower end of the long saloon, several tables are scattered, and
gathered about one of these we see the party spoken of as "Mr.
Burrill's."

Five men are grouped about the small table, and among these, John
Burrill is conspicuous for being much better dressed, much louder in his
laughter, and viler in his jests, and much drunker than are the other
four.

Since his change of fortunes, these men have made capital of his
weakness, and his purse has supplied their thirst, in return for which
he has been fawned upon, and flattered, during the earlier stages of his
intoxication, and made a tool and a jest later.

"I mus' go home," articulated Burrill, drawing forth and consulting a
showy gold repeater. "Folks's sick er home; mus' be good; take er
nother drink, boys?"

"Folks sick, eh?" queried Rooney, winking behind his hand at the others,
"wife, I 'spose?"

"Yes, wife I 'spose; wife 'n' brother-in-law, both sick; take er
nother--"

"All right, old pard; but don't let a little sickness call you off so
early; just let Heath take care of them; you're fond of Heath, too."

"Curse Heath!" roared out John Burrill; "what do you mean, I say,
Roo-Roo-ney?"

"Burrill," said Bob Giles, setting down his glass and speaking in a low,
confidential tone; "what's this power you have over Heath? Don't you
know he's afraid of you?"

"He--he zer 'fraid er me! an' so he better be--him un--"

"And yet there are two or three of the fellows that say you are the one
that's afraid."

"Me afraid! I--John Bur--ll, f-fraid. Boys, look, en I'll jus' tell you
a s-secret. If I jus' opened my mouth, I could run that f-fellow out of
the country; fact!" and he nodded sagaciously again and again.

"Then there ain't no truth in that story that you are the one that's
afraid, and that you wouldn't dare go to Heath's office, not even if you
wanted a doctor?"

"T-truth? By gad, sir, show me the man that says so; show 'im to me! By
heavens, sir, I wouldn't be f-fraid to rout him up the d-darkest night
that ever blew, sir."

"Of course not, we don't doubt that, but--there's them do. I'll tell you
what it is, Burrill, the thing would be settled if you would just walk
up to the doctor's cottage, tell him you are sick somewhere, and bring
away a prescription; that _would_ settle it."

A murmur of approval went round the table. Not a man was there among
them who would not rejoice inwardly at the discomfiture of the arrogant,
would-be aristocrat, who, while he was less than their equal in many
things, had risen above them in fortune. He had reached that period of
drunkenness, and it took a vast quantity of stout liquor to bring him up
to it, where his voice began to grow hoarse, his ready tongue to trip,
his brain to be most completely muddled, and his legs to be most
unreliable instruments of locomotion. The men about the table nodded and
winked to each other, under his very nose.

"Egg him on, Rooney," whispered Giles, "let's have the fun out." And
they did.

Ere long, John Burrill, staggering under the additional cargo of drinks
imbibed as toasts to the undertaking, and again, as draughts of defiance
to the enemy who would dare question his courage, buttoned his coat
about him, and, boasting, cursing, and swaggering, reeled out into the
night. Out into the night that swallowed him up forever.

"Let's follow him," said one of the plotters, starting up as the door
closed behind him.

But this proposition met with no favor. The night was very dark, and the
wind blowing in fierce gusts; the saloon was warm and inviting, and
their victim had ordered their grog, until he should return.

"Let's drink the good liquor he has paid for," said Rooney, with a wink,
"then we will let some more of the boys into the secret, and start out
in a gang and gather him up. Heath will kick him out sure enough, and if
we follow too close we might be discovered. Not by Burrill but by the
doctor. We will bring Burrill back here and two more drinks will make
him tell the whole story."

They did not agree with Rooney on all points of his argument; but they
had played a coarse, practical joke upon a man who sometimes "took on
airs" and vaunted himself as their patron; he who had been only their
equal once. It was only a joke, a witless, mirthless, coarse saloon
joke, and they drank on and grew hilarious, never dreaming that they had
sent one man to his grave, and another to the foot of the scaffold.

As John Burrill came forth from the saloon and turned his face toward
Doctor Heath's cottage, a lithe form emerged from amidst the darkness
and paused for a moment just outside the saloon door, seeming to
hesitate.

"He's goin' home, in course," muttered the man. "I'll jest light out and
come in ahead." And he plunged down a by street and went swiftly over
the bridge; but not alone.

A second dark form had been lurking in the vicinity of "Old Forty's,"
the form of a boy, who glided through the dark, at the heels of the
other, like a spirit.

"He is going wrong," thought this shadow, discontentedly. "Somehow I'm
sure of it; I'm shadowing the wrong party; but--I'm obeying
instructions." And pursued and pursuer crossed the bridge and turned
their steps toward Mapleton.

Meantime, John Burrill, reeling, singing snatches of low songs, and
stopping sometimes to rest and assure himself that all the landmarks are
there, pursues his way toward Doctor Heath's cottage.

It is situated on the outskirts of the town; the way is long, the night
dark, the wind boisterous, and the way lonely. It is after ten o'clock.

Later--nearly two hours later, Frank Lamotte, driven by his demon of
unrest, is pacing his room, feverish and fierce, when his door opens
softly, a white, haggard face looks in, a hoarse voice articulates,
"Frank, for God's sake, for your own sake, come with me quick!"

Frank Lamotte turns swiftly, angrily. He is about to speak, when
something catches his eye, fixes it in horror, and causes him to gasp
out, pointing with one shaking finger.

"Ah-h-h! _what_ is that?"

"It is the _Family Honor_!" came the hissing answer. "_Come_, I tell
you."

And like a man in a nightmare, Frank Lamotte obeys.



CHAPTER XXVI.

PRINCE'S PREY.


The morning of the following day breaks gray and dismal. The wind has
been blowing all the night through, and wherever a tree stands, there
the fallen leaves lie, thick and rain-soaked; for it is raining,
drizzling weather, and above, below, and around, all is gray, and dull,
and dreary.

Dr. Heath's cottage stands aloof from all other dwellings, quite by
itself, for the houses stand wide apart in this suburban portion of the
town, and he has selected the pretty place because of its quiet beauty,
and comparative isolation. He has neighbors within sight, within
hearing, too, should he choose to be vociferous; but the houses about
him all stand within their own pleasant grounds. His nearest neighbor,
on the one hand, has placed a fine orchard between them, and on the
other hand, he has no neighbor at all; there is a vacant lot, well
planted and pleasantly ruinous to see. A fine dwelling had once occupied
the site, but fire had destroyed it, and the gaping cellar, a pile of
burnt bricks, and some charred débris, are all that remain. In summer
the place is one tangled growth of roses and flowering shrubs, and
Doctor Heath makes free with the flowers in their season, and even
swings his hammock there among the old trees, that outnumber his own,
and have outstripped them, too, in years and growth.

[Illustration: The cottage stands quite by itself.]

Opposite the doctor's cottage stands a handsome dwelling, far back among
the trees. It is the home of Lawyer O'Meara and his wife; and the two
are the doctor's firm friends.

Beyond the O'Meara dwelling and on the same side of the street,
stretches a row of cottages, built and owned by Mr. O'Meara. These are
occupied by some thrifty mechanics, and one or two of the best of the
mill workers. They are neat, new, tasteful, and well cared for by their
tenants.

Clifford Heath awakes a little later than usual, this dismal, gray
morning; he had returned from his second visit to Sybil Burrill at a
late hour, and after sitting beside his fire, pondering long over many
things, had retired, to sleep soundly, and to wake late. What first
rouses him is a knocking upon his door, a regular tattoo, beaten by his
housekeeper, grown impatient over coffee too long brewed, and muffins
too brown.

He makes his toilet after a leisurely fashion, smiling a little at the
vociferous barking of his dog, Prince.

The dog is always confined in the stable at night, where he is a safe
companion and sure protection to the doctor's fine horse; and now, it
being past the time when he is usually liberated, he is making his
wrongs heard, and there will be no more repose or quiet until Prince is
set free.

"Poor fellow," calls his master, as he swings open the stable door.
"Poor Prince! Good, old boy! Come now, and you shall have a splendid
breakfast, to compensate for my neglect."

The dog bounds out, a splendid bull dog, strong, fierce, and white as
milk. He fawns upon his master, leaps about him, barks joyfully, and
then follows obediently to the kitchen. The dog provided for, Doctor
Heath goes in out of the rain, shaking the water from his coat, and
tossing it aside in favor of a dry one; and then he applies himself to
his own breakfast.

The warmth and comfort within are intensified by the dreariness without.
Mrs. Gray has lighted a fire in the grate, and he turns toward it,
sipping his coffee leisurely, enjoying the warmth all the more because
of an occasional glance out of the window.

Two men pass--two of the cottagers--his neighbors, who, dismayed by the
storm, have turned back toward their homes.

"Poor devils!" mutters the doctor, sympathetically; "they don't fancy
laying brick and mixing mortar in weather like this; and one of them has
no overcoat; I must keep that in mind, and supply him, if he will accept
one, from out my store."

He stirs the fire briskly, takes another sip from his half emptied cup,
and goes off in a reverie. Presently there comes the sound of a dog's
angry barking, and soon mingled with the canine cries, the voices of men
calling to one another, crying for aid. But so pleasant is his
meditation, and so deep, that their sounds do not rouse him; they reach
his ears, 'tis true; he has a vague sense of disagreeable sounds, but
they do not break his reverie.

Something else does, however, a brisk hammering on the street door, and
a loud, high pitched voice, calling:

"Heath! Heath, I say!"

He starts up, shakes himself and his ideas, together, and goes to face
the intruder upon his meditations. It is his neighbor across the way.

"Heath, have you lost your ears? or your senses?" he cries, impatiently;
"what the devil has your dog found, that has set these fellows in such a
panic? Something's wrong; they want you to come and control the dog."

"Heath! Heath!" comes from the adjoining vacant lot; "come, for God's
sake, quick!"

In another moment, Clifford Heath has seized his hat, and, followed by
his neighbor, is out in the yard.

"Come this way, O'Meara," he says, quickly; "that is if you can leap the
fence, it's not high," and he strides through his own grounds, scales
the intervening palings, and in a few seconds is on the scene.

On the scene! At the edge of the old cellar, one of the men recently
denominated, "poor devils," by the musing doctor, is gesticulating
violently, and urging him forward with lips that are pale with terror.

Down in the old cellar, the second man, paler still than the first, is
making futile efforts to draw the dog away from something, at which he
is clawing and tearing, barking furiously all the time.

Something lies under a heaped up mass of leaves, grass, and freshly
turned earth; something from which the fierce beast is tearing away the
covering with rapid movements. As he leaps down into the cellar,
Clifford Heath sees what it is that has so terrified the two men. From
under the leaves and earth, Prince has brought to light a human foot and
leg!

Instantly he springs forward, his hand upon the dog's collar, his face
pale as ashes.

"Prince!" he cries; "Prince! come away, sir."

[Illustration: "Prince, come away, sir!"]

The dog crouches, quails for a moment, then utters a low growl, and
tries to shake himself free; for the first time, he refuses to obey his
master.

But it _is_ his master; there is a short, sharp struggle, and then the
brute cowers, whining at his feet.

"Wait!" he says, imperiously to the men, and then, speaking a stern word
of command, he strides away, followed by the conquered and trembling
brute.

It is the work of a moment to chain him fast; and then Clifford Heath
goes swiftly back to the men, who stand very much as he left them.

"Can this be some trick?" Mr. O'Meara is saying, peering down from the
edge of the cellar wall at the mound of earth and the protruding leg.

"There is no trick here," replies Clifford Heath, once more springing
down into the cellar. "My dog would not be deceived. Come down here,
O'Meara; this thing must be unearthed."

Mr. O'Meara lowers himself carefully down, and the man who has thus far
stood sentinel follows suit. Then the four approach the mound once more.
For a moment they regard each other silently; then one of the masons
says:

"If we had a spade."

"Not yet," breaks in Lawyer O'Meara. "Let's make sure that we have found
something before we cause any alarm to be given. Get some small boards;
we do not want a spade."

The boards are found easily, and they look to O'Meara again, all but
Clifford Heath, who stands near the mound gazing downward as if
fascinated. While O'Meara speaks, he stoops swiftly, and then carries
his hand to his pocket.

"Let's remove the--upper portion of whatever this is," says the lawyer
nervously, "and work carefully. This looks like--"

"It looks like _murder_," says Clifford Heath, quietly. "Pull away the
dirt carefully, men."

They are all strong-nerved, courageous men; yet they are all very pale,
as they bend to their task.

A few moments, and Mr. O'Meara utters a sharp exclamation, drops his
board, and draws back. They have unearthed a shoulder, an arm, a
clenched hand.

A moment more, and Clifford Heath, too, withdraws from his task, the
cold sweat standing thick upon his temples. They are uncovering a head,
a head that is shrouded with something white.

To Mr. O'Meara, to Clifford Heath, the moment is one of intense unmixed
horror. To the men who still bend to their work, the horror has its
mixture of curiosity. _Whose_ is the face they are about to look upon?

Instinctively the two more refined men draw farther back, instinctively
the others bend closer.

Swiftly they work. The last bit of earth is removed from the face;
carefully they draw away a large white handkerchief, then utter a cry of
horror.

"My God!" cries one, "it is _John Burrill_."



CHAPTER XXVII.

A TURN IN THE GAME.


It is John Burrill!

Lying there, half buried still, with clenched hands and features
distorted. It is John Burrill, dead.

Clifford Heath utters a sharp exclamation. He starts forward suddenly,
and looks, not upon the dead face, but straight at the white thing that
is still held in the hand of one of the masons. Then he snatches it from
the man fiercely, looks at it again and more closely, and lets it fall
from his grasp. For a moment all is black to his vision, and over his
face a ghastly pallor creeps. Slowly, slowly, he lifts his hand to his
forehead, rests it there for a moment, and seems making an effort to
think. Then he drops his hand; he lifts his head; he draws himself
erect.

"O'Meara," he says, in a voice strangely hollow and unfamiliar, and
pointing to the fallen handkerchief. "Look at that. I am going home;
when you want me you will find me there." And without having so much as
glanced at the dead face so near him, he goes slowly towards his
cottage, holding his head proudly erect still.

Mr. O'Meara turns away from the corpse, and gazes for a moment after the
retreating form of his friend; then he picks up the handkerchief; it is
of softest linen, and across one corner he reads the embroidered name
of _Clifford Heath_. For a moment he stands with the telltale thing held
loosely in his hand, and then he bends down, spreads it once more over
the dead face, and turns to the men.

"This body must not be disturbed further," he says, authoritatively.
"One of you go at once and notify Soames, and then Corliss. Fortunately,
Soames lives quite near. Don't bring a gang here. Let's conduct this
business decently and in order. Do you go, Bartlett," addressing the
younger of the two men. "We will stay here until the mayor comes."

And Lawyer O'Meara buttons his coat tightly about him and draws closer
to the cellar wall, the better to protect himself from the drip, drip,
of the rain.

"It is a horrible thing, sir," ventured the mechanic, drawing further
away from the ghastly thing outlined, and made more horrible, by the
wet, white covering. "It's a fearful deed for somebody, and--it looks as
if the right man wasn't far away; we all know how he and Burrill were--"

"Hold your tongue, man," snapped O'Meara, testily, "keep 'what we all
know' until you are called on to testify. _I_ have something to think
about."

And he does think, long and earnestly, regardless of the rain;
regardless alike of the restless living companion and of the silent
dead.

By and by, they come, the mayor, the officers, the curious gazers; the
rain is nothing to them, in a case like this; there is much running to
and fro; there are all the scenes and incidents attendant upon a
first-class horror. A messenger is dispatched, in haste, to Mapleton,
and, in the wind and the rain, the drama moves on.

The messenger to Mapleton rides in hot haste; he finds none but the
servants astir in that stately house; to them he breaks the news, and
then waits while they rouse Frank Lamotte; for Jasper Lamotte has not
returned from the city.

After a time he comes down, pale and troubled of countenance; he can
scarcely credit the news he hears; he is terribly shocked, speechless
with the horror of the story told him.

By and by, he recovers his composure, in a measure; he goes to his
mother's room, and tells her the horrible news; he orders the servants
to be careful what they say in his sister's presence, and not to
approach Evan's room; then he tells the coachman to meet Mr. Lamotte,
who will come on the noon express, with the carriage. After which, he
swallows a glass of brandy; and, without waiting for breakfast, mounts
his horse and gallops madly townward.

Meantime, the fast express is steaming toward W----, bearing among its
human freight, Mr. Jasper Lamotte; and never has W---- seen upon his
usually serene face such a look as it now wears. It is harassed,
baffled, discontented, surly. He knows no one among the passengers, and
he sits aloof from his fellow travelers, making no effort to while away
the time, as travelers do.

As they near W----, however, he shakes off his dullness, and lays aside
his look of care; and when he steps upon the platform at W----, he is to
all appearance, the same smiling suave man, who went away three days
before.

There are several other passengers for W----, among whom we may see a
portly, dignified gentleman who looks to be somewhere in the forties,
and who evidently has a capital opinion of himself, and knows what he is
about. He is fashionably dressed, and wears a splendid diamond in his
shirt front. He carries in his hand a small valise, and asks for a
carriage to the best hotel.

Close behind him is another man, of a different stripe. He is a rakish
looking fellow, dressed in smart but cheap clothing. He carries in his
hand a small, square package, neatly strapped, and this alone would
betray his calling, were it not so obvious in his look and manner. The
"book fiend" has descended upon W----. He looks about him carelessly,
watches the portly gentleman as he is driven away in the carriage from
the W---- Hotel, sees Mr. Jasper Lamotte enter his landau, and drive
swiftly away, and then he trudges cheerily townward, swinging his packet
of books as he goes.

When they are out of sight of the gaping crowd about the depot, the
coachman, acting under Frank's orders, brings his horses to a walk, and,
turning upon his seat, addresses his master.

"I've dreadful news to tell you, sir; and Mr. Frank said to let you know
it quick, so as you could come there at once."

Jasper Lamotte stares in angry astonishment, scarcely taking in the
meaning of the none too lucid sentence.

"Well, sir," he says, shortly, "what are you talking about?"

This time the man came at once to the point.

"Mr. Burrill has been murdered, sir. They found him this morning in an
old cellar, close by Doctor Heath's; and they say, sir,--"

"_What!_ what do you say? Burrill--"

"Murdered, sir--killed dead--stabbed right through the heart, sir. They
are anxious for you to come. They are going to have an inquest right
there."

"Drive there, at once," cried Mr. Lamotte, hoarsely. "I must see for
myself," and he sinks back upon his seat, pale and trembling.

Meantime the carriage containing the portly gentleman arrives at the
hotel. The rain is still falling, and the gentleman steps hurriedly from
the carriage and across the pavement--so hurriedly, indeed, that he
jostles against a boy who is passing with a tray of ivory carvings and
pretty scroll-work.

Down comes the tray, and the gentleman, who is evidently kind-hearted,
cries out:

"Why, boy! Bless me, but I'm sorry! Didn't see you, upon my word. Pick
your wares up, sonny, and take stock of the broken things, then come in
and I'll make it all square. Just ask for Mr. Wedron, and don't be
bashful," and he bustles into the office of the W---- House, where he
calls for the best room they can give him, registers as "A. C. Wedron,
att'y, N. Y.," and, asking that he might have dinner as early as
possible, he goes at once to his room.

[Illustration: "Why, boy! Bless me."]

"I say," he calls to the porter who brings up his valise, "when that
young image boy comes, just send him along to me; I owe him some
damages."

A few minutes later, the boy enters the office and deposits his
disordered tray upon a chair.

"Come along, you," calls the porter, gruffly. "The gentleman's looking
for you."

"Wait a minit, can't ye?" retorts the boy coolly. "I jest want to take
account of stock."

He drops on one knee and rearranges his tray with great care and no
haste.

"There!" he exclaims, rising at length with a chuckle of satisfaction.
"I reckon that big bloke'll be about two fifty out after I call." And he
takes up his tray and says to the porter: "Now, then, give us the
address."

"Twenty-one," he replies, and the boy ascends the stairs, and
unceremoniously opens the door of twenty-one.

The gentleman, who stands at the window, turns quickly at the sound of
the opening door, and when it has closed behind the boy, he advances and
asks in a low tone:

"How lies the land, George? Is there any news?"

"I'm sorry, sir," replies the boy. "I was faithful to orders--but things
have gone wrong."

"How, my boy?"

"The man you call Burrill was murdered last night."

"Ah!"

"Yes, sir, and I _might_ have known who did it. This is the way it went,
sir: I kept an eye on all of your men as well as I could, during the
day, and kept the widest eye on the short fellow with the tramp lay-out
and the ugly face. That was easy, for he lay low all day; so I managed
to get around here two or three times during the afternoon, and I found
that Mr. Belknap was laying low, too. He staid in and about the hotel
all day, and, I think, all the evening. At night the tramp fellow began
to show signs of life, and I piped him close. Early in the evening, at
dusk, in fact, he went over the river and out toward Mapleton; on the
way he met Burrill coming to town, and he faced about and stalked him
back. Burrill lounged about a good bit, and then he went to the saloon
you pointed out to me; some fellows were waiting there for him, and they
got about a table and carried things high, drinking every five minutes.
My man kept a close look on the saloon, and seemed uneasy all the time;
once he went in, and drank two beers, but he did not venture near
Burrill and his party. By and by, I think it must have been ten o'clock
or later, Burrill came out from the saloon alone; he was very drunk, and
staggered as he walked away. He turned south, and my man came out, as I
supposed, to follow. But, instead, he took a short cut to the bridge
and crossed over, hiding himself in the low hedge on the other side. He
staid there until almost morning, and then he seemed to be disgusted, or
discouraged, or both. I staid close by, and tracked him back to his
roost! Then I turned in to get a little rest myself. I was out early,
and looked first after my man; he was out too, prowling about uneasily.
He went to the saloon, and seemed inclined to loaf there a bit; so I
went to look after Mr. Belknap. He was not visible, and so I lounged
about, as it was too wet to get out my wares. Well, it was not long
before my man came out from old 'Forty Rods,' and started out on the
south road, and I kept on behind him, and before we had gone far we met
a party of excited men, gathered about the mayor's house, and learned
that a murder had been committed. We fell in with the crowd, and went
out to the place where the body lay. It was in an empty lot, right next
to Doctor Heath's cottage; the body was down in an old cellar, and had
been hastily buried by the murderers. They say it was Doctor Heath's dog
that first discovered the body."

He pauses, and waits for a comment, but none comes; the gentleman stands
with hands behind him, and head bent, as if still listening. For a long
time, he stands thus, and then takes a turn or two about the room.

"Why, George," he says, at last. "I don't see that you could have done
better. It was no part of our plan to have this murder happen, and it
bids fair to make us some trouble that we had not counted on. But we
are used to that, George. So you think you might have known who did the
deed?"

"I might, sir, if I had followed Burrill; I felt all the time that he
was the man to watch."

"Oh!" with an odd smile; "your instincts are on the alert. However, you
did right in disregarding instinct, and obeying orders. Now then, be off
sir, and until you have further notice, keep both your eyes on Mr.
Belknap. By the by, when do they hold an inquest?"

"At three o'clock, sir; they want to have Mr. Lamotte there."

"Well! that's all, George; you had better dispose of your traps for the
day, and look sharp after Mr. Belknap."

"All right, sir;" and taking up his tray, the little detective goes out,
dropping back into his old impudent manner, as the door closes behind
him.

"So, Burrill has been killed," soliloquizes the portly gentleman seating
himself before his cheery fire. "Well, that goes to show that we
detectives don't find out all the tangles. We are lucky oftener than we
are shrewd! Now look, I fancied I had the game in my hands, and stepped
into town this morning to throw my trump and win, and now, my game is
blocked, and a new one opens against me."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

INTRODUCING MR. SMITH.


All that long morning Clifford Heath sat alone in his cosy, parlor, and
what his thoughts were no observer, had there been such, could have
guessed. His features were grave, even stern, but there was no
apprehension, no expectancy, no fear; nothing but calm gravity and
inflexible haughtiness could be discerned in the face that was sometimes
bent over a favorite book, sometimes submerged in clouds of smoke from
his big German meerschaum; but that never once turned toward the window
that overlooked the scene of the morning's discovery. All day the sounds
from thence penetrated to his ear; all day men were coming and going,
with much loud talk as they passed his doorway, and much bustle and
excitement. But Clifford Heath might have been deaf and blind, so little
interest did he manifest in the sights and sounds that were attendant
upon the scene of John Burrill's low, rain-soaked bed of death.

Crouched at his feet lay the great dog Prince, who had been comforted by
his master for any harshness that he had suffered necessarily, and he
now lay watchful but quiet, seeming to share, in a measure, the mood of
his master and best friend.

At one o'clock Mrs. Gray came in and spread his luncheon beside him in
tempting array, and the doctor laid aside his pipe, and, favoring Mrs.
Gray with one of those kindly smiles that she always melted under to the
extent of admitting to herself that her master _was_ "a man who _meant
well_, in spite of his horrid ways."

Then he drew his chair up beside the lunch table, and immediately set
Mrs. Gray's good humor awry by indulging in one of his "horrid ways,"
namely, the tossing of dainty bits to Prince, who caught them in his
mouth with much adroitness and without quitting his position upon the
Turkish rug.

Finally, when Prince had received his share of Mrs. Gray's dainties, the
doctor fell upon the rest and made a hearty meal.

As he was washing down a tart with a large tumbler of claret, there came
a knock upon the street door, and without a moment's hesitation--indeed,
with some alacrity--he arose to answer it in person.

Once more it was his neighbor, O'Meara.

"Come in O'Meara," said he, coolly. "I'm just finishing luncheon," and
he led the way back to the parlor.

"I just looked in for a moment in my capacity of friend and neighbor,
Heath," said the little lawyer, briskly, at the same time seating
himself near the table. "Later on I may give you a call in my
professional capacity, but not now, not now, sir."

"Don't do it at all, O'Meara," said the doctor, with a short laugh; "I
have no earthly use for a lawyer."

"No more have I for a medical adviser just this minute, sir; but I may
need one before night."

"And before night I may need a lawyer, O'Meara--is that it?"

The little man shook his head.

"I'm afraid of it, Heath; I'm afraid of it, as things look now."

"And things look now very much as they did this morning, I suppose?"

O'Meara nodded.

"Then, this is the prospect ahead--a coroner's verdict thus: 'Deceased
came to his death at the hands of Clifford Heath, M. D.;' and
circumstantial evidence thus: 'Deceased has on several occasions been
threatened by accused; he was found buried near the premises of accused,
and upon his person was found a handkerchief bearing the name, Clifford
Heath.' This, and how much more I can't tell. It's a beautiful case,
O'Meara."

The little lawyer stared, astonished at his coolness.

"Don't underrate this business, Heath," he said, anxiously. "I'm glad to
see that it has not had the opposite effect on you. I'm glad to see
plenty of pluck, but--"

"But, there's a strong case against me; that's what you would say,
O'Meara. I don't doubt, and let me tell you that neither you nor I can
guess _how_ strong the case is; not yet."

"Such an affair is bad enough, at the best, Heath; I don't see anything
in the case, thus far, that will hold up against an impartial
investigation; as for other evidence, am I to understand--"

Clifford Heath bent forward, and lifted one hand warningly.

"Understand nothing for the present, O'Meara; after the verdict come to
me, not as a lawyer, but as a friend, and I will explain my language
and--attitude; for the present I have nothing to say."

"Then I must be satisfied with what you _have_ said," replied the lawyer
cheerfully. "Of course you will be at the inquest?"

The doctor nodded.

"Well, having seen--and heard you, it is not necessary to offer any
suggestions, I see that," and the lawyer arose and took up his hat, "and
it won't be policy for me to remain here too long. Count on me Heath, in
any emergency. I'm your man."

"Thank you, O'Meara; rest assured such friendship is fully appreciated."
And he extended his hand to the friendly lawyer, who grasped it
silently, seemed struggling, either to speak or to repress some thought,
and then dropped it and went out silently, followed in equal silence by
his host, who closed the door behind him, and then went thoughtfully
back to his claret.

"Zounds!" muttered Lawyer O'Meara, picking his way back across the muddy
street, and entering his own dwelling. "To think of accusing a man of so
much coolness, and presence of mind, of such a bungling piece of work as
this. It's a queer suspicion, but I could almost swear that Heath smells
a plot."

At this moment a carriage drove hastily by, all mud bespattered, and
lying open in defiance of the rain.

"It's Lamotte's landau," said the lawyer, peeping out from the shelter
of his verandah; "it's Lamotte's carriage, and it's Lamotte himself; I
would like to see how he looks, just for one moment; but it's too wet,
and I must go tell the old woman how her favorite doctor faces the
situation."

A few moments after the landau had deposited Jasper Lamotte at the gate
of the vacant lot, a pedestrian, striding swiftly along, as if eager to
be upon the scene and sate his curiosity, came in among the group of men
that, all day long, had hovered about the cellar.

"What's a going on here?" he demanded of the first man upon whom his
glance fell, "an--accident?"

"Good Lord!" exclaimed the man, who was one of Old Forty Rod's
customers; "where have _you_ come from that you don't know a man has
been killed!"

"Killed!"

"Yes, murdered! stabbed last night and buried in this old cellar."

"Heavens, man! was--was he a citizen?"

"Well, I should say! and a rum chap, too. Why, you are a stranger to
these parts if you don't know John Burrill."

"Never heard of him in my life, old Top," replied the stranger. "I
_don't_ live in these parts."

The man drew back a little, and seeing this, the stranger came closer
and laid one hand familiarly upon his arm, at the same time leaning
nearer, and saying in a loud whisper:

"Any of the stiff's friends in this gang?"

[Illustration: "Any of the stiff's friends in this gang?"]

The satellite of "Old Forty," who had at first seemed somewhat disposed
to resent too much familiarity on the part of the stranger, turned
toward him, drew closer, and allowed his features to relax into a grin
of friendliness. He had not been so fortunate as to receive a morning
dram, and the breath of the stranger had wafted to his nostrils the
beloved, delicious odor of "whisky killers."

"Hush!" he whispered confidentially, "that man over there the tall,
good-looking one with the whiskers, d'ye mind--"

"Yes, yes! high toned bloke?"

"Exactly; that's the dead man's father-in-law."

"Father-in-law, eh!"

"Yes, and that young chap beside him, the pale, handsome one, that's his
son."

"Whose son?"

"The tall man's son; Frank Lamotte's his name."

"You don't say; good-looking duffer! Found the assassin?"

"Not exactly, but they say--"

"Look here, pard, this sniffs of romance; now I'm gone on romance in
real life; just let's step back among these cedars, and out of the
crowd, where I can give you a pull at my brandy flask, and you can tell
me all the particulars."

And the jaunty young man tapped his breast suggestively and winked
knowingly down at his new found friend.

"Agreed," said the man, eagerly, and turning at once toward the nearest
clump of trees.

"I may as well say that my name is Smith," said the stranger, as he
passed over his brandy flask. "Now then, pard, fire ahead, and don't
forget when you get thirsty to notify Smith, the book peddler."

The man began his story, and the book peddler stood with ear attentive
to the tale, and eye fixed upon Jasper Lamotte.



CHAPTER XXIX.

OPENLY ACCUSED.


It is three o'clock. The rain has ceased falling, but the sky is still
gray and threatening. The wind howls dismally among the old trees that
surround John Burrill's shallow grave, and its weird wail, combined with
the rattle and creak of the branches, and the drip, drip of water,
dropping from the many crevices into the old cellar, unite to form a
fitting requiem for an occasion so strange, so uncanny.

Down in the cellar, standing ankle deep in the mud and slime, are the
"good men and true," who have been summoned by Justice, to decide upon
the manner in which John Burrill met his death. There, too, is the
mayor, dignified, grave, and important. The officers of the law are
there, and close behind the coroner stand the Lamottes, father and son.
A little farther back are grouped the witnesses. Those of the morning,
the two masons, Mr. O'Meara, Dr. Heath,--they are all there except the
first and surest one, Prince. There are the men who were Burrill's
companions of the night before, reluctant witnesses, ferreted out
through the officiousness of one of the saloon habitues, and fearing, a
little, to relate their part in the evening's programme, each eager to
lighten his own burden of the responsibility at the expense of his
comrades in the plot. There are three women and one man, all
eye-witnesses to the first meeting between John Burrill and Doctor Heath
in Nance Burrill's cottage, and there is Nance Burrill herself. The
women stand a little aloof, upon a few boards that have been thrown
carelessly down for their comfort. And Nance Burrill talks loudly, and
cries as bitterly as if the dead man had been her life's comfort, not
its curse.

And there, too, is Raymond Vandyck. He stands aloof from them all,
stands near the ghastly thing that once, not long ago, came between him
and all his happiness. There is a strange look in his blue eyes, as they
rest upon the lifeless form, from which the coverings have been removed,
but which still lies in the shallow place scooped out for it by the
hands that struck it from among the living. Under the eyes of them all
the dirt has been removed from the broad breast, and two gaping wounds
are disclosed; cuts, deep and wide, are made with some broad, heavy
weapon, of the dagger species.

When they have all, in turn, examined the body, as it lies, it is lifted
out carefully, and placed upon a litter, in the midst of the group, and
then all turn their eyes from the shallow grave to the new resting place
of its late occupant.

Not all; Raymond Vandyck, still gazing as if fascinated by that
hollowed-out bit of earth, starts forward suddenly, then draws
shudderingly back, and points to something that lies almost imbedded in
the soft soil. Somebody comes forward, examines, and then draws from
out the grave, where it has lain, directly under the body, a knife--a
knife of peculiar shape and workmanship--a long, keen, _surgeon's
knife_! There are dark stains upon the blade and handle; and a murmur of
horror runs through the crowd as it is held aloft to their view.

Raymond Vandyck draws instinctively away from the grave now, and from
the man who still holds the knife; and in so doing he comes nearer the
group of women, and catches a sentence that falls from the lips of Nance
Burrill.

Suddenly his face flames into anger, and he strides across to where Mr.
O'Meara stands.

"O'Meara, what is this that I hear; have they dared accuse Heath?"

"Don't you know, Vandyck?"

"No; I have heard nothing, save the fact of the murder; the coroner's
summons found me at home."

"Heath will be accused, I think."

Raymond Vandyck turns and goes over to Clifford Heath; without uttering
a word, he links his arm within that of the suspected man, and standing
thus, listens to the opening of the trial.

The only sign of recognition he receives is a slight pressure of the arm
upon which his hand rests; but before Clifford Heath's eyes, just for
the moment, there swims a suspicious moisture.

Above them, crowding close about the cellar walls, is a motley throng,
curious, eager, expectant; among the faces peering down may be seen
that of the portly gentleman; his diamond pin glistening as he turns
this way and that; his great coat blown back by the gusts of wind, and a
natty umbrella clutched firmly in his plump, gloved hand. Not far
distant is private detective Belknap, looking as curious as any, and
still nearer the cellar's edge is the rakish book-peddler, supported by
his now admiring friend of the morning, who has warmed into a hearty
interest in "that fine young fellow, Smith," under the exhilarating
influence of the "fine young fellow's" brandy flask.

Dodging about among the spectators, too, is the boy George, who has
abandoned his tray of pretty wares, and is making his holiday a feast of
horrors.

And now all ears are strained to hear the statements of the various
witnesses in this strange case.

Frank Lamotte is the first. He is pale and nervous, and he avoids the
eyes of all save the ones whom he addresses. Doctor Heath keeps two
steady, searching orbs fixed upon his face, but can draw to himself no
responsive glance. Frank testifies as follows:

John Burrill had left Mapleton the evening before at an early hour, not
later than eight o'clock. Witness had seen little of him during the day.
Deceased was in a state of semi-intoxication when last he saw him. That
was at six o'clock, or near that time. No, he did not know the
destination of deceased. They seldom went out together. Did not know if
Burrill had any enemies. Was not much in his confidence.

Upon being questioned closer, he displays some unwillingness to answer,
but finally admits that he _has_ heard Burrill speak in bitter terms of
Doctor Heath, seeming to know something concerning the doctor's past
life that he, Heath, wished to conceal.

What was the nature of the knowledge?

That he cannot tell.

Jasper Lamotte is called. He has been absent from home, and can throw no
light upon the subject.

The two masons, one after the other, testify; their statements do not
vary.

They were returning home, having turned back from their day's labor,
because of the rain. When they came near the old cellar, the barking of
a dog attracted their attention. It came from the cellar, and one of
them, curious to see what the dog had hunted down, went to look. The dog
was tugging at what appeared to be a human foot. He called his
companion, and then leaped down into the cellar, and tried to drive the
dog from what he now feared was a half buried human being. The other man
called for help, and, seeing O'Meara, shouted to him to tell Heath to
come and call off his dog.

They tell it all. How Doctor Heath came and mastered the dog, after a
hard struggle; how the face of the dead was uncovered, and how Doctor
Heath had snatched at the white thing they had taken from off it,
scrutinized it for a moment, and then flung it from him. They repeat his
words to Mr. O'Meara with telling effect; and then they stand aside.

Doctor Heath is sworn. He has nothing to say that has not been said. He
knows nothing of the murdered man, save that once he had knocked him
down for beating a woman, and once for insulting himself.

Had he ever threatened deceased? He believed that he had on the occasion
last mentioned. What was the precise language used? That he could not
recall.

Then the handkerchief is produced; is presented to him.

"Doctor Heath, is that yours?" Every man holds his breath; every man is
visibly agitated; every man save the witness.

Coolly lifting his hand to his breast pocket, he draws from thence a
folded handkerchief; he shakes out the snowy square, and offers it to
the coroner.

"It is mine or an exact counterpart of mine. Your honor can compare
them."

Astonishment sits on every face. What matchless coolness! what a
splendid display of conscious innocence! or of cool effrontery!

The coroner examines the two pieces of linen long and closely, then he
passes them to one of the jurymen; and then they go from hand to hand;
and all the while Clifford Heath stands watching the scrutiny. Not
eagerly, not even with interest, rather with a bored look, as if he must
see something, and with every feature locked in impenetrable calm.

Finally the coroner receives them back. They are precisely alike, and so
says his honor:

"Clifford Heath, do you believe this handkerchief, which I hold in my
hand, and which was recently found upon the face of this dead man, to
be, or to have been yours?"

"I do," calmly.

"Are you aware that you have recently lost such a handkerchief?"

"I am not."

"Has such a one been stolen from you?"

"Not to my knowledge."

"Then you have no idea how your property came where it was this morning
found?"

"You are seeking facts, sir, not ideas."

A moment's silence; the coroner takes up the knife.

"Doctor Heath, will you look at this knife?"

The doctor steps promptly forward and receives it from his hand.

"Did you ever see that knife before?"

[Illustration: "Did you ever see that knife before?"]

"I can't say, sir," turning it carelessly in his hands, and examining
the spots upon the blade.

"Did you ever see one like it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Did you ever own one like it?"

"I _do_ own one like it."

"Are such knives common?"

"They are--to the surgical profession."

"Do you own more than one knife of this sort?"

"I do not."

"Did you ever own more than one like this?"

"Not at the same time."

"Then you have lost a knife like this?"

"No; but I have broken two."

"When did you last see deceased alive?"

"Not since our encounter on the street; that was a week ago, I should
think, perhaps longer."

"Who witnessed that affair?"

"Mr. Vandyck was with me; the others were strangers."

"That is all, Doctor Heath."

Lawyer O'Meara comes next; his testimony is brief, and impatiently
given. He adds nothing new to the collected evidence.

Next comes the man Rooney, and he rehearses the scene at "Old Forty
Rods," sparing himself as much as possible.

"We didn't really think he'd go to Doctor Heath's," he says in
conclusion. "We all called it a capital joke, and agreed to go out and
look him up after a little. He was reeling drunk when he went out, and
we all expected to find him floored on the way. After a while, an hour
perhaps, we started out, half a dozen of us, with a lantern, and went
along the road he had taken; we went almost to Heath's cottage, looking
all about the road as we went. When we did not find him, we concluded
that he had gone straight home, and that if we staid out longer the
laugh would be on us. So we went back, and agreed to say nothing about
the matter to Burrill when we should see him."

"How near did you come to Doctor Heath's house?"

"Very near, sir; almost as near as we are now."

"But you were in the opposite direction."

"Just so, sir; we came from the town."

"Did you hear any movements; any sounds of any sort?"

"Nothing particular, sir; we were making some noise ourselves."

"Did you meet any one, either going or coming?"

"No, sir; but a man might easily have passed us in the dark on the other
side of the road."

Five men confirm Rooney's statement, and every word weighs like lead
against Clifford Heath.

John Burrill left the saloon to go to Doctor Heath's house; in drunken
bravado, he would go at night to disturb and annoy the man who had,
twice, in public, chastised him, and on both occasions uttered a threat
and a warning; unheeding these, he had gone to brave the man who had
warned him against an approach--and he has never been seen alive since;
he has been found dead, murdered, hidden away near the house of the man
who had said: "If he ever should cross my path, rest assured I shall
know how to dispose of him."

These words distinctly remembered by all three of the women who
witnessed the rescue in Nance Burrill's house, are repeated by each one
in turn, and the entire scene is rehearsed.

Nance Burrill is called upon, and just as she comes forward, Mr. Lamotte
beckons the coroner, and whispers a few words in his ear. The coroner
nods, and returns to his place. Nance Burrill is sworn, and all listen
eagerly, expecting to hear her rehearse the story of her life as
connected with that of the dead man. But all are doomed to
disappointment. She tells the story of the rescue in her cottage, much
as did the others; she repeats the words of Clifford Heath, as did the
others, and she turns back to her friends, leaving the case against the
man who had been her champion, darker than before.

Raymond Vandyck is called; he does not stir from his position beside his
friend, and his face wears a look of defiant stubbornness.

"Ray," says Clifford Heath, quietly, "your silence would be construed
against me; go forward and tell the whole truth."

Then he obeys the summons; but the truth has to be drawn from him by
hard labor; he will not help them to a single fact. For example:

"What do you know concerning this case?"

"Nothing," he says, shortly.

"Did you know that man," pointing to the body of Burrill; "in his life."

"I had not that honor."

"Ah--you have seen him."

"I believe so," indifferently.

"You can't swear to the fact, then?"

"I knew him better by reputation, than by sight."

The coroner wiggled, uneasily.

"You are a friend to Doctor Heath?"

"I am," promptly.

"Please relate what you know of his--difference with Mr. Burrill?"

"What I--_know_."

"Yes, sir."

"Why, I don't exactly _know_ anything"

"Why, sir, did you not witness a meeting between the two?"

"I--suppose so."

"You suppose!"

"Well, I can't _swear_ that the man I saw knocked down, if that is what
you mean, was Burrill; it was night, and I did not see his face
clearly."

"You believed it to be Burrill?"

"Yes."

"Dr. Heath so believed?"

"I don't know."

More uneasiness on the part of the coroner.

"Please state what Doctor Heath said to the man he knocked down?"

"Well, I can't repeat the exact words. He said what any one would have
said under the circumstances."

"Ah! what were the circumstances?"

"The fellow was half drunk. He approached Dr. Heath in a coarse and
offensive manner."

"Was his language offensive?"

"I didn't hear what he said."

"Did you hear what Dr. Heath said?"

"I did."

"You heard it distinctly?"

"Quite."

"Ah!" smiling triumphantly. "Then you _can_ give us his words?"

"Not _verbatim_."

"Give us his meaning, then."

"His meaning, as nearly as I could understand it, was this: He would
allow no man to insult him or to meddle with his affairs, and he
finished with something like this: 'Keep my name off your lips, wherever
you are, if you want whole bones in your skin.'"

"He said that?"

"Well, something like that; I may have put it too strong."

"Do you remember what Dr. Heath said by way of comment on the affair?"

"One of the men picked the fellow by the sleeve, and said, 'Come out of
that, Burrill!' and then Heath turned to me and asked, 'Who the deuce is
Burrill?'"

"And your reply?"

"I said--" stopping a moment and turning his eyes upon the two
Lamottes--"I said, 'He is Jasper Lamotte's son-in-law.'"

"And then, sir?"

"Then Dr. Heath made about the same sort of comment others have made
before him--something to the effect that Mr. Lamotte had made a very
remarkable choice."

"Mr. Vandyck," says the coroner severely, "it seems to me that your
memory is singularly lucid on some points, and deficient on others of
more importance."

"That's a fact, sir," with cheerful humility. "I'm always that way."

"Ah!" with an excess of dignity. "Mr. Vandyck, I won't tax your memory
further."

Ray turns away, looking as if, having done his duty, he might even
survive the coroner's frown, and as he moves again to the side of the
suspected man, some one in the audience above, a portly gentleman, with
a diamond shining on his immaculate breast, makes this mental comment:
"There is a witness who has withheld more than he has told." And he
registers the name of Raymond Vandyck upon his memory.

This is the last witness.

While the jurymen stand aside to deliberate, there is a buzz and murmur
among the people up above, and profound quiet below. Attention is
divided between the gentlemen of the jury and Clifford Heath. The former
are very much agitated. They look troubled, uneasy and uncomfortable.
They gesticulate rapidly and with a variety of movements that would be
ludicrous were the occasion less solemn, the issue less than a man's
life and honor.

Finally the verdict is reached, and is pronounced:

The coroner's jury "find, after due deliberation, that John Burrill came
to his death by two dagger, or knife strokes from the hand of Dr.
Clifford Heath."

The accused, who, during the entire scene, has stood as immovable as the
sphynx, and has not once been startled, disturbed, or surprised from his
calm by anything that has been brought forward by the numerous
witnesses, lifts his head proudly; lifts his hat, too, with a courtly
gesture, to the gentlemen of the jury, that may mean total exoneration
from blame, so far as they are concerned, or a haughty defiance, and
then, after one sweeping glance around the assembly, a glance which
turns for an instant upon the faces of the Lamottes, he beckons to the
constable; beckons with a gesture that is obeyed as if it were a
command.

"Corliss," he says, just as he would say--"give the patient a hot drink
and two powders." "Corliss, I suppose you won't want to lose sight of
me, since I have suddenly become public property. Come with me, if you
please; I am going home; then--I am at _your_ service."

And without more words, without let or hindrance, without so much as a
murmur of disapproval, he lifts himself out of the cellar, and walks, at
a moderate pace, and with firm aspect, toward his cottage, closely
followed by Corliss, who looks, for the first time, in his official
career, as if he would gladly be a simple private citizen, at that
moment.

The coroner's inquest is over; there remains now nothing save to remove
the body to a more suitable resting place, and to disperse.

Jasper Lamotte moves about, giving short orders in a low tone. He is
pallid and visibly nervous. If it were his own son who lay there in
their midst, stiff and cold, and saturated with his own blood, he could
scarcely appear more agitated, more shocked and sorrowful. He is really
shocked; really sorry; he actually regrets the loss of this man, who
must have been a constant crucifixion to his pride.

This is what they whisper among themselves, as they gather in knots and
furtively watch him, as he moves about the bier.

It has been a shock to Frank Lamotte, too, although he never had seemed
to crave the society of his brother-in-law, and always turned away from
any mention of his name, with a sneer.

Two men, who withdraw quickly from the crowd, are Lawyer O'Meara and Ray
Vandyck. As they come up out of the cellar and go out from the hateful
place, Ray breaks into bitter invective; but O'Meara lays a firm hand
upon his arm.

"Hold your impulsive tongue, you young scamp! Do you want to be
impeached for a prejudiced witness? You want to help Heath, not to hurt
him; and let me tell you, he will need strong friends and shrewd
helpers, before we see him a free man again."

Ray grinds out something profane, and then paces on in wrathful silence.

"You are right, of course," he says, after a moment's pause, and in a
calmer tone. "But, good God! to bring such a charge against Heath, of
all men! O'Meara," suddenly, "you must defend him."

"I intend to," grimly. "And in his interest I want to see you as soon as
the vicinity is quiet; we must think the matter over and then see
Heath."

"Heath puzzles me; he's strangely apathetic."

"He'll puzzle you more yet, I'm thinking. I half think he knows who did
the deed, and don't intend to tell." He pauses, having come to the place
where their ways diverge. "Come around by dark, Vandyck, we can't lose
any time, that is if the buzzards are out of the way."

"The buzzards will follow the carrion," scornfully. "I'll be on hand,
Mr. O'Meara."

He goes on, looking longingly at Clifford Heath's cottage, as he passes
the gate, and the little lawyer begins to pick his way across the muddy
street, not caring to go on to the proper crossing.

"Mr. O'Meara."

He turns nervously, to encounter the gaze of a large gentleman with a
rosy face, curling, iron-gray hair, and beard, and a blazing diamond in
his shirt front.

"Eh! sir; you addressed me?"

"I did," replies the gentleman, in a low, energetic tone, strangely at
variance with his general appearance, at the same time coming close and
grasping the lawyer's hand with great show of cordiality, and before the
astounded little man can realize what he is about. "Call me Wedron, sir,
Wedron, ahem, of the New York Bar. I must have an interview with you,
sir, and at once."

O'Meara draws back and replies rather frigidly:

"I am glad to know you, sir; but if your business is not too urgent--if
another time will do--"

"Another time will _not_ do? my business concerns Clifford Heath."

"Then, sir, I am at your service."



CHAPTER XXX.

AN OBSTINATE CLIENT.


"There, sir; I think we understand each other, sir."

"Humph! well, that's according to how you put it. My knowledge is
sufficient unto the day, at any rate. I am to visit Heath at once,
taking young Vandyck with me; I am to insist upon his making a strong
defence, and to watch him closely. Vandyck is to add his voice, and
he'll do it with a roar, and then we are to report to you. Is that it?"

"Exactly."

The speakers are Lawyer O'Meara and "Mr. Wedron, of the New York Bar;"
for more than an hour they have been seated in the lawyer's study,
conversing in low, earnest tones; and during this interval, O'Meara's
valuation of his _vis-à-vis_ has evidently "taken a rise," and stands
now at a high premium. His spirits have risen, too; he views the case of
Clifford Heath through a new lens; evidently he recognizes, in the man
before him, a strong ally.

It is arranged that, for the present, Mr. Wedron shall retain his room
at the hotel, but shall pass the most of his time with the O'Mearas, and
the uninitiated are to fancy him an old friend, as well as a brother
practitioner. Even Mrs. O'Meara is obliged to accept this version, while
inwardly wondering that she has never heard her husband mention his
friend, "Wedron, of the New York Bar."

Evidently they trust each other, these two men, and, as O'Meara has just
said, their mutual understanding is sufficient unto the hour. Therefore,
it being already sunset, they go together to the parlor, and are soon
seated, in company with Mrs. O'Meara, about a cosy tea table.

"It is best that Vandyck should not see me here until after your
interview with Heath," Mr. Wedron has said to the little lawyer;
therefore when, a little later, Ray puts in an appearance, he sees only
O'Meara, and is immediately hurried away toward the county jail.

They find Corliss at the sheriff's desk, his superior officer having
been for several days absent from the town. The constable looks relieved
and fatigued. He believes that within the hour he, single handed, has
conveyed into safe custody one of the most ferocious assassins of his
time; and, having gained so signal a victory, he now feels inclined to
take upon himself airs, and he hesitates, becomingly, over O'Meara's
civilly worded request to be shown to the cell assigned Doctor Heath.

[Illustration: They find Corliss at the Sheriff's desk.]

But O'Meara, who possesses all the brusqueness of the average Yankee
lawyer, has no mind to argue the case.

"I don't know, sir," says Corliss, with some pomposity. "Really, I
consider Heath a very unsafe prisoner, and--"

"The deuce you do," breaks in the impatient lawyer. "Well, I'll promise
that _Doctor_ Heath shan't damage you any, so just trot ahead with your
keys, and don't parley. _My_ time is worth something."

Corliss slips down from his stool and looks at Ray.

"But Mr. Vandyck, sir?" he begins.

"Mr. Vandyck will see Doctor Heath too, sir," interrupts Ray, with much
decision. "And you won't find it to your interest, Corliss, to hunt up
too many scruples."

It filters into the head of the constable that the wealthiest and most
popular of W----'s lawyers, and the bondsman and firm friend of the
absent sheriff, are hardly the men to baffle, and so, for the safety of
his own official head, he takes his keys and conducts them to Doctor
Heath.

The jail is new and clean and comfortable, more than can be said of many
in our land, and the prisoner has a cell that is fairly lighted, and not
constructed on the suffocation plan.

They find him sitting by his small table, his head resting upon his
hand, his eyes fixed upon the floor, seemingly lost in thought.
Evidently he is glad to see his visitors, for a smile breaks over his
face as he rises to greet them.

It is not a time for commonplaces, and O'Meara, who sees that time is of
value, is in no mood for a prologue to his task; so he begins at the
right place.

"Heath, I'm sorry enough that you, almost a stranger among us, should be
singled out as a victim in this case. It don't speak well for the
judgment of our citizens. However, we are bound to set you right, and
I've come to say that I shall esteem it a privilege to defend you--that
is, if you have not a more able friend to depend upon."

The prisoner smiles as he replies:

"You are very good, O'Meara, and you are the man I should choose to
defend me; but--you will have to build your case; I can't make one for
you, and--you heard the evidence."

"Hang the evidence!" cries the lawyer, drawing from his pocket a small
note book.

"We'll settle their evidence; just you give me a few items of
information, and then I will let Vandyck talk; he wants to, terribly."

The prisoner turns slowly in his chair, and looks steadfastly first at
one, then at the other, and then he says:

"Do you really believe, O'Meara, that I had no hand in this murder?"

"I do," emphatically.

"And you, Ray?"

"I! You deserve to be kicked for asking. I'll tell _just_ what I
_think_, a little later; I know you didn't kill Burrill."

Clifford Heath withdraws his gaze from the faces of his visitors, and
seems to hesitate; then he says slowly:

"I am deeply grateful for your confidence in me; but, I fear my actions
must belie my words. My friends, the evidence is more than I can
combat. I can't prove an _alibi_; and there's no other way to clear
myself."

"Bah!" retorts O'Meara; "there are several ways. Let us take the ground
that you are innocent; there must then be some one upon whom to fasten
the guilt. You have an enemy; some one has stolen your handkerchief and
your knife. Who is that enemy? Whom do you suspect?"

The prisoner shook his head. "I shall accuse no one," he said, briefly.

"What!" burst out Ray Vandyck; "you will not hunt down your enemy? This
is too much! Heath, I believe you could put your hand on the assassin."

No reply from the prisoner; he sits with his head bowed upon his hand, a
look of dogged resolution upon his face.

"Vandyck," says the little lawyer, who has been gazing fixedly at his
obstinate client, and who now turns two keen eyes upon the excited Ray;
"keep cool! keep cool, my lad! Heath, look here, sir, I'm bound to
defend your case--do you object to that?"

"On the contrary, O'Meara, you are my only hope; but, your success must
depend upon your own shrewdness. I can't give you any help."

Down went something in the lawyer's note book.

"That means you won't give me any help," writing briskly.

"It's an ungracious way of putting it," smiling slightly; "but--that's
about the way it stands."

"Just so," writing still; "you believe the handkerchief to have been
yours?"

"Yes."

"And the knife?"

"Yes. Stay, send Corliss with some one else, to my office; let them
examine my case of instruments, and see if the knife is among them;
this, for form's sake."

"It shall be attended to--for form's sake. Heath, who beside yourself
had access to your office?"

"My office was insecurely locked; any one might easily force an
entrance, and a common key would open my door."

Scratch, scratch; the lawyer seems not to notice the doctor's evasion of
the question.

"Ahem! As your lawyer, Heath, is there any truth in these stories about
a previous knowledge of Burrill?"

"Do you mean _my_ previous knowledge of the man?"

"Yes."

"I never knew the fellow; never saw him until I knocked him down in his
first wife's defence."

"Yet, he claimed to know you."

"So I am told."

"And you don't know _where_ he may have seen you?"

"All I know, you have heard in the evidence given to-day."

"And--" hesitating slightly; "is there nothing in your past life that
might weigh in your favor; nothing that will give the lie to these
hints so industriously scattered by Burrill?"

"O'Meara, let us understand each other; your question means this: Do I
intend, now that this crisis has come, to make public, for the benefit
of W----, the facts concerning my life previous to my coming here as a
resident? My answer must be this, and again I must give you reason to
think me ungracious, ungrateful. There is nothing in my past that could
help me in this present emergency; there is no one who could come
forward to my assistance. I have not in all America one friend who is so
well known to me, or who knows me as well as Vandyck here, or yourself.
I can not drag to light any of the events of my past life; on the
contrary, I must redouble my efforts to keep that past a mystery."

Utter silence in the cell. The lawyer's pencil travels on--scratch,
scratch, scratch. Ray sits moody and troubled of aspect. Doctor Heath
looks with some curiosity upon the movements of the little lawyer, and
inwardly wonders at his coolness. He has expected expostulation,
indignation; has even fancied that his obstinate refusal to lend his
friends any assistance may alienate them from his case, leaving him to
face his fate alone. He sees how Vandyck is chafing, but he is puzzled
by the little lawyer's phlegmatic acceptance of the situation.

Presently, the lawyer looks up, snaps his note book together with a
quick movement, and then stows it away carefully in his breast pocket.

"Umph!" he begins, raising the five fingers of his right hand and
checking off his items with the pencil which he has transferred to the
left. "Umph! Then your case stands like this, my friend: A man is found
dead near your premises; a handkerchief bearing your name covers his
face; a knife supposed to belong to you is with the body. You are known
to have differed with this man; you have knocked him down; you have
threatened him in the public streets. You are a stranger to W----. This
murdered man claimed to know something to your disadvantage. He is known
to have set out for your house; he is found soon after, as I have said,
dead. You acknowledge the knife and handkerchief to be yours; you can
offer no _alibi_, you can rebut none of the testimony. You refuse to
tell aught concerning your past life. That's a fine case, now; don't you
think so?"

"It's a worthless case for you, O'Meara. You had better leave me to
fight my own battles."

"Umph! I'm going to leave you for the present; but this battle may turn
out to be not entirely your property, my friend. Since you won't help
me, I won't disturb you farther. Come along, Vandyck."

Young Vandyck began at once to expostulate, to entreat, to argue; but
the little lawyer cut short the tide of his eloquence.

"Vandyck, be quiet! Can't you let a gentleman hang himself, if he sees
fit? No, I see you can't; it's against your nature. Well, come along; we
will see if we can't outwit this would-be suicide, and the hangman,
too." And he fairly forces poor, bewildered Ray from the room. Then,
turning again toward his uncommunicative client, he says:

"Oh, I'll attend to that knife business at once, Heath, and let you hear
the result."

"Stop a moment, O'Meara. There is one thing I can say, and that
is,--have the wounds in that body examined at once. As nearly as I could
observe, without a closer scrutiny, the knife that killed was not the
knife found with the body. It was a smaller, narrower bladed knife;
and--if an expert examines that knife, the one found, he will be
satisfied that it has never entered any body, animal or human. The
_point_ has never been dipped in blood."

"Oh! ho!" cries O'Meara, rubbing his hands together briskly. "So! we are
waking up! why didn't you mention all this before? But there's time
enough! time enough yet. I'll have the body examined; and by the best
surgeons, sir; and I'll see you to-morrow, _early_; good evening,
Heath."

"I'm blessed if I understand all this," burst out Ray Vandyck, when they
had gained the street. "Here you have kept me with my mouth stopped all
through this queer confab. I want a little light on this subject. What
the deuce ails Heath, that he won't lift his voice to defend himself?
And what the mischief do you let him throw away his best chances for? I
never heard of such foolhardiness."

"Young man," retorts the little lawyer, with a queer smile upon his
face, "just at present I have got no use for that tongue of yours. You
may be all eyes and ears, the more the better; but, I'm going to include
you in a very important private consultation; and, _don't you open your
mouth_ until somebody asks you to; and then mind you get it open quick
enough and wide enough."



CHAPTER XXXI.

BEGINNING THE INVESTIGATION.


"Well!"

It is Mr. Wedron, of the New York Bar, who utters this monosyllable. He
sits at the library table in the little lawyer's sanctum; opposite him
is his host, and a little farther away, stands Ray Vandyck; a living,
breathing, gloomy faced but mute interrogation point. He has just been
introduced to Mr. Wedron, and he is anxiously waiting to hear how these
two men propose to save from the gallows, a man who will make no effort
to save himself.

"Well!" repeats Mr. Wedron, "you have seen the prisoner?"

"We have seen him."

"And the result?"

"Was what you predicted. See, here in my note book, I have his very
words; you can judge for yourself."

O'Meara passes his note book across to his questioner, and the latter
reads rapidly, the short sentences scrawled by his host.

"So," he says, lifting his eyes from the note book. "Doctor Heath
refuses to defend himself. Mr. Vandyck," turning suddenly upon Ray, "sit
down, sir; draw your chair up here; I wish to look at you, sir."

Not a little astonished, but obeying orders like a veteran, Ray complies
mutely.

"Now then," says Mr. Wedron, with brisk good nature, "let's get down to
business. Mr. Vandyck, I am here to save Clifford Heath; I was at the
inquest; I have had long experience in this sort of business, and I
arrive at my conclusions rapidly, after a way of my own. O'Meara,
prepare to write a synopsis of our reasonings."

"Of _your_ reasonings," corrects the lawyer, drawing pen and paper
toward himself.

"Of my reasonings then. First; are you ready, O'Meara?"

"All ready."

"Well, then; and don't stop to be astonished at anything I may say.
First, Clifford Heath knows who stole his handkerchief; and who stole
his knife."

A grunt of approbation from O'Meara; a stare of astonishment from Ray.

"For some reason, Heath has resolved to screen the thief." Scratch,
scratch. "But he does not feel at all sure that the one who stole his
belongings is the one who struck the blow."

Ray stares in astonishment.

"Now then, there has been a plot on foot against Heath, and I believe
him to have been aware of it." He is looking at Ray, and that young man
starts guiltily.

"Put down this, O'Meara," says Mr. Wedron, suddenly withdrawing his
gaze. "Doctor Heath has nothing to blush for, in his past. He withholds
his story through pride, not through fear; but it may be necessary to
tell it in court, in order to prove that he _did not_ know John Burrill
previous to the meeting in Nance Burrill's cottage; and if he refuses to
tell his story, _I_ must tell it for him."

It is O'Meara's turn to be surprised, and he writes on with eager eyes
and bated breath.

"And now, O'Meara," concludes Mr. Wedron, "there were two parties sworn
to-day, who did not tell all they knew concerning this affair. One
was--Mr. Francis Lamotte."

Ray breathes again.

"The other was--Mr. Raymond Vandyck."

Ray colors hotly, and half starts up from his seat. O'Meara lays down
his pen, and stares across at his contemporary, but that individual
proceeds with unruffled serenity.

"Mr. Vandyck did not tell all that he knows, because he feared that in
some way his testimony might be turned against Clifford Heath. Here he
can have no such scruples. Our first step in this case, must be to find
out _who_ Clifford Heath suspects; and why he will not denounce him."

"And that bids fair to be a tough undertaking," says O'Meara.

"Not at all, Mr. O'Meara. I expect that this young man can give us all
the help we need."

"I," burst out Ray. "You mistake, sir; I can not help you."

"Softly, sir; softly; reflect a little, this is no time for over-nice
scruples; besides, I know too much already. We three are here to help
Clifford Heath. Mr. Vandyck, can you not trust to our discretion; you
may be able, unknown to yourself, to speak the word that will free your
friend from the foulest charge that was ever preferred against a man.
Will you answer my questions frankly, or--must we set detectives to hunt
for the information you could so easily give?"

[Illustration: "Softly, Sir; softly; reflect a little."]

The calm, resolute tones of the stranger have their weight with the
mystified Ray. Instinctively he feels the power of the man, and the
weight of the argument.

"What do you wish to know, sir?" he says, quietly. "I am ready to serve
Clifford Heath."

"Ah, very good;" signing to O'Meara. "First, sir, as a friend of Doctor
Heath, do you know if he has recently had any trouble, any
disappointment? He is a young man. Has he been jilted, or--"

"Ah-h-h!" breaks in O'Meara; "why didn't you ask _me_ that, Wedron? Upon
my soul, I have heard plenty about this same business."

"Then take the witness stand, sir. What do you know? _You_ won't be over
delicate in bringing facts to the surface."

"Why," rubbing his hands serenely, "I can't see your drift, Wedron, any
more than can Vandyck here; but I have heard Mrs. O'Meara discuss the
probable future of Clifford Heath, until I have it by heart. Not long
ago she was sure he, Heath, was in love with Miss Wardour, and we all
thought she rather favored him, although it's hard to guess at a woman's
real feelings. Later, quite lately, in fact, the thing seemed to be all
off, and my wife has commented on it not a little."

"Oh!" ejaculates Mr. Wedron. "And--had Doctor Heath any rivals?"

"Miss Wardour has always plenty of lovers; but I believe that Mr. Frank
Lamotte was the only rival he ever had any reason to fear."

"Ah! so Mr. Frank Lamotte has been Heath's rival? Handsome fellow, that
Lamotte! Mr. Vandyck," turning suddenly upon Ray, "the ice is now
broken. What do you know, or think, or believe, about this attachment to
Miss Wardour?"

"I think that Heath really hoped to win her at one time, and I believed
his chances were good. Something, I don't know what, has come between
them."

"Do you think she has refused him?"

"Honestly, I don't, sir. I think there is a misunderstanding."

"And young Lamotte, what of him?"

"I suppose he has come in ahead; in fact, have very good cause for
thinking him engaged to Miss Wardour."

"Bah!" cries O'Meara, contemptuously, "I don't believe it. There's
nothing sly about Constance. She would have told me or my wife."

"I'll tell you my reasons for saying this, gentlemen," says Ray, after a
moment's hesitation. "I'll tell you all I can about the business. Some
time ago, shortly after Heath's last encounter with Burrill, I came into
town one day to keep an appointment with him."

"Stay! Can you recall the date?"

"It was on Monday, I believe, and early in the month."

"Go on."

"I met one of the Wardour servants, who gave me a note. It was a request
that I wait upon Miss Wardour at once; she wished to consult me on some
private matters. Miss Wardour and I, you must understand, are very old
friends."

"Yes, yes; go on."

"I excused myself to Heath, and, just as I was leaving the office,
Lamotte came in. He challenged me, in badinage, as though he had a right
to say who should visit Wardour. He overheard me telling Heath where I
was going."

"Yes."

"During my call, I made some allusion to Lamotte, speaking of him as her
accepted lover. She did not deny the charge my language implied, and I
came away believing her engaged to Lamotte. When I returned to Heath's
office, Lamotte had gone, and Heath asked me, rather abruptly, if I
believed Miss Wardour would marry Lamotte. I replied, that I did believe
it then, for the first time."

"Ah, yes! Mr. Vandyck, are you aware that on this same day, this Monday
of which you speak, Clifford Heath received an anonymous note, in a
feminine hand; warning him against danger, and begging him to leave
town?"

"What, sir?" starting and coloring, hotly.

"Ah, you are aware of that fact. Did you see that note, Mr. Vandyck?"

"I did," uneasily.

"How did Heath treat it?"

"With utter indifference."

"So! And did he, to your knowledge, receive other warnings?"

"I am quite sure he did not."

"During your call at Wardour Place, did Miss Wardour mention Doctor
Heath."

"She--did," reluctantly.

"She _did_. Can you recall what was said."

"It was soon after that street encounter with Burrill. I related the
circumstance; she had not heard of it."

"And did she seem unfriendly toward Heath?"

"On the contrary I think she was, and is, his friend."

"You met Lamotte in Heath's office. Does Lamotte go there often?"

"Why, he made a pretence of studying with Heath; but he never stuck very
close to anything; he had read a little in the city, I believe."

"Then he is quite at home in Heath's office?"

"Quite at home."

"Thank you, Mr. Vandyck." Mr. Wedron draws back from the table and
smiles blandly upon poor Ray. "Thank you, sir. You are an admirable
witness; for the second time to-day you have evaded leading questions,
and withheld more than you have told. But I won't bear malice. I see
that you are resolved not to tell why Miss Wardour summoned you to her
presence on that particular day; so, I won't insist upon it--I will find
out in some other way."

"Thank you," retorts Kay, rather stiffly. "It will be a relief to me, if
you can do so. Can I answer any more questions, sir?"

"Not to-night. And, Mr. Vandyck, as a friend of Clifford Heath's, we ask
you to help us, and to share our confidence. Now, we must find out
first, if Constance Wardour _is_ engaged to Lamotte; and second, the
cause of the estrangement between herself and Doctor Heath. Can you
suggest a plan?"

"Yes," replies Ray, a smile breaking over his face. "Send for Mrs.
Aliston, and question her as you have me."

"Good!" cries Mr. Wedron. "_Excellent!_"



CHAPTER XXXII.

AN APPEAL TO THE WARDOUR HONOR.


During the night that saw Sybil Burrill's reason give way under the
long, horrible strain, that had borne upon it; the night that witnessed
the downfall of Frank Lamotte's cherished hopes, and closed the earthly
career of John Burrill; Mrs. Lamotte and Mrs. Aliston hovered over the
bed where lay Sybil, now tossing in delirium, now sinking into
insensibility. Early in the evening, Dr. Heath had been summoned, and he
had responded promptly to Mrs. Lamotte's eager call.

They could do little, just then, save to administer opiates; he told
them there was every symptom of brain fever; by to-morrow he would know
what course of treatment to pursue; until then, keep the patient quiet,
humor all her whims, so far as was possible; give her no stimulants,
and, if there was any marked change, send for him at once.

The two anxious women hung upon his words; afterward, they both
remembered how cheerful, how brave and strong he had seemed that night;
how gentle his voice was; how kindly his glance; how soothing and
reassuring his manner.

In the gray of the morning, Sybil dropped into one of her lethargies
after hours of uneasy mutterings, that would have been mad ravings, but
for the doctor's powerful opiate; and then, after a word combat with
Mrs. Lamotte, just such an argument as has occurred by hundreds of sick
beds, where two weary, anxious watchers vie with each other for the
place beside the bed, and the right to watch in weariness, while the
other rests; after such an argument, Mrs. Aliston yielded to the
solicitations of her hostess, and withdrew, to refresh herself with a
little sleep.

The vigil had been an unusual one, and Mrs. Aliston was very weary. No
sound disturbed the quiet of the elegant guest chamber where she lay;
and so it happened that a brisk rapping at her door; at ten o'clock in
the morning, awoke her from heavy, dreamless slumber, and set her
wandering wits to wondering vaguely what all this strangeness meant.
Then suddenly recalling the events of the previous night, she sat up in
bed and called out:

"Who is there?"

"It's ten o'clock, madam," replied the voice of Mrs. Lamotte's maid;
"and will you have breakfast in your room, or in the dining room?"

Slipping slowly out from the downy bed, Mrs. Aliston crossed to the
door, and peering out at the servant, said:

"I will breakfast here, Ellen. How is Sybil?"

"She is worse, I think, madam, and Mrs. Lamotte is very uneasy; I think
she wishes to speak with you, or she would not have had you wakened."

"Tell her I will come to her at once;" and Mrs. Aliston closed the door
and began a hurried toilet; before it was completed, Mrs. Lamotte
herself appeared; she was pale and heavy eyed, and seemed much agitated.

"Pardon my intrusion," she began, hurriedly; "I am uneasy about Sybil;
she is growing very restless, and for more than an hour has called
unceasingly for Constance. Do you think your niece would come to us this
morning? Her strong, cool nerves might have some influence upon poor
Sybil."

"I am sure she will come," replied Mrs. Aliston, warmly "and without a
moment's delay. I will drive home at once, Mrs. Lamotte, and send
Constance back."

"Not until you have had breakfast, Mrs. Aliston. And how can I thank you
for your goodness, and your help, during the past horrible night?"

"By saying nothing at all about it, my dear, and by ordering the
carriage the moment I have swallowed a cup of coffee," replied the
good-hearted soul, cheerily. "I hope and trust that Sybil will recover
very soon; but if she grows worse, you must let me help you all I can."

Half an hour later the Lamotte carriage rolled swiftly across the bridge
and towards Wardour; and so Mrs. Aliston, for the time at least, was
spared the shock that fell upon the house of Mapleton, scarce fifteen
minutes later, the news of John Burrill's murder, and the finding of the
body.

Little more than an hour later, Constance Wardour sprang from the
carriage at the door of Mapleton, and ran hurriedly up the broad steps.
The outer door stood wide open, and a group of servants were huddled
about the door of the drawing room, with pale, affrighted faces, and
panic-stricken manner.

Seeing them, Constance at once takes the alarm. Sybil must be worse;
must be very ill indeed. Instantly the question rises to her lips:

"Is Sybil--is Mrs. Burrill worse?" and then she hears the startling
truth.

"John Burrill is dead. John Burrill has been murdered." In bewilderment,
in amazement, she hears all there is to tell, all that the servants
know. A messenger came, telling only the bare facts. John Burrill's body
has been found in an old cellar; Frank has just gone, riding like a
madman, to see that the body is cared for, and to bring it home. Mrs.
Lamotte has been told the horrible news; has received it like an icicle;
has ordered them to prepare the drawing room for the reception of the
body, and has gone back to her daughter.

All this Constance hears, and then, strangely startled, and vaguely
thankful that Frank is not in the house, she goes up to the sick room.
Mrs. Lamotte rises to greet her, with a look upon her face that startles
Constance, even more than did the news she has just heard below stairs.

Intense feeling has been for so long frozen out of that high-bred,
haughty face, that the look of the eyes, the compression of the lips,
the fear and horror of the entire countenance, amount almost to a
transfiguration.

She draws Constance away from the bed, and into the dressing room
beyond. Then, in a voice husky with suppressed emotion, she addresses
her as follows:

"Constance Wardour, I am about to place my honor, my daughter's life,
the honor of all my family, in your hands. There is not another living
being in whom to trust, and I must trust some one. I must, for my
child's sake, have relief, or _my_ reason, too, will desert me.
Constance, that sick room holds a terrible secret--Sybil's secret. If
you can share it with me, for Sybil's sake, I will try to brave this
tempest, as I have braved others; if you refuse"--she paused a moment,
and then whispered fiercely:

"If you refuse, I will lock that chamber door, and Sybil Lamotte shall
die in her delirium before I will allow an ear that I can not trust,
within those walls, or the hand of a possible enemy to administer one
life-saving draught."

[Illustration: "Sybil Lamotte shall die in her delirium."]

Over the face of Constance Wardour crept a look of horror indescribable.
In an instant her mind is illuminated, and all the fearful meaning of
Mrs. Lamotte's strange words, is grasped and mastered. She reels as if
struck by a heavy hand, and a low moan breaks from her lips. So long she
stands thus, mute and awe-stricken, that Mrs. Lamotte can bear the
strain of suspense no longer.

"For God's sake, speak," she gasps; "there have been those of your race
who could not abandon a fallen friend."

Over the cheek, and neck, and brow, the hot, proud, loyal Wardour blood,
comes surging. The gray eyes lift themselves with a proud flash; low and
firm comes the answer:

"The Wardours were never Summer friends. Sybil has been as a sister, in
prosperity; I shall be no less than a sister now. You may trust me as
you would yourself; and--I am very glad you sent for me, and trusted no
other."

"God bless you, Constance! No one else _can_ be trusted. With your help
I must do this work alone."

Then comes a cry from the sick room; they go back, and Constance enters
at once upon her new, strange task. Her heart heavy; her hand firm; her
ears smitten by the babbling recitation of that awful secret; and her
lips sealed with the seal of the Wardour honor.

All that day she is at her post. Mrs. Lamotte, who is resolved to retain
her strength for Sybil's sake, lies down in the dressing room and sleeps
from sheer exhaustion.

As the day wears on there is movement and bustle down stairs, they are
bringing in the body of the murdered man. The undertaker goes about his
work with pompous air, and solemn visage; and when darkness falls, John
Burrill's lifeless form lies in state in the drawing room of Mapleton,
that room over the splendors of which his plebeian soul has gloated, his
covetous eyes feasted and his ambitious bosom swelled with a sense of
proprietorship. He is clothed in finest broadcloth, surrounded with
costly trappings; but not one tear falls over him; not one heart grieves
for him; not one tongue utters a word of sorrow or regret; he has
schemed and sinned, to become a member of the aristocracy, to ally
himself to the proud Lamottes; and to-night, one and all of the
Lamottes, breathe the freer, because his breathing has forever ceased.
Even Constance Wardour has no pitying thought for the dead man; she
keeps aloof from the drawing room, shuddering when compelled to pass its
closed doors; living, John Burrill was odious to her; dead, he is
loathsome.

The day passes, and Doctor Heath does not visit his patient. At
intervals during the long afternoon, they have discussed the question,
"What shall we do to keep the patient quiet when the doctor comes?"

It is Constance who solves the problem.

"We must send for Doctor Benoit, Mrs. Lamotte; Doctor Heath's tardiness
will furnish sufficient excuse, and Doctor Benoit's partial deafness
will render him our safest physician."

It is a happy thought; Doctor Benoit is old, and partially deaf, but he
is a thoroughly good and reliable physician.

Late that night, Jasper Lamotte applies for admittance at the door of
his daughter's sick room. Constance opens the door softly, and as his
eyes fall upon her, she fancies that a look of fierce hatred gleams at
her for a moment from those sunken orbs and darkens his haggard
countenance. Of course it is only a fancy. In another moment he is
asking after his daughter, with grave solicitude.

"She is quiet; she must not be disturbed;" so Constance tells him. And
he glides away softly, murmuring his gratitude to his daughter's friend,
as he goes.

It is midnight at Mapleton; in Sybil Lamotte's room the lights burn
dimly, and Mrs. Lamotte and Constance sit near the bed, listening, with
sad, set faces, to the ravings of the delirious girl.

"Ha! ha!" she cries, tossing her bare arms aloft. "How well you planned
that, Constance! the Wardour diamonds; ah, they are worth keeping, they
are worth plotting to keep--and it's often done--it's easy to do. Hush!
Mr. Belknap, I need your help--meet me, meet me to-night, at the boat
house. If a man were to disappear, never to come back, mind--what would
I give? One thousand dollars! two! three! It shall be done! I shall be
free! free! _free!_ Ha! ha! Constance, your diamonds are safer than
mine--but what are diamonds--I shall live a lie--let me adorn myself
with lies. Why not? Why care? I will be free. You have been the tool of
others, Mr. Belknap, why hesitate to serve me--you want money--here it
is, half of it--when it is done, when I _know_ it is done, I will come
here again--at night--and the rest is yours."

With a stifled moan, Mrs. Lamotte leans forward, and lays a hand upon
her companion's arm.

"Constance--do you know what she means?"

Slowly and shudderingly, the girl answers:

"I fear--that I know too well."

"And--that boat-house appointment?"

"Must be kept, Mrs. Lamotte; for Sybil's sake, it must be kept, _by you
or me_."

It is midnight. In Evan Lamotte's room lamps are burning brightly, and
the fumes of strong liquor fill the air. On the bed lies Evan, with
flushed face, and mud bespattered clothing; he is in a sleep that is
broken and feverish, that borders in fact, upon delirium; beside him,
pale as a corpse, with nerves unstrung, and trembling, sits Frank
Lamotte, fearing to leave him, and loath to stay. At intervals, the
sleeper grows more restless, and then starts up with wild ejaculations,
or bursts of demonaic laughter. At such times, Frank Lamotte pours, from
a bottle at his side, a powerful draught of burning brandy, and holds it
to the frenzied lips. They drain off the liquor, and presently relapse
into quiet.

It is midnight. In the library of Mapleton, Jasper Lamotte sits at his
desk, poring over a pile of papers. The curtains are closely drawn, the
door securely locked. Now and then he rises, and paces nervously up and
down the room, gesticulating fiercely, and wearing such a look as has
never been seen upon the countenance of the Jasper Lamotte of society.

It is midnight. In the Mapleton drawing room, all that remains of John
Burrill, lies in solemn solitary state; and, down in his cell, face
downward upon his pallet, lies Clifford Heath, broad awake, and bitterly
reviewing the wrongs heaped upon him by fate; realizing, to the full,
his own helplessness, and the peril before him, and doggedly resolving
to die, and make no sign.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

I CAN SAVE HIM IF I WILL.


Doctor Benoit was old and deaf; he was also very talkative. One of those
physicians who invariably leave a titbit of news alongside of their
powders and pellets. A constant talker is apt to be an indiscreet
talker, and, very often, wanting in tact. Doctor Benoit was not so much
deficient in tact, as in memory. In growing old, he had grown forgetful,
and not being a society man, social gossip was less dear to his heart
than the news of political outbreaks, business strivings, and about-town
sensations. Doubtless he had heard, like all the world of W----, that
Doctor Clifford Heath had, at one time, been an aspirant for the favor
of the proud heiress of Wardour, and that suddenly he had fallen from
grace, and was no more seen within the walls of Wardour, or at the side
of its mistress on social occasions. If so, he had entirely forgotten
these facts. Accordingly, during his second call, made on the morning
after the inquest, he began to drop soft remarks concerning the recent
horror.

Mrs. Lamotte was lying down, and Constance had decided not to arouse her
when the doctor arrived, inasmuch as the patient was in one of her
stupors, and not likely to rouse from it.

The arrest of a brother practitioner on such a charge as was preferred
against Clifford Heath, had created no little commotion in the mind of
Dr. Benoit, and he found it difficult to keep the subject off his
tongue, so, after he had given Constance full instructions concerning
the patient, he said, standing hat in hand near the dressing room door:

"This is a terrible state of affairs for W----, Miss Wardour. Do you
know," drawing a step nearer, and lowering his voice, "Do you know if
Mr. Lamotte has been informed that O'Meara, as Heath's lawyer, demands a
surgical examination?"

"As Heath's lawyer!" The room seemed to swim about her. She turned
instinctively toward the door of the chamber, closed it softly, and came
very close to the old doctor, lifting her pale lips to his ear.

"I don't understand you, doctor. What has Mr. O'Meara to do with the
murder?"

"Hey? What's that? What is O'Meara going to do? He's going to defend
young Heath." Then, seeing the startled, perplexed look upon her face,
"Is it possible you have not heard about Heath's arrest?"

She shook her head, and again lifted her mouth to his ear.

"I have heard nothing; tell me all."

"It seems that there was an old feud between Heath and Burrill," began
the doctor, beginning to feel that somehow he had made a blunder. "They
have hunted up some pretty strong evidence against Heath, and the
coroner's jury brought in a verdict against him. You know the body was
found in an old cellar, close by Heath's cottage."

At this moment there came a soft tap on the outer door, which Constance
at once recognized. Mechanically she moved forward and opened the door.
Mrs. Lamotte stood on the threshold.

Seeing the doctor and Constance, she at once inferred that Sybil was the
subject under discussion, and to insure the patient against being
disturbed, beckoned the doctor to come outside.

As he stepped out into the hall, Constance, hoping to get a little
information from him, came forward, and standing in the doorway,
partially closed the door behind her.

"Doctor," said Mrs. Lamotte, anxiously, "do you see any change in
Sybil?"

He shook his head gravely.

"There is no marked change, madam; but I see a possibility that she may
return to consciousness within the next forty-eight hours, in which case
I must warn you against letting her know or guess at the calamity that
has befallen her."

The two women exchanged glances of relief.

"If she receives no shock until her mental balance is fully restored,
her recovery may be hoped for; otherwise--"

"Otherwise, doctor?"

"Otherwise, if she retains her life, it will be at the cost of her
reason."

"Oh!" moaned the mother, "death would be better than that."

There was the sound of a door opening softly down the hall. They all
turned their eyes that way to see Frank Lamotte emerging from Evan's
room. He came hurriedly toward them, and Constance noticed the nervous
unsteadiness of his gait, the pinched and pallid look of his face, the
feverish fire of his sunken eyes.

"Mother," he said, in a constrained voice, and without once glancing
toward Constance, "I think you had better have Doctor Benoit see Evan. I
have been with him all night, and am thoroughly worn out."

"What ails Evan, Frank?"

"Too much liquor," with a shrug of the shoulders. "He is on the verge of
the 'brandy madness,' he sometimes sings of. He must have powerful
narcotics, and no cessation of his stimulants, or we will have him
raving about the house like a veritable madman; and--I have not told him
about Burrill."

A look of contrition came into the mother's face. Evan had kept his room
for days, but, in her anxiety for her dearest child, she had quite
forgotten him.

"Come, doctor," she said, quickly; "let us go to Evan at once."

They passed on to the lower room, leaving Constance and Frank face to
face.

Constance moved back a pace as if to re-enter the dressing-room; burning
with anxiety as she was, to hear more concerning Clifford Heath, her
womanly instincts were too true to permit her to ask information of her
discarded suitor. But Frank's voice stayed her movements.

"Constance, only one moment," he said, appealingly. "Have a little
patience with me _now_. Have a little pity for my misery."

His misery! The words sounded hypocritical; he had never loved John
Burrill over much, she knew.

"I bestow my pity whenever it is truly needed, Frank," she said, coldly,
her face whitening with the anguish of her inward thought. "Do you think
_you_ are the only sufferer in this miserable affair?"

"I am the only one who can not enlist your sympathies. I must live
without your love; I must bear a name disgraced, yet those who brought
about this family disgrace, even Clifford Heath, in a felon's cell, no
doubt you will aid and pity; _he_ is a martyr perhaps, while I--"

"While you--go on, sir;" fierce scorn shining from the gray eyes; bitter
sarcasm in the voice.

"While I," coming closer and fairly hissing the words, "am set aside for
him, a felon, Oh! you are a proud woman, and you keep your secrets well,
but you can not hide from me the fact that ever since the accursed day
that brought you and Clifford Heath together, _he_ has been the man
preferred by you. If I have lost you, you have none the less lost him;
listen."

Before she is aware of his purpose, he has her two wrists in a vice-like
grip; and bending down, until his lips almost touch the glossy locks on
her averted head, he is pouring out, in swift cutting sentences, the
story of the inquest; all the damning evidence is swiftly rehearsed;
nothing that can weigh against his rival, is omitted.

Feeling instinctively that he utters the truth; paralyzed by the weight
of his words; she stands with head drooping more and more, with cheeks
growing paler, with hands that tremble and grow cold in his clasp.

He sees her terror, a sudden thought possesses his brain; grasping her
hands still tighter, he goes madly on:

"Constance Wardour, in spite of the coldness between you, you love
Clifford Heath. _What will you do to save him?_"

[Illustration: "Constance Wardour, you love Clifford Heath."]

"This is too much! This is horrible!" She makes a mad effort to free
herself from his grasp.

The question comes like a taunt, a declaration of her helplessness.
Coming from him, it is maddening. It restores her courage; it makes her
mistress of herself once more.

"Don't repeat that question," she says, flashing upon him a look of
defiance.

"I _do_ repeat it!" he goes on wildly. "Go to O'Meara; to whom you
please; satisfy yourself that Clifford Heath has a halter about his
neck; then come to me, and tell me if you will give yourself as his
ransom. _I can save him if I will._ I _will_ save him, only on one
condition. You know what that is."

With a sudden fierce effort she frees herself from his clasp, and stands
erect before him, fairly panting with the fierceness of her anger.

"Traitor! _monster!_ Cain! Not to save all the lives of my friends; not
to save the world from perdition, would I be your wife! _You_ would
denounce the destroyer of that worthless clay below us. _You!_ Before
that should happen, to save the world the knowledge that such a monster
exists, _I_ will tell the world where the guilt lies, _for I know_."

Before he can realize the full meaning of her words, the dressing-room
door is closed between them, and Frank Lamotte stands gnashing his
teeth, beating the air with his hands in a frenzy of rage and despair.

While he stands thus, a step comes slowly up the stairs; he turns to
meet the gaze of his father.

"Frank," says Jasper Lamotte, in low, guarded accents, "Come down to the
library at once. It is time you knew the truth."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

A LAST RESORT.


Like a man in a dream, Frank Lamotte obeys his father's call, never once
thinking that the summons is strangely worded. Over and over in his mind
the question is repeating itself--What did she mean? Was he going mad?
Was he dreaming? Had Constance Wardour really said a word that rendered
himself and all that household unsafe? If she knew who should stand in
Clifford Heath's stead, would she really spare the culprit? No; it was
impossible. Was her talk bravado? was she seeking to deceive him?

"Impossible," he reasons. "If she knew who struck that blow, then I am
ruined utterly. But she does not know--she can not."

Jasper Lamotte leads the way to the library. It seems natural that he
should move softly, cautiously. A supernatural stillness pervades the
lower floor. Frank Lamotte shudders and keeps his eyes turned away from
the closed-up drawing room with its silent tenant.

When they are seated face to face, with locked door and closely drawn
curtains, Frank looks across at his father, and notes for the first time
that day the lines of care settling about the sallow mouth, and
underneath the dark, brooding eyes. A moment of silence rests between
them, while each reads the signs of disaster in the face of the other.
Finally the elder says, with something very like a sneer in his voice:

"One would think you a model mourner, your visage is sufficiently
woful." Then leaning across the table, and elevating one long
forefinger; "Something more than the simple fact of Burrill's death has
shaken you, Frank. _What is it?_"

Frank Lamotte utters a low mirthless laugh.

"I might say the same of you, sir; your present pallor can scarcely be
attributed to grief."

"True;" a darker shadow falling across his countenance. "Nor is it
grief. It is bitter disappointment. Have you seen Miss Wardour?"

"Yes;" averting his head.

"And your case in that quarter?"

"Hopeless."

"What!" sharply.

"Hopeless, I tell you, sir; do I look like a prosperous wooer? she will
not look at me. She will not touch me. She will not have me at any
price."

Jasper Lamotte mutters a curse. "Then you have been playing the
poltroon," he says savagely.

The countenance of the younger man grows livid. He starts up from his
chair, then sinks weakly back again.

"Drop the subject," he says hoarsely. "That card is played, and lost. Is
this all you have to say?"

"All! I wish it were. What took me to the city?"

"What took you, true enough. The need of a few thousands, ready cash."

"Yes. Well! I have not got the cash."

"But--good heavens! you had ample--securities."

"Ample securities, yes," with a low grating laugh. "Look, I don't know
who has interposed thus in our favor, but--if John Burrill were alive
to-night you and I would be--beggars."

"Impossible, while you hold the valuable--"

"Bah! valuable indeed! you and I have been fooled, duped, deluded. Our
treasured securities are--"

"Well, are what?"

"Shams."

"Shams!" incredulously. "But that is impossible."

"Is it?" cynically. "Then the impossible has come to pass. There's
nothing genuine in the whole lot."

A long silence falls between them. Frank Lamotte sits staring straight
before him; sudden conviction seems to have overtaken his panic-stricken
senses. Jasper Lamotte drums upon the table impatiently, looking moody
and despondent.

"A variety of queer things may seem plain to you now," he says, finally.
"Perhaps you realize the necessity for instant action of some sort."

Frank stirs restlessly, and passes his hand across his brows.

"I can't realize anything fully," he says, slowly. "It's as well that
Burrill did not live to know this."

"Well! It's providential! We should not have a chance; as it is, we
have one. Do you know where Burrill kept his papers?"

"No."

"Who removed his personal effects? Were you present?"

"Assuredly. There were no papers of value to us upon the body."

"Well, those papers must be found. Once in our hands, we are safe enough
for the present; but until we find them, we are not so secure. However,
I have no doubt but that they are secreted somewhere about his room.
Have you seen Belknap to-day?"

"Only at the inquest. Curse that fellow; I wish we were rid of him
entirely."

"I wish we were rid of his claim; but it must be paid somehow."

"Somehow!" echoing the word, mockingly.

"That is the word I used. I must borrow the money."

"Indeed! Of whom?"

"Of Constance Wardour."

"What!"

"Why not, pray? Am I to withdraw because you have been discarded? Why
should I not borrow from this tricky young lady? Curse her!"

"Well!" rising slowly, "she is under your roof at this moment. Strike
while the iron is hot. Have you anything more to say to-night?"

"No. You are too idiotic. Get some of the cobwebs out of your brain, and
that scared look out of your face. One would think that _you_, and not
Heath, were the murderer of Burrill."

A strange look darts from the eyes of Frank Lamotte.

"It won't be so decided by a jury," he says, between his shut teeth.
"Curse Heath, he is the man who, all along, has stood in my way."

"Well, there's a strong likelihood that he will be removed from your
path. There, go, and don't look so abjectly hopeless. We have nothing to
do at present, but to quiet Belknap. Good night."

With lagging steps, Frank Lamotte ascends the stairs, and enters his own
room. He locks the door with a nervous hand, and then hurriedly lowers
the curtains. He goes to the mirror, and gazes at his reflected
self,--hollow, burning eyes, haggard cheeks, blanched lips, that twitch
convulsively, a mingled expression of desperation, horror, and
despair,--that is what he sees, and the sight does not serve to steady
his nerves. He turns away, with a curse upon the white lips.

He flings himself down in a huge easy chair, and dropping his chin upon
his breast, tries to think; but thought only deepens the despairing
horror and fear upon his countenance. Where his father sees one foe,
Francis Lamotte sees ten.

He sees before him Jerry Belknap, private detective, angry, implacable,
menacing, not to be quieted. He sees Clifford Heath, pale, stern,
accusing. Constance Wardour, scornful, menacing, condemning and
consigning him to dreadful punishment. The dead face of John Burrill
rises before him, jeering, jibing, odious, seeming to share with him
some ugly secret. He passes his hand across his brow, and starts up
suddenly.

"Bah!" he mutters, "this is no time to dally; on every side I see a
pitfall. Let every man look to himself. If I must play in my last trump,
let me be prepared."

He takes from his pocket a bunch of keys, and, selecting one of the
smallest, unlocks a drawer of his dressing case. He draws forth a pair
of pistols and examines them carefully. Then he withdraws the charges
from both weapons, and loads one anew. The latter he conceals about his
person, and then takes up the other. He hesitates a moment, and then
loads that also, replaces it in its hiding place, closes and locks the
drawer. Then he breathes a long sigh of relief.

"It's a deadly anchor to windward," he mutters, turning away. "It's a
last resort. Now I have only to wait."



CHAPTER XXXV.

A STRANGE INTERVIEW.


While Frank Lamotte, in his own chamber, is preparing himself for
emergencies, Constance Wardour stands by the bedside of her unconscious
friend, struggling for self control; shutting her lips firmly together,
clenching her teeth; mastering her outward self, by the force of her
strong will; and striving to bring the chaos of her mind into like
subjection. Three facts stare her in the face; three ideas dance through
her brain and mingle themselves in a confused mass. Clifford Heath is in
peril. She can save him by betraying a friend and a trust. She loves
him.

Yes, stronger than all, greater than all, this fact stands out; in this
hour of peril the truth will not be frowned down. She loves this man who
stands accused of murder; she loves him, and, great heavens! he is
innocent, and yet, must suffer for the guilty.

What can she do? What must she do? She can not go to him; she, by her
own act, has cut off all friendly intercourse between them. But,
something must be done, shall be done.

Suddenly, she bends down, and looks long and earnestly into the face of
the sleeper. The dark lashes rest upon cheeks that are pale as ivory;
the face looks torture-stricken; the beautiful lips quiver with the pain
of some dismal dream.

Involuntarily, this cry escapes the lips of the watcher:

"My God! To think that two noble lives must be blasted, because of that
pitiful, worthless thing, that lies below."

The moments drag on heavily, her thoughts gradually shaping themselves
into a resolve, while she watches by the bedside and waits the return of
Mrs. Lamotte. At last, she comes, and there is an added shade of sorrow
in her dark eyes; Evan is very ill, she fears for his reason, too.

"What has come upon my children, Constance?" she asks, brokenly; "even
Frank has changed for the worse."

"Poor Evan," sighs Constance, thinking of his loyal love for Sybil; and
thus with her new resolve strong in her mind, she says, briefly:

"I must go to town at once, Mrs. Lamotte, and will return as soon as
possible. Can you spare me without too much weight upon yourself."

Without a question, Mrs. Lamotte bids her go; and very soon she is
driving swiftly toward W----, behind the splendid Lamotte horses.

Straight to Lawyer O'Meara she is whirled, and by the time she reaches
the gate, she is as calm as an iceberg.

Coming down the steps is a familiar form, that of her aunt, Mrs.
Aliston. Each lady seems a trifle disconcerted by this unexpected
meeting; neither is inclined to explain her presence there.

Mrs. Aliston appears the more disturbed and startled of the two; she
starts and flushes, guiltily, at sight of her niece.

But, Constance is intent upon her errand; she pauses long enough to
inquire after her aunt's health, to report that Sybil is much the same,
and Evan ill, and then she says:

"Is Mr. O'Meara at home, Aunt Honor?"

"Yes. That is, I believe so," stammers Mrs. Aliston.

"Then I must not detain you, or delay myself; good morning, auntie;" and
she enters the house, leaving Mrs. Aliston looking perplexed and
troubled.

Ushered into the presence of Mr. O'Meara, Constance wastes no words.

"Mr. O'Meara," she begins, in her most straightforward manner, "I have
just come from Mapleton, where I have been with Sybil since last night.
This morning, Doctor Benoit horrified me by telling me that Doctor Heath
has been arrested for the murder of John Burrill."

Just here the study door opens softly, and a portly, pleasant faced
gentleman enters. He bows with easy self-possession, and turns
expectantly toward O'Meara. That gentleman performed the ceremony of
introduction.

"Miss Wardour, permit me: Mr. a--Wedron, of the New York Bar. Mr.
Wedron, my dear, is here in the interest of Doctor Heath."

A pair of searching gray eyes are turned full upon the stranger, who
bears the scrutiny with infinite composure. She bows gravely, and then
seats herself opposite the two gentleman.

"Mr. O'Meara," she says, imperiously, "I want to hear the full
particulars of this affair, from the very first, up to the present
moment."

The two professional men exchange glances. Then Mr. Wedron interposes:
"Miss Wardour," he says, slowly, "we are acting for Clifford Heath, in
this matter, therefore, I must ask, do you come as a friend of the
accused, or--to offer testimony?"

Again the gray eyes flash upon him. "I come as a friend of Doctor
Heath," she says, haughtily; "and I ask only what is known to all W----,
I suppose."

Mr. Wedron conceals a smile of satisfaction behind a smooth white hand;
then he draws a bundle of papers from his pocket.

"O'Meara," he says, passing them to his colleague; "here are the items
of the case, as we summed them up last evening; please read them to Miss
Wardour." And he favors the little lawyer, with a swift, but significant
glance.

Drawing his chair a little nearer that of his visitor, O'Meara begins,
while the portly gentleman sits in the background and notes, lynx-like,
every expression that flits across the face of the listening girl.

O'Meara reads on and on. The summing up is very comprehensive. From the
first discovery of the body, to the last item of testimony before the
coroner's jury; and after that, the strangeness, the apathy, the
obstinacy of the accused, and his utter refusal to add his testimony, or
to accuse any other. Utter silence falls upon them as the reading
ceases.

Constance sits mute and pale as a statue; Mr. Wedron seems quite
self-absorbed, and Mr. O'Meara, glances around nervously, as if waiting
for a cue.

Constance turns her head slowly, and looks from one to the other.

"Mr. O'Meara, Mr. Wedron, you are to defend Doctor Heath, you tell me?"
They both nod assent.

"And--have you, as his counsel, gathered no palliating proof? Nothing to
set against this mass of blighting circumstantial evidence?"

Mr. Wedron leans forward, fastens his eyes upon her face, and says
gravely: "Miss Wardour, all that can be done for Clifford Heath will be
done. But--the case as it stands is against him. For some reason he has
lost courage. He seems to place small value upon his life I believe that
he knows who is the guilty one, and that he is sacrificing himself.
Furthermore, I believe that there are those who can tell, if they will,
far more than has been told concerning this case; those who may withhold
just the evidence that in a lawyer's hands will clear Clifford Heath."

The pallid misery of her face is pitiful, but it does not move Mr.
Wedron.

"Last night," he goes on mercilessly, "Mr. Raymond Vandyck sat where you
sit now, and I said to him what I now say to you. Miss Wardour, Raymond
Vandyck knows more than he has told." His keen eyes search her face, her
own orbs fall before his gaze. Then she lifts them suddenly, and asks
abruptly:

"Who are the other parties who are withholding their testimony?"

Again Mr. Wedron suppresses a smile. "Another who knows more than he
chooses to tell is Mr. Frank Lamotte."

She starts perceptibly.

"And--are there others?"

"Another, Miss Wardour, is--yourself."

[Illustration: "Another, Miss Wardour, is--yourself."]

"Myself!"

She bows her face upon her hands, and convulsive shudders shake her
form. She sits thus so long that O'Meara becomes restless, but Mr.
Wedron sits calm, serene, expectant.

By and by she lifts her head, and her eyes shine with the glint of blue
steel.

"You are right, sir," she says in a low, steady voice. "I _can_ tell
more than is known. It may not benefit Doctor Heath; I do not see how it
can. Nevertheless, all that I can tell you shall hear, and I only ask
that you will respect such portions of my story as are not needed in
evidence. As for Mr. O'Meara, I know I can trust him. And I believe,
sir, that I can rely upon you."

Mr. Wedron bows gravely.

"I will begin by saying that Mr. Vandyck, if he has withheld anything
concerning Doctor Heath, has acted honorably in so doing. He was bound
by a promise, from which I shall at once release him."

In obedience to a sign from Mr. Wedron, O'Meara prepares to write.

"You have said, sir," addressing Mr. Wedron, "that I may be able to say
something which, if withheld, would complicate this case. What do you
wish to hear?"

"Every thing, Miss Wardour, every thing. All that you can tell
concerning your acquaintance with Clifford Heath--all that you have seen
and know concerning John Burrill; all that you can recall of the sayings
and doings of the Lamottes. And remember, the things that may seem
unimportant or irrelevant to you, may be the very items that we lack to
complete what may be a chain of strong evidence in favor of the accused.
Allow me to question you from time to time, and, if I seem possessed of
too much information concerning your private affairs, do not be too
greatly astonished, but rest assured that all my researches have been
made to serve another, not to gratify myself."

"Where shall I begin, sir?"

"Begin where the first shadow of complication fell; begin at the first
word or deed of Doctor Heath's that struck you as being in any way
strange or peculiar."

She flushes hotly and begins her story.

She describes her first impression of Doctor Heath, touching lightly
upon their acquaintance previous to the time of the robbery at Wardour.
Then she describes, very minutely, the first call made by Doctor Heath,
after that affair.

"One moment, Miss Wardour, you told Doctor Heath all that you knew
concerning the robbery."

"I did, sir;" coloring rosily.

"And you exhibited to him the vial of chloroform and the piece of
cambric?"

"I did."

"At this point you were interrupted by callers, and Doctor Heath left
rather abruptly?"

"Precisely, sir."

"Who were these callers?"

"Mr. Lamotte and his son."

"Had you any reason for thinking that Doctor Heath purposely avoided a
meeting with these gentlemen?"

"Not at that time;" flushing slightly.

"Go on, Miss Wardour."

She resumes her story, telling all that she can remember of the call, of
Frank's return, and of Sybil's letter.

"About this letter, I would rather not speak, Mr. Wedron; it can not
affect the case."

"It _does_ affect the case," he replies quickly. "Pray omit no details
just here."

She resumes: telling the story of that long day, of Clifford Heath's
second visit, and of the news of Sybil Lamotte's flight.

She tells how, at sunset, she opened the strange letter, and how,
bewildered and startled out of herself, she put it into Clifford Heath's
hands, and called upon him to advise her.

Almost word for word she repeats his comments, and then she hesitates.

"Go on," says Mr. Wedron, impatiently; "what happened next?"

Next she tells of the sudden appearance of the strange detective; and
here O'Meara seems very much interested, and Mr. Wedron very little.

He does not interrupt her, nor display much interest, until she reaches
the point in her narrative when she discovers the loss of Sybil's
letter.

"Well!" he cries, as she hesitates once more. "Go on! go on! about that
letter."

"Gentlemen," says Constance, contritely, "here, if I could, I would
spare myself. When Doctor Heath came, to return the bottle borrowed by
the detective, I accused him of taking the letter."

"What!" starting violently; "you suspected him?"

"I insulted him."

"And he--"

"He resented the insult in the only way possible to a gentleman. He
accepted it in silence, and turned his back upon me."

"Ah! and since that time?"

"Since that time I have received no intimation that Doctor Heath is
aware of my existence."

"Ah-h-h!" ejaculates Mr. Wedron; "and you have not found the letter?"

"No. Its fate remains a mystery."

"Do you still believe that Doctor Heath could account for its
disappearance, if he would?"

"On sober second thought, I could see no motive for taking the letter.
I was hasty in my accusation. I came to that decision long ago."

"You were deeply grieved over the _mesalliance_ of Miss Lamotte?"

"She was my dearest friend."

"Was?" inquiringly.

Constance pales slightly, but does not correct herself.

"Miss Lamotte's strange marriage has been since explained, I believe?"

"_No, sir!_ not to my satisfaction."

"What! Was it not to save a scapegrace brother?"

"Stop, sir! That scapegrace brother is the one of all that family most
worthy your respect and mine. You wish me to tell you of the family; let
me begin with Evan."

Beginning where she had dropped her story, Constance goes on. She
outlines the visits of the two detectives; she tells how Frank Lamotte
received the news of his sister's flight.

Then she paints in glowing, enthusiastic language, the interview with
Evan in the garden. She pictures his grief, his rage, his plea that she
will stand fast as his sister's friend and champion. She repeats his odd
language; describes his sudden change of manner; his declaration that he
will find a reason for Sybil's conduct, that shall shield Sybil, and be
acceptable to all.

Then she tells how the rumor that Sybil had sacrificed herself for
Evan's sake grew and spread, and how the boy had sanctioned the report.
How he had come to her the second time to claim her promise, and
announce the time for its fulfillment.

"To-day," she says, with moist eyes, "Evan Lamotte lies on a drunkard's
bed; liquor has been his curse. Morally he is weaker than water; but he
has, under all that weakness, the elements that go to make a hero. All
that he had, he sacrificed for his sister. Degraded by drink as he was,
he could still feel his superiority to the man Burrill; yet, for Sybil's
sake, to relieve her of his brutal presence, Evan became his companion,
and passed long hours in the society that he loathed."

"Ah!" ejaculates Mr. Wedron; "ah-h-h!" then he closes his lips, and
Constance resumes.

She tells next how she became weary of the search for the Wardour
diamonds; how she sought to withdraw private detective Belknap; and how
that individual had endeavored to implicate Doctor Heath, and had
finally accused him; how she had temporized, and sent for officer
Bathurst; and how, during the three days of waiting, she had sent Ray
Vandyck to watch over Clifford Heath. She finishes her story without
interruption, carrying it up to the very day of the murder. Then she
pauses, dreading further questioning.

But Mr. Wedron asks no questions, and makes no comment. He fidgets in
his chair, and seems anxious to end the interview.

"Thank you, Miss Wardour," he says, rising briskly, "you have been an
invaluable witness; and I feel like telling you, that--thanks to you, I
hope soon to put my hand upon the guilty party, and open the prison
doors for Heath."

She utters a low cry.

"My God! What have I said!" she cries wildly. "Listen, sir; Clifford
Heath must, and shall, be free; but--you must never drag to justice the
true culprit; you _never shall_!"

She is on her feet facing Mr. Wedron, a look of startled defiance in her
eyes.

He is gazing at her with the look of a man who has discovered a secret.
Suddenly he comes close beside her, and says, in low, significant tones:

"Let us understand each other; one of two must suffer for this crime.
Shall it be Clifford Heath, the innocent, or--_Frank Lamotte_?"

She reels and clutches wildly at a chair for support.

"Frank Lamotte!" she gasps, "_Frank_, Oh! No! No! It must not be him!
Oh! You do not understand; you can not."

She pauses, affrighted and gasping. Then her lips close suddenly, and
she struggles fiercely to regain her composure. After a little she turns
to Mr. O'Meara, saying:

"You have heard me say that Mr. Bathurst, the detective, and friend of
Doctor Heath, was, not long since, in W----; he may be here still; I do
not know. But he must be found; he is the only man who can do what
_must_ be done. For I repeat, Doctor Heath must be saved, and the true
criminal must _not_ be punished. My entire fortune is at your command;
find this detective, for my hands are tied; and he _must_, he MUST, find
a way to save both guilty and innocent."

"This is getting too deep for me, Wedron," says O'Meara, when the door
has closed behind Constance. "What does it lead up to? For I take it
your tactics mean something."

Mr. Wedron laughs a low, mellow laugh.

"Things are shaping themselves to my liking," he says, rubbing his hands
briskly. "We are almost done floundering, O'Meara. Thanks to Miss
Wardour, I know where to put my hand when the right time comes."

"I don't understand."

"You will very soon. Now hear a prophecy: Before to-morrow night,
Clifford Heath will send for you, and lay before you a plan for his
defence. He will manifest a sudden desire to live."



CHAPTER XXXVI.

TWO PASSENGERS WEST.


Late that night a man is walking slowly up and down the little footpath
that leads from the highway, just opposite Mapleton, down to the river
and close past that pretty, white boat house belonging to the Lamotte
domain.

He is very patient, very tranquil in his movements, and quite
unconscious that, crouched in the shadow, not far away, a small figure
notes his every action.

Presently a second form emerges from the gloom that hangs over the gates
of Mapleton, and comes down toward the river. Just beside the boat house
it pauses and waits the man's approach.

The new comer is a woman. The night is not so dark but that her form is
distinctly visible to the hidden watcher.

"Well," says the man, coming close beside her, "I am here--madam."

"Yes," whispers the woman. "Have you--" she hesitates.

"Accomplished my task?" he finishes the sentence. "Have you not proof up
yonder that the work is done?"

The woman trembles from head to foot, and draws farther away.

"I am only waiting to receive what is now due me," the man resumes. "You
need have no fears as to the future; like Abraham, you have been
provided with a lamb for the sacrifice."

Again a shudder shakes the form of the woman, but she does not speak.

"I must trouble you to do me a favor, Mrs. Burrill," the man goes on.
"It is necessary that I should see the honorable Mr. Lamotte. So, if you
will be so good as to admit me to Mapleton to-night, under cover of this
darkness, and contrive an interview without disturbing the other
inmates, you will greatly oblige me; but first, my two thousand dollars,
if you please."

With a sudden movement the woman flings back the cloak that has been
drawn close about her face, and strikes with her hand upon the timbers
of the boat house.

There is a crackling sound, a flash of light, and then the slow blaze of
a parlor match.

By its light they gaze upon each other, and then the man mutters a
curse.

"Miss Wardour!"

"Mr. Belknap, it is I."

[Illustration: "Mr. Belknap, it is I."]

There is a moment's silence, and then she speaks again:

"You are disappointed, Mr. Belknap; you expected to meet another, who
would pay you your price for--you know what. You will not see that other
one; she is hovering between life and death, and her delirious ravings
have revealed you in your true character. You may wonder how I have
dared thus to brave an assassin, a blackmailer. I am not reckless. If I
do not return in ten minutes, safe and sound, the boat house will be
speedily searched and you, Mr. Belknap, will be hunted as you may have
hunted others. Not long since you made terms with me, you attempted
coercion, I might say blackmail; to-night, it is in my power to bridle
your tongue, and I tell you, that, unless you leave W---- at once, you
will find yourself a resident here against your will. Consider your
business in W---- at an end. This is not a safe place for you."

With the last words on her lips, she turns and speeds swiftly back
toward Mapleton, and Jerry Belknap, private detective, stands
transfixed, gazing at the spot from which she has fled, and muttering
curses not good to hear.

He makes no attempt to follow her. He recognizes the fact that he is
baffled, and, for the time at least, defeated. Grinding out curses as he
goes, he turns his steps toward W----.

Then, from out the shadows of the boat house, a small bundle uncoils
itself, stands erect, and then moves forward as if in pursuit.

But, something else rises up from the ground, directly in the path of
this small shadow; a long, slender body displays itself, and a voice
whispers close to the ears of the smaller watcher:

"Remain here, George, and keep a close eye on the house. I will look
after _him_."

Then the shadows separate; the taller one follows in the wake of the
disconsolate detective.

The other, scaling the park palings like a cat, vanishes in the darkness
that surrounds Mapleton.

The reflections of Jerry Belknap, private detective, as he goes, with
moody brow, and tightly compressed lips, across the pretty river bridge,
and back toward his hotel, are far from pleasant.

He is a shrewd man, and has engineered many a knotty case to a
successful issue, thereby covering himself with glory. This was in the
past, however; in the days when he had been regularly attached to a
strong and reliable detective agency.

For tact, energy, ambition, he had no peer; but one day his career had
been nipped in the bud.

A young man, equally talented, and far more honorable, had caused his
overthrow; and yet had saved him from the worst that might have befallen
him. And, Jerry Belknap, had stepped down from an honorable position,
and, determined to make his power, experience, and acknowledged
abilities, serve him as the means of supplying his somewhat extravagant
needs, had resolved himself into a "private detective," and betaken
himself to "ways that are dark."

"There's something at the bottom of this business that I don't
understand," mused he as he paced onward; little thinking how soon he is
to be enlightened on this and sundry other subjects. "I never felt more
sanguine of bringing a crooked operation to a successful termination,
and I never yet made such an abject failure. I shall make it my business
to find out, and at once, what is this power behind the throne. So,
according to Miss Wardour, may Satan fly away with her, I am not to
approach the Lamotte's, I am to lose my reward, I am to retire from the
field like a whipped cur. Miss Wardour, we shall see about that."

"Call me for the early train going west," he says to the night clerk, on
reaching the hotel; "let me see, what is the hour?"

"The western train leaves very early, sir--at four twenty. Then you
won't be here to witness Burrill's funeral? It will call everybody out.
The circumstances attending the man's life and death will make it an
event for W----."

"It's an 'event' that won't interest me. If I have been rightly
informed, the man is better, placed in his coffin, than he ever was in
his boots. I shall leave my baggage here--all but a small valise. I
expect to return to W---- soon. If anything occurs to change my plans, I
will telegraph you and have it forwarded."

At this moment the door of the office opens and closes noisily, and a
man comes rather unsteadily toward them. It is Smith, the book-peddler,
and evidently much intoxicated.

"Hallo, Smith," says the night clerk, jocosely, as Mr. Belknap turns
away, "you seem to have rheumatism, and I suspect you find more fun than
business in W----."

"Town ain't much on literature," retorts Mr. Smith, amiably, "but it's
the devil and all for draw poker. I've raked in a pot, and I'm going on
to the next pious town, so

    'If you are waking, call me early.'

Old top, I'm going west."



CHAPTER XXXVII.

SOME EXCELLENT ADVICE.


Early on the following morning, there was unusual stir about Mapleton.
John Burrill was to be buried that day, and the sad funeral preparations
were going on. People were moving about, making the bustle the more
noticeable by their visible efforts to step softly, and by the low
monotonous hum of their voices.

Up stairs, the usual quiet reigned.

Sybil was sleeping under the influence of powerful opiates, administered
to insure her against the possibility of being overheard in her ravings,
or of waking to a realization of the events taking place below stairs.

Evan, too, had been quieted by the use of brandy and morphine, and Mrs.
Lamotte kept watch at his bedside, while Constance, in Sybil's chamber,
maintained a similar vigil. Neither of the two watchers manifested any
interest in the funeral preparations, nor did they feel any.

"I shall not be present at the burial," Mrs. Lamotte had said to her
husband. "Sybil's illness and Evan's will furnish sufficient excuse,
and--nothing constrains me to do honor to John Burrill _now_."

Mr. Lamotte opened his lips to remonstrate, but catching a look upon the
face of his wife that he had learned to its fullest meaning, he closed
them again and went grimly below stairs, and, through all the day
previous to the departure of the funeral cortege, Jasper Lamotte was the
only member of that aristocratic family who was visible to the curious
gaze of the strangers who attended upon the burial preparations.

Early in the forenoon an unexpected delegation arrived at the entrance
of Mapleton.

First, came Doctor Benoit, driving alone in his time-honored gig, the
only vehicle he had been seen to enter within the memory of W----.

Close behind him, a carriage containing four gentlemen, all manifestly
persons of more than ordinary importance, Mr. O'Meara, in fact, his
colleague of the New York Bar, and two elderly, self-possessed
strangers, evidently city men.

They desired a few words with Mr. Lamotte, and that gentleman, after
some hesitation and no little concern as to the nature of their business
at such a time, presented himself before them, looking the
personification of subdued sorrow and haughty reserve.

Mr. O'Meara acted as spokesman for the party.

"Mr. Lamotte," he began, with profound politeness and marked coldness of
manner and speech, "I should apologize for our intrusion at such a time,
were it not that our errand is one of gravest importance and can not be
put off. Allow me to introduce to you Mr. Wedron, Doctor Gaylor and
Professor Harrington, all of New York."

Mr. Lamotte recognized the strangers with haughty courtesy, and silently
awaited disclosures.

"Mr. Wedron and myself, as the representatives and counsel of Doctor
Heath, have summoned from the city these two gentlemen, whom you must
know by reputation, and we desire that they be allowed to examine the
body of Mr. Burrill, in order to ascertain if the wounds upon the body
were actually made by the knife found with it."

The countenance of Mr. Lamotte darkened perceptibly.

"It seems to me," he said, with a touch of sarcasm in his voice, "that
this is an unwarrantable and useless proceeding--doubly so at this late
hour."

"Nevertheless, it is a necessary one," broke in Mr. Wedron, crisply. "It
is presumable that you can have no personal enmity against Doctor Heath,
sir; therefore you can have no reason for opposing measures instigated
by justice. The examination will be a brief one."

The resolute tone of his voice, no less than his words, brought Jasper
Lamotte to his senses.

"Certainly, I have no wish to oppose the ends of justice," he said, in a
tone which, in spite of himself, was most ungracious. "Such an
investigation is naturally distasteful to me. Nevertheless, you may
proceed, gentlemen, but I should not like the ladies of my household to
discover what is going on. They are sufficiently nervous already. If you
will excuse me for a moment, I will go up and request them to remain in
their rooms for the present. After that, you are at liberty to
proceed."

They all seat themselves gravely, and Mr. Lamotte, taking this as a
quiet acquiescence, goes out, and softly but swiftly up the broad
stairs; not to the rooms occupied by the ladies, however, but straight
on to Frank's room, where that young man has remained in solitude, ever
since his unusually early breakfast hour.

"Frank," he says, entering quietly and closing the door with great care.
"Frank, we have a delegation of doctors below stairs."

"A delegation of doctors?" Frank repeats, parrot-like.

"Precisely; they want to examine the body."

Frank comes slowly to his feet.

"To examine the body!" he repeats again. "In Heaven's name, _why_?"

"To ascertain, by examining the wounds on the body, if the knife found
with it, is the knife that killed."

A sickly hue overspreads Frank Lamotte's face, and he sits weakly down
in the chair, from which he has just risen, saying never a word.

"Frank," says Jasper Lamotte, eyeing his son sharply. "Do you see any
reason why this investigation should not take place; supposing that it
were yet in our power to hinder it?"

A silence that lasts many seconds, then:

"It is _not_ in our power to hinder it," says Frank, in a hollow voice;
"neither would it be policy. Let the play go on," and he turns his face
away with a weary gesture.

For a moment, Jasper Lamotte stands gazing at his son; a puzzled look on
his face; then he turns and goes out as softly as he came.

"Gentlemen," he says, re-entering the library, with the same subdued
manner, "you are at liberty to proceed with your examination, and, if I
may suggest, it is as well to lose no time. The funeral takes place at
two o'clock."

They arise simultaneously, and without more words, follow Jasper Lamotte
to the room of death.

At the door, Mr. Wedron halts.

"I will remain on the balcony," he says to Mr. O'Meara, but sufficiently
loud to be heard by all the rest, "I never could endure the sight of a
corpse." And he turns abruptly, and goes out through the open doorway;
taking up a position on the broad piazza, and turning his gaze toward
the river.

Jasper Lamotte is less sensitive, however; he enters with the others,
and stands beside O'Meara, while the physicians do their work.

"At least," he thinks, "I'll know what they are about, and what their
verdict is."

But in this he is disappointed. They have brought with them a surgeon's
knife; the precise counterpart of the one now in possession of the
prosecution, and of the same manufacture.

One by one they examine, they compare, they probe, and all in silence.
Then they turn toward O'Meara.

"I believe we have finished," says Professor Harrington.

"And the result?" asks Jasper Lamotte, eagerly, in spite of himself.

"That," replies Mr. O'Meara, with elaborate _nonchalance_, "will be made
known at the trial. Mr. Lamotte, we trust that you will pardon this most
necessary intrusion, and we wish you a very good morning."

The examination has been a very brief affair; it is just ten o'clock
when the four unwelcome guests drive away.

Doctor Benoit does not accompany them; he goes up-stairs to visit his
patients.

Jasper Lamotte asks him no questions. He knows that Doctor Benoit is a
man of honor and that he will keep his professional secrets. So he goes
sulkily back to his library.

Two hours later a rough, uncouth looking man appears at the servants'
entrance, and asks to see Mr. Lamotte.

"I'm one of his workmen," he says, very gravely, "and I want to see him
particular."

Jasper Lamotte is in no mood for receiving visitors, but he is, just
now, in a position where he can not, with safety, follow the dictates of
his haughty nature.

He is filled with suspicion; surrounded by a mystery he can not fathom;
and, a man who begs for an audience at such an hour, must have an
extraordinary errand. Reasoning thus, he says, crustily:

"Show the fellow here."

A moment later the man shuffles into the room. Mr. Lamotte glances up,
and his brow darkens ominously.

"Brooks!" he exclaims. "What the mischief--" he checks himself, then
adds, ungraciously: "What do _you_ want?"

"Mr. Lamotte, I beg your pardon, sir," says the man, a trifle thickly.
"I came back to W---- last night, and heard of the awful things, as has
happened here. Now, I always liked Burrill, in spite of his weakness,
for _I_ ain't the man to criticise such failin's. I've been down among
the factory people, and I've heard them talk; and, thinks I to myself,
there's some things as Mr. Lamotte ought to know. You've always paid me
my wages, sir; and treated me fair; and I believe you've treated all the
hands the same; but--there's _some_ people as must always have their
fling at every body, as the Lord has seen fit to set over their heads;
and--there's some of them sort in Mill avenue."

During this harangue the countenance of Jasper Lamotte has grown less
supercilious, but not less curious.

"Explain yourself, Brooks," he says, quite graciously, and with some
inward uneasiness. "I do not comprehend your meaning."

"If I had come to your servants and asked to see the body of my old
chum," begins Brooks, with a knowing look, and drawing near Mr. Lamotte,
"they would have ordered me off, and shut the door in my face; so I just
asked to see _you_ on particular business. But if you was to ring your
bell, by and by, and order one of your servants to take me in to look
at the corpse, I could explain to them what an old friend I was, and
that would settle the curiosity business."

"Doesn't it strike you, Brooks, that you don't cut much of a figure, to
appear as the friend of my son-in-law?" questions Mr. Lamotte, looking
some disfavor at the _ensemble_ before him.

Brooks buries his chin in his bosom, in order to survey his soiled
linen; looks down at his dingy boots; runs his fingers through his shock
of coarse red hair.

"I ain't much of a feller to look at; but that's because I ain't been as
lucky as Burrill was; though I ain't anxious to change places with him
now. I'll fix the friendship business to suit you, sir, and be proper
respectful about it. Say Burrill was my boss, or something of that sort.
I shouldn't like to have certain parties know my _real_ business here,
and I _should_ like to take a look at Burrill on my own account."

There is a ring of sarcasm in the first words of this speech, and Mr.
Lamotte reflects that he has not yet learned his errand.

"Very good, Brooks, you shall see the body, and manage the rest as
delicately as possible, please. You know we want no ill spoken of the
dead. Now, then, your real business, for," consulting his watch, "time
presses."

"I know it does, sir, and I won't waste any words. You see, sir, beggin'
your pardon for mentionin' of it, Burrill has got another wife, a
divorced one, I mean, livin' down at the avenue. She works in Story's
mill now, but she used to work in yours before--"

"Yes, yes," impatiently. "Get on faster, Brooks."

"Well, you see, sir, since her husband--I mean since _Mr. Burrill_ was
killed, she has been cuttin' up rough, and lettin' out a many things as
you wouldn't like to have get all over W----. She ain't afraid of him no
more (he did beat her monstrous), and when she gets to takin' on, she
lets out things that would sound bad about your son-in-law. If it was a
common chap like me, it wouldn't matter; but I thinks to myself, now,
Brooks, this 'ere woman who can't hold her tongue will be hauled up as a
witness for Doctor Heath. I ain't got nothing against Doctor Heath, but
I says, it will be awful humblin' to Mr. Lamotte's pride, and powerful
hard on his pretty daughter; so I jest come to say that if Nance Burrill
could be got to go away, quiet like, before the other parties could get
their hands on her, why, it would be a good thing, Mr. Lamotte."

Considering the tender solicitude he feels for "Mr. Lamotte's pride," he
has given it some pretty hard knocks, but he looks quite innocent, and
incapable of any sinister intent, and Mr. Lamotte, after gnawing his lip
viciously for a moment and favoring his _vis-à-vis_ with a sharp glance
of suspicion, says, with sudden condescension:

"Brooks, I've always been inclined to believe you a pretty good sort of
fellow, but really this singular disinterestedness almost makes me
suspect your motive. Stop," as Brooks elevates his head and suddenly
faces toward the door. "Hear me out. Brooks, don't be ashamed to
confess it. Did the thought of a reward stimulate you to do me
this--favor?"

"If it's a favor, sir, you take it very uppish," retorts Brooks sulkily,
and edging slowly toward the door. "I'm a poor man, sir, but I ain't bad
enough to come to you with a trumped-up story, and if I happened to
think that in case you found things as I tell you, you might reward me
by and by with a ten-dollar note, why, I don't think there is much harm
in that. I liked you and your ways, and wanted to do you a good turn,
and if I wanted to do myself a good turn, too, why, there's nater in
that."

"There's nature in that, true enough. Brooks, I wish I had time to hear
all the particulars of this affair."

"I don't want to give them, sir," replies the man, hastily. "No more
would it be fair for me to do so. I've got some fair friends among the
Mill avenue folks. I've come back to W----, because I couldn't get on
anywhere else; and I've come back broke. The factory folks will trust me
to a night's lodging, when their betters wouldn't. I've told you enough
to open your eyes, sir; and you can look into the thing for yourself."

To "look into the thing" for himself, is precisely what Jasper Lamotte
is not inclined to do; so he says, with growing convictions, and
increasing friendliness of manner:

"At least, Brooks, you can give me an idea of the nature of the stories
this woman will tell, if brought into court?"

"The Lord knows what she won't tell, sir; she blows hot, and blows cold.
One minute she tells how he was a fairly good husband, until he got into
the hands of some city gang, while they lived in New York; and next she
raves over all his misdeeds, tells how he was compelled to quit England,
or be jugged up; how he forced her into divorcing him; how he bragged
over the strong influence he had over you and all your family; how he
came to her house time and again, after he was married to your gal; and
how he promised her 'pots of old Lamotte's money;' them's her words,
sir, 'pots of old Lamotte's money, and heaps of diamonds, for the sake
of old times,' when he was drunk enough to be good natured; and how he
beat her, and I can testify to that, when he was a little drunker."

"Brooks," says Mr. Lamotte, springing a last trap; "do you suppose _you_
could manage this business of getting away the woman, if I paid you
well, and gave you a bribe for her?"

"No, sir. I couldn't do it. I am so well known about Mill avenue; it
won't do for a poor broke up devil to turn up flush all at once. I don't
want nothing to do with the affair. I've done all I can do."

Mr. Lamotte slowly draws forth his wallet, and slowly opens it.

"Brooks, here is twenty-five dollars; I've not much money by me; I'll
look into this matter, and do more for you after we get quiet again.
Meantime, you can have the first vacancy at the factory; I'll see to
that at once."

"And I'll try and be sober, sir, and ready for it. Now, then, I've been
here a good many minutes; you'd better let me take a look at the corpse,
and be off."



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

BELKNAP OUTWITTED.


"If you please, Mr. Lamotte," said that gentleman's coachman, appearing
before his master, less than an hour before the time appointed for the
moving of the funeral cortege, and looking much confused. "If you
please, sir, I've had a misfortune with my hand, sir; at least, my
wrist; it's sort of sprained, and I most fear I can't handle the reins
proper, for the horses is mighty full of life, bein' so little used of
late."

"Well, well," broke in Mr. Lamotte. "I suppose you can get a man to fill
your place?"

The man's countenance brightened at once.

"Oh, yes, sir; I've the very man right on hand. A friend of mine, and a
master one with horses."

"Let him take your place then, and see that every thing is in proper
order."

"It's all right," said the coachman, returning to the stables, and
addressing a man who leaned against the loose box, where two blooded
carriage horses were undergoing the currying process. "It's all right;
you can drive the horses."

"Cap'n you're a good fellow," said the man, enthusiastically, "and
here's your ten dollars. It's a favor I'll never forget, mind, for
many's the day I've driven the beauties, before Squire McInnis went up,
and we all had to go."

[Illustration: "Cap'n, you're a good fellow."]

"That was a big failure," replied the coachman, knowingly. "You just see
that the horses are done off all right, won't you? I must look after the
carriage."

"It was lucky for me that I happened to know the history of these
horses," mused Jerry Belknap, for he it was who leaned confidingly over
to stroke the sleek sides of one of the splendid bays, and who had
bribed Mr. Lamotte's coachman with a ten dollar bill. "If I drive the
Lamottes, I'm sure of a hearing, and no audience; at the worst if they
should take in a third party, but they won't, I can find a way to make
myself and my wants known." And he sauntered across to the carriage
house and critically inspected the splendid landau that was being rolled
out upon the gravel.

He had returned to W---- on foot, from a near railway station, reaching
the town within five hours from the time he left it.

During this time, however, his personal appearance had undergone a
marked change. He was rubicund, and more youthful of countenance;
shabbily smart in dress; excessively "horsey," and somewhat loud in
manner.

During his intercourse with the Lamottes he had learned, from Frank,
that their blooded bays had once been the property of a wealthy and
prominent citizen of New York, who having failed, after the modern
fashion, had given Jasper Lamotte the first bid for the valuable span.
Given thus much, the rest was easy. Representing himself as a former
coachman of this bankrupt New Yorker, he had told his little story. He
was looking about him for a place in which to open a "small, but neat"
livery stable, had wandered into W---- that morning, and having
considerable cash about him, all his savings in fact, he had not cared
to tempt robbers, by appearing too "high toned."

Of course he had heard at once of the murder, and then remembered that
Lamotte was the name of the gentleman who had bought his favorite horses
from his former master.

"I never pulled reins over a span equal to 'em," he said, with much
pathos. "I never had the same liking for any other pair of critters;
they was the apple of my eye, and I'd give just ten dollars to draw
reins over 'em once more--even to a funeral."

His little ruse was successful; the bait was instantly swallowed, and
Jerry Belknap glanced maliciously up at the closely curtained chamber
windows, and muttered, as he began to saunter slowly up and down before
the stable door:

"Miss Wardour, you won't find it so easy to outwit an old detective,
even with the odds in your favor."

Just as the horses were being led out from the stable, a quiet-looking
young man, with a somewhat rustic air, came into the yard, and
approached the group near the carriage house.

"Who comes here?" asked the disguised Belknap, in a low tone, addressing
the coachman.

"More than I know," replied that functionary. Then laying down a
halter, just removed from the head of one of the pawing, restless
horses, he turned toward the new comer, saying, patronizingly:

"Well, my man, can we do anything for you?"

The stranger appeared somewhat abashed.

"I hope I ain't in the way, gentlemen," he said, respectfully; "I came
from Wardour with a message for Miss Constance. It's from the old lady,
and as I see the carriages are coming and the hearse, I just thought I'd
wait till the funeral was gone before I intruded."

"Oh!" said the coachman, more graciously. "Well, you won't have long to
wait, then; the time's about up, and Mr. Lamotte is never behind time."
Then he turned to Mr. Belknap.

"You must keep a close eye over the off one," he said; "he's full of
Cain; and I say, what a lucky thing it is that your clothes are dark,
and that Mrs. Lamotte won't let us wear full liveries."

"Why, yes, it's very lucky, that's so; just throw over those reins, will
you. Don't be uneasy in your mind about that horse; I'll drive 'em safe
enough; just you tell me when to start."

Ten minutes later, all that remained of John Burrill was borne out in
its costly casket and placed in the splendid hearse at the door.

Just as he was about to cross his own threshold, Jasper Lamotte was
confronted by a young man who pressed into his hand a slip of paper, and
whispered in his ear:

"Read it at once, sir; it's of vital importance _to you_."

Stifling an exclamation, Jasper Lamotte unfolded and glanced at the slip
of paper. It contained these words:

     The man who will drive your carriage is a cursed New York
     detective, who has bribed your coachman.

     Don't give him the opportunity he hopes to gain for watching and
     listening to yourself and son.

     The bearer of this can be trusted. BELKNAP.

By the time he had mastered the meaning of the note, the hearse had
moved forward and the pall-bearers were taking their places.

Then the Lamotte carriage came into view. Mr. Lamotte placed the note in
the hand of his son, who stood close beside him, and descended the
steps, a stern look on his face.

"My friend, come down off that box," he said to the self-satisfied
substitute procured him by his coachman.

[Illustration: "My friend, come down off that."]

The man on the box stared down at him in amazement.

"But, sir," he began.

"I want no words from you, sir; you can't drive my horses. Come down
instantly."

The discomfited Belknap writhed in his seat, and looked about him
helplessly.

Before were the pall-bearers, looking back from their open vehicle, and
noting the scene; on the steps, and within easy hearing distance, were
gathered the small knot of gentlemen, who, for courtesy's sake, or for
policy's sake, had gathered to do honor to Mr. Lamotte, rather than to
the poor rosewood shrouded thing that had never a mourner.

He could not explain; he could not make himself known.

"I will have you thrown off that box, sir; if you hesitate ten seconds
longer," exclaimed Mr. Lamotte, impatiently, at the same time moving
away and beckoning to the driver of the next carriage.

Fate was against him, and muttering curses, "not loud but deep," Jerry
Belknap began to clamber reluctantly down.

Seeing this, Mr. Lamotte turned toward the bearer of the mischievous
note, who had withdrawn a few paces from the group near the carriage,
and beckoned him to approach.

He came forward promptly.

"Can you drive, my man?"

"Yes, sir," respectfully.

"Then do me the favor to mount that box and drive my horses this
afternoon."

"And you, sir," turning to poor Belknap, "get off my premises and keep
off."

And so it came about that Jerry Belknap, private detective, found
himself once more outwitted, and "Mr. Smith, the book-peddler," drove
the carriage containing John Burrill's chief mourners.

"Pardon this little scene, gentlemen," said Mr. Lamotte, turning to his
friends, "but I happen to know that the man I dismissed is drunk."

Half an hour later a servant tapped softly at the door where Constance
kept watch, and said:

"There's a boy below, Miss Wardour, who says he has an important message
for you, and must deliver it in person."

Constance went immediately down to find our old friend George, the image
boy, in the hall below.

She smiled at sight of him, hoping to obtain some news of Bathurst. But
he only bowed, as if to a queen, placed in her hand a small, sealed
envelope; and before she could utter a word, she was standing alone in
the crape-hung hall, while the boy's steps could be heard ringing on the
stones outside.

Standing there, Constance hastily opened the envelope. It contained a
letter and a scrap of paper. Glancing first at the scrap, she read these
words:

     MISS WARDOUR--

     Enclosed find a letter, which, for reasons which I shall explain
     later, I pilfered from you on the night of our first meeting. It
     has accomplished the purpose for which I took it, and I hasten to
     restore it.

     BATHURST.

Constance turned her eye once more upon the paper in her hand, looked
closer and exclaimed: "It is; it is Sybil's lost letter!"



CHAPTER XXXIX.

"WILL LOVE OUTWEIGH HONOR?"


"Dr. Heath, here is another visitor."

Clifford Heath turned slowly away from the small iron-barred window; he
looked a trifle disturbed by this announcement, for he had just been
interviewed by Mr. O'Meara, who for the first time had presented Mr.
Wedron, and the two had left him much to think about.

The look of annoyance left his face, however, and a stare of surprise
took its place, when, following upon the footsteps of the janitor, came
Constance Wardour, not closely veiled and drooping, after the manner of
prison-visiting females in orthodox novels, but with her fair face
unconcealed, and her graceful figure at its proudest poise.

The haughtiness all departed from face and bearing, however, when the
door closed behind her and she found herself alone with the man she had
falsely accused.

Misfortune had not humbled Clifford Heath. When the first momentary look
of surprise had left his face, he stood before her as proudly erect, as
icily courteous, as if he were receiving her in his own parlor.

"Doctor Heath," began Constance, in low, contrite tones, "some months
ago I brought a wrongful accusation against you. I wronged you deeply;
let me do myself the justice to say that almost immediately I was
convinced of the injustice I had done you, of the utter insanity of my
own behavior, but--" blushing rosily, "I never found the letter, and how
could I come to you and say, I have changed my mind, without a reason.
Less than an hour ago, this note was put into my hands, and with it that
unfortunate lost letter. This enables me to say,--Doctor Heath, I deeply
regret the insult I offered you, and I ask you to be magnanimous, and to
pardon me."

She put the note in his hand, and he read it, without uttering a word;
stood silent for a moment, as if to collect his thoughts, and then said:

"Miss Wardour, I am glad that this affair has been cleared up; when a
man has so many dark shadows hanging over him, he is thankful for the
smallest glimpse of sunlight. It is like your generosity to come in
person."

"But you have not said that you forgive me, Doctor Heath; fully and
freely, remember."

"Fully and freely I forgive you, then, Miss Wardour," smilingly, he
replied. "After all, the mistake was a natural one. Since I have been an
inmate of this cell, I have learned to see myself as others see me. Why
should I not come under suspicion, especially after hearing my words to
Bathurst? By the by, this note from Bathurst, you tell me that you
received it to-day?"

"To-day; since noon."

"And it is dated to-day; then," looking at her questioningly, "Bathurst
must be in town."

"Yes," dropping her eyes, confusedly. "That is, I think so;" and
scarcely heeding her own movements, she seated herself in the doctor's
chair, and, leaning one arm against the table, looked up into his face,
saying with a spice of her old manner, so familiar to him in the past:

"Having forgiven me so generously, Doctor Heath, don't you think it
would be quite proper to shake hands?"

He looked down upon her, a strange light leaping into his eyes. But he
did not approach. He lifted a large, shapely hand, and surveyed it
sorrowfully.

"It _looks_ as clean as any hand, Miss Wardour, but there is a stain
upon it."

"A stain! No, sir. Do you think that _I_ believe in your guilt?"

Again the quick light flamed in his eyes, and now he came a step nearer.

"Do you believe in my innocence?"

"Beyond a doubt."

"When I said 'there is a stain upon my hand,' I did not mean the stain
of guilt, but of suspicion, of accusation."

"There is _no_ stain upon your hand! Doctor Heath. What is this I hear
about you? They tell me you will make no defense."

He smiled down at her.

"I could make but one defense, and that--"

"And that?"

"And that, Miss Wardour, I would not make."

"Why?"

She was straining every nerve to preserve her composure; words came from
her lips like frozen heartbeats.

"Because--Miss Wardour, do not ask me why."

"I do ask; I persist. Why? Why? _Why?_"

"Because--I see you are as imperious as ever--because I can only save
myself by giving the real murderer up to justice."

She was on her feet in an instant, all her enforced calmness gone,
unutterable misery in her face and voice.

"You know!" she cried. "You! Oh! my God, what shall I do!"

"Have no fear, Miss Wardour; have I not said I will keep my own
counsel?"

"But, you! _You!_ Oh, there is no reason why _you_ should not speak; you
are not bound! You are not--oh, what am I saying!" She sank back into
her seat, panting and wild-eyed.

"Miss Wardour, calm yourself," he said, gently. "I _am_ bound. It is my
pleasure to keep this secret. Listen. A short time ago I received a
visit from my lawyers. They told me--among other things, they thought it
best that I should know--that you knew who did the deed, and that you
would have us both saved, innocent and guilty alike. Before that, I had
determined to keep silence; now I am doubly resolved. For your sake, I
will not accuse Frank Lamotte."

"Frank--you will not accuse _Frank Lamotte_? And for my sake!" she
almost shrieked. "For God's sake, explain. What is Frank Lamotte to me?
Of what can you accuse him?"

It was Clifford Heath's turn to lose his composure. How could he
interpret her words? Was she trying to deceive him?

"Miss Wardour," he said, almost sternly, "do you wish me to understand
that Francis Lamotte is nothing to you?"

"_Nothing to me!_ the vilest, the basest, the most treacherous, the most
abject of all human creatures, _that_ is what Frank Lamotte is to me!"

Uncontrollable scorn rang in her voice; rising anger, too. How dared
_he_ couple her name with that of Frank Lamotte?

From the chaos of meanings and mysteries revolving through his mind,
Clifford Heath seized upon and clung to one idea, held it in silence for
a moment, then let it burst forth in words.

"Then--then you are not Frank Lamotte's promised wife?"

"_I!_ great heavens! _no._"

"And never have been?"

"And never have been."

Clifford Heath drew a long, deep breath. For a moment a look of gladness
beamed in his eye, then it died out suddenly, as he said, almost
gloomily:

"And yet, you have said that he must be saved at all hazards. Knowing
his guilt, I still am here in his place."

"In his place, oh," she came toward him with a swift, eager movement, "I
begin to see! Doctor Heath, you think Frank Lamotte the guilty one?"

"I know it," grimly.

A look of relief came over her face. She breathed freely.

"You believe this," she said at last, "and yet you are here. If you have
evidence against Frank Lamotte, why do you occupy a felon's cell? Why
not put him in your place?"

"I have told you why. It was for your sake."

She lowered her eyes and drew back a little, but he followed her, and,
standing before her, looked down into her face with a persistent,
searching gaze. "You must understand me now," he said firmly, "when I
believed that you loved Frank Lamotte, I said 'Then I will not stand
forth and accuse the man she loves, for--I love her, and she must not be
unhappy.'"

A great sob rose in her throat. A wave of crimson swept over her brow.
She stood before him with clasped hands and drooping head.

"But for that meddlesome slip of paper," he went on, "I should not have
been driven from the field, and this treachery of Lamotte's could never
have been practiced upon me. Do you remember a certain day when you sent
for Ray Vandyck, and he came to you from my office? Well, on that day
Francis Lamotte told me that you were his promised wife, and when Ray
came back, _he_ verified the statement, having received the information
from your lips. Once I hoped to come to you and say, after lifting for
your eyes the veil of mystery, which I have allowed to envelope my past:
'Constance Wardour, I love you; I want you for my very own, my wife!'
Now, mountains have arisen between us; I can not offer you a hand with
the shadow of a stain upon it; nor a name that is tarnished by doubt and
suspicion. However this affair may end for me, that hope is ended now."

[Illustration: "That hope is ended now."]

It had come; the decisive moment.

She could go away now with sealed lips, and it would end indeed. She
could turn away from him, leaving happiness behind her; taking with her
his happiness, too; or, she could speak, and then--

She looked about her; and the bare walls and grated windows gave her
strength to dare much. Had they stood together out under the broad
bright sunlight; he as free as herself, she could have turned away
mutely, and let her life go on as it would.

Now--now his present was overshadowed; his future difficult to read.

"_Is_ it ended?" she said, softly. Then, looking up with sudden,
charming imperiousness. "You end things very selfishly, very coolly,
Doctor Heath. I do not choose to have it ended."

"Miss Wardour!--Constance!"

"Wait; you say that your lawyers told of my visit to them, and that I
would not have the guilty punished. What more did they tell you--about
my doings?"

"Very little; I could hardly understand why they told thus much."

"Did they tell you that I learned, through a scheming rascal in the
guise of a detective, that a plot was growing against you; that I sent
for Ray Vandyck, and set him over you as a temporary guardian? And that
I sent next for Detective Bathurst, warning him that you were surrounded
by enemies. Did they tell you that, when I learned of your arrest, I
left my place by Sybil Lamotte, who is delirious and yet clings to me
constantly, and came to them, offering them all my fortune if they would
only save me you?"

"Did you do this--Constance?"

"I have done this. Have I not earned the right, openly, before all the
world, to be your champion, your truest friend, your--"

"My queen! my darling! my very own!"

All his calm is gone, all his haughtiness of bearing; with one swift
movement he snatches her to his heart, and she rests in his embrace,
shocked at her own boldness, and unspeakably happy.

Who dare intrude upon a lover's interview? Who dares to snatch the first
coy love words from a maiden's lips, and give them to a world grown old
in love making, and appraising each tender word by its own calloused old
heart?

For the time all is forgotten, save one fact, they love each other
well.

By and by, other thoughts come, forcing their way like unwelcome guests.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Constance," he says, after a long interval, "you have made me anything
but indifferent to my fate. Now I shall begin to struggle for my
freedom; but--do you realize what a network of false testimony they have
woven about me?"

"Do I realize it?" she cried. "Yes, far more than you do, or can,
and--you said something about Frank Lamotte. Has he sought to injure
you?"

"Constance, I thought you knew," turning upon her a look of surprise. "I
thought you knew his guilt. Who, but Frank Lamotte, could gain access to
my office, to purloin my handkerchief and my knife? He had a duplicate
key, and--_I found that key in the old cellar beside the body of John
Burrill_."

The look of perplexity on her face deepens into one of actual distress.

Could it be, that after all, Frank had forestalled that other one?

Back upon her memory came his words, "I can save him if I will." Where
there is room for doubt there is room for hope. What if another hand had
anticipated that of the paid assassin? She resolved to cling to this
hope with desperation.

If there was evidence so strong against Frank Lamotte, let him take her
lover's place. Why not? She began to see many things in a new light; she
peered forward, catching a view of the partial truth, "as in a glass,
darkly." One thing was clear, however, they must act at once! No time
must be lost!

She sat before him thinking thus, yet seemingly powerless to act or
speak!

"Constance. Has the possibility of Frank Lamotte's guilt, overwhelmed
you?"

"The possibility!" she exclaimed, starting up suddenly. "No. I know him
capable of baser things than murder."

"Of baser things! My darling, what do you mean?"

"Don't ask me now; there is no time to waste in talking of him; I am
going straight to your lawyers this moment; I am going to send them to
you, and you shall tell them every thing."

"Despot!" His eyes devouring her.

"Of course! I am always that. They will say it is time some one took you
in charge. Are you going to be dumb any more?"

"Never! My lips are unsealed from this hour; since you have dared to
claim and take a share in my fate, and since I have not the courage to
put so much happiness from me."

"Supposing it in your power?"

"Oh, I know better than to cope with you," smiling upon her fondly. "But
my honor must be vindicated for your gracious sake, and--I must cease to
be," with a sidelong glance, "'Doctor Heath, from nowhere.' Sit down,
darling; our janitor is an accommodating fellow; he will not interrupt,
nor shorten your stay, I am sure. I want to tell you my story. It is
yours, together with all my other secrets."

She put up her hand, quickly.

"Not now," she said. "Not for a long time. I prefer you as I have known
you; for me, you shall still be 'Doctor Heath, from nowhere.' Don't
remonstrate; I will have it so; I will send Mr. O'Meara to you, and that
odd Mr. Wedron; you shall tell _them_ all about yourself."

"_You_ will go to them? Constance, no; for your own sake, let us keep
our love a secret for a time; until this is ended, somehow. Think, my
proud darling, how much it would spare you."

She turned toward him, her mouth settling into very firm lines, a
resolute look in her eyes.

"Would it spare you anything?" she asked, quietly.

"I? Oh, no. It is sacrifice for me; but, I wish to to have it so. You
must not visit me here. You must not let gossip say she has thrown
herself away on an adventurer."

"I won't," she replied, sententiously; "I'd like to hear of anybody
saying that! I'd excommunicate them, I'm going to close the mouths of
gossips, by setting my seal of proprietorship upon you. I'm coming here
every day; but, after this, I'll bring Aunt Honor, or Mrs. O'Meara with
me. I'm going to say to every soul who names you to me: 'Doctor Heath is
my affianced husband, defame him if you dare.' And I'm going straight to
tell Mr. O'Meara that he must take your testimony against Frank
Lamotte."

Constance kept her word. Before many days, the town rang with the news
that Constance Wardour, in the face of the accusation against him, had
announced her engagement to Doctor Clifford Heath.

Then a hush fell upon the aristocratic gossipers of W----, and
mischievous tongues were severely bridled. It was not wise to censure
too freely a man whom the heiress of Wardour had marked with her favor.

The lawyers found their client in a mood much more to their liking, and
O'Meara scribbled down in his little book long sentences caught from the
lips of Clifford Heath, who was now a strong helper, and apt in
suggestions for the defense.

He opened for them the sealed up pages of his past life.

He told them in detail, all that he had briefly stated to Constance,
concerning Frank Lamotte, and more.

Every day now they were in close consultation, and every day the Wardour
carriage drove at a stated hour, first to Mapleton, where it took up
Constance, and then to the prison, where, accompanied by her aunt, or
her guardian's wife, the heiress passed a half hour in the cell of her
lover.

She still clung to the hope that the accumulating evidence against Frank
Lamotte might break the chain that bound him, and open his prison doors;
but, one day, a week after her first visit to the prison, Mr. O'Meara
dashed this hope to atoms.

"We can bring no criminal accusation against Lamotte," he said. "The
examination proved that John Burrill was killed as early as eleven
o'clock that night, and investigation has proven that Lamotte remained
at home all that evening, and was heard moving about in his room until
after midnight. I'm terribly sorry, Constance, but the case stands just
about as it did at first, and the odds are still against Heath. He will
have to stand his trial."

The girl's heart sank like lead, and as days passed on and no new
developments could be evolved from a case which began to assume a most
gloomy aspect, her position in the Lamotte household became unbearable.

Sybil had changed a very little, but for the better. Her fits of raving
were less frequent, and almost always to be anticipated. So, worn in
body and tortured in mind, Constance went back to Wardour, and, save for
her daily visits to the prison, was invisible to all her friends.

And she did not suffer alone. Knowing her love for Clifford Heath and
the terrible secret she carried in her bosom, Mrs. Lamotte lived in an
anguish of suspense. Would love outweigh honor? If the worst should
come, could she trust Constance Wardour? Could she trust herself?

In those tortured hours, the same prayer went up from the heart of both
mother and friend--that Sybil Lamotte would die!

While these things were making the world a weariness to Constance, Jerry
Belknap, in his character of prospecting horse jockey, took up his
quarters in a third rate hotel near the river, and remained very quiet
in fancied security, until he became suddenly enlightened as to the
cause of his ill success, as follows:

Lounging near the hotel one day, he was accosted by a stranger, who
tapped him familiarly on the shoulder, saying:

"My friend, I've got a word to say to you. Will you just step into the
nearest saloon with me. We will talk over a glass of something."

Wondering idly at his coolness, Belknap followed the stranger, and they
entered "Old Forty Rods," that being the nearest saloon.

Once seated face to face at a table, the stranger threw a letter across
to Belknap, saying carelessly:

"Read that, if you please."

Opening the letter, these lines stared Belknap in the face:

     You have broken your pledge, Jerry Belknap. I have had you under my
     eye constantly. Fortunately for yourself, I can make use of you.
     Follow the instructions of the bearer of this _to the letter_ now
     and until further notice, if you hope for any mercy from

     BATHURST.

He stared at the open letter as if it possessed the eyes of a basilisk.

Instantly he recognized the power behind the scenes, and was no longer
surprised at his failures. And he turned upon his companion a look of
sullen submission.

"I know better than to kick against Bathurst," he said doggedly. "What
does he want me to do?"

"That's just what we are going to talk about," said the stranger,
coolly. "Draw your chair up closer, Jerry."



CHAPTER XL.

"TOO YOUNG TO DIE."


Over days, filled with weary waiting and marked by few incidents and no
discoveries, we pass with one glance.

Clifford Heath's trial follows close upon his indictment. A month rolls
away, and with the first days of winter comes the assembling of judge
and jury, and his case is the first one called.

During the weeks that have intervened between his arrest and this day of
his trial, Constance has been his bravest champion and truest friend;
she has stimulated him to hope, and incited him to courage, with loving,
cheerful words, while clinging desperately to a last remnant of her own
sinking hope.

Day by day, during all this time, the ancient gig driven by Doctor
Benoit, deposited that gentleman before the doors of Mapleton. Sybil's
delirium had ended in a slow, wearisome fever, which left her, as the
first frosts of winter touched the land, a white, emaciated shadow of
her former self, her reason restored, but her memory sadly deficient.

She had forgotten that dark phase of her life in which John Burrill had
played so sinister a part, and fancied herself back in the old days when
her heart was light and her life unfettered. She had dropped a year out
of that life, but memory would come back with strength, the doctor said;
and Mrs. Lamotte dreaded the days when that memory should bring to her
daughter's brow, a shadow never to be lifted; into her life a ghost
never to be laid.

Evan, too, had narrowly escaped death at the hands of his rum demons;
after four weeks filled with all the horrors attendant upon the
drunkard's delirium, he came to his senses, hollow-cheeked, sunken eyed,
emaciated, with his breath coming in quick, short gasps, and the days of
his life numbered.

Brandy had devoured his vitals; late hours and protracted orgies had
sapped his strength; constant exposure in all weather and at all hours
had done its work upon his lungs.

"If he outlasts the Winter, he will die in the Spring." This was the
doctor's _ultimatum_.

News from the outside world was strictly shut out from those sick ones.
The name of John Burrill never was breathed in their presence, and both
were ignorant of the fact that Clifford Heath, an old time favorite with
each, was on trial for his life.

The morning that saw Clifford Heath quit his cell to take his place in
the felon's dock and answer to the charge of murder, saw Sybil Lamotte
lying upon a soft divan, before a merry Winter fire. It was the first
time since her illness that she had quitted her bed. And Evan, too, for
the first time in many weeks, came with feeble, halting steps to his
sister's room, and sitting near her, scanned her wasted features with
wistful intentness.

"Poor sis!" he murmured, stroking her hand softly. "We've had a pretty
hard pull, you and I, but we're coming out famously." And then he added
to himself, "More's the pity, so far as I am concerned."

"What made you ill, Evan?" she whispered feebly. "Was it worrying about
me?"

A bright flush leaped to his cheeks and burned there hotly.

"Yes, it was about you, sis. But you will soon be as well and happy as
ever, won't you?" anxiously.

"To be sure, Evan; we will both get well very fast. We have got so much
to live for, and we are too young to die."



CHAPTER XLI.

SIR CLIFFORD HEATHERCLIFFE.


It is the opening hour of Clifford Heath's trial.

The court room is crowded to its utmost capacity; never has there
occurred a trial there so intensely interesting to all W----.

The prisoner is a little paler, a little graver than his ordinary self.
But is his ordinary self in every other respect; as proud of bearing, as
self-possessed, as handsome, and _distingue_ as ever.

Beside him sits Mr. O'Meara, alone. Mr. Wedron, after all his labor, and
his seeming interest, is unaccountably absent; unaccountably, at least,
so far as the opposition, the prisoner, the judge, jury, and all the
spectators are concerned. Mr. O'Meara seems not at all disturbed by his
absence, and evidently understands all about it.

Near the prisoner sits a man who causes a buzz of inquiry to run through
the entire audience.

He is tall, fair haired, handsome; the carriage of his head, the
haughtiness of his bearing, reminds more than one present of Clifford
Heath, as they first knew him. He is a stranger to all W----, and "Who
is he? Who is he?" runs from lip to lip.

The stranger is seemingly oblivious of the attention lavished upon him;
he bends forward at times, and whispers a word to the prisoner, or his
counsel, and he turns occasionally to murmur something in the ear of
Constance Wardour, who sits beside him, grave, stately, calm.

She is accompanied by Mrs. Aliston and Mrs. O'Meara, and Ray Vandyck
sits beside the latter lady, and completes the party.

Mr. Lamotte is there, subdued, yet affable, and Frank, too, who is paler
than usual, but quite self-possessed.

Near the party above mentioned, may be seen the two city physicians,
but, and here is another cause for wonderment, Doctor Benoit is not
present; and, who ever knew the good doctor to miss an occasion like
this?

"Business must be urgent, when it keeps Benoit away from such a trial,"
whispers one gossip to another, and the second endorses the opinion of
the first.

Sitting there, scanning that audience with a seemingly careless glance,
Constance feels her heart sink like lead in her bosom.

She feels, she knows, that already in the minds of most, her lover is a
condemned man. She knows that the weight of evidence will be against
him. They have a defense, it is true, but nothing will overthrow the
fact that John Burrill went straight to the house of the prisoner, and
was found dead hard by.

All along she has hoped, she knew not what, from Bathurst. But since he
returned Sybil's note in so strange and abrupt a manner, she has had no
word or sign from him, and now she doubts him, she distrusts everything.

But, little by little, day by day, she has been schooling her heart to
face one last desperate alternative. Her lover _shall_ be saved! Let the
trial go on. Let the worst come. Let the fatal verdict be pronounced, if
it must; after that, perish the Wardour honor. What if she must trample
the heart out of a mother's breast? What if she must fling into the
breach the life of a blighted, wronged, helpless, perhaps dying sister
woman?

Hardening her heart, crushing down her pride, she muttered desperately
on this last day of doubt and suspense.

"Let them all go. Let the verdict be what it may, Clifford Heath shall
not suffer a felon's doom!"

Then she had nerved herself to calmness and gone to face the inevitable.

"Prisoner at the bar, are you guilty or not guilty?"

[Illustration: "Prisoner at the bar, are you guilty or not guilty?"]

The reading of the indictment has turned all eyes upon the prisoner's
face.

He stands erect, his head haughtily poised, his clear dark eyes fixed
fully upon the judge.

"I am not guilty, your honor."

A murmur runs through the court room. The stranger bends to whisper to
Constance. The trial proceeds.

Once again all the evidence brought forward at the inquest is
repeated--sworn to--dilated upon. Once again it presses the scales
down, down, down, and the chances for the prisoner hang light in the
balance.

One thing puzzles the prosecuting attorney, and troubles the mind of
Jasper Lamotte.

O'Meara, the shrewd, the fox like--O'Meara, who never lets pass a flaw
or a loophole for criticism; who never loses a chance to pick and
torture and puzzle a witness, is strangely indifferent.

One by one the witnesses for the prosecution pass before him; little by
little they build a mountain of evidence against his client. He declines
to examine them. He listens to their testimony with the air of a bored
play-goer at a very poor farce.

After the testimony of the two masons, comes that of the party who last
saw John Burrill in life. They testify as they did at the
inquest--neither more, nor less.

Then come the dwellers in Mill avenue. They are all there but Brooks and
Nance Burrill.

"Your honor," says the prosecuting attorney, "two of our witnesses--two
very important ones--are absent. Why they are absent, we do not know.
Where they may be found, is a profound mystery.

"One of these witnesses, a man called Brooks, we believe to have been
especially intimate with the murdered man. We think that he could have
revealed the secret which the prisoner took such deadly measures to
cover up. This man can not be found. He disappeared shortly after the
murder.

"Our other witness vanished almost simultaneously. This other was the
divorced wife of the murdered Burrill. She, too, knew too much. Now I do
not insinuate--I do not cast any stones, but there are some, not far
distant, who could explain these two mysterious disappearances, 'an they
would.'"

"An they _will_!" pops in the hitherto mute O'Meara. "They'll make
several knotty points clear to your understanding, honorable sir."

A retort rises to his opponent's lips, and a wordy war seems imminent,
but the crier commands "Order in the Court," and the two antagonists
glare at each other mutely, while the trial moves on.

Frank Lamotte comes upon the witness stand. As before, he tells nothing
new.

He was aware that his brother-in-law possessed some secret of Doctor
Heath's. Did not know the nature of it, but inferred from words Burrill
had let drop, that it was of a damaging character.

Upon being questioned as to his acquaintance with the prisoner, and what
he knew of his disposition and temper, he replies that he has known the
prisoner since he first came to W----; liked him very much; never had
any personal misunderstanding, although of late the prisoner had chosen
to treat him with marked coldness.

As to his temper--well, he must admit that it was very fiery, very
quickly roused, very difficult of control, he believed. Prisoner was by
nature intolerant to a fault. He had shown this disposition in presence
of witness on many occasions.

Being shown the knife found in the cellar, he examines it carefully, and
pronounces it to be the one he has often seen in Doctor Heath's
instrument case, or its precise counterpart.

This ends his testimony. O'Meara has no questions to ask, and Jasper
Lamotte takes his son's place. He is the last witness for the
prosecution.

He has less to say than any of the others.

He had heard of his son-in-law's encounter with Doctor Heath, of course;
knew that a feud existed between them, could not so much as guess at the
nature of it. The prosecuting attorney is about to dismiss him _sans
ceremonie_, when Mr. O'Meara, springs into sudden activity and announces
his desire to examine the witness.

His opponent stares astonished, a murmur runs through the room; the
Court bids him proceed.

"Mr. Lamotte," begins O'Meara, rising to his feet with provoking
slowness, and then propounding his questions with a rapidity which
leaves the witness no time for thought. "Mr. Lamotte, what can you tell
us of this missing witness, Brooks?"

Mr. Lamotte stares in mute astonishment, then instinctively scenting
danger ahead, he makes an effort to rally his forces that have been
scattered by the lawyer's unexpected bomb.

"What do I know of the man Brooks?" he repeats slowly. "I don't
comprehend you, sir."

"I asked a plain question," retorts the lawyer, crisply.

"I believe the man has been in my employ," ventures the witness, as if
making an effort to recall some very insignificant personage.

"When?"

"That I do not remember, sir."

"Ah! Perhaps you have forgotten when last you saw this fellow, Brooks?"

"I think I saw him, for the last time, two days before my son-in-law was
killed. I was at the depot, starting for the city. I think Brooks left
town on the same train."

"And you have not seen him since?"

"Not to my knowledge."

"Make an effort to think, sir. Brooks has been seen in W---- since. It
is known that he has visited Mapleton. Try to recall that visit."

Mr. Lamotte ponders and falls into the trap.

"A man came to Mapleton on the day of Mr. Burrill's funeral," he says,
slowly. "I believe, upon reflection, that it _was_ Brooks; he wished to
see the body."

"Did you see this man on that occasion?"

"I did; for a moment only; he came to me with his request."

"You are sure this man was Brooks?"

"Not beyond a doubt. I was troubled, and busy. It was one of my factory
hands; I _think_ it was the man Brooks."

"Mr. Clerk," says O'Meara, turning suddenly to that functionary, "please
take down Mr. Lamotte's statements. He is _not_ sure that it was the
man Brooks."

Mr. Lamotte looks disconcerted for a moment.

But O'Meara goes vigorously on, leaving him no time to collect his
thoughts.

"Now, Mr. Lamotte, what do you know of this woman who calls herself
Nance Burrill?"

"Nothing," with a glance of offended dignity.

"Nothing! I am told that she has worked in your mills."

"It is possible; I am not my own overseer, however, and do not know
_all_ my people."

"Have you ever heard that this woman could tell things that would not
reflect credit upon your dead son-in-law?"

"No, sir," haughtily.

"Were you aware that this woman is not to be found, before learning the
same in court?"

"No, sir! I consider your questions irrelevant."

"Possibly," retorts O'Meara, drily. "I have no more to ask, sir." Then
turning toward the jury, he says, rapidly:

"May it please your honor and the gentlemen of the jury, just here I
have a word to say:

"You have heard the evidence against my client; you have heard the life
and honor of a high-minded gentleman, against whom there was never
before a breath of scandal or blame, sworn away by a handful of saloon
loafers, and a pack of ignorant old women.

"I mean no disrespect to the loafers or the old women in question. I
suppose if the good Lord had not intended them for what they are, he
would have made them otherwise--and then there would have been no
evidence against my client. I name them what they are, because, when
this honorable jury weighs the evidence, I want them to weigh the
witnesses as well."

"The gentleman wished to say one word," sneers the prosecution. "Has he
said it, or is this the beginning of his plea?"

"It would be better for your case if it were the beginning of my plea,"
cuts in O'Meara; "my witnesses will be less to the gentleman's liking
than are my words.

"Your honor, first then, the gentleman for the prosecution, in making
his preliminary remarks, has dwelt at length upon the fact that my
client is comparatively a stranger to W----; a stranger with a mystery.
Now, then, I wish to show that it is possible for a stranger to W---- to
be an honorable man, with an unblemished past; and that it is equally
possible for a dweller in this classic and hitherto unpolluted town, to
be a liar and to perjure himself most foully.

"Let the Honorable George Heathercliffe take the stand.

"And mark you, this gentleman _is_ the Honorable George Heathercliffe,
of Cliffe Towers, Hampshire, England, member of parliament, and honored
of the Queen. His passports have been examined by our honorable judge,
thereby saving the necessity for too much unpolished Yankee criticism."

"It has failed to save us a dose of Irish pig-headedness, however,"
interpolates the opposing barrister.

During the burst of smothered laughter that follows, the stately
fair-haired stranger quits his place beside Constance, and takes the
stand.

He is duly sworn, and then Mr. O'Meara begins, with much impressiveness:

"Mr. Heathercliffe, turn your eyes upon the prisoner, my client. Have
you ever seen him before entering this court room?"

The Honorable George Heathercliffe turns toward the prisoner, and a
smile deepens the blue of his eyes, and intensifies the kindly
expression of his handsome mouth.

"I have seen the prisoner before," he replies, still smiling.

"Have you known him previous to his advent in W----?"

"I have."

"For long?"

"For many years."

"My honorable opponent has hinted that there is a mystery hanging about
this man. He even hazards a guess that his name may not be Clifford
Heath. Do you know aught of this mystery?"

"I do."

"Does the prisoner bear a name not his own?"

"He does not bear his own name entire."

"Mr. Heathercliffe, who is this man who calls himself Doctor Clifford
Heath?"

"He is _Sir Clifford Heathercliffe_, and my elder brother."



CHAPTER XLII.

A TORTURED WITNESS.


There is a profound sensation in the court room.

Constance Wardour catches her breath, and bends forward to look at her
lover, the color coming and going hotly in her cheeks. She had chosen to
hear nothing of his past, and so Mr. O'Meara has introduced the
Honorable George Heathercliffe, that morning, saying only: "A most
important witness, Constance; a _strong_ witness."

"He is Sir Clifford Heathercliffe, and my elder brother."

Mr. Rand, the prosecuting attorney, moves uneasily in his seat, and
begins to wonder what small shot O'Meara holds back of this big shell.

Without seeming to notice the sensation created by his self-possessed
witness, O'Meara goes on rapidly.

"How long has your brother, Sir Clifford Heathercliffe, been in
America?"

"For more than three years."

"Until you received the telegram calling you to his aid, did you know
where to find your brother?"

"I did not."

"Mr. Heathercliffe, have you that telegram in your possession?"

"I have."

"Will you permit his honor, the judge, to see that telegram?"

"Assuredly." He draws forth a morocco letter case, and taking therefrom
a slip of paper hands it to O'Meara. That astute gentleman passes it
carelessly on to the clerk, saying: "Read it please."

Rising to receive the paper, the clerk reads:

     _Honorable George Heathercliffe,
     Cliffe Towers, etc., etc.,_

     Come at once to W----, R---- County.---- Sir Clifford is in deep
     trouble.

     BATHURST.

"Bathurst!" the name falls involuntarily from the lips of Mr. Rand; he
knows the expert by reputation, and this is the first intimation he has
received, that so shrewd a man is at work in the interest of Clifford
Heath.

"Is this the only message you received?"

"No, later in the day this came."

He produced and passed over a second dispatch, which is read like the
first.

     _Honorable George Heathercliffe, etc._

     Before starting find out everything you can concerning one John, or
     Jonathan Burrill, once in the employ of your father.

     BATHURST.

The two Lamottes glance uneasily at each other. Whither is this
examination tending?

"Did you follow the instructions in this last telegram?" asks O'Meara.

"I did."

A bland smile widens the mouth of the little Irish lawyer. He waves his
hand magisterially.

"That is all, for the present, Mr. Heathercliffe," he says, suavely, and
amazement sits on every countenance.

And now Mr. Rand bends forward and flings himself into the arena, while
O'Meara leans back in his chair, his eyes twinkling maliciously.

"Mr. Heathercliffe," begins the cross-examiner, "Your two dispatches are
signed 'Bathurst.' Who is this Bathurst?"

"Mr. Bathurst, sir, is a very able detective."

"Ah! He is known to you, I presume?"

"He is," bowing gravely.

"Now, Mr. Heathercliffe, it strikes me as singular that an English
gentleman should be on such familiar terms with a Yankee detective; and
still more strange that an English nobleman should be masquerading in
America, as a country physician. I should like an explanation of these
things."

"My brother came to America on account of family troubles, sir. Is it
_necessary_ that I make a fuller statement?"

He asks this hesitatingly, and Mr. Rand fancies that he sees a point to
be gained. He does not see that O'Meara is struggling to conceal the
smile of satisfaction that _will_ creep into his face.

"_I_ consider it necessary, sir. It is high time that we knew why we
have been honored by this _incognito_--nobleman."

The witness turns an unruffled countenance towards the judge.

"If the Court will permit me to tell my brother's story in my own way,
(it will take some time,) I shall be glad to enlighten this legal
gentleman."

The Court gives its gracious permission; Attorney Rand resumes his seat;
O'Meara fairly grins his delight; Constance leans forward, breathlessly;
the prisoner casts one look about him, and then rests his head upon his
hand; there is breathless silence in the court, as the Honorable George
Heathercliffe begins:

"I have said that the prisoner at the Bar, is my elder brother; three
years ago he was not _Sir_ Clifford Heathercliffe, not my eldest
brother.

"The name of Sir Herbert Heathercliffe is, no doubt, unknown to all here
present--except Mr. Bathurst, if that gentleman is here--but England has
rung with that name, and the Heathercliffe pride has been lowered to the
dust, because of it.

"Sir Herbert was the pet and favorite of our father, and possessed over
him a strong magnetic influence. He was less than two years older than
Clifford, and the two closely resembled each other.

"From their academic days, Herbert was an idler, a spendthrift, a squire
of dames, _par excellence_. Clifford was devoted to study, and not
enamored of society.

"It is not my purpose to follow step by step the downward career of my
brother Herbert, only such of his misdeeds as affected Clifford need be
brought forward here.

"I have said that Herbert was a spendthrift. He was perpetually
borrowing of Clifford, and always in debt.

"When Clifford, who had a monomania for the medical profession,
announced his intention to go to Germany and pursue his studies there,
the first trouble came.

"Herbert, who for his own selfish ends, wished to keep Clifford and his
purse nearer Cliffe Towers, incited my father to oppose the scheme. This
was easy. Lord Heathercliffe did not believe in the dignity of labor,
and the two voted this new departure a family disgrace. They said so
much, and in such offensive language, that Clifford, in open defiance of
his father's commands, turned his back upon us all, and went to
Heidelberg.

"But, Herbert's career had only began. In a little while, it was
discovered that our father's name had been forged for a large amount,
and suspicion pointed to my brother Clifford. He came in hot haste on
receipt of a telegram, and he did not come alone. He brought with him,
Detective Bathurst, whom he was so fortunate as to find at Scotland
Yards.

"I need not dwell on what followed; Bathurst is a keen detective; he
vindicated my brother, Clifford, and placed the guilt where it belonged.
It was Herbert who had forged my father's name.

"There was a terrible scene at the Towers. Herbert swore eternal enmity
toward Clifford, and Clifford predicted then and there the downfall of
all our pride, through Herbert's follies. I remember his words
distinctly:

"'Let me tell you how this will end, Lord Heathercliffe,' he said; 'I
have not grown up beside Herbert, not to know him. Our name has
heretofore been stainless; we shall keep it so no longer; it will be
dragged in the mud, smirched, hissed, disgraced utterly. But I will
never permit myself to go down with the fall of the Heathercliffes; I
renounce all claims upon you; I renounce my succession; I renounce a
name already contaminated; the world is my heritage; I shall leave
England; I shall leave Europe; I will make me a new name, and build my
own fortune. When Herbert has broken your heart, and ruined your
fortunes, as he surely will, and when his debaucheries have brought him
to an early grave, as they must, then let the title fall to George; he
is younger; he can not feel this shame so keenly; as for me, I will
never wear the title; I will never be pointed out as the peer whose
elder brother was a rake, a seducer, a forger, and Herbert is all
these.'

"Clifford went back to Heidelberg; Herbert remained at the Towers,
whining, pleading, shamefully fawning upon a doting and half imbecile
old man.

"He feigned illness; he feigned penitence, and finally he held my father
more than ever his adoring slave.

"I can not prolong this recital. It is needless. Herbert ran his race of
infamy. My father died broken hearted. Clifford searched all England to
bring Herbert, then a fugitive, to his father's death bed; but the
officers of justice were before him. They ran him down in an obscure
provincial village, and, to escape the consequences of his misdeeds,
Herbert Heathercliffe crowned his life of mad folly by dying a suicide's
death.

"And now I must turn a page in my own personal history:

"Prior to my father's death, I had formed an attachment for the only
daughter of a proud and wealthy country gentleman, our neighbor. But I
was a younger son, and by my father's will, made upon his death-bed,
Clifford was his heir. Herbert had squandered half our father's fortune,
but a handsome sum still remained.

"Realizing the hopelessness of my suit, I was preparing to quit England,
taking with me my mother's legacy, which would amply suffice for a
bachelor's wants, but was too meager a sum to lay at the feet of a
beauty and an heiress. To make my departure more bitter, I had learned
that the woman of my choice returned my affections.

"Then Sir Clifford swooped down upon me. Before I could guess his
intent, he had sought and gained the consent of my wife's father; had
transferred to me all his fortune, reserving only his mother's legacy,
which was the same as mine. He forced me to accept by the strength of
his splendid will. He installed me as master of Cliffe Towers. He
hastened the marriage preparations. He remained long enough to dance at
our wedding, and then he left us--proud as a king, independent as a
gypsy, blameless, fearless, high-souled.

"He came to America, and never permitted us to know his whereabouts. At
regular intervals, we received his letters--many whimsical descriptions
of his new life and new pursuits, but we always addressed him in New
York, and our letters, bearing the English seal, came to him under an
American disguise. We did not so much as know the name he had assumed.

"This, gentlemen, is the true reason why Sir Clifford Heathercliffe, the
truest, the noblest of English gentlemen, came among you as one of
yourselves.

"I have one more word to say. Sir Clifford never saw the man, John
Burrill; but our brother Herbert knew him well. Burrill was his tool and
accomplice in many shameful escapades. They came to grief together;
quarreled fearfully, and, when Herbert fled for his life, Burrill with
his wife made his escape to America. All that I have said concerning
this Burrill will be verified by Detective Bathurst."

Then turning toward Mr. Rand: "Is my explanation sufficient, sir?"

The lawyer only bows his head, and the handsome Englishman takes his
seat while the house rings with applause. Evidently his tersely told
story of brotherly sacrifice has touched the "humanness" of that
strangely-mixed audience.

During the moment of clamor and confusion, Doctor Benoit enters the
court room, and almost unobserved seats himself beside the New York
medical experts.

A smile of gratification comes to O'Meara's face at sight of this late
arrival, and when the court is restored to quiet, he says:

"Let Doctor Benoit be sworn."

The doctor testifies as follows:

Being called to examine the wounds upon the person of John Burrill, he
found that they could not have been made with the knife found with the
body. The identical knife being put into his hands, he explains how a
cut made by such a keen, heavy weapon, must appear, and describes the
knife that must have been used upon the body.

"It was a smaller weapon," he says, "thinner bladed and much lighter. It
must have been shorter by two or three inches."

Then he adds that the surgeon's knife has never been used upon a body;
the blood has been smeared on by an inartistic hand.

"It would be impossible," he says, "to withdraw this knife from a
bleeding wound with no other blood marks than those it bears."

Doctor Gaylor and Professor Harrington corroborate his every statement,
and when their testimony is done there is another sensation in the court
room.

As Doctor Benoit passes by O'Meara, in returning from the witness stand,
he tosses over a piece of paper, which the lawyer seizes, scans eagerly,
and stows carefully away.

He consults some papers for a moment, and then says:

"I wish to recall Francis Lamotte."

Frank comes again upon the stand; his eyes seem fixed on vacancy; his
face is white and rigid; his answers come in a dry monotone.

"Mr. Lamotte," begins O'Meara, briskly. "It is understood that you have
been a student in Doctor Heath's office."

"That is true."

"During the time you studied there, had you free access to the office at
all hours?"

"I had."

"I judge, then, that you must have possessed a pass key?"

"I did."

"Is that key still in your possession?"

"No."

"How did you dispose of that key?"

"I think it was lost; it has been out of my possession for some time."

"Where did you lose this key?"

"I do not remember; possibly at home, possibly at the office. It has
been out of my possession for some time."

"Since losing your key, how did you gain access to the office in the
doctor's absence?"

"I have visited the office very seldom of late, and not once since
losing the key, in the absence of Doctor Heath."

"Mr. Lamotte, was there any way to distinguish your lost key from that
used by my client?"

"Yes; my key was newer than his, and brighter."

"It was my client's custom to keep an extra suit of clothes in his
office closet, was it not?"

"Yes."

"And it would be very natural that, in exchanging one garment for
another, a glove or handkerchief should be sometimes left in the
discarded garment?"

"Quite natural."

"Now let us suppose that, on the night of the murder, my client,
returning from a visit to Mapleton, where he was called to attend upon
the wife of the murdered man, halted at his office, hung up his outer
coat, and sat for a little time, writing or reading, or perhaps
meditating.

"Let us suppose that on preparing to face the wind, that was rising
rapidly, and blowing chill, he substituted a heavy overcoat for the one
he had worn earlier in the evening; and that he discovered, when half
way home, that he had left his much needed handkerchief with his
discarded coat.

"Would it not be quite an easy matter for some one who had obtained
possession of your key, _and was sufficiently familiar with the bearings
of the office to move about in the dark_, or by the dim fire-light, to
enter that office, remove the surgeon's knife from its case, pilfer a
handkerchief from the coat pocket, and escape unseen?"

"It would--I should think."

"If this person having the key, the knife, and the handkerchief, all in
his possession, should go and fling them all into the old cellar on the
Burns' place, you would call that singular?"

"Yes," from lips white and parched.

O'Meara turns suddenly and takes something from the table.

"Mr. Lamotte, take this key, examine it well. Does it at all resemble
the one you--_lost_?"

Frank takes the key, mechanically, turns it about with nerveless
fingers, scarcely glances at it.

"I think--it is--the same," he mutters, hoarsely.

"You think it is your lost key. Mr. Lamotte, do you know where this key
was found?"

"No," stolidly.

"I will tell you. It was found in the old cellar, embedded in the mud,
_close beside the dead body of John Burrill_."

[Illustration: "It was found beside the body of John Burrill."]

Frank Lamotte's hands go up to his head, his pale face becomes livid,
his eyes seem starting from their sockets; he gasps, staggers, falls
heavily in a dead faint.



CHAPTER XLIII.

JUSTICE, SACRIFICE, DEATH.


And there is confusion in the court room.

Mr. Rand bounds angrily to his feet, then reseats himself suddenly, and
without opening his lips.

As they bear Frank Lamotte from the room, O'Meara's voice rises and
rings clear above the buzz and bustle:

"That witness must not be permitted to leave the court."

Then he stands gazing about him like a small, rampant lion; his eyes
flashing, his nostrils quivering, his whole manner betokening that he is
warming to his work.

Presently the room is quiet again, and O'Meara addresses the court:

"Your honor, and gentlemen; I have been successful beyond my
expectations. You see what a guilty conscience can do. I wished to
convince this court that my client has enemies in W----; powerful,
unsuspected, enemies. I wished also to demonstrate to Mr. Rand, how easy
it is to obtain circumstantial evidence. The witness may recover at his
leisure. I have nothing more to say to him."

While he is speaking, Mr. Lamotte and Doctor Benoit, who had hastened
out to attend upon Frank, re-enter, and resume their places, the former
looking harassed and uneasy, the latter, bland as ever, and nodding an
assurance that the patient is recovering safely.

"My next witness," says O'Meara, "is private detective Jerry Belknap;
but, before this gentleman is sworn, I desire the clerk to read aloud,
_very_ loud, the testimony lately given by Mr. Jasper Lamotte. I want
Mr. Lamotte's testimony to be fresh in the minds of the jury when they
listen to Mr. Belknap."

Strive as he will, Jasper Lamotte can not wear a look of entire
unconcern, although his self-control is marvellous.

What does Jerry Belknap know concerning this case? Why is _he_ here as a
witness? Mr. Lamotte is speedily enlightened.

While the clerk reads his recent testimony, Jerry Belknap takes his
place upon the stand. Not the Belknap Jasper Lamotte has known; not the
Belknap of Constance Wardour's recollection; but Jerry Belknap, in
_propria persona_, shorn of all disguise.

He is a man well up in his thirties, medium in height, slender in
person, with a dark, smooth shaven face, keen, restless eyes, black,
closely cropped hair.

The clerk having finished the reading, Mr. O'Meara addresses the witness
with marked courtesy.

"Mr. Belknap, you have heard the reading of Mr. Lamotte's testimony. You
have heard Mr. Rand say that two important witnesses are absent, namely,
a certain Brooks, and Mrs. Nance Burrill. You have heard Mr. Lamotte say
that he knows nothing of the whereabouts of Nance Burrill, that he knows
nothing of Brooks.

"Now, as Mr. Lamotte can not enlighten us, and as the attorney for the
prosecution is very anxious about these two witnesses, will you just
tell the court what you know of Mr. Brooks, and Nance Burrill, as
connected with this case?"

Jerry Belknap bows to O'Meara, bows to the Court, wipes his mouth with a
white silk handkerchief, and begins:

"I came to W---- on professional business, and, having obtained
permission, through Mr. O'Meara, I may state here what that business
was.

"I came on behalf of Miss Wardour, to investigate the noted diamond
robbery. I have been in and about W---- for some time, but always in
disguise, this being the first time my real face has been visible.

"Not long ago a stranger accosted me and put into my hands a letter. The
letter bade me follow the instructions of the bearer of the same without
fear, or question. Now Mr. Bathurst commands me at all times, and like a
good soldier I obeyed my superior officer. I placed myself under the
orders of Mr. Bathurst's deputy, who is himself a clever detective, and
this is what he told me:

"Mr. Bathurst had been operating in W---- for weeks, under my very nose,
and, although I knew him, and am called a tolerable detective, I never
found him out. He knew me, however, from the first, knew me all along,
although I, several times, changed my disguise. _His_ disguise was too
perfect, and he is too good an actor, ever to betray himself.

"That disguise having served his purpose, and having been thrown aside
for good, I can safely comply with Mr. O'Meara's request and oblige the
gentleman for the prosecution.

"The missing witness known as Brooks, the red-headed drunken mechanic,
was officer Bathurst and none other."

Again there is a buzz in the court room.

The prisoner turns upon his counsel a look of profound wonder.

Constance clasps her hands delightedly and begins to brighten with hope.

Jasper Lamotte wears a look of consternation.

"Mr. Bathurst's instructions were brief," resumes Mr. Belknap after a
moment's pause. "I was to present myself to Mr. Lamotte under some
pretext of business. I am slightly known to Mr. Lamotte through my
connection with the Wardour case and could approach him without creating
suspicion. I was to accept any commissions he might wish me to execute.

"I presented myself to Jasper Lamotte; he had a piece of work for me. He
told me that he had good reasons for wishing the woman Nance Burrill out
of the town; he wished her no harm, but she was in his way. If I would
get her away, on some pretext, he would pay me well. Acting under
instructions, I approached the woman, making her acquaintance easily
through her little boy. She is very ignorant and very foolish. I
displayed a little money, offered her a profitable situation in New
York, paid her a month's wages in advance and took her and her child to
the city, where I hired a small furnished cottage, and installed her as
housekeeper. Not being informed that her evidence was wanted on this
occasion she is there still."

When Jerry Belknap began his story, Jasper Lamotte had drawn nearer to
the prosecuting attorney, and, before the story was done, a slip of
paper had made its way into the hands of the latter gentleman, bearing
these words:

"For God's sake don't cross-examine that witness."

Consequently, in response to O'Meara's unnecessarily polite query, "Will
the attorney for the prosecution be pleased to cross-examine this
witness?"--Mr. Rand only scowled over at his antagonist, and shook his
head savagely.

"This, I trust," begins O'Meara, before the last witness is fairly
seated, "sufficiently explains the absence of these two _important_
witnesses. It would seem that the absence of one at least was more
important than her presence. Mr. Lamotte, at least, should be grateful.
He desired Nance Burrill's absence; she is not here; and as no summons
was issued for this woman--either by the prosecution or defense, no one
can accuse me of hampering the progress of the law, and of this
honorable court."

Mr. Rand bounds up, fire in his eye.

"It may not be rulable nor dignified," he begins hotly, "but I demand a
moment's hearing. This whole trial has been irregular, from first to
last.

"The gentleman brings forward an honorable witness from over the water;
a witness who brings out the accused in a new character; covers him with
a blaze of glory; this is very good, and very theatrical. Let us grant
that the accused _is_ Sir Clifford Heathercliffe. Does that alter the
fact that John Burrill went straight to his door, straight to the door
of his sworn enemy, and was never again seen alive. He seeks to
implicate Frank Lamotte, and to impeach the integrity of Jasper Lamotte,
an honorable gentleman, against whom there was never yet a breath of
suspicion. It will not alter the facts in the case. Clifford Heath's
enemy was found dead close by Clifford Heath's door! He has blackened
the character of the dead; he has struck hard at the honorable living.
He has flooded the court with the testimony of mysterious strangers; he
has suppressed known witnesses; he has worked his will with us. But he
has not disproved one item of evidence; he has not changed one fact or
phase of the case. Let us grant all he has proven, what have we left?
_The unalterable facts_, that the prisoner has repeatedly threatened his
victim; that the murdered man set out to visit the prisoner, at night,
through the darkness, and was found early the following morning, before
the body could be removed to a safer hiding place, his face covered by
the prisoner's own linen; his gaping wounds giving evidence of a
practiced hand; the prisoner's knife buried with him; the _key_ of the
prisoner's office or house lying beside the shallow grave. Facts tell,
gentlemen; these _are facts_."

These words rush from his lips torrent like.

He has turned to face the jury and so does not see that O'Meara has
lounged back to his seat, with an air of perfect unconcern, and that he
is actually signaling the judge not to stay this whirlwind; a proceeding
which so astounds that official, that for full five minutes the tide of
speech flows on, lava like.

On the audience, it has a startling effect. He is speaking the truth. He
is reiterating facts, and facts are sure of instant recognition by our
Yankee countrymen.

A thrill runs through the assembly; there comes one of those sudden
revulsions of feeling, common to scenes like this. Sir Clifford
Heathercliffe disappears from before their dazzled vision; what they
see, in the light of stern facts, is Clifford Heath, the murderer.

"These are facts," reiterates Mr. Rand, excitedly. "Who has seen this
wonderful Bathurst, with his bundle of testimony? Who knows the man? Why
is he not here in court? _Where is he?_"

"_Here!_"

Clear and full the voice rings over the room, transfixing for one moment
the entire court; then the gavel descends; order is commanded with
double unction, because of the recent lapse. Mr. O'Meara is on his feet;
Mr. Rand's impromptu speech is at an end.

"More theatricals," snarls Mr. Rand, flinging himself violently down
into his seat.

But no one heeds him; all eyes are fixed upon the new comers.

Near the door of the court room they stand grouped close together.

Mr. Wedron, dignified and placid as usual.

Mrs. Lamotte, with head proudly poised, and eyes that seem wells of
pent-up anguish.

Evan Lamotte, looking like a lost and almost disembodied spirit.

Frank Lamotte, who during the time Mr. Belknap has occupied in giving
his testimony, has quietly re-entered the room, seeming to have
recovered, and looking almost composed, looks with the rest, and is once
more, for a moment, startled out of all semblance of calmness; he starts
up from his seat, then sinks back weakly, a desperate hunted look in his
eyes, his hands clenched and working nervously.

They came slowly forward--Evan Lamotte, supported on either side by his
mother and the _soi-disant_ Mr. Wedron, of the New York Bar.

[Illustration: They come slowly forward.]

They pass so close that the lady's trailing silks brush against the feet
of Jasper Lamotte, but she never vouchsafes a glance to husband or son,
and Evan's eyes are set straight before him, fixed on vacancy--unseeing
orbs of fire, set in a spectral face.

Presently, they are seated near the group gathered about the prisoner,
and then Mr. Wedron confers with Mr. O'Meara.

As they talk, the little lawyer's face becomes grave, even to sadness,
and when he rises to address the Court, his tone is subdued, his manner
that of one performing a painful task.

"May it please the Court," he says, slowly, "the witnesses for whom I
waited have come. As one of them is just recovering from a serious
illness, Mr. Bathurst has thought it best that a reliable physician
should certify to his perfect ability to testify at this time. Let
Doctor Benoit be sworn."

It is done, and in the same grave and subdued manner Doctor Benoit bears
witness, as follows:

"I have been in attendance at Mapleton for some weeks past. Evan Lamotte
has been one of my patients. He has been very ill, and delirious almost
constantly. It is less than a week since he entirely recovered his
reasoning faculties. To-day, at the request of Mr. Wedron, I subjected
him to various tests, and I freely pronounce him perfectly sane--as sane
as any here in this court room. If any one is inclined to question my
statement, I shall desire Professor Harrington and Doctor Gaylor to
examine the witness."

There is profound silence for a moment, then O'Meara says, quietly:

"Will Detective Bathurst take the stand?"

The gentleman who has become known to many in W---- as Mr. Wedron, of
the New York Bar, left his place near Evan Lamotte, and came quietly
forward. Having been duly sworn, Mr. O'Meara said:

"Mr. Bathurst, you have been connected with this case from the first.
Tell us what you have discovered, in your own way."

The detective bowed, took off a pair of gold-rimmed eye-glasses, and
turned upon the court a pair of bright, piercing, handsome, dark blue
eyes, that proved themselves capable of numberless expressions.

"My name is Neil J. Bathurst," he began, "and I am a detective. I came
to W---- for the first time early in the summer--in June, I believe. I
came on professional business. To my surprise, and quite by accident, I
found Sir Clifford Heathercliffe here in the character of Doctor Heath.
My business in W---- was in no way connected with Sir Clifford, but
before I left the town, which was on the third day after my arrival, I
became aware that he had an enemy here. I left W---- to return in a
short time, and I figured among the factory people as Brooks, the
drunken mechanic. Mr. Lamotte employed me twice and twice discharged me
because of my intemperance. I became quite intimate and friendly with
John Burrill, and succeeded in gaining his confidence. I was also on
good terms with Nance Burrill, John Burrill's divorced wife, and I
learned a good many things from her.

"Early in the autumn it came to my knowledge that Sir Clifford's enemies
had begun to move, that a plan was on foot against him. About this time
I discovered that several people needed looking after, and I sent for a
boy shadower. He came, and did his work well. He is not here, because
his testimony is not needed.

"You will understand that I had now more than one operation on my hands.
I was still engaged upon the case which first brought me to W----, and I
was intent upon frustrating the designs of Sir Clifford's enemies. He,
Sir Clifford, was not aware of my presence in W----, and he was likewise
ignorant of the plot against him.

"Early in November, I found it expedient to appear in W---- in a new
character. Brooks had done his work. Accordingly, I, as Brooks, set out
for the city one morning, leaving my shadower in charge of the field.
Jasper Lamotte went to the city by the same train, and, singular
coincidence, he came back on the train which brought me. I returned, as
Mr. Wedron, an attorney, and I brought with me an assistant (for the
plot was thickening fast), who assumed the character of a book peddler.
I was absent only two days, but, during that time, the entire drama had
undergone a transformation.

"Before I had been half an hour in W----, I had received the report of
my shadower; it was startling. John Burrill had been murdered. Here was
a disappointment. I had fully intended that Burrill should do some
honest work in the State penitentiary, and was almost prepared to make
some arrests. I attended the inquest, and was again discomfited. The
enemies of Sir Clifford had abandoned their first infamous scheme for
his ruin, and had succeeded in fastening this miserable crime upon him.
Standing there in the presence of all the actors in the tragedy, and
listening to the witnesses before the coroner, I decided what course to
pursue. I would make my other operations a secondary affair, and devote
myself to the task of finding John Burrill's murderer. I presented
myself to Mr. O'Meara, and made known my identity; we decided to act
together, and at once set to work.

"I knew that Francis Lamotte was Sir Clifford's secret enemy, and,
naturally, I began to study him, and to watch him. You have heard his
testimony to-day, and you know how easy it would have been for him,
first to follow and to kill John Burrill, and next to cast suspicion
upon an innocent man. I could prefer a charge against him, and bring
some circumstantial evidence to back it; but this would not vindicate
Sir Clifford, and would complicate affairs very much. What I wanted, was
_proof_ positive, absolute. So I waited, and studied the case. Of one
thing I was assured; Francis Lamotte, whether guilty or innocent, knew
more of that murder than he chose to tell.

"One day, while in conversation with Miss Wardour, I chanced to mention
the name of Evan Lamotte, adding something not complimentary to that
young gentleman. Miss Wardour took fire at once. She assured me that
Evan Lamotte was _not_ what people sought to make him; that in spite of
his weaknesses, he had many noble and lovable qualities. She told me how
he came to her when the first shock of his sister's flight was upon him;
she described, vividly, his passion, his sorrow, his love for his
sister. He spoke of her as the only being on earth whom he truly loved,
the only one who had been unvaryingly kind to him. He cursed the
destroyers of his sister's happiness, and implored Miss Wardour not to
abandon that unfortunate sister. He said that he believed she would
return, and he implored her to visit his parents, and intercede in
behalf of the fugitive.

"Miss Wardour gave him the required promise, and then said that if the
real reason for this strange elopement _must_ remain a secret, she
wished they could hit upon some explanation that would spare the
fugitive as much as possible, and satisfy the gossips. Instantly he
sprang up, declaring that he would furnish a reason, a reason that no
one would question, and that would spare his sister.

"A few days later, the story was flying about W----, that to save her
brother Evan from the consequences of some evil deed, Sybil Lamotte had
sacrificed herself.

"When Miss Wardour heard of this, she knew that Evan Lamotte had allowed
himself to be defamed for his sister's sake. She knew that the true
reasons for her friend's _mesalliance_ was hidden safely beneath a
brother's sacrifice.

"Miss Wardour told me this, and much more, in praise of Evan Lamotte;
and here, for his sake, let me say, that in studying John Burrill and
Francis Lamotte, I had discovered that Sybil Lamotte had been made to
believe, that the honor and safety of her father and _elder_ brother,
depended upon her sacrifice, when the truth is, that she was _sold_.
Simply sold--for their convenience, and their gain.

"You have looked upon Jasper Lamotte as an honorable citizen. On the day
of John Burrill's funeral, I resumed my old disguise, that of Brooks,
and went to Mapleton; I told Mr. Lamotte that I had come as a friend of
his, and of Burrill's, to warn him, that if Nance Burrill was allowed to
remain in W----, she would be brought forward at this trial, and give
damaging evidence against his dead son-in-law.

"I remained in the library with him some fifteen minutes. My errand was
a trap, and he fell into it. What followed, Mr. Belknap has already
told. In the presence of this court, Jasper Lamotte has perjured
himself. Let the officers of the law keep this fact in mind.

"Now, to return to my witness. When I heard Miss Wardour's glowing
vindication of Evan Lamotte, I said to myself, 'Here is the right
person. Evan Lamotte is the one who can clear up this mystery.' It was
clear as day to my eyes.

"It was necessary that I should see him, but I very soon learned that he
was lying at his home dangerously ill, and quite out of his senses.
There was nothing to do but to wait. I made the acquaintance of Doctor
Benoit, and from him I obtained daily news of his patient.

"At the eleventh hour, when I had begun to despair of his recovery, the
doctor reported the patient restored to his senses. I then told him,
Doctor Benoit, that the very moment Evan Lamotte was able to listen, and
to talk rationally, I must see him. That the case was one of life and
death.

"This day, at the very hour when the trial was called, I set out for
Mapleton; I saw Evan Lamotte; I told him that Clifford Heath was on
trial for the murder of John Burrill; and that the chances were against
him.

"It is not necessary to repeat all that passed between us, the result
is, that Evan Lamotte comes into this court of his own free will and
accord, and it is his desire that he be allowed to tell his own story.

"He comes here freely, willingly, asking nothing, hoping nothing, and
when this audience has heard his testimony, they will join me in
pronouncing him the noblest Lamotte of them all."

There is a look so weird, so unearthly, in the eyes of Evan Lamotte, as
he comes forward and turns his face slowly upon the audience, so that
all can see its ghastly contrast with those burning orbs, that a
startled hush falls upon them all, a funereal silence pervades the room.

They seem to note for the first time, what a solemn thing is the oath,
which Evan takes with voice, hollow and weak, but calm and fall of
decision.

His breath comes in short gasps, his sentences are broken, the fatigue
caused by his effort to speak is evident. But he goes on to the end, and
this is what he says:

"When I learned that my sister's life had been ruined, I was a madman; I
did not know for a time why she had thus thrown herself away, but I
determined that I would know, and I set myself to spy upon my own
family.

"If the detective had not told you this truth I should withhold it now,
for we all have a sufficient burden of shame upon us.

"I watched and I listened and I learned why Sybil had been sacrificed.

"At first I thought I would openly assault Burrill, would compel him to
resist and would make his life as uncomfortable as possible; I was a
madman.

"Constance Wardour told me it was not the way to help Sybil; that such a
course would only cause her added sorrow. When I grew calmer I saw that
Conny was right. I promised her to do nothing that would add to my poor
sister's unhappiness.

"By and by they came home, and I saw the misery in my sister's face; day
by day it deepened, her eyes growing hollow and wild, and full of
unutterable horror and fear, her face growing paler and thinner, and
sadder, her hands so weak and tremulous, all appealed to me, all
maddened me afresh. I resolved that in some way I would free her. But
how?

"Day after day I brooded upon it. Burrill became more bestial, more
besotted, more contemptible, every day. My sister's strength was almost
gone, her reason was tottering.

"I began to cultivate Burrill. I flattered him; I caroused with him. I
had sunk so low myself that he could feel at ease with me. But drunk or
sober I never once forgot a resolve I had taken. Matters were going from
bad to worse. It must be Sybil's life or _his_. I resolved that it
should _not_ be my sister who was sacrificed.

"When I found that no more time could be wasted, I laid my plans. I
feigned illness and kept my room for several days.

"Burrill came daily to see me. I told him that I had some rare new fun
in my head, and we planned that I should feign to be worse than usual.
Burrill knew that our people had made efforts to stop our nocturnal
expeditions, and he agreed with me that the thing should be kept secret.
On that last night he left the house early, saying that he would spend a
couple of hours at 'Old Forty's,' and then meet me at a place appointed.

"At nine o'clock I stole out, and no one at Mapleton discovered my
absence. I did not intend that they should. I waited at the place
appointed for our meeting until I grew impatient. The time came for him
to appear; he did not come. I knew where I should find him, and set out
for 'Forty Rods.' I was determined to let that night end Sybil's
troubles.

"Half way between the saloon and Doctor Heath's I saw him. He passed
close to me, as I came up from Mill avenue, and reeled across the road.
He was not going toward our rendezvous, but away from it.

"I followed stealthily. I did not make my nearness known. I think he was
too drunk to know where he was going or where to stop. He reeled past
Doctor Heath's house, and was nearly opposite the gate of the empty lot
before he discovered that he had gone too far.

"He turned, and while he leaned against the fence and seemed to ponder,
I crept upon him, knife in hand; I struck him, once, again, a third
time. He uttered one groan loud enough to have been heard some distance
away, and then fell heavily. I had struck home. When I was sure that he
was dead--I seemed to know just how to act--I ran to the gate of the
Burns' lot and opened it wide. The body was twice my weight but I
dragged it inside before my strength gave out.

"Then, for a while, I seemed panic stricken. What should I do with that
body? By and by, I thought of a way to get help. I waited until
midnight, then I made my way to Mapleton, all blood stained, and
carrying the knife with me. Unseen I entered and gained Frank's room. He
was up and pacing the floor; I told him to follow me. He saw my
blood-stained hands and garments; I opened my coat and displayed the
knife, and he obeyed me. I told him what I had done, and that he must
help me conceal the body. For a moment he seemed stunned, and then he
assisted me with surprising readiness; he planned everything; in fact,
took the lead from that moment. I thought he was working to save his
brother. The detective has told me the truth, and abjured me to tell all
I know.

"Frank left me at the foot of the stairs leading to Heath's office. When
he came down he seemed much excited, and hurried on very fast. We
scooped out a grave in the cellar, as best we could in the dark, Frank
working actively. He told me to take my knife and throw it into the old
well--if you look you will find it there. While I was doing it, he must
have put the other knife in the grave. When I came back he had covered
the face with something white. I did not think about it at the time; now
I know that it was Doctor Heath's handkerchief.

"Doctor Heath is an innocent man. _I_ killed John Burrill; I am here to
accept the consequences. I did the deed to save my sister. I do not
regret it."

Then, turning toward the place where Frank Lamotte sits, cowering and
panic stricken, he stretches out one spectral hand and says:

"Frank! Frank Lamotte, do the only thing left you to do; stand up and
say that I have spoken the truth. Let us end this at once, Frank!"

Like one roused from some strange stupor, Frank staggers to his feet.

"It is all true!" he gasps. "Evan has told nothing but the truth." Then
he falls back in his seat more dead than alive.

To describe the triumph of O'Meara; the mingled pity and gladness that
fills the heart of Constance; the rejoicings of Clifford Heath's
friends, one and all; the misery and the shame that overwhelmed the
Lamottes, would be useless.

The excitement of the audience, judge and jury, can be imagined better
than described.

The tragic farce is at an end. The case is given to the jury. Without
quitting their places, they return their verdict. Clifford Heath is not
guilty; is honorably acquitted.

Exhausted by his recent effort, Evan Lamotte is carried from the court
room, closely attended by his mother; is carried to the cell where
lately Clifford Heath has dwelt a prisoner, while the latter is escorted
in triumph, to O'Meara's, by all his rejoicing friends.

As the procession of conquerors moves away from the entrance, an officer
approaches Jasper Lamotte.

"Mr. Lamotte, I am very sorry, sir, but you must consider yourself my
prisoner."

Jasper Lamotte bows coldly, and signals the man that he will follow him.

The officer turns to Frank, but before he can open his lips, the
miserable young man steps back, makes one quick movement; there is a
flash, a loud report, and Frank Lamotte falls forward, to be caught in
the arms of a by-stander.

[Illustration: There is a flash--a loud report.]

They lay him gently down, and Jasper Lamotte bids them send for a
physician; there must be one very near.

But Frank beckons his father to come close, and when the others have
drawn back, this is what the father hears, from the son's lips:

"There is another--pistol in--my pocket--I meant it for Evan,--you--had
better--use it."

Horrible words from the lips of a dying son. They are his last. Before
Doctor Benoit can turn back and reach his side, Frank Lamotte has
finished his career of folly, and sin, and shame, dying as he had lived,
selfishly, like a coward.



CHAPTER XLIV.

A SPARTAN MOTHER.


"I never before in all my career, brought to justice a criminal whom I
both pitied unreservedly, and justified fully. Viewing all things from
his standpoint, Evan Lamotte is less a murderer than a martyr."

It is the day after the trial with so strange an ending. They are seated
in O'Meara's library; Constance, Mrs. Aliston, Mrs. O'Meara, Sir
Clifford, his brother, the Honorable George Heathercliffe, Ray Vandyck,
O'Meara, and Mr. Bathurst. Mr. Bathurst, who now appears what he _is_; a
handsome gentleman, about thirty years of age, clever, vivacious,
eminently agreeable. Mr. Wedron, like Brooks, has served out his day,
and been set aside.

They have assembled at the detective's request, and while fully
expecting a revelation of some sort, they look a serene, and not an
apprehensive party.

"Poor Evan," sighs Constance; "I pity him most sincerely; I shall go and
see him."

"_We_ will go and see him," corrects Sir Clifford, and she smiles, and
does not dispute the correction.

"Before I begin my other story," says the detective, "I may as well tell
you of my visit yesterday, and how my news was received.

"From the moment when I heard Miss Wardour's description of Evan
Lamotte, I knew he was our man. But I was determined to have no more
mistakes. So I kept my opinion to myself. You can imagine how anxiously
I hung upon the words of Doctor Benoit, knowing that upon this boy's
chances for life hung Sir Clifford's life, liberty, and honor.

"When I saw that poor, pale, wreck of humanity, my heart almost failed
me. How could I drag his secret from him? But no time was to be lost,
and, as best I could, I told him everything. First, that his sister
believed herself the guilty one; guilty, at least, in that she had
instigated the deed, and next, that Sir Clifford was now the victim of
this crime. His mind at once seemed to grasp the issue. He had listened
to me intently, breathlessly almost; he now lifted himself suddenly from
the bed, and said quickly:

"'Why, then, it seems I have not saved Sybil yet. Call my mother! let me
see her alone.'

"I obeyed him without a question; they were alone together for a long
half hour, then Mrs. Lamotte came to me with the same look upon her face
that you saw in court.

"'Evan tells me that you know everything,' she said, her voice trembling
in spite of herself. 'He tells me that you are a detective. Then you
know that I have _one_ son of whom I may be proud. Evan Lamotte has
saved his sister's honor. Saved it doubly. My weak, my ill-used Evan,
has proven the only man a man's pride, who bears the name of Lamotte,
because he could not see his sister and his mother contaminated by the
presence of the monster his father and brother had been so base as to
force upon us; he has taken justice into his own hands. He has freed his
sister; he has saved her from crime, and now he stands ready to put
himself in the place of a wronged and innocent man. I shall go with him
into court; I shall not leave him again.'

"She broke off with a dry sob and turned away to prepare for the drive.

"How I pitied that proud woman. How tender she was of her lost boy, and
how he clung to her.

"Mr. O'Meara," turning suddenly toward the lawyer, "we must get that
poor fellow out of that cell. Doctor Benoit says that he can live but a
short time at best. He must not die there, and justice can not deal with
a dying man."

"I think it can be managed," replied the lawyer. "All W---- will favor
the scheme. Not a man or woman will raise their voice against that dying
boy. He will have plenty of friends _now_."

"He shall find them strong friends, too," exclaimed Constance. "Mrs.
O'Meara, we will stir up the whole town."

"Then you'll get your way," put in Bathurst. "And now. Miss Wardour, are
you ready to hear the end of the mystery surrounding the Wardour
robbery, and the Wardour diamonds?"

All eyes were turned at once upon the speaker.

"Because I have asked you all to meet me here to-day that I might tell
it," he went on. "It will contain much that is new to you all, and it
will interest you all. I know Miss Wardour will wish you all to hear the
end of her diamond case, and the fate of her robbers."

"Of course! You are perfectly right, Mr. Bathurst," said Constance.
"Doctor Heath cuts more of a figure than he knows in this business, and
Ray has staid out in the cold long enough. Go on, Mr. Bathurst, expose
me in all my iniquity. But have you _really_ found the robbers?"

"Listen," said the detective, and while they all fixed upon him their
gravest attention he began.



CHAPTER XLV.

TOLD BY A DETECTIVE.


"For several years past," began Mr. Bathurst, "the city and many of the
wealthier suburban towns have been undergoing a systematic overhauling.
Through the network of big thefts, and little thefts, petit larcenies
and bank robberies, there has run one clear-cut burglarious specialty--a
style of depredations noticeably similar in case after case; alike in
'design and execution,' and always baffling to the officers.

[Illustration: Bathurst telling the story.]

"I allude to a series of robberies of jewelry and plate, a succession of
provoking thefts, monstrous, enough to be easily traced, but executed
with such exceeding _finesse_ that, in no single instance, has the
property been recovered, or the robbers run to earth.

"These fastidious thieves never took money in large amounts, only took
plate when it was of the purest metal and least cumbersome sort; and
always aimed for the brightest, the purest, the costliest diamonds.
Diamonds indeed seemed their specialty.

"This gang has operated in such a gingerly, gentlemanly, mysterious
manner, and has raided for diamonds so long and so successfully, that
they have come to be called, among New York detectives, The Diamond
Coterie, although no man knew whether they numbered two, or twenty.

"They could always recognize their handiwork, however, and whenever the
news came that some lady in the city, or suburbs, had lost her diamonds,
and that the thieves had made a 'clean job' of it, the officers said,
'that's the work of the Diamond Coterie.'

"I have been much abroad of late, but every time I came back to New York
the Coterie had gathered fresh jewels into its treasure box, and no man
had found a clue to the sly fellows.

"I began to feel interested in the clique and resolved to take a hand at
them, at the first opportunity. That opportunity came, with the news of
the great Wardour robbery, and I came down to W----.

"I saw enough in this robbery to interest me, for various reasons.

"I believed I could see distinctly the handiwork of the Diamond Coterie,
and I saw another thing; it was the first piece of work I had known them
to bungle. And they had bungled in this.

"I made some of my conclusions known to Miss Wardour and her friends,
but I kept to myself the most important ones.

"The story of the chloroform, so carefully administered, was one of the
things over which I pondered much; I borrowed the chloroform bottle and
the piece of linen that had been used to apply the drug, and that night
I accepted the hospitality proffered me by Sir Clifford. I took a wax
impression of the vial, at his house, and I made an important discovery
while there.

"Sir Clifford found me half famished and ordered his housekeeper to
bring in a lunch. Not wishing my identity known, I pretended to be a
patient; and just as my host was leaving the room, he tossed me a
handkerchief, which he took from a side table, bidding me make myself a
bandage to partially conceal my face.

"Now my eyes are trained to see much at a glance, and the moment they
fell upon that bit of white linen they were riveted there.

"The handkerchief was precisely like the mutilated one used with the
chloroform. This might be a coincidence--plain white handkerchiefs with
wide borders were not uncommon, but this handkerchief was _marked_!

"I could scarcely wait until Sir Clifford should show me to my room, so
anxious was I to compare the two pieces of linen.

"The whole one bore the initials F. L., and on the raw, torn edge of the
half square was a black dot that was undoubtedly the fragment of a
letter, or name, that had been torn hastily off. It corresponded exactly
with the lower end of the letter L. upon the whole handkerchief given me
by Sir Clifford.

"This might be a coincidence, but it is one of my rules to suspect two
coincidences coming close together; and I had already discovered three
remarkable ones in this case.

"Sitting alone in my room, I reflected thus:

"Take it for granted that this robbery was perpetrated by the Diamond
Coterie, what are the facts?

"The robbers knew where to enter, and where to look for plunder; _ergo_,
they must have known the premises.

"They administered the deadly chloroform with nicest calculation;
_ergo_, they must have known Miss Wardour.

"One of them was something of a dandy,--witness the superfine bit of
cambric, and the print of jaunty boots where he leaped the garden fence.

"The next morning I took unceremonious leave of my host, and set out on
my explorations. As I approached Wardour Place I met a man, who
immediately drew my interest to himself.

"This man was Jerry Belknap. He wore a disguise quite familiar to me,
and I recognized him easily. He entered at the Wardour gate, and I
sauntered on, having found new food for thought.

"Now, a word concerning this man Belknap.

"At one time he was an honorable member of the best detective force in
the city; but he had too much cupidity, and not enough moral firmness.
Twice he allowed himself to be bribed into letting a case fall through,
and finally I caught him in secret conclave with a gang of bank
burglars, who were conspiring to raise a fortune for each, and escape
with their booty through the connivance of our false detective.

"I exploded this little scheme, and compelled Belknap to withdraw from
the force. Imagine my surprise when, a little later, Miss Wardour told
me that _Mr. Belknap_ was the detective sent down from the city by Mr.
Lamotte!

"Well, Mr. Belknap went to work upon the case, and Miss Wardour
concealed me near her dining room so that I might have the pleasure of
listening to his first report.

"That was a fortunate ambush for me. Mr. Belknap's deductions were as
diametrically opposite to mine as if he had purposely studied out the
contrast; and I was shaking my sides with the thought of how all this
plausibility must be puzzling Miss Wardour and her aunt, when a new
element was introduced into the programme.

"Mr. Frank Lamotte, fresh from an amateur robber hunt, came into the
room. It had been arranged that Mrs. Aliston should break to this young
man the news that his sister had that day eloped with John Burrill; but
first, he was to relate his adventures, and this he did.

"If I can hear a voice, before seeing the face, I can usually measure
its truth or falsity. Now, I had not seen Mr. Frank Lamotte, but his
voice told me that he was rehearsing a well studied part; and,
furthermore, I was assured that Belknap knew this, and purposely helped
him on.

"By and by Miss Wardour withdrew, and Mrs. Aliston fulfilled her
mission. Then I was more than ever convinced of the fellow's
insincerity. I heard how he received the news of his sister's flight;
and when Mrs. Aliston went, in a panic, to call her niece, I heard him,
when he fancied himself alone.

"It seems he had been the bearer of a note from his sister to Miss
Wardour, and he was now intent upon learning if that note had contained
any thing damaging to himself. This much I learned from his solitary
mutterings, and then Miss Wardour re-entered the room. He was half wild,
until she had assured him that the note contained nothing that could
injure him; and then he became calmer, and went out into the air to
recover his breath.

"Miss Wardour made haste to release me, and I came out of my concealment
congratulating myself that I had been so lucky.

"And now I found myself compelled to leave W---- just as things were
growing very interesting; I had made my flying visit in a moment of
leisure, but my vacation had run out; duty, honor and interest, alike
impelled me in another direction.

"I left my address with Miss Wardour, and I promised myself that at the
first opportunity I would return to W---- and take up my abode here for
a time.

"I had been in W---- not quite three days. I had not seen Jasper
Lamotte, I had barely seen Frank, and I had added to my deductions made
on the night of my arrival, until the case stood like this in my mind:

"1st. The robbers were familiar with Wardour, outside and in.

"2d. They knew Miss Wardour, and her sensitiveness to the effects of
chloroform.

"3d. One of them was a man of gentlemanly propensities, and probably
young.

"4th. They or a part of their number approached by the river, using a
boat with muffled oars.

"So much for my deductions. Now for some coincidences.

"It was a coincidence that the handkerchief I got from Sir Clifford
should bear Frank Lamotte's initials, and should be precisely like the
one left behind by the robbers.

"It was a coincidence that Frank Lamotte should be a student of
medicine, who might have been quite as capable of administering
chloroform as was the burglar himself.

"It was a coincidence that Miss Sybil Lamotte should have eloped on the
very day when her best friend was robbed, and that father, mother, and
brother were all absent in behalf of the robbed friend, thus leaving the
way open to the fugitives, and giving them plenty of time to escape.

"Now for some _facts_ that looked strange.

"It was strange that Sybil Lamotte should leave her home to marry a man
like John Burrill, when she was known to have bestowed her heart
elsewhere.

"It was strange that Jasper Lamotte, going to the city to employ a
detective, should so soon have stumbled upon Jerry Belknap, who was
identified with no agency, and could only be reached through private
means.

"It was strange that Frank Lamotte should set himself up as an amateur
detective, and should bring back a report that tallied so perfectly with
the deductions of Jerry Belknap.

"It was strange that Miss Wardour, having just been robbed of jewels to
the amount of fifty thousand dollars, should be so little distressed, so
little agitated by her loss.

"From deductions, coincidences and strange facts, I evolved the
following theory, which certainly looked well from my standpoint, but
might not hold water. You will see, that from the first I connected the
Wardour robbery and the Lamotte elopement.

"Now, Sybil Lamotte's strange flight gave proof that there was a
skeleton in the Lamotte closet. I said:

"If this unseen Mr. Lamotte had planned this robbery, and if for some
reason it seemed good that his daughter should elope, how well all was
arranged.

"His son assisting him, they could drop down from Mapleton in their row
boat; come up from the river, and, with their plans all laid, and
knowing their ground, could make quick headway. Frank Lamotte's boot
heel would leave just such a print, as one of the robbers left in the
loose dirt beside the garden fence. Frank Lamotte would know just how to
administer the chloroform. Then, Mr. Lamotte, in going to the city,
ostensibly to procure the services of a detective, could easily take the
spoils along; and his wife also, that she might be well out of his
daughter's way. Such a man would naturally select a fellow like Jerry
Belknap, who would keep up a farce of investigation, and keep away all
who might, perhaps, stumble upon the truth. Frank's eagerness to be
absent on this day of his sister's flight, and to assist in the search
for the robbers, would be thus explained; and his anxiety concerning the
contents of his sister's letter might be easily traced to a guilty
conscience.

"But my theories were doomed to be laid aside for a time. Other duties
claimed me and it was four weeks before I could turn so much as a
thought toward W----.

"Before leaving the city, however, I had placed my wax cast of the
chloroform bottle in the hands of one of my best men, and had also given
him a clue upon which to work.

"My agent was wonderfully successful. He found the counterparts to the
chloroform bottle, and then he began shadowing the owner of said vials.
It proved to be a young woman who had formerly lived in W----, as a
factory hand, but who had been transplanted to the city by Frank
Lamotte.

"It is not necessary to enlarge upon the story of this girl as connected
with Lamotte; but this must be borne in mind. During the time that my
agent had this girl under surveillance, Frank Lamotte visited her, and,
it is supposed that he removed the remaining bottles of the set, for one
was afterward exhumed, in fragments, from Doctor Heath's ash heap, by
the industrious Jerry Belknap, and the others have disappeared."

At the mention of this factory girl Mrs. Aliston turned her face toward
Constance, its expression saying as plainly as any language could, "I
told you so." But Mr. Bathurst took no notice of this, and hurried on
with his story.



CHAPTER XLVI.

THE STORY OF LUCKY JIM.


"From the moment when I appeared among you as Brooks, my work was
double. I was bent upon posting myself thoroughly in regard to Jasper
Lamotte, and day by day I became more interested in the career of this
remarkable man.

"Step by step, I trod backward the path of his history, since his advent
in W----, gathering my information from many sources.

"It would be tedious to enter into details; suffice it to say that while
I worked here, two others, trained to such research, were beating up the
past I was so anxious to become familiar with. And a third, across the
water, was gathering up the history of John Burrill, another object of
interest to me at that time.

"And now I will reverse the order in which we made our search, and,
beginning where my men left off, give you, in brief, the history of a
remarkable man.

"The man we know as Jasper Lamotte figured in various cities,
twenty-five years ago, and still earlier, as _Lucky Jim_, a handsome,
well educated, sharp witted, confidence man.

"He seldom gambled, and made his swindling operations of various sorts
reap him a rich harvest; and, by his unvarying good luck, in escaping
the dragons of the law, as well as because of his lucky ventures, he
became known to his intimates as Lucky Jim.

"In these days, Miss Sybil Schuyler, the daughter of a wealthy old
Maryland aristocrat, came to the city to reside with an aunt, while she
completed her musical education. Lucky Jim saw her, and fell in love
with her beautiful, haughty face.

"He contrived to make her acquaintance, and the rest was easy; it was a
repetition of the old story; he was handsome and fascinating, she young
and unsophisticated, with plenty of headstrong Southern blood and self
will.

"After a brief courtship, Lucky Jim married the Maryland heiress. Her
father, as may be supposed, repudiated the marriage, but she clung to
her scamp, and so the old Maryland aristocrat sent her a small fortune,
which was hers, inherited from her mother's mother, and beyond his
control; and bade her consider herself no more a Schuyler, of _the_
Schuylers.

"For a time, Lucky Jim rode smoothly on the top wave of prosperity; his
wife easily duped, believed him a Wall street operator. Frank was born,
and then Sybil, and the Maryland beauty queened it in an elegant and
secluded little home.

"But the crisis came. The silver cloud turned its dark side.

"Lucky Jim played a losing game, one day, and his wife suddenly found
herself face to face with the truth.

"They lived through stormy times, but Jim had, in his palmy days, left
his wife's fortune intact, and now it proved an anchor to windward.

"They absented themselves from this country for more than two years;
then they came back, and Lucky Jim brought his family, which now
included Evan, to W----. The Maryland fortune enabled them to set up as
aristocrats, and Lucky Jim seems to have aspired to become a power in
the community.

"I don't think he often attempted any of his old confidence and
swindling games; but, during his absences from home, which were
frequent, during his earlier residence here, he made a study of fine
burglary.

"I can fancy how carefully he put his new schemes in practice, and how
he passed himself off upon W---- as a rising speculator.

"He probably spent years in gathering together that select society,
known as the Diamond Coterie.

"At first, it consisted of four; himself, a city pawn-broker, known as
Ezras, who received and negotiated the sale of the stolen goods, and who
is as keen a rascal as ever escaped justice, and two noted cracksmen,
who had headquarters in the city, and were famous in their day, but who
were compelled to withdraw in the midst of their high career, one dying
of a malignant fever, the other being killed by a woman.

"To replace these departed worthies, Ezras, who was always on the alert
for pals, and who had had various crooked dealings with Jerry Belknap,
brought this gentleman and Mr. Lamotte, or Lucky Jim together.

"Belknap proved the right man in the right place, and was soon admitted
into the Coterie. Next to come under the favorable notice of Ezras, was
John Burrill, who had come over from England, bringing with him some
ill-gotten gains, and who set himself up in New York as a swell
cracksman.

"Now, Burrill, the English boor, had an ambition. In this easy-going
America, he hoped in some way to build himself into an aristocrat, and
to shine as one of the lords of the land. To this end he hoarded his
share of all the spoils, and, adding it to the sum brought from England,
he began to find himself a rich man.

"Meantime, Mr. Lamotte had speculated a little too freely; he had built
a mansion, and built his factories. He had been living like a prince,
and some of his late ventures had failed. Something must be done. And
then his eye fell upon Burrill; he coveted the Englishman's hoarded
dollars.

"He found it easy to persuade Burrill to come to W----, ostensibly to
take the position of overseer at the factories; really to be more
readily duped by Lucky Jim. Burrill came; he saw how his comrade was
respected and bowed down to by all W----. He had always admired Lucky
Jim for his gentlemanly polish and his aristocratic manners; and he now
concocted a scheme for his own aggrandisement. The Lamottes had made
themselves aristocrats, they should make an aristocrat of him.

"You all know the result; John Burrill divorced his wife; Jasper Lamotte
sold his daughter.

"While Frank Lamotte felt tolerably sanguine of winning the heiress of
Wardour, the Wardour jewels were left unmolested. But when a rival came
into the field, they determined to have the jewels, even if they lost
the heiress.

"Accordingly they planned the robbery and the elopement, and you all
know the afterpart.

"Miss Wardour, you once offered a reward for the arrest of the robbers
who invaded Wardour Place, _not_ to recover your diamonds, but for the
sake of justice. It is for the sake of justice and for the future safety
of peaceable citizens that I have run the Diamond Coterie to earth. For,
be it known to you, ladies and gentlemen, that Miss Constance Wardour,
like the wise young lady she is, took her jewels to an expert, one fine
day, long ago, and had them all duplicated in paste; and while Jasper
Lamotte and his clique were industriously carrying into safe hiding
these paste diamonds, the real Wardour jewels were reposing safely in
the vaults of a city bank, and they repose there safely still!

"When Jasper Lamotte went to the city, two days before the killing of
Burrill, he went to dispose of some of those paste jewels; and, not
until then, did he learn how the heiress of Wardour had outwitted him.

"Miss Wardour, the career of the Diamond Coterie is at an end.

"Old Ezras has long been under our eye. Last night I sent a telegram,
which will cause his instant arrest; and there are enough charges
against him to insure him a life sentence, had he yet seventy years to
live.

"John Burrill has passed beyond our reach. The news of his murder
frustrated my nicely laid plans for his arrest, and turned my mind for
some time from the Diamond Coterie to the task of clearing Sir Clifford.

"Frank Lamotte, too, with all his sin and selfishness, has passed before
a higher tribunal.

"There remains only Jerry Belknap and Jasper Lamotte.

"To Jerry Belknap, I have promised protection--not because he deserves
the same, but because in no other way could I avail myself of his
services; and, to make my chain of evidence complete, I needed his
testimony. He will go out to the frontier, and never appear again in New
York.

"And now, perhaps, you can comprehend why I brought that charge of
perjury against Jasper Lamotte. For his wife's sake, for his unhappy
daughter's sake, for the sake of Evan Lamotte, who implored me, while
going to give himself up to save another, that I would not let further
disgrace bow his mother's head to the dust. For the sake of these
unfortunate victims, I would let Jasper Lamotte go free, so far as we
are concerned. The charge of perjury is enough for W----. The officers
have chosen not to place him in confinement, so, if Jasper Lamotte is
suddenly missed from among us, who can be questioned or blamed?

"I have acted in this matter solely on my own responsibility.

"I have seen Jasper Lamotte, and I gave him two alternatives to choose
from. He could remain and be arrested as the head and front of the
Diamond Coterie, or he could take passage on board the first ship bound
for Australia, to remain there the rest of his natural life. He chose
the latter, and I have appointed my agent, 'Smith, the book peddler,' as
his guardian, to see that he carries out his contract to the letter.

"And now there is one thing more:

"After Burrill's death, Jasper and Frank Lamotte made a search for
certain papers supposed to have been upon the person of the dead man;
they never found them, for the reason that I, as Brooks, had relieved
Burrill of the care of these same papers, weeks before, substituting for
them blanks, which no doubt, Burrill had hidden somewhere, in one of his
fits of drunken caution.

"These papers define distinctly such portions of the Lamotte property as
in reality belonged to Burrill; and if I am not mistaken in Mrs. Lamotte
and her daughter, they will wish no share in it. I will put these papers
into your hands, Mr. O'Meara, to be held for future action."



CHAPTER XLVII.

AFTER THE DRAMA ENDED.


"Clifford," says the heiress of Wardour, standing beside her lover, one
winter day, not long after the extinction of the Diamond Coterie,
"Clifford I have been to Mapleton to-day, for the first time since--"

She pauses abruptly, and her lover draws her closer to his side, with
all his olden assurance shining in the eyes he bends down upon her.

"Since the drama ended," he finishes. "You have been to Mapleton,
beloved! tell me about it."

"There's something I wish to tell you, Clifford; something that in full,
Mr. Bathurst generously kept out of his story when he told us the rest;
something that is known as it is only to Mrs. Lamotte, Sybil, Evan, Mr.
Belknap, Mr. Bathurst, and myself, but which I think I had better tell
you now."

"I am listening Conny."

"Well, you see when the robbers made off with my paste diamonds--think
of its being the Lamottes, Clifford--when they robbed me of nothing, I
felt quite relieved, for those diamonds _had_ been a burden. I made up
my mind to make the most of the business, and let everybody think me a
loser, hoping thus to possess myself and my diamonds in peace and
safety. But your Mr. Bathurst--"

"My Mr. Bathurst!"

"Well, _my_ Mr. Bathurst, then; only you very well know that he has a
wife. When _my_ Mr. Bathurst had talked to me a second time--I believe
that man can see straight through people--he had my secret at his
tongue's end; and he warned me to be very cautious and not to tell _any
one_ the truth concerning the diamonds. In spite of this, one evening,
when some imp possessed me, I told Sybil Lamotte; I shall never forget
her strange manner, nor her wild words. Clifford, that awful mistake of
mine almost made Sybil a murderess."

"Constance!"

"Listen, dear! Sybil had brooded over what I had told her. Trouble was
unsettling her mind. She had some valuable jewels; she went with her
mother to the city, and while there, had the real stones replaced by
paste, as I had done, and received two thousand dollars for her
diamonds.

"In some way she had found out that Jerry Belknap was a man to be
bought; she obtained an interview with him, and offered him two thousand
dollars if he would _get John Burrill out of her way_!"

"Good heavens!"

"Don't interrupt me. Belknap agreed to remove Burrill, and received five
hundred dollars in advance. He sent to the city for a ruffian, one of
his tools. The man came, but Mr. Bathurst had his eye upon him. On the
night of the murder, this ruffian was hidden outside of the saloon,
waiting to follow and waylay John Burrill when he should go home. The
boy detective, George, was hidden and watching the ruffian. Do you
follow?"

"Yes! yes!"

"When Burrill came out of the saloon, the ruffian, supposing of course
that he was going home, hurried on ahead, crossed the bridge, and
secreted himself in the hedge. The boy, George, was far enough behind to
see that Burrill was _not_ going home, but he was acting as directed by
Mr. Bathurst, and so followed the ruffian. Think of it, Clifford! While
Sybil's paid assassin lay in wait for his victim, Sybil's brother was
saving her soul from guilt, by taking a crime upon his own. But for
Evan's knife, poor half crazed Sybil would have been a murderess, and
this I knew in part from the first, and that is why I said, that the
true slayer must not be punished; until they brought Evan Lamotte into
court, I believed that Sybil was the guilty one."

"And you could not betray your unfortunate friend? My true hearted
Constance!"

"I had promised Mrs. Lamotte not to betray her, but was nerving myself
to dare all and save you, when poor Evan threw himself into the breach,
and saved us, all three. You must know, Clifford, that Mr. Belknap made
a full confession to Mr. Bathurst, when he found he could do no better.
And Mr. Bathurst, knowing that I was aware of Sybil's dealings with
Belknap, told me everything."

"And this is what Bathurst meant when he said that Sybil believed
herself guilty. I thought he referred to some of her insane ravings."

"So they all thought. But it is best as it is. There is no need to tell
this sad story, unless--"

"Unless what?"

"Unless it seems best that Ray Vandyck should know it."

"Poor Ray. Conny, if the time ever comes when Ray and Sybil meet again,
_she_ will tell him her own story."

Constance bent over the glowing coals a moment, and then lifting her
face, she said in a hushed voice:

"I saw Evan."

"And he--"

"He is just fading out of life. Oh! it was so fortunate that there was
no resistance to the humane ones who sought to help him out of that
gloomy prison. Sybil never leaves him for a moment. Oh, what must her
feelings have been, when she learned that Evan had saved her from a life
time of remorse. I could see by her face, oh, such a poor, pale, sad,
utterly changed face! that she knew all; everything. She greeted me; so
timidly, yet, with so much of thankfulness. But, she had eyes and ears
for no one but Evan, although she is too weak to do more than sit beside
him and hold his hand. But, Mrs. Lamotte's courage is wonderful. Old Mr.
Schuyler, Sybil's grandfather, is dead; and he has left Mrs. Lamotte his
property; but, so tied up that Mr. Lamotte could never touch a dollar.
Mrs. Lamotte says that when it is over--Evan's life you know--she shall
take Sybil and go to live in her old Maryland home. They will not touch
a penny of John Burrill's money; it is all to be transferred to his
first wife, to be held in trust for her little boy. The woman is going
back to England as soon as the transfer is made. Mrs. Lamotte said to me
to-day:

"'After all these years, Constance, I am to have an old age of peace, I
trust. Mr. Lamotte and I have parted forever. My love for him died long
since, so this gives me no pain. My keenest sorrow is that I never gave
my poor Evan his full share of my mother love. He came with my sorrow,
and bears the impress of my despair and madness. If we could only save
and keep him! But it is best as it is. Mind and body seem dying
together, and it is better so. When all is over, I shall take Sybil
away, where there will be nothing to recall her wretched past; and there
I shall trust her to Time, the Healer.'

"She never mentioned Frank's name, Clifford," bending forward to look in
his face. "Do you know what I see in the future? I see poor Evan laid
away under the snows; I see the memory of John Burrill sunk in oblivion.
I see Sybil Lamotte coming slowly back to life and hope and happiness,
under the kind blue Maryland skies. I see Mrs. Lamotte, her pride
softened and chastened, and a look of serene content upon her face. And
I see Ray Vandyck making his way southward some day, and standing before
Sybil with his heart in his eyes. I see--"

"You see enough. Leave Ray and Sybil face to face; you and I can guess
the rest. Do you see Doctor Clifford Heathercliffe resuming his practice
in W----, as if nothing had happened? For that's what his newly
appointed tyrant has bidden him do. Do you see a certain fair lady,
transformed into Lady Heathercliffe by and by, and sailing away over the
seas to bewilder the dwellers of Heathercliffe Towers, with the
brightness of her eyes and, in spite of the Diamond Coterie, to blaze
forth upon the 'nobility and gentry' of Hampshire, in all the splendor
of the Wardour diamonds? All this shall come to pass, beloved; and,
since it has gained me the fairest, bravest, truest wife in Christendom,
I can even rejoice in the persecutions and the hatred of the Diamond
Coterie.

"If John Burrill had not mistaken me for Herbert, on the night when the
feud began, he might now be living, perhaps, and you and I be far apart;
so, at the last, Herbert Heathercliffe, in his grave, has done me a
service. I do look like him, Conny, and it's small wonder Burrill knew
me for a Heathercliffe, and made capital out of my altered name. But all
that is past. My darling, we have learned our hard lesson, now we have
only to forgive the dead and the erring, to forget the shadows and
sorrows of the past, and to say, 'God bless our friends in need; God
bless Bathurst, king of his kind; God bless the O'Mearas--God bless the
beautiful darling who outwitted the diamond Coterie, and who wears the
Wardour diamonds, and the Wardour honor with regal grace.'"


THE END.





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