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Title: Sons and Fathers
Author: Edwards, Harry Stillwell, 1855-1938
Language: English
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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.

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SONS AND FATHERS

by

HARRY STILLWELL EDWARDS.



Published by
The J. W. Burke Company
Macon, Georgia

The First-Prize Story
In The Chicago Record's series of "Stories of Mystery"

This story--out of 816 competing--was awarded the FIRST
PRIZE--$10,000--in The Chicago Record's "$30,000
to Authors" competition.

Copyright 1896, by Harry Stillwell Edwards.
Copyright 1921, by Harry Stillwell Edwards.



CONTENTS

   CHAPTER I.       TWO SONS.
   CHAPTER II.      THE STRANGER ON THE THRESHOLD.
   CHAPTER III.     A BREATH FROM THE OLD SOUTH.
   CHAPTER IV.      THE MOTHER'S ROOM.
   CHAPTER V.       THE STRANGER IN THE LIBRARY.
   CHAPTER VI.      "WHO SAYS THERE CAN BE A 'TOO LATE' FOR THE
                       IMMORTAL MIND?"
   CHAPTER VII.     "BACK! WOULD YOU MURDER HER?"
   CHAPTER VIII.    ON THE BACK TRAIL.
   CHAPTER IX.      THE TRAGEDY IN THE STORM.
   CHAPTER X.       "GOD PITY ME! GOD PITY ME!"
   CHAPTER XI.      IN THE CRIMSON OF SUNSET.
   CHAPTER XII.     THE OLD SOUTH VERSUS THE NEW.
   CHAPTER XIII.    FEELING THE ENEMY.
   CHAPTER XIV.     THE OLD SOUTH DRAWS THE SWORD.
   CHAPTER XV.      "IN ALL THE WORLD, NO FAIRER FLOWER THAN THIS!"
   CHAPTER XVI.     BEYOND THE SHADOW OF A DOUBT.
   CHAPTER XVII.    "IF I MEET THE MAN!"
   CHAPTER XVIII.   HOW THE CHALLENGE WAS WRITTEN.
   CHAPTER XIX.     BROUGHT TO BAY.
   CHAPTER XX.      IN THE HANDS OF THEIR FRIENDS.
   CHAPTER XXI.     "THE WITNESS IS DEAD."
   CHAPTER XXII.    THE DUEL AT SUNRISE.
   CHAPTER XXIII.   THE SHADOW OVER THE HALL.
   CHAPTER XXIV.    THE PROFILE ON THE MOON.
   CHAPTER XXV.     THE MIDNIGHT SEARCH.
   CHAPTER XXVI.    GATHERING THE CLEWS.
   CHAPTER XXVII.   THE FACE THAT CAME IN DREAMS.
   CHAPTER XXVIII.  THE THREE PICTURES.
   CHAPTER XXIX.    "HOME SWEET HOME."
   CHAPTER XXX.     THE RAINBOW IN THE MIST.
   CHAPTER XXXI.    THE HAND OF SCIENCE.
   CHAPTER XXXII.   THE FLASHLIGHT PHOTOGRAPH.
   CHAPTER XXXIII.  THE TRADE WITH SLIPPERY DICK.
   CHAPTER XXXIV.   THE FACE OF THE BODY-SNATCHER.
   CHAPTER XXXV.    THE GRAVE IN THE PAST.
   CHAPTER XXXVI.   THE PLEDGE THAT WAS GIVEN.
   CHAPTER XXXVII.  "WHICH OF THE TWO WAS MY MOTHER?"
   CHAPTER XXXVIII. UNDER THE SPELL.
   CHAPTER XXXIX.   BARKSDALE'S WARNING.
   CHAPTER XL.      THE HIDDEN HAND.
   CHAPTER XLI.     WITH THE WOMAN WHO LOVED HIM.
   CHAPTER XLII.    THE SONG THE OCEAN SANG.
   CHAPTER XLIII.   THE DEATH OF GASPARD LEVIGNE.
   CHAPTER XLIV.    THE HEART OF CAMBIA.
   CHAPTER XLV.     THE MAN WITH THE TORCH.
   CHAPTER XLVI.    WHAT THE SHEET HID.
   CHAPTER XLVII.   ON THE MARGINS OF TWO WORLDS.
   CHAPTER XLVIII.  WAR TO THE KNIFE.
   CHAPTER XLIX.    PREPARING THE MINE.
   CHAPTER L.       SLIPPERY DICK RIGHTS A WRONG.
   CHAPTER LI.      A WOMAN'S WIT CONQUERS.
   CHAPTER LII.     DEATH OF COL. MONTJOY.
   CHAPTER LIII.    THE ESCAPE OF AMOS ROYSON.
   CHAPTER LIV.     HOW A DEBT WAS PAID.
   CHAPTER LV.      THE UNOPENED LETTER.
   CHAPTER LVI.     "WOMAN, WHAT WAS HE TO YOU?"
   CHAPTER LVII.    FRAGMENTARY LIFE RECORDS.
   CHAPTER LVIII.   "THE LAST SCENE OF ALL"



SONS AND FATHERS



CHAPTER I.

TWO SONS.


At a little station in one of the gulf states, where the east and west
trains leave and pick up a few passengers daily, there met in the summer
of 1888 two men who since they are to appear frequently in this record,
are worthy of description. One who alighted from the west-bound train
was about 29 years of age. Tall and slender, he wore the usual
four-button cutaway coat, with vest and trousers to match, which,
despite its inappropriateness in such a climate, was the dress of the
young city man of the south, in obedience to the fashion set by the
northern metropolis. His small feet were incased in neat half-moroccos,
and his head protected by the regulation derby of that year. There was
an inch of white cuffs visible upon his wrists, held with silver link
buttons, and an inch and a half of standing collar, points turned down.
He carried a small traveling bag of alligator skin swung lightly over
his left shoulder, after the English style, and a silk umbrella in lieu
of a cane. This man paced the platform patiently.

His neighbor was about the same age, dressed in a plain gray cassimer
suit. He wore a soft felt traveling hat and the regulation linen. He
was, however, of heavier build, derived apparently from free living, and
restless, since he moved rapidly from point to point, speaking with
train hands and others, his easy, good-fellow air invariably securing
him courtesy. His face was full and a trifle florid, but very mobile in
expression; while that of the first mentioned was somewhat sallow and
softened almost to sadness by gray eyes and long lashes. As they passed
each other the difference was both noticed and felt. The impressions
that the two would have conveyed to an analyst were action and
reflection. Perhaps in the case of the man in gray the impression would
have been heightened by sight of his two great commercial traveling bags
of Russia leather, bearing the initials "N. M. Jr."

There was one other passenger on the platform--a very handsome young
woman, seated on her trunk and trying to interest herself in a pamphlet
spread upon her lap, but from time to time she lifted her face, and when
the eyes of the man glanced her way she lowered hers with a half-smile
on her lips. There was something in his tone and manner that disarmed
reserve.

An officer in uniform came from the little eating-house near by and
approached the party.

"Are there any passengers for the coast here?" he asked.

"I am going to Charleston," the young lady said.

"Where are you from, miss?" Then, seeing her surprise, he continued:
"You must excuse the question but I am a quarantine officer and
Charleston has quarantined against all points that have been exposed to
yellow fever."

"That, then, does not include me," she said, confidently. "I am from
Montgomery, where there is no yellow fever, and a strict quarantine."

"Have you a health certificate?"

"A what?"

"A ticket from any of the authorities or physicians in Montgomery."

"No, sir; I am Miss Kitty Blair, and going to visit friends in
Charleston."

The officer looked embarrassed. The health-certificate regulation and
inland quarantine were new and forced him frequently into unpleasant
positions.

"You will excuse me," he said, finally; "but have you anything that
could establish that fact, visiting cards, correspondence--"

"I have told you," she replied, flushing a little, "who I am and where I
am from."

"That would be sufficient, miss, if all that is needed is a lady's word,
but I am compelled to keep all persons from the east-bound train who
cannot prove their residence in a non-infected district. The law is
impartial."

"And I cannot go on, then?" There were anxiety and pathos in her eyes
and tones. The gentleman in gray approached.

"I can fix that, sir," he said, briskly addressing the officer. "I am
not personally acquainted with Miss Blair, but I can testify to what she
says as true. I have seen her in Montgomery almost daily. My name is
Montjoy--Norton Montjoy, Jr. Here are my letters and my baggage is over
yonder."

"Are you a son of Col. Norton Montjoy of Georgia, colonel of the old
'fire-eaters,' as we used to call the regiment?"

"Yes, indeed," and a happy smile illumined his face.

"My name is Throckmorton," said the officer. "I followed your father
three years during the war, and you are--by Jove! you are the brat that
they once brought to camp and introduced as the latest infantry recruit!
Well, I see the likeness now."

The two men shook hands fervently. The officer bowed to the lady. "The
matter is all right," he said, smiling; "I will give you a paper
presently that will carry you through." The new friends then walked
aside talking with animation. The quarantine officer soon got into war
anecdotes. The other stranger was now left to the amusement of watching
the varying expressions of the girl's face. She continued low over her
book and began to laugh. Presently, with a supreme effort she recovered
herself. Montjoy had shaken off his father's admirer and was coming her
way. She looked up shyly. "I am very much obliged to you for getting me
out of trouble; I----"

"Don't mention it, miss; these fellows haven't much discretion."

"But what a fib it was!"

"How?"

"I haven't been in Montgomery in two weeks. I came here from an aunt's
in Macon."

"And I haven't been there in six months!" His laugh was hearty and
infectious. "Here comes your train; let me put you aboard." He secured
her a seat; the repentant quarantine officer supplied her with a ticket,
and then, shaking hands again with his father's friend, Montjoy hurried
to the southwester, which was threatening to get under way. The other
traveler was in and had a window open on the shady side.

There were men only in the car, and as Montjoy entered he drew off his
coat and dropped it upon his bags. The motion of the starting train did
not add to his comfort. The red dust poured in through the open windows,
invading and irritating the lungs. He thought of the moonlit roof
gardens in New York with something like a groan.

"Confound such a road!" and down went the book he was seriously trying
to lose himself in. His silent companion's face was lifted toward him:

"A railroad company that will run cars like this on such a schedule
ought to be abolished, the officers imprisoned, track torn up and
rolling stock burned! But then," he continued, "I am the fool. I ought
not to have come by this God-forsaken route."

"It is certainly not pleasant traveling to-day," his companion remarked,
sympathetically, showing even, white teeth under his brown mustache.
Montjoy had returned to his seat, but the smooth, even, musical tones of
the other echoed in his memory. He glanced back and presently came and
took a seat near by.

"Are you a resident of the south?" It was the stranger who spoke first.
This delicate courtesy was not lost on Montjoy.

"Yes. That is, I count myself a citizen of this state. But I sell
clothing for a New York house and am away from home a great deal."

"You delivered the young lady at the junction from quite a predicament."

"Didn't I, though! Well, she is evidently a fine little woman and
pretty. Lies for a pretty woman don't count. By the way--may I ask? What
line of business are you in?"



CHAPTER II.

THE STRANGER ON THE THRESHOLD.


"I am not in business," said the other. "I am a nephew of John Morgan,
of Macon. I suppose you must have known him."

"Yes, indeed."

"And am going out to wind up his affairs. I have been abroad and have
only just returned. The news of his death was quite a surprise to me. I
had not been informed that he was ill."

"Then you are the heir of John Morgan?"

"I am told so. It is but three days now since I reached this country,
and I have no information except as contained in a brief notice from
attorneys."

"How long since you have seen him?"

"I have never seen him--at least not since I was an infant, if then. My
parents left me to his care. I have spent my life in schools until six
or seven years ago, when, after graduating at Harvard and then at
Columbia college in law, I went abroad. Have never seen so much as the
picture of my uncle. I applied to him for one through his New York
lawyer once, sending a new one of myself, and he replied that he had too
much respect for art to have his taken."

"That sounds like him," and Montjoy laughed heartily. "He was a florid,
sandy-haired man, with eyes always half-closed against the light, stout
and walked somewhat heavily. He has been a famous criminal lawyer, but
for many years has not seemed to care for practice. He was a heavy
drinker, but with all that you could rely implicitly upon what he said.
He left a large property, I presume?"

"So I infer." Edward looked out of the window, but presently resumed the
conversation.

"My uncle stood well in the community, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes; we have lost a good citizen. Do you expect to make your home
with us?"

"That depends upon circumstances. Very likely I shall."

"I see! Well, sir, I trust you will. The Morgan place is a nice one and
has been closed to the young people too long."

"I am afraid they will not find me very gay." A shadow flitted over his
face, blotting out the faint smile.

The towns and villages glided away.

Edward Morgan noticed that there was little paint upon the country
houses, and that the fences were gone from the neighborhoods. And then
the sun sank below the black cloud, painting its peaks with gold, and
filling the caverns with yellow light; church spires, tall buildings and
electric-light towers filed by with solemn dignity and then stood
motionless. The journey was at an end.

"My home is six miles out," said Montjoy, "and if you will go with me I
shall be glad to have you. It is quite a ride, but anything is
preferable to the hotels."

Morgan's face lighted up quickly at this unexpected courtesy.

"Thank you," he said "but I don't mind the hotels. I have never had any
other home, sir, except boarding houses." Through his smile there fell
the little, destroying shadow. Montjoy had not expected him to accept,
but he turned now, with his winning manner.

"Well, then, I insist. We shall find a wagon waiting outside, and
to-morrow I am coming in and shall bring you back. We will have to get
acquainted some of these days, and there is nothing like making an early
start." He was already heading for the sidewalk; his company was as
sunlight and Morgan was tempted to stay in the sunlight.

"Then I shall go," he said. "You are very kind."

A four-seated vehicle stood outside and by it a little old negro, who
laughed as Montjoy rapidly approached.

"Well, Isam," he said, tossing his bag in, "how are all at home?"

"Dey's all well."

"By the way, Mr. Morgan, we shall leave your trunks, but I can supply
you with everything for a 'one-night stand.'"

"I have a valise that will answer, if there is room."

"Plenty. Let Isam have the check and he will get it." While Morgan was
feeling for his bit of brass Isam continued:

"Miss Annie will be mighty glad to see you. Sent me in here now goin' on
fo' times an' gettin' madder----"

"That's all right; here's the check; hurry up." The negro started off
rapidly.

"Drive by the club, Isam," he said, when the negro had resumed the
lines. "I reckon we'll be too late for supper at home; better get it in
town."

"Miss Mary save supper for you, sho', Marse Norton."

"Save, the mischief! Go ahead!" The single horse moved forward in a
dignified trot.

As they entered the club several young men were grouped near a center
table. There was a vista of open doors, a glimmer of cards and the crash
of billiards. Montjoy walked up and dropped his hat on the table. There
followed a general handshaking. Edward Morgan noticed that they greeted
him with cordiality. Then he saw his manner change and he turned with a
show of formality.

"Gentlemen, this is my friend, Mr. Morgan, a nephew of Col. John
Morgan." He rapidly pronounced the names of those present, and each
shook the newcomer's hand. At the same time Morgan felt their sudden
scrutiny, but it was brief. Montjoy rang the bell.

"What are you going to have, gentlemen? John," to the old waiter, "how
are you, John?"

"First rate, Marse Norton; first rate." The old man bowed and smiled.

"Take these orders, John. Five toddies, one Rhine wine, and hurry, John!
Oh, John!" The worthy came back. "There is only one mistake you can make
with mine; take care about the water!"

"All right, sah, all right! Dare won't be any!"

Montjoy ordered a tremendous supper, as he called it, and while waiting
the half-hour for its preparation, several of the party repeated the
order for refreshments, it appeared to the stranger, with something like
anxiety. It was as though they feared an opportunity to return the
courtesies they had accepted would not be given. None joined them at
supper, but when the newcomers were seated one of the gentlemen lounged
near and dropping into a seat renewed the conversation that had been
interrupted. Champagne had been added to the supper and this gentleman
yielded at length to Montjoy's demand and joined them.

The conversation ran upon local politics until Morgan began to feel the
isolation. He took to studying the new man and presently felt the
slight, inexplicable prejudice that he had formed upon the introduction,
wearing away. The man was tall, dark and straightly built, probably
thirty years of age, with fine eyes and unchanging countenance. He did
but little talking, and when he spoke it was with great deliberation and
positiveness. If there were an unpleasant shading of character written
there it was in the mouth, which, while not ill-formed, seemed to
promise a relentless disposition. But the high and noble forehead
redeemed it all. This man was now addressing him:

"You will remain some time in Macon, Mr. Morgan?"

The voice possessed but few curves; it grated a trifle upon the
stranger.

"I cannot tell as yet," he said; "I do not know what will be required of
me."

"Well, I shall be pleased to see you at my place of business whenever
you find an opportunity of calling. Norton, bring Mr. Morgan down to see
me."

He laid his card by Edward and bade them good-evening. Looking over his
plate, the latter read H. R. Barksdale, president A. F. & C. railroad.
He had not caught the name in the general introduction. "Good fellow,"
said Montjoy, between mouthfuls; "talked more to-night than I ever heard
him, and never knew him to pull a card before."

The night was dark. The road ran over hills, but sometimes was sandy
enough to reduce the horse to his slowest gait. "From this point," said
Montjoy, looking back, "you can see the city five miles away, rather a
good view in the daytime, but now only the scattered electric lights
show up."

"It looks like the south of France," said Morgan. Montjoy revealed the
direction of his thoughts.

"You will find things at home very different from what they once were,"
he put in. "With free labor the plantations have run down, and it is
very hard for the old planters to make anything out of land now. The
negroes won't work and it hardly pays to plant cotton. I wish often that
father could do something else, but he can't change at his time of
life."

"Could not the young men do better with the plantations?"

"Young men! My dear sir, the young men can't afford to work the
plantations; it is as much as they can do to make a living in town--most
of them."

"Is there room for all?"

"No, indeed! They are having a hard time of it, I reckon, and salaries
are getting smaller every year."

"I have heard," said Morgan, slowly, "that labor is the wealth of a
country. It seems to me that if they expect to make anything out of
this, they must labor in the productive branches. Where does the support
for all come from?"

"From the farms--from cotton, mostly."

"The negro is, then, after all, the productive agent."

Montjoy thought a moment, then replied:

"Yes, as a rule. Manufacturing is increasing and there is some
development in mining, but as a matter of fact the negroes and the poor
whites of the country keep the balance up. Somebody has got to sweat it
out between the plow handles, but you can bet your bottom dollar that
Montjoy is out. I couldn't make $100 a year on the best plantation in
Georgia, but I can make $5,000 selling clothing."

The dignified horse had climbed his last hill for the night and was just
turning into an avenue, when a dark form came plunging out of the shadow
and collided with him violently. Morgan beheld a rider almost unhorsed
and heard an oath. For an instant only he saw the man's face, white and
malignant, and then it disappeared in the darkness. To Montjoy's
greeting, good-naturedly hurled into the night, there came no reply.

"My wife's cousin," he said, laughing. "I am glad it is not my horse he
is riding to-night."

They came up in front of a large house with Corinthian columns and many
lights. There was a sudden movement of chairs upon the long veranda and
then a young woman came slowly down to the gate and lifted her face to
Montjoy's kiss. A pretty boy of five climbed into his arms. Morgan stood
silent, touched by the scene. He started violently as Norton Montjoy,
remembering his presence, called his name. The woman extended her hand.

"I am very glad to see you," she said, accenting the adjective. Morgan,
sensitive to fine impressions, did not like the voice, although the
courtesy was perfect.

They advanced to the porch. An old gentleman was standing at the top of
the steps. In the light streaming from the hallway Morgan saw that he
was tall and soldierly and with gray hair pressed back in great waves
from the temples. He put one arm around his son and the other around his
grandson, but did not remove his eyes from the guest. While he addressed
words of welcome and chiding to the former, he was slowly extending his
right hand, seeing which the son said gayly:

"Mr. Morgan, father--a nephew of Col. John Morgan." The light fell upon
the half-turned face of the old gentleman and showed it lighted by a
mild and benevolent expression and dawning smile.

"Indeed! Come in, Mr. Morgan, come in; I am glad to see you."

The words were cordial and tone of voice perfect, but to Edward there
seemed a shading of surprise in the prolonged gaze that rested upon him.

Norton had passed on to the end of the porch, where an elderly lady sat
upright, prevented from rising by a little girl asleep in her lap. There
were sounds of repeated kisses as she embraced her overgrown boy, and
then her voice:

"The Duchess tried to keep her eyes open for you, but she could not. Why
are you so late?" Her voice was as the winds in the pines, and the hand
she gave to Morgan a moment later was as cool as chamois and as soft.

A young girl had come to the doorway. She was simply dressed in white
and her abundant hair was twisted into the Grecian knot that makes some
women appear more womanly. She put her arms about the big brother and
gave her little hand to Morgan. For a moment their eyes met, and then,
gently disengaging her hand, she went to lean against her father's
chair, softly stroking his white hair, while the conversation went
'round.

"Mary," said the older woman, presently, "Mr. Morgan and Norton have had
a long ride and must be hungry."

"No," said the latter, checking the girl's sudden movement, "we have had
something to eat in town."

"You should have waited, my son; it was a needless expense," said the
mother, gently. "But I am afraid you will never practice economy."
Norton laughed and did not dispute the proposition. The young mother and
children disappeared, and Norton gave a spirited account of the
quarantine incident without securing applause.

"I understand," said the colonel to his guest presently, when
conversation had lulled, "that you are a nephew of John Morgan. I did
not know that he had brothers or sisters----"

"I am not really a nephew," said Morgan, quietly, "but a distant
relative and always taught to regard him as uncle." Something in his
voice made the young girl lift her eyes. His figure in the half-light
where he sat was immovable. Against the white column beyond, his head,
graceful in its outlines, was sharply silhouetted. It was bent slightly
forward; and while they remained upon the porch, ever at the sound of
his voice she would turn her eyes slowly and let them rest upon the
speaker. But she was silent.



CHAPTER III.

A BREATH FROM THE OLD SOUTH.


The room in which Edward Morgan opened his eyes next morning was large
and the ceiling low. The posts of the bed ran up to within a foot of the
latter and supported a canopy. There was no carpet, the curtains were of
chintz and the lambrequins evidently home made. The few pictures on the
wall were portraits, in frames made of pine cones, with clusters of
young cones at the corners. There were home-made brackets, full of swamp
grasses. The bureau had two miniature Tuscan columns, between which was
hung a swivel glass. All was homely but clean and suggestive of a
woman's presence. And through the open windows there floated a delicious
atmosphere, fresh, cool and odorous, with the bloom-breath of tree and
shrub.

He stepped out of bed and looked forth. For a mile ran the great fields
of cotton and corn, with here and there a cabin and its curl of smoke. A
flock of pigeons were walking about the barn doors, and a number of
goats waited at the side gate, which led into a broad back yard. In the
distance he could see negroes in the fields, hear their songs and the
"clank" of a little grist-mill in the valley.

But sweeping all other sounds from mind, he heard also another musical
voice calling "Chick! chick! chickee, chickee!" and caught a glimpse of
fowls hurrying from every direction toward the back yard. He plunged his
head into a basin of cool water, and presently he was dressed.

The front door was open, as it had remained all night, the chairs on the
porch, with here and there books and papers, when Edward Morgan walked
out. The yard was spacious and full of plants. Sunflowers and
poke-berries were growing along the front fence, and mocking birds,
cardinals and jays, their animosities suspended, were breakfasting side
by side. His walk carried him to the side of the house, and, looking
across the low picket fence, he saw Mary. Her sleeves were rolled up
above the elbows and her arms covered with dough from a great pan into
which, from time to time, she thrust a hand. A multitude of ducks,
chickens, turkeys and guineas scrambled about her, and a dozen white
pigeons struggled for standing-room upon her shoulders.

"May I come in?" he called.

"If you can stand it, Mr. Morgan." There was not the slightest
embarrassment; the brown eyes were frank and encouraging; he placed his
hands upon the fence and leaped lightly over.

"What a family you have!" he said. She smiled, turning her face to him
as she scattered dough and gently pushed away the troublesome birds.

"Many birds' mouths to fill; and they will have to fill some mouths too,
one of these days, poor things."

"That is but fair."

"I suppose so; but what a mission in life--just to fill somebody's
mouth."

"The mission of many poor men and women I have seen," he said, "is
merely to fill mouths. And sometimes they get so poor they can't do
that."

"And sometimes chickens get the same way," she said, sagely, at which
both laughed outright. Her face resumed its placid expression almost
instantly. "It must be sad to be very poor; how I wish they could
arrange for all of the poor people to come out here and find homes;
there seems to be so much land wasted."

"They would not stay long anywhere away from the city," he said; "but do
you never sigh for city life?"

"I prefer it," she replied, simply, "but we cannot afford it. And there
is no one to take care of this place. It is harder on Annie, brother's
wife. She simply detests the country. When I graduated--"

"You graduated!" he exclaimed, almost incredulously. She looked at him
surprised.

"Yes, I am young, seventeen this month, but that is not extraordinary.
Mamma graduated at the same age, sixteen, forty years ago." A servant
approached, spoon in hand.

"Want some more lard, missy." She took her bunch of keys, and selecting
one that looked like the bastile memento at Mount Vernon, unlocked the
smoke-house door and waited. "Half of that will do, Gincy," she said,
not looking around as she talked with Morgan, and the woman returned
half.

"Now," she continued to him, "I must go see about the milking."

"I will go, too, if you do not object! This is all new and enjoyable."
They came to where the women were at work. As they stood looking on, a
calf came up and stood by the girl's side, letting her rub its sensitive
ears. A little kid approached, too, and bleated.

"Aunt Mollie," Mary asked, "has its mother come up yet?"

"No, ma'am. Spec' somep'n done cotch her!"

"See if he will drink some cow's milk--give me the cup." She offered him
a little, and the hungry animal drank eagerly. "Let him stay in the yard
until he gets large enough to feed himself." Then turning to Morgan,
laughing, she said: "I expect you are hungry, too; I wonder why papa
does not come."

"Is he up?"

"Oh, yes; he goes about early in the morning--there he comes now!" The
soldierly form of the old man was seen out among the pines. "Bring in
breakfast, Gincy," she called, and presently several negroes sped across
the yard, carrying smoking dishes into the cool basement dining-room.
Then the bell rang.

At the top of the stairway Morgan had an opportunity to better see his
hostess. The lady was slender and moved with deliberation. Her gray hair
was brightened by eyes that seemed to swim with light and sympathy. The
dress was a black silk, old in fashion and texture, but there was real
lace at the throat and wrists, and a little lace headdress. She smiled
upon the young man and gave him her plump hand as he offered to assist
her.

"I hope you slept well," she said; "no ghosts! That part of the house
you were in is said to be one hundred years old, and must be full of
memories."

They stood for grace, and then Mary took her place behind the coffee pot
and served the delicious beverage in thin cups of china. The meal
consisted of broiled chicken, hot, light biscuits, bread of cornmeal,
and eggs that Morgan thought delicious, corn cakes, bacon and fine
butter. A little darky behind an enormous apron, but barefooted, stood
by the coffee pot and with a great brush of the gorgeous peacock
feathers kept the few flies off the tiny caster in the middle of the
table, while his eyes followed the conversation around. Presently there
was a clatter on the stairs and the little boy came down and climbed
into his high chair. He was barefooted and evidently ready for
breakfast, as he took a biscuit and bit it. The colonel looked severely
at him.

"Put your biscuit down," he said, quietly but sternly, "and wait outside
now until the others are through. You came in after grace and you have
not said good-morning." The boy's countenance clouded and he began to
pick at his knife handle; the grandmother said, gently:

"He'll not do it again, grandpa, and he is hungry, I know. Let him off
this time." Grandpa assumed a very severe expression as he replied,
promptly:

"Very well, madam; let him say grace and stay, under those
circumstances." The company waited on him, he hesitated, swelled up as
if about to cry and said, earnestly: "Gimme somep'n to eat, for the
Lord's sake, amen." Grandma smiled benignly, but Mary and grandpa were
convulsed. Then other footfalls were heard on the stairs outside, as if
some one were coming down by placing the same foot in front each time.
Presently in walked a blue-eyed, golden-haired, barefooted girl of
three, who went straight to the colonel and held up her arms. He lifted
her and pressed the little cheek to his.

"Ah," he said, "here comes the Duchess." He gave her a plate next to
his, and taking her fork she ate demurely, from time to time watching
Morgan.

"Papa ain't up yet," volunteered the boy. "He told mamma to throw his
clothes in the creek as he wouldn't have any more use for them--ain'
going to get up any more."

"Mamma, does your eye hurt you?" said Mary, seeing the white hand for
the second time raised to her face.

"A little. The same old pain."

"Mamma," she explained to Morgan, "has lost the sight of one eye by
neuralgia, tho you would never suspect it. She still suffers dreadfully
at times from the same trouble."

Presently the elder lady excused herself, the daughter watching her
anxiously as she slowly disappeared.

It was nearly noon when Norton Montjoy and Edward Morgan reached the law
office of Ellison Eldridge. As they entered Morgan saw a clean-shaven
man of frank, open expression. Norton spoke:

"Judge, this is Mr. Edward Morgan--you have corresponded with him."
Morgan felt the sudden penetrating look of the lawyer. Montjoy was
already saying au revoir and hastening out, waving off Edward's thanks
as he went.

"Will see you later," he called back from the stairway, "and don't
forget your promise to the old folks."

"You got my letter, Mr. Morgan? Please be seated."

"Yes; three days since, in New York, through Fuller & Fuller. You have,
I believe, the will of the late John Morgan."

"A copy of it. The will is already probated." He went to his safe and
returned with a document and a bunch of keys. "Shall I read it to you?"

"If you please."

The lawyer read, after the usual recitation that begins such documents,
as follows: "Do create, name and declare Edward Morgan of the city of
New York my lawful heir to all property, real and personal, of which I
may die possessed. And I hereby name as executor of this my last will
and testament, Ellison Eldridge of ---- state afore-said, relieving said
Ellison Eldridge of bond as executor and giving him full power to wind
up my estate, pay all debts and settle with the heir as named, without
the order of or returns to any court, and for his services in this
connection a lien of $10,000 in his favor is hereby created upon said
estate, to be paid in full when the residue of property is transferred
to the said Edward Morgan," etc.

"The property, aside from Ilexhurst, his late home," continued Judge
Eldridge, "consists of $630,000 in government bonds. These I have in a
safety-deposit company. I see the amount surprises you."

"Yes," said the young man; "I am surprised by the amount." He gave
himself up to thought for a few moments.

"The keys," said Eldridge, "he gave me a few days before his death,
stating that they were for you only, and that the desk in his room at
home, which they fitted, contained no property."

"You knew Mr. Morgan well, I presume?" said the young man.

"Yes, and no. I have seen him frequently for a great many years, but no
man knew him intimately. He was eccentric, but a fine lawyer and a very
able man. One day he came in here to execute this will and left it with
me. He referred to it again but once and that was when he came to bring
your address and photograph."

"Was there--anything marked--or strange--in his life?"

"Nothing beyond what I have outlined. He was a bachelor, and beyond an
occasional party to gentlemen in his house, when he spared no expense,
and regular attendance upon the theater, he had few amusements. He
inherited some money; the balance he accumulated in his practice and by
speculation, I suppose. The amount is several times larger than I
suspected. His one great vice was drink. He would get on his sprees two
or three times a year, but always at home. There he would shut himself
up and drink until his housekeeper called in the doctors." Morgan waited
in silence; there was nothing else and he rose abruptly.

"Judge, we will wind up this matter in a few days. Here are your
letters, and John Morgan's to me, and letters from Fuller & Fuller, who
have known me for many years and have acted as agents for both Col.
Morgan and myself. If more proof is desired----"

"These are sufficient. Your photograph is accurate. May I ask how you
are related to Col. Morgan?"

"Distantly only. The fact is I am almost as nearly alone in the world as
he was. I must have your advice touching other matters. I shall return,
very likely, in the morning."

Upon the street Edward Morgan walked as in a dream. Strange to say, the
information imparted to him had been depressing. He called a carriage.

"Take me out to John Morgan's," he said, briefly.

"De colonel's done dead, sah!"

"I know, but the house is still there, is it not?"

The driver conveyed the rebuke to his bony horse, in the shape of a
sharp lash, and secured a reasonably fair gait. Once or twice he
ventured observations upon the character of the deceased.

"Col. Morgan's never asked nobody 'how much' when dey drive 'im; he des
fling down half er doller an' go long 'bout es business. Look to me,
young marster, like you sorter got de Morgan's eye. Is you kinned to
'im?"

"I employed you to drive, not to talk," said Edward, sharply.

"Dere now, dat's des what Col. Morgan say!"

The negro gave vent to a little pacifying laugh and was silent. The
shadow on the young man's face was almost black when he got out of the
hack in front of the Morgan house and tossed the old negro a dollar.

"Oom-hoo!" said that worthy, significantly. "Oo-hoo! What I tole you?"



CHAPTER IV.

THE MOTHER'S ROOM.


The house before which Morgan stood overlooked the city two miles away
and was the center of a vast estate now run to weeds. It was a fine
example of the old style of southern architecture. The spacious roof,
embattled, but unbroken by gable or tower, was supported in front by
eight massive columns that were intended to be Ionic. The space between
them and the house constituted the veranda, and opening from the center
of the house upon this was a great doorway, flanked by windows. This
arrangement was repeated in the story above, a balcony taking the place
of the door. The veranda and columns were reproduced on both sides of
the house, running back to two one-story wings. The house was of slight
elevation and entered in front by six marble steps, flanked by carved
newel posts and curved rails; the front grounds were a hundred yards
wide and fifty deep, inclosed by a heavy railing of iron. These details
came to him afterward; he did not even see at that time the magnolias
and roses that grew in profusion, nor the once trim boxwood hedges and
once active fountain. He sounded loudly upon the front door with the
knocker.

At length a woman came around the wing room and approached him. She was
middle-aged and wore a colored turban, a white apron hiding her dress.
The face was that of an octoroon; her figure tall and full of dignity.
She did not betray the mixed blood in speech or manner, but her form of
address proclaimed her at once a servant. The voice was low and musical
as she said, "Good-morning, sir," and waited.

Morgan studied her in silence a moment; his steady glance seemed to
alarm her, for she drew back a step and placed her hand on the rail.

"I want to see the people who have charge of this house," said the young
man. She now approached nearer and looked anxiously into his face.

"I have the care of it," she answered.

"Well," said he, "I am Edward Morgan, the new owner. Let me have the
keys."

"Edward Morgan!" She repeated the name unconsciously.

"Come, my good woman, what is it? Where are the keys?" She bowed her
head. "I will get them for you, sir." She went to the rear again, and
presently the great doors swung apart and he entered.

The hallway was wide and opened through massive folding doors into the
dining-room in the rear, and this dining-room, by means of other folding
doors, entering the wing-rooms, could be enlarged into a princely salon.
The hall floor was of marble and a heavy frieze and centerpiece
decorated walls and ceiling. A gilt chandelier hung from the center.
Antique oak chairs flanked this hallway, which boasted also a hatrack,
with looking-glass six feet wide. A semicircular stairway, guarded by a
carved oak rail, a newel post and a knight in armor, led to apartments
above. A musty odor pervaded the place.

"Open the house," said Edward; "I must have better air."

And while this was being done he passed through the rooms into which now
streamed light and fresh air. On the right was parlor and guest chamber,
the hangings and carpets unchanged in nearly half a century. On the left
was a more cheerful living-room, with piano and a rack of yellow sheet
music, and the library, with an enormous collection of books. There were
also cane furniture, floor matting and easy-chairs.

In all these rooms spacious effects were not lessened by bric-a-brac and
collections. A few portraits and landscapes, a candelabra or two, a pair
of brass fire dogs, one or two large and exquisitely painted vases made
up the ornamental features. The dining-room proper differed in that its
furnishings were newer and more elaborate. The wing-rooms were evidently
intended for cards and billiards. Behind was the southern back porch
closed in with large green blinds. Over all was the chill of isolation
and disuse.

Edward made his way upstairs among the sleeping apartments, full of old
and clumsy furniture, the bedding having been removed. Two rooms only
were of interest; to the right and rear a small apartment connected with
the larger one in front by a door then locked. This small room seemed to
have been a boy's. There were bows and arrows, an old muzzle-loading
gun, a boat paddle, a dip net, stag horns, some stuffed birds and small
animals, the latter sadly dilapidated, a few game pictures, boots, shoes
and spurs--even toys. A small bed ready for occupancy stood in one
corner and in another a little desk with drop lid. On the hearth were
iron fire dogs and ashes, the latter holding fragments of charred paper.

For the first time since entering the house Edward felt a human
presence; it was a bright sunny room opening to the western breeze and
the berries of a friendly china tree tapped upon the window as he
approached it. He placed his hand upon the knob of the door, leading
forward, and tried to open it; it was locked.

"That," said the woman's low voice, "is Col. Morgan's mother's room,
sir, and nobody ever goes in there. No one has entered that room but him
since she died, I reckon more than forty years ago."

Edward had started violently; he turned to find the sad, changeless face
of the octoroon at his side.

"And this room?"

"There is where he lived all his life--from the time he was a boy until
he died."

Edward took from his pocket the bunch of keys and applied the largest to
the lock of the unopened door; the bolt turned easily. As he crossed the
threshold a thrill went through him; he seemed to trespass. Here had the
boy grown up by his mother, here had been his retreat at all times. When
she passed away it was the one spot that kept fresh the heart of the
great criminal lawyer, who fought the outside world so fiercely and
well. Edward had never known a mother's room, but the scene appealed to
him, and for the first time he felt kinship with the man who preceded
him, who was never anything but a boy here in these two rooms. Even when
he lay dead, back there in that simple bed, over which many a night his
mother must have leaned to press her kisses upon his brow, he was a boy
grown old and lonely.

One day she had died in this front room! What an agony of grief must
have torn the boy left behind. In the dim light of the room he had
opened, objects began to appear; almost reverently Edward raised a
window and pushed open the shutters. Behind him stood ready for
occupancy a snowy bed, with pillows and linen as fresh seemingly as if
placed there at morn. By the bedside was a pair of small worn slippers,
a rocking chair stood by the east window, and by the chair was a little
sewing stand, with a boy's jacket lying near, and threaded needle thrust
into its texture. On the little center table was a well-worn Bible by a
small brass lamp, and a single painting hung upon the wall--that of a
little farmhouse at the foot of a hill, with a girl in frock and poke
bonnet swinging upon its gate.

There was no carpet on the floor; only two small rugs. It had been the
home of a girl simply raised and grown to womanhood, and her simplicity
had been repeated in her boy. The great house had been the design of her
husband, but there in these two rooms mother and son found the charm of
a bygone life, delighting in those "vague feelings" which science cannot
fathom, but which simpler minds accept as the whispering of heredity.

One article only remained unexamined. It was a small picture in a frame
that rested upon the mantel and in front of which was draped a velvet
cloth. Morgan as in a dream drew aside the screen and saw the face of a
wondrously beautiful girl, whose eyes rested pensively upon him. A low
cry escaped the octoroon, who had noiselessly followed him; she was
nodding her head and muttering, all unconscious of his presence. When
she saw at length his face turned in wonder upon her she glided
noiselessly from the room. He replaced the cloth, closed the window
again and tiptoed out, locking the door behind him.

He found the octoroon downstairs upon the back steps. She was now calm
and answered his questions clearly. She had not belonged to John Morgan,
she said, but had always been a free woman. Her husband had been free,
too, but had died early. She had come to keep house at Ilexhurst many
years ago, before the war, and had been there always since, caring for
everything while Mr. Morgan was in the army, and afterward; when he was
away from time to time. No, she did not know anything of the girl in the
picture; she had heard it said that he was once to have married a lady,
but she married somebody else and that was the end of it. John Morgan
had kept the room as it was. No, he was never married. He had no cousins
or kinfolks that she had heard of except a sister who died, and her two
sons had been killed in battle or lost at sea during the war. Neither of
them was married; she was certain of that. She herself cooked and kept
house, and Ben, a hired boy, attended to the rest and acted as butler.

Edward was recalled to the present by feeling her eyes fixed upon him.
He caught but one fleeting glance at her face before it was averted; it
had grown young, almost beautiful, and the eyes were moistened and
tender and sad. He turned away abruptly.

"I will occupy an upper room to-night," he said, "and will send new
furniture to-morrow." His baggage had come and he went back with the
express to the city. He would return, he said, after supper.

Sometimes the mind, after a long strain imposed upon it, relieves itself
by a refusal to consider. So with Edward Morgan's. That night he stood
by his window and watched the lessening moon rise over the eastern
hills. But he seemed to stand by a low picket fence beyond which a girl,
with bare arms, was feeding poultry. He felt again the power of her
frank, brown eyes as they rested upon him, and heard her voice, musical
in the morning air, as it summoned her flock to breakfast.

In New York, Paris and Italy, and here there in other lands, were a few
who called him friend; it would be better to wind up his affairs and go
to them. It did not seem possible that he could endure this new life.
Already the buoyancy of youth was gone! His ties were all abroad.

Thoughts of Paris connected him with a favorite air. He went to his
baggage and unpacked an old violin, and sitting in the window, he played
as a master hand had taught him and an innate genius impelled. It was
Schubert's serenade, and as he played the room was no longer lonely;
sympathy had brought him friends. It seemed to him that among them came
a woman who laid her hand on his shoulder and smiled on him. Her face
was hidden, but her touch was there, living and vibrant. On his cheek
above the mellow instrument he felt his own tears begin to creep and
then--silence. But as he stood calmer, looking down into the night, a
movement in the shrubbery attracted him back to earth; he called aloud:

"Who is there?" A pause and the tall figure of the octoroon crossed the
white walk.

"Rita," was the answer. "The gate was left open."



CHAPTER V.

THE STRANGER IN THE LIBRARY.


Edward was up early and abroad for exercise. Despite his gloom he had
slept fairly well and had awakened but once. But that once! He could not
rid himself of the memory of the little picture and it had served him a
queer trick. He had simply found himself lying with open eyes and
staring at the woman herself; it was the same face, but now anxious and
harassed. He was not superstitious and this was clearly an illusion; he
rubbed his eyes deliberately and looked again. The figure had
disappeared. But the mind that entertains such fancies needs
something--ozone and exercise, he thought; and so he covered the hills
with his rapid pace and found himself an hour later in the city and with
an appetite.

The day passed in the arrangement of those minor requirements when large
estates descend to new owners. There was an accounting, an examination
of records. Judge Eldridge gave him assistance everywhere, but there was
no time for private and past histories. In passing he dropped in at
Barksdale's office and left a card.

One of the distinctly marked features of the day was his meeting with a
lawyer, Amos Royson by name. This man held a druggist's claim of several
hundred dollars against the estate of John Morgan for articles purchased
by Rita Morgan, the charges made upon verbal authority from the
deceased. John Morgan had been absent many months just previous to his
death and the account had not been presented.

Edward was surprised to find, upon entering this office, that the lawyer
was the man who had collided with Montjoy's horse the night before.
Royson saluted him coldly but politely and produced the account already
sworn to and ready for filing. It had been withheld at Eldridge's
request. As Edward ran his eye over the list he saw that chemicals had
been bought at wholesale, and with them had been sent one or two
expensive articles belonging to a chemical laboratory. Just what use
Rita Morgan might have for such things he could not imagine. He was
about to say that he would inquire into the account when he saw that
Royson, with a sardonic smile upon his face, was watching him. He had a
distinct impression that antipathy to the man was stirring within him;
he was about to pay the account and rid himself of the necessity of any
further dealings with the man, when, angered by the impudent, irritating
manner, he decided otherwise.

"Have you ever shown this account to Rita Morgan?"

"Oh, yes!"

"And she pronounced it correct, I suppose?"

"She did not examine it; she said that you would pay it now that John
Morgan is dead."

"If the account is a just charge upon the Morgan estate I certainly
will," said Morgan, pocketing the written statement.

"I think after you examine into the matter it will be paid," said
Royson, confidently. Edward thought long upon the man's manner and the
circumstance, but could make nothing out of them. He would see Rita, and
with that resolution he let the incident pass from his mind.

The shadows were falling when he returned to take his first meal in his
new home. He descended to the dining-room to find it lighted by the
fifty or more jets in the large gilt chandeliers. The apartment
literally blazed with light. The sensation under the circumstances was
agreeable, and in better spirits he took the single seat provided. Here,
as afterward ascertained, had been the lawyer's one point of contact
with the social world, and it was here that he had been accustomed, at
intervals varying from weeks to years, to entertain his city
acquaintances.

The room was not American but continental from its Louvre ceiling of
white and gold to its niched half life-size statuary and pictures of
fishing and hunting scenes in gilded frames. But the foreign effects
ended in this room. Outside all else was American.

Edward was silently served by the butler and was pleased to find his
dinner first class in every respect. Then came a box of choice cigars
upon a silver tray.

Passing into the library, he seated himself by the reading light near
the little side table where a leather chair had been placed, and sought
diversion in the papers; but, alas, the European finds but little of
home affairs in one parliament, a regatta, a horse race, a German-army
review, a social sensation--these were all.

He turned from the papers; the truth is the one great overwhelming fact
at that moment was that he, a wanderer all of his life, without family
or parents, or knowledge of them, had suddenly been transplanted among a
strange people and made the master of a household and a vast fortune. On
this occasion, as ever since entering the house, he could not rid
himself of a suggestion so indefinite as to belong to the region of
subconsciousness that he was an interloper, an inferior, and that
jealous, unseen eyes were watching him. The room seemed haunted by an
unutterable protest. He was not aware then that this is a peculiarity of
all old houses.

Something like an oppression seized upon him and he was wondering if
this should continue, would it be possible for him to endure the
situation long? Upstairs was the little desk, the keys to which he held,
and in it information that would lay bare the secret of his life and
reveal the mystery of years ago; which would give him the same chance
for happiness that other men have. All that was left now for him to do
was to ascend the stairs, open the desk and read. He had put it off for
a quiet and convenient moment, and that time had come.

But what was contained in that desk? He remembered Hamlet and understood
his doubts for the first time. It was the gravity of this doubt, the
weight of the revelation to come that caused him to smoke on, cigar
after cigar, in silence. It flashed upon him that it might be wiser to
take his fortune and return to Europe as he was. But as he smoked his
mind rejected the suggestion as cowardly.

It was at this stage in his reverie that Edward Morgan received the
severest shock of his life. Without having noticed any sound or
movement, he presently became conscious that some one besides himself
was in the room, and instantly, almost, his eyes rested on a man
standing before the open bookcase. It was a figure, slender and tall,
clad in light, well-worn trousers, and short smoking jacket. The face
turned from him was lifted toward the shelves, and long black hair fell
in shining masses upon his shoulders. The right hand extended upward,
touching first one, then another of the volumes as it searched along the
line, was white as paraffine and slender as a girl's and a fold of
linen, edged with lace, lay upon the wrists. All the other details of
the figure were lost in the shadow. While thus Edward sat, his brain
whirling and eyes riveted upon the strange figure, the visitor paused in
his search as if in doubt, turned his profile and listened, then faced
about suddenly and the two men gazed into each other's eyes.

Edward had gained his first full view of the visitor's face. Had it been
withdrawn from him in an instant he could at any time thereafter have
reproduced it in every line, so vividly was it impressed upon his
memory. It was new, and yet strangely, dimly, vaguely familiar! It was
oval, pale and lighted by eyes with enormously distended pupils. It
seemed to him that they were not mirrors at that moment, but
scintillating lights burning within their cavities.

But the first effect, startling though it was, passed away immediately;
nothing could have withstood the gentle pleading entreaty that lurked in
all the face lines; an expression childish and girlish. The stranger
gazed for a moment only on the man sitting bolt upright now in his
chair, his hands clutching the arms, and then went quickly forward.

"You are Edward Morgan?" he said, encouragingly. "My uncle told me you
would come some day." The deep, indrawn breath that had made the new
master's figure rigid for the moment escaped back slowly between the
parted lips. He was ashamed that he should have been so startled.

"Yes," he said, presently, "I am Edward Morgan. And you are----"

"Gerald Morgan. But I must say good-bye now. I have a matter of upmost
importance to conclude." He smiled again, returned to the shelves and
this time without hesitation selected a volume and passed out toward the
dining-room.

A faint odor of burning material attracted Edward's attention. He looked
for his cigar; it lay upon the matting, in a circle as large as his hat.
He must have sat there watching the door for fifteen minutes after the
singular visitor had passed through. He stamped out the creeping circle
of fire and rang the bell. The octoroon entered and stood waiting, her
eyes cast down.

"A young man came here a few minutes since and went out through that
door," said he, with difficulty suppressing his excitement: "who is he?"

She looked to him astonished.

"Why, that was Mr. Gerald, sir. Don't you know of him? Mr. Gerald
Morgan?"

"Absolutely nothing. I have never seen him before nor heard of him--no
mention of him has been made in my presence." The woman was clearly
amazed.

"Is it possible! Your uncle never wrote you about Gerald Morgan--the
lawyers have never told you?"

"No one has told me, I say; the man is as new to me as if he had dropped
from the clouds."

She thought a moment. "He must have left papers----"

"Oh!" exclaimed Edward, starting suddenly; "I have not read the papers!
I see! I see!"

"You will find it there," she said, relieved. "I thought you knew
already. It did not occur to me to tell you about him, sir! We have
grown used to not speaking of him. He never goes out anywhere now."
Edward was puzzled and then an explanation flashed upon him.

"He is insane!" he exclaimed.

"Oh, no, sir! But he has always been delicate--not like other children;
and then the medicine they gave him when he had the pains and was a
baby--he has been obliged to keep it up. It is the morphine and opium,
sir, that has changed him." Edward nodded his head; the explanation was
sufficient.

"He has lived here a long time, I presume?"

"Yes, sir. He smokes and reads and paints and does many curious things,
but he never goes out. Sometimes he walks about the place, but generally
at night; and once or twice in the last ten years he has gone down-town,
but it excites him too much and he is apt to die away."

"Die away?"

"Yes, sir; the attacks come on him at any time, and so we let him live
on as he wants to and no one sees him. He cannot bear strangers, but he
is not insane, sir. One trouble is, he knows more than his head can
hold--he studies too much." She said this very tenderly and her voice
trembled a little as she finished and turned her face to work nervously.

"You have not told me who he is."

"I do not know, sir," and then she added: "He was a baby when I came,
and I have done my best by him." She did not meet his eyes. Her
suffering and embarrassment touched Edward.

"I will read the papers," he said, gently; "they will tell me all."
Taking this as a dismissal the woman withdrew.



CHAPTER VI.

"WHO SAYS THERE CAN BE A 'TOO LATE' FOR THE IMMORTAL MIND?"


Something like fear, a superstitious fear, arose in Edwards' heart as he
turned down the lid of the old-fashioned desk in the little room
upstairs and saw the few papers pigeon-holed there with lawyer-like
precision. On the top lay a long envelope sealed and bearing his name.
His hand shook as he held it and studied the chirography. The moment was
one to which he had looked forward for a lifetime and should contain the
explanation of the singular mystery that had environed him from infancy.

As he held the letter, hesitating over the final act, his life passed in
review as, it is said, do the lives of drowning persons. The thought
that Edward Morgan was dying came in that connection. The orphan, the
lonely college boy, the wandering youth, the bohemian of a dozen
continental capitals, the musician and half-way metaphysicist and
theosophist, the unformed man of an unformed age, new sphere, one of
quick, earnest, feverish action, the new man, was to spring armed, or
hampered by--what? At that moment, by a strange revulsion, the life that
he had worn so hardly, so bitterly, even its sadness seemed dear and
beautiful. After all it had been a life of ease and many scenes. It had
no responsibilities--now it would pass! He tore open the envelope
impatiently and read:

     "Edward Morgan--Sir: When this letter comes to your knowledge
     you will have been acquainted with the fact that my will has
     made you heir to all my property, without legacy or
     restriction. That document was made brief and simple, partly to
     avoid complications, and partly to conceal facts with which the
     public has no reasonable interest. I now, assured of your
     character in every particular, desire that you retain during
     the lifetime of Gerald Morgan the residence which has always
     been his home, providing for his wants and pleasures freely as
     I have done and leaving him undisturbed in the manner of his
     life. I direct, further, that you extend the same care and
     kindness to Rita Morgan, my housekeeper, seeing that she is not
     disturbed in her home and the manner of her life. My object is
     to guard the welfare of the only people intimately connected
     with me by ties of friendship and association, whom I have not
     already provided for. Carrying out this intention, you will as
     soon as possible, after coming into possession, take
     precautions looking to the future of Gerald Morgan and Rita
     Morgan, my housekeeper, in the event of your own death; and the
     plan to be selected in this connection I leave to your own good
     sense and judgment, only suggesting as adviser for you Ellison
     Eldridge, one of the few lawyers living whose heart is outside
     of his pocketbook, and whose discretion is perfect.

     "John Morgan."

That was all.

The young man, dumfounded, turned over the single sheet of paper that
contained the whole message, examined again the envelope, read and
reread the communication, and finally laid it aside. Not one word of
explanation of his own (Edward's) existence no claim of relationship, no
message of sympathy, only the curt voice of an eccentric old man,
echoing beyond the black wall of mystery and already sunk into eternal
silence. The old life no longer seemed dear or beautiful. It returned
upon him with the dull weight of oppression he had known so long. It was
a bitter ending, a crushing, overwhelming disappointment.

He smiled at length and lighted another cigar. His mind reverted to the
singular character whose final expression lay upon the desk. His last
act had been to guard against the curious, and that had included the
beneficiary. He had succeeded in living a mystery, in dying a mystery,
and in covering up his past with a mystery.

"It was well done." Such was Edward's reflection spoken aloud. He
recalled the lines: "I now, assured of your character in every
particular." Every word in that laconic letter, as also every word in
the few communications made to him in life by this man, meant something.
What did these mean? "Assured" by whom? Who had spied upon his actions
and kept watch over him to such an extent as would justify the sweeping
confidences? But he knew that the testator had read him right. A faint
wave of pleasure flushed his cheek and warmed his heart when he realized
the full significance of this tribute to his true character. He no
longer felt like an intruder.

And yet, "assured" by whom? And who was Gerald Morgan? Not a relative or
he would have said so; he would have said "my nephew, Gerald Morgan."
The same argument shut him (Edward) out. Why this suspicious absence of
relationship terms?--and they, both of them, Morgans and heirs to his
wealth?

Again he dragged the papers from the desk and ran them over. Manuscripts
all, they contained detached accounts of widely separated people and
incidents, and moreover they were clearly briefed. "A Dramatic Trail,"
"The Storm," "A Midnight Struggle," etc. They had no bearing upon his
life; they were the unpublished literary remains of John Morgan.

Every paper lay exposed; the mine was exhausted. He again read the
letter slowly, idly lifted each paper and returned all to the desk.

The cigar was out again; he tossed it from the window, locked the desk
and passed into the mother's room. The action was without forethought,
but his new philosophy had taught him the value of instinctive human
actions as index fingers. What cause then had drawn him into that
long-deserted room? As he reflected, his eyes rested upon the picture of
the girl in the little frame on the mantel. He started back, amazed and
overwhelmed. It was the face that had been turned to him in the
library--the face of Gerald Morgan!

Edward was surprised to find himself standing by the open window when he
had exhausted the train of thought that the recognition put in motion,
and counting his heart-beats, ninety to the minute. By that curious
power or weakness of certain minds his thoughts ran entirely from the
matter in hand along the lines of a lecture his friend Virdow as Jean
had delivered, the theory of which was that organic heart disease,
unless fastened to its victim by inheritance, is always a mental result.
If a mere thought or combination of thoughts could excite, a thought
could depress. It was plain; he would write to Virdow confirming his
theory.

Then he became conscious that the moon hung like a plate of silver in
the vast sky space of the east and that her light was flashed back by
many little points in the city beneath him--a gilt ball, a vane, a set
of window glasses, and the dew-wet slates of a modern roof. One white
spot was visible in the yard in front, white and pale as the moon when
the vapor had dispersed but set immovably. As he idly sought to unravel
its little secret, it simply became a part of the shadow and invisible,
but he felt that some one was looking up at him; and suddenly he saw the
slender figure of a man pass, cross the gravel walk and vanish in the
shrubbery on the left.

Edward did not cry out; he stood musing upon the fact, and lo, there
came a glitter of rosy light along the horizon; the moon had vanished
overhead, and sound arose in confused murmurs from the dull heaps of
houses in the valley. He saw again at the moment, over the eastern
hills, the face of a girl as she stood calling her pets, and felt her
eyes upon him.

When he awoke that day he found the sun far beyond the zenith and he lay
revolving in his mind the events of the night; to his surprise much of
the weight was gone and in its place was interest, the like of which he
had never before known. An object in life had suddenly been developed
and instinctively he felt that the study of this new mystery would lead
to a knowledge of himself and his past.

The first thing to be done was to again see the stranger who had invaded
his library, and carry his investigation as far as this person would
permit. This in mind, he dressed himself with care and descended into
the dining-room. In a few moments his breakfast was served. Upon hearing
his inquiry for Rita, Ben, the butler, retired and presently the woman,
grave, and after a few words quiet, took his place. Before speaking
Edward noticed her closely again. About fifty years of age, perhaps
less, she stood as erect and rigid as an Indian, her black hair without
a kink. There was an easy dignity in her attitude, hardly the pose of a
slave, or one who had been. But in her face was the sadness of personal
suffering, and in her voice a tone he had noticed at first, an echo of
some depressing experience, it seemed to him.

Where was Gerald's room? There! He had not noticed the door; it led out
from the dining-room. It was the wing intended for billiards, but now
the retreat of her poor young master and had been all his life. He did
not like to be disturbed, but perhaps the circumstances would make a
difference.

Edward knocked on the door. Receiving no answer, he opened it
hesitatingly and looked in. Then he entered. Gerald greeted him with an
encouraging smile and closing the door behind him, he viewed the
interior with interest. The walls were hung with pictures, swords, guns,
pistols and other weapons, and between them on every available spot were
books, books, books and periodicals. A broad center table held writing
materials and manuscripts, and upon a long table by two open windows
were bottles of many colors and all the queer paraphernalia of a
chemical laboratory. Against the opposite wall was a spacious divan, and
seated upon it, wrapped in a singular-looking dressing-gown, fez upon
his head and smoking a shibouk as he read, was the strange being for
whom Edward searched.

"I was expecting you," the young man said; "where have you been?" The
naturalness of the words confused the visitor for a moment. No seat had
been offered him, but he drew one near the divan.

"I suppose I may smoke?" he said, smiling, ignoring the query, but the
intent look of Gerald caused him to add: "I slept late; how did you
rest?"

"Do you know," said Gerald, his expression changing, "strange as it may
seem, I have seen you before, but where, where----" The long lashes
dropped above the eyes; he shook his head sadly, "but where, no man may
say."

"It hardly seems possible," said Edward, gravely. "I have never been
here before, and you, I believe, have never been absent."

"So they say; so they say. Mere old-nurse talk! I have been to many
places." Edward turned his head in sadness. Man or woman the person was
crazy. He looked again; it was the face of the girl in the picture
frame, grown older, with time and suffering.

"It is an odd room," he said, presently; "do you sleep here?"

Gerald nodded to the other door.

"Would you like to see? Enter."

To Edward's amazement he found himself in a conservatory, a glass house
about forty by twenty feet, arranged for sliding curtains at sides and
top. There was little to be seen besides a small bed and necessary
furniture. But an easel stood near the center and on it a canvas ready
for painting. In a corner was a large portfolio for drawings, closed.

"I cannot sleep unless I see the stars," said Gerald, joining him. "And
there is an entrance to the grounds!" He threw open a glass door,
exposing an oleander avenue. "This is my favorite walk." The scene
seemed to strike him anew. He stood there lost in thought a moment and
returned to his divan. Edward found him absorbed in a volume. He had
studied him there long and keenly and reached a conclusion that would,
he felt, be of value in his future associations with this eccentric
mind; it was a mind reversed, living in abstract thought. Its visions of
real life were only glimpses. Therefore, he reasoned, to keep company
with such a mind, one must be prepared for its eccentricities and avoid
discord.

It was a keen diagnosis and he acted upon it. He went about noiselessly
examining the furnishings of the room without further speech. The young
man was writing as he passed him. Looking over his shoulder, Edward read
a few lines of what was evidently a thesis;

     "The mind can therefore have no conscious memory. Memory being
     a function of the brain and physical structure, and mind being
     endowed with a capacity for wandering, it follows that it can
     bring back no record of its experience since no memory function
     went with it. It may, indeed, be true that the mind can itself
     be shaped and biased anew by its detached experiences, but who
     can ever read its history backwards? Unless somewhere arises a
     mind brilliant enough to find the alphabet, to connect the
     mind's hidden storehouse with consciousness, the mystery of
     mind--life (that is, higher dream life)--must remain forever
     unread."

"It has been found," said Edward, as though Gerald had stated a
proposition aloud.

"How? Where?" Gerald did not look up, but merely ceased writing a
moment.

"Music is the connecting link. Music is the language of the mind.
Vibration is the secret of creation and along its lines will all secrets
be revealed." The book closed slowly in the reader's hands, his thesis
slipped to the floor. He sat in deep thought. Then a light gleamed in
his face and eyes.

"It is true," he said, with agitation, as he arose. "It is a great
thought; a great discovery. I must learn once" and Rita stood waiting.
"Bring me musical instruments--what?" He turned impatiently to Edward.
The latter shook his head.

"'Tis a lifetime study," he said, sadly, "and then--failure. No man has
yet reached the end."

"I will reach it."

"It calls for labor day and night--for talent--for teachers."

"I will have all."

"It calls for youth, for a mind young and fresh and responsive. You are
old in mind. It is too late."

"Too late. Too late. Never, never, never too late. Who says there can be
a 'too late' for the immortal mind? I will begin. I will labor! I will
succeed! If not in this life, then in the next, or the next; aye, at the
foot of Buddha, if need be, I will press to read all to the strains of
music. Oh, blind! Blind! Blind!" He strode about the room in an ecstasy
of excitement.

"Prove to me it is too late here," shrieked the unhappy being, "and I
will end this existence; will go back a thousand cycles, if necessary,
carrying with me the impression of this truth, and begin, an infant, to
lisp in numbers."

He had snatched a poniard from the wall and was gesticulating
frantically. Edward was about to speak when he saw the enthusiast's eyes
lose their frenzy and fix upon the woman's. He dropped the weapon and
plunged face downward in despair among the pillows. Like a statue the
woman stood gazing upon him.

"My violin," said Edward. She disappeared noiselessly.



CHAPTER VII.

"BACK! WOULD YOU MURDER HER?"


When Edward Morgan went to Europe from Columbia college it was in
obedience to a mandate of John Morgan through the New York lawyers. He
went, began there the life of a bohemian. Introduced by a chance
acquaintance, he fell in first with the art circles of Paris, and,
having a fancy and decided talent for painting, he betook himself
seriously to study. But the same shadow, the same need of an
overpowering motive, pursued him. With hope and ambition he might have
become known to fame. As it was, his mind drifted into subtleties and
the demon change came again. He closed his easel. Rome, Athens,
Constantinople, the occident, all knew him, gave him brief welcome and
quick farewells.

The years were passing; as he had gone from idleness to art, from art to
history, and from history to archaeology by easy steps, so he passed
now, successively to religion, to philosophy, and to its last broad
exponent, theosophy.

The severity of this last creed fitted the crucifixion of his spirit.
Its contemplation showed him vacancies in his education and so he went
to Jena for additional study. This decision was reached mainly through
the suggestion of a chance acquaintance named Abingdon, who had come
into his life during his first summer on the continent. They met so
often that the face of this man had became familiar, and one day, glad
to hear his native tongue, he addressed him and was not repelled.

Abingdon gave to Edward Morgan his confidence; it was not important; a
barrister in an English interior town, he crossed the channel annually
for ramble in the by-ways of Europe. It had been his unbroken habit for
many years.

From this time the two men met often and journeyed much together, the
elder seeming to find a pleasure in the gravity and earnestness of the
young man, and he in turn a relief in the nervous, jerky lawyer, looking
always through small, half-closed eyes and full of keen conceptions. And
when apart, occasionally he would get a characteristic note from
Abingdon and send a letter in reply. He had so much spare time.

This man had once surprised him with the remark:

"If I were twenty years younger I would go to Jena and study vibration.
It is the greatest force of the universe. It is the secret of creation."
The more Edward dwelt upon this remark, in connection with modern
results and invention, the more he was struck with it. Why go to Jena to
study vibration was something that he could not fathom, nor in all
probability could Abingdon. America was really the advanced line of
discovery, but nevertheless he went, and with important results; and
there in the old town, finding the new hobby so intimately connected
with music, to which he was passionately devoted, he took up with
renewed energy his neglected violin. With feverish toil he struggled
along the border land of study and speculation, until he felt that there
was nothing more possible for him--in Jena.

In Jena his solitary friend had been the eminent Virdow and to him he
became an almost inseparable companion.

The confidence and speculations of Virdow, extending far beyond the
limits of a lecture stand, carried Edward into dazzling fields. The
intercourse extended through the best part of several years. On leaving
Jena he was armed with a knowledge of the possibilities of the vast
field he had entered upon, with a knowledge of thorough bass and
harmony, and with a technique that might have made him famous had he
applied his knowledge. He did not apply it!

His final stand had been Paris. Abingdon was there. Abingdon had
discovered a genius and carried Edward to see him. He had been passing
through an obscure quarter when he was attracted by the singular pathos
of a violin played in a garret. To use his expression, "the music
glorified the miserable street." Everybody there knew Benoni, the blind
violinist. And to this man, awed and silent, came Edward, a listener.

No words can express the meaning that lay in the blind man's
improvisations; only music could contain them. And only one man in Paris
could answer! When having heard the heart language, the heart history
and cravings of the player expressed in the solitude of that
half-lighted garret, Edward took the antique instrument and replied, the
answer was overwhelming. The blind man understood; he threw his arms
about the player and embraced him.

"Grand!" he cried. "A master plays, but it is incomplete; the final note
has not come; the harmony died where it should have become immortal!"
And Edward knew it.

From that meeting sprang a warm friendship, the most complete that
Morgan had ever known! It made the old man comfortable, gained him
better quarters and broadened the horizon toward which his sun of life
was setting. It would go down with some of the colors of its morning.

It became Edward's custom to take his old friend to hear the best operas
and concerts, and one night they heard the immortal Cambia sing. It was
a charity concert and her first appearance in many years.

When the idol of the older Paris came to the footlights for the sixth
time to bow her thanks for the ovation given her, she smiled and sang in
German a love song, indescribable in its passion and tenderness. It was
a burst of melody from the heart of some man, great one moment in his
life at least. Edward found himself standing when the tumult ceased.
Benoni had sunk from his chair to his knees and was but half-conscious.
The excitement had partially paralyzed him. The lithe fingers of the
left hand were dead. They would never rest again upon the strings of his
great violin--the Cremona to which in sickness and poverty, although its
sale would have enriched him, he clung with the faith and instinct of
the artist.

There came the day when Edward was ready to depart to America. He went
to say good-bye, and this is what happened: The old man held Edward's
hands long in silence, but his lips moved in prayer; then lifting the
instrument, he placed it in the young man's arms.

"Take it," he said. "I may never meet you again. It is the one thing
that I have been true to all my life. I will not leave it to the base
and heartless." And so Edward, to please him, accepted the trust. He
would return some day; many hours should the violin sing for the old
man. As he stood he drew the bow and played one strain of Cambia's song
and the blind man lifted his face in sudden excitement. As Edward paused
he called the notes until it was complete. "Now again," he said,
singing:

    If thou couldst love me
    As I do love thee,
    Then wouldst thou come to me,
    Come to me.
    Never forsaking me,
    Never, oh, never
    Forsaking me.
    Oceans may roll between,
    Thine home and thee
    Love, if thou lovest me
    Lovest me,
    What care we, you and I?
    Through all eternity,
    I love thee, darling one,
    Love me; love me.

"You have found the secret," said Benoni; "the chords on the lower
octaves made the song."

And so they had parted! The blind man to wait for the final summons; the
young man to plunge into complications beyond his wildest dreams.

"A man," said Virdow once, "is a tribe made up of himself, his family
and his friends." And this was the history in outline of the man to whom
Rita Morgan handed the violin that fateful day when Gerald lay face down
among the pillows of his divan.

Recognizing in the delicate and excitable organism before him the
possibilities of emotion and imagination, Edward prepared to play.
Without hesitation he drew the bow across the strings and began a solemn
prelude to a choral. And as he played he noticed the heaving form below
him grow still. Then Gerald lifted his face and gazed past the player,
with an intensity of vision that deepened until he seemed in the grasp
of some stupendous power or emotion. Edward played the recital; the
story of Calvary, the crucifixion and the mourning women, and the march
of soldiers. Finally there came the tumult of bursting storm and riven
tombs. The climax of action occurred there; it was to die away into a
movement fitted to the resurrection and the peaceful holiness of
Christ's meeting with Mary. But before this latter movement began Gerald
leaped upon the player with the quickness and fury of a tiger and by the
suddenness of the onset nearly bore him to the floor. This mad assault
was accompanied by a shriek of mingled fear and horror.

"Back--would you murder her?" By a great effort Edward freed himself and
the endangered violin, and forced the assailant to the divan. The
octoroon was kneeling by his side weeping.

"Leave him to me," she said. Stunned and inexpressibly shocked Edward
withdrew. The grasp on his throat had been like steel! The marks
remained.

"I have," he wrote that night in a letter to Virdow, "heard you more
than once express the hope that you would some day be able to visit
America. Come now, at once! I have here entered upon a new life and need
your help. Further, I believe I can help you."

After describing the circumstances already related, the letter
continued: "The susceptibility of this mind to music I regard as one of
the most startling experiences I have ever known, and it will afford you
an opportunity for testing your theories under circumstances you can
never hope for again. Let me say to you here that I am now convinced by
some intuitive knowledge that the assault upon me was based upon a
memory stirred by the sound of the violin; that vibration created anew
in the delicate mind some picture that had been forgotten and brought
back again painful emotions that were ungovernable. I cannot think but
that it is to have a bearing upon the concealed facts of my life; the
discovery of which is my greatest object now, as in the past. And I
cannot but believe that your advice and discretion will guide me in the
treatment and care of this poor being, perhaps to the extent of
affecting a radical change, and leave him a happier and a more rational
being.

"Come to me, my friend, at once! I am troubled and perplexed. And do not
be offended that I have inclosed exchange for an amount large enough to
cover expenses. I am now rich beyond the comprehension of your
economical German mind, and surely I may be allowed, in the interests of
science, of my ward and myself to spend from the abundant store. I look
for you early. In the meantime, I will be careful in my experiments.
Come at once! _The mind has an independent memory and you can
demonstrate it._"

Edward knew that there was more on that concluding sentence than in the
rest of the letter and exchange combined, and half-believing it, he
stated it as a prophecy. He was preparing to retire, when it occurred to
him that the strange occupant of the wing-room might need his attention.
Something like affection had sprung up in his heart for the unfortunate
being who, with chains heavier than his own, had missed the diversion of
new scenes, the broadening, the soothing of great landscapes and
boundless oceans. A pity moved him to descend and to knock at the door.
There was no answer. He entered to find the apartment deserted, but the
curtain was drawn from the doorway of the glass-room and he passed in.
Upon the bed in the yellow light of the moon lay the slender figure of
Gerald, one arm thrown around the disordered hair, the other hanging
listless from his side.

He approached and bent above the bed. The face turned upward there
seemed like wax in the oft-broken gloom. The sleeper had not stirred. It
was the vibration of chords in harmony, that had moved him. Would it
have power again? He hesitated a moment, then returned quickly to the
wing-room and secured his instrument. Concealing himself he waited. It
was but a moment.

The wind brought the branches of the nearest oleanders against the frail
walls, and the play of lightning had become continuous. Then began in
earnest the tumult of the vast sound waves as they met in the vapory
caverns of the sky. The sleeper tossed restlessly upon his bed; he was
stirred by a vague but unknown power; yet something was wanting.

At this moment Edward lifted his violin and, catching the storm note,
wove a solemn strain into the diapason of the mighty organ of the sky.
And as he played, as if by one motion, the sleeper stood alone in the
middle of the room. Again Edward saw that frenzied stare fixed upon
vacancy, but there was no furious leap of the agile limbs; by a powerful
effort the struggling mind seemed to throw off a weight and the sleeper
awoke.

The bow was now suspended; the music had ceased. Gerald rushed to his
easel and, standing in a sea of electric flame, outlined with swift
strokes a woman's face and form. She was struggling in the grasp of a
man and her face was the face of the artist who worked. But such
expression! Agony, horror, despair!

The figure of the man was not complete from the waist down; his face was
concealed. Between them, as they contended, was a child's coffin in the
arms of the woman. Overhead were the bare outlines of an arch.

The artist hesitated and added behind the group a tree, whose branches
seemed to lash the ground. And there memory failed; the crayon fell from
his fingers; he stood listless by the canvas. Then with a cry he buried
his face in his hands and wept.

As he stood thus, the visitor, awed but triumphant, glided through the
door and disappeared in the wing-room. He knew that he had touched a
hidden chord; that the picture on the canvas was born under the
flashlight of memory! Was it brain? Oh, for the wisdom of Virdow!

Sympathy moved him to return again to the glass-room. It was empty!



CHAPTER VIII.

ON THE BACK TRAIL.


Edward found himself next day feverish and mentally disturbed; but he
felt new life in the morning air. There was a vehicle available; a roomy
buggy, after the fashion of those chosen by physicians, with covered
tops to keep out the sun, and rubber aprons for the rain. And there was
a good reliable horse, that had traveled the city road almost daily for
ten years.

He finished his meal and started out. In the yard he found Gerald pale
and with the contracted pupils that betrayed his deadly habit. He was
taking views with a camera and came forward with breathless interest.

"I am trying some experiments with photographs on the line of our
conversation," he said. "If the mind pictures can be revived they must
necessarily exist. Do they? The question with me now is, can any living
substance retain a photographic impression? You understand, it seems
that the brain can receive these impressions through certain senses, but
the brain is transient; through a peculiar process of supply and waste
it is always coming and going. If it is true that every atom of our
physical bodies undergoes a change at least once in seven years, how can
the impressions survive? I have here upon my plate the sensitized film
of a fish's eyes; I caught it this morning. I must establish, first, the
proposition that a living substance can receive a photographic image; if
I can make an impression remain upon this film I have gained a little
point--a little one. But the fish should be alive. There are almost
insuperable difficulties, you understand! The time will come when a new
light will be made, so powerful, penetrating as to illumine solids.
Then, perhaps, will the brain be seen at work through the skull; then
may its tiny impressions even be found and enlarged; then will the past
give up its secrets. And the eye is not the brain." He looked away in
perplexity. "If I only had brain substance, brain substance--a living
brain!" He hurried away and Edward resumed his journey to the city, sad
and thoughtful.

"It was not wise," he said, "it was not wise to start Gerald upon that
line of thought. And yet why not as well one fancy as another?" He had
no conception of the power of an idea in such a mind as Gerald's.

"You did not mention to me," he said an hour later, sitting in
Eldridge's office, "that I would have a ward in charge out at Ilexhurst.
You naturally supposed I knew it, did you not?"

"And you did not know it?" Eldridge looked at him in unaffected
astonishment.

"Positively not until the day after I reached the house! I had never
heard of Gerald Morgan. You can imagine my surprise, when he walked in
upon me one night."

"You really astound me; but it is just like old Morgan--pardon me if I
smile. Of all eccentrics he was the most consistent. Yes, you have a
charge and a serious one. I am probably the only person in the city who
knows something of Gerald, and my information is extremely limited. With
an immense capacity for acquiring information, a remarkable memory and a
keen analysis, the young man has never developed the slightest capacity
for business. He received everything, but applied nothing. I was
informed by his uncle, not long since, that there was no science exact
or occult into which Gerald had not delved at some time, but his mind
seemed content with simply finding out."

"Gerald has been a most prodigious reader, devouring everything,"
continued the judge, "ancient and modern, within reach, knows literature
and politics equally well, and is master of most languages to the point
of being able to read them. I suppose his unfortunate habit--of course
you know of that--is the obstacle now. For many years now I believe, the
young man has not been off the plantation, and only at long intervals
was he ever absent from it. Ten or fifteen years ago he used to be seen
occasionally in the city in search of a book, an instrument or something
his impatience could not wait on."

"Ten or fifteen years ago! You knew him then before he was grown?"

"I have known him ever since his childhood!" An exclamation in spite of
him escaped from Edward's lips, but he did not give Eldridge time to
reflect upon it.

"Is his existence generally known?" asked he, in some confusion.

"Oh, well, the public knows of his existence. He is the skeleton in
Morgan's closet, that is all."

"And who is he?" asked Edward, looking the lawyer straight into the
eyes.

"That," said Eldridge, gravely, "is what I would ask of you." Edward was
silent. He shook his head; it was an admission of ignorance, confirmed
by his next question.

"Have you no theory, Judge, to account for his existence under such
circumstances?"

"Theory? Oh, no! The public and myself have always regarded him simply
as a fact. His treatment by John Morgan was one of the few glimpses we
got of the old man's rough, kind nature. But his own silence seemed to
beg silence, and no one within my knowledge ever spoke with him upon the
subject. It would have been very difficult," he added, with a smile,
"for he was the most unapproachable man, in certain respects, that I
ever met."

"You knew him well? May I ask if ever within your knowledge there was
any romance or tragedy in his earlier life?"

"I do not know nor have I ever heard of any tragedy in the life of your
relative," said the lawyer, slowly; and then, after a pause: "It is
known to men of my age, at least remembered by some, that late in life,
or when about forty years old, he conceived a violent attachment for the
daughter of a planter in this county and was, it is said, at one time
engaged to her. The match was sort of family arrangement and the girl
very young. She was finishing her education at the north and was to have
been married upon her return; but she never returned. She ran away to
Europe with one of her teachers. The war came on and with it the
blockade. No one has ever heard of her since. Her disappearance, her
existence, were soon forgotten. I remember her because I, then a young
lawyer, had been called occasionally to her father's house, where I met
and was greatly impressed by her. But I am probably one of the few who
have carried in mind her features. She was a beautiful and lovable young
woman, but, without a mother's training she had grown up self-willed and
the result was as I have told you." Edward had risen and was walking the
floor. He paused before the speaker.

"Judge Eldridge," he said, his voice a little unsteady, "I am going to
ask you a question, which I trust you will be free to answer--will
answer, and then forget." An expression of uneasiness dwelt on the
lawyer's face, but he answered:

"Ask it; if I am free to answer, and can, I will."

"I will ask it straight," said Edward, resolutely: "Have you ever
suspected that Gerald Morgan is the son of the young woman who went
away?"

Eldridge's reply was simply a grave bow. He did not look up.

"You do not know that to be a fact?"

"I do not."

"What, then, is my duty?"

"To follow the directions left by your relative," said Eldridge,
promptly.

Edward reflected a few moments over the lawyer's answer.

"I agree with you, but time may bring changes. May I ask what is your
theory of this strange situation--as regards my ward?" He could not
bring himself to betray the fact of his own mystery.

"I suppose," said Eldridge, slowly, "that if your guess is correct the
adventure of the lady was an unfortunate one, and that, disowned at
home, she made John Morgan the guardian of her boy. She, more than
likely, is long since dead. It would have been entirely consistent with
your uncle's character if, outraged in the beginning, he was forgiving
and chivalrous in the end."

"But why was the silence never broken?"

"I do not know that it was never broken. I have nothing to go upon. I
believe, however, that it never was. The explanations that suggest
themselves to my mind are, first, a pledge of silence exacted from him,
and he would have kept such a pledge under any circumstances. Second, a
difficulty in proving the legitimacy of the boy. You will understand,"
he added, "that the matter is entirely suppositious. I would prefer to
think that your uncle saw unhappiness for the boy in a change of
guardianship, and unhappiness for the grandfather, and left the matter
open. You know he died suddenly."

There was silence of a few moments and Eldridge added: "And yet it does
seem that he would have left the old man something to settle the doubt
which must have rested upon his mind; it is an awful thing to lose a
daughter from sight and live out one's life in ignorance of her fate."
And then, as Edward made no reply, "you found nothing whatever to
explain the matter?"

"Nothing! In the desk, to which his note directed me, I found only a
short letter of directions; one of which was that I should arrange with
you to provide for Gerald's future in case of my death. The desk
contained nothing else except some manuscripts--fragmentary narratives
and descriptions, they seemed." Eldridge smiled.

"His one weakness," he said. "Years ago John Morgan became impressed
with the idea that he was fitted for literary work and began to write
short stories for magazines, under _nom de plume_. I was the only person
who shared his secret and together we told many a good story of bench,
bar and practice. Neither of us had much invention and our career--you
see I claim a share--our career was limited to actual occurrences. When
our stock of ammunition was used up we were bankrupt. But it was a
success while it lasted. Mr. Morgan had a rapid, vivid style of
presenting scenes; his stories were full of action and dramatic
situations and made quite a hit. I did not know he had any writings left
over. He used to say, though, as I remember now, speaking in the
serio-comic way he often affected, that the great American novel, so
long expected, lay in his desk in fragments. You have probably gotten
among these.

"And by the way," continued the judge, impressively, "he was not far
wrong in his estimate of the literary possibilities of this section. The
peculiar institutions of the south, its wealth, its princely planters,
and through all the tangle of love, romance, tragedy and family secrets.
And what a background! The war, the freed slaves, the old
regime--courtly, unchanged, impractical and helpless. Turgeneff wrote
under such a situation in Russia, and called his powerful novel 'Fathers
and Sons.' Mr. Morgan used to say that he was going to call his 'Sons
and Fathers.' Hold to his fragments; he was a close observer, and if you
have literary aspirations they will be suggestive." Edward shook his
head.

"I have none, but I see the force of your outline. Now about Gerald; I
trust you will think over the matter and let me know what your judgment
suggests. I promised Mr. Montjoy to drop in at the club. I will say
good-morning."

"No," said Eldridge, "it is my lunch hour and I will go with you."

Together they went to a business club and Edward was presented to a
group of elderly men who were discussing politics over their glasses.
Among them was Col. Montjoy, in town for a day, several capitalists, a
planter or two, lawyers and physicians. They regarded the newcomer with
interest and received him with perfect courtesy. "A grand man your
relative was, Mr. Morgan, a grand man; perfect type, sir, of the
southern gentleman! The community, sir, has met with an irreparable
loss. I trust you will make your home here, sir. We need good men, sir;
strong, brainy, energetic men, sir."

So said the central figure, Gen. Albert Evan.

"Montjoy, you remember cousin Sam Pope of the Fire-Eaters--died in the
ditch at Marye's Heights near Cobb? Perfect likeness of Mr. Morgan here;
same face same figure--pardon the personal allusion, Mr. Morgan, but
your prototype was the bravest of the brave. You do each other honor in
the resemblance, sir! Waiter, fill these glasses! Gentlemen," cried the
general, "we will drink to the health of our young friend and the memory
of Sam Pope. God bless them both."

Such was Edward's novel reception, and he would not have been human had
he not flushed with pleasure. The conversation ran back gradually to its
original channel.

"We have been congratulating Col. Montjoy, Mr. Morgan," said one of the
party in explanation to Morgan, "upon the announcement of his candidacy
for congress."

"Ah," said the latter, promptly bowing to the old gentleman, "let me
express the hope that the result will be such as will enable me to
congratulate the country. I stand ready, colonel, to lend my aid as far
as possible, but I am hampered somewhat by not knowing my own politics
yet. Are you on the Democratic or Republican ticket, colonel?"

This astonishing question silenced the conversation instantly and drew
every eye upon him. But recovering from his shock, Col. Montjoy smiled
amiably, and said:

"There is but one party in this state, sir--the Democratic. I am a
candidate for nomination, but nomination is election always with us."
Then to the others present he added: "Mr. Morgan has lived abroad since
he came of age--I am right, am I not, Mr. Morgan?"

"Quite so. And I may add," continued Edward, who was painfully conscious
of having made a serious blunder, "that I have never lived in the south
and know nothing of state politics." This would have been sufficient,
but unfortunately Edward did not realize it. "I know, however, that you
have here a great problem and that the world is watching to see how you
will handle the race question. I wish you success; the negro has my
sympathy and I think that much can be safely allowed him in the
settlement."

He remembered always thereafter the silence that followed this earnest
remark, and he had cause to remember it. He had touched the old south in
its rawest point and he was too new a citizen. Eldridge joined him in
the walk back, but Edward let him talk for both. The direction of his
thoughts was indicated in the question he asked at parting.

"Judge Eldridge, did you purposely withhold the girl's name--my uncle's
fiancee? If so, I will not ask it, but----"

"No, not purposely, but we handle names reluctantly in this country. She
was Marion Evan, and you but recently met her father."



CHAPTER IX.

THE TRAGEDY IN THE STORM.


Edward returned to Ilexhurst that evening conscious of a mental
uneasiness. He could not account for it except upon the hypothesis of
unusual excitement. His mind had simply failed to react. And yet to his
sensitive nature there was something more. Was it the conversation with
Eldridge and the sudden dissipation of his error concerning Gerald, or
did it date to the meeting in the club? There was a discord somewhere.
He became conscious after awhile that he had failed to harmonize with
his new acquaintances and that among these was Col. Montjoy. He seemed
to feel an ache as though a cold wind blew upon his heart. If he had not
made that unfortunate remark about the negro! He acquitted himself very
readily, but he could not forget that terrible silence. "I have great
sympathy for the negro," he had said. What he meant was that, secure in
her power and intelligence, her courage and advancement, the south could
safely concede much to the lower class. That is what he felt and
believed, but he had not said it that way. He would say it to-morrow to
Col. Montjoy and explain. Relief followed the resolution.

And then, sitting in the little room, which began to exert a strange
power over him, he reviewed in mind the strange history of the people
whose lives had begun to touch his. The man downstairs, sleeping off the
effects of the drug, taken to dull a feverish brain that had all day
struggled with new problems; what a life his was! Educated beyond the
scope of any single university, Eldridge had said, and yet a child, less
than a child! What romance, what tragedies behind those restless eyes!
And sleeping down yonder by the river in that eternal silence of the
city of the dead, the old lawyer, a mystery living, a mystery dead! What
a depth of love must have stirred the bosom of the man to endure in
silence for so many years for the sake of a fickle girl! What
forgiveness! Or was it revenge? This idea flashed upon Edward with the
suddenness of an inspiration. Revenge! What a revenge! And the woman,
was she living or dead? And if living, were her eyes to watch him,
Edward Morgan, and his conduct? Where was the father and why was the
grandfather ignorant or silent? Then he turned to his own problem. That
was an old story. As he sat dreaming over these things his eyes fell
upon the fragmentary manuscripts, and almost idly he began to read the
briefs upon them.

One was inscribed, "The Storm," and it seemed to be the bulkiest.
Opening it he began to read; before he knew it he was interested. The
chapter read:

"Not a zephyr stirred the expectant elms. They lifted their arms against
the starlit sky in shadowy tracery, and motionless as a forest of coral
in the tideless depths of a southern sea.

"The cloud still rose.

"It was a cloud indeed. It stretched across the west, far into north and
south, its base lost in the shadow, its upper line defined and advancing
swiftly, surely, flanking the city and shutting out the stars with its
mighty wings. Far down the west the lightning began to tear the mass,
but still the spell of silence remained. When this strange hush is
combined with terrific action, when the vast forces are so swift as to
outrun sound, then, indeed, does the chill of fear leap forth.

"So came on the cloud. Now the city was half surrounded, its walls
scaled. Half the stars were gone. Some of the flying battalions had even
rushed past!

"But the elms stood changeless, immovable, asleep!

"Suddenly one vivid, crackling, tearing, defending flash of intensest
light split the gloom and the thunder leaped into the city! It awoke
then! Every foundation trembled! Every tree dipped furiously. The winds
burst in. What a tumult! They rushed down the parallel streets and
alleys, these barbarians; they came by the intersecting ways! They
fought each other frantically for the spoils of the city, struggling
upward in equal conflict, carrying dust and leaves and debris. They were
sucked down by the hollow squares, they wept and mourned, they sobbed
about doorways, they sung and cheered among the chimneys and the
trembling vanes. They twisted away great tree limbs and hurled them far
out into the spaces which the lightning hollowed in the night! They
drove every inhabitant indoors and tugged frantically at the city's
defenses! They tore off shutters and lashed the housetops with the poor
trees!

"The focus of the battle was the cathedral! It was the citadel! Here was
wrath and frenzy and despair! The winds swept around and upward, with
measureless force, and at times seemed to lift the great pile from its
foundations. But it was the lashing trees that deceived the eye; it
stood immovable, proud, strong, while the evil ones hurled their
maledictions and screamed defiance at the very door of God's own heart.

"In vain. In a far up niche stood a weather-beaten saint--the warden.
The hand of God upheld him and kept the citadel while unseen forces
swung the great bell to voice his faith and trust amid the gloom!

"Then came the deluge, huge drops, bullets almost, in fierceness,
shivering each other until the street-lamps seemed set in driving fog
through which the silvered missiles flashed horizontally--a storm
traveling within a storm.

"But when the tempest weeps, its heart is gone. Hark! 'Tis the voice of
the great organ; how grand, how noble, how triumphant! One burst of
melody louder than the rest breaks through the storm and mingles with
the thunder's roar.

"Look! A woman! She has come, whence God alone may know! She totters
toward the cathedral; a step more and she is safe, but it is never
taken! One other frightened life has sought the sanctuary. In the grasp
of the tempest it has traveled with wide-spread wings; a great white sea
bird, like a soul astray in the depths of passion. It falls into the
eddy, struggles wearily toward the lights, whirls about the woman's head
and sinks, gasping, dying at her feet. The God-pity rises within her,
triumphing over fear and mortal anguish. She stands motionless a moment;
she does not take the wanderer to her bosom, she cannot! The winds have
stripped the cover from the burden in her arms! It is a child's coffin,
pressed against her bosom. The moment of safety is gone! In the next a
man, the seeming incarnation of the storm itself, springs upon her,
tears the burden from her and disappears like a shadow within a shadow!

"Within the cathedral they are celebrating the birth of Christ, without,
the elements repeat the scene when the veil of the temple was rended.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The storm had passed. The lightning still blazed vividly, but silently
now, and at each flash the scene stood forth an instant as though some
mighty artist was making pictures with magnesium. A tall woman, who had
crouched, as one under the influence of an overpowering terror near the
inner door, now crept to the outer, beneath the arch, and looked
fearfully about. She went down the few steps to the pavement. Suddenly
in the transient light a face looked up into hers, from her feet; a face
that seemed not human. The features were convulsed, the eyes set. With a
low cry the woman slipped her arms under the figure on the pavement,
lifted it as though it were that of a child and disappeared in the
night. The face that had looked up was as white as the lily at noon; the
face bent in pity above it was dark as the leaves of that lily scattered
upon the sod."

Edward read this and smiled, as he laid it aside, and continued with the
other papers. They were brief sketches and memoranda of chapters;
sometimes a single sentence upon a page, just as his friend De
Maupassant used to jot them down one memorable summer when they had
lingered together along the Riviera, but they had no connection with
"The Storm" and the characters therein suggested. If they belonged to
the same narrative the connections were gone.

Wearied at last he took up his violin and began to play. It is said that
improvisers cannot but run back to the music they have written.
"Calvary" was his masterpiece and soon he found himself lost in its
harmonies. Then by easy steps there rose in memory, as he played, the
storm and Gerald's sketch. He paused abruptly and sat with his bow idle
upon the strings, for in his mind a link had formed between that sketch
and the chapter he had just read. He had felt the story was true when he
read it. The lawyer had said John Morgan wrote from life. Here was the
first act of a drama in the life of a child, and the last, perhaps, in
the life of a woman.

And that child under the influence of music had felt the storm scene
flash upon his memory and had drawn it. The child was Gerald Morgan.

Edward laid aside the violin for a moment, went into the front room,
threw open the shutters and loosened his cravat. Something seemed to
suffocate him, as he struggled against the admission of this
irresistible conclusion. Overwhelmed with the significance of the
discovery, he exclaimed aloud: "It was an inherited memory."

But if the boy had been born under the circumstances set forth in the
sketch, who was the man, and why should he have assaulted the woman who
bore the child's coffin? And what was she doing abroad under such
circumstances? The man and the woman's object was hidden perhaps
forever. But not so the woman; the artist had given her features, and as
for the other woman, the author had said she was dark. There was in
Gerald's mind picture no dark woman; only the girl with the coffin, the
arch above and the faint outlines of bending trees!



CHAPTER X.

"GOD PITY ME! GOD PITY ME!"


Edward was sitting thus lost in the contemplation of the circumstances
surrounding him, when by that subtle sense as yet not analyzed he felt
the presence of another person in the room, and looked over his
shoulder. Gerald was advancing toward him smiling mysteriously. Edward
noticed his burning eyes and saw intense mental excitement gleaming
beyond. The man's mood was different from any he had before revealed.

"So you have been out among the friends of your family," he said, with
his queer smile. "How did you like them?" Edward was distinctly offended
by the supercilious manner and impertinent question, but he remembered
his ward's condition and resentment passed from him.

"Pleasant people, Gerald, but I am not gifted with the faculty of making
friends easily. How come on your experiments?"

The visitor's expression changed. He looked about him guardedly. "They
advance," he replied, in a whisper; "they advance!"

Whatever his motive for entering that room--a room unfamiliar to him,
for his restless eyes had searched it over and over in the few minutes
he had been in it--was forgotten in the enthusiasm of the scientist. "I
have mapped out a course and am working toward it," he said; and then
presently: "You remember that pictures can now be transmitted by
electricity across great stretches of space and flashed upon a disc? So
goes the scene from the convex surface of the eye along a thread-like
nerve, so flashed the picture in the brain. But somewhere there it
remains. How to prove it, to prove it, that is the question! Oh, for a
brain, a brain to dissect!" He glared at Edward, who shuddered under the
wildness of the eyes bent upon him. "But time enough for that; I must
first ascertain if a picture can be imprinted upon any living substance
by light, and remain. This I can do in another way."

"How?" Edward was fascinated.

"It is a great idea. The fish's eye will not do; it is itself a camera
and the protecting film is impression-proof. It lacks the gelatine
surface, but over some fish is spread the real gelatine--in fact, the
very stuff that sensitive plates rely upon. In our lake is a great bass,
that swims deep. I have caught them weighing ten and twelve pounds. They
are pale, greenish white until exposed to the light, when they darken.
If the combined action of the light and air did not actually destroy
this gelatine, they would turn black. The back, which daily receives the
downward ray direct, is as are the backs of most fishes, dark; it is a
spoiled plate. But not so the sides. It is upon this fish I am preparing
to make pictures."

"But how?" Gerald smiled and shook his head.

"Wait. It is too important to talk about in advance."

Edward regarded him long and thoughtfully and felt rising within him a
greater sympathy. It was pitiful that such a mind should die in the
embrace of a mere drug, dragged down to destruction by a habit. "Beyond
the scope of any single university," but not beyond the slavery of a
weed.

"I have been thinking, Gerald," he said, finally, fixing a steady gaze
upon the restless eyes of his visitor, "that the day is near at hand
when you must bring to your rescue the power of a great will."

Gerald listened, grew pale and remained silent. Presently he turned to
the speaker.

"You know, then. Tell me what to do."

"You must cease the use of morphine and opium."

Gerald drew a deep breath and smiled good-naturedly.

"Oh, that is it," he said; "some one has told you that I am a victim of
morphine and opium. Well, what would you think if I should tell you he
is simply mistaken?"

His face was frank and unclouded. Edward gazed upon him, incredulous.
After a moment's pause, during which Gerald enjoyed his astonishment, he
continued:

"I was once a victim; there is no doubt of that; but now I am cured. It
was a frightful struggle. A man who has not experienced it or witnessed
it can form no conception of what it means to break away from habitual
use of opium. Some day you may need it and my experience will help you.
I began by cutting my customary allowance for a day in half, and day
after day, week after week, I kept cutting it in half until the time
came when I could not divide it with a razor. Would you believe it, the
habit was as strong in the end as the beginning? I lay awake and thought
of that little speck by the hours; I tossed and cried myself to sleep
over it! I slept and wept myself awake. The only remedy for this and all
habits is a mental victory. I made the fight--I won!

"I can never forget that day," and he smiled as he said it; "the day I
found it impossible to divide the speck of opium; a breath would have
blown it away, but I would have murdered the man who breathed upon it. I
swallowed it; the touch of that atom is yet upon my tongue; I swallowed
it and slept like a child; and then came the waking! For days I was a
maniac--but it passed.

"I grew into a new life--a beautiful, peaceful world. It had been around
me all the time but I had forgotten how it looked; a blissful world! I
was cured.

"Years have passed since that day, and no taste of the hateful drug has
ever been upon my tongue. Not for all the gold in the universe, not for
any secrets of science, not for a look back into the face of my mother,"
he cried, hoarsely, rising to his feet; "not for a smile from heaven
would I lay hands upon that fiend again!"

He closed abruptly, his hand trembling, the perspiration beading his
brow. His eyes fell and the woman Rita stood before them, a look of
ineffable sadness and tenderness upon her face.

"Will you retire now, Master Gerald?" she said, gently. Without a word
he turned and left the room. She was about to follow when Edward,
excited and touched by the scene he had witnessed and full of
discoveries, stopped her with an imperious gesture.

For a moment he paced the room. Rita was motionless, awaiting with
evident nervousness his pleasure. He came and stood before her, and,
looking her steadily in the face, said, abruptly:

"Woman, what is the name of that young man, and what is mine?"

She drew back quickly and her lips parted in a gasp.

"My God!" he heard her whisper.

"I demand an answer! You carry the secret of one of us--probably both.
Which is the son of Marion Evans?"

She sank upon her knees and hid her face in her apron.

It was all true, then. Edward felt as though he himself would sink down
beside her if the silence continued.

"Say it," he said, hoarsely; "say it!"

"As God is my judge," she answered, faintly, "I do not know."

"One is?"

"One is."

"And the other--who is he?"

"Mine." The answer was like a whisper from the pines wafted in through
the open window. It was loud enough. Edward caught the chair for
support. The world reeled about him. He suffocated.

Rita still knelt with covered head, but her trembling form betrayed the
presence of the long-restrained emotions. He walked unsteadily to the
mantel, and, drawing the cover from the little picture, went to the
mirror and placed it again by his face. At length he said in despair:

"God pity me! God pity me!"

The woman arose then and took the picture and gazed long and earnestly
upon it. A sob burst from her lips. Lifting it again to the level of the
man's face, she looked from one to the other.

"Enough!" he said, reading it aright.

Despair had settled over his own face. She handed back the little
likeness, and, clasping her hands, stood in simple dignity awaiting his
will. He noticed then, as he studied her countenance closely, the lines
of suffering there; the infallible record that some faces carry, which,
whether it stands for remorse, for patience, for pure, unbroken sorrow,
is always a consecration.

"Master, it must have come some time," she said, at length, "but I have
hoped it would not be through me." Her voice was just audible.

"Be seated," said Morgan. "If your story is true, and it may be so, you
should not stand." He turned away from her and walked to the window; she
was seeking for an opening to begin her story. He began for her:

"You crouched in a church door to avoid the storm; a woman seeking
shelter there appeared just outside. She was attacked by a man and fell
to the ground unconscious; you carried her off in your arms; her child
was born soon after, and what then?"

Amazed she stared at him a moment in silence.

"And mine was born! The fright, the horror, the sickness! It was a
terrible dream; a terrible dream! But a month afterward, I was here
alone with two babies at my breast and the mother was gone. God help me,
and help her! But in that time Master John says I lost the memory of my
child! Master Gerald I claimed, but his face was the face of Miss
Marion, and he was white and delicate like her. And you, sir, were dark.
And then I had never been a slave; John Morgan's father gave me my
liberty when I was born. I lived with him until my marriage, then after
my husband's death, which was just before this storm, they brought me
here and I waited. She never came back. Master Gerald was sickly always
and we kept him, but they sent you away. Master John thought it was
best. And the years have passed quickly."

"And General Evan--did he never know?"

"No, sir; I would not let them take Master Gerald, because I believed he
was my child; and Master John, I suppose, would not believe in you. The
families are proud; we let things rest as they were, thinking Miss
Marion would come back some day. But she will not come now; she will not
come!"

The miserable secret was out. After a long silence Edward lifted his
head and said with deep emotion: "Then, in your opinion, I am your son?"
She looked at him sadly and nodded.

"And in the opinion of John Morgan, Gerald is the son of Marion Evans?"
She bowed.

"We have let it stand that way. But you should never have known! I do
not think you were ever to have known." The painful silence that
followed was broken by his question:

"Gerald's real name?"

"I do not know! I do not know! All that I do know I have told you!"

"And the child's coffin?" She pressed her hand to her forehead.

"It was a dream; I do not know!"

He gazed upon her with profound emotion and pity.

"You must be tired," he said, gently. "Think no more of these troubles
to-night."

She turned and went away. He followed to the head of the stairs and
waited until he heard her step in the hall below.

"Good-night," he had said, gravely. And from the shadowy depths below
came back a faint, mournful echo of the word.

When Edward returned to the room he sat by the window and buried his
face upon his arm. Hour after hour passed; the outer world slept. Had he
been of the south, reared there and a sharer in its traditions, the
secret would have died with him that night and its passing would have
been signaled by a single pistol shot. But he was not of the south, in
experience, association or education.

It was in the hush of midnight that he rose from his seat, took the
picture and descended the steps. The wing-room was never locked; he
entered. Through the drawn curtains of the glass-room he saw the form of
Gerald lying in the moonlight upon his narrow bed. Placing the picture
beside the still, white face of the sleeper, he was shocked by the
likeness. One glance was enough. He went back to his window again.

One, two, three, four o'clock from the distant church steeple.

How the solemn numbers have tolled above the sorrow-folds of the human
heart and echoed in the dewless valleys of the mind, the depths to which
we sink when hope is gone!

But with the dawn what shadows flee!

So came the dawn at last; the pale, tremulous glimmer on the eastern
hills, the white light, the rosy flush and then in the splendor of
fading mists the giant sun rolled up the sky.

A man stood pale and weary before the open window at Ilexhurst. "The
odds are against me," he said, grimly, "but I feel a power within me
stronger than evidence. I will match it against the word of this woman,
though every circumstance strengthened that word. The voice of the
Caucasian, not the voice of Ethiopia, speaks within me! The woman does
not believe herself; the mother's instinct has been baffled, but not
destroyed!"

And yet again, the patrician bearing, the aristocrat! Such was Gerald.

"We shall see," he said, between his teeth. "Wait until Virdow comes!"

Nevertheless, when, not having slept, he arose late in the day, he was
almost overwhelmed with the memory of the revelation made to him, and
the effect it must have upon his future.

At that moment there came into his mind the face of Mary.



CHAPTER XI.

IN THE CRIMSON OF SUNSET.


Edward left the house without any definite idea of how he would carry on
the search for the truth of his own history, but his determination was
complete. He did not enter the dining-room, but called for his buggy and
drove direct to the city. He wished to see neither Rita nor Gerald until
the tumult within him had been stilled. His mind was yet in a whirl when
without previous resolution he turned his horse in the direction of "The
Hall" and let it choose its gait. The sun was low when he drew up before
the white-columned house and entered the yard. Mary stood in the doorway
and smiled a welcome, but as he approached she looked into his face in
alarm.

"You have been ill?" she said, with quick sympathy.

"Do I look it?" he asked; "I have not slept well. Perhaps that shows
upon me. It is rather dreary work this getting acquainted." He tried to
deceive her with a smile.

"How ungallant!" she exclaimed, "to say that to me, and so soon after we
have become acquainted."

"We are old acquaintances, Miss Montjoy," he replied with more
earnestness than the occasion justified. "I knew you in Paris, in Rome,
even in India--I have known you always." She blushed slightly and turned
her face away as a lady appeared leading a little girl.

"Here is Mr. Morgan, Annie; you met him for a moment only, I believe."

The newcomer extended her hand languidly.

"Any one whom Norton is so enthusiastic about," she said, without
warmth, "must be worth meeting a second time."

Her small eyes rested upon the visitor an instant. Stunned as he had
been by large misfortunes, he felt again the unpleasant impression of
their first meeting. Whether it was the manner, the tone of voice, the
glance or languid hand that slipped limply from his own, or all
combined, he did not know; he did not care much at that time. The young
woman placed the freed hand over the mouth of the child begging for a
biscuit, and without looking down said:

"Mary, get this brat a biscuit, please. She will drive me distracted."
Mary stooped and the Duchess leaped into her arms, happy at once. Edward
followed them with his eyes until they reached the end of the porch and
Mary turned a moment to receive additional directions from the young
mother. He knew, then, where he had first seen her. She was a little
madonna in a roadside shrine in Sicily, distinct and different from all
the madonnas of his acquaintance, in that she seemed to have stepped up
direct from among the people who knelt there; a motherly little woman in
touch with every home nestling in those hills. The young mother by him
was watching him with curiosity.

"I have to thank you for a beautiful picture," he said.

"You are an artist, I suppose?"

"Yes; a dilletante. But the picture of a woman with her child in her
arms appeals to most men; to none more than those who never knew a
mother nor had a home." He stopped suddenly, the blood rushed to his
face and brain, and he came near staggering. He had forgotten for the
moment.

He recovered, to find the keen eyes of the woman studying him intently.
Did she know, did she suspect? How this question would recur to him in
all the years! He turned from her, pale and angry. Fortunately, Mary
returned at this moment, the little one contentedly munching upon its
biscuit. The elder Mrs. Montjoy welcomed him with her motherly way,
inquiring closely into his arrangements for comfort out at Ilexhurst.
Who was caring for him? Rita! Well, that was fortunate; Rita was a good
cook and good housekeeper, and a good nurse. He affected a careless
interest and she continued:

"Yes, Rita lived for years near here. She was a free woman and as a
professional nurse accumulated quite a sum of money, and then her
husband dying, John Morgan had taken her to his house to look after a
young relative who had been left to his care. What has become of this
young person?" she asked. "I have not heard of him for many years."

"He is still there," said Edward, briefly.

And then, as they were silent, he continued: "This woman Rita had a
husband; how did they manage in old times? Was he free also? You see,
since I have become a citizen your institutions have a deal of interest
for me. It must have been inconvenient to be free and have someone else
owning the husband."

He was not satisfied with the effort; he could not restrain an
inclination to look toward the younger Mrs. Montjoy. She was leaning
back in her chair, with eyes half-closed, and smiling upon him. He could
have strangled her cheerfully. The elder lady's voice recalled him.

"Her husband was free also; that is, it was thought that she had bought
him," and she smiled over the idea.

A slanting sunbeam came through the window; they were now in the
sitting-room and Mary quickly adjusted the shade to shield her mother's
face.

"Mamma is still having trouble with her eyes," she said; "we cannot
afford to let her strain the sound one."

"My eyes do pain me a great deal," the elder Mrs. Montjoy said. "Did you
ever have neuralgia, Mr. Morgan? Sometimes I think it is neuralgia. I
must have Dr. Campbell down to look at my eyes. I am afraid----" she did
not complete the sentence, but the quick sympathy of the man helped him
to read her silence aright. Mary caught her breath nervously.

"Mary, take me to my room; I think I will lie down until tea. Mr. Morgan
will be glad to walk some, I am sure; take him down to the mill." She
gave that gentleman her hand again; a hand that seemed to him eloquent
with gentleness. "Good-night, if I do not see you again," she said. "I
do not go to the table now on account of the lamp." He felt a lump in
his throat and an almost irresistible desire to throw himself upon her
sympathy. She would understand. But the next instant the idea of such a
thing filled him with horror. It would banish him forever from the
portals of that proud home.

And ought he not to banish himself? He trembled over the mental
question. No! His courage returned. There had been some horrible
mistake! Not until the light of day shone on the indisputable fact, not
until proof irresistible had said: "You are base-born! Depart!" When
that hour came he would depart! He saw Mary waiting for him at the door;
the young mother was still watching him, he thought. He bowed and strode
from the room.

"What is it?" said the girl, quickly; "you seem excited." She was
already learning to read him.

"Do I? Well, let me see; I am not accustomed to ladies' society," he
said, lightly; "so much beauty and graciousness have overwhelmed me." He
was outside now and the fresh breeze steadied him instantly.

There was a sun-setting before them that lent a glow to the girl's face
and a new light to her eyes. He saw it there first and then in the
skies. Across a gentle slope of land that came down from a mile away on
the opposite side into their valley the sun had gone behind a shower.
Out on one side a fiery cloud floated like a ship afire, and behind it
were the lilac highlands of the sky. The scene brought with it a strange
solemnity. It held the last breath of the dying day.

The man and girl stood silent for a moment, contemplating the wonderful
vision. She looked into his face presently to find him sadly and
intently watching her. Wondering, she led the way downhill to where a
little boat lay with its bow upon the grassy sward which ran into the
water. Taking one seat, she motioned him to the other.

"We have given you a Venetian water-color sunset," she said, smiling
away her embarrassment, "and now for a gondola ride." Lightly and
skillfully plying the paddle the little craft glided out upon the lake,
and presently, poising the blade she said, gayly:

"Look down into the reflection, and then look up! Tell me, do you float
upon the lake or in the cloudy regions of heaven?" He followed her
directions. Then, looking steadily at her, he said, gently:

"In heaven!" She bent over the boat side until her face was concealed,
letting her hand cool in the crimson water.

"Mr. Morgan," she said after awhile, looking up from under her lashes,
"are you a very earnest man? I do not think I know just how to take you.
I am afraid I am too matter-of-fact."

He was feverish and still weighed down by his terrible memory. "I am
earnest now, whatever I may have been," he said, softly, "and believe
me, Miss Montjoy, something tells me that I will never be less than
earnest with you."

She did not reply at once, but looked off into the cloudlands.

"You have traveled much?" she said at length, to break the awkward
silence.

"I suppose so. I have never had what I could call a home and I have
moved about a great deal. Men of my acquaintance," he continued,
musingly, "have been ambitious in every line; I have watched them in
wonder. Most of them sacrifice what would have been my greatest pleasure
to possess--mother and sister and home. I cannot understand that phase
of life; I suppose I never will."

"Then you have never known a mother?"

"Never." There was something in his voice that touched her deeply.

"To miss a mother's affection," she said, with a holy light in her brown
eyes, "is to miss the greatest gift heaven can bestow here. I suppose a
wife somehow takes a mother's place, finally, with every man, but she
cannot fill it. No woman that ever lived can fill my mother's place."

Loyal little Mary! He fancied that as she thought upon her own remark
her sensitive lips curved slightly. His mind reverted to the sinister
face that they had left in the parlor.

"Your mother!" he exclaimed, fervently; "would to heaven I had such a
mother!" He paused, overcome with emotion. She looked upon him with
swimming eyes.

"You must come often, then," she said, softly, "and be much with us. I
will share her with you. Poor mamma! I am afraid--I am afraid for her!"
She covered her face with her hands suddenly and bowed her head.

"Is she ill, so ill as all that?" he asked, greatly concerned.

"Oh, no! That is, her eyesight is failing; she does not realize it, but
Dr. Campbell has warned us to be careful."

"What is the trouble?" He was now deeply distressed.

"Glaucoma. The little nerve that leads from the cornea to the brain
finally dies away; there is no connection, and then----" she could not
conclude the sentence.

Edward had never before been brought within the influence of such a
circle. Her words thrilled him beyond expression. He waited a little
while and said:

"I cannot tell you how much my short experience here has been to me. The
little touch of motherly interest, of home, has brought me more genuine
pleasure than I thought the world held for me. You said just now that
you would share the dear little mamma with me. I accept the generous
offer. And now you must share the care of the little mamma with me. Do
not be offended, but I know that the war has upset your revenues here in
the south, and that the new order of business has not reached a paying
basis. By no act of mine I am independent; I have few responsibilities.
Why may not I, why may not you and I take the little mamma to Paris and
let the best skill in the world be invoked to save her from sorrow?" He,
too, would not, after her failure, say "blindness."

She looked at him through tears that threatened to get beyond control,
afraid to trust her voice.

"You have not answered me," he said, gently. She shook her head.

"I cannot. I can never answer you as I would. But it cannot be, it
cannot be! If that course were necessary, we would have gone long ago,
for, while we are poor, Norton could have arranged it--he can can
arrange anything. But Dr. Campbell, you know, is famous for his skill.
He has even been called to Europe in consultation. He says there is no
cure, but care of the general health may avert the blow all her life.
And so we watch and wait."

"Still," he urged, "there may be a mistake. And the sea voyage----"

She shook her head. "You are very, very kind, but it cannot be."

It flashed over Edward then what that journey would have been. He, with
that sweet-faced girl, the little madonna of his memory, and the patient
mother! In his mind came back all the old familiar places; by his side
stood this girl, her hand upon his arm, her eyes upturned to his.

And why not! A thrill ran through his heart: he could take his wife and
her mother to Paris! He started violently and leaned forward in the
boat, his glowing face turned full upon her, with an expression in it
that startled her.

Then from it the color died away; a ghastly look overspread it. He
murmured aloud:

"God be merciful! It cannot be." She smiled pitifully.

"No," she said, "it cannot be. But God is merciful. We trust Him. He
will order all things for the best!" Seeing his agitation she continued:
"Don't let it distress you so, Mr. Morgan. It may all come out happily.
See, the skies are quite clear now; the clouds all gone! I take it as a
happy augury!"

Ashamed to profit by her reading of his feelings, he made a desperate
effort to respond to her new mood. She saw the struggle and aided him.
But in that hour the heart of Mary Montjoy went out for all eternity to
the man before her. Change, disaster, calumny, misfortune, would never
shake her faith and belief in him. He had lost in the struggle of the
preceding night, but here he had won that which death only could end,
and perhaps not death.

Slowly they ascended the hill together, both silent and thoughtful. He
took her little hand to help her up the terraces, and, forgetting, held
it until, at the gate, she suddenly withdrew it in confusion and gazed
at him with startled eyes.

The tall, soldierly form of the colonel, her father, stood at the top of
the steps.

"See," said Edward, to relieve her confusion, "one of the old knights
guarding the castle!"

And then she called out, gayly:

"Sir knight, I bring you a prisoner." The old gentleman laughed and
entered into the pleasantry.

"Well, he might have surrendered to a less fair captor! Enter, prisoner,
and proclaim your colors," Edward started, but recovered, and, looking
up boldly, said:

"An honorable knight errant, but unknown until his vow is fulfilled."
They both applauded and the supper bell rang.



CHAPTER XII.

THE OLD SOUTH VERSUS THE NEW.


Edward had intended returning to Ilexhurst after tea, but every one
inveighed against the announcement. Nonsense! The roads were bad, a
storm was possible, the way unfamiliar to him! John, the stable boy, had
reported a shoe lost from the horse! And besides, Norton would come out
and be disappointed at having missed him!

And why go? Was the room upstairs not comfortable? He should have
another! Was the breakfast hour too early? His breakfast should be sent
to his room!

Edward was in confusion. It was his first collision with the genuine,
unanswerable southern hospitality that survives the wreck of all things.
He hesitated and explained and explaining yielded.

Supper over, the two gentlemen sat upon the veranda, a cool breeze
wandering in from the western rain area and rendering the evening
comfortable. Mary brought a great jar of delicious tobacco, home raised,
and a dozen corn-cob pipes, and was soon happy in their evident comfort.
As she held the lighter over Edward's pipe he ventured one glance upward
into her face, and was rewarded with a rare, mysterious smile. It was a
picture that clung to him for many years; the girlish face and tender
brown eyes in the yellow glare of the flame, the little hand lifted in
his service. It was the last view of her that night, for the southern
girl, out of the cities, is an early retirer.

"The situation is somewhat strained," said the colonel; they had reached
politics; "there is a younger set coming on who seem to desire only to
destroy the old order of things. They have had the 'new south' dinged
into their ears until they had come to believe that the old south holds
nothing worth retaining. They are full of railroad schemes to rob the
people and make highways for tramps; of new towns and booms, of
colonization schemes, to bring paupers into the state and inject the
socialistic element of which the north and west are heartily tired. They
want to do away with cotton and plant the land in peaches, plums,
grapes," here he laughed softly, "and they want to give the nigger a
wheeled plow to ride on. It looks as if the whole newspaper fraternity
have gone crazy upon what they call intensive and diversified farming.
Not one of them has ever told me what there is besides cotton that can
be planted and will sell at all times upon the market and pay labor and
store accounts in the fall.

"And now they have started in this country the 'no-fence' idea and are
about to destroy our cattle ranges," continued the colonel, excitedly.
"In addition to these, the farmers have some of them been led off into a
'populist' scheme, which in its last analysis means that the government
shall destroy corporations and pension farmers. In national politics we
have, besides, the silver question and the tariff, and a large element
in the state is ready for republicanism!"

"That is the party of the north, I believe," said Edward.

"Yes, the party that freed the negro and placed the ballot in his hands.
We are so situated here that practically our whole issue is 'white
against black.' We cannot afford to split on any question. We are
obliged to keep the south solid even at the expense of development and
prosperity. The south holds the Saxon blood in trust. Regardless of law,
of constitution, of both combined, we say it is her duty to keep the
blood of the race pure and uncontaminated. I am not prepared to say that
it has been done with entire success; two races cannot exist side by
side distinct. But the Spaniards kept their blue blood through
centuries!

"The southern families will always be pure in this respect; they are
tenderly guarded," the colonel went on. "Other sections are in danger.
The white negro goes away or is sent away; he is unknown; he is changed
and finds a foothold somewhere. Then some day a family finds in its
folds a child with a dark streak down its spine--have you dropped your
pipe? The cobs really furnish our best smokers, but they are hard to
manage. Try another--and it was known that somewhere back in the past an
African taint has crept in."

"You astound me," said Edward, huskily; "is that an infallible sign?"

"Infallible, or, rather, indisputable if it exists. But its existence
under all circumstances is not assured."

"And what, Mr. Montjoy, is the issue between you and Mr. Swearingen--I
understand that is his name--your opponent in the campaign for
nomination?"

"Well, it is hard to say. He has been in congress several terms and
thinks now he sees a change of sentiment. He has made bids for the
younger and dissatisfied vote. I think you may call it the old south
versus the new--and I stand for the old south."

"Where does your campaign open? I was in England once during a political
campaign, about my only experience, if you except one or two incipient
riots in Paris, and I would be glad to see a campaign, in Georgia."

"We open in Bingham. I am to speak there day after to-morrow and will be
pleased to have you go with us. A little party will proceed by private
conveyance from here--and Norton is probably detained in town to-night
by this matter. The county convention meets that day and it has been
agreed that Swearingen and I shall speak in the morning. The convention
will assemble at noon and make a nomination. In most counties primary
elections are held."

"I shall probably not be able to go, but this county will afford me the
opportunity I desire. By the way, colonel, your friends will have many
expenses in this campaign, will they not? I trust you will number me
among them and not hesitate to call upon me for my share of the
necessary fund. I am a stranger, so to speak, but I represent John
Morgan until I can get my political bearings accurately adjusted." The
colonel was charmed.

"Spoken like John himself!" he said. "We are proud, sir, to claim you as
one of us. As to the expenses, unfortunately, we have to rely on our
friends. But for the war, I could have borne it all; now my
circumstances are such that I doubt sometimes if I should in perfect
honor have accepted a nomination. It was forced on me, however. My
friends named me, published the announcement and adjourned. Before
heaven, I have no pleasure in it! I have lived here since childhood,
barring a term or two in congress before the war and four years with Lee
and Johnston, and my people were here before me. I would be glad to end
my days here and live out the intervening ones in sight of this porch.
But a man owes everything to his country."

Edward did not comment upon the information; at that moment there was
heard the rumble of wheels. Norton, accompanied by a stranger, alighted
from a buggy and came rapidly up the walk. The colonel welcomed his son
with the usual affection and the stranger was introduced as Mr. Robley
of an adjoining county. The men fell to talking with suppressed
excitement over the political situation and the climax of it was that
Robley, a keen manager, revealed that he had come for $1,000 to secure
the county. He had but finished his information, when Norton broke in
hurriedly:

"We know, father, that this is all outside your style of politics, and I
have told Mr. Robley that we cannot go into any bargain and sale
schemes, or anything that looks that way. We will pay our share of
legitimate expenses, printing, bands, refreshments and carriage hire,
and will not inquire too closely into rates, but that is as far----"

"You are right, my son! If I am nominated it must be upon the ballots of
my friends. I shall not turn a hand except to lessen their necessary
expenses and to put our announcements before the public. I am sure that
this is all that Mr. Robley would consent to."

"Why, of course," said that gentleman. And then he looked helpless.
Edward had risen and was pacing the veranda, ready to withdraw from
hearing if the conversation became confidential. Norton was excitedly
explaining the condition of affairs in Robley's county, and that
gentleman found himself at leisure. Passing him Edward attracted his
attention.

"You smoke, Mr. Robley?" He offered a cigar and nodded toward the far
end of the veranda. "I think you had better let Mr. Montjoy explain
matters to his father," he said. Robley joined him.

"How much do you need?" said Edward; "the outside figure, I mean. In
other words, if we wanted to buy the county and be certain of getting
it, how much would it take?"

"Twenty-five hundred--well, $3,000."

"Let the matter drop here, you understand? Col. Montjoy is not in the
trade. I am acting upon my own responsibility. Call on me in town
to-morrow; I will put up the money. Now, not a word. We will go back."
They strolled forward and the discussion of the situation went on.
Robley grew hopeful and as they parted for the night whispered a few
words to Norton. As the latter carried the lamp to Edward's room, he
said:

"What does this all mean; you and Robley----"

"Simply," said Edward, "that I am in my first political campaign and to
win at any cost."

Norton looked at him in amazement and then laughed aloud.

"You roll high! We shall win if you don't fail us."

"Then you shall win." They shook hands and parted. Norton passing his
sister's room, paused in thought, knocked lightly, and getting no reply,
went to bed. Edward turned in, not to sleep. His mind in the silent
hours rehearsed its horrors. He arose at the sound of the first bell and
left for the city, not waiting for breakfast.



CHAPTER XIII.

FEELING THE ENEMY.


Edward Morgan plunged into the campaign with an energy and earnestness
that charmed the younger Montjoy and astonished the elder. Headquarters
were opened, typewriters engaged, lists of prominent men and party
leaders obtained and letters written. Col. Montjoy was averse to writing
to his many personal friends in the district anything more than a formal
announcement of his candidacy over his own signature.

"That is all right, father, but if you intend to stick to that idea the
way to avoid defeat is to come down now." But the old gentleman
continued to use his own form of letter. It read:

     "My Dear Sir: I beg leave to call your attention to my
     announcement in the Journal of this city, under date of July
     13, wherein, in response to the demands of friends, I consented
     to the use of my name in the nomination for congressman to
     represent this district. With great respect, I am, sir, your
     obedient servant,

     "Norton L. Montjoy."

He dictated this letter, gave the list to the typewriter, and announced
that when the letters were ready he would sign them. The son looked at
him quizzically:

"Don't trouble about that, father. You must leave this office work to
us. I can sign your name better than you can. If you will get out and
see the gentlemen about the cotton warehouses you can help us
wonderfully. You can handle them better than anybody in the world." The
colonel smiled indulgently on his son and went off. He was proud of the
success and genius of his one boy, when not grieved at his departure
from the old-school dignity. And then Norton sat down and began to
dictate the correspondence, with the list to guide him.

     "Dear Jim," he began, selecting a well-known friend of his
     father, and a companion in arms. "You have probably noticed in
     the Journal the announcement of my candidacy for the
     congressional nomination. The boys of the old 'Fire-Eaters' did
     eat. I am counting on you; you stood by me at Seven Pines,
     Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and a dozen other tight
     places, and I have no fear but that your old colonel will find
     you with him in this issue. It is the old south against the
     riffraff combination of carpetbaggers, scalawags and jaybirds
     who are trying to betray us into the hands of the enemy! My
     opponent, Swearingen, is a good man in his way, but in devilish
     bad company. See Lamar of Company C, Sims, Ellis, Smith and all
     the old guard. Tell them I am making the stand of my life! My
     best respects to the madam and the grandchildren! God bless
     you. Do the best you can. Yours fraternally,

     "N. L. Montjoy."

     "P. S. Arrange for me to speak at your court house some day
     soon. Get an early convention called. We fight better on a
     charge--old Stonewall's way.

     "N. L. M."

This letter brought down the house; the house in this instance standing
for a small army of committeemen gathered at headquarters. Norton was
encouraged to try again.

     "The Rev. Andrew Paton, D. D.--Dear Andrew: I am out for
     congress and need you. Of course we can't permit you to take
     your sacred robes into the mire of politics, but, Andrew, we
     were boys together, before you were so famous, and I know that
     nothing I can bring myself to ask of you can be refused. A word
     from you in many quarters will help. The madam joins me in
     regards to you and yours. Sincerely.

     "N. L. Montjoy."

     "P. S. Excuse this typewritten letter, but my hand is old, and
     I cannot wield the pen as I did when we put together that first
     sermon of yours.

     "M."

This was an addendum in "the colonel's own handwriting" and it closed
with "pray for me." The letter was vociferously applauded and passers-by
looked up in the headquarters windows curiously. These addenda in the
colonel's own handwriting tickled Norton's fancy. He played upon every
string in the human heart. When he got among the masons he staggered a
little, but managed to work in something about "upright, square and
level." "If I could only have got a few signals from the old gentleman,"
he said, gayly, "I would get the lodges out in a body."

Norton was everywhere during the next ten days. He kept four typewriters
busy getting out "personal" letters, addressing circulars and marking
special articles that had appeared in the papers. One of his sayings
that afterward became a political maxim was: "If you want the people to
help you, let them hear from you before election." And in this instance
they heard.

Within a few days a great banner was stretched across the street from
the headquarters window, and a band wagon, drawn by four white horses,
carried a brass band and flags bearing the legend:

    "Montjoy at the Court House
    Saturday Night."

Little boys distributed dodgers.

Edward, taking the cue, entered with equal enthusiasm into the comedy.
He wanted to do the right thing, and he had formed an exaggerated idea
of the influence of money in political campaigns. He hung a placard at
the front door of the Montjoy headquarters that read:

"One thousand dollars to five hundred that Montjoy is nominated."

He placed a check to back it in the secretary's hands. This announcement
drew a crowd and soon afterward a quiet-appearing man came in and said:

"I have the money to cover that bet. Name a stake-holder."

One was named. Edward was flushed with wine and enthused by the friendly
comments his bold wager had drawn out.

"Make it $2,000 to $1,000?" he asked the stranger.

"Well," was the reply, "it goes."

"Make it $10,000 to $5,000?" said Edward.

"No!"

"Ten thousand to four thousand?"

"No!"

"Ten thousand to three thousand?"

"No!" The stranger smiled nervously and, saluting, withdrew. The crowd
cheered until the sidewalk was blockaded. The news went abroad: "Odds of
300 to 100 have been offered on Montjoy, and no takers."

Edward's bet had the effect of precipitating the campaign in the home
county; it had been opening slowly, despite the rush at the Montjoy
headquarters. The Swearingen men were experienced campaigners and worked
more by quiet organization than display. Such men know when to make the
great stroke in a campaign. The man who had attempted to call young
Morgan's hand had little to do with the management of the Swearingen
campaign, but was engaged in a speculation of his own, acting upon a
hint.

But the show of strength at the Montjoy headquarters was at once used by
the Swearingen men to stir their friends to action, lest they be bluffed
out of the fight. Rival bands were got out, rival placards appeared and
handbills were thrown into every yard.

And then came the first personalities, but directed at Edward only. An
evening paper said that "A late citizen, after half a century of
honorable service, and although but recently deceased, seemed to have
fallen into betting upon mundane elections by proxy." And elsewhere: "A
certain class of people and their uncle's money are soon divorced." Many
others followed upon the same line, clearly indicating Edward Morgan,
and with street-corner talk soon made him a central figure among the
Montjoy forces. Edward saw none of these paragraphs, nor did he hear the
gossip of the city.

This continued for days; in the meantime Edward took Norton home with
him at night and generally one or two others accompanied them. Finally
it came to be settled that Norton and Edward were old friends, and the
friends of Montjoy senior looked on and smiled.

The other side simply sneered, swore and waited.

Information of these things reached Mary Montjoy. Annie, the
sister-in-law, came into the city and met her cousin, Amos Royson, the
wild horseman who collided with the Montjoy team upon the night of
Edward's first appearance. This man was one of the Swearingen managers.
His relationship to Annie Montjoy gave him entrance to the family
circle, and he had been for two years a suitor for Mary's hand.

Royson took a seat in the vehicle beside his cousin and turned the
horse's head toward the park. Annie Montjoy saw that he was in an ugly
mood, and divined the reason. She possessed to a remarkable degree the
power of mind-reading and she knew Amos Royson better than he knew
himself.

"Tell me about this Edward Morgan, who is making such a fool of
himself," he said abruptly. "He is injuring Col. Montjoy's chances more
than we could ever hope to, and is really the best ally we have!"

She smiled as she looked upon him from under the sleepy lids, "Why,
then, are you not pleased?"

"Oh, well, you know, Annie, the unfortunate fact remains that you are
one of the family. I hate to see you mixed up in this matter and a
sharer in the family's downfall."

"You do not think enough of me to keep out of the way."

"I cannot control the election, Annie. Swearingen will be elected with
or without my help. But you know my whole future depends upon
Swearingen. Who is Edward Morgan?"

"Oh, Edward Morgan! Well, you know, he is old John Morgan's heir, and
that is all I know; but," and she laughed maliciously, "he is what
Norton calls 'a rusher,' not only in politics, but elsewhere. He has
seen Mary, and--now you know why he is so much interested in this
election." Amos turned fiercely upon her and involuntarily drew the
reins until the horse stopped. He felt the innuendo and forgot the
thrust.

"You cannot mean----" he began, and then paused, for in her eyes was a
triumph so devilish, so malicious, that even he, knowing her well, could
not bring himself to gratify it. He knew that she had never forgiven him
for his devotion to Mary.

"Yes, I mean it! If ever two people were suddenly, hopelessly, foolishly
infatuated with each other that same little hypocritical chit and this
stranger are the two. He is simply trying to put his intended
father-in-law into congress. Do you understand?"

The man's face was white and only with difficulty could he guide the
animal he was driving. She continued, with a sudden exhibition of
passion: "And Mary! Oh, you should just hear her say 'Ilexhurst'! She
will queen it out there with old Morgan's money and heir, and we----"
she laughed bitterly, "we will stay out yonder, keep a mule boarding
house and nurse sick niggers--that is all it amounts to; they raise corn
half the year and hire hands to feed it out the other half; and the
warehouses get the cotton. In the meantime, I am stuck away out of sight
with my children!" Royson thought over this outburst and then said
gravely:

"You have not yet answered my question. Who is Edward Morgan--where did
he come from?"

"Go ask John Morgan," she said, scornfully and maliciously. He studied
long the painted dashboard in front of him, and then, in a sort of awe,
looked into her face:

"What do you mean, Annie?" She would not turn back; she met his gaze
with determination.

"Old Morgan has educated and maintained him abroad all his life. He has
never spoken of him to anybody. You know what stories they used to tell
of John Morgan. Can't you see? Challenged to prove his legal right to
his name he couldn't do it." The words were out. The jealous woman took
the lines from his hands and said, sneeringly: "You are making a fool of
yourself, Amos, by your driving, and attracting attention. Where do you
want to get out? I am going back uptown." He did not reply. Dazed by the
fearful hint he sat looking ahead. When she drew rein at a convenient
corner he alighted. There was a cruel light in his gray eyes.

"Annie," he said, "the defeat of Col. Montjoy lies in your information."

"Let it," she exclaimed, recklessly. "He has no more business in
congress than a child. And for the other matter, I have myself and my
children's name to protect."

And yet she was not entirely without caution. She continued:

"What I have told you is a mere hint. It must not come back to me nor
get in print." She drove away. With eyes upon the ground Royson walked
to his office.

Amos Royson was of the new south entirely, but not its best
representative. His ambition was boundless; there was nothing he would
have left undone to advance himself politically. His thought as he
walked back to his office was upon the words of his cousin. In what
manner could this frightful hint be made effective without danger of
reaction? At this moment he met the man he was plotting to destroy,
walking rapidly toward the postoffice with Norton Montjoy. The latter
saluted him, gayly, as he passed:

"Hello, Amos! We have you on the run, my boy!" Amos made no reply to
Norton, nor to Edward's conventional bow. As they passed he noted the
latter's form and poetical face, then somewhat flushed with excitement,
and seemed to form a mental estimate of him.

"Cold-blooded devil, that fellow Royson," said Norton, as he ran over
his letters before mailing them; "stick a knife in you in a minute."

But Royson walked on. Once he turned, looked back and smiled
sardonically. "They are both in a bad fix," he said, half-aloud. "The
man who has to look out for Annie is to be pitied."

At home Annie gave a highly colored account of all she had heard in town
about Edward, made up chiefly of boasts of friends who supposed that her
interest in Col. Montjoy's nomination was genuine, of Norton's report
and the sneers of enemies, including Royson. These lost nothing in the
way of color at her hands. Mary sought her room and after efforts sealed
for Edward this letter:

     "You can never know how grateful we all are for your interest
     and help, but our gratitude would be incomplete if I failed to
     tell you that there is danger of injuring yourself in your
     generous enthusiasm. You must not forget that papa has enemies
     who will become yours. This we would much regret, for you have
     so much need of friends. Do not put faith in too many people,
     and come out here when you feel the need of rest. I cannot
     write much that I would like to tell you. Your friend,

     "Mary Montjoy."

     "P. S. Amos Royson is your enemy and he is a dangerous man."

When Edward received this, as he did next day by the hand of Col.
Montjoy, he was thrilled with pleasure and then depressed with a sudden
memory. That day he was so reckless that even Norton felt compelled,
using his expression, "to call him down."



CHAPTER XIV.

THE OLD SOUTH DRAWS THE SWORD.


When Royson reached his office he quietly locked himself in, and,
lighting a cigar, threw himself into his easy-chair. He recalled with
carefulness the minutest facts of his interview with Annie Montjoy, from
the moment he seated himself beside her, until his departure. Having
established these in mind he began the course of reasoning he always
pursued in making an estimate of testimony. The basis of his cousin's
action did not call for much attention; he knew her well. She was as
ambitious as Lucifer and possessed that peculiar defect which would
explain so many women if given proper recognition--lack of ability to
concede equal merit to others. They can admit no uninvited one to their
plane; not even an adviser. They demand flattery as a plant demands
nitrogen, and cannot survive the loss of attention.

And, reading deeper, Royson saw that the steadfast, womanly soul of the
sister-in-law had, even in the knowledge of his cousin, over-shadowed
hers until she resented even the old colonel's punctilious courtesy;
that in her heart she raged at his lack of informality and accused him
of resting upon the young girl. If she had been made much of, set up as
a divinity, appealed to and suffered to rule, all would have been fair
and beautiful. And then the lawyer smiled and said aloud to that other
self, with whom he communed: "For a while." Such was the woman.

Long he sat, studying the situation. Once he arose and paced the floor,
beating his fist into his hand and grinding his teeth.

"Both or none!" he cried, at last. "If Montjoy is nominated I am
shelved; and as for Mary, there have been Sabine women in all ages."

That night the leaders of the opposition met in secret caucus, called
together by Royson. When, curious and attentive, they assembled in his
private office, he addressed them:

"I have, gentlemen, to-day found myself in a very embarrassing position;
a very painful one. You all know my devotion to our friend; I need not
say, therefore, that here to-night the one overpowering cause of the
action which I am about to take is my loyalty to him. To-day, from a
source I am not at liberty to state here, I was placed in possession of
a fact which, if used, practically ends this campaign. You must none of
you express a doubt, nor must any one question me upon the subject. The
only question to be discussed is, shall we make use of the fact--and
how?" He waited a moment until the faces of the committee betrayed their
deep interest.

"Whom do you consider in this city the most powerful single man behind
the movement to nominate Montjoy?"

"Morgan," said one, promptly. It was their unanimous judgment.

"Correct! This man, with his money and zeal, has made our chances
uncertain if not desperate, and this man," he continued, excitedly, "who
is posing before the public and offering odds of three to one against us
with old Morgan's money, is not a white man!"

He had leaned over the table and concluded his remarks in almost a
whisper. A painful silence followed, during which the excited lawyer
glared inquiringly into the faces turned in horror upon him. "Do you
understand?" he shouted at last. They understood.

A southern man readily takes a hint upon such a matter. These men sat
silent, weighing in their minds the final effect of this announcement.
Royson did not give them long to consider.

"I am certain of this, so certain that if you think best I will publish
the fact to-morrow and assume the whole responsibility." There was but
little doubt remaining then. But the committee seemed weighed upon
rather than stirred by the revelation; they spoke in low tones to each
other. There was no note of triumph in any voice. They were men.

Presently the matter took definite shape. An old man arose and addressed
his associates:

"I need not say, gentlemen, that I am astonished by this information,
and you will pardon me if I do say I regret that it seems true. As far
as I am concerned I am opposed to its use. It is a very difficult matter
to prove. Mr. Royson's informant may be mistaken, and if proof was not
forthcoming a reaction would ruin our friend." No one replied, although
several nodded their heads. At length Royson spoke:

"The best way to reach the heart of this matter is to follow out in your
minds a line of action. Suppose in a speech I should make the
charge--what would be the result?"

"You would be at once challenged!" Royson smiled.

"Who would bear the challenge?"

"One of the Montjoys would be morally compelled to."

"Suppose I convince the bearer that a member of his family was my
authority?" Then they began to get a glimpse of the depth of the plot.
One answered:

"He would be obliged to withdraw!"

"Exactly! And who else after that would take Montjoy's place? Or how
could Montjoy permit the duel to go on? And if he did find a fool to
bring his challenge, I could not, for the reason given in the charge,
meet his principal!"

"A court of honor might compel you to prove your charge, and then you
would be in a hole. That is, unless you could furnish proof."

"And still," said Royson, "there would be no duel, because there would
be no second. And you understand, gentlemen," he continued, smiling,
"that all this would not postpone the campaign. Before the court of
honor could settle the matter the election would have been held. You can
imagine how that election would go when it is known that Montjoy's
campaign manager and right-hand man is not white. This man is
hail-fellow-well-met with young Montjoy; a visitor in his home and is
spending money like water. What do you suppose the country will say when
these facts are handled on the stump? Col. Montjoy is ignorant of it, we
know, but he will be on the defensive from the day the revelation is
made.

"I have said my action is compelled by my loyalty to Swearingen, and I
reiterate it, but we owe something to the community, to the white race,
to good morals and posterity. And if I am mistaken in my proofs,
gentlemen, why, then, I can withdraw my charge. It will not affect the
campaign already over. But I will not have to withdraw."

"As far as I am concerned," said another gentleman, rising and speaking
emphatically, "this is a matter upon which, under the circumstances, I
do not feel called to vote! I cannot act without full information! The
fact is, I am not fond of such politics! If Mr. Royson has proofs that
he cannot use publicly or here, the best plan would be to submit them to
Col. Montjoy and let him withdraw, or pull off his lieutenant." He
passed out and several with him. Royson argued with the others, but one
by one they left him. He was bursting with rage.

"I will determine for myself!" he said, "the victory shall rest in me!"

Then came the speech of the campaign at the court house. The relations
of Col. Montjoy, his family friends, people connected with him in the
remotest degree by marriage, army friends, members of the bar,
merchants, warehousemen and farmers generally, and a large sprinkling of
personal and political enemies of Swearingen made up the vast crowd.

In the rear of the hall, a smile upon his face, was Amos Royson. And yet
the secret glee in his heart, the knowledge that he, one man in all that
throng, by a single sentence could check the splendid demonstration and
sweep the field, was clouded. It came to him that no other member of the
Montjoy clan was a traitor. Nowhere is the family tie so strong as in
the south, and only the power of his ambition could have held him aloof.
Swearingen had several times represented the district in Congress; it
was his turn when the leader moved on. This had been understood for
years by the political public. In the meantime he had been state's
attorney and there were a senatorship, a judgeship and possibly the
governorship to be grasped. He could not be expected to sacrifice his
career upon the altar of kinship remote. Indeed, was it not the duty of
Montjoy to stand aside for the sake of a younger man? Was it not true
that a large force in his nomination had been the belief that
Swearingen's right-hand man would probably be silenced thereby? It had
been a conspiracy.

These thoughts ran through his mind as he stood watching the gathering.

On the stage sat Edward Morgan, a prominent figure and one largely
scanned by the public; and Royson saw his face light up and turn to a
private box; saw his smile and bow. A hundred eyes were turned with his,
and discovered there, half concealed by the curtains, the face of Mary
Montjoy. The public jumped to the conclusion that had previously been
forced on him.

Over Royson's face surged a wave of blood; a muttered oath drew
attention to him and he changed his position. He saw the advancing
figure of Gen. Evan and heard his introductory speech. The morning paper
said it was the most eloquent ever delivered on such an occasion; and
all that the speaker said was:

"Fellow-citizens, I have the honor to introduce to you this evening Col.
Norton Montjoy. Hear him."

His rich bass voice rolled over the great audience; he extended his arm
toward the orator of the evening, and retired amid thunders of applause.
Then came Col. Montjoy.

The old south was famous for its oratory. It was based upon personal
independence, upon family pride and upon intellect unhampered by
personal toil in uncongenial occupations; and lastly upon sentiment.
Climate may have entered into it; race and inheritance undoubtedly did.
The southern orator was the feature of congressional displays, and back
in congressional archives lie orations that vie with the best of Athens
and of Rome. But the flavor, the spectacular effects, linger only in the
memory of the rapidly lessening number who mingled deeply in ante-bellum
politics. No pen could have faithfully preserved this environment.

So with the oration that night in the opening of the Montjoy campaign.
It was not transmissible. Only the peroration need be reproduced here:

"God forbid!" he said in a voice now husky with emotion and its long
strain, "God forbid that the day shall come when the south will
apologize for her dead heroes! Stand by your homes; stand by your
traditions; keep our faith in the past as bright as your hopes for the
future! No stain rests upon the honor of your fathers! Transmit their
memories and their virtues to posterity as its best inheritance! Defend
your homes and firesides, remembering always that the home, the family
circle, is the fountain head of good government! Let none enter there
who are unclean. Keep it the cradle of liberty and the hope of the
English race on this continent, the shrine of religion, of beauty, of
purity!"

He closed amid a tumult of enthusiasm. Men stood on chairs to cheer;
ladies wept and waved their handkerchiefs, and then over all arose the
strange melody that no southern man can sit quiet under. "Dixie" rang
out amid a frenzy of emotion. Veterans hugged each other. The old
general came forward and clasped hands with his comrade, the band
changing to "Auld Lang Syne." People crowded on the stage and outside
the building the drifting crowd filled the air with shouts.

The last man to rise from his seat was Edward Morgan. Lost in thought,
his face lowered, he sat until some one touched him on the shoulder and
called him back to the present. And out in the audience, clinging to a
post, to resist the stream of humanity, passing from the aisles, his
eyes strained forward, heedless of the banter and jeers poured upon him,
Royson watched as best he could every shade upon the stranger's face. A
cry burst from his lips. "It was true!" he said, and dashed from the
hall.



CHAPTER XV.

"IN ALL THE WORLD, NO FAIRER FLOWER THAN THIS!"


The city was in a whirl on election day; hacks and carriages darted here
and there all day long, bearing flaming placards and hauling voters to
the polls. Bands played at the Montjoy headquarters and everything to
comfort the inner patriot was on hand.

Edward had taken charge of this department and at his own expense
conducted it. He was the host. All kinds of wines and liquors and malt
drinks, a constantly replenished lunch, that amounted to a banquet, and
cigars, were at all hours quickly served by a corps of trained waiters.
In all their experience, old election stagers declared never had this
feature of election day been so complete. It goes without saying that
Montjoy's headquarters were crowded and that a great deal of the
interest which found expression in the streets was manufactured there.

It was a fierce struggle; the Swearingen campaign in the county had been
conducted on the "still-hunt" plan, and on this day his full strength
was polled. It was Montjoy's home county, and if it could be carried
against him, the victory was won at the outset.

On the other hand, the Montjoy people sought for the moral effect of an
overwhelming victory. There was an expression of general relief in the
form of cheers, when the town clocks struck five and the polls windows
fell. Anxiety followed, and then bonfires blazed, rockets exploded and
all night long the artillery squad fired salutes. Montjoy had won by an
unlooked-for majority and the vote of the largest county was secure.

Edward had resolutely refused to think upon the discovery unfolded to
him. With reckless disregard for the future he had determined to bury
the subject until the arrival of Virdow. But there are ghosts that will
not come down at the bidding, and so in the intervals of sleep, of
excitement, of politics, the remembrance of the fearful fate that
threatened him came up with all the force and terror of a new
experience.

Ilexhurst was impossible to him alone and he held to Norton as long as
he could. There was to be a few days' rest after the home election, and
the younger Montjoy seized this opportunity to run home and, as he
expressed it, "get acquainted with the family." Edward, without
hesitation, accepted his invitation to go with him. They had become firm
friends now and Edward stood high in the family esteem. Reviewing the
work that had led up to Col. Montjoy's magnificent opening and oration,
all generously conceded that he had been the potent factor.

It was not true, in fact; the younger Montjoy had been the genius of the
hour, but Edward's aid and money had been necessary. The two men were
received as conquering heroes. As she held his hand in hers old Mrs.
Montjoy said:

"You have done us a great service, Mr. Morgan, and we cannot forget it,"
and Mary, shy and happy, had smiled upon him and uttered her thanks.
There was one discordant note, the daughter-in-law had been silent until
all were through.

"And I suppose I am to thank you, Mr. Morgan, that Norton has returned
alive. I did not know you were such high livers over at Ilexhurst," she
smiled, maliciously. "Were you not afraid of ghosts?"

Edward looked at her with ill-disguised hatred. For the first time he
realized fully that he was dealing with a dangerous enemy. How much did
she know? He could make nothing of that serenely tranquil face. He bowed
only. She was his friend's wife.

But he was not at ease beneath her gaze and readily accepted Mary's
invitation to ride. She was going to carry a note from her father to a
neighbor, and the chance of seeing the country was one he should not
neglect. They found a lazy mule and ancient country buggy at the door.
He thought of the outfit of the sister-in-law. "Annie has a pony phaeton
that is quite stylish," said Mary, laughingly, as they entered the old
vehicle, "but it is only for town use; this is mine and papa's!"

"Certainly roomy and safe," he said. She laughed outright.

"I will remember that; so many people have tried to say something
comforting about my turnout and failed; but it does well enough." They
were off then, Edward driving awkwardly. It was the first time he had
ever drawn the reins over a mule.

"How do you make it go fast?" he asked, finally, in despair.

"Oh, dear," she answered, "we don't try. We know the mule." Her laugh
was infectious.

They traveled the public roads, with their borders of wild grape,
crossed gurgling streams under festoons of vines and lingered in shady
vistas of overhanging boughs. Several times they boldly entered private
grounds and passed through back yards without hailing, and at last they
came to their destination.

There were two huge stone posts at the entrance, with carved balls of
granite upon them. A thick tangle of muscadine and Cherokee roses led
off from them right and left, hiding the trail of the long-vanished rail
fence. In front was an avenue of twisted cedars, and, closing the
perspective, a glimpse of white columns and green blinds.

The girl's face was lighted with smiles; it was for her a new
experience, this journeying with a man alone; his voice melodious in her
hearing; his eyes exchanging with hers quick understandings, for Edward
was happy that morning--happy in his forgetfulness. He had thrown off
the weight of misery successfully, and for the first time in his life
there was really a smile in his heart. It was the dream of an hour; he
would not mar it. Her voice recalled him.

"I have always loved 'The Cedars.' It wears such an air of gentility and
refinement. It must be that something of the lives gone by clings to
these old places."

"Whose is it?" She turned in surprise.

"Oh, this is where we were bound--Gen. Evan's. I have a note for him."

"Ah!" The exclamation was one of awe rather than wonder. She saw him
start violently and grow pale. "Evan?" he said, with emotion.

"You know him?"

"Not I." He felt her questioning gaze and looked into her face. "That
is, I have been introduced to him, only, and I have heard him speak."
After a moment's reflection: "Sometime, perhaps, I shall tell you why
for the moment I was startled." She could not understand his manner.
Fortunately they had arrived at the house. Confused still, he followed
her up the broad steps to the veranda and saw her lift the antique
knocker.

"Yes, ma'am, de general's home; walk in, ma'am; find him right back in
the liberry." With that delightful lack of formality common among
intimate neighbors in the south, Mary led the way in. She made a pretty
picture as she paused at the door. The sun was shining through the
painted window and suffused her form with roseate light.

"May I come in?"

"Well! Well! Well!" The old man rose with a great show of welcome and
came forward. "'May I come in?' How d'ye do, Mary, God bless you, child;
yes, come clear in," he said, laughing, and bestowed a kiss upon her
lips. At that moment he caught sight of the face of Edward, who stood
behind her, pale from the stream of light that came from a white crest
in the window. The two men gazed steadily into each other's eyes a
moment only. The girl began:

"This is Mr. Morgan, general, who has been such a friend to father."

The rugged face of the old soldier lighted up, he took the young man's
hands in both of his and pressed them warmly.

"I have already met Mr. Morgan. The friend of my friend is welcome to
'The Cedars'." He turned to move chairs for them.

The face of the young man grew white as he bowed gravely. There had been
a recognition, but no voice spoke from the far-away past through his
lineaments to that lonely old man. During the visit he was distrait and
embarrassed. The courtly attention of his host and his playful gallantry
with Mary awoke no smile upon his lips. Somewhere a barrier had fallen
and the waters of memory had rushed in. Finally he was forced to arouse
himself.

"John Morgan was a warm friend of mine at one time," said the old
general. "How was he related to you?"

"Distantly," said Edward quietly. "I was an orphan, and indebted to him
for everything."

"An eccentric man, but John had a good heart--errors like the rest of
us, of course." The general's face grew sad for the moment, but he
rallied and turned the conversation to the political campaign.

"A grand speech that, Mr. Morgan; I have never heard a finer, and I have
great speakers in my day! Our district will be well and honorably
represented in Congress. Now, our little friend here will go to
Washington and get her name into the papers."

"No, indeed. If papa wins I am going to stay with mamma. I am going to
be her eyes as well as her hands. Mamma would not like the city."

"And how is the little mamma?"

She shook her head. "Not so well and her eyes trouble her very much."

"What a sweet woman she is! I can never forget the night Norton led her
to the altar. I have never seen a fairer sight--until now," he
interpolated, smiling and saluting Mary with formal bow. "She had a
perfect figure and her walk was the exposition of grace." Mary surveyed
him with swimming eyes. She went up and kissed him lightly. He detained
her a moment when about to take her departure.

"You are a fortunate man, Morgan. In all the world you will find no
rarer flower than this. I envy you your ride home. Come again, Mary, and
bring Mr. Morgan with you." She broke loose from him and darted off in
confusion. He had guessed her secret and well was it that he had!

The ride home was as a dream. The girl was excited and full of life and
banter and Edward, throwing off his sadness, had entered into the hour
of happiness with the same abandon that marked his campaign with Norton.

But as they entered the long stretch of wood through which their road
ran to her home, Edward brought back the conversation to the general.

"Yes," said Mary, "he lives quite alone, a widower, but beloved by every
one. It is an old, sad story, but his daughter eloped just before the
war broke out and went abroad. He has never heard from her, it is
supposed."

"I have heard the fact mentioned," said Morgan, "and also that she was
to have married my relative."

"I did not know that," she said, "but it is a great sorrow to the
general, and a girl who could give up such a man must have been wrong at
heart or infatuated."

"Infatuated, let us hope."

"That is the best explanation," she said gently.

He was driving; in a few moments he would arrive at the house. Should he
tell her the history of Gerald and let her clear, honest mind guide him?
Should he tell her that Fate had made him the custodian of the only
being in the world who had a right to that honorable name when the
veteran back yonder found his last camp and crossed the river to rest in
the shade with the immortal Jackson? He turned to her and she met his
earnest gaze with a winning smile, but at the moment something in his
life cried out. The secret was as much his duty as the ward himself and
to confess to her his belief that Gerald was the son of Marion Evan was
to confess to himself that he was the son of the octoroon. He would not.
Her smile died away before the misery in his face.

"You are ill," she said in quick sympathy.

"Yes," he replied, faintly; "yes and no. The loss of
sleep--excitement--your southern sun----" The world grew black and he
felt himself falling. In the last moment of his consciousness he
remembered that her arm was thrown about him and that in response to her
call for help negroes from the cotton fields came running.

He opened his eyes. They rested upon the chintz curtains of the room
upstairs, from the window of which he had heard her voice calling the
chickens. Some one was bathing his forehead; there were figures gliding
here and there across his vision. He turned his eyes and saw the anxious
face of Mrs. Montjoy watching him.

"What is it?" He spoke in wonder.

"Hush, now, my boy; you have been very ill; you must not talk!" He tried
to lift his hand. It seemed made of lead and not connected with him in
any way. Gazing helplessly upon it, he saw that it was thin and
white--the hand of an invalid.

"How long?" he asked, after a rest. The slight effort took his strength.

"Three weeks." Three weeks! This was more than he could adjust in the
few working sections of his brain. He ceased to try and closed his eyes
in sleep.



CHAPTER XVI.

BEYOND THE SHADOW OF A DOUBT.


It had been brain fever. For ten days Edward was helpless, but under the
care of the two loving women he rapidly recovered. The time came when he
could sit in the cool of the evening upon the veranda and listen to the
voices he had learned to love--for he no longer disguised the truth from
himself. The world held for him but one dream, through it and in the
spell of his first home life the mother became a being to be reverenced.
She was the fulfilled promise of the girl, all the tender experiences of
life were pictured in advance for him who should win her hand and heart.

But it was only a dream. During the long hours of the night as he lay
wakeful, with no escape from himself, he thought out the situation and
made up his mind to action. He would go to Col. Montjoy and confess the
ignorance of his origin that overwhelmed him and then he would provide
for his ward and go away with Virdow to the old world and the old life.

The mental conclusion of his plan was a species of settlement. It helped
him. Time and again he cried out, when the remembrance came back to him,
but it was the honorable course and he would follow it. He would go
away.

The hours of his convalescence were the respite he allowed himself. Day
by day he said: "I will go to-morrow." In the morning it was still
"to-morrow." And when he finally made his announcement he was promptly
overruled. Col. Montjoy and Norton were away, speaking and campaigning.
All primaries had been held but two. The colonel's enemies had conceded
to him of the remaining counties the remote one. The other was a county
with a large population and cast four votes in the convention. It was
the home of Swearingen, but, as frequently happens, it was the scene of
the candidate's greatest weakness. There the struggle was to be titanic.
Both counties were needed to nominate Montjoy.

The election took place on the day of Edward's departure for Ilexhurst.
That evening he saw a telegram announcing that the large county had
given its vote to Montjoy by a small majority. The remote county had but
one telegraph office, and that at a way station upon its border. Little
could be heard from it, but the public conceded Col. Montjoy's
nomination, since there had been no doubt as to this county. Edward
hired a horse, put a man upon it, sent the news to the two ladies and
then went to his home.

He found awaiting him two letters of importance. One from Virdow, saying
he would sail from Havre on the 25th; that was twelve days previous. He
was therefore really due at Ilexhurst then. The other was a letter he
had written to Abingdon soon after his first arrival, and was marked
"returned to writer." He wondered at this. The address was the same he
had used for years in his correspondence. Although Abingdon was
frequently absent from England, the letters had always reached him. Why,
then, was this one not forwarded? He put it aside and ascertained that
Virdow had not arrived at the house.

It was then 8 o'clock in the evening. By his order a telephone had been
placed in the house, and he at once rang up the several hotels. Virdow
was found to be at one of these, and he succeeded in getting that
distinguished gentleman to connect himself with the American invention
and explained to him the situation.

"Take any hack and come at once," was the message that concluded their
conversation, and Virdow came! In the impulsive continental style, he
threw himself into Edward's arms when the latter opened the door of the
carriage.

Slender, his thin black clothes hanging awkwardly upon him, his trousers
too short, the breadth of his round German face, the knobs on his
shining bald forehead exaggerated by the puffy gathering of the hair
over his ears, his candid little eyes shining through the round,
double-power glasses, his was a figure one had to know for a long time
in order to look upon it without smiling.

Long the two sat with their cigars and ran over the old days together.
Then the professor told of wondrous experiments in sound, of the advance
knowledge into the regions of psychology, of the marvels of heredity.
His old great theme was still his ruling passion. "If the mind has no
memory, then much of the phenomena of life is worse than bewildering.
Prove its memory," he was wont to say, "and I will prove immortality
through that memory."

It was the same old professor. He was up now and every muscle working as
he struggled and gesticulated, and wrote invisible hieroglyphics in the
air about him and made geometrical figures with palms and fingers. But
the professor had advanced in speculation.

"The time will come, my young friend," he said at last, "when the mind
will give us its memories complete. We shall learn the secrets of
creation by memory. In its perfection we shall place a man yonder and by
vibration get his mind memory to work; theoretically he will first write
of his father and then his grandfather, describing their mental lives.
He will go back along the lines of his ancestry. He will get into Latin,
then Greek, then Hebrew, then Chaldean, then into cuneiform
inscriptions, then into figure representation. He will be an artist or
musician or sculptor, and possibly all if the back trail of his memory
crosses such talents. Aye," he continued, enthusiastically, "lost
nations will live again. The portraits of our ancestors will hang in
view along the corridors of all times! This will come by vibratory
force, but how?"

Edward leaned forward, breathless almost with emotion.

"You say the time is come; what has been done?"

"Little and much! The experiments----"

"Tell me, in all your experiments, have you known where a child,
separated from a parent since infancy, without aid of description, or
photograph, or information derived from a living person, could see in
memory or imagination the face of that parent, see it with such
distinctness as to enable him, an artist, to reproduce it in all
perfection?"

The professor wiped his glasses nervously and kept his gaze upon his
questioner.

"Never."

"Then," said Edward, "you have crossed the ocean to some purpose! I have
known such an instance here in this house. The person is still here! You
know me, my friend, and you do not know me. To you I was a rich young
American, with a turn for science and speculation. You made me your
friend and God bless you for it, but you did not know all of that
mystery which hangs over my life never to be revealed perhaps until the
millennium of science you have outlined dawns upon us. The man who
educated me, who enriched me, was not my parent or relative; he was my
guardian. He has made me the guardian of a frail, sickly lad whose
mystery is, or was, as complete as mine. Teach us to remember." The
words burst from him. They held the pent-up flood that had almost
wrecked his brain.

Rapidly he recounted the situation, leaving out the woman's story as to
himself. Not to his Savior would he confess that.

And then he told how, following his preceptor's hints about vibration,
he had accidentally thrown Gerald into a trance; its results, the second
experiment, the drawing and the woman's story of Gerald's birth.

During this recital the professor never moved his eyes from the
speaker's face.

"You wish to know what I think of it? This: I have but recently ventured
the proposition publicly that all ideal faces on the artist's canvas are
mind memories. Prove to me anew your results and if I establish the
reasonableness of my theory I shall have accomplished enough to die on."

"In your opinion, then, this picture that Gerald drew is a mind memory?"

"Undoubtedly. But you will perceive that the more distant, the older the
experience, we may say, the less likelihood of accuracy."

"It would depend, then, you think, upon the clearness of the original
impression?"

"That is true! The vividness of an old impression may also outshine a
new one."

"And if this young man recalls the face of a woman, who we believe it
possible--nay, probable--is his mother, and then the face of one we know
to be her father, as a reasonable man, would you consider the story of
this negro woman substantiated beyond the shadow of a doubt?"

"Beyond the shadow of a doubt."

"We shall try," said Edward, and then, after a moment's silence: "He is
shy of strangers and you may find it difficult to get acquainted with
him. After you have succeeded in gaining his confidence we shall settle
upon a way to proceed. One word more, he is a victim of morphia. Did I
tell you that?"

"No, but I guessed it."

"You have known such men before, then?"

"I have studied the proposition that opium may be a power to effect what
we seek, and, in connection with it, have studied the hospitals that
make a specialty of such cases."

There was a long silence, and presently Edward said:

"Will you say good-night now?"

"Good-night." The professor gazed about him. "How was it you used to say
good-night, Edward? Old customs are good. It is not possible that the
violin has been lost." He smiled and Edward got his instrument and
played. He knew the old man's favorites; the little folk-melodies of the
Rhine country, bits of love songs, mostly, around which the loving
players of Germany have woven so many beautiful fancies. And in the
playing Edward himself was quieted.

The light from the hall downstairs streamed out along the gravel walk,
and in the glare was a man standing with arms folded and head bent
forward. A tall woman came and gently laid her hand upon him. He started
violently, tossed his arms aloft and rushed into the darkness. She
waited in silence a moment and then slowly followed him.



CHAPTER XVII.

"IF I MEET THE MAN!"


When Edward opened the morning paper, which he did while waiting for the
return of the professor, who had wandered away before breakfast, he was
shocked by the announcement of Montjoy's defeat. The result of the vote
in the remote county had been secured by horseback service organized by
an enterprising journal, and telegraphed. The official returns were
given.

Already the campaign had drifted far into the past with him; years
seemed to have gone by when he arose from the sick-bed and now it
scarcely seemed possible that he, Edward Morgan, was the same man who
labored among the voters, shouted himself hoarse and kept the
headquarters so successfully. It must have been a dream.

But Mary! That part was real. He wrote her a few lines expressing his
grief.

And then came the professor, with his adventure! He had met a young man
out making photographs and had interested him with descriptions of
recent successful attempts to photograph in colors. And then they had
gone to the wing-room and examined the results of the young man's
efforts to produce pictures upon living substances. "He has some of the
most original theories and ideas upon the subject I have heard," said
the German. "Not wild beyond the possibilities of invention, however,
and I am not sure but that he has taught me a lesson in common sense.
'Find how nature photographs upon living tissue,' said the young man,
'and when you have reduced your pictures to the invisible learn to
re-enlarge them; perhaps you will learn to enlarge nature's invisibles.'

"He has discovered that the convolutions of the human brain resemble an
embryo infant and that the new map which indicates the nerve lines
centering in the brain from different parts of the body shows them
entering the corresponding parts of the embryo. He lingers upon the
startling idea that the nerve is a formative organ, and that by
sensations conveyed, and by impressions, it actually shapes the brain.
When sensations are identical and persistent they establish a family
form. The brain is a bas-relief composite picture, shaped by all the
nerves. Theoretically a man's brain carefully removed, photographed and
enlarged ought to show the outlines of a family form, with all the
modifications.

"You will perceive that he is working along hereditary lines and not
psychologic. And I am not sure but that in this he is pursuing the
wisest course, heredity being the primer."

"You believe he has made a new discovery, then?"

"As to that, no. The speculative mind is tolerant. It accepts nothing
that is not proven; it rejects nothing that has not been disproved. The
original ideas in most discoveries in their crude forms were not less
wild than this. All men who observe are friends of science."

The incident pleased Edward. To bring the professor and Gerald together
he had feared would be difficult. Chance and the professor's tact had
already accomplished this successfully.

"I shall leave you and Gerald to get thoroughly acquainted. When you
have learned him you can study him best. I have business of importance."

He at once went to the city and posted his letter. Norton's leave had
been exhausted and he had already departed for New York.

At the club and at the almost forsaken headquarters of the Montjoy party
all was consternation and regret. The fatal overconfidence in the
backwoods county was settled upon as the cause of the disaster. And yet
why should that county have failed them? Two companies of Evan's old
brigade were recruited there; he had been assured by almost every
prominent man in the county of its vote. And then came the crushing
blow.

The morning paper had wired for special reports and full particulars,
and at 12 o'clock an extra was being cried upon the streets. Everybody
bought the paper; the street cars, the hotels, the clubs, the street
corners, were thronged with people eagerly reading the announcement.
Under triple head lines, which contained the words "Fraud" and "Slander"
and "Treachery," came this article, which Edward read on the street:

     "The cause of the fatal slump-off of Col. Montjoy's friends in
     this county was a letter placed in circulation here yesterday
     and industriously spread to the remotest voting places. It was
     a letter from Mr. Amos Royson to the Hon. Thomas Brown of this
     county. Your correspondent has secured and herewith sends a
     copy:

     "'My Dear Sir: In view of the election about to be held in your
     county, I beg to submit the following facts: Against the honor
     and integrity of Col. Montjoy nothing can be urged, but it is
     known here so positively that I do not hesitate to state, and
     authorize you to use it, that the whole Montjoy movement is in
     reality based upon an effort to crush Swearingen for his
     opposition to certain corporation measures in congress, and
     which by reason of his position on certain committees, he
     threatens with defeat! To this end money has been sent here and
     is being lavishly expended by a tool of the corporation. Added
     to this fact that the man chosen for the business is one
     calling himself Edward Morgan, the natural son of a late
     eccentric bachelor lawyer of this city. The mother of this man
     is an octoroon, who now resides with him at his home in the
     suburbs. It is certain that these facts are not known to the
     people who have him in tow, but they are easy of substantiation
     when necessary. We look to you and your county to save the
     district. We were "done up" here before we were armed with this
     information. Respectfully yours,

     'Amos Royson.'

"Thousands of these circulars were printed and yesterday put in the
hands of every voter. Col. Montjoy's friends were taken by surprise and
their enthusiasm chilled. Many failed to vote and the county was lost by
twenty-three majority. Intense excitement prevails here among the
survivors of Evan's brigade, who feel themselves compromised."

Then followed an editorial denouncing the outrage and demanding proofs.
It ended by stating that the limited time prevented the presentation of
interviews with Royson and Morgan, neither of whom could be reached by
telephone after the news was received.

There are moments when the very excess of danger calms. Half the letter,
the political lie alone, would have enraged Edward beyond expression. He
could not realize nor give expression. The attack upon his blood was too
fierce an assault. In fact, he was stunned. He looked up to find himself
in front of the office of Ellison Eldridge. Turning abruptly he ascended
the steps; the lawyer was reading the article as he appeared, but would
have laid aside the paper.

"Finish," said Edward, curtly; "it is upon that publication I have come
to advise with you." He stood at the window while the other read, and
there as he waited a realization of the enormity of the blow, its
cowardliness, its cruelty, grew upon him slowly. He had never
contemplated publicity; he had looked forward to a life abroad, with
this wearing mystery forever gnawing at his heart, but publication and
the details and the apparent truth! It was horrible! And to disprove
it--how? The minutes passed! Would the man behind him never finish what
he himself had devoured in three minutes? He looked back; Eldridge was
gazing over the paper into space, his face wearing an expression of
profound melancholy. He had uttered no word of denunciation; he was
evidently not even surprised.

"My God," exclaimed Edward, excitedly; "you believe it--you believe it!"
Seizing the paper, he dashed from the room, threw himself into a hack
and gave the order for home.

And half an hour after he was gone the lawyer sat as he left him,
thinking.

Edward found a reporter awaiting him.

"You have the extra, I see, Mr. Morgan," said he; "may I ask what you
will reply to it?"

"Nothing!" thundered the desperate man.

"Will you not say it is false?"

Edward went up to him. "Young man, there are moments when it is
dangerous to question people. This is one of them!" He opened the door
and stood waiting. Something in his face induced the newspaper man to
take his leave. He said as he departed: "If you write a card we shall be
glad to publish it." The sound of the closing door was the answer he
received.

Alone and locked in his room, Edward read the devilish letter over and
over, until every word of it was seared into his brain forever. It could
not be denied that more than once in his life the possibility of his
being the son of John Morgan had suggested itself to his mind, but he
had invariably dismissed it. Now it came back to him with the force
almost of conviction. Had the truth been stated at last? It was the only
explanation that fitted the full circumstances of his life--and it
fitted them all. It was true and known to be true by at least one other.
Eldridge's legal mind, prejudiced in his favor by years of association
with his benefactor, had been at once convinced; and if the statement
made so positively carried conviction to Eldridge himself, to his legal
friend, how would the great sensational public receive it?

It was done, and the result was to be absolute and eternal ruin for
Edward Morgan. Such was the conclusion forced upon him.

Then there arose in mind the face of the one girl he remembered. He
thought of the effect of the blow upon her. He had been her guest, her
associate. The family had received him with open arms. They must share
the odium of his disgrace, and for him now what course was left? Flight!
To turn his back upon all the trouble and go to his old life, and let
the matter die out!

And then came another thought. Could any one prove the charge?

He was in the dark; the cards were held with their backs to him. Suppose
he should bring suit for libel, what could he offer? His witness had
already spoken and her words substantiated the charge against him. Not a
witness, not a scrap of paper, was to be had in his defense. A libel
suit would be the rivet in his irons and he would face the public,
perhaps for days, and be openly the subject of discussion. It was
impossible, but he could fight.

The thought thrilled him to the heart. She should see that he was a man!
He would not deal with slander suits, with newspapers; he would make the
scoundrel eat his words or he would silence his mouth forever. The man
soul was stirred; he no longer felt the humiliation that had rendered
him incapable of thought. The truth of the story was not the issue; the
injury was its use, false or true. He strode into Gerald's room and
broke into the experiments of the scientists, already close friends.

"You have weapons here. Lend me one; the American uses the revolver, I
believe?"

Gerald looked at him in astonishment, but he was interested.

"Here is one; can you shoot?"

"Badly; the small sword is my weapon."

"Then let me teach you." Gerald was a boy now; weapons had been his
hobby years before.

"Wait, let me fix a target!" He brushed a chalk drawing from a
blackboard at the end of the room and stood, crayon in hand. "What would
you prefer to shoot at, a tree, a figure----"

"A figure!"

Gerald rapidly sketched the outlines of a man with white shirt front and
stepped aside. Five times the man with the weapon sighted and fired. The
figure was not touched. Gerald was delighted. He ran up, took the pistol
and reloaded it and fired twice in succession. Two spots appeared upon
the shirt front; they were just where the lower and center shirt studs
would have been.

"You are an artist, I believe," he said to Edward.

The latter bowed his head. "Now, professor, I will show you one of the
most curious experiments in physics, the one that explains the chance
stroke of billiards done upon the spur of the moment; the one rifle shot
of a man's life, and the accurately thrown stone. Stand here," he said
to Edward, "and follow my directions closely. Remember, you are a
draftsman and are going to outline that figure on the board. Draw it
quickly with your pistol for a pen, and just as if you were touching the
board. Say when you have finished and don't lower the pistol." Edward
drew as directed.

"It is done," he said.

"You have not added the upper stud. Fire!"

An explosion followed; a spot appeared just over the heart.

"See!" shouted Gerald; "a perfect aim; the pistol was on the stud when
he fired, but beginners always pull the muzzle to the right, and let the
barrel fly up. The secret is this, professor," he continued, taking a
pencil and beginning to draw, "the concentration of attention is so
perfect that the hand is a part of the eye. An artist who shoots will
shoot as he draws, well or badly. Now, no man drawing that figure will
measure to see where the stud should be; he would simply put the chalk
spot in the right place."

Edward heard no more; loading the pistol he had departed. "If I meet the
man!" he said to himself.



CHAPTER XVIII.

HOW THE CHALLENGE WAS WRITTEN.


The search for Royson was unavailing. His determined pursuer tried his
office door; it was locked. He walked every business street, entered
every restaurant and billiard saloon, every hotel lobby. The politician
was not to be found. He himself attracted wide-spread attention wherever
he went. Had he met Royson he would have killed him without a word, but
as he walked he did a great deal of thinking. He had no friend in the
city. The nature of this attack was such that few people would care to
second him. The younger Montjoy was away and he was unwilling to set
foot in the colonel's house again. Through him, Edward Morgan, however
innocently it may be, had come the fatal blow.

He ran over the list of acquaintances he had formed among the younger
men. They were not such as pleased him in this issue, for a strong,
clear head, a man of good judgment and good balance, a determined man,
was needed.

Then there came to his memory the face of one whom he had met at supper
his first night in town--the quiet, dignified Barksdale. He sought this
man's office. Barksdale was the organizer of a great railroad in process
of construction. His reception of Edward was no more nor less than would
have been accorded under ordinary circumstances. Had he come on the day
before he would have been greeted as then.

"How do you do, Mr. Morgan? Be seated, sir." This with a wave of his
hand. Then, "What can I do for you?" His manner affected Edward in the
best way; he began to feel the business atmosphere.

"I have called, Mr. Barksdale, upon a personal matter and to ask your
assistance. I suppose you have read to-day's extra?"

"I have."

"My first inclination, after fully weighing the intent and effect of
that famous publication," said Edward, "was to seek and kill the author.
For this purpose I have searched the town. Royson is not to be found. I
am so nearly a stranger here that I am forced to come to my
acquaintances for assistance, and now I ask that you will advise me as
to my next proceeding."

"Demand a retraction and apology at once!"

"And if it is refused?"

"Challenge him!"

"If he refuses to fight?"

"Punish him. That is all you can do."

"Will you make the demand for me--will you act for me?"

Barksdale reflected a moment and then said: "Do not misunderstand my
hesitation; it is not based upon the publication, nor upon unwillingness
to serve you. I am considering the complications which may involve
others; I must, in fact, consult others before I can reply. In the
meantime will you be guided by me?"

"I will."

"You are armed and contemplating a very unwise act. Leave your weapon
here and take a hack home and remain there until I call. It is now 3:30
o'clock. I will be there at 8. If I do not act for you I will suggest a
friend, for this matter should not lie over-night. But under no
circumstances can I go upon the field; my position here involves
interests covering many hundreds of thousands of invested funds, which I
have induced. Dueling is clearly out of vogue in this country and
clearly illegal. For the president of a railroad to go publicly into a
duel and deliberately break the law would lessen public confidence in
the north in both him and his business character and affect the future
of his enterprise, the value of its stocks and bonds. You admit the
reasonableness of this, do you not?"

"I do. There is my weapon! I will expect you at 8. Good evening, Mr.
Barksdale."

The hours wore slowly away at home. Edward studied his features in the
cheval glass; he could not find in them the slightest resemblance to the
woman in the picture. He had not erred in that. The absence of any
portrait of John Morgan prevented his making a comparison there. He knew
from descriptions given by Eldridge that he was not very like him in
form or in any way that he could imagine, but family likeness is an
elusive fact. Two people will resemble each other, although they may
differ in features taken in detail.

He went to Gerald's room, moved by a sudden impulse. Gerald was
demonstrating one of his theories concerning mind pictures and found in
the professor a smiling and tolerant listener.

He was saying: "Now, let us suppose that from youth up a child has
looked into its mother's face, felt her touch, heard her voice; that his
senses carried to that forming brain their sensations, each nerve
touching the brain, and with minute force setting up day by day, month
by month, and year by year a model. Yes, go back further and remember
that this was going on before the child was a distinct individual; we
have the creative force in both stages! Tell me, is it impossible then
that this little brain shall grow into the likeness it carries as its
most serious impression, and that forced to the effort would on canvas
or in its posterity produce the picture it has made----"

"How can you distinguish the mind picture from the memory picture? What
is the difference?"

"Not easily, but if I can produce a face which comes to me in my dreams,
which haunts my waking hours, which is with me always, the face of one I
have never seen, it must come to me as a mind picture; and if that
picture is the feminine of my own, have I not reason to believe that it
stands for the creative power from which I sprang? Such a picture as
this."

He drew a little curtain aside and on the wall shone the fair face of a
woman; the face from the church sketch, but robbed of its terror, the
counterpart of the little painting upstairs. The professor looked grave,
but Edward gazed on it in awe.

"Now a simple brain picture," he said, almost in a whisper; "draw me the
face of John Morgan."

The artist made not more than twenty strokes of the crayon upon the
blackboard.

"Such is John Morgan, as I last saw him," said Gerald; "a mere
photograph; a brain picture!"

Edward gazed from one to the other; from the picture to the artist
astounded. The professor had put on his glasses; it was he who broke the
silence.

"That is Herr Abingdon," he said. Gerald smiled and said:

"That is John Morgan."

Without a word Edward left the room. Under an assumed name, deterred
from open recognition by the sad facts of the son's birth, his father
had watched over and cherished him. No wonder the letter had come back.
Abingdon was dead!

The front door was open. He plunged directly into the arms of Barksdale
as he sought the open air. Barksdale was one of those men who seem to be
without sentiment, because they have been trained by circumstances to
look at facts from a business standpoint only. Yet the basis of his
whole life was sentiment.

In the difficulty that had arisen his quick mind grasped at once the
situation. He knew Royson and was sure that he shielded himself behind
some collateral fact, not behind the main truth. In the first place he
was hardly in position to know anything of Morgan's history more than
the general public would have known. In the second, he would not have
dared to use it under any circumstances if those circumstances did not
protect him. What were these? First there was Morgan's isolation; only
one family could be said to be intimate with him, and they could not, on
account of the younger Montjoy, act for Edward. The single controlling
idea that thrust itself into Barksdale's mind was the proposition that
Royson did not intend to fight.

Then the position of the Montjoy family flashed upon him. The blow had
been delivered to crush the colonel politically and upon a man who was
his unselfish ally. Owing to the nature of the attack Col. Montjoy could
ask no favors of Royson, and owing to the relationship, he could not
proceed against him in Morgan's interest. He could neither act for nor
advise, and in the absence of Col. Montjoy, who else could be found?

Before replying to Edward, a plan of action occurred to him. When he
sent that excited individual home he went direct to Royson's office. He
found the door open and that gentleman serenely engaged in writing. Even
at this point he was not deceived; he knew that his approach had been
seen, as had Edward's, and preparations made accordingly.

Royson had been city attorney and in reality the tool of a ring. His
ambition was boundless. Through friends he had broached a subject very
dear to him; he desired to become counsel for the large corporations
that Barksdale represented, and there was a surprised satisfaction in
his tones as he welcomed the railroad president and gave him a seat.

Barksdale opened the conversation on this line and asked for a written
opinion upon a claim of liability in a recent accident. He went further
and stated that perhaps later Royson might be relied upon frequently in
such cases. The town was talking of nothing else at that time but the
Royson card. It was natural that Barksdale should refer to it.

"A very stiff communication, that of yours, about Mr. Morgan," he said,
carelessly; "it will probably be fortunate for you if your informant is
not mistaken."

"There is no mistake," said Royson, leaning back in his chair, glad that
the subject had been brought up. "It does seem a rough card to write,
but I have reason to think there was no better way out of a very ugly
complication."

"The name of your informant will be demanded, of course."

"Yes, but I shall not give it!"

"Then will come a challenge."

"Hardly!" Royson arose and closed the door. "If you have a few moments
and do not mind hearing this, I will tell you in confidence the whole
business. Who would be sought to make a demand upon me for the name of
my informant?"

"One of the Montjoys naturally, but your relationship barring them they
would perhaps find Mr. Morgan a second."

"But suppose that I prove conclusively that the information came from a
member of the Montjoy family? What could they do? Under the
circumstances which have arisen their hands are tied. As a matter of
fact I am the only one that can protect them. If the matter came to that
point, as a last resort I could refuse to fight, for the reason given in
the letter."

Barksdale was silent. The whole devilish plot flashed upon him. He knew
in advance the person described as a member of the Montjoy family, and
he knew the base motives of the man who at that moment was dishonoring
him with his confidence. His blood boiled within him. Cool and calm as
he was by nature, his face showed emotion as he arose and said:

"I think I understand."

Royson stood by the door, his hand upon the knob, after his visitor had
gone.

"It was a mistake; a great mistake," he said to himself in a whisper. "I
have simply acted the fool!"

Barksdale went straight to a friend upon whose judgment he relied and
laid the matter before him. Together they selected three of the most
honorable and prominent men in the city, friends of the Montjoys, and
submitted it to them.

The main interest was now centered in saving the Montjoy family. Edward
had become secondary. An agreement was reached upon Barksdale's
suggestion and all was now complete unless the aggrieved party should
lose his case in the correspondence about to ensue.

Barksdale disguised his surprise when he assisted Edward at the door to
recover equilibrium.

"I am here sir, as I promised," he said, "but the complications extend
further than I knew. I now state that I cannot act for you in any
capacity and ask that I be relieved of my promise." Edward bowed
stiffly.

"You are released."

"There is but one man in this city who can serve you and bring about a
meeting. Gerald Morgan must bear your note!" Edward repeated the name.
He could not grasp the idea. "Gerald Morgan," said Barksdale again. "He
will not need to go on the field. Good-night. And if that fails you here
is your pistol; you are no longer under my guidance. But one word
more--my telephone is 280; if during the night or at any time I can
advise you, purely upon formal grounds, summon me. In the meantime see
to it that your note does not demand the name of Royson's informant. Do
not neglect that. The use he has made of his information must be made
the basis of the quarrel; if you neglect this your case is lost.
Good-night."

The thought flashed into Edward's mind then that the world was against
him. This man was fearful of becoming responsible himself. He had named
Gerald. It was a bruised and slender reed, but he would lean upon it,
even if he crushed it in the use. He returned to the wing-room.

"Professor," he said, "you know that under no possible circumstances
would I do you a discourtesy, so when I tell you, as now, that for
to-night and possibly a day, we are obliged to leave you alone, you will
understand that some vital matter lies at the bottom of it."

"My young friend," exclaimed that gentleman, "go as long as you please.
I have a little world of my own, you know," he smiled cheerfully, "in
which I am always amused. Gerald has enlarged it. Go and come when you
can; here are books--what more does one need?" Edward bowed slightly.

"Gerald, follow me." Gerald, without a word, laid aside his crayon and
obeyed. He stood in the library a moment later looking with tremulous
excitement upon the man who had summoned him so abruptly. By reflection
he was beginning to share the mental disturbance. His frail figure
quivered and he could not keep erect.

"Read that!" said Edward, handing him the paper. He took the sheet and
read. When he finished he was no longer trembling, but to the
astonishment of Edward, very calm. A look of weariness rested upon his
face.

"Have you killed him?" he asked, laying aside the paper, his mind at
once connecting the incident of the pistol with this one.

"No, he is in hiding."

"Have you challenged him?"

"No! My God, can you not understand? I am without friends! The whole
city believes the story." A strange expression came upon the face of
Gerald.

"We must challenge him at once," he said. "I am, of course, the proper
second. I must ask you in the first place to calm yourself. The records
must be perfect." He seated himself at a desk and prepared to write.
Edward was walking the room. He came and stood by his side.

"Do not demand the name of his informant," he said; "make the
publication and circulation of the letter the cause of our grievance."

"Of course," was the reply. The letter was written rapidly. "Sign it if
you please," said Gerald. Edward read the letter and noticed that it was
written smoothly and without a break. He signed it. Gerald had already
rung for the buggy and disappeared. "Wait here," he had said, "until I
return. In the meantime do not converse with anyone upon this subject."
The thought that flashed upon the mind of the man left in the
drawing-room was that the race courage had become dominant, and for the
time being was superior to ill-health, mental trouble and environment.
It was in itself a confirmation of the cruel letter. The manhood of
Albert Evan had become a factor in the drama.



CHAPTER XIX.

BROUGHT TO BAY.


Col. Montjoy was apprised of the unexpected result in the backwoods at
an early hour. He read the announcement quietly and went on his usual
morning ride undisturbed. Then through the family spread the news as the
other members made their appearance.

Mrs. Montjoy said, gently: "All happens for the best. If Mr. Montjoy had
been elected he would have been exposed for years to the Washington
climate, and he is not very well at any time. He complained of his heart
several times last night."

But Mary went off and had a good cry. She could not endure the thought
of the slightest affront to her stately father. She felt better after
her cry and kissed the old gentleman as he came in to breakfast.

"I see you have all heard the news," he said, cheerily. "Well, it lifts
a load from me. I spent four very trying years up in the neighborhood of
Washington, and I am not well disposed toward the locality. I have done
my duty to the fullest extent in this matter. The people who know me
have given me an overwhelming indorsement, and I have been beaten only
by people who do not know me! Swearingen will doubtless make a good
representative, after all. I am sorry for Evan," he added, laughing. "It
will be news to him to find out that the old Fire-Eaters have been
worsted at last." He went to breakfast with his arms around wife and
daughter. "All the honors of public life cannot compensate a man for
separation from his home," he said, "and Providence knows it."

Annie was silent and anxious. She made a feeble effort to sympathize
with the defeated, but with poor success. During the morning she started
at every sound and went frequently to the front door. She knew her
cousin, and something assured her that his hand was in this mischief.
How would it affect her? In her room she laughed triumphantly.

"Vain fools!" she exclaimed; "let them stay where they belong!" In the
afternoon there was the sound of buggy wheels, and a servant brought to
the veranda, where they were sitting, a package. Adjusting his glasses,
the colonel opened it to find one of the extras. At the head of this was
written: "Thinking it probable that it may be important for this to
reach you to-day, and fearing it might not otherwise, I send it by
messenger in buggy. Use them as you desire." To this was signed the name
of a friend.

Annie, who watched the colonel as he read, saw his face settle into
sternness, and then an expression of anxiety overspread it. "Anything
serious, Norton?" It was the voice of his wife, who sat knitting.

"A matter connected with the election calls me to town," he said; "I
hope it will be the last time. I shall go in with the driver who brought
the note." He went inside and made his few arrangements and departed
hurriedly. After he was gone, Annie picked up the paper from the hall
table, where he had placed it, and read the fatal announcement. Although
frightened, she could scarcely conceal her exultation. Mary was passing;
she thrust the paper before her eyes and said: "Read that! So much for
entertaining strangers!"

Mary read. The scene whirled about her, and but for the knowledge that
her suffering was bringing satisfaction to the woman before her she
would have fallen to the floor. She saw in the gleeful eyes, gleaming
upon her, something of the truth. With a desperate effort she restrained
herself and the furious words that had rushed to her lips, and laid
aside the paper with unutterable scorn and dignity.

"The lie is too cheap to pass anywhere except in the backwoods," was all
she said.

A smile curled the thin lips of the other as she witnessed the desperate
struggle of the girl. The voice of Col. Montjoy, who had returned to the
gate, was heard calling to Mary:

"Daughter, bring the paper from the hall table."

She carried it to him. Something in her pale face caused him to ask:
"Have you read it, daughter?"

She nodded her head. He was instantly greatly concerned and began some
rambling explanation about campaign lies and political methods. But he
could not disguise the fact that he was shocked beyond expression. She
detained him but a moment. Oh, wonderful power of womanly intuition!

"Father," she said faintly, "be careful what you do. The whole thing
originated back yonder," nodding her head toward the house. She had said
it, and now her eyes blazed defiance. He looked upon her in amazement,
not comprehending, but the matter grew clearer as he thought upon it.

Arriving in the city he was prepared for anything. He went direct to
Royson's office, and that gentleman seeing him enter smiled. The visit
was expected and desired. He bowed formally, however, and moving a chair
forward locked the door. Darkness had just fallen, but the electric
light outside the window was sufficient for an interview; neither seemed
to care for more light.

"Amos," said the old man, plunging into the heart of the subject, "you
have done a shameful and a cruel thing, and I have come to tell you so
and insist upon your righting the wrong. You know me too well to suspect
that personal reasons influence me in the least. As far as I am
concerned the wrong cannot be righted, and I would not purchase nor ask
a personal favor from you. The man you have insulted so grievously is a
stranger and has acted the part of a generous friend to those who,
although you may not value the connection, are closely bound to you. In
the name of God, how could you do it?" He was too full of indignation to
proceed, and he had need of coolness.

The other did not move nor give the slightest evidence of feeling. He
had this advantage; the part he was acting had been carefully planned
and rehearsed. After a moment's hesitation, he said:

"You should realize, Col. Montjoy, that I have acted only after a calm
deliberation, and the matter is not one to be discussed excitedly. I
cannot refuse to talk with you about it, but it is a cold-blooded matter
of policy only." The manner and tone of the speaker chilled the elder to
the heart. Royson continued: "As for myself and you--well, it was an
open, impersonal fight. You know my ambition; it was as laudable as
yours. I have worked for years to keep in the line of succession; I
could not be expected to sit silent and while losing my whole chance see
my friend defeated. All is fair in love and war--and politics. I have
used such weapons as came to my hand, and the last I used only when
defeat was certain."

Controlling himself with great effort, Col. Montjoy said:

"You certainly cannot expect the matter to end here!"

"How can it proceed?" A slight smile lighted the lawyer's face.

"A demand will be made upon you for your authority."

"Who will make it--you?"

A light dawned upon the elder. The cool insolence of the man was more
than he could endure.

"Yes!" he exclaimed, rising. "As God is my judge, if he comes to me I
shall make the demand! Ingratitude was never charged against one of my
name. This man has done me a lasting favor; he shall not suffer for need
of a friend, if I have to sacrifice every connection in the world."

Again the lawyer smiled.

"I think it best to remember, colonel, that we can reach no sensible
conclusion without cool consideration. Let me ask you, then, for
information. If I should answer that the charges in my letter, so far as
Morgan's parentage is concerned, were based upon statements made by a
member of your immediate family, what would be your course?"

"I should denounce you as a liar and make the quarrel my own."

Royson grew pale, but made no reply. He walked to his desk, and taking
from it a letter passed it to the angry man. He lighted the gas, while
the colonel's trembling hands were arranging his glasses, and stood
silent, waiting. The note was in a feminine hand. Col. Montjoy read:

     "My Dear Amos: I have been thinking over the information I gave
     you touching the base parentage of the man Morgan, and I am not
     sure but that it should be suppressed so far as the public is
     concerned, and brought home here in another way. The facts
     cannot be easily proved, and the affair would create a great
     scandal, in which I, as a member of this absurd family, would
     be involved. You should not use it, at any rate, except as a
     desperate measure, and then only upon the understanding that
     you are to become responsible, and that I am in no way whatever
     to be brought into the matter. Yours in haste,

     "Annie."

The reader let the paper fall and covered his face with his hands a
moment. Then he arose with dignity.

"I did not imagine, sir, that the human heart was capable of such
villainy as yours has developed. You have stabbed a defenseless stranger
in the back; have broken faith with a poor, jealous, weak woman, and
have outraged and humiliated me, to whom you are personally indebted
financially and otherwise. Unlock your door! I have but one honorable
course left. I shall publish a card in the morning's paper stating that
your letter was based upon statements made by a member of my family;
that they are untrue in every respect, and offer a public apology."

"Will you name the informant?"

"What is that to you, sir?"

"A great deal! If you do name her, I shall reaffirm the truth of her
statements, as in the absence of her husband I am her nearest relative.
If you do not name her, then the public may guess wrong. I think you
will not do so rash a thing, colonel. Keep out of the matter.
Circumstances give you a natural right to hands off!"

"And if I do!" exclaimed the old man, passionately, "who will act for
him?" The unpleasant smile returned to the young man's lips.

"No one, I apprehend!"

Montjoy could have killed him as he stood. He felt the ground slipping
from under him as he, too, realized the completeness and cowardliness of
the plot.

"We shall see; we shall see!" he said, gasping and pressing his hand to
his heart. "We shall see, Mr. Royson! There is a just God who looks down
upon the acts of all men, and the right prevails!"

Royson bowed mockingly but profoundly.

"That is an old doctrine. You are going, and there is just one thing
left unsaid. At the risk of offending you yet more, I am going to say
it."

"I warn you, then, to be careful; there is a limit to human endurance
and I have persistently ascribed to me the worst of motives in this
matter, but I have as much pride in my family as you in yours. There are
but few of us left. Will you concede that if there is danger, in her
opinion, that she will become the sister-in-law of this man, and that
she believed the information she has given to be true, will you concede
that her action is natural, if not wise, and that a little more
selfishness may after all be mixed in mine?" Gradually his meaning
dawned upon his hearer. For a second he was dumb. And all this was to be
public property!

"I think," said Royson, coolly opening the door, "it will be well for
you to confer with friends before you proceed, and perhaps leave to
others the task of righting the wrongs of strangers who have taken
advantage of your hospitality to offer the deadliest insult possible in
this southern country. It may not be well to arm this man with the fact
that you vouch for him; he may answer you in the future."

He drew back from the door suddenly, half in terror. A man, pale as
death itself, with hair curling down upon his shoulders, and eyes that
blazed under the face before him, whose eyes never for a moment left
his, broke the seal. Then he read aloud:

     "Mr. Amos Royson, I inclose for your inspection a clipping from
     an extra issue this day, and ask if you are the author of the
     letter it contains. If you answer yes, I hereby demand of you
     an unconditional retraction of and apology for the same, for
     publication in the paper which contained the original. This
     will be handed to you by my friend, Gerald Morgan.

     "Edward Morgan."

Royson recovered himself with evident difficulty.

"This is not customary--he does not demand the name of my informant!" he
said.

"We do not care a fig, sir, for your informant. The insult rests in the
use you have made of a lie, and we propose to hold you responsible for
it!"

Gerald spoke the words like a sweet-voiced girl and returned the stare
of his opponent with insolent coolness. The colonel had paused, as he
perceived the completeness of the lawyer's entrapping. Amos could not
use his cousin's name before the public and the Montjoys were saved from
interference. He was cornered. The colonel passed out hurriedly with an
affectionate smile to Gerald, saying:

"Excuse me, gentlemen; these are matters which you will probably wish to
discuss in private. Mr. Royson, I had friends wiser than myself at work
upon this matter, and I did not know it."



CHAPTER XX.

IN THE HANDS OF THEIR FRIENDS.


It was not sunset when Col. Montjoy left home. Mary went to her room and
threw herself upon her bed, sick at heart and anxious beyond the power
of weeping. Unadvised, ignorant of the full significance of the
information that had been conveyed to them, she conjured up a world of
danger for her father and for Edward. Tragedy was in the air she
breathed. At supper she was laboring under ill-concealed excitement.
Fortunately for her, the little mother was not present. Sitting in her
room, with the green glasses to which she had been reduced by the
progress of her disease, she did not notice the expression of the
daughter's face when she came as usual to look after the final
arrangement of her mother's comfort.

By 8 o'clock the house was quiet. Throwing a light wrap over her
shoulders and concealing in its folds her father's army pistol, Mary
slipped into the outer darkness and whistled softly. A great shaggy dog
came bounding around from the rear and leaped upon her. She rested her
hand on his collar, and together they passed into the avenue. Old Isam
stood there and by him the pony phaeton and mare.

"Stay up until I return, please, Uncle Isam, and be sure to meet me
here!" The old man bowed.

"I'll be hyar, missy," he said. "Don't you want me to go, too?"

"No, thank you; I am going to Gen. Evan's and you must stay and look
after things. Nero will go with me." The dog had already leaped into the
vehicle. She sprang in also, and almost noiselessly they rolled away
over the pine straw.

The old man listened; first he heard the dogs bark at Rich's then at
Manuel's and then at black Henry's, nearly a mile away. He shook his
head.

"Missy got somep'n on her mind! She don't make no hoss move in de night
dat way for nothin'! Too fast! Too fast!"

He went off to his cabin and sat outside to smoke. And in the night the
little mare sped away. On the public roads the gait was comparatively
safe, and she responded to every call nobly. The unbroken shadows of the
roadside glided like walls of gloom! The little vehicle rocked and
swayed, and, underneath, the wheels sang a monotonous warning rhyme.

Now and then the little vehicle fairly leaped from the ground, for when
Norton, a year previous, had bid in that animal at a blooded-stock sale
in Kentucky, she was in her third summer and carried the blood of Wilkes
and Rysdyk's Hambletonian, and was proud of it, as her every motion
showed.

The little mare had the long route that night, but at last she stood
before the doorway of the Cedars. The general was descending the steps
as Mary gave Nero the lines.

"What! Mary--"

He feared to ask the question on his lips. She was full of excitement,
and her first effort to speak was a dismal failure.

"Come! Come! Come!" he said, in that descending scale of voice which
seems to have been made for sympathy and encouragment. "Calm yourself
first and talk later." He had his arms around her now and was ascending
the steps. "Sit right down here in this big chair; there you are!"

"You have not heard, then?" she said, controlling herself with supreme
effort.

"About your father's defeat? Oh, yes. But what of that? There are
defeats more glorious than victories, my child. You will find that your
father was taken advantage of." She buried her face in her hands.

"It is not about that, sir--the means they used!" And then, between
sobs, she told him the whole story. He made no reply, no comment, but
reaching over to the rail secured his corn-cob pipe and filled it. As he
struck a match above the tobacco, she saw that his face was as calm as
the candid skies of June. The sight gave her courage.

"Do you not think it awful?" she ventured.

"Awful? Yes! A man to descend to such depths of meanness must have
suffered a great deal on the way. I am sorry for Royson--sorry, indeed!"

"But Mr. Morgan!" she exclaimed, excitedly.

"That must be attended to," he said, very gravely. "Mr. Morgan has
placed us all under heavy obligations, and we must see him through."

"You must, General; you must, and right away! They have sent for poor
papa, and he has gone to town, and I--I--just could not sleep, so I came
to you." He laughed heartily.

"And in a hurry! Whew! I heard the mare's feet as she crossed the bridge
a mile away. You did just right. And of course the old general is
expected to go to town and pull papa and Mr. Morgan out of the mud, and
straighten out things. John!"

"Put the saddle on my horse at once. And now, how is the little mamma?"
he asked, gently.

He held her on this subject until the horse was brought, and then they
rode off down the avenue, the general following and rallying the girl
upon her driving.

"Don't expect me to hold to that pace," he said. "I once crossed a
bridge as fast, and faster, up in Virginia, but I was trying to beat the
bluecoats. Too old now, too old."

"But you will get there in time?" she asked, anxiously.

"Oh, yes; they will be consulting and sending notes and raising points
all night. I will get in somewhere along the line. When a man starts out
to hunt up trouble he is rarely ever too late to find it." He saw her
safely to where Isam was waiting, and then rode on to the city. He
realized the complication, and now his whole thought was to keep his
neighbor from doing anything rash. It did occur to him that there might
be a street tragedy, but he shook his head over this when he remembered
Royson. "He is too much of a schemer for that," he said. "He will get
the matter into the hands of a board of honor." The old gentleman
laughed softly to himself and touched up his horse.

In the meantime affairs were drawing to a focus in the city. After the
abrupt departure of Gerald, Royson stood alone, holding the demand and
thinking. An anxious expression had settled upon his face. He read and
reread the curt note, but could find no flaw in it. He was to be held
responsible for the publication; that was the injury. He was forced to
confess that the idea was sound. There was now no way to involve the
Montjoys and let them hush it up. He had expected to be forced to
withdraw the card and apologize, but not until the whole city was
informed that he did it to save a woman, and he would have been placed
then in the position of one sacrificing himself. Now that such refuge
was impossible he could not even escape by giving the name of his
informant. He could not have given it had there been a demand.

He read between the lines that his authority was known; that he was
dealing with some master mind and that he had been out-generaled
somewhere. To whom had he talked? To no one except Barksdale. He gave
vent to a profane estimate of himself and left the office. There was no
danger now of a street assault.

Amos Royson threw himself into a carriage and went to the residence of
Marsden Thomas, dismissing the vehicle. The family of Marsden Thomas was
an old one, and by reason of its early reputation in politics and at the
bar had a sound and honorable footing. Marsden was himself a member of
the legislature, a born politician, capable of anything that would
advance his fortune, the limit only being the dead-line of disgrace.

He had tied to Royson, who was slightly his elder, because of his
experience and influence.

He was noted for his scrupulous regard for the code as a basis of
settlement between honorable men, and was generally consulted upon
points of honor.

Secure in Thomas' room, Royson went over the events of the day,
including Montjoy's and Gerald's visits, and then produced the demand
that had been served upon him.

Thomas had heard him through without interruption. When Royson described
the entrance of Gerald, with the unlooked-for note, a slight smile drew
his lips; he put aside the note, and said:

"You are in a very serious scrape, Amos; I do not see how you can avoid
a fight." His visitor studied him intently.

"You must help me out! I do not propose to fight." Thomas gravely
studied the note again.

"Of course, you know the object of the publication," continued Royson;
"it was political. Without it we would have been beaten. It was a
desperate move; I had the information and used it."

"You had information, then? I thought the whole thing was hatched up.
Who gave you the information?" Royson frowned.

"My cousin, Mrs. Montjoy; you see the complication now. I supposed that
no one but the Montjoys knew this man intimately, and that their hands
would be tied!"

"Ah!" The exclamation was eloquent. "And the young man had another
friend, the morphine-eater; you had forgotten him!" Thomas could not
restrain a laugh. Royson was furious. He seized his hat and made a feint
to depart. Thomas kindly asked him to remain. It would have been cruel
had he failed, for he knew that Royson had not the slightest intention
of leaving.

"Come back and sit down, Amos. You do us all an injustice. You played
for the credit of this victory, contrary to our advice, and now you have
the hot end of the iron."

"Tell me," said Royson, reverting to the note, "is there anything in
that communication that we can take advantage of?"

"Nothing! Morgan might have asked in one note if you were the author of
the published letter and then in another have demanded a retraction. His
joining the two is not material; you do not deny the authorship."

After a few moments of silence he continued: "There is one point I am
not satisfied upon. I am not sure but that you can refuse upon the
ground you alleged--in brief, because he is not a gentleman. Whether or
not the burden of proof would be upon you is an open question; I am
inclined to think it would be; a man is not called upon in the south to
prove his title to gentility. All southerners with whom we associate are
supposed to be gentlemen," and then he added, lazily smiling, "except
the ladies; and it is a pity they are exempt. Mrs. Montjoy would
otherwise be obliged to hold her tongue!"

Royson was white with rage, but he did not speak. Secretly he was afraid
of Thomas, and it had occurred to him that in the event of his
humiliation or death Thomas would take his place.

This unpleasant reflection was interrupted by the voice of his
companion.

"Suppose we call in some of our friends and settle this point." The
affair was getting in the shape desired by Royson, and he eagerly
consented. Notes were at once dispatched to several well-known
gentlemen, and a short time afterward they were assembled and in earnest
conversation. It was evident that they disagreed.

While this consultation was going on there was a knock at the door; a
servant brought a card. Gen. Evan had called to see Mr. Thomas, but
learning that he was engaged and how, had left the note.

Thomas read it silently, and then aloud:

     "Marsden Thomas, Esq.--Dear Sir: I have read in to-day's paper
     the painful announcement signed by Mr. Royson, and have come
     into the city hoping that a serious difficulty might thereby be
     averted. To assist in the settlement of this matter, I hereby
     state over my own signature that the announcement concerning
     Edward Morgan is erroneous, and I vouch for his right to the
     title and privileges of a gentleman.

     "Respectfully,

     "Albert Evan."

The silence that followed this was broken by one of the older gentlemen
present.

"This simplifies matters very greatly," he said. "Without the clearest
and most positive proof, Mr. Royson must retract or fight."

They took their departure at length, leaving Royson alone to gaze upon
the open note. Thomas, returning, found him in the act of drawing on his
gloves.

"I am going," said Royson, "to send a message to Annie. She must, she
shall give me something to go on. I will not sit quietly by and be made
a sacrifice!"

"Write your note; I will send it."

"I prefer to attend to it myself!" Thomas shook his head.

"If you leave this room to-night it is with the understanding that I am
no longer your adviser. Arrest by the police must not, shall not--"

"Do you mean to insinuate--"

"Nothing! But I shall take no chances with the name of Thomas!" said the
other proudly. "You are excited; a word let fall--a suspicion--and we
would be disgraced! Write your note; I shall send it. We have no time to
lose!" Royson threw himself down in front of a desk and wrote hurriedly:

     "Annie: I am cornered. For God's sake give me proofs of your
     statements or tell me where to get them. It is life or death;
     don't fail me.

     "A. R."

He sealed and addressed this. Thomas rang the bell and to the boy he
said: "How far is it to Col. Montjoy's?"

"Seven miles, sah!"

"How quickly can you go there and back?"

"On Pet?"

"Yes."

"One hour an' a half, sah."

"Take this note, say you must see Mrs. Norton Montjoy, Jr., in person,
on important matters, and deliver it to her. Here is a $5 bill; if you
are back in two hours, you need not return it. Go!"

There was a gleam of ivory teeth and the boy hurried away. It was a
wretched wait, that hour and a half. The answer to the demand must go
into the paper that night!

One hour and thirty-two minutes passed. They heard the horse in the
street, then the boy upon the stairway. He dashed to the door.

"Miss Mary was up and at de gate when I got deir! Reck'n she hear Pet's
hoof hit de hard groun' an' hit skeered her. I tole her what you say,
and she sen' word dat Mrs. Montjoy done gone to sleep. I tell her you
all mighty anxious for to get dat note; dat Mr. Royson up here, waitin',
an' gentlemen been comin' an' goin' all night. She took de note in den
and putty soon she bring back the answer!"

He was searching his pockets as he rambled over his experience, and
presently the note was found. It was the same one that had been sent by
Royson, and across the back was written:

     "Mr. Thomas: I think it best not to awaken Annie. Papa is in
     town; if the matter is of great importance call upon him. I am
     so certain this is the proper course that it will be useless to
     write again or call in person to-night.

     "Respectfully,

     "M. M."

He passed the note to Royson in silence and saw the look of rage upon
his face as he tore it into a thousand pieces.

"Even your little Montjoy girl seems to be against you," he said.

"She is!" exclaimed Royson; "she knew that my note to Annie was not in
the interest of Edward Morgan, and she is fighting for him. She will
follow him to the altar or the grave!"

"Ah," said Thomas, aside, drawing a long breath; "'tis the old story,
and I thought I had found a new plot! Well," he continued aloud, "what
next?"

"It shall not be the altar! Conclude the arrangements; I am at your
service!"

"He will stick," said Thomas to himself; "love and jealousy are stronger
then fear and ambition!"



CHAPTER XXI.

"THE WITNESS IS DEAD."


In his room at the hotel Col. Montjoy awaited the return of his friend
Evan, who had gone to find out how, as he expressed it the boys were
getting on with their fight.

"I will strike the trail somewhere," he said, lightly. But he was
greatly disturbed over Col. Montjoy's concern, and noticed at once the
bad physical effect it had on him. His policy was to make light of the
matter, but he knew it was serious.

To force Royson to back down was now his object; in the event of that
failing, to see that Morgan had a fair show.

The colonel had removed his shoes and coat and was lying on the bed when
Evan returned. "I think I have given them a basis of settlement," said
the general. "I have vouched for the fact that the statements in
Royson's letter are erroneous. Upon my declaration he can retract and
apologize, or he must fight. I found him consulting with Thomas and
others, and I took it for granted he was looking for some way to dodge."

The colonel looked at him in surprise. "But how could you?"

"Upon my faith in John Morgan! He was a man of honor! He would never
have left his property to this man and put him upon the community if
there had been a cloud upon his title to gentility," and then he added,
with emotion: "A man who was willing to give his daughter to a friend
can risk a great deal to honor that friend's memory."

"There is but one Albert Evan in the world," said Montjoy, after a long
silence.

The general was getting himself a glass of wine. "Well, there is but one
such Montjoy, for that matter, but we two old fellows lose time sitting
up to pay each other compliments! There is much to be done. I am going
out to see Morgan; he is so new here he may need help! You stay and keep
quiet. The town is full of excitement over this affair, and people watch
me as if I were a curiosity. You can study on politics if you will;
consider the proposition that if Royson retracts we are entitled to
another trial over yonder in the lost county; that or we will threaten
them with an independent race."

"No! I am too glad to have a chance to stay out honorably. I know now
that my candidacy was a mistake. It has weakened me here fatally."

Col. Montjoy placed his hand over his heart wearily. The general brought
him the glass of wine he held.

"Nonsense! Too many cigars! Here's to long life, old friend, and to the
gallant Fire-Eaters." He laughed lightly over his remembrance of the
checkmate he had accomplished, buttoned the blue coat over his broad
chest and started. "I am going now to look in upon my outpost and see
what arrangements have been made for the night. So far we hold the
strong positions. Look for me about daylight!" And, lying there alone,
his friend drifted back in thought to Mary. He was not satisfied.

The door stood open at Ilexhurst when the general alighted. There was no
answer to his summons; he entered the lighted hall and went to the
library. Edward was sleeping quietly upon a lounge.

"What!" exclaimed the general, cheerily, "asleep on guard!" Edward
sprang to his feet.

"Gen. Evan!"

"Exactly; and as no one answered my summons to surrender I took
possession." Apologizing, Edward drew a chair, and they became seated.

"Seriously, my young friend," began the old soldier. "I was in the city
to-night and have learned from Col. Montjoy of the infamy perpetrated
upon you. My days of warfare are over, but I could not sit by and see
one to whom we all owe so much imposed upon. Let me add, also, that I
was very much charmed with you, Mr. Morgan. If there is anything I can
do for you in the way of advice and guidance in this matter kindly
command me. I might say the same thing for Montjoy, who is at the hotel,
but unfortunately, as you may not know, his daughter-in-law is Mr.
Royson's cousin, and acting upon my advice he is silent until the
necessity for action arises. I know him well enough to add that you can
rely upon his sympathy, and if needed, his aid. I have advised him to
take no action, as in the first place he is not needed, and in the
second it may bring about an estrangement between his son and himself."

Edward was very grateful and expressed himself earnestly, but his head
was in a whirl. He was thinking of the woman's story, and of Gerald.

"Such a piece of infamy as is embraced in that publication," said the
general, when finally the conversation went direct to the heart of the
trouble, "was never equaled in this state. Have they replied to your
note?"

"Not yet. I am waiting for the answer!"

"And your--cousin--is he here to receive it?"

"Gerald? Yes, he is here--that is, excuse me, I will see!"

Somewhat alarmed over the possibility of Gerald's absence, he hurried
through the house to the wing, and then into the glass-room. Gerald was
asleep. The inevitable little box of pellets upon his table told the sad
story. Edward could not awaken him.

"It is unfortunate, very," he said, re-entering the library hurriedly,
"but Gerald is asleep and cannot be aroused. The truth is, he is a
victim of opium. The poor fellow is now beyond cure, I am afraid; he is
frail, nervous, excitable, and cannot live without the drug. The day has
been a very trying one for him, and this is the first time he has been
out in years!"

"He must be awakened," said the general. "Of course he cannot, in the
event that these fellows want to fight, go on the field; and then his
relationship! But to-night! To-night he must be aroused! Let me go with
you." Edward started almost in terror.

"It might not be well, General--it is not necessary--"

"On the contrary, a strange voice may have more effect than yours--no
ladies about? Of course not! Lead on, I follow." Greatly confused,
Edward led the way. As they reached the wing he exclaimed the fact of
the glass-room, the whim, the fancy of an imaginative mind, and then
they entered.

Gerald was sleeping, as was his habit, with one arm extended, the other
under his head; his long hair clustering about his face. The light was
burning brightly, and the general approached. Thrilled to the heart,
Edward steeled himself for a shock. It was well he did. The general bent
forward and laid his hand on the sleeper's shoulder. Then he stepped
quickly back, seized Edward with the strength of a giant and stood there
trembling, his eyes riveted upon the pale face on the pillow.

"Am I dreaming?" he asked, in a changed voice. "Is this--the young
man--you spoke of?"

"It is Gerald Morgan."

"Strange! Strange! That likeness! The likeness of one who will never
wake again, my friend, never! Excuse me; I was startled, overwhelmed! I
would have sworn I looked upon that face as I did in the olden time,
when I used to go and stand in the moonlight and dream above it!"

"Ah," said Edward, his heart turning to ice within him, "whose was it?"
The answer came in a whisper.

"It was my wife's face first, and then it was the face of my daughter!"
He drew himself up proudly, and, looking long upon the sleeper, said,
gently: "They shall not waken you, poor child. Albert Evan will take
your place!" With infinite tenderness he brushed back a lock of hair
that fell across the white brow and stood watching him.

Edward turned from the scene with a feeling that it was too sacred for
intrusion. Over the sleeping form stood the old man. A generation of
loneliness, of silence, of dignified, uncomplaining manhood lay between
them. What right had he, an alien, to be dumb when a word might bring
hope and interest back to that saddened life? Was he less noble than the
man himself--than the frail being locked in the deathlike slumber?

He glanced once more at Gerald. How he had risen to the issue, and in
the face of every instinct of a shrinking nature had done his part until
the delicate machinery gave way! Suppose their positions were reversed;
that he lay upon the bed, and Gerald stood gazing into the night through
the dew-gemmed glass, possessed of such a secret. Would he hesitate? No!
The answer formed itself instantly--not unless he had base blood in his
veins.

It was that taint that now held back him, Edward Morgan; he was a
coward. And yet, what would be the effect if he should burst out in that
strange place with his fearful secret? There would be an outcry; Rita
would be dragged in, her story poured forth, and on him the old man's
eyes would be turned in horror and pity. Then the published card would
stand a sentence of social degradation, and he in a foreign land would
nurse the memory of a woman and his disgrace. And Royson! He ground his
teeth.

"I will settle that first," he said in a hoarse whisper, "and then if it
is true I will prove, God helping me, that His spirit can animate even
the child of a slave!" He bowed his head upon his breast and wept.

Presently there came to him a consciousness that the black shadow
pressing against the glass almost at his feet was more than a shadow. It
took the form of a human being and moved; then the glass gave way and
through the shivered fragments as it fell, he saw the face of Rita sink
from view. With a loud cry he dashed at the door and sprang into the
darkness! Her tall form lay doubled in the grass. He drew her into the
path of light that streamed out and bent above her. The woman struggled
to speak, moving her head from side to side and lifting it. A groan
burst from her as if she realized that the end had come and her effort
would be useless. He, too, realized it. He pointed upward quickly.

"There is your God," he said, earnestly, "waiting! Tell me in His name,
am I your child? You know! A mother never forgets! Answer--close your
eyes--give me a sign if they have lied to you!"

She half-rose in frantic struggle. Her eyes seemed bursting from their
sockets, and her lips framed her last sentence in almost a shriek.

"They lied!"

Edward was on his feet in an instant; his lips echoing her words. "They
lied!" The gaslight from within illumined his features, now bright with
triumph, as he looked upward.

The old general rushed out. He saw the prostrate form and fixed eyes of
the corpse.

"What is it?" he asked, horrified. Edward turned to him, dizzily; his
gaze followed the old man's.

"Ah!" he said, "the nurse! She has died of anxiety and watching!" A loud
summons from the ponderous knocker echoed in the house. Edward, excited,
had already begun to move away.

"Hold!" exclaimed the general, "where now?"

"I go to meet the slanderer of my race! God have mercy upon him now,
when we come face to face!" His manner alarmed the general. He caught
him by the arm.

"Easy now, my young friend; the poor woman's fate has unnerved you; not
a step further." He led Edward to the wing-room and forced him down to
the divan. "Stay until I return!" The summons without had been renewed;
the general responded in person and found Marsden Thomas at the door,
who gazed in amazement upon the stately form before him, and after a
moment's hesitation said, stiffly:

"I have a communication to deliver to Gerald Morgan. Will you kindly
summon him, general?"

"I know your errand," said Evan, blandly, "and you need waste no
ceremony on me. Gerald is too ill to act longer for Edward Morgan. I
take his place to-night."

"You! Gen. Evan!"

"Why not? Did you ever hear that Albert Evan left a friend upon the
field? Come in, come in, Thomas; we are mixed up in this matter, but it
is not our quarrel. I want to talk with you."

Thomas smiled; the matter was to end in a farce.

Without realizing it, these two men were probably the last in the world
to whom should have fallen an affair of honor that might have been
settled by concessions. The bluff old general defeated Thomas' efforts
to stand on formal ground, got him into a seat, and went directly at the
matter.

"It must strike you, Thomas, as absurd that in these days men cannot
settle their quarrels peacefully. There is obliged to be a right and a
wrong side always, and sometimes the right side has some fault in it and
the wrong side some justice. No man can hesitate, when this adjustment
has been made, to align himself with one and repudiate the other. Now,
we both represent friends, and neither of us can suffer them to come out
of this matter smirched. I would not be willing for Royson to do so, and
certainly not for Morgan. If we can bring both parties out safely, is it
not our duty to do so? You will agree with me!" Thomas said without
hesitation:

"I waive a great deal, General, on your account, when I discuss this
matter at all; but I certainly cannot enter into the merits of the
quarrel unless you withdraw your demand upon us. You have demanded a
retraction of a charge made by us or satisfaction. You cannot expect me
to discuss the advisability of a retraction when I have here a note--"

"Which you have not delivered, and which I, an old man sick of war and
quarrels, beg that you will not deliver until we have talked over this
matter fully. Why cannot Royson retract, when he has my assurance that
he is in error?"

"For the reason, probably, General, that he does not believe your
statements--although his friends do!" Evan arose and paced the room.
Coming back he stood over the young man.

"Did he say so? By the eternal--"

"General, suppose we settle one affair at a time; I as Royson's friend,
herewith hand you, his reply to the demand of Mr. Morgan. Now, give me
your opinion as to the locality where this correspondence can be quietly
and successfully concluded, in the event that your principal wishes to
continue it." Trembling with rage the old man opened the message; it
read:

     "Mr. Edward Morgan--Sir. I have your communication of this date
     handed to me at 8 o'clock to-night by Mr. Gerald Morgan. I have
     no retraction or apology to make.

     "Amos Royson."

Gen. Evan looked upon the missive sadly and long. He placed it upon the
table and resumed his seat, saying:

"Do you understand, Mr. Thomas, that what I have said is entirely upon
my own responsibility and as a man who thinks his age and record have
given him a privilege with his young friends?"

"Entirely, General. And I trust you understand that I am without the
privilege of age and record, and cannot take the same liberties." The
general made no reply, but was looking intently upon the face of the
young man. Presently he said, earnestly:

"Your father and I were friends and stood together on many a bloody
field. I bore him in my arms from Shiloh and gazed upon his dead face an
hour later. No braver man ever lived than William Thomas. I believe you
are the worthy son of a noble sire and incapable of any act that could
reflect disgrace upon his name."

The general continued: "You cannot link yourself to an unjust cause and
escape censure; such a course would put you at war with yourself and at
war with those who hope to see you add new honors to a name already dear
to your countrymen. When you aid and abet Amos Royson, in his attempt to
put a stigma upon Edward Morgan, you aid and abet him in an effort to do
that for which there is no excuse. Everything stated in Royson's letter,
and especially the personal part of it, can be easily disproved." Thomas
reflected a moment. Finally he said:

"I thank you, General, for your kind words. The matter is not one within
my discretion, but give me the proofs you speak of, and I will make
Royson withdraw, if possible, or abandon the quarrel myself!"

"I have given my word; is that not enough?"

"On that only, Mr. Royson's friends require him to give Mr. Morgan the
recognition of a gentleman; without it he would not. The trouble is, you
can be mistaken." Evan reflected and a look of trouble settled upon his
face.

"Mr. Thomas, I am going to make a revelation involving the honor and
reputation of a family very dear to me. I do it only to save bloodshed.
Give me your word of honor that never in any way, so long as you may
live, will you reveal it. I shall not offer my unsupported word; I will
produce a witness."

"You have my word of honor that your communication will be kept sacred,"
said Thomas, greatly interested. The general bowed his head. Then he
raised his hand above the call bell; it did not descend. The martial
figure for a moment seemed to shrink and age. When the general looked at
length toward his visitor, he said in a whisper:

"The witness is dead!" Then he arose to his feet. "It is too late!" he
added, with a slight gesture; "we shall fight!"



CHAPTER XXII.

THE DUEL AT SUNRISE.


From that moment they discussed the arrangements formally. These were
soon made and Thomas departed.

Edward, regaining his coolness in the wing-room, with the assistance of
Virdow, who had been awakened by the disturbance, carried the body of
Rita to the house in the yard and sent for a suburban physician near at
hand. The man of medicine pronounced the woman dead. Negroes from the
quarters were summoned and took the body in charge. These arrangements
completed, he met the general in the hall.

"A settlement is impossible," said the latter, sadly. "Get your buggy!
Efforts may be made by arrests to stop this affair. You must go home
with me to-night." Virdow was put in charge of the premises and an
excuse made.

Alone, Edward returned to the side of the dead woman. Long and earnestly
he studied her face, and at last said: "Farewell!" Then he went to
Gerald's room and laid his lips upon the marble brow of the sleeper.
Upstairs he put certain papers and the little picture in his pocket,
closed the mother's room door and locked it. He turned and looked back
upon the white-columned house as he rode away. Only eight weeks had
passed since he first entered its doors.

Before leaving, the general had stabled his horse and telephoned Montjoy
at the hotel. Taking a rear street he passed with Edward through the
city and before daylight drew up in front of the Cedars.

Dueling at the time these events transpired was supposed to be dead in
the south, and practically it was. The press and pulpit, the changed
system of business and labor, state laws, but, above all these,
occupation had rendered it obsolete; but there was still an element that
resorted to the code for the settlement of personal grievances, and
sometimes the result was a bloody meeting. The new order of things was
so young that it really took more courage to refuse to fight than to
fight a duel. The legal evasion was the invitation to conclude the
correspondence outside the state.

The city was all excitement. The morning papers had columns and black
head lines setting forth all the facts that could be obtained, and more
besides. There was also a brief card from Edward Morgan, denouncing the
author of the letter which had appeared in the extra and denying all
charges brought against him, both personal and political.

At Mr. Royson's boarding place nothing had been seen of him since the
publication of the card, and his office was closed. Who it was that
acted for Edward Morgan was a matter of surmise, but Col. Montjoy and
Gen. Evan were in the city and quartered at the hotel. The latter had
gone to Ilexhurst and had not returned.

Peace warrants for Morgan and Royson had been issued and placed in the
hands of deputies, and two of them had watched outside a glass room at
Ilexhurst waiting for a man who was asleep inside, and who had been
pointed out to them by a German visitor as Mr. Morgan, to awaken. The
sleeper, however, proved to be Gerald Morgan, an invalid.

At noon a bulletin was posted to the effect that Thomas and Royson had
been seen on a South Carolina train; then another that Gen. Evan and
Edward Morgan were recognized in Alabama; then came Tennessee rumors.

The truth was, so far as Edward Morgan was concerned, he was awakened
before noon, given a room in a farmhouse, remote from the Evan dwelling,
and there settled down to write important letters. One of these he
signed in the presence of witnesses. The last one contained the picture,
some papers and a short note to Gen. Evan; also Edward's surmises as to
Gerald's identity. The other letters were for Virdow, Gerald and Mary.
He had not signed the last when Evan entered the room, but was sitting
with arms folded above it and his head resting on them.

"Letter writing!" said the general. "That is the worst feature of these
difficulties." He busied himself with a case he carried, turning his
back. Edward sealed his letter and completed his package.

"Well," he said, rising. "I am now at your service, Gen. Evan!"

"The horses are ready. We shall start at once and I will give you
instructions on the way."

The drive was thirty miles, to a remote station upon a branch road,
where the horses were left.

Connection was made with the main line, yet more distant, and the next
dawn found them at a station on the Florida border.

They had walked to the rendezvous and were waiting; Edward stood in deep
thought, his eyes fixed upon vacancy, his appearance suggesting profound
melancholy. The general watched him furtively and finally with
uneasiness. After all, the young man was a stranger to him. He had been
drawn into the difficulty by his sympathies, and based his own safety
upon his ability to read men. Experience upon the battle field, however,
had taught him that men who have never been under fire sometimes fail at
the last moment from a physical weakness unsuspected by even themselves.
What if this man should fail? He went up to Edward and laid a hand upon
his shoulder.

"My young friend, when you are as old as I you will realize that in
cases like this the less a man thinks the better for his nerves.
Circumstances have removed you from the realm of intellect and heart.
You are now simply the highest type of an animal, bound to preserve self
by a formula, and that is the blunt fact." Edward seemed to listen
without hearing.

"General," he said, presently, "I do not want your services in this
affair under a misapprehension. I have obeyed directions up to this
moment, but before the matter goes further I must tell you what is in my
mind. My quarrel with Amos Royson is because of his injury to me and his
injury to my friends through me. He has made charges, and the customs of
this country, its traditions, make those charges an injury. I believe
the man has a right to resent any injury and punish the spirit behind
it." Gen. Evan was puzzled. He waited in silence.

"I did not make these fine distinctions at first, but the matter has
been upon my mind and now I wish you to understand that if this poor
woman were my mother I would not fight a duel even if I could, simply
because someone told me so in print. If it were true, this story, there
would be no shame to me in it; there would be no shame to me unless I
deserted her. If it were true I should be her son in deed and truth. I
would take her by the hand and seek her happiness in some other land.
For, as God is my judge, to me the world holds nothing so sacred as a
mother, and I would not exchange the affections of such were she the
lowliest in the land, for all the privileges of any society. It is right
that you should know the heart of the man you are seconding. If I fall
my memory shall be clear of the charge of unmanliness."

Gen. Evan's appearance, under less tragic circumstances, would have been
comical. For one instant, and for the first time in his life, he
suffered from panic. His eyes, after a moment of wide-open amazement,
turned helplessly toward the railroad and he began to feel for his
glasses. When he got them adjusted he studied his companion critically.
But the explosion that should have followed when the situation shaped
itself in the old slaveholder's mind did not come. He saw before him the
form of his companion grow and straighten, and the dark eyes, softened
by emotion, shining fearlessly into his. It was the finest appeal that
could have been made to the old soldier. He stretched out his hand
impulsively.

"Unorthodox, but, by heavens, I like it!" he said.

The up-train brought Royson and Thomas and a surgeon from a Florida
town. Evan was obliged to rely upon a local doctor.

At sunrise the two parties stood in the shadow of live oaks, not far
apart. Evan and Thomas advanced and saluted each other formally. Evan
waited sadly for the other to speak; there was yet time for an honorable
settlement. Men in the privacy of their own rooms think one way, and
think another way in the solemn silence of a woodland sunrise.

And preceding it all in this instance there had been hours for
reflection and hours of nervous apprehension. The latter told plainly
upon Amos Royson. White and haggard, he moved restlessly about his
station, watching the seconds and ever and anon stealing side-long
glances at Morgan. Why, he asked himself, did the man stare at him with
that fixed, changeless expression? Was he seeking to destroy his nerves,
to overpower him with superior will? No. The gaze was simply
contemplative; the gaze of one looking upon a landscape and considering
its features. But it was a never-ending one to all appearances.

Hope died away from the general's heart at the first words of Thomas.

"We are here, Gen. Evan. What is your pleasure as to the arrangements? I
would suggest that we proceed at once to end this affair. I notice that
we are beginning to attract attention and people are gathering."

The general drew him aside and they conversed. The case of pistols was
opened, the weapons examined and carefully loaded and then the ground
was stepped off--fifteen paces upon a north and south line, with the
low, spreading mass of live oaks behind each station. There were no
perpendicular lines, no perspective, to influence the aim of either
party. There were really no choice of positions, but one had to be
chosen. A coin flashed in the sunlight as it rose and descended.

"We win," said Thomas, simply, "and choose the north stand. Take your
place." The general smiled grimly.

"I have faced north before," he said. He stood upon the point
designated, and pointed to Edward. Then the latter was forced to speak.
He still gazed fixedly upon his antagonist. The general looked steadily
into his pale face, and, pointing to his own track as he moved aside,
said:

"Keep cool, now, my boy, and fire instantly. These pistols are heavier
than revolvers; I chose them because the recoil of a revolver is
destructive of an amateur's aim. These will shoot to the spot. Keep
cool, keep cool, for God's sake, and remember the insult!"

"Have no fear for me," said Morgan. "I will prove that no blood of a
slave is here!"

He took the weapon and stood in position. He had borne in mind all the
morning the directions given by Gerald; he knew every detail of that
figure facing him in the now bright sunlight; he had sketched it in
detail to the mouth that uttered its charge against him. The hour might
pass with no disaster to him; he might fall a corpse or a cripple for
life; but so long as life lasted this picture would remain. A man with a
hard, pale face, a white shirt front, dark trousers, hand clasping
nervously a weapon, and behind all the deep green of the oaks, with
their chiaroscuro. Only one thing would be missing; the picture in mind,
clear cut and perfect in every other detail, lacked a mouth!

Some one is calling to them.

"Are you ready, gentlemen?" 'Twas the hundredth part of a second, but
within it he answered "yes," ready to put the pencil to that last
feature--to complete the picture for all time!

"Fire!" He raised his brush and touched the spot; there was a crash, a
shock, and--what were they doing? His picture had fallen from its frame
and they were lifting it. But it was complete; the carmine was spattered
all over the lower face. He heard the general's voice:

"Are you hurt, Edward?" and the pistol was taken from his grasp.

"Hurt! No, indeed! But I seemed to have spoiled my painting, General.
Look! My brush must have slipped; the paint was too thin."

The general hurried away.

"Keep your place; don't move an inch! Can I be of assistance,
gentlemen?" he continued to the opposite party; our surgeon can aid you,
my principal being uninjured. He paused; an exclamation of horror
escaped him. The mouth and nose of Royson seemed crushed in, and he was
frantically spitting broken teeth from a bloody gap where his mouth had
been. The surgeons worked rapidly to stay the flow of crimson. While
thus busy the general in wonder picked up Royson's pistol. Its trigger
and guard were gone. He looked at the young man's right hand; the
forefinger was missing.

"An ugly wound, gentlemen," he said, "but not fatal, I think. The ball
struck the guard, cut away a finger, and drove the weapon against the
mouth and nose."

The surgeon looked up.

"You are right, I think. A bad disfigurement of those features, but not
a dangerous wound." Thomas saluted.

"I have to announce my principal disabled, General."

"We are then satisfied."

Returning to Edward, who was quietly contemplating the scene with little
apparent interest, he said, almost gayly:

"A fine shot, Edward; a fine shot! His pistol saved him! If he had
raised it an instant later he would have been struck fairly in the mouth
by your bullet! Let us be going."

"It is perhaps fortunate that my shot was fired when it was," said
Edward. "I have a bullet hole through the left side of my shirt." The
general looked at the spot and then at the calm face of the speaker.

He extended his hand again.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE SHADOW OVER THE HALL.


Col. Montjoy returned home early. He rode into the yard and entered the
house with as much unconcern as he could affect. Annie met him at the
door with an unusual display of interest. Had he rested well? Was not
the hotel warm, and--was there anything of interest stirring in the
city? To all these questions he responded guardedly and courteously.
Mary's white face questioned him. He put his arm about her.

"And how is the little mamma to-day--have her eyes given her any more
trouble?"

"She is staying in the darkened room to avoid the light," said the girl.
He went to her and the two young women were left alone. Annie was
smiling and bent upon aggravation.

"I think I shall ride in," she said at length. "There is something afoot
that is being kept from me. Amos Royson is my cousin and I have a right
to know if he is in trouble." Mary did not reply for a moment. At last
she said:

"A man having written such a letter must expect to find himself in
trouble--and danger, too." The other laughed contemptuously.

"I did not say danger! Amos has little to fear from the smooth-faced,
milk-and-water man he has exposed."

"Wait and see," was the reply. "Amos Royson is a coward; he will not
only find himself in danger, but if necessary to save himself from a
cowhiding will involve other people--even a woman!"

"What do you mean? You have not always thought him a coward; you have
accepted his attentions and would have married him if you had had the
chance." Mary looked up quickly.

"I treated him with politeness because he was your cousin; that is all.
As for marriage with him, that is too absurd to have even occurred to
me."

Annie ordered Isam to bring her pony carriage, and as she waited Mary
watched her in silence and with a strange expression upon her face. When
her father returned she said, resolutely:

"Annie, I was awake last night and heard a horse coming. Thinking it
might be papa, although the pace was rather fast for him, I went out to
the gate. There was a negro with a note for you from Mr. Royson. Mamma
had just got to sleep and I was afraid of waking her, so I sent Mr.
Royson word to see papa at the hotel."

The sister-in-law seized her by the shoulder.

"By what right, miss, do you meddle with my business! It may have been a
question of a man's life! You have ruined everything!" She was trembling
with rage. Mary faced her resolutely.

"And it may have been a question of a man's honor. In either case, my
father is the one to consult!"

"Sit down, both of you! Annie--Mary, I desire this matter to end at
once!" Col. Montjoy spoke calmly but firmly. He retained his clasp upon
his daughter's hand and gradually as he talked drew her to his knees.

"There is a serious difficulty pending between Mr. Morgan and Amos
Royson, as you both probably know," he said, quietly. "The matter is in
good hands, however, and I think will be satisfactorily arranged. I do
not know which were better, to have delivered Amos' note or not. It was
a question Mary had to decide upon the spur of the moment. She took a
safe course, at least. But it is unseemly, my children, to quarrel over
it! Drop the matter now and let affairs shape themselves. We cannot take
one side or the other." Annie made no reply, but her lips wore their
ironical smile as she moved away.

Mary hid her face upon her father's breast and wept softly. She knew
that he did not blame her, and she knew by intuition that she had done
right, but she was not satisfied. No shadow should come between her
father and herself.

"I was certain," she said, "that there was something wrong in that note.
You remember what I told you. And I was determined that those two people
should not hatch up any more mischief in this house. Mr. Morgan's safety
might have depended upon keeping them apart." The colonel laughed and
shook his head. But he only said:

"If it will help clear up your skies a little, I don't mind telling you
that I would not have had that note delivered last night for half this
plantation." She was satisfied then.

"Who ordered the cart, Isam?" The negro was at the gate.

"Young mis', sah. She goin' to town."

"Well, you can put it back. It will not be necessary for her to go now.
Annie," he said, turning to that lady, as she appeared in the door, "I
have sent the cart back. I prefer that none of my family be seen upon
the streets to-day." There was an unwonted tone in his voice which she
did not dare disregard. With a furious look, which only Mary saw, she
returned to her room. A negro upon a mule brought a note. It read:

     "Dear Norton: All attempts at settlement have failed. I should
     like to see you, but think you had better maintain strict
     neutrality, will wire you to-morrow.

     "A. E."

"There is no answer," he said to the boy. And then, greatly depressed,
he went to his room. Mary, who read every thought correctly, knew that
the matter was unsettled and that her father was hopeless. She went
about her duties steadily, but with her heart breaking. The chickens,
pigeons, the little kids, the calves--none of them felt the tragedy in
their lives. Their mistress was grave and unappreciative; nothing more.
But her eyes were not closed. She saw little Jerry armed with a note go
out on the mare across the lower-creek bridge, and the expectant face of
Annie for two hours or more in every part of the house that commanded a
view of that unused approach.

Then Jerry came back and went to the sister-in-law's door. He had not
reached his quarters before Mary called him to help her catch a
fractious hen. Then she got him into the dining-room and cut an enormous
slice of iced cake.

"Jerry," she said, "how would you like that?" Jerry's white eyes and
teeth shone resplendent. He shifted himself to his left foot and
laughed. "Tell me where you have been and it is yours." Jerry looked
abashed and studied a silver quarter he held in his hand, then he
glanced around cautiously.

"Honest, missy?"

"Honest! Quick, or I put the cake back." She made a feint.

"Been to town."

"Of course. Who was the note for?"

"Mr. Royson."

"Did he answer it?"

"No'm. Couldn't find him. Er nigger tole me he gone ter fight wid Mr.
Morgan, and everybody waitin' ter hear de news."

"You can--go--Jerry. There," she handed him the cake, and, walking
unsteadily, went to her room. She did not come out until supper time and
then her face was proof that the "headache" was not feigned.

And so into the night. She heard the doors open and shut, the sound of
her father's footsteps on the porch as he came and went. She went out
and joined him, taking his arm.

"Papa," she said, after awhile, "you need not keep it from me. I know
all. They did not settle it. Mr. Morgan and Mr. Royson have gone to
fight." She could not proceed. Her father laid his hand upon hers.

"It will all come out right, Mary; it will all come out right."
Presently he said: "Amos used to come here. I hope you are not
interested in him."

"No," she said bitterly, "I could never think much of Annie's relatives.
One in the family is enough."

"Hush, my child; everything must give way now on Norton's account. Don't
forget him. But for Norton I would have settled this matter in another
way."

"Yes, and but for him there would never have been a necessity. Amos
depended upon his relationship to keep you out of it." Col. Montjoy had
long unconsciously relied upon the clear mind of the girl, but he was
not prepared for this demonstration of its wisdom. He wondered anew as
he paced the floor in silence. She continued: "But Amos is only the
tool, papa; all of us have an enemy here in the house. Annie----"

"Hush! Hush!" he whispered, "don't say it. It seems too awful to think
of! Annie is foolish! She must never know, on Norton's account, that she
is in any way suspected of complicity in this matter." And then in
silence they waited for dawn.

At last the merciful sun rolled away the shadows. Breakfast was a sad
affair. All escaped from it as soon as possible.

It was a fateful day--7, 8, 9 o'clock. The matter was ended; but how?
Mary's haggard face questioned her father at every turn. He put his arm
about her and went to see her pets and charges, but still no word
between them. She would not admit her interest in Edward Morgan, nor
would he admit to himself that she had an interest at stake.

And then toward noon there came a horseman, who placed a message in his
hands. He read it and handed it to Mary. If he had not smiled she could
not have read it. One word only was there:

"Safe!"

Her father was at the moment unfolding an 'extra.' She read it with him
in breathless interest. Following an unusual display of headlines came
an accurate account of the duel. Only a small part of the padded
narrative is reproduced here:

"Royson was nervous and excited and showed the effects of unrest. But
Morgan stood like a statue. For some reason he never moved his eyes from
his adversary a moment after they reached the field. Both men fired at
the command, their weapons making but one report. Some think, however,
that Morgan was first by the hundredth part of a second, and this is
possible, as the single report sounded like a crash or a prolonged
explosion. Royson fell, and it was supposed was certainly killed. He
presented a frightful appearance instantly, being covered with blood. It
was quickly ascertained, however, that he was not dangerously hurt, his
opponent's shot having cut off a finger and the pistol guard, had hurled
the heavy weapon into his face. He escaped with a broken nose and the
loss of his front teeth.

"Morgan, who had preserved his wonderful coolness from the first,
received a bullet through a fold of his shirt that darkened the skin to
the left of his heart. It was a narrow escape. Parties took the up
train."

The extra went on to say that since the first reading of the original
card the public mind had undergone a revulsion in Morgan's favor; a
feeling greatly stimulated by the fact that Gen. Evan had come to the
rescue of that gentleman; had vouched for him in every respect and was
acting as his second. When the colonel had finished the thrilling news
he noticed that Mary's head was in his lap, and felt tears upon his hand
above which her own were clasped. Annie was looking on, cold and white.

"There has been a duel, my daughter," he said to her kindly, "and,
fortunately, without alarming results. Mr. Royson lost a finger, I
believe, and received a bruise in the face; that is all. Nothing
serious. It might have been much worse. Here is the paper," he
concluded, "probably an exaggerated account." She took it in silence and
returned to her room. She ran her eye through every sentence without
reading and at last threw the sheet aside.

Only those who knew the whole character of Annie Montjoy would have
understood. She was looking for her name; it was not there. Her smiling
face was proof enough.

Long they sat, father and daughter, his hand still stroking lightly her
bowed head. At last he said, very gently, the hand trembling a little:

"This has been a hard trial for us both--for us both! I am glad it is
over! Morgan is too fine a fellow to have been sacrificed to this man's
hatred and ambition." She looked up, her face wet and flushed.

"There was more than that, papa."

"More? How could there be?"

She hesitated, and then said, bravely: "Mr. Royson has more than once
asked me to marry him." The colonel's face grew black with sudden rage.

"The scoundrel!"

"And he has imagined that because Mr. Morgan came to help your
election--oh, I cannot." She turned hastily and went away in confusion.

And still the colonel sat and thought with clouded face.

"I must ask Evan," he said.

"Colonel, Mis' Calline says come deir, please." A servant stood by him.
He arose and went into his wife's room. She was standing by the open
window, its light flooding the apartment, her bandages removed.

"Why, Caroline, you are imprudent, don't you know? What is it, my dear?
She was silent and rigid, a living statue bathed in the glory of the
autumn sun. She waited until she felt his hand in hers.

"Norton," she said, simply, but with infinite pathos, "I am afraid
that I have seen your loved face for the last time. I am blind!" He
took her in his arms--the form that even age could not rob of its
girlishness--and pressed her face to his breast. It had come at last.
His tears fell for the first time since boyhood.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE PROFILE ON THE MOON.


Virdow felt the responsibility of his position. He had come on a
scientific errand and found himself plunged into a tragedy. And there
were attendant responsibilities, the most serious of which was the
revelation to Gerald of what had occurred.

The young man precipitated the crisis. The deputies gone, he wanted his
coffee; it had not failed him in a lifetime. Again and again he rang his
bell, and finally from the door of his wing-room called loudly for Rita.
Then the professor saw that the time for action had come. The watchers
about the body were consulting. None cared to face that singular being
of whom they felt a superstitious dread, but if they did not come to him
he would finally go to them. What would be the result of his unexpected
discovery of the tragedy? It might be disastrous. As he spoke, he
removed his glasses from time to time, carefully wiping and replacing
them, his faded eyes beaming in sympathy and anxiety upon his young
acquaintance.

"Herr Gerald," he began, "you know the human heart?" Gerald frowned and
surveyed him with impatience.

"Sometimes at last the little valve, as you call it--sometimes the
little valve grows weak, and when the blood leaps out too quickly and
can't run on quickly enough--you understand--it comes back suddenly
again and drives the valve lid back the wrong way."

"Then it is a ruined piece of machinery."

"So," said the professor, sadly; "you have stated it correctly. So,
Rita--she had an old heart--and it is ruined!"

Gerald gazed upon him in doubt, but fearful.

"You mean Rita is dead?"

"Yes," said Virdow. "Poor Rita!" Gerald studied the face before him
curiously, passed his hand across his brow, as if to clear away a cloud,
and then went out across the yard. The watchers fled at his approach. In
the little room he came upon the body. The woman, dressed in her best
but homely attire, lay with her hands crossed upon her bosom, her face
calm and peaceful. Upon her lips was that strange smile which sometimes
comes back over a gulf of time from forgotten youth. He touched her
wrist and watched her.

Virdow was right; she was dead.

As if to converse with a friend, he took a seat upon the couch and
lifting one cold hand held it while he remained. This was Rita, who had
always come to wake him when he slept too late; had brought his meals,
had answered whenever he called, and found him when he wandered too long
under the stars and guided him back to his room. Rita, who, when his
moods distracted him, had only to fix her eyes on his and speak his
name, and all was peace again.

This was Rita. Dead!

How could it be? How could anything be wrong with Rita? It was
impossible! He put his hand above the heart; it was silent. He spoke her
name. She did not reply.

Gradually, as he concentrated his attention upon the facts, his mind
emerged from its shadows. Yes, Rita, his friend, was dead. And then
slowly, his life, with its haunting thoughts, its loneliness, came back,
and the significance of these facts overwhelmed him.

He knew now who Rita was; it was an old, old story. He knelt and laid
his cheek upon that yellow chilled hand, the only hand that had ever
lovingly touched him.

She had been a mother indeed; humoring his every whim. She had never
scolded; not Rita!

The doctors had said he could sleep without his opium; they shut him up
and he suffered torments. Rita came in the night. Her little store of
money had been drawn on. They, together, deceived the doctors. For years
they deceived them, he and Rita, until all her little savings were gone.
And then she had worked for the gentlemen down-town; had schemed and
plotted and brought him comfort, until the doctors gave up the struggle.

Now she was gone--forever! Strange, but this contingency had never once
occurred to him. How egotistical he must have been; how much a child--a
spoiled child!

He looked about him. Rita had years ago told him a secret. In the night
she had bent over him and called him fond names; had wept upon his
pillow. She had told him to speak the word just once, never again but
that one time, and then to forget it. Wondering he said it--"Mother." He
could not forget how she fell upon him then and tearfully embraced him;
he the heir and nephew of John Morgan. But it pleased good Rita and he
was happy.

Dead! Rita! Would it waken her if he spoke that name again? He bent to
her cheek to say it, but first he looked about him cautiously. Rita
would not like for any one to share the secret. He bent until his lips
were touching hers and whispered it again:

"Mother!" She did not move. He spoke louder and louder.

"Mother." How strange sounded that one word in the deserted room. A fear
seized him; would she never speak again? He dropped on his knees in
agony; and, with his hand upon her forehead, almost screamed the word
again. It echoed for the last time--"Mother!" Just then the face of
Virdow appeared at the door, to be withdrawn instantly.

Then Gerald grew cool. "She is dead," he said, sadly to himself. "She
would have answered that!"

A change came over him! He seemed to emerge from a dream; Virdow stood
by him now. Drawing himself up proudly he gazed upon the dead face.

"She was a good nurse--a better no child ever had. Were my uncle living
he would build her a great monument. I will speak to Edward about it. It
is not seemly that people who have served the Morgans so long and
faithfully should sleep in unmarked graves. Farewell, Rita; you have
been good and true to me." He went to his room. An hour later Virdow
found him there, crying as a child.

With a tenderness that rose superior to the difficulties of language and
the differences of race and customs, Virdow comforted and consoled him.
And then occurred one of those changes familiar to the students of
nature but marvelous to the unobservant. To Virdow, who had seen the
vine of his garden torn from the supporting rod about which it had tied
itself with tendrils, attach itself again by the gluey points of new
ones to the smooth face of the wall itself, coiling them into springs to
resist the winds, the change that came upon Gerald was natural. The
broken tendrils of his life touched with quick intelligence the
sympathetic old German and linked the simple being of the child-man to
him. By an intuition, womanly in its swift comprehension, Virdow knew at
once that he had become in some ways necessary to the life of the frail
being, and he was pleased. He gave himself up to the mission without
effort, disturbing in no way the new process. Watching Gerald, he
appeared not to watch; present at all times, he seemed to keep himself
aloof.

Virdow called up an undertaker from the city in accordance with the
directions left with him and had the body of Rita prepared for the
burial, which was to take place upon the estate, and then left all to
the care of the watchers. During the day from time to time Gerald went
to the little room, and on such visits those in attendance withdrew.

There was little excitement among the negroes. The singing, shouting and
violent ecstasies which distinguished the burials of the race were
wanting; Rita had been one of those rare servants who keep aloof from
her color. Gradually withdrawn from all contact with the world, her life
had shrunk into a little round of duties and the care of the Morgan
home.

It was only natural that the young master should find himself alone with
the nurse on each return to her coffin. During one of these visits
Virdow at a distance beheld a curious thing. Gerald had gazed long and
thoughtfully into the silent face and returning to his room had secured
paper and crayon. Kneeling, he drew carefully the profile of his dead
friend and went away to his studio. Standing in his place a moment
later, Virdow was surprised to note the change that had come over the
face; the relaxing power of death seemed to have rolled back the curtain
of age and restored for the hour a glimpse of youth. A woman of
twenty-five seemed lying there, her face noble and serene, a glorified
glimpse of what had been. The brow was smooth and young, the facial
angle high, the hair, now no longer under the inevitable turban, smooth
and black, with just a suspicion of frost above the temples. The lips
were curved and smiling.

Why had the young man drawn her profile? What real position did this
woman occupy in that strange family? As to the latter he could not
determine; he would not try. He had nothing to do with the domestic
facts of life. There had been a deep significance in the first scene at
the bedside. And yet "Mother" under the circumstances might after all
mean nothing. He had heard that southern children were taught this, or
something like it, by all black nurses. But as to the profile, there was
a phenomenon possibly, and science was his life. The young man had drawn
the profile because it was the first time he had within his
recollections ever seen it. In the analysis of his dreams that profile
might be of momentous importance.

The little group that had gathered followed the coffin to a clump of
trees not far removed. The men who bore it lowered it at once to the
open grave. An old negro preacher lifted his voice in a homely prayer,
the women sang a weird hymn, and then they filled up the cavity. The
face and form of Rita were removed from human vision, but only the face
and form. For one of that concourse, the young white man who had come
bareheaded to stand calm and silent at the foot of the grave, she lived
clear and distinct upon the hidden film of memory.

Virdow was not deceived by that calmness; he knew and feared the
reaction which was inevitable. From time to time during the evening he
had gone silently to the wing-room and to the outer yard to gaze in upon
his charge. Always he found him calm and rational. He could not
understand it.

Then, disturbed by the suspense of Edward's absence, and the uncertainty
of his fate, he would forget himself and surroundings in contemplation
of the possible disasters of an American duel--exaggerated accounts of
which dwelt in his memory. He resolved to remain up until the crisis
came.

It was midnight when, for the twentieth time, probably, he went to look
in upon Gerald. The wing-room, the glass-room, the little house deprived
by death of its occupant, the outer premises--he searched them all in
vain. Greatly troubled, he stood revolving the new perplexity in his
mind when his eye caught in the faint glow of the east, where the moon
was beginning to show its approach, the outline of the cemetery clump of
trees. It flashed upon him then that, drawn by the power of association,
the young man might have wandered off to pay a visit to the grave of his
friend. He turned his own feet in the same direction, and approached the
spot. The grave had been dug under the wide-spread limbs of cedar, and
there he found the object of his quest.

Slowly the moon rose above the level field beyond, outlining a form. In
his dressing gown stood Gerald, with folded arms, his long hair falling
upon his shoulders, lost in deep thought.

Thrilled by the scene, Virdow was about to speak, when, in the twinkling
of an eye, there was flashed upon him a vision that sent his blood back
to his heart and left him speechless with emotion. For in that moment
the half-moon was at the level of the head, and outlined against its
silver surface he saw the profile of the face he had studied in the
coffin. Appalled by the discovery, he turned silently and sought his
room.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE MIDNIGHT SEARCH.


It was late in the day when Virdow awoke. The excitement, the unwonted
hours which circumstances forced him to keep, brought at last unbroken
rest and restored his physical structure to its normal condition.

He dressed himself and descended to find a brief telegram announcing the
safety of Edward. It was a joyful addition to the conditions that had
restored him. The telegram had not been opened. He went quickly to
Gerald's room and found that young man at work upon a painting of Rita
as he had seen her last--the profile sketch. His emotional nature had
already thrown off its gloom, and with absorbed interest he was pushing
his work. Already the face had been sketched in and the priming
completed. Under his rapid and skillful hands the tints and contours
were growing, and Virdow, accustomed as he was to the art in all its
completeness and technical perfection, marveled to see the changed face
of the woman glide back into view, the counterpart he knew of the vivid
likeness clear cut in the sensitive brain that held it. He let him work
undisturbed. A word might affect its correctness. Only when the artist
ceased and laid aside his brush for a brief rest did he speak.

Gerald turned to him as to a co-laborer, and took the yellow slip of
paper, so potent with intelligent lettering. He read it in silence; then
putting it aside went on with his painting. Virdow rubbed his brow and
studied him furtively. Such lack of interest was inconceivable under the
conditions. He went to work seriously to account for it and this he did
to his own satisfaction. In one of his published lectures on memory,
years after, occurred this sentence, based upon that silent reverie:

"Impressions and forgetfulness are measurable by each other; indeed, the
power of the mind to remember vividly seems to be measured by its power
to forget."

But afterward Gerald picked up the telegram, read it intently and seemed
to reflect over the information it contained. Later in the day the
postman brought the mail and with it one of the "extras." Virdow read it
aloud in the wing-room. Gerald came and stood before him, his eyes
revealing excitement. When Virdow reached the part wherein Edward was
described as never removing his eyes from his antagonist, his hearer
exclaimed:

"Good! He will kill him!"

"No," said Virdow, smiling; "fortunately he did not. Listen."

"Fortunately!" cried Gerald; "fortunately! Why? What right has such a
man to live? He must have killed him!" Virdow read on. A cry broke from
Gerald's lips as the explanation appeared.

"I was right! The hand becomes a part of the eye when the mind wills it;
or, rather, eye and hand become mind. The will is everything. But why he
should have struck the guard----" He went to the wall and took down two
pistols. Handing one to Virdow and stepping back he said: "You will
please sight at my face a moment; I cannot understand how the accident
could have happened." Virdow held the weapon gingerly.

"But, Herr Gerald, it may be loaded."

"They are empty," said Gerald, breeching his own and exposing the
cylinder chambers, with the light shining through. "Now aim!" Virdow
obeyed; the two men stood at ten paces, aiming at each other's faces.
"Your hand," said the young man, "covers your mouth. Edward aimed for
the mouth."

There was a quick, sharp explosion; Virdow staggered back, dropping his
smoking pistol. Gerald turned his head in mild surprise and looked upon
a hole in the plastering behind.

"I have no recollection of loading that pistol," he said. And then: "If
your mind had been concentrated upon your aim I would have lost a finger
and had my weapon driven into my face." Virdow was shocked at the narrow
escape and pale as death.

"It is nothing," said Gerald, replacing the weapon; "you would not hit
me in a dozen trials, shooting as you do."

At 10 o'clock that night Edward, pale and weary, entered. He returned
with emotion the professor's enthusiastic embrace, and thanked him for
his care and attention of Gerald and the household and for his services
to the dead. Gerald studied him keenly as he spoke, and once went to one
side and looked upon him with new and curious interest. The professor
saw that he was examining the profile of the speaker by the aid of the
powerful lamp on the table beyond. The discovery set his mind to working
in the same direction, and soon he saw the profiles of both. Edward's
did not closely resemble the other. That this was true, for some reason,
the expression that had settled upon Gerald's face attested. The
portrait had been covered and removed.

Edward, after concluding some domestic arrangements, went directly to
his room and, dressed as he was, threw himself upon his bed and slept.

And as he slept there took place about him a drama that would have set
his heart beating with excitement could he have witnessed it. The house
was silent; the city clock had tolled the midnight hour, when Gerald
came into the room, bearing a shaded lamp. The sleeper lay on his back,
locked in the slumber of exhaustion. The visitor, moving with the
noiselessness of a shadow, glided to the opposite side of the bed, and,
placing the lamp on a chair, slowly turned up the flame and tilted the
shade. In an instant the strong profile of the sleeper flashed upon the
wall. With suppressed excitement Gerald unwrapped a sheet of cardboard,
and standing it on the mantel received upon it the shadow. As if by a
supreme effort, he controlled himself and traced the profile on his
paper. Lifting it from the mantel he studied it for a moment intently
and then replaced it. The shadow filled the tracing. Taking it slowly
from its position he passed from the room. Fortunately his distraction
was too great for him to notice the face of Virdow, or to perceive it in
the deep gloom of the little room as he passed out.

The German waited a few moments; no sound came back from the broad
carpeted stair; taking the forgotten lamp, he followed him silently.
Passing out into the shrubbery, he made his way to the side of the
conservatory and looked in. Gerald had placed the two profiles, one on
each side of the mirror, and with a duplex glass was studying his own in
connection with them. He stood musing, and then, as if forgetting his
occupation, he let the hand-glass crash upon the floor, tossed his arms
in an abandonment of emotion, and, covering his face with his hands,
suddenly threw himself across the bed.

Virdow was distressed and perplexed. He read the story in the pantomime,
but what could he do? No human sympathy could comfort such a grief, nor
could he betray his knowledge of the secret he had surreptitiously
obtained. He paced up and down outside until presently the moving shadow
of the occupant of the room fell upon his path. He saw him then take
from a box a little pill and put it in his mouth, and he knew that the
troubles of life, its doubts, distress and loneliness, would be
forgotten for hours.

Forgotten? Who knows? Oh, mystery of creation; that invisible
intelligence that vanishes in sleep and in death; gone on its voyage of
discovery, appalling in its possibilities; but yet how useless, since it
must return with no memory of its experience!

And he, Virdow, what a dreamer! For in that German brain of subtleties
lived, with the clearness of an incandescent light in the depths of a
coal mine, one mighty purpose; one so vast, so potent in its
possibilities, as to shake the throne of reason, a resolution to follow
upon the path of mind and wake a memory never touched in the history of
science. It was not an ambition; it was a leap toward the gates of
heaven! For what cared he that his name might shine forever in the
annals of history if he could claim of his own mind the record of its
wanderings? The future was not his thought. What he sought was the
memory of the past!

He went in now, secure of the possibility of disturbing the sleeper, and
stood looking down into the room's appointments; there were the two
profiles on either side of the mirror; upon the floor the shivered
fragments of the hand-glass.

Virdow returned to his room, but before leaving he took from the little
box one of the pellets and swallowed it. If he was to know that mind, he
must acquaint himself with its conditions. He had never before swallowed
the drug; he took this as the Frenchman received the attenuated virus of
hydrophobia from the hands of Pasteur--in the interest of science and
the human race.

As he lay upon his bed he felt a languor steal upon him, saw in far
dreams cool meadows and flowery slopes, felt the solace of perfect
repose envelop him. And then he stood beside a stream of running water
under the shade of the trees, with the familiar hills of youth along the
horizon. A young woman came and stood above the stream and looked
intently upon its glassy surface. Her feature were indistinct. Drawing
near he, too, looked into the water, and there at his feet was the sad,
sweet face of--Marion Evan. He turned and then looked closer at the
woman; he saw in her arms the figure of an infant, over whose face she
had drawn a fold of her gown. She shook her head as he extended his hand
to remove this and pointed behind her. There the grass ran out and only
white sand appeared, with no break to the horizon.

Toiling on through this, with a bowed head, was a female figure. He knew
her; she was Rita, and the burden she, too, carried in her arms was the
form of a child. The figures disappeared and a leaf floated down the
stream; twenty-six in succession followed, and then he saw a man
descending the mountains and coming forward, his eyes fixed on something
beyond him. It was Edward. He looked in the same direction; there was a
frail man toiling toward him through the deep sands in the hot sunlight.
It was Gerald. And then the figures faded away. There memory ceased to
record.

Whatever else was the experience of that eager mind as it wandered on
through the mystery, and phantasmagoria has no place in science. He
remembered in the morning up to one point only.

It was his last experience with the drug.



CHAPTER XXVI.

GATHERING THE CLEWS.


Edward drifted for several days upon the tide of the thoughts that came
over him. He felt a singular disinclination to face the world again. He
knew that as life goes he had acquitted himself manfully and that
nothing remained undone that had been his duty to perform. He was
sensible of a feeling of deep gratitude to the old general for his
active and invaluable backing; without it he realized then that he would
have been drawn into a pitfall and the opportunity for defense gone. He
did not realize, however, how complete the public reaction had been
until card after card had been left at Ilexhurst and the postman had
deposited congratulatory missives by the score. One of these contained
notice of his election to the club.

Satisfactory as was all this he put aside the social and public life
into which he had been drawn, conscious that, while the affront to him
had been resented and rendered harmless, he himself was as much in the
dark as ever; that as a matter of fact he was without name and family,
without right to avail himself of the generous offers laid at his door.
Despite his splendid residence, his future, his talents and his prestige
as a man of honor, he was--nobody; an accident of fate; a whim of an
eccentric old man.

He should not involve any one else in the possibility of ruin. He should
not let another share his danger. There could be no happiness with this
mystery hanging over him.

Soon after his return, while his heart was yet sore and disturbed, he
had received a note from Mary. She wrote:

     "We suffer greatly on your account. Poor papa was bound down by
     circumstances with which you are familiar, though he would gone
     to you at any cost had it been necessary. In addition his
     health is very delicate and he has been facing a heavy
     sorrow--now realized at last! Poor little mamma's eyesight is
     gone--forever, probably. We are in deep distress, as you may
     imagine, for, unused as yet to her misfortune, she is quite
     helpless and needs our constant care, and it is pitiful to see
     her efforts to bear up and be cheerful.

     "I need not tell you how I have sorrowed over the insult and
     wrongs inflicted upon you by a cowardly connection of our
     family, nor how anxious I was until the welcome news of your
     safety reached us. We owe you much, and more now since you were
     made the innocent victim of a plot aimed to destroy papa's
     chances.

     "It is unbearable to think of your having to stand up and be
     shot at in our behalf; but oh, how glad I am that you had the
     old general with you. Is he not noble and good? He is quite
     carried away with you and never tires of talking of your
     coolness and courage. He says everything has ended beautifully
     but the election, and he could remedy that if papa would
     consent, but nothing in the world could take papa away from us
     now, and if he had been elected his resignation would have
     speedily followed.

     "I know you are yet weary and bitter, and do not even care to
     see your friends, but that will pass and none will give you a
     more earnest welcome when you do come than

     "Mary."

He read this many times, and each time found in it a new charm. Its
simplicity and earnestness impressed him at one reading and its personal
interest at another; its quick discerning sympathy in another.

It grew upon him, that letter. It was the only letter ever penned by a
woman to him. Notes he had had by the score; rich young men in the great
capitals of Europe do not escape nor seek to escape these, but this was
straight from the heart of an earnest, self-reliant, sympathetic woman;
one of those who have made the South a fame as far as her sons have
traveled. It was a new experience and destined to be a lasting one.

Its effect was in the end striking and happy. Gradually he roused
himself from the cynical lethargy into which he was sinking and began to
look about him. After all he had much to live for, and with peace came
new manhood. He would fight for the woman who had faith in him--such a
fight as man never dared before. He looked up to find Virdow smiling on
him through his tears.

He stood up. "I am going to make a statement now that will surprise and
shock you, but the reason will be sufficient. First I ask that you
promise me, as though we stood before our Creator, a witness, that never
in this life nor the next, if consciousness of this goes with you, will
you betray by word or deed anything of what you hear from my lips
to-night. I do not feel any uneasiness, but promise."

"I promise," said Virdow, simply, "but if it distresses you, if you feel
bound to me--"

"On the contrary, the reason is selfish entirely. I tell you because the
possession of this matter is destroying my ability to judge fairly;
because I want help and believe you are the only being in the world who
can give it." He spoke earnestly and pathetically. "Without it, I shall
become--a wreck." Then Virdow seized the speaker's hand.

"Go on, Edward. All the help that Virdow can give is yours in advance."

Edward related to him the causes that led up to the duel--the political
campaign, the publication of Royson's card, and the history of the
challenge.

"You call me Edward," he said; "the world knows me and I know myself as
Edward Morgan. I have no evidence whatever to believe myself entitled to
bear the name. All the evidence I have points to the fact that it was
bestowed upon me as was my fortune itself--in pity. The mystery that
overspreads me envelops Gerald also. But fate has left him superior to
misfortune."

"It has already done for him what you fear for yourself--it has wrecked
his life, if not his mind!" The professor spoke the words sadly and
gently, looking into the night through the open window.

Edward turned toward him in wonder.

"I am sure. Listen and I will tell you why. To me it seems fatal to him,
but for you there is consolation." Graphically he described then the
events that had transpired during the few days of his stay at Ilexhurst;
his quick perception that the mind of Gerald was working feverishly,
furiously, and upon defined lines to some end; that something haunted
and depressed him. His secret was revealed in his conduct upon the death
of Rita.

"It is plain," said Virdow finally, "that this thought--this
uncertainty--which has haunted you for weeks, has been wearing upon him
since childhood. Of the events that preceded it I have little or no
information."

Edward, thrilled to the heart by this recital and the fact to which it
seemed to point, walked the floor greatly agitated. Presently he said:

"Of these you shall judge also." He took from the desk in the adjoining
room the fragmentary story and read it. "This," he said, as he saw the
face of the old man beam with intelligence, "is confirmed as an incident
in the life of Gerald or myself; in fact, the beginning of life." He
gave the history of the fragmentary story and of Rita's confession.

"By this evidence," he went on, "I was led to believe that the woman
erred in the recognition of her own child; that I am in fact that child
and that Gerald is the son of Marion. This in her last breath she seemed
to deny, for when I begged her to testify upon it, as before her God,
and asked the question direct, she cried out: 'They lied!' In this it
seems to me that her heart went back to its secret belief and that in
the supreme moment she affirmed forever his nativity. Were this all I
confess I would be satisfied, but there is a fatal fact to come!" He
took from his pocket the package prepared for Gen. Evan, and tore from
it the picture of Marion.

"Now," he exclaimed excitedly, "as between the two of us, how can this
woman be other than the mother of Gerald Morgan? And, if I could be
mistaken as to the resemblance, how could her father fall into my error?
For I swear to you that on the night he bent over the sleeping man he
saw upon the pillow the face of his wife and daughter blended in those
features!" Virdow was looking intently upon the picture.

"Softly, softly," he said, shaking his head; "it is a true likeness, but
it does not prove anything. Family likeness descends only surely by
profiles. If we could see her profile, but this! There is no reason why
the child of Rita should not resemble another. It would depend upon the
impression, the interest, the circumstances of birth, of associations--"
He paused. "Describe to me again the mind picture which Gerald under the
spell of music sketched--give it exactly." Edward gave it in detail.

"That," said Virdow, "was the scene flashed upon the woman who gazed
from the arch. It seems impossible for it to have descended to Gerald,
except by one of the two women there--the one to whom the man's back was
turned. Had this mental impression come from the other source it seems
to me he would have seen the face of that man, and if the impression was
vivid enough to descend from mother to child it would have had the
church for a background, in place of the arch, with storm-lashed trees
beyond. This is reasonable only when we suppose it possible that brain
pictures can be transmitted. As a man I am convinced. As a scientist I
say that it is not proved."

Edward, every nerve strained to its utmost tension, every faculty of
mind engaged, devoured this brief analysis and conclusion. But more
proof was given! Over his face swept a shadow.

"Poor Gerald! Poor Gerald!" he muttered. But he became conscious
presently that the face of Virdow wore a concerned look; there was
something to come. He could not resist the temptation to clear up the
last vestige of doubt if doubt could remain.

"Tell me," he said, "what do you require to satisfy you that between the
two I am the son of Marion Evan?"

"Two things," said Virdow, quickly. "First, proof that Rita was in no
way akin to the Evan family, for if she was in the remotest degree, the
similarity of profiles could be accounted for. Second, that your own and
the profile of Marion Evan were of the same angle. Satisfy me upon these
two points and you have nothing to fear." A feeling of weakness
overwhelmed Edward. The general had not seen in his face any likeness to
impress him. And yet, why his marked interest? The whole subject lay
open again.

And Marion Evan! Where was he to obtain such proof?

Virdow saw the struggle in his mind.

"Leave nothing unturned," said Edward, "that one of us may live free of
doubt, and just now, God help me, it seems my duty to strive for him
first."

"And these efforts--when--"

"To-night! Let us descend."

"We go first to the room of the nurse," said Virdow. "We shall begin
there."

Edward led the way and with a lighted lamp they entered the room. The
search there was brief and uneventful. On the wall in a simple frame was
a portrait of John Morgan, drawn years before from memory by Gerald. It
was the face of the man known only to the two searchers as Abingdon, but
its presence there might be significant.

Her furniture and possessions were simple. In her little box of trinkets
were found several envelopes addressed to her from Paris, one of them in
the handwriting of a man, the style of German. All were empty, the
letters having in all probability been destroyed. They, however,
constituted a clew, and Edward placed them in his pocket. In another
envelope was a child's golden curl, tied with a narrow black ribbon; and
there was a drawer full of broken toys. And that was all.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE FACE THAT CAME IN DREAMS.


Virdow was not a scientist in the strict sense of the term. He had been
a fairly good musician in youth and had advanced somewhat in art. He was
one of those modern scientists, who are not walled in by past
conclusions, but who, like Morse, leap forward from a vantage point and
build back to connect with old results. Early in life he had studied the
laws of vibration, until it seemed revealed to him that all forms, all
fancies, were born of it. Gradually as his beautiful demonstrations were
made and all art co-ordinated upon this law, he saw in dreams a
fulfillment of his hopes that in his age, in his life, might bloom the
fairest flower of science, a mind memory opened to mortal consciousness.

Dreaming further along the lines of Wagner, it had come to him that the
key to this hidden, dumb and sleeping record of the mind was vibration;
that the strains of music which summon beautiful dreams to the minds of
men were magic wands lifting the vision of this past; not its immediate
past, but the past of ages; for in the brain of the subtle German was
firmly fixed the belief that the minds of men were in their last
analysis one and indivisible, and older than the molecules of physical
creation.

He held triumphantly that "then shall you see clearly," was but one way
of saying "then shall you remember."

To this man the mind picture which Gerald had drawn, the church, with
its tragic figures, came as a reward of generations of labor. He had
followed many a false trail and failed in hospital and asylum. In Gerald
he hoped for a sound, active brain, combined with the faculty of
expression in many languages and the finer power of art; an organism
sufficiently delicate to carry into that viewless vinculum between body
and soul, vibrations, rhymes and co-ordinations delicate enough to touch
a new consciousness and return its reply through organized form. He had
found these conditions perfect, and he felt that if failure was the
result, while still firmly fixed in his belief, never again would
opportunity of equal merit present itself. If in Gerald his theory
failed of demonstration, the mind's past would be, in his lifetime,
locked to his mortal consciousness. In brief he had formed the
conditions so long sought and upon these his life's hope was staked.

Much of this he stated as they sat in the wing-room. Gerald lay upon the
divan when he began talking, lost in abstraction, but as the theory of
the German was gradually unfolded Edward saw him fix his bright eye upon
the speaker, saw him becoming restless and excited. When the explanation
ended he was walking the floor.

"Experiments with frogs," he said, abruptly; "accidents to the human
brain and vivisection have proved the separateness of memory and
consciousness. But I shall do better; I shall give to the world a
complete picture descended from parent to child--an inherited brain
picture of which the mind is thoroughly conscious." His listeners waited
in breathless suspense; both knew to what he referred. "But," he added,
shaking his head, "that does not carry us out of the material world."

His ready knowledge of this subject and its quick grasp of the
proposition astonished Virdow beyond expression.

"Go on," he said, simply.

"When that fusion of mind and matter occurs," said Gerald, positively;
"when the consciousness is put in touch with the mind's unconscious
memory there will be no pictures seen, no records read; we shall simply
broaden out, comprehend, understand, grasp, know! That is all! It will
not come to the world, but to individuals, and, lastly, it has already
come! Every so called original thought that dawns upon a human, every
intuitive conception of the truth, marks the point where mind yielded
something of a memory to human consciousness."

The professor moved uneasily in his seat; both he and Edward were
overwhelmed with the surprise of the demonstration that behind the sad
environment of this being dwelt a keen, logical mind. The speaker paused
and smiled; his attention was not upon his company.

"So," he said, softly, "come the song into the mind of the poet, so the
harmonies to the singer and so the combination of colors to the artist;
so the rounded periods of oratory and so the conception that makes
invention possible. No facts appear, because facts are the results of
laws, the proofs of truths. The mind-memory carries none of these; it
carries laws and the truth which interprets it all; and when men can
hold their consciousness to the touch of mind without a falling apart,
they will stand upon the plane of their Creator, because they will then
be fully conscious of the eternal laws and in harmony with them."

"And you," said Virdow, greatly affected, "have you ever felt the union
of consciousness and mind-memory?"

"Yes," he replied; "what I have said is the truth; for it came from an
inner consciousness without previous determination and intention. I am
right, and you know I am right!" Virdow shook his head.

"I have hoped," he said, gently, "that in this mind-memory dwelt
pictures. We shall see, we shall see." Gerald turned away impatiently
and threw himself upon his couch. Presently in the silence which ensued
rose the solemn measure of Mendelssohn's heart-beat march from Edward's
violin. The strange, sad, depressing harmony filled the room; even
Virdow felt its wonderful power and sat mute and disturbed. Suddenly he
happened to gaze toward Gerald. He lay with ashen face and rigid eyes
fixed upon the ceiling, to all appearances a corpse. Virdow bounded
forward and snatched the bow from Edward's hand.

"Stop!" he cried; "for his sake stop, or you will kill him!"

They dragged the inanimate form to the window and bathed the face. A low
moan escaped the young man, and then a gleam of intelligence came into
his eyes. He tried to speak, but without success; an expression of
surprise and distress came upon his face as he rose to his feet. For a
moment he stood gasping, but presently his breath came normally.

"Temporary aphasia," he said, in a low tone. Going to the easel he drew
rapidly the picture of a woman kneeling above the prostrate form of
another, and stood contemplating it in silence. Edward and Virdow came
to his side, the latter pale with excitement. Gerald did not notice
them. Only the back of the kneeling woman was shown, but the face of the
other was distinct, calm and beautiful. It was the girl in the small
picture.

"That face--that face," he whispered. "Alas! I see it only as my
ancestors saw it." He resumed his lounge dejectedly.

"You have seen it before, then?" said Virdow, earnestly.

"Before! In my dreams from childhood! It is a face associated with me
always. In the night, when the wind blows, I hear a voice calling
Gerald, and this vision comes. Shall I tell you a secret--" His voice
had become lower and now was inaudible. Placing his hand upon the white
wrist, Virdow said:

"He sleeps; it is well. Come away, my young friend; I have learned much,
but the experience might have been dearly bought. Sometime I will
explain." Noiselessly they withdrew to Edward's room. Edward was
depressed.

"You have gained, but not I," he said. "The back of the kneeling woman
was toward him."

"Wait," said Virdow; "all things cannot be learned in a night. We do not
know who witnessed that scene."



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE THREE PICTURES.


Virdow had arisen and been to town when Edward made his appearance late
in the morning. After tossing on his pillow all night, at daylight he
had fallen into a long, dreamless sleep.

Gerald was looking on, and the professor was arranging an experimental
apparatus of some kind. He had suspended a metal drum from the arch of
the glass-room by steel wires, and over the upper end of the drum had
drawn tightly a sheet of rubber obtained from a toy balloon
manufacturer. In the base of this drum he inserted a hollow stem of tin,
one end of which was flared like a trumpet. The whole machine when
completed presented the appearance of a gigantic pipe; the mouthpiece
enlarged. When Edward came in the German was spreading upon the rubber
surface of the drum an almost impalpable powder, taken from one of the
iron nodules which lay about on the surrounding hills and slightly
moistened.

"I have been explaining to Gerald," said Virdow, cheerily, "some of my
bases for hopes that vibration is the medium through which to effect
that ether wherein floats what men call the mind, and am getting ready
to show the co-ordinations of force and increasing steadily and evenly.
Try what you Americans call 'A' in the middle register and remember that
you have before you a detective that will catch your slightest error."
He was closing doors and openings as he spoke.

Edward obeyed. Placing his mouth near the trumpet opening he began. The
simple note, prolonged, rang out in the silent room, increasing in
strength to a certain point and ending abruptly. Then was seen a
marvelous thing; animated, the composition upon the disk rushed to the
exact center and then tremulously began to take definite shape. A little
medallion appeared, surrounded by minute dots, and from these little
tongues ran outward. The note died away, and only the breathing of the
eager watchers was heard. Before them in bas-relief was a red daisy, as
perfect, aye, more nearly perfect, than art could supply. Gerald after a
moment turned his head and seemed lost in thought.

"From that we might infer," said Virdow, "that the daisy is the 'A' note
of the world; that of it is born all the daisy class of flowers, from
the sunflower down--all vibrations of a standard."

Again and again the experiment was repeated, with the same result.

"Now try 'C,'" said the German, and Edward obeyed. Again the mass rushed
together, but this time it spread into the form of a pansy. And then
with other notes came fern shapes, trees and figures that resembled the
scale armor of fish. And finally, from a softly sounded and prolonged
note, a perfect serpent in coils appeared, with every ring distinctly
marked. This form was varied by repetition to shells and cornucopias.

So through the musical scale went the experiments, each yielding a new
and distinct form where the notes differed. Virdow enjoyed the wonder of
Edward and the calm concentration of Gerald. He continued:

"Thus runs the scale in colors; each of the seven--red, orange, yellow,
green, blue, indigo and violet--is a note, and as there are notes in
music that harmonize, so in colors there are the same notes, the hues of
which blend harmoniously. What have they to do with the mind memory?
This: As a certain number of vibrations called to life in music the
shell, in light the color, and in music the note, so once found will
certain notes, or more likely their co-ordinations, awaken the memories
of the mind, since infallibly by vibrations were they first born.

"This is the border land of speculation, you think, and you are partly
correct. What vibration could have fixed the form of the daisy and the
shape we have found in nature is uncertain, but remember that the earth
swings in a hollow drum of air as resonant and infinitely more sensitive
than rubber; and the brain--there is a philosophic necessity for the
shape of a man's head."

"If," said Gerald, "you had said these vibrations awakened the memories
of the brain instead of the mind, I could have agreed with you. Yours
are on the order of the London experiments. I am familiar with them, but
only through reading." Again Virdow wondered, but he continued:

"The powers of vibration are not understood--in fact, only dreamed of.
Only one man in the world, your Keely, has appreciated its
possibilities, and he is involved in the herculean effort to harness it
to modern machinery. It was vibration simply that affected Gerald so
deeply last night; a rhythm co-ordinating with his heart. I have seen
vast audiences--and you have, too, Edward--painfully depressed by that
dangerous experiment of Mendelssohn; for the heart, like a clock, will
seek to adjust itself to rhythms. Your tempo was less than seventy-two
to the minute; Gerald's delicate heart caught time and the brain lacked
blood. A quick march would have sent the blood faster and brought
exhilaration. Under the influence of march time men cheer and do deeds
of valor that they would not otherwise attempt, though the measure is
sounded only upon a drum; but when to this time is added a second, a
third and a fourth rhythm, and the harmonies of tone against tone, color
against color, in perfect co-ordination, they are no longer creatures of
reason, but heroes. The whole matter is subject to scientific
demonstration.

"But back to this 'heart-beat march.' The whole nerve system of man
since the infancy of the race has been subject to the rhythm of the
heart, every atom of the human body is attuned to it; for while length
of life, breadth of shoulders, chest measure and stature have changed
since the days of Adam we have no evidence that the solemn measure of
the heart, sending its seventy-two waves against all the minute
divisions of the human machine, has ever varied in the normal man.
Lessen it, as on last night, and the result is distressing. And as you
increase it, or substitute for it vibrations more rapid against those
myriad nerves, you exhilarate or intoxicate.

"But has any one ever sent the vibration into that 'viewless vinculum'
and awakened the hidden mind? As our young friend testifies, yes! There
have been times when these lower co-ordinations of song and melodies
have made by a momentary link mind and matter one, and of these times
are born the world's greatest treasures--jewels wrested from the hills
of eternity! What has been done by chance, science should do by rule."

Gerald had listened, with an attention not hoped for, but the conclusion
was anticipated in his quick mind. Busy with his portfolio, he did not
attend, but upon the professor's conclusion he turned with a picture in
his hand. It was the drawing of the previous night.

"What is it?" he asked.

"A mind picture, possibly," said Virdow.

"You mean by that a picture never impressed upon the brain, but living
within the past experience of the mind?"

"Exactly."

"And I say it is simply a brain picture transmitted to me by heredity."

"I deny nothing; all things are possible. But by whom? One of those
women?" Gerald started violently and looked suspiciously upon his
questioner. Virdow's face betrayed nothing.

"I do not know," said Gerald; "you have gaps in your theory, and this is
the gap in mine. Neither of these women could have seen this picture;
there must have been a third person." Virdow smiled and nodded his head.

"And if there was a third person he is my missing witness. From him
comes your vision--a true mind picture."

"And this?" Gerald drew from the folio a woman's face--the face that
Edward had shown, but idealized and etherealized. "From whom comes
this?" cried the young man with growing excitement. "For I swear to you
that I have never, except in dreams, beheld it, no tongue has described
it! It is mine by memory alone, not plucked from subtle ether by a
wandering mind, but from the walls of memory alone. Tell me." Virdow
shook his head; he was silent for fear of the excitement. Gerald came
and stood by him with the two pictures; his voice was strained and
impassioned, and his tones just audible:

"The face in this and the sleeper's face in this are the same; if you
were on the stand to answer for a friend's life would you say of me,
this man descends from the kneeling woman?" Virdow looked upon him
unflinchingly.

"I would answer, as by my belief in God's creation, that by this
testimony you descend from neither, for the brain that held those
pictures could belong to neither woman. One could not hold an
etherealized picture of her own face, nor one a true likeness of her own
back." Gerald replaced the sheets.

"You have told me what I knew," he said; "and yet--from one of them I am
descended, and the pictures are true!" He took his hat and boat paddle
and left them abruptly. The portfolio stood open. Virdow went to close
it, but there was a third drawing dimly visible. Idly he drew it forth.

It was the picture of a white seagull and above it was an arch; beyond
were the bending trees of the first picture. Both men studied it
curiously, but with varying emotions.



CHAPTER XXIX.

"HOME SWEET HOME."


Edward approached the hall that afternoon with misgivings. A charge had
been brought against him, denied, and the denial defended with his life;
but the charge was not disproved. And in this was the defect of the
"code of honor." It died not because of its bloodiness but of
inadequacy. A correct aim could not be a satisfactory substitute for
good character nor good morals.

Was it his duty to furnish proof to his title to the name of gentleman?
Or could he afford to look the world in the face with disdain and hold
himself above suspicion? The latter course was really his only choice.
He had no proofs.

This would do for the world at large, but among intimates would it
suffice? He knew that nowhere in the world is the hearthstone more
sacred than in the south, and how long would his welcome last, even at
The Hall, with his past unexplained? He would see! The first hesitancy
of host or hostess, and he would be self-banished!

There was really no reason why he should remain in America; agents could
transact what little business was his and look after Gerald's affairs.
Nothing had changed within him; he was the same Edward Morgan, with the
same capacities for enjoyment.

But something had changed. He felt it with the mere thought of absence.
What was it? As in answer to his mental question, there came behind him
the quick breath of a horse and turning he beheld Mary. She smiled in
response to his bow. The next instant he had descended from his buggy
and was waiting.

"May I ride with you?" Again the face of the girl lighted with pleasure.

"Of course. Get down, Jerry, and change places with Mr. Morgan." Jerry
made haste to obey. "Now, drop behind," she said to him, as Edward
seated himself by her side.

"You see I have accepted your invitation," he began, "only I did not
come as soon as I wished to, or I would have answered your kind note at
once in person. All are well, I trust?" Her face clouded.

"No. Mamma has become entirely blind--probably for all time. I have just
been to telegraph Dr. Campbell to come to us. We will know to-morrow."
He was greatly distressed.

"My visit is inopportune--I will turn back. No, I was going from The
Hall to the general's; I can keep straight on."

"Indeed, you shall not, Mr. Morgan. Mamma is bearing up bravely, and you
can help so much to divert her mind if you tell her of your travels." He
assented readily. It was a novel sensation to find himself useful.

"To-morrow morning," she continued, "perhaps I can find time to go to
the general's--if you really want to go--"

"I do," he said. "My German friend, Virdow, has a theory he wishes to
demonstrate and has asked me to find the dominate tones in a waterfall;
I remembered the general's little cascade, and owing him a visit am
going to discharge both duties. What a grand old man the general is!"

"Oh, indeed, yes. You do not know him, Mr. Morgan. If you could have
seen how he entered into your quarrel--" she blushed and hesitated. "Oh,
what an outrage was that affair!"

"It is past, Miss Montjoy; think no more upon it. It was I who cost your
father his seat in Congress. That is the lamentable feature."

"That is nothing," said the young girl, "compared with the mortification
and peril forced upon you. But you had friends--more than you dreamed
of. The general says that the form of your note to Mr. Royson saved you
a grave complication."

"You mean that I am indebted to Mr. Barksdale for that?"

"Yes. I love Mr. Barksdale; he is so manly and noble." Edward smiled
upon her; he was not jealous of that kind of love.

"He is certainly a fine character--the best product of the new south, I
take it. I have neglected to thank him for his good offices. I shall
call upon him when I return."

"And," she said in a low tone, "of course you will assure the general of
your gratitude to-morrow. You owe him more than you suspect. I would not
have you fail there."

"And why would you dislike to have me fail?" She blushed furiously when
she realized how she had become involved, but she met his questioning
gaze bravely.

"You forget that I introduced you as my friend, and one does not like
for friends to show up in a bad light."

He fell into moody silence, from which with difficulty only he could
bring himself to reply to questions as she led the way from personal
grounds. The Hall saved him from absolute disgrace.

In the darkened sitting-room was Mrs. Montjoy when the girl and the
young man entered. She lifted her bandaged eyes to the door as she heard
their voices in the hall.

"Mamma, here is Mr. Morgan," said Mary. The family had instinctively
agreed upon a cheerful tone; the great oculist was coming; it was but a
question of time when blessed sight would return again. The colonel
raised himself from the lounge where he had been dozing and came
forward. Edward could not detect in his grave courtesy the slightest
deviation of manner. He welcomed him smilingly and inquired of Gerald.
And then, continuing into the room, the young man took the soft hand of
the elder woman. She placed the other on his and said with that singular
disregard of words peculiar to the blind:

"I am glad to see you Mr. Morgan. We have been so distressed about you.
I spent a wretched day and night thinking of your worry and danger."

"They are all over now, madam; but it is pleasant to know that my
friends were holding me up all the time. Naturally I was somewhat
lonesome," he said, forcing a smile, "until the general came to my
rescue." Then recollecting himself, he added: "But those hours were as
nothing to this, madam. You cannot understand how distressed I was to
learn, as I have just now, of your illness." She patted his hand
affectionately, after the manner of old ladies.

"Oh, yes, I can. Mary has told us of your offer to take us to Paris on
that account. I am sure sometimes that one's misfortunes fall heaviest
upon friends."

"It is not too late," he said, earnestly. "If the colonel will keep
house and trust you with me, it is not too late. Really, I am almost
obliged to visit Paris soon, and if--" he turned to the colonel at a
loss for words. That gentleman had passed his hand over his forehead and
was looking away.

"You are more than kind, my young friend," he said, sadly: "more than
kind. We will see Campbell. If it is necessary Mrs. Montjoy will go to
Paris."

Mary had been a silent witness of the little scene. She turned away to
hide her emotion, fearful that her voice, if she spoke, would betray
her. The Duchess came in and climbed to grandma's lap and wound her arms
around the little woman. The colonel had resumed his seat when Mary
brought in from the hall the precious violin and laid it upon the piano,
waiting there until the conversation lagged.

"Mamma," she said, then, "Mr. Morgan has his violin; he was on his way
through here to the general's when I intercepted him. I know you can
rely upon him to play for us."

"As much and as often as desired," said Edward heartily. "I have a
friend at home, an old professor with whom I studied in Germany, who is
engaged in some experiments with vibration, and he has assigned me
rather a novel task--that is, I am to go over to the general's and
determine the tone of a waterfall, for everything has its tone--your
window glass, your walking stick, even--and these will respond to the
vibrations which make that tone. Young memories are born of vibration,
and old airs bring back old thoughts." He arose and took the violin as
he talked.

If the presence of the silent sufferer was not sufficient to touch his
heart, there were the brown, smiling eyes of the girl whose fingers met
his as he took the instrument. He played as never before. Something went
from him into the ripe, resonant instrument, something that even Virdow
could not have explained, and through the simple melodies he chose,
affected his hearers deeply. Was it the loneliness of the man speaking
to the loneliness of the silent woman, whose bandaged forehead rested
upon one blue-veined hand? Or was it a new spring opened up by the
breath, the floating hair, the smooth contour of cheeks, the melting
depths of brown eyes, the divine sympathy of the girl who played his
accompaniments?

All the old music of the blind woman's girlhood had been carefully bound
and preserved, as should all old music be when it has become a part of
our lives; and as this man with his subtle power awoke upon that
marvelous instrument the older melodies he gave life to the dreams of
her girlish heart. Just so had she played them--if not so true, yet
feelingly. By her side had stood a gallant black-haired youth, looking
down into her face, reading more in her upturned eyes than her tongue
had ever uttered; eyes then liquid and dark with the light of love
beaming from their depths; alas, to beam now no more forever! Love must
find another speech. She reached out her hand and in eloquent silence it
was taken.

Silence drew them all back to earth. But behind the players, an old
man's face was bent upon the smooth soft hand of the woman, and eyes
that must some day see for both of them, left their tender tribute.

Edward Morgan linked himself to others in that hour with strands
stronger than steel. Even the little Duchess felt the charm and power of
that violin in the hands of the artist. Wondering, she came to him and
stretched up her little hands. He took her upon his knee then, and,
holding the instrument under her chin and her hands in his, awoke a
little lullaby that had impressed him. As he sang the words, the girl
smiled into the faces of the company.

"Look, gamma," she said gleefully; "look!" And she, lifting her face,
said gently:

"Yes, dear; gamma is looking." Mary's face was quickly averted; the
hands of the colonel tightened upon the hand he held.

The Duchess had learned to sing "Rockaby Baby" and now she lifted her
thin, piping voice, the player readily following, and sang sweetly all
the verses she could remember. Mary took her in her arms when tired, and
Edward let the strains run on slower and softer. The eyes of the little
one drooped wearily, and then as the player, his gaze fixed upon the
little scene, drifted away into "Home, Sweet Home," they closed in
sleep. The blind woman still sat with her hand in her husband's, his
head bent forward until his forehead rested upon it.



CHAPTER XXX.

THE RAINBOW IN THE MIST.


Mary had lighted his room and handed him the lamp; "sweet sleep and
pleasant dreams," she had said, gravely bowing to him as she withdrew--a
family custom, as he had afterward learned. But the sleep was not sweet
nor the dreams pleasant. Excited and disturbed he dozed away the hours
and was glad when the plantation bell rang its early summons. He dressed
and made his way to the veranda, whence he wandered over the flower
garden, intercepting the colonel, who was about to take his morning look
about. Courteously leaving his horse at the gate that gentleman went on
foot with him. It was Edward's first experience on a plantation and he
viewed with lively interest the beginning of the day's labor. Cotton was
opening and numbers of negroes, old and young, were assembling with
baskets and sacks or moving out with a show of industry, for, as it was
explained to him, it is easy to get them early started in cotton-picking
time, as the work is done by the hundred pounds and the morning dew
counts for a great deal. "Many people deduct for that," said Montjoy,
"but I prefer not to. Lazy and trifling as he is, the negro is but
poorly paid."

"But," said Edward, laughing, "you do not sell the dew, I suppose?"

"No. Generally it evaporates, but if it does not the warehouse deducts
for it."

"I noticed at one place on the way south that the people were using
wheel implements, do you not find them profitable?" The colonel pointed
to a shed under which were a number of cultivators, revolving plows,
mowing machines and a dirt turner. "I do not, the negro cannot keep
awake on the cultivator and the points get into the furrows and so throw
out the cotton and corn that they were supposed to cultivate. Somehow
they never could learn to use the levers at the right place, with the
revolving plow, and they wear its axle off. They did no better with the
mower; they seemed to have an idea that it would cut anything from
blades of grass up to a pine stump, and it wouldn't."

"The disk harrow," he continued laughingly, "was broken in a curious
way. I sent a hand out to harrow in some peas. He rode along all right
to the field and then deliberately wedged the disks to keep them from
revolving, not understanding the principle. I sometimes think that they
are a little jealous of these machines and do not want them to work
well."

"You seem to have a great many old negroes."

"Too many; too many," he said, sadly; "but what can be done? These
people have been with me all my life and I can't turn them adrift in
their old age. And the men seem bent upon keeping married," he added,
good-naturedly. "When the old wives die they get new and young ones, and
then comes extravagant living again."

"And you have them all to support?"

"Of course. The men do a little chopping and cotton-picking, but not
enough to pay for the living of themselves and families. What is it,
Nancy?"

"Pa says please send him some meal and meat. He ain't had er mouthful in
four days." The speaker was a little negro girl. "Go, see your young
mistress. That is a specimen," said the old gentleman, half-laughing,
half-frowning. "Four days! He would have been dead the second! Our
system does not suit the new order of things. It seems to me the main
trouble is in the currency. Our values have all been upset by
legislation. Silver ought never have been demonetized; it was fatal,
sir. And then the tariff."

"Is not overproduction a factor, Colonel? I read that your last crops of
cotton were enormous."

"Possibly so, but the world has to have cotton, and an organization
would make it buy at our own prices. There are enormous variations, of
course, we can't figure in advance, and whenever a low price rules, the
country is broke. The result is the loan associations and cotton factors
are about to own us."

The two men returned to find Mary with the pigeons upon her shoulders
and a flock of poultry begging at her feet.

"You are going with me to the general's," he said, pleadingly, as he
stood by her. She shook her head.

"I suppose not this time; mamma needs me." But at the breakfast table,
when he renewed the subject, that lady from her little side table said
promptly: "Yes." Mary needed the exercise and diversion, and then there
was a little mending to be done for the old general. He always saved it
for her. It was his whim.

So they started in Edward's buggy, riding in silence until he said
abruptly:

"I am persevering, Miss Montjoy, as you will some day find out, and I am
counting upon your help."

"In what?" She was puzzled by his manner.

"In getting Moreau in Paris to look into the little mamma's eyes." She
reflected a moment.

"But Dr. Campbell is coming."

"It is through him I going to accomplish my purpose; he must send her to
Paris."

"But," she said, sadly, "we can't afford it. Norton could arrange it,
but papa would not be willing to incur such a debt for him."

"His son--her son!" Edward showed his surprise very plainly.

"You do not understand. Norton has a family; neither papa nor mamma
would borrow from him, although he would be glad to do anything in the
world he could. And there is Annie----" she stopped. Edward saw the
difficulty.

"Would your father accept a loan from me?" She flushed painfully.

"I think not, Mr. Morgan. He could hardly borrow money of his guest."

"But I will not be his guest, and it will be a simple business
transaction. Will you help me?" She was silent.

"It is very hard, very hard," she said, and tears stood in her eyes.
"Hard to have mamma's chances hang upon such a necessity."

"Supposing I go to your father and say: 'This thing is necessary and
must be done. I have money to invest at 5 per cent. and am going to
Paris. If you will secure me with a mortgage upon this place for the
necessary amount I will pay all expenses and take charge of your wife
and daughter.' Would it offend him?"

"He could not be offended by such generosity, but it would distress
him--the necessity."

"That should not count in the matter," he said, gravely. "He is already
distressed. And what is all this to a woman's eyesight?"

"How am I to help?" she asked after a while.

"The objection will be chiefly upon your account, I am afraid," he said,
after reflection. "You will have to waive everything and second my
efforts. That will settle it." She did not promise, but seemed lost in
thought. When she spoke again it was upon other things.

"Ah, truant!" cried the general, seeing her ascending the steps and
coming forward, "here you are at last. How are you, Morgan? Sit down,
both of you. Mary," he said, looking at her sternly, "if you neglect me
this way again I shall go off and marry a grass widow. Do you hear me,
miss? Look at this collar." He pointed dramatically to the offending
article; one of the Byronic affairs, to which the old south clings
affectionately, and which as affectionately clings to the garment it is
supposed to adorn, since it is a part of it. "I have buttoned that not
less than a dozen times to-day." She laughed and, going in, presently
returned with thread and needle and sitting upon his knee restored the
buttonhole to its proper size. Then she surveyed him a moment.

"Why haven't you been over to see us?"

"Because----"

"You will have to give the grass widow a better excuse than that. 'Tis a
woman's answer. But here is Mr. Morgan, come to see if he can catch the
tune your waterfall plays--if you have no objection." Edward explained
the situation.

"Go with him, Mary. I think the waterfall plays a better tune to a man
when there is a pretty girl around." She playfully stopped his mouth and
then darted into the house.

"General," said Edward, earnestly, "I have not written to you. I
preferred to come in person to express anew my thanks and appreciation
of your kindness in my recent trial. The time may come--"

"Nonsense, my boy; we take these things for granted here in the south.
If you are indebted to anybody it is to the messenger who brought me the
news of your predicament, put me on horseback and sent me hurrying off
in the night to town for the first time in twenty years."

"And who could have done that?" Edward asked, overwhelmed with emotion.
"From whom?"

"From nobody. She summed up the situation, got behind the little mare
and came over here in the night. Morgan, that is the rarest girl in
Georgia. Take care, sir; take care, sir." He was getting himself
indignant over some contingency when the object of his eulogium
appeared.

"Now, General, you are telling tales on me."

"Am I? Ask Morgan. I'd swear on a stack of Bibles as high as yonder pine
I have not mentioned your name."

"Well, it is a wonder. Come on, Mr. Morgan."

The old man watched them as they picked their way through the hedge and
concluded his interrupted remark: "If you break that loyal heart--if you
bring a tear to those brown eyes, you will meet a different man from
Royson." But he drove the thought away while he looked affectionately
after the pair.

Down came the little stream, with an emphasis and noise disproportioned
to its size, the cause being, as Edward guessed, the distance of the
fall and the fact that the rock on which it struck was not a solid
foundation, but rested above a cavity. Mary waited while he listened,
turning away to pluck a flower and to catch in the falling mist the
colors of the rainbow. But as Edward stood, over him came a flood of
thoughts; for the air was full of a weird melody, the overtone of one
great chord that thrilled him to the heart. As in a dream he saw her
standing there, the blue skies and towering trees above her, a bit of
light in a desert of solitude. Near, but separated from him by an
infinite gulf. "Forever! Forever!" all else was blotted out.

She saw on his face the white desperation she had noticed once before.

"You have found it," she said. "What is the tone?"

"Despair," he answered, sadly. "It can mean nothing else."

"And yet," she said, a new thought animating her mobile face, as she
pointed into the mist above, "over it hangs the rainbow."



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE HAND OF SCIENCE.


A feeling of apprehension and solemnity pervaded the hall when at last
the old family coach deposited its single occupant, Dr. Campbell, at the
gate. The colonel stood at the top of the steps to welcome him. Edward
and Mary were waiting in the sitting-room.

The famous practitioner, a tall, shapely figure, entered, and as he
removed his glasses he brought sunshine into the room, with his cheery
voice and confident manner. To Mrs. Montjoy he said:

"I came as soon as the telegram was received. Anxiety and loss of rest
in cases like yours are exceedingly undesirable. It is better to be
informed--even of the worst. Before we discuss this matter, come to the
window and let me examine the eye, please." He was assisting her as he
spoke. He carefully studied the condition of the now inflamed and
sightless organ, and then replaced the bandage.

"It is glaucoma," he said, briefly. "You will remember that I feared it
when we fitted the glasses some years ago. The slowness of its advance
is due to the care you have taken. If you are willing I would prefer to
operate at once." All were waiting in painful silence. The brave woman
replied: "Whenever you are ready I am," and resumed her knitting. He had
been deliberate in every word and action, but the occasion was already
robbed of its terrors, so potent are confidence, decision and action.
Edward was introduced and would have taken his leave, but the oculist
detained him.

"I shall probably need you," he said, "and will be obliged if you
remain. The operation is very simple."

The room was soon prepared; a window was thrown open, a lounge drawn
under it and bandages prepared. Mary, pale with emotion, when the
slender form of her mother was stretched upon the lounge hurriedly
withdrew. The colonel seated himself and turned away his face. There was
no chloroform, no lecture. With the simplicity of of a child at play,
the great man went to work. Turning up the eyelid, he dropped upon the
cornea a little cocaine, and selecting a minute scalpel from his case,
with two swift, even motions cut downward from the center of the eye and
then from the same starting point at right angles. The incisions
extended no deeper than the transparent epidermis of the organ.
Skillfully turning up the angle of this, he exposed a thin, white
growth--a minute cloud it seemed to Edward.

"Another drop of cocaine, please," the pleasant voice of the oculist
recalled him, and upon the exposed point he let fall from the dropper
the liquid. Lifting the little cloud with keen pinchers, the operator
removed it, restored the thin epidermis to its place, touched it again
with cocaine, and replaced the bandage. The strain of long hours was
ended; he had not been in the house thirty minutes.

"I felt but the scratch of a needle," said the patient; "it is indeed
ended?"

"All over," he said, cheerfully. He then wrote out a prescription and
directions for dressing, to be given to the family physician. Mary was
already by her mother's side, holding and patting her hand.

The famous man was an old friend of the family, and now entered into a
cheerful discussion of former times and mutual acquaintances. The little
boy had entered, and somehow had got into his lap, where all children
usually got who came under his spell. While talking on other subjects he
turned down the little fellow's lids.

"I see granulation here, colonel. Attend to it at once. I will leave a
prescription." And then with a few words of encouragement, he went off
to the porch to smoke.

After dinner the conversation came back to the patient.

"She will regain her vision this time," said Dr. Campbell, "but the
disease can only be arrested; it will return. The next time it will do
no good to operate. It is better to know these things and prepare for
them." The silence was broken by Edward.

"Are you so sure of this, doctor, that you would advise against further
consultation? In Paris, for instance, is Moreau. In your opinion, is
there the slightest grounds for his disagreeing with you?"

"In my opinion, no. But my opinion never extends to the point of
neglecting any means open to us. Were I afflicted with this disease I
would consult everybody within reach who had had experience." Edward
glanced in triumph at Mary. Dr. Campbell continued:

"I would be very glad if it were possible for Mrs. Montjoy to see Moreau
about the left eye. You will remember that I expressed a doubt as to the
hopelessness of restoring that one when it was lost. It was not affected
with glaucoma; there is a bare possibility that something might be done
for it with success. If the disease returns upon the right eye, the
question of operating upon the other might then come up again." Edward
waited a moment and then continued his questions:

"Do you not think a sea voyage would be beneficial, doctor?"

"Undoubtedly, if she is protected from the glare and dust while ashore.
We can only look to building up her general health now." Edward turned
away, with throbbing pulses.

"But," continued the doctor, "of course nothing of this sort should be
attempted until the eye is perfectly well again; say in ten days or two
weeks." Mary sat with bowed head. She did not see why Dr. Campbell arose
presently and walked to where Edward was standing. She looked upon them
there. Edward was talking with eager face and the other studying him
through his glasses. But somehow she connected his parting words with
that short interview.

"And about the sea voyage and Moreau, colonel; I do not know that I
ought to advise you, but I shall be glad if you find it convenient to
arrange that, and will look to you to have Moreau send me a written
report. Good-bye." But Edward stopped him.

"I am going back directly, doctor, and can take you and the carriage
need not return again. I will keep you waiting a few moments only." He
drew Col. Montjoy aside and they walked to the rear veranda.

"Colonel," he said, earnestly, "I want to make you an offer, and I do it
with hesitancy only because I am afraid you cannot understand me
thoroughly upon such short acquaintance. I believe firmly in this trip
and want you to let me help you bring it about. Without having
interested myself in your affairs, I am assured that you stand upon the
footing of the majority of southerners whose fortunes were staked upon
the Confederacy, and that just now it would inconvenience you greatly to
meet the expense of this experience. I want you to let me take the place
of John Morgan and do just as he would have done in this
situation--advance you the necessary money upon your own terms." As he
entered upon the subject the old gentleman looked away from him, and as
he proceeded Edward could see that he was deeply affected. He extended
his hand impulsively to the young man at last and shook it warmly. Tears
had gathered in his eyes. Edward continued:

"I appreciate what you would say, Colonel; you think it too much for a
comparative stranger to offer, or for you to accept, but the matter is
not one of your choosing. The fortunes of war have brought about the
difficulty, and that is all. You have risked your all on that issue and
have lost. You cannot risk the welfare of your wife upon an issue of
pride. You must accept. Go to Gen. Evan, he will tell you so."

"I cannot consider the offer, my young friend, in any other than a
business way. Your generosity has already put us under obligations we
can never pay and has only brought you mortification."

"Not so," was the reply. "In your house I have known the first home
feeling I ever experienced. Colonel, don't oppose me in this. If you
wish to call it business, give it that term."

"Yours will be the fourth mortgage on this place; I hesitate to offer
it. The hall is already pledged for $15,000."

"It is amply sufficient."

"I will consider the matter, Mr. Morgan," he said after a long silence.
"I will consider it and consult Evan. I do not see my way clear to
accept your offer, but whether or not, my young friend"--putting his arm
over the other's shoulder, his voice trembling--"whether I do or not you
have in making it done me an honor and a favor that I will remember for
life. It is worth something to meet a man now and then who is worthy to
have lived in nobler times. God bless you--and now you must excuse me."
He turned away abruptly. Thrilled by his tone and words, Edward went to
the front. As he shook hands with Mary he said:

"I cannot tell yet. But he cannot refuse. There is no escape for him."

At the depot in the city the doctor said: "Do not count too hopefully
upon Paris, my young friend. There is a chance, but in my opinion the
greatest good that can be achieved is for the patient to store in memory
scenes upon which in other days she may dwell with pleasure. Keep this
in mind and be governed accordingly." He climbed aboard the train and
waved adieu.

Edward was leaving the depot when he overtook Barksdale. Putting his
buggy in the care of a boy, he walked on with the railroader at his
request to the club. Barksdale took him into a private room and over a
choice cigar Edward gave him all the particulars of the duel and then
expressed his grateful acknowledgments for the friendly services
rendered him.

"I am assured by Gen. Evan," he said, "that had my demand been made in a
different form I might have been seriously embarrassed."

"Royson depended upon the Montjoys to get him out of the affair; he had
no idea of fighting."

"But how could the Montjoys have helped him?"

"They could have appealed to him to withdraw the charges he had made,
and he would have done so because the information came really from a
member of the Montjoy family. I do not think you will need to ask her
name. I mention it to you because you should be informed." Edward
comprehended his meaning at once. Greatly agitated, he exclaimed:

"But what object could she have had in putting out such slander? I do
not know her nor she me." Barksdale waved his hand deprecatingly:

"You do not know much of women."

"No. I have certainly not met this kind before."

Barksdale reflected a few moments, and then said, slowly: "Slander is a
curious thing, Mr. Morgan. People who do not believe it will repeat it.
I think if I were you I would clear up all these matters by submitting
to an interview with a reporter. In that you can place your own and
family history before the public and end all talk." Edward was pale, but
this was the suggestion that he had considered more than once. He shook
his head quickly.

"I disagree with you. I think it beneath the dignity of a gentleman to
answer slander by the publication of his family history. If the people
of this city require such statements from those who come among them,
then I shall sell out my interest here and go abroad, where I am known.
This I am, however, loath to do; I have a few warm friends here."
Barksdale extended his hand.

"You will, I hope, count me among them. I spoke only from a desire to
see you fairly treated."

"I have reason to number you among them. I am going to Paris shortly, I
think, with Mrs. Montjoy. Her eyesight is failing. I will be glad to see
you again before then."

"With Mrs. Montjoy?" exclaimed Barksdale.

"Yes; the matter is not entirely settled yet, but I do not doubt that
she will make the trip. Miss Montjoy will go with us."

Barksdale did not lift his eyes, but was silent, his hand toying with
his glass.

"I will probably call upon you before your departure," he said, as he
arose.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE FLASHLIGHT PHOTOGRAPH.


Twilight was deepening over the hills and already the valleys were in
shadow when Edward reached Ilexhurst. He stood for a moment looking back
on the city and the hills beyond. He seemed to be laying aside a sweeter
life for something less fair, and the old weight descended upon him.
After all was it wise to go forth, when the return to the solitude of a
clouded life was inevitable? There was no escape from fate.

In the east the hills were darkening, but memory flashed on him a
scene--a fair-faced girl, as he had seen her, as he would always see
her, floating upon an amethyst stream, smiling upon him, one hand
parting the waters and over them the wonders of a southern sunset.

In the wing-room Virdow and Gerald were getting ready for an experiment
with flashlight photography. Refusing to be hurried in his scientific
investigations, Gerald had insisted that until it had been proven that a
living substance could hold a photographic imprint he should not advance
to the consideration of Virdow's theory. There must be brain pictures
before there could be mind pictures. At least, so he reasoned. None of
them knew exactly what his experiment was to be, except that he was
going to test the substance that envelopes the body of the bass, the
micopterus salmoides of southern waters. That sensitive plate, thinner
than art could make it, was not only spoiled by exposure to light, but
by light and air combined was absolutely destroyed. And the difficulty
of controlling the movements of this fish seemed absolutely insuperable.
They could only watch the experimenter.

Into a thin glass jar Gerald poured a quantity of powder, which he had
carefully compounded during the day. Virdow saw in it the silvery
glimmer of magnesium. What the combined element was could not be
determined. This compound reached only a third of the distance up the
side of the glass. The jar was then stopped with cork pierced by a
copper wire that touched the powder, and hermetically sealed with wax.
With this under one arm, and a small galvanic battery under the other,
and restless with suppressed excitement, Gerald, pointing to a small
hooded lantern, whose powerful reflector was lighting one end of the
room, bade them follow him.

Virdow and Edward obeyed. With a rapid stride Gerald set out across
fields, through strips of woodlands and down precipitous slopes until
they stood all breathless upon the shore of the little lake. There they
found the flat-bottom bateau, and although by this time both Edward and
Virdow had begun seriously to doubt the wisdom of blindly following such
a character, they resigned themselves to fate and entered.

Gerald propelled the little craft carefully to a stump that stood up
distinct against the gloom under the searchlight in the bow, and
reaching it took out his pocket compass. Turning the boat's head
north-east, he followed the course about forty yards until at the left
the reflector showed him two stakes in line. Here he brought the little
craft to a standstill, and in silence, which he invoked by lifting his
hand warningly, turned the lantern downward over the stern of the boat,
and with a tube, whose lower end was stubbed with a bit of glass and
inserted in the water, examined the bottom of the lake twelve feet
below. Long and patient was the search, but at last the others saw him
lay aside his glass and let the boat drift a few moments. Then very
gently, only a ripple of the surface marking the action, he lowered the
weighted jar until the slackening wire indicated that it was upon the
bottom. He reached out his hand quickly and drew the battery to him,
firmly grasping the cross-handle lever. The next instant there was a
rumbling, roaring sound, accompanied by a fierce, white light, and the
end of the boat was in the air. In a brief moment Edward saw the slender
form of the enthusiast bathed in the flash, his face as white as chalk,
his eyes afire with excitement--the incarnation of insanity, it seemed
to him. Then there was a deluge of spray, a violent rocking of the boat
and the water in it went over their shoe-tops. Instantly all was inky
blackness, except where in the hands of the fearless man in the stern
the lantern, its slide changed, was now casting a stream of red light
upon the surface of the lake. Suddenly Gerald uttered a loud cry.

"Look! Look! There he is!" And floating in that crimson path, with small
fishes rising around him, was the dead body of a gigantic bass. Lifting
him carefully by the gills, Gerald laid him in a box drawn from under
the rear seat.

"What is it?" broke from Virdow. "We have risked our lives and ruined
our clothes--for what?"

"For a photograph upon a living substance! On the side of this fish,
which was exposed to the flashlight, you will find the outlines of the
grasses in this lake, or the whole film destroyed. If the outlines are
there then there is no reason why the human brain, infinitely more
sensitive and forever excluded from light, cannot contain the pictures
of those twin cameras--the human eyes." He turned the boat shoreward and
seizing his box disappeared in the darkness, his enlarged pupils giving
him the visual powers of a night animal. Virdow and Edward, even aided
by the lantern, found their way back with difficulty.

The two men entered the wing-room to find it vacant. Virdow, however,
pointed silently to the red light gleaming through the glass of the
little door to the cabinet. The sound of trickling water was heard.

At that instant a smothered half-human cry came from within, and
trembling violently, Gerald staggered into the room. They took hold of
him, fearing he would fall. Straining their eyes, they both saw for an
instant only the half-developed outlines of a human profile extended
along the broad side of the fish. As they watched, the surface grew into
one tone and the carcass fell to the floor.

Gazing into their faces as he struggled for freedom, Gerald cast off
their hands. The lithe, sinewy form seemed to be imbued at the moment
with the strength of a giant. Before they could speak he had seized the
lantern and was out into the night. Without a moment's hesitation,
Edward, bareheaded, plunged after him. Well trained to college athletics
though he was, yet unfamiliar with the grounds, it taxed his best
efforts to keep him in sight. He divined that the wild race would end at
the lake, and the thought that on a few seconds might hang the life of
that strange being was all that held him to the prolonged and dangerous
strain. He reached the shore just in time, by plunging waist deep into
the water, to throw himself into the boat. His own momentum thrust it
far out upon the surface. Gerald had entered.

With unerring skill and incredible swiftness, the young man carried the
boat over its former course and turned the glare of the lamp downward.
Suddenly he uttered a loud cry, and, dropping the lantern in the boat,
stood up and leaped into the water. The light was now out and all was as
black as midnight.

Edward slipped off his shoes, seized the paddle and waited for a sound
to guide him. It seemed as though nothing human could survive that
prolonged submergence; minutes appeared to pass; with a groan of despair
he gave up hope.

But at that moment, with a gasp, the white face of Gerald burst from the
waters ten feet away, and the efforts he made showed that he was
swimming with difficulty. With one mighty stroke Edward sent the boat to
the swimmer and caught the floating hair. Then with great difficulty he
drew him over the side.

"Home!" The word escaped from Gerald between his gasps, but when he
reached the shore, with a return of energy and a total disregard of his
companion, he plunged into the darkness toward the house, Edward this
time keeping him in view with less difficulty.

They reached the door of the wing-room almost simultaneously and rushed
in side by side, Gerald dripping with water and exhausted. He leaned
heavily against the table. For the first time Edward was conscious that
he carried a burden in his arms. In breathless silence, he with Virdow
approached, and then upon the table Gerald placed an object and drew
shuddering back. It was a half life-size bust of darkened and discolored
marble, and for them, though trembling with excitement, it seemed to
have no especial significance until they were startled by a cry so loud,
so piercing, so heartrending, that they felt the flesh creep upon their
bones.

Looking from the marble to the face of the young man they saw that the
whiteness of death was upon every feature. Following the direction of
his gaze, they beheld a silhouette upon the wall; the clear-cut profile
of a woman, cast by the carved face before them. To Edward it was an
outline vaguely familiar; to Virdow a revelation, for it was Edward's
own profile. Had the latter recognized it there would have been a
tragedy, for, without a word after that strange, sad, despairing cry,
Gerald wrenched a dagger from the decorated panel, and struck at his own
heart. It was Edward's quickness that saved him; the blade made but a
trifling flesh wound. Seizing him as he did from the rear he was enabled
to disturb his equilibrium in time.

"Morphine," he said to Virdow. The latter hurried away to secure the
drug. He found with the pellets a little pocket case containing morphine
powders and a hypodermic injector. Without a struggle, Gerald lay
breathing heavily. In a few minutes the drug was administered, and then
came peace for the sufferer. Edward released his hold and looked about
him. Virdow had moved the bust and was seated lost in thought.

"What does it mean?" he asked, approaching, awed and saddened by his
experience. Virdow held up the little bust.

"Have you ever seen that face before?"

"It is the face of the young woman in the picture!"

"And now," said Virdow, again placing the marble so as to cast its
outlines upon the wall, "you do not recognize it, but the profile is
your own!"



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE TRADE WITH SLIPPERY DICK.


Amos Royson, in the solitude of his room, had full time for reflection
upon the events of the week and upon his position. His face, always
sinister, had not improved under its contact with the heavy dueling
pistol driven so savagely against it. The front teeth would be replaced
and the defect concealed under the heavy mustache he wore, and the cut
and swollen lips were resuming their normal condition. The missing
finger, even, would inconvenience him only until he had trained the
middle one to discharge its duties--but the nose! He trembled with rage
when for the hundredth time he studied his face in the glass and
realized that the best skill of the surgeon had not been able to restore
its lines.

But this was not the worst. He had carefully scanned the state press
during his seclusion and awoke from his personal estimate to find that
public opinion was overwhelmingly against him. He had slandered a man
for political purposes and forced a fight upon a stranger to whom, by
every right of hospitality, the city owed a welcome. The general public
could not understand why he had entered upon the duel if his charges
were true, and if not true why he had not had the manliness to withdraw
them.

Moreover, he had incurred the deadly enmity of the people who had been
deceived in the lost county. One paper alluded to the unpleasant fact
that Edward Morgan was defending and aiding Mr. Royson's connections at
the time of the insult.

He had heard no word from Swearingen, who evidently felt that the matter
was too hot at both ends for him to handle safely. That gentleman had,
on the contrary, in a brief card to one of the papers, disclaimed any
knowledge of the unfortunate letter and declined all responsibility for
it. This was sufficient, it would seem, to render almost any man
unhappy, but the climax was reached when he received a letter from
Annie, scoring him unmercifully for his clumsiness and informing him
that Edward Morgan, so far from being destroyed in a certain quarter,
was being received in the house as a friend to whom all were indebted,
and was petted and made much of.

"So far as I can judge," she added, maliciously, "it seems settled that
Mary is to marry him. He is much with Col. Montjoy and is now upon a
confidential footing with everyone here. Practically he is already a
member of the family." It contained a request for him to inform her when
he would be in his office.

He had not replied to this; he felt that the letter was aimed at his
peace of mind and the only satisfaction he could get out of this affair
was the recollection that he had informed her father-in-law of her
perfidy.

"I would be glad to see the old gentleman's mind at work with Annie
purring around him," he said to himself, and the idea brought the first
smile his face had known for many a day. But a glimpse of that face in
the glass, with the smile upon it, startled him again.

What next? Surrender? There was no surrender in the make-up of the man.
His legal success had hinged less upon ability than upon dogged
pertinacity. In this way he had saved the life of more than one criminal
and won a reputation that brought him practice. He had made a charge,
had been challenged and had fought. With almost any other man the issue
would have been at an end as honorably settled, but his habit of mind
was opposed to accepting anything as settled which was clearly
unsettled. The duel did not give Morgan the rights of a gentleman if the
main charge were true, and Royson had convinced himself that it was
true. He wrote to Annie, assured that her visit would develop his next
move.

So it was that one morning Royson found himself face to face with his
cousin, in the office. There was no word of sympathy for him. He had not
expected one, but he was hardly prepared for the half-smile which came
over her face when he greeted her, and which, during their interview,
returned from time to time. This enraged him beyond endurance, and
nothing but the remembrance that she alone held the key to the situation
prevented his coming to an open breach with her. She saw and read his
struggle aright, and the display put her in the best of humor.

"When shall we see you at The Hall again?" she asked, coolly.

"Never," he said, passionately, "until this man Morgan is exposed and
driven out." She arched her brows.

"Never, then, would have been sufficient."

"Annie, this man must be exposed; you have the proofs--you have
information; give it to me." She shook her head, smiling.

"I have changed my mind, Amos; I do not want to be on bad terms with my
brother-in-law of the future; the fact is, I am getting fond of him. He
is very kind to everybody. Mother is to go to Paris to have her eyes
attended to, and Mary is to accompany her. Mr. Morgan has been accepted
as their escort."

The face of the man grew crimson with suppressed rage. By a supreme
effort he recovered and returned the blow.

"What a pity, Annie, it could not have been you! Paris has been your
hobby for years. When Mary returns she can tell you how to dress in the
best form and correct your French." It was a successful counter. She was
afraid to trust herself to reply. Royson drew his chair nearer.

"Annie," he said, "I would give ten years of life to establish the truth
of what you have told me. So far as Mary is concerned, we will leave
that out, but I am determined to crush this fellow Morgan at any cost.
Something tells me we have a common cause in this matter. Give me a
starting point--you owe me something. I could have involved you; I
fought it out alone." She reflected a moment.

"I cannot help you now as much as you may think. I am convinced of what
I told you, but the direct proof is wanting. You can imagine how
difficult such proof is. The man is thirty years old, probably, and
witnesses of his mother's times are old or dead."

"And what witnesses could there have been?"

"Few. John Morgan is gone. The next witness would be Rita. Rita is the
woman who kept Morgan's house for the last thirty years. She owned a
little house in the neighborhood of The Hall and was until she went to
Morgan's a professional nurse. There may be old negroes who can give you
points."

"And Rita--where is she?"

"Dead!"

A shade of disappointment swept over his face. He caught her eyes fixed
upon him with the most peculiar expression. "She is the witness on whom
I relied," she said, slowly. "She was, I believe, the only human being
in the world who could have furnished conclusive testimony as to the
origin of Edward Morgan. She died suddenly the day your letter was
published!" She did not look away as she concluded, "your letter was
published!" She did not look away as she paused, but continued with her
eyes fixed upon his; and gradually, as he watched her, the brows
contracted slightly and the lids tightened under them. A gleam of
intelligence passed to him. His face grew white and his hands closed
convulsively upon the arms of his chair.

"But that would be beyond belief," he said, at last, in a whisper. "If
what you think is true, he was her son!" She raised her brow as she
replied:

"There was no tie of association! With him everything was at stake. You
can probably understand that when a man is in love he will risk a great
deal."

Royson arose and walked the room. No man knew better than he the worst
side of the human heart. There is nothing so true in the history of
crime as that reputation is held higher than conscience. And in this
case there was the terrible passion of love. He did not reply to her
insinuation.

"You think, then," he said, stopping in front of the woman, "that,
reading my letter, he hurried home--and in this you are correct since I
saw him across the street reading the paper, and a few minutes later
throw himself into a hack and take that direction--that he rushed into
the presence of this woman, demanded the truth, and, receiving it, in a
fit of desperation, killed her!"

"What I may think, Amos, is my right to keep to myself. The only witness
died that day! There was no inquest! You asked me for a starting point."
She drew her gloves a little tighter, shook out her parasol and rose.
"But I am giving you too much of my time. I have some commissions from
Mary, who is getting ready for Paris, and I must leave you."

He neither heard her last remark nor saw her go. Standing in the middle
of the room, with his chin upon his chest, he was lost to all
consciousness of the moment. When he looked to the chair she had
occupied it was vacant. He passed his hand over his brow. The scene
seemed to have been in a dream.

But Amos Royson knew it was real. He had asked for a starting point, and
the woman had given it.

As he considered it, he unconsciously betrayed how closely akin he was
to the woman, for every fact that came to him was in that legal mind,
trained to building theories, adjusted in support of the hypothesis of
crime. He was again the prosecuting attorney. How natural at least was
such a crime, supposing Morgan capable of it.

And no man knew his history!

With one blow he had swept away the witness. That had done a thousand
times in the annals of crime. Poison, the ambush, the street encounter,
the midnight shot through the open window, the fusillade at the form
outlined in its own front door; the press had recorded it since the
beginning of newspapers. Morgan had added one more instance. And if he
had not, the suspicion, the investigation, the doubt would remain!

At this point by a perfectly natural process the mind of the man reached
its conclusion. Why need there be any suspicion, any doubt? Why might
not an inquest develop evidences of a crime? This idea involved action
and decision upon his part, and some risk.

At last he arose from the desk, where, with his head upon his hand, he
had studied so long, and prepared for action. At the lavatory he caught
sight of his own countenance in the glass. It told him that his mind was
made up. It was war to the knife, and that livid scar upon the pallor of
his face was but the record of the first failure. The next battle would
not be in the open, with the skies blue above him and no shelter at
hand. His victim would never see the knife descend, but it would descend
nevertheless, and this time there would be no trembling hand or failure
of nerve.

From his office he went direct to the coroner's and examined the
records. The last inquest was of the day previous; the next in line more
than a month before. There was no woman's name upon the list. So far
Annie was right.

Outside of cities in the south no burial permits are required. Who was
the undertaker? Inquiry would easily develop the fact, but this time he
himself was to remain in the dark. If this crime was fastened upon
Morgan, the motive would be self-evident and a reaction of public
opinion would re-establish Royson high in favor. His experience would
rank as martyrdom.

But a new failure would destroy him forever, and there was not a great
deal left to destroy, he felt.

In the community, somewhere, was a negro whose only title was "Slippery
Dick," won in many a hotly contested criminal trial. It had been said of
this man that the entire penal code was exhausted in efforts to convict
him, and always without success. He had been prosecuted for nearly every
offense proscribed by state laws. Royson's first experience with the man
was as prosecuting attorney. Afterward and within the preceding year he
had defended him in a trial for body-snatching and had secured a verdict
by getting upon the jury one man who was closely kin to the person who
purchased the awful merchandise. This negro, plausible and cunning,
hesitated at nothing short of open murder--or such was his reputation.
It was to find him that Royson went abroad. Nor was it long before he
succeeded.

That night, in a lonely cabin on the outskirts of the city, a trade was
made. Ten dollars in hand was paid. If upon an inquest by the coroner it
was found that there was a small wound on the back of the head of the
woman and the skull fractured, Slippery Dick was to receive $100 more.

This was the only risk Royson would permit himself to take, and there
were no witnesses to the trade. Dick's word was worth nothing. Discovery
could not affect the plot seriously, and Dick never confessed. The next
day he met Annie upon the road, having seen her in the city, and posted
himself to intercept her.

"I have investigated the death of Rita," he said, "and am satisfied that
there are no grounds for suspecting murder. We shall wait!" The woman
looked him in the face.

"Amos," she said, "if you were not my cousin, I would say that you are
an accomplished liar!" Before he replied there was heard the sound of a
horse's feet. Edward Morgan drove by, gravely lifting his hat.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE FACE OF THE BODY-SNATCHER.


The methods of Royson's emissary were simple and direct. One day he
wandered in among the negroes at Ilexhurst in search of a lost hound
puppy, for Dick was a mighty hunter, especially of the midnight 'possum.

No one had seen the puppy, but all were ready to talk, and the death of
Rita had been the latest sensation. From them he obtained every detail
from the time Edward had carried the body in his arms to the little
house, until it had been buried under the crooked cedar in the
plantation burying-ground.

The body had been dressed by two of the women. There had been a little
blood on her head, from a small wound in the left temple, where she had
cut herself against the glass when she was "taken with a fit."

The coffin was a heavy metal one and the top screwed on. That was all.

When Royson received the report of the cut in the head and the blood,
his breath almost forsook him. Morgan might have been innocent, but what
a chain of circumstantial evidence! If Dick should return to tell him
some morning that the false wound he was to make was already on the spot
selected, he would not be surprised. So far he could show a motive for
the crime, and every circumstance necessary to convict his enemy with
it. All he needed was a cause of death.

Dick's precautions in this venture were novel, from the Caucasian
standpoint. His superstition was the strongest feature of his depraved
mind. The negro has an instinctive dread of dead bodies, but a dead and
buried cadaver is to him a horror.

In this instance, however, Dick's superstition made his sacrilege
possible; for while he believed firmly in the reappearance and power of
departed spirits, he believed equally in the powers of the voodoo to
control or baffle them. Before undertaking his commission, he went to
one of these voodoo "doctors," who had befriended him in more than one
peril, and by the gift of a fat 'possum secured a charm to protect him.

The dark hour came, and at midnight to the little clump of trees came
also Slippery Dick. His first act was to bore a hole with an auger in
the cedar, insert the voodoo charm and plug the hole firmly. This
chained the spirit of the dead. Then with a spade and working rapidly,
he threw the mound aside and began to toss out the earth from above the
coffin. In half an hour his spade laid the wooden case bare. Some
difficulty was experienced in removing the screws, but down in that
cavity, the danger from using matches was reduced to a minimum, and by
the aid of these he soon loosened the lid and removed it. To lift this
out, and take off the metal top of the burial case, was the work of but
a few minutes longer, and the remains of poor Rita were exposed to view.

In less than an hour after his arrival Slippery Dick had executed his
commission and was filling up the grave. With the utmost care he pressed
down the earth and drew up the loosened soil.

There had been a bunch of faded flowers upon the mound; he restored
these and with a sigh of relief shouldered his spade and auger and took
his departure, glad to leave the grewsome spot.

But a dramatic pantomime had been enacted near him which he never saw.
While he was engaged in marking the head of the lifeless body, the
slender form of a man appeared above him and shrank back in horror at
the discovery. This man turned and picked up the heavy spade and swung
it in air. If it had descended the negro would have been brained. But
thought is a monarch! Slowly the arm descended, the spade was laid upon
the ground, and the form a moment before animated with an overwhelming
passion stood silent and motionless behind the cedar.

When the negro withdrew, this man followed, gliding from cover to cover,
or following boldly in the open, but at all times with a tread as soft
as a panther's. Down they went, the criminal and his shadow, down into
the suburbs, then into the streets and then into the heart of the city.
Near the office of Amos Royson the man in front uttered a peculiar
whistle and passed on. At the next corner under the electric lamp he
turned and found himself confronted by a slender man, whose face shone
white under the ghastly light of the lamp, whose hair hung upon his
shoulders, and whose eyes were distended with excitement. Uttering a cry
of fright, the negro sprang from the sidewalk into the gutter, but the
other passed on without turning except to cross the street, where in a
friendly shadow he stopped. And as he stood there the negro retraced his
steps and paused at the door of the lawyer's office. A dimly outlined
form was at the window above. They had no more than time to exchange a
word when the negro went on and the street was bare, except that a
square away a heavy-footed policeman was approaching.

The man in the shadow leaned his head against a tree and thought. In his
brain, standing out as distinct as if cut from black marble, was the
face of the man he had followed.

Gerald possessed the reasoning faculty to an eminent degree, but it had
been trained altogether upon abstract propositions. The small affairs of
life were strange and remote to him, and the passions that animate the
human breast were forces and agencies beyond his knowledge and
calculations.

Annie Montjoy, with the facts in his possession, would have reached
instantly a correct conclusion as to their meaning. He could not handle
them. His mind was absolutely free of suspicion. He had wandered to the
little graveyard, as he had before when sleepless and harassed, and
discovered that some one was disfiguring the body of his lifelong
friend. To seize the spade and wreak vengeance upon the intruder was his
first impulse, but at the moment that it should have fallen he saw that
the head of the woman was being carefully replaced in position and the
clothing arranged. He paused in wonder. The habitual opium-eater
develops generally a cunning that is incomprehensible to the normal
mind, and curiosity now controlled Gerald. The moment for action had
passed. He withdrew behind the tree to witness the conclusion of the
drama.

His following the retreating figure was but the continuance of his new
mood. He would see the affair out and behold the face of the man.
Succeeding in this he went home, revolving in mind the strange
experience he had gained.

But the excitement would not pass away from him, and in the solitude of
his studio, with marvelous skill he drew in charcoal the scene as it
shone in memory--the man in the grave, the sad, dead face of the woman,
shrinking into dissolution, and then its every detail perfect, upon a
separate sheet the face of the man under the lamp. The memories no
longer haunted him. They were transferred to paper.

Then Gerald underwent the common struggle of his existence; he lay down
and tossed upon his pillow; he arose and read and returned again. At
last came the surrender, opium and--oblivion.

Standing by the easel next morning, Virdow said to Edward: "The brain
cannot survive this many years. When dreams of memories such as these,
vivid enough to be remembered and drawn, come upon it, when the waking
mind holds them vivid, it is in a critical condition." He looked sadly
upon the sleeper and felt the white wrist that overlay the counterpane.
The flesh was cold, the pulse slow and feeble. "Vitality small," he
said. "It will be sudden when it comes; sleep will simply extend into
eternity."

Edward's mind reverted to the old general. What was his own duty? He
would decide. It might be that he would return no more, and if he did
not, and Gerald was left, he should have a protector.

Virdow had been silent and thoughtful. Now he turned with sudden
decision.

"My experiments will probably end with the next," he said. "The truth
is, I am so thoroughly convinced that the cultivation of this singular
power which Gerald possesses is destructive of the nervous system I
cannot go on with them. In some way the young man has wound himself
about me. I will care for him as I would a son. He is all gold." The old
man passed out abruptly, ashamed of the feeling which shook his voice.

But Edward sat upon the bed and taking the white hand in his own,
smoothed it gently, and gave himself up to thought. What did it mean?
And how would it end? The sleeper stirred slightly. "Mother," he said,
and a childish smile dwelt for a moment upon his lips. Edward replaced
the hand upon the counterpane and withdrew.



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE GRAVE IN THE PAST.


When Col. Montjoy rode over to Gen. Evan's, a few mornings after the
operation upon his wife's eyes, it was with but ill-defined notions of
what he would say or what would be the result of the interview.
Circumstances had placed him in a strange and unpleasant position.

Col. Montjoy felt that the Paris trip could not be well avoided. He
realized that the chances of accomplishing any real good for his wife
were very small, but Dr. Campbell had distinctly favored it, and the
hesitancy had evidently only been on account of the cost.

But could he accept the generous offer made by Morgan? That was the
embarrassing question. He was not mentally blind; he felt assured that
the real question for him to decide then was what he should answer when
a demand for the hand of his daughter was made. For in accepting the
loan and escort of Edward Morgan, he accepted him. Could he do this?

So far as the rumors about the young man were concerned, he never
entertained them seriously. He regarded them only as a desperate
political move, and so did the public generally. But a shadow ought not
to hang over the life of his daughter.

The old general was at home and partially read his visitor's predicament
in his face as he approached the veranda.

"Come in, Norton," he said without moving from his great rocker; "what
is troubling you?" And he laughed maliciously. "But by the way," he
added, "how is the madam to-day? Mary told me yesterday she was getting
along finely."

"Well, we can't tell, Evan," said his visitor, drawing his chair next to
the rail; "we can't tell. In fact, nothing will be known until the
bandages are removed. I came off without my tobacco--" He was holding
his pipe. The general passed him his box.

"Oh, well, she will come through all right; Campbell is never mistaken."

"That is true, and that is what troubles me. Campbell predicts a return
of the trouble and thinks in the near future her only chance for vision
will lie in the eye which has been blind for several years. He is
willing to admit that Moreau in Paris is better authority and would be
glad for Caroline to see him and have his opinion."

"Ah, indeed!" It was expressive. The colonel knew that Evan comprehended
the situation, if not the whole of it. If there had been any doubt, it
would have been dispelled by the next words:

"A great expense, Norton, in these days, but it must be attended to."
Col. Montjoy ran his hand through his hair and passed it over his brow
nervously.

"The trouble is, Evan, the matter has been attended to, and too easily.
Edward Morgan was present during the operation and has offered to lend
me all the money necessary for the trip with or without security and
with or without interest." The general shook with silent laughter and
succeeded in getting enough smoke down his throat to induce a disguising
cough.

"That is a trouble, Norton, that hasn't afflicted us old fellows much of
late--extra ease in money matters. Edward is rich and will not be in any
way embarrassed by a matter like this. I think you will do well to make
it a business transaction and accept."

"You do not understand. I have noticed marked attentions to Mary on the
part of the young man, and Mary," he said, sadly, "is, I am afraid,
interested in him."

"That is different. Before you decide on accepting this offer, you feel
that you must decide on the young man himself, I see. What do you
think?"

"I haven't been able to think intelligently, I am afraid, upon that
point. What do you think, Evan? Mary is about as much your property as
mine."

"I think," said the general, throwing off his disguise, "that in Edward
Morgan she will get the only man I ever saw to whom I would be willing
to give her up. He is as straight and as brave as any man that ever
followed me into battle." Montjoy was silent awhile.

"You know," he said, presently, "I value your opinion more than any
man's and I do not wish to express or to intimate a doubt of Mr. Morgan,
who, I see, has impressed you. I believe the letter of Royson's was
infamous and untrue in every respect, but it has been published--and she
is my daughter. Why in the name of common sense hasn't he come to me and
given me something to go upon?"

"It has occurred to me," said the general, dryly, "that he will do so
when he comes for Mary. In the meantime, a man isn't called upon to
travel with a family tree under his arm and show it to every one who
questions him. Morgan is a gentleman, _sans peur et sans reproche_. If
he is not, I do not know the breed.

"So far as the charge of Royson is concerned," continued the general,
"let me calm your mind on that point. I have never entered upon this
matter with you because the mistakes of a man's kindred are things he
has no right to gossip about, even among friends. The woman, Rita
Morgan, has always been free; she was given her freedom in infancy by
John Morgan's father. Her mother's history is an unfortunate one. It is
enough to say that she was sent out from Virginia with John Morgan's
mother, who was, as you know, a blood relative of mine; and I know that
this woman was sent away with an object. She looked confoundedly like
some of the family. Well, John Morgan's father was wild; you can guess
the result.

"Rita lived in her own house, and when her husband died John took her to
his home. He told me once in so many words that his father left
instructions outside his will to that effect, and that Rita's claims
upon the old man, as far as blood was concerned, were about the same as
his. You see from this that the Royson story is an absurdity. I knew it
when I went in and vouched for our young friend, and I would have proved
it to Thomas the night he called, but Rita dropped dead that day."

Montjoy drew a long breath.

"You astonish me," he said, "and relieve me greatly. I had never heard
this. I did not really doubt, but you have cleared up all possibility of
error."

"Nor has any other man heard the story. My conversation with John Morgan
grew out of his offer to buy of me Alec, a very handsome mulatto man I
owned, to whom Rita had taken a fancy. He wanted to buy him and free
him, but I had never bought or sold a slave, and could not bring myself
to accept money for Alec. I freed him myself. John was not willing for
her to marry a slave. They were married and he died in less than a year.
That is Rita's history. When Alec died Rita went to John Morgan and kept
house for him.

"When it was that Gerald came in I do not know," pursued the general
musingly. "The boy was nearly grown before I heard of him. He and Edward
are children of distant relatives, I am told. John never saw the latter
at all, probably, but educated him and, finding Gerald incapacitated,
very wisely left his property to the other, with Gerald in his charge.

"No, I have taken the greatest fancy to these two young fellows,
although I only have known one a few weeks and the other by sight and
reputation." He paused a moment, as though his careless tone had
desecrated a sacred scene; the face of the sleeper rose to his mind.
"But they are game and thoroughbreds. Accept the proposition and shut
your eyes to the future. It will all work out rightly." Montjoy shook
his head sadly.

"I will accept it," he said, "but only because it means a chance for
Caroline which otherwise she would not have. Of course you know Mary is
going with her, and Morgan is to be their escort?"

The general uttered a prolonged whistle and then laughed. "Well,
confound the little darling, to think she should come over here and tell
me all the arrangements and leave herself out; Montjoy, that is the only
one of your family born without grit; tell her so. She is afraid of one
old man's tongue."

"Here she comes, with Morgan," said Montjoy, smiling. "Tell her
yourself."

Edward's buggy was approaching rapidly and the flushed and happy face of
the girl could be seen within.

"Plotting against me," she called out, as she descended, "and I dare you
to own it." The general said:

"On the contrary, I was about telling your father what a brave little
woman you are. Come in, Mr. Morgan," he added, seeing from her blushes
that she understood him.

"Mr. Morgan was coming over to see the general," said Mary, "and I came
with him to ride back with papa." And, despite the protests of all the
others, he presently got Mary into the buggy and carried her off. "You
will stop, as you come by, Mr. Morgan," he called out. "I will be glad
to see you on a matter of business."

The buggy was yet in sight when Edward turned to his old friend and
said:

"Gen. Evan, I have come to make a statement to you, based upon long
reflection and a sense of justice. I am about to leave the state for
France, and may never return. There are matters connected with my family
which I feel you should know, and I prefer to speak rather than write
them." He paused to collect his thoughts, the general looking straight
ahead and recalling the conversation just had with Col. Montjoy. "If I
seem to trespass on forbidden grounds or stir unpleasant memories, I
trust you will hear me through before condemning me. Many years ago you
lost a daughter----"

"Go on," said the general as Edward paused and looked doubtfully toward
him.

"She was to have married my uncle, I am informed, but she did not. On
the contrary, she married a foreigner--her music teacher. Is this not
true?"

"Go on."

"She went abroad, but unknown to you she came back and her child was
born."

"Ah." The sound that came from the old man's lips was almost a gasp. For
the first time since the recital was begun he turned his eyes upon his
companion.

"At this birth, which took place probably at Ilexhurst, possibly in the
house of Rita Morgan, whose death you know of, occurred the birth of
Rita's child also. Your daughter disappeared. Rita was delirious, and
when she recovered could not be convinced that this child was not her
own; and she thought him her son until the day of her death."

"Where is this child? Why was I not informed?" The old general's voice
was hoarse and his words scarcely audible. Edward, looking him full in
the face, replied:

"At Ilexhurst! His name, as we know it, is Gerald Morgan."

Evan, who had half arisen, sank back in his chair.

"And this is your belief, Mr. Morgan?"

"That is the fact, as the weight of evidence declares. The woman in
health did not claim Gerald for her son. In the moment of her death she
cried out: 'They lied!' This is what you heard in the yard and I
repeated it at that time. I was, as you know, laboring under great
excitement. There is a picture of your daughter at Ilexhurst and the
resemblance it strong. You yourself were struck with the family
resemblance.

"I felt it my duty to speak, even at the risk of appearing to trespass
upon your best feelings. You were my friend when I needed friends, and
had I concealed this I would have been ungrateful." Edward rose, but the
general, without looking up, laid his hand upon his arm.

"Sit down, Mr. Morgan. I thank you. You could not have done less. But
give me time to realize what this means. If you are correct, I have a
grandson at Ilexhurst"--Edward bowed slightly--"whom my daughter
abandoned to the care of a servant." Again Morgan bowed, but by the
faintest motion of his head.

"I did not say abandoned," he corrected.

"It cannot be true," said the old man; "it cannot be true. She was a
good girl and even infatuation would not have changed her character. She
would have come back to me."

"If she could," said Edward. He told him the story of the unfinished
manuscript and the picture drawn by Gerald. He was determined to tell
him all, except as related to himself. That was his own and Virdow's
secret. "If that story is true, she may not have been able to get to
you; and then the war came on; you must know all before you can judge."
The old soldier was silent.

He got up with apparent difficulty and said formally: "Mr. Morgan, I
will be glad to have you join me in a glass of wine. I am not as
vigorous as I may appear, and this is my time o' day. Come in." Edward
noticed that, as he followed, the general's form had lost something of
its martial air.

No words were exchanged over the little southern ceremony. The general
merely lifted his glass slightly and bowed.

The room was cool and dark. He motioned Edward to a rocker and sank into
his leather-covered easy-chair. There was a minute's silence broken by
the elder man.

"What is your belief, Mr. Morgan, as to Gerald?"

"The facts as stated are all----"

"Nevertheless, as man to man--your belief."

"Then, in my opinion, the evidence points to Gerald as the child of this
woman Rita. I am sure also that it is his own belief. The only
disturbing evidence is the likeness, but Virdow says that the children
of servants very frequently bear likeness to a mistress. It is a
delicate question, but all of our ancestors were not immaculate. Is
there anything in the ancestry of Rita Morgan--is there any reason why
her child should bear a likeness to--to----"

The general lifted his hand in warning. But he said: "What became of the
other child?" The question did not disturb or surprise the young man. He
expected that it would be asked. It was natural. Yet, prepared as he
was, his voice was unsteady when he replied:

"That I do not know."

"You do not know!" The general's tone of voice was peculiar. Did he
doubt?

"I had two objects in view when I brought up this subject," said Edward,
when the silence grew embarrassing; "one was to acquaint you with the
possibilities out at Ilexhurst, and to ask your good offices for Gerald
in the event my absence is prolonged or any necessity for assistance
should arise. The other is to find the second child if it is living and
determine Gerald's status; and, with this as my main object, I venture
to ask you if, since her disappearance, you have ever heard of Marion
Evan?"

"God help me," said Evan, brokenly; "yes. But it was too soon; too soon;
I could not forgive her."

"And since then?" The old man moved his hand slowly and let it fall.

"Silence--oblivion."

"Can you give me the name of her husband?" Without reply the veteran
went to the secretary and took from a pigeonhole a well-worn letter.

"No eye but mine has ever read these lines," he said, simply. "I do not
fear to trust them to you! Read! I cannot now!"

Edward's hand trembled as he received the papers. If Rita Morgan spoke
the truth he was about to look upon lines traced by his mother's hand.
It was like a message from the dead.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE PLEDGE THAT WAS GIVEN.


Edward opened the letter with deep emotion. The handwriting was small
and unformed, the writing of schoolgirl. It read:

     "Jan. 3, 18--. My Darling Papa: When you read this I will be
     far away upon the ocean and separated from you by circumstances
     compared with which leagues are but trifles. You probably know
     them by telegram before now, but I cannot leave you and my
     native land without a farewell. Papa, I am now the wife of an
     honorable, loving man, and happy as I could be while
     remembering you and your loneliness. Why I have done this, why
     I have taken this step without coming to you first and letting
     you decide, I cannot tell, nor do I know. I only know that I
     love my husband as I have never loved before; that I have his
     whole affection; that he wanted me to go with him blindly, and
     that I have obeyed. That is all. There is no ingratitude in my
     heart, no lessening of affection for you; you still are to me
     the one man in my old world; but my husband had come in and
     made a new world of it all, and I am his. You will blame me, I
     am afraid, and perhaps disown me. If so, God is merciful to
     women who suffer for those they love. I would lay down my life
     for Gaspard; I have laid down everything dear to life. We go to
     his childhood's home in Silesia, where with the money he has
     saved and with his divine art, we hope to be happy and face the
     world without fear. Oh, papa, if you could only forgive me; if
     you could remember your own love for that beautiful mamma of
     whom you never tired telling, and who, I am sure, is near me
     now; if you could remember and forgive me, the world would hold
     nothing that I would exchange a thought for. Gaspard is noble
     and manly. You would admire him and he would adore you, as do
     I, your only child. Papa, you will write to me; a father can
     never forsake his child. If I am wrong, you cannot forsake me;
     if I am right, you cannot. There is no arrangement in all God's
     providence for such a contingency, and Christ did not turn even
     from the woman whom others would stone. Can you turn from me,
     when if I have erred it is through the divine instinct that God
     has given me? No! You cannot, you will not! If you could, you
     would not have been the noble patient, brave man whom all men
     love. Write at once and forgive and bless your child.

     "Marion."

On a separate slip, pinned to the letter, was:

     "My address will be Mrs. Gaspard Levigne, Breslau, Silesia. If
     we change soon, I will write to you. God bless and care for
     you.

     "M."

Edward gently replaced the faded letter upon the table; his eyes were
wet and his voice changed and unnatural.

"You did not write?"

The general shook his head.

"You did not write?" Edward repeated the question; this time his voice
almost agonized in the weight of emotion. Again the general shook his
head, fearing to trust his voice. The young man gazed upon him long and
curiously and was silent.

"I wrote five years later," said Evan, presently. "It was the best I
could do. You cannot judge the ante-bellum southern planter by him
to-day. I was a king in those times! I had ambition. I looked to the
future of my child and my family! All was lost; all perished in the act
of a foolish girl, infatuated with a music master. I can forgive now,
but over me have rolled waves enough in thirty years to wear away stone.
The war came on; I carried that letter from Manassas to Appomattox and
then I wrote. I set inquiries afoot through consuls abroad. No voice has
ever raised from the silence. My child is dead."

"Perhaps not," said Edward, gently; "perhaps not. If there is any genius
in European detective bureaus that money can command, we shall know--we
shall know."

"If she lived she would have written. I cannot get around that. I know
my child. She could not remain silent nearly thirty years."

"Unless silenced by circumstances over which she had no control,"
continued Edward, "and every side of this matter has presented itself to
me. Your daughter had one firm, unchanging friend--my uncle, John
Morgan. He has kept her secret--perhaps her child. Is it not possible
that he has known of her existence somewhere; that she has been all
along informed of the condition and welfare of the child--and of you?"
Evan did not reply; he was intently studying the young man.

"John offered to find her a year after she was gone. He came and pleaded
for her, but I gave him conditions and he came no more."

"It is not only possible that she lives," said Edward, "but probable.
And it is certain that if John Morgan knew of her existence and then
that she had passed away, that all pledges would have been suspended in
the presence of a father's right to know that his child was dead. I go
to unravel the mystery. I begin to feel that I will succeed, for now,
for the first time I have a starting point. I have name and address." He
took down the information in his memorandum book.

Edward prepared to take his departure, when Evan, throwing off his mood,
stood before him thoughtful and distressed.

"Say it," said Edward, bravely, reading a change in the frank face.

"One moment, and I shall bid you farewell and godspeed." He laid his
hand upon Edward's shoulder and fixed a penetrating gaze upon him.
"Young man, my affairs can wait, but yours cannot. I have no questions
to ask of yourself; you came among us and earned our gratitude. In time
of trouble I stood by you. It was upon my vouching personally for your
gentility that your challenge was accepted. We went upon the field
together; your cause became mine. Now this; I have yet a daughter, the
young woman whom you love--not a word now--she is the pride and idol of
two old men. She is well disposed toward you, and you are on the point
of going upon a journey in her company under circumstances that place
her somewhat at a disadvantage. I charge you that it is not honorable to
take advantage of this to win from her a declaration or a promise of any
kind. Man to man, is it not true?"

"It is true," said Edward, turning pale, but meeting his gaze
fearlessly. "It is so true that I may tell you now that from my lips no
word of love has ever passed to her; that if I do speak to her upon that
subject it will be while she is here among her own people and free from
influences that would bias her decision unfairly." The hands of the two
men met impulsively. A new light shone in the face of the soldier.

"I vouched for you, and if I erred then there is no more faith to be put
in manhood, for if you be not a true man I never have seen one. Go and
do your best for Gerald--and for me. I must reflect upon these
matters--I must reflect! As yet their full import has failed me. You
must send me that manuscript."

Deeply impressed and touched, Edward withdrew. The task was finished. It
had been a delicate and trying one for him.

At The Hall Edward went with Mary into the darkened room and took the
little mother's hand in his and sat beside her to tell of the proposed
journey. He pictured vividly the scenes to be enjoyed and life in the
gay capital, and all as a certainty for her. She did not doubt; Dr.
Campbell had promised sight; it would return. But this journey, the
expense, they could not afford it.

But Mary came to the rescue there; her father had told her he was
entirely able to bear the expense, and she was satisfied. This, however,
did not deceive the mother, who was perfectly familiar with the family
finances. She knitted away in discreet silence, biding her time.

The business to which Col. Montjoy had referred was soon finished. He
formally accepted the very opportune offer and wished to know when they
should meet in the city to arrange papers. To this Edward objected,
suggesting that he would keep an accurate account of expenses incurred
and arrange papers upon his return; and to this, the only reasonable
arrangement possible, Col. Montjoy acceded.

One more incident closed the day. Edward had nearly reached the city,
when he came upon a buggy by the roadside, drawn up in the shade of a
tree. His own animal, somewhat jaded, was leisurely walking. Their
approach was practically noiseless, and he was alongside the vehicle
before either of the two occupants looked up. He saw them both start
violently and the face of the man flush quickly, a scar upon the nose
becoming at once crimson. They were Royson and his cousin.

Greatly pained and embarrassed, Edward was at a loss how to act, but
unconsciously he lifted his hat, with ceremonious politeness. Royson did
not respond, but Annie, with more presence of mind, smiled sweetly and
bowed. This surprised him. She had studiously avoided meeting him at The
Hall.

The message of Mary, "Royson is your enemy," flashed upon him. He had
felt intuitively the enmity of the woman. Why this clandestine interview
and to what did it tend? He knew in after days.

Arriving at home he found Virdow writing in the library and forbore to
disturb him. Gerald was slumbering in the glass-room, his deep breathing
betraying the cause. Edward went to the little room upstairs to secure
the manuscript and prepare it for sending to Gen. Evan. Opening the desk
he was surprised to see that the document was not where he placed it. A
search developed it under all the fragmentary manuscript, and he was
about to inclose it in an envelope when he noticed that the pages were
reversed. The last reader had not slipped the pages one under another,
but had placed them one on another, probably upon the desk, thus
bringing the last page on top.

Edward remembered at that moment that in reading the manuscript he had
carefully replaced each page in its proper position and had left the
package on top of all others. Who could have disturbed them? Not Virdow,
and there was none else but Gerald!

He laid aside the package and reflected. Of what use could this
unexplained manuscript be to Gerald? None that he could imagine; and yet
only Gerald could have moved it. Greatly annoyed, he restored the leaves
and placed them in an envelope.

He was still thinking of the singular discovery he had made, and idly
glancing over the other fragments, when from one of them fell a
newspaper clipping. He would not in all probability have read it
through, but the name "Gaspard," so recently impressed upon his mind,
caught his eye. The clipping was printed in French and was headed "From
our Vienna correspondent." Translated, it read as follows:

"To-day began the trial of Leon Gaspard for the murder of Otto Schwartz
in this city on the 18th ult. The case attracts considerable attention,
because of the fact that Gaspard has been for a week playing first
violin in the orchestra of the Imperial Theater, where he has won many
admirers and because of the peculiar circumstances of the case. Schwartz
was a stranger and came to this city only upon the day of his death. It
seems that Gaspard, so it is charged, some years previously had deserted
a sister of Schwartz after a mock marriage, but this he denies. The men
met in a cafe and a scuffle ensued, during which Schwartz was stabbed to
the heart and instantly killed. Gaspard claims that he had been
repeatedly threatened by letter, and that Schwartz came to Vienna to
kill him, and that he (Schwartz) struck the first blow. He had upon his
face a slight cut, inflicted, he claims, by a seal ring worn by
Schwartz. Bystanders did not see the blow, and Schwartz had no weapons
upon his body. Gaspard declares that he saw a knife in the dead man's
hand and that it was picked up and concealed by a stranger who
accompanied him into the cafe. Unless he can produce the threatening
letters, and find witnesses to prove the knife incident, the trial will
go hard with him."

Another clew! And the husband of Marion Evan was a murderer! Who sent
that clipping to John Morgan? Probably a detective bureau. Edward folded
it sadly, and gave it place by the memoranda he had written in his
notebook.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

"WHICH OF THE TWO WAS MY MOTHER?"


The sleeper lay tranquilly forgetful of the morning hours redolent of
perfumes and vocal with the songs of birds. The sunlight was gone, a
deep-gray cloud having crept up to shadow the scene. All was still in
the glass-room. Virdow shook his head.

"This," he said, "strange, as it may seem, is his real life. Waking
brings the dreams. We will not disturb him."

Edward would have returned his violin to its case, but as he sat looking
upon the face of the sleeper and revolving in mind the complications
which had enslaved him, there came upon the roof of glass the unheralded
fall of rain. As it rose and fell in fine cadences under the fitful
discharge of moisture from the uneven cloud drifting past, a note wild
but familiar caught his ear; it was the note of the waterfall.
Unconsciously he lifted his bow, and blending with that strange minor
chord, he filled the room with low, sweet melody.

And there as the song grew into rapture from its sadness under the spell
of a new-found hope, under the memory of that last scene, when the
rainbow overhung the waters and the face of the girl had become radiant
with the thought she expressed, Gerald arose from his couch and stood
before the easel. All the care lines were gone from his face. For the
first time in the knowledge of the two men he stood a cool, rational
being. The strains ran on. The artist drew, lingering over a touch of
beauty, a shade of expression, a wave of fine hair upon the brow. Then
he stood silent and gazed upon his work. It was finished. The song of
the violin trembled--died away.

He did not for the moment note his companions; he was looking upward
thoughtfully. The sun had burst open the clouds and was filling the
outer world with yellow light, through the water-seeped air. Far away,
arching the mellow depths of a cloud abyss, its colors repeated upon the
wet grass around him, was a rainbow. Then he saw that Virdow and Edward
were watching him. The spell was broken. He smiled a little and beckoned
to Edward.

"Here is a new face," he said. "It is the first time it has come to me.
It is a face that rests me." Edward approached and gazed upon the face
of Mary! Speechless with the rush of feeling that came over him, he
turned and left the room.

To Virdow it meant nothing except a fine ideal, but, impressed with the
manner of the musician, he followed to the great hall. The girl of the
picture stood in the doorway. Before he had time to speak, he saw the
martial figure of Evan overshadow hers and heard the strong, manly voice
asking for Edward.

Edward came forward. Confused by his recent experience, and the sudden
appearance of the original of the picture, he with difficulty managed to
welcome his guest and introduce his friend.

"I thought best to come," said Evan when Virdow, with easy courtesy, was
engaging the attention of the lady. "I have passed a sleepless night.
Where can we speak privately?" Edward motioned to the stairway, but
hesitated.

"Never mind Mary," said the general, divining his embarrassment.

"I took her away from the colonel on the road; she and the professor
will take care of themselves." She heard the remark and smiled, replying
gayly:

"But don't stay too long. I am afraid I shall weary your friend."

Virdow made his courtliest bow.

"Impossible," he said. "I have been an untiring admirer of the beautiful
since childhood."

"Bravo!" cried Evan. "You will do!" Virdow bowed again.

"I would be glad to have you answer a question," he said, rather
abruptly, gazing earnestly into her eyes. She was astonished, but
managed to reply assuringly. "It is this: Have you ever met Gerald
Morgan?"

"Never. I have heard so much of him lately, I should be glad to see
him."

"Has he ever seen you?"

"Not that I am aware of----"

"Certainly not face to face--long enough for him to remember your every
feature--your expression?"

"Why, no." The old man looked troubled and began to walk up and down the
hall, his head bent forward. The girl watched him nonplussed and with a
little uneasiness.

"Pardon me--pardon me," he said, finally, recalling the situation. "But
it is strange, strange!"

"May I inquire what troubles you, sir?" she asked, timidly.

"Yes, certainly, yes." He started, with sudden resolution, and
disappeared for a few moments. When he returned, he was holding a large
sheet of cardboard. "It is this," he said. "How could a man who has
never seen you face to face have drawn this likeness?" He held Gerald's
picture before her. She uttered an exclamation of surprise.

"And did he draw it--did Mr. Gerald----"

"In my presence."

"He has never seen me."

"Yes," said a musical voice; "as you were then, I have seen you." She
started with fright. Gerald, with pallid face and hair upon his
shoulders, stood before her. "So shall I see you forever." She drew
nearer to Virdow.

"This, my young friend, is Mary." It was all he could remember. And then
to her: "This is Gerald."

"Mary," he said, musingly, "Mary? What a pretty name! It suits you. None
other would." She had extended her hand shyly. He took it and lifted it
to his lips. It was the first time a girl's hand had rested in his. He
did not release it; she drew away at last. Something in his voice had
touched her; it was the note of suffering, of unrest, which a woman
feels first. She knew something of his history. He had been Edward's
friend. Her father had pictured the scene wherein he had cornered and
defied Royson.

"I am sure we shall be friends, Mr. Gerald. Mr. Morgan is so fond of
you."

"We shall be more than friends," he said, gently; "more than friends."
She misunderstood him. Had he divined her secret and did Edward promise
him that?

"Never less," she said. He had not removed his eyes from her, and now as
she turned to speak to Virdow, he came and stood by her side, and
lifting gently one of her brown curls gazed wonderingly upon it. She was
embarrassed, but her good sense came to the rescue.

"See the light upon it come and go," he said. "We call it the reflected
light; but it is life itself glimmering there. The eye holds the same
ray."

"You have imagination," she said, smiling, "and it is fortunate. Here
you must be lonely." He shook his head.

"Imagination is often a curse. The world generally is happy, I think,
and the happiest are those who touch life through the senses alone and
who do not dream. I am never alone! Would to God sometimes I were." A
look of anguish convulsed his face. She laid her hand upon his wrist as
he stood silently struggling for self-possession.

"I am so sorry," she said, softly; "I have pained you." The look, the
touch, the tender voice--which was it? He shuddered and gazed upon the
little hand and then into her eyes. Mary drew back, wondering; she read
him aright. Love in such natures is not a growth. It is born as a flash
of light. Yet she did not realize the full significance of the
discovery. Then, oh, wonderful power of nature, she turned upon him her
large, melting eyes and gave him one swift message of deepest sympathy.
Again he shuddered and the faintest crimson flushed his cheeks.

They went with Virdow to see the wing-room, of which she had heard so
much, to look into the little cabinets, where he made his photographs,
to handle his weapons, view his favorite books and all the curious
little surroundings of his daily life; she went with an old man and a
child. Her girlish interest was infectious; Virdow threw off his
speculations and let himself drift with the new day, and Gerald was as a
smiling boy.

They even ventured with unconventional daring to peep into the
glass-room. Standing on the threshold, the girl gazed in with surprise
and delight.

"How novel and how simple!" she exclaimed; "and to think of having the
stars for friends all night!" He laughed silently and nodded his head;
here was one who understood.

And then her eyes caught a glimpse of the marble bust, which Gerald had
polished and cleared of its discolorations. She made them bring it and
place it before her. A puzzled look overspread her face as she glanced
from Gerald to the marble and back again.

"Strange, strange," she said; "sit here, Mr. Gerald, sit here, with your
head by this one, and let me see." White now as the marble itself, but
controlled by the new power that had enthralled, he obeyed; the two
faces looked forward upon the girl, feature for feature. Even the pose
was the same.

"It was well done," she said. "I never saw a more perfect resemblance,
and yet"--going to one side--"the profile is that of Mr. Edward!" The
young man uttered no sound; he was, in the swift passing of the one
bright hour of his life, as the marble itself. But as he remained a
moment under the spell of despair that overran him, Gen. Evan stood in
the door. Only Mary caught the words in his sharp, half-smothered
exclamation as he started back. They were: "It is true!" He came forward
and, taking up the marble, looked long and tenderly into the face, and
bowing his head gave way to his tears.

One by one they withdrew--Virdow, Mary, Edward. Only Gerald remained,
gazing curiously into the general's face and thinking. Then tenderly the
old man replaced the bust upon the table, and, standing above his head,
and said with infinite tenderness:

"Gerald, you do not know me; if God wills it you will know me some day!
That marble upon the table is the carved face of my daughter--Marion
Evan."

"Then you are Gen. Evan." The young man spoke the words coolly and
without emotion.

"Yes. Nearly thirty years ago she left me--without a farewell until too
late, with no human being in all the world to love, none to care for
me."

"So Rita told me." The words were little more than a whisper.

"I did not curse her; I disowned her and sought to forget. I could not.
Then I began to cry out for her in the night--in my loneliness--do you
know what that word means?"

"Do I know?" The pathos in the echo was beyond description.

"And then I began a search that ended only when ten years had buried all
hopes. No tidings, no word after her first letter ever reached me. She
is dead, I believe; but recently some of the mystery has been untangled.
I begin to know, to believe that there has been an awful error
somewhere. She did come back. Her child was born and Rita cared for it.
As God is my judge, I believe that you are that child! Tell me, do you
remember, have you any knowledge that will help me to unravel this
tangled----"

"You are simply mistaken, general," said the young man, without moving
other than to fold his arms and sink back into his chair. "I am not the
son of Marion Evan." Speechless for a moment, the general gazed upon his
companion.

"I thought I was," continued Gerald; "I hoped I was. My God! My God! I
tried to be! I have exhausted almost life itself to make the truth a
lie, and the lie a truth! I have struggled with this secret here for
twenty years or more; I have studied every phase of life; I well-nigh
broke Rita's heart. Poor honest Rita!

"She told me what they claimed--she was too honest to conceal that--and
what she believed; she was too human to conceal that; and then left me
to judge. The woman they would have me own as my mother left me, a
lonely babe, to the care of strangers; to grow up ill-taught, unguided,
frail and haunted with a sickening fear. She has left me twenty-seven
years. Rita stayed. If I were sick, Rita was by me. If I was crazed,
Rita was there to calm. Sleepless by night, sleepless by day, she loved
and comforted and blessed me." He had risen in his growing excitement.
"I ask you, General, who have known life better than I, which of the two
was my mother? Let me answer; you will not. The woman of thirty years
ago is nothing to me; she was once. That has passed. When Rita lay dead
in her coffin I kissed her lips at last and called her mother. I would
have killed myself afterward--life seemed useless--but not so now. It
may be a terrible thing to be Rita's son; I suppose it is, but as before
God, I thank Him that I have come to believe that there are no ties of
blood between me and the woman who was false to both father and child,
and in all probability deserted her husband."

Gen. Evan turned abruptly and rushed from the room. Edward saw his face
as he passed out through the hall and did not speak. With courtly
dignity he took Mary to the buggy and stood with bowed head until they
were gone. He then returned to the glass-room. Gerald stood among the
ruins of a drawing and the fragments of the marble bust lay on the
floor. One glance at this scene and the blazing eyes of the man was
sufficient. Evan had failed.

"Tell them," exclaimed Gerald, "that even the son of a slave is
dishonored, when they seek to link him to a woman who abandons her
child."

"What is it," asked Virdow, in a whisper, coming to Edward's side.
Edward shook his head and drew him from the room.

"He does not know what he is saying."



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

UNDER THE SPELL.


The autumn days ran out and in the depth of the southern woods, here and
there, the black gums and sweet gums began to flame. And with them came
the day when the bandages were removed from the eyes of the gentle woman
at the hall. The family gathered about the little figure in the
sitting-room. Edward Morgan with them, and Col. Montjoy lowered the
bandage. The room had been darkened and all light except what came
through one open shutter had been excluded. There was a moment of
painful silence; Mary tightly clasping her mother's hands. The invalid
turned her face to the right and left, and then to the window.

"Light," she said gently. "I see."

"Thank God!" The words burst from the old man's lips and his arms went
around mother and daughter at once. For quicker than he the girl had
glided in between them and was clasping the beloved form. Edward said a
few words of congratulation and passed outside. The scene was sacred.

Then came days of practice. The eyes so long darkened must be accustomed
to the light and not strained. Upon that weak vision, little by little,
came back the world, the trees and flowers, the faces of husband and
daughter and friends. It was a joyful season at the hall.

A little sadder, a little sterner than usual, but with his fine face
flushed in sympathetic feeling, the old general came to add his
congratulations. Now nothing remained but to prepare for Paris, and all
was bustle.

A few more nights and then--departure!

Mary was at the piano, playing the simple music of the south and singing
the songs which were a part of the air she had breathed all her
life--the folk songs of the blacks.

Col. Montjoy had the Duchess on his lap to hear "the little boy in his
watch crack hickory nuts" and the monotonous cracking of the nuts
mingling with the melody of the musician had put both asleep.

Mary and Edward went to the veranda, and to them across the field came
the measured tread of feet, the call of the fiddler, and now and then
strains of music, such as the negro prefers.

Edward proposed an excursion to witness the dance, and the girl assented
gladly. She was herself a born dancer; one whose feet were set to rhythm
in infancy.

They reached the long house, a spacious one-room edifice, with low
rafters but a broad expanse of floor, and stood at the door. Couple
after couple passed by in the grand promenade, the variety and
incongruities of colors amusing Edward greatly. Every girl in passing
called repeatedly to "missy," the name by which Mary was known on the
plantation, and their dusky escorts bowed awkwardly and smiled.

Suddenly the lines separated and a couple began to dance. Edward, who
had seen the dancers of most nations, was delighted with the abandon of
these. The man pursued the girl through the ranks, she eluding him with
ease, as he was purposely obstructed by every one. His object was to
keep as near her as possible for the final scene. At last she reappeared
in the open space and hesitating a moment, her dusky face wreathed in
smiles, darted through the doorway. There was a shout as her escort
followed. If he could catch her before she reëntered at the opposite
door she paid the penalty. Before Edward realized the situation the girl
was behind him. He stepped the wrong way, there was a collision, and ere
she could recover, her pursuer had her in his arms. There was a moment's
struggle; his distinct smack proved his success, and if it had not, the
resounding slap from the broad hand of his captive would have betrayed
matters.

On went the dance. Mary stood patting time to the music of the violin in
the hands of old Morris, the presiding genius of the festival, who bent
and genuflected to suit the requirements of his task. As the revel grew
wilder, as it always does under the stimulus of a spectator's presence,
she motioned to Edward, and entering, stood by the player.

"In all your skill," she said, "you cannot equal this." For reply the
young man, taking advantage of a pause in the rout, reached over and
took the well-worn instrument from the hands of the old man. There was a
buzz of interest. Catching the spirit of the scene he drew the bow and
gave them the wild dance music of the Hungarians. They responded
enthusiastically and the player did not fail.

Then, when the tumult had reached its climax, there was a crash, and
with bow in air Edward, flushed and excited, stood gazing upon the
crowd. Then forty voices shouted:

"Missy! Missy!" On the impulse of the moment they cheered and clapped
their hands.

All eyes were turned to Mary. She looked into the face of the player;
his eyes challenged hers and she responded, instinctively the dusky
figures shrank to the wall and alone, undaunted, the slender girl stood
in the middle of the deserted floor. Edward played the gypsy dance,
increasing the time until it was a passionate melody, and Mary began.
Her lithe form swayed and bent and glided in perfect response to the
player, the little feet twinkling almost unseen upon the sandy boards.
Such grace, such allurements, he had never before dreamed of. And
finally, breathless, she stood one moment, her hand uplifted, the
triumphant interpreter of his melody. With mischievous smile, she sprang
from the door, her face turned backward for one instant.

Releasing the instrument, Edward followed in perfect forgetfulness of
self and situation. But when, puzzled, he appeared alone at the opposite
door, he heard her laugh in the distance--and memory overwhelmed him
with her tide.

He was pale and startled and the company was laughing. He cast a handful
of money among them and in the confusion that followed made his escape.
Mary was waiting demurely in the path.

"It was perfect," he said, breaking the awkward silence.

"Any one could dance to that music," was her reply.

Silently they began their return. An old woman sat in her cabin door, a
fire of chunks making a red spot in the gloom behind.

"We go to-morrow, Aunt Sylla. Is it for good or ill?" The woman was old
and wrinkled. She was the focus of all local superstition; one of the
ante-bellum voodoos. If her pewter spoons had been gold, her few beads
diamonds, she might have left the doors unbarred without danger.

Mary had paused and asked the question to draw out the odd character for
her friend.

"In the woods the clocks of heaven strike 11! Jeffers, who was never
born, speaks out," was the strange reply.

"In the woods," said Mary, thoughtfully, "the dew drips tinkling from
the leaves; Jeffers, the redbird, was never born, but hatched. What does
he say, Aunt Sylla?" The woman was trying to light her pipe. Absence of
tobacco was the main cause of her failure. Edward crushed a cigar and
handed it to her. When she had lighted it she lifted the blazing chunk
and her faded eyes looked steadily upon the young man.

"He says the gentleman will come some day and bring much tobacco." The
girl laughed, but the darkness hid her blushes.

"In the meantime," said Edward cheerfully, placing a silver coin in her
hand, "you can tell your friend Jeffers that you are supplied."

The negro's prophecy is usually based on shrewd guesses. Sylla grasped
the coin with the eagerness of a child receiving a new doll. She pointed
her finger at him and looked to the girl. Mary laughed.

"Keep still a moment, Mr. Morgan," she said, "I must rob you."

She took a strand or two of his hair between her little fingers and
plucked them out. Edward would not have flinched had there been fifty.
"Now something you have worn--what can it be? Oh, a button." She took
his penknife and cut from his coat sleeve one of its buttons. "There,
Aunt Sylla, if you are not successful with them I shall never forgive
you." The old woman took the hair and the button and relapsed into
silent smoking.

"I am a little curious to know what she is going to do with those
things," said Edward. Mary looked at him shyly.

"She is going to protect you," she said. "She will mix a little ground
glass and a drop of chicken blood with them, and sew all in a tiny bag.
No negro alive or dead would touch you then for the universe, and should
you touch one of them with that charm it would give them catalepsy. You
will get it to-morrow."

"She is arming me with a terrible power at small cost," he replied,
dryly.

"Old Sylla is a prophetess," said the girl, "as well as a voodoo, and
there is with us a tradition that death in the family will follow her
every visit to the house. It is strange, but within our memory it has
proved true. My infant brother, my only sister, mamma's brother, papa's
sister, an invalid northern cousin spending the winter here--all their
deaths were preceded by the appearance of old Sylla."

"And is her success in prophecy as marked?"

"Yes, so far as I know." She hesitated a moment. "Her prediction as to
myself has not had time to mature."

"And what was the prediction?"

"That some day a stranger would carry me into a strange land," she said,
smiling; "and--break my heart."

They had reached the gate; except where the one light burned in the
sitting-room all was darkness and silence. Edward said gently, as he
stood holding open the gate:

"I am a stranger and shortly I will take you into a strange land, but
may God forget me if I break your heart." She did not reply, but with
face averted passed in. The household was asleep. She carried the lamp
to his door and opened it. He took it and then her hand. For a moment
they looked into each other's eyes; then, gravely lifting the little
hand, he kissed it.

"May God forget me," he said again, "if I break your heart." He held the
door open until she had passed down the stairs, her flushed face never
lifted again to his.

And then with the shutting of the door came darkness. But in the gloom a
white figure came from the front doorway, stood listening at the stairs
and then as noiseless as a sunbeam glided down into the hall below.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

BARKSDALE'S WARNING.


Edward was awakened by a cowhorn blown just before the peep of day and
the frantic baying of the hounds that Charlie Possum was bringing to the
house. As he dressed and came forth the echos of horses' feet were heard
in the distance upon the public roads and the cry of other hounds, and
as the gray dawn lighted the east the outer yard presented an animated
scene. About a dozen riders were dismounting or dismounted were trying
to force a place between the multitude of dogs, great and small, that
were settling old and new disputes rough and tumble, tooth and toe nail.

There was little of the holiday attire that is usually seen at club
meets; the riders wore rough clothing and caps and their small slender
horses were accoutered with saddles and bridles that had been distinctly
"worn." But about all was a business air and promise of genuine sport.
Many of the dogs were of the old "July" stock, descendants of a famous
Maryland dog of 40 years before, whose progeny scattered throughout
Georgia constitute canine aristocracy wherever found--a slender-flanked,
fullchested animal, with markings of black and tan. Among them were
their English rivals of larger form and marked with blotches of red and
white.

The servants were busy getting light refreshments for the riders. Mary
was the superintendent of this, but at the same time she was presiding
over a ceremony dear to the old south at all hours of the day. Into each
generous cut glass goblet that lined her little side table she poured a
few spoonsful of sweetened water, packing them with crushed ice. Down
through the little arctic heaps, a wineglassful of each, she poured a
ruby liquor grown old in the deep cellar, and planted above the radiated
pyramids little forests of mint. Nothing but silver is worthy to hold
such works of art, and so getting out an old, well-worn Montjoy silver,
its legend and crest almost faded into the general smoothness of their
background, she placed them there and began her ministry in the long
dining room. She made a pretty picture as she passed among the men, her
short, narrowskirted riding dress and little felt hat setting off her
lithe, active form perfectly. The ceremony was simple and short.
Everybody was eager to be off.

Just as they mounted and rode out, Mary appeared from somewhere, mounted
upon a half broken colt, that betrayed a tendency to curve herself into
a half-moon, and gallop broadside against fences and trees that were
inconveniently located.

Edward viewed the mount with alarm. Though a fairly good rider, he was
not up to cross country runs and he questioned his ability to be of much
assistance should the half broken animal bolt, with its fair burden. He
proposed an exchange, but Mary laughed at the idea.

"Lorna is all right," she said, "but you could never get her out of the
yard. She will steady up after awhile, and the best of horses can't beat
her in getting round corners and over fences."

"Daughter," said the colonel, checking his horse as he prepared to
follow, "are you sure of Lorna?"

"Perfectly. She is going to do her worst for a while and then her best.
Steady girl; don't disgrace yourself before company." Lorna danced and
tossed her head and chewed upon her bit with impatience.

At that moment Barksdale rode into the yard, mounted upon a tall
thoroughbred, his equipments perfect, dress elegant, seat easy and
carriage erect. He seemed to Edward a perfect horseman. He gravely
saluted them both.

"I see that I am in the nick of time, Miss Mary; I was afraid it was
late."

"It is late," said the girl, "but this time it is a cat and doesn't
matter. The scent will lie long after sun-up." They were following then
and the conversation was difficult. Already the dark line of men was
disappearing down the line in its yet unbroken shadow. A mile away the
party turned into the low grounds and here the general met them riding
his great roan and, as always when mounted, having the appearance of an
officer on parade. He came up to the three figures in the rear and
saluted them cheerily. His old spirits seemed to have returned.

They entered into a broad valley that had been fallow for several years.
Along the little stream that threaded its way down the middle with
zigzag indecision, grew the southern cane from 6 to 15 feet high; the
mass a hundred yards broad in places, and at others narrowing down to
fords. This cane growing erect is impenetrable for horses. The rest of
the valley, half a mile wide, was grown up in sage, broomstraw, little
pines and briars.

The general shape of the ground was that of the letter Y, the stem being
the creek, and the arms its two feeders leading in from the hills. To
start at the lower end of the letter, travel up and out one arm to its
end, and return to the starting point, meant an eight mile ride, if the
cat kept to the cane as was likely. It was a mile across from arm to
arm, without cover except about an acre of sparse, low cane half way
between. When Mary came up to the leading riders, with her escort, they
were discussing a fact that all seemed to regard as significant. One of
the old dogs, "Leader," had uttered a sharp, quick yelp. All other dogs
were focusing toward her; their dark figures visible here and there as
they threaded the tangled way. Suddenly an angry, excited baying in
shrill falsetto was heard, and Evan shouted: "That's my puppy Carlo!
Where are your English dogs?"

"Wait," said one of the party. "The English dogs will be in at start and
finish." Suddenly "Leader" opened fullmouthed, a second ahead of her
puppy, and the next instant, pandemonium broke loose. Forty-seven dogs
were racing in full cry up the stream. A dozen excited men were
following, with as much noise and skill as they could command.

"A cat, by ----" exclaimed one of the neighbors. "I saw him!" Barksdale
led the way for the little group behind. Edward could have closed in,
but his anxiety for the girl was now developed into genuine fear. The
tumult was the signal for Lorna to begin a series of equine
calisthenics, more distinguished for violence than beauty. For she
planted her heels in the face of nature repeatedly, seemingly in an
impartial determination to destroy all the cardinal points of the
compass. This exercise she varied with agile leaps upward, and bunching
of feet as she came down.

Edward was about to dismount to take hold of her when Lorna, probably
discerning that it was unnecessary to get rid of her rider before
joining the rout, went past him like a leaf upon a hurricane. He planted
spurs in his horse's side and followed with equal speed, but she was now
far ahead. He saw her skim past Barksdale, and that gentleman with but a
slight motion of his knees increased his speed. And then Lorna and the
thoroughbred went straight into the wall of cane, but instead of a
headlong plunge and a mixture of human being and struggling animal
floundering in the break, he simply saw--nothing. The pair went out of
sight like an awkwardly snuffed candle.

He had no time to wonder; the next instant he was going through a hog
path in the cane, the tall stems rattling madly against his knees, his
eyes dazed by the rushing past of so many near and separate points of
vision. Then he rose in air. There was a flash of water underneath and
down he came into the path. The open world burst upon him again like a
beautiful picture. He only saw the flying figure of the girl upon a mad
colt. Was she trying in vain to hold it? Would she lose her head? Would
her nerve forsake her? Heavens!! She is plying her whip with might and
main, and the man on the thoroughbred at her heels looks back over his
shoulder into Edward's white face and smiles. Then they disappear into
the green wall again and again the world is reborn on the other side.

The pace tells. One by one Edward passes the riders. The old general
comes up at last. As Mary goes by, he gives what Edward supposes to be
the old rebel yell of history and then they are out of the end of one
arm of the Y and heading for the clump of cane.

There has been little dodging. With so many dogs plunging up both sides
of the creek, and picking up its trail as he crossed and re-crossed, the
cat had finally to adopt a straightaway program as the cover would
permit. If it dodged once in this little bit of small cane it was lost.
It did not dodge. It went straight into the end of the other arm of the
Y and to the astonishment of all the hunters apparently went out again
and across a sedge field toward the hills.

It was then a straight race of half a mile and the dogs won. They
snarled and pulled and fought around the carcass, when Lorna went
directly over them and was "sawed up" at the edge of the woods 50 yards
further. One of the hunters jumped down and plucked the carcass from the
dogs and held it up. It was a gray fox. The dogs had run over him in the
little cane and indulged in a view chase. The cat was elsewhere!

Exclamations of disgust were heard on all sides and Evan looked
anxiously among the gathering dogs.

"Where is Carlo?" he asked of several. "Has anybody seen Carlo?" Nobody
had, apparently; but at that moment in the distance, down the arm of the
Y which Reynard had crossed, they heard a sharp, puppyish cry,
interspersed with the fuller voicings of an old dog.

"There is Carlo!" shouted the old gentleman in a stentorian voice. "And
Leader," interpolated Montjoy.

"Come on with your English dogs! Ha, ha, ha!" and Evan was gone. But
Lorna was done for the day. She distinctly refused to become enthused
any more. She had carried her rider first in at the death in one race
and the bush had been handed to Mary. Lorna responded to the efforts to
force her, by indulging in her absurd half-moon antics. Barksdale and
Edward turned back.

"It will come around on the same circuit," said Barksdale, speaking of
the cat; "let us ride out into the open space and see it." They took
position and listened. Two miles away, about at the fork of the Y, they
could hear the echo of the tumult. If the cat went down the main stem
the day was probably spoiled; if it came back up the other branch as
before, they were in good position.

Nearer and nearer came the rout and then the dogs swarmed all over the
lone acre of cane. The animal had dodged back from the horsemen standing
there and was now surrounded.

The dogs ran here and there trotting along outside the cane careless and
fagged suddenly became animated again and sprang upon a crouching form,
whose eyeballs could even from a distance, be seen to roll and glare
frightfully. There was one motion, the yelping puppy went heels over
head with a wound from neck to hip, and Carlo had learned to respect the
wild cat. But the next instant a dozen dogs were rolling in horrid
combat with the animal and then a score were pulling at the gray and tan
form that offered no more resistance.

"Thirty-five pounds," said an expert, holding up the dead cat. A front
foot was cut off and passed up for examination. It was as large as a
man's fist and the claws were like the talons of a condor.

The general was down, examining the wound of poor Carlo, and, all
rivalry cast aside, the experienced hunters closed in to help him. It
was not a question now of Maryland or England; a puppy that would hold a
trail when abandoned by a pack of old dogs whom it was accustomed to
follow and rely upon its own judgment as to wherein lay its duty, and
first of all, after a 16 mile run, plants its teeth in the quarry--was
now more than a puppy. Ask any old fox hunter and he will prophesy that
from the day of the killing of the cat, whenever Carlo opened in a hunt,
no matter how much the other dogs might be interested, they would
suspend judgment and flock to him. That day made Carlo a Napoleon among
canines.

Edward was an interested observer of the gentle surgery being practiced
upon the dog. At length he ventured to ask a question. "What is his
name, General?"

"Carlo."

"And I presume he is not what you call an English dog?"

The general looked at him fiercely; then his features relaxed. "Go away,
Edward, go away--and give the dog a chance."

Barksdale had ridden to one side with Mary and was gravely studying the
scene. Presently he said abruptly:

"When is it you leave for Europe?"

"To-morrow."

"There is a matter pending," he said quietly, "that renders it
peculiarly unfortunate." She regarded him with surprise. "What I say is
for you alone. I know Mr. Morgan has been out here for several days and
has probably not been made aware of what is talked in town." Briefly he
acquainted her with the rumors afloat and seeing her deep concern and
distress added: "The affair is trivial with Mr. Morgan; he can easily
silence the talk, but in his absence, if skillfully managed, it can
affect his reputation seriously."

"Skillfully managed?"

"Do you suppose that Mr. Morgan is without enemies?"

"Who could be his enemy?" She asked quickly, then flushed and was
silent.

"I will not risk an injustice to innocent people," he said slowly, "but
he has enemies, I leave it to you to decide whether to acquaint him with
what is going on or not. I do not even advise you. But I came on this
hunt to acquaint you with the situation. If the man whom I suspect is
guilty in this matter he will not leave a stone unturned to destroy his
rival. It is nearer home from this point than from the hall and I have
business waiting. Good-bye."

He saluted Morgan, who was approaching, and went rapidly away. Mary rode
home in silence, returning only monosyllables to her escort. But when
she spoke of being doubtful of their ability to get ready by morning and
Edward proposed to cancel his order for berths, she hesitated. After all
the affair was ridiculous. She let it pass from her mind.



CHAPTER XL.

THE HIDDEN HAND.


It matters little what kind of seed is planted, it finds its proper
elements in the soil. So with rumors. There is never a rumor so wild,
but that finds a place for its roots.

It soon reached the coroner, that zealous officer whose compensation is
based upon fees, that his exchequer had been defrauded by the improper
burial of a woman out at Ilexhurst. She had dropped dead, and there had
not been a witness. An inquest was proper; was necessary. He began an
investigation. And then appeared in the brevity columns of one of the
papers the incipient scandal:

"It is whispered that suspicions of foul play are entertained in
connection with Rita, the housekeeper of the late John Morgan at
Ilexhurst. The coroner will investigate."

And the next day the following:

"Our vigilant coroner has made inquiry into the death and burial of Rita
Morgan, and feels that the circumstances demand a disinterment and
examination of the body. So far the rumors of foul play come from
negroes only. It seems that Mr. Edward Morgan found the woman lying in
his yard, and that she died almost immediately after the discovery. It
was upon the night but one preceding his meeting with Mr. Royson on the
field of honor, and during his absence next day the body was hurriedly
interred. There is little doubt that the woman came to her death from
natural causes, but it is known that she had few if any friends among
her race, and other circumstances attending her demise are such that the
body will be disinterred and examined for evidence."

Even this did not especially interest the public. But when next day the
morning papers came out with triple headlines the first of which was
"Murdered," followed by a succinct account of the disinterment of Rita
Morgan, as she was called, with the discovery of a cut on the left
temple and a wound in the back of the head that had crushed in the
skull, the public was startled. No charge was made against Edward
Morgan, no connection hinted at, but it was stated in the history of the
woman, that she was the individual referred to in Royson's famous letter
on which the duel had been fought, and that she died suddenly upon the
day it was published. The paper said that it was unfortunate that Mr.
Morgan had left several days before for Paris, and had sailed that
morning from New York.

Then the public tongue began to wag and the public mind to wait
impatiently for the inquest.

The inquest was held in due form. The surgeons designated to examine the
supposed wounds reported them genuine, the cut in the temple trifling,
the blow in the back of the head sufficient to have caused death.

A violent discussion ensued when the jury came to make up its verdict,
but the conservative members carried the day. A verdict of "death by a
blow upon the head by a weapon in the hands of a person or persons
unknown to the jury" was rendered; the body reinterred and the crowds of
curiosity seekers withdrew from Ilexhurst.

Unfortunately during the era of excitement Gerald was locked in his
room, lost in the contemplation of some question of memory that had come
upon him, and he was not summoned as a witness, from the fact that in no
way had he been mentioned in the case, except by Gen. Evan, who
testified that he was asleep when the death occurred. The German
professor and Gen. Evan were witnesses and gave their testimony readily.

Evan explained that, although present at the finding of the body, he
left immediately to meet a gentleman who had called, and did not return.
When asked as to Edward's actions he admitted that they were excited,
but stated that other matters, naming them briefly, were engaging them
at the same time and that they were of a disturbing nature. The woman,
he said, had first attracted Edward's attention by falling against the
glass, which she was evidently looking through, and which she broke in
her fall. If she was struck, it was probably at that moment.

He was positive in his belief that at the time the sound of falling
glass was heard Edward was in the room, but he would not state it under
oath as a fact. It was this evidence that carried the day.

When asked where was Edward Morgan and the reason for his absence, he
said that he had gone as the escort of Mrs. Montjoy to Paris, where her
eyes were to be examined, and that the trip had been contemplated for
several weeks. Also that he would return in less than a month.

Nevertheless, the gravest of comments began to be heard upon the
streets, and prophecies were plenty that Edward would never return.

And into these began to creep a word now and then for Royson. "He knew
more than he could prove," "was the victim of circumstances," "a bold
fellow," etc., were fragments of conversation connected with his name.

"We fought out that issue once," he said, briefly, when asked directly
about the character of the woman Rita, "and it is settled so far as I am
concerned." And the public liked the answer.

No charge, however, had been brought against Edward Morgan; the matter
was simply one that disturbed the public; it wanted his explanation and
his presence. But behind it all, behind the hesitancy which the stern,
open championship of Evan and Montjoy commanded, lay the proposition
that of all people in the world only Edward Morgan could have been
benefited by the death of the woman; that he was the only person present
and that she died a violent death. And people would talk.

Then came a greater shock. A little paper, the Tell-Tale, published in
an adjoining city and deriving its support from the publication of
scandals, in which the victim was described without naming, was cried
upon the street. Copies were sold by the hundreds, then thousands. It
practically charged that Edward Morgan was the son of Rita Morgan; that
upon finding Royson possessed of his secret he first killed the woman
and then tried to kill that gentleman in a duel into which Morgan went
with everything to gain and nothing to lose; that upon seeing the storm
gathering he had fled the country, under the pretense of escorting a
very estimable young lady and her mother abroad, the latter going to
have her eyes examined by a Parisian expert, the celebrated Moreau.

It proceeded further; the young man had completely hoodwinked and
deceived the family to which these ladies belonged, and, it was
generally understood, would some day become the husband and son-in-law.
Every sensational feature that could be imagined was brought out--even
Gerald did not escape. He was put in as the legitimate heir of John
Morgan; the child of a secret marriage, a _non compos mentis_ whose
property was being enjoyed by the other.

The excitement in the city reached white heat. Col. Montjoy and Gen.
Evan came out in cards and denounced the author of the letter an
infamous liar, and made efforts to bring the editor of the sheet into
court. He could not be found.

Days slipped by, and then came the climax! One of the sensational papers
of New York published a four-column illustrated article headed "A
Southern Tragedy," which pretended to give the history of all the
Morgans for fifty years or more. In this story the writer displayed
considerable literary ability, and the situations were dramatically set
forth. Pictures of Ilexhurst were given; the murder of a negro woman in
the night and a fancy sketch of Edward. The crowning shame was bold
type. No such sensation had been known since the race riots of 1874.

In reply to this Montjoy and Evan also telegraphed fiery denunciations
and demanded the author's name. Their telegrams were published, and
demands treated with contempt. Norton Montjoy, in New York, had himself
interviewed by rival papers, gave the true history of Morgan and
denounced the story in strong terms. He consulted lawyers and was
informed that the Montjoys had no right of action.

Court met and the grand jury conferred. Here was evidence of murder, and
here was a direct published charge. In vain Evan and Virdow testified
before it. The strong influence of the former could not carry the day.
The jury itself was political. It was part of the Swearingen ring. When
it had completed its labors and returned its batch of bills, it was
known in a few hours that Edward Morgan had been indicted for the murder
of Rita Morgan.

Grief and distress unspeakable reigned in the houses of Gen. Evan and
Col. Montjoy, and in his bachelor quarters that night one man sat with
his face upon his hands and thought out all of the details of the sad
catastrophe. An unspeakable sorrow shone in his big eyes. Barksdale had
been touched in the tenderest part of his life. Morgan he admired and
respected, but the name of the woman he loved had been bespattered with
mud. With him there rested no duty. Had the circumstances been
different, there would have been a tragedy at the expense of his last
dollar--and he was rich.

At the expense even of his enterprise and his business reputation, he
would have found the author of those letters and have shot him to death
at the door of a church, if necessary. There is one point on which the
south has suffered no change.

Morgan, he felt, would do the same, but now, alas, Morgan was indicted
for another murder, and afterward it would be too late. Too late! He
sprang to his feet and gave vent to a frightful malediction; then he
grew calm through sheer astonishment. Without knock or inquiry his door
was thrown open and Gerald Morgan rushed into the room.

When Barksdale had last seen this man he doubted his ability to stand
the nervous strain put upon him, but here was evidence of an excitement
tenfold greater. Gerald quivered like an overtaxed engine, and deep in
the pale face the blazing eyes shone with a horrible fierceness. The cry
he uttered as he paused before Barksdale was so unearthly that he
unconsciously drew back. The young man was unrolling some papers. Upon
them were the scenes of the grave as he drew them--the open coffin, the
shrunken face of the woman--and then, in all its repulsive exactness,
the face of the man who had turned upon the artist under the electric
light!

"What does it mean, my friend?" said Barksdale, seeking by a forced
calmness to reduce the almost irrational visitor to reason again.

"What?" exclaimed Gerald; "don't you understand? The man uncovered that
coffin; he struck that blow upon poor dead Rita's head! I saw him face
to face and drew those pictures that night. There is the date."

"You saw him?" Barksdale could not grasp the truth for an instant.

"I saw him!"

"Where is he now?"

"I do not know; I do not know!" A thrill ran through the now eager man,
and he felt that instead of calming the excitement of his visitor he was
getting infected by it. He sat down deliberately.

"Take a seat, Mr. Morgan, and tell me about it." But Gerald dropped the
pictures and stood over them.

"There was the grave," he said, "and the man was down in it; I stood up
here and lifted a spade, but then he had struck and was arranging her
hair. If he had struck her again I would have killed him. I wanted to
see what it was about. I wanted to see the man. He fled, and then I
followed. Downtown I saw him under an electric light and got his face.
He was the man, the infamous, cowardly scoundrel who struck poor Rita in
her coffin; but why--why should any one want to strike Rita? I can't
see. I can't see. And then to charge Edward with it!"

Barksdale's blood ran cold during the recital, the scene so vividly
pictured, the uncanny face before him. It was horrible. But over all
came the realization that some hidden hand was deliberately striking at
the life of Edward Morgan through the grave of the woman. The
cowardliness, the infamy, the cruelty was overpowering. He turned away
his face.

But the next instant he was cool. It was a frail and doubtful barrier
between Edward and ruin, this mind unfolding its secret. If it failed
there was no other witness.

"What became of the man, did you say?"

"I do not know. I wanted his face; I got it."

"Where did you last see him?"

"On the street." Barksdale arose deliberately.

"Mr. Morgan, how did you come here?"

"I suppose I walked. I want you to help me find the man who struck the
blow."

"You are right, we must find the man. Now, I have a request to make.
Edward trusted to my judgment in the other affair, and it came out
right, did it not?"

"Yes. That is why I have come to you."

"Trust me again. Go home now and take that picture. Preserve it as you
would your life, for on it may hang the life of Edward Morgan. You
understand? And do not open your lips on this subject to any one until I
see you again."

Gerald rolled up the paper and turned away abruptly. Barksdale followed
him down the steps and called a hack.

"Your health," he said to Gerald, as he gently forced him into the
carriage, "must not be risked." And to the driver, slipping a fee in his
hand: "Take Mr. Morgan to Ilexhurst. Remember, Mr. Morgan," he called
out.

"I remember," was the reply. "I never forget. Would to God I could."

Barksdale walked rapidly to the livery stable.



CHAPTER XLI.

WITH THE WOMAN WHO LOVED HIM.


Edward Morgan gave himself up to the dream. The flying train sped
onward, out of the pine forest, into the hills and the shadow of
mountains, into the broad world of life and great cities.

They had the car almost to themselves, for the northward travel is small
at that season.

Before him was the little woman of the motherly face and smooth, soft
hand, and behind her, lost in the contemplation of the light literature
with which he had surrounded her, was the girl about whom all the
tendrils of his hungry life were twining. He could see her half-profile,
the contour of the smooth cheek, the droop of eyelid, the fluff of curly
hair over her brow, and the shapely little head. He was content.

It was a novel and suggestive situation. And yet--only a dream. No
matter how far he wandered, how real seemed the vision, it always ended
there--it was but a dream, a waking dream. He had at last no part in her
life; he would never have.

And yet again, why not? The world was large; he felt its largeness as
they rushed from center to center, saw the teeming crowds here, the
far-stretching farms and dwellings there. The world was large, and they
were at best but a man and a woman. If she loved him what did it matter?
It meant only a prolonged and indefinite stay abroad in the land he best
knew; all its pleasures, its comforts, his--and hers.

If only she loved him! He lived over every minute detail of their short
companionship, from the hour he saw her, the little madonna, until he
kissed her hand and promised unnecessarily that he would never break her
heart. A strange comfort followed this realization. Come what might,
humiliation, disgrace, separation, she loved him!

His fixed gaze as he dreamed had its effect; she looked up from her
pictures and back to him.

A rush of emotions swept away his mood; he rose almost angrily; it was a
question between him and his Savior only. God had made the world and
named its holiest passion love, and if they loved blindly, foolishly,
fatally, God, not he, was to blame. He went and sat by her.

"You puzzle me sometimes," she said. "You are animated and bright
and--well, charming often--and then you seem to go back into your shell
and hide. I am afraid you are not happy, Mr. Morgan."

"Not happy? Hardly. But then no bachelor can be quite happy," he added,
returning her smile.

"I should think otherwise," she answered. "When I look about among my
married friends I sometimes wonder why men ever marry. They seem to
surrender so much for so little. I am afraid if I were a bachelor there
isn't a woman living whom I would marry--not if she had the wealth of
Vanderbilt."

Edward laughed outright.

"If you were a bachelor," he answered, "you would not have such
thoughts."

"I don't see why," she said trying to frown.

"Because you are not a bachelor."

"Then," she said, mockingly, "I suppose I never will--since I can't be a
bachelor."

"The mystery to me," said Edward, "is why women ever marry."

"Because they love," answered the girl. "There is no mystery about
that."

"But they take on themselves so much care, anxiety, suffering."

"Love can endure that."

"And how often it means--death!"

"And that, too, love does not consider. It would not hesitate if it knew
in advance."

"You speak for yourself?"

"Yes, indeed. If I loved, I am afraid I would love blindly, recklessly.
It is the way of Montjoy women--and they say I am all Montjoy."

"Would you follow barefooted and in rags from city to city behind a man,
drunken and besotted, to sing upon the streets for a crust and sleep
under a hedge, his chances your chances, and you with no claim upon him
save that you loved him once? I have seen it." She shook her head.

"The man I loved could never sink so low. He would be a gentleman, proud
of his name, of his talents, of his honor. If misfortune came he would
starve under the first hedge before he would lead me out to face a
scornful world. And if it were misfortune only I would sing for
him--yes, if necessary, beg, unknown to him for money to help him in
misfortune. Only let him keep the manliness within him undimmed by act
of his." He gazed into her glowing face.

"I thank you," he said. "I never understood a true woman's heart
before."

The express rushed into new and strange scenes. There were battlefields
pointed out by the conductor--mere landscapes only the names of which
were thrilling. Manassas glided by, the birthplace of a great hope that
perished. How often she had heard her father and the general tell of
that battle!

And then the white shaft of the Washington monument, and the capitol
dome rose in the distance.

As they glided over the long bridge across the Potomac and touched the
soil of the capital city and the street lights went past, the young
woman viewed the scenes with intense interest. Washington! But for that
infamous assault upon her father, through the man who had been by her
side, he would have walked the streets again, a Southern congressman!

They took rooms to give the little mamma a good night's rest, and then,
with the same unconventional freedom of the hall, Mary wandered out with
Edward to view the avenue. They went and stood at the foot of that great
white pile which closes one end of the avenue, and were awed into
silence by its grandeur.

She would see grander sights, but never one that would impress her more.
She thought of her father alone, away back in Georgia, at the old home,
sitting just then upon the porch smoking his pipe. Perhaps the Duchess
was asleep in his lap, perhaps the general had come over to keep him
company, and if so they were talking of the absent ones. Edward saw her
little hand lightly laid upon her eyes for a moment, and comprehended.

Morning! And now the crowded train sweeps northward through the great
cities and opens up bits of marine views. For the first time the girl
sees a stately ship, with wings unfurled, "go down into the seas,"
vanishing upon the hazy horizon, "like some strain of sweet melody
silenced and made visible," as Edward quoted from a far-away poet
friend.

"And if you will watch it intently," he added, "and forget yourself you
will lose sight of the ship and hear again the melody." And then came
almost endless streets of villages and towns, the smoke of factories,
the clamor and clangor of life massed in a small compass, a lull of the
motion, hurrying crowds and the cheery, flushed face of Norton pressed
to his mother's and to hers.

The first stage of the journey was over. Across the river rose, in dizzy
disorder and vastness, New York.

The men clasped hands and looked each other in the eyes, Montjoy
smiling, Morgan grave. It seemed to the latter that the smile of his
friend meant nothing; that behind it lay anxiety, questioning. He did
not waver under the look, and in a moment the hand that held his
tightened again. Morgan had answered. Half the conversation of life is
carried on without words. Morgan had answered, but he could not forget
his friend's questioning gaze. Nor could he forget that his friend had a
wife.



CHAPTER XLII.

THE SONG THE OCEAN SANG.


The stay of the party in New York was short. Norton was busy with trade
that could not wait. He stole a part of a day, stuffed the pocketbooks
of the ladies with gold, showed them around and then at last they looked
from the deck of a "greyhound" and saw the slopes of Staten island and
the highlands sink low upon the horizon.

The first night at sea! The traveler never forgets it. Scenes of the
past may shine through it like ink renewed in the dimmed lines of a
palimpsest through later records, but this night stands supreme as if it
were the sum of all. For in this night the fatherland behind and the
heart grown tender in the realization of its isolation, come back again
the olden experiences. Dreams that have passed into the seas of eternity
meet it and shine again. Old loves return and fold their wings, and
hopes grown wrinkled with disappointment throw off dull Time's imprints
and are young once more.

To the impressionable heart of the girl, the vastness and the solemnity
brought strange thoughts. She stood by the rail, silenced, sad, but not
with the sadness that oppresses. By her was the man who through life's
hidden current had brought her all unknowing into harmony with the
eternal echos rising into her consciousness.

At last she came back to life's facts. She found her hand in his again,
and gently, without protest, disengaged it. Her face was white and fixed
upon nothingness.

"Of what are you thinking?" she asked, gently. He started and drew
breath with a gasp.

"I do not know--of you, I suppose." And then, as she was silent and
embarrassed: "There is a tone in the ocean, a note I have never heard
before, and I have listened on all seas. But here is the new song
different from all. I could listen forever."

"I have read somewhere," she said, "that all the sound waves escape to
the ocean. They jostle and push against each other where men abound, the
new crowding out the old; but out at sea there is room for all. It may
be that you hear only as your heart is attuned."

He nodded his head, pleased greatly.

"Then I have heard to-night," he said, earnestly, "a song of a woman to
the man she loves."

"But you could not have heard it unless your heart was attuned to love's
melodies. Have you ever loved a woman, Mr. Morgan?"

He started and his hand tightened upon the guard.

"I was a boy in heart when I went abroad," he said. "I had never known a
woman's love and sympathy. In Switzerland a little girl gave me a glass
of goat's milk at a cottage door in the mountains. She could not have
been more than 12 years old. I heard her singing as I approached, her
voice marvelous in its power and pathos. Her simple dress was artistic,
her face frank and eyes confiding. I loved her. I painted her picture
and carried her both in my heart and my satchel for three years. I did
not love her and yet I believed I did. But I think that I must have
loved at some time. As you say, I could not have heard if it were not
so." He drew her away and sought the cabin. But when he said good-night
he came and walked the deck for an hour, and once he tossed his arms
above him and cried out in agony: "I cannot! I cannot! The heart was not
made for such a strain!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Six times they saw the sun rise over the path ahead, ascend to the
zenith and sink away, and six times the endless procession of stars
glinted on the myriad facets of the sea. The hundreds of strange faces
about them grew familiar, almost homelike. The ladies made
acquaintances; but Edward none. When they were accessible he never left
their presence, devoting himself with tender solicitude to their
service, reading to them, reciting bits of adventure, explaining the
phenomena of the elements, exhibiting the ship and writing in their
journals the record for the father at home. When they were gone he
walked the deck silent, moody, sad; alone in the multitude.

People had ceased to interest him. Once only did he break the silence;
from the ship's orchestra he borrowed a violin, and standing upon the
deck, as at first, he found the love-song again and linked it forever
with his life. It was the ocean's gift and he kept it.

He thought a great deal, but from the facts at home he turned
resolutely. They should not mar the only summer of his heart. "Not now,"
he would say to these trooping memories. "After a while you may come and
be heard."

But of the future he thought and dreamed. He pictured a life with the
woman he loved, in every detail; discounting its pleasures, denying the
possibility of sorrow. There were times when with her he found himself
wishing to be alone that he might review the dream and enlarge it. It
ceased to be a dream, it became a fact, he lived with it and he lived by
it. It was possible no longer; it was certain. Some day he would begin
it; he would tell it to her and make it so beautiful she would consent.

All this time the elder lady thought, listened and knitted. She was one
of those gentle natures not made for contentions, but for soothing. She
was never idle. Edward found himself watching the busy needles as they
fought for the endless thread, and marveled. What patience! What
continuity! What endurance!

The needles of good women preach as they labor. He knew the history of
these. For forty years they had labored, those bits of steel in the
velvet fingers. Husband, children, slaves, all had felt upon their feet
the soft summings of their calculations. One whole company of soldiers,
the gallant company her husband had led into Confederate service, had
threaded the Wilderness in her socks, and died nearly all at Malvern
Hill. Down deep under the soil of the old Mother State they planted her
work from sight, and the storms of winter removed its imprints where,
through worn and wasted leather, it had touched virgin soil as the
bleeding survivors came limping home. Forty years had stilled the
thought on which it was based. It was strong and resolute still. Some
day the needles would rust out of sight, the hands be folded in rest and
the thought would be gone. Edward glanced from the woman to the girl.

"Not so," he said, softly; "the thought will live. Other hands trained
under its sweet ministry will take up the broken threads; the needles
will flash again. Woman's work is never done, and never will be while
love and faith and courage have lodgment upon earth.

"Did you speak, Mr. Morgan?"

"Possibly. I have fallen into the habit of thinking aloud. And I was
thinking of you; it must have been a great privilege to call you mother,
Mrs. Montjoy." She smiled a little.

"I am glad you think so."

"I have never called any by that name," he said, slowly, looking away.
"I never knew a mother."

"That will excuse a great many things in a man's life," she said, in
sympathy. "You have no remembrance, then?"

"None. She died when I was an infant, I suppose, and I grew up,
principally, in schools."

"And your father?"

"He also--died." He was reckless for the moment. "Sometimes I think I
will ask you to let me call you--mother. It is late to begin, but think
of a man's living and dying without once speaking the name to a woman."

"Call me that if you will. You are certainly all that a son could be to
me."

"Mother," he said, reflectively, "mother," and then looking toward Mary
he saw that, though reading, her face was crimson; "that gives me a
sister, does it not?" he added, to relieve the situation. She glanced
toward him, smiling.

"As you will, brother Edward--how natural."

"I like the mother better," he said, after a pause. "I have observed
that brothers do not wear well. I should hate to see the day when it
would not be a pleasure to be with you, Miss Montjoy." He could not
control nor define his mood.

"Then," she said, with eyes upon the book, "let it not be brother. I
would be sorry to see you drift away--we are all your friends."

"Friends!" He repeated the word contemplatively. "That is another word I
am not fond of. I have seen so many friends--not my own, but friends of
others! Friends steal your good name, your opportunities, your
happiness, your time and your salvation. Oh, friendship!"

"What is the matter with you to-day, Mr. Morgan?" said Mary. "I don't
think I ever saw you in just such a frame of mind. What has made you
cynical?"

"Am I cynical? I did not know it. Possibly I am undergoing a
metamorphosis. Such things occur about us every day. Have you ever seen
the locust, as he is called, come up out of the earth and attach himself
to a tree and hang there brooding, living an absolutely worthless life?
Some day a rent occurs down his own back and out comes the green cicada,
with iridescent wings; no longer a dull plodder, but now a swift
wanderer, merry and musical. So with the people about you. Useless and
unpicturesque for years, they some day suffer a change; a piece of good
luck, success in business; any of these can furnish sunlight, and the
change is born. Behold your clodhopper is a gay fellow."

"But," said the girl, laughing, "the simile is poor; you do not see the
cicada go back from the happy traveler stage and become a cynic."

"True. What does become of him? Oh, yes; along comes the ichneumon fly
and by a skillful blow on the spine paralyzes him and then thrusts under
his skin an egg to be warmed into life by its departing heat. That is
the conclusion; your gay fellow and careless traveler gets an
overwhelming blow; an idea or a fact, or a bit of information to brood
upon; and some day it kills him."

She was silent, trying to read the meaning in his words. What idea, what
fact, what overwhelming blow were killing him? Something, she was sure,
had disturbed him. She had felt it for weeks.

Mrs. Montjoy expressed a desire to go to her stateroom, and Edward
accompanied her. The girl had ceased reading and sat with her chin in
hand, revolving the matter. After he had resumed his position she turned
to find his gaze upon her. They walked to the deck; the air was cold and
bracing.

"I am sorry you are so opposed to sisters," she said, smiling. "If I
were a sister I would ask you to share your trouble with me."

"What trouble?"

"The trouble that is changing the careless traveler to a cynic--is
killing his better self."

He ceased to speak in metaphor. "There is a trouble," he said, after
reflection; "but one beyond your power to remedy or lighten. Some day I
will tell it to you--but not now."

"You do not trust me."

"I do not trust myself." She was silent, looking away. She said no more.
Pale and trembling with suppressed emotion, he stood up. A look of
determination came into his eyes, and he faced her. At that moment a
faint, far cry was heard and every one in sight looked forward.

"What is it?" asked a passenger, as the captain passed.

"The cliffs of England," he said. Edward turned and walked away, leaving
her leaning upon the rail. He came back smoking. His mood had passed.

The excitement had begun at once. On glided the good ship. Taller grew
the hills, shipping began to appear, and land objects to take shape. And
then the deep heart throbbing ceased and the glad voyagers poured forth
upon the shore.



CHAPTER XLIII.

THE DEATH OF GASPARD LEVIGNE.


Paris!

With emotions difficult to appreciate Edward found himself at home, for
of all places Paris meant that to him. He went at once to his old
quarters; a suite of rooms in a quiet but accessible street, where was
combined something of both city and suburban life. The concierge almost
overwhelmed him with his welcome.

In obedience to his letters, everything had been placed in order, books
and furniture dusted, the linen renewed, the curtains laundered and
stiffened anew, and on the little center table was a vase of crimson
roses--a contribution for madame and mademoiselle.

His own, the larger room, was surrendered to the ladies; the smaller he
retained. There was the little parlor between, for common use. Outside
was the shady vista of the street and in the distance the murmur of the
city.

Mrs. Montjoy was delighted with the arrangement and the scene. Mary
absorbed all the surroundings of the owner's past life; every picture,
every book and bit of bric-a-brac, all were parts of him and full of
interest. The very room seemed imbued with his presence. Here was his
shaded student's lamp, there the small upright piano, with its stack of
music and, in place ready for the player, an open sheet. It might have
been yesterday that he arose from its stool, walked out and closed the
door.

It was a little home, and when coming into the parlor from his dressing
room, Edward saw her slender figure, he paused, and then the old
depression returned.

She found him watching her, and noted the troubled look upon his face.

"It is all so cozy and beautiful," she said. "I am so glad that you
brought us here rather than to a hotel."

"And I, too, if you are pleased."

"Pleased! It is simply perfect!"

A note lay upon the center table. He noticed that it was addressed to
him, and, excusing himself, opened it and read:

     "M. Morgan. Benoni, the maestro, is ill and desires monsieur.
     It will be well if monsieur comes quickly.

     "Annette."

He rang the bell hurriedly and the concierge appeared.

"This note," said Edward, speaking rapidly in French; "has it been long
here?"

"Since yesterday. I sent it back, and they returned it. Monsieur is not
disappointed, I trust." Edward shook his head and was seeking his hat
and gloves.

"You recall my old friend, the maestro, who gave me the violin," he
said, remembering Mary. "The note says he is very ill. It was sent
yesterday. Make my excuses to your mother; I will not stay long. If I do
not see you here, I will seek you over yonder in the park, where the
band may be playing shortly; and then we will find a supper."

Walking rapidly to a cab stand he selected one with a promising horse,
and gave directions. He was carried at a rapid rate into the region of
the Quartier Latin and in a few moments found the maestro's home.

One or two persons were by him when he entered the room, and they turned
and looked curiously. "Edward!" exclaimed the old man, lifting his
sightless eyes toward the door; "there is but one who steps like that!"

Edward approached and took his hand. The sick man was sitting in his
arm-chair, wrapped in his faded dressing-gown. "My friends," he
continued, lifting his hand with a slight gesture of dismissal, "you
have been kind to Benoni; God will reward you; farewell!"

The friends, one a woman of the neighborhood, the other the wife of the
concierge, came and touched his hand, and, bowing to Edward, withdrew,
lifting their white aprons to their faces as they passed from the room.

"You are very ill," said Edward, placing his hand upon the old man's
arm; "I have just returned to Paris and came at once."

"Very ill, indeed." He leaned back his head wearily. "It will soon be
over."

"Have you no friends who should know of this, good Benoni; no relatives?
You have been silent upon this subject, and I have never questioned you.
I will bring them if you will let me." Benoni shook his head.

"Never. I am to them already dead." A fit of coughing seized him, and he
became greatly exhausted. Upon the table was a small bottle containing
wine, left by one of the women. Edward poured out a draught and placed
it to the bloodless lips.

"One is my wife," said the dying man, with sudden energy, "my own wife."

"I will answer that she comes; she cannot refuse."

"Refuse? No, indeed! She has been searching for me for a lifetime. Many
times she has looked upon me without recognition. She would come; she
has been here--she has been here!"

"And did not know you? It is possible?"

"She did not know."

"You told her, though?"

"No."

"You never told her--" There was a pause. The sick man said, gasping:

"I am a convict!" A cry of horror broke from the lips of the young man.
The old violinist resented his sudden start and exclamation. "But a
convict innocent. I swear it before my Maker!" Edward was deeply
touched.

"None can doubt that who knows you, Benoni."

"He threatened my life; he struck at me with his knife; I turned it on
him, and he fell dead. I did what I could; I was stanching the wound
when they seized me. His ring jewel had cut my face; but for that I
would have been executed. I had no friends, even my name was not my own.
I went to prison and labor for twenty years."

He named the length of his sentence in a whisper. It was a horror he
could never understand. He stretched out his hand. "Wine." Again Edward
restored something of the fleeting strength.

"She came," he said, "searching for me. I was blind then; they had been
careless with their blasting--my eyes were gone, my hair white, my face
scarred. She did not know me. Her voice was divine! Her name has been in
the mouths of all men. She came and sang at Christmas, to the prisoners,
the glorious hymns of her church, and she sang to me. It was a song that
none there knew but me--my song! Had she watched my face, then, she
would have known; but how could she suspect me, the blind, the scarred,
the gray? She passed out forever. And I, harmless, helpless, soon
followed--pardoned. I knew her name; I made my way to Paris to be near
that voice; and the years passed; I was poor and blind. It cost money to
hear her."

Trembling with emotion, Edward whispered: "Her name?" Benoni shook his
head and slowly extended his withered arms. The woolen wristlets had
been removed, there were the white scars, the marks of the convict's
long-worn irons.

"I have forgiven her; I will not bring her disgrace."

"Cambia?" said Edward, unconsciously. There was a loud cry; the old man
half-rose and sank back, baffled by his weakness.

"Hush! Hush!" he gasped; "it is my secret; swear to me you will keep it;
swear to me, swear!"

"I swear it, Benoni, I swear it." The old man seemed to have fallen
asleep; it was a stupor.

"She came," he said, "years ago and offered me gold. It was to be the
last effort of her life. She could not believe but that her husband was
in Paris and might be found. She believed the song would find him. I had
been suggested to her because my music and figure were known to all the
boulevards. I was blind and could never know her. But I knew her voice.

"She went, veiled to avoid recognition; she stood by me at a certain
place on the boulevard where people gather in the evening and sang. What
a song. The streets were blocked, and men, I am told, uncovered before
the sacred purity of that voice, and when all were there who could hear
she sang our song; while I, weeping, played the accompaniment, ay, as no
man living or dead could have played it. Always in the lines--

    "Oceans may roll between
    Thy home and thee."

--her voice gave way. They called it art.

"Well, I thought, one day I will tell; it was always the next day, but I
knew, as she sang, in her mind must have arisen the picture of that
husband standing by her side--ah, my God, I could not, I could not;
blind, scarred, a felon, I could not; I was dead! It was bitter!

"And then she came to me and said: 'Good Benoni, your heart is true and
tender; I thank you; I have wealth and plenty; here is gold, take it in
memory of a broken heart you have soothed.' I said:

"'The voice of that woman, her song, are better than gold. I have them.'
I went and stood in the door as she, weeping, passed out. She lifted her
veil and touched the forehead of the old musician with her lips, and
then--I hardly knew! I was lying on the floor when Annette came to bring
my tea."

For a long time he sat without motion after this recital. Edward
loosened the faded cords of his gown. The old man spoke again in a
whisper:

"Come closer; there is another secret. I knew then that I had never
before loved her. My marriage had been an outrage of heart-faith. I
mistook admiration, sympathy, memory, for love. I was swept from my feet
by her devotion, but it is true--as God is my judge, I never loved her
until then--until her sad, ruined life spoke to me in that song on the
streets of Paris." Edward still held his hand.

"Benoni," he said, simply, "there is no guilt upon your soul to have
deserved the convict's irons. Believe me, it is better to send for her
and let her come to you. Think of the long years she has searched; of
the long years of uncertainty that must follow. You cannot, you cannot
pass away without paying the debt; it was your fault in the
beginning----"

The old man had gradually lifted his head; now he bowed it. "Then you
owe her the admission. Oh, believe me, you are wrong if you think the
scars of misfortune can shame away love. You do not know a true woman's
heart. You have not much time, I fear; let me send for her." There was
no reply. He knelt and took one withered hand in his. "Benoni, I plead
for you as for her. There will come a last moment--you will relent; and
then it will be too late."

"Send!" It was a whisper. The lips moved again; it was an address. Upon
a card Edward wrote hurriedly:

     "The blind musician who once played for you is dying. He has
     the secret of your life. If you would see your husband alive
     lose no minute.

     "A Friend."

He dashed from the room and ran rapidly to a cab stand.

"Take this," he said, "bring an answer in thirty minutes, and get 100
francs. If the police interfere, say a dying man waits for his friend."

The driver lashed his horses, and was lashing them as he faded into the
distance.

Edward returned; he called for hot water and bathed the dying man's
feet; he rubbed his limbs and poured brandy down his throat. He laid his
watch upon the little table; five, ten, fifteen, twenty, five--would she
never come?

Death had already entered; he was hovering over the doomed man.

The door opened; a tall woman of sad but noble countenance stepped in,
thrusting back her veil. Edward was kneeling by Benoni's side. Cambia's
eyes were fastened upon the face of the dying man.

Edward passed out, leaving them alone. A name escaped her.

"Gaspard."

Slowly, leaning upon the arm of his chair, the old man arose and
listened.

"It was a voice from the past," he said, clearly. "Who calls Gaspard
Levigne?"

"Oh, God in heaven!" she moaned, dropping to her knees. "Is it true?
What do you know of Gaspard Levigne?"

"Nothing that is good; but I am he, Marie!" The woman rushed to his
side; she touched his face and smoothed the disordered hair. She held
his hand after he had sunk into his chair.

"Tell me, in God's name," she said. "Tell me where are the proofs of our
marriage? Oh, Gaspard, for my sake, for the sake of your posterity! You
are dying; do not deny me!"

"Ah," he said, in a whisper. "I did not know--there--was--another--I did
not know. The woman--she wrote that it died!" He rose again to his feet,
animated by a thought that gave him new strength. Turning his face
toward her in horror, he said:

"It is for you that you search, then--not for me!"

"Speak, Gaspard, my husband, for my sake, for the sake of your Marie,
who loved and loves you, speak!" His lips moved. She placed her ear to
them:

"Dear heaven," she cried in despair. "I cannot hear him! I cannot hear
him! Gaspard! Gaspard! Gaspard! Ah----" The appeal ended in a shriek.
She was staring into his glazing eyes. Then over the man's face came a
change. Peace settled there. The eyes closed and he whispered: "Freda!"

Hearing her frantic grief, Edward rushed in and now stood looking down
in deep distress upon the scene.

"He is dead, madame," he said, simply. "Let me see you to your home."
She arose, white and calm, by a mighty effort.

"What was he to you? Who are you?" she asked.

"He was my friend and master." He laid his hands lovingly on the eyes,
closing them. "I am Edward Morgan!" Her eyes never left him. There was
no motion of her tall figure; only her hand upon the veil closed tightly
and her features twitched. They stood in silence but a moment; it was
broken by Cambia. She had regained something of the bearing of the
dramatic soprano. With a simple dignity she said:

"Sir, you have witnessed a painful scene. On the honor of a gentleman
give me your pledge to secrecy. There are tragedies in all lives; chance
has laid bare to you the youth of Cambia." He pointed downward to where
the still form lay between them.

"Above the body of your husband--my friend--I swear to you that your
secret is safe."

"I thank you."

She looked a moment upon the form of the sleeper, and then her eyes
searched the face of the young man. "Will you leave me alone with him a
few moments?" He bowed and again withdrew into the little hall.

When he was gone she knelt above the figure a long time in prayer, and
then, looking for the last time upon the dead face, sadly withdrew. The
young man took her to the carriage. A policeman was guarding it.

"The driver broke the regulation by my orders," Edward said; "he was
bringing this lady to the bedside of a dying friend. Here is enough to
pay his fine." He gave a few napoleons to the cabman and his card on
which he placed his address.

"Adieu, madame. I will arrange everything, and if you will attend the
funeral I will notify you."

"I will attend," said Cambia; "I thank you. Adieu."



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE HEART OF CAMBIA.


It was a simple burial. Edward sent a carriage for Cambia, one for the
concierge and his wife, and in the other he brought Mrs. Montjoy and
Mary, to whom he had related a part of the history of Benoni, as he
still called him. Out in Pere la Chaise they laid away the body of the
old master, placed on it their flowers and the beautiful wreath that
Cambia brought, and were ready to return.

As they approached their carriage, Edward introduced the ladies, to whom
he had already told of Cambia's career.

They looked with sympathetic pleasure upon the great singer and were
touched by her interest in and devotion to the old musician, "whom she
had known in happier days."

Cambia studied their faces long and thoughtfully and promised to call
upon them. They parted to meet again.

When Edward went to make an engagement for Mrs. Montjoy with Moreau, the
great authority on the eye, he was informed that the specialist had been
called to Russia for professional services in the family of the Czar,
and would not return before a date then a week off. The ladies accepted
the delay philosophically. It would give them time to see something of
Paris.

And see it they did. To Edward it was familiar in every feature. He took
them to all the art centers, the historical points, the great cathedral,
the environments of Malmaison and Versailles, to the promenades, the
palaces and the theaters. This last feature was the delight of both. For
the dramatic art in all its perfection both betrayed a keen relish, and
just then Paris was at its gayest. They were never jostled, harassed,
nor disappointed. They were in the hands of an accomplished
cosmopolitan.

To Mary the scenes were full of never-ending delight. The mother had
breathed the same atmosphere before, but to Mary all was novel and
beautiful.

Throughout all Edward maintained the sad, quiet dignity peculiar to him,
illumined at times by flashes of life, as he saw and gloried in the
happiness of the girl at his side.

Then came Cambia! Mary had gone out with Edward, for a walk, and Mrs.
Montjoy was knitting in the parlor in silent reverie when a card was
brought in, and almost immediately the sad, beautiful face of the singer
appeared in the door.

"Do not arise, madame," she said, quickly, coming forward upon seeing
the elderly lady beginning to put aside her knitting, "nor cease your
work. I ask that you let me forget we are almost strangers and will sit
here by your side. You have not seen Moreau yet?"

"No," said Mrs. Montjoy, releasing the white hand that had clasped hers;
"he is to return to-day."

"Then he will soon relieve your anxiety. With Moreau everything is
possible."

"I am sure I hope your trust is not misplaced; success will lift a great
weight from my family." Cambia was silent, thinking; then she arose and,
sinking upon the little footstool, laid her arms upon the knees of her
hostess, and with tearful eyes raised to her face she said:

"Mrs. Montjoy, do you not know me? Have I indeed changed so much?"

The needles ceased to contend and the work slipped from the smooth
little hands. A frightened look overspread the gentle face.

"Who is it speaks? Sometime I must have known that voice."

"It is Marion Evan." The visitor bent her head upon her own arms and
gave way to her emotion. Mrs. Montjoy had repeated the name
unconsciously and was silent. But presently, feeling the figure bent
before her struggling in the grasp of its emotion, she placed both hands
upon the shapely head and gently stroked its beautiful hair, now lined
with silver.

"You have suffered," she said simply. "Why did you leave us? Why have
you been silent all these years?"

"For my father's sake. They have thought me cold, heartless, abandoned.
I have crucified my heart to save his." She spoke with vehement passion.

"Hush, my child," said the elder lady; "you must calm yourself. Tell me
all; let me help you. You used to tell me all your troubles and I used
to call you daughter in the old times. Do you remember?"

"Ah, madame, if I did not I would not be here now. Indeed you were
always kind and good to Marion."

And so, living over the old days, they came to learn again each other's
heart and find how little time and the incidents of life had changed
them. And sitting there beneath the sympathetic touch and eyes of her
lifetime friend, Cambia told her story.

"I was not quite 17, madame, you remember, when it happened. How, I do
not know; but I thought then I must have been born for Gaspard Levigne.
From the moment I saw him, the violin instructor in our institution, I
loved him. His voice, his music, his presence, without effort of his,
deprived me of any resisting power; I did not seek to resist. I advanced
in my art until its perfection charmed him. I had often seen him
watching me with a sad and pensive air and he once told me that my face
recalled a very dear friend, long dead. I sang a solo in a concert; he
led the orchestra; I sang to him. The audience thought it was the
debutante watching her director, but it was a girl of 17 singing to the
only man the world held for her. He heard and knew.

"From that day we loved; before, only I loved. He was more than double
my age, a handsome man, with a divine art; and I--well, they called me
pretty--made him love me. We met at every opportunity, and when
opportunities did not offer we made them, those innocent, happy trysts.

"Love is blind not only to faults but to all the world. We were
discovered and he was blamed. The great name of the institution might be
compromised--its business suffer. He resigned.

"Then came the terrible misstep; he asked me to go with him and I
consented. We should have gone home; he was afraid of the legal effects
of marrying a minor, and so we went the other way. Not stopping in New
York we turned northward, away from the revengeful south; from police
surveillance, and somewhere we were married. I heard them call us man
and wife, and then I sank again into my dream.

"It does not seem possible that I could not have known the name of the
place, but I was no more than a child looking from a car window and
taken out for meals here and there. I had but one thought--my husband.

"We went to Canada, then abroad. Gaspard had saved considerable money;
his home was in Silesia and thither we went; and that long journey was
the happiest honeymoon a woman could know."

"I spent mine in Europe wandering from point to point. I understand,"
said Mrs. Montjoy, gently.

"Oh, you do understand! We reached the home and then my troubles began.
My husband, the restraints of his professional engagement thrown off,
fell a victim to dissipation again. He had left his country to break up
old associations and this habit.

"His people were high-class but poor. He was Count Levigne. Their pride
was boundless. They disliked me from the beginning. I had frustrated the
plans of the family, whose redemption was to come from Gaspard. Innocent
though I was, and soon demanding the tenderness, the love, the
gentleness which almost every woman receives under like circumstances, I
received only coldness and petty persecution.

"Soon came want; not the want of mere food, but of clothing and minor
comforts. And Gaspard had changed--he who should have defended me left
me to defend myself. One night came the end. He reproached me--he was
intoxicated--with having ruined his life and his prospects." The speaker
paused. With this scene had come an emotion she could with difficulty
control; but, calm at last, she continued with dignity:

"The daughter of Gen. Albert Evan could not stand that. I sold my
diamonds, my mother's diamonds, and came away. I had resolved to come
back and work for a living in my own land until peace could be made with
father. At that time I did not know the trouble. I found out, though.

"Gaspard came to his senses then and followed me. Madame, can you
imagine the sorrow of the coming back? But a few months before I had
gone over the same route the happiest woman in all the to me beautiful
world, and now I was the most miserable; life had lost its beauty!

"We met again--he had taken a shorter way, and, guessing my limited
knowledge correctly, by watching the shipping register found me. But all
eloquence could not avail then; there had been a revulsion. I no longer
loved him. He would never reform; he would work by fits and starts and
he could not support me. At that time he had but one piece of property
in the world--a magnificent Stradivarius violin. The sale of that would
have brought many thousand francs to spend, but on that one thing he was
unchanging. It had come to him by many generations of musicians. They
transmitted to him their divine art and the vehicle of its expression. A
suggestion of sale threw him into the most violent of passions, so great
was the shock to his artistic nature and family pride. If he had starved
to death that violin would have been found by his side.

"I believe it was this heroism in his character that touched me at last;
I relented. We went to Paris and Gaspard secured employment. But, alas,
I had not been mistaken. I was soon penniless and practically abandoned.
I had no longer the ability to do what I should have done at first; I
could not go home for want of means."

"You should have written to us."

"I would have starved before I would have asked. Had you known, had you
offered, I would have received it. And God sent me a friend, one of His
noblemen--the last in all the world of whom I could ask anything. When
my fortunes were at their lowest ebb John Morgan came back into my
life."

"John Morgan!"

"He asked no questions. He simply did all that was necessary. And then
he went to see my father. I had written him, but he had never replied;
he went, as I learned afterward, simply as a man of business and without
sentiment. You can imagine the scene. No other man witnessed it. It was,
he told me, long and stormy.

"The result was that I would be received at home when I came with proofs
of my marriage.

"I was greatly relieved at first; I had only to find my husband and get
them. I found him but I did not get them. It happened to be a bad time
to approach him. Then John Morgan tried, and that was unfortunate. In my
despair I had told my husband of that prior engagement. An insane
jealousy now seized him. He thought it was a plot to recover my name and
marry me to Mr. Morgan. He held the key to the situation and swore that
in action for divorce he would testify there had been no marriage!

"Then we went forward to find the record. We never found it. If years of
search and great expense could have accomplished it, we would have
succeeded. It was, however, a fact; I remember standing before the
officiating officer and recalled my trembling responses, but that was
all. The locality, the section, whether it was the first or second day,
I do not recall. But, as God is my judge, I was married."

She became passionate. Her companion soothed her again.

"Go on, my child. I believe you."

"I cannot tell you a part of this sad story; I have not been perfectly
open. Some day I will, perhaps, and until that time comes I ask you to
keep my secret, because there are good reasons now for silence; you will
appreciate them when you know. Gaspard was left--our only chance. Mr.
Morgan sought him, I sought him; he would have given him any sum for his
knowledge. Gaspard would have sold it, we thought; want would have made
him sell, but Gaspard had vanished as if death itself had carried him
off.

"In this search I had always the assistance of Mr. Morgan, and at first
his money defrayed all expense; but shortly afterward he influenced a
leading opera master to give me a chance, and I sang in Paris as Cambia,
for the first time. From that day I was rich, and Marion Evan
disappeared from the world.

"Informed weekly of home affairs and my dear father, my separation was
lessened of half its terrors. But year after year that unchanging friend
stood by me. The time came when the stern face was the grandest object
on which my eyes could rest. There was no compact between us; if I could
have dissolved the marriage tie I would have accepted him and been
happy. But Cambia could take no chances with herself nor with Gen. Evan!
Divorce could only have been secured by three months' publication of
notice in the papers and if that reached Gaspard his terrible answer
would have been filed and I would have been disgraced.

"The American war had passed and then came the French war. And still no
news from Gaspard. And one day came John Morgan, with the proposition
that ten years of abandonment gave me liberty, and offered me his
hand--and fortune. But--there were reasons--there were reasons. I could
not. He received my answer and said simply: 'You are right!' After that
we talked no more upon the subject.

"Clew after clew was exhausted; some led us into a foreign prison. I
sang at Christmas to the convicts. All seemed touched; but none was
overwhelmed; Gaspard was not among them.

"I sang upon the streets of Paris, disguised; all Paris came to know and
hear the 'veiled singer,' whose voice, it was said, equaled the famous
Cambia's. A blind violinist accompanied me. We managed it skillfully. He
met me at a new place every evening, and we parted at a new place, I
alighting from the cab we always took, at some unfrequented place, and
sending him home. And now, madame, do you still believe in God?"

"Implicitly."

"Then tell me why, when, a few days since, I was called by your friend
Mr. Morgan to the bedside of Gaspard Levigne, the old musician, who had
accompanied me on the streets of Paris, why was it that God in His mercy
did not give him breath to enable his lips to answer my pitiful
question; why, if there is a God in heaven, did He not----"

"Hush, Marion!" The calm, sweet voice of the elder woman rose above the
excitement and anguish of the singer. "Hush, my child; you have trusted
too little in Him! God is great, and good and merciful. I can say it
now; I will say it when His shadows fall upon my eyes as they must some
day."

Awed and touched, Cambia looked up into the glorified face and was
silent.

Neither broke that stillness, but as they waited a violent step was
heard without, and a voice:

"Infamous! Infamous!" Edward rushed into the room, pale and horrified,
his bursting heart finding relief only in such words.

"What is it, my son--Edward!" Mrs. Montjoy looked upon him
reproachfully.

"I am accused of the murder of Rita Morgan!" he cried. He did not see
Cambia, who had drawn back from between the two, and was looking in
horror at him as she slowly moved toward the door.

"You accused, Edward? Impossible! Why, what possible motive----"

"Oh, it is devilish!" he exclaimed, as he tore the American paper into
shreds. "Devilish! First I was called her son, and now her murderer. I
murdered her to destroy her evidence, is the charge!" The white face of
Cambia disappeared through the door.



CHAPTER XLV.

THE MAN WITH THE TORCH.


The startling news had been discussed in all its phases in the little
parlor, Mary taking no part. She sat with averted face listening, but
ever and anon when Edward's indignation became unrestrainable she turned
and looked at him. She did not know that the paper contained a reference
to her.

The astounding revelation, aside from the accusation, was the wound.
Strange that he had not discovered it. Who could have murdered poor
Rita? Positively the only person on the immediate premises were Virdow,
Evan and Gerald. Virdow was of course out of the question, and the
others were in the room. It was the blow that had driven her head
through the glass. What enemy could the woman have had?

So far as he was concerned, the charge could amount to nothing; Evan was
in the room with him; the general would surely remember that.

But the horror, the mortification--he, Edward Morgan, charged with
murder, and the center of a scandal in which the name of Mary Montjoy
was mentioned.

The passion left him; depressed and sick from reaction he sat alone in
the little parlor, long after the ladies had retired; and then came the
climax. A cablegram reached the house and was handed in to him. It was
signed by Evan and read:

"You have been indicted. Return."

"Indicted," and for murder, of course. It gave him no uneasiness, but it
thrust all light and sweetness from life. The dream was over. There
could now be no search for Marion Evan. That must pass, and with it
hope.

He had builded upon that idea castles whose minarets wore the colors of
sunrise. They had fallen and his life lay among the ruins.

He threw himself upon the bed to sleep, but the gray of dawn was already
over the city; there came a rumbling vehicle in the street; he heard the
sound of a softly closing door--and then he arose and went out. The
early morning air and exercise brought back his physical equipoise. He
returned for breakfast, with a good appetite, and though grave, was
tranquil again.

Neither of the ladies brought up the painful subject; they went with him
to see the learned oculist and came back silent and oppressed. There was
no hope.

The diagnosis corresponded with Dr. Campbell's; the blind eye might have
been saved years ago, but an operation would not have been judicious
under the circumstances. Continued sight must depend upon general
health.

All their pleasures and hopes buried in one brief day, they turned their
backs on Paris and started homeward.

Edward saw Cambia no more; Mrs. Montjoy called alone and said farewell.
The next day they sailed from Havre.

In New York Norton met them, grave and embarrassed for once in his life,
and assisted in their hurried departure for the far southern home. There
was no exchange of views between the two men. The paper Norton had sent
was acknowledged; that was all. The subject was too painful for
discussion. And so they arrived in Georgia. They mere met by the Montjoy
carriage at a little station near the city. It was the 11:20 p. m.
train. Gen. Evan was waiting for Edward.

The handshaking over, they rapidly left the station. Evan had secured
from the sheriff a temporary exemption from arrest for Edward, but it
was understood that he was to remain out of sight.

They arrived within a couple of miles of the Cedars, having only
broached commonplace subjects, traveling incidents and the like, when a
negro stopped them. In the distance they heard a hound trailing.

"Boss, kin air one er you gentlemen gi' me a match? I los' my light back
yonder, and hit's too putty er night ter go back without a possum." Evan
drew rein. He was a born sportsman and sympathetic.

"I reckon so," he said; "and--well, I can't," he concluded, having tried
all pockets. "Mr. Morgan, have you a match?" Edward had one and one
only. He drew all the little articles of his pockets into his hand to
find it.

"Now, hold," said the general; "let's light our cigars. If it's to be
the last chance." The negro touched the blazing match to splinters of
lightwood, as the southern pitch pine is called when dry, and instantly
he stood in a circle of light, his features revealed in every detail.
Edward gazed into it curiously. Where had he seen that face? It came
back like the lines of some unpleasant dream--the thick lips, the flat
nose, the retreating forehead, full eyes and heavy eyelids, and over all
a look of infinite stupidity. The negro had fixed his eyes a moment upon
the articles in Edward's hand and stepped back quickly. But he recovered
himself and with clumsy thanks, holding up his flaming torch, went away,
leaving only the uncertain shadows dancing across the road.

At home Gen. Evan threw aside all reserve. He drew their chairs up into
the sheltered corner of the porch.

"I have some matters to talk over," he said, "and our time is short.
Yours is not a bailable case and we must have a speedy trial. The law
winks at your freedom to-night; it will not do to compromise our friends
in the court house by unnecessary delay. Edward, where was I when you
discovered the body of the woman, Rita Morgan?" Edward looked through
the darkness at his friend, who was gazing straight ahead.

"You were standing by Gerald's bed, looking upon him."

"How did you discover her? It never occurred to me to ask; were you not
in the room also?"

"I certainly was. She broke the glass by pressing against it, as I
thought at the time, but now I see she was struck. I rushed out and
picked her up, and you came when I called."

"Exactly. And you both talked loudly out there."

"Why do you ask?"

"Because," said Evan, slowly, "therein lies the defect in our defense. I
cannot swear you were in the room upon my own knowledge. I had been
astounded by the likeness of Gerald to those who had been dear to me--I
was absorbed. Then I heard you cry out, and found you in the yard."
There was a long pause. Edward's heart began to beat with sledge-hammer
violence.

"Then," he said with a strange voice, "as the case would be presented, I
was found with the body of the woman; she had been murdered and I was
the only one who had a motive. Is that it?"

"That is it." The young man arose and walked the porch in silence.

"But that is not all," said Gen. Evan. "If it were, I would have cabled
you to go east from Paris. There is more. Is there any one on earth who
could be interested in your disgrace or death?"

"None that I know of--that is, well, no; none that I know of. You
remember Royson; we fought that out. He cannot cherish enmity against a
man who fought him in an open field."

"Perhaps you are mistaken."

"From what do you speak?"

"You had been in Paris but a few days when one night as I sat here your
friend Barksdale--great man that Barksdale; a trifle heady and
confident, but true as steel--Barksdale came flying on his sorrel up the
avenue and landed here.

"'General,' said he, 'I have discovered the most damnable plot that a
man ever faced. All this scandal about Morgan is not newspaper sensation
as you suppose, it is the first step in a great tragedy.' And then he
went on to tell me that Gerald had invaded his room and shown him
pictures of an open grave, the face of a dead woman and also the face of
the man who opened that grave, drawn with every detail perfect. Gerald
declared that he witnessed the disinterment and drew the scene from
memory----"

"Hold a minute," said Edward; he was now on his feet, his hand uplifted
to begin a statement; "and then--and then----"

"The object of that disinterment was to inflict the false wound and
charge you with murder."

"And the man who did it--who made that wound--was the man who begged a
match from us on the road. I will swear it, if art is true. I have seen
the picture." Evan paused a moment to take in the vital fact. Then there
rung out from him a half-shout:

"Thank God! Thank God!" The chairs that stood between him and the door
were simply hurled out of the way. His stentorian voice called for his
factotum. "John!" and John did not wait to dress, but came.

"Get my horse and a mule saddled and bring that puppy Carlo. Quick,
John, quick!" John fled toward the stable. "Edward, we win if we get
that negro--we win!" he exclaimed, coming back through the wreck of his
furniture.

"But why should the negro have disinterred the body and have made a
wound upon her head? There can be no motive."

"Heavens, man, no motive! Do you know that you have come between two men
and Mary Morgan?"

"I have never suspected it, even."

"Two have sought her with all the energy of manhood," said Evan. "Two
men as different as the east from the west. Royson hates you and will
leave no stone unturned to effect your ruin; Barksdale loves her and
will leave no stone unturned to protect her happiness! There you have it
all. Only one man in the world could have put that black devil up to his
infamous deed--and that man is Royson. Only one man in the world could
have grasped the situation and have read the riddle correctly--and that
man is Barksdale." Edward was dazed. Gradually the depth and villainy of
the conspiracy grew clear.

"But to prove it----"

"The negro."

"Will he testify?"

"Will he? If I get my hands on him, young man, he will testify! Or he
will hang by the neck from a limb as his possum hangs by the tail."

"You propose to capture him?"

"I am going to capture him." He disappeared in the house and when he
came out he had on his army belt, with sword and pistol. The mounts were
at the door and for the first time in his life Edward was astride a
mule. To his surprise the animal bounded along after the gray horse,
with a smooth and even gait, and kept up without difficulty.

Evan rode as a cavalryman and carried across his saddle the puppy. With
unerring skill he halted at the exact spot where the match had been
struck, and lowered the dog gently to the ground. The intelligent,
excited animal at once took up the trail of man or dogs, and opening
loudly glided into the darkness. They followed.

Several miles had been covered, when they saw in the distance a glimmer
of light among the trees and Evan drew rein.

"It will not do," he said, "to ride upon him. At the sound of horses'
feet he will extinguish his light and escape. The dog, he will suppose,
is a stray one led off by his own and will not alarm him." They tied
their animals and pressed on.

The dog ahead had openel and Carlo's voice could be heard with the rest,
as they trailed the fleeing possum. The general was exhausted. "I can't
do it, Edward, my boy--go on. I will follow as fast as possible."
Without a word Edward obeyed. The dogs were now furious, the man himself
running. In the din and clamor he could hear nothing of pursuit. The
first intimation he had of danger was a grip on his collar and a man's
voice exclaiming excitedly:

"Halt! You are my prisoner!"

The torch fell to the ground and lay sputtering. The negro was terrified
for the moment, but his quick eye pierced the gloom and measured his
antagonist. He made a fierce effort to break away, and failing, threw
himself with immense force upon Edward. Then began a frightful struggle.
No word was spoken. The negro was powerful, but the white man was
inspired by a memory and consciousness of his wrongs. They fell and
writhed, and rose and fell again. Slippery Dick had got his hand upon
Edward's throat. Suddenly his grasp relaxed and he lay with the white of
his eyes rolled upward. The muzzle of a cavalry pistol was against his
head and the stern face of the veteran was above him.

"Get up!" said the general, briefly.

"Certainly, boss," was the reply, and breathless the two men arose.

The defense had its witness!

"Ef he had'n conjured me," said the negro doggedly, "he couldn't 'er
done it." He had recognized among the little things that Edward drew
from his pocket on the road the voodoo's charm.

Edward breathless, took up the torch and looked into Dick's countenance.
"I am not mistaken, general, this is the man."



CHAPTER XLVI.

WHAT THE SHEET HID.


Slippery Dick was puzzled as well as frightened. He knew Gen. Evan by
sight, and his terror lost some of its wildness; the general was not
likely to be out upon a lynching expedition. But for what was he wanted?
He could not protest until he knew that, and in his past were many dark
deeds, for which somebody was wanted. So he was silent.

His attention was chiefly directed to Edward; he could not account for
him, nor could he remember to have seen him. Royson had long since
trained him to silence; most men convict themselves while under arrest.

Evan stood in deep thought, but presently he prepared for action.

"What is your name, boy?" The negro answered promptly:

"Dick, sah."

"Dick who?"

"Just Dick, sah."

"Your other name?"

"Slippery Dick." The general was interested instantly.

"Oh, Slippery Dick." The career of the notorious negro was partially
known to him. Dick had been the reporter's friend for many years and in
dull times more than the truth had been told of Slippery Dick. "Well,
this begins to look probable, Edward; I begin to think you may be
right."

"I am not mistaken, general. If there is a mistake, it is not mine."

"What dey want me for, Marse Evan? I ain't done nothin'."

"A house has been broken into, Dick, and you are the man who did it."

"Who, me? Fo' Gawd, Marse Evan, I ain't broke inter no man's house. It
warn't me--no sah, no sah."

"We will see about that. Now I will give you your choice, Dick; you can
go with me, Gen. Evan and I will protect you. If the person who accuses
you says you are innocent I will turn you loose; if you are not willing
to go there I will take you to jail; but, willing or unwilling, if you
make a motion to escape, I will put a bullet through you before you can
take three steps."

"I'll go with you, Marse Evan; I ain't de man. I'll go whar you want me
to go."

"Get your dogs together and take the road to town. I will show you when
we get there." They went with him to where his dogs, great and small,
were loudly baying at the root of a small persimmon tree. Dick looked up
wistfully.

"Marse Evan, deir he sots; you don't spect me ter leave dat possum up
dere?" The old man laughed silently.

"The ruling passion strong in death," he quoted to Edward, and then
sternly to Dick: "Get him and be quick about it." A moment more and they
were on the way to the horses.

"I had an object," said Evan, "in permitting this. As we pass through
the city we present the appearance of a hunting party. Turn up your coat
collar and turn down your hat to avoid the possibility of recognition."

They reached the city, passed through the deserted streets, the negro
carrying his 'possum and surrounded by the dogs preceding the riders,
and, without attracting more than the careless notice of a policeman or
two, they reached the limits beyond.

Still Dick was not suspicious; the road was his own way home; but when
finally he was ordered to turn up the long route to Ilexhurst, he
stopped. This was anticipated; the general spurted his horse almost
against him.

"Go on!" he said, sternly, "or by the Eternal you are a dead man!
Edward, if he makes a break, you have the ex----"

"Marse Evan, you said breakin' in 'er house." Dick still hesitated.

"I did; but it was the house of the dead."

The 'possum came suddenly to the ground, and away went Dick into an open
field, the expectation of a bullet lending speed to his legs. But he was
not in the slightest danger from bullets; he was the last man, almost,
that either of his captors would have slain, nor was it necessary. The
great roan came thundering upon him; he lifted his arm to ward off the
expected blow and looked up terrified. The next instant a hand was on
his coat collar, and he was lifted off his feet. Dragging his prisoner
into the road, Evan held his pistol over his wet forehead, while, with
the rein, Edward lashed his elbows behind his back. The dogs were
fighting over the remains of the unfortunate 'possum. They left them
there.

The three men arrived at Ilexhurst thoroughly tired; the white men more
so than the negro. Tying their animals, Edward led the way around to the
glass-room, where a light was burning, but to his disappointment on
entering he found no occupant. Slippery Dick was placed in a chair and
the door locked. Evan stood guard over him, while Edward searched the
house. The wing-room was dark and Gerald was not to be found. From the
door of the professor's room came the cadenced breathing of a profound
sleeper. Returning, Edward communicated these facts to his companion.
They discussed the situation.

Evan, oppressed by the memory of his last two visits to these scenes,
was silent and distrait. The eyes of the negro were moving restlessly
from point to point, taking in every detail of his surroundings. The
scene, the hour, the situation and the memory of that shriveled face in
its coffin all combined to reduce Dick to a state of abject terror. Had
he not been tied he would have plunged through the glass into the night;
the pistol in the hands of the old man standing over him would have been
forgotten.

What was to be done? Edward went into the wing-room and lighted the
lamps preparatory to making better arrangements for all parties.
Suddenly his eyes fell upon the lounge. Extended upon it was a form
outlined through a sheet that covered it from head to foot. So still, so
immovable and breathless it seemed, he drew back in horror. An
indefinable fear seized him. White, with unexpressed horror, he stood in
the door of the glass-room and beckoned to the general. The silence of
his appearance, the inexpressible terror that shone in his face and
manner, sent a thrill to the old man's heart and set the negro
trembling.

Driving the negro before him, Evan entered. At sight of the covered form
Dick made a violent effort to break away, but, with nerves now at their
highest tension and muscles drawn responsive, the general successfully
resisted. Enraged at last he stilled his captive by a savage blow with
his weapon.

Edward now approached the apparition and lifted the cloth. Prepared as
he was for the worst, he could not restrain the cry of horror that rose
to his lips. Before him was the face of Gerald, white with the hue of
death, the long lashes drooped over half-closed eyes, the black hair
drawn back from the white forehead and clustering about his neck and
shoulders. He fell almost fainting against the outstretched arm of his
friend, who, pale and shocked, stood with eyes riveted upon the fatal
beauty of the dead face.

It was but an instant; then the general was jerked with irresistible
force and fell backward into the room, Edward going nearly prostrate
over him. There was the sound of shattered glass and the negro was gone.

Stunned and hurt, the old man rose to his feet and rushed to the
glass-room. Then a pain seized him; he drew his bruised limb from the
floor and caught the lintel.

"Stop that man! Stop that man!" he said in a stentorian voice; "he is
your only witness now!" Edward looked into his face a moment and
comprehended. For the third time that night he plunged into the darkness
after Slippery Dick. But where? Carlo was telling! Down the hill his
shrill voice was breaking the night. Abandoned by the negro's dogs
accustomed to seek their home and that not far away, he had followed the
master's footsteps with unerring instinct and whined about the glass
door. The bursting glass, the fleeing form of a strange negro, were
enough for his excitable nature; he gave voice and took the trail.

The desperate effort of the negro might have succeeded, but the human
arms were made for many things; when a man stumbles he needs them in the
air and overhead or extended. Slippery Dick went down with a crash in a
mass of blackberry bushes, and when Edward reached him he was kicking
wildly at the excited puppy, prevented from rising by his efforts and
his bonds. The excited and enraged white man dragged him out of the
bushes by his collar and brought reason to her throne by savage kicks.
The prisoner gave up and begged for mercy.

He was marched back, all breathless, to the general, who had limped to
the gate to meet him.

Edward was now excited beyond control; he forced the prisoner, shivering
with horror, into the presence of the corpse, and with the axe in hand
confronted him.

"You infamous villain!" he cried; "tell me here, in the presence of my
dead friend, who it was that put you up to opening the grave of Rita
Morgan and breaking her skull, or I will brain you! You have ten seconds
to speak!" He meant it, and the axe flashed in the air. Gen. Evan caught
the upraised arm.

"Softly, softly, Edward; this won't do; this won't do! You defeat your
own purpose!" It was timely; the blow might have descended, for the
reckless man was in earnest, and the negro was by this time dumb.

"Dick," said the general, "I promised to protect you on conditions, and
I will. But you have done this gentleman an injury and endangered his
life. You opened Rita Morgan's grave and broke her skull--an act for
which the law has no adequate punishment; but my young friend here is
desperate. You can save yourself but I cannot save you except over my
dead body. If you refuse I will stand aside, and when I do you are a
dead man." He was during this hurried speech still struggling with the
young man.

"I'll tell, Marse Evan! Hold 'im. I'll tell!"

"Who, then?" said Edward, white with his passion; "who was the infamous
villain that paid you for the deed?"

"Mr. Royson, Mr. Royson, he hired me." The men looked at each other. A
revulsion came over Edward; a horror, a hatred of the human race, of
anything that bore the shape of man--but no; the kind, sad face of the
old gentleman was beaming in triumph upon him.

And then from somewhere into the scene came the half-dressed form of
Virdow, his face careworn and weary, amazed and alarmed.

Virdow wrote the confession in all its details, and the general
witnessed the rude cross made by the trembling hand of the negro. And
then they stood sorrowful and silent before the still, dead face of
Gerald Morgan!



CHAPTER XLVII.

ON THE MARGINS OF TWO WORLDS.


The discovery of Gerald's death necessitated a change of plans. The
concealment of Slippery Dick and Edward must necessarily be accomplished
at Ilexhurst. There were funeral arrangements to be made, the property
cared for and Virdow to be rescued from his solitary and embarrassing
position. Moreover, the gray dawn was on ere the confession was written,
and Virdow had briefly explained the circumstances of Gerald's death.
Exhausted by excitement and anxiety and the depression of grief, he went
to his room and brought Edward a sealed packet which had been written
and addressed to him during the early hours of the night.

"You will find it all there," he said; "I cannot talk upon it." He went
a moment to look upon the face of his friend and then, with a single
pathetic gesture, turned and left them.

One of the eccentricities of the former owner of Ilexhurst had been a
granite smoke-house, not only burglar and fireproof but cyclone proof,
and with its oaken door it constituted a formidable jail.

With food and water, Dick, freed of his bonds, was ushered into this
building, the small vents in the high roof affording enough light for
most purposes. A messenger was then dispatched for Barksdale and Edward
locked himself away from sight of chance callers in his upper room. The
general, thoughtful and weary, sat by the dead man.

The document that Virdow had prepared was written in German. "When your
eye reads these lines, you will be grieved beyond endurance; Gerald is
no more! He was killed to-night by a flash of lightning and his death
was instantaneous. I am alone, heartbroken and utterly wretched.
Innocent of any responsibility in this horrible tragedy I was yet the
cause, since it was while submitting to some experiments of mine that he
received his death stroke. I myself received a frightful electric shock,
but it now amounts to nothing. I would to God that I and not he had
received the full force of the discharge. He might have been of vast
service to science, but my work is little and now well-nigh finished.

"Gerald was kneeling under a steel disk, in the glass-room, you will
remember where we began our sound experiments, and I did not know that
the steel wire which suspended it ran up and ended near a metal strip,
along the ridge beam of the room. We had just begun our investigation,
when the flash descended and he fell dead.

"At this writing I am here under peculiar circumstances; the butler who
came to my call when I recovered consciousness assisted me in the
attempt at resuscitation of Gerald, but without any measure of success.
He then succeeded in getting one or two of the old negroes and a doctor.
The latter declared life extinct. There was no disfigurement--only a
black spot in the crown of the head and a dark line down the spine,
where the electric fluid had passed. That was all."

Edward ceased to read; his chin sank upon his breast and the lines
slipped from his unfocused eyes. The dark line down the spine! His heart
leaped fiercely and he lifted his face with a new light in his eyes. For
a moment it was radiant; then shame bowed his head again. He laid aside
the paper and gave himself up to thought, from time to time pacing the
room. In these words lay emancipation. He resumed the reading:

"We arranged the body on the lounge and determined to wait until morning
to send for the coroner and undertaker, but one by one your negroes
disappeared. They could not seem to withstand their superstition, the
butler told me, and as there was nothing to be done I did not worry. I
came here to the library to write, and when I returned, the butler, too,
was gone. They are a strange people. I suppose I will see none of them
until morning, but it does not matter; my poor friend is far beyond the
reach of attention. His rare mind has become a part of cosmos; its
relative situation is our mystery.

"I will, now, before giving you a minute description of our last evening
together, commit for your eye my conclusions as to some of the phenomena
and facts you have observed. I am satisfied as far as Gerald's origin is
concerned, that he is either the son of the woman Rita or that they are
in some way connected by ties of blood. In either case the similarity of
their profiles would be accounted for. No matter how remote the
connection, nothing is so common as this reappearance of tribal features
in families. The woman, you told me, claimed him as her child, but
silently waived that claim for his sake. I say to you that a mother's
instinct is based upon something deeper than mere fancy, and that
intuitions are so nearly correct that I class them as the nearest
approach to mind memory to be observed.

"The likeness of his full face to the picture of the girl you call
Marion Evan may be the result of influences exerted at birth. Do you
remember the fragmentary manuscript? If that is a history, I am of the
opinion that it is explanation enough. At any rate, the profile is a
stronger evidence the other way.

"The reproduction of the storm scene is one of the most remarkable
incidents I have ever known, but it is not proof that he inherited it as
a memory. It is a picture forcibly projected upon his imagination by the
author of the fragment--and in my opinion he had read that fragment. It
came to him as a revelation, completing the gap. I am sure that from the
day that he read it he was for long periods convinced that he was the
son of Rita Morgan; that she had not lied to him. In this I am confirmed
by the fact that as she lay dead he bent above her face and called her
'mother'. I am just as well assured that he had no memory of the origin
of that picture; no memory, in fact, of having read the paper. This may
seem strange to you, but any one who has had the care of victims of
opium will accept the proposition as likely.

"The drawing of the woman's face was simple. His hope had been to find
himself the son of Marion Evan; his dreams were full of her. He had seen
the little picture; his work was an idealized copy, but it must be
admitted a marvelous work. Still the powers of concentration in this man
exceeded the powers of any one I have ever met.

"And that brings me to what was the most wonderful demonstration he gave
us. Edward, I have divined your secret, although you have never told it.
When you went to secure for me the note of the waterfall, the home note,
you were accompanied by your friend Mary. I will stake my reputation
upon it. It is true because it is obliged to be true. When you played
for us you had her in your mind, a vivid picture, and Gerald drew it. It
was a case of pure thought transference--a transference of a mental
conception, line for line. Gerald received his conception from you upon
the vibrating air. To me it was a demonstration worth my whole journey
to America.

"And here let me add, as another proof of the sympathetic chord between
you, that Gerald himself had learned to love the same woman. You gave
him that, my young friend, with the picture.

"You have by this time been made acquainted with the terrible accusation
against you--false and infamous. There will be little trouble in
clearing yourself, but oh, what agony to your sensitive nature! I tried
to keep the matter from Gerald, as I did the inquest by keeping him busy
with investigations; but a paper fell into his hands and his excitement
was frightful. Evading me he disappeared from the premises one evening,
but while I was searching for him he came to the house in a carriage,
bringing the picture of that repulsive negro, which you will remember.
Since then he has been more calm. Mr. Barksdale, your friend, I suppose,
was with him once or twice.

"And now I come to this, the last night of our association upon earth;
the night that has parted us and rolled between us the mystery across
which our voices cannot reach nor our ears hear.

"Gerald had long since been satisfied with the ability of living
substance to hold a photograph, and convinced that these photographs lie
dormant, so to speak, somewhere in our consciousness until awakened
again--that is, until made vivid. He was proceeding carefully toward the
proposition that a complete memory could be inherited, and in the second
generation or even further removed; you know his theory. There were
intermediate propositions that needed confirmation. When forms and
scenes come to the mind of the author, pure harmonies of color to that
of the artist, sweet co-ordinations of harmonies to the musician, whence
come they? Where is the thread of connection? Most men locate the seat
of their consciousness at the top of the head; they seem to think in
that spot. And strange, is it not, that when life passes out and all the
beautiful structure of the body claimed by the frost of death, that heat
lingers longest at that point! It is material in this letter, because
explaining Gerald's idea. He wished me to subject him to the finest
vibrations at that point.

"The experiment was made with a new apparatus, which had been hung in
place of the first in the glass-room; or, rather, to this we made an
addition. A thin steel plate was fixed to the floor, directly under the
wire and elevated upon a small steel rod. Gerald insisted that as the
drum and membrane I used made the shapes we secured a new experiment
should be tried, with simple vibrations. So we hung in its place a steel
disk with a small projection from the center underneath. Kneeling upon
the lower disk Gerald was between two plates subject to the finest
vibration, his sensitive body the connection. There was left a gap of
one inch between his head and the projection under the upper disk and we
were to try first with the gap closed, and then with it opened.

"You know how excitable he was. When he took his position he was white
and his large eyes flashed fire. His face settled into that peculiarly
harsh, fierce expression, for which I have never accounted except upon
the supposition of nervous agony. The handle to his violin had been
wrapped with fine steel wire, and this, extending a yard outward, was
bent into a tiny hook, intended to be clasped around the suspended wire
that it might convey to it the full vibrations from the sounding board
of the instrument. I made this connection, and, with the violin against
my ear, prepared to strike the 'A' note in the higher octave, which if
the vibrations were fine enough should suggest in his mind the figure of
a daisy.

"Gerald, his eyes closed, remained motionless in his kneeling posture.
Suddenly a faint flash of light descended into the room and the thunder
rolled. And I, standing entranced by the beauty and splendor of that
face, lost all thought of the common laws of physics. A look of rapture
had suffused it, his eyes now looked out upon some vision, and a tender
smile perfected the exquisite curve of his lips. There was no need of
violin outside, the world was full of the fine quiverings of
electricity, the earth's invisible envelope was full of vibrations!
Nature was speaking a language of its own. What that mind saw between
the glories of this and the other life as it trembled on the margins of
both, is not given to me to know; but a vision had come to him--of what?

"Ah, Edward, how different the awakening for him and me! I remember that
for a moment I seemed to float in a sea of flame; there was a shock like
unto nothing I had ever dreamed, and lying near me upon the floor, his
mortal face startled out of its beautiful expression, lay Gerald--dead!"

The conclusion of the letter covered the proposed arrangements for
interment. Edward had little time to reflect upon the strange document.
The voice of Gen. Evan was heard calling at the foot of the stair.
Looking down he saw standing by him the straight, manly figure of
Barksdale. The hour of dreams had ended; the hour of action had arrived!



CHAPTER XLVIII.

WAR TO THE KNIFE.


Barksdale heard the events of the night, as detailed by the general,
without apparent emotion. He had gone with them to look upon the remains
of Gerald. He brought from the scene only a graver look in his face, a
more gentle tone in his voice. These, however, soon passed. He was again
the cold, stern, level-headed man of affairs, listening to a strange
story. He lost no detail and his quick, trained mind gave the matter its
true position.

The death of Gerald was peculiarly unfortunate for Edward. They had now
nothing left but the negro, and negro testimony could be bought for
little money. He would undertake to buy just such evidence as Dick had
given, from a dozen men in ten days and the first man he would have
sought was Slippery Dick, and the public would be thrown into doubt as
to Royson by the fact of deadly enmity between the men. To introduce
Dick upon the stand to testify and not support his testimony would be
almost a confession of guilt. The negro was too well known. Gerald's
statement would not be admissible, though his picture might. But of what
avail would the picture be without the explanation?

Barksdale pointed out this clearly but briefly. Gen. Evan was amazed
that such a situation had not already presented itself. The court case
would have been Dick's word against Royson's; the result would have been
doubtful. The least that could be hoped for, if the State made out a
case against Edward, was imprisonment.

But there was more; a simple escape was not sufficient; Edward must not
only escape but also show the conspiracy and put it where it belonged.
He, Barksdale, had no doubt upon that point. Royson was the guilty man.

This analysis of the situation, leaving as it did the whole matter open
again, and the result doubtful, filled Evan with anxiety and vexation.

"I thought," said he, walking the floor, "that we had everything fixed;
that the only thing necessary would be to hold to the negro and bring
him in at the right time. If he died or got away we had his confession
witnessed." Barksdale smiled and shook his head.

"It is of the utmost importance," he said, "to hold the negro and bring
him in at the right time, but in my opinion it is vital to the case that
the negro be kept from communicating with Royson, and that the fact of
his arrest be concealed. Where have you got him?"

"In the stone smoke-house," said Edward.

"Tied."

"No."

"Then," said Barksdale, arising at once, "if not too late you must tie
him. There is no smoke-house in existence and no jail in this section
that can hold Slippery Dick if his hands are free." Thoroughly alarmed,
Gen. Evan led the way and Edward followed. Barksdale waved the latter
back.

"Don't risk being seen; we can attend to this." They opened the door and
looked about the dim interior; it was empty. With a cry the general
rushed in.

"He is gone!" Barksdale stood at the door; the building was a square
one, with racks overhead for hanging meat. There was not the slightest
chance of concealment. A mound of earth in one corner aroused his
suspicions. He went to it, found a burrow and, running his arm into
this, he laid hold of a human leg.

"Just in time, General, he is here!" With a powerful effort he drew the
negro into the light. In one hour more he would have been under the
foundations and gone. Dick rose and glanced at the open door as he
brushed the dirt from his eyes, but there was a grip of steel upon his
collar, and a look in the face before him that suggested the uselessness
of resistance. The general recovered the strap and bound the elbows as
before.

"I will bring up shackles," said Barksdale, briefly. "In the meantime,
this will answer. But you know the stake! Discharge the house servant,
and I will send a man of my own selection. In the meantime look in here
occasionally." They returned to the house and into the library, where
they found Edward and informed him of the arrangements.

"Now," said Barksdale, "this is the result of my efforts in another
direction. The publication of libelous article is almost impossible,
with absolute secrecy as to the authorship. A good detective, with time
and money, can unravel the mystery and fix the responsibility upon the
guilty party. I went into this because Mr. Morgan was away, and the
circumstances were such that he could not act in the simplest manner if
he found the secret." He had drawn from his pocket a number of papers,
and to these, as he proceeded, he from time to time referred.

"We got our first clew by purchase. Sometimes in a newspaper office
there is a man who is keen enough to preserve a sheet of manuscript that
he 'set up,' when reflection suggests that it may be of future value.
Briefly, I found such a man and bought this sheet"--lifting it a
moment--"of no value except as to the handwriting.

"The first step toward discovering the name of the Tell-Tale
correspondent was a matter of difficulty, from the nature of the paper.
There was always in this case the _dernier ressort_; the editor could be
forced at the point of a pistol. But that was hazardous. The
correspondent's name was discovered in this way. We offered and paid a
person in position to know, for the addresses of all letters from the
paper's office to persons in this city. One man's name was frequently
repeated. We got a specimen of his handwriting and compared it with the
sheet of manuscript; the chirography was identical.

"A brief examination of the new situation convinced me that the writer
did not act independently; he was a young man not long in the city and
could not have known the facts he wrote of nor have obtained them on his
own account without arousing suspicion. He was being used by another
party--by some one having confidential relations or connections with
certain families, Col. Montjoy's included. I then began to suspect the
guilty party.

"The situation was now exceedingly delicate and I called into
consultation Mr. Dabney, one of our shrewdest young lawyers, and one, by
the way, Mr. Morgan, I will urge upon you to employ in this defense; in
fact, you will find no other necessary, but by all means hold to him.
The truth is," he added, "I have already retained him for you, but that
does not necessarily bind you."

"I thank you," said Edward. "We shall retain him."

"Very good. Now we wanted this young man's information and we did not
wish the man who used him to know that anything was being done or had
been done, and last week, after careful consultation, I acted. I called
in this young fellow and appointed him agent at an important place upon
our road, but remote, making his salary a good one. He jumped at the
chance and I did not give him an hour's time to get ready. He was to go
upon trial, and he went. I let him enjoy the sensation of prosperity for
a week before exploding my mine. Last night I went down and called on
him with our lawyer. We took him to the hotel, locked the door and
terrorized him into a confession, first giving him assurance that no
harm should come to him and that his position would not be affected. He
gave away the whole plot and conspiracy.

"The man we want is Amos Royson!"

The old general was out of his chair and jubilant. He was recalled to
the subject by the face of the speaker, now white and cold, fixed upon
him.

"I did not have evidence enough to convict him of conspiracy, nor would
the evidence help Mr. Morgan's case, standing alone as it did. The
single witness, and he in my employ then, could not have convicted,
although he might have ruined, Royson. I am now working upon the murder
case. I came to the city at daylight and had just arrived home when your
note reached me. My intention was to go straight to Royson's office and
give him an opportunity of writing out his acknowledgement of his infamy
and retraction. If he had refused I would have killed him as surely as
there is a God in heaven."

Edward held out his hand silently and the men understood each other.

"Now," continued Barksdale, "the situation has changed. There is
evidence enough to convict Royson of conspiracy, perhaps. We must
consult Dabney, but I am inclined to believe that our course will be to
go to trial ourselves and spring the mine without having aroused
suspicion. When Slippery Dick goes upon the stand he must find Royson
confident and in my opinion he will convict himself in open court, if we
can get him there. The chances are he will be present. The case will
attract a great crowd. He would naturally come. But we shall take no
chances; he will come!

"Just one thing more now; you perceive the importance, the vital
importance, of secrecy as to your prisoner; under no consideration must
his presence here be known outside. To insure this it seems necessary to
take one trusty man into our employ. Have you considered how we would be
involved if Mr. Morgan should be arrested?"

"But he will not be. Sheriff----"

"You forget Royson. He is merciless and alert. If he discovers Mr.
Morgan's presence in this community he will force an arrest. The sheriff
will do all in his power for us, but he is an officer under oath, and
with an eye, of course, to re-election. I would forestall this; I would
let the man who comes to guard Dick guard Mr. Morgan also. In other
words, let him go under arrest and accept a guard in his own house. The
sheriff can act in this upon his own discretion, but the arrest should
be made." Edward and the general were for a moment silent.

"You are right," said the former. "Let the arrest be made." Barksdale
took his departure.

The butler appeared and was summarily discharged for having abandoned
Virdow during the night.

And then came the deputy, a quiet, confident man of few words, who
served the warrant upon Edward, and then, proceeding with his prisoner
to the smoke-house, put shackles upon Slippery Dick, and supplemented
them with handcuffs.



CHAPTER XLIX.

PREPARING THE MINE.


This time the coroner was summoned. He came, examined the body of
Gerald, heard Virdow's statement and concluded that he could not hold an
inquest without subjecting himself to unpleasant criticism and giving
candidates for his office something to take hold of.

The funeral was very quiet. Col. Montjoy, Mrs. Montjoy and Mary came in
the old family carriage and the general on horseback.

The little group stood around the open coffin and gazed for the last
time upon the pale, chaste face. The general could not endure more than
the one glance. As it lay exposed to him, it was the perfect image of a
face that had never dimmed in his memory. Mary's tears fell silently as
she laid her little cross of white autumn rosebuds upon the silent
breast and turned away. Edward was waiting for her; she took his arm and
went upon the portico.

"It is a sad blow to you, Mr. Morgan," she said.

"It removes the only claim upon me," was his answer. "When all is over
and this trial ended, I shall very likely return to Europe for good!"
They were silent for a while. "I came here full of hope," he continued;
"I have met distrust, accusation, assaults upon my character and life,
the loss of friends, disappointments and now am accused of murder and
must undergo a public trial. It is enough to satisfy most men with--the
south."

"And do you count your real friends as nothing?"

"My real friends are few, but they count for much," he said, earnestly;
"it will be hard to part with them--with you. But fate has laid an iron
hand upon me. I must go." He found her looking at him with something of
wonder upon her face.

"You know best," she said, quietly. There was something in her manner
that reminded him of the calm dignity of her father.

"You do not understand me," he said, earnestly, "and I cannot explain,
and yet I will go this far. My parents have left me a mystery to
unfathom; until I have solved it I shall not come back, I cannot come
back." He took her hand in both of his. "It is this that restrains me;
you have been a true friend; it grieves me that I cannot share my
troubles with you and ask your woman's judgment, but I cannot--I cannot!
I only ask that you keep me always in your memory, as you will always be
the brightest spot in mine." She was now pale and deeply affected by his
tone and manner.

"You cannot tell me, Mr. Morgan?"

"Not even you, the woman I love; the only woman I have ever loved. Ah,
what have I said?" She had withdrawn her hand and was looking away.
"Forgive me; I did not know what I was saying. I, a man under indictment
for murder, a possible felon, an unknown!"

The young girl looked at him fearlessly.

"You are right. You can rely upon friendship, but under the
circumstances nothing can justify you in speaking of love to a
woman--you do not trust."

"Do not trust! You cannot mean that!" She had turned away proudly and
would have left him.

"I have seen so little of women," he said. "Let that be my excuse. I
would trust you with my life, my honor, my happiness--but I shall not
burden you with my troubles. I have everything to offer you but a name.
I have feared to tell you; I have looked to see you turn away in
suspicion and distrust--in horror. I could not. But anything, even that,
is better than reproach and wrong judging.

"I tell you now that I love you as no woman was ever loved before; that
I have loved you since you first came into my life, and that though we
be parted by half a world of space, and through all eternity, I still
shall love you. But I shall never, so help me heaven, ask the woman I
love to share an unknown's lot! You have my reasons now; it is because I
do love you that I go away." He spoke the words passionately. And then
he found her standing close to his side.

"And I," she said, looking up into his face through tearful but smiling
eyes, "do not care anything for your name or your doubts, and I tell
you, Edward Morgan, that you shall not go away; you shall not leave me."
He caught his breath and stood looking into her brave face.

"But your family--it is proud----"

"It will suffer nothing in pride. We will work out this little mystery
together." She extended her hand and, taking it, he took her also. She
drew back, shaking her head reproachfully.

"I did not mean that."

He was about to reply, but at that moment a scene was presented that
filled them both with sudden shame. How true it is that in the midst of
life we are in death.

The hearse had passed the gate. Silently they entered the house.

He led her back to the side of the dead man.

"He loved you," he said slowly. "I shall speak the truth for him." Mary
bent above the white face and left a kiss upon the cold brow.

"He was your friend," she said, fearing to look into his eye.

He comprehended and was silent.

It was soon over. The ritual for the dead, the slow journey to the city
of silence, a few moments about the open grave, the sound of dirt
falling upon the coffin, a prayer--and Gerald, living and dead, was no
longer a part of their lives.

The Montjoys were to go home from the cemetery. Edward said farewell to
them separately and to Mary last. Strange paradox, this human life. He
came from that new-made grave almost happy.

The time for action was approaching rapidly. He went with Dabney and the
general to see Slippery Dick for the last time before the trial. There
was now but one serious doubt that suggested itself. They took the man
at night to the grave of Rita and made him go over every detail of his
experience there. Under the influence of the scene he began with the
incident of the voodoo's "conjure bag" and in reply to queries showed
where it had been inserted in the cedar. Edward took his knife and began
to work at the plug, but this action plunged Dick into such terror that
Dabney cautioned Edward in a low voice to desist.

"Dick," said the young man finally, with sudden decision, "if you fail
us in this matter not only shall I remove that plug but I shall put you
in jail and touch you with the bag." Dick was at once voluble with
promises. Edward, his memory stirred by the incident, was searching his
pockets. He had carried the little charm obtained for him by Mary
because of the tender memories of the night before their journey abroad.
He drew it out now and held it up. Dick had not forgotten it; he drew
back, begging piteously. Dabney was greatly interested.

"That little charm has proved to be your protector, Mr. Morgan," he said
aloud for the negro's benefit. "You have not been in any danger. Neither
Dick nor anyone else could have harmed you. You should have told me
before. See how it has worked. The woman who gave you the bag came to
you in the night out on the ocean and showed you the face of this man;
you knew him even in the night, although he had never before met you nor
you him."

A sound like the hiss of a snake came from the negro; he had never been
able to guess why this stranger had known him so quickly. He now gazed
upon his captor with mingled fear and awe.

"Befo' Gawd, boss," he said, "I ain't goin' back on you, boss!"

"Going back on him!" said Dabney, laughing. "I should think not. I did
not know that Mr. Morgan had you conjured. Let us return; Dick cannot
escape that woman in this world or the next. Give me the little bag, Mr.
Morgan--no, keep it yourself. As long as you have it you are safe."

Edward was a prisoner, but in name only. Barksdale had not come again,
for more reasons than one, the main reason being extra precaution on
account of the watchful and suspicious Royson. But he acted quietly upon
the public mind. The day following the interview he caused to be
inserted in the morning paper an announcement of Edward's return and
arrest, and the additional fact that although his business in Paris had
not been finished, he had left upon the first steamer sailing from
Havre. At the club, he was outspoken in his denunciation of the
newspaper attacks and his confidence in the innocence of the man. There
was no hint in any quarter that it had been suspected that Rita Morgan
was really not murdered. It was generally understood that the defense
would rely upon the State's inability to make out a case.

But Edward did not suffer greatly from loneliness. The day after the
funeral Mrs. Montjoy and Mary, together with the colonel, paid a formal
call and stayed for some hours; and the general came frequently with
Dabney and Eldridge, who had also been employed, and consulted over
their plans for the defense. Arrangements had been made with the
solicitor for a speedy trial and the momentous day dawned.



CHAPTER L.

SLIPPERY DICK RIGHTS A WRONG.


The prominence of the accused and of his friends, added to the
sensational publication, made the case one of immense interest. The
court house was crowded to its utmost and room had to be made within the
bar for prominent citizens. There was a "color line" feature in the
murder, and the gallery was packed with curious black faces. Edward,
quiet and self-contained, sat by his lawyers, and near him was the old
general and Col. Montjoy. Slightly in the rear was Barksdale, calm and
observant. The State had subpoened Royson as a witness, and, smilingly
indifferent, he occupied a seat as a member of the bar, inside the rail.
The case was called at last.

"The State versus Edward Morgan, murder. Mr. Solicitor, what do you say
for the State?" asked the court.

"Ready."

"What do you say for the defense, gentlemen?"

"Ready."

"Mr. Clerk, call the jury." The panel was called and sworn. The work of
striking the jury then proceeded. Eldridge and Dabney were clever
practitioners and did not neglect any precaution. The jury list was
scanned and undesirable names eliminated with as much care as if the
prisoner had small chance of escape.

This proceeding covered an hour, but at last the panel was complete and
sworn. The defendant was so little known that this was a simple matter.

The witnesses for the State were then called and sworn. They consisted
of the coroner, the physician who had examined the wound, and others,
including Gen. Evan, Virdow and Royson. Gen. Evan and Virdow had also
been summoned by the defense.

As Royson took the oath it was observed that he was slightly pale and
embarrassed, but this was attributed to the fact of his recent conflict
and the eager state of the great crowd. No man in the room kept such
watch upon him as Barksdale; never once did he take his eyes from the
scarred face. Witnesses for the defense were then called--Gen. Evan and
Virdow. They had taken the oath. The defense demanded that witnesses for
the State be sent out of the room until called. As Royson was rising to
comply with the requirement common in such cases, Dabney stood up and
said:

"Before Mr. Royson goes out, may it please Your Honor, I would
respectfully ask of the solicitor what it is expected to prove by him?"

"We expect to prove, Your Honor, that Mr. Royson wrote a certain letter
which charged the prisoner with being a man of mixed blood, and that
Rita Morgan, the woman who was killed, was the woman in question and the
only authority; an important point in the case. Mr. Royson, I should
say, is here by subpoena only and occupying a very delicate situation,
since he was afterward, by public report, engaged in a conflict with the
prisoner, growing out of the publication of that letter."

"The solicitor is unnecessarily prolix, Your Honor. I asked the question
to withdraw our demand in his case as a matter of courtesy to a member
of the bar." Royson bowed and resumed his seat.

"I now ask," said Dabney, "a like courtesy in behalf of Gen. Evan and
Prof. Virdow, witnesses for both State and defense." This was readily
granted.

There was no demurrer to the indictment. The solicitor advanced before
the jury and read the document, word for word. "We expect to prove,
gentlemen of the jury, that the dead woman, named in this indictment,
was for many years housekeeper for the late John Morgan, and more
recently for the defendant in this case, Edward Morgan; that she resided
upon the premises with him and his cousin, Gerald Morgan; that on a
certain night, to wit, the date named in the indictment, she was
murdered by being struck in the head with some blunt implement, and that
she was discovered almost immediately thereafter by a witness; that
there was no one with the deceased at the time of her death but the
defendant, Edward Morgan, and that he, only, had a motive for her
death--namely, the suppression of certain facts, or certain publicly
alleged facts, which she alone possessed; that after her death, which
was sudden, he failed to notify the coroner, but permitted the body to
be buried without examination. And upon these facts, we say, the
defendant is guilty of murder. The coroner will please take the stand."

The officer named appeared and gave in his testimony. He had, some days
after the burial of the woman, Rita Morgan, received a hint from an
anonymous letter that foul play was suspected in the case, and acting
under advice, had caused the body to be disinterred and he had held an
inquest upon it, with the result as expressed in the verdict which he
proceeded to read and which was then introduced as evidence. The witness
was turned over to the defense; they consulted and announced "no
questions".

The next witness was the physician who examined the wound. He testified
to the presence of a wound in the back of the head that crushed the
skull and was sufficient to have caused death. Dabney asked of this
witness if there was much of a wound in the scalp, and the reply was
"No".

"Was there any blood visible?"

"No." The defense had no other questions for this officer, but announced
that they reserved the right to recall him if the case required it.

The next witness was Virdow. He had seen the body after death, but had
not examined the back of the head; had seen a small cut upon the temple,
which the defendant had explained to him was made by her falling against
the glass in the conservatory. There was a pane broken at the point
indicated.

And then Evan was put up.

"Gen. Evan," asked the solicitor, "where were you upon the night that
Rita Morgan died?"

"At the residence of Edward Morgan, sir."

"Where were you when you first discovered the death of Rita Morgan?"

"Gentlemen of the jury, at the time indicated, I was standing in the
glass-room occupied by the late Gerald Morgan, in the residence of the
defendant in this county----"

"And state?" interrupted the solicitor.

"And state. I was standing by the bedside of Gerald Morgan, who was ill.
I was deeply absorbed in thought and perfectly oblivious to my
surroundings, I suppose. I am certain that Edward Morgan was in the room
with me. I was aroused by hearing him cry out and then discovered that
the door leading into the shrubbery was open. I ran out and found him
near the head of the woman."

"Did you notice any cuts or signs of blood?"

"I noticed only a slight cut upon the forehead."

"Did you examine her for other wounds?"

"I did not. I understood then that she had, in a fit of some kind,
fallen against the glass, and that seeing her from within, Mr. Morgan
had run out and picked her up."

"Did you hear any sound of breaking glass?"

"I think I did. I cannot swear to it; my mind was completely absorbed at
that time. There was broken glass at the place pointed out by him."

"That night--pointed out that night?"

"No. I believe some days later."

"Did you hear voices?"

"I heard some one say 'They lied!' and then I heard Edward Morgan cry
aloud. Going out I found him by the dead body of the woman."

The defense cross-questioned.

"You do not swear, General Evan, that Mr. Morgan was not in the room at
the time the woman Rita was seized with sudden illness?"

"I do not. It was my belief then, and is now----"

"Stop," said the solicitor.

"Confine yourself to facts only," said the court.

"You are well acquainted with Mr. Morgan?"

"As well as possible in the short time I have known him."

"What is his character?"

"He is a gentleman and as brave as any man I ever saw on the field of
battle." There was slight applause as the general came down, but it was
for the general himself.

"Mr. Royson will please take the stand," said the solicitor. "You were
the author of the letter concerning the alleged parentage of Edward
Morgan, which was published in an extra in this city a few weeks since?"
Royson bowed slightly.

"From whom did you get your information?"

"From Rita Morgan," he said, calmly. There was a breathless silence for
a moment and then an angry murmur in the great audience. All eyes were
fixed upon Edward, who had grown pale, but he maintained his calmness.
The astounding statement had filled him with a sickening horror. Not
until that moment did he fully comprehend the extent of the enmity
cherished against him by the witness. On the face of Barksdale descended
a look as black as night. He did not, however, move a muscle.

"You say that Rita Morgan told you--when?"

"About a week previous to her death. She declared that her own son had
secured his rights at last. I had been consulted by her soon after John
Morgan's death, looking to the protection of those rights, she being of
the opinion that Gerald Morgan would inherit. When it was found that
this defendant here had inherited she called, paid my fee and made the
statement as given."

"Why did you fight a duel with the defendant, then--knowing, or
believing you knew, his base parentage?"

"I was forced to do so by the fact that I was challenged direct and no
informant demanded; and by the fact that while my friends were
discussing my situation, General Evan, acting under a mistaken idea,
vouched for him."

These ingenuous answers took away the general's breath. He had never
anticipated such plausible lies. Even Dabney was for the moment
bewildered. Edward could scarcely restrain his emotion and horror. As a
matter of fact, Rita was not dead when the challenge was accepted.
Royson had lied under oath!

"The witness is with you," said the solicitor, with just a tinge of
sarcasm in his tones.

"Were the statements of Rita Morgan in writing?" asked Dabney.

"No."

"Then, may it please Your Honor, I move to rule them out." A debate
followed. The statements were ruled out. Royson was suffered to descend,
subject to recall.

"The State closes," said the prosecuting officer.

Then came the sensation of the day.

The crowd and the bar were wondering what the defense would attempt with
no witnesses, when Dabney arose.

"May it please Your Honor, we have now a witness, not here when the case
was called, whom we desire to bring in and have sworn. We shall decide
about introducing him within a few moments and there is one other
witness telegraphed for who has just reached the city. We ask leave to
introduce him upon his arrival." And then turning to the sheriff, he
whispered direction. The sheriff went to the hall and returned with a
negro. Royson was engaged in conversation, leaning over the back of his
chair and with his face averted. The witness was sworn and took the
stand facing the crowd. A murmur of surprise ran about the room, for
there, looking out upon them, was the well-known face of Slippery Dick.
The next proceedings were irregular but dramatic. Little Dabney drew
himself up to his full height and shouted in a shrill voice:

"Look at that man, gentlemen of the jury." At the same time his finger
was pointed at Royson. All eyes were at once fixed upon that individual.
His face was as chalk, and the red scar across the nose flamed as so
much fiery paint. His eyes were fastened on the witness with such an
expression of fear and horror that those near him shuddered and drew
back slightly. And as he gazed his left hand fingered at his collar and
presently, with sudden haste, tore away the black cravat. Then he made
an effort to leave, but Barksdale arose and literally hurled him back in
his chair. The court rapped loudly.

"I fine you $50, Mr. Barksdale. Take your seat!"

Dick, unabashed, met that wild, pleading, threatening, futile gaze of
Royson, who was now but half-conscious of the proceedings.

"Tell the jury, do you know this man?" shouted the shrill voice again,
the finger still pointing to Royson.

"Yes, sah; dat's Mr. Royson."

"Were you ever hired by him?"

"Yes, sah."

"When--the last time?"

"'Bout three weeks ago."

"To do what?"

"Open 'er grave."

"Whose grave?"

"Rita Morgan's."

"And what else?"

There was intense silence; Dick twisted uneasily.

"And what else?" repeated Dabney.

"Knock her in de head."

"Did you do it?"

"Yes, sah."

"Where did you knock her in the head?"

"In de back of de head."

"Hard?"

"Hard enough to break her skull."

"Did you see Mr. Morgan that night?"

"Yes, sah."

"Where?"

"Downtown, jus' fo' I tole Mr. Royson 'all right'."

"Where did you next see him?"

"After he was killed by de lightnin'."

"The witness is with you," said Dabney, the words ringing out in
triumph. He faced the solicitor defiantly. His questions had followed
each other with astounding rapidity and the effect on every hearer was
profound. The solicitor was silent; his eyes were upon Royson. Some one
had handed the latter a glass of water, which he was trying to drink.

"I have no questions," said the solicitor gravely.

"You can come down, Dick." The negro stepped down and started out. He
passed close to Royson, who was standing in the edge of the middle
aisle. Their eyes met. It may have been pure devilishness or simply
nervous facial contortion, but at that moment the negro's face took on a
grin. Whatever the cause, the effect was fatal to him. The approach of
the negro had acted upon the wretched Royson like a maddening stimulant.
At the sight of that diabolical countenance, he seized him with his left
hand and stabbed him frantically a dozen times before he could be
prevented. With a moan of anguish the negro fell dead, bathing the scene
in blood.

A great cry went up from the spectators and not until the struggling
lawyer and the bloody corpse had been dragged out did the court succeed
in enforcing order.

The solicitor went up and whispered to the judge, who nodded
immediately, but before he announced that a verdict of acquittal would
be allowed, the defendant's attorneys drew him aside, and made an appeal
to him to let them proceed, as a mere acquittal was not full justice to
the accused.

Then the defense put up the ex-reporter and by him proved the
procurement by Royson of the libels and his authorship and gave his
connection with the affair from the beginning, which was the reception
of an anonymous card informing him that Royson held such information.

Gen. Evan then testified that Rita died while Royson's second was
standing at the front door at Ilexhurst, with Royson's note in his
pocket.

The jury was briefly charged by the court and without leaving the box
returned a verdict of not guilty. The tragedy and dramatic denouement
had wrought the audience to the highest pitch of excitement. The
revulsion of feeling was indicated by one immense cheer, and Edward
found himself surrounded by more friends than he thought he had
acquaintances, who shook his hand and congratulated him. Barksdale
stalked through the crowd and laid $50 upon the clerk's desk. Smiling up
at the court he said:

"Will Your Honor not make it a thousand? It is too cheap!"

But that good-natured dignitary replied:

"The fine is remitted. You couldn't help it."



CHAPTER LI.

A WOMAN'S WIT CONQUERS.


Cambia was greatly disturbed by the sudden departure of the Montjoys.
She shut herself up and refused all visitors. Was the great-hearted yet
stern Cambia ill or distressed? The maid did not know.

She had called for the "Figaro," to see the passenger list of the
steamer. The names were there; the steamer had sailed. And then as she
sat gazing upon the sheet another caught her attention in an adjoining
column, "Gaspard Levigne." It was in the body of an advertisement which
read:

"Reward--A liberal reward will be paid for particulars of the death of
Gaspard Levigne, which, it is said, occurred recently in Paris.
Additional reward will be paid for the address of the present owner of
the Stradivarius violin lately owned by the said Gaspard Levigne and the
undersigned will buy said violin at full value, if for sale."

Following this was a long and minute description of the instrument. The
advertisement was signed by Louis Levigne, Breslau, Silesia.

Cambia read and reread this notice with pale face and gave herself to
reflection. She threw off the weight of the old troubles which had
swarmed over her again and prepared for action. Three hours later she
was on her way to Berlin; the next day found her in Breslau. A few
moments later and she was entering the house of the advertiser.

In a dark, old-fashioned living-room, a slender, gray-haired man came
forward rather cautiously to meet her. She knew his face despite the
changes of nearly thirty years; he was the only brother of her husband
and one of her chief persecutors in those unhappy days. It was not
strange that in this tall, queenlike woman, trained to face great
audiences without embarrassment, he should fail to recognize the shy and
lonely little American who had invaded the family circle. He bowed,
unconsciously feeling the influence of her fine presence and commanding
eyes.

"You, I suppose, are Louis Levigne, who advertised recently for
information of Gaspard Levigne?" she said.

"Yes, madame; my brother was the unfortunate Gaspard. We think him dead.
Know you anything of him?"

"I knew him years ago; I was then a singer and he was my accompanist.
Recently he died." The face of the man lighted up with a strange gleam.
She regarded him curiously and continued: "Died poor and friendless."

"Ah, indeed! He should have communicated with us; he was not poor and
would not have been friendless."

"What do you mean?"

"You know, madame, the new age is progressive. Some lands we had in
northern Silesia, worthless for 200 years, have developed iron and a
company has purchased." The woman smiled sadly.

"Too late," she said, "for poor Gaspard. This is why you have
advertised?"

"Yes, madame. There can be no settlement until we have proofs of
Gaspard's death."

"You are the only heir aside from Gaspard?"

"Yes, madame." The count grew restless under these questions, but
circumstances compelled courtesy to this visitor.

"Excuse my interest, Count, but Gaspard was my friend and I knew of his
affairs. Did he not leave heirs?" The man replied with gesture in which
was mingled every shade of careless contempt that could be expressed.

"There was a woman--a plaything of Gaspard's calling herself his
wife--but they parted nearly thirty years ago. He humored her and then
sent her back where she came from--America, I believe."

"I am more than ever interested, Count. Gaspard did not impress me as
vicious."

"Oh, well, follies of youth, call them. Gaspard was wild; he first left
here because of a mock-marriage escapade; when two years after he came
back with this little doll we supposed it was another case; at any rate,
Gaspard was once drunk enough to boast that she could never prove the
marriage." Cambia could restrain herself only with desperate efforts.
These were knife blows.

"Were there no heirs?"

"I have never heard. It matters little here. But, madame, you know of
Gaspard's death; can you not give me the facts so that I may obtain
proofs?" She looked at him steadily.

"I saw him die."

"Ah, that simplifies it all," said the count, pleasantly. "Will you be
kind enough to go before an attesting officer and complete the proofs?
You have answered the advertisement--do I insult you by speaking of
reward?" He looked critically at her simple but elegant attire and
hesitated.

"No. But I do not care for money. I will furnish positive proof of the
death of Gaspard Levigne for the violin mentioned in the advertisement."
The man was now much astounded.

"But madame, it is an heirloom; that is why I have advertised for it."

"Then get it. And let me receive it direct from the hands of the present
holder or I shall not furnish the proofs." Some doubt of the woman's
sanity flashed over the count.

"I have already explained, madame, that it is an heirloom----"

"And I have shown you that I do not consider that as important."

"But of what use can it possibly be to you? There are other Cremonas I
will buy--"

"I want this one because it is the violin of Gaspard Levigne, and he was
my husband."

The count nearly leaped from the floor.

"When did he marry you, madame?"

"That is a long story; but he did; we were bohemians in Paris. I am heir
to his interests in these mines, but I care little for that--very
little. I am independent. My husband's violin is my one wish now." The
realization of how completely he had been trapped betrayed the forced
courtesy of the man.

"You married him. I presume you ascertained that the American wife was
dead?"

"You have informed me that the American was not his wife."

"But she was, and if she is living to-day madame's claims are very
slender."

"You speak positively!"

"I do. I saw the proofs. We should not have given the girl any
recognition without them, knowing Gaspard's former escapade."

"Then," said the woman, her face lighting up with a sudden joy, and
growing stern again instantly, "then you lied just now, you cowardly
hound."

"Madame." The count had retreated behind a chair and looked anxiously at
the bell, but she was in the way.

"You lied, sir, I say. I am the wife, and now the widow, of Gaspard
Levigne, but not a second wife. I am that 'plaything,' as you called
her, the American, armed now with a knowledge of my rights and your
treachery. You may well shiver and grow pale, sir; I am no longer the
trembling child you terrified with brutality, but a woman who could buy
your family with its mines thrown in, and not suffer because of the bad
investment. From this room, upon the information you have given, I go to
put my case in the hands of lawyers and establish my claim. It is not
share and share in this country; my husband was the first born, and I am
his heir!"

"My God!"

"It is too late to call upon God; He is on my side now! I came to you,
sir, a woman to be loved, not a pauper. My father was more than a prince
in his country. His slaves were numbered by the hundreds, and his lands
would have sufficed for a dozen of your counts. I was crushed and my
life was ruined, and my husband turned against me. But he repented--he
repented. There was no war between Gaspard and me when he died." The man
looked on and believed her.

"Madame," he said, humbly, "has been wronged. For myself, it matters
little, this new turn of affairs, but I have others." She had been
looking beyond him into space.

"And yet," she said, "it is the violin I would have. It was the violin
that first spoke our love; it is a part of me; I would give my fortune
to possess it again." He was looking anxiously at her, not comprehending
this passion, but hoping much from it.

"And how much will you give?"

"I will give the mines and release all claims against you and your
father's estate."

"Alas, madame, I can give you the name of the holder of that violin but
not the violin itself. You can make terms with him, and I will pay
whatever price is demanded."

"How will I know you are not deceiving me?"

"Madame is harsh, but she will be convinced if she knows the handwriting
of her--husband."

"It is agreed," she said, struggling to keep down her excitement. Count
Levigne reached the coveted bell and in a few minutes secured a notary,
who drew up a formal agreement between the two parties. Cambia then gave
an affidavit setting forth the death of Gaspard Levigne in proper form
for use in court. Count Levigne took from his desk an envelope.

"You have read my advertisement, madame. It was based on this:

     "Count L. Levigne, Breslau: When you receive this I will be
     dead. Make no effort to trace me; it will be useless; my
     present name is an assumed one. We have been enemies many
     years, but everything changes in the presence of death, and I
     do not begrudge you the pleasure of knowing that your brother
     is beyond trouble and want forever and the title is yours. The
     Cremona, to which I have clung even when honor was gone, I have
     given to a young American named Morgan, who has made my life
     happier in its winter than it was in its summer.

     "Gaspard Levigne."

The count watched the reader curiously as she examined the letter. Her
face was white, but her hand did not tremble as she handed back the
letter.

"It is well," she said. "I am satisfied. Good morning, gentlemen."

In Paris, Cambia's mind was soon made up. She privately arranged for an
indefinite absence, and one day she disappeared. It was the sensation of
the hour; the newspapers got hold of it, and all Paris wondered.

There had always been a mystery in the life of Cambia. No man had ever
invaded it beyond the day when she put herself in the hands of a manager
and laid the foundation for her world-wide success upon the lyric stage.

And then Paris forgot; and only the circle of her friends watched and
waited.

Meanwhile the swift steamer had carried Mrs. Gaspard Levigne across the
Atlantic and she had begun that journey into the south-land, once the
dream of her youth--the going back to father and to friends!

The swift train carried her by towns and villages gorgeous with new
paint and through cities black with the smoke of factories. The negroes
about the stations were not of the old life, and the rushing, curt and
slangy young men who came and went upon the train belonged to a new age.

The farms, with faded and dingy houses, poor fences, and uncared-for
fields and hedges, swept past like some bad dream. All was different;
not thirty years but a century had rolled its changes over the land
since her girlhood.

And then came the alighting. Here was the city, different and yet the
same. But where was the great family carriage, with folding steps and
noble bays, the driver in livery, the footman to hold the door? Where
were father and friends? No human being came to greet her.

She went to the hotel, locked herself in her room, and then Cambia gave
way for the first time in a generation to tears.

But she was eminently a practical woman. She had not come to America to
weep. The emotion soon passed. At her request a file of recent papers
was laid before her, and she went through them carefully. She found that
which she had not looked for.



CHAPTER LII.

DEATH OF COL. MONTJOY.


It was the morning succeeding the trial, one of those southern days that
the late fall steals from summer and tempts the birds to sing in the
woodlands. Gen. Evan had borne Virdow and Edward in triumph to The
Cedars and, after breakfast, Edward had ridden over to The Hall, leaving
the two old men together. Virdow interested his host with accurate
descriptions of the great battles between the Germans and the French;
and Evan in turn gave him vivid accounts of the mighty Virginia
struggles between Federals and Confederates.

When they finally came to Edward as a topic the German was eloquent. He
placed him beside himself in learning and ahead of all amateurs as
artist and musician.

"Mr. Morgan agreed with me in his estimate of Edward," Virdow said.
"They were warm friends. Edward reciprocated the affection bestowed upon
him; in Europe they traveled much--"

"Of what Mr. Morgan do you speak?" The general was puzzled.

"The elder, Mr. John Morgan, I think. But what am I saying? I mean
Abingdon."

"Abingdon? I do not know him." Virdow reflected a moment.

"Abingdon was the name by which Edward knew John Morgan in Europe. They
met annually and were inseparable companions."

"John Morgan--our John Morgan?"

"Yes. I am told he was very eccentric, and this was probably a whim. But
it enabled him to study the character of his relative. He seems to have
been satisfied, and who wouldn't?"

"You astound me. I had never heard that John Morgan went to Europe. I
did hear that he went annually to Canada, for the summer months; that is
all."

"Edward never knew of the connection until he came here and saw a
picture of John Morgan, drawn by Gerald. We both recognized it
instantly." Evan was silent, thinking upon this curious information. At
last he asked:

"Was Edward Mr. Morgan's only intimate companion?"

"The only one."

"Did you ever hear why Mr. Morgan concealed his identity under an
assumed name?"

"No. We did not connect Abingdon with John Morgan until letters were
returned with information that Abingdon was dead; and then Gerald drew
his picture from memory."

And as these two old gentlemen chattered about him, Edward himself was
approaching the Montjoys.

He found Mary upon the porch; his horse's feet had announced his coming.
Her face was flushed and a glad light shone in her eyes. She gave him
her hand without words; she had intended expressing her pleasure and her
congratulations, but when the time came the words were impossible.

"You have been anxious," he said, reading her silence.

"Yes," she replied; "I could not doubt you but there are so many things
involved, and I had no one to talk with. It was a long suspense, but
women have to learn such lessons," and then she added, seeing that he
was silent: "It was the most unhappy day of my life: papa was gone, and
poor mamma's eyes have troubled her so much. She has bandaged them again
and stays in her room. The day seemed never-ending. When papa came he
was pale and haggard, and his face deceived me. I thought that something
had gone wrong--some mistake had occurred and you were in trouble, but
papa was ill, and the news--" She turned her face away suddenly, feeling
the tears starting.

Edward drew her up to a settee under a spreading oak, and seating
himself beside her told her much of his life's story--his doubts, his
hopes, his fears. She held her breath as he entered upon his experience
at Ilexhurst and Gerald's life and identity were dwelt upon.

"This," said he at last, "is your right to know. It is due to me. I
cannot let you misjudge the individual. While I am convinced, that does
not make a doubt a fact and on it I cannot build a future. You have my
history, and you know that in the heart of Edward Morgan you alone have
any part. The world holds no other woman for me, nor ever will; but
there is the end. If I stayed by you the day would come when this love
would sweep away every resolution, every sense of duty, every instinct
of my mind, except the instinct to love you, and for this reason I have
come to say that until life holds no mystery for Edward Morgan he will
be an exile from you."

The girl's head was sunk upon her arms as it rested upon the settee. She
did not lift her face. What could she answer to such a revelation, such
a declaration? After a while he ceased to walk the gravel floor of their
arbor, and stood by her. Unconsciously he let his hand rest upon the
brown curls. "This does not mean," he said, very gently, "that I am
going away to mope and wear out life in idle regrets. Marion Evan lives;
I will find her. And then--and then--if she bids me, I will come back,
and with a clean record ask you to be my wife. Answer me, my love, my
only love--let me say these words this once--answer me; is this the
course that an honorable man should pursue?"

She rose then and faced him proudly. His words had thrilled her soul.

"It is. I could never love you, Edward, if you could offer less. I have
no doubt in my mind--none. A woman's heart knows without argument, and I
know that you will come to me some day. God be with you till we meet
again--and for all time and eternity. This will be my prayer."

Without object, the silent couple, busy with their thoughts, entered the
living-room. The colonel was sitting in his arm-chair, his paper dropped
from his listless hand, his eyes closed. The Duchess in his lap had
fallen asleep, holding the old open-faced watch and its mystery of the
little boy within who cracked hickory nuts. They made a pretty
picture--youth and old age, early spring and late winter. Mary lifted
her hand warningly.

"Softly," she said; "they sleep; don't disturb them." Edward looked
closely into the face of the old man, and then to the surprise of the
girl placed his arm about her waist.

"Do not cry out," he said; "keep calm and remember that the little
mamma's health--"

"What do you mean?" she said, looking with wonder into his agitated face
as she sought gently to free herself. "Have you forgotten----"

"This is sleep indeed--but the sleep of eternity."

She sprang from him with sudden terror and laid her hand upon the cold
forehead of her father. For an instant she stared into his face, with
straining eyes, and then with one frightful scream she sank by his side,
uttering his name in agonized tones.

Edward strove tearfully to calm her; it was too late. Calling upon
husband and daughter frantically, Mrs. Montjoy rushed from her room into
the presence of death. She was blindfolded, but with unerring instinct
she found the still form and touched the dead face. The touch revealed
the truth; with one quick motion she tore away the bandages from her
face, and then in sudden awe the words fell from her:

"I am blind!" Mary had risen to her side and was clinging to her, and
Edward had assisted, fearing she might fall to the floor. But with the
consciousness of her last misfortune had soon come calmness. She heeded
not the cries of the girl appealing to her, but knelt with her white
face lifted and said simply:

"Dear Father, Thou art merciful; I have not seen him dead! Blest forever
be Thy Holy name!" Edward turned his back and stood with bowed head, the
silence broken now only by the sobs of the daughter. Still sleeping in
the lap of the dead, her chubby hand clasping the wonderful toy, was the
Duchess, and at her feet the streaming sunlight. The little boy came to
the door riding the old man's gold-headed cane for a horse and carrying
the cow horn, which he had pushed from its nail upon the porch.

"Grandpa, ain't it time to blow the horn?" he said. "Grandma, why don't
grandpa wake up?" She drew him to her breast and silenced his queries.

And still with a half-smile upon his patrician face--the face that women
and children loved and all men honored--sat the colonel; one more leaf
from the old south blown to earth.

The little girl awoke at last, sat up and caught sight of the watch.

"Look, gamma. Little boy in deir cackin' hickeynut," and she placed the
jewel against the ear of the kneeling woman.

That peculiarly placid expression, driven away in the moment of
dissolution, had returned to the dead man; he seemed to hear the Duchess
prattle and the familiar demand for music upon the horn.

Isham had responded to the outcry and rushed in. With a sob he had stood
by the body a moment and then gone out shaking his head and moaning. And
then, as they waited, there rang out upon the clear morning air the
plantation bell--not the merry call to labor and the sweet summons to
rest, which every animal on the plantation knew and loved, but a solemn
tolling, significant in its measured volume.

And over the distant fields where the hands were finishing their labors,
the solemn sounds came floating. Old Peter lifted his head. "Who dat
ring dat bell dis time er day?" he said, curiously; and then, under the
lessening volume of the breeze, the sound fell to almost silence, to
rise again stronger than before and float with sonorous meaning.

At long intervals they had heard it. It always marked a change in their
lives.

One or two of the men began to move doubtfully toward the house, and
others followed, increasing their pace as the persistent alarm was
sounded, until some were running. And thus they came to where old Isham
tolled the bell, his eyes brimming over with tears.

"Old marster's gone! Old marster's gone!" he called to the first, and
the words went down the line and were carried to the "quarters," which
soon gave back the death chant from excited women. The negroes edged
into the yard and into the hall, and then some of the oldest into the
solemn presence of the dead, gazing in silence upon the sad, white face
and closed eyes.

Then there was a tumult in yard and hall; a shuffling of feet announced
a newcomer. Mammy Phyllis, walking with the aid of a staff, entered the
room and stood by the side of the dead man. Every voice was still; here
was the woman who had nursed him and who had raised him; hers was the
right to a superior grief. She gazed long and tenderly into the face of
her foster-child and master and turned away, but she came again and laid
her withered hand upon his forehead. This time she went, to come no
more. In the room of the bereaved wife she took her seat, to stay a
silent comforter for days. Her own grief found never a voice or a tear.

One by one the negroes followed her; they passed in front of the
sleeper, looked steadily, silently, into his face and went out. Some
touched him with the tips of their fingers, doubtfully, pathetically.
For them, although not realized fully, it was the passing of the old
regime. It was the first step into that life where none but strangers
dwelt, where there was no sympathy, no understanding. Some would drift
into cities to die of disease, some to distant cabins, to grow old
alone. One day the last of the slaves would lie face up and the old
south would be no more.

None was left but one. Edward came at last and stood before his host.
Long and thoughtfully he gazed and then passed out. He had place in
neither the old nor the new. But the dead man had been his friend. He
would not forget it.



CHAPTER LIII.

THE ESCAPE OF AMOS ROYSON.


When Amos Royson's senses returned to him he was standing in the middle
of a room in the county jail. The whirl in his head, wherein had mingled
the faces of men, trees, buildings and patches of sky illumined with
flashes of intensest light and vocal with a multitude of cries--these,
the rush of thoughts and the pressure upon his arteries, had ceased. He
looked about him in wonder. Was it all a dream? From the rear of the
building, where in their cage the negro prisoners were confined came a
mighty chorus, "Swing low, sweet chariot," making more intense the
silence of his own room. That was not of a dream, nor were the bare
walls, nor the barred windows. His hands nervously clutching his lapels
touched something cold and wet. He lifted them to the light; they were
bloody! He made no outcry when he saw this, but stood a long minute
gazing upon them, his face wearing in that half shadow a confession of
guilt. And in that minute all the facts of the day stood forth, clear
cut and distinct, and his situation unfolded itself. He was a murderer,
a perjurer and a conspirator. Not a human being in all that city would
dare to call him friend.

The life of this man had been secretly bad; he had deluded himself with
maxims and rules of gentility. He was, in fact, no worse at that moment
in jail than he had been at heart for years. But now he had been
suddenly exposed; the causes he had set in motion had produced a natural
but unexpected climax, and it is a fact that in all the world there was
no man more surprised to find that Amos Royson was a villain than Royson
himself. He was stunned at first; then came rage; a blind, increasing
rebellion of spirit unused to defeat. He threw himself against the facts
that hemmed him in as a wild animal against its cage, but he could not
shake them. They were still facts. He was doomed by them. Then a tide of
grief overwhelmed him; his heart opened back into childhood; he plunged
face down upon his bed; silent, oblivious to time, and to the jailer's
offer of food returning no reply. Despair had received him! A weapon at
hand then would have ended the career of Amos Royson.

Time passed. No human being from the outer world called upon him.
Counsel came at last, in answer to his request, and a line of defense
had been agreed upon. Temporary insanity would be set up in the murder
case, but even if this were successful, trials for perjury and
conspiracy must follow. The chances were against his acquittal in any,
and the most hopeful view he could take was imprisonment for life.

For life! How often, as solicitor, he had heard the sentence descend
upon the poor wretches he prosecuted. And not one was as guilty as he.
This was the deliberate verdict of the fairest judge known to man--the
convicting instincts of the soul that tries its baser self.

At the hands of the jailer Royson received the best possible treatment.
He was given the commodious front room and allowed every reasonable
freedom. This officer was the sheriff's deputy, and both offices were
political plums. The prisoner had largely shaped local politics and had
procured for him the the sheriff's bondsmen. Officeholders are not
ungrateful--when the office is elective.

The front room meant much to a prisoner; it gave him glimpses into the
free, busy world outside, with its seemingly happy men and women, with
its voices of school children and musical cries of street vendors.

This spot, the window of his room, became Royson's life. He stood there
hour after hour, only withdrawing in shame when he saw a familiar face
upon the street. And standing there one afternoon, just before dark, he
beheld Annie's little vehicle stop in front of the jail. She descended,
and as she came doubtfully forward she caught sight of his face. She was
dressed in deep black and wore a heavy crepe veil. There was a few
minutes' delay, then the room door opened and Annie was coming slowly
toward him, her veil thrown back, her face pale and her hand doubtfully
extended. He looked upon her coldly without changing his position.

"Are you satisfied?" he said, at length, when she stood silent before
him.

Whatever had been the emotion of the woman, it, too, passed with the
sound of his sentence.

"I would not quarrel with you, Amos, and I might do so if I answered
that question as it deserves. I have but a few minutes to stop here and
will not waste them upon the past. The question is now as to the future.
Have you any plan?"

"None," he replied, with a sneer. "I am beyond plans. Life is not worth
living if I were out, and the game is now not worth the candle." The
woman stood silent.

"What are your chances for acquittal?" she asked, after a long silence.

"Acquittal! Absolutely none! Life itself may by a hard struggle be
saved. After that, it is the asylum or the mines."

"And then?"

"And then? Well, then I shall again ask my loving cousin to bring me a
powder. I will remind her once more that no Royson ever wore chains or a
halter, however much they may have deserved them. And for the sake of
her children she will consent." She walked to the corridor door and
listened and then came back to him. He smiled and stretched out his
hand.

"Amos," she whispered, hurriedly; "God forgive me, but I have brought
it. I am going to New York to-morrow, and the chance may not come again.
Remember, it is at your request." She was fumbling nervously at the
bosom of her dress. "The morphine I could not get without attracting
attention, but the chloroform I had. I give it to you for use only when
life--" He had taken the bottle and was quietly looking upon the white
liquid.

"I thank you, cousin," he said, quietly, with a ghastly little laugh. "I
have no doubt but that I can be spared from the family gatherings and
that in days to come perhaps some one will occasionally say 'poor Amos,'
when my fate is recalled. Thanks, a thousand thanks! Strange, but the
thought of death actually gives me new life." He looked upon her
critically a moment and then a new smile dawned upon his face.

"Ah," he said, "your note about Morgan; it will be unfortunate if that
ever comes to light. You were not smart, Annie. You could have bought
that with this bottle." She flushed in turn and bit her lip. The old
Annie was still dominant.

"It would have been better since Mr. Morgan is to be my brother-in-law.
Still if there is no love between us it will not matter greatly. Mary
seems to be willing to furnish all the affection he will need."

"Where is he?" he asked, hoarsely, not attempting to disguise his
suffering. She was now relentless.

"Oh, at Ilexhurst, I suppose. The general is to care for the old German
until the household is arranged again and everything made ready for the
bride."

"Is the marriage certain?"

She smiled cheerfully. "Oh, yes. It is to take place soon, and then they
are going to Europe for a year." And then as, white with rage, he
steadied himself against the window, she said: "Mary insisted upon
writing a line to you; there it is. If you can get any comfort from it,
you are welcome."

He took the note and thrust it in his pocket, never removing his eyes
from her face. A ray had fallen into the blackness of his despair. It
grew and brightened until it lighted his soul with a splendor that shone
from his eyes and trembled upon every lineament of his face. Not a word
had indicated its presence. It was the silent expression of a hope and a
desperate resolve. The woman saw it and drew back in alarm. A suspicion
that he was really insane came upon her mind, and she was alone,
helpless and shut in with a maniac. A wild desire to scream and flee
overwhelmed her; she turned toward the door and in a minute would have
been gone.

But the man had read her correctly. He seized her, clapped his hand over
her mouth, lifted her as he would a child and thrust her backward on the
bed. Before she could tear the grip from her mouth, he had drawn the
cork with his teeth and drenched the pillow-case with chloroform. There
was one faint cry as he moved his hand, but the next instant the drug
was in her nostrils and lungs. She struggled frantically, then faintly,
and then lay powerless at the mercy of the man bending over her.

Hardly more than two minutes had passed, but in that time Amos Royson
was transformed. He had a chance for life and that makes men of cowards.
He stripped away the outer garments of the woman and arrayed himself in
them, adding the bonnet and heavy veil, and then turned to go. He was
cool now and careful. He went to the bed and drew the cover over the
prostrate form. He had occupied the same place in the same attitude for
hours. The jailer would come, offer supper from the door and go away. He
would, if he got out, have the whole night for flight. And he would need
it. The morn might bring no waking to the silent form. The thought
chilled his blood, but it also added speed to his movements. He drew off
the pillow-case, rolled it into a ball and dropped it out of the window.
He had seen the woman approach with veil down and handkerchief to her
face. It was his cue. He bent his head, pressed his handkerchief to his
eyes beneath the veil and went below. The jailer let the bent,
sob-shaken figure in and then out of the office. The higher class seldom
came there. He stood bareheaded until the visitor climbed into the
vehicle and drove away.

It was with the greatest difficulty only that Royson restrained himself
and suffered the little mare to keep a moderate pace. Fifteen minutes
ago a hopeless prisoner, and now free! Life is full of surprises. But
where? Positively the situation had shaped itself so rapidly he had not
the slightest plan in mind. He was free and hurrying into the country
without a hat and dressed in a woman's garb!

The twilight had deepened into gloom. How long would it be before
pursuit began? And should he keep on the disguise? He slipped out of it
to be ready for rapid flight, and then upon a second thought put it on
again. He might be met and recognized. His whole manner had undergone a
change; he was now nervous and excited, and the horse unconsciously
urged along, was running at full speed. A half-hour at that rate would
bear him to The Hall. Cursing his imprudence, he checked the animal and
drove on more moderately and finally stopped. He could not think
intelligently. Should he go on to The Hall and throw himself upon the
mercy of his connections? They would be bound to save him. Mary! Ah,
Mary! And then the note thrust itself in mind. With feverish haste he
searched for and drew it out. He tore off the envelope and helped by a
flickering match he read:

     "You must have suffered before you could have sinned so, and I
     am sorry for you. Believe me, however others may judge you,
     there is no resentment but only forgiveness for you in the
     heart of

     "Mary."

Then the tumult within him died away. No man can say what that little
note did for Amos Royson that night. He would go to her, to this
generous girl, and ask her aid. But Annie! What if that forced sleep
should deepen into death! Who could extricate her? How would Mary
arrange that? She would get Morgan. He could not refuse her anything. He
could not falter when the family name and family honor were at stake. He
could not let his wife--his wife! A cry burst from the lips of the
desperate man. His wife! Yes, he would go to him, but not for help. Amos
Royson might die or escape--but the triumph of this man should be
short-lived.

The mare began running again; he drew rein with a violence that brought
the animal's front feet high in air and almost threw her to the ground.
A new idea had been born; he almost shouted over it. He tore off the
woman's garb, dropped it in the buggy, sprang out and let the animal go.
In an instant the vehicle was out of sight in the dark woods, and Royson
was running the other way. For the idea born in his mind was this:

"Of all the places in the world for me the safest is Ilexhurst--if--" He
pressed his hand to his breast. The bottle was still safe! And Annie!
The horse returning would lead to her release.

Amos Royson had a general knowledge of the situation at Ilexhurst. At 12
o'clock he entered through the glass-room and made his way to the body
of the house. He was familiar with the lower floor. The upper he could
guess at. He must first find the occupied room, and so, taking off his
shoes, he noiselessly ascended the stairway. He passed first into the
boy's room and tried the door to that known as the mother's, but it was
locked. He listened there long and intently, but heard no sound except
the thumping of his own heart. Then he crossed the hall and there, upon
a bed in the front room, dimly visible in the starlight, was the man he
sought.

The discovery of his victim, helpless and completely within his power,
marked a crisis in the mental progress of Royson. He broke down and
trembled violently, not from conscience, but from a realization of the
fact that his escape was now an accomplished fact. This man before him
disposed of, Ilexhurst was his for an indefinite length of time. Here he
could rest and prepare for a distant flight. No one, probably, would
come, but should anyone come, why, the house was unoccupied. The mood
passed; he went back to the hall, drew out his handkerchief and
saturated it with liquid from the bottle in his pocket. A distant
tapping alarmed him, and he drew deeper into the shadow. Some one seemed
knocking at a rear door. Or was it a rat with a nut in the wall? All old
houses have them. No; it was the tapping of a friendly tree upon the
weather boards, or a ventilator in the garret. So he reasoned. There
came a strange sensation upon his brain, a sweet, sickening taste in his
mouth and dizziness. He cast the cloth far away and rushed to the stair,
his heart beating violently. He had almost chloroformed himself while
listening to his coward fears.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dizziness passed away, but left him unnerved. He dared not walk now.
He crawled to the cloth and thence into the room. Near the bed he lifted
his head a little and saw the white face of the sleeper turned to him.
He raised the cloth and held it ready; there would be a struggle, and it
would be desperate. Would he fail? Was he not already weakened? He let
it fall gently in front of the sleeper's face, and then inch by inch
pushed it nearer. Over his own senses he felt the languor stealing; how
was it with the other? The long regular inspirations ceased, the man
slept profoundly and noiselessly--the first stage of unconsciousness.
The man on the floor crawled to the window and laid his pale cheek upon
the sill.

How long Royson knelt he never knew. He stood up at last with throbbing
temples, but steadier. He went up to the sleeper and shook him--gently
at first, then violently. The drug had done its work.

Then came the search for more matches and then light. And there upon the
side table, leaning against the wall, was the picture that Gerald had
drawn; the face of Mary, severe and noble, the fine eyes gazing straight
into his.

He had not thought out his plans. It is true that the house was his for
days, if he wished it, but how about the figure upon the bed? Could he
occupy that building with such a tenant? It seemed to him the sleeper
moved. Quickly wetting the handkerchief again he laid it upon the cold
lips, with a towel over it to lessen evaporation. And as he turned, the
eyes of the picture followed him. He must have money to assist his
escape; the sleeper's clothing was there. He lifted the garments. An
irresistible power drew his attention to the little table, and there,
still fixed upon him, were the calm, proud eyes of the girl. Angrily he
cast aside the clothing. The eyes still held him in their power, and now
they were scornful. They seemed to measure and weigh him: Amos Royson,
murderer, perjurer, conspirator--thief! The words were spoken somewhere;
they became vocal in that still room. Terrified, he looked to the man
upon the bed and there he saw the eyes, half-open, fixed upon him and
the towel moving above the contemptuous lips. With one bound he passed
from the room, down the steps, toward the door. Anywhere to be out of
that room, that house!



CHAPTER LIV.

HOW A DEBT WAS PAID.


On went the spirited mare to The Hall, skillfully avoiding obstructions,
and drew up at last before the big gate. She had not been gentle in her
approach, and old Isham was out in the night holding her bit and talking
to her before she realized that her coming had not been expected.

"De Lord bless yer, horse, whar you be'n an' what you done wid young
missus?" Mary was now out on the porch.

"What is it, Isham?"

"For Gawd's sake, come hyar, missy. Dis hyar fool horse done come erlong
back 'thout young missus, an' I spec' he done los' her out in de road
somewhar--" Mary caught sight of the dress and bonnet and greatly
alarmed drew them out. What could have happened? Why was Annie's bonnet
and clothing in the buggy? For an instant her heart stood still.

Her presence of mind soon returned. Her mother had retired, and so,
putting the maid on guard, she came out and with Isham beside her,
turned the horse's head back toward the city. But as mile after mile
passed nothing explained the mystery. There was no dark form by the
roadside. At no place did the intelligent animal scent blood and turn
aside. It was likely that Annie had gone to spend the night with a
friend, as she declared she would if the hour were too late to enter the
jail. But the clothing!

The girl drove within sight of the prison, but could not bring herself,
at that hour, to stop there. She passed on to Annie's friends. She had
not been there. She tried others with no better success. And now,
thoroughly convinced that something terrible had occurred, she drove on
to Ilexhurst. As the tired mare climbed the hill and Mary saw the light
shining from the upper window, she began to realize that the situation
was not very much improved. After all, Annie's disappearance might be
easily explained and how she would sneer at her readiness to run to Mr.
Morgan! It was the thought of a very young girl.

But it was too late to turn back. She drew rein before the iron gate and
boldly entered, leaving Isham with the vehicle. She rapidly traversed
the walk, ascended the steps and was reaching out for the knocker, when
the door was suddenly thrown open and a man ran violently against her.
She was almost hurled to the ground, but frightened as she was, it was
evident that the accidental meeting had affected the other more. He
staggered back into the hall and stood irresolute and white with terror.
She came forward amazed and only half believing the testimony of her
senses.

"Mr. Royson!" The man drew a deep breath and put his hand upon a chair,
nodding his head. He had for the moment lost the power of speech.

"What does it mean?" she asked. "Why are you--here? Where is Mr.
Morgan?" His ghastliness returned. He wavered above the chair and then
sank into it. Then he turned his face toward hers in silence. She read
something there, as in a book. She did not cry out, but went and caught
his arm and hung above him with white face. "You have not--oh, no, you
have not--" She could say no more. She caught his hand and looked dumbly
upon it. The man drew it away violently as the horror of memory came
upon him.

"Not that way!" he said.

"Ah, not that way! Speak to me, Mr. Royson--tell me you do not mean
it--he is not----" The whisper died out in that dim hall. He turned his
face away a moment and then looked back. Lifting his hand he pointed up
the stairway. She left him and staggered up the steps slowly, painfully,
holding by the rail; weighed upon by the horror above and the horror
below. Near the top she stopped and looked back; the man was watching
her as if fascinated. She went on; he arose and followed her. He found
her leaning against the door afraid to enter; her eyes riveted upon a
form stretched upon the bed, a cloth over its face; a strange sweet odor
in the air. He came and paused by her side, probably insane, for he was
smiling now.

"Behold the bridegroom," he said. "Go to him; he is not dead. He has
been waiting for you. Why are you so late?" She heard only two words
clearly. "Not dead!"

"Oh, no," he laughed; "not dead. He only sleeps, with a cloth and
chloroform upon his face. He is not dead!" With a movement swift as a
bounding deer, she sprang across the room, seized the cloth and hurled
it from the window. She added names that her maiden cheeks would have
paled at, and pressed her face to his, kissing the still and silent lips
and moaning piteously.

The man at the door drew away suddenly, went to the stairway and passed
down. No sound was heard now in the house except the moaning of the girl
upstairs. He put on a hat in the hall below, closed the door cautiously
and prepared to depart as he had come, when again he paused irresolute.
Then he drew from his pocket a crumpled paper and read it. And there,
under that one jet which fell upon him in the great hall, something was
born that night in the heart of Amos Royson--something that proved him
for the moment akin to the gods. The girl had glided down the steps and
was fleeing past him for succor. He caught her arm.

"Wait," he said gently. "I will help you!" She ceased to struggle and
looked appealingly into his face. "I have not much to say, but it is for
eternity. The man upstairs is now in no immediate danger. Mary, I have
loved you as I did not believe myself capable of loving anyone. It is
the glorious spot in the desert of my nature. I have been remorseless
with men; it all seemed war to me, a war of Ishmaelites--civilized war
is an absurdity. Had you found anything in me to love, I believe it
would have made me another man, but you did not. And none can blame you.
To-night, for every kind word you have spoken to Amos Royson, for the
note you sent him to-day, he will repay you a thousandfold. Come with
me." He half-lifted her up the steps and to the room of the sleeper.
Then wringing out wet towels he bathed the face and neck of the
unconscious man, rubbed the cold wrists and feet and forced cold water
into the mouth. It was a doubtful half-hour, but at last the sleeper
stirred and moaned. Then Royson paused.

"He will awaken presently. Give me half an hour to get into a batteau on
the river and then you may tell him all. That--" he said, after a pause,
looking out of the window, through which was coming the distant clamor
of bells--"that indicates that Annie has waked and screamed. And now
good-by. I could have taken your lover's life." He picked up the picture
from the table, kissed it once and passed out.

Mary was alone with her lover. Gradually under her hand consciousness
came back and he realized that the face in the light by him was not of
dreams but of life itself--that life which, but for her and the
gentleness of her woman's heart, would have passed out that night at
Ilexhurst.

And as he drifted back again into consciousness under the willows of the
creeping river a little boat drifted toward the sea.

Dawn was upon the eastern hills when Mary, with her rescued
sister-in-law, crept noiselessly into The Hall. It was in New York that
the latter read the account of her mortification. Norton was not there.
She had passed him in her flight.



CHAPTER LV.

THE UNOPENED LETTER.


Soon it became known that Col. Montjoy had gone to his final judgment.
Then came the old friends of his young manhood out of their retreats;
the country for twenty miles about gave them up to the occasion. They
brought with them all that was left of the old times--courtesy, sympathy
and dignity.

There were soldiers among them, and here and there an empty sleeve and a
scarred face. There was simply one less in their ranks. Another would
follow, and another; the morrow held the mystery for the next.

Norton had returned. He was violently affected, after the fashion of
mercurial temperaments. On Edward by accident had fallen the
arrangements for the funeral, and with the advice of the general he had
managed them well. Fate seemed to make him a member of that household in
spite of himself.

The general was made an honorary pall-bearer, and when the procession
moved at last into the city and to the church, without forethought it
fell to Edward--there was no one else--to support and sustain the
daughter of the house. It seemed a matter of course that he should do
this, and as they followed the coffin up the aisle, between the two
ranks of people gathered there, the fact was noted in silence to be
discussed later. This then, read the universal verdict, was the sequel
of a romance.

But Edward thought of none of these things. The loving heart of the girl
was convulsed with grief. Since childhood she had been the idol of her
father, and between them had never come a cloud. To her that
white-haired father represented the best of manhood. Edward almost
lifted her to and from the carriage, and her weight was heavy upon his
arm as they followed the coffin.

But the end came; beautiful voices had lifted the wounded hearts to
heaven and the minister had implored its benediction upon them. The
soul-harrowing sound of the clay upon the coffin had followed and all
was over.

Edward found himself alone in the carriage with Mary, and the ride was
long. He did not know how to lead the troubled mind away from its horror
and teach it to cling to the unchanging rocks of faith. The girl had
sunk down behind her veil in the corner of the coach; her white hands
lay upon her lap. He took these in his own firm clasp and held them
tightly. It seemed natural that he should; she did not withdraw them;
she may not have known it.

And so they came back home to where the brave little wife, who had
promised "though He slay me yet will I trust in Him," sat among the
shadows keeping her promise. The first shock had passed and after that
the faith and serene confidence of the woman were never disturbed. She
would have died at the stake the same way.

The days that followed were uneventful, Norton had recovered his
composure as suddenly as he had lost it, and discussed the situation
freely. There was now no one to manage the place and he could not
determine what was to be done. In the meantime he was obliged to return
to business, and look after his wife. He went first to Edward and
thanking him for his kindness to mother and sister, hurried back to New
York. Edward had spent one more day with the Montjoys at Norton's
request, and now he, too, took his departure.

When Edward parted from Mary and the blind mother he had recourse to his
sternest stoicism to restrain himself. He escaped an awkward situation
by promising to be gone only two days before coming again. At home he
found Virdow philosophically composed and engaged in the library, a new
servant having been provided, and everything proceeding smoothly. Edward
went to him and said, abruptly:

"When is it your steamer sails, Herr Virdow?"

"One week from to-day," said that individual, not a little surprised at
his friend's manner. "Why do you ask?"

"Because I go with you, never again in all likelihood to enter America.
From to-day, then, you will excuse my absences. I have many affairs to
settle."

Virdow heard him in silence, but presently he asked:

"Are you not satisfied now, Edward."

"I am satisfied that I am the son of Marion Evan, but I will have
undoubted and unmistakable proof before I set foot in this community
again! There is little chance to obtain it. Nearly thirty years--it is a
long time, and the back trail is covered up."

"What are your plans?"

"To employ the best detectives the world can afford, and give them carte
blanche."

"But why this search? Is it not better to rest under your belief and
take life quietly? There are many new branches of science and
philosophy--you have a quick mind, you are young--why not come with me
and put aside the mere details of existence? There are greater truths
worth knowing, Edward, than the mere truth of one's ancestry." Edward
looked long and sadly into his face and shook his head.

"These mere facts," he said at length, "mean everything with me." He
went to his room; there were hours of silence and then Virdow heard in
the stillness of the old house the sound of Gerald's violin, for
Edward's had been left in Mary's care. His philosophy could not resist
the Fatherland appeal that floated down the great hall and filled the
night with weird and tender melody. For the man who played worshipped as
he drew the bow.

But silence came deep over Ilexhurst and Virdow slept. Not so Edward; he
was to begin his great search that night. He went to the wing-room and
the glass-room and flooded them with light. A thrill struck through him
as he surveyed again the scene and seemed to see the wild face of his
comrade pale in death upon the divan. There under that rod still
pointing significantly down to the steel disk he had died. And outside
in the darkness had Rita also died. He alone was left. The drama could
not be long now. There was but one actor.

He searched among all the heaps of memoranda and writings upon the desk.
They were memoranda and notes upon experiments and queries. Edward
touched them one by one to the gas jet and saw them flame and blacken
into ashes, and now nothing was left but the portfolio--and that
contained but four pictures--the faces of Slippery Dick, himself and
Mary and the strange scene at the church. One only was valuable--the
face of the girl which he knew he had given to the artist upon the tune
he had played. This one he took, and restored the others.

He had turned out the light in the glass-room, and was approaching the
jet in the wing-room to extinguish it, when upon the mantel he saw a
letter which bore the address "H. Abingdon, care John Morgan," unopened.
How long it had been there no one was left to tell. The postman, weary
of knocking, had probably brought it around to the glass-room; or the
servant had left it with Gerald. It was addressed by a woman's hand and
bore the postmark of Paris, with the date illegible. It was a hurried
note:

     "Dear Friend: What has happened? When you were called home so
     suddenly, you wrote me that you had important news to
     communicate if you could overcome certain scruples, and that
     you would return immediately, or as soon as pressing litigation
     involving large interests was settled, and in your postscript
     you added 'keep up your courage.' You may imagine how I have
     waited and watched, and read and reread the precious note. But
     months have passed and I have not heard from you. Are you ill?
     I will come to you. Are you still at work upon my interests?
     Write to me and relieve the strain and anxiety. I would not
     hurry you, but remember it is a mother who waits. Yours,

     "Cambia."

"Cambia!" Edward repeated the name aloud. Cambia. A flood of thoughts
rushed over him. What was Cambia--John Morgan to him? The veil was
lifting. And then came a startling realization. Cambia, the wife of
Gaspard Levigne!

"God in heaven," he said, fervently, "help me now!" Virdow was gone;
only the solemn memories of the room kept him company. He sank upon the
divan and buried his face in his hands. If Cambia was the woman, then
the man who had died in his arms--the exile, the iron-scarred, but
innocent, convict, the hero who passed in silence--was her husband! And
he? The great musician had given him not only the violin but genius!
Cambia had begged of his dying breath proofs of marriage. The paling
lips had moved to reply in vain.

The mystery was laid bare; the father would not claim him, because of
his scars, and the mother--she dared not look him in the face with the
veil lifted! But he would face her; he would know the worst; nothing
could be more terrible than the mystery that was crushing the better
side of his life and making hope impossible. He would face her and
demand the secret.



CHAPTER LVI.

"WOMAN, WHAT WAS HE TO YOU?"


Edward had formed a definite determination and made his arrangements at
once. There had been a coolness between him and Eldridge since the
publication of the Royson letter, but necessity drove him to that lawyer
to conclude his arrangements for departure. It was a different man that
entered the lawyer's office this time. He gave directions for the
disposition of Ilexhurst and the conversion of other property into cash.
He would never live on the place again under any circumstances.

His business was to be managed by the old legal firm in New York.

The memoranda was completed and he took his departure.

He had given orders for flowers and ascertained by telephone that they
were ready. At 3 o'clock he met Mary driving in and took his seat beside
her in the old family carriage. Her dress of black brought out the pale,
sweet face in all its beauty. She flushed slightly as he greeted her.
Within the vehicle were only the few roses she had been able to gather,
with cedar and euonymus. But they drove by a green house and he filled
the carriage with the choicest productions of the florist, and then gave
the order to the driver to proceed at once to the cemetery.

Within the grounds, where many monuments marked the last resting-place
of the old family, was the plain newly made mound covering the remains
of friend and father. At sight if it Mary's calmness disappeared and her
grief overran its restraints. Edward stood silent, his face averted.

Presently he thought of the flowers and brought them to her. In the
arrangement of these the bare sod disappeared and the girl's grief was
calmed. She lingered long about the spot, and before she left it knelt
in silent prayer, Edward lifting his hat and waiting with bowed head.

The sad ceremony ended, she looked to him and he led the way to where
old Isham waited with the carriage. He sent him around toward Gerald's
grave, under a wide-spreading live oak, while they went afoot by the
direct way impassable for vehicles. They reached the parapet and would
have crossed it, when they saw kneeling at the head of the grave a woman
dressed in black, seemingly engaged in prayer.

Edward had caused to be placed above the remains a simple marble slab,
which bore the brief inscription:

    GERALD MORGAN.

    Died 1888.

They watched until the woman arose and laid a wreath upon the slab. When
at last she turned her face and surveyed the scene they saw before them,
pale and grief-stricken, Cambia. Edward felt the scene whirling about
him and his tongue paralyzed. Cambia, at sight of them gave way again to
a grief that had left her pale and haggard, and could only extend the
free hand, while with the other she sought to conceal her face. Edward
came near, his voice scarcely audible.

"Cambia!" he exclaimed in wonder; "Cambia!" she nodded her head.

"Yes, wretched, unhappy Cambia!"

"Then, madame," he said, with deep emotion, pointing to the grave and
touching her arm, "what was he to you?" She looked him fairly in the
face from streaming eyes.

"He was my son! It cannot harm him now. Alas, poor Cambia!"

"Your son!" The man gazed about him bewildered. "Your son, madame? You
are mistaken! It cannot be!"

"Ah!" she exclaimed; "how little you know. It can be--it is true!"

"It cannot be; it cannot be!" the words of the horrified man were now a
whisper.

"Do you think a mother does not know her offspring? Your talk is idle;
Gerald Morgan was my son. I have known, John Morgan knew----"

"But Rita," he said, piteously.

"Ah, Rita, poor Rita, she could not know!"

The manner, the words, the tone overwhelmed him. He turned to Mary for
help in his despair. Almost without sound she had sunk to the grass and
now lay extended at full length. With a fierce exclamation Edward rushed
to her and lifted the little figure in his arms. Cambia was at his side.

"What is this? What was she to him?" some explanation was necessary and
Edward's presence of mind returned.

"He loved her," he said. The face of Cambia grew soft and tender and she
spread her wrap on the rustic bench.

"Place her here and bring water. Daughter," she exclaimed, kneeling by
her side, "come, come, this will never do--" The girl's eyes opened and
for a moment rested in wonder upon Cambia. Then she remembered. A
strange expression settled upon her face as she gazed quickly upon
Edward.

"Take me home, madame," she said; "take me home. I am deathly ill."

They carried her to the carriage, and, entering, Cambia took the little
head in her lap. Shocked and now greatly alarmed, Edward gave orders to
the driver and entered. It was a long and weary ride, and all the time
the girl lay silent and speechless in Cambia's lap, now and then turning
upon Edward an indescribable look that cut him to the heart.

They would have provided for her in the city, but she would not hear of
it. Her agitation became so great that Edward finally directed the
driver to return to The Hall. All the way back the older woman murmured
words of comfort and cheer, but the girl only wept and her slender form
shook with sobs. And it was not for herself that she grieved.

And so they came to the house, and Mary, by a supreme effort, was able
to walk with assistance and to enter without disturbing the household.
Cambia supported her as they reached the hall to the room that had been
Mary's all her life--the room opposite her mother's. There in silence
she assisted the girl to the bed. From somewhere came Molly, the maid,
and together using the remedies that women know so well they made her
comfortable. No one in the house had been disturbed, and then as Mary
slept Cambia went out and found her way to the side of Mrs. Montjoy and
felt the bereaved woman's arms about her.

"You have reconsidered, and wisely," said Mrs. Montjoy, when the first
burst of emotion was over. "I am glad you have come--where is Mary?"

"She was fatigued from the excitement and long drive and is in her room.
I met her in town and came with her. But madame, think not of me; you
are now the sufferer; my troubles are old. But you--what can I say to
comfort you?"

"I am at peace, my child; God's will be done. When you can say that you
will not feel even the weight of your sorrows. Life is not long, at
best, and mine must necessarily be short. Some day I will see again."
Cambia bowed her head until it rested upon the hand that clasped hers.
In the presence of such trust and courage she was a child.

"My daughter," said Mrs. Montjoy, after a silence, her mind reverting to
her visitor's remark; "she is not ill?"

"Not seriously, madame, but still she is not well."

"Then I will go to her if you will lend me your aid. I am not yet
accustomed to finding my way. I suppose I will have no trouble after a
while." The strong arm of the younger woman clasped and guided her upon
the little journey, and the mother took the place of the maid. Tea was
brought to them and in the half-lighted room they sat by the now
sleeping figure on the bed, and whispered of Cambia's past and future.
The hours passed. The house had grown still and Molly had been sent to
tell Edward of the situation and give him his lamp.

But Edward was not alone. The general had ridden over to inquire after
his neighbors and together they sat upon the veranda and talked, and
Edward listened or seemed to listen. The rush of thoughts, the
realization that had come over him at the cemetery, now that necessity
for immediate action had passed with his charge, returned. Cambia had
been found weeping over her son, and that son was Gerald. True or
untrue, it was fatal to him if Cambia was convinced.

But it could not be less than true; he, Edward, was an outcast upon the
face of the earth; his dream was over; through these bitter reflections
the voice of the general rose and fell monotonously, as he spoke
feelingly of the dead friend whom he had known since childhood and told
of their long associations and adventures in the war. And then, as
Edward sought to bring himself back to the present, he found himself
growing hot and cold and his heart beating violently; the consequences
of the revelation made in the cemetery had extended no further than
himself and his own people, but Cambia was Marion Evan! And her father
was there, by him, ignorant that in the house was the daughter dead to
him for more than a quarter of a century. He could not control an
exclamation. The speaker paused and looked at him.

"Did you speak?" The general waited courteously.

"Did I? It must have been involuntarily--a habit! You were saying that
the colonel led his regiment at Malvern Hill." Evan regarded him
seriously.

"Yes, I mentioned that some time ago. He was wounded and received the
praise of Jackson as he was borne past him. I think Montjoy considered
that the proudest moment of his life. When Jackson praised a man he was
apt to be worthy of it. He praised me once," he said, half-smiling over
the scene in mind.

But Edward had again lost the thread of the narrative. Cambia had
returned; a revelation would follow; the general would meet his
daughter, and over the grave of Gerald the past would disappear from
their lives. What was to become of him? He remembered that John Morgan
had corresponded with her, and communicated personally. She must know
his history. In the coming denouement there would be a shock for him. He
would see these friends torn from him, not harshly nor unkindly, but
between them and him would fall the iron rule of caste, which has never
been broken in the south--the race law, which no man can override. With
something like a panic within he decided at once. He would not witness
the meeting. He would give them no chance to touch him by sympathetic
pity and by--aversion. It should all come to him by letter, while he was
far away! His affairs were in order. The next day he would be gone.

"General," he said, "will you do me a favor? I must return to the city;
my coming was altogether a matter of accident, and I am afraid it will
inconvenience our friends here at this time to send me back. Let me have
your horse and I will send him to you in the morning."

The abrupt interruption filled the old man with surprise.

"Why, certainly, if you must go. But I thought you had no idea of
returning--is it imperative?"

"Imperative. I am going away from the city to-morrow, and there are yet
matters--you understand, and Virdow is expecting me. I trust it will not
inconvenience you greatly. It would be well, probably, if one of us
stayed to-night; this sudden illness--the family's condition----"

"Inconvenience! Nonsense! If you must go, why, the horse is yours of
course as long as you need him." But still perplexed the general waited
in silence for a more definite explanation. Edward was half-facing the
doorway and the lighted hall was exposed to him, but the shadow of the
porch hid him from anyone within. It was while they sat thus that the
old man felt a hand upon his arm and a grasp that made him wince.
Looking up he saw the face of his companion fixed on some object in the
hall, the eyes starting from their sockets. Glancing back he became the
witness of a picture that almost caused his heart to stand still.



CHAPTER LVII.

FRAGMENTARY LIFE RECORDS.


The records of John Morgan's life are fragmentary. It was only by
joining the pieces and filling in the gaps that his friends obtained a
clear and rounded conception of his true character and knew at last the
real man.

Born about 1820, the only son of a wealthy and influential father, his
possibilities seemed almost unlimited. To such a youth the peculiar
system of the South gave advantages not at that time afforded by any
other section. The South was approaching the zenith of its power; its
slaves did the field work of the whole people, leaving their owners
leisure for study, for travel and for display. Politics furnished the
popular field for endeavor; young men trained to the bar, polished by
study and foreign travel and inspired by lofty ideals of government,
threw themselves into public life, with results that have become now a
part of history.

At 22, John Morgan was something more than a mere promise. He had
graduated with high honors at the Virginia University and returning home
had engaged in the practice of law--his maiden speech, delivered in a
murder case, winning for him a wide reputation. But at that critical
period a change came over him. To the surprise of his contemporaries he
neglected his growing practice, declined legislative honors and
gradually withdrew to the quiet of Ilexhurst, remaining in strict
retirement with his mother.

The life of this gentlewoman had never been a very happy one; refined
and delicate she was in sharp contrast to her husband, who, from the
handsome, darkhaired gallant she first met at the White Sulphur Springs,
soon developed into a generous liver, with a marked leaning towards
strong drink, fox-hunting and cards. As the wife, in the crucible of
life, grew to pure gold, the grosser pleasures developed the elder
Morgan out of all likeness to the figure around which clung her girlish
memories.

But Providence had given to her a boy, and in him there was a promise of
happier days. He grew up under her care, passionately devoted to the
beautiful mother, and his triumphs at college and at the bar brought
back to her something of the happiness she had known in dreams only.

The blow had come with the arrival of Rita Morgan's mother. From that
time John Morgan devoted himself to the lonely wife, avoiding the
society of both sexes. His morbid imagination pictured his mother and
himself as disgraced in the eyes of the public, unconscious of the fact
that the public had but little interest in the domestic situation at
Ilexhurst, and no knowledge of the truth. He lived his quiet life by her
side in the little room at home, and when at last, hurt by his horse,
the father passed away, he closed up the house and took his mother
abroad for a stay of several years. When they returned life went on very
much as before.

But of the man who came back from college little was left, aside from an
indomitable will and a genius for work. He threw himself into the
practice of his profession again, with a feverish desire for occupation,
and, bringing to his aid a mind well stored by long years of reflection
and reading, soon secured a large and lucrative practice.

His fancy was for the criminal law. No pains, no expense was too great
for him where a point was to be made. Some of his witnesses in noted
cases cost him for traveling expense and detectives double his fee. He
kept up the fight with a species of fierce joy, his only moments of
elation, as far as the public knew, being the moments of victory.

So it was that at 40 years of age John Morgan found himself with a
reputation extending far beyond the state and with a practice that left
him but little leisure. It was about this time he accidentally met
Marion Evan, a mere girl, and felt the hidden springs of youth rise in
his heart. Marion Evan received the attentions of the great criminal
lawyer without suspicion of their meaning.

When it developed that he was deeply interested in her she was
astonished and then touched. It was until the end a matter of wonder to
her that John Morgan should have found anything in her to admire and
love, but those who looked on knowingly were not surprised. Of gentle
ways and clinging, dependent nature, varied by flashes of her father's
fire and spirit, she presented those variable moods well calculated to
dazzle and impress a man of Morgan's temperament. He entered upon his
courtship with the same carefulness and determination that marked his
legal practice, and with the aid of his wealth and reborn eloquence
carried the citadel of her maiden heart by storm. With misgivings Albert
Evan yielded his consent.

But Marion Evan's education was far from complete. The mature lover
wished his bride to have every accomplishment that could add to her
pleasure in life; he intended to travel for some years and she was not
at that time sufficiently advanced in the languages to interpret the
records of the past. Her art was of course rudimentary. Only in vocal
music was she distinguished; already that voice which was to develop
such surprising powers spoke its thrilling message to those who could
understand, and John Morgan was one of these.

So it was determined that Marion should for one year at least devote
herself to study and then the marriage would take place. Where to send
her was the important question, and upon the decision hinges this
narrative.

Remote causes shape our destinies. That summer John Morgan took his
mother abroad for the last time and in Paris chance gave him
acquaintance with Gaspard Levigne, a man nearly as old as himself.
Morgan had been touched and impressed by the unchanging sadness of a
face that daily looked into his at their hotel, but it is likely that he
would have carried it in memory for a few weeks only had not the owner,
who occupied rooms near his own, played the violin one night while he
sat dreaming of home and the young girl who had given him her promise.
He felt that the hidden musician was saying for him that which had been
crying out for expression in his heart all his life. Upon the impulse of
the moment he entered this stranger's room and extended his hand.
Gaspard Levigne took it. They were friends.

During their stay in Paris the two men became almost inseparable
companions. One day Gaspard was in the parlor of his new friend, when
John Morgan uncovered upon the table a marble bust of his fiancee and
briefly explained the situation. The musician lifted it in wonder and
studied its perfections with breathless interest. From that time he
never tired of the beautiful face, but always his admiration was mute.
His lips seemed to lose their power.

The climax came when John Morgan, entering the dim room one evening,
found Gaspard Levigne with his face in his hands kneeling before the
marble, convulsed with grief. And then little by little he told his
story. He was of noble blood, the elder son of a family, poor but proud
and exclusive. Unto him had descended, from an Italian ancestor, the
genius of musical composition and a marvelous technique, while his
brother seemed to inherit the pride and arrogance of the Silesian side
of the house, with about all the practical sense and business ability
that had been won and transmitted.

He had fallen blindly in love with a young girl beneath him in the
social scale, and whose only dowry was a pure heart and singularly
perfect beauty. The discovery of this situation filled the family with
alarm and strenuous efforts were made to divert the infatuated man, but
without changing his purpose. Pressure was brought to bear upon the
girl's parents, with better success.

Nothing now remained for Gaspard but an elopement, and this he planned.
He took his brother into his confidence and was pleased to find him
after many refusals a valuable second. The elopement took place and
assisted by the brother he came to Paris. There his wife had died
leaving a boy, then nearly two years old.

Then came the denouement; the marriage arranged for him had been a
mockery.

It was a fearful blow. He did not return to his home. Upon him had been
saddled the whole crime.

When the story was ended Gaspard went to his room and brought back a
little picture of the girl, which he placed by the marble bust. Morgan
read his meaning there; the two faces seemed identical. The picture
would have stood for a likeness of Marion Evan, in her father's hands.

The conduct of Gaspard Levigne upon the discovery of the cruel fraud was
such as won the instant sympathy of the American, whose best years had
been sacrificed for his mother. The musician had not returned to Breslau
and exposed the treachery of the brother who was the idol of his
parents; he suffered in silence and cared for the child in an
institution near Paris. But John Morgan went and quietly verified the
facts. He engaged the ablest counsel and did his best to find a way to
right the wrong.

Then came good Mrs. Morgan, who took the waif to her heart. He passed
from his father's arms, his only inheritance a mother's picture, of
which his own face was the miniature.

Months passed; Gaspard Levigne learned English readily, and one more
result of the meeting in Paris was that John Morgan upon returning to
America had, through influential friends, obtained for Levigne a
lucrative position in a popular American institution, where instrumental
and vocal music were specialties.

It was to this institution that Marion Evan was sent, with results
already known.

The shock to John Morgan, when he received from Marion a pitiful letter,
telling of her decision and marriage, well-nigh destroyed him. The mind
does not rally and reactions are uncertain at 40. In the moment of his
despair he had torn up her letters and hurled her likeness in marble far
out to the deepest part of the lake. Pride alone prevented him following
it. And in this hour of gloom the one remaining friend, his mother,
passed from life.

The public never knew his sufferings; he drew the mantle of silence a
little closer around him and sank deeper into his profession. He soon
became known as well for his eccentricities as for his genius; and
presently the inherited tendency toward alcoholic drinks found him an
easy victim. Another crisis in his life came a year after the downfall
of his air castle, and just as the south was preparing to enter upon her
fatal struggle.

The mother of Rita had passed away, and so had the young woman's
husband. Rita had but recently returned to Ilexhurst, when one night she
came into his presence drenched with rain and terrorized by the
fierceness of an electrical storm then raging. Speechless from
exhaustion and excitement she could only beckon him to follow. Upon the
bed in her room, out in the broad back yard, now sharing with its
occupant the mud and water of the highway, her face white and her
disordered hair clinging about her neck and shoulders, lay the
insensible form of the only girl he had ever loved--Marion Evan, as he
still thought of her. He approached the bed and lifted her cold hands
and called her by endearing names, but she did not answer him. Rita, the
struggle over had sunk into semi-consciousness upon the floor.

When the family physician had arrived John Morgan had placed Rita upon
the bed and had borne the other woman in his arms to the mother's room
upstairs, and stood waiting at the door. While the genial old
practitioner was working to restore consciousness to the young woman
there, a summons several times repeated was heard at the front door.
Morgan went in person and admitted a stranger, who presented a card that
bore the stamp of a foreign detective bureau. Speaking in French the
lawyer gravely welcomed him and led the way to the library. The
detective opened the interview:

"Have you received my report of the 14th inst., M. Morgan?"

"Yes. What have you additional?"

"This. Mme. Levigne is with her husband and now in this city." Morgan
nodded his head.

"So I have been informed." He went to the desk and wrote out a check.
"When do you purpose returning?"

"As soon as possible, monsieur; to-morrow, if it pleases you."

"I will call upon you in the morning; to-night I have company that
demands my whole time and attention. If I fail, here is your check. You
have been very successful."

"Monsieur is very kind. I have not lost sight of Mme. Levigne in nearly
a year until to-night. Both she and her husband have left their hotel;
temporarily only I presume." The two men shook hands and parted.

Upstairs the physician met Morgan returning. "The lady will soon be all
right; she has rallied and as soon as she gets under the influence of
the opiate I have given and into dry clothes, will be out of danger. But
the woman in the servant's house is, I am afraid, in a critical
condition."

"Go to her, please," said Morgan quickly. Then entering the room he took
a seat by the side of the young woman--her hand in his. Marion looked
upon his grave face in wonder and confusion. Neither spoke. Her eyes
closed at last in slumber.

Then came Mamie Hester, the old woman who had nursed him, one of those
family servants of the old South, whose lips never learned how to betray
secrets.

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun rose grandly on the morning that Marion left Ixlexhurst. She
pushed back her heavy veil, letting its splendor light up her pale face
and gave her hand in sad farewell to John Morgan. Its golden beams
almost glorified the countenance of the man; or was it the light from a
great soul shining through?

"A mother's prayers," she said brokenly. "They are all that I can give."

"God bless and protect you till we meet again," he said, gently.

She looked long and sadly toward the eastern horizon in whose belt of
gray woodland lay her childhood home, lowered her veil and hurried away.
A generation would pass before her feet returned upon that gravel walk.



CHAPTER LVIII.

"THE LAST SCENE OF ALL"


Mary slept.

The blind woman, who had for awhile sat silent by her side, slowly
stroking and smoothing the girl's extended arm, nodded, her chin resting
upon her breast.

Cambia alone was left awake in the room, her mind busy with its past.
The light was strong; noiselessly she went to the little table to lower
it. There, before her, lay a violin's antique case. As her gaze fell
upon it, the flame sank under her touch, leaving the room almost in the
shadow. The box was rounded at the ends and inlaid, the central design
being a curiously interwoven monogram. Smothering an exclamation, she
seized it in her arms and listened, looking cautiously upon her
companions. The elder woman lifted her head and turned sightless eyes
toward the light, then passed into sleep again.

She went back eagerly to the box and tried its intricate fastenings; but
in the dim light they resisted her fingers, and she dare not turn up the
flame again.

From the veranda in front came the murmur of men's voices; the house was
silent. Bearing the precious burden Cambia went quickly to the hallway
and paused for a moment under the arch that divided it. Overhead,
suspended by an invisible wire, was a snow-white pigeon with wings
outspread; behind swayed in the gentle breeze the foliage of the trees.
She stood for a moment, listening; and such was the picture presented to
Edward as he clutched the arm of his companion and leaned forward with
strained eyes into the light.

Guided by the adjuncts of the scene he recognized at once a familiar
dream. But in place of the girl's was now a woman's face.

Another caught a deeper meaning at the same instant, as the general's
suppressed breathing betrayed.

Cambia heard nothing; her face was pale, her hand trembling. In the
light descending upon her she found the secret fastenings and the lid
opened.

Then the two men beheld a strange thing; the object of that nervous
action was not the violin itself. A string accidentally touched by her
sparkling ring gave out a single minor note that startled her, but only
for a second did she pause and look around. Pressing firmly upon a spot
near the inner side of the lid she drew out a little panel of wood and
from the shallow cavity exposed, lifted quickly several folded papers,
which she opened. Then, half rising, she wavered and sank back fainting
upon the floor. The silence was broken. A cry burst from the lips of the
old general.

"Marion! My child." In an instant he was by her side lifting and
caressing her. "Speak to me, daughter," he said. "It has been long, so
long. That face, that face! Child, it is your mother's as I saw it last.
Marion, look up; it is I, your father." And then he exclaimed
despairingly, as she did not answer him, "She is dead!"

"It is not serious, General," said Edward hurriedly. "See, she is
reviving." Cambia steadied herself by a supreme effort and thrust back
the form that was supporting her.

"Who calls Marion?" she cried wildly. "Marion Evan is dead! Cambia is
dead! I am the Countess Levigne." Her voice rang out in the hall and her
clenched hand held aloft, as though she feared they might seize them,
the papers she had plucked from the violin case. Then her eyes met the
general's; she paused in wonder and looked longingly into his aged face.
Her voice sank to a whisper: "Father, father! Is it indeed you? You at
last?" Clinging to the hands extended toward her she knelt and buried
her face in them, her form shaking with sobs. The old man's tall figure
swayed and trembled.

"Not there, Marion, my child, not there. 'Tis I who should kneel! God
forgive me, it was I who--"

"Hush, father, hush! The blame was mine. But I have paid for it with
agony, with the better years of my life.

"But I could not come back until I came as the wife of the man I loved;
I would not break your heart. See! I have the papers. It was my
husband's violin." She hid her face in his bosom and let the tears flow
unchecked.

Edward was standing, white and silent, gazing upon the scene; he could
not tear himself away. The general, his voice unsteady, saw him at last.
A smile broke through his working features and shone in his tearful
eyes:

"Edward, my boy, have you no word? My child has come home!" Marion
lifted her face and drew herself from the sheltering arms with sudden
energy.

"Edward," she said, gently and lovingly. "Edward!" Her eyes grew softer
and seemed to caress him with their glances. She went up to him and
placed both hands upon his shoulders. "His child, and your mother!"

"My mother, my mother!" The words were whispers. His voice seemed to
linger upon them.

"Yes! Cambia, the unhappy Marion, the Countess Levigne and your mother!
No longer ashamed to meet you, no longer an exile! Your mother, free to
meet your eyes without fear of reproach!"

She was drawing his cheek to hers as she spoke. The general had come
nearer and now she placed the young man's hand in his.

"But," said Edward, "Gerald! You called him your son!" She clasped her
hands over her eyes and turned away quickly. "How can it be? Tell me the
truth?" She looked back to him then in a dazed way. Finally a suspicion
of his difficulty came to her. "He was your twin brother. Did you not
know? Alas, poor Gerald!"

"Ah!" said the old man, "it was then true!"

"Mother," he said softly, lifting her face to his, "Gerald is at peace.
Let me fulfill all the hopes you cherished for both!"

"God has showered blessings upon me this night," said the general
brokenly. "Edward!" The two men clasped hands and looked into each
other's eyes. And, radiant by their side, was the face of Cambia!

At this moment, Mary, who had been awakened by their excited voices, her
hand outstretched toward the wall along which she had crept, came and
stood near them, gazing in wonder upon their beaming faces. With a bound
Edward reached her side and with an arm about her came to Cambia.

"Mother," he said, "here is your daughter." As Cambia clasped her
lovingly to her bosom he acquainted Mary with what had occurred. And
then, happy in her wonder and smiles, Edward and Mary turned away and
discussed the story with the now fully awakened little mother.

"And now," said he, "I can ask of you this precious life and be your son
indeed!" Mary's head was in her mother's lap.

"She has loved you a long time, Edward; she is already yours."

Presently he went upon the veranda, where father and daughter were
exchanging holy confidences, and, sitting by his mother's side, heard
the particulars of her life and bitter experience abroad.

"When Mr. Morgan went to you, father, and stated a hypothetical case and
offered to find me, and you, outraged, suffering, declared that I could
only return when I had proofs of my marriage, I was without them. Mr.
Morgan sent me money to pay our expenses home--Gaspard's and mine--and
we did come, he unwilling and fearing violence, for dissipation had
changed his whole nature. Then, he had been informed of my one-time
engagement to Mr. Morgan, and he was well acquainted with that gentleman
and indebted to him for money loaned upon several occasions. He came to
America with me upon Mr. Morgan's guaranty, the sole condition imposed
upon him being that he should bring proofs of our marriage; and had he
continued to rely upon that guaranty, had he kept his word, there would
have been no trouble. But on the day we reached this city he gave way to
temptation again and remembered all my threats to leave him. In our
final interview he became suddenly jealous, and declared there was a
plot to separate us, and expressed a determination to destroy the
proofs.

"It was then that I determined to act, and hazarded everything upon a
desperate move. I resolved to seize my husband's violin, not knowing
where his papers were, and hold it as security for my proofs. I thought
the plan would succeed; did not his love for that instrument exceed all
other passions? I had written to Rita, engaging to meet her on a certain
night at a livery stable, where we were to take a buggy and proceed to
Ilexhurst. The storm prevented. Gaspard had followed me, and at the
church door tore the instrument from my arms and left me insensible.
Rita carried me in her strong arms three miles to Ilexhurst, and it cost
her the life of the child that was born and died that night.

"Poor, poor Rita! She herself had been all but dead when my boys were
born a week later, and the idea that one of them was her own was the
single hallucination of her mind. The boys were said to somewhat
resemble her. Rita's mother bore a strong resemblance to Mrs. Morgan's
family, as you have perhaps heard, and Mrs. Morgan was related to our
family, so the resemblance may be explained in that way. Mr. Morgan
never could clear up this hallucination of Rita's, and so the matter
rested that way. It could do no harm under the circumstances, and
might--"

"No harm?" Edward shook his head sadly.

"No harm. You, Edward, were sent away, and it was early seen that poor
Gerald would be delicate and probably an invalid. For my troubles, my
flight, had--. The poor woman gave her life to the care of my children.
Heaven bless her forever!"

Gambia waited in silence a moment and then continued:

"As soon as I could travel I made a business transaction of it, and
borrowed of my friend, John Morgan. He had acquainted me with the
conditions upon which I should be received at home; and now it was
impossible for me to meet them. Gaspard was gone. I thought I could find
him; I never did, until blind, poor, aged and dying, he sent for me."

"John Morgan was faithful. He secured vocal teachers for me in Paris and
then an engagement to sing in public. I sang, and from that night my
money troubles ended.

"Mr. Morgan stayed by me in Paris until my career was assured. Then, in
obedience to his country's call he came back here, running the blockade,
and fought up to Appomattox."

"As gallant a fire-eater," said the general, "as ever shouldered a gun.
And he refused promotion on three occasions."

"I can readily understand that," said Cambia. "His modesty was only
equaled by his devotion and courage.

"He visited me again when the war ended, and we renewed the search.
After that came the Franco-Prussian war, the siege of Paris and the
commune, destroying all trails. But I sang on and searched on. When I
seemed to have exhausted the theaters I tried the prisons. And so the
years passed by.

"In the meantime Mr. Morgan had done a generous thing; never for a
moment did he doubt me." She paused, struggling with a sudden emotion,
and then: "He had heard my statement--it was not like writing, Father,
he had heard it from my lips--and when the position of my boys became
embarrassing he gave them his own name, formally adopting them while he
was in Paris."

"God bless him!" It was the general's voice.

"And after that I felt easier. Every week, in all the long years that
have passed, brought me letters; every detail in their lives was known
to me; and of yours, Father. I knew all your troubles. Mr. Morgan
managed it. And," she continued softly, "I felt your embarrassments when
the war ended. Mr. Morgan offered you a loan--"

"Yes, but I could not accept from him--"

"It was from me, Father; it was mine; and it was my money that cared for
my boys. Yes," she said, lifting her head proudly, "Mr. Morgan
understood; he let me pay back everything, and when he died it was my
money, held in private trust by him, that constituted the bulk of the
fortune left by him for my boys. I earned it before the footlights, but
honestly!

"Well, when poor Gaspard died--"

"He is dead, then?"

"Ah! of course you do not know. To-morrow I will tell you his story. I
stood by his body and at his grave, and I knew Edward. I had seen him
many times. Poor Gerald! My eyes have never beheld him since I took him
in my arms that day, a baby, and kissed him good--" She broke down and
wept bitterly. "Oh, it was pitiful, pitiful!"

After awhile she lifted her face.

"My husband had written briefly to his family just before death, the
letter to be mailed after; and thus they knew of it. But they did not
know the name he was living under. His brother, to inherit the title and
property, needed proof of death and advertised in European papers for
it. He also advertised for the violin. It was this that suggested to me
the hiding place of the missing papers. Before my marriage Gaspard had
once shown me the little slide. It had passed from my memory. But
Cambia's wits were sharper and the description supplied the link. I went
to Silesia and made a trade with the surviving brother, giving up my
interest in certain mines for the name of the person who held the
violin. Gaspard had described him to me in his letter as a young
American named Morgan. The name was nothing to the brother; it was
everything to me. I came here determined, first to search for the
papers, and, failing in that, to go home to you, my father. God has
guided me."

She sat silent, one hand in her father's, the other clasped lovingly in
her son's. It was a silence none cared to break. But Edward, from time
to time, as his mind reviewed the past, lifted tenderly to his lips the
hand of Cambia.

       *       *       *       *       *

Steadily the ocean greyhound plowed its way through the dark swells of
the Atlantic. A heavy bank of clouds covered the eastern sky almost to
the zenith, its upper edges paling in the glare of the full moon slowly
ascending beyond.

The night was pleasant, the decks crowded. A young man and a young woman
sat by an elderly lady, hand in hand. They had been talking of a journey
made the year previous upon the same vessel, when the ocean sang a new
sweet song. They heard it again this night and were lost in dreams, when
the voice of a well-known novelist, who was telling a story to a charmed
circle, broke in:

"It was my first journey upon the ocean. We had been greatly interested
in the little fellow because he was a waif from the great Parisian
world, and although at that time tenderly cared for by the gentle woman
who had become his benefactress, somehow he seemed to carry with him
another atmosphere, of loneliness--of isolation. Think of it, a
motherless babe afloat upon the ocean. It was the pathos of life made
visible. He did not realize it, but every heart there beat in sympathy
with his, and when it was whispered that the little voyager was dead, I
think every eye was wet with tears. Dead, almost consumed by fever. With
him had come the picture of a young and beautiful woman. He took it with
him beneath the little hands upon his breast. That night he was laid to
rest. Never had motherless babe such a burial. Gently, as though there
were danger of waking him, we let him sink into the dark waters, there
to be rocked in the lap of the ocean until God's day dawns and the seas
give up their dead. That was thirty years ago; yet to-night I seem to
see that little shrouded form slip down and down and down into the
depths. God grant that its mother was dead."

When he ceased the elder woman in the little group had bent her head and
was silently weeping.

"It sounds like a page from the early life of Gaspard Levigne," she said
to her companions.

And then to the novelist, in a voice brimming over with tenderness:
"Grieve not for the child, my friend. God has given wings to love. There
is no place in all His universe that can hide a baby from its mother.
Love will find a way, be the ocean as wide and deep as eternity itself."

And then, as they sat wondering, the moon rose above the clouds. Light
flashed upon the waves around them, and a golden path, stretching out
ahead, crossed the far horizon into the misty splendors of the sky.


THE END.



Writings of Harry Stillwell Edwards

    "Two Runaways" and other stories
    "His Defense" and other stories
    "The Marbeau Cousins"
    "Sons and Fathers"
    "Eneas Africanus"
    "Eneas Africanus, Defendant"
    "Just Sweethearts"
    "How Sal Came Through"
    "Brother Sim's Mistake"
    "Isam's Spectacles"
    "The Adventures of a Parrot"
    "Shadow"--A Christmas Story
    "The Vulture and His Shadow"
    "On the Mount"
    "Mam'selle Delphine"


_Others of Our Interesting Books_ Not by Edwards

    "Another Miracle," by John D. Spencer
    "July"--A sketch of a real negro, by Bridges Smith
    "Sam Simple's First Trip to New Orleans"
    "B-Flat Barto"--A Saturday Evening Post Story
    "Big-Foot Wallace"--A Texas Story
    "Young Marooners," for boys and girls
    "Marooner's Island," for boys and girls
    "Reminiscences of Sidney Lanier," by George Herbert Clarke





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