Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Cryptogram - A Novel
Author: De Mille, James, 1833-1880
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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

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



[Illustration: "These Are My Dearest Children."]



THE
CRYPTOGRAM.


A Novel.


By James De Mille,

Author of
"The Dodge Club," "Cord and Creese," "The American Baron," etc.


WITH ILLUSTRATIONS



New York:
Harper & Brothers, Publishers,
Franklin Square.
1872



CHAPTER I.


TWO OLD FRIENDS.


Chetwynde Castle was a large baronial mansion, belonging to the
Plantagenet period, and situated in Monmouthshire. It was a grand old
place, with dark towers, and turrets, and gloomy walls surmounted
with battlements, half of which had long since tumbled down, while
the other half seemed tottering to ruin. That menacing ruin was on
one side of the structure concealed beneath a growth of ivy, which
contrasted the dark green of its leaves with the sombre hue of the
ancient stones. Time with its defacing fingers had only lent
additional grandeur to this venerable pile. As it rose there--"standing
with half its battlements alone, and with five hundred years
of ivy grown"--its picturesque magnificence and its air of hoar
antiquity made it one of the noblest monuments of the past which
England could show.

All its surroundings were in keeping with the central object. Here
were no neat paths, no well-kept avenues, no trim lawns. On the
contrary, every thing bore the unmistakable marks of neglect and
decay; the walks were overgrown, the terraces dilapidated, and the
rose pleasaunce had degenerated into a tangled mass of bushes and
briers. It seemed as though the whole domain were about to revert
into its original state of nature; and every thing spoke either of
the absence of a master, or else of something more important
still--the absence of money.

The castle stood on slightly elevated ground; and from its gray stone
ivy-covered portal so magnificent was the view that the most careless
observer would be attracted by it, and stand wonder-struck at the
beauty of the scene, till he forgot in the glories of nature the
deficiencies of art. Below, and not far away, flowed the silvery Wye,
most charming of English streams, winding tortuously through fertile
meadows and wooded copses; farther off lay fruitful vales and rolling
hills; while in the distance the prospect was bounded by the giant
forms of the Welsh mountains.

At the moment when this story opens these beauties were but faintly
visible through the fast-fading twilight of a summer evening; the
shadows were rapidly deepening; and the only signs of life about the
place appeared where from some of the windows at the eastern end
faint rays of light stole out into the gloom.

The interior of the castle corresponded with the exterior in
magnificence and in ruin--in its picturesque commingling of splendor
and decay. The hall was hung with arms and armor of past generations,
and ornamented with stags' heads, antlers, and other trophies of the
chase; but rust, and mould, and dust covered them all. Throughout the
house a large number of rooms were empty, and the whole western end
was unfurnished. In the furnished rooms at the eastern end every
thing belonged to a past generation, and all the massive and
antiquated furniture bore painful marks of poverty and neglect. Time
was every where asserting his power, and nowhere was any resistance
made to his ravages. Some comfort, however, was still to be found in
the old place. There were rooms which were as yet free from the
general touch of desolation. Among these was the dining-room, where
at this time the heavy curtains were drawn, the lamps shone out
cheerily, and, early June though it was, a bright wood-fire blazed on
the ample hearth, lighting up with a ruddy glow the heavy panelings
and the time-worn tapestries. Dinner was just over, the dessert was
on the table, and two gentlemen were sitting over their wine--though
this is to be taken rather in a figurative sense, for their
conversation was so engrossing as to make them oblivious of even the
charms of the old ancestral port of rare vintage which Lord Chetwynde
had produced to do honor to his guest. Nor is this to be wondered at.
Friends of boyhood and early manhood, sharers long ago in each
other's hopes and aspirations, they had parted last when youth and
ambition were both at their height. Now, after the lapse of years,
wayworn and weary from the strife, they had met again to recount how
those hopes had been fulfilled.

The two men were of distinguished appearance. Lord Chetwynde was of
about the medium size, with slight figure, and pale, aristocratic
face. His hair was silver-white, his features were delicately
chiseled, but wore habitually a sad and anxious expression. His whole
physique betokened a nature of extreme refinement and sensibility,
rather than force or strength of character. His companion, General
Pomeroy, was a man of different stamp. He was tall, with a high
receding brow, hair longer than is common with soldiers; thin lips,
which spoke of resolution, around which, however, there always dwelt
as he spoke a smile of inexpressible sweetness. He had a long nose,
and large eyes that lighted up with every varying feeling. There was
in his face both resolution and kindliness, each in extreme, as
though he could remorselessly take vengeance on an enemy or lay down
his life for a friend.

As long as the servants were present the conversation, animated
though it was, referred to topics of a general character; but as soon
as they had left the room the two friends began to refer more
confidentially to the past.

"You have lived so very secluded a life," said General Pomeroy, "that
it is only at rare intervals that I have heard any thing of you, and
that was hardly more than the fact that you were alive. You were
always rather reserved and secluded, you know; you hated, like
Horace, the _profanum vulgus_, and held yourself aloof from them, and
so I suppose you would not go into political life. Well, I don't know
but that, after all, you were right."

"My dear Pomeroy," said Lord Chetwynde, leaning back in his chair,
"my circumstances have been such that entrance into political life
has scarcely ever depended on my own choice. My position has been so
peculiar that it has hardly ever been possible for me to obtain
advancement in the common ways, even if I had desired it. I dare say,
If I had been inordinately ambitious, I might have done something;
but, as it was, I have done nothing. You see me just about where I
was when we parted, I don't know how many years ago."

"Well, at any rate," said the General, "you have been spared the
trouble of a career of ambition. You have lived here quietly on your
own place, and I dare say you have had far more real happiness than
you would otherwise have had."

"Happiness!" repeated Lord Chetwynde, in a mournful tone. He leaned
his head on his hand for a few moments, and said nothing. At last he
looked up and said, with a bitter smile:

"The story of my life is soon told. Two words will embody it
all--disappointment and failure."

General Pomeroy regarded his friend earnestly for a few moments, and
then looked away without speaking.

"My troubles began from the very first," continued Lord Chetwynde, in
a musing tone, which seemed more like a soliloquy than any thing
else. "There was the estate, saddled with debt handed down from my
grandfather to my father. It would have required years of economy and
good management to free it from encumbrance. But my father's motto
was always _Dum vivimus vivamus_ and his only idea was to get what
money he could for himself, and let his heirs look out for
themselves. In consequence, heavier mortgages were added. He lived in
Paris, enjoying himself, and left Chetwynde in charge of a factor,
whose chief idea was to feather his own nest. So he let every thing
go to decay, and oppressed the tenants in order to collect money for
my father, and prevent his coming home to see the ruin that was going
on. You may not have known this before. I did not until after our
separation, when it all came upon me at once. My father wanted me to
join him in breaking the entail. Overwhelmed by such a calamity, and
indignant with him, I refused to comply with his wishes. We
quarreled. He went back to Paris, and I never saw him again.

"After his death my only idea was to clear away the debt, improve the
condition of the tenants, and restore Chetwynde to its former
condition. How that hope has been realized you have only to look
around you and see. But at that time my hope was strong. I went up to
London, where my name and the influence of my friends enabled me to
enter into public life. You were somewhere in England then, and I
often used to wonder why I never saw you. You must have been in
London. I once saw your name in an army list among the officers of a
regiment stationed there. At any rate I worked hard, and at first all
my prospects were bright, and I felt confident in my future.

"Well, about that time I got married, trusting to my prospects. She
was of as good a family as mine, but had no money."

Lord Chetwynde's tone as he spoke about his marriage had suddenly
changed. It seemed as though he spoke with an effort. He stopped for
a time, and slowly drank a glass of wine. "She married me," he
continued, in an icy tone, "for my prospects. Sometimes you know it
is very safe to marry on prospects. A rising young statesman is often
a far better match than a dissipated man of fortune. Some mothers
know this; my wife's mother thought me a good match, and my wife
thought so too. I loved her very dearly, or I would not have
married--though I don't know, either: people often marry in a whim."

General Pomeroy had thus far been gazing fixedly at the opposite
wall, but now he looked earnestly at his friend, whose eyes were
downcast while he spoke, and showed a deeper attention.

"My office," said Lord Chetwynde, "was a lucrative one, so that I was
able to surround my bride with every comfort; and the bright
prospects which lay before me made me certain about my future. After
a time, however, difficulties arose. You are aware that the chief
point in my religion is Honor. It is my nature, and was taught me by
my mother. Our family motto is, _Noblesse oblige_, and the full
meaning of this great maxim my mother had instilled into every fibre
of my being. But on going into the world I found it ridiculed among
my own class as obsolete and exploded. Every where it seemed to have
given way to the mean doctrine of expediency. My sentiments were
gayly ridiculed, and I soon began to fear that I was not suited for
political life.

"At length a crisis arrived. I had either to sacrifice my conscience
or resign my position. I chose the latter alternative, and in doing
so I gave up my political life forever. I need not tell the
bitterness of my disappointment. But the loss of worldly prospects
and of hope was as nothing compared with other things. The worst of
all was the reception which I met at home. My young, and as I
supposed loving wife, to whom I went at once with my story, and from
whom I expected the warmest sympathy, greeted me with nothing but
tears and reproaches. She could only look upon my act with the
world's eyes. She called it ridiculous Quixotism. She charged me with
want of affection; denounced me for beguiling her to marry a pauper;
and after a painful interview we parted in coldness."

Lord Chetwynde, whose agitation was now evident, here paused and
drank another glass of wine. After some time he went on:

"After all, it was not so bad. I soon found employment. I had made
many powerful friends, who, though they laughed at my scruples, still
seemed to respect my consistency, and had confidence in my ability.
Through them I obtained a new appointment where I could be more
independent, though the prospects were poor. Here I might have been
happy, had it not been for the continued alienation between my wife
and me. She had been ambitions. She had relied on my future. She was
now angry because I had thrown that future away. It was a death-blow
to her hopes, and she could not forgive me. We lived in the same
house, but I knew nothing of her occupations and amusements. She went
much into society, where she was greatly admired, and seemed to be
neglectful of her home and of her child. I bore my misery as best I
could in silence, and never so much as dreamed of the tremendous
catastrophe in which it was about to terminate."

Lord Chetwynde paused, and seemed overcome by his recollections.

"You have heard of it, I suppose?" he asked at length, in a scarce
audible voice.

The General looked at him, and for a moment their eyes met; then he
looked away. Then he shaded his eyes with his hand and sat as though
awaiting further revelations.

Lord Chetwynde did not seem to notice him at all. Intent upon his own
thoughts, he went on in that strange soliloquizing tone with which he
had begun.

"She fled--" he said, in a voice which was little more than a
whisper.

"Heavens!" said General Pomeroy.

There was a long silence.

"It was about three years after our marriage," continued Lord
Chetwynde, with an effort. "She fled. She left no word of farewell.
She fled. She forsook me. She forsook her child. My God! Why?"

He was silent again.

"Who was the man?" asked the General, in a strange voice, and with an
effort.

"He was known as Redfield Lyttoun. He had been devoted for a long
time to my wretched wife. Their flight was so secret and so
skillfully managed that I could gain no clew whatever to it--and,
indeed, it was better so--perhaps--yes--better so." Lord Chetwynde
drew a long breath. "Yes, better so," he continued--"for if I had
been able to track the scoundrel and take his life, my vengeance
would have been gained, but my dishonor would have been proclaimed.
To me that dishonor would have brought no additional pang. I had
suffered all that I could. More were impossible; but as it was my
shame was not made public--and so, above all--above all--my boy was
saved. The frightful scandal did not arise to crush my darling boy."

The agitation of Lord Chetwynde overpowered him. His face grew more
pallid, his eyes were fixed, and his clenched hands testified to the
struggle that raged within him. A long silence followed, during which
neither spoke a word.

At length Lord Chetwynde went on. "I left London forever," said he,
with a deep sigh.

"After that my one desire was to hide myself from the world. I wished
that if it were possible my very name might be forgotten. And so I
came back to Chetwynde, where I have lived ever since, in the utmost
seclusion, devoting myself entirely to the education and training of
my boy.

"Ah, my old friend, that boy has proved the one solace of my life.
Well has he repaid me for my care. Never was there a nobler or
a more devoted nature than his. Forgive a father's emotion, my
friend. If you but knew my noble, my brave, my chivalrous boy, you
would excuse me. That boy would lay down his life for me. In all his
life his one thought has been to spare me all trouble and to brighten
my dark life. Poor Guy! He knows nothing of the horror of shame that
hangs over him--he has found out nothing as yet. To him his mother is
a holy thought--the thought of one who died long ago, whose memory he
thinks so sacred to me that I dare not speak of her. Poor Guy! Poor
Guy!"

Lord Chetwynde again paused, overcome by deep emotion. "God only
knows," he resumed, "how I feel for him and for his future. It's a
dark future for him, my friend. For in addition to this grief which I
have told you of there is another which weighs me down. Chetwynde is
not yet redeemed. I lost my life and my chance to save the estate.
Chetwynde is overwhelmed with debt. The time is daily drawing near
when I will have to give up the inheritance which has come down
through so long a line of ancestors. All is lost. Hope itself has
departed. How can I bear to see the place pass into alien hands?"

"Pass into alien hands?" interrupted the General, in surprise. "Give
up Chetwynde? Impossible! It can not be thought of."

"Sad as it is," replied Lord Chetwynde, mournfully, "it must be so.
Sixty thousand pounds are due within two years. Unless I can raise
that amount all must go. When Guy comes of age he must break the
entail and sell the estate. It is just beginning to pay again, too,"
he added, regretfully. "When I came into it it was utterly
impoverished, and every available stick of timber had been cut down;
but my expenses have been very small, and if I have fulfilled no
other hope of my life, I have at least done something for my
ground-down tenantry; for every which I have saved, after paying
the interest, I have spent on improving their homes and farms, so
that the place is now in very good condition, though I have been
obliged to leave the pleasure-grounds utterly neglected."

"What are you going to do with your son?" asked the General.

"I have just got him a commission in the army," said Lord Chetwynde.
"Some old friends, who had actually remembered me all these years,
offered to do something for me in the diplomacy line; but if he
entered that life I should feel that all the world was pointing the
finger of scorn at him for his mother's sake; besides, my boy is too
honest for a diplomat. No--he must go and make his own fortune. A
viscount with neither money, land, nor position--the only place for
him is the army."

A long silence followed. Lord Chetwynde seemed to lose himself among
those painful recollections which he had raised, while the General,
falling into a profound abstraction, sat with his head on one hand,
while the other drummed mechanically on the table. As much as half an
hour passed away in this manner. The General was first to rouse
himself.

"I arrived in England only a few months ago," he began, in a quiet,
thoughtful tone. "My life has been one of strange vicissitudes. My
own country is almost like a foreign land to me. As soon as I could
get Pomeroy Court in order I determined to visit you. This visit was
partly for the sake of seeing you, and partly for the sake of asking
a great favor. What you have just been saying has suggested a new
idea, which I think may be carried out for the benefit of both of us.
You must know, in the first place, I have brought my little daughter
home with me. In fact, it was for her sake that I came home--"

"You were married, then?"

"Yes, in India. You lost sight of me early in life, and so perhaps
you do not know that I exchanged from the Queen's service to that of
the East India Company. This step I never regretted. My promotion was
rapid, and after a year or two I obtained a civil appointment. From
this I rose to a higher office; and after ten or twelve years the
Company recommended me as Governor in one of the provinces of the
Bengal Presidency. It was here that I found my sweet wife.

"It is a strange story," said the General, with a long sigh. "She
came suddenly upon me, and changed all my life. Thus far I had so
devoted myself to business that no idea of love or sentiment ever
entered my head, except when I was a boy. I had reached the age of
forty-five without having hardly ever met with any woman who had
touched my heart, or even my head, for that matter.

"My first sight of her was most sudden and most strange," continued
the General, in the tone of one who loved to linger upon even the
smallest details of the story which he was telling--"strange and
sudden. I had been busy all day in the audience chamber, and when at
length the cases were all disposed of, I retired thoroughly
exhausted, and gave orders that no one should be admitted on any
pretext whatever. On passing through the halls to my private
apartment I heard an altercation at the door. My orderly was speaking
in a very decided tone to some one.

"'It is impossible,' I heard him say. 'His Excellency has given
positive orders to admit no one to-day.'

"I walked on, paying but little heed to this. Applications were
common after hours, and my rules on this point were stringent. But
suddenly my attention was arrested by the sound of a woman's voice.
It affected me strangely, Chetwynde. The tones were sweet and low,
and there was an agony of supplication in them which lent additional
earnestness to her words.

"'Oh, do not refuse me!' the voice said. 'They say the Resident is
just and merciful. Let me see him, I entreat, if only for one
moment.'

"At these words I turned, and at once hastened to the door. A young
girl stood there, with her hands clasped, and in an attitude of
earnest entreaty. She had evidently come closely veiled, but in her
excitement her veil had been thrown back, and her upturned face lent
an unspeakable earnestness to her pleading. At the sight of her I was
filled with the deepest sympathy.

"'I am the Resident,' said I. 'What can I do for you?'

"She looked at me earnestly, and for a time said nothing. A change
came over her face. Her troubles seemed to have overwhelmed her. She
tottered, and would have fallen, had I not supported her. I led her
into the house, and sent for some wine. This restored her.

"She was the most beautiful creature that I ever beheld," continued
the General, in a pensive tone, after some silence. "She was tall and
slight, with all that litheness and grace of movement which is
peculiar to Indian women, and yet she seemed more European than
Indian. Her face was small and oval, her hair hung round it in rich
masses, and her eyes were large, deep, and liquid, and, in addition
to their natural beauty, they bore that sad expression which, it is
said, is the sure precursor of an early death. Thank God!" continued
the General, in a musing tone, "I at least did something to brighten
that short life of hers.

"As soon as she was sufficiently recovered she told her story. It was
a strange one. She was the daughter of an English officer, who having
fallen in love with an Indian Begum gave up home, country, and
friends, and married her. Their daughter Arauna had been brought up
in the European manner, and to the warm, passionate, Indian nature
she added the refined intelligence of the English lady. When she was
fourteen her father died. Her mother followed in a few years. Of her
father's friends she knew nothing, and her mother's brother, who was
the Rajah of a distant province, was the only one on whom she could
rely. Her mother while dying charged her always to remember that she
was the daughter of a British officer, and that if she were ever in
need of protection she should demand it of the English authorities.
After her mother's death the Rajah took her away, and assumed the
control of all her inheritance. At the age of eighteen she was to
come into possession, and as the time drew near the Rajah informed
her that he wished her to marry his son. But this son was detestable
to her, and to her English ideas the proposal was abhorrent. She
refused to marry him. The Rajah swore that she should. At this she
threatened that she would claim the protection of the British
government. Fearful of this, and enraged at her firmness, he confined
her in her rooms for several months, and at length threatened that if
she did not consent he would use force. This threat reduced her to
despair. She determined to escape and appeal to the British
authorities. She bribed her attendants, escaped, and by good fortune
reached my Residency.

"On hearing her story I promised that full justice should be done
her, and succeeded in quieting her fears. I obtained a suitable home
for her, and found the widow of an English officer who consented to
live with her.

"Ah, Chetwynde, how I loved her! A year passed away, and she became
my wife. Never before had I known such happiness as I enjoyed with
her. Never since have I known any happiness whatever. She loved me
with such devotion that she would have laid down her life for me. She
looked on me as her savior as well as her husband. My happiness was
too great to last.

"I felt it--I knew it," he continued, in a broken voice. "Two years
my darling lived with me, and then--she was taken away.

"I was ill for a long time," continued the General, in a gentle
voice. "I prayed for death, but God spared me for my child's sake. I
recovered sufficiently to attend to the duties of my office, but it
was with difficulty that I did so. I never regained my former
strength. My child grew older, and at length I determined to return
to England. I have come here to find all my relatives dead, and you,
the old friend of my boyhood, are the only survivor. One thing there
is, however, that imbitters my situation now. My health is still very
precarious, and I may at any moment leave my child unprotected. She
is the one concern of my life. I said that I had come here to ask a
favor of you. It was this, that you would allow me to nominate you as
her guardian in case of my death, and assist me also in finding any
other guardian to succeed you in case you should pass away before she
reached maturity. This was my purpose. But after what you have told
me other things have occurred to my mind. I have been thinking of a
plan which seems to me to be the best thing for both of us.

"Listen now to my proposal," he said, with greater earnestness. "That
you should give up Chetwynde is not to be thought of for one moment.
In addition to my own patrimony and my wife's inheritance I have
amassed a fortune during my residence in India, and I can think of no
better use for it than in helping my old friend in his time of need."

Lord Chetwynde raised his hand deprecatingly.

"Wait--no remonstrance. Hear me out," said the General. "I do not ask
you to take this as a loan, or any thing of the kind. I only ask you
to be a protector to my child. I could not rest in my grave if I
thought that I had left her unprotected."

"What!" cried Lord Chetwynde, hastily interrupting him, "can you
imagine that it is necessary to buy my good offices?"

"You don't understand me yet, Chetwynde; I want more than that. I
want to secure a protector for her all her life. Since you have told
me about your affairs I have formed a strong desire to see her
betrothed to your son. True, I have never seen him, but I know very
well the stock he comes from. I know his father," he went on, laying
his hand on his friend's arm; "and I trust the son is like the
father. In this way you see there will be no gift, no loan, no
obligation. The Chetwynde debts will be all paid off, but it is for
my daughter; and where could I get a better dowry?"

"But she must be very young," said Lord Chetwynde, "if you were not
married until forty-five."

"She is only a child yet," said the General. "She is ten years old.
That need not signify, however. The engagement can be made just as
well. I free the estate from all its encumbrances; and as she will
eventually be a Chetwynde, it will be for her sake as well as your
son's. There is no obligation."

Lord Chetwynde wrung his friend's hand.

"I do not know what to say," said he. "It would add years to my life
to know that my son is not to lose the inheritance of his ancestors.
But of course I can make no definite arrangements until I have seen
him. He is the one chiefly interested; and besides," he added,
smilingly, "I can not expect you to take a father's estimate of an
only son. You must judge him for yourself, and see whether my account
has been too partial."

"Of course, of course. I must see him at once," broke in the General.
"Where is he?"

"In Ireland. I will telegraph to him tonight, and he will be here in
a couple of days."

"He could not come sooner, I suppose?" said the General, anxiously.

Lord Chetwynde laughed. "I hardly think so--from Ulster. But why such
haste? It positively alarms me, for I'm an idle man, and have had my
time on my hands for half a lifetime."

"The old story, Chetwynde," said the General, with a smile;
"petticoat government. I promised my little girl that I would be back
tomorrow. She will be sadly disappointed at a day's delay. I shall be
almost afraid to meet her. I fear she has been a little spoiled, poor
child; but you can scarcely wonder, under the circumstances. After
all, she is a good child though; she has the strongest possible
affection for me, and I can guide her as I please through her
affections."

After some further conversation Lord Chetwynde sent off a telegram to
his son to come home without delay.



CHAPTER II.


THE WEIRD WOMAN.


The morning-room at Chetwynde Castle was about the pleasantest one
there, and the air of poverty which prevailed elsewhere was here lost
in the general appearance of comfort. It was a large apartment,
commensurate with the size of the castle, and the deep bay-windows
commanded an extensive view.

On the morning following the conversation already mentioned General
Pomeroy arose early, and it was toward this room that he turned his
steps. Throughout the castle there was that air of neglect already
alluded to, so that the morning-room afforded a pleasant contrast.
Here all the comfort that remained at Chetwynde seemed to have
centred. It was with a feeling of intense satisfaction that the
General seated himself in an arm-chair which stood within the deep
recess of the bay-window, and surveyed the apartment.

The room was about forty feet long and thirty feet wide. The ceiling
was covered with quaint figures in fresco, the walls were paneled
with oak, and high-backed, stolid-looking chairs stood around. On one
side was the fire-place, so vast and so high that it seemed itself
another room. It was the fine old fire-place of the Tudor or
Plantagenet period--the unequaled, the unsurpassed--whose day has
long since been done, and which in departing from the world has left
nothing to compensate for it. Still, the fireplace lingers in a few
old mansions; and here at Chetwynde Castle was one without a peer.
It was lofty, it was broad, it was deep, it was well-paved, it was
ornamented not carelessly, but lovingly, as though the hearth was the
holy place, the altar of the castle and of the family. There was room
in its wide expanse for the gathering of a household about the fire;
its embrace was the embrace of love; and it was the type and model of
those venerable and hallowed places which have given to the English
language a word holier even than "Home," since that word is "Hearth."

It was with some such thoughts as these that General Pomeroy sat
looking at the fire-place, where a few fagots sent up a ruddy blaze,
when suddenly his attention was arrested by a figure which entered
the room. So quiet and noiseless was the entrance that he did not
notice it until the figure stood between him and the fire. It was a
woman; and certainly, of all the women whom he had ever seen, no one
had possessed so weird and mystical an aspect. She was a little over
the middle height, but exceedingly thin and emaciated. She wore a cap
and a gown of black serge, and looked more like a Sister of Charity
than any thing else. Her features were thin and shrunken, her cheeks
hollow, her chin peaked, and her hair was as white as snow. Yet the
hair was very thick, and the cap could not conceal its heavy white
masses. Her side-face was turned toward him, and he could not see
her fully at first, until at length she turned toward a picture which
hung over the fire-place, and stood regarding it fixedly.

It was the portrait of a young man in the dress of a British officer.
The General knew that it was the only son of Lord Chetwynde, for whom
he had written, and whom he was expecting; and now, as he sat there
with his eyes riveted on this singular figure, he was amazed at the
expression of her face.

Her eyes were large and dark and mysterious. Her face bore
unmistakable traces of sorrow. Deep lines were graven on her pale
forehead, and on her wan, thin cheeks. Her hair was white as snow,
and her complexion was of an unearthly grayish hue. It was a
memorable face--a face which, once seen, might haunt one long
afterward. In the eyes there was tenderness and softness, yet the
fashion of the mouth and chin seemed to speak of resolution and
force, in spite of the ravages which age or sorrow had made. She
stood quite unconscious of the General's presence, looking at the
portrait with a fixed and rapt expression. As she gazed her face
changed in its aspect. In the eyes there arose unutterable longing
and tenderness; love so deep that the sight of it thus unconsciously
expressed might have softened the hardest and sternest nature; while
over all her features the same yearning expression was spread.
Gradually, as she stood, she raised her thin white hands and clasped
them together, and so stood, intent upon the portrait, as though she
found some spell there whose power was overmastering.

At the sight of so weird and ghostly a figure the General was
strangely moved. There was something startling in such an apparition.
At first there came involuntarily half-superstitious thoughts. He
recalled all those mysterious beings of whom he had ever heard whose
occupation was to haunt the seats of old families. He thought of the
White Lady of Avenel, the Black Lady of Scarborough, the Goblin Woman
of Hurst, and the Bleeding Nun. A second glance served to show him,
however, that she could by no possibility fill the important post of
Family Ghost, but was real flesh and blood. Yet even thus she was
scarcely less impressive. Most of all was he moved by the sorrow of
her face. She might serve for Niobe with her children dead; she might
serve for Hecuba over the bodies of Polyxena and Polydore. The
sorrows of woman have ever been greater than those of man. The widow
suffers more than the widower; the bereaved mother than the bereaved
father. The ideals of grief are found in the faces of women, and
reach their intensity in the woe that meets our eyes in the Mater
Dolorosa. This woman was one of the great community of sufferers, and
anguish both past and present still left its traces on her face.

Besides all this there was something more; and while the General was
awed by the majesty of sorrow, he was at the same time perplexed by
an inexplicable familiarity which he felt with that face of woe.
Where, in the years, had he seen it before? Or had he seen it before
at all; or had he only known it in dreams? In vain he tried to
recollect. Nothing from out his past life recurred to his mind which
bore any resemblance to this face before him. The endeavor to recall
this past grew painful, and at length he returned to himself. Then he
dismissed the idea as fanciful, and began to feel uncomfortable, as
though he were witnessing something which he had no business to see.
She was evidently unconscious of his presence, and to be a witness of
her emotion under such circumstances seemed to him as bad as
eaves-dropping. The moment, therefore, that he had overcome his
surprise he turned his head away, looked out of the window, and
coughed several times. Then he rose from his chair, and after
standing for a moment he turned once more.

As he turned he found himself face to face with the woman. She had
heard him, and turned with a start, and turning thus their eyes met.


[Illustration: "She Turned Toward A Picture Which Hung Over The
Fire-Place, And Stood Regarding It Fixedly."]


If the General had been surprised before, he was now still more so at
the emotion which she evinced at the sight of himself. She started
back as though recoiling from him; her eyes were fixed and staring,
her lips moved, her hands clutched one another convulsively. Then, by
a sudden effort, she seemed to recover herself, and the wild stare of
astonishment gave place to a swift glance of keen, sharp, and eager
scrutiny. All this was the work of an instant. Then her eyes dropped,
and with a low courtesy she turned away, and after arranging some
chairs she left the room.

The General drew a long breath, and stood looking at the doorway in
utter bewilderment. The whole incident had been most perplexing.
There was first her stealthy entry, and the suddenness with which she
had appeared before him; then those mystic surroundings of her
strange, weird figure which had excited his superstitious fancies;
then the idea which had arisen, that somehow he had known her before;
and, finally, the woman's own strong and unconcealed emotion at the
sight of himself. What did it all mean? Had he ever seen her? Not
that he knew. Had she ever known him? If so, when and where? If so,
why such emotion? Who could this be that thus recoiled from him at
encountering his glance? And he found all these questions utterly
unanswerable.

In the General's eventful life there were many things which he could
recall. He had wandered over many lands in all parts of the world,
and had known his share of sorrow and of joy. Seating himself once
more in his chair he tried to summon up before his memory the figures
of the past, one by one, and compare them with this woman whom he had
seen. Out of the gloom of that past the ghostly figures came, and
passed on, and vanished, till at last from among them all two or
three stood forth distinctly and vividly; the forms of those who had
been associated with him in one event of his life; that life's first
great tragedy; forms well remembered--never to be forgotten. He saw
the form of one who had been betrayed and forsaken, bowed and crushed
by grief, and staring with white face and haggard eyes; he saw the
form of the false friend and foul traitor slinking away with averted
face; he saw the form of the true friend, true as steel, standing
up solidly in his loyalty between those whom he loved and the Ruin
that was before them; and, lastly, he saw the central figure of
all--a fair young woman with a face of dazzling beauty; high-born,
haughty, with an air of high-bred grace and inborn delicacy; but the
beauty was fading, and the charm of all that grace and delicacy
was veiled under a cloud of shame and sin. The face bore all that
agony of woe which looks at us now from the eyes of Guido's Beatrice
Cenci--eyes which disclose a grief deeper than tears; eyes whose
glance is never forgotten.

Suddenly there came to the General a Thought like lightning, which
seemed to pierce to the inmost depths of his being. He started back
as he sat, and for a moment looked like one transformed to stone. At
the horror of that Thought his face changed to a deathly pallor, his
features grew rigid, his hands clenched, his eyes fixed and staring
with an awful look. For a few moments he sat thus, and then with a
deep groan he sprang to his feet and paced the apartment.

The exercise seemed to bring relief.

"I'm a cursed fool!" he muttered. "The thing's impossible--yes,
absolutely impossible."

Again and again he paced the apartment, and gradually he recovered
himself.

"Pooh!" he said at length, as he resumed his seat, "she's insane, or,
more probably, _I_ am insane for having had such wild thoughts as I
have had this morning."

Then with a heavy sigh he looked out of the window abstractedly.

An hour passed and Lord Chetwynde came down, and the two took their
seats at the breakfast-table.

"By-the-way," said the General at length, after some conversation,
and with an effort at indifference, "who is that very
singular-looking woman whom you have here? She seems to be about
sixty, dresses in black, has very white hair, and looks like a Sister
of Charity."

"That?" said Lord Chetwynde, carelessly. "Oh, that must be the
housekeeper, Mrs. Hart."

"Mrs. Hart--the housekeeper?" repeated the General, thoughtfully.

"Yes; she is an invaluable woman to one in my position."

"I suppose she is some old family servant."

"No. She came here about ten years ago. I wanted a housekeeper, she
heard of it, and applied. She brought excellent recommendations, and
I took her. She has done very well."

"Have you ever noticed how very singular her appearance is?"

"Well, no. Is it? I suppose it strikes you so as a stranger. I never
noticed her particularly."

"She seems to have had some great sorrow," said the General, slowly.

"Yes, I think she must have had some troubles. She has a melancholy
way, I think. I feel sorry for the poor creature, and do what I can
for her. As I said, she is invaluable to me, and I owe her positive
gratitude."

"Is she fond of Guy?" asked the General, thinking of her face as he
saw it upturned toward the portrait.

"Exceedingly," said Lord Chetwynde. "Guy was about eight years old
when she came. From the very first she showed the greatest fondness
for him, and attached herself to him with a devotion which surprised
me. I accounted for it on the ground that she had lost a son of her
own, and perhaps Guy reminded her in some way of him. At any rate she
has always been exceedingly fond of him. Yes," pursued Lord
Chetwynde, in a musing tone, "I owe every thing to her, for she once
saved Guy's life."

"Saved his life? How?"

"Once, when I was away, the place caught fire in the wing where Guy
was sleeping. Mrs. Hart rushed through the flames and saved him. She
nearly killed herself too--poor old thing! In addition to this she
has nursed him through three different attacks of disease that seemed
fatal. Why, she seems to love Guy as fondly as I do."

"And does Guy love her?"

"Exceedingly. The boy is most affectionate by nature, and of course
she is prominent in his affections. Next to me he loves her."

The General now turned away the conversation to other subjects; but
from his abstracted manner it was evident that Mrs. Hart was still
foremost in his thoughts.



CHAPTER III.


THE BARTER OF A LIFE.


Two evenings afterward a carriage drove up to the door of Chetwynde
Castle, and a young man alighted. The door was opened by the old
butler, who, with a cry of delight, exclaimed:

"Master Guy! Master Guy! It's welcome ye are. They've been lookin'
for you these two hours back."

"Any thing wrong?" was Guy's first exclamation, uttered with some
haste and anxiety.

"Lord love ye, there's naught amiss; but ye're welcome home, right
welcome, Master Guy," said the butler, who still looked upon his
young master as the little boy who used to ride upon his back, and
whose tricks were at once the torment and delight of his life.

The old butler himself was one of the heirlooms of the family, and
partook to the full of the air of antiquity which pervaded the place.
He looked like the relic of a by-gone generation. His queue,
carefully powdered and plaited, stood out stiff from the back of his
head, as if in perpetual protest against any new-fangled notions of
hair-dressing; his livery, scrupulously neat and well brushed, was
threadbare and of an antediluvian cut, and his whole appearance was
that of highly respectable antediluvianism. As he stood there with
his antique and venerable figure his whole face fairly beamed with
delight at seeing his young master.

"I was afraid my father might be ill," said Guy, "from his sending
for me in such a hurry."

"Ill?" said the other, radiant. "My lord be better and cheerfuler
like than ever I have seen him since he came back from Lunnon--the
time as you was a small chap, Master Guy. There be a gentleman
stopping here. He and my lord have been sittin' up half the night
a-talkin'. I think there be summut up, Master Guy, and that he be
connected with it; for when my lord told me to send you the telegram
he said as it were on business he wanted you, but," he added, looking
perplexed, "it's the first time as ever I heard of business makin' a
man look cheerful."

Guy made a jocular observation and hurried past him into the hall. As
he entered he saw a figure standing at the foot of the great
staircase. It was Mrs. Hart. She was trembling from head
to foot and clinging to the railing for support. Her face was pale as
usual; on each cheek there was a hectic flush, and her eyes were
fastened on him.

"My darling nurse!" cried Guy with the warm enthusiastic tone of a
boy, and hurrying toward her he embraced her and kissed her.

The poor old creature trembled and did not say a single word.

"Now you didn't know I was coming, did you, you dear old thing?" said
Guy. "But what is the matter? Why do you tremble so? Of course you're
glad to see your boy. Are you not?"

Mrs. Hart looked up to him with an expression of mute affection,
deep, fervent, unspeakable; and then seizing his warm young hand in
her own wan and tremulous ones, she pressed it to her thin white lips
and covered it with kisses.

"Oh, come now," said Guy, "you always break down this way when I come
home; but you must not--you really must not. If you do I won't come
home at all any more. I really won't. Come, cheer up. I don't want to
make you cry when I come home."

"But I'm crying for joy," said Mrs. Hart, in a faint voice. "Don't be
angry."

"You dear old thing! Angry?" exclaimed Guy, affectionately. "Angry
with my darling old nurse? Have you lost your senses, old woman? But
where is my father? Why has he sent for me? There's no bad news, I
hear, so that I suppose all is right."

"Yes, all is well," said Mrs. Hart, in a low voice. "I don't know why
you were sent for, but there is nothing bad. I think your father sent
for you to see an old friend of his."

"An old friend?"

"Yes. General Pomeroy," replied Mrs. Hart, in a constrained voice.
"He has been here two or three days."

"General Pomeroy! Is it possible?" said Guy. "Has he come to England?
I didn't know that he had left India. I must hurry up. Good-by, old
woman," he added, affectionately, and kissing her again he hurried up
stairs to his father's room.

Lord Chetwynde was there, and General Pomeroy also. The greeting
between father and son was affectionate and tender, and after a few
loving words Guy was introduced to the General. He shook him heartily
by the hand.

"I'm sure," said he, "the sight of you has done my father a world of
good. He looks ten years younger than he did when I last saw him. You
really ought to take up your abode here, or live somewhere near him.
He mopes dreadfully, and needs nothing so much as the society of an
old friend. You could rouse him from his blue fits and ennui, and
give him new life."

Guy then went on in a rattling way to narrate some events which had
befallen him on the road. As he spoke in his animated and
enthusiastic way General Pomeroy scanned him earnestly and narrowly.
To the most casual observer Guy Molyneux must have been singularly
prepossessing. Tall and slight, with a remarkably well-shaped head
covered with dark curling hair, hazel eyes, and regular features, his
whole appearance was eminently patrician, and bore the marks of
high-breeding and refinement; but there was something more than this.
Those eyes looked forth frankly and fearlessly; there was a joyous
light in them which awakened sympathy; while the open expression of
his face, and the clear and ringing accent of his fresh young voice,
all tended to inspire confidence and trust. General Pomeroy noted all
this with delight, for in his anxiety for his daughter's future he
saw that Guy was one to whom he might safely intrust the dearest idol
of his heart.

"Come, Guy," said Lord Chetwynde at last, after his son had rattled
on for half an hour or more, "if you are above all considerations of
dinner, we are not. I have already had it put off two hours for you,
and we should like to see some signs of preparation on your part."

"All right, Sir. I shall be on hand by the time it is announced,"
said Guy, cheerily; "you don't generally have to complain of me in
that particular, I think."

So saying, Guy nodded gayly to them and left the room, and they
presently heard him whistling through the passages gems from the last
new opera.

"A splendid fellow," said the General, as the door closed, in a tone
of hearty admiration. "I see his father over again in him. I only
hope he will come into our views."

"I can answer for his being only too ready to do so," said Lord
Chetwynde, confidently.

"He exceeds the utmost hopes that I had formed of him," said the
General. "I did not expect to see so frank and open a face, and such
freshness of innocence and purity."

Lord Chetwynde's face showed all the delight which a fond father
feels at hearing the praises of an only son.

Dinner came and passed. The General retired, and Lord Chetwynde then
explained to his son the whole plan which had been made about him. It
was a plan which was to affect his whole life most profoundly in its
most tender part; but Guy was a thoughtless boy, and received the
proposal like such. He showed nothing but delight. He never dreamed
of objecting to any thing. He declared that it seemed to him too good
to be true. His thoughts did not appear to dwell at all upon his own
share in this transaction, though surely to him that share was of
infinite importance, but only on the fact that Chetwynde was saved.

"And is Chetwynde really to be ours, after all?" he cried, at the end
of a burst of delight, repeating the words, boy-like, over and over
again, as though he could never tire of hearing the words repeated.
After all, one can not wonder at his thoughtlessness and enthusiasm.
Around Chetwynde all the associations of his life were twined. Until
he had joined the regiment he had known no other home; and beyond
this, to this high-spirited youth, in whom pride of birth and name
rose very high, there had been from his earliest childhood a bitter
humiliation in the thought that the inheritance of his ancestors,
which had never known any other than a Chetwynde for its master, must
pass from him forever into alien hands. Hitherto his love for his
father had compelled him to refrain from all expression of his
feelings about this, for he well knew that, bitter as it would be for
him to give up Chetwynde, to his father it would be still worse--it
would be like rending his very heartstrings. Often had he feared that
this sacrifice to honor on his father's part would be more than could
be endured. He had, for his father's sake, put a restraint upon
himself; but this concealment of his feelings had only increased the
intensity of those feelings; the shadow had been gradually deepening
over his whole life, throwing gloom over the sunlight of his joyous
youth; and now, for the first time in many years, that shadow seemed
to be dispelled. Surely there is no wonder that a mere boy should be
reckless of the future in the sunshine of such a golden present.

When General Pomeroy appeared again, Guy seized his hand in a burst
of generous emotion, with his eyes glistening with tears of joy.

"How can I ever thank you," he cried, impetuously, "for what you have
done for us! As you have done by us, so will I do by your
daughter--to my life's end--so help me God!"

And all this time did it never suggest itself to the young man that
there might be a reverse to the brilliant picture which his fancy was
so busily sketching--that there was required from him something more
than money or estate; something, indeed, in comparison with which
even Chetwynde itself was as nothing? No. In his inexperience and
thoughtlessness he would have looked with amazement upon any one who
would have suggested that there might be a drawback to the happiness
which he was portraying before his mind. Yet surely this thing came
most severely upon him. He gave up the most, for he gave himself. To
save Chetwynde, he was unconsciously selling his own soul. He was
bartering his life. All his future depended upon this hasty act of a
moment. The happiness of the mature man was risked by the thoughtless
act of a boy. If in after-life this truth came home to him, it was
only that he might see that the act was irrevocable, and that he must
bear the consequences. But so it is in life.

That evening, after the General had retired, Guy and his father sat
up far into the night, discussing the future which lay before them.
To each of them the future marriage seemed but a secondary event, an
accident, an episode. The first thing, and almost the only thing, was
the salvation of Chetwynde. Those day-dreams which they had cherished
for so many years seemed now about to be realized, and Chetwynde
would be restored to all its former glory. Now, for the first time,
each let the other see, to the full, how grievous the loss would have
been to him.

It was not until after all the future of Chetwynde had been
discussed, that the thoughts of Guy's engagement occurred to his
father.

"But, Guy," said he, "you are forgetting one thing. You must not in
your joy lose sight of the important pledge which has been demanded
of you. You have entered upon a very solemn obligation, which we both
are inclined to treat rather lightly."

"Of course I remember it, Sir; and I only wish it were something
twenty times as hard that I could do for the dear old General,"
answered Guy, enthusiastically.

"But, my boy, this may prove a severe sacrifice in the future,"
said Lord Chetwynde, thoughtfully.

"What? To marry, father? Of course I shall marry some time; and as to
the question of whom, why, so long as she is a lady (and General
Pomeroy's daughter must be this), and is not a fright (I own I hate
ugly women), I don't care who she is. But the daughter of such a man
as that ought to be a little angel, and as beautiful as I could
desire. I am all impatience to see her. By-the-way, how old is she?"

"Ten years old."

"Ten years!" echoed Guy, laughing boisterously. "I need not distress
myself, then, about her personnel for a good many years at any rate.
But, I say, father, isn't the General a little premature in getting
his daughter settled? Talk of match-making mothers after this!"

The young man's flippant tone jarred upon his father. "He had good
reasons for the haste to which you object, Guy," said Lord Chetwynde.
"One was the friendlessness of his daughter in the event of any thing
happening to him; and the other, and a stronger motive (for under any
circumstances I should have been her guardian), was to assist your
father upon the only terms upon which he could have accepted
assistance with honor. By this arrangement his daughter reaps the
full benefit of his money, and he has his own mind at ease. And,
remember, Guy," continued Lord Chetwynde, solemnly, "from this time
you must consider yourself as a married man; for, although no altar
vow or priestly benediction binds you, yet by every law of that Honor
by which you profess to be guided, you are bound _irrevocably_."

"I know that," answered Guy, lightly. "I think you will never find me
unmindful of that tie."

"I trust you, my boy," said Lord Chetwynde, "as I would trust
myself."



CHAPTER IV.


A STARTLING VISITOR.


After dinner the General had retired to his room, supposing that Guy
and the Earl would wish to be together. He had much to think of.
First of all there was his daughter Zillah, in whom all his being was
bound up. Her miniature was on the mantle-piece of the room, and to
this he went first, and taking it up in his hands he sat down in an
arm-chair by the window, and feasted his eyes upon it. His face bore
an expression of the same delight which a lover shows when looking at
the likeness of his mistress. At times a smile lighted it up, and so
wrapt up was he in this that more than an hour passed before he put
the picture away. Then he resumed his seat by the window and looked
out. It was dusk; but the moon was shining brightly, and threw a
silvery gleam over the dark trees of Chetwynde, over the grassy
slopes, and over the distant hills. That scene turned his attention
in a new direction. The shadows of the trees seemed to suggest the
shadows of the past. Back over that past his mind went wandering,
encountering the scenes, the forms, and the faces of long ago--the
lost, the never-to-be-forgotten. It was not that more recent past of
which he had spoken to the Earl, but one more distant--one which
intermingled with the Earl's past, and which the Earl's story had
suggested.

It brought back old loves and old hates; it suggested memories which
had lain dormant for years, but now rose before him clothed in fresh
power, as vivid as the events from which they flowed. There was
trouble in these memories, and the General's mind was agitated, and
in his agitation he left the chair and paced the room. He rang for
lights, and after they came he seated himself at the table, took
paper and pens, and began to lose himself in calculations.

Some time passed, when at length ten o'clock came, and the General
heard a faint tap at the door. It was so faint that he could barely
hear it, and at first supposed it to be either his fancy or else one
of the death-watches making a somewhat louder noise than usual. He
took no further notice of it, but went on with his occupation, when
he was again interrupted by a louder knock. This time there was no
mistake. He rose and opened the door, thinking that it was the Earl
who had brought him some information as to his son's views.

Opening the door, he saw a slight, frail figure, dressed in a
nun-like garb, and recognized the housekeeper. If possible she seemed
paler than usual, and her eyes were fixed upon him with a strange
wistful earnestness. Her appearance was so unexpected, and her
expression so peculiar, that the General involuntarily started back.
For a moment he stood looking at her, and then, recovering with an
effort his self-possession, he asked:

"Did you wish to see me about any thing, Mrs. Hart?"

"If I could speak a few words to you I should be grateful," was the
answer, in a low, supplicating tone.

"Won't you walk in, then?" said the General, in a kindly voice,
feeling a strange commiseration for the poor creature, whose face,
manner, and voice exhibited so much wretchedness.

The General held the door open, and waited for her to enter. Then
closing the door he offered her a chair, and resumed his former seat.
But the housekeeper declined sitting. She stood looking strangely
confused and troubled, and for some time did not speak a word. The
General waited patiently, and regarded her earnestly. In spite of
himself he found that feeling arising within him which had occurred
in the morning-room--a feeling as if he had somewhere known this
woman before. Who was she? What did it mean? Was he a precious old
fool, or was there really some important mystery connected with Mrs.
Hart? Such were his thoughts.

Perhaps if he had seen nothing more of Mrs. Hart the Earl's account
of her would have been accepted by him, and no thoughts of her would
have perplexed his brain. But her arrival now, her entrance into his
room, and her whole manner, brought back the thoughts which he had
before with tenfold force, in such a way that it was useless to
struggle against them. He felt that there was a mystery, and that the
Earl himself not only knew nothing about it, but could not even
suspect it. But _what_ was the mystery? That he could not, or perhaps
dared not, conjecture. The vague thought which darted across his mind
was one which was madness to entertain. He dismissed it and waited.

At last Mrs. Hart spoke.

"Pardon me, Sir," she said, in a faint, low voice, "for troubling
you. I wished to apologize for intruding upon you in the
morning-room. I did not know you were there."

She spoke abstractedly and wearily. The General felt that it was not
for this that she had thus visited him, but that something more lay
behind. Still he answered her remark as if he took it in good faith.
He hastened to reassure her. It was no intrusion. Was she not the
housekeeper, and was it not her duty to go there? What could she
mean?

At this she looked at him, with a kind of solemn yet eager scrutiny.
"I was afraid," she said, after some hesitation, speaking still in a
dull monotone, whose strangely sorrowful accents were marked and
impressive, and in a voice whose tone was constrained and stiff, but
yet had something in it which deepened the General's perplexity--"I
was afraid that perhaps you might have witnessed some marks of
agitation in me. Pardon me for supposing that you could have troubled
yourself so far as to notice one like me; but--but--I--that is, I am
a little--eccentric; and when I suppose that I am alone that
eccentricity is marked. I did not know that you were in the room, and
so I was thrown off my guard."

Every word of this singular being thrilled through the General. He
looked at her steadily without speaking for some time. He tried to
force his memory to reveal what it was that this woman suggested to
him, or who it was that she had been associated with in that dim and
shadowy past which but lately he had been calling up. Her voice,
too--what was it that it suggested? That voice, in spite of its
constraint, was woeful and sad beyond all description. It was the
voice of suffering and sorrow too deep for tears--that changeless
monotone which makes one think that the words which are spoken are
uttered by some machine.

Her manner also by this time evinced a greater and a deeper
agitation. Her hands mechanically clasped each other in a tight,
convulsive grasp, and her slight frame trembled with irrepressible
emotion. There was something in her appearance, her attitude, her
manner, and her voice, which enchained the General's attention, and
was nothing less than fascination. There was something yet to come,
to tell which had led her there, and these were only preliminaries.
This the General felt. Every word that she spoke seemed to be a mere
formality, the precursor of the real words which she wished to utter.
What was it? Was it her affection for Guy? Had she come to ask about
the betrothal? Had she come to look at Zillah's portrait? Had she
come to remonstrate with him for arranging a marriage between those
who were as yet little more than children? But what reason had she
for interfering in such an affair? It was utterly out of place in one
like her. No; there was something else, he could not conjecture what.

All these thoughts swept with lightning speed through his mind, and
still the poor stricken creature stood before him with her eyes
lowered and her hands clasped, waiting for his answer. He roused
himself, and sought once more to reassure her. He told her that he
had noticed nothing, that he had been looking out of the window, and
that in any case, if he had, he should have thought nothing about it.
This he said in as careless a tone as possible, willfully misstating
facts, from a generous desire to spare her uneasiness and set her
mind at rest.

"Will you pardon me, Sir, if I intrude upon your kindness so far as
to ask one more question?" said the housekeeper, after listening
dreamily to the General's words. "You are going away, and I shall not
have another opportunity."

"Certainly," said the General, looking at her with unfeigned
sympathy. "If there is any thing that I can tell you I shall be happy
to do so. Ask me, by all means, any thing you wish."

"You had a private interview with the Earl," said she, with more
animation than she had yet shown.

"Yes."

"Pardon me, but will you consider it impertinence if I ask you
whether it was about your past life? I know it is impertinent; but
oh, Sir, I have my reasons." Her voice changed suddenly to the
humblest and most apologetic accent.

The General's interest was, if possible, increased; and, if there
were impertinence in such a question from a housekeeper, he was too
excited to be conscious of it. To him this woman seemed more than
this.

"We were talking about the past," said he, kindly. "We are very old
friends. We were telling each other the events of our lives. We
parted early in life, and have not seen one another for many years.
We also were arranging some business matters."

Mrs. Hart listened eagerly, and then remained silent for a long time.

"His old friend," she murmured at last; "his old friend! Did you find
him much altered?"

"Not more than I expected," replied the General, wonderingly. "His
secluded life here has kept him from the wear and tear of the world.
It has not made him at all misanthropical or even cynical. His heart
is as warm as ever. He spoke very kindly of you."

Mrs. Hart started, and her hands involuntarily clutched each other
more convulsively. Her head fell forward and her eyes dropped.

"What did he say of me?" she asked, in a scarce audible voice, and
trembling visibly as she spoke.

The General noticed her agitation, but it caused no surprise, for
already his whole power of wondering was exhausted. He had a vague
idea that the poor old thing was troubled for fear she might from
some cause lose her place, and wished to know whether the Earl had
made any remarks which might affect her position. So with this
feeling he answered in as cheering a tone as possible:

"Oh, I assure you, he spoke of you in the highest terms. He told me
that you were exceedingly kind to Guy, and that you were quite
indispensable to himself."

"'Kind to Guy'--'indispensable to him,'" she repeated in low tones,
while tears started to her eyes. She kept murmuring the words
abstractedly to herself, and for a few moments seemed quite
unconscious of the General's presence. He still watched her, on his
part, and gradually the thought arose within him that the easiest
solution for all this was possible insanity. Insanity, he saw, would
account for every thing, and would also give some reason for his own
strange feelings at the sight of her. It was, he thought, because he
had seen this dread sign of insanity in her face--that sign only less
terrible than that dread mark which is made by the hand of the King
of Terrors. And was she not herself conscious to some extent of this?
he thought. She had herself alluded to her eccentricity. Was she not
disturbed by a fear that he had noticed this, and, dreading a
disclosure, had come to him to explain? To her a stranger would be an
object of suspicion, against whom she would feel it necessary to be
on her guard. The people of the house were doubtless accustomed to
her ways, and would think nothing of any freak, however whimsical;
but a stranger would look with different eyes. Few, indeed, were the
strangers or visitors who ever came to Chetwynde Castle; but when one
did come he would naturally be an object of suspicion to this poor
soul, conscious of her infirmity, and struggling desperately against
it. Such thoughts as these succeeded to the others which had been
passing through the General's mind, and he was just beginning to
think of some plan by which he could soothe this poor creature, when
he was aware of a movement on her part which made him look up
hastily. Her eyes were fastened on his. They were large, luminous,
and earnest in their gaze, though dimmed by the grief of years. Tears
were in them, and the look which they threw toward him was full of
agony and earnest supplication. That emaciated face, that snow-white
hair, that brow marked by the lines of suffering, that slight figure
with its sombre vestments, all formed a sight which would have
impressed any man. The General was so astonished that he sat
motionless, wondering what it was now that the diseased fancy of one
whom he still believed to be insane would suggest. It was to him that
she was looking; it was to him that her shriveled hands were
outstretched. What could she want with him?


[Illustration: "But The Woman, With A Low Moan, Flung Herself On The
Floor Before Him."]


She drew nearer to him while he sat thus wondering. She stooped
forward and downward, with her eyes still fixed on his. He did not
move, but watched her in amazement. Again that thought which the
sight of her had at first suggested came to him. Again he thrust it
away. But the woman, with a low moan, suddenly flung herself on the
floor before him, and reaching out her hands clasped his feet, and he
felt her feeble frame all shaken by sobs and shudders. He sat
spell-bound. He looked at her for a moment aghast. Then he reached
forth his hands, and without speaking a word took hers, and tried to
lift her up. She let herself be raised till she was on her knees, and
then raised her head once more. She gave him an indescribable look,
and in a low voice, which was little above a whisper, but which
penetrated to the very depths of his soul, pronounced one single
solitary word,---.

The General heard it. His face grew as pale and as rigid as the face
of a corpse; the blood seemed to leave his heart; his lips grew
white; he dropped her hands, and sat regarding her with eyes in which
there was nothing less than horror. The woman saw it, and once more
fell with a low moan to the floor.

"My God!" groaned the General at last, and said not another word, but
sat rigid and mute while the woman lay on the floor at his feet. The
horror which that word had caused for some time overmastered him, and
he sat staring vacantly. But the horror was not against the woman who
had called it up, and who lay prostrate before him. She could not
have been personally abhorrent, for in a few minutes, with a start,
he noticed her once more, and his face was overspread by an anguish
of pity and sympathy. He raised her up, he led her to a couch, and
made her sit down, and then sat in silence before her with his face
buried in his hands. She reclined on the couch with her countenance
turned toward him, trembling still, and panting for breath, with her
right hand under her face, and her left pressed tightly against her
heart. At times she looked at the General with mournful inquiry, and
seemed to be patiently waiting for him to speak. An hour passed in
silence. The General seemed to be struggling with recollections that
overwhelmed him. At last he raised his head, and regarded her in
solemn silence, and still his face and his eyes bore that expression
of unutterable pity and sympathy which dwelt there when he raised her
from the floor.

After a time he addressed her in a low voice, the tones of which were
tender and full of sadness. She replied, and a conversation followed
which lasted for hours. It involved things of fearful moment--crime,
sin, shame, the perfidy of traitors, the devotion of faithful ones,
the sharp pang of injured love, the long anguish of despair, the
deathless fidelity of devoted affection. But the report of this
conversation and the recital of these things do not belong to this
place. It is enough to say that when at last Mrs. Hart arose it was
with a serener face and a steadier step than had been seen in her for
years.

That night the General did not close his eyes. His friend, his
business, even his daughter, all were forgotten, as though his soul
were overwhelmed and crushed by the weight of some tremendous
revelation.



[Illustration.]


CHAPTER V.


THE FUTURE BRIDE.


It had been arranged that Guy should accompany General Pomeroy up to
London, partly for the sake of arranging about the matters relating
to the Chetwynde estates, and partly for the purpose of seeing the
one who was some day to be his wife. Lord Chetwynde was unable to
undergo the fatigue of traveling, and had to leave every thing to his
lawyers and Guy.

At the close of a wearisome day in the train they reached London, and
drove at once to the General's lodgings in Great James Street. The
door was opened by a tall, swarthy woman, whose Indian nationality
was made manifest by the gay-colored turban which surmounted her
head, as well as by her face and figure. At the sight of the General
she burst out into exclamations of joy.

"Welcome home, sahib; welcome home!" she cried. "Little missy, her
fret much after you."

"I am sorry for that, nurse," said the General, kindly. As he was
speaking they were startled by a piercing scream from an adjoining
apartment, followed by a shrill voice uttering some words which ended
in a shriek. The General entered the house, and hastened to the room
from which the sounds proceeded, and Guy followed him. The uproar was
speedily accounted for by the tableau which presented itself on
opening the door. It was a tableau extremely vivant, and represented
a small girl, with violent gesticulations, in the act of rejecting a
dainty little meal which a maid, who stood by her with a tray, was
vainly endeavoring to induce her to accept. The young lady's
arguments were too forcible to admit of gainsaying, for the servant
did not dare to venture within reach of either the hands or feet of
her small but vigorous opponent. The presence of the tray prevented
her from defending herself in any way, and she was about retiring,
worsted, from the encounter, when the entrance of the gentlemen gave
a new turn to the position of affairs. The child saw them at once;
her screams of rage changed into a cry of joy, and the face which had
been distorted with passion suddenly became radiant with delight.

"Papa! papa!" she cried, and, springing forward, she darted to his
embrace, and twined her arms about his neck with a sob which her joy
had wrung from her.

"Darling papa!" she cried; "I thought you were never coming back. How
could you leave me so long alone?" and, saying this, she burst into a
passion of tears, while her father in vain tried to soothe her.

At this strange revelation of the General's daughter Guy stood
perplexed and wondering. Certainly he had not been prepared for this.
His _fiancée_ was undoubtedly of a somewhat stormy nature, and in the
midst of his bewilderment he was conscious of feeling deeply
reconciled to her ten years.

At length her father succeeded in quieting her, and, taking her arms
from his neck, he placed her on his knee, and said:

"My darling, here is a gentleman waiting all this time to speak to
you. Come, go over to him and shake hands with him."

At this the child turned her large black eyes on Guy, and scanned him
superciliously from head to foot. The result seemed to satisfy her,
for she advanced a few steps to take the hand which he had smilingly
held out; but a thought seemed suddenly to strike her which arrested
her progress half-way.

"Did _he_ keep you, papa?" she said, abruptly, while a jerk of her
head in Guy's direction signified the proper noun to which the
pronoun referred.

"He had something to do with it," answered her father, with a smile.

"Then I sha'n't shake hands with him," she said, resolutely; and,
putting the aforesaid appendages behind her back to prevent any
forcible appropriation of them, she hurried away, and clambered up on
her father's knee. The General, knowing probably by painful
experience the futility of trying to combat any determination of this
very decided young lady, did not attempt to make any remonstrance,
but allowed her to establish herself in her accustomed position.
During this process Guy had leisure to inspect her. This he did
without _any_ feeling of the immense importance of this child's
character to his own future life, without thinking that this little
creature might be destined to raise him up to heaven or thrust him
down to hell, but only with the idle, critical view of an
uninterested spectator. Guy was, in fact, too young to estimate the
future, and things which were connected with that future, at their
right value. He was little more than a boy, and so he looked with a
boy's eyes upon this singular child.

She struck him as the oddest little mortal that he had ever come
across. She was very tiny, not taller than many children of eight,
and so slight and fragile that she looked as if a breath might blow
her away. But if in figure she looked eight, in face she looked
fifty. In that face there was no childishness whatever. It was a
thin, peaked, sallow face, with a discontented expression; her
features were small and pinched, her hair, which was of inky
blackness, fell on her shoulders in long, straight locks, without a
ripple or a wave in them. She looked like an elf, but still this
elfish little creature was redeemed from the hideousness which else
might have been her doom by eyes of the most wonderful brilliancy.
Large, luminous, potent eyes--intensely black, and deep as the depths
of ocean, they seemed to fill her whole face; and in moments of
excitement they could light up with volcanic fires, revealing the
intensity of that nature which lay beneath. In repose they were
unfathomable, and defied all conjecture as to what their possessor
might develop into.

All this Guy noticed, as far as was possible to one so young and
inexperienced; and the general result of this survey was a state of
bewilderment and perplexity. He could not make her out. She was a
puzzle to him, and certainly not a very attractive one. When she had
finally adjusted herself on her father's knee, the General, after the
fashion of parents from time immemorial, asked:

"Has my darling been a good child since papa has been away?"

The question may have been a stereotyped one. Not so the answer,
which came out full and decided, in a tone free alike from penitence
or bravado, but giving only a simple statement of facts.

"No," she said, "I have not been a good girl. I've been very naughty
indeed. I haven't minded any thing that was said to me. I scratched
the ayah, and kicked Sarah. I bit Sarah too. Besides, I spilt my rice
and milk, and broke the plates, and I was just going to starve myself
to death."

At this recital of childish enormities, with its tragical ending, Guy
burst into a loud laugh. The child raised herself from her father's
shoulder, and, fixing her large eyes upon him, said slowly, and with
set teeth:

"I hate you!"

She looked so uncanny as she said this, and the expression of her
eyes was so intense in its malignity, that Guy absolutely started.

"Hush," exclaimed her father, more peremptorily than usual; "you must
not be so rude."

As he spoke she again looked at Guy, with a vindictive expression,
but did not deign to speak. The face seemed to him to be utterly
diabolical and detestable. She looked at him for a moment, and then
her head sank down upon her father's shoulder.

The General now made an effort to turn the conversation to where it
had left off, and reverting to Zillah's confession he said:

"I thought my little girl never broke her word, and that when she
promised to be good while I was away, I could depend upon her being
so."

This reproach seemed to touch her. She sprang up instantly and
exclaimed, in vehement tones:

"It was you who broke your promise to me. You said you would come
back in two days, and you staid four. I did keep my word. I was good
the first two days. Ask the ayah. When I found that you had deceived
me, then I did not care."

"But you should have trusted me, my child," said the General, in a
tone of mild rebuke. "You should have known that I must have had
some good reason for disappointing you. I had very important business
to attend to--business, darling, which very nearly affects your
happiness. Some day you shall hear about it."

"But I don't want to hear about any thing that will keep you away
from me," said Zillah, peevishly. "Promise never to leave me again."

"Not if I can help it, my child," said the General, kissing her
fondly.

"No; but promise that you won't at all," persisted Zillah. "Promise
never to leave me at all. Promise, promise, papa; promise--promise."

"Well," said the General, "I'll promise to take you with me the next
time. That will do, won't it?"

"But I don't want to go away," said this sweet child; "and I won't go
away."

The General gave a despairing glance at Guy, who he knew was a
spectator of this scene. He felt a vague desire to get Guy alone so
as to explain to him that this was only occasional and accidental,
and that Zillah was really one of the sweetest and most angelic
children that ever were born. Nor would this good General have
consciously violated the truth in saying so; for in his heart of
hearts he believed all this of his loved but sadly spoiled child. The
opportunity for such explanations did not occur, however, and the
General had the painful consciousness that Guy was seeing his future
bride under somewhat disadvantageous circumstances. Still he trusted
that the affectionate nature of Zillah would reveal itself to Guy,
and make a deep impression upon him.

While such thoughts as these were passing through his mind, and
others of a very varied nature were occurring to Guy, the maid Sarah
arrived to take her young charge to bed. The attempt to do so roused
Zillah to the most active resistance. She had made up her mind not
to yield. "I won't," she cried--"I won't go to bed. I will never go
away from papa a single instant until that horrid man is gone. I know
he will take you away again, and I hate him. Why don't you make him
go, papa?"

At this remark, which was so flattering to Guy, the General made a
fresh effort to appease his daughter, but with no better success than
before. Children and fools, says the proverb, speak the truth; and
the truth which was spoken in this instance was not very agreeable to
the visitor at whom it was flung. But Guy looked on with a smile, and
nothing in his face gave any sign of the feelings that he might have.
He certainly had not been prepared for any approach to any thing of
this sort. On the journey the General had alluded so often to that
daughter, who was always uppermost in his mind, that Guy had expected
an outburst of rapturous affection from her. Had he been passed by
unnoticed, he would have thought nothing of it; but the malignancy of
her look, and the venom of her words, startled him, yet he was too
good-hearted and considerate to exhibit any feeling whatever.

Sarah's effort to take Zillah away had resulted in such a complete
failure that she retired discomfited, and there was rather an awkward
period, in which the General made a faint effort to induce his
daughter to say something civil to Guy. This, however, was another
failure, and in a sort of mild despair he resigned himself to her
wayward humor.

At last dinner was announced. Zillah still refused to leave her
father, so that he was obliged, greatly to his own discomfort, to
keep her on his knee during the meal. When the soup and fish were
going on she was comparatively quiet; but at the first symptoms of
entrées she became restive, and popping up her quaint little head to
a level with the table, she eyed the edibles with the air of an
habitué at the Lord Mayor's banquet. Kaviole was handed round. This
brought matters to a crisis.

"A plate and a fork for me, Thomas," she ordered, imperiously.

"But, my darling," remonstrated her father, "this is much too rich
for you so late at night."

"I like kaviole," was her simple reply, given with the air of one who
is presenting an unanswerable argument, and so indeed it proved to
be.

This latter scene was re-enacted, with but small variations,
whenever any thing appeared which met with her ladyship's approval;
and Guy found that in spite of her youth she was a decided
connoisseur in the delicacies of the table. Now, to tell the truth,
he was not at all fond of children; but this one excited in him a
positive horror. There seemed to be something in her weird and
uncanny; and he found himself constantly speculating as to how he
could ever become reconciled to her; or what changes future years
could make in her; and whether the lapse of time could by any
possibility develop this impish being into any sort of a presentable
woman. From the moment that he saw her he felt that the question of
beauty must be abandoned forever; it would be enough if she could
prove to be one with whom a man might live with any degree of
domestic comfort. But the prospect of taking her at some period in
the future to preside over Chetwynde Castle filled him with complete
dismay. He now began to realize what his father had faintly
suggested--namely, that his part of the agreement might hereafter
prove a sacrifice. The prospect certainly looked dark, and for a
short time he felt somewhat downcast; but he was young and hopeful,
and in the end he put all these thoughts from him as in some sort
treacherous to his kind old friend, and made a resolute
determination, in spite of fate, to keep his vow with him.

After anticipating the dessert, and preventing her father from taking
cheese, on the ground that she did not like it, nature at last took
pity on that much enduring and long suffering man, and threw over the
daughter the mantle of sweet unconsciousness. Miss Pomeroy fell
asleep. In that helpless condition she was quietly conveyed from her
father's arms to bed, to the unspeakable relief of Guy, who felt, as
the door closed, as if a fearful incubus had been removed.

On the following morning he started by an early train for Dublin, so
that on this occasion he had no further opportunity of improving his
acquaintance with his lovely bride. Need it be said that the loss was
not regretted by the future husband?



[Illustration.]


CHAPTER VI.


TWO IMPORTANT CHARACTERS.


About five years passed away since the events narrated in the last
chapter. The General's household had left their London lodgings not
long after Guy's visit, and had removed to the family seat at Pomeroy
Court, where they had remained ever since. During these years Guy had
been living the life common with young officers, moving about from
place to place, going sometimes on a visit to his father, and, on the
whole, extracting an uncommonly large amount of enjoyment out of
life. The memory of his betrothal never troubled him; he fortunately
escaped any affair of the heart more serious than an idle flirtation
in a garrison town; the odd scene of his visit to General Pomeroy's
lodgings soon faded into the remote past; and the projected marriage
was banished in his mind to the dim shades of a remote future. As for
the two old men, they only met once or twice in all these years.
General Pomeroy could not manage very well to leave his daughter, and
Lord Chetwynde's health did not allow him to visit Pomeroy. He often
urged the General to bring Zillah with him to Chetwynde Castle, but
this the young lady positively refused to consent to. Nor did the
General himself care particularly about taking her there.

Pomeroy Court was a fine old mansion, with no pretensions to
grandeur, but full of that solid comfort which characterizes so many
country houses of England. It was irregular in shape, and belonged to
different periods; the main building being Elizabethan, from which
there projected an addition in that stiff Dutch style which William
and Mary introduced. A wide, well-timbered park surrounded it, beyond
which lay the village of Pomeroy.

One morning in June, 1856, a man came up the avenue and entered the
hall. He was of medium size, with short light hair, low brow, light
eyes, and thin face, and he carried a scroll of music in his hand. He
entered the hall with the air of an habitué, and proceeded to the
south parlor. Here his attention was at once arrested by a figure
standing by one of the windows. It was a young girl, slender and
graceful in form, dressed in black, with masses of heavy black hair
coiled up behind her head. Her back was turned toward him, and he
stood in silence for some time looking toward her. At last he spoke:

"Miss Krieff--"

The one called Miss Krieff turned and said, in an indifferent
monotone: "Good-morning, Mr. Gualtier."

Turning thus she showed a face which had in it nothing whatever of
the English type--a dark olive complexion, almost swarthy, in fact;
thick, luxuriant black hair, eyes intensely black and piercingly
lustrous, retreating chin, and retreating narrow forehead. In that
face, with its intense eyes, there was the possibility of rare charm
and fascination, and beauty of a very unusual kind; but at the
present moment, as she looked carelessly and almost sullenly at her
visitor, there was something repellent.

"Where is Miss Pomeroy?" asked Gualtier.

"About, somewhere," answered Miss Krieff, shortly.

"Will she not play to-day?"

"I think not."

"Why?"

"The usual cause."

"What?"

"Tantrums," said Miss Krieff.

"It is a pity," said Gualtier, dryly, "that she is so irregular in
her lessons. She will never advance."

"The idea of her ever pretending to take lessons of any body in any
thing is absurd," said Miss Krieff. "Besides, it is as much as a
teacher's life is worth. You will certainly leave the house some day
with a broken head."

Gualtier smiled, showing a set of large yellow teeth, and his small
light eyes twinkled.

"It is nothing for me, but I sometimes think it must be hard for you,
Miss Krieff," said he, insinuatingly.

"Hard!" she repeated, and her eyes flashed as she glanced at
Gualtier; but in an instant it passed, and she answered in a soft,
stealthy voice: "Oh yes, it is hard sometimes; but then dependents
have no right to complain of the whims of their superiors and
benefactors, you know."

Gualtier said nothing, but seemed to wait further disclosures. After
a time Miss Krieff looked up, and surveyed him with her penetrating
gaze.

"You must have a great deal to bear, I think," said he at last.

"Have you observed it?" she asked.

"Am I not Miss Pomeroy's tutor? How can I help observing it?" was the
reply.

"Have I ever acted as though I was dissatisfied or discontented, or
did you ever see any thing in me which would lead you to suppose that
I was otherwise than contented?"

"You are generally regarded as a model of good-nature," said
Gualtier, in a cautious, noncommittal tone. "Why should I think
otherwise? They say that no one but you could live with Miss
Pomeroy."

Miss Krieff looked away, and a stealthy smile crept over her
features.

"Good-nature!" she murmured. A laugh that sounded almost like a sob
escaped her. Silence followed, and Gualtier sat looking abstractedly
at his sheet of music.

"How do you like the General?" he asked, abruptly.

"How could I help loving Miss Pomeroy's father?" replied Miss Krieff,
with the old stealthy smile reappearing.

"Is he not just and honorable?"

"Both--more too--he is generous and tender. He is above all a fond
father; so fond," she added, with something like a sneer, "that all
his justice, his tenderness, and his generosity are exerted for the
exclusive benefit of that darling child on whom he dotes. I assure
you, you can have no idea how touching it is to see them together."

"Do you often feel this tenderness toward them?" asked Gualtier,
turning his thin sallow face toward her.

"Always," said Miss Krieff, slowly. She rose from her chair, where
she had taken her seat, and looked fixedly at him for some time
without one word.

"You appear to be interested in this family," said she at length.
Gualtier looked at her for a moment--then his eyes fell.

"How can I be otherwise than interested in one like you?" he
murmured.

"The General befriended you. He found you in London, and offered you
a large salary to teach his daughter."

"The General was very kind, and is so still."

Miss Krieff paused, and looked at him with keen and vigilant
scrutiny.

"Would you be shocked," she asked at length, "if you were to hear
that the General had an enemy?"

"That would altogether depend upon who the enemy might be."

"An enemy," continued Miss Krieff, with intense bitterness of
tone--"in his own family?"

"That would be strange," said Gualtier; "but I can imagine an enemy
with whom I would not be offended."

"What would you think," asked Miss Krieff, after another pause,
during which her keen scrutinizing gaze was fixed on Gualtier, "if
that enemy had for years been on the watch, and under a thin veil of
good-nature had concealed the most vengeful feelings? What would you
say if that enemy had grown so malignant that only one desire
remained, and that was--to do some injury in some way to General
Pomeroy?"

"You must tell me more," said Gualtier, "before I answer. I am fully
capable of understanding all that hate may desire or accomplish. But
has this enemy of whom you speak _done_ any thing? Has she found out
any thing? Has she ever discovered any way in which her hate may be
gratified?"

"You seem to take it for granted that his enemy is a woman!"

"Of course."

"Well, then, I will answer you. She _has_ found out something--or,
rather, she is in the way toward finding out something--which may yet
enable her to gratify her desires."

"Have you any objections to tell what that may be?" asked Gualtier.

Miss Krieff said nothing for some time, during which each looked
earnestly at the other.

"No," said she at last.

"What is it?"

"It is something that I have found among the General's papers," said
she, in a low voice.

"You have examined the General's papers, then?"

"What I said implied that much, I believe," said Miss Krieff, coolly.

"And what is it?"

"A certain mysterious document."

"Mysterious document?" repeated Gualtier.

"Yes."

"What?"

"It is a writing in cipher."

"And you have made it out?"

"No, I have not."

"Of what use is it, then?"

"I think it may be of some importance, or it would not have been kept
where it was, and it would not have been written in cipher."

"What can you do with it?" asked Gualtier, after some silence.

"I do not yet see what I can do with it, but others may."

"What others?"

"I hope to find some friend who may have more skill in cryptography
than I have, and may be able to decipher it."

"Can you not decipher it at all?"

"Only in part."

"And what is it that you have found out?"

"I will tell you some other time, perhaps."

"You object to tell me now?"

"Yes."

"When will you tell me?"

"When we are better acquainted."

"Are we not pretty well acquainted now?"

"Not so well as I hope we shall be hereafter."

"I shall wait most patiently, then," said Gualtier, earnestly, "till
our increased intimacy shall give me some more of your confidence.
But might you not give me some general idea of that which you think
you have discovered?"

Miss Krieff hesitated.

"Do not let me force myself into your confidence," said Gualtier.

"No," said Miss Krieff, in that cold, repellent manner which she
could so easily assume. "There is no danger of that. But I have no
objection to tell you what seems to me to be the general meaning of
that which I have deciphered."

"What is it?"

"As far as I can see," said Miss Krieff, "it charges General Pomeroy
with atrocious crimes, and implicates him in one in particular, the
knowledge of which, if it be really so, can be used against him with
terrible--yes, fatal effect. I now can understand very easily why he
was so strangely and frantically eager to betroth his child to the
son of Lord Chetwynde--why he trampled on all decency, and bound his
own daughter, little more than a baby, to a stranger--why he
purchased Guy Molyneux, body and soul, for money. All is plain from
this. But, after all, it is a puzzle. He makes so high a profession
of honor that if his profession were real he would have thought of a
betrothal any where except _there_. Oh, if Lord Chetwynde only had
the faintest conception of this!"

"But what is it?" cried Gualtier, with eager curiosity, which was
stimulated to the utmost by Miss Krieff's words and tones.

"I will tell you some other time," said Miss Krieff, resuming her
repellent tone--"not now. If I find you worthy of my confidence, I
will give it to you."

"I will try to show myself worthy of it," said Gualtier, and, after a
time, took his departure, leaving Miss Krieff to her thoughts.

Now, who was this Miss Krieff? She was an important member of the
numerous household which the General had brought with him from India.
She had been under his guardianship since her infancy; who she was no
one knew but the General himself. Her position was an honorable one,
and the General always treated her with a respect and affection that
were almost paternal. Thus her life had been passed, first as
playmate to Zillah, whom she exceeded in age by about four years, and
afterward as companion, friend, almost sister, to the spoiled child
and wayward heiress.

Hilda Krieff was a person of no common character. Even in India her
nature had exhibited remarkable traits. Child as she then was, her
astuteness and self-control were such as might have excited the
admiration of Macchiavelli himself. By persistent flattery, by the
indulgence of every whim, and, above all, by the most exaggerated
protestations of devotion, she had obtained a powerful influence over
Zillah's uncontrolled but loving nature; and thus she had gradually
made herself so indispensable to her that Zillah could never bear to
be separated from one who so humored all her whims, and bore her most
ungovernable fits of passion with such unvarying sweetness. Hilda had
evidently taken her lesson from the General himself; and thus Zillah
was treated with equal servility by her father and her friend.

Personally, there was some general resemblance between the two girls;
though in Hilda the sallow hue of ill health was replaced by a clear
olive complexion; and her eyes, which she seldom raised, had a
somewhat furtive manner at times, which was altogether absent from
Zillah's clear frank gaze. Hilda's voice was low and melodious, never
even in the abandon of childish play, or in any excitement, had she
been known to raise its tones; her step was soft and noiseless, and
one had no idea that she was in the room till she was found standing
by one's side.

Zillah's maid Sarah described in her own way the characteristics of
Hilda Krieff.

"That Injun girl," she said, "always giv her a turn. For her part she
preferred Missy, who, though she did kick uncommon, and were awful
cantankerous to manage, was always ready to make it up, and say as
she had been naughty. For my part," concluded Sarah, "I am free to
confess I have often giv Missy a sly shake when she was in one of
them tantrums, and I got the chance, and however that girl can be
always meek spoken even when she has books a-shied at her head is
more than I can tell, and I don't like it neither. I see a look in
them eyes of hers sometimes as I don't like."

Thus we see that Hilda's Christian-like forgiveness of injuries met
with but little appreciation in some quarters. But this mattered
little, since with the General and Zillah she was always in the
highest favor.

What had these years that had passed done for Zillah? In personal
appearance not very much. The plain sickly child had developed into a
tall ungainly girl, whose legs and arms appeared incessantly to
present to their owner the insoluble problem--What is to be done with
us? Her face was still thin and sallow, although it was redeemed by
its magnificent eyes and wealth of lustrous, jet-black hair. As to
her hair, to tell the truth, she managed its luxuriant folds in a
manner as little ornamental as possible. She would never consent to
allow it to be dressed, affirming that it would drive her mad to sit
still so long, and it was accordingly tricked up with more regard to
expedition than to neatness; and long untidy locks might generally be
seen straggling over her shoulders. Nevertheless a mind possessed of
lively imagination and great faith might have traced in this girl the
possibility of better things.

In mental acquirements she was lamentably deficient. Her mind was a
garden gone to waste; the weeds flourished, but the good seed refused
to take root. It had been found almost impossible to give her even
the rudiments of a good education. Governess after governess had come
to Pomeroy Court; governess after governess after a short trial had
left, each one telling the same story: Miss Pomeroy's abilities were
good, even above the average, but her disinclination to learning was
so great--such was the delicately expressed formula in which they
made known to the General Zillah's utter idleness and
selfishness--that she (the governess) felt that she was unable to do
her justice; that possibly the fault lay in her own method of
imparting instruction, and that she therefore begged to resign the
position of Miss Pomeroy's instructress. Now, as each new teacher had
begun a system of her own which she had not had time to develop, it
may be easily seen that the little knowledge which Zillah possessed
was of the most desultory character. Yet after all she had something
in her favor. She had a taste for reading, and this led her to a
familiarity with the best authors. More than this, her father had
instilled into her mind a chivalrous sense of honor; and from natural
instinct, as well as from his teachings, she loved all that was noble
and pure. Medieval romance was most congenial to her taste; and of
all the heroes who figure there she loved best the pure, the
high-souled, the heavenly Sir Galahad. All the heroes of the
Arthurian or of the Carlovingian epopee were adored by this wayward
but generous girl. She would sit for hours curled up on a window-sill
of the library, reading tales of Arthur and the knights of the Round
Table, or of Charlemagne and his Paladins. Fairy lore, and whatever
else our medieval ancestors have loved, thus became most familiar to
her, and all her soul became imbued with these bright and radiant
fancies. And through it all she learned the one great lesson which
these romances teach--that the grandest and most heroic of all
virtues is self-abnegation at the call of honor and loyalty.

The only trouble was, Zillah took too grand a view of this virtue to
make it practically useful in daily life. If she had thus taken it to
her heart, it might have made her practice it by giving up her will
to those around her, and by showing from day to day the beauty of
gentleness and courtesy. This, however, she never thought of; or, if
it came to her mind, she considered it quite beneath her notice. Hers
was simply a grand theory, to carry out which she never dreamed of
any sacrifice but one of the grandest character.

The General certainly did all in his power to induce her to learn;
and if she did not, it was scarcely his fault. But, while Zillah thus
grew up in ignorance, there was one who did profit by the
instructions which she had despised, and, in spite of the constant
change of teachers which Zillah's impracticable character had
rendered necessary, was now, at the age of nineteen, a refined,
well-educated, and highly-accomplished young lady. This was Hilda
Krieff. General Pomeroy was anxious that she should have every
possible advantage, and Zillah was glad enough to have a companion in
her studies. The result is easily stated. Zillah was idle, Hilda was
studious, and all that the teachers could impart was diligently
mastered by her.



CHAPTER VII.


THE SECRET CIPHER.


Some time passed away, and Gualtier made his usual visits. Zillah's
moods were variable and capricious. Sometimes she would languidly
declare that she could not take her lesson; at other times she would
take it for about ten minutes; and then, rising hastily from the
piano, she would insist that she was tired, and refuse to study any
more for that day. Once or twice, by an extreme effort, she managed
to devote a whole half hour, and then, as though such exertion
was superhuman, she would retire, and for several weeks afterward
plead that half hour as an excuse for her negligence. All this
Gualtier bore with perfect equanimity. Hilda said nothing; and
generally, after Zillah's retirement, she would go to the piano
herself and take a lesson.

These lessons were diversified by general conversation. Often they
spoke about Zillah, but very seldom was it that they went beyond
this. Miss Krieff showed no desire to speak of the subject which they
once had touched upon, and Gualtier was too cunning to be obtrusive.
So the weeks passed by without any renewal of that confidential
conversation in which they had once indulged.

While Zillah was present, Hilda never in any instance showed any sign
whatever of anger or impatience. She seemed not to notice her
behavior, or if she did notice it she seemed to think it a very
ordinary matter. On Zillah's retiring she generally took her place at
the piano without a word, and Gualtier began his instructions. It was
during these instructions that their conversation generally took
place.

One day Gualtier came and found Hilda alone. She was somewhat
_distrait_, but showed pleasure at seeing him, at which he felt both
gratified and flattered. "Where is Miss Pomeroy?" he asked, after the
usual greetings had been exchanged.

"You will not have the pleasure of seeing her to-day," answered
Hilda, dryly.

"Is she ill?"

"Ill? She is never ill. No. She has gone out."

"Ah?"

"The General was going to take a drive to visit a friend, and she
took it into her head to accompany him. Of course he had to take her.
It was very inconvenient--and very ridiculous--but the moment she
proposed it he assented, with only a very faint effort at dissuasion.
So they have gone, and will not be back for some hours."

"I hope you will allow me to say," remarked Gualtier, in a low voice,
"that I consider her absence rather an advantage than otherwise."

"You could hardly feel otherwise," said Hilda. "You have not yet got
a broken head, it is true; but it is coming. Some day you will not
walk out of the house. You will be carried out."

"You speak bitterly."

"I feel bitterly."

"Has any thing new happened?" he asked, following up the advantage
which her confession gave him.

"No; it is the old story. Interminable troubles, which have to be
borne with interminable patience."

There was a long silence. "You spoke once," said Gualtier at last, in
a low tone, "of something which you promised one day to tell me--some
papers. You said that you would show them some day when we were
better acquainted. Are we not better acquainted? You have seen me now
for many weeks since that time, and ought to know whether I am worthy
to be trusted or not."

"Mr. Gualtier," said Hilda, frankly, and without hesitation, "from my
point of view I have concluded that you are worthy to be trusted. I
have decided to show you the paper."

Gualtier began to murmur his thanks, Hilda waved her hand. "There is
no need of that," said she. "It may not amount to any thing, and then
your thanks will be thrown away. If it does amount to something you
will share the benefit of it with me--though you can not share the
revenge," she muttered, in a lower tone.

"But, after all," she continued, "I do not know that any thing can be
gained by it. The conjectures which I have formed may all be
unfounded."

"At any rate, I shall be able to see what the foundation is," said
Gualtier.

"True," returned Hilda, rising; "and so I will go at once and get the
paper."

"Have you kept it ever since?" he asked.

"What! the paper? Oh, you must not imagine that I have kept the
original! No, no. I kept it long enough to make a copy, and returned
the original to its place."

"Where did you find it?"

"In the General's private desk."

"Did it seem to be a paper of any importance?"

"Yes; it was kept by itself in a secret drawer. That showed its
importance."

Hilda then left the room, and in a short time returned with a
paper in her hand.

"Here it is," she said, and she gave it to Gualtier. Gualtier took
it, and unfolding it, he saw this:

Gualtier took this singular paper, and examined it long and
earnestly. Hilda had copied out the characters with painful
minuteness and beautiful accuracy; but nothing in it suggested to
him any revelation of its dark meaning, and he put it down with a
strange, bewildered air.

"What is it all?" he asked. "It seems to contain some mystery,
beyond a doubt. I can gather nothing from the characters. They are
all astronomical signs; and, so far as I can see, are the signs of
the zodiac and of the planets. Here, said he, pointing to the
character [Sun image], is the sign of the Sun; and here, pointing to
[Libra image], is Libra; and here is Aries, pointing to the sign
[Aries image].

"Yes," said Hilda; "and that occurs most frequently."

"What is it all?"

"I take it to be a secret cipher."

"How?"

"Why, this--that these signs are only used to represent letters of
the alphabet. If such a simple mode of concealment has been used the
solution is an easy one."

"Can you solve cipher alphabets?"

"Yes, where there is nothing more than a concealment of the letters.
Where there is any approach to hieroglyphic writing, or syllabic
ciphers, I am baffled."

"And have you solved this?"

"No."

"I thought you said that you had, and that it contained charges
against General Pomeroy."

"That is my difficulty. I have tried the usual tests, and have made
out several lines; but there is something about it which puzzles me;
and though I have worked at it for nearly a year, I have not been
able to get to the bottom of it."

"Are you sure that your deciphering is correct?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because it ought to apply to all, and it does not. It only applies
to a quarter of it."

"Perhaps it is all hieroglyphic, or syllabic writing."

"Perhaps so."

"In that case can you solve it?"

[Illustration.]

"No; and that is one reason why I have thought of you. Have you ever
tried any thing of the kind?"


[Illustration: "'What Is It All?' He Asked."]


"No; never. And I don't see how you have learned any thing about it,
or how you have been able to arrive at any principle of action."

"Oh, as to that," returned Hilda, "the principle upon which I work is
very simple; but I wish you to try the solution with your own unaided
ingenuity. So, simple as my plan is, I will not tell you any thing
about it just now."

Gualtier looked again at the paper with an expression of deep
perplexity.

"How am I even to begin?" said he. "What am I to do? You might as
well ask me to translate late the Peschito version of the Syriac
gospels, or the Rig-Veda."

"I think," said Hilda, coolly, "that you have sufficient ingenuity."

"I have," said Gualtier; "but, unfortunately, my ingenuity does not
lie at all in this direction. This is something different from any
thing that has ever come in my way before. See," he said, pointing to
the paper, "this solid mass of letters. It is a perfect block, an
exact rectangle. How do you know where to begin? Nothing on the
letters shows this. How do you know whether you are to read from left
to right, or from right to left, like Hebrew and Arabic; or both
ways, like the old Greek Boustrephedon; or vertically, like the
Chinese; or, for that matter, diagonally? Why, one doesn't know even
how to begin!"

"That must all be carefully considered," said Hilda. "I have weighed
it all, and know every letter by heart; its shape, its position, and
all about it."

"Well," said Gualtier, "you must not be at all surprised if I fail
utterly."

"At least you will try?"

"Try? I shall be only too happy. I shall devote to this all the time
that I have. I will give up all my mind and all my soul to it. I will
not only examine it while I am by myself, but I will carry this paper
with me wherever I go, and occupy every spare moment in studying it.
I'll learn every character by heart, and think over them all day, and
dream about them all night. Do not be afraid that I shall neglect it.
It is enough for me that _you_ have given this for me to attempt its
solution."

Gualtier spoke with earnestness and impetuosity, but Hilda did not
seem to notice it at all.

"Recollect," she said, in her usual cool manner, "it is as much for
your interest as for mine. If my conjecture is right, it may be of
the utmost value. If I am wrong, then I do not know what to do."

"You think that this implicates General Pomeroy in some crime?"

"That is my impression, from my own attempt at solving it. But, as I
said, my solution is only a partial one. I can not fathom the rest of
it, and do not know how to begin to do so. That is the reason why I
want your help."



CHAPTER VIII.


DECIPHERING.


Many weeks passed away before Gualtier had another opportunity of
having a confidential conversation with Miss Krieff. Zillah seemed to
be perverse. She was as capricious as ever as to her music: some days
attending to it for five minutes, other days half an hour; but now
she did not choose to leave the room. She would quit the piano, and,
flinging herself into a chair, declare that she wanted to see how
Hilda stood it. As Hilda seated herself and wrought out elaborate
combinations from the instrument, she would listen attentively, and
when it was over she would give expression to some despairing words
as to her own stupidity.

Yet Gualtier had opportunities, and he was not slow to avail himself
of them. Confidential intercourse had arisen between himself and Miss
Krieff, and he was determined to avail himself of the great advantage
which this gave him. They had a secret in common--she had admitted
him to her intimacy. There was an understanding between them. Each
felt an interest in the other. Gualtier knew that he was more than an
ordinary music-teacher to her.

During those days when Zillah persistently staid in the room he made
opportunities for himself. Standing behind her at the piano he had
chances of speaking words which Zillah could not hear.

Thus: "Your fingering there is not correct, Miss Krieff," he would
say in a low tone. "You must put the second finger on G. I have not
yet deciphered it."

"But the book indicates the third finger on G. Have you tried?"

"It is a blunder of the printer. Yes, every day--almost every hour of
every day."

"Yet it seems to me to be natural to put the third finger there. Are
you discouraged?"

"Try the second finger once or twice, this way;" and he played a few
notes. "Discouraged? no; I am willing to keep at it for an indefinite
period."

"Yes, I see that it is better. You must succeed. I was three months
at it before I discovered any thing."

"That passage is _allegro_, and you played it _andante_. I wish you
would give me a faint hint as to the way in which you deciphered it."

"I did not notice the directions," responded Miss Krieff, playing the
passage over again.

"Will that do? No, I will give no hint. You would only imitate me
then, and I wish you to find out for yourself on your own principle."

"Yes, that is much better. But I have no principle to start on, and
have not yet found out even how to begin."

"I must pay more attention to 'expression,' I see. You say my 'time'
is correct enough. If you are not discouraged, you will find it out
yet."

"Your 'time' is perfect. If it is possible, I will find it out. I am
not discouraged."

"Well, I will hope for something better the next time, and now don't
speak about it any more. The 'brat' is listening."

"_Allegro_, _allegro_; remember, Miss Krieff. You always confound
_andante_ with _allegro_."

"So I do. They have the same initials."

Such was the nature of Gualtier's musical instructions. These
communications, however, were brief and hurried, and only served to
deepen the intimacy between them. They had now mutually recognized
themselves as two conspirators, and had thus become already
indispensable to one another.

They waited patiently, however, and at length their patient waiting
was rewarded. One day Gualtier came and found that Zillah was unwell,
and confined to her room. It was the slightest thing in the world,
but the General was anxious and fidgety, and was staying in the room
with her trying to amuse her. This Miss Krieff told him with her
usual bitterness.

"And now," said she, "we will have an hour. I want to know what you
have done."

"Done! Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"No, nothing. My genius does not lie in that direction. You might as
well have expected me to decipher a Ninevite inscription. I can do
nothing."

"Have you tried?"

"Tried! I assure you that for the last month the only thing that I
have thought of has been this. Many reasons have urged me to decipher
it, but the chief motive was the hope of bringing to you a complete
explanation."

"Have you not made out at least a part of it?"

"Not a part--not a single word--if there are words in it--which I
very much doubt."

"Why should you doubt it?"

"It seems to me that it must consist of hieroglyphics. You yourself
say that you have only made out a part of it, and that you doubt
whether it is a valid interpretation. After all, then, your
interpretation is only partial--only a conjecture. Now I have not
begun to make even a conjecture. For see--what is this?" and Gualtier
drew the well-thumbed paper from his pocket. "I have counted up all
the different characters here, and find that they are forty in
number. They are composed chiefly of astronomical signs; but sixteen
of them are the ordinary punctuation marks, such as one sees every
day. If it were merely a secret alphabet, there would be twenty-six
signs only, not forty. What can one do with forty signs?

"I have examined different grammars of foreign languages to see if
any of them had forty letters, but among the few books at my command
I can find none; and even if it were so, what then? What would be the
use of trying to decipher an inscription in Arabic? I thought at one
time that perhaps the writer might have adopted the short-hand
alphabet, but changed the signs. Yet even when I go from this
principle I can do nothing."

"Then you give it up altogether?"

"Yes, altogether and utterly, so far as I am concerned; but I still
am anxious to know what you have deciphered, and how you have
deciphered it. I have a hope that I may gain some light from your
discovery, and thus be able to do something myself."

"Well," said Miss Krieff, "I will tell you, since you have failed so
completely. My principle is a simple one; and my deciphering, though
only partial, seems to me to be so true, as far as it goes, that I
can not imagine how any other result can be found.

"I am aware," she continued, "that there are forty different
characters in the inscription. I counted them all out, and wrote them
out most carefully. I went on the simple principle that the writer
had written in English, and that the number of the letters might be
disregarded on a first examination.

"Then I examined the number of times in which each letter occurred. I
found that the sign [Aries image] occurred most frequently. Next was
[Gemini image]; next [Taurus image]; and then [Cancer image], and
[Leo image], and [Libra image], and [Sagittarius image], and [Mars
image]." Miss Krieff marked these signs down as she spoke.

Gualtier nodded.

"There was this peculiarity about these signs," said Miss Krieff,
"that they occurred all through the writing, while the others
occurred some in the first half and some in the second. For this
inscription is very peculiar in this respect. It is only in the
second half that the signs of punctuation occur. The signs of the
first half are all astronomical.

"You must remember," continued Miss Krieff, "that I did not think of
any other language than the English. The idea of its being any
dialect of the Hindustani never entered my head. So I went on this
foundation, and naturally the first thought that came to me was, what
letters are there in English which occur most frequently? It seemed
to me if I could find this out I might obtain some key, partially, at
any rate, to the letters which occurred so frequently in this
writing.

"I had plenty of time and unlimited patience. I took a large number
of different books, written by standard authors, and counted the
letters on several pages of each as they occurred. I think I counted
more than two hundred pages in this way. I began with the vowels, and
counted up the number of times each one occurred. Then I counted the
consonants."

"That never occurred to me," said Gualtier. "Why did you not tell
me?"

"Because I wanted you to decipher it yourself on your own principle.
Of what use would it be if you only followed over my track? You would
then have come only to my result. But I must tell you the result of
my examination. After counting up the recurrence of all the letters
on more than two hundred pages of standard authors, I made out an
average of the times of their recurrence, and I have the paper here
on which I wrote the average down."

And Miss Krieff drew from her pocket a paper which she unfolded and
showed to Gualtier. On it was the following:


AVERAGE OF LETTERS.

E.....222 times per page.  N.....90 times per page.
T.....162 times per page.  L.....62 times per page.
A.....120 times per page.  D.....46 times per page.
H.....110 times per page.  C.....42 times per page.
I..J..109 times per page.  U..V..36 times per page.
S.....104 times per page.  B.....36 times per page.
O.....100 times per page.  W.....30 times per page.
R.....100 times per page.  G.....30 times per page.


"The rest," said Miss Krieff, "occur on the average less than thirty
times on a page, and so I did not mark them. 'F,' 'P,' and 'K' may be
supposed to occur more frequently than some others; but they do not.

"'E,' then," she continued, "is the letter of first importance in the
English language. 'A,' and 'T,' and 'H,' are the next ones. Now there
are some little words which include these letters, such as 'the.'
'And' is another word which may be discovered and deciphered, it is
of such frequent occurrence. If these words only can be found, it is
a sign at least that one is on the right track. There are also
terminations which seem to me peculiar to the English language; such
as 'ng,' 'ing,' 'ed,' 'ly,' and so on. At any rate, from my studies
of the Italian, French, and German, and from my knowledge of
Hindustani, I know that there are no such terminations in any of the
words of those languages. So you see," concluded Miss Krieff, with a
quiet smile, "the simple principle on which I acted."

"Your genius is marvelously acute!" exclaimed Gualtier, in
undisguised admiration. "You speak of your principle as a _simple_
one, but it is more than I have been able to arrive at."

"Men," said Miss Krieff, "reason too much. You have been imagining
all sorts of languages in which this may have been written. Now,
women go by intuitions. I acted in that way."

"Intuitions!" exclaimed Gualtier. "You have reasoned out this thing
in a way which might have done honor to Bacon. You have laid down a
great principle as a foundation, and have gone earnestly to work
building up your theory. Champollion himself did not surpass you."

Gualtier's tone expressed profound admiration. It was not idle
compliment. It was sincere. He looked upon her at that moment as a
superior genius. His intellect bowed before hers. Miss Krieff saw the
ascendency which she had gained over him; and his expressions of
admiration were not unwelcome. Admiration! Rare, indeed, was it that
she had heard any expressions of that kind, and when they came they
were as welcome as is the water to the parched and thirsty ground.
Her whole manner softened toward him, and her eyes, which were
usually so bright and hard, now grew softer, though none the less
bright.

"You overestimate what I have done," said she, "and you forget that
it is only partially effected."

"Whether partially or not," replied Gualtier, "I have the most
intense curiosity to see what you have done. Have you any objections
to show it to me? Now that I have failed by myself, the only hope
that I have is to be able to succeed through your assistance. You can
show your superiority to me here; perhaps, in other things, I may be
of service to you."

"I have no objections," said Miss Krieff. "Indeed I would rather show
you my results than not, so as to hear what you have to say about
them. I am not at all satisfied, for it is only partial. I know what
you will say. You will see several reasons, all of which are very
good, for doubting my interpretation of this writing."

"I can assure you that I shall doubt nothing. After my own
disgraceful failure any interpretation will seem to me to be a work
of genius. Believe me any interpretation of yours will only fill me
with a sense of my own weakness."

"Well," said Miss Krieff, after a pause, "I will show you what I have
done. My papers are in my room. Go and play on the piano till I come
back."

Saying this she departed, and was absent for about a quarter of an
hour or twenty minutes, and then returned.

"How is Miss Pomeroy?" asked Gualtier, turning round on the
piano-stool and rising.

"About the same," said Miss Krieff. "The General is reading Puss in
Boots to her, I believe. Perhaps it is Jack and the Bean Stalk, or
Beauty and the Beast. It is one of them, however. I am not certain
which."

She walked up to a centre-table and opened a paper which she held in
her hand. Gualtier followed her, and took a seat by her side.

"You must remember," said Miss Krieff, "that this interpretation of
mine is only a partial one, and may be altogether wrong. Yet the
revelations which it seemed to convey were so startling that they
have produced a very deep impression on my mind. I hoped that you
would have done something. If you had arrived at a solution similar
to mine, even if it had been a partial one, I should have been
satisfied that I had arrived at a part of the truth at least. As you
have not done so, nothing remains but to show you what I have done."

Saying this, she opened the paper which she held and displayed it to
Gualtier:


[Illustration.]


"In that writing," said she, "there are twenty lines. I have been
able to do any thing with ten of them only, and that partially. The
rest is beyond my conjecture."

The paper was written so as to show under each character the
corresponding letter, or what Miss Krieff supposed to be the
corresponding letter, to each sign.

"This," said Miss Krieff, "is about half of the signs. You see if my
key is applied it makes intelligible English out of most of the signs
in this first half. There seems to me to be a block of letters set
into a mass of characters. Those triangular portions of signs at each
end, and all the lower part, seem to me to be merely a mass of
characters that mean nothing, but added to conceal and distract."

"It is possible," said Gualtier, carefully examining the paper.

"It must mean something," said Miss Krieff, "and it can mean nothing
else than what I have written. That is what it was intended to
express. Those letters could not have tumbled into that position by
accident, so as to make up these words. See," she continued, "here
are these sentences written out separately, and you can read them
more conveniently."

She handed Gualtier a piece of paper, on which was the following:


_Oh may God have mercy on my wretched soul Amen
O Pomeroy forged a hundred thousand dollars
O N Pomeroy eloped with poor Lady Chetwynde
She acted out of a mad impulse in flying
She listened to me and ran off with me
She was piqued at her husband's act
Fell in with Lady Mary Chetwynd
Expelled the army for gaming
N Pomeroy of Pomeroy Berks
O I am a miserable villain_


Gualtier read it long and thoughtfully. "What are the initials 'O.
N.?'"

"Otto Neville. It is the General's name."

Silence followed. "Here he is called O Pomeroy, O N Pomeroy, and N
Pomeroy."

"Yes; the name by which he is called is Neville."

"Your idea is that it is a confession of guilt, written by this O. N.
Pomeroy himself?"

"It reads so."

"I don't want to inquire into the probability of the General's
writing out this and leaving it in his drawer, even in cipher, but I
look only at the paper itself."

"What do you think of it?"

"In the first place your interpretation is very ingenious."

"But--?"

"But it seems partial."

"So it does to me. That is the reason why I want your help. You see
that there are several things about it which give it an incomplete
character. First, the mixture of initials; then, the interchange of
the first and third persons. At one moment the writer speaking of
Pomeroy as a third person, running off with Lady Chetwynde, and again
saying he himself fell in with her. Then there are incomplete
sentences, such as, 'Fell in with Lady Mary Chetwynde--'"

"I know all that, but I have two ways of accounting for it."

"What?"

"First, that the writer became confused in writing the cipher
characters and made mistakes."

"That is probable," said Gualtier. "What is another way?"

"That he wrote it this way on purpose to baffle."

"I think the first idea is the best: if he had wished to baffle he
never would have written it at all."

"No; but somebody else might have written it in his name thus
secretly and guardedly. Some one who wished for vengeance, and tried
this way."

Gualtier said nothing in reply, but looked earnestly at Miss Krieff.



[Illustration.]


CHAPTER IX.


A SERIOUS ACCIDENT.


About this time an event took place which caused a total change in
the lives of all at Pomeroy Court. One day, when out hunting, General
Pomeroy met with an accident of a very serious nature. While leaping
over a hedge the horse slipped and threw his rider, falling heavily
on him at the same time. He was picked up bleeding and senseless, and
in that condition carried home. On seeing her father thus brought
back, Zillah gave way to a perfect frenzy of grief. She threw herself
upon his unconscious form, uttering wild ejaculations, and it was
with extreme difficulty that she could be taken away long enough to
allow the General to be undressed and laid on his bed. She then took
her place by her father's bedside, where she remained without food or
sleep for two or three days, refusing all entreaties to leave him. A
doctor had been sent for with all speed, and on his arrival did what
he could for the senseless sufferer. It was a very serious case, and
it was not till the third day that the General opened his eyes. The
first sight that he saw was the pale and haggard face of his
daughter.

"What is this?" he murmured, confusedly, and in a faint voice. "What
are you doing here, my darling?"

At the sight of this recognition, and the sound of his voice, Zillah
uttered a loud cry of joy, and twined her arms about him in an eager
hunger of affection.

"Oh, papa! papa!" she moaned, "you are getting better! You will not
leave me--you will not--you will not!"

All that day the doctor had been in the house, and at this moment had
been waiting in an adjoining apartment. The cry of Zillah startled
him, and he hurried into the room. He saw her prostrate on the bed,
with her arms around her father, uttering low, half-hysterical words
of fondness, intermingled with laughter and weeping.

"Miss Pomeroy," he said, with some sternness, "are you mad? Did I not
warn you above all things to restrain your feelings?"

Instantly Zillah started up. The reproof of the doctor had so stung
her that for a moment she forgot her father, and regarded her
reprover with a face full of astonishment and anger.

"How dare you speak so to me?" she cried, savagely.

The doctor looked fixedly at her for a few moments, and then
answered, quietly:

"This is no place for discussion. I will explain afterward." He then
went to the General's bedside, and surveyed his patient in thoughtful
silence. Already the feeble beginnings of returning consciousness had
faded away, and the sick man's eyes were closed wearily. The doctor
administered some medicine, and after waiting for nearly an hour in
silence, he saw the General sink off into a peaceful sleep.

"Now," said he, in a low voice, "Miss Pomeroy, I wish to say
something to you. Come with me." He led the way to the room where he
had been waiting, while Zillah, for the first time in her life,
obeyed an order. She followed in silence. "Miss Pomeroy," said the
doctor, very gravely, "your father's case is very serious indeed,
and I want to have a perfect understanding with you. If you have not
thorough confidence in me, you have only to say so, and I will give
you a list of physicians of good standing, into whose hands you may
safely confide the General. But if, on the contrary, you wish me to
continue my charge. I will only do so on the condition that I am to
be the sole master in that room, and that my injunctions are to be
implicitly attended to. Now, choose for yourself."

This grave, stern address, and the idea that he might leave her,
frightened Zillah altogether out of her passion. She looked piteously
at him, and grasped his hand as if in fear that he would instantly
carry out his threat.

"Oh, doctor!" she cried, "pray forgive me; do not leave me when dear
papa is so ill! It shall be all as you say, only you will not send me
away from him, will you? Oh, say that you will not!"

The doctor retained her hand, and answered very kindly: "My dear
child, I should be most sorry to do so. Now that your father has come
back to consciousness, you may be the greatest possible comfort to
him if you will. But, to do this, you really must try to control
yourself. The excitement which you have just caused him has overcome
him, and if I had not been here I do not know what might have
happened. Remember, my child, that love is shown not by words but by
deeds; and it would be but a poor return for all your father's
affection to give way selfishly to your own grief."

"Oh, what have I done?" cried Zillah, in terror.

"I do not suppose that you have done him very serious injury," said
the doctor, reassuringly; "but you ought to take warning by this. You
will promise now, won't you, that there shall be no repetition of
this conduct?"

"Oh, I will! I will!"

"I will trust you, then," said the doctor, looking with pity upon her
sad face. "You are his best nurse, if you only keep your promise. So
now, my dear, go back to your place by his side." And Zillah, with a
faint murmur of thanks, went back again.

On the following day General Pomeroy seemed to have regained his full
consciousness. Zillah exercised a strong control over herself, and
was true to her promise. When the doctor called he seemed pleased at
the favorable change. But there was evidently something on the
General's mind. Finally, he made the doctor understand that he wished
to see him alone. The doctor whispered a few words to Zillah, who
instantly left the room.

"Doctor," said the General, in a feeble voice, as soon as they were
alone, "I must know the whole truth. Will you tell it to me frankly?"

"I never deceive my patients," was the answer.

"Am I dangerously ill?"

"You are."

"How long have I to live?"

"My dear Sir, God alone can answer that question. You have a chance
for life yet. Your sickness may take a favorable turn, and we may be
able to bring you round again."

"But the chances are against me, you think?"

"We must be prepared for the worst," said the doctor, solemnly. "At
the same time, there is a chance."

"Well, suppose that the turn should be unfavorable, how long would it
be, do you think, before the end? I have much to attend to, and it is
of the greatest important that I should know this."

"Probably a month--possibly less," answered the doctor, gravely,
after a moment's thought; "that is, if the worst should take place.
But it is impossible to speak with certainty until, your symptoms are
more fully developed."

"Thank you, doctor, for your frankness; and now, will you kindly send
my daughter to me?"

"Remember," said the doctor, doubtfully, "that it is of the greatest
possible moment that you be kept free from all excitement. Any
agitation of your mind will surely destroy your last chance."

"But I must see her!" answered the General, excitedly. "I have to
attend to something which concerns her. It is her future. I could not
die easily, or rest in my grave, if this were neglected."

Thus far the General had been calm, but the thought of Zillah had
roused him into dangerous agitation. The doctor saw that discussion
would only aggravate this, and that his only chance was to humor his
fancies. So he went out, and found Zillah pacing the passage in a
state of uncontrollable agitation. He reminded her of her promise,
impressed on her the necessity of caution, and sent her to him. She
crept softly to the bedside, and, taking her accustomed seat, covered
his hand with kisses.

"Sit a little lower, my darling," said the General, "where I may see
your face." She obeyed, still holding his hand, which returned with
warmth her caressing pressure.

The agitation which the General had felt at the doctor's information
had now grown visibly stronger. There was a kind of feverish
excitement in his manner which seemed to indicate that his brain was
affected. One idea only filled that half-delirious brain, and this,
without the slightest warning, he abruptly began to communicate to
his daughter.

"You know, Zillah," said he, in a rapid, eager tone which alarmed
her, "the dearest wish of my heart is to see you the wife of Guy
Molyneux, the son of my old friend. I betrothed you to him five years
ago. You remember all about it, of course. He visited us at London.
The time for the accomplishment of my desire has now arrived. I
received a letter from Lord Chetwynde on the day of my accident,
telling me that his son's regiment was shortly to sail for India. I
intended writing to ask him to pay us a visit before he left; but
now," he added, in a dreamy voice, "of course he must come, and--he
must marry you before he goes."

Any thing more horrible, more abhorrent, to Zillah than such
language, at such a time, could not be conceived. She thought he was
raving.

A wild exclamation of fear and remonstrance started to her lips; but
she remembered the doctor's warning, and by a mighty effort repressed
it. It then seemed to her that this raving delirium, if resisted,
might turn to madness and endanger his last chance. In her despair
she found only one answer, and that was something which might soothe
him.

"Yes, dear papa," she said, quietly; "yes, we will ask him to come
and see us."

"No, no," cried the General, with feverish impatience. "That will not
do. You must marry him at once--to-day--to-morrow--do you hear? There
is no time to lose."

"But I must stay with you, dearest papa, you know," said Zillah,
still striving to soothe him. "What would you do without your little
girl? I am sure you can not want me to leave you."

"Ah, my child!" said the General, mournfully, "I am going to leave
_you_. The doctor tells me that I have but a short time to live; and
I feel that what he says is true. If I must leave you, my darling, I
can not leave you without a protector."

At this Zillah's unaccustomed self-control gave way utterly. Overcome
by the horror of that revelation and the anguish of that discovery,
she flung her arms around him and clung to him passionately.

"You shall not go!" she moaned. "You shall not go; or if you do you
must take me with you. I can not live without you. You know that I
can not. Oh, papa! papa!"

The tones of her voice, which were wailed out in a wild, despairing
cry, reached the ears of the doctor, who at once hurried in.

"What is this?" he said, sharply and sternly, to Zillah. "Is this
keeping your promise?"

"Oh, doctor!" said Zillah, imploringly, "I did not mean to--I could
not help it--but tell me--it is not true, is it? Tell me that my
father is not going to leave me!"

"I will tell you this," said he, gravely. "You are destroying every
chance of his recovery by your vehemence."

Zillah looked up at him with an expression of agony on her face such
as, accustomed as he was to scenes of suffering, he had but seldom
encountered.

"I've killed him, then!" she faltered.

The doctor put his hand kindly on her shoulder. "I trust not, my poor
child," said he; "but it is my duty to warn you of the consequences
of giving way to excessive grief."

"Oh, doctor! you are quite right, and I will try very hard not to
give way again."

During this conversation, which was low and hurried, General Pomeroy
lay without hearing any thing of what they were saying. His lips
moved, and his hands picked at the bed-clothes convulsively. Only one
idea was in his mind--the accomplishment of his wishes. His
daughter's grief seemed to have no effect on him whatever. Indeed, he
did not appear to notice it.

"Speak to her, doctor," said he, feebly, as he heard their voices.
"Tell her I can not die happy unless she is married--I can not leave
her alone in the world."

The doctor looked surprised. "What does he mean?" he said, taking
Zillah aside. "What is this fancy? Is there any thing in it?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said Zillah. "It is certainly on his mind,
and he can't be argued or humored out of it. It is an arrangement
made some years ago between him and Lord Chetwynde that when I grew
up I should marry his son, and he has just been telling me that he
wishes it carried out now. Oh! what--what _shall_ I do?" she added,
despairingly. "Can't you do something, doctor?"

"I will speak to him," said the latter; and, approaching the bed, he
bent over the General, and said, in a low voice:

"General Pomeroy, you know that the family physician is often a kind
of father-confessor as well. Now I do not wish to intrude upon your
private affairs; but from what you have said I perceive that there is
something on your mind, and if I can be of any assistance to you I
shall be only too happy. Have you any objection to tell me what it is
that is troubling you?"

While the doctor spoke the General's eyes were fixed upon Zillah with
feverish anxiety. "Tell her," he murmured, "that she must consent at
once--at once," he repeated, in a more excited tone.

"Consent to what?"

"To this marriage that I have planned for her. She knows. It is with
the son of my old friend, Lord Chetwynde. He is a fine lad, and comes
of a good stock. I knew his father before him. I have watched him
closely for the last five years. He will take care of her. He will
make her a good husband. And I--shall be able to die--in peace. But
it must be done--immediately--for he is going--to India."

The General spoke in a very feeble tone, and with frequent pauses.

"And do you wish your daughter to go with him? She is too young to be
exposed to the dangers of Indian life."

This idea seemed to strike the General very forcibly. For some
minutes he did not answer, and it was with difficulty that he could
collect his thoughts. At last he answered, slowly:

"That is true--but she need not accompany him. Let her stay with
me--till all is over--then she can go--to Chetwynde. It will be her
natural home. She will find in my old friend a second father. She can
remain with him--till her husband returns."

A long pause followed. "Besides," he resumed, in a fainter voice,
"there are other things. I can not explain--they are private--they
concern the affairs of others. But if Zillah were to refuse to marry
him--she would lose one-half of her fortune. So you can understand my
anxiety. She has not a relative in the world--to whom I could leave
her."

Here the General stopped, utterly exhausted by the fatigue of
speaking so much. As for the doctor, he sat for a time involved in
deep thought. Zillah stood there pale and agitated, looking now
at her father and now at the doctor, while a new and deeper anguish
came over her heart. After a while he rose and quietly motioned to
Zillah to follow him to the adjoining room.

"My dear child," said he, kindly, when they had arrived there, "your
father is excited, but yet is quite sane. His plan seems to be one
which he has been cherishing for years; and he has so thoroughly set
his heart upon it that it now is evidently his sole idea. I do not
see what else can be done than to comply with his wishes."

"What!" cried Zillah, aghast.

"To refuse," said the doctor, "might be fatal. It would throw him
into a paroxysm."

"Oh, doctor!" moaned Zillah. "What do you mean? You can not be in
earnest. What--to do such a thing when darling papa is--is dying!"

Sobs choked her utterance. She buried her face in her hands and sank
into a chair.

"He is not yet so bad," said the doctor, earnestly, "but he is
certainly in a critical state; and unless it is absolutely
impossible--unless it is too abhorrent to think of--unless any
calamity is better than this--I would advise you to try and think if
you can not bring yourself to--to indulge his wish, wild as it may
seem to you. There, my dear, I am deeply sorry for you; but I am
honest, and say what I think."

For a long time Zillah sat in silence, struggling with her emotions.
The doctor's words impressed her deeply; but the thing which he
advised was horrible to her--abhorrent beyond words. But then there
was her father lying so near to death--whom, perhaps, her
self-sacrifice might save, and whom certainly her selfishness would
destroy. She could not hesitate. It was a bitter decision, but she
made it. She rose to her feet paler than ever, but quite calm.

"Doctor," said she, "I have decided. It is horrible beyond words;
but I will do it, or any thing, for his sake. I would die to save
him; and this is something worse than death."

She was calm and cold; her voice seemed unnatural; her eyes were
tearless.

"It seems very hard," she murmured, after a pause; "I never saw
Captain Molyneux but once, and I was only ten years old."

"How old are you now?" asked the doctor, who knew not what to say to
this poor stricken heart.

"Fifteen."

"Poor child!" said he, compassionately; "the trials of life are
coming upon you early; but," he added, with a desperate effort at
condolence, "do not be so despairing; whatever may be the result, you
are, after all, in the path of duty; and that is the safest and the
best for us all in the end, however hard it may seem to be in the
present."

Just then the General's voice interrupted his little homily, sounding
querulously and impatiently: "Zillah! Zillah!"

She sprang to his bedside: "Here I am, dear papa."

"Will you do as I wish?" he asked, abruptly.

"Yes," said Zillah, with an effort at firmness which cost her dear.
Saying this, she kissed him; and the beam of pleasure which at this
word lighted up the wan face of the sick man touched Zillah to the
heart. She felt that, come what might, she had received her reward.

"My sweetest, dutiful child," said the General, tenderly; "you have
made me happy, my darling. Now get your desk and write for him at
once. You must not lose time, my child."

This unremitting pressure upon her gave Zillah a new struggle, but
the General exhibited such feverish impatience that she dared not
resist. So she went to a Davenport which stood in the corner of the
room, and saying, quietly, "I will write here, papa," she seated
herself, with her back toward him.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

"Yes, papa."

The General then began to dictate to her what she was to write. It
was as follows:

"MY DEAR OLD FRIEND,--I think it will cause you some grief to hear
that our long friendship is about to be broken up. My days, I fear,
are numbered."

Zillah stifled the sobs that choked her, and wrote bravely on:

"You know the sorrow which has blighted my life; and I feel that I
could go joyfully to my beloved, my deeply mourned wife, if I could
feel that I was leaving my child--her child and mine--happily
provided for. For this purpose I should like Guy, before he leaves
for India, to fulfill his promise, and, by marrying my daughter, give
me the comfort of knowing that I leave her in the hands of a husband
upon whom I can confidently rely."

But at this point Zillah's self-control gave way. She broke down
utterly, and, bowing her head in her hands on the desk, burst forth
into a passion of sobs.

The poor child could surely not be blamed. Her nature was impassioned
and undisciplined; from her birth every whim had been humored, and
her wildest fancies indulged to the utmost; and now suddenly upon
this petted idol, who had been always guarded so carefully from the
slightest disappointment, there descended the storm-cloud of sorrow,
and that too not gradually, but almost in one moment. Her love for
her father was a passion; and he was to be taken from her, and she
was to be given into the hands of entire strangers. The apparent
calmness, almost indifference, with which her father made these
arrangements, cut her to the quick. She was too young to know how
much of this eagerness was attributable entirely to disease. He
appeared to her as thinking of only his own wishes, and showing no
consideration whatever for her own crushing grief, and no
appreciation of the strength of her affection for him. The
self-sacrificing father had changed into the most selfish of men, who
had not one thought for her feelings.

"Oh, Zillah!" cried her father, reproachfully, in answer to her last
outburst of grief. She rose and went to his bedside, struggling
violently with her emotion.

"I can not write this, dearest papa," she said, in a tremulous voice;
"I have promised to do just as you wish, and I will keep my word; but
indeed, indeed, I can not write this letter. Will it not do as well
if Hilda writes it?"

"To be sure, to be sure," said the General, who took no notice of her
distress. "Hilda will do it, and then my little girl can come and sit
beside her father."

Hilda was accordingly sent for. She glided noiselessly in and took
her place at the Davenport; while Zillah, sitting by her father,
buried her head in the bed-clothes, his feeble hands the while
playing nervously with the long, straggling locks of her hair which
scattered themselves over the bed. The letter was soon finished, for
it contained little more than what has already been given, except the
reiterated injunction that Guy should make all haste to reach Pomeroy
Court. It was then sent off to the post, to the great delight of the
General, whose mind became more wandering, now that the strain which
had been placed upon it was removed.

"Now," said he, in a flighty way, and with an eager impetuosity which
showed that his delirium had increased, "we must think of the
wedding--my darling must have a grand wedding," he murmured to
himself in a low whisper.

A shudder ran through Zillah as she sat by his side, but not a sound
escaped her. She looked up in terror. Had every ray of reason left
her father? Was she to sacrifice herself on so hideous an altar
without even the satisfaction of knowing that she had given him
pleasure? Then she thought that perhaps her father was living again
in the past, and confounding this fearful thing which he was planning
for her with his own joyous wedding. Tears flowed afresh, but
silently, at the thought of the contrast. Often had her ayah
delighted her childish imagination by her glowing descriptions of the
magnificence of that wedding, where the festivities had lasted for a
week, and the arrangements were all made on a scale of Oriental
splendor. She loved to descant upon the beauty of the bride, the
richness of her attire, the magnificence of her jewels, the grandeur
of the guests, the splendor of the whole display--until Zillah had
insensibly learned to think all this the necessary adjuncts of a
wedding, and had built many a day-dream about the pomp which should
surround hers, when the glorious knight whom the fairy tales had led
her to expect should come to claim her hand. But at this time it was
not the sacrifice of all this that was wringing her heart. She gave
it not even a sigh. It was rather the thought that this marriage,
which now seemed inevitable, was to take place here, while her heart
was wrung with anxiety on his account--here in this room--by that
bedside, which her fears told her might be a bed of death. There lay
her father, her only friend--the one for whom she would lay down her
life, and to soothe whose delirium she had consented to this
abhorrent sacrifice of herself. The marriage thus planned was to take
place thus; it was to be a hideous, a ghastly mockery--a frightful
violence to the solemnity of sorrow. She was not to be married--she
was to be sold. The circumstances of that old betrothal had never
been explained to her; but she knew that money was in some way
connected with it, and that she was virtually bought and sold like a
slave, without any will of her own. Such bitter thoughts as these
filled her mind as she sat there by her father's side.

Presently her father spoke again. "Have you any dresses, Zillah?"

"Plenty, papa."

"Oh, but I mean a wedding-dress--a fine new dress; white satin my
darling wore; how beautiful she looked! and a veil you must have, and
plenty of jewels--pearls and diamonds. My pet will be a lovely
bride."

Every one of these words was a stab, and Zillah was dumb; but her
father noticed nothing, of this. It was madness, but, like many cases
of madness, it was very coherent.

"Send for your ayah, dear," he continued; "I must talk to her--about
your wedding-dress."

Zillah rang the bell. As soon as the woman appeared the General
turned to her with his usual feverish manner.

"Nurse," said he, "Miss Pomeroy is to be married at once. You must
see--that she has every thing prepared--suitably--and of the very
best."

The ayah stood speechless with amazement. This feeling was increased
when Zillah said, in a cold monotone:

"Don't look surprised, nurse. It's quite true. I am to be married
within a day or two."

Her master's absurdities the ayah could account for on the ground of
delirium; but was "Little Missy" mad too? Perhaps sorrow had turned
her brain, she thought. At any rate, it would be best to humor them.

"Missy had a white silk down from London last week, Sir."

"Not satin? A wedding-dress should be of satin," said the General.

"It does not matter, so that it is all white," said the nurse, with
decision.

"Doesn't it? Very well," said the General. "But she must have a veil,
nurse, and plenty of jewels. She must look like my darling. You
remember, nurse, how she looked."

"Indeed I do, sahib, and you may leave all to me. I will see that
Missy is as fine and grand as any of them."

The ayah began already to feel excited, and to fall in with this wild
proposal. The very mention of dress had excited her Indian love of
finery.

"That is right," said the General; "attend to it all. Spare no
expense. Don't you go, my child," he continued, as Zillah rose and
walked shudderingly to the window. "I think I can sleep, now that my
mind is at ease. Stay by me, my darling child."

"Oh, papa, do you think I would leave you?" said Zillah, and she came
back to the bed.

The doctor, who had been waiting until the General should become a
little calmer, now administered an anodyne, and he fell asleep, his
hand clasped in Zillah's, while she, fearful of making the slightest
movement, sat motionless and despairing far into the night.



CHAPTER X.


A WEDDING IN EXTREMIS.


Two days passed; on the second Guy Molyneux arrived. Lord Chetwynde
was ill, and could not travel. He sent a letter, however, full of
earnest and hopeful sympathy. He would not believe that things were
as bad as his old friend feared; the instant that he could leave he
would come up to Pomeroy Court; or if by God's providence the worst
should take place, he would instantly fetch Zillah to Chetwynde
Castle; and the General might rely upon it that, so far as love and
tenderness could supply a father's place, she should not feel her
loss.

On Guy's arrival he was shown into the library. Luncheon was laid
there, and the housekeeper apologized for Miss Pomeroy's absence.
Guy took a chair and waited for a while, meditating on the time when
he had last seen the girl who in a short time was to be tied to him
for life. The event was excessively repugnant to him, even though he
did not at all realize its full importance; and he would have given
any thing to get out of it; but his father's command was sacred, and
for years he had been bound by his father's word. Escape was utterly
impossible. The entrance of the clergyman, who seemed more intent on
the luncheon than any thing else, did not lessen Guy's feelings of
repugnance. He said but little, and sank into a fit of abstraction,
from which he was roused by a message that the General would like to
see him. He hurried up stairs.

The General smiled faintly, and greeted him with as much warmth as
his weak and prostrated condition would allow.

"Guy, my boy," said he, feebly, "I am very glad to see you."

To Guy the General seemed like a doomed man, and the discovery gave
him a great shock, for he had scarcely anticipated any thing so bad
as this. In spite of this, however, he expressed a hope that the
General might yet recover, and be spared many years to them.

"No," said the General, sadly and wearily; "no; my days are numbered.
I must die, my boy; but I shall die in peace, if I feel that I do not
leave my child uncared for."

Guy, in spite of his dislike and repugnance, felt deeply moved.

"You need have no fear of that, Sir," he went on to say, in solemn,
measured tones. "I solemnly promise you that no unhappiness shall
ever reach her if I can help it. To the end of my life I will try to
requite to her the kindness that you have shown to us. My father
feels as I do, and he begged me to assure you, if he is not able to
see you again, as he hopes to do, that the instant your daughter
needs his care he will himself take her to Chetwynde Castle, and will
watch over her with the same care and affection that you yourself
would bestow; and she shall leave his home only for mine."

The General pressed his hand feebly. "God bless you!" he said, in a
faint voice.

Suddenly a low sob broke the silence which followed. Turning hastily,
Guy saw in the dim twilight of the sick-room what he had not before
observed. It was a girl's figure crouching at the foot of the bed,
her head buried in the clothes. He looked at her--his heart told him
who it was--but he knew not what to say.

The General also had heard that sob. It raised no pity and compassion
in him; it was simply some new stimulus to the one idea of his
distempered brain. "What, Zillah!" he said, in surprise. "You here
yet? I thought you had gone to get ready."

Still the kneeling figure did not move.

"Zillah," said the General, querulously, and with an excitement in
his feeble voice which showed how readily he might lapse into
complete delirium--"Zillah, my child, be quick. There is no time to
lose. Go and get ready for your wedding. Don't you hear me? Go and
dress yourself."

"Oh, papa!" moaned Zillah, in a voice which pierced to the inmost
heart of Guy, "will it not do as I am? Do not ask me to put on finery
at a time like this." Her voice was one of utter anguish and despair.

"A time like this?" said the General, rousing himself
somewhat--"what do you mean, child? Does not the Bible say, Like as a
bride adorneth herself--for her husband--and ever shall be--world
without end--amen--yes--white satin and pearls, my child--oh
yes--white pearls and satin--we are all ready--where are you, my
darling?" Another sob was the only reply to this incoherent speech.
Guy stood as if petrified. In his journey here he had simply tried to
muster up his own resolution, and to fortify his own heart. He had
not given one thought to this poor despairing child. Her sorrow, her
anguish, her despair, now went to his heart. Yet he knew not what to
do. How gladly he would have made his escape from this horrible
mockery--for her sake as well as for his own! But for such escape he
saw plainly there was no possibility. That delirious mind, in its
frenzy, was too intent upon its one purpose to admit of this. He
himself also felt a strange and painful sense of guilt. Was not he to
a great extent the cause of this, though the unwilling cause? Ah! he
thought, remorsefully, can wrong be right? and can any thing justify
such a desecration as this both of marriage and of death? At that
moment Chetwynde faded away, and to have saved it was as nothing.
Willingly would he have given up every thing if he could now have
said to this poor child--who thus crouched down, crushed by a woman's
sorrow before she had known a woman's years--"Farewell. You are free.
I will give you a brother's love and claim nothing in return. I will
give back all, and go forth penniless into the battle of life."

But the General again interrupted them, speaking impatiently: "What
are you waiting for? Is not Zillah getting ready?"

Guy scarcely knew what he was doing; but, obeying the instincts of
his pity, he bent down and whispered to Zillah, "My poor child, I
pity you, and sympathize with you more than words can tell. It is an
awful thing for you. But can you not rouse yourself? Perhaps it would
calm your father. He is getting too excited."

Zillah shrunk away as though he were pollution, and Guy at this
resumed his former place in sadness and in desperation, with no other
idea than to wait for the end.

"Zillah! Zillah!" cried the General, almost fiercely.

At this Zillah sprang up, and rushed out of the room. She hurried up
stairs, and found the ayah in her dressing-room with Hilda. In the
next room her white silk was laid out, her wreath and veil beside it.

"Here's my jewel come to be dressed in her wedding-dress," said the
ayah, joyously.

"Be quiet!" cried Zillah, passionately. "Don't dare to say any thing
like that to me; and you may put all that trash away, for I'm not
going to be married at all. I can't do it, and I won't. I hate him! I
hate him! I hate him! I hate him!"

These words she hissed out with the venom of a serpent. Her
attendants tried remonstrance, but in vain. Hilda pointed out to her
the handsome dress, but with no greater success. Vainly they tried to
plead, to coax, and to persuade. All this only seemed to strengthen
her determination. At last she threw herself upon the floor, like a
passionate child, in a paroxysm of rage and grief.

The unwonted self-control which for the last few days she had imposed
upon herself now told upon her in the violence of the reaction which
had set in. When once she had allowed the barriers to be broken down,
all else gave way to the onset of passion; and the presence and
remonstrances of the ayah and Hilda only made it worse. She forgot
utterly her father's condition; she showed herself now as selfish in
her passion as he had shown himself in his delirium. Nothing could be
done to stop her. The others, familiar with these outbreaks, retired
to the adjoining room and waited.

Meanwhile the others were waiting also in the room below. The doctor
was there, and sat by his patient, exerting all his art to soothe him
and curb his eagerness. The General refused some medicine which he
offered, and declared with passion that he would take nothing
whatever till the wedding was over. To have used force would have
been fatal; and so the doctor had to humor his patient. The family
solicitor was there with the marriage settlements, which had been
prepared in great haste. Guy and the clergyman sat apart in
thoughtful silence.

Half an hour passed, and Zillah did not appear. On the General's
asking for her the clergyman hazarded a remark intended to be
pleasant, about ladies on such occasions needing some time to adorn
themselves--a little out of place under the circumstances, but it
fortunately fell in with the sick man's humor, and satisfied him for
the moment.

Three-quarters of an hour passed. "Surely she must be ready now,"
said the General, who grew more excited and irritable every moment. A
messenger was thereupon dispatched for her, but she found the door
bolted, and amidst the outcry and confusion in the room could only
distinguish that Miss Pomeroy was not ready. This message she
delivered without entering into particulars.

An hour passed, and another messenger went, with the same result. It
then became impossible to soothe the General any longer. Guy also
grew impatient, for he had to leave by that evening's train; and if
the thing had to be it must be done soon. He began to hope that it
might be postponed--that Zillah might not come--and then he would
have to leave the thing unfinished. But then he thought of his
father's command, and the General's desire--of his own promise--of
the fact that it must be done--of the danger to the General if it
were not done. Between these conflicting feelings--his desire to
escape, and his desire to fulfill what he considered his
obligations--his brain grew confused, and he sat there impatient for
the end--to see what it might turn out to be.

Another quarter of an hour passed. The General's excitement grew
worse, and was deepening into frenzy. Dr. Cowell looked more and more
anxious, and at last, shrewdly suspecting the cause of the delay,
determined himself to go and take it in hand. He accordingly left his
patient, and was just crossing the room, when his progress was
arrested by the General's springing up with a kind of convulsive
start, and jumping out of bed, declaring wildly and incoherently that
something must be wrong, and that he himself would go and bring
Zillah. The doctor had to turn again to his patient. The effort was a
spasmodic one, and the General was soon put back again to bed, where
he lay groaning and panting; while the doctor, finding that he could
not leave him even for an instant, looked around for some one to send
in his place. Who could it be? Neither the lawyer nor the clergyman
seemed suitable. There was no one left but Guy, who seemed to the
doctor, from his face and manner, to be capable of dealing with any
difficulty. So he called Guy to him, and hurriedly whispered to him
the state of things.

"If the General has to wait any longer, he will die," said the
doctor. "_You'll_ have to go and bring her. You're the only person.
You _must_. Tell her that her father has already had one fit, and
that every moment destroys his last chance of life. She must either
decide to come at once, or else sacrifice him."

He then rang the bell, and ordered the servant to lead Captain
Molyneux to Miss Pomeroy. Guy was thus forced to be an actor where
his highest desire was to be passive. There was no alternative. In
that moment all his future was involved. He saw it; he knew it; but
he did not shrink. Honor bound him to this marriage, hateful as it
was. The other actor in the scene detested it as much as he did, but
there was no help for it. Could he sit passive and let the General
die? The marriage, after all, he thought, had to come off; it was
terrible to have it now; but then the last chance of the General's
life was dependent upon this marriage. What could he do?

What? A rapid survey of his whole situation decided him. He would
perform what he considered his vow. He would do his part toward
saving the General's life, though that part was so hard. He was calm,
therefore, and self-possessed, as the servant entered and led the way
to Zillah's apartments. The servant on receiving the order grinned in
spite of the solemnity of the occasion. He had a pretty clear idea of
the state of things; he was well accustomed to what was styled, in
the servants' hall, "Missy's tantrums;" and he wondered to himself
how Guy would ever manage her. He was too good a servant, however, to
let his feelings be seen, and so he led the way demurely, and
knocking at Zillah's door, announced:

"Captain Molyneux."

The door was at once opened by the ayah.

At that instant Zillah sprang to her feet and looked at him in a fury
of passion. "_You_!" she cried, with indescribable malignancy.
"_You_! _You_ here! How dare _you_ come here? Go down stairs this
instant! If it is my money you want, take it all and begone. I will
never, never, never, marry you!"

For a moment Guy was overcome. The taunt was certainly horrible. He
turned pale, but soon regained his self-possession.

"Miss Pomeroy," said he, quietly, yet earnestly, "this is not the
time for a scene. Your father is in the utmost danger. He has waited
for an hour and a quarter. He is getting worse every moment. He made
one attempt to get out of bed, and come for you himself. The doctor
ordered me to come, and that is why I am here."

"I don't believe you!" screamed Zillah. "You are trying to frighten
me."

"I have nothing to say," replied Guy, mournfully. "Your father is
rapidly getting into a state of frenzy. If it lasts much longer he
will die."

Guy's words penetrated to Zillah's inmost soul. A wild fear arose,
which in a moment chased away the fury which had possessed her. Her
face changed. She struck her hands against her brow, and uttered an
exclamation of terror.

"Tell him--tell him--I'm coming. Make haste," she moaned. "I'll be
down immediately. Oh, make haste!"

She hurried back, and Guy went down stairs again, where he waited at
the bottom with his soul in a strange tumult, and his heart on fire.
Why was it that he had been sold for all this--he and that wretched
child?

But now Zillah was all changed. Now she was as excited in her haste
to go down stairs as she had before been anxious to avoid it. She
rushed back to the bedroom where Hilda was, who, though unseen, had
heard every thing, and, foreseeing what the end might be, was now
getting things ready.

"Be quick, Hilda!" she gasped. "Papa is dying! Oh, be quick--be
quick! Let me save him!"

She literally tore off the dress that she had on, and in less than
five minutes she was dressed. She would not stop for Hilda to arrange
her wreath, and was rushing down stairs without her veil, when the
ayah ran after her with it.

"You are leaving your luck, Missy darling," said she.

"Ay--that I am," said Zillah, bitterly.

"But you will put it on, Missy," pleaded the ayah. "Sahib has talked
so much about it."

Zillah stopped. The ayah threw it over her, and enveloped her in its
soft folds.

"It was your mother's veil, Missy," she added. "Give me a kiss for
her sake before you go."

Zillah flung her arms around the old woman's neck.

"Hush, hush!" she said. "Do not make me give way again, or I can
never do it."

At the foot of the stairs Guy was waiting, and they entered the room
solemnly together--these two victims--each summoning up all that
Honor and Duty might supply to assist in what each felt to be a
sacrifice of all life and happiness. But to Zillah the sacrifice was
worse, the task was harder, and the ordeal more dreadful. For it was
her father, not Guy's, who lay there, with a face that already seemed
to have the touch of death; it was she who felt to its fullest extent
the ghastliness of this hideous mockery.

But the General, whose eyes were turned eagerly toward the door,
found in this scene nothing but joy. In his frenzy he regarded them
as blessed and happy, and felt this to be the full realization of his
highest hopes.

"Ah!" he said, with a long gasp; "here she is at last. Let us begin
at once."

So the little group formed itself around the bed, the ayah and Hilda
being present in the back-ground.

In a low voice the clergyman began the marriage service. Far more
solemn and impressive did it sound now than when heard under
circumstances of gayety and splendor; and as the words sank into
Guy's soul, he reproached himself more than ever for never having
considered the meaning of the act to which he had so thoughtlessly
pledged himself.

The General had now grown calm. He lay perfectly motionless, gazing
wistfully at his daughter's face. So quiet was he, and so fixed was
his gaze, that they thought he had sunk into some abstracted fit; but
when the clergyman, with some hesitation, asked the question,

"Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?" the General
instantly responded, in a firm voice, "I do." Then reaching forth, he
took Zillah's hand, and instead of giving it to the clergyman, he
himself placed it within Guy's, and for a moment held both hands in
his, while he seemed to be praying for a blessing to rest on their
union.

The service proceeded. Solemnly the priest uttered the warning:
"Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder."
Solemnly, too, he pronounced the benediction--"May ye so live
together in this life that in the world to come ye shall have life
everlasting."

And so, for better or worse, Guy Molyneux and Zillah Pomeroy rose
up--_man and wife_!

After the marriage ceremony was over the clergyman administered the
Holy Communion--all who were present partaking with the General; and
solemn indeed was the thought that filled the mind of each, that ere
long, perhaps, one of their number might be--not figuratively, but
literally--"with angels and archangels, and all the company of
heaven."

After this was all over the doctor gave the General a soothing
draught. He was quite calm now; he took it without objection; and it
had the effect of throwing him soon into a quiet sleep. The clergyman
and the lawyer now departed; and the doctor, motioning to Guy and
Zillah to leave the room, took his place, with an anxious
countenance, by the General's bedside. The husband and wife went into
the adjoining room, from which they could hear the deep breathing of
the sick man.


[Illustration: "The Clergyman Began The Marriage Service."]


It was an awkward moment. Guy had to depart in a short time. That
sullen stolid girl who now sat before him, black and gloomy as a
thunder-cloud, was _his wife_. He was going away, perhaps forever. He
did not know exactly how to treat her; whether with indifference as a
willful child, or compassionate attention as one deeply afflicted. On
the whole he felt deeply for her, in spite of his own forebodings of
his future; and so he followed the more generous dictates of his
heart. Her utter loneliness, and the thought that her father might
soon be taken away, touched him deeply; and this feeling was evident
in his whole manner as he spoke.

"Zillah," said he, "our regiment sails for India several days sooner
than I first expected, and it is necessary for me to leave in a short
time. You, of course, are to remain with your father, and I hope that
he may soon be restored to you. Let me assure you that this whole
scene has been, under the circumstances, most painful, for your sake,
for I have felt keenly that I was the innocent cause of great sorrow
to you."

He spoke to her calmly, and as a father would to a child, and at the
same time reached out his hand to take hers. She snatched it away
quickly.

"Captain Molyneux," said she, coldly, "I married you solely to please
my father, and because he was not in a state to have his wishes
opposed. It was a sacrifice of myself, and a bitter one. As to you, I
put no trust in you, and take no interest whatever in your plans. But
there is one thing which I wish you to tell me. What did papa mean by
saying to the doctor, that if I did not marry you I should lose
one-half of my fortune?"

Zillah's manner at once chilled all the warm feelings of pity and
generosity which Guy had begun to feel. Her question also was an
embarrassing one. He had hoped that the explanation might come later,
and from his father. It was an awkward one for him to make. But
Zillah was looking at him impatiently.

"Surely," she continued in a stern voice as she noticed his
hesitation, "that is a question which I have a right to ask."

"Of course," said Guy, hastily. "I will tell you. It was because more
than half your fortune was taken to pay off the debt on Chetwynde
Castle."

A deep, angry, crimson flush passed over Zillah's face.

"So that is the reason why I have been sold?" she cried, impetuously.
"Well, Sir, your manoeuvring has succeeded nobly. Let me congratulate
you. You have taken in a guileless old man, and a young girl."

Guy looked at her for a moment in fierce indignation. But with a
great effort he subdued it, and answered, as calmly as possible:

"You do not know either my father or myself, or you would be
convinced that such language could not apply to either of us. The
proposal originally emanated entirely from General Pomeroy."

"Ah?" said Zilla, fiercely. "But you were base enough to take
advantage of his generosity and his love for his old friend. Oh!" she
cried, bursting into tears, "that is what I feel, that he could
sacrifice me, who loved him so, for your sakes. I honestly believed
once that it was his anxiety to find me a protector."

Guy's face had grown very pale.

"And so it was," he said, in a voice which was deep and tremulous
from his strong effort at self-control. "He trusted my father, and
trusted me, and wished to protect you from unprincipled
fortune-hunters."

"_Fortune-hunters_!" cried Zillah, her face flushed, and with
accents of indescribable scorn. "Good Heavens! What are _you_ if you
are not this very thing? Oh, how I hate you! how I hate you!"

Guy looked at her, and for a moment was on the point of answering her
in the same fashion, and pouring out all his scorn and contempt. But
again he restrained himself.

"You are excited," he said, coolly. "One of these days you will find
out your mistake. You will learn, as you grow older, that the name of
Chetwynde can not be coupled with charges like these. In the mean
time allow me to advise you not to be quite so free in your language
when you are addressing honorable gentlemen; and to suggest that your
father, who loved you better than any one in the world, may possibly
have had _some_ cause for the confidence which he felt in us."

There was a coolness in Guy's tone which showed that he did not think
it worth while to be angry with her, or to resent her insults. But
Zillah did not notice this. She went on as before:

"There is one thing which I will never forgive."

"Indeed? Well, your forgiveness is so very important that I should
like to know what it is that prevents me from gaining it."

"The way in which I have been deceived!" burst forth Zillah,
fiercely, "if papa had wished to give you half of his money, or all
of it, I should not have cared a bit. I do not care for that at all.
But why did nobody tell me the truth? Why was I told that it was out
of regard to _me_ that this horror, this frightful mockery of
marriage, was forced upon me, while my heart was breaking with
anxiety about my father; when to you I was only a necessary evil,
without which you could not hope to get my father's money; and the
only good I can possibly have is the future privilege of living in a
place whose very name I loathe, with the man who has cheated me, and
whom all my life I shall hate and abhor? Now go! and I pray God I may
never see you again."

With these words, and without waiting for a reply, she left the room,
leaving Guy in a state of mind by no means enviable.

He stood staring after her. "And that thing is mine for life!" he
thought; "that she-devil! utterly destitute of sense and of reason!
Oh, Chetwynde, Chetwynde! you have cost me dear. See you again, my
fiend of a wife! I hope not. No, never while I live. Some of these
days I'll give you back your sixty thousand with interest. And you,
why you may go to the devil forever!"

Half an hour afterward Guy was seated in the dog-cart bowling to the
station as fast as two thorough-breds could take him; every moment
congratulating himself on the increasing distance which was
separating him from his bride of an hour.

The doctor watched all that night. On the following morning the
General was senseless. On the next day he died.



CHAPTER XI.


A NEW HOME.


Dearly had Zillah paid for that frenzy of her dying father; and the
consciousness that her whole life was now made over irrevocably to
another, brought to her a pang so acute that it counterbalanced the
grief which she felt for her father's death. Fierce anger and bitter
indignation nation struggled with the sorrow of bereavement, and
sometimes, in her blind rage, she even went so far as to reproach her
father's memory. On all who had taken part in that fateful ceremony
she looked with vengeful feelings. She thought, and there was reason
in the thought, that they might have satisfied his mind without
binding her. They could have humored his delirium without forfeiting
her liberty. They could have had a mock priest, who might have read a
service which would have had no authority, and imposed vows which
would not be binding. On Guy she looked with the deepest scorn, for
she believed that he was the chief offender, and that if he had been
a man of honor he might have found many ways to avoid this thing.
Possibly Guy as he drove off was thinking the same, and cursing his
dull wit for not doing something to delay the ceremony or make it
void. But to both it was now too late.

The General's death took place too soon for Zillah. Had he lived she
might have been spared long sorrows. Had it not been for this, and
his frantic haste in forcing on a marriage, her early betrothal might
have had different results. Guy would have gone to India. He would
have remained there for years, and then have come home. On his return
he might possibly have won her love, and then they could have settled
down harmoniously in the usual fashion. But now she found herself
thrust upon him, and the very thought of him was a horror. Never
could the remembrance of that hideous mockery at the bedside of one
so dear, who was passing away forever, leave her mind. All the
solemnities of death had been outraged, and all her memories of the
dying hours of her best friend were forever associated with
bitterness and shame.

For some time after her father's death she gave herself up to the
motions of her wild and ungovernable temper. Alternations of savage
fury and mute despair succeeded to one another. To one like her there
was no relief from either mood; and, in addition to this, there was
the prospect of the arrival of Lord Chetwynde. The thought of this
filled her with such a passion of anger that she began to meditate
flight. She mentioned this to Hilda, with the idea that of course
Hilda would go with her.

Hilda listened in her usual quiet way, and with a great appearance of
sympathy. She assented to it, and quite appreciated Zillah's
position. But she suggested that it might be difficult to carry out
such a plan without money.

"Money!" said Zillah, in astonishment. "Why, have I not plenty of
money? All is mine now surely."

"Very likely," said Hilda, coolly; "but how do you propose to get it?
You know the lawyer has all the papers, and every thing else under
lock and key till Lord Chetwynde comes, and the will is read;
besides, dear," she added with a soft smile, "you forget that a
married woman can not possess property. Our charming English law
gives her no rights. All that you nominally possess in reality
belongs to your husband."

At this hated word "husband," Zillah's eyes flashed. She clenched her
hands, and ground her teeth in rage.

"Be quiet!" she cried, in a voice which was scarce audible from
passion. "Can you not let me forget my shame and disgrace for one
moment? Why must you thrust it in my face?"

Hilda's little suggestion thus brought full before Zillah's mind one
galling yet undeniable truth, which showed her an insurmountable
obstacle in the way of her plan. To one utterly unaccustomed to
control of any kind, the thought added fresh rage, and she now sought
refuge in thinking how she could best encounter her new enemy, Lord
Chetwynde, and what she might say to show how she scorned him and his
son. She succeeded in arranging a very promising plan of action, and
made up many very bitter and insulting speeches, out of which she
selected one which seemed to be the most cutting, galling, and
insulting which she could think of. It was very nearly the same
language which she had used to Guy, and the same taunts were repeated
in a somewhat more pointed manner.

At length Lord Chetwynde arrived, and Zillah, after refusing to see
him for two days, went down. She entered the drawing-room, her heart
on fire, and her brain seething with bitter words, and looked up to
see her enemy. That enemy, however, was an old man whose sight was
too dim to see the malignant glance of her dark eyes, and the fierce
passion of her face. Knowing that she was coming, he was awaiting
her, and Zillah on looking up saw him. That first sight at once
quelled her fury. She saw a noble and refined face, whereon there was
an expression of tenderest sympathy. Before she could recover from
the shock which the sight of such a face had given to her passion he
had advanced rapidly toward her, took her in his arms, and kissed her
tenderly.

"My poor child," he said, in a voice of indescribable sweetness--"my
poor orphan child, I can not tell how I feel for you; but you belong
to me now. I will try to be another father."

The tones of his voice were so full of affection that Zillah, who was
always sensitive to the power of love and kindness, was instantly
softened and subdued. Before the touch of that kiss of love and those
words of tenderness every emotion of anger fled away; her passion
subsided; she forgot all her vengeance, and, taking his hand in both
of hers, she burst into tears.

The Earl gently led her to a seat. In a low voice full of the same
tender affection he began to talk of her father, of their old
friendship in the long-vanished youth, of her father's noble nature,
and self-sacrificing character; till his fond eulogies of his dead
friend awakened in Zillah, even amidst her grief for the dead, a
thousand reminiscences of his character when alive, and she began to
feel that one who so knew and loved her father must himself have been
most worthy to be her father's friend.

It was thus that her first interview with the Earl dispelled her
vindictive passion. At once she began to look upon him as the one who
was best adapted to fill her father's place, if that place could ever
be filled. The more she saw of him, the more her new-born affection
for him strengthened, and during the week which he spent at Pomeroy
Court she had become so greatly changed that she looked back to her
old feelings of hate with mournful wonder.

In due time the General's will was read. It was very simple: Thirty
thousand pounds were left to Zillah. To Hilda three thousand pounds
were left as a tribute of affection to one who had been to him, as he
said, "like a daughter."

Hilda he recommended most earnestly to the care and affection of Lord
Chetwynde, and desired that she and Zillah should never be separated
unless they themselves desired it. To that last request of his dying
friend Lord Chetwynde proved faithful. He addressed Hilda with
kindness and affection, expressed sympathy with her in the loss of
her benefactor, and promised to do all in his power to make good the
loss which she had suffered in his death. She and Zillah, he told
her, might live as sisters in Chetwynde Castle. Perhaps the time
might come when their grief would be alleviated, and then they would
both learn to look upon him with something of that affection which
they had felt for General Pomeroy.

When Hilda and Zillah went with the Earl to Chetwynde Castle there
was one other who was invited there, and who afterward followed. This
was Gualtier. Hilda had recommended him; and as the Earl was very
anxious that Zillah should not grow up to womanhood without further
education, he caught at the idea which Hilda had thrown out. So
before leaving he sought out Gualtier, and proposed that he should
continue his instructions at Chetwynde.

"You can live very well in the village," said the Earl. "There are
families there with whom you can lodge comfortably. Mrs. Molyneux is
acquainted with you and your style of teaching, and therefore I would
prefer you to any other."

Gualtier bowed so low that the flush of pleasure which came over his
sallow face, and his smile of ill-concealed triumph, could not be
seen.

"You are too kind, my lord," he said, obsequiously. "I have always
done my best in my instructions, and will humbly endeavor to do so in
the future."

So Gualtier followed them, and arrived at Chetwynde a short time
after them, bearing with him his power, or perhaps his fate, to
influence Zillah's fortunes and future.

Chetwynde Castle had experienced some changes during these years. The
old butler had been gathered to his fathers, but Mrs. Hart still
remained. The Castle itself and the grounds had changed wonderfully
for the better. It had lost that air of neglect, decay, and ruin
which had formerly been its chief characteristic. It was no longer
poverty-stricken. It arose, with its antique towers and venerable
ivy-grown walls, exhibiting in its outline all that age possesses of
dignity, without any of the meanness of neglect. It seemed like one
of the noblest remains which England possessed of the monuments of
feudal times. The first sight of it elicited a cry of admiration from
Zillah; and she found not the least of its attractions in the figure
of the old Earl--himself a monument of the past--whose figure, as he
stood on the steps to welcome them, formed a fore-ground which an
artist would have loved to portray.

Around the Castle all had changed. What had once been little better
than a wilderness was now a wide and well-kept park. The rose
pleasaunce had been restored to its pristine glory. The lawns were
smooth-shaven and glowing in their rich emerald-green. The lakes and
ponds were no longer overgrown with dank rushes; but had been
reclaimed from being little better than marshes into bright expanses
of clear water, where fish swam and swans loved to sport. Long
avenues and cool, shadowy walks wound far away through the groves;
and the stately oaks and elms around the Castle had lost that ghostly
and gloomy air which had once been spread about them.

Within the Castle every thing had undergone a corresponding change.
There was no attempt at modern splendor, no effort to rival the
luxuries of the wealthier lords of England. The Earl had been content
with arresting the progress of decay, and adding to the restoration
of the interior some general air of modern comfort. Within, the scene
corresponded finely to that which lay without; and the medieval
character of the interior made it attractive to Zillah's peculiar
taste.

The white-faced, mysterious-looking housekeeper, as she looked sadly
and wistfully at the new-comers, and asked in a tremulous voice which
was Guy's wife, formed for Zillah a striking incident in the arrival.
To her Zillah at once took a strong liking, and Mrs. Hart seemed to
form one equally strong for her. From the very first her affection
for Zillah was very manifest, and as the days passed it increased.
She seemed to cling to the young girl as though her loving nature
needed something on which to expend its love; as though there was a
maternal instinct which craved to be satisfied, and sought such
satisfaction in her. Zillah returned her tender affection with a
fondness which would have satisfied the most exigeant nature. She
herself had never known the sweetness of a mother's care, and it
seemed as though she had suddenly found out all this. The discovery
was delightful to so affectionate a nature as hers; and her
enthusiastic disposition made her devotion to Mrs. Hart more marked.
She often wondered to herself why Mrs. Hart had "taken such a fancy"
to her. And so did the other members of the household. Perhaps it was
because she was the wife of Guy, who was so dear to the heart of his
affectionate old nurse. Perhaps it was something in Zillah herself
which attracted Mrs. Hart, and made her seek in her one who might
fill Guy's place.

Time passed away, and Gualtier arrived, in accordance with the Earl's
request. Zillah had supposed that she was now free forever from all
teachers and lessons, and it was with some dismay that she heard of
Gualtier's arrival. She said nothing, however, but prepared to go
through the form of taking lessons in music and drawing as before.
She had begun already to have a certain instinct of obedience toward
the Earl, and felt desirous to gratify his wishes. But whatever
changes of feeling she had experienced toward her new guardian, she
showed no change of manner toward Gualtier. To her, application to
any thing was a thing as irksome as ever. Perhaps her fitful efforts
to advance were more frequent; but after each effort she used
invariably to relapse into idleness and tedium.

Her manner troubled Gualtier as little as ever. He let her have her
own way quite in the old style. Hilda, as before, was always present
at these instructions; and after the hour devoted to Zillah had
expired she had lessons of her own. But Gualtier remarked that, for
some reason or other, a great change had come over her. Her attitude
toward him had relapsed into one of reticence and reserve. The
approaches to confidence and familiarity which she had formerly made
seemed now to be completely forgotten by her. The stealthy
conversations in which they used to indulge were not renewed. Her
manner was such that he did not venture to enter upon his former
footing. True, Zillah was always in the room now, and did not leave
so often as she used to do, but still there were times when they were
alone; yet on these occasions Hilda showed no desire to return to
that intimacy which they had once known in their private interviews.


[Illustration: "The White-Faced, Mysterious-Looking Housekeeper Asked
In A Tremulous Voice Which was Guy's Wife."]


This new state of things Gualtier bore meekly and patiently. He was
either too respectful or too cunning to make any advances himself.
Perhaps he had a deep conviction that Hilda's changed manner was but
temporary, and that the purpose which she had once revealed might
still be cherished in her heart. True, the General's death had
changed the aspect of affairs; but he had his reasons for believing
that it could not altogether destroy her plans. He had a deep
conviction that the time would come one day when he would know what
was on her mind. He was patient. He could wait. So the time went on.

As the time passed the life at Chetwynde Castle became more and more
grateful to Zillah. Naturally affectionate, her heart had softened
under its new trials and experiences, and there was full chance for
the growth of those kindly and generous emotions which, after all,
were most natural and congenial to her. In addition to her own
affection for the Earl and for Mrs. Hart, she found a constraint on
her here which she had not known while living the life of a spoiled
and indulged child in her own former home. The sorrow through which
she had passed had made her less childish. The Earl began in reality
to seem to her like a second father, one whom she could both revere
and love.

Very soon after her first acquaintance with him she found out that by
no possibility could he be a party to any thing dishonorable. Finding
thus that her first suspicions were utterly unfounded, she began to
think it possible that her marriage, though odious in itself, had
been planned with a good intent. To think Lord Chetwynde mercenary
was impossible. His character was so high-toned, and even so
punctilious in its regard to nice points of honor, that he was not
even worldly wise. With the mode in which her marriage had been
finally carried out he had clearly nothing whatever to do. Of all her
suspicions, her anger against an innocent and noble-minded man, and
her treatment of him on his first visit to Pomeroy Court, she now
felt thoroughly ashamed. She longed to tell him all about it--to
explain why it was that she had felt so and done so--and waited for
some favorable opportunity for making her confession.

At length an opportunity occurred. One day the Earl was speaking of
her father, and he told Zillah about his return to England, and his
visit to Chetwynde Castle; and finally told how the whole arrangement
had been made between them by which she had become Guy's wife. He
spoke with such deep affection about General Pomeroy, and so
feelingly of his intense love for his daughter, that at last Zillah
began to understand perfectly the motives of the actors in this
matter. She saw that in the whole affair, from first to last, there
was nothing but the fondest thought of herself, and that the very
money itself, which she used to think had "purchased her," was in
some sort an investment for her own benefit in the future. As the
whole truth flashed suddenly into Zillah's mind she saw now most
clearly not only how deeply she had wronged Lord Chetwynde, but
also--and now for the first time--how foully she had insulted Guy by
her malignant accusations. To a generous nature like hers the shock
of this discovery was intensely painful. Tears started to her eyes,
she twined her arms around Lord Chetwynde's neck, and told him the
whole story, not excepting a single word of all that she had said to
Guy.

"And I told him," she concluded, "all this--I said that he was a mean
fortune-hunter; and that you had cheated papa out of his money; and
that I hated him--and oh! will you ever forgive me?"

This was altogether a new and unexpected disclosure to the Earl, and
he listened to Zillah in unfeigned astonishment. Guy had told him
nothing beyond the fact communicated in a letter--that "whatever his
future wife might be remarkable for, he did not think that amiability
was her forte." But all this revelation, unexpected though it was,
excited no feeling of resentment in his mind.

"My child," said he, tenderly, though somewhat sadly, "you certainly
behaved very ill. Of course you could not know us; but surely you
might have trusted your father's love and wisdom. But, after all,
there were a good many excuses for you, my poor little girl--so I
pity you very much indeed--it was a terrible ordeal for one so young.
I can understand more than you have cared to tell me."

"Ah, how kind, how good you are!" said Zillah, who had anticipated
some reproaches. "But I'll never forgive myself for doing you such
injustice."

"Oh, as to that," said Lord Chetwynde; "if you feel that you have
done any injustice, there is one way that I can tell you of by which
you can make full reparation. Will you try to make it, my little
girl?"

"What do you want me to do?" asked Zillah, hesitatingly, not wishing
to compromise herself. The first thought which she had was that he
was going to ask her to apologize to Guy--a thing which she would by
no means care about doing, even in her most penitent mood. Lord
Chetwynde was one thing; but Guy was quite another. The former she
loved dearly; but toward the latter she still felt resentment--a
feeling which was perhaps strengthened and sustained by the fact that
every one at Chetwynde looked upon her as a being who had been placed
upon the summit of human happiness by the mere fact of being Guy's
wife. To her it was intolerable to be valued merely for his sake.
Human nature is apt to resent in any case having its blessings
perpetually thrust in its face; but in this case what they called a
blessing, to her seemed the blackest horror of her life; and Zillah's
resentment was all the stronger; while all this resentment she
naturally vented on the head of the one who had become her husband.
She could manage to tolerate his praises when sounded by the Earl,
but hardly so with the others. Mrs. Hart was most trying to her
patience in this respect; and it needed all Zillah's love for her to
sustain her while listening to the old nurse as she grew eloquent on
her favorite theme. Zillah felt like the Athenian who was bored to
death by the perpetual praise of Aristides. If she had no other
complaint against him, this might of itself have been enough.

The fear, however, which was in her mind as to the reparation which
was expected of her was dispelled by Lord Chetwynde's answer:

"I want you, my child," said he, "to try and improve yourself--to get
on as fast as you can with your masters, so that when the time comes
for you to take your proper place in society you may be equal to
ladies of your own rank in education and accomplishments. I want to
be proud of my daughter when I show her to the world."

"And so you shall," said Zillah, twining her arms again about his
neck and kissing him fondly. "I promise you that from this time
forward I will try to study."

He kissed her lovingly. "I am sure," said he, "that you will keep
your word, my child; and now," he added, "one thing more: How much
longer do you intend to keep up this 'Lord Chetwynde?' I must be
called by another name by you--not the name by which you called your
own dear father--that is too sacred to be given to any other. But
have I not some claim to be called 'Father,' dear? Or does not my
little Zillah care enough for me for that?"

At this the warm-hearted girl flung her arms around him once more and
kissed him, and burst into tears.

"Dear father!" she murmured.

And from that moment perfect confidence and love existed between
these two.



[Illustration.]


CHAPTER XII.


CORRESPONDENCE.


Time sped rapidly and uneventfully by. Guy's letters from India
formed almost the only break in the monotony of the household. Zillah
soon found herself, against her will, sharing in the general
eagerness respecting these letters. It would have been a very strong
mind indeed, or a very obdurate heart, which could have remained
unmoved at Lord Chetwynde's delight when he received his boy's
letters. Their advent was also the Hegira from which every thing in
the family dated. Apart, however, from the halo which surrounded
these letters, they were interesting in themselves. Guy wrote easily
and well. His letters to his father were half familiar, half filial;
a mixture of love and good-fellowship, showing a sort of union, so to
speak, of the son with the younger brother. They were full of humor
also, and made up of descriptions of life in the East, with all its
varied wonders. Besides this, Guy happened to be stationed at the
very place where General Pomeroy had been Resident for so many years;
and he himself had command of one of the hill stations where Zillah
herself had once been sent to pass the summer. These places of which
Guy's letters treated possessed for her a peculiar interest,
surrounded as they were by some of the pleasantest associations of
her life; and thus, from very many causes, it happened that she
gradually came to take an interest in these letters which increased
rather than diminished. In one of these there had once come a note
inclosed to Zillah, condoling with her on her father's death. It was
manly and sympathetic, and not at all stiff. Zillah had received it
when her bitter feelings were in the ascendant, and did not think of
answering it until Hilda urged on her the necessity of doing so. It
is just possible that if Hilda had made use of different arguments
she might have persuaded Zillah to send some sort of an answer, if
only to please the Earl. The arguments, however, which she did use
happened to be singularly ill chosen. The "husband" loomed largely in
them, and there were very many direct allusions to marital authority.
As these were Zillah's sorest points, such references only served to
excite fresh repugnance, and strengthen Zillah's determination not to
write. Hilda, however, persisted in her efforts; and the result was
that finally, at the end of one long and rather stormy discussion,
Zillah passionately threw the letter at her, saying:

"If you are so anxious to have it answered, do it yourself. It is a
world of pities he is not your husband instead of mine, you seem so
wonderfully anxious about him."

"It is unkind of you to say that," replied Hilda, in a meek voice,
"when you know so well that my sympathy and anxiety are all for you,
and you alone. You argue with me as though I had some interest in it;
but what possible interest can it be to me?"

"Oh, well, dearest Hilda," said Zillah, instantly appeased; "I'm
always pettish; but you won't mind, will you? You never mind my
ways."

"I've a great mind to take you at your word," said Hilda, after a
thoughtful pause, "and write it for you. It ought to be answered, and
you won't; so why should I not do the part of a friend, and answer it
for you?"

Zillah started, and seemed just a little nettled.

"Oh, I don't care," she said, with assumed indifference. "If you
choose to take the trouble, why I am sure I ought to be under
obligations to you. At any rate, I shall be glad to get rid of it so
long as I have nothing to do with it. I suppose it must be done."

Hilda made some protestations of her devotion to Zillah, and some
further conversation followed, all of which resulted in this--that
_Hilda wrote the letter in Zillah's name_, and signed that name _in
her own hand_, and under Zillah's own eye, and with Zillah's
half-reluctant, half-pettish concurrence.

Out of this beginning there flowed results of an important character,
which were soon perceived even by Zillah, though she was forced to
keep her feelings to herself. Occasional notes came afterward from
time to time for Zillah, and were answered in the same way by Hilda.
All this Zillah endured quietly, but with real repugnance, which
increased until the change took place in her feelings which has been
mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, when she at length
determined to put an end to such an anomalous state of things and
assert herself. It was difficult to do so. She loved Hilda dearly,
and placed perfect confidence in her. She was too guileless to dream
of any sinister motive in her friend; and the only difficulty of
which she was conscious was the fear that Hilda might suspect the
change in her feelings toward Guy. The very idea of Hilda's finding
this out alarmed her sensitive pride, and made her defer for a long
time her intent. At length, however, she felt unable to do so any
longer, and determined to run the risk of disclosing the state of her
feelings.

So one day, after the receipt of a note to herself, a slight degree
more friendly than usual, she hinted to Hilda rather shyly that she
would like to answer it herself.

"Oh, I am so glad, darling!" cried Hilda, enthusiastically. "It will
be so much nicer for you to do it yourself. It will relieve me from
embarrassment, for, after all, my position was embarrassing--writing
for you always--and then, you know, you will write far better letters
than I can."

"It will be a Heaven-born gift, then," returned Zillah, laughing, "as
I never wrote a letter in my life."

"That is nothing," said Hilda. "I write for another; but you will be
writing for yourself, and that makes all the difference in the world,
you know."

"Well, perhaps so. You see, Hilda, I have taken a fancy to try my
hand at it," said Zillah, laughingly, full of delight at the ease
with which she had gained her desire. "You see," she went on, with
unusual sprightliness of manner, "I got hold of a 'Complete
Letter-Writer' this morning; and the beauty, elegance, and even
eloquence of those amazing compositions have so excited me that I
want to emulate them. Now it happens that Guy is the only
correspondent that I have, and so he must be my first victim."


So saying, Zillah laughingly opened her desk, while Hilda's dark eyes
regarded her with sharp and eager watchfulness. "You must not make it
too eloquent, dear," said she. "Remember the very commonplace
epistles that you have been giving forth in your name."

"Don't be alarmed," said Zillah. "If it is not exactly like a child's
first composition we shall all have great cause for thankfulness."

So saying, she took out a sheet of paper.

"Here," said she, "is an opportunity of using some of this
elaborately monogrammed paper which poor darling papa got for me,
because I wanted to see how they could work my unpromising 'Z' into a
respectable cipher. They have made it utterly illegible, and I
believe that is the great point to be attained."

Thus rattling on, she dated her letter, and began to write. She wrote
as far as

"MY DEAR GUY"--Then she stopped, and read it aloud.--"This is really
getting most exciting," she said, in high good-humor. "Now what comes
next? To find a beginning--there's the rub. I must turn to my
'Complete Letter-Writer.' Let me see. '_Letter from a Son at
School_'--that won't do. '_From a Lady to a Lover returning a
Miniature_--nor that. '_From a Suitor requesting to be allowed to pay
his attentions to a Lady_'--worse and worse. '_From a Father
declining the application of a Suitor for his Daughter's
hand_'--absurd! Oh, here we are--'_From a Wife to a Husband who is
absent on urgent business_.' Oh, listen, Hilda!" and Zillah read:

"'_BELOVED AND HONORED HUSBAND,--The grief which wrung my heart at
your departure has been mitigated by the delight which I experienced
at the receipt of your most welcome letters_.' Isn't that delightful?
Unluckily his departure didn't wring my heart at all, and, worse
still, I have no grief at his absence to be mitigated by his letters.
Alas! I'm afraid mine must be an exceptional case, for even my
'Complete Letter-Writer,' my vade-mecum, which goes into such
charming details, can not help me. After all I suppose I must use my
own poor brains."

After all this nonsense Zillah suddenly grew serious. Hilda seemed to
understand the cause of her extravagant volatility, and watched her
closely. Zillah began to write, and went on rapidly, without a
moment's hesitation; without any signs whatever of that childish
inexperience at which she had hinted. Her pen flew over the paper
with a speed which seemed to show that she had plenty to say, and
knew perfectly well how to say it. So she went on until she had
filled two pages, and was proceeding to the third. Then an
exclamation from Hilda caused her to look up.

"My dear Zillah," cried Hilda, who was sitting in a chair a little
behind her, "what in the world are you thinking of? From this
distance I can distinguish your somewhat peculiar caligraphy--with
its bold down strokes and decided 'character,' that people talk
about. Now, as you know that I write a little, cramped, German hand,
you will have to imitate my humble handwriting, or else I'm afraid
Captain Molyneux will be thoroughly puzzled--unless, indeed, you tell
him that you have been employing an amanuensis. That will require a
good deal of explanation, but--" she added, after a thoughtful pause,
"I dare say it will be the best in the end."

At these words Zillah started, dropped her pen, and sat looking at
Hilda perfectly aghast. "I never thought of that," she murmured, and
sat with an expression of the deepest dejection. At length a long
sigh escaped her. "You are right, Hilda," she said. "Of course it
will need explanation; but how is it possible to do that in a letter?
It can't be done. At least I can't do it. What shall I do?"

She was silent, and sat for a long time, looking deeply vexed and
disappointed.

"Of course," she said at last, "he will have to know all when he
comes back; but that is nothing. How utterly stupid it was in me not
to think of the difference in our writing! And now I suppose I must
give up my idea of writing a letter. It is really hard--I have not a
single correspondent."

Her deep disappointment, her vexation, and her feeble attempt to
conceal her emotions, were not lost upon the watchful Hilda. But the
latter showed no signs that she had noticed any thing.

"Oh, don't give it up!" she answered, with apparent eagerness. "I
dare say you can copy my hand accurately enough to avoid detection.
Here is a note I wrote yesterday. See if you can't imitate that, and
make your writing as like mine as possible."

So saying she drew a note from her pocket and handed it to Zillah.
The other took it eagerly, and began to try to imitate it, but a few
strokes showed her the utter impossibility of such an undertaking.
She threw down the pen, and leaning her head upon her hand, sat
looking upon the floor in deeper dejection than ever.

"I can't copy such horrid cramped letters," she said, pettishly; "why
should you write such a hand? Besides, I feel as if I were really
forging, or doing something dreadful. I suppose," she added, with
unconcealed bitterness of tone, "we shall have to go on as we began,
and you must be _Zillah Molyneux_ for some time longer."

Hilda laughed.

"Talk of forging!" she said. "What is forging if that is not? But
really, Zillah, darling, you seem to me to show more feeling about
this than I ever supposed you could possibly be capable of. Are you
aware that your tone is somewhat bitter, and that if I were sensitive
I might feel hurt? Do you mean by what you said to lay any blame to
me?"

She spoke so sadly and reproachfully that Zillah's heart smote her.
At once her disappointment and vexation vanished at the thought that
she had spoken unkindly to her friend.

"Hilda!" she cried, "you can not think that I am capable of such
ingratitude. You have most generously given me your services all this
time. You have been right, from the very first, and I have been
wrong. You have taken a world of trouble to obviate the difficulties
which my own obstinacy and temper have caused. If any trouble could
possibly arise, I only could be to blame. But, after all, none can
arise. I'm sure Captain Molyneux will very readily believe that I
disliked him too much when he first went away to dream of writing to
him. He certainly had every reason for thinking so."

"Shall you tell him that?" said Hilda, mildly, without referring to
Zillah's apologies.

"Certainly I shall," said Zillah, "if the opportunity ever arises.
The simple truth is always the easiest and the best. I think he is
already as well aware as he can be of that fact; and, after all, why
should I, or how could I, have liked him under the circumstances? I
knew nothing of him whatever; and every thing--yes, every thing, was
against him."

"You know no more of him now," said Hilda; "and yet, though you are
very reticent on the subject, I have a shrewd suspicion, my darling,
that you do not dislike him."

As she spoke she looked earnestly at Zillah as if to read her inmost
soul.

Zillah was conscious of that sharp, close scrutiny, and blushed
crimson, as this question which thus concerned her most sacred
feelings was brought home to her so suddenly. But she answered, as
lightly as she could:

"How can you say that, or even hint at it? How absurd you are, Hilda!
I know no more of him now than I knew before. Of course I hear very
much about him at Chetwynde, but what of that? He certainly pervades
the whole atmosphere of the house. The one idea of Lord Chetwynde is
Guy; and as for Mrs. Hart, I think if he wished to use her for a
target she would be delighted. Death at such hands would be bliss to
her. She treasures up every word he has ever spoken, from his
earliest infancy to the present day."

"And I suppose that is enough to account for the charm which you seem
to find in her society," rejoined Hilda. "It has rather puzzled me, I
confess. For my own part I have never been able to break through the
reserve which she chooses to throw around her. I can not get beyond
the barest civilities with her, though I'm sure I've tried to win her
good-will more than I ever tried before, which is rather strange,
for, after all, there is no reason whatever why I should try any
thing of the kind. She seems to have a very odd kind of feeling
toward me. She looks at me sometimes so strangely that she positively
gives me an uncomfortable feeling. She seems frightened to death if
my dress brushes against hers. She shrinks away. I believe she is not
sane. In fact, I'm sure of it."

"Poor old Mrs. Hart!" said Zillah. "I suppose she does seem a little
odd to you; but I know her well, and I assure you she is as far
removed from insanity as I am. Still she is undoubtedly queer. Do you
know, Hilda, she seems to me to have had some terrible sorrow which
has crushed all her spirit and almost her very life. I have no idea
whatever of her past life. She is very reticent. She never even so
much as hints at it."

"I dare say she has very good reasons," interrupted Hilda. "Don't
talk that way about her, dear Hilda. You are too ill-natured, and I
can't bear to have ill-natured things said about the dear old thing.
You don't know her as I do, or you would never talk so."

"Oh, Zillah--really--you feel my little pleasantries too much. It was
only a thoughtless remark."

"She seems to me," said Zillah, musingly, after a thoughtful silence,
"to be a very--very mysterious person. Though I love her dearly, I
see that there is some mystery about her. Whatever her history may be
she is evidently far above her present position, for when she does
allow herself to talk she has the manner and accent of a refined
lady. Yes, there is a deep mystery about her, which is utterly beyond
my comprehension. I remember once when she had been talking for a
long time about Guy and his wonderful qualities, I suddenly happened
to ask her some trivial question about her life before she came to
Chetwynde; but she looked at me so wild and frightened, that she
really startled me. I was so terrified that I instantly changed the
conversation, and rattled on so as to give her time to recover
herself, and prevent her from discovering my feelings."

"Why, how very romantic!" said Hilda, with a smile. "You seem, from
such circumstances, to have brought yourself to consider our very
prosaic housekeeper as almost a princess in disguise. I, for my part,
look upon her as a very common person, so weak-minded, to say the
least, as to be almost half-witted. As to her accent, that is
nothing. I dare say she has seen better days. I have heard more than
once of ladies in destitute or reduced circumstances who have been
obliged to take to housekeeping. After all, it is not bad. I'm sure
it must be far better than being a governess."

"Well, if I am romantic, you are certainly prosaic enough. At all
events I love Mrs. Hart dearly. But come, Hilda, if you are going to
write you must do so at once, for the letters are to be posted this
afternoon."

Hilda instantly went to the desk and began her task. Zillah, however,
went away. Her chagrin and disappointment were so great that she
could not stay, and she even refused afterward to look at the note
which Hilda showed her. In fact, after that she would never look at
them at all.

Some time after this Zillah and Mrs. Hart were together on one of
those frequent occasions which they made use of for confidential
interviews. Somehow Zillah had turned the conversation from. Guy in
person to the subject of her correspondence, and gradually told all
to Mrs. Hart. At this she looked deeply shocked and grieved.

"That girl," she said, "has some secret motive."

She spoke with a bitterness which Zillah had never before noticed in
her.

"Secret motive!" she repeated, in wonder; "what in the world do you
mean?"

"She is bad and deceitful," said Mrs. Hart, with energy; "you are
trusting your life and honor in the hands of a false friend."

Zillah started back and looked at Mrs. Hart in utter wonder.

"I know," said she at last, "that you don't like Hilda, but I feel
hurt when you use such language about her. She is my oldest and
dearest friend. She is my sister virtually. I have known her all my
life, and know her to her heart's core. She is incapable of any
dishonorable action, and she loves me like herself."

All Zillah's enthusiastic generosity was aroused in defending against
Mrs. Hart's charge a friend whom she so dearly loved.

Mrs. Hart sadly shook her head.

"My dear child," said she, "you know I would not hurt your feelings
for the world. I am sorry. I will say nothing more about _her_, since
you love her. But don't you feel that you are in a very false
position?"

"But what can I do? There is the difficulty about the handwriting.
And then it has gone on so long."

"Write to him at all hazards," said Mrs. Hart, "and tell him every
thing."

Zillah shook her head.

"Well, then--will you let me?"

"How can I? No; it must be done by myself--if it ever is done; and as
to writing it myself--I can not."

Such a thought was indeed abhorrent. After all it seemed to her in
itself nothing. She employed an amanuensis to compose those formal
notes which went in her name. And what fault was there? To Mrs. Hart,
whose whole life was bound up in Guy, it was impossible to look at
this matter except as to how it affected him. But Zillah had other
feelings--other memories. The very proposal to write a "confession"
fired her heart with stern indignation. At once all her resentment
was roused. Memory brought back again in vivid colors that hideous
mockery of a marriage over the death-bed of her father, with
reference to which, in spite of her changed feelings, she had never
ceased to think that it might have been avoided, and ought to have
been. Could she stoop to confess to this man any thing whatever?
Impossible!

Mrs. Hart did not know Zillah's thoughts. She supposed she was trying
to find a way to extricate herself from her difficulty. So she made
one further suggestion.

"Why not tell all to Lord Chetwynde? Surely you can do that easily
enough. He will understand all, and explain all."

"I can not," said Zillah, coldly. "It would be doubting my
friend--the loving friend who is to me the same as a sister--who is
the only companion I have ever had. She is the one that I love
dearest on earth, and to do any thing apart from her is impossible.
You do not know her--I do--and I love her. For her I would give up
every other friend."

At this Mrs. Hart looked sadly away, and then the matter of the
letters ended. It was never again brought up.



CHAPTER XIII.


POMEROY COURT REVISITED.


Over a year had passed away since Zillah had come to live at
Chetwynde Castle, and she had come at length to find her new home
almost as dear to her as the old one. Still that old home was far
from being forgotten. At first she never mentioned it; but at length
as the year approached its close, there came over her a great longing
to revisit the old place, so dear to her heart and so well
remembered. She hinted to Lord Chetwynde what her desires were, and
the Earl showed unfeigned delight at finding that Zillah's grief had
become so far mitigated as to allow her to think of such a thing. So
he urged her by all means to go.

"But of course you can't go just yet," said he. "You must wait till
May, when the place will be at its best. Just now, at the end of
March, it will be too cold and damp."

"And you will go with me--will you not?" pleaded Zillah.

"If I can, my child; but you know very well that I am not able to
stand the fatigue of traveling."

"Oh, but you must make an effort and try to stand it this time. I can
not bear to go away and leave you behind."

Lord Chetwynde looked affectionately down at the face which was
upturned so lovingly toward his, and promised to go if he could. So
the weeks passed away; but when May came he had a severe attack of
gout, and though Zillah waited through all the month, until the
severity of the disease had relaxed, yet the Earl did not find
himself able to undertake such a journey. Zillah was therefore
compelled either to give up the visit or else to go without him. She
decided to do the latter. Roberts accompanied her, and her maid
Mathilde. Hilda too, of course, went with her, for to her it was as
great a pleasure as to Zillah to visit the old place, and Zillah
would not have dreamed of going any where without her.


[Illustration.]


Pomeroy Court looked very much as it had looked while Zillah was
living there. It had been well and even scrupulously cared for. The
grounds around showed marks of the closest attention. Inside, the old
housekeeper, who had remained after the General's death, with some
servants, had preserved every thing in perfect order, and in quite
the same state as when the General was living. This perfect
preservation of the past struck Zillah most painfully. As she
entered, the intermediate period of her life at Chetwynde seemed to
fade away. It was to her as though she were still living in her old
home. She half expected to see the form of her father in the hall.
The consciousness of her true position was violently forced upon her.
With the sharpness of the impression which was made upon her by the
unchanged appearance of the old home, there came another none less
sharp. If Pomeroy Court brought back to her the recollection of the
happy days once spent there, but now gone forever, it also brought to
her mind the full consciousness of her loss. To her it was _infandum
renovare dolorem_. She walked in a deep melancholy through the dear
familiar rooms. She lingered in profound abstraction and in the
deepest sadness over the mournful reminders of the past. She looked
over all the old home objects, stood in the old places, and sat in
the old seats. She walked in silence through all the house, and
finally went to her own old room, so loved, so well remembered. As
she crossed the threshold and looked around she felt her strength
give way. A great sob escaped her, and sinking into a chair where she
once used to sit in happier days, she gave herself up to her
recollections. For a long time she lost herself in these. Hilda had
left her to herself, as though her delicacy had prompted her not to
intrude upon her friend at such a moment; and Zillah thought of this
with a feeling of grateful affection. At length she resumed to some
degree her calmness, and summoning up all her strength, she went at
last to the chamber where that dread scene had been enacted--that
scene which seemed to her a double tragedy--that scene which had
burned itself in her memory, combining the horror of the death of her
dearest friend with the ghastly farce of a forced and unhallowed
marriage. In that place a full tide of misery rushed over her soul.
She broke down utterly. Chetwynde Castle, the Earl, Mrs. Hart, all
were forgotten. The past faded away utterly. This only was her true
home--this place darkened by a cloud which might never be dispelled.

"Oh, papa! Oh, papa!" she moaned, and flung herself upon the bed
where he had breathed his last.

But her sorrow now, though overwhelming, had changed from its old
vehemence. This change had been wrought in Zillah--the old,
unreasoning passion had left her. A real affliction had brought out,
by its gradual renovating and creative force, all the good that was
in her. That the uses of adversity are sweet, is a hackneyed
Shakspeareanism, but it is forever true, and nowhere was its truth
more fully displayed than here. Formerly it happened that an ordinary
check in the way of her desires was sufficient to send her almost
into convulsions; but now, in the presence of her great calamity, she
had learned to bear with patience all the ordinary ills of life. Her
father had spoiled her; by his death she had become regenerate.

This tendency of her nature toward a purer and loftier standard was
intensified by her visit to Pomeroy Court. Over her spirit there came
a profounder earnestness, caught from the solemn scenes in the midst
of which she found herself. Sorrow had subdued and quieted the wild
impulsive motions of her soul. This renewal of that sorrow in the
very place of its birth, deepened the effect of its first presence.
This visit did more for her intellectual and spiritual growth than
the whole past year at Chetwynde Castle.

They spent about a month here. Zillah, who had formerly been so
talkative and restless, now showed plainly the fullness of the change
that had come over her. She had grown into a life far more serious
and thoughtful than any which she had known before. She had ceased to
be a giddy and unreasoning girl. She had become a calm, grave,
thoughtful woman. But her calmness and gravity and thoughtfulness
were all underlaid and interpenetrated by the fervid vehemence of her
intense Oriental nature. Beneath the English exterior lay, deep
within her, the Hindu blood. She was of that sort which can be calm
in ordinary life--so calm as to conceal utterly all ordinary workings
of the fretful soul; but which, in the face of any great excitement,
or in the presence of any great wrong, will be all overwhelmed and
transformed into a furious tornado of passionate rage.

Zillah, thus silent and meditative, and so changed from her old self,
might well have awakened the wonder of her friend. But whatever Hilda
may have thought, and whatever wonder she may have felt, she kept it
all to herself; for she was naturally reticent, and so secretive that
she never expressed in words any feelings which she might have about
things that went on around her. If Zillah chose to stay by herself,
or to sit in her company without speaking a word, it was not in Hilda
to question her or to remonstrate with her. She rather chose to
accommodate herself to the temper of her friend. She could also be
meditative and profoundly silent. While Zillah had been talkative,
she had talked with her; now, in her silence, she rivaled her as
well. She could follow Zillah in all her moods.

At the end of a month they returned to Chetwynde Castle, and resumed
the life which they had been leading there. Zillah's new mood seemed
to Hilda, and to others also, to last much longer than any one of
those many moods in which she had indulged before. But this proved to
be more than a mood. It was a change.

The promise which she had given to the Earl she had tried to fulfill
most conscientiously. She really had striven as much as possible to
"study." That better understanding, born of affection, which had
arisen between them, had formed a new motive within her, and rendered
her capable of something like application. But it was not until after
her visit to Pomeroy Court that she showed any effort that was at all
adequate to the purpose before her. The change that then came over
her seemed to have given her a new control over herself. And so it
was that, at last, the hours devoted to her studies were filled up by
efforts that were really earnest, and also really effective.

Under these circumstances, it happened that Zillah began at last to
engross Gualtier's attention altogether, during the whole of the time
allotted to her; and if he had sought ever so earnestly, he could not
have found any opportunity for a private interview with Hilda. What
her wishes might be was not visible; for, whether she wished it or
not, she did not, in any way, show it. She was always the same--calm,
cool, civil, to her music-teacher, and devoted to her own share of
the studies. Those little "asides" in which they had once indulged
were now out of the question; and, even if a favorable occasion had
arisen, Gualtier would not have ventured upon the undertaking. He,
for his part, could not possibly know her thoughts: whether she was
still cherishing her old designs, or had given them up altogether. He
could only stifle his impatience, and wait, and watch, and wait. But
how was it with her? Was she, too, watching and waiting for some
opportunity? He thought so. But with what aim, or for what purpose?
That was the puzzle. Yet that there was something on her mind which
she wished to communicate to him he knew well; for it had at last
happened that Hilda had changed in some degree from her cool and
undemonstrative manner. He encountered sometimes--or thought that he
encountered--an earnest glance which she threw at him, on greeting
him, full of meaning, which told him this most plainly. It seemed to
him to say: Wait, wait, wait; when the time comes. I have that to say
which you will be glad to learn. What it might be he knew not, nor
could he conjecture; but he thought that it might still refer to the
secret of that mysterious cipher which had baffled them both.

Thus these two watched and waited. Months passed away, but no
opportunity for an interview arose. Of course, if Hilda had been
reckless, or if it had been absolutely necessary to have one, she
could easily have arranged it. The park was wide, full of lonely
paths and sequestered retreats, where meetings could have been had,
quite free from all danger of observation or interruption. She needed
only to slip a note into his hand, telling him to meet her at some
place there, and he would obey her will. But Hilda did not choose to
do any thing of the kind. Whatever she did could only be done by her
in strict accordance with _les convenances_. She would have waited
for months before she would consent to compromise herself so far as
to solicit a stolen interview. It was not the dread of discovery,
however, that deterred her; for, in a place like Chetwynde, that need
not have been feared, and if she had been so disposed, she could have
had an interview with Gualtier every week, which no one would have
found out. The thing which deterred her was something very different
from this. It was her own pride. She could not humble herself so far
as to do this. Such an act would be to descend from the position
which she at present occupied in his eyes. To compromise herself, or
in any way put herself in his power, was impossible for one like her.
It was not, however, from any thing like moral cowardice that she
held aloof from making an interview with him; nor was it from any
thing like conscientious scruples; nor yet from maidenly modesty. It
arose, most of all, from pride, and also from a profound perception
of the advantages enjoyed by one who fulfilled all that might be
demanded by the proprieties of life. Her aim was to see Gualtier
under circumstances that were unimpeachable--in the room where he had
a right to come. To do more than this might lower herself in his
eyes, and make him presumptuous.



CHAPTER XIV.


NEW DISCOVERIES.


At last the opportunity came for which they had waited so long. For
many months Zillah's application to her studies had been incessant,
and the Earl began to notice signs of weariness in her. His
conscience smote him, and his anxiety was aroused. He had recovered
from his gout, and as he felt particularly well he determined to take
Zillah on a long drive, thinking that the change would be beneficial
to her. He began to fear that he had brought too great a pressure to
bear on her, and that she in her new-born zeal for study might carry
her self-devotion too far, and do some injury to her health. Hilda
declined going, and Zillah and the Earl started off for the day.

On that day Gualtier came at his usual hour. On looking round the
room he saw no signs of Zillah, and his eyes brightened as they fell
on Hilda.

"Mrs. Molyneux," said she, after the usual civilities, "has gone out
for a drive. She will not take her lesson to-day."

"Ah, well, shall I wait till your hour arrives, or will you take your
lesson now?"

"Oh, you need not wait," said Hilda; "I will take my lesson now. I
think I will appropriate both hours."

There was a glance of peculiar meaning in Hilda's eyes which Gualtier
noticed, but he cast his eyes meekly upon the floor. He had an idea
that the long looked for revelation was about to be given, but he did
not attempt to hasten it in any way. He was afraid that any
expression of eagerness on his part might repel Hilda, and,
therefore, he would not endanger his position by asking for any
thing, but rather waited to receive what she might voluntarily offer.

Hilda, however, was not at all anxious to be asked. Now that she
could converse with Gualtier, and not compromise herself, she had
made up her mind to give him her confidence. It was safe to talk to
this man in this room. The servants were few. They were far away. No
one would dream of trying to listen. They were sitting close together
near the piano.

"I have something to say to you," said Hilda at last.

Gualtier looked at her with earnest inquiry, but said nothing.

"You remember, of course, what we were talking about the last time we
spoke to one another?"

"Of course, I have never forgotten that."

"It was nearly two years ago," said Hilda, "At one time I did not
expect that such a conversation could ever be renewed. With the
General's death all need for it seemed to be destroyed. But now that
need seems to have arisen again."

"Have you ever deciphered the paper?" asked Gualtier.

"Not more than before," said Hilda. "But I have made a discovery of
the very greatest importance; something which entirely confirms my
former suspicions gathered from the cipher. They are additional
papers which I will show you presently, and then you will see whether
I am right or not. I never expected to find any thing of the kind. I
found them quite by chance, while I was half mechanically carrying
out my old idea. After the General's death I lost all interest in the
matter for some time, for there seemed before me no particular
inducement to go on with it. But this discovery has changed the whole
aspect of the affair."

"What was it that you found?" asked Gualtier, who was full of
curiosity. "Was it the key to the cipher, or was it a full
explanation, or was it something different?"

"They were certain letters and business papers. I will show them to
you presently. But before doing so I want to begin at the beginning.
The whole of that cipher is perfectly familiar to me, all its
difficulties are as insurmountable as ever, and before I show you
these new papers I want to refresh your memory about the old ones.

"You remember, first of all," said she, "the peculiar character of that
cipher writing, and of my interpretation. The part that I
deciphered seemed to be set in the other like a wedge, and while this
was decipherable the other was not."

Gualtier nodded.

"Now I want you to read again the part that I deciphered," said
Hilda, and she handed him a piece of paper on which something was
written. Gualtier took it and read the following, which the reader
has already seen. Each sentence was numbered.


1._ Oh may God have mercy on my wretched soul Amen_
2. _O Pomeroy forged a hundred thousand dollars_
3. _O N Pomeroy eloped with poor Lady Chetwynde_
4. _She acted out of a mad impulse in flying_
5. _She listened to me and ran off with me_
6. _She was piqued at her husband's act_
7. _Fell in with Lady Mary Chetwynd_
8. _Expelled the army for gaming_
9. _N Pomeroy of Pomeroy Berks_
10. _O I am a miserable villain_


Gualtier looked over it and then handed it back.

"Yes," said he, "I remember, of course, for I happen to know every
word of it by heart."

"That is very well," said Hilda, approvingly. "And now I want to
remind you of the difficulties in my interpretation before going on
any further.

"You remember that these were, first, the con fusion in the way of
writing the name, for here there is 'O Pomeroy,' 'O N Pomeroy,' and
'N Pomeroy,' in so short a document.

"Next, there is the mixture of persons, the writer sometimes speaking
in the first person and sometimes in the third, as, for instance,
when he says, '_O N Pomeroy_ eloped with poor Lady Chetwynde;' and
then he says, 'She listened to _me_ and ran off with me.'

"And then there are the incomplete sentences, such as, 'Fell in with
Lady Mary Chetwynd'--'Expelled the army for gaming.'

"Lastly, there are two ways in which the lady's name is spelled,
'Chetwynde,' and 'Chetwynd.'

"You remember we decided that these might be accounted for in one of
two ways. Either, first, the writer, in copying it out, grew confused
in forming his cipher characters; or, secondly, he framed the whole
paper with a deliberate purpose to baffle and perplex."

"I remember all this," said Gualtier, quietly. "I have not forgotten
it."

"The General's death changed the aspect of affairs so completely,"
said Hilda, "and made this so apparently useless, that I thought you
might have forgotten at least these minute particulars. It is
necessary for you to have these things fresh in your mind, so as to
regard the whole subject thoroughly."

"But what good will any discovery be now?" asked Gualtier, with
unfeigned surprise. "The General is dead, and you can do nothing."

"The General is dead," said Hilda; "but the General's daughter
lives."

Nothing could exceed the bitterness of the tone in which she uttered
these words.

"His daughter! Of what possible concern can all this be to her?"
asked Gualtier, who wished to get at the bottom of Hilda's purpose.

"I should never have tried to strike at the General," said Hilda, "if
he had not had a daughter. It was not him that I wished to harm. It
was _her_."

"And now," said Gualtier, after a silence, "she is out of your reach.
She is Mrs. Molyneux. She will be the Countess of Chetwynde. How can
she be harmed?"

As he spoke he looked with a swift interrogative glance at Hilda, and
then turned away his eyes.

"True," said Hilda, cautiously and slowly; "she is beyond my reach.
Besides, you will observe that I was speaking of the past. I was
telling what I wished--not what I wish."

"That is precisely what I understood," said Gualtier. "I only asked
so as to know how your wishes now inclined. I am anxious to serve you
in any way."

"So you have said before, and I take you at your word," said Hilda,
calmly. "I have once before reposed confidence in you, and I intend
to do so again."

Gualtier bowed, and murmured some words of grateful acknowledgment.

"My work now," said Hilda, without seeming to notice him, "is one of
investigation. I merely wish to get to the bottom of a secret. It is
to this that I have concluded to invite your assistance."

"You are assured of that already, Miss Krieff," said Gualtier, in a
tone of deep devotion. "Call it investigation, or call it any thing
you choose, if you deign to ask my assistance I will do any thing and
dare any thing."

Hilda laughed harshly.

"In truth," said she, dryly, "this does not require much daring, but
it may cause trouble--it may also take up valuable time. I do not ask
for any risks, but rather for the employment of the most ordinary
qualities. Patience and perseverance will do all that I wish to have
done."

"I am sorry, Miss Krieff, that there is nothing more than this. I
should prefer to go on some enterprise of danger for your sake."

He laid a strong emphasis on these last words, but Hilda did not seem
to notice it. She continued, in a calm tone:

"All this is talking in the dark. I must explain myself instead of
talking round about the subject. To begin, then. Since our last
interview I could find out nothing whatever that tended to throw any
light on that mysterious cipher writing. Why it was written, or why
it should be so carefully preserved, I could not discover. The
General's death seemed to make it useless, and so for a long time I
ceased to think about it. It was only on my last visit to Pomeroy
Court that it came to my mind. That was six or eight months ago.

"On going there Mrs. Molyneux gave herself up to grief, and scarcely
ever spoke a word. She was much by herself, and brooded over her
sorrows. She spent much time in her father's room, and still more
time in solitary walks about the grounds. I was much by myself. Left
thus alone, I rambled about the house, and one day happened to go to
the General's study. Here every thing remained almost exactly as it
used to be. It was here that I found the cipher writing, and, on
visiting it again, the circumstances of that discovery naturally
suggested themselves to my mind."

Hilda had warmed with her theme, and spoke with something like
recklessness, as though she was prepared at last to throw away every
scruple and make a full confidence. The allusion to the discovery of
the cipher was a reminder to herself and to Gualtier of her former
dishonorable conduct. Having once more touched upon this, it was
easier for her to reveal new treachery upon her part. Nevertheless
she paused for a moment, and looked with earnest scrutiny upon her
companion. He regarded her with a look of silent devotion which
seemed to express any degree of subserviency to her interests, and
disarmed every suspicion. Reassured by this, she continued:

"It happened that I began to examine the General's papers. It was
quite accidental, and arose merely from the fact that I had nothing
else to do. It was almost mechanical on impart. At any rate I opened
the desk, and found it full of documents of all kinds which had been
apparently undisturbed for an indefinite period. Naturally enough I
examined the drawer in which I had found the cipher writing, and was
able to do so quite at my leisure. On first opening it I found only
some business papers. The cipher was no longer there. I searched
among all the other papers to find it, but in vain. I then concluded
that he had destroyed it. For several days I continued to examine
that desk, but with no result. It seemed to fascinate me. At last,
however, I came to the conclusion that nothing more could be
discovered.

"All this time Mrs. Molyneux left me quite to myself, and my search
in the desk and my discouragement were altogether unknown to her.
After about a week I gave up the desk and tore myself away. Still I
could not keep away from it, and at the end of another week I
returned to the search. This time I went with the intention of
examining all the drawers, to see if there was not some additional
place of concealment.

"It is not necessary for me to describe to you minutely the various
trials which I made. It is quite enough for me now to say that I at
last found out that in that very private drawer where I had first
discovered the cipher writing there was a false bottom of very
peculiar construction. It lay close to the real bottom, fitting in
very nicely, and left room only for a few thin papers. The false
bottom and the real bottom were so thin that no one could suspect any
thing of the kind. Something about the position of the drawer led me
to examine it minutely, and the idea of a false bottom came to my
mind. I could not find out the secret of it, and it was only by the
very rude process of prying at it with a knife that I at length made
the discovery."

She paused.

"And did you find any thing?" said Gualtier, eagerly.

"I did."

"Papers?"

"Yes. The old cipher writing was there--shut up--concealed carefully,
jealously--doubly concealed, in fact. Was not this enough to show
that it had importance in the eyes of the man who had thus concealed
it? It must be so. Nothing but a belief in its immense importance
could possibly have led to such extraordinary pains in the
concealment of it. This I felt, and this conviction only intensified
my desire to get at the bottom of the mystery which it incloses. And
this much I saw plainly--that the deciphering which I have made
carries in itself so dread a confession, that the man who made it
would willingly conceal it both in cipher writing and in secret
drawers."


[Illustration: The Old Cipher Writing Was There.]


"But of course," said Gualtier, taking advantage of a pause, "you
found something else besides the cipher. With that you were already
familiar."

"Yes, and it is this that I am going to tell you about. There were
some papers which had evidently been there for a long time, kept
there in the same place with the cipher writing. When I first found
them I merely looked hastily over them, and then folded them all up
together, and took them away so as to examine them in my own room at
leisure. On looking over them I found the names which I expected
occurring frequently. There was the name of O. N. Pomeroy and the
name of Lady Chetwynde. In addition to these there was another name,
and a very singular one. The name is Obed Chute, and seems to me to
be an American name. At any rate the owner of it lived in America."

"Obed Chute," repeated Gualtier, with the air of one who is trying to
fasten something on his memory.

"Yes; and he seems to have lived in New York."

"What was the nature of the connection which he had with the others?"

"I should conjecture that he was a kind of guide, philosopher, and
friend, with a little of the agent and commission-merchant," replied
Hilda. "But it is impossible to find out anything in particular about
him from the meagre letters which I obtained. I found nothing else
except these papers, though I searched diligently. Every thing is
contained here. I have them, and I intend to show them to you without
any further delay."

Saying this Hilda drew some papers from her pocket, and handed them
to Gualtier.

On opening them Gualtier found first a paper covered with cipher
writing. It was the same which Hilda had copied, and the characters
were familiar to him from his former attempt to decipher them. The
paper was thick and coarse, but Hilda had copied the characters very
faithfully.

The next paper was a receipt written out on a small sheet which was
yellow with age, while the ink had faded into a pale brown:


"$100,000.                                 NEW YORK, May 10, 1840.

"Received from O. N. Pomeroy the sum of one hundred thousand dollars
in payment for my claim.

"OBED CHUTE."

It was a singular document in every respect; but the mention of the
sum of money seemed to confirm the statement gathered from the cipher
writing.

The next document was a letter:


"NEW YORK, August 23, 1840.

"DEAR SIR,--I take great pleasure in informing you that L. C. has
experienced a change, and is now slowly recovering. I assure you that
no pains shall be spared to hasten her cure. The best that New York
can afford is at her service. I hope soon to acquaint you with her
entire recovery. Until then, believe me,

"Yours truly, OBED CHUTE.

"Capt. O. N. POMEROY."

The next paper was a letter written in a lady's hand. It was very
short:


"NEW YORK, September 20, 1840.

"Farewell, dearest friend and more than brother. After a long
sickness I have at last recovered through the mercy of God and the
kindness of Mr. Chute. We shall never meet again on earth; but I will
pray for your happiness till my latest breath.

"MARY CHETWYNDE."


There was only one other. It was a letter also, and was as follows:


"NEW YORK, October 10, 1840.

"DEAR SIR,--I have great pleasure in informing you that your friend
L. C. has at length entirely recovered. She is very much broken down,
however; her hair is quite gray, and she looks twenty years older.
She is deeply penitent and profoundly sad. She is to leave me
to-morrow, and will join the Sisters of Charity. You will feel with
me that this is best for herself and for all. I remain yours, very
truly,

"OBED CHUTE.

"Capt. O. N. POMEROY."


Gualtier read these letters several times in deep and thoughtful
silence. Then he sat in profound thought for some time.

"Well," said Hilda at length, with some impatience, "what do you
think of these?"

"What do _you_ think?" asked Gualtier.

"I?" returned Hilda. "I will tell you what I think; and as I have
brooded over these for eight months now, I can only say that I am
more confirmed than ever in my first impressions. To me, then, these
papers seem to point out two great facts--the first being that of the
forgery; and the second that of the elopement. Beyond this I see
something else. The forgery has been arranged by the payment of the
amount. The elopement also has come to a miserable termination. Lady
Chetwynde seems to have been deserted by her lover, who left her
perhaps in New York. She fell ill, very ill, and suffered so that on
her recovery she had grown in appearance twenty years older.
Broken-hearted, she did not dare to go back to her friends, but
joined the Sisters of Charity. She is no doubt dead long ago. As to
this Chute, he seems to me perhaps to have been a kind of tool of the
lover, who employed him probably to settle his forgery business, and
also to take care of the unhappy woman whom he had ruined and
deserted. He wrote these few letters to keep the recreant lover
informed about her fate. In the midst of these there is the last
despairing farewell of the unhappy creature herself. All these the
conscience-stricken lover has carefully preserved. In addition to
these, no doubt for the sake of easing his conscience, he wrote out a
confession of his sin. But he was too great a coward to write it out
plainly, and therefore wrote it in cipher. I believe that he would
have destroyed them all if he had found time; but his accident came
too quickly for this, and he has left these papers as a legacy to the
discoverer."

As Hilda spoke Gualtier gazed at her with unfeigned admiration.

"You are right," said he. "Every word that you speak is as true as
fate. You have penetrated to the very bottom of this secret. I
believe that this is the true solution. Your genius has solved the
mystery."

"The mystery," repeated Hilda, who showed no emotion whatever at the
fervent admiration of Gualtier--"the mystery is as far from solution
as ever."

"Have you not solved it?"

"Certainly not. Mine, after all, are merely conjectures. Much more
remains to be done. In the first place, I must find out something
about Lady Chetwynde. For months I have tried, but in vain. I have
ventured as far as I dared to question the people about here. Once I
hinted to Mrs. Hart something about the elopement, and she turned
upon me with that in her eyes which would have turned an ordinary
mortal into stone. Fortunately for me, I bore it, and survived. But
since that unfortunate question she shuns me more than ever. The
other servants know nothing, or else they will reveal nothing.
Nothing, in fact, can be discovered here. The mystery is yet to be
explained, and the explanation must be sought elsewhere."

"Where?"

"I don't know."

"Have you thought of any thing? You must have, or you would not have
communicated with me. There is some work which you wish me to do. You
have thought about it, and have determined it. What is it? Is it to
go to America? Shall I hunt up Obed Chute? Shall I search through the
convents till I find that Sister who once was Lady Chetwynde? Tell
me. If you say so I will go."

Hilda mused; then she spoke, as though rather to herself than to her
companion.

"I don't know. I have no plans--no definite aim, beyond a desire to
find out what it all means, and what there is in it. What can I do?
What could I do if I found out all? I really do not know. If General
Pomeroy were alive, it might be possible to extort from him a
confession of his crimes, and make them known to the world."

"If General Pomeroy were alive," interrupted Gualtier, "and were to
confess all his crimes, what good would that do?"

"What good?" cried Hilda, in a tone of far greater vehemence and
passion than any which had yet escaped her. "What good? Humiliation,
sorrow, shame, anguish, for his daughter! It is not on his head that
I wish these to descend, but on hers. You look surprised. You wonder
why? I will not tell you--not now, at least. It is not because she is
passionate and disagreeable; that is a trifle, and besides she has
changed from that; it is not because she ever injured me--she never
injured me; she loves me; but"--and Hilda's brow grew dark, and her
eyes flashed as she spoke--"there are other reasons, deeper than all
this--reasons which I will not divulge even to you, but which yet are
sufficient to make me long and yearn and crave for some opportunity
to bring down her proud head into the very dust."

"And that opportunity shall be yours," cried Gualtier, vehemently.
"To do this it is only necessary to find out the whole truth. I will
find it out. I will search over all England and all America till I
discover all that you want to know. General Pomeroy is dead. What
matter? He is nothing to you. But she lives, and is a mark for your
vengeance."

"I have said more than I intended to," said Hilda, suddenly resuming
her coolness. "At any rate, I take you at your word. If you want
money, I can supply it."

"Money?" said Gualtier, with a light laugh. "No, no. It is something
far more than that which I want. When I have succeeded in my search I
will tell you. To tell it now would be premature. But when shall I
start? Now?"

"Oh no," said Hilda, who showed no emotion one way or the other at
the hint which he had thrown out. "Oh no, do nothing suddenly. Wait
until your quarter is up. When will it be out?"

"In six weeks. Shall I wait?"

"Yes."

"Well, then, in six weeks I will go."

"Very well."

"And if I don't succeed I shall never come back."

Hilda was silent.

"Is it arranged, then?" said Gualtier, after a time.

"Yes; and now I will take my music lesson."

And Hilda walked over to the piano.

After this interview no further opportunity occurred. Gualtier came
every day as before. In a fortnight he gave notice to the Earl that
pressing private engagements would require his departure. He begged
leave to recommend a friend of his, Mr. Hilaire. The Earl had an
interview with Gualtier, and courteously expressed his regret at his
departure, asking him at the same time to write to Mr. Hilaire and
get him to come. This Gualtier promised to do.

Shortly before the time of Gualtier's departure Mr. Hilaire arrived.
Gualtier took him to the Castle, and he was recognized as the new
teacher.

In a few days Gualtier took his departure.



CHAPTER XV.


FROM GIRLHOOD TO WOMANHOOD.


One evening Zillah was sitting with Lord Chetwynde in his little
sanctum. His health had not been good of late, and sometimes attacks
of gout were superadded. At this time he was confined to his room.

Zillah was dressed for dinner, and had come to sit with him until the
second bell rang. She had been with him constantly during his
confinement to his room. At this time she was seated on a low stool
near the fire, which threw its glow over her face, and lit up the
vast masses of her jet-black hair. Neither of them had spoken for
some time, when Lord Chetwynde, who had been looking steadily at her
for some minutes, said, abruptly:

"Zillah, I'm sure Guy will not know you when he comes back."

She looked up laughingly. "Why, father? I think every lineament on my
face must be stereotyped on his memory."

"That is precisely the reason why I say that he will not know you. I
could not have imagined that three years could have so thoroughly
altered any one."

"It's only fine feathers," said Zillah, shaking her head. "You must
allow that Mathilde is incomparable. I often feel that were she to
have the least idea of the appearance which I presented, when I first
came here, there would be nothing left for me but suicide. I could
not survive her contempt. I was always fond of finery. I have Indian
blood enough for that; but when I remember my combinations of colors,
it really makes me shudder; and my hair was always streaming over my
shoulders in a manner more _negligé_ than becoming."

"I do Mathilde full justice," returned Lord Chetwynde. "Your toilette
and coiffure are now irreproachable; but even her power has its
limits, and she could scarcely have turned the sallow, awkward girl
into a lovely and graceful woman."

Zillah, who was unused to flattery, blushed very red at this tribute
to her charms, and answered, quickly:

"Whatever change there may be is entirely due to Monmouthshire.
Devonshire never agreed with me. I should have been ill and delicate
to this day if I had remained there; and as to sallowness, I must
plead guilty to that. I remember a lemon-colored silk I had, in which
it was impossible to tell where the dress ended and my neck began.
But, after all, father, you are a very prejudiced judge. Except that
I am healthy now, and well dressed, I think I am very much the same
personally as I was three years ago. In character, however, I feel
that I have altered."

"No," he replied; "I have been looking at you for the last few
minutes with perfectly unprejudiced eyes, trying to see you as a
stranger would, and as Guy will when he returns. And now," he added,
laughingly, "you shall be punished for your audacity in doubting my
powers of discrimination, by having a full inventory given you. We
will begin with the figure--about the middle height, perhaps a little
under it, slight and graceful; small and beautifully proportioned
head; well set on the shoulders; complexion no longer sallow or
lemon-colored, but clear, bright, transparent olive; hair, black as
night, and glossy as--"

But here he was interrupted by Zillah, who suddenly flung her arms
about his neck, and the close proximity of the face which he was
describing impeded further utterance.

"Hush, father," said she; "I won't hear another word, and don't you
dare to talk about ever looking at me with unprejudiced eyes. I want
you to love me without seeing my faults."

"But would you not rather that I saw your failings, Zillah, than that
I clothed you with an ideal perfection?"

"No; I don't care for the love that is always looking out for faults,
and has a 'but' even at the tenderest moments. That is not the love I
give. Perhaps strangers might not think dear papa, and you, and Hilda
absolutely perfect; but I can not see a single flaw, and I should
hate myself if I could."

Lord Chetwynde kissed her fondly, but sighed as he answered:

"My child, you know nothing of the world. I fear life has some very
bitter lessons in store for you before you will learn to read it
aright, and form a just estimate of the characters of the people
among whom you are thrown."

"But you surely would not have me think people bad until I have
proved them to be so. Life would not be worth having if one must live
in a constant state of suspicion."

"No, nor would I have you think all whom you love to be perfect.
Believe me, my child, you will meet with but few friends in the
world. Honor is an exploded notion, belonging to a past generation."

"You may be right, father, but I do not like the doctrine; so I shall
go on believing in people until I find them to be different from what
I thought."

"I should say to you, do so, dear--believe as long as you can, and as
much as you can; but the danger of that is when you find that those
whom you have trusted do not come up to the standard which you have
formed. After two or three disappointments you will fall into the
opposite extreme, think every one bad, and not believe in any thing
or any body."

"I should die before I should come to that," cried Zillah,
passionately. "If what you say is true, I had better not let myself
like any body." Then, laughing up in his face, she added:
"By-the-way, I wonder if you are safe. You see you have made me so
skeptical that I shall begin by suspecting my tutor. No, don't
speak," she went on, in a half-earnest, half-mocking manner, and put
her hand before his mouth. "The case is hopeless, as far as you are
concerned. The warning has come too late. I love you as I thought I
should never love any one after dear papa."

Lord Chetwynde smiled, and pressed her fondly to his breast.

The steady change which had been going on in Zillah, in mind and in
person, was indeed sufficient to justify Lord Chetwynde's remark.
Enough has been said already about her change in personal appearance.
Great as this was, however, it was not equal to that more subtle
change which had come over her soul. Her nature was intense,
vehement, passionate; but its development was of such a kind that she
was now earnest where she was formerly impulsive, and calm where she
had been formerly weak. A profound depth of feeling already was made
manifest in this rich nature, and the thoughtfulness of the West was
added to the fine emotional sensibility of the East; forming by their
union a being of rare susceptibility, and of quick yet deep feeling,
who still could control those feelings, and smother them, even though
the concealed passion should consume like a fire within her.

Three years had passed since her hasty and repugnant marriage, and
those years had been eventful in many ways. They had matured the
wild, passionate, unruly girl into the woman full of sensibility and
passion. They had also been filled with events upon which the world
gazed in awe, which shook the British empire to its centre, and sent
a thrill of horror to the heart of that empire, followed by a fierce
thirst for vengeance. For the Indian mutiny had broken out, the
horrors of Cawnpore had been enacted, the stories of sepoy atrocity
had been told by every English fireside, and the whole nation had
roused itself to send forth armies for vengeance and for punishment.
Dread stories were these for the quiet circle at Chetwynde Castle;
yet they had been spared its worst pains. Guy had been sent to the
north of India, and had not been witness of the scenes of Cawnpore.
He had been joined with those soldiers who had been summoned together
to march on Delhi, and he had shared in the danger and in the final
triumph of that memorable expedition.

The intensity of desire and the agony of impatience which attended
his letters were natural. Lord Chetwynde thought only of one thing
for many months, and that was his son's letters. At the outbreak of
the mutiny, a dread anxiety had taken possession of him lest his son
might be in danger. At first the letters came regularly, giving
details of the mutiny as he heard them. Then there was a long break,
for the army was on the march to Delhi. Then a letter came from the
British camp before Delhi, which roused Lord Chetwynde from the
lowest depths of despair to joy and exultation and hope. Then there
was another long interval, in which the Earl, sick with anxiety,
began to anticipate the worst, and was fast sinking into despondency,
until, at last, a letter came, which raised him up in an instant to
the highest pitch of exultation and triumph. Delhi was taken. Guy had
distinguished himself, and was honorably mentioned in the dispatches.
He had been among the first to scale the walls and penetrate into the
beleaguered city. All had fallen into their hands. The great danger
which had impended had been dissipated, and vengeance had been dealt
out to those whose hands were red with English blood. Guy's letter,
from beginning to end, was one long note of triumph. Its enthusiastic
tone, coming, as it did, after a long period of anxiety, completely
overcame the Earl. Though naturally the least demonstrative of men,
he was now overwhelmed by the full tide of his emotions. He burst
into tears, and wept for some time tears of joy. Then he rose, and
walking over to Zillah, he kissed her, and laid his hand solemnly
upon her head.

"My daughter," said he, "thank God that your husband is preserved to
you through the perils of war, and that he is saved to you, and will
come to you in safety and in honor."

The Earl's words sank deeply into Zillah's heart. She said nothing,
but bowed her head in silence.

Living, as she did, where Guy's letters formed the chief delight of
him whom she loved as a father, it would have been hard indeed for a
generous nature like hers to refrain from sharing his feelings.
Sympathy with his anxiety and his joy was natural, nay, inevitable.
In his sorrow she was forced to console him by pointing out all that
might be considered as bright in his prospects; in his joy she was
forced to rejoice with him, and listen to his descriptions of Guy's
exploits, as his imagination enlarged upon the more meagre facts
stated in the letters. This year of anxiety and of triumph, therefore
compelled her to think very much about Guy, and, whatever her
feelings were, it certainly exalted him to a prominent place in her
thoughts.

And so it happened that, as month succeeded to month; she found
herself more and more compelled to identify herself with the Earl, to
talk to him about the idol of his heart, to share his anxiety and his
joy, while all that anxiety and all that joy referred exclusively to
the man who was her husband, but whom, as a husband, she had once
abhorred.



CHAPTER XVI.


THE AMERICAN EXPEDITION.


About three years had passed away since Zillah had first come to
Chetwynde, and the life which she had lived there had gradually come
to be grateful and pleasant and happy. Mr. Hilaire was attentive to
his duty and devoted to his pupil, and Zillah applied herself
assiduously to her music and drawing. At the end of a year Mr.
Hilaire waited upon the Earl with a request to withdraw, as he wanted
to go to the Continent. He informed the Earl, however, that Mr.
Gualtier was coming back, and would like to get his old situation, if
possible. The Earl consented to take back the old teacher; and so, in
a few months more, after an absence of about a year and a half,
Gualtier resumed his duties at Chetwynde Castle, _vice_ Mr. Hilaire,
resigned.

On his first visit after his return Hilda's face expressed an
eagerness of curiosity which even her fine self-control could not
conceal. No one noticed it, however, but Gualtier, and he looked at
her with an earnest expression that might mean any thing or nothing.
It might tell of success or failure; and so Hilda was left to
conjecture. There was no chance of a quiet conversation, and she had
either to wait as before, perhaps for months, until she could see him
alone, or else throw away her scruples and arrange a meeting. Hilda
was not long in coming to a conclusion. On Gualtier's second visit
she slipped a piece of paper into his hand, on which he read, after
he had left, the following:

"_I will be in the West Avenue, near the Lake, this afternoon at
three o'clock._"

That afternoon she made some excuse and went out, as she said to
Zillah, for a walk through the Park. As this was a frequent thing
with her, it excited no comment. The West Avenue led from the door
through the Park, and finally, after a long detour, ended at the main
gate. At its farthest point there was a lake, surrounded by a dense
growth of Scotch larch-trees, which formed a very good place for such
a tryst--although, for that matter, in so quiet a place as Chetwynde
Park, they might have met on the main avenue without any fear of
being noticed. Here, then, at three o'clock, Hilda went, and on
reaching the spot found Gualtier waiting for her.

She walked under the shadow of the trees before she said a word.

"You are punctual," said she at last.

"I have been here ever since noon."

"You did not go out, then?"

"No, I staid here for you."

His tone expressed the deepest devotion, and his eyes, as they rested
on her for a moment, had the same expression.

Hilda looked at him benignantly and encouragingly.

"You have been gone long, and I dare say you have been gone far," she
said. "It is this which I want to hear about. Have you found out any
thing, and what have you found out?"

"Yes, I have been gone long," said Gualtier, "and have been far away;
but all the time I have done nothing else than seek after what you
wish to know. Whether I have discovered any thing of any value will
be for you to judge. I can only tell you of the result. At any rate
you will see that I have not spared myself for your sake."

"What have you done?" asked Hilda, who saw that Gualtier's devotion
was irrepressible, and would find vent in words if she did not
restrain him. "I am eager to hear."

Gualtier dropped his eyes, and began to speak in a cool business
tone.

"I will tell you every thing, then, Miss Krieff," said he, "from the
beginning. When I left here I went first to London, for the sake of
making inquiries about the elopement. I hunted up all whom I could
find whose memories embraced the last twenty years, so as to see if
they could throw any light on this mystery. One or two had some faint
recollection of the affair, but nothing of any consequence. At length
I found out an old sporting character who promised at first to be
what I wished. He remembered Lady Chetwynde, described her beauty,
and said that she was left to herself very much by her husband. He
remembered well the excitement that was caused by her flight. He
remembered the name of the man with whom she had fled. It was
_Redfield Lyttoun_."

"_Redfield Lyttoun_!" repeated Hilda, with a peculiar expression.

"Yes; but he said that, for his part, he had good reason for
believing that it was an assumed name. The man who bore the name had
figured for a time in sporting circles, but after this event it was
generally stated that it was not his true name. I asked whether any
one knew his true name. He said some people had stated it, but he
could not tell. I asked what was the name. He said Pomeroy."

As Gualtier said this he raised his eyes, and those small gray orbs
seemed to burn and flash with triumph as they encountered the gaze of
Hilda. She said not a word, but held out her hand. Gualtier
tremblingly took it, and pressed it to his thin lips.

"This was all that I could discover. It was vague; it was only
partially satisfactory; but it was all. I soon perceived that it was
only a waste of time to stay in London; and after thinking of many
plans, I finally determined to visit the family of Lady Chetwynde
herself. Of course such an undertaking had to be carried out very
cautiously. I found out where the family lived, and went there. On
arriving I went to the Hall, and offered myself as music-teacher. It
was in an out-of-the-way place, and Sir Henry Furlong, Lady
Chetwynde's brother, happened to have two or three daughters who were
studying under a governess. When I showed him a certificate which the
Earl here was kind enough to give me, he was very much impressed by
it. He asked me all about the Earl and Chetwynde, and appeared to be
delighted to hear about these things. My stars were certainly lucky.
He engaged me at once, and so I had constant access to the place.


[Illustration: "'You Are Punctual, Said She At Last.'"]


"I had to work cautiously, of course. My idea was to get hold of some
of the domestics. There was an old fellow there, a kind of butler,
whom I propitiated, and gradually drew into conversations about the
family. My footing in the house inspired confidence in him, and he
gradually became communicative. He was an old gossip, in his dotage,
and he knew all about the family, and remembered when Lady Chetwynde
was born. He at first avoided any allusion to her, but I told him
long stories about the Earl, and won upon his sympathies so that he
told me at last all that the family knew about Lady Chetwynde.

"His story was this: Lord Chetwynde was busy in politics, and left
his wife very much to herself. A coolness had sprung up between them,
which increased every day. Lady Chetwynde was vain, and giddy, and
weak. The Redfield Lyttoun of whom I had heard in London was much at
her house, though her husband knew nothing about it. People were
talking about them every where, and he only was in the dark. At last
they ran away. It was known that they had fled to America. That is
the last that was ever heard of her. She vanished out of sight, and
her paramour also. Not one word has ever been heard about either of
them since. From which I conjecture that Redfield Lyttoun, when he
had become tired of his victim, threw her off, and came back to
resume his proper name, to lead a life of honor, and to die in the
odor of sanctity. What do you think of my idea?"

"It seems just," said Hilda, thoughtfully.

"In the three months which I spent there I found out all that the
family could tell; but still I was far enough away from the object of
my search. I only had conjectures, I wanted certainty. I thought it
all over; and, at length, saw that the only thing left to do was to
go to America, and try to get upon their tracks. It was a desperate
undertaking; America changes so that traces of fugitives are very
quickly obliterated; and who could detect or discover any after a
lapse of nearly twenty years? Still, I determined to go. There seemed
to be a slight chance that I might find this Obed Chute, who figures
in the correspondence. There was also a chance of tracing Lady
Chetwynde among the records of the Sisters of Charity. Besides, there
was the chapter of accidents, in which unexpected things often turn
up. So I went to America. My first search was after Obed Chute. To my
amazement, I found him at once. He is one of the foremost bankers of
New York, and is well known all over the city. I waited on him
without delay. I had documents and certificates which I presented to
him. Among others, I had written out a very good letter from Sir
Henry Furlong, commissioning me to find out about his beloved sister,
and another from General Pomeroy, to the effect that I was his
friend--"

"That was forgery," interrupted Hilda, sharply.

Gualtier bowed with a deprecatory air, and hung his head in deep
abasement.

"Go on," said she.

"You are too harsh," said he, in a pleading voice. "It was all for
your sake--"

"Go on," she repeated.

"Well, with these I went to see Obed Chute. He was a tall,
broad-shouldered, square-headed man, with iron-gray hair, and a
face--well, it was one of those faces that make you feel that the
owner can do any thing he chooses. On entering his private office I
introduced myself, and began a long explanation. He interrupted me by
shaking hands with me vehemently, and pushing me into a chair. I sat
down, and went on with my explanation. I told him that I had come out
as representative of the Furlong family, and the friend of General
Pomeroy, now dead. I told him that there were several things which I
wished to find out. First, to trace Lady Chetwynde, and find out what
had become of her, and bring her back to her friends, if she were
alive; secondly, to clear up certain charges relative to a forgery;
and, finally, to find out about the fate of Redfield Lyttoun.

"Mr. Obed Chute at first was civil enough, after his rough way; but,
as I spoke, he looked at me earnestly, eying me from head to foot
with sharp scrutiny. He did not seem to believe my story.

"'Well,' said he, when I had ended, 'is that all?'

"'Yes,' said I.

"'So you want to find out about Lady Chetwynde, and the forgery, and
Redfield Lyttoun?'

"'Yes.'

"'And General Pomeroy told you to apply to me?'

"'Yes. On his dying bed,' said I, solemnly, 'his last words were: "Go
to Obed Chute, and tell him to explain all."'

"'To explain all!' repeated Obed Chute.

"'Yes,' said I. '"The confession," said the General, "can not be made
by me. He must make it."'

"'The confession!' he repeated.

"'Yes. And I suppose that you will not be unwilling to grant a dying
man's request.'

"Obed Chute said nothing for some time, but sat staring at me,
evidently engaged in profound thought. At any rate, he saw through
and through me.

"'Young man,' said he at last, 'where are you lodging?'

"'At the Astor House,' said I, in some surprise. "'Well, then, go
back to the Astor House, pack up your trunk, pay your bill, take your
fare in the first steamer, and go right straight back home. When you
get there, give my compliments' to Sir Henry Furlong, and tell him if
he wants his sister he had better hunt her up himself. As to that
affecting message which you have brought from General Pomeroy, I can
only say, that, as he evidently did not explain this business to you,
I certainly will not. I was only his agent. Finally, if you want to
find Redfield Lyttoun, you may march straight out of that door, and
look about you till you find him.'

"Saying this, he rose, opened the door, and, with a savage frown,
which forbade remonstrance, motioned me out.

"I went out. There was evidently no hope of doing any thing with Obed
Chute."

"Then you failed," said Hilda, in deep disappointment.

"Failed? No. Do you not see how the reticence of this Obed Chute
confirms all our suspicions? But wait till you hear all, and I will
tell you my conclusions. You will then see whether I have discovered
any thing definite or not.

"I confess I was much discouraged at first at my reception by Obed
Chute. I expected every thing from this interview, and his brutality
baffled me. I did not venture back there again, of course. I thought
of trying other things, and went diligently around among the convents
and religious orders, to see if I could find out any thing about the
fate of Lady Chetwynde. My letters of introduction from Sir H.
Furlong and from Lord Chetwynde led these simple-minded people to
receive me with confidence. They readily seconded my efforts, and
opened their records to me. For some time my search was in vain; but,
at last, I found what I wanted. One of the societies of the Sisters
of Charity had the name of Sister Ursula, who joined them in the year
1840. She was Lady Chetwynde. She lived with them eight years, and
then disappeared. Why she had left, or where she had gone, was
equally unknown. She had disappeared, and that was the end of her.
After this I came home."


[Illustration: "With A Savage Frown He Motioned Me Out."]


"And you have found out nothing more?" said Hilda, in deep
disappointment.

"Nothing," said Gualtier, dejectedly; "but are you not hasty in
despising what I have found out? Is not this something?"

"I do not know that you have discovered anything but what I knew
before," said Hilda, coldly. "You have made some conjectures--that is
all."

"Conjectures!--no, conclusions from additional facts," said Gualtier,
eagerly. "What we suspected is now, at least, more certain. The very
brutality of that beast, Obed Chute, proves this. Let me tell you the
conclusions that I draw from this:

"First, General Pomeroy, under an assumed name, that of Redfield
Lyttoun, gained Lady Chetwynde's love, and ran away with her to
America.

"Secondly, he forged a hundred thousand dollars, which forgery he
hushed up through this Obed Chute, paying him, no doubt, a large sum
for hush-money.

"Thirdly, he deserted Lady Chetwynde when he was tired of her, and
left her in the hands of Obed Chute. She was ill, and finally, on her
recovery, joined the Sisters of Charity.

"Fourthly, after eight years she ran away--perhaps to fall into evil
courses and die in infamy.

"And lastly, all this must be true, or else Obed Chute would not have
been so close, and would not have fired up so at the very suggestion
of an explanation. If it were not true, why should he not explain?
But if it be true, then there is every reason why he should not
explain."

A long silence followed. Hilda was evidently deeply disappointed.
From what Gualtier had said at the beginning of the interview, she
had expected to hear something more definite. It seemed to her as
though all his trouble had resulted in nothing. Still, she was not
one to give way to disappointment, and she had too much good sense to
show herself either ungrateful or ungracious.

"Your conclusions are, no doubt, correct," said she at last, in a
pleasanter tone than she had yet assumed; "but they are only
inferences, and can not be made use of--in the practical way in which
I hoped they would be. We are still in the attitude of inquirers, you
see. The secret which we hold is of such a character that we have to
keep it to ourselves until it be confirmed."

Gualtier's face lighted up with pleasure as Hilda thus identified him
with herself, and classed him with her as the sharer of the secret.

"Any thing," said he, eagerly--"any thing that I can do, I will do. I
hope you know that you have only to say the word--"

Hilda waved her hand.

"I trust you," said she. "The time will come when you will have
something to do. But just now I must wait, and attend upon
circumstances. There are many things in my mind which I will not tell
you--that is to say, not yet. But when the time comes, I promise to
tell you. You may be interested in my plans--or you may not. I will
suppose that you are."

"Can you doubt it, Miss Krieff?"

"No, I do not doubt it, and I promise you my confidence when any
thing further arises."

"Can I be of no assistance now--in advising, or in counseling?" asked
Gualtier, in a hesitating voice.

"No--whatever half-formed plans I may have relate to people and to
things which are altogether outside of your sphere, and so you could
do nothing in the way of counseling or advising."

"At least, tell me this much--must I look upon all my labor as wasted
utterly? Will you at least accept it, even if it is useless, as an
offering to you?"

Gualtier's pale sallow face grew paler and more sallow as he asked
this; his small gray eyes twinkled with a feverish light as he turned
them anxiously upon Hilda. Hilda, for her part, regarded him with her
usual calmness.

"Accept it?" said she. "Certainly, right gladly and gratefully. My
friend, if I was disappointed at the result, do not suppose that I
fail to appreciate the labor. You have shown rare perseverance and
great acuteness. The next time you will succeed."

This approval of his labors, slight as it was, and spoken as it was,
with the air of a queen, was eagerly and thankfully accepted by
Gualtier. He hungered after her approval, and in his hunger he was
delighted even with crumbs.



CHAPTER XVII.


A FRESH DISCOVERY.


Some time passed away, and Hilda had no more interviews with
Gualtier. The latter settled down into a patient, painstaking
music-teacher once more, who seemed not to have an idea beyond his
art. Hilda held herself aloof; and, even when she might have
exchanged a few confidential words, she did not choose to do so. And
Gualtier was content, and quiet, and patient.

Nearly eighteen months had passed away since Zillah's visit to
Pomeroy Court, and she began to be anxious to pay another visit. She
had been agitating the subject for some time; but it had been
postponed from time to time, for various reasons, the chief one being
the ill health of the Earl. At length, however, his health improved
somewhat, and Zillah determined to take advantage of this to go.

This time, the sight of the Court did not produce so strong an effect
as before. She did not feel like staying alone, but preferred having
Hilda with her, and spoke freely about the past. They wandered about
the rooms, looked over all the well-remembered places, rode or
strolled through the grounds, and found, at every step, inside of the
Court, and outside also, something which called up a whole world of
associations.

Wandering thus about the Court, from one room to another, it was
natural that Zillah should go often to the library, where her father
formerly passed the greater part of his time. Here they chiefly
staid, and looked over the hooks and pictures.

One day the conversation turned toward the desk, and Zillah casually
remarked that her father used to keep this place so sacred from her
intrusion that she had acquired a kind of awe of it, which she had
not yet quite overcome. This led Hilda to propose, laughingly, that
she should explore it now, on the spot; and, taking the keys, she
opened it, and turned over some of the papers. At length she opened a
drawer, and drew out a miniature. Zillah snatched it from her, and,
looking at it for a few moments, burst into tears.

"It's my mother," she cried, amidst her sobs; "my mother! Oh, my
mother!"

Hilda said nothing.

"He showed it to me once, when I was a little child, and I often have
wondered, in a vague way, what became of it. I never thought of
looking here."

"You may find other things here, also, if you look," said Hilda,
gently. "No doubt your papa kept here all his most precious things."

The idea excited Zillah. She covered the portrait with kisses, put it
in her pocket, and then sat down to explore the desk.

There were bundles of papers there, lying on the bottom of the desk,
all neatly wrapped up and labeled in a most business-like manner.
Outside there was a number of drawers, all of which were filled with
papers. These were all wrapped in bundles, and were labeled, so as to
show at the first glance that they referred to the business of the
estate. Some were mortgages, others receipts, others letters, others
returned checks and drafts. Nothing among these had any interest for
Zillah.

Inside the desk there were some drawers, which Zillah opened. Once on
the search, she kept it up most vigorously. The discovery of her
mother's miniature led her to suppose that something else of equal
value might be found here somewhere. But, after a long search,
nothing whatever was found. The search, however, only became the more
exciting, and the more she was baffled the more eager did she become
to follow it out to the end. While she was investigating in this way,
Hilda stood by her, looking on with the air of a sympathizing friend
and interested spectator. Sometimes she anticipated Zillah in opening
drawers which lay before their eyes, and in seizing and examining the
rolls of papers with which each drawer was filled. The search was
conducted by both, in fact, but Zillah seemed to take the lead.

"There's nothing more," said Hilda at last, as Zillah opened the last
drawer, and found only some old business letters. "You have examined
all, you have found nothing. At any rate, the search has given you
the miniature; and, besides, it has dispelled that awe that you spoke
of."

"But, dear Hilda, there ought to be something," said Zillah. "I hoped
for something more. I had an idea that I might find something--I
don't know what--something which I could keep for the rest of my
life."

"Is not the miniature enough, dearest?" said Hilda, in affectionate
tones. "What more could you wish for?"

"I don't know. I prize it most highly; but, still, I feel
disappointed."

"There is no more chance," said Hilda.

"No; I have examined every drawer."

"You can not expect any thing more, so let us go away--unless," she
added, "you expect to find some mysterious secret drawer somewhere,
and I fancy there is hardly any room here for any thing of that
kind."

"A secret drawer!" repeated Zillah, with visible excitement. "What an
idea! But could there be one? Is there any place for one? I don't see
any place. There is the open place where the books are kept, and, on
each side, a row of drawers. No; there are no secret drawers here.
But see--what is this?"

As Zillah said this she reached out her hand toward the lower part of
the place where the books were kept. A narrow piece of wood projected
there beyond the level face of the back of the desk. On this piece of
wood there was a brass catch, which seemed intended to be fastened;
but now, on account of the projection of the piece, it was not
fastened. Zillah instantly pulled the wood, and it came out.

It was a shallow drawer, not more than half an inch in depth, and the
catch was the means by which it was closed. A bit of brass, that
looked like an ornamental stud, was, in reality, a spring, by
pressing which the drawer sprang open. But when Zillah looked there
the drawer was already open, and, as she pulled it out, she saw it
all.

As she pulled it out her hand trembled, and her heart beat fast. A
strange and inexplicable feeling filled her mind--a kind of
anticipation of calamity--a mysterious foreboding of evil--which
spread a strange terror through her. But her excitement was strong,
and was not now to be quelled; and it would have needed something
far more powerful than this vague fear to stop her in the search into
the mystery of the desk.

When men do any thing that is destined to affect them seriously, for
good or evil, it often happens that at the time of the action a
certain unaccountable premonition arises in the mind. This is chiefly
the case when the act is to be the cause of sorrow. Like the wizard
with Lochiel, some dark phantom arises before the mind, and warns of
the evil to come. So it was in the present case. The pulling out of
that drawer was an eventful moment in the life of Zillah. It was a
crisis fraught with future sorrow and evil and suffering. There was
something of all this in her mind at that moment; and, as she pulled
it out, and as it lay before her, a shudder passed through her, and
she turned her face away.

"Oh, Hilda, Hilda!" she murmured. "I'm afraid--"

"Afraid of what?" asked Hilda. "What's the matter? Here is a
discovery, certainly. This secret drawer could never have been
suspected. What a singular chance it was that you should have made
such a discovery!"

But Zillah did not seem to hear her. Before she had done speaking she
had turned to examine the drawer. There were several papers in it.
All were yellow and faded, and the writing upon them was pale with
age. These Zillah seized in a nervous and tremulous grasp. The first
one which she unfolded was the secret cipher. Upon this she gazed for
some time in bewilderment, and then opened a paper which was inclosed
within it. This paper, like the other, was faded, and the ink was
pale. It contained what seemed like a key to decipher the letters on
the other. These Zillah placed on one side, not choosing to do any
more at that time. Then she went on to examine the others. What these
were has already been explained. They were the letters of Obed Chute,
and the farewell note of Lady Chetwynde. But in addition to these
there was another letter, with which the reader is not as yet
acquainted. It was as brown and as faded as the other papers, with
writing as pale and as illegible. It was in the handwriting of Obed
Chute. It was as follows:


"NEW YORK, October 20, 1841.

"DEAR SIR,--L. C. has been in the convent a year. The seventy
thousand dollars will never again trouble you. All is now settled,
and no one need ever know that the Redfield Lyttoun who ran away with
L. C. was really Captain Pomeroy. There is no possibility that any
one can ever find it out, unless you yourself disclose your secret.
Allow me to congratulate you on the happy termination of this
unpleasant business.

"Yours, truly, OBED CHUTE.

"Captain O. N. POMEROY."


Zillah read this over many times. She could not comprehend one word
of it as yet. Who was L. C. she knew not. The mention of Captain
Pomeroy, however, seemed to implicate her father in some "unpleasant
business." A darker anticipation of evil, and a profounder dread,
settled over her heart. She did not say a word to Hilda. This,
whatever it was, could not be made the subject of girlish confidence.
It was something which she felt was to be examined by herself in
solitude and in fear. Once only did she look at Hilda. It was when
the latter asked, in a tone of sympathy:

"Dear Zillah, what is it?" And, as she asked this, she stooped
forward and kissed her.

Zillah shuddered involuntarily. Why? Not because she suspected her
friend. Her nature was too noble to harbor suspicion. Her shudder
rather arose from that mysterious premonition which, according to old
superstitions, arises warningly and instinctively and blindly at the
approach of danger. So the old superstition says that this
involuntary shudder will arise when any one steps over the place
which is destined to be our grave. A pleasant fancy!

Zillah shuddered, and looked up at Hilda with a strange dazed
expression. It was some time before she spoke.

"They are family papers," she said. "I--I don't understand them. I
will look over them."

She gathered up the papers abruptly, and left the room. As the door
closed after her Hilda sat looking at the place where she had
vanished, with a very singular smile on her face.

For the remainder of that day Zillah continued shut up in her own
room. Hilda went once to ask, in a voice of the sweetest and
tenderest sympathy, what was the matter. Zillah only replied that she
was not well, and was lying down. She would not open her door,
however. Again, before bedtime, Hilda went. At her earnest entreaty
Zillah let her in. She was very pale, with a weary, anxious
expression on her face.

Hilda embraced her and kissed her.

"Oh, my darling," said she, "will you not tell me your trouble?
Perhaps I may be of use to you. Will you not give me your
confidence?"

"Not just yet, Hilda dearest. I do not want to trouble you. Besides,
there may be nothing in it. I will speak to the Earl first, and then
I will tell you."

"And you will not tell me now?" murmured Hilda, reproachfully.

"No, dearest, not now. Better not. You will soon know all, whether it
is good or bad. I am going back to Chetwynde to-morrow."

"To-morrow?"

"Yes," said Zillah, mournfully. "I must go back to end my suspense.
You can do nothing. Lord Chetwynde only can tell me what I want to
know. I will tell him all, and he can dispel my trouble, or else
deepen it in my heart forever."

"How terrible! What a frightful thing this must be. My darling, my
friend, my sister, tell me this--was it that wretched paper?"

"Yes," said Zillah. "And now, dearest, goodnight. Leave me--I am very
miserable."

Hilda kissed her again.

"Darling, I would not leave you, but you drive me away. You have no
confidence in your poor Hilda. But I will not reproach you.
Goodnight, darling."

"Good-night, dearest."



CHAPTER XVIII.


A SHOCK.


The discovery of these papers thus brought the visit to Pomeroy Court
to an abrupt termination. The place had now become intolerable to
Zillah. In her impatience she was eager to leave, and her one thought
now was to apply to Lord Chetwynde for a solution of this dark
mystery.

"Why, Zillah," he cried, as she came back; "what is the meaning of
this? You have made but a short stay. Was Pomeroy Court too gloomy,
or did you think that your poor father was lonely here without you?
Lonely enough he was--and glad indeed he is to see his little
Zillah."

And Lord Chetwynde kissed her fondly, exhibiting a delight which
touched Zillah to the heart. She could not say any thing then and
there about the real cause of her sudden return. She would have to
wait for a favorable opportunity, even though her heart was
throbbing, in her fierce impatience, as though it would burst. She
took refuge in caresses and in general remarks as to her joy on
finding herself back again, leaving him to suppose that the gloom
which hung around Pomeroy Court now had been too oppressive for her,
and that she had hurried away from it.

The subject which was uppermost in Zillah's mind was one which she
hardly knew how to introduce. It was of such delicacy that the idea
of mentioning it to the Earl filled her with repugnance. For the
first day she was distrait and preoccupied. Other days followed. Her
nights were sleepless. The Earl soon saw that there was something on
her mind, and taxed her with it. Zillah burst into tears and sat
weeping.

"My child," said the Earl, tenderly. "This must not go on. There can
not be anything in your thoughts which you need hesitate to tell me.
Will you not show some confidence toward me?"

Zillah looked at him, and his loving face encouraged her. Besides,
this suspense was unendurable. Her repugnance to mention such a thing
for a time made her silent; but at last she ventured upon the dark
and terrible subject.

"Something occurred at Pomeroy Court," she said, and then stopped.

"Well?" said the Earl, kindly and encouragingly.

"It is something which I want very much to ask you about--"

"Well, why don't you?" said Lord Chetwynde. "My poor child, you can't
be afraid of me, and yet it looks like it. You are very mysterious.
This 'something' must have been very important to have sent you back
so soon. Was it a discovery, or was it a fright? Did you find a dead
body? But what is that you can want to ask me about? I have been a
hermit for twenty years. I crept into my shell before you were born,
and here I have lived ever since."

The Earl spoke playfully, yet with an uneasy curiosity in his tone.
Zillah was encouraged to go on.

"It is something," said she, timidly and hesitatingly, "which I found
among my father's papers."

Lord Chetwynde looked all around the room. Then he rose.

"Come into the library," said he. "Perhaps it is something very
important; and if so, there need be no listeners."

Saying this he led the way in silence, followed by Zillah. Arriving
there he motioned Zillah to a seat, and took a chair opposite hers,
looking at her with a glance of perplexity and curiosity. Amidst this
there was an air of apprehension about him, as though he feared that
the secret which Zillah wished to tell might be connected with those
events in his life which he wished to remain unrevealed. This
suspicion was natural. His own secret was so huge, so engrossing,
that when one came to him as Zillah did now, bowed down by the weight
of another secret, he would naturally imagine that it was connected
with his own. He sat now opposite Zillah, with this fear in his face,
and with the air of a man who was trying to fortify himself against
some menacing calamity.

"I have been in very deep trouble," began Zillah, timidly, and with
downcast eyes. "This time I ventured into dear papa's study--and I
happened to examine his desk."

She hesitated.

"Well?" said the Earl, in a low voice.

"In the desk I found a secret drawer, which I would not have
discovered except by the merest chance; and inside of this secret
drawer I found some papers, which--which have filled me with
anxiety."

"A secret drawer?" said the Earl, as Zillah again paused. "And what
were these papers that you found in it?" There was intense anxiety in
the tones of his voice as he asked this question.

"I found there," said Zillah, "a paper written in cipher. There was a
key connected with it, by means of which I was able to decipher it."

"Written in cipher? How singular!" said the Earl, with increasing
anxiety. "What could it possibly have been?"

Zillah stole a glance at him fearfully and inquiringly. She saw that
he was much excited and most eager in his curiosity.

"What was it?" repeated the Earl. "Why do you keep me in suspense?
You need not be afraid of me, my child. Of course it is nothing that
I am in any way concerned with; and even if it were--why--at any
rate, tell me what it was."

The Earl spoke in a tone of feverish excitement, which was so unlike
any thing that Zillah had ever seen in him before that her
embarrassment was increased.

"It was something," she went on, desperately, and in a voice which
trembled with agitation, "with which you are connected--something
which I had never heard of before--something which filled me with
horror. I will show it to you--but I want first to ask you one thing.
Will you answer it?"

"Why should I not?" said the Earl, in a low voice.

"It is about Lady Chetwynde," said Zillah, whose voice had died away
to a whisper.

The Earl's face seemed to turn to stone as he looked at her. He had
been half prepared for this, but still, when it finally came, it was
overwhelming. Once before, and once only in his life, had he told his
secret. That was to General Pomeroy. But Zillah was different, and
even she, much as he loved her, was not one to whom he could speak
about such a thing as this.

"Well?" said he at last, in a harsh, constrained voice. "Ask what you
wish."

Zillah started. The tone was so different from that in which Lord
Chetwynde usually spoke that she was frightened.

"I--I do not know how to ask what I want to ask," she stammered.

"I can imagine it," said the Earl. "It is about my dishonor. I told
General Pomeroy about it once, and it seems that he has kindly
written it out for your benefit."

Bitterness indescribable was in the Earl's tones as he said this.
Zillah shrank back into herself and looked with fear and wonder upon
this man, who a few moments before had been all fondness, but now was
all suspicion. Her first impulse was to go and caress him, and
explain away the cipher so that it might never again trouble him in
this way. But she was too frank and honest to do this, and, besides,
her own desire to unravel the mystery had by this time become so
intense that it was impossible to stop. The very agitation of the
Earl, while it frightened her, still gave new power to her eager and
feverish curiosity. But now, more than ever, she began to realize
what all this involved. That face which caught her eyes, once all
love, which had never before regarded her with aught but tenderness,
yet which now seemed cold and icy--that face told her all the task
that lay before her. Could she encounter it? But how could she help
it? Dare she go on? Yet she could not go back now.

The Earl saw her hesitation.

"I know what you wish to ask," said he, "and will answer it. Child,
she dishonored me--she dragged my name down into the dust! Do you ask
more? She fled with a villain!"

That stern, white face, which was set in anguish before her, from
whose lips these words seemed to be torn, as, one by one, they were
flung out to her ears, was remembered by Zillah many and many a time
in after years. At this moment the effect upon her was appalling. She
was dumb. A vague desire to avert his wrath arose in her heart. She
looked at him imploringly; but her look had no longer any power.

"Speak!" he said, impatiently, after waiting for a time. "Speak. Tell
me what it is that you have found; tell me what this thing is that
concerns me. Can it be any thing more than I have said?"

Zillah trembled. This sudden transformation--this complete change
from warm affection to icy coldness--from devoted love to iron
sternness--was something which she did not anticipate. Being thus
taken unawares, she was all unnerved and overcome. She could no
longer restrain herself.

"Oh, father!" she cried, bursting into tears, and flinging herself at
his feet in uncontrollable emotion. "Oh, father! Do not look at me
so--do not speak so to your poor Zillah. Have I any friend on earth
but you?"

She clasped his thin, white hands in hers, while hot tears fell upon
them. But the Earl sat unmoved, and changed not a muscle of his
countenance. He waited for a time, taking no notice of her anguish,
and then spoke, with no relaxation of the sternness of his tone.

"Daughter," said he, "do not become agitated. It was you yourself who
brought on this conversation. Let us end it at once. Show me the
papers of which you speak. You say that they are connected with
me--that they filled you with horror. What is it that you mean?
Something more than curiosity about the unhappy woman who was once my
wife has driven you to ask explanations of me. Show me the papers."

His tone forbade denial. Zillah said not a word. Slowly she drew from
her pocket those papers, heavy with fate, and, with a trembling hand,
she gave them to the Earl. Scarcely had she done so than she
repented. But it was too late. Beside, of what avail would it have
been to have kept them? She herself had begun this conversation; she
herself had sought for a revelation of this mystery. The end must
come, whatever it might be.

"Oh, father!" she moaned, imploringly.

"What is it?" asked the Earl.

"You knew my dear papa all his life, did you not, from his boyhood?"

"Yes," said the Earl, mechanically, looking at the papers which
Zillah had placed in his hand; "yes--from boyhood."

"And you loved and honored him?"

"Yes."

"Was there ever a time in which you lost sight of one another, or did
not know all about one another?"

"Certainly. For twenty years we lost sight of one another completely.
Why do you ask?"

"Did he ever live in London?" asked Zillah, despairingly.

"Yes," said the Earl; "he lived there for two years, and I scarcely
ever saw him. I was in politics; he was in the army. I was busy every
moment of my time; he had all that leisure which officers enjoy, and
leading the life of gayety peculiar to them. But why do you ask? What
connection has all this with the papers?"

Zillah murmured some inaudible words, and then sat watching the Earl
as he began to examine the papers, with a face on which there were
visible a thousand contending emotions. The Earl looked over the
papers. There was the cipher and the key; and there was also a paper
written out by Zillah, containing the explanation of the cipher,
according to the key. On the paper which contained the key was a
written statement to the effect that two-thirds of the letters had no
meaning. Trusting to this, Zillah had written out her translation of
the cipher, just as Hilda had before done.

The Earl read the translation through most carefully.

"What's this?" he exclaimed, in deeper agitation. Zillah made no
reply. In fact, at that moment her heart was throbbing so furiously
that she could not have spoken a word. Now had come the crisis of her
fate, and her heart, by a certain deep instinct, told her this.
Beneath all the agitation arising from the change in the Earl there
was something more profound, more dread. It was a continuation of
that dark foreboding which she had felt at Pomeroy Court--a certain
fearful looking for of some obscure and shadowy calamity.

The Earl, after reading the translation, took the cipher writing and
held up the key beside it, while his thin hands trembled, and his
eyes seemed to devour the sheet, as he slowly spelled out the
frightful meaning. It was bad for Zillah that these papers had fallen
into his hands in such a way. Her evil star had been in the ascendant
when she was drawn on to this. Coming to him thus, from the hand of
Zillah herself, there was an authenticity and an authority about the
papers which otherwise might have been wanting. It was to him, at
this time; precisely the same as if they had been handed to him by
the General himself. Had they been discovered by himself originally,
it is possible--in fact, highly probable--that he would have looked
upon them with different eyes, and their effect upon him would have
been far otherwise. As it was, however, Zillah herself had found them
and given them to him. Zillah had been exciting him by her agitation
and her suffering, and had, last of all, been rousing him gradually
up to a pitch of the most intense excitement, by the conversation
which she had brought forward, by her timidity, her reluctance, her
strange questionings, and her general agitation. To a task which
required the utmost coolness of feeling, and calm impartiality of
judgment, he brought a feverish heart, a heated brain, and an
unreasoning fear of some terrific disclosure. All this prepared him
to accept blindly whatever the paper might reveal.

As he examined the paper he did not look at Zillah, but spelled out
the words from the characters, one by one, and saw that the
translation was correct. This took a long time; and all the while
Zillah sat there, with her eyes fastened on him; but he did not give
her one look. All his soul seemed to be absorbed by the papers before
him. At last he ended with the cipher writing--or, at least, with as
much of it as was supposed to be decipherable--and then he turned to
the other papers. These he read through; and then, beginning again,
he read them through once more. One only exclamation escaped him. It
was while reading that last letter, where mention was made of the
name Redfield Lyttoun being an assumed one. Then he said, in a low
voice which seemed like a groan wrung out by anguish from his inmost
soul:

"Oh, my God! my God!"

At last the Earl finished examining the papers. He put them down
feebly, and sat staring blankly at vacancy. He looked ten years older
than when he had entered the dining-room. His face was as bloodless
as the face of a corpse, his lips were ashen, and new furrows seemed
to have been traced on his brow. On his face there was stamped a
fixed and settled expression of dull, changeless anguish, which smote
Zillah to her heart. He did not see her--he did not notice that other
face, as pallid as his own, which was turned toward his, with an
agony in its expression which rivaled all that he was enduring.
No--he noticed nothing, and saw no one. All his soul was taken up now
with one thought. He had read the paper, and had at once accepted its
terrific meaning. To him it had declared that in the tragedy of his
young life, not only his wife had been false, but his friend also.
More--that it was his friend who had betrayed his wife. More yet--and
there was fresh anguish in this thought--this friend, after the
absence of many years, had returned and claimed his friendship, and
had received his confidences. To him he had poured out the grief of
his heart--the confession of life-long sorrows which had been wrought
by the very man to whom he told his tale. And this was the man who,
under the plea of ancient friendship, had bought his son for gold!
Great Heaven! the son of the woman whom he had ruined--and for gold!
He had drawn away his wife to ruin--he had come and drawn away his
son--into what? into a marriage with the daughter of his own mother's
betrayer.

Such were the thoughts, mad, frenzied, that filled Lord Chetwynde's
mind as he sat there stunned--paralyzed by this hideous accumulation
of intolerable griefs. What was Zillah to him now? The child of a
foul traitor. The one to whom his noble son had been sold. That son
had been, as he once said, the solace of his life. For his sake he
had been content to live even under his load of shame and misery. For
him he had labored; for his happiness he had planned. And for what?
What? That which was too hideous to think of--a living death--a union
with one from whom he ought to stand apart for evermore.

Little did Zillah know what thoughts were sweeping and surging
through the mind of Lord Chetwynde as she sat there watching him with
her awful eyes. Little did she dream of the feelings with which, at
that moment, he regarded her. Nothing of this kind came to her. One
only thought was present--the anguish which he was enduring. The
sight of that anguish was intolerable. She looked, and waited, and at
last, unable to bear this any longer, she sprang forward, and tore
his hands away from his face.

"It's not! It's not!" she gasped. "Say you do not believe it! Oh,
father! It's impossible!"

The Earl withdrew his hands, and shrank away from her, regarding her
with that blank gaze which shows that the mind sees not the material
form toward which the eyes are turned, but is taken up with its own
thoughts.

"Impossible?" he repeated. "Yes. That is the word I spoke when I
first heard that she had left me. Impossible? And why? Is a friend
more true than a wife? After Lady Chetwynde failed me, why should I
believe in Neville Pomeroy? And you--why did you not let me end my
life in peace? Why did you bring to me this frightful--this damning
evidence which destroys my faith not in man, but even in Heaven
itself?"

"Father! Oh, father!" moaned Zillah.

But the Earl turned away. She seized his hand again in both hers.
Again he shrank away, and withdrew his hand from her touch. She was
abhorrent to him then!


[Illustration: "He Sat Staring Blankly At Vacancy."]


This was her thought. She stepped back, and at once a wild revulsion
of feeling took place within her also. All the fierce pride of her
hot, impassioned Southern nature rose up in rebellion against this
sudden, this hasty change. Why should he so soon lose faith in her
father? He guilty!--her father!--the noble--the gentle--the
stainless--the true--he! the pure in heart--the one who through all
her life had stood before her as the ideal of manly honor and loyalty
and truth? Never! If it came to a question between Lord Chetwynde and
that idol of her young life, whose memory she adored, then Lord
Chetwynde must go down. Who was he that dared to think evil for one
moment of the noblest of men! Could he himself compare with the
father whom she had lost, in all that is highest in manhood? No. The
charge was foul and false. Lord Chetwynde was false for so doubting
his friend.

All this flashed over Zillah's mind, and at that moment, in her
revulsion of indignant pride, she forgot altogether all those doubts
which, but a short time before, had been agitating her own soul
--doubts, too, which were so strong that they had forced her to bring
on this scene with the Earl. All this was forgotten. Her loyalty to
her father triumphed over doubt, so soon as she saw another sharing
that doubt.

But her thoughts were suddenly checked.

The Earl, who had but lately shrunk away from her, now turned toward
her, and looked at her with a strange, dazed, blank expression of
face, and wild vacant eyes. For a moment he sat turned toward her
thus; and then, giving a deep groan, he fell forward out of his chair
on the floor. With a piercing cry Zillah sprang toward him and tried
to raise him up. Her cry aroused the household. Mrs. Hart was first
among those who rushed to the room to help her. She flung her arms
around the prostrate form, and lifted it upon the sofa. As he lay
there a shudder passed through Zillah's frame at the sight which she
beheld. For the Earl, in falling, had struck his head against the
sharp corner of the table, and his white and venerable hairs were now
all stained with blood, which trickled slowly over his wan pale face.



CHAPTER XIX.


A NEW PERPLEXITY.


At the sight of that venerable face, as white as marble, now set in
the fixedness of death, whose white hair was all stained with the
blood that oozed from the wound on his forehead, all Zillah's
tenderness returned. Bitterly she reproached herself.

"I have killed him! It was all my fault!" she cried. "Oh, save him!
Do something! Can you not save him?"

Mrs. Hart did not seem to hear her at all. She had carried the Earl
to the sofa, and then she knelt by his side, with her arms flung
around him. She seemed unconscious of the presence of Zillah. Her
head lay on the Earl's breast. At last she pressed her lips to his
forehead, where the blood flowed, with a quick, feverish kiss. Her
white face, as it was set against the stony face of the Earl,
startled Zillah. She stood mute.

The servants hurried in. Mrs. Hart roused herself, and had the Earl
carried to his room. Zillah followed. The Earl was put to bed. A
servant was sent off for a doctor. Mrs. Hart and Zillah watched
anxiously till the doctor came. The doctor dressed the wound, and
gave directions for the treatment of the patient. Quiet above all
things was enjoined. Apoplexy was hinted at, but it was only a hint.
The real conviction of the doctor seemed to be that it was mental
trouble of some kind, and this conviction was shared by those who
watched the Earl.

Zillah and Mrs. Hart both watched that night. They sat in an
adjoining room. But little was said at first. Zillah was busied with
her own thoughts, and Mrs. Hart was preoccupied, and more distrait
than usual.

Midnight came. For hours Zillah had brooded over her own sorrows. She
longed for sympathy. Mrs. Hart seemed to her to be the one in whom
she might best confide. The evident affection which Mrs. Hart felt
for the Earl was of itself an inducement to confidence. Her own
affection for the aged housekeeper also impelled her to tell her all
that had happened. And so it was that, while they sat there together,
Zillah gradually told her about her interview with the Earl.

But the story which Zillah told did not comprise the whole truth. She
did not wish to go into details, and there were many circumstances
which she did not feel inclined to tell to the housekeeper. There was
no reason why she should tell about the secret cipher, and very many
reasons why she should not. It was an affair which concerned her
father and her family. That her own fears were well founded she dared
not suppose, and therefore she would not even hint about such fears
to another. Above all, she was unwilling to tell what effect the
disclosure of that secret of hers had upon the Earl. Better far, it
seemed to her, it would be to carry that secret to the grave than to
disclose it in any confidence to any third person. Whatever the
result might be, it would be better to hold it concealed between the
Earl and herself.

What Zillah said was to the effect that she had been asking the Earl
about Lady Chetwynde; that the mention of the subject had produced an
extraordinary effect; that she wished to withdraw it, but the Earl
insisted on knowing what she had to say.

"Oh," she cried, "how bitterly I lament that I said any thing about
it! But I had seen something at home which excited my curiosity. It
was about Lady Chetwynde. It stated that she eloped with a certain
Redfield Lyttoun, and that the name was an assumed one; but what,"
cried Zillah, suddenly starting forward--"what is the matter?"

While Zillah was speaking Mrs. Hart's face--always pale--seemed to
turn gray, and a shudder passed through her thin, emaciated frame.
She pressed her hand on her heart, and suddenly sank back with a
groan.

Zillah sprang toward her and raised her up. Mrs. Hart still kept her
hand on her heart, and gave utterance to low moans of anguish. Zillah
chafed her hands, and then hurried off and got some wine. At the
taste of the stimulating liquor the poor creature revived. She then
sat panting, with her eyes fixed on the floor. Zillah sat looking at
her without saying a word, and afraid to touch again upon a subject
which had produced so disastrous an effect. Yet why should it? Why
should this woman show emotion equal to that of the Earl at the very
mention of such a thing? There was surely some unfathomable mystery
about it. The emotion of the Earl was intelligible--that of Mrs. Hart
was not so. Such were the thoughts that passed through her mind as
she sat there in silence watching her companion.

Hours passed without one word being spoken. Zillah frequently urged
Mrs. Hart to go to bed, but Mrs. Hart refused. She could not sleep,
she said, and she would rather be near the Earl.


[Illustration.]


At length Zillah, penetrated with pity for the poor suffering woman,
insisted on her lying down on the sofa. Mrs. Hart had to yield. She
lay down accordingly, but not to sleep. The sighs that escaped her
from time to time showed that her secret sorrow kept her awake.

Suddenly, out of a deep silence, Mrs. Hart sprang up and turned her
white face toward Zillah. Her large, weird eyes seemed to burn
themselves into Zillah's brain. Her lips moved. It was but in a
whisper that she spoke:

"Never--never--never--mention it again--either to him or to me. It is
hell to both of us!"

She fell back again, moaning.

Zillah sat transfixed, awe-struck and wondering.



CHAPTER XX.


A MODEL NURSE, AND FRIEND IN NEED.


Zillah did not tell Hilda about the particular cause of the Earl's
sickness for some time, but Hilda was sufficiently acute to
conjecture what it might be. She was too wary to press matters, and
although she longed to know all, yet she refrained from asking. She
knew enough of Zillah's frank and confiding nature to feel sure that
the confidence would come of itself some day unasked. Zillah was one
of those who can not keep a secret. Warm-hearted, open, and
impulsive, she was ever on the watch for sympathy, and no sooner did
she have a secret than she longed to share it with some one. She had
divulged her secret to the Earl, with results that were lamentable.
She had partially disclosed it to Mrs. Hart, with results equally
lamentable. The sickness of the Earl and of Mrs. Hart was now added
to her troubles; and the time would soon come when, from the
necessities of her nature, she would be compelled to pour out her
soul to Hilda. So Hilda waited.

Mrs. Hart seemed to be completely broken down. She made a feeble
attempt to take part in nursing the Earl, but fainted away in his
room. Hilda was obliged to tell her that she would be of more use by
staying away altogether, and Mrs. Hart had to obey. She tottered
about, frequently haunting that portion of the house where the Earl
lay, and asking questions about his health. Zillah and Hilda were the
chief nurses, and took turns at watching. But Zillah was
inexperienced, and rather noisy. In spite of her affectionate
solicitude she could not create new qualities within herself, and in
one moment make herself a good nurse. Hilda, on the contrary, seemed
formed by nature for the sick-room. Stealthy, quiet, noiseless, she
moved about as silently as a spirit. Every thing was in its place.
The medicines were always arranged in the best order. The pillows
were always comfortable. The doctor looked at her out of his
professional eyes with cordial approval, and when he visited he gave
his directions always to her, as though she alone could be considered
a responsible being. Zillah saw this, but felt no jealousy. She
humbly acquiesced in the doctor's decision; meekly felt that she had
none of the qualities of a nurse; and admired Hilda's genius for that
office with all her heart. Added to this conviction of her own
inability, there was the consciousness that she had brought all this
upon the Earl--a consciousness which brought on self-reproach and
perpetual remorse. The very affection which she felt for Lord
Chetwynde of itself incapacitated her. A good nurse should be cool.
Like a good doctor or a good surgeon, his affections should not be
too largely interested. It is a mistake to suppose that one's dear
friends make one's best nurses. They are very well to look at, but
not to administer medicine or smooth the pillow. Zillah's face of
agony was not so conducive to recovery as the calm smile of Hilda.
The Earl did not need kisses or hot tears upon his face. What he did
need was quiet, and a regular administration of medicines presented
by a cool, steady hand.

The Earl was very low. He was weak, yet conscious of all that was
going on. Zillah's heart was gladdened to hear once more words of
love from him. The temporary hardness of heart which had appalled her
had all passed away, and the old affection had returned. In a few
feeble words he begged her not to let Guy know that he was sick, for
he would soon recover, and it would only worry his son. Most of the
words which he spoke were about that son. Zillah would have given any
thing if she could have brought Guy to that bedside. But that was
impossible, and she could only wait and hope.

Weeks passed away, and in the interviews which she had with Hilda
Zillah gradually let her know all that had happened. She told her
about the discovery of the papers, and the effect which they had upon
the Earl. At last, one evening, she gave the papers to Hilda. It was
when Zillah came to sit up with the Earl. Hilda took the papers
solemnly, and said that she would look over them. She reproached
Zillah for not giving her her confidence before, and said that she
had a claim before any one, and if she had only told her all about it
at Pomeroy Court, this might not have happened. All this Zillah felt
keenly, and began to think that the grand mistake which she had made
was in not taking Hilda into her confidence at the very outset.

"I do not know what these papers may mean," said Hilda; "but I tell
you candidly that if they contain what I suspect, I would have
advised you never to mention it to Lord Chetwynde. It was an awful
thing to bring it all up to him."

"Then you know all about it?" asked Zillah, wonderingly.

"Of course. Every body knows the sorrow of his life. It has been
public for the last twenty years. I heard all about it when I was a
little girl from one of the servants. I could have advised you to
good purpose, and saved you from sorrow, if you had only confided in
me."

Such were Hilda's words, and Zillah felt new self-reproach to think
that she had not confided in her friend.

"I hope another time you will not be so wanting in confidence," said
Hilda, as she retired. "Do I not deserve it?"

"You do, you do, my dearest!" said Zillah, affectionately. "I have
always said that you were like a sister--and after this I will tell
you every thing."

Hilda kissed her, and departed.

Zillah waited impatiently to see Hilda again. She was anxious to know
what effect these papers would produce on her. Would she scout them
as absurd, or believe the statement? When Hilda appeared again to
relieve her, all Zillah's curiosity was expressed in her face. But
Hilda said nothing about the papers. She urged Zillah to go and
sleep.

"I know what you want to say," said she, "but I will not talk about
it now. Go off to bed, darling, and get some rest. You need it."

So Zillah had to go, and defer the conversation till some other time.
She went away to bed, and slept but little. Before her hour she was
up and hastened back.

"Why, Zillah," said Hilda, "you are half an hour before your time.
You are wearing yourself out."

"Did you read the papers?" asked Zillah, as she kissed her.

"Yes," said Hilda, seriously.

"And what do you think?" asked Zillah, with a frightened face.

"My darling," said Hilda, "how excited you are! How you tremble! Poor
dear! What is the matter?"

"That awful confession!" gasped Zillah, in a scarce audible voice.

"My darling," said Hilda, passing her arm about Zillah's neck, "why
should you take it so to heart? You have no concern with it. You are
Guy Molyneux's wife. This paper has now no concern with you."

Zillah started back as though she had been stung. Nothing could have
been more abhorrent to her, in such a connection, than the suggestion
of her marriage.

"You believe it, then?"

"Believe it! Why, don't you?" said Hilda, in wondering tones. "You
_do_, or you would not feel so. Why did you ask the Earl? Why did you
give it to me? Is it not your father's own confession?"

Zillah shuddered, and burst into tears.

"No," she cried at last; "I do not believe it. I will never believe
it. Why did I ask the Earl! Because I believed that he would dispel
my anxiety. That is all."

"Ah, poor child!" said Hilda, fondly. "You are too young to have
trouble. Think no more of this."

"Think of it! I tell you I think of it all the time--night and day,"
cried Zillah, impetuously. "Think of it! Why, what else can I do than
think of it?"

"But you do not believe it?"

"No. Never will I believe it."

"Then why trouble yourself about it?"

"Because it is a stain on my dear papa's memory. It is undeserved--it
is inexplicable; but it is a stain. And how can I, his daughter, not
think of it?"

"A stain!" said Hilda, after a thoughtful pause. "If there were a
stain on such a name, I can well imagine that you would feel anguish.
But there is none. How can there be? Think of his noble life spent in
honor in the service of his country! Can you associate any stain with
such a life?"

"He was the noblest of men!" interrupted Zillah, vehemently.

"Then do not talk of a stain," said Hilda, calmly. "As to Lord
Chetwynde, he, at least, has nothing to say. To him General Pomeroy
was such a friend as he could never have hoped for. He saved Lord
Chetwynde from beggary and ruin. When General Pomeroy first came back
to England he found Lord Chetwynde at the last extremity, and
advanced sixty thousand pounds to help him. Think of that! And it's
true. I was informed of it on good authority. Besides, General
Pomeroy did more; for he intrusted his only daughter to Lord
Chetwynde--"

"My God!" cried Zillah; "what are you saying? Do you not know,
Hilda, that every word that you speak is a stab? What do you mean? Do
you dare to talk as if my papa has shut the mouth of an injured
friend by a payment of money? Do you mean me to think that, after
dishonoring his friend, he has sought to efface the dishonor by gold?
My God! you will drive me mad. You make my papa, and Lord Chetwynde
also, sink down into fathomless depths of infamy."

"You torture my words into a meaning different from what I intended,"
said Hilda, quietly. "I merely meant to show you that Lord
Chetwynde's obligations to General Pomeroy were so vast that he ought
not even to suspect him, no matter how strong the proof."

Zillah waved her hands with a gesture of despair.

"No matter how strong the proof!" she repeated. "Ah! There it is
again. You quietly assume my papa's guilt in every word. You have
read those papers, and have believed every word."

"You are very unkind, Zillah. I was doing my best to comfort you."

"Comfort!" cried Zillah, in indescribable tones.

"Ah, my darling, do not be cross," said Hilda, twining her arms
around Zillah's neck. "You know I loved your papa only less than you
did. He was a father to me. What can I say? You yourself were
troubled by those papers. So was I. And that is all I will say. I
will not speak of them again."

And here Hilda stopped, and went about the room to attend to her
duties as nurse. Zillah stood, with her mind full of strange,
conflicting feelings. The hints which Hilda had given sank deep into
her soul. What did they mean? Their frightful meaning stood revealed
full before her in all its abhorrent reality.

Reviewing those papers by the light of Hilda's dark interpretation,
she saw what they involved. This, then, was the cause of her
marriage. Her father had tried to atone for the past. He had made
Lord Chetwynde rich to pay for the dishonor that he had suffered. He
had stolen away the wife, and given a daughter in her place. She,
then, had been the medium of this frightful attempt at readjustment,
this atonement for wrongs that could never be atoned for. Hilda's
meaning made this the only conceivable cause for that premature
engagement, that hurried marriage by the death-bed. And could there
be any other reason? Did it not look like the act of a remorseful
sinner, anxious to finish his expiation, and make amends for crime
before meeting his Judge in the other world to which he was
hastening? The General had offered up every thing to expiate his
crime--he had given his fortune--he had sacrificed his daughter. What
other cause could possibly have moved him to enforce the hideous
mockery of that ghastly, that unparalleled marriage?

Beneath such intolerable thoughts as these, Zillah's brain whirled.
She could not avoid them. Affection, loyalty, honor--all bade her
trust in her father; the remembrance of his noble character, of his
stainless life, his pure and gentle nature, all recurred. In vain.
Still the dark suspicion insidiously conveyed by Hilda would obtrude;
and, indeed, under such circumstances, Zillah would have been more
than human if they had not come forth before her. As it was, she was
only human and young and inexperienced. Dark days and bitter nights
were before her, but among all none were more dark and bitter than
this.



CHAPTER XXI.


A DARK COMMISSION.


These amateur nurses who had gathered about the Earl differed very
much, as may be supposed, in their individual capacities. As for Mrs.
Hart, she was very quickly put out of the way. The stroke which had
prostrated her, at the outset, did not seem to be one from which she
could very readily recover. The only thing which she did was to
totter to the room early in the morning, so as to find out how the
Earl was, and then to totter hack again until the next morning. Mrs.
Hart thus was incapable; and Zillah was not very much better. Since
her conversation with Hilda there were thoughts in her mind so new,
so different from any which she had ever had before, and so frightful
in their import, that they changed all her nature. She became
melancholy, self-absorbed, and preoccupied. Silent and distrait, she
wandered about the Earl's room aimlessly, and did not seem able to
give to him that close and undivided attention which he needed. Hilda
found it necessary to reproach her several times in her usual
affectionate way; and Zillah tried, after each reproach, to rouse
herself from her melancholy, so as to do better the next time. Yet,
the next time she did just as badly; and, on the whole, acquitted
herself but poorly of her responsible task.

And thus it happened that Hilda was obliged to assume the supreme
responsibility. The others had grown more than ever useless, and she,
accordingly, grew more than ever necessary. To this task she devoted
herself with that assiduity and patience for which she was
distinguished. The constant loss of sleep, and the incessant and
weary vigils which she was forced to maintain, seemed to have but
little effect upon her elastic and energetic nature. Zillah, in spite
of her preoccupation, could not help seeing that Hilda was doing
nearly all the work, and remonstrated with her accordingly. But to
her earnest remonstrances Hilda turned a deaf ear.

"You see, dear." said she, "there is no one but me. Mrs. Hart is
herself in need of a nurse, and you are no better than a baby, so how
can I help watching poor dear Lord Chetwynde?"

"But you will wear yourself out," persisted Zillah.

"Oh, we will wait till I begin to show signs of weariness," said
Hilda, in a sprightly tone. "At present, I feel able to spend a great
many days and nights here."

Indeed, to all her remonstrances Hilda was quite inaccessible, and it
remained for Zillah to see her friend spend most of her time in that
sick-room, the ruling spirit, while she was comparatively useless.
She could only feel gratitude for so much kindness, and express that
gratitude whenever any occasion arose. While Hilda was regardless of
Zillah's remonstrances, she was equally so of the doctor's warnings.
That functionary did not wish to see his best nurse wear herself out,
and warned her frequently, but with no effect whatever. Hilda's
self-sacrificing zeal was irrepressible and invincible.

While Hilda was thus devoting herself to the Earl with such tireless
patience, and exciting the wonder and gratitude of all in that little
household by her admirable self-devotion, there was another who
watched the progress of events with perfect calmness, yet with deep
anxiety. Gualtier was not able now to give his music lessons, yet,
although he no longer could gain admission to the inmates of Castle
Chetwynde, his anxiety about the Earl was a sufficient excuse for
calling every day to inquire about his health. On those inquiries he
not only heard about the Earl, but also about all the others, and
more particularly about Hilda. He cultivated an acquaintance with the
doctor, who, though generally disposed to stand on his dignity toward
musicians, seemed to think that Gualtier had gained from the Earl's
patronage a higher title to be noticed than any which his art could
give. Besides, the good doctor knew that Gualtier was constantly at
the Castle, and naturally wished to avail himself of so good an
opportunity of finding out all about the internal life of this noble
but secluded family. Gualtier humored him to the fullest extent, and
with a great appearance of frankness told him as much as he thought
proper, and no more; in return for which confidence he received the
fullest information as to the present condition of the household.
What surprised Gualtier most was Hilda's devotion. He had not
anticipated it. It was real, yet what could be her motive? In his own
language--What game was the little thing up to? This was the question
which he incessantly asked himself, without being able to answer it.
His respect for her genius was too great to allow him for one moment
to suppose that it was possible for her to act without some deep
motive. Her immolation of self, her assiduity, her tenderness, her
skill, all seemed to this man so many elements in the game which she
was playing. And for all these things he only admired her the more
fervently. That she would succeed he never for a moment doubted;
though what it was that she might be aiming at, and what it was that
her success might involve, were inscrutable mysteries.

What game is the little thing up to? he asked himself,
affectionately, and with tender emphasis. What game? And this became
the one idea of his mind. Little else were his thoughts engaged in,
except an attempt to fathom the depths of Hilda's design. But he was
baffled. What that design involved could hardly have been discovered
by him. Often and often he wished that he could look into that
sick-chamber to see what the "little thing was up to." Yet, could he
have looked into that chamber, he would have seen nothing that could
have enlightened him. He would have seen a slender, graceful form,
moving lightly about the room, now stooping over the form of the sick
man to adjust or to smooth his pillow, now watchfully and warily
administering the medicine which stood near the bed. Hilda was not
one who would leave any thing to be discovered, even by those who
might choose to lurk in ambush and spy at her through a keyhole.

But though Hilda's plans were for some time impenetrable, there came
at last an opportunity when he was furnished with light sufficient to
reveal them--a lurid light which made known to him possibilities in
her which he had certainly not suspected before.

One day, on visiting Chetwynde Castle, he found her in the chief
parlor. He thought that she had come there purposely in order to see
him; and he was not disappointed. After a few questions as to the
Earl's health, she excused herself, and said that she must hurry back
to his room; but, as she turned to go, she slipped a piece of paper
into his hand, as she had done once before. On it he saw the
following words:

"_Be in the West Avenue, at the former place, at three o'clock_."

Gualtier wandered about in a state of feverish impatience till the
appointed hour, marveling what the purpose might be which had induced
Hilda to seek the interview. He felt that the purpose must be of
far-reaching importance which would lead her to seek him at such a
time; but what it was he tried in vain to conjecture.

At last the hour came, and Gualtier, who had been waiting so long,
was rewarded by the sight of Hilda. She was as calm as usual, but
greeted him with greater cordiality than she was in the habit of
showing. She also evinced greater caution than even on the former
occasion, and led the way to a more lonely spot, and looked all
around most carefully, so as to guard against the possibility of
discovery. When, at length, she spoke, it was in a low and guarded
voice.

"I am so worn down by nursing," she said, "that I have had to come
out for a little fresh air. But I would not leave the Earl till they
absolutely forced me. Such is my devotion to him that there is an
impression abroad through the Castle that I will not survive him."

"Survive him? You speak as though he were doomed," said Gualtier.

"He--is--very--low," said Hilda, in a solemn monotone.

Gualtier said nothing, but regarded her in silence for some time.

"What was the cause of his illness?" he asked at length. "The doctor
thinks that his mind is affected."

"For once, something like the truth has penetrated that heavy brain."

"Do you know any thing that can have happened?" asked Gualtier,
cautiously.

"Yes; a sudden shock. Strange to say, it was administered by Mrs.
Molyneux."

"Mrs. Molyneux!"

"Yes."

"I am so completely out of your sphere that I know nothing whatever
of what is going on. How Mrs. Molyneux can have given a shock to the
Earl that could have reduced him to his present state, I can not
imagine."

"Of course it was not intentional. She happened to ask the Earl about
something which revived old memories and old sorrows in a very
forcible manner. He grew excited--so much so, indeed, that he
fainted, and, in falling, struck his head. That is the whole story."

"May I ask," said Gualtier, after a thoughtful pause, "if Mrs.
Molyneux's ill-fated questions had any reference to those things
about which we have spoken together, from time to time?"

"They had--and a very close one. In fact, they arose out of those
very papers which we have had before us."

Gualtier looked at Hilda, as she said this, with the closest
attention.

"It happened," said Hilda, "that Mrs. Molyneux, on her last visit to
Pomeroy Court, was seized with a fancy to examine her father's desk.
While doing so, she found a secret drawer, which, by some singular
accident, had been left started, and a little loose--just enough to
attract her attention. This she opened, and in it, strange to say,
she found that very cipher which I have told you of. A key
accompanied it, by which she was able to read as much as we have
read; and there were also those letters with which you are familiar.
She took them to her room, shut herself up, and studied them as
eagerly as ever either you or I did. She then hurried back to
Chetwynde Castle, and laid every thing before the Earl. Out of this
arose his excitement and its very sad results."

"I did not know that there were sufficient materials for
accomplishing so much," said Gualtier, cautiously.

"No; the materials were not abundant. There was the cipher, with
which no one would have supposed that any thing could be done. Then
there were those other letters which lay with it in the desk, which
corroborated what the cipher seemed to say. Out of this has suddenly
arisen ruin and anguish."

"There was also the key," said Gualtier, in a tone of delicate
insinuation.

"True," said Hilda; "had the key not been inclosed with the papers,
she could not have understood the cipher, or made any thing out of
the letters."

"The Earl must have believed it all."

"He never doubted for an instant. By the merest chance, I happened to
be in a place where I saw it all," said Hilda, with a peculiar
emphasis. "I thought that he would reject it at first, and that the
first impulse would be to scout such a charge. But mark this"--and
her voice grew solemn--"there must have been some knowledge in his
mind of things unknown to us, or else he could never have been so
utterly and completely overwhelmed. It was a blow which literally
crushed him--in mind and body."

There was a long silence.

"And you think he can not survive this?" asked Gualtier.

"No," said Hilda, in a very strange, slow voice, "I do not
think--that--he--can--recover. He is old and feeble. The shock was
great. His mind wanders, also. He is sinking slowly, but surely."

She paused, and looked earnestly at Gualtier, who returned her look
with one of equal earnestness.

"I have yet to tell you what purpose induced me to appoint this
meeting," said she, in so strange a voice that Gualtier started. But
he said not a word.

Hilda, who was standing near to him, drew nearer still. She looked
all around, with a strange light in her eyes. Then she turned to him
again, and said, in a low whisper:

"I want you to get me something."

Gualtier looked at her inquiringly, but in silence. His eyes seemed
to ask her, "What is it?"

She put her mouth close to his ear, and whispered something, heard
only by him. But that low whisper was never forgotten. His face
turned deathly pale. He looked away, and said not a word.

"Good-by," said Hilda; "I am going now." She held out her hand. He
grasped it. At that moment their eyes met, and a look of intelligence
flashed between them.



CHAPTER XXII.


THE JUDAS KISS.


It has already been said that the Earl rallied a little so to
recognize Zillah, all his old affection was exhibited, and the
temporary aversion which he had manifested during that eventful time
when he had seen the cipher writing had passed off without leaving
any trace of its existence. It was quite likely indeed that the whole
circumstance had been utterly obliterated from his memory, and when
his eyes caught sight of Zillah she was to him simply the one whom he
loved next best to Guy. His brain was in such a state that his
faculties seemed dulled, and his memory nearly gone. Had he
remembered the scene he would either have continued to regard Zillah
with horror, or else, if affection had triumphed over a sense of
injury, he would have done something or said something in his more
lucid intervals to assure Zillah of his continued love. But nothing
of the kind occurred. He clung to Zillah like a child, and the few
faint words which he addressed to her simply recognized her as the
object of an affection which had never met with an interruption. They
also had reference to Guy, as to whether she had written to him yet,
and whether any more letters had been received from him. A letter,
which came during the illness, she tried to read, but the poor weary
brain of the sick man could not follow her. She had to tell him in
general terms of its contents.

For some weeks she had hoped that the Earl would recover, and
therefore delayed sending the sad news to Guy. But at length she
could no longer conceal from herself the fact that the illness would
be long, and she saw that it was too serious to allow Guy to remain
in ignorance. She longed to address him words of condolence, and
sympathized deeply with him in the anxiety which she knew would be
felt by a heart so affectionate as his.

And now as she thought of writing to him there came to her, more
bitterly than ever, the thought of her false position. She write! She
could not. It was Hilda who would write. Hilda stood between her and
the one she wished to soothe. In spite of her warm and sisterly
affection for her friend, and her boundless trust in her, this
thought now sent a thrill of vexation through her; and she bitterly
lamented the chain of events by which she had been placed in such a
position. It was humiliating and galling. But could she not yet
escape? Might she not even now write in her own name explaining all?
No. It could not be--not now, for what would be the reception of such
explanations, coming as they would with news of his father's illness!
Would he treat them with any consideration whatever? Would not his
anxiety about his father lead him to regard them with an impatient
disdain? But perhaps, on the other hand, he might feel softened and
accept her explanation readily, without giving any though to the
strange deceit which had been practiced for so long a time. This gave
her a gleam of hope; but in her perplexity she could not decide, so
she sought counsel from Hilda as usual. Had Mrs. Hart being in the
possession of her usual faculties she might possibly have asked her
advice also; but, as it was, Hilda was the only one to whom she could
turn.

Hilda listened to her with that sweet smile, and that loving and
patient consideration, which she always gave to Zillah's confidences
and appeals.

"Darling," said she, after a long and thoughtful silence, "I
understand fully the perplexity which you feel. In fact, this letter
_ought_ to come from you, and from you only. I'm extremely sorry that
I ever began this. I'm sure I did it from the _very best_ motives.
Who could ever have dreamed that it would become so embarrassing? And
now I don't know what to do--that is, not just now."

"Do you think he would be angry at the deceit?"

"Do you yourself think so?" asked Hilda in reply.


[Illustration: Hilda Writes To Guy Molyneux.]


"Why, that is what I am afraid of; but then--isn't it possible that
he might be--softened, you know--by anxiety?"

"People don't get softened by anxiety. They get impatient, angry with
the world and with Providence. But the best way to judge is to put
yourself in his situation. Suppose you were in India, and a letter
was written to you by your wife--or your husband, I suppose I should
say--telling you that your father was extremely ill, and that he
himself had been deceiving you for some years. The writing would be
strange--quite unfamiliar; the story would be almost incredible; you
wouldn't know what to think. You'd be deeply anxious, and yet half
believe that some one was practicing a cruel jest on you. For my
part, if I had an explanation to make I would wait for a time of
prosperity arid happiness. Misfortune makes people so bitter."

"That is the very thing that I'm afraid of," said Zillah,
despairingly. "And--oh dear, what _shall_ I do?"

"You must do one thing certainly, and that is write him about his
father. You yourself must do it, darling."

"Why, what do you mean? You were just now showing me that this was
the very thing which I could not do."

"You misunderstand me," said Hilda, with a smile. "Why, do you
really mean to say that you do not see how easy it is to get out of
this difficulty?"

"Easy! It seems to me a terrible one."

"Why, my darling child, don't you see that after you write your
letter I can _copy_ it? You surely have nothing so very private to
say that you will object to that. I suppose all that you want to do
is to break the news to him as gently and tenderly as possible. You
don't want to indulge in expressions of personal affection, of
course."

"Oh, my dearest Hilda!" cried Zillah, overjoyed. "What an owl I am
not to have thought of that! It meets the whole difficulty. I
write--you copy it--and it will be _my_ letter after all. How I could
have been so stupid I do not see. But I'm always so. As to any
private confidences, there is no danger of any thing of that kind
taking place between people who are so very peculiarly situated as we
are."

"I suppose not," said Hilda, with a smile.

"But it's such a bore to copy letters."

"My darling, can any thing be a trouble that I do for you? Besides,
you know how very fast I write."

"You are always so kind," said Zillah, as she kissed her friend
fondly and tenderly. "I wish I could do something for you; but--poor
me!--I don't seem able to do any thing for any body--not even for the
dear old Earl. What wouldn't I give to be like you!"


"You are far better as you are, darling," said Hilda, with perhaps a
double meaning in her words. "But now go and write the letter, and
bring it to me, and I will copy it as fast as I can, and send it to
the post."

Under these circumstances that letter was written.

The Earl lingered on in a low stage, with scarcely any symptoms of
improvement. At first, indeed, there was a time when he had seemed
better, but that passed away. The relapse sorely puzzled the doctor.
If he had not been in such good hands he might have suspected the
nurse of neglect, but that was the last thing that he could have
thought of Hilda. Indeed, Hilda had been so fearful of the Earl's
being neglected that she had, for his sake, assumed these
all-engrossing cares. Singularly enough, however, it was since her
assumption of the chief duties of nursing him that the Earl had
relapsed. The doctor felt that nothing better in the way of nursing
him could be conceived of. Zillah thought that if it had not been for
Hilda the Earl would scarcely have been alive. As for Hilda herself,
she could only meekly deprecate the doctor's praises, and sigh to
think that such care as hers should prove so unavailing.

The Earl's case was, indeed, a mysterious one. After making every
allowance for the shock which he might have experienced, and after
laying all possible stress upon that blow on his head which he had
suffered when falling forward, it still was a subject of wonder to
the doctor why he should not recover. Hilda had told him in general
terms, and with her usual delicacy, of the cause of the Earl's
illness, so that the doctor knew that it arose from mental trouble,
and not from physical ailment. Yet, even under these circumstances,
he was puzzled at the complete prostration of the Earl, and at the
adverse symptoms which appeared as time passed on.

The Earl slept most of the time. He was in a kind of stupor. This
puzzled the doctor extremely. The remedies which he administered
seemed not to have their legitimate effect. In fact they seemed to
have no effect, and the most powerful drugs proved useless in this
mysterious case.

"It must be the mind," said the doctor to himself, as he rode home
one day after finding the Earl in a lower state than usual. "It must
be the mind; and may the devil take the mind, for hang me if I can
ever make head or tail of it!"

Yet on the night when the doctor soliloquized in this fashion a
change had come over the Earl which might have been supposed to be
for the better. He was exceedingly weak, so weak, indeed, that it was
only with a great effort that he could move his hand; but he seemed
to be more sensible than usual. That "mind" which the doctor cursed
seemed to have resumed something of its former functions. He asked
various questions; and, among others, he wished to hear Guy's last
letter. This Hilda promised he should hear on the morrow. Zillah was
there at the time, and the Earl cast an appealing glance toward her;
but such was her confidence in Hilda that she did not dream of doing
any thing in opposition to her decision. So she shook her head, and
bending over the Earl, she kissed him, and said, "To-morrow."

The Earl, by a great effort, reached up his thin, feeble hand and
took hers. "You will not leave me?" he murmured.

"Certainly not, if you want me to stay," said Zillah.

The Earl, by a still greater effort, dragged her down nearer to him.
"Don't leave me with _her_," he whispered.

Zillah started at the tone of his voice. It was a tone of fear.

"What is it that he says?" asked Hilda, in a sweet voice.

The Earl frowned. Zillah did not see it however. She looked back to
Hilda and whispered, "He wants me to stay with him."

"Poor dear!" said Hilda. "Well, tell him that you will. It is a whim.
He loves you, you know. Tell him that you'll stay."

And Zillah stooped down and told the Earl that she would stay.

There was trouble in the Earl's face. He lay silent and motionless,
with his eyes fixed upon Zillah. Something there was in his eyes
which expressed such mute appeal that Zillah wondered what it might
be. She went over to him and sat by his side. He feebly reached out
his thin hand. Zillah took it and held it in both of hers, kissing
him as she did so.

"You will not leave me?" he whispered.

"No, dear father."

A faint pressure of her hand was the Earl's response, and a faint
smile of pleasure hovered over his thin lips.

"Have you written to Guy?" he asked again.

"Yes. I have written for him to come home," said Zillah, who meant
that Hilda had written in her name; but, in her mind, it was all the
same.

The Earl drew a deep sigh. There was trouble in his face. Zillah
marked it, but supposed that he was anxious about that son who was
never absent from his thoughts. She did not attempt to soothe his
mind in any way. He was not able to keep up a conversation. Nor did
she notice that the pressure on her hand was stronger whenever Hilda,
with her light, stealthy step, came near; nor did she see the fear
that was in his face as his eyes rested upon her.

The Earl drew Zillah faintly toward him. She bent down over him.

"Send her away," said he, in a low whisper.

"Who? Hilda?" asked Zillah, in wonder.

"Yes. You nurse me--_you_ stay with me."

Zillah at once arose. "Hilda," said she, "he wants me to stay with
him to-night. I suppose he thinks I give up too much to you, and
neglect him. Oh dear, I only wish I was such a nurse as you! But,
since he wishes it, I will stay tonight; and if there is any trouble
I will call you."

"But, my poor child," said Hilda, sweetly, "you have been here all
day."

"Oh, well, it is his wish, and I will stay here all night."

Hilda remonstrated a little; but, finding that Zillah was determined,
she retired, and Zillah passed all that night with the Earl. He was
uneasy. A terror seemed to be over him. He insisted on holding
Zillah's hand. At times he would start and look fearfully around. Was
it Hilda whom he feared? Whatever his fear was, he said nothing; but
after each start he would look eagerly up at Zillah, and press her
hand faintly. And Zillah thought it was simply the disorder of his
nervous system, or, perhaps, the effect of the medicines which he had
taken. As to those medicines, she was most careful and most regular
in administering them. Indeed, her very anxiety about these
interfered with that watchfulness about the Earl himself which was
the chief requisite. Fully conscious that she was painfully irregular
and unmethodical, Zillah gave her chief thought to the passage of the
hours, so that every medicine should be given at the right time.

It was a long night, but morning came at last, and with it came
Hilda, calm, refreshed, affectionate, and sweet.

"How has he been, darling?" she asked.

"Quiet," said Zillah, wearily.

"That's right; and now, my dearest, go off and get some rest. You
must be very tired."


[Illustration: "The Earl Gasped--'Judas!'"]


So Zillah went off, and Hilda remained with the Earl.

Day was just dawning when Zillah left the Earl's room. She stooped
over him and kissed him. Overcome by fatigue, she did not think much
of the earnest, wistful gaze which caught her eyes. Was it not the
same look which he had fixed on her frequently before?

The Earl again drew her down as she clasped his hand. She stooped
over him.

"I'm afraid of _her_," he said, in a low whisper. "Send Mrs. Hart."

Mrs. Hart? The Earl did not seem to know that she was ill. No doubt
his mind was wandering. So Zillah thought, and the idea was natural.
She thought she would humor the delirious fancy. So she promised to
send Mrs. Hart.

"What did he say?" asked Hilda, following Zillah out. Zillah told her
according to her own idea.

"Oh, it's only his delirium," said Hilda. "He'll take me for you when
I go back. Don't let it trouble you. You might send Mathilde if you
feel afraid; but I hardly think that Mathilde would be so useful here
as I."

"_I_ afraid? My dear Hilda, can I take his poor delirious fancy in
earnest? Send Mathilde? I should hardly expect to see him alive
again."

"Alive again!" said Hilda, with a singular intonation.

"Yes; Mathilde is an excellent maid, but in a sick-room she is as
helpless as a child. She is far worse than I am. Do we ever venture
to leave him alone with her?"

"Never mind. Do you go to sleep, darling, and sweet dreams to you."

They kissed, and Zillah went to her chamber.

It was about dawn, and the morning twilight but dimly illumined the
hall. The Earl's room was dark, and the faint night light made
objects only indistinctly perceptible. The Earl's white face was
turned toward the door as Hilda entered, with imploring, wistful
expectancy upon it. As he caught sight of Hilda the expression turned
to one of fear--that same fear which Zillah had seen upon it. What
did he fear? What was it that was upon his mind? What fearful thought
threw its shadow over his soul?

Hilda looked at him for a long time in silence, her face calm and
impassive, her eyes intent upon him. The Earl looked back upon her
with unchanged fear--looking back thus out of his weakness and
helplessness, with a fear that seemed intensified by the
consciousness of that weakness. But Hilda's face softened not; no
gleam of tenderness mitigated the hard lustre of her eyes; her
expression lessened not from its set purpose. The Earl said not one
word. It was not to her that he would utter the fear that was in him.
Zillah had promised to send Mrs. Hart. When would Mrs. Hart come?
Would she ever come, or would she never come? He looked away from
Hilda feverishly, anxiously, to the door; he strained his ears to
listen for footsteps. But no footsteps broke the deep stillness that
reigned through the vast house, where all slept except these two who
faced each other in the sick-room.

There was a clock at the end of the corridor outside, whose ticking
sounded dull and muffled from the distance, yet it penetrated, with
clear, sharp vibrations, to the brain of the sick man, and seemed to
him, in the gathering excitement of this fearful hour, to grow louder
and louder, till each tick sounded to his sharpened sense like the
vibrations of a bell, and seemed to be the funeral knell of his
destiny; sounding thus to his ears, solemnly, fatefully, bodingly;
pealing forth thus with every sound the announcement that second
after second out of those few minutes of time which were still left
him had passed away from him forever. Each one of those seconds was
prolonged to his excited sense to the duration of an hour. After each
stroke he listened for the next, dreading to hear it, yet awaiting
it, and all the while feeling upon him the eyes of one of whom he was
to be the helpless, voiceless victim.

There had been but a few minutes since Zillah left, but they seemed
like long terms of duration to the man who watched and feared. Zillah
had gone, and would not return. Would Mrs. Hart ever come? Oh, could
Mrs. Hart have known that this man, of all living beings, was thus
watching and hoping for her, and that to this man of all others her
presence would have given a heavenly peace and calm! If she could but
have known this as it was then it would have roused her even from the
bed of death, and brought her to his side though it were but to die
at the first sight of him. But Mrs. Hart came not. She knew nothing
of any wish for her. In her own extreme prostration she had found,
after a wakeful night, a little blessed sleep, and the watcher
watched in vain.

The clock tolled on.

Hilda looked out through the door. She turned and went out into the
hall. She came back and looked around the room. She went to the
window and looked out. The twilight was fading. The gloom was
lessening from around the dim groves and shadowy trees. Morning was
coming. She went back into the room, and once more into the hall.
There she stood and listened. The Earl followed her with his
eyes--eyes that were full of awful expectation.

Hilda came back. The Earl summoned all his strength, and uttered a
faint cry. Hilda walked up to him; she stooped down over him. The
Earl uttered another cry. Hilda paused. Then she stooped down and
kissed his forehead.

The Earl gasped. One word came hissing forth--"Judas!"



CHAPTER XXIII.


THE HOUSE OF MOURNING.


Zillah had scarcely fallen asleep when a shrill cry roused her. She
started up. Hilda stood by her side with wild excitement in her
usually impassive face. A cold thrill ran through Zillah's frame. To
see Hilda in any excitement was an unknown thing to her; but now this
excitement was not concealed.

"Oh, my darling! my darling!" she cried.

"What? what?" Zillah almost screamed. "What is it? What has
happened?" Fear told her. She knew what had happened. One thing, and
one only, could account for this.

"He's gone! It's over! He's gone! He's gone! Oh, darling! How can I
tell it? And so sudden! Oh, calm yourself!" And Hilda flung her arms
about Zillah, and groaned.

Zillah's heart seemed to stand still. She flung off Hilda's arms, she
tore herself away, and rushed to the Earl's room. Such a sudden thing
as this--could it be? Gone! And it was only a few moments since she
had seen his last glance, and heard his last words.

Yes; it was indeed so. There, as she entered that room, where now the
rays of morning entered, she saw the form of her friend--that friend
whom she called father, and loved as such. But the white face was no
longer turned to greet her; the eyes did not seek hers, nor could
that cold hand ever again return the pressure of hers. White as
marble was that face now, still and set in the fixedness of death;
cold as marble was now that hand which hers clasped in that first
frenzy of grief and horror; cold as marble and as lifeless. Never
again--never again might she hold commune with the friend who now was
numbered with the dead.

She sat in that room stricken into dumbness by the shock of this
sudden calamity. Time passed. The awful news flashed through the
house. The servants heard it, and came silent and awe-struck to the
room; but when they saw the white face, and the mourner by the
bedside, they stood still, nor did they dare to cross the threshold.
Suddenly, while the little group of servants stood there in that
doorway, with the reverence which is always felt for death and for
sorrow, there came one who forced her way through them and passed
into the room. This one bore on her face the expression of a mightier
grief than that which could be felt by any others--a grief
unspeakable--beyond words, and beyond thought. White-haired, and with
a face which now seemed turned to stone in the fixedness of its great
agony, this figure tottered rather than walked into the room. There
was no longer any self-restraint in this woman, who for years had
lived under a self-restraint that never relaxed; there was no
thought as to those who might see or hear; there was nothing but the
utter abandonment of perfect grief--of grief which had reached its
height and could know nothing more; there was nothing less than
despair itself--that despair which arises when all is lost--as this
woman flung herself past Zillah, as though she had a grief superior
to Zillah's, and a right to pass even her in the terrible precedence
of sorrow. It was thus that Mrs. Hart came before the presence of the
dead and flung herself upon the inanimate corpse, and wound her thin
arms around that clay from which the soul had departed, and pressed
her wan lips upon the cold brow from which the immortal dweller had
passed away to its immortality.

In the depths of her own grief Zillah was roused by a cry which
expressed a deeper grief than hers--a cry of agony--a cry of despair:

"Oh, my God! Oh, God of mercy! Dead! What? dead! Dead--and no
explanation--no forgiveness!"

And Mrs. Hart fell down lifeless over the form of the dead.

Zillah rose with a wonder in her soul which alleviated the sorrow of
bereavement. What was this? What did it mean?

"Explanation!" "Forgiveness!" What words were these? His
housekeeper!--could she be any thing else? What had she done which
required this lamentation? What was the Earl to her, that his death
should cause such despair?

But amidst such thoughts Zillah was still considerate about this
stricken one, and she called the servants, and they bore her away to
her own room. This grief, from whatever cause it may have arisen, was
too much for Mrs. Hart. Before this she had been prostrated. She now
lost all consciousness, and lay in a stupor from which she could not
be aroused.

The wondering questions which had arisen in Zillah's mind troubled
her and puzzled her at first; but gradually she thought that she
could answer them. Mrs. Hart, she thought, was wonderfully attached
to the Earl. She had committed some imaginary delinquency in her
management of the household, which, in her weak and semi-delirious
state, was weighing upon her spirits. When she found that he was
dead, the shock was great to one in her weak state, and she had only
thought of some confession which she had wished to make to him.

When the doctor came that day he found Zillah still sitting there,
holding the hand of the dead. Hilda came to tell all that she knew.

"About half an hour after Zillah left," she said, "I was sitting by
the window, looking out to see the rising sun. Suddenly the Earl gave
a sudden start, and sat upright in bed. I rushed over to him. He fell
back. I chafed his hands and feet. I could not think, at first, that
it was any thing more than a fainting fit. The truth gradually came
to me. He was dead. An awful horror rushed over me. I fled from the
room to Mrs. Molyneux, and roused her from sleep. She sprang up and
hurried to the Earl. She knows the rest."

Such was Hilda's account.

As for the doctor, he could easily account for the sudden death. It
was _mind_. His heart had been affected, and he had died from a
sudden spasm. It was only through the care of Miss Krieff that the
Earl had lived so long.

But so great was Hilda's distress that Zillah had to devote herself
to the task of soothing her.



CHAPTER XXIV.


A LETTER AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.


Some weeks passed, and Zillah's grief gradually became lessened. She
was far better able to bear this blow at this time than that first
crushing blow which a few years before had descended so suddenly upon
her young life. She began to rally and to look forward to the future.
Guy had been written to, not by her, but, as usual, by Hilda, in her
name. The news of her father's death had been broken to him as
delicately as possible. Hilda read it to Zillah, who, after a few
changes of expression, approved of it. This letter had the effect of
impressing upon Zillah's mind the fact that Guy must soon come home.
The absence must cease. In any case it could not last much longer.
Either she would have had to join him, or he come back to her. The
prospect of his arrival now stood before her, and the question arose
how to meet it. Was it welcome or unpleasant? After all, was he not a
noble character, and a valiant soldier--the son of a dear friend?
Zillah's woman's heart judged him not harshly, and much of her
thought was taken up with conjectures as to the probable results of
that return. She began at length to look forward to it with hope; and
to think that she might be happy with such a man for her husband. The
only thing that troubled her was the idea that any man, however
noble, should have the right of claiming her as his without the
preliminary wooing. To a delicate nature this was intolerable, and
she could only trust that he would be acceptable to her on his first
appearance.

In the midst of these thoughts a letter arrived from Guy, addressed
to that one who was now beyond its reach. Zillah opened this without
hesitation, for Lord Chetwynde had always been in the habit of
handing them to her directly he had read them.

Few things connected with those whom we have loved and lost are more
painful, where all is so exquisitely painful, than the reading of
letters by them or to them. The most trivial commonplaces--the
lightest expressions of regard--are all invested with the tenderest
pathos, and from our hearts there seems rung out at every line the
despairing refrain of "nevermore--nevermore." It was thus, and with
blending tears, that Zillah read the first part of Guy's letter,
which was full of tender love and thoughtful consideration. Soon,
however, this sadness was dispelled; her attention was arrested; and
every other feeling was banished in her absorbing interest in what
she read. After some preliminary paragraphs the letter went on thus:

"You will be astonished, my dear father, and, I hope, pleased, to
learn that I have made up my mind to return to England as soon as
possible. As you may imagine, this resolve is a sudden one, and I
should be false to that perfect confidence which has always existed
between us, if I did not frankly acquaint you with the circumstances
which have led to my decision. I have often mentioned to you my
friend Captain Cameron of the Royal Engineers, who is superintending
the erection of some fortifications overlooking the mountain pass.
Isolated as we are from all European society, we have naturally been
thrown much together, and a firm friendship has grown up between us.
We constituted him a member of our little mess, consisting of my two
subalterns and myself, so that he has been virtually living with us
ever since our arrival here.

"Not very long ago our little circle received a very important
addition. This was Captain Cameron's sister; who, having been left an
orphan in England, and having no near relatives there, had come out
to her brother. She was a charming girl. I had seen nothing of
English ladies for a long time, and so it did not need much
persuasion to induce me to go to Cameron's house after Miss Cameron
had arrived. Circumstances, rather than any deliberate design on my
part, drew me there more and more, till at length all my evenings
were spent there, and, in fact, all my leisure time. I always used to
join Miss Cameron and her brother on their morning rides and evening
walks; and very often, if duty prevented him from accompanying her,
she would ask me to take his place as her escort. She was also as
fond of music as I am; and, in the evening, we generally spent most
of the time in playing or singing together. She played accompaniments
to my songs, and I to hers. We performed duets together; and thus,
whether in the house or out of it, were thrown into the closest
possible intercourse. All this came about so naturally that several
months had passed away in this familiar association before I began
even to suspect danger, either for myself or for her. Suddenly,
however, I awakened to the consciousness of the fact as it was. All
my life was filled by Inez Cameron--all my life seemed to centre
around her--all my future seemed as black as midnight apart from her.
Never before had I felt even a passing interest in any woman. Bound
as I had been all my life, in boyhood by honor, and in early manhood
by legal ties, I had never allowed myself to think of any other
woman; and I had always been on my guard so as not to drift into any
of those flirtations with which men in general, and especially we
officers, contrive to fritter away the freshness of affection.
Inexperience, combined with the influence of circumstances, caused me
to drift into this position; and the situation became one from which
it was hard indeed to extricate myself. I had, however, been on my
guard after a fashion. I had from the first scrupulously avoided
those _galanteries_ and _façons de parler_ which are more usual in
Indian society than elsewhere. Besides, I had long before made
Cameron acquainted with my marriage, and had taken it for granted
that Inez knew it also. I thought, even after I had found out that I
loved her, that there was no danger for her--and that she had always
merely regarded me as a married man and a friend. But one day an
accident revealed to me that she knew nothing about my marriage, and
had taken my attentions too favorably for her own peace of mind. Ah,
dear father, such a discovery was bitter indeed in many ways. I had
to crush out my love for my sake and for hers. One way only was
possible, and that was to leave her forever. I at once saw Cameron,
and told him frankly the state of the case, so far as I was
concerned. Like a good fellow, as he was, he blamed himself
altogether. 'You see, Molyneux,' he said, 'a fellow is very apt to
overlook the possible attractiveness of his own sister.' He made no
effort to prevent me from going, but evidently thought it my only
course. I accordingly applied at once for leave, and to-night I am
about to start for Calcutta, where I will wait till I gain a formal
permit, and I will never see Inez again. I have seen her for the last
time. Oh, father! those words of warning which you once spoke to me
have become fatally true. Chetwynde has been too dearly bought. At
this moment the weight of my chains is too heavy to be borne. If I
could feel myself free once more, how gladly would I give up all my
ancestral estates! What is Chetwynde to me? What happiness can I ever
have in it now, or what happiness can there possibly be to me without
Inez? Besides, I turn from the thought of her, with her refined
beauty, her delicate nature, her innumerable accomplishments, her
true and tender heart, and think of that other one, with her
ungovernable passions, her unreasoning temper, and her fierce
intractability, where I can see nothing but the soul of a savage,
unredeemed by any womanly softness or feminine grace. Oh; father! was
it well to bind me to a Hindu? You will say, perhaps, that I should
not judge of the woman by the girl. But, father, when I saw her first
at ten, I found her impish, and at fifteen, when I married her, she
was no less so, only perhaps more intensified. Fierce words of insult
were flung at me by that creature. My God! it is too bitter to think
of. Her face is before me now, scowling and malignant, while behind
it, mournful and pitying, yet loving, is the pale sweet face of Inez.

"But I dare not trust myself further. Never before have I spoken to
you about the horror which I feel for that Hindu. I did not wish to
pain you. I fear I am selfish in doing so now. But, after all, it is
better for you to know it once for all. Otherwise the discovery of it
would be all the worse. Besides, this is wrung out from me in spite
of myself by the anguish of my heart.

"Let me do justice to the Hindu. You have spoken of her
sometimes--not often, however, and I thank you for it--as a loving
daughter to you. I thank her for that, I am sure. Small comfort,
however, is this to me. If she were now an angel from heaven, she
could not fill the place of Inez.

"Forgive me, dear father. This shall be the last of complaints.
Henceforth I am ready to bear my griefs. I am ready for the
sacrifice. I can not see _her_ yet, but when I reach England I must
see you somehow. If you can not meet me, you must manage to send her
off to Pomeroy, so that I may see you in peace. With you I will
forget my sorrows, and will be again a light-hearted boy.

"Let me assure you that I mean to keep my promise made years ago when
I was a boy. It shall be the effort of my life to make my wife happy.
Whether I succeed or not will be another thing. But I must have time.

"No more now. I have written about this for the first and the last
time. Give my warmest and fondest love to nurse. I hope to see you
soon, and remain, dear father,

"Your affectionate son,

"Guy Molyneux."

For some time after reading this letter Zillah sat as if stunned. At
first she seemed scarcely able to take in its full meaning.
Gradually, however, it dawned upon her to its widest extent. This,
then, was the future that lay before her, and this was the man for
whose arrival she had been looking with such mingled feelings. Little
need was there now for mingled feelings. She knew well with what
feeling to expect him. She had at times within the depths of her
heart formed an idea that her life would not be loveless; but
now--but now--This man who was her husband, and the only one to whom
she could look for love--this man turned from her in horror; he hated
her, he loathed her--worse, he looked upon her as a Hindu--worse
still, if any thing could be worse, his hate and his loathing were
made eternal; for he loved another with the ardor of a first fresh
love, and his wife seemed to him a demon full of malignity, who stood
between him and the angel of his heart and the heaven of his desires.
His words of despair rang within her ears. The opprobrious epithets
which he applied to her stung her to the quick. Passionate and
hot-hearted, all her woman's nature rose up in arms at this horrible,
this unlooked-for assault. All her pride surged up within her in deep
and bitter resentment. Whatever she might once have been, she felt
that she was different now, and deserved not this. At this moment she
would have given worlds to be able to say to him, "You are free. Go,
marry the woman whom you love." But it was too late.

Not the least did she feel Guy's declaration that he would try to
make her happy. Her proud spirit chafed most at this. He was going to
treat her with patient forbearance, and try to conceal his
abhorrence. Could she endure this? Up and down the room she paced,
with angry vehemence, asking herself this question.

She who had all her life been surrounded by idolizing love was now
tied for life to a man whose highest desire with regard to her was
that he might be able to endure her. In an agony of grief, she threw
herself upon the floor. Was there no escape? she thought. None? none?
Oh, for one friend to advise her!

The longer Zillah thought of her position the worse it seemed to her.
Hours passed away, and she kept herself shut up in her room, refusing
to admit any one, but considering what was best to do. One thing only
appeared as possible under these circumstances, and that was to leave
Chetwynde. She felt that it was simply impossible for her to remain
there. And where could she go? To Pomeroy Court? But that had been
handed over to him as part of the payment to him for taking her. She
could not go back to a place which was now the property of this man.
Nor was it necessary. She had money of her own, which would enable
her to live as well as she wished. Thirty thousand pounds would give
her an income sufficient for her wants; and she might find some place
where she could live in seclusion. Her first wild thoughts were a
desire for death; but since death would not come, she could at least
so arrange matters as to be dead to this man. Such was her final
resolve.

It was with this in her mind that she went out to Hilda's room. Hilda
was writing as she entered, but on seeing her she hastily shut her
desk, and sprang forward to greet her friend.

"My darling!" said she. "How I rejoice to see you! Is it some new
grief? Will you never trust me? You are so reticent with me that it
breaks my heart."

"Hilda," said she, "I have just been reading a letter from Lord
Chetwynde to his father. He is about to return home."

Zillah's voice, as she spoke, was hard and metallic, and Hilda saw
that something was wrong. She noticed that Zillah used the words Lord
Chetwynde with stern emphasis, instead of the name Guy, by which she,
like the rest, had always spoken of him.

"I am glad to hear it, dear," said Hilda, quietly, and in a cordial
tone; "for, although you no doubt dread the first meeting, especially
under such painful circumstances, yet it will be for your happiness."

"Hilda," said Zillah, with increased sternness, "Lord Chetwynde and I
will never meet again."

Hilda started back with unutterable astonishment on her face.

"Never meet again!" she repeated--"not meet Lord Chetwynde--your
husband? What do you mean?"

"I am going to leave Chetwynde as soon as possible, and shall never
again cross its threshold."

Hilda went over to Zillah and put her arms around her.

"Darling," said she, in her most caressing tones, "you are agitated.
What is it? You are in trouble. What new grief can have come to you?
Will you not tell me? Is there anyone living who can sympathize with
you as I can?"

At these accents of kindness Zillah's fortitude gave way. She put her
head on her friend's shoulder and sobbed convulsively. The tears
relieved her. For a long time she wept in silence.

"I have no one now in the world but you, dearest Hilda. And you will
not forsake me, will you?"

"Forsake you, my darling, my sister? forsake you? Never while I live!
But why do you speak of flight and of being forsaken? What mad
fancies have come over you?"

Zillah drew from her pocket the letter which she had read.

"Here," she said, "read this, and you will know all."

Hilda took the letter and read it in silence, all through, and then
commencing it again, she once more read it through to the end.

Then she flung her arms around Zillah, impulsively, and strained her
to her heart.

"You understand all now?"

"All," said Hilda.

"And what do you think?"

"Think! It is horrible!"

"What would you do?"

"I?" cried Hilda, starting up.

"I would kill myself."

Zillah shook her head. "I am not quite capable of that--not
yet--though it may be in me to do it--some time. But now I can not.
My idea is the same as yours, though. I will go into seclusion, and
be dead to him, at any rate."

Hilda was silent for a few moments. Then she read the letter again.

"Zillah," said she, with a deep sigh, "it is very well to talk of
killing one's self, as I did just now, or of running away; but, after
all, other things must be considered. I spoke hastily; but I am
calmer than you, and I ought to advise you calmly. After all, it is a
very serious thing that you speak of; and, indeed, are you capable of
such a thing? Whatever I may individually think of your resolve, I
know that you are doing what the world will consider madness; and it
is my duty to put the case plainly before you. In the first place,
then, your husband does not love you, and he loves another--very hard
to bear, I allow; but men are fickle, and perhaps ere many months
have elapsed he may forget the cold English beauty as he gazes on
your Southern face. You are very beautiful, Zillah; and when he sees
you he will change his tone. He may love you at first sight."

"Then I should despise him," said Zillah, hotly. "What kind of love
is that which changes at the sight of every new face? Besides, you
forget how he despises me. I am a Hindu in his eyes. Can contempt
ever change into love? If such a miracle could take place, I should
never believe in it. Those bitter words in that letter would always
rankle in my heart."

"That is true," said Hilda, sorrowfully. "Then we will put that
supposition from us. But, allowing you never gain your husband's
love, remember how much there is left you. His position, his rank,
are yours by right--you are Lady Chetwynde, and the mistress of
Chetwynde Castle. You can fill the place with guests, among whom you
will be queen. You may go to London during the season, take the
position to which you are entitled there as wife of a peer, and, in
the best society which the world affords, you will receive all the
admiration and homage which you deserve. Beauty like yours, combined
with rank and wealth, may make you a queen of society. Have you
strength to forego all this, Zillah?"

"You have left one thing out in your brilliant picture," replied
Zillah. "All this may, indeed, be mine--but--mine on sufferance. If I
can only get this as Lord Chetwynde's wife, I beg leave to decline
it. Besides, I have no ambition to shine in society. Had you urged me
to remember all that the Earl has done for me, and try to endure the
son for the sake of the father, that might possibly have had weight.
Had you shown me that my marriage was irrevocable, and that the best
thing was to accept the situation, and try to be a dutiful wife to
the son of the man whom I called father, you might perhaps for a
moment have shaken my pride. I might have stifled the promptings of
those womanly instincts which have been so frightfully outraged, and
consented to remain passively in a situation where I was placed by
those two friends who loved me best. But when you speak to me of the
dazzling future which may lie before me as Lord Chetwynde's wife, you
remind me how little he is dependent for happiness upon any thing
that I can give him; of the brilliant career in society or in
politics which is open to him, and which will render domestic life
superfluous. I have thought over all this most fully; but what you
have just said has thrown a new light upon it. In the quiet seclusion
in which I have hitherto lived I had almost forgotten that there was
an outside world, where men seek their happiness. Can you think that
I am able to enter that world, and strive to be a queen of society,
with no protecting love around me to warn me against its perils or to
shield me from them? No! I see it all. Under no circumstances can I
live with this man who abhors me. No toleration can be possible on
either side. The best thing for me to do is to die. But since I can
not die, the next best thing is to sink out of his view into
nothingness. So, Hilda, I shall leave Chetwynde, and it is useless to
attempt to dissuade me."

Zillah had spoken in low, measured tones, in words which were so
formal that they sounded like a school-girl's recitation--a long,
dull monotone--the monotony of despair. Her face drooped--her eyes
were fixed on the floor--her white hands clasped each other, and she
sat thus--an image of woe. Hilda looked at her steadily. For a moment
there flashed over her lips the faintest shadow of a smile--the lips
curled cruelly, the eyes gleamed coldly--but it was for a moment.
Instantly it had passed, and as Zillah ceased, Hilda leaned toward
her and drew her head down upon her breast.

"Ah, my poor, sweet darling! my friend! my sister! my noble Zillah!"
she murmured. "I will say no more. I see you are fixed in your
purpose. I only wished you to act with your eyes open. But of what
avail is it? Could you live to be scorned--live on sufferance? Never!
_I_ would die first. What compensation could it be to be rich, or
famous, when you were the property of a man who loathed you? Ah, my
dear one! what am I saying? But you are right. Yes, sooner than live
with that man I would kill myself."

A long silence followed.

"I suppose you have not yet made any plans, darling," said Hilda at
last.

"Yes I have. A thousand plans at once came sweeping through my mind,
and I have some general idea of what I am to do," said Zillah. "I
think there will be no difficulty about the details. You remember,
when I wished to run away, after dear papa's death--ah, how glad I am
that I did not--how many happy years I should have lost--the question
of money was the insuperable obstacle; but that is effectually
removed now. You know my money is so settled that it is payable to my
own checks at my bankers', who are not even the Chetwyndes' bankers;
for the Earl thought it better to leave it with papa's men of
business."

"You must be very careful," said Hilda, "to leave no trace by which
Lord Chetwynde can find you out. You know that he will move heaven
and earth to find you. His character and his strict ideas of honor
would insure that. The mere fact that you bore his name, would make
it gall and wormwood to him to be ignorant of your doings. Besides,
he lays great stress on his promise to your father."

"He need not fear," said Zillah. "The dear old name, which I love
almost as proudly as he does, shall never gain the lightest stain
from me. Of course I shall cease to use it now. It would be easy to
trace Lady Chetwynde to any place. My idea is, of course, to take an
assumed name. You and I can live quietly and raise no suspicions that
we are other than we seem. But, Hilda, are you sure that you are
willing to go into exile with me? Can you endure it? Can you live
with me, and share my monotonous life?"

Hilda looked steadily at Zillah, holding her hand the while.
"Zillah," said she, in a solemn voice, "whither thou goest, I will
go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my
people, and thy God my God!"


[Illustration: "Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go."]



A deep silence followed. Zillah pressed Hilda's hand and stifled a
half sob.

"At any rate," said Hilda, "whoever else may fail, you--you have, at
least, one faithful heart--one friend on whom you can always rely.
No, you need not thank me," said she, as Zillah fondly kissed her and
was about to speak; "I am but a poor, selfish creature, after all.
You know I could never be happy away from you. You know that there is
no one in the world whom I love but you; and there is no other who
loves me. Do I not owe every thing to General Pomeroy and to you, my
darling?"

"Not more than I owe to you, dear Hilda. I feel ashamed when I think
of how much I made you endure for years, through my selfish exactions
and my ungovernable temper. But I have changed a little I think. The
Earl's influence over me was for good, I hope. Dear Hilda, we have
none but one another, and must cling together."

Silence then followed, and they sat for a long time, each wrapped up
in plans for the future.



CHAPTER XXV.


CUTTING THE LAST TIE.


Fearful that her courage might fail if she gave herself any more time
to reflect on what she was doing, Zillah announced to the household,
before the close of that day, that the shock of Lord Chetwynde's
death rendered a change necessary for her, and that she should leave
home as soon as she could conveniently do so. She also told them of
their master's expected return, and that every thing must be in
readiness for his reception, so that, on her return, she might have
no trouble before her. She gave some faint hints that she might
probably meet him at London, in order to disarm suspicion, and also
to make it easier for Chetwynde himself to conceal the fact of her
flight, if he wished to do so. She never ceased to be thoughtful
about protecting his honor, as far as possible. The few days before
Zillah's departure were among the most wretched she had ever known.
The home which she so dearly loved, and which she had thought was to
be hers forever, had to be left, because she felt that she was not
wanted there. She went about the grounds, visited every favorite
haunt and nook--the spots endeared to her by the remembrance of many
happy hours passed among them--and her tears flowed fast and bitterly
as she thought that she was now seeing them for the last time. The
whole of the last day at Chetwynde she passed in the little church,
under which every Molyneux had been buried for centuries back. It was
full of their marble effigies. Often had she watched the sunlight
flickering over their pale sculptured faces. One of these forms had
been her especial delight; for she could trace in his features a
strong family resemblance to Lord Chetwynde. This one's name was Guy.
Formerly she used to see a likeness between him and the Guy who was
now alive. He had died in the Holy Land; but his bones had been
brought home, that they might rest in the family vault. She had been
fond of weaving romances as to his probable history and fate; but no
thought of him was in her mind to-day, as she wept over the
resting-place of one who had filled a father's place to her, or as
she knelt and prayed in her desolation to Him who has promised to be
a father to the fatherless. Earnestly did she entreat that His
presence might be with her, His providence direct her lonely way.
Poor child! In the wild impulsiveness of her nature she thought that
the sacrifice which she was making of herself and her hopes must be
acceptable to Him, and pleasing in His sight. She did not know that
she was merely following her own will, and turning her back upon the
path of duty. That duty lay in simple acceptance of the fate which
seemed ordained for her, whether for good or evil. Happy marriages
were never promised by Him; and, in flying from one which seemed to
promise unhappiness, she forgot that "obedience is better than
sacrifice," even though the sacrifice be that of one's self.

Twilight was fast closing in before she reached the castle, exhausted
from the violence of her emotion, and faint and weak from her long
fasting. Hilda expressed alarm at her protracted absence, and said
that she was just about going in search of her. "My darling," said
she, "you will wear away your strength. You are too weak now to
leave. Let me urge you, for the last time, to stay; give up your mad
resolution."

"No," said Zillah. "You know you yourself said that I was right."

"I did not say that you were right, darling. I said what I would do
in your place; but I did not at all say, or even hint, that it would
be right."

"Never mind," said Zillah, wearily; "I have nerved myself to go
through with it, and I can do it. The worst bitterness is over now.
There is but one thing more for me to do, and then the ties between
me and Chetwynde are severed forever."

At Hilda's earnest entreaty she took some refreshment, and then lay
down to rest; but, feeling too excited to sleep, she got up to
accomplish the task she had before her. This was to write a letter to
her husband, telling him of her departure, and her reason for doing
so. She wished to do this in as few words as possible, to show no
signs of bitterness toward him, or of her own suffering. So she wrote
as follows:


"CHETWYNDE CASTLE, March 20, 1859."

My LORD,--Your last letter did not reach Chetwynde Castle until after
your dear father had been taken from us. It was therefore opened and
read by me. I need not describe what my feelings were on reading it;
but will only say, that if it were possible for me to free you from
the galling chains that bind you to me, I would gladly do so. But,
though it be impossible for me to render you free to marry her whom
you love, I can at least rid you of my hated presence. I can not die;
but I can be as good as dead to you. To-morrow I shall leave
Chetwynde forever, and you will never see my face again. Search for
me, were you inclined to make it, will lie useless. I shall probably
depart from England, and leave no trace of my whereabouts. I shall
live under an assumed name, so as not to let the noble name of
Chetwynde suffer any dishonor from _me_. If I _die_, I will take care
to have the news sent to you.

"Do not think that I blame you. A man's love is not under his own
control. Had I remained, I know that as your wife, I should have
experienced the utmost kindness and consideration. Such kindness,
however, to a nature like mine would have been only galling.
Something more than cold civility is necessary in order to render
endurable the daily intercourse of husband and wife. Therefore I do
not choose to subject myself to such a life.

"In this, the last communication between us, I must say to you what I
intended to reserve until I could say it in person. It needed but a
few weeks' intimate association with your dear father, whom I loved
as my father, and whom I called by that name, to prove how utterly I
had been mistaken as to the motives and circumstances that led to our
marriage. I had his full and free forgiveness for having doubted him;
and I now, as a woman, beg to apologize to you for all that I might
have said as a passionate girl.

"Let me also assure you, my lord, of my deep sympathy for you in the
trial which awaits you on your return, when you will find Chetwynde
Castle deprived of the presence of that father whom you love. I feel
for you and with you. My loss is only second to yours; for, in your
father, I lost the only friend whom I possessed.

"Yours, very respectfully,

"ZILLAH."


Hilda of course had to copy this, for the objection to Zillah's
writing was as strong as before, and an explanation was now more
difficult to make than ever. Zillah, however, read it in Hilda's
handwriting, and then Hilda took it, as she always did to inclose it
for the mail.

She took it to her own room, drew from her desk a letter which was
addressed to Guy, and this was the one which she posted. Zillah's
letter was carefully destroyed. Yet Zillah went with Hilda to the
post-office, so anxious was she about her last letter, and saw it
dropped in the box, as she supposed.

Then she felt that she had cut the last tie.



CHAPTER XXVI.


FLIGHT AND REFUGE.


About a fortnight after the events narrated in our last chapter a
carriage stopped before the door of a small cottage situated in the
village of Tenby on the coast of Pembrokeshire. Two ladies in deep
mourning got out of it, and entered the gate of the garden which lay
between them and the house; while a maid descended from the ramble,
and in voluble French, alternating with broken English, besought the
coachman's tender consideration for the boxes which he was handing
down in a manner expressive of energy and expedition, rather than any
regard for their contents. A resounding "thump" on the ground, caused
by the sudden descent of one of her precious charges, elicited a cry
of agony from the Frenchwoman, accompanied by the pathetic appeal:

"Oh, mon Dieu! Qu'est ce que vous faites la? Prenez garde donc!"

This outbreak attracted the attention of the ladies, who turned round
to witness the scene. On seeing distress depicted on every lineament
of her faithful Abigail's face, the younger of the two said, with a
faint smile:

"Poor Mathilde! That man's rough handling will break the boxes and
her heart at the same time. But after all it will only anticipate the
unhappy end, for I am sure that she will die of grief and ennui when
she sees the place we have brought her to. She thought it dreadful at
Chetwynde that there were so few to see and to appreciate the results
of her skill, yet even there a few could occasionally be found to
dress me for. But when she finds that I utterly repudiate French
toilettes for sitting upon the rocks, and that the neighboring
fishermen are not as a rule judges of the latest coiffure, I am
afraid to think of the consequences. Will it be any thing less than a
suicide, do you think, Hilda?"

"Well, Zillah," said Hilda, "I advised you not to bring her. A secret
intrusted to many ceases to be a secret. It would have been better to
leave behind you all who had been connected with Chetwynde, but
especially Mathilde, who is both silly and talkative."

"I know that her coming is sorely against your judgment, Hilda; but I
do not think that I run any risk. I know you despise me for my
weakness, but I really like Mathilde, and could not give her up and
take a new maid, unless I had to. She is very fond of me, and would
rather be with me, even in this outlandish place, than in London,
even, with any one else. You know I am the only person she has lived
with in England. She has no friends in the country, so her being
French is in her favor. She has not the least idea in what county 'ce
cher mais triste Shateveen' is situated; so she could not do much
harm even if she would, especially as her pronunciation of the name
is more likely to bewilder than to instruct her hearers."

By this time they had entered the house, and Zillah, putting her arm
in Hilda's, proceeded to inspect the mansion. It was a very tiny one;
the whole house could conveniently have stood in the Chetwynde
drawing-room; but Zillah declared that she delighted in its snugness.
Every thing was exquisitely neat, both within and without. The place
had been obtained by Hilda's diligent search. It had belonged to a
coast-guard officer who had recently died, and Hilda, by means of
Gualtier, obtained possession of the whole place, furniture and all,
by paying a high rent to the widow. A housekeeper and servants were
included in the arrangements. Zillah was in ecstasies with her
drawing-room, which extended he whole length of the house, having at
the front an alcove window looking upon the balcony and thence upon
the sea, and commanding at the back a beautiful view of the mountains
beyond. The views from all the windows were charming, and from garret
to cellar the house was nicely furnished and well appointed, so that
after hunting into every nook and corner the two friends expressed
themselves delighted with their new home.

The account which they gave of themselves to those with whom they
were brought in contact was a very simple one, and not likely to
excite suspicion. They were sisters--the Misses Lorton--the death of
their father not long before had rendered them orphans. They had no
near relations, but were perfectly independent as to means. They had
come to Tenby for the benefit of the sea air, and wished to lead as
quiet and retired a life as possible for the next two years. They had
brought no letters, and they wished for no society.

They soon settled down into their new life, and their days passed
happily and quietly. Neither of them had ever lived near the sea
before, so that it was now a constant delight to them. Zillah would
sit for hours on the shore, watching the breakers dashing over the
rocks beyond, and tumbling at her feet; or she would play like a
child with the rising tide, trying how far she could run out with the
receding wave before the next white-crested billow should come
seething and foaming after her, as if to punish her for her temerity
in venturing within the precincts of the mighty ocean. Hilda always
accompanied her, but her amusements took a much more ambitious turn.
She had formed a passion for collecting marine curiosities; and while
Zillah sat dreamily watching the waves, she would clamber over the
rocks in search of sea-weeds, limpets, anemones, and other things of
the kind, shouting out gladly whenever she had found any thing new.
Gradually she extended her rambles, and explored all the coast within
easy walking distance, and became familiar with every bay and outlet
within the circuit of several miles. Zillah's strength had not yet
fully returned, so that she was unable to go on these long rambles.

One day Zillah announced an intention of taking a drive inland, and
urged Hilda to come with her.

"Well, dear, I would rather not unless you really want me to. I want
very much to go on the shore to-day. I found some beautiful specimens
on the cliffs last night; but it was growing too late for me to
secure them, so I determined to do so as early as possible this
afternoon."

"Oh," said Zillah, with a laugh, "I should not dream of putting in a
rivalry with your new passion. I should not stand a chance against a
shrimp; but I hope your new aquarium will soon make its appearance,
or else some of your pets will come to an untimely end, I fear I
heard the house-maid this morning vowing vengeance against 'them
nasty smellin' things as Miss Lorton were always a-litterin' the
house with.'"

"She will soon get rid of them, then. The man has promised me the
aquarium in two or three days, and it will be the glory of the whole
establishment. But now--good-by, darling--I must be off at once, so
as to have as much daylight as possible."

"You will be back before me, I suppose."

"Very likely; but if I am not, do not be anxious. I shall stay on the
cliffs as late as I can."

"Oh, Hilda! I do not like your going alone. Won't you take John with
you? I can easily drive by myself."

"Any fate rather than that," said Hilda, laughing. "What could I do
with John?"

"Take Mathilde, then, or one of the maids."

"Mathilde! My dear girl, what are you thinking of? You know she has
never ventured outside of the garden gate since we have been here.
She shudders whenever she looks at 'cette vilaine mer,' and no
earthly consideration could induce her to put her foot on the shore.
But what has put it in your head that I should want any one with me
to-day, when I have gone so often without a protector?"

"I don't know," said Zillah. "You spoke about not being home till
late, and I felt nervous."

"You need not be uneasy then, darling, on that account. I shall leave
the cliffs early, I only want to be untrammeled, so as to ramble
about at random. At any rate I shall be home in good time for dinner,
and will be as hungry as a hunter, I promise you. I only want you not
to fret your foolish little head if I am not here at the very moment
I expect."

"Very well," said Zillah, "I will not, and I must not keep you
talking any longer."

"Au revoir," said Hilda, kissing her. "An revoir," she repeated,
gayly.

Zillah smiled, and as she rose to go and dress for the drive Hilda
took her path to the cliffs.

It was seven o'clock when Zillah returned.

"Is Miss Lorton in?" she asked, as she entered.

"No, miss," answered the maid.

"I will wait dinner then," said Zillah; and after changing her things
she went out on the balcony to wait for Hilda's return.

Half an hour passed, and Hilda did not come.

Zillah grew anxious, and looked incessantly at her watch. Eight
o'clock came--a quarter after eight.

Zillah could stand it no longer. She sent for John.

"John," said she, "I am getting uneasy about Miss Lorton. I wish you
would walk along the beach and meet her. It is too late for her to be
out alone."

John departed on his errand, and Zillah felt a sense of relief at
having done something, but this gave way to renewed anxiety as time
passed, and they did not appear. At length, after what seemed an age
to the suffering girl, John returned, but alone.

"Have you not found her?" Zillah almost shrieked.

"No, miss," said the man, in a pitying tone.

"Then why did you come back?" she cried. "Did I not tell you to go on
till you met her?"

"I went as far as I could, miss."

"What do you mean?" she asked, in a voice pitched high with terror.

The man came close up to her, sympathy and sorrow in his face.

"Don't take on so, miss," said he; "and don't be downhearted. I dare
say she has took the road, and will be home shortly; that way is
longer, you know."

"No; she said she would come by the shore. Why did you not go on till
you met her?"

"Well, miss, I went as far as Lovers' Bay; but the tide was in, and I
could go no farther."

Zillah, at this, turned deadly white, and would have fallen if John
had not caught her. He placed her on the sofa and called Mathilde.

Zillah's terror was not without cause. Lovers' Bay was a narrow inlet
of the sea, formed by two projecting promontories. At low tide a
person could walk beyond these promontories along the shore; but at
high tide the water ran up within; and there was no standing room any
where within the inclosure of the precipitous cliff. At half tide,
when the tide was falling, one might enter here; but if the tide was
rising, it was of course not to be attempted. Several times strangers
had been entrapped here, sometimes with fatal results. The place owed
its name to the tragical end which was met with here by a lover who
was eloping with his lady. They fled by the shore, and came to the
bay, but found that the rising tide had made the passage of the
further ledge impossible. In despair the lover seized the lady, and
tried to swim with her around this obstacle, but the waves proved
stronger than love; the currents bore them out to sea; and the next
morning their bodies were found floating on the water, with their
arms still clasped around one another in a death embrace. Such was
the origin of the name; and the place had always been looked upon by
the people here with a superstitious awe, as a place of danger and
death.

The time, however, was one which demanded action; and Zillah, hastily
gulping down some restoratives which Mathilde had brought, began to
take measures for a search.

"John," said she, "you must get a boat, and go at once in search of
Miss Lorton. Is there nowhere any standing room in the bay--no
crevice in the rocks where one may find a foothold?"

"Not with these spring-tides, miss," said John. "A man might cling a
little while to the rocks; but a weak lady--" John hesitated.

"Oh, my God!" cried Zillah, in an agony; "she may be clinging there
now, with every moment lessening her chance! Fly to the nearest
fishermen, John! Ten pounds apiece if you get to the bay within half
an hour! And any thing you like if you only bring her back safe!"

Away flew John, descending the rocks to the nearest cottage. There he
breathlessly stated his errand; and the sturdy fisherman and his son
were immediately prepared to start. The boat was launched, and they
set out. It was slightly cloudy, and there seemed some prospect of a
storm. Filled with anxiety at such an idea, and also inspired with
enthusiasm by the large reward, they put forth their utmost efforts;
and the boat shot through the water at a most unwonted pace. Twenty
minutes after the boat had left the strand it had reached the bay.
All thought of mere reward faded out soon from the minds of these
honest men. They only thought of the young lady whom they had often
seen along the shore, who might even now be in the jaws of death. Not
a word was spoken. The sound of the waves, as they dashed on the
rocks alone broke the stillness. Trembling with excitement, they
swept the boat close around the rocky promontory. John, standing up
in the bow, held aloft a lantern, so that every cranny of the rocks
might be brought out into full relief. At length an exclamation burst
from him.

"Oh, Heavens! she's been here!" he groaned.

The men turned and saw in his hand the covered basket which Hilda
always took with her on her expeditions to bring home her specimens.
It seemed full of them now.

"Where did you find it?" they asked.

"Just on this here ledge of rock."

"She has put it down to free her hands. She may be clinging yet,"
said the old fisherman. "Let us call."

A loud cry, "Miss Lorton!" rang through the bay. The echo sent it
reverberating back; but no human voice mingled with the sound.

Despondingly and fearfully they continued the search, still calling
at times, until at last, as they reached the outer point, the last
hope died, and they ceased calling.

"I'm afeard she's gone," said John.

The men shook their heads. John but expressed the general opinion.

"God help that poor young thing at the cottage!" said the elder
fisherman. "She'll be mighty cut up, I take it, now."

"They was all in all to each other," said John, with a sigh.

By this time they had rounded the point. Suddenly John, who had sat
down again, called out:

"Stop! I see something on the water yonder!"


[Illustration: "She Clutched His Arm In A Convulsive Grasp."]


The men looked in the direction where he pointed, and a small object
was visible on the surface of the water. They quickly rowed toward
it. It was a lady's hat, which John instantly recognized as Hilda's.
The long crape veil seemed to have caught in a stake which arose from
the sandy beach above the water, placed there to mark some water
level, and the hat floated there. Reverently, as though they were
touching the dead, did those rough men disentangle the folds, and lay
the hat on the basket.

"There is no hope now," said the younger fisherman, after a solemn
silence. "May our dear Lord and our Blessed Lady," he added, crossing
himself as he spoke, "have mercy on her soul!"

"Amen!" repeated the others, gently.

"However shall I tell my poor little missis," said John, wiping his
eyes.

The others made no response. Soon they reached the shore again. The
old man whispered a few words to his son, and then turned to John:

"I say, comrade," said he; "don't let _her_--" a jerk of his head in
the direction of the cottage indicated to whom the pronoun
referred--"don't let _her_ give us that. We've done naught but what
we'd have done for any poor creature among these rocks. We couldn't
take pay for this night's job--my son nor me. And all we wish is,
that it had been for some good; but it wasn't the Lord's will; and it
ain't for us to say nothin' agin that; only you'll tell your missis,
when she he's a bit better, that we made bold to send her our
respectful sympathy."

John gave this promise to the honest fellows, and then went slowly
and sadly back to make his mournful report.

During John's absence Zillah had been waiting in an agony of
suspense, in which Mathilde made feeble efforts to console her.
Wringing her hands, she walked up and down in front of the house; and
at length, when she heard footsteps coming along the road, she rushed
in that direction. She recognized John. So great was her excitement
that she could not utter one word. She clutched his arm in a
convulsive grasp. John said nothing. It was easier for him to be
silent. In fact he had something which was more eloquent than words.
He mournfully held out the basket and the hat.

In an instant Zillah recognized them. She shrieked, and fell
speechless and senseless on the hard ground.



CHAPTER XXVII.


AN ASTOUNDING LETTER.


It needed but this new calamity to complete the sum of Zillah's
griefs. She had supposed that she had already suffered as much as she
could. The loss of her father, the loss of the Earl, the separation
from Mrs. Hart, were each successive stages in the descending scale
of her calamities. Nor was the least of these that Indian letter
which had sent her into voluntary banishment from her home. It was
not till all was over that she learned how completely her thoughts
had associated themselves with the plans of the Earl, and how
insensibly her whole future had become penetrated with plans about
Guy, The overthrow of all this was bitter; but this, and all other
griefs, were forgotten in the force of this new sorrow, which, while
it was the last, was in reality the greatest. Now, for the first
time, she felt how dear Hilda had been to her. She had been more than
a friend--she had been an elder sister. Now, to Zillah's affectionate
heart, there came the recollection of all the patient love, the kind
forbearance, and the wise counsel of this matchless friend. Since
childhood they had been inseparable. Hilda had rivaled even her
doting father in perfect submission to all her caprices, and
indulgence of all her whims. Zillah had matured so rapidly, and had
changed so completely, that she now looked upon her former willful
and passionate childhood with impatience, and could estimate at its
full value that wonderful meekness with which Hilda had endured her
wayward and imperious nature. Not one recollection of Hilda came to
her but was full of incidents of a love and devotion passing the love
of a sister.

It was now, since she had lost her, that she learned to estimate her,
as she thought, at her full value. That loss seemed to her the
greatest of all; worse than that of the Earl; worse even than that of
her father. Never more should she experience that tender love, that
wise patience, that unruffled serenity, which she had always known
from Hilda. Never more should she possess one devoted friend--the
true and tried friend of a life--to whom she might go in any sorrow,
and know and feel that she would receive the sympathy of love and the
counsel of wisdom. Nevermore--no, nevermore! Such was the refrain
that seemed constantly to ring in her ears, and she found herself
murmuring those despairing lines of Poe, where the solitary word of
the Raven seems


"Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore--
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
                                            Of 'Never--nevermore!'"


It was awful to her to be, for the first time in her life, alone in
the world. Hitherto, amidst her bitterest afflictions, she had always
had some one whom she loved. After her father's death she had Lord
Chetwynde and Mrs. Hart; and with these she always had Hilda. But now
all were gone, and Hilda was gone. To a passionate and intense nature
like hers, sorrow was capable of giving pangs which are unknown to
colder hearts, and so she suffered to a degree which was commensurate
with her ardent temperament.

Weeks passed on. Recovering from the first shock, she sank into a
state of dreamy listlessness, which, however, was at times
interrupted by some wild hopes which would intrude in spite of
herself. These hopes were that Hilda, after all, might not be lost.
She might have been found by some one and carried off somewhere. Wild
enough were these hopes, and Zillah saw this plainly, yet still they
would intrude. Yet, far from proving a solace, they only made her
situation worse, since they kept her in a state of constant
suspense--a suspense, too, which had no shadow of a foundation in
reason. So, alone, and struggling with the darkest despair, Zillah
passed the time, without having sufficient energy of mind left to
think about her future, or the state of her affairs.

As to her affairs--she was nothing better than a child. She had a
vague idea that she was rich; but she had no idea of where her money
might be. She knew the names of her London agents; but whether they
held any funds of hers or not, she could not tell. She took it for
granted that they did. Child as she was, she did not know even the
common mode of drawing a check. Hilda had done that for her since her
flight from Chetwynde.

The news of the unhappy fate of the elder Miss Lorton had sent a
shock through the quiet village of Tenby, and every where might be
heard expressions of the deepest sympathy with the younger sister,
who seemed so gentle, so innocent, so inexperienced, and so
affectionate. All had heard of the anguish into which she had been
thrown by the news of the fearful calamity, and a respectful
commiseration for grief so great was exhibited by all. The honest
fishermen who had gone first on the search on that eventful night had
not been satisfied, but early on the following morning had roused all
the fishing population, and fifty or sixty boats started oft' before
dawn to scour the coast, and to examine the sea bottom. This they
kept up for two or three days; but without success. Then, at last,
they gave up the search. Nothing of this, however, was known to
Zillah, who, at that particular time, was in the first anguish of her
grief, and lay prostrated in mind and body. Even the chattering
Mathilde was awed by the solemnity of woe.

The people of Tenby were nearly all of the humbler class. The widow
who owned the house had moved away, and there were none with whom
Zillah could associate, except the rector and his wife. They were old
people, and had no children. The Rev. Mr. Harvey had lived there all
his life, and was now well advanced in years. At the first tidings of
the mournful event he had gone to Zillah's house to see if he could
be of any assistance; but finding that she was ill in bed, he had
sent his wife to offer her services. Mrs. Harvey had watched over
poor Zillah in her grief, and had soothed her too. Mathilde would
have been but a poor nurse for one in such a situation, and Mrs.
Harvey's motherly care and sweet words of consolation had something,
at least, to do with Zillah's recovery.

When she was better, Mrs. Harvey urged her to come and stay with them
for a time. It would give her a change of scene, she said, and that
was all-important. Zillah was deeply touched by her affectionate
solicitude, but declined to leave her house. She felt, she said, as
though solitude would be best for her under such circumstances.

"My dear child," said Mrs. Harvey, who had formed almost a maternal
affection for Zillah, and had come to address her always in that
way--"my dear child, you should not try to deepen your grief by
staying here and brooding over it. Every thing here only makes it
worse. You must really come with me, if for only a few days, and see
if your distress will not be lightened somewhat."

But Zillah said that she could not bear to leave, that the house
seemed to be filled with Hilda's presence, and that as long as she
was there there was something to remind her of the one she had lost.
If she went away she should only long to go back.

"But, my child, would it not be better for you to go to your
friends?" said Mrs. Harvey, as delicately as possible.

"I have no friends," said Zillah, in a faltering voice. "They are all
gone."

Zillah burst into tears: and Mrs. Harvey, after weeping with her,
took her departure, with her heart full of fresh sympathy for one so
sweet, and so unhappy.

Time passed on, and Zillah's grief had settled down into a quiet
melancholy. The rector and his wife were faithful friends to this
friendless girl, and, by a thousand little acts of sympathy, strove
to alleviate the distress of her lonely situation. For all this
Zillah felt deeply grateful, but nothing that they might do could
raise her mind from the depths of grief into which it had fallen. But
at length there came a day which was to change all this.

That day she was sitting by the front window in the alcove, looking
out to where the sea was rolling in its waves upon the shore.
Suddenly, to her surprise, she saw the village postman, who had been
passing along the road, open her gate, and come up the path. Her
first thought was that her concealment had been discovered, and that
Guy had written to her. Then a wild thought followed that it was
somehow connected with Hilda. But soon these thoughts were banished
by the supposition that it was simply a note for one of the servants.
After this she fell into her former melancholy, when suddenly she was
roused by the entrance of John, who had a letter in his hand.

"A letter for you, miss," said John, who had no idea that Zillah was
of a dignity which deserved the title of "my lady."

Zillah said not a word. With a trembling hand she took the letter and
looked at it. It was covered with foreign post-marks, but this she
did not notice. It was the handwriting which excited her attention.

"Hilda!" she cried, and sank back breathless in her chair. Her heart
throbbed as though it would burst. For a moment she could not move;
but then, with a violent effort, she tore open the letter, and, in a
wild fever of excited feeling, read the following:

"NAPLES, June 1, 1859.

"MY OWN DEAREST DARLING,---What you must have suffered in the way of
wonder about my sudden disappearance, and also in anxiety about your
poor Hilda, I can not imagine. I know that you love me dearly, and
for me to vanish from your sight so suddenly and so strangely must
have caused you at least some sorrow. If you have been sorrowing for
me, my sweetest, do not do so any more. I am safe and almost well,
though I have had a strange experience.

"When I left you on that ill-fated evening, I expected to be back as
I said. I walked up the beach thoughtlessly, and did not notice the
tide or any thing about it. I walked a long distance, and at last
felt tired, for I had done a great deal that day. I happened to see a
boat drawn up on the shore, and it seemed to be a good place to sit
down and rest. I jumped in and sat down on one of the seats. I took
off my hat and scarf, and luxuriated in the fresh sea breeze that was
blowing over the water. I do not know how long I sat there--I did not
think of it at that time, but at last I was roused from my pleasant
occupation very suddenly and painfully. All at once I made the
discovery that the boat was moving under me. I looked around in a
panic. To my horror, I found that I was at a long distance from the
shore. In an instant the truth flashed upon me. The tide had risen,
the boat had floated off, and I had not noticed it. I was fully a
mile away when I made this discovery, and cool as I am (according to
you), I assure you I nearly died of terror when the full reality of
my situation occurred to me. I looked all around, but saw no chance
of help. Far away on the horizon I saw numerous sails, and nearer to
me I saw a steamer, but all were too distant to be of any service. On
the shore I could not see a living soul.

"After a time I rallied from my panic, and began to try to get the
boat back. But there were no oars, although, if there had been, I do
not see how I could have used them. In my desperate efforts I tried
to paddle with my hands, but, of course, it was utterly useless. In
spite of all my efforts I drifted away further and further, and after
a very long time, I do not know how long, I found that I was at an
immense distance from the shore. Weakened by anxiety and fear, and
worn out by my long-continued efforts, I gave up, and, sitting down
again, I burst into a passion of tears. The day was passing on.
Looking at the sun I saw that it was the time when you would be
expecting me back. I thought of you, my darling, waiting for
me--expecting me--wondering at my delay. How I cursed my folly and
thoughtlessness in ever venturing into such danger! I thought of your
increasing anxiety as you waited, while still I did not come. I
thought, Oh, if she only knew where her poor Hilda is--what agony it
would give her! But such thoughts were heart-breaking, and at last I
dared not entertain them, and so I tried to turn my attention to the
misery of my situation. Ah, my dearest, think--only think of me, your
poor Hilda, in that boat, drifting helplessly along over the sea out
into the ocean!

"With each moment my anguish grew greater. I saw no prospect of
escape or of help. No ships came near; no boats of any kind were
visible. I strained my eyes till they ached, but could see nothing
that gave me hope. Oh, my darling, how can I tell you the miseries of
that fearful time! Worse than all, do what I might, I still could not
keep away from me the thoughts of you, my sweetest. Still they would
come--and never could I shake off the thought of your face, pale
with loving anxiety, as you waited for that friend of yours who would
never appear. Oh, had you seen me as I was--had you but imagined,
even in the faintest way, the horrors that surrounded me, what would
have been your feelings! But you could never have conceived it. No.
Had you conceived it you would have sent every one forth in search of
me.


[Illustration: Drifting Out To Sea.]


"To add to my grief, night was coming on. I saw the sun go down, and
still there was no prospect of escape. I was cold and wretched, and
my physical sufferings were added to those of my mind. Somehow I had
lost my hat and scarf overboard. I had to endure the chill wind that
swept over me, the damp piercing blast that came over the waters,
without any possibility of shelter. At last I grew so cold and
benumbed that I lay down in the bottom of the boat, with the hope of
getting out of the way of the wind. It was indeed somewhat more
sheltered, but the shelter at best was but slight. I had nothing to
cover myself with, and my misery was extreme.

"The twilight increased, and the wind grew stronger and colder. Worst
of all, as I lay down and looked up, I could see that the clouds were
gathering, and knew that there would be a storm. How far I was out on
the sea I scarcely dared conjecture. Indeed, I gave myself up for
lost, and had scarcely any hope. The little hope that was left was
gradually driven away by the gathering darkness, and at length all
around me was black. It was night. I raised myself up, and looked
feebly out upon the waves. They were all hidden from my sight. I fell
back, and lay there for a long time, enduring horrors, which, in my
wildest dreams, I had never imagined as liable to fall to the lot of
any miserable human being.

"I know nothing more of that night, or of several nights afterward.
When I came back to consciousness I found myself in a ship's cabin,
and was completely bewildered. Gradually, however, I found out all.
This ship, which was an Italian vessel belonging to Naples, and was
called the _Vittoria_, had picked me up on the morning after I had
drifted away. I was unconscious and delirious. They took me on board,
and treated me with the greatest kindness. For the tender care which
was shown me by these rough but kindly hearts Heaven only can repay
them; I can not. But when I had recovered consciousness several days
had elapsed, the ship was on her way to Naples, and we were already
off the coast of Portugal. I was overwhelmed with astonishment and
grief. Then the question arose, What was I to do? The captain, who
seemed touched to the heart by my sorrow, offered to take the ship
out of her course and land me at Lisbon, if I liked; or he would put
me ashore at Gibraltar. Miserable me! What good would it do for me to
be landed at Lisbon or at Gibraltar? Wide seas would still intervene
between me and my darling. I could not ask them to land me at either
of those places. Besides, the ship was going to Naples, and that
seemed quite as near as Lisbon, if not more so. It seemed to me to be
more accessible--more in the line of travel--and therefore I thought
that by going on to Naples I would really be more within your reach
than if I landed at any intervening point. So I decided to go on.

"Poor me! Imagine me on board a ship, with no change of clothing, no
comforts or delicacies of any kind, and at the same time prostrated
by sickness arising from my first misery. It was a kind of low fever,
combined with delirium, that affected me. Most fortunately for me,
the captain's wife sailed with him, and to her I believe my recovery
is due. Poor dear Margarita! Her devotion to me saved me from death.
I gave her that gold necklace that I have worn from childhood. In no
other way could I fittingly show my gratitude. Ah, my darling! the
world is not all bad. It is full of honest, kindly hearts, and of
them all none is more noble or more pure than my generous friend the
simple wife of Captain Gaddagli. May Heaven bless her for her
kindness to the poor lost stranger who fell in her way!

"My sweet Zillah, how does all this read to you? Is it not wildly
improbable? Can you imagine your Hilda floating out to sea,
senseless, picked up by strangers, carried off to foreign countries?
Do you not rejoice that it was so, and that you do not have to mourn
my death? My darling, I need not ask. Alas! what would I not give to
be sitting with your arms around me, supporting my aching head, while
I told you of all my suffering?

"But I must go on. My exposure during that dreadful night had told
fearfully upon me. During the voyage I could scarcely move. Toward
its close, however, I was able to go on deck, and the balmy air of
the Mediterranean revived me. At length we reached Naples Bay. As we
sailed up to the city, the sight of all the glorious scenery on every
side seemed to fill me with new life and strength. The cities along
the shore, the islands, the headlands, the mountains, Vesuvius, with
its canopy of smoke, the intensely blue sky, the clear transparent
air, all made me feel as though I had been transported to a new
world.

"I went at once to the Hotel de l'Europe, on the Strada Toledo. It is
the best hotel here, and is very comfortable. Here I must stay for a
time, for, my darling, I am by no means well. The doctor thinks that
my lungs are affected. I have a very bad cough. He says that even if
I were able to travel, I must not think of going home yet, the air of
Naples is my only hope, and he tells me to send to England for my
friends. My friends! What friends have I? None. But, darling, I know
that I have a friend--one who would go a long distance for her poor
suffering Hilda. And now, darling, I want you to come on. I have no
hesitation in asking this, for I know that you do not feel
particularly happy where you are, and you would rather be with me
than be alone. Besides, my dearest, it is to Naples that I invite
you--to Naples, the fairest, loveliest place in all the world! a
heaven upon earth! where the air is balm, and every scene is perfect
beauty! You must come on, for your own sake as well as mine. You will
be able to rouse yourself from your melancholy. We will go together
to visit the sweet scenes that lie all around here; and when I am
again by your side, with your hand in mine, I will forget that I have
ever suffered.

"Do not be alarmed at the journey. I have thought out all for you. I
have written to Mr. Gualtier, in London, and asked him to bring you
on here. He will be only too glad to do us this service. He is a
simple-minded and kind-hearted man. I have asked him to call on you
immediately to offer his services. You will see him, no doubt, very
soon after you get this letter. Do not be afraid of troubling him. We
can compensate him fully for the loss of his time.

"And now, darling, good-by. I have written a very long letter, and
feel very tired. Come on soon, and do not delay. I shall count the
days and the hours till you join me. Come on soon, and do not
disappoint your loving

"HILDA.

"P.S.--When you come, will you please bring on my turquoise brooch
and my green bracelet. The little writing-desk, too, I should like,
if not too much trouble. Of course you need not trouble about the
house. It will be quite safe as it stands, under the care of your
housekeeper and servants, till we get back again to England. Once
more, darling, good-by.

"H."


This astonishing letter was read by Zillah with a tumult of emotions
that may be imagined but not described. As she finished it the
reaction in her feelings was too much to be borne. A weight was taken
off her soul. In the first rush of her joy and thankfulness she burst
into tears, and then once more read the letter, though she scarce
could distinguish the words for the tears of joy that blinded her
eyes.

To go to Naples--and to Hilda! what greater happiness could be
conceived of? And that thoughtful Hilda had actually written to
Gualtier! And she was alive! And she was in Naples! What a wonder to
have her thus come back to her from the dead! With such a torrent of
confused thoughts Zillah's mind was filled, until at length, in her
deep gratitude to Heaven, she flung herself upon her knees and poured
forth her soul in prayer.



CHAPTER XXVIII.


BETRAYED.


Zillah's excitement was so great that, for all that night, she could
not sleep. There were many things for her to think about. The idea
that Hilda had been so marvelously rescued, and was still alive and
waiting for her, filled her mind. But it did not prevent her from
dwelling in thought upon the frightful scenes through which she had
passed. The thought of her dear friend's lonely voyage, drifting over
the seas in an open boat, unprotected from the storm, and suffering
from cold, from hunger, and from sorrow till sense left her, was a
painful one to her loving heart. Yet the pain of these thoughts did
not disturb her. The joy that arose from the consciousness of Hilda's
safety was of itself sufficient to counterbalance all else. Her
safety was so unexpected, and the one fact was so overwhelming, that
the happiness which it caused was sufficient to overmaster any
sorrowful sympathy which she might feel for Hilda's misfortunes. So,
if her night was sleepless, it was not sad. Rather it was joyful; and
often and often, as the hours passed, she repeated that prayer of
thankfulness which the first perusal of the letter had caused.

Besides this, the thought of going on to join Hilda was a pleasant
one. Her friend had been so thoughtful that she had arranged all for
her.

No companion could be more appropriate or more reliable than Mr.
Gualtier, and he would certainly make his appearance shortly. She
thought also of the pleasure of living in Naples, and recalled all
that she had ever heard about the charms of that place. Amidst such
thoughts as these morning came, and it was not until after the sun
had risen that Zillah fell asleep.

Two days after the receipt of that letter by Zillah, Gualtier
arrived. Although he had been only a music-teacher, yet he had been
associated in the memory of Zillah with many happy hours at
Chetwynde; and his instructions at Pomeroy Court, though at the time
irksome to her, were now remembered pleasantly, since they were
connected with the memories of her father; and on this occasion he
had the additional advantage of being specially sent by Hilda. He
seemed thus in her mind to be in some sort connected with Hilda. She
had not seen him since the Earl's illness, and had understood from
Hilda that he had gone to London to practice his profession.

As Gualtier entered, Zillah greeted him with a warmth which was
unusual from her to him, but which can readily be accounted for under
the circumstances. He seemed surprised and pleased. His small gray
eyes twinkled, and his sallow cheeks flushed with involuntary delight
at such marks of condescension. Yet in his manner and address he was
as humble and as servile as ever. His story was shortly told. He had
received, he said, a short note from Miss Krieff, by which he learned
that, owing to an act of thoughtlessness on her part, she had gone
adrift in a boat, and had been picked up by a ship on its way to
Naples, to which place she had been carried. He understood that she
had written to Lady Chetwynde to come and join her. Gualtier hoped
that Lady Chetwynde would feel the same confidence in him which Miss
Krieff had expressed in making known to him that they had been living
under an assumed name. Of course, unless this had been communicated
to him it would have been impossible for him to find her. He assured
her that with him her secret was perfectly inviolable, that he was
perfectly reliable, and that the many favors which he had received
from General Pomeroy, from the late Earl, and from herself, would of
themselves be sufficient to make him guard her secret with watchful
vigilance, and devote himself to her interests with the utmost zeal
and fidelity.

To Zillah, however, the voluble assurances of Gualtier's vigilance,
secrecy, and fidelity were quite unnecessary. It was enough that she
had known him for so many years. Her father had first made him known
to her. After him her second father, Earl Chetwynde, had made him her
teacher. Last of all, at this great hour in her life, Hilda herself
had sent him to accompany her. It would have been strange indeed if,
under such circumstances, any doubt whatever with regard to him had
for one moment entered her mind.

On the day after the receipt of Hilda's letter Zillah had gone for
the first time to the rectory, and told the joyful news to her kind
friends there. She read the letter to them, while they listened to
every word with breathless interest, often interrupting her with
exclamations of pity, of sympathy, or of wonder. Most of all were
they affected by the change which had come over Zillah, who in one
night had passed from dull despair to life and joy and hope. She
seemed to them now a different being. Her face was flushed with
excitement; her deep, dark eyes, no longer downcast, flashed with
radiant joy; her voice was tremulous as she read the letter, or spoke
of her hope of soon rejoining Hilda. These dear old people looked at
her till their eyes filled with tears; tears which were half of joy
over her happiness, and half of sadness at the thought that she was
to leave them.

"Ah, my child," said Mrs. Harvey, in a tremulous voice, "how glad I
am that your dear sister has been saved by our merciful God; but how
sad I feel to think that I shall lose you now, when I have come to
love you so!"

Her voice had such inexpressible sadness, and such deep and true
affection in its tones, that Zillah was touched to the heart. She
twined her arms fondly about the neck of the old lady, and kissed her
tenderly.

"Ah, my dearest Mrs. Harvey," said she, "how can I ever repay you for
all your loving care of me! Do not think that I did not see all and
feel all that you did for me. But I was so sad."

"But, my poor child," said the rector, after a long conversation, in
which they had exhausted all the possibilities of Hilda's
"situation," "this is a long journey. Who is this Mr. Gualtier? Do
you know him? Would it not be better for me to go with you?"

"Oh, my kind friend, how good you are!" said Zillah, again
overwhelmed with gratitude. "But there is no necessity. I have known
Mr. Gualtier for years. He was my music-teacher for a long time
before my dear father left me. He is very good and very faithful."

So no more was said on that matter.

Before Gualtier came Zillah had arranged every thing for her journey.
She decided to leave the house just as it was, under the care of the
housekeeper, with the expectation of returning at no very distant
date. The rector promised to exercise a general supervision over her
affairs. She left with him money enough to pay the year's rent in
advance, which he was to transmit to the owner. Such arrangements as
these gave great comfort to these kindly souls, for in them they saw
signs that Zillah would return; and they both hoped that the
"sisters" would soon tire even of Italy, and in a fit of homesickness
come back again. With this hope they bade her adieu.

On leaving Tenby, Zillah felt nothing but delight. As the coach drove
her to the station, as the railway train hurried her to London, as
the tidal train took her to Southampton, as the packet bore her
across the Channel, every moment of the time was filled with joyous
anticipations of her meeting Hilda. All her griefs over other losses
and other calamities had in one instant faded away at the news that
Hilda was safe. That one thing was enough to compensate for all else.

Arriving at Paris, she was compelled to wait for one day on account
of some want of connection in the trains for Marseilles. Gualtier
acted as cicerone, and accompanied her in a carriage through the
chief streets, through the Place de la Concorde, the Champs Elysées,
and the Bois de Boulogne. She was sufficiently herself to experience
delight in spite of her impatience, and to feel the wonder and
admiration which the first sight of that gay and splendid capital
always excites. But she was not willing to linger here. Naples was
the goal at which she wished to arrive, and as soon as possible she
hurried onward.

On reaching Marseilles she found the city crowded. The great
movements of the Italian war were going on, and every thing was
affected by it. Marseilles was one of the grand centres of action,
and one of the chief depots for military supplies. The city was
filled with soldiers. The harbor was full of transports. The streets
were thronged with representatives of all the different regiments of
the French army, from the magnificent steel-clad Cuirassiers, and the
dashing Chasseurs de Vincennes, to the insouciant Zouaves and the
wild Turcos. In addition to the military, the city was filled with
civil officials, connected with the dispatch of the army, who filled
the city, and rendered it extremely difficult for a stranger to find
lodgings.

Zillah was taken to the Hôtel de France, but it was full. Gualtier
went round to all the other hotels, but returned with the unpleasant
intelligence that all were likewise filled. But this did not very
greatly disturb Zillah, for she hoped to be on board the steamer
soon, and whether she found lodgings or not was a matter of
indifference to her in comparison with prosecuting her journey. After
several hours Gualtier returned once more, with the information that
he had succeeded in finding rooms for her in this hotel. He had made
an earnest appeal, he said, to the gallantry of some French officers,
and they had given up their rooms for the use of the fair Anglaise.
It was thus that Zillah was able to secure accommodation for the
night.

All that evening Gualtier spent in searching for the Naples steamer.
When he made his appearance on the following morning it was with news
that was very unpleasant to Zillah. He informed her that the regular
steamers did not run, that they had been taken up by the French
government as transports for the troops, and, as far as he could
learn, there were no provisions whatever for carrying the mails. He
could scarcely think it possible that such should be the case, but so
it was.

At this intelligence Zillah was aghast.

"No mail steamers?" said she. "Impossible! Even if they had taken up
all of them for transports, something would be put on the route."

"I can assure you, my lady, that it is as I said. I have searched
every where, and can not find out any thing," said Gualtier.

"You need not address me by my title," said Zillah. "At present I do
not choose to adopt it."

"Pardon me," said Gualtier, humbly. "It is taken for granted in
France that every wealthy English lady is titled--every French
hotel-keeper will call you 'miladi,' and why should not I? It is only
a form."

"Well," said Zillah, "let it pass. But what am I to do here? I must
go on. Can I not go by land?"

"You forget, my lady, the war in Lombardy."

"But I tell you, I _must_ go on," said Zillah, impatiently. "Cost
what it may--even if I have to buy a steamer."

Gualtier smiled faintly.

"Even if you wished to buy a steamer, my lady, you could not. The
French government has taken up all for transports. Could you not make
up your mind to wait for a few days?"

"A few days!" cried Zillah, in tones of despair--"a few days! What!
after hurrying here through France so rapidly! A few days! No. I
would rather go to Spain, and catch the steamer at Gibraltar that
Miss Krieff spoke of."

Gualtier smiled.

"That would take much longer time," said he. "But, my lady, I will go
out again, and see if I can not find some way more expeditious than
that. Trust to me. It will be strange if I do not find some way.
Would you be willing to go in a sailing vessel?"

"Of course," said Zillah, without hesitation. "If nothing else can be
found I shall be only too happy."

Upon this, Gualtier departed with the intention of searching for a
sailing vessel. Zillah herself would have been willing to go in any
thing. Such was her anxiety to get to Hilda, that rather than stay in
Marseilles she would have been willing to start for Naples in an open
boat. But on mentioning her situation to Mathilde she encountered, to
her surprise, a very energetic opposition. That important personage
expressed a very strong repugnance to any thing of the kind. First,
she dreaded a sea voyage in a sailing vessel; and secondly, having
got back to France, she did not wish to leave it. If the regular mail
vessel had been going she might not have objected, but as it was she
did not wish to go. Mathilde was very voluble, and very determined;
but Zillah troubled herself very little about this. To get to Hilda
was her one and only desire. If Mathilde stood in the way she would
go on in spite of her. She was willing to let Mathilde go, and set
out unattended. To get to Naples, to join Hilda, whether in a steamer
or a sailing vessel--whether with a maid or without one--that was her
only purpose.

On the following morning Gualtier made his appearance, with the
announcement that he had found a vessel. It was a small schooner
which had been a yacht belonging to an Englishman, who had sold it at
Marseilles for some reason or other to a merchant of the city. This
merchant was willing to sell it, and Gualtier had bought it in her
name, as he could find no other way of going on. The price was large,
but "my lady" had said that she was willing to buy a steamer, and to
her it would be small. He had ventured, therefore, to conclude the
bargain. He had done more, and had even engaged a crew, so that all
was in readiness to start.

At this news Zillah was overjoyed. Her longing to be with Hilda was
so great that even if she had been a miser she would have willingly
paid the price demanded, and far more. The funds which she had
brought with her, and which Gualtier had kindly taken charge of,
amounted to a considerable sum, and afforded ample means for the
purchase of the vessel. The vessel was therefore regularly purchased,
and Zillah at last saw a way by which she could once more proceed on
her journey. Gualtier informed her that the remainder of that day
would be needed for the completion of the preparations, and that they
would be ready to leave at an early hour on the following morning. So
Zillah awaited with impatience the appointed time.

Zillah awaked early on the following morning, but Mathilde was not to
be found. Instead of Mathilde, a letter was awaiting her, which
stated, in very respectful language, that the dread which that
personage felt at going in a sailing vessel was so strong, and her
love for her own dear country so great, that she had decided to
remain where she was. She therefore had come to the conclusion to
leave "miladi" without giving warning, although she would thereby
lose what was due her, and she hoped that "miladi" would forgive her,
and bear her in affectionate remembrance. With wishes and prayers for
"miladi's" future happiness, Mathilde begged leave to subscribe
herself "miladi's" most devoted and grateful servant.

Such was the final message of Mathilde to her indulgent mistress.
But, although at any other time Zillah would have been both wounded
and indignant at such desertion of her at such a time, yet now, in
the one engrossing thought that filled her mind, she thought but
little of this incident. At Naples, she thought, she could very
easily fill her place. Now she would have to be without a maid for
two or three days, but after all it would make no very great
difference. She could rely upon herself, and endure a few days'
discomfort very readily for Hilda's sake. It was with such feelings
as these that she awaited the arrival of Gualtier. When he came, and
heard of the departure of Mathilde, he appeared to be filled with
indignation, and urged Zillah to wait one day more till he could get
another maid for her. But Zillah refused. She was determined to go
on, and insisted on starting at once for the yacht. Finding his
remonstrances unavailing, the faithful Gualtier conducted her to the
schooner, and, as all things were in readiness, they put out to sea
immediately.

The schooner was a very handsome one, and on looking over it Zillah
felt delighted with Gualtier's good taste, or his good fortune,
whichever it might have been. It was, as has been said, a yacht,
which had been the property of an Englishman who had sold it at
Marseilles. The cabin was fitted up in the most elegant style, and
was much more roomy than was common in vessels of that size. There
was an outer cabin with a table in the middle and sofas on either
side, and an inner cabin with capacious berths. The watchful
attention of Gualtier was visible all around. There were baskets of
rare fruits, boxes of bonbons, and cake-baskets filled with delicate
macaroons and ratafias. There were also several books--volumes of the
works of Lamartine and Chateaubriand, together with two or three of
the latest English novels. He certainly had been particular to the
last degree in attending to all of her possible wants.

After inspecting the arrangements of the cabin, Zillah went out on
deck and seated herself at the stern, from which she watched the
city which they were fast leaving behind them. On casting a casual
glance around, it struck her for a moment that the crew were a
remarkably ill-looking set of men; but she was utterly inexperienced,
and she concluded that they were like all sailors, and should not be
judged by the same standard as landsmen. Besides, was not her
faithful Gualtier there, whose delicate attention was so evident even
in the most minute circumstance which she had noticed? If the thought
of the evil looks of the crew came to her, it was but for a moment;
and in a moment it was dismissed. She was herself too guileless to be
suspicious, and was far more ready to cast from her all evil thoughts
than to entertain them. In her innocence and inexperience she was
bold, when one more brave but more experienced would have been
fearful.

The wind was fair, and the yacht glided swiftly out of the harbor.
The sea was smooth, and Zillah could look all around her upon the
glorious scene. In a few hours they had left the land far behind
them, and then the grander features of the distant coast became more
plainly visible. The lofty heights rose up above the sea receding
backward, but ever rising higher, till they reached the Alpine
summits of the inland. All around was the blue Mediterranean, dotted
with white sails. All that she saw was novel and striking; she had
never sailed in a yacht before; the water was smooth enough to be
pleasant, and she gave herself up to a childlike joy.

On rising on the following morning they were far out of sight of
land. A delicious repast was placed before her for her breakfast.
After partaking she sat on deck, looking out upon the glorious sea,
with such a feeling of dreamy enjoyment as she had scarcely ever
known before. Her one chief thought was that every hour was bringing
her nearer to Hilda. When tired of the deck she went below, and lay
down in her cabin and read. So the hours passed. On that day Gualtier
surpassed himself in delicate attention to every possible wish of
hers. She herself was surprised at the variety of the dishes which
composed her dinner. She could not help expressing her thanks.

Gualtier smiled, and murmured some scarce audible words.

Two days passed, and they were now far on their way. Gualtier assured
her respectfully that on the following morning they would see the
Apennines on the Italian shore. The voyage had not been so rapid as
it might have been, but it had been exceedingly pleasant weather, and
their progress had been satisfactory. That evening Zillah watched the
sun as it set in glory below the watery horizon, and retired for the
night with the thought that in two days more she would be with Hilda.

She slept soundly that night.

Suddenly she waked with a strange sensation. Her dreams had been
troubled. She thought that she was drowning. In an agony she started
up. Water was all around her in the berth where she was lying. The
dim light of dawn was struggling through the sky-light, and she
looked around bewildered, not knowing at first where she was. Soon,
however, she remembered, and then a great horror came over her. _The
vessel was sinking!_

All was still. She gave a wild cry, and started up, wading through
the water to the door. She cried again and again, till her cries
became shrieks. In vain. No answer came. Flinging a shawl around her
she went into the outer cabin, and thence ascended to the deck.

No one was there.

No man was at the wheel. No watchers were visible. The vessel was
deserted!


[Illustration: "An Awful Fear Came Over Her."]


Louder and louder she shrieked. Her voice, borne afar over the wide
waste of waters, died out in the distance, but brought no response.
She hurried to the forecastle. The door was open. She called over and
over again. There was no reply. Looking down in the dim morning
twilight she could see plainly that the water had penetrated there.

An awful fear came over her.

The sails were lowered. The boat was gone. No one was on board
besides herself. The schooner was sinking. She had been deserted. She
had been betrayed. She would never see Hilda. Who had betrayed her?
Was Hilda really at Naples? Had she really written that letter and
sent Gualtier to her? A thousand horrid suspicions rushed through her
mind. One thought predominated--_she had been betrayed!_

But why?



CHAPTER XXIX.


TWO NEW CHARACTERS.


In spite of Gualtier's assurances, a steamer was running regularly
between Naples and Marseilles, and the war had made no disturbance in
the promptitude and dispatch of its trips. It belonged to a line
whose ships went on to Malta, touching at Italian ports, and finally
connecting with the steamers of the Peninsular and Oriental Company.
The day after Zillah had left Marseilles one of these left Naples on
its way to the former port, having on hoard the usual number and
variety of passengers.

On the stern of this vessel stood two men, looking out over the water
to where the purple Apennines arose over the Italian coast, where the
grand figure of Vesuvius towered conspicuous, its smoke cloud
floating like a pennon in the air. One of these men was tall,
broad-shouldered, sinewy, with strong square head, massive forehead,
firm chin, and eyes which held in their expression at once gentleness
and determination; no very rare compound in the opinion of some, for
there are those who think that the strongest and boldest natures are
frequently the tenderest. He was a man of about fifty, or perhaps
even sixty, but his years sat lightly on him; and he looked like a
man whom any one might reasonably dread to meet with in a personal
encounter. The other was much younger. His face was bronzed by
exposure to a southern sun; he wore a heavy beard and mustache, and
he had the unmistakable aspect of an English gentleman, while the
marked military air which was about him showed that he was without
doubt a British officer. He was dressed, however, as a civilian. His
hat showed that he was in mourning; and a general sadness of demeanor
which he manifested was well in keeping with that sombre emblem.

"Well, Windham," said the former, after a long silence, "I never
thought that there was a place on this green earth that could take
hold of me like that Italian city. I don't believe that there is a
city any where that comes up to Naples. Even New York is not its
equal. I wouldn't leave it now--no, _Sir!_--ten team of horses
couldn't drag me away, only my family are waiting for me at
Marseilles, you see--and I must join them. However, I'll go back
again as soon as I can; and if I don't stay in that there country
till I've exhausted it--squeezed it, and pressed out of it all the
useful and entertaining information that it can give--why, then, my
name's not Obed Chute."

The one called Windham gave a short laugh.

"You'll have a little difficulty in Lombardy, I think," said he.

"Why?"

"The war."

"The war? My friend, are you not aware that the war need not be any
obstacle to a free American?"

"Perhaps not; but you know that armies in the field are not very much
inclined to be respecters of persons, and the freest of free
Americans might find himself in an Austrian or a French prison as a
spy."

"Even so; but he would soon get out, and have an interesting
reminiscence. That is one of the things that he would have to be
prepared for. At any rate, I have made up my mind to go to Lombardy,
and I'll take my family with me. I should dearly like to get a
Concord coach to do it in, but if I can't I'll get the nearest
approach to it I can find, and calmly trot on in the rear of the
army. Perhaps I'll have a chance to take part in some engagement. I
should like to do so, for the honor of the flag if nothing else."

"You remind me of your celebrated countryman, who was, as he said,
'blue moulded for want of a fight.'"

"That man, Sir, was a true representative American, and a type of our
ordinary, everyday, active, vivacious Western citizen--the class of
men that fell the forests, people the prairies, fight the fever,
reclaim the swamps, tunnel the mountains, send railroads over the
plains, and dam all the rivers on the broad continent. It's a pity
that these Italians hadn't an army of these Western American men to
lead them in their struggle for liberty."

"Do you think they would be better than the French army?"

"The French army!" exclaimed Obed Chute, in indescribable accents.

"Yes. It is generally conceded that the French army takes the lead in
military matters. I say so, although I am a British officer."

"Have you ever traveled in the States?" said Obed Chute, quietly.

"No. I have not yet had that pleasure."

"You have never yet seen our Western population. You don't know it,
and you can't conceive it. Can you imagine the original English
Puritan turned into a wild Indian, with all his original honor, and
morality, and civilization, combining itself with the intense
animalism, the capacity for endurance, and the reckless valor of the
savage? Surround all this with all that tenderness, domesticity, and
pluck which are the ineradicable characteristics of the Saxon race,
and then you have the Western American man--the product of the Saxon,
developed by long struggles with savages and by the animating
influences of a boundless continent."

"I suppose by this you mean that the English race in America is
superior to the original stock."

"That can hardly be doubted," said Obed Chute, quite seriously. "The
mother country is small and limited in its resources. America is not
a country. It is a continent, over which our race has spread itself.
The race in the mother country has reached its ultimate possibility.
In America it is only beginning its new career. To compare America
with England is not fair. You should compare New York, New England,
Virginia, with England, not America. Already we show differences in
the development of the same race which only a continent could cause.
Maine is as different from South Carolina as England from Spain. But
you Europeans never seem able to get over a fashion that you have of
regarding our boundless continent as a small country. Why, I myself
have been asked by Europeans about the health of friends of theirs
who lived in California, and whom I knew no more about than I did of
the Chinese. The fact is, however, that we are continental, and
nature is developing the continental American man to an astonishing
extent.

"Now as to this Lombard war," continued Obed Chute, as Windham stood
listening in silence, and with a quiet smile that relieved but
slightly the deep melancholy of his face--"as to this Lombard war;
why, Sir, if it were possible to collect an army of Western Americans
and put them into that there territory"--waving his hand grandly
toward the Apennines--"the way they would walk the Austrians off to
their own country would be a caution. For the Western American man,
as an individual, is physically and spiritually a gigantic being, and
an army of such would be irresistible. Two weeks would wind up the
Lombard war. Our Americans, Sir, are the most military people in the
wide universe."

"As yet, though, they haven't done much to show their capacity," said
Windham. "You don't call the Revolutionary war and that of 1812 any
greater than ordinary wars, do you?"

"No, Sir; not at all," said Obed Chute. "We are well aware that in
actual wars we have as yet done but little in comparison with our
possibilities and capabilities. In the revolutionary war, Sir, we
were crude and unformed--we were infants, Sir, and our efforts were
infantile. The swaddling bands of the colonial system had all along
restrained the free play of the national muscle; and throughout the
war there was not time for full development. Still, Sir, from that
point of view, as an infant nation, we did remarkable
well--re-markable. In 1812 we did not have a fair chance. We had got
out of infancy, it is true; but still not into our full manhood.
Besides, the war was too short. Just as we began to get into
condition--just as our fleets and armies were ready to _do_
something--the war came to an end. Even then, however, we did
re-markable well--re-markable. But, after all, neither of these
exhibited the American man in his boundless possibility before the
world."

"You think, I suppose, that if a war were to come now, you could do
proportionally better."

"Think it!" said Obed; "I know it. The American people know it. And
they want, above all things, to have a chance to show it. You spoke
of that American who was blue-moulded for want of a fight. I said
that man was a typical American. Sir, that saying is profoundly true.
Sir, the whole American nation is blue-moulded, Sir. It is spilin for
want of a fight--a big fight."

"Well, and what do you intend to do about it?"

"Time will show," said Obed, gravely. "Already, any one acquainted
with the manners of our people and the conduct of our government will
recognize the remarkable fact that our nation is the most wrathy,
cantankerous, high-mettled community on this green earth. Why, Sir,
there ain't a foreign nation that can keep on friendly terms with us.
It ain't ugliness, either--it's only a friendly desire to have a
fight with somebody--we only want an excuse to begin. The only
trouble is, there ain't a nation that reciprocates our pecooliar
national feeling."

"What can you do, then?" asked Windham, who seemed to grow quite
amused at this conversation.

"That's a thing I've often puzzled over," said Obed, thoughtfully;
"and I can see only one remedy for us."

"And what is that?"

"Well, it's a hard one--but I suppose it's got to come. You see, the
only foreign countries that are near enough to us to afford a
satisfactory field of operations are Mexico and British America. The
first we have already tried. It was poor work, though. Our armies
marched through Mexico as though they were going on a picnic. As to
British America, there is no chance. The population is too small. No,
there is only one way to gratify the national craving for a fight."

"I don't see it."

"Why," said Obed, dryly, "to get up a big fight among ourselves."

"Among yourselves?"

"Yes--quite domestic--and all by ourselves."

"You seem to me to speak of a civil war."

"That's the identical circumstance, and nothing else. It is the only
thing that is suited to the national feeling; and what's more--it's
got to come. I see the pointings of the finger of Providence. It's
got to come--there's no help for it--and mark me, when it does come
it'll be the tallest kind of fightin' that this revolving orb has yet
seen in all its revolutions."

"You speak very lightly about so terrible a thing as a civil war,"
said Windham. "But do you think it possible? In so peaceful and
well-ordered a country what causes could there be?"

"When the whole nation is pining and craving and spilin for a fight,"
said Obed, "causes will not be wanting. I can enumerate half a dozen
now. First, there is the slavery question; secondly, the tariff
question; thirdly, the suffrage question; fourthly, the question of
the naturalization of foreigners; fifthly, the bank question;
sixthly, the question of denominational schools."

Windham gave a short laugh.

"You certainly seem to have causes enough for a war, although, to my
contracted European mind, they would all seem insufficient. Which of
these, do you think, is most likely to be the cause of that civil war
which you anticipate?"

"One, pre-eminently and inevitably," said Obed, solemnly. "All others
are idle beside this one." He dropped abruptly the half gasconading
manner in which he had been indulging, and, in a low voice, added,
"In real earnest, Windham, there is one thing in America which is,
every year, every month, every day, forcing on a war from which there
can be no escape; a war which will convulse the republic and endanger
its existence; yes, Sir, a war which will deluge the land with blood
from one end to the other."

His solemn tone, his change of manner, and his intense earnestness,
impressed Windham most deeply. He felt that there was some deep
meaning in the language of Obed Chute, and that under his careless
words there was a gloomy foreboding of some future calamity to his
loved country.

"This is a fearful prospect," said he, "to one who loves his country.
What is it that you fear?"

"One thing," said Obed--"one thing, and one only---slavery! It is
this that has divided the republic and made of our country two
nations, which already stand apart, but are every day drawing nearer
to that time when a frightful struggle for the mastery will be
inevitable. The South and the North must end their differences by a
fight; and that fight will be the greatest that has been seen for
some generations. There is no help for it. It must come. There are
many in our country who are trying to postpone the evil day, but it
is to no purpose. The time will come when it can be postponed no
longer. Then the war must come, and it will be the slave States
against the free."

"I never before heard an American acknowledge the possibility of such
a thing," said Windham, "though in Europe there are many who have
anticipated this."

"Many Americans feel it and fear it," said Obed, with unchanged
solemnity; "but they do not dare to put their feelings or their fears
in words. One may fear that his father, his mother, his wife, or his
child, may die; but to put such a fear in words is heart-breaking. So
we, who have this fear, brood over it in secret, and in every
shifting scene of our national life we look fearfully for those
coming events which cast their shadows before. The events which we
watch with the deepest anxiety are the Presidential elections. Every
four years now brings a crisis; and in one of these the long
antagonism between North and South will end in war. But I hate to
speak of this. What were we talking of? Of Lombardy and the Italian
war. What do you think," he added, abruptly changing the
conversation, "of my plan to visit the seat of war?"

"I think," said Windham, "that if any man is able to do Lombardy at
such a time, you are that person."

"Well, I intend to try," said Obed Chute, modestly. "I may fail,
though I generally succeed in what I set my mind on. I'll go, I
think, as a fighting neutral."

"Prepared to fight on either side, I suppose."

"Yes; as long as I don't have to fight against Garibaldi."

"But, wouldn't you find your family a little embarrassing in case of
a fight?"

"Oh no! they would always be safely in the rear, at the base of my
line of operations. There will be no difficulty about it whatever.
Americans are welcome all over Italy, especially at this time for
these _I_talians think that America sympathizes with them, and will
help them; and as to the French--why, Boney, though an emperor, is
still a democrat to his heart's core, and, I have no doubt, would
give a warm reception to a fighting volunteer."

"Have you any acquaintance with any of the French generals, or have
you any plan for getting access to Napoleon?"

"Oh no! I trust merely to the reason and good feeling of the man. It
seems to me that a request from a free American to take part in a
fight could hardly meet with any thing else except the most cordial
compliance."

"Well, all I can say is, that if I were Louis Napoleon, I would put
you on my staff," said Windham.

The name of Obed Chute has already been brought forward. He had
embarked at Bombay on board the same steamer with Windham, and they
had formed a friendship which after circumstances had increased. At
first Windham's reserve had repelled advances; his sadness and
preoccupation had repelled any intimacy; but before many days an
event happened which threw them into close association. When about
half-way on her voyage the steamer was discovered to be on fire.
Panic arose. The captain tried to keep order among the sailors. This
he was very easily able to do. But with the passengers it was another
thing. Confusion prevailed every where, and the sailors themselves
were becoming demoralized by the terror which raged among the others.
In that moment of danger two men stood forth from among the
passengers, who, by the force of their own strong souls, brought
order out of that chaos. One of these was Obed Chute. With a revolver
in his hand he went about laying hold of each man who seemed to be
most agitated, swearing that he would blow his brains out if he
didn't "stop his infernal noise." The other was Windham, who acted in
a different manner. He collected pipes, pumps, and buckets, and
induced a large number to take part in the work of extinguishing the
flames. By the attitude of the two the rest were either calmed or
cowed; and each one recognized in the other a kindred spirit.

After landing at Suez they were thrown more closely together; their
intimacy deepened on the way to Alexandria; and when they embarked on
the Mediterranean they had become stronger friends than ever. Windham
had told the other that he had recently heard of the death of a
friend, and was going home to settle his affairs. He hinted also that
he was in some government employ in India; and Obed Chute did not
seek to know more. Contrary to the generally received view of the
Yankee character, he did not show any curiosity whatever, but
received the slight information which was given with a delicacy which
showed no desire to learn more than Windham himself might choose to
tell.

But for his own part he was as frank and communicative as though
Windham had been an old friend or a blood relation. He had been kept
in New York too closely, he said, for the last twenty years, and now
wished to have a little breathing space and elbow-room. So he had
left New York for San Francisco, partly on pleasure, partly on
business. He spent some months in California, and then crossed the
Pacific to China, touching at Honolulu and Nangasaki. He had left
directions for his family to be sent on to Europe, and meet him at a
certain time at Marseilles. He was expecting to find them there. He
himself had gone from China to India, where he had taken a small tour
though the country, and then had embarked for Europe. Before going
back to America he expected to spend some time with his family in
Italy, France, and Germany.

There was a grandeur of view in this man's way of looking upon the
world which surprised Windham, and, to some degree, amused him. For
Obed Chute regarded the whole world exactly as another man might
regard his native county or town; and spoke about going from San
Francisco to Hong-Kong, touching at Nangasaki, just as another might
speak of going from Liverpool to Glasgow, touching at Rothsay. He
seemed, in fact, to regard our planet as rather a small affair,
easily traversed, and a place with which he was thoroughly familiar.
He had written from San Francisco for his family to meet him at
Marseilles, and now approached that place with the fullest confidence
that his family would be there according to appointment. This type of
man is entirely and exclusively the product of America, the country
of magnificent distances, and the place where Nature works on so
grand a scale that human beings insensibly catch her style of
expression. Obed Chute was a man who felt in every fibre the
oppressive weight of his country's grandeur. Yet so generous was his
nature that he forbore to overpower others by any allusions to that
grandeur, except where it was absolutely impossible to avoid it.

These two had gradually come to form a strong regard for one another,
and Obed Chute did not hesitate to express his opinion about his
friend.

"I do not generally take to Britishers," said he, once, "for they are
too contracted, and never seem to me to have taken in a full breath
of the free air of the universe. They seem usually to have been in
the habit of inhaling an enervating moral and intellectual
atmosphere. But you suit me, you do. Young man, your hand."

And grasping Windham's hand, Obed wrung it so heartily that he forced
nearly all feeling out of it.

"I suppose living in India has enabled me to breathe a broader moral
atmosphere," said Windham, with his usual melancholy smile.

"I suppose so," said Obed Chute. "Something has done it, any how. You
showed it when the steamer was burning."

"How?"

"By your eye."

"Why, what effect can one's moral atmosphere have on one's eyes?"

"An enormous effect," said Obed Chute. "It's the same in morals as in
nature. The Fellahs of the Nile, exposed as they are to the action of
the hot rays of the sun, as they strike on the sand, are universally
troubled with ophthalmia. In our Mammoth Cave, in Kentucky, there is
a subterranean lake containing fishes which have no eyes at all. So
it is in character and in morals. I will point you out men whose eyes
are inflamed by the hot rays of passion; and others who show by their
eyes that they have lived in moral darkness as dense as that of the
Kentucky cave. Take a thief. Do you not know him by his eye? It takes
an honest man to look you in the face."

"Yon have done a great many things," said Windham, at another time.
"Have you ever preached in your country?"

"No," said Obed Chute, with a laugh; "but I've done better--I've been
a stump orator; and stump oratory, as it is practiced in America, is
a little the tallest kind of preaching that this green earth" (he was
fond of that expression) "has ever listened to. Our orb, Sir, has
seen strange experiences; but it is getting rayther astonished at the
performances of the American man."

"Generally," said Windham, "I do not believe in preaching so much as
in practice; but when I see a man like you who can do both, I'm
willing to listen, even if it be a stump speech that I hear. Still, I
think that you are decidedly greater with a revolver in the midst of
a crowd than you could be on a stump with a crowd before you."

Obed Chute shook his head solemnly.

"There," said he, "is one of the pecooliarities of you Europeans. You
don't understand our national ways and manners. We don't separate
saying and doing. With us every man who pretends to speak must be
able to act. No man is listened to unless he is known to be capable
of knocking down any one who interrupts him. In a country like ours
speaking and acting go together. The Stump and the Revolver are two
great American forces--twin born--the animating power of the Great
Republic. There's no help for it. It must be so. Why, if I give
offense in a speech, I shall of course be called to account
afterward; and if I can't take care of myself and settle the
account--why--where am I? Don't you see? Ours, Sir, is a singular
state of society; but it is the last development of the human race,
and, of course, the best."

Conversations like these diverted Windham and roused him from his
brooding melancholy. Obed Chute's fancies were certainly whimsical;
he had an odd love for paradox and extravagance; he seized the idea
that happened to suggest itself, and followed it out with a dry
gravity and a solemn air of earnestness which made all that he said
seem like his profound conviction. Thus in these conversations
Windham never failed to receive entertainment, and to be roused from
his preoccupying cares.


[Illustration.]



CHAPTER XXX.


PICKED UP ADRIFT.


Two days passed since the steamer left Naples, and they were now far
on their way. On the morning of the third Windham came on deck at an
early hour. No one was up. The man at the wheel was the only one
visible. Windham looked around upon the glorious scene which the wide
sea unfolds at such a time. The sun had not yet risen, but all the
eastern sky was tinged with red; and the wide waste of waters between
the ship and that eastern horizon was colored with the ruddy hues
which the sky cast downward. But it was not this scene, magnificent
though it was, which attracted the thoughts of Windham as he stood on
the quarter-deck. His face was turned in that direction; but it was
with an abstracted gaze which took in nothing of the glories of
visible nature. That deep-seated melancholy of his, which was always
visible in his face and manner, was never more visible than now. He
stood by the taffrail in a dejected attitude and with a dejected
face--brooding over his own secret cares, finding nothing in this but
fresh anxieties, and yet unable to turn his thoughts to any thing
else. The steamer sped through the waters, the rumble of her
machinery was in the air, the early hour made the solitude more
complete. This man, whoever he was, did not look as though he were
going to England on any joyous errand, but rather like one who was
going home to the performance of some mournful duty which was never
absent from his thoughts.

Standing thus with his eyes wandering abstractedly over the water, he
became aware of an object upon its surface, which attracted his
attention and roused him from his meditations. It struck him as very
singular. It was at some considerable distance off, and the steamer
was rapidly passing it. It was not yet sufficiently light to
distinguish it well, but he took the ship's glass and looked
carefully at it. He could now distinguish it more plainly. It was a
schooner with its sails down, which by its general position seemed to
be drifting. It was very low in the water, as though it were either
very heavily laden or else water-logged. But there was one thing
there which drew all his thoughts. By the foremast, as he looked, he
saw a figure standing, which was distinctly waving something as if to
attract the attention of the passing steamer. The figure looked like
a woman. A longer glance convinced him that it was so in very deed,
and that this lonely figure was some woman in distress. It seemed to
appeal to himself and to himself alone, with that mute yet eloquent
signal, and those despairing gestures. A strange pang shot through
his heart--a pang sharp and unaccountable--something more than that
which might be caused by any common scene of misery; it was a pang of
deep pity and profound sympathy with this lonely sufferer, from whom
the steamer's course was turned away, and whom the steersman had not
regarded. He only had seen the sight, and the woman seemed to call to
him out of her despair. The deep sea lay between; her presence was a
mystery; but there seemed a sort of connection between him and her
as though invisible yet resistless Fate had shown them to one
another, and brought him here to help and to save. It needed but an
instant for all these thoughts to flash through his mind. In an
instant he flew below and roused the captain, to whom in a few
hurried words he explained what had occurred.

The captain, who was dressed, hurried up and looked for himself. But
by this time the steamer had moved away much further, and the captain
could not see very distinctly any thing more than the outline of a
boat.

"Oh, it's only a fishing-boat," said he, with an air of indifference.

"Fishing-boat! I tell you it is an English yacht," said Windham,
fiercely. "I saw it plainly. The sails were down. It was
water-logged. A woman was standing by the foremast."

The captain looked annoyed.

"It looks to me," said he, "simply like some heavily laden schooner."

"But I tell you she is sinking, and there is a woman on board," said
Windham, more vehemently than ever.

"Oh, it's only some Neapolitan fish-wife."

"You must turn the steamer, and save her," said Windham, with savage
emphasis.

"I can not. We shall be behind time."

"Damn time!" roared Windham, thoroughly roused. "Do you talk of time
in comparison with the life of a human being? If you don't turn the
steamer's head, _I_ will."

"You!" cried the captain, angrily. "Damn it! if it comes to that, I'd
like to see you try it. It's mutiny."

Windham's face grew white with suppressed indignation.

"Turn the steamer's head," said he, in stern cold tones, from which
every trace of passion had vanished. "If you don't, I'll do it
myself. If you interfere, I'll blow your brains out. As it is, you'll
rue the day you ever refused. Do you know who I am?"

He stepped forward, and whispered in the captain's ear some words
which sent a look of awe or fear into the captain's face. Whether
Windham was the president of the company, or some British embassador,
or one of the Lords of the Admiralty, or any one else in high
authority, need not be disclosed here. Enough to say that the captain
hurried aft, and instantly the steamer's head was turned.

As for Windham, he took no further notice of the captain, but all his
attention was absorbed by the boat. It seemed water-logged, yet still
it was certainly not sinking, for as the steamer drew nearer, the
light had increased, and he could see plainly through the glass that
the boat was still about the same distance out of the water.

Meanwhile Obed Chute made his appearance, and Windham, catching sight
of him, briefly explained every thing to him. At once all Obed's most
generous sympathies were roused. He took the glass, and eagerly
scrutinized the vessel. He recognized it at once, as Windham had, to
be an English yacht; he saw also that it was waterlogged, and he saw
the figure at the mast. But the figure was no longer standing erect,
or waving hands, or making despairing signals. It had fallen, and lay
now crouched in a heap at the foot of the mast. This Windham also
saw. He conjectured what the cause of this might be. He thought that
this poor creature had kept up her signals while the steamer was
passing, until at last it had gone beyond, and seemed to be leaving
her. Then hope and strength failed, and she sank down senseless. It
was easy to understand all this, and nothing could be conceived of
more touching in its mute eloquence than this prostrate figure, whose
distant attitudes had told so tragical a story. Now all this excited
Windham still more, for he felt more than ever that he was the savior
of this woman's life. Fate had sent her across his path--had given
her life to him. He only had been the cause why she should not perish
unseen and unknown. This part which he had been called on to play of
savior and rescuer--this sudden vision of woe and despair appealing
to his mercy for aid--had chased away all customary thoughts, so that
now his one idea was to complete his work, and save this poor
castaway.

But meanwhile he had not been idle. The captain, who had been so
strangely changed by a few words, had called up the sailors, and in
an instant the fact was known to the whole ship's company that they
were going to save a woman in distress. The gallant fellows, like
true sailors, entered into the spirit of the time with the greatest
ardor. A boat was got ready to be lowered, Windham jumped in, Chute
followed, and half a dozen sailors took the oars. In a short time the
steamer had come up to the place. She stopped; the boat was lowered;
down went the oars into the water; and away sped the boat toward the
schooner. Obed Chute steered. Windham was in the bow, looking eagerly
at the schooner, which lay there in the same condition as before. The
sun was now just rising, and throwing its radiant beams over the sea.
The prostrate figure lay at the foot of the mast.

Rapidly the distance between the boat and the schooner was lessened
by the vigorous strokes of the seamen. They themselves felt an
interest in the result only less than that of Windham. Nearer and
nearer they came. At length the boat touched the schooner, and
Windham, who was in the bow, leaped on board. He hurried to the
prostrate figure. He stooped down, and with a strange unaccountable
tenderness and reverence he took her in his arms and raised her up.
Perhaps it was only the reverence which any great calamity may excite
toward the one that experiences such calamity; perhaps it was
something more profound, more inexplicable--the outgoing of the
soul--which may sometimes have a forecast of more than may be
indicated to the material senses. This may seem like mysticism, but
it is not intended as such. It is merely a statement of the
well-known fact that sometimes, under certain circumstances, there
arise within us unaccountable presentiments and forebodings, which
seem to anticipate the actual future.

Windham then stooped down, and thus tenderly and reverently raised up
the figure of the woman. The sun was still rising and gleaming over
the waters, and gleaming thus, it threw its full rays into the face
of the one whom he held supported in his arms, whose head was thrown
back as it lay on his breast, and was upturned so that he could see
it plainly.

And never, in all his dreams, had any face appeared before him which
bore so rare and radiant a beauty as this one of the mysterious
stranger whom he had rescued. The complexion was of a rich olive, and
still kept its hue where another would have been changed to the
pallor of death; the closed eyes were fringed with long heavy lashes;
the eyebrows were thin, and loftily arched; the hair was full of
waves and undulations, black as night, gleaming with its jetty gloss
in the sun's rays, and in its disorder falling in rich luxuriant
masses over the arms and the shoulder of him who supported her. The
features were exquisitely beautiful; her nose a slight departure from
the Grecian; her lips small and exquisitely shapen; her chin rounded
faultlessly. The face was thinner than it might have been, like the
face of youth and beauty in the midst of sorrow; but the thinness was
not emaciation; it had but refined and spiritualized those matchless
outlines, giving to them not the voluptuous beauty of the Greek
ideal, but rather the angelic or saintly beauty of the medieval. She
was young too, and the bloom and freshness of youth were there
beneath all the sorrow and the grief. More than this, the refined
grace of that face, the nobility of those features, the stamp of high
breeding which was visible in every lineament, showed at once that
she could be no common person. This was no fisherman's wife--no
peasant girl, but some one of high rank and breeding--some one whose
dress proclaimed her station, even if her features had told him
nothing.

"My God!" exclaimed Windham, in bewilderment. "Who is she? How came
she here? What is the meaning of it?"

But there was no time to be lost in wonder or in vague conjectures.
The girl was senseless. It was necessary at once to put her under
careful treatment. For a moment Windham lingered, gazing upon that
sad and exquisite face; and then raising her in his arms, he went
back to the boat. "Give way, lads!" he cried; and the sailors, who
saw it all, pulled with a will. They were soon back again. The
senseless one was lifted into the steamer. Windham carried her in his
own arms to the cabin, and placed her tenderly in a berth, and
committed her to the care of the stewardess. Then he waited
impatiently for news of her recovery.

Obed Chute, however, insisted on going back to the schooner for the
sake of making a general investigation of the vessel. On going on
board he found that she was water-logged. She seemed to have been
kept afloat either by her cargo, or else by some peculiarity in her
construction, which rendered her incapable of sinking. He tore open
the hatchway, and pushing an oar down, he saw that there was no
cargo, so that it must have been the construction of the vessel which
kept her afloat. What that was, he could not then find out. He was
compelled, therefore, to leave the question unsettled for the
present, and he took refuge in the thought that the one who was
rescued might be able to solve the mystery. This allayed for a time
his eager curiosity. But he determined to save the schooner, so as to
examine it afterward at his leisure. A hasty survey of the cabins,
into which he plunged, showed nothing whatever, and so he was
compelled to postpone this for the present. But he had a line made
fast between the steamer and the schooner, and the latter was thus
towed all the way to Marseilles. It showed no signs of sinking, but
kept afloat bravely, and reached the port of destination in about the
same condition in which it had been first found.

The stewardess treated the stranger with the utmost kindness and the
tenderest solicitude, and, at length, the one who had thus been so
strangely rescued came out of that senselessness into which she had
been thrown by the loss of the hope of rescue. On reviving she told a
brief story. She said that she was English, that her name was Lorton,
and that she had been traveling to Marseilles in her own yacht. That
the day before, on awaking, she found the yacht full of water and
abandoned. She had been a day and a night alone in the vessel,
without either food or shelter. She had suffered much, and was in
extreme prostration, both of mind and body. But her strongest desire
was to get to Naples, for her sister was there in ill health, and she
had been making the journey to visit her.


[Illustration: Windham Tenderly And Reverently Raised Her.]


Windham and Obed Chnte heard this very strange narrative from the
stewardess, and talked it over between themselves, considering it in
all its bearings. The opinion of each of them was that there had been
foul play somewhere. But then the question arose: why should there
have been foul play upon an innocent young girl like this? She was an
English lady, evidently of the higher classes; her look was certainly
foreign, but her English accent was perfect. In her simple story she
seemed to have concealed nothing. The exquisite beauty of the young
girl had filled the minds of both of these men with a strong desire
to find out the cause of her wrongs, and to avenge her. But how to do
so was the difficulty. Windham had important business in England
which demanded immediate attention, and would hardly allow him to
delay more than a few days. Obed Chute, on the contrary, had plenty
of time, but did not feel like trying to intrude himself on her
confidence. Yet her distress and desolation had an eloquence which
swayed both of these men from their common purposes, and each
determined to postpone other designs, and do all that was possible
for her.

In spite of an hour's delay in rescuing Miss Lorton, the steamer
arrived at Marseilles at nearly the usual time, and the question
arose, what was to be done with the one that they had rescued?
Windham could do nothing; but Obed Chute could do something, and did
do it. The young lady was able now to sit up in the saloon, and here
it was that Obed Chute waited upon her.

"Have you any friends in Marseilles?" he asked, in a voice full of
kindly sympathy.

"No," said Zillah, in a mournful voice; "none nearer than Naples."

"I have my family here, ma'am," said Obed. "I am an American and a
gentleman. If you have no friends, would you feel any objection to
stay with us while you are here? My family consists of my sister, two
children, and some servants. We are going to Italy as soon as
possible, and if you have no objection we can take you there with
us--to Naples--to your sister."

Zillah looked up at the large honest face, whose kindly eyes beamed
down upon her with parental pity, and she read in that face the
expression of a noble and loyal nature.

"You are very--very kind," said she, in a faltering voice. "You will
lay me under very great obligations. Yes, Sir, I accept your kind
offer. I shall be only too happy to put myself under your protection.
I will go with you, and may Heaven bless you!"

She held out her hand toward him. Obed Chute took that little hand in
his, but restrained his great strength, and only pressed it lightly.

Meanwhile Windham had come in to congratulate the beautiful girl,
whose face had been haunting him ever since that time when the sun
lighted it up, as it lay amidst its glory of ebon hair upon his
breast. He heard these last words, and stood apart, modestly awaiting
some chance to speak.

Zillah raised her face.

Their eyes met in a long earnest gaze.

Zillah was the first to speak. "You saved me from a fearful fate,"
she said, in low and tremulous tones. "I heard all about it."

Windham said nothing, but bowed in silence.

Zillah rose from her chair, and advanced toward him, her face
expressing strong emotion. Now he saw, for the first time, her
wondrous eyes, in all their magnificence of beauty, with their deep
unfathomable meaning, and their burning intensity of gaze. On the
schooner, while her head lay on his breast, those eyes were closed
in senselessness--now they were fixed on his.

"Will you let me thank you, Sir," she said, in a voice which thrilled
through him in musical vibrations, "for my _life_, which you snatched
from a death of horror? To thank you, is but a cold act. Believe me,
you have my everlasting gratitude."

She held out her hand to Windham. He took it in both of his, and
reverentially raised it to his lips. A heavy sigh burst from him, and
he let it fall.

"Miss Lorton," said he, in his deep musical voice, which now trembled
with an agitation to which he was unused, "if I have been the means
of saving you from any evil, my own joy is so great that no thanks
are needed from you: or, rather, all thankfulness ought to belong to
me."

A deep flush overspread Zillah's face. Her large dark eyes for a
moment seemed to read his inmost soul. Then she looked down in
silence.

As for Windham, he turned away with something like abruptness, and
left her with Obed Chute.



CHAPTER XXXI.


THE PREFECT OF POLICE.


Obed Chute had requested his business agents, Messrs. Bourdonnais
Frères, to obtain a suitable place for his family on their arrival.
He went first to their office, and learned that the family were then
in Marseilles, and received their address. He then went immediately
for Zillah, and brought her with him. The family consisted of two
small girls, aged respectively eight and ten, two maids, a nurse, and
a valet or courier, or both combined. A sister of Obed's had the
responsibility of the party.

Delight at getting among any friends would have made this party
welcome to her; but Miss Chute's thorough respectability made her
position entirely unobjectionable. Obed Chute's feelings were not of
a demonstrative character. He kissed his sister, took each of his
little girls up in his arms, and held them there for about an hour,
occasionally walking up and down the room with them, and talking to
them all the time. He had brought presents from all parts of the
world for every member of his family, and when at length they were
displayed, the children made the house ring with their rejoicings.
Zillah was soon on a home footing with this little circle. Miss
Chute, though rather sharp and very angular, was still thoroughly
kind-hearted, and sympathized deeply with the poor waif whom
Providence had thrown under her protection. Her kind care and
unremitting attention had a favorable effect; and Zillah grew rapidly
better, and regained something of that strength which she had lost
during the terrors of her late adventure. She was most anxious to go
to Naples; but Obed told her that she would have to wait for the next
steamer, which would prolong her stay in Marseilles at least a
fortnight.

As soon as Obed had seen Zillah fairly settled in the bosom of his
family, he set out to give information to the police about the whole
matter. His story was listened to with the deepest attention.
Windham, who was present, corroborated it; and finally the thing was
considered to be of such importance that the chief of police
determined to pay Zillah a visit on the following day, for the sake
of finding out the utmost about so mysterious an affair. This
official spoke English very well indeed, and had spent all his life
in the profession to which he belonged.

Both Obed Chute and Windham were present at the interview which the
chief of police had with Zillah, and heard all that she had to say in
answer to his many questions. The chief began by assuring her that
the case was a grave one, both as affecting her, and also as
affecting France, and more particularly Marseilles. He apologized for
being forced to ask a great many questions, and hoped that she would
understand his motives, and answer freely.

Zillah told her story in very much the same terms that she had told
it on board the steamer. Her father had died some years ago, she
said. She and her sister had been living together in various parts of
England. Their last home was Tenby. She then gave a minute account of
the accident which had happened to Hilda, and showed the letter which
had been written from Naples. This the chief of police scanned very
curiously and closely, examining the envelope, the post-marks, and
the stamps.

Zillah then proceeded to give an account of her journey until the
arrival at Marseilles. She told him of the confusion which had
prevailed, and how the mail steamers had been taken off the route,
how Gualtier had found a yacht and purchased it for her, and how
Mathilde had deserted her. Then she recounted her voyage up to the
time when she had seen the steamer, and had fallen prostrate at the
foot of the mast.

"What was the date of your arrival at Marseilles?" asked the chief,
after long thought.

Zillah informed him.

"Who is Gualtier?"

"He is a teacher of music and drawing."

"Where does he live?"

"In London."

"Do you know any thing about his antecedents?"

"No."

"Have you known him long?"

"Yes; for five years."

"Has he generally enjoyed your confidence?"

"I never thought much about him, one way or the other. My father
found him in London, and brought him to instruct me. Afterward--"

Zillah hesitated. She was thinking of Chetwynde.

"Well--afterward--?"

"Afterward," said Zillah, "that is, after my father's death, he still
continued his instructions."

"Did he teach your sister also?"

"Yes."

"Your sister seems to have had great confidence in him, judging from
her letter?"

"Yes."

"Did she ever make use of his services before?"

"No."

"Might she not have done so?"

"I don't see how. No occasion ever arose."

"Why, then, did she think him so trustworthy, do you suppose?"

"Why, I suppose because he had been known to us so long, and had been
apparently a humble, devoted, and industrious man. We were quite
solitary always. We had no friends, and so I suppose she thought of
him. It would have been quite as likely, if I were in her situation,
that I would have done the same--that is, if I had her cleverness."

"Your sister is clever, then?"

"Very clever indeed. She has always watched over me like a--like a
mother," said Zillah, while tears stood in her eyes.

"Ah!" said the chief; and for a time he lost himself in thought.

"How many years is it," he resumed, "since your father died?"

"About five years."

"How long was this Gualtier with you before his death?"

"About six months."

"Did your father ever show any particular confidence in him?"

"No. He merely thought him a good teacher, and conscientious in his
work. He never took any particular notice of him."

"What was your father?"

"A landed gentleman."

"Where did he live?"

"Sometimes in Berks, sometimes in London," said Zillah, in general
terms. But the chief did not know any thing about English geography,
and did not pursue this question any further. It would have resulted
in nothing if he had done so, for Zillah was determined, at all
hazards, to guard her secret.

"Did you ever notice Gualtier's manner?" continued the chief, after
another pause.

"No; I never paid any attention to him, nor ever took any particular
notice of any thing about him. He always seemed a quiet and
inoffensive kind of a man."

"What do you think of him now?"

"I can scarcely say what. He is a villain, of course; but why, or
what he could gain by it, is a mystery."

"Do you remember any thing that you can now recall which in any way
looks like villainy?"

"No, not one thing; and that is the trouble with me."

"Did he ever have any quarrel of any kind with any of you?"

"Never."

"Was any thing ever done which he could have taken as an insult or an
injury?"

"He was never treated in any other way than with the most scrupulous
politeness. My father, my sister, and myself were all incapable of
treating him in any other way."

"What was your sister's usual manner toward him?"

"Her manner? Oh, the usual dignified courtesy of a lady to an
inferior."

"Did he seem to be a gentleman?"

"A gentleman? Of course not."

"He could not have imagined himself slighted, then, by any
humiliation?"

"Certainly not."

"Could Gualtier have had any knowledge of your pecuniary affairs?"

"Possibly--in a general way."


[Illustration: Interview Between The Chief Of Police And Zillah.]


"You are rich, are you not?"

"Yes."

"Might he not have had some design on your money?"

"I have thought of that; but there are insuperable difficulties.
There is, first, my sister; and, again, even if she had not escaped,
how could he ever get possession of the property?"

The chief did not answer this. He went on to ask his own questions.

"Did you ever hear of the loss of any of your money in any way--by
theft, or by forgery?"

"No."

"Did any thing of the kind take place in your father's lifetime?"

"Nothing of the kind whatever."

"Do you know any thing about the antecedents of your maid Mathilde?"

"No; nothing except what little information she may have volunteered.
I never had any curiosity about the matter."

"What is her full name?"

"Mathilde Louise Grassier."

"Where does she belong?"

"She said once that she was born in Rouen; and I suppose she was
brought up there, too, from her frequent references to that place. I
believe she went from there to Paris, as lady's-maid in an English
family, and from thence to London."

"How did you happen to get her?"

"My father obtained her for me in London."

"What is her character? Is she cunning?"

"Not as far as I have ever seen. She always struck me as being quite
weak out of her own particular department. She was an excellent
lady's-maid, but in other respects quite a child."

"Might she not have been very deep, nevertheless?"

"It is possible. I am not much of a judge of character; but, as far
as I could see, she was simply a weak, good-natured creature. I don't
think she would willingly do wrong; but I think she might be very
easily terrified or persuaded. I think her flight from me was the
work of Gualtier."

"Did she ever have any thing to do with him?"

"I never saw them together; in fact, whenever he was in the house she
was always in my room. I don't see how it is possible that there
could have been any understanding between them. For several years she
was under my constant supervision, and if any thing of the kind had
happened I would certainly recall it now, even if I had not noticed
it at the time."

"Did you ever have any trouble with Mathilde?"

"None whatever."

"Weak natures are sometimes vengeful. Did Mathilde ever experience
any treatment which might have excited vengeful feelings?"

"She never experienced any thing but kindness."

"Did your sister treat her with the same kindness?"

"Oh yes--quite so."

"When she lived in England did she ever speak about leaving you, and
going back to France?"

"No, never."

"She seemed quite contented then?"

"Quite."

"But she left you very suddenly at last. How do you account for
that?"

"On the simple grounds that she found herself in her own country, and
did not wish to leave it; and then, also, her dread of a sea voyage.
But, in addition to this, I think that Gualtier must have worked upon
her in some way."

"How? By bribery?"

"I can scarcely think that, for she was better off with me. Her
situation was very profitable."

"In what way, then, could he have worked upon her? By menaces?"

"Perhaps so."

"But how? Can you think of any thing in your situation which would,
by any possibility, put any one who might be your maid in any danger,
or in any fear of some imaginary danger?"

At this question Zillah thought immediately of her assumed name, and
the possibility that Gualtier might have reminded Mathilde of this,
and terrified her in some way. But she could not explain this; and so
she said, unhesitatingly,

"No."

The chief of police was now silent and meditative for some time.

"Your sister," said he at length--"how much older is she than you?"

"About four years."

"You have said that she is clever?"

"She is very clever."

"And that she manages the affairs?"

"Altogether. I know nothing about them. I do not even know the amount
of my income. She keeps the accounts, and makes all the purchases and
the payments--that is, of course, she used to."

"What is her character otherwise? Is she experienced at all in the
world, or is she easily imposed upon?"

"She is very acute, very quick, and is thoroughly practical."

"Do you think she is one whom it would be easy to impose upon?"

"I know that such a thing would be extremely difficult. She is one of
those persons who acquire the ascendency wherever she goes. She is
far better educated, far more accomplished, and far more clever than
I am, or can ever hope to be. She is clear-headed and clear-sighted,
with a large store of common-sense. To impose upon her would be
difficult, if not impossible. She is very quick to discern
character."

"And yet she trusted this Gualtier?"

"She did; and that is a thing which is inexplicable to me. I can only
account for it on the ground that she had known him so long, and had
been so accustomed to his obsequiousness and apparent
conscientiousness, that her usual penetration was at fault. I think
she trusted him, as I would have done, partly because there was no
other, and partly out of habit."

"What did you say was the name of the place where you were living
when your sister met with her accident?"

"Tenby."

"Was Gualtier living in the place?"

"No."

"Where was he?"

"In London."

"How did your sister know that he was there?"

"I can not tell."

"Did you know where he was?"

"I knew nothing about him. But my sister managed our affairs; and
when Gualtier left us I dare say he gave his address to my sister, in
case of our wanting his services again."

"You dismissed Gualtier, I suppose, because you had no longer need
for his services?"

"Yes."

"You say that she never treated him with any particular attention?"

"On the contrary, she never showed any thing but marked hauteur
toward him. I was indifferent--she took trouble to be dignified."

"Have you any living relatives?"

"No--none."

"Neither on the father's side nor the mother's?"

"No."

"Have you no guardian?"

"At my father's death there was a guardian--a nominal one--but he
left the country, and we have never seen him since."

"He is not now in England, then?"

"No."

The chief of police seemed now to have exhausted his questions. He
rose, and, with renewed apologies for the trouble which he had given,
left the room. Obed and Windham followed, and the former invited him
to the library--a room which was called by that name from the fact
that there was a book-shelf in it containing a few French novels.
Here they sat in silence for a time, and at length the chief began to
tell his conclusions.

"I generally keep my mind to myself," said he, "but it is very
necessary for you to know what I conceive to be the present aspect of
this very important case. Let us see, then, how I will analyze it.

"In the first place, remark the _position of the girls_.

"Two young inexperienced girls, rich, alone in the world, without any
relatives or any connections, managing their own affairs, living in
different places--such is the condition of the principals in this
matter. The guardian whom their father left has disappeared--gone
perhaps to America, perhaps to India--no matter where. He is out of
their reach.

"These are the ones with whom this Gualtier comes in contact. He is
apparently a very ordinary man, perhaps somewhat cunning, and no
doubt anxious to make his way in the world. He is one of those men
who can be honest as long as he is forced to be; but, who, the moment
the pressure is taken off, can perpetrate crime for his own
interests, without pity or remorse. I know the type
well--cold-blooded, cunning, selfish, hypocritical, secretive,
without much intellect, cowardly, but still, under certain
circumstances, capable of great boldness. So Gualtier seems to me.

"He was in constant connection with these girls for five or six
years. During that time he must have learned all about them and their
affairs. He certainly must have learned how completely they were
isolated, and how rich they were. Yet I do not believe that he ever
had any thought during all that time of venturing upon any plot
against them.

"It was Fate itself that threw into his hands an opportunity that
could not be neglected, For mark you, what an unparalleled
opportunity it was. One of these sisters--the elder, the manager of
affairs, and guardian of the other--meets with an accident so
extraordinary that it would be incredible, were it not told in her
own handwriting. She finds herself in Naples, ill, friendless, but
recently saved from death. She can not travel to join her sister, so
she writers to her sister to come to her in Naples. But how can that
young sister come? It is a long journey, and difficult for a
friendless girl. She has no friends, so the elder Miss Lorton thinks
very naturally of the faithful music-teacher, whom she has known for
so long, and is now in London. She writes him, telling him the state
of affairs, and no doubt offers him a significant sum of money to
reward him giving up his practice for a time. The same say that her
sister received her letter, he also receives his.

"Can you not see what effect this startling situation would have on
such a man? Here, in brief, he could see a chance for making his
fortune, and getting possession of the wealth of these two. By making
way with them, one after the other, it could easily be done. He had
no pity in his nature, and no conscience in particular to trouble
him. Nor were there any fears of future consequences to deter him.
These friendless girls would never be missed. They could pass away
from the scene, and no avenger could possibly rise up to demand an
account of them at his hands. No doubt he was forming his plans from
the day of the receipt of the letter all the way to Marseilles.

"Now, in the plot which he formed and carried out, I see several
successive steps.

"The first step, of course, was to get rid of the maid Mathilde. Miss
Lorton's description of her enables of to see how easily this could
be accomplished. She was a timid creature, who does not seem to have
been malicious, nor does she seem to have any idea of fidelity.
Gualitier may either have cajoled her, or terrified her. It is also
possible he may have bought her. This may afterward be known when we
find the woman herself.

"The next step is evident. It was to get rid of the younger Miss
Lorton, with whom he was traveling. It was easy to do this on account
of her friendlessness and inexperience. How he succeeded in doing it
we have heard from her own lips. He trumped up that story about the
steamers not running, and obtained her consent to go in yacht. This,
of course, placed her alone in his power. He picked up a crew of
scoundrels, set sail, and on the second night scuttled the vessel,
and fled. Something prevented the vessel from sinking, and his
intended victim was saved.

"Now what is the third step?

"Of course there can only be one thing, and that third step will be
an attempt of a similar kind against the elder Miss Lorton. If it is
not too late to guard against this we must do so at once. He is
probably with her now. He can easily work upon her. He can represent
to her that her sister is ill at Marseilles, and induce her to come
here. He can not deceive her about the steamers, but he may happen to
find her just after the departure of the steamer, and she, in her
impatience, may consent to go in a sailing vessel, to meet the same
fate which he designed for her sister.

"After this, to complete my analysis of this man's proceedings, there
remains the fourth step.

"Having got rid of the sisters, the next purpose will be to obtain
their property. Now if he is left to himself he will find this very
easy.

"I have no doubt that he has made himself fully acquainted with all
their investments; or, if he has not, he will find enough among
their papers, which will now be open to him. He can correspond with
their agents, or forge drafts, or forge a power of attorney for
himself, and thus secure gradually a control of it all. There are
many ways be which a man in his situation can obtain all that he
wishes. Their bankers seem to be purely business agents, and they
have apparently no one who takes a deeper interest in them.

"And now the thing to be done is to head him off. This may be done in
various ways.

"First, to prevent the fulfillment of his design on the elder Miss
Lorton, I can send off a message at once to the Neopolitan
government, and obtain the agency of the Neapolitan police to secure
his arrest. If he is very prompt he may have succeeded in leaving
Naples with his victim before this; but there is a chance that he is
resting on his oars, and, perhaps, deferring the immediate
prosecution of the third step.

"Secondly, I must put my machinery to work to discover the maid
Mathilde, and secure her arrest. She will be a most important witness
in the case. If she is a partner in Gualtier's guilt, she can clear
up the whole mystery.

"Thirdly, we must have information of all this sent to Miss Lorton's
bankers in London, and her solicitors, so as to prevent Gualtier from
accomplishing his fourth step, and also in order to secure their
co-operation in laying a trap for him which will certainly insure his
capture.

"As for the younger Miss Lorton, she had better remain in Marseilles
for six or eight weeks, so that if the elder Miss Lorton should
escape she may find her here. Meantime the Neapolitan police will
take care of her, if she is in Naples, and communicate to her where
her sister is, so that she can join her, or write her. At any rate,
Miss Lorton must be persuaded to wait here till he hears from her
sister, or of her."

Other things were yet to be done before the preliminary examinations
could be completed.

The first was the examination of the man who had disposed of the
yacht to Gualtier. He was found without any difficulty, and brought
before the chief. It seems he was a common broker, who had bought the
vessel at auction, on speculation, because the price was so low. He
knew nothing whatever about nautical matters, and hated the sea. He
had hardly ever been on board of her, and had never examined her. He
merely held her in his possession till he could find a chance of
selling her. He had sold her for more than double the money that he
had paid for her, and thought the speculation had turned out very
good. Nothing had ever been told him as to any peculiarity in the
construction of the yacht. As far as he knew, the existence of such
could not have been found out.

On being asked whether the purchaser had assigned any reason for
buying the vessel, he said no; and from that fact the chief seemed to
form a more respectful opinion of Gualtier than he had hitherto
appeared to entertain. Common cunning would have been profuse in
stating motives, and have given utterance to any number of lies. But
Gualtier took refuge in silence. He bought the vessel, and said
nothing about motives or reasons. And, indeed, why should he have
done so?

Obed and Windham visited the yacht, in company with the chief. She
was in the dry dock, and the water had flowed out from her, leaving
her open for inspection. Zillah's trunks were taken out and conveyed
to her, though their contents were not in a condition which might
make them of any future value. Still, all Zillah's jewelry was there,
and all the little keepsakes which had accumulated during her past
life. The recovery of her trunks gave her the greatest delight.

A very careful examination of the yacht was made by the chief of
police and his two companions. In front was a roomy forecastle; in
the stern was a spacious cabin, with an after-cabin adjoining;
between the two was the hold. On close examination, however, an iron
bulkhead was found, which ran the whole length of the yacht on each
side. This had evidently been quite unknown to Gualtier. He and his
crew had scuttled the vessel, leaving it, as they supposed, to sink;
but she could not sink, for the air-tight compartments, like those of
a life-boat, kept her afloat.


[Illustration.]



CHAPTER XXXII.


TOO MUCH TOGETHER.


Windham had exhibited the deepest interest in all these
investigations. On the day after Zillah's interview with the chief of
police he called and informed them that his business in England,
though important, was not pressing, and that he intended to remain in
Marseilles for a few days, partly for the sake of seeing how the
investigations of the police would turn out, and partly, as he said,
for the sake of enjoying a little more of the society of his friend
Chute. Thenceforth he spent very much of his time at Chute's hotel,
and Zillah and he saw very much of one another. Perhaps it was the
fact that he only was altogether of Zillah's own order; or it may
have been the general charm of his manner, his noble presence, his
elevated sentiments, his rich, full, ringing English voice. Whatever
it may have been, however, she did not conceal the pleasure which his
society afforded her. She was artless and open; her feelings
expressed themselves readily, and were made manifest in her looks and
gestures. Still, there was a melancholy behind all this which Windham
could not but notice--a melancholy penetrating far beneath the
surface talk in which they both indulged.

He, on his part, revealed to Zillah unmistakably the same profound
melancholy which has already been mentioned. She tried to conjecture
what it was, and thought of no other thing than the bereavement which
was indicated by the sombre emblem on his hat. Between these two
there was never laughter, rarely levity; but their conversation, when
it turned even on trifles, was earnest and sincere. Day after day
passed, and each interview grew to be more pleasant than the
preceding one. Often Obed Chute joined in the conversation; but their
minds were of a totally different order from his; and never did they
feel this so strongly as when some hard, dry, practical, and
thoroughly sensible remark broke in upon some little delicate flight
of fancy in which they had been indulging.

One day Windham came to propose a ride. Zillah assented eagerly. Obed
did not care to go, as he was anxious to call on the chief of police.
So Zillah and Windham rode out together into the country, and took
the road by the sea coast, where it winds on, commanding magnificent
sea views or sublime prospects of distant mountains at almost every
turning. Hitherto they had always avoided speaking of England. Each
seemed instinctively to shun the mention of that name; nor did either
ever seek to draw the other out on that subject. What might be the
rank of either at home, or the associations or connections, neither
ever ventured to inquire. Each usually spoke on any subject of a
general nature which seemed to come nearest. On this occasion,
however, Windham made a first attempt toward speaking about himself
and his past. Something happened to suggest India. It was only with a
mighty effort that Zillah kept down an impulse to rhapsodize about
that glorious land, where all her childhood had been passed, and
whose scenes were still impressed so vividly upon her memory. The
effort at self-restraint was successful; nor did she by any word show
how well known to her were those Indian scenes of which Windham went
on to speak. He talked of tiger hunts; of long journeys through the
hot plain or over the lofty mountain; of desperate fights with savage
tribes. At length he spoke of the Indian mutiny. He had been at
Delhi, and had taken part in the conflict and in the triumph. What
particular part he had taken he did not say, but he seemed to have
been in the thick of the fight wherever it raged. Carried away by the
glorious recollections that crowded upon his memory, he rose to a
higher eloquence than any which he had before attempted. The passion
of the fight came back. He mentioned by name glorious companions in
arms. He told of heroic exploits--dashing acts of almost superhuman
valor, where human nature became ennobled and man learned the
possibilities of man. The fervid excitement that burned in his soul
was communicated to the fiery nature of Zillah, who was always so
quick to catch the contagion of any noble emotion; his admiration for
all that was elevated, and true and pure found an echo in the heart
of her who was the daughter of General Pomeroy and the pupil of Lord
Chetwynde. Having herself breathed all her life an atmosphere of
noble sentiments, her nature exulted in the words of this
high-souled, this chivalric man, who himself, fresh from a scene
which had tried men's souls as they had not been tried for many an
age, had shared the dangers and the triumphs of those who had fought
and conquered there. No, never before had Zillah known such hours as
these, where she was brought face to face with a hero whose eye,
whose voice, whose manner, made her whole being thrill, and whose
sentiments found an echo in her inmost soul.

And did Windham perceive this? Could he help it? Could he avoid
seeing the dark olive face which flushed deep at his words--the
large, liquid, luminous eyes which, beneath those deep-fringed lids,
lighted up with the glorious fires of that fervid soul--the delicate
frame that quivered in the strong excitement of impassioned feelings?
Could he avoid seeing that this creature of feeling and of passion
thrilled or calmed, grew indignant or pitiful, became stern or
tearful, just as he gave the word? Could he help seeing that it was
in his power to strike the keynote to which all her sensitive nature
would respond?

Yet in all Zillah's excitement of feeling she never asked any
questions. No matter what might be the intensity of desire that
filled her, she never forgot to restrain her curiosity. Had she not
heard before of this regiment and that regiment from the letters of
Guy? Windham seemed to have been in many of the places mentioned in
those letters. This was natural, as he belonged to the army which had
taken Delhi. But in addition to this there was another wonder--there
were those hill stations in which she had lived, of which Windham
spoke so familiarly. Of course--she thought after due
reflection--every British officer in the north of India must be
familiar with places which are their common resort; but it affected
her strangely at first; for hearing him speak of them was like
hearing one speak of home.

Another theme of conversation was found in his eventful voyage from
India. He told her about the outbreak of the flames, the alarm of the
passengers, the coward mob of panic-stricken wretches, who had lost
all manliness and all human feeling in their abject fear. Then he
described the tall form of Obed Chute as it towered above the crowd.
Obed, according to Windham's account, when he first saw him, had two
men by their collars in one hand, while in the other he held his
revolver. His voice with its shrill accent rang out like a trumpet
peal as he threatened to blow out the brains of any man who dared to
touch a boat, or to go off the quarter-deck. While he threatened he
also taunted them. "_You_ Britishers!" he cried. "If you are--which I
doubt--then I'm ashamed of the mother country."

Now it happened that Obed Chute had already given to Zillah a full
description of his first view of Windham, on that same occasion. As
he stood with his revolver, he saw Windham, he said--pale, stern,
self-possessed, but active, with a line of passengers formed, who
were busy passing buckets along, and he was just detailing half a
dozen to relieve the sailors at the pumps. "That man," concluded Obed
Chute, "had already got to work, while I was indulging in a
'spread-eagle.'"

Windham, however, said nothing of himself, so that Zillah might have
supposed, for all that he said, that he himself was one of that
panic-stricken stricken crowd whom Obed Chute had reviled and
threatened.

Nor was this all. These rides were repeated every day. Obed Chute
declared that this was the best thing for her in the world, and that
she must go out as often as was possible. Zillah made no objection.
So the pleasure was renewed from day to day. But Windham could speak
of other things than battle, and murder, and sudden death. He was
deeply read in literature. He loved poetry with passionate ardor. All
English poetry was familiar to him. The early English metrical
romance, Chaucer, Spenser, the Elizabethan dramatists, Waller,
Marvell, and Cowley, Lovelace and Suckling, were all appreciated
fully. He had admiration for the poets of the Restoration; he had no
words to express the adoration which he felt for Milton; Gray and
Collins he knew by heart; Thomson and Cowper he could mention with
appreciation; while the great school of the Revolutionary poets
rivaled all the rest in the admiration which they extorted from him.
Tennyson and the Brownings were, however, most in his thoughts; and
as these were equally dear to Zillah, they met on common ground. What
struck Zillah most was the fact that occasional stray bits, which she
had seen in magazines, and had treasured in her head, were equally
known, and equally loved by this man, who would repeat them to her
with his full melodious voice, giving thus a new emphasis and a new
meaning to words whose meaning she thought she already felt to the
full. In these was a deeper meaning, as Windham said them, than she
had ever known before. He himself seemed to have felt the meaning of
some of these. What else could have caused that tremulous tone which,
in its deep musical vibrations, made these words ring deep within her
heart? Was there not a profounder meaning in the mind of this man,
whose dark eyes rested upon hers with such an unfathomable depth of
tenderness and sympathy--those eyes which had in them such a magnetic
power that even when her head was turned away she could _feel_ them
resting upon her, and knew that he was looking at her--with what deep
reverence! with what unutterable longing! with what despair! Yes,
despair. For on this man's face, with all the reverence and longing
which it expressed, there was never any hope, there was never any
look of inquiry after sympathy; it was mute reverence--silent
adoration; the look that one may cast upon a divinity, content with
the offer of adoration, but never dreaming of a return.

The days flew by like lightning. Zillah passed them in a kind of
dream. She only seemed awake when Windham came. When he left, all was
barrenness and desolation. Time passed, but she thought nothing of
Naples. Obed had explained to her the necessity of waiting at
Marseilles till fresh news should come from Hilda, and had been
surprised at the ease with which she had been persuaded to stay. In
fact, for a time Hilda seemed to have departed out of the sphere of
her thoughts, into some distant realm where those thoughts never
wandered. She was content to remain here--to postpone her departure,
and wait for any thing at all. Sometimes she thought of the end of
all this. For Windham must one day depart. This had to end. It could
not last. And what then? Then? Ah then! She would not think of it.
Calamities had fallen to her lot before, and it now appeared to her
that another calamity was to come--dark, indeed, and dreadful; worse,
she feared, than others which she had braved in her young life.

For one thing she felt grateful. Windham never ventured beyond the
limits of friendship. To this he had a right. Had he not saved her
from death? But he never seemed to think of transgressing the
strictest limits of conventional politeness. He never indulged at
even the faintest attempt at a compliment. Had he even done this much
it would have been a painful embarrassment. She would have been
forced to shrink back into herself and her dreary life, and put an
end to such interviews forever. But the trial did not come, and she
had no cause to shrink back. So it was that the bright golden hours
sped onward, bearing on the happy, happy days; and Windham lingered
on, letting his English business go.

Another steamer had arrived from Naples, and yet another, but no word
came from Hilda. Zillah had written to her address, explaining every
thing, but no answer came. The chief of police had received an answer
to his original message, stating that the authorities at Naples would
do all in their power to fulfill his wishes; but since then nothing
further had been communicated. His efforts to search after Gualtier
and Mathilde, in France, were quite unsuccessful. He urged Obed Chute
and Miss Lorton to wait still longer, until something definite might
be found. Windham waited also. Whatever his English business was, he
deferred it. He was anxious, he said, to see how these efforts would
turn out, and he hoped to be of use himself.

Meanwhile Obed Chute had fitted up the yacht, and had obliterated
every mark of the casualty with which she had met. In this the party
sometimes sailed. Zillah might perhaps have objected to put her foot
on board a vessel which was associated with the greatest calamity of
her life; but the presence of Windham seemed to bring a
counter-association which dispelled her mournful memories. She might
not fear to trust herself in that vessel which had once almost been
her grave, with the man who had saved her from that grave. Windham
showed himself a first-rate sailor. Zillah wondered greatly how he
could have added this to his other accomplishments, but did not
venture to ask him. There was a great gulf between them; and to have
asked any personal question, however slight, would have been an
attempt to leap that gulf. She dared not ask any thing. She herself
was in a false position. She was living under an assumed name, and
constant watchfulness was necessary. The name "Lorton" had not yet
become familiar to her ears. Often when addressed, she caught herself
thinking that some one else was spoken to. But after all, as to the
question of Windham's seamanship, that was a thing which was not at
all wonderful, since every Englishman of any rank is supposed to own
a yacht, and to know all about it.

Often Obed and his family went out with them; but often these two
went out alone. Perhaps there was a conventional impropriety in this;
but neither Obed nor his sister thought of it; Windham certainly was
not the one to regard it; and Zillah was willing to shut her eyes to
it. And so for many days they were thrown together. Cruising thus
over the Mediterranean, that glory of seas--the blue, the dark, the
deep--where the transparent water shows the sea depths far down, with
all the wonders of the sea; where the bright atmosphere shows sharply
defined the outlines of distant objects--cruising here on the
Mediterranean, where France stretches out her hand to Italy; where on
the horizon the purple hills arise, their tops covered with a diadem
of snow; where the air breathes balm, and the tideless sea washes
evermore the granite base of long mountain chains, evermore wearing
away and scattering the debris along the sounding beach. Cruising
over the Mediterranean--oh! what is there on earth equal to this?
Here was a place, here was scenery, which might remain forever fixed
in the memories of both of these, who now, day after day, under these
cloudless skies, drifted along. Drifting? Yes, it was drifting. And
where were they drifting to? Where? Neither of them asked. In fact,
they were drifting nowhere; or, rather, they were drifting to that
point where fate would interpose, and sever them, to send them onward
upon their different courses. They might drift for a time; but, at
last, they must separate, and then--what? Would they ever again
reunite? Would they ever again meet? Who might say?

Drifting!

Well, if one drifts any where, the Mediterranean is surely the best
place; or, at least, the most favorable; for there all things combine
to favor, in the highest degree, that state of moral "drifting" into
which people sometimes fall.

The time passed quickly. Weeks flew by. Nothing new had been
discovered. No information had come from Naples. No letter had come
from Hilda. While Zillah waited, Windham also waited, and thus passed
six or seven weeks in Marseilles, which was rather a long time for
one who was hurrying home on important business. But he was anxious,
he said, to see the result of the investigations of the police. That
result was, at length, made known. It was nothing; and the chief of
police advised Obed Chute to go on without delay to Naples, and urge
the authorities there to instant action. He seemed to think that they
had neglected the business, or else attended to it in such a way that
it had failed utterly. He assured Obed Chute that he would still
exert all his power to track the villain Gualtier, and, if possible,
bring him to justice. This, Obed believed that he would do; for the
chief had come now to feel a personal as well as a professional
interest in the affair, as though somehow his credit were at stake.
Under these circumstances, Obed prepared to take his family and Miss
Lorton to Naples, by the next steamer.

Windham said nothing. There was a pallor on the face of each of them
as Obed told them his plan--telling it, too, with the air of one who
is communicating the most joyful intelligence, and thinking nothing
of the way in which such joyous news is received. Zillah made no
observation. Involuntarily her eyes sought those of Windham. She read
in his face a depth of despair which was without
hope--profound--unalterable--unmovable.

That day they took their last ride. But few words passed between
them. Windham was gloomy and taciturn. Zillah was silent and sad. At
length, as they rode back, they came to a place on the shore a few
miles away from the city. Here Windham reined in his horse, and, as
Zillah stopped, he pointed out to the sea.

The sun was setting. Its rich red light fell full upon the face of
Zillah, lighting it up with radiant glory as it did on that memorable
morning when her beautiful face was upturned as her head lay upon his
breast, and her gleaming ebon hair floated over his shoulders. He
looked at her. Her eyes were not closed now, as they were then, but
looked back into his, revealing in their unfathomable depths an abyss
of melancholy, of sorrow, of longing, and of tenderness.

"Miss Lorton," said Windham, in a deep voice, which was shaken by an
uncontrollable emotion, and whose tremulous tones thrilled through
all Zillah's being, and often and often afterward recurred to her
memory--"Miss Lorton, this is our last ride--our last interview. Here
I will say my last farewell. To-morrow I will see you, but not alone.
Oh, my friend, my friend, my sweet friend, whom I held in my arms
once, as I saved you from death, we must now part forever! I go--I
must go. My God! where? To a life of horror! to a living death! to a
future without one ray of hope! Once it was dark enough, God knows;
but now--but; now it is intolerable; for since I have seen you I
tremble at the thought of encountering that which awaits me in
England!"

He held out his hand as he concluded. Zillah's eyes fell. His words
had been poured forth with passionate fervor. She had nothing to say.
Her despair was as deep as his. She held out her hand to meet his. It
was as cold as ice. He seized it with a convulsive grasp, and his
frame trembled as he held it.

Suddenly, as she looked down, overcome by her own agitation, a sob
struck her ears. She looked up. He seemed to be devouring her with
his eyes, as they were fixed on her wildly, hungrily, yet
despairingly. And from those eyes, which had so often gazed steadily
and proudly in the face of death, there now fell, drop by drop, tears
which seemed wrung out from his very heart. It was but for a moment.
As he caught her eyes he dropped her hand, and hastily brushed his
tears away. Zillah's heart throbbed fast and furiously; it seemed
ready to burst. Her breath failed; she reeled in her saddle. But the
paroxysm passed, and she regained her self-command.

"Let us ride home," said Windham, in a stern voice.

They rode home without speaking another word.

The next day Windham saw them on board the steamer. He stood on the
wharf and watched it till it was out of sight. Then he departed in
the train for the north, and for England.



CHAPTER XXXIII.


THE AGENT'S REPORT.


On the south coast of Hampshire there is a little village which looks
toward the Isle of Wight. It consists of a single street, and in
front is a spacious beach which extends for miles. It is a charming
place for those who love seclusion to pass the summer months in, for
the view is unsurpassed, and the chances for boating or yachting
excellent. The village inn is comfortable, and has not yet been
demoralized by the influx of wealthy strangers, while there are
numerous houses where visitors may secure quiet accommodations and a
large share of comfort.


[Illustration: "They Sat Down On Some Rocks That Rose Above The
Sand."]


It was about six weeks after the disappearance of Hilda, and about a
fortnight after Zillah's departure in search of her, that a man drove
into this village from Southampton up to a house which was at the
extreme eastern end, and inquired for Miss Davis. He was asked to
come in; and after waiting for a few minutes in the snug parlor, a
lady entered. The slender and elegant figure, the beautiful features,
and well-bred air of this lady, need not be again described to those
who have already become acquainted with Miss Krieff. Nor need
Gualtier's personal appearance be recounted once more to those who
have already a sufficient acquaintance with his physiognomy.

She shook hands with him in silence, and then, taking a chair and
motioning him to another, she sat for some time looking at him. At
length she uttered one single word:

"Well?"

"It's done," said Gualtier, solemnly. "It's all over."

Hilda caught her breath--giving utterance to what seemed something
between a sob and a sigh, but she soon recovered herself.

Gualtier was sitting near to her. He leaned forward as Hilda sat in
silence, apparently overcome by his intelligence, and in a low
whisper he said:

"Do you not feel inclined to take a walk somewhere?"

Hilda said nothing, but, rising, she went up stairs, and in a few
minutes returned dressed for a walk. The two then set out, and Hilda
led the way to the beach. Along the beach they walked for a long
distance, until at length they came to a place which was remote from
any human habitation. Behind was the open country, before them the
sea, whose surf came rolling in in long, low swells, and on either
side lay the beach. Here they sat down on some rocks that rose above
the sand, and for some time said nothing. Hilda was the first to
speak. Before saying any thing, however, she looked all around, as
though to assure herself that they were out of the reach of all
listeners. Then she spoke, in a slow, measured voice:

"Is _she_ gone, then?"

"She is," said Gualtier.

There was another long silence. What Hilda's feelings were could not
be told by her face. To outward appearance she was calm and unmoved,
and perhaps she felt so in her heart. It was possible that the
thought of Zillah's death did not make her heart beat faster by one
throb, or give her one single approach to a pang of remorse. Her
silence might have been merely the meditation of one who, having
completed one part of a plan, was busy thinking about the completion
of the remainder. And yet, on the other hand, it may have been
something more than this. Zillah in life was hateful, but Zillah dead
was another thing; and if she had any softness, or any capacity for
remorse, it might well have made itself manifest at such a time.
Gualtier sat looking at her in silence, waiting for her to speak
again, attending on her wishes as usual; for this man, who could be
so merciless to others, in her presence resigned all his will to
hers, and seemed to be only anxious to do her pleasure, whatever it
might be.

"Tell me about it," said Hilda at length, without moving, and still
keeping her eyes fixed abstractedly on the sea.

Gualtier then began with his visit to Zillah at Tenby. He spoke of
Zillah's joy at getting the letter, and her eager desire to be once
more with her friend, and so went on till the time of their arrival
at Marseilles. He told how Zillah all the way could talk of nothing
else than Hilda; of her feverish anxiety to travel as fast as
possible; of her fearful anticipations that Hilda might have a
relapse, and that after all she might be too late; how excited she
grew, and how despairing, when she was told that the steamers had
stopped running, and how eagerly she accepted his proposal to go on
in a yacht. The story of such affectionate devotion might have moved
even the hardest heart, but Hilda gave no sign of any feeling
whatever. She sat motionless--listening, but saying nothing. Whether
Gualtier himself was trying to test her feelings by telling so
piteous a story, or whether some remorse of his own, and some
compassion for so loving a heart, still lingering within him, forced
him to tell his story in this way, can not be known. Whatever his
motives were, no effect was produced on the listener, as far as
outward signs were concerned.

"With Mathilde," said he, "I had some difficulty. She was very
unwilling to leave her mistress at such a time to make a voyage
alone, but she was a timid creature, and I was able to work upon her
fears. I told her that her mistress had committed a crime against the
English laws in running away and living under an assumed name; that
her husband was now in England, and would certainly pursue his wife,
have her arrested, and punish severely all who had aided or abetted
her. This terrified the silly creature greatly; and then, by the
offer of a handsome sum and the promise of getting her a good
situation, I soothed her fears and gained her consent to desert her
mistress. She is now in London, and has already gained a new
situation."

"Where?" said Hilda, abruptly.

"In Highgate Seminary, the place that I was connected with formerly.
She is teacher of French, on a good salary."

"Is that safe?" said Hilda, after some thought.

"Why not?"

"She might give trouble."

"Oh no. Her situation is a good one, and she need never leave it."

"I can scarcely see how she can retain it long; she may be turned
out, and then--we may see something of her."

"You forget that I am aware of her movements, and can easily put a
stop to any efforts of that kind."

"Still I should be better satisfied if she were in France--or
somewhere."

"Should you? Then I can get her a place in France, where you will
never hear of her again."

Hilda was silent.

"My plan about the yacht," said Gualtier, "was made before I left
London. I said nothing to you about it, for I thought it might not
succeed. The chief difficulty was to obtain men devoted to my
interests. I made a journey to Marseilles first, and found out that
there were several vessels of different sizes for sale. The yacht was
the best and most suitable for our purposes, and, fortunately, it
remained unsold till I had reached Marseilles again with _her_. I
obtained the men in London. It was with some difficulty, for it was
not merely common ruffians that I wanted, but seamen who could sail a
vessel, and at the same time be willing to take part in the act which
I contemplated. I told them that all which was required of them was
to sail for two days or so, and then leave the vessel. I think they
imagined it was a plan to make money by insuring the vessel and then
deserting her. Such things are often done. I had to pay the rascals
heavily; but I was not particular, and, fortunately, they all turned
out to be of the right sort, except one--but no matter about him."

"Except one!" said Hilda. "What do you mean by that?"

"I will explain after a while," said Gualtier.

"If she had not been so innocent," said Gualtier, "I do not see how
my plan could have succeeded. But she knew nothing. She didn't even
know enough to make inquiries herself. She accepted all that I said
with the most implicit trust, and believed it all as though it were
Gospel. It was, therefore, the easiest thing in the world to manage
her. Her only idea was to get to you."

Gualtier paused for a moment.

"Go on," said Hilda, coldly.

"Well, all the preparations were made, and the day came. Mathilde had
left. _She_ did not seem to feel the desertion much. She said nothing
at all to me about the loss of her maid, although after three or four
years of service it must have been galling to her to lose her maid so
abruptly, and to get such a letter as that silly thing wrote at my
dictation. She came on board, and seemed very much satisfied with all
the arrangements. I had done every thing that I could think of to
make it pleasant for her--on the same principle, I suppose," he
added, dryly, "that they have in jails--where they are sure to give a
good breakfast to a poor devil on the morning of his execution."

"You may as well omit allusions of that sort," said Hilda, sternly.

Gualtier made no observation, but proceeded with his narrative.

"We sailed for two days, and, at length, came to within about fifty
miles of Leghorn. During all that time she had been cheerful, and was
much on deck. She tried to read, but did not seem able to do so. She
seemed to be involved in thought, as a general thing; and, by the
occasional questions which she asked, I saw that all her thoughts
were about you and Naples. So passed the two days, and the second
night came."

Gualtier paused.

Hilda sat motionless, without saying a word. Gualtier himself seemed
reluctant to go on; but he had to conclude his narrative, and so he
forced himself to proceed.

"It was midnight"--he went on, in a very low voice--"it was
exceedingly dark. The day had been fine, but the sky was now all
overclouded. The sea, however, was comparatively smooth, and every
thing was favorable to the undertaking. The boat was all ready. It
was a good-sized boat, which we had towed behind us. I had prepared a
mast and a sail, and had put some provisions in the locker. The men
were all expecting--"

"Never mind your preparations," exclaimed Hilda, fiercely. "Omit all
that--go on, and don't kill me with your long preliminaries."

"If you had such a story to tell," said Gualtier, humbly, "you would
be glad to take refuge for a little while in preliminaries."

Hilda said nothing.

"It was midnight," said Gualtier, resuming his story once more, and
speaking with perceptible agitation in the tones of his voice--"it
was midnight, and intensely dark. The men were at the bow, waiting.
All was ready. In the cabin all had been still for some time. Her
lights had been put out an hour previously--"

"Well?" said Hilda, with feverish impatience, as he again hesitated.

"Well," said Gualtier, rousing himself with a start from a momentary
abstraction into which he had fallen--"the first thing I did was to
go down into the hold with some augers, and bore holes through the
vessel's bottom."

Another silence followed.

"_Some_ augers," said Hilda, after a time. "Did you need more than
one?"

"One might break."

"Did any one go with you?" she persisted.

"Yes--one of the men--the greatest ruffian of the lot. 'Black Bill,'
he was called. I've got something to tell you about him. I took him
down to help me, for I was afraid that I might not make a sure thing
of it. Between us we did the job. The water began to rush in through
half a dozen holes, which we succeeded in making, and we got out on
deck as the yacht was rapidly filling."

Again Gualtier paused for some time.

"Why do you hesitate so?" asked Hilda, quite calmly.

Gualtier looked at her for a moment, with something like surprise in
his face; but without making any reply, he went on:

"I hurried into the cabin and listened. There was no sound. I put my
ear close to the inner door. All was utterly and perfectly still. She
was evidently sleeping. I then hurried out and ordered the men into
the boat. Before embarking myself I went back to the hold, and
reached my hands down. I felt the water. It was within less than
three feet of the deck. It had filled very rapidly. I then went on
board the boat, unfastened the line, and we pulled away, steering
east, as nearly as possible toward Leghorn. We had rowed for about
half an hour, when I recollected that I ought to have locked the
cabin door. But it was too late to return. We could never have found
the schooner if we had tried. The night was intensely dark. Besides,
by that time the schooner--_was at the bottom of the sea_."

A long silence followed. Hilda looked steadily out on the water, and
Gualtier watched her with hungry eyes. At last, as though she felt
his eyes upon her, she turned and looked at him. A great change had
come over her face. It was fixed and rigid and haggard--her eyes had
something in them that was awful. Her lips were white--her face was
ashen. She tried to speak, but at first no sound escaped. At last she
spoke in a hoarse voice utterly unlike her own.

"_She_ is gone, then."

"_For evermore_!" said Gualtier.

Hilda turned her stony face once more toward the sea, while Gualtier
looked all around, and then turned his gaze back to this woman for
whom he had done so much.

"After a while"--he began once more, in a slow, dull voice--"the wind
came up, and we hoisted sail. We went on our way rapidly, and by the
middle of the following day we arrived at Leghorn. I paid the men off
and dismissed them. I myself came back to London immediately, over
the Alps, through Germany. I thought it best to avoid Marseilles. I
do not know what the men did with themselves; but I think that they
would have made some trouble for me if I had not hurried away. Black
Bill said as much when I was paying them. He said that when he made
the bargain he thought it was only some 'bloody insurance business,'
and, if he had known what it was to have been, he would have made a
different bargain. As it was, he swore I ought to double the amount I
had promised. I refused, and we parted with some high words--he
vowing vengeance, and I saying nothing."


[Illustration: "Black Bill Has Kept On My Track."]


"Ah!" said Hilda, who had succeeded in recovering something of her
ordinary calm, "that was foolish in you--you ought to have satisfied
their demands."

"I have thought so since."

"They may create trouble. You should have stopped their mouths."

"That is the very thing I wished to do; but I was afraid of being too
lavish, for fear that they would suspect the importance of the thing.
I thought if I appeared mean and stingy and poor they might conclude
that I was some very ordinary person, and that the affair was of a
very ordinary kind--concerning very common people. If they suspected
the true nature of the case they would be sure to inform the police.
As it is, they will hold their tongues; or, at the worst, they will
try and track me."

"Track you?" said Hilda, who was struck by something in Gualtier's
tone.

"Yes; the fact is--I suppose I ought to tell you--I have been tracked
all the way from Leghorn."

"By whom?"

"Black Bill--I don't know how he managed it, but he has certainly
kept on my track. I saw him at Brieg, in Switzerland, first; next I
saw him in the railway station at Strasbourg; and yesterday I saw him
in London, standing opposite the door of my lodgings, as I was
leaving for this place."

"That looks bad," said Hilda, seriously.

"He is determined to find out what this business is, and so he
watches me. He doesn't threaten, he doesn't demand money--he is
simply watching. His game is a deep one."

"Do you suppose that the others are with him?"

"Not at all. I think he is trying to work this up for himself."

"It is bad," said Hilda. "How do you know that he is not in this
village?"

"As to that, it is quite impossible--and I never expect to see him
again, in fact."

"Why not?"

"Because I have thrown him off the track completely. While I was
going straight to London it was easy for him to follow--especially as
I did not care to dodge him on the continent; but now, if he ever
catches sight of me again he is much deeper than I take him to be."

"But perhaps he has followed you here."

"That is impossible," said Gualtier, confidently. "My mode of getting
away from London was peculiar. As soon as I saw him opposite my
lodgings my mind was made up; so I took the train for Bristol, and
went about forty miles, when I got out and came back; then I drove to
the Great Northern Station immediately, went north about twenty
miles, and came back; after this I took the Southampton train, and
came down last night. It would be rather difficult for one man to
follow another on such a journey. As to my lodgings, I do not intend
to go back. He will probably inquire, and find that I have left all
my things there, and I dare say he will watch that place for the next
six months at least, waiting for my return. And so I think he may be
considered as finally disposed of."

"You do not intend to send for your things, then?"

"No. There are articles there of considerable value; but I will let
them all go--it will be taken as a proof that I am dead. My friend
Black Bill will hear of this, and fall in with that opinion. I may
also arrange a 'distressing casualty' paragraph to insert in the
papers for his benefit."

Hilda now relapsed into silence once more, and seemed to lose herself
in a fit of abstraction so profound that she was conscious of nothing
around her. Gualtier sat regarding her silently, and wondering
whither her thoughts were tending. A long time passed. The surf was
rolling on the shore, the wind was blowing lightly and gently over
the sea; afar the blue water was dotted with innumerable sails; there
were ships passing in all directions, and steamers of all sizes
leaving behind them great trails of smoke.

Over two hours had passed since they first sat down here, and now, at
length, the tide, which had all the while been rising, began to
approach them, until at last the first advance waves came within a
few inches of Hilda's feet. She did not notice it; but this
occurrence gave Gualtier a chance to interrupt her meditations.

"The tide is rising," said he, abruptly; "the next wave will be up to
us. We had better move." It was with a start that Hilda roused
herself. Then she rose slowly, and walked up the beach with Gualtier.

"I should like very much to know," said he, at length, in an
insinuating voice, "if there is any thing more that I can do just
now."

"I have been thinking," said Hilda, without hesitation, "of my next
course of action, and I have decided to go back to Chetwynde at
once."

"To Chetwynde!"

"Yes, and to-morrow morning."

"To-morrow!"

"There is no cause for delay," said Hilda. "The time has at last come
when I can act."

"To Chetwynde!" repeated Gualtier. "I can scarcely understand your
purpose."

"Perhaps not," said Hilda, dryly; "it is one that need not be
explained, for it will not fail to reveal itself in the course of
time under any circumstances."

"But you have some ostensible purpose for going there. You can not go
there merely to take up your abode on the old footing."

"I do not intend to do that," was the cool response. "You may be sure
that I have a purpose. I am going to make certain very necessary
arrangements for the advent of Lady Chetwynde."

"Lady Chetwynde!" repeated Gualtier, with a kind of gasp.

"Yes," said Hilda, who by this time had recovered all her usual
self-control, and exhibited all her old force of character, her
daring, and her coolness, which had long ago given her such an
ascendency over Gualtier. "Yes," she repeated, quietly returning the
other's look of amazement, "and why should I not? Lady Chetwynde has
been absent for her health. Is it not natural that she should send me
to make preparations for her return to her own home? She prefers it
to Pomeroy."

"Good God!" said Gualtier, quite forgetting himself, as a thought
struck him which filled him with bewilderment. Could he fathom her
purpose? Was the idea that occurred to him in very deed the one which
was in her mind? Could it be? And was it for this that he had
labored?

"Is Lord Chetwynde coming home?" he asked at length, as Hilda looked
at him with a strange expression.

"Lord Chetwynde? I should say, most certainly not."

"Do you know for certain?"

"No. I have narrowly watched the papers, but have found out nothing,
nor have any letters come which could tell me; but I have reasons for
supposing that the very last thing that Lord Chetwynde would think of
doing would be to come home."

"Why do you suppose that? Is there not his rank, his position, and
his wealth?"

"Yes; but the correspondence between him and Lady Chetwynde has for
years been of so very peculiar a character--that is, at least, on
Lady Chetwynde's part--that the very fact of her being in England
would, to a man of his character, be sufficient, I should think, to
keep him away forever. And therefore I think that Lord Chetwynde will
endure his grief about his father, and perhaps overcome it, in the
Indian residency to which he was lately appointed. Perhaps he may end
his days there--who can tell? If he should, it would be too much to
expect that Lady Chetwynde would take it very much to heart."

"But it seems to me, in spite of all that you have said, that nine
men out of ten would come home. They could be much happier in
England, and the things of which you have spoken would not
necessarily give trouble."

"That is very true; but, at the same time, Lord Chetwynde, in my
opinion, happens to be that tenth man who would not come home; for,
if he did, it would be Lady Chetwynde's money that he would enjoy,
and to a man of his nature this would be intolerable--especially as
she has been diligently taunting him with the fact that he has
cheated her for the last five years."

Gualtier heard this with fresh surprise.

"I did not know before that there had been so very peculiar a
correspondence," said he.

"I think that it will decide him to stay in India."

"But suppose, in spite of all this, that he should come home."

"That is a fact which should never be lost sight of," said Hilda,
very gravely--"nor is it ever lost sight of; one must be prepared to
encounter such a thing as that."

"But how?"

"Oh, there are various ways," said Hilda.

"He can be avoided, shunned, fled from," said Gualtier, "but how can
he be encountered?"

"If he does come," said Hilda, "he will be neither avoided nor
shunned. He will be most assuredly encountered--and that, too, _face
to face_!"

Gualtier looked at her in fresh perplexity. Not yet had he fathomed
the full depth of Hilda's deep design.



CHAPTER XXXIV.


REMODELING THE HOUSEHOLD.


Two or three days afterward, Hilda, attended by Gualtier, drove up to
the inn of the little village near Chetwynde Castle. Gualtier stopped
here, and Hilda drove on to the Castle itself. Her luggage was with
her, but it was small, consisting of only a small trunk, which looked
as though it were her intention to make but a short stay. On her
arrival the servants all greeted her respectfully, and asked eagerly
after Lady Chetwynde. Her ladyship, Hilda informed them, was still
too unwell to travel, but was much better than when she left. She had
sent her to make certain arrangements for the reception of Lord
Chetwynde, who was expected from India at no very distant date. She
did not as yet know the time of his probable arrival; but when she
had learned it she herself would come to Chetwynde Castle to receive
him; but until that time she would stay away. The place where she was
staying just at present was particularly healthy. It was a small
village on the coast of Brittany, and Lady Chetwynde was anxious to
defer her return to the latest possible moment. Such was the
information which Hilda condescended to give to the servants, who
received the news with unfeigned delight, for they all dearly loved
that gentle girl, whose presence at Chetwynde had formerly brightened
the whole house, and with whose deep grief over her last bereavement
they had all most sincerely sympathized.

Hilda had many things to do. Her first duty was to call on Mrs. Hart.
The poor old housekeeper still continued in a miserable condition,
hovering, apparently, between life and death, and only conscious at
intervals of what was going on around her. That consciousness was not
strong enough to make her miss the presence of Zillah, nor did her
faculties, even in her most lucid intervals, seem to be fully at
work. Her memory did not appear to suggest at any time those sad
events which had brought her down to this. It was only at times that
she exhibited any recollection of the past, and that was confined
altogether to "Guy;" to him whom in whispered words she called "her
boy." Mrs. Hart was not at all neglected. Susan, who had once been
the upper house-maid, had of late filled the place of housekeeper,
which she could easily do, as the family was away, and the duties
were light. She also, with her sister Mary, who was the under
house-maid, was assiduous in watching at the bedside of the poor old
creature, who lay there hovering between life and death. Nothing,
indeed, could exceed the kindness and tenderness of these two humble
but noble-hearted girls; and even if Zillah herself could have been
brought to that bedside the poor sufferer could not have met with
more compassionate affection, and certainly could not have found such
careful nursing.

Hilda visited Mrs. Hart, and exhibited such tenderness of feeling
that both Susan and Mary were touched by it. They knew that Mrs. Hart
had never loved her, but it seemed now as if Hilda had forgotten all
that former coldness, and was herself inspired by nothing but the
tenderest concern. But Hilda had much to attend to, and after about
half an hour she left the room to look after those more important
matters for which she had come.

What her errand was the servants soon found out. It was nothing less
than a complete change in the household. That household had never
been large, for the late Earl had been forced by his circumstances to
be economical. He never entertained company, and was satisfied with
keeping the place, inside and outside, in an ordinary state of
neatness.

The servants who now remained may easily be mentioned. Mathilde had
gone away. Mrs. Hart lay on a sick-bed. There was Susan, the upper
house-maid, and Mary, her sister, the under house-maid. There was
Roberts, who had been the late Earl's valet, a smart, active young
man, who was well known to have a weakness for Susan; there was the
cook, Martha, a formidable personage, who considered herself the most
important member of that household; and besides these there were the
coachman and the groom. These composed the entire establishment. It
was for the sake of getting rid of these, in as quiet and inoffensive
a way as possible, that Hilda had now come; and toward evening she
began her work by sending for Roberts.

"Roberts," said she, with dignity, as that very respectable person
made his appearance, carrying in his face the consciousness of one
who had possessed the late Earl's confidence, "I am intrusted with a
commission from her ladyship to you. Lord Chetwynde is coming home,
and great changes are going to be made here. But her ladyship can not
forget the old household; and she told me to mention to you how
grateful she felt to you for all your unwearied care and assiduity in
your attendance upon your late master, especially through his long
and painful illness; and she is most anxious to know in what way she
can be of service to you. Her ladyship has heard Mathilde speak of an
understanding which exists between you and Susan, the upper
house-maid; and she is in hopes that she may be able to further your
views in the way of settling yourself; and so she wished me to find
out whether you had formed any plans, and what they were."

"It's like her ladyship's thoughtfulness and consideration," said
Roberts, gratefully, "to think of the likes of me. I'm sure I did
nothing for my lord beyond what it were my bounden dooty to do; and a
pleasanter and affabler spoken gentleman than his lordship were
nobody need ever want to see. I never expect to meet with such
another. As to Susan and me," continued Roberts, looking sheepish,
"we was a-thinkin' of a public, when so be as we could see our way to
it."

"Where were you thinking of taking one?"

"Well, miss, you see I'm a Westmorelandshire man; and somehow I've a
hankerin' after the old place."

"And you're quite right, Roberts," said Hilda, in an encouraging
tone. "A man is always happier in his native place among his own
people. Have you heard of an opening there?"

Roberts, at this, looked more sheepish still, and did not answer
until Hilda had repeated her question.

"Well, to be plain with you, miss," said he, "I had a letter this
very week from my brother, telling me of a public in Keswick as was
for sale--good-will, stock, and all, and a capital situation for
business--towerists the whole summer through, and a little somethin'
a-doin' in winter. Susan and me was a-regrettin' the limitation of
our means, miss."

"That seems a capital opening, Roberts," said Hilda, very graciously.
"It would be a pity to lose it. What is the price?"

"Well, miss, it's a pretty penny, but it's the stand makes it,
miss--right on the shores of the lake--boats to let at all hours,
inquire within. They are a-askin' five hundred pound, miss."

"Is that unreasonable?"

"Situation considered, on the contrary, miss; and Susan and me has
two hundred pound between us in the savings-bank. My lord was a
generous master. Now if her ladyship would lend me the extry money
I'd pay her back as fast as I made it."

"There is no necessity for that," said Hilda.

"Three hundred pounds happens to be the very sum which her ladyship
mentioned to me. So now I commission you in her name to make all the
necessary arrangements with your brother; or, better still, go at
once yourself--a man can always arrange these matters more
satisfactorily himself--and I will let you have the money in three
days, with Lady Chetwynde's best wishes for the success of your
undertaking; and we will see," she added, with a smile, "if we can
not get pretty Susan a wedding-dress, and any thing else she may
need. Before a week is over you shall be mine host of the Keswick
Inn. And now," she concluded, gayly, "go and make your arrangements
with Susan, and don't let any foolish bashfulness on her part prevent
you from hastening matters. It would not do for you to let this
chance slip through your fingers. I will see that she is ready. Her
ladyship has something for her too, and will not let her go to you
empty-handed."

"I never, never can thank her ladyship nor you enough," said Roberts,
"for what you have done for me this day. Might I make so bold as to
write a letter to her ladyship, to offer her my respectful dooty?"

"Yes, Roberts--do so, and give me the letter. I shall be writing
to-night, and will inclose it. By-the-by, are not Mary and Susan
sisters?"

"They be, miss--sisters and orphelins."

"Well, then," said she, "see that you do not take more than you are
entitled to; for though her ladyship lets you carry Susan off, you
must not cast covetous eyes on Mary too; for though I allow she would
make a very pretty little barmaid, she is a particularly good
house-maid, and we can't spare her."

Roberts grinned from ear to ear.

"I can't pretend to manage the women, miss," said he; "you must speak
to Mary;" and then, with a low bow, Roberts withdrew.

Hilda gave a sigh of relief. "There are three disposed of," she
murmured. "This is a fair beginning."

On the following day she gave Roberts a check for the money, drawn by
_Zillah Chetwynde_. Waving off his thanks, she dismissed him, and
sent for the cook. That functionary quickly appeared. She was short
of stature, large of bulk, red of face, fluent of speech, hasty of
temper--_au reste_, she was a good cook and faithful servant. She
bobbed to Hilda on entering, and, closing the door, stood with folded
arms and belligerent aspect, like a porcupine armed for defense on
the slightest appearance of hostilities.

"Good-morning, Martha," said Hilda, with great suavity. "I hope your
rheumatism has not been troubling you since the warm weather set in?"

Martha bobbed with a more mollified air.

"Which, exceptin' the elber jints, where it's settled, likewise the
knee jints--savin' of your presence, miss--it's the same; for to go
down on my bended knees, miss, it's what I couldn't do, not if you
was to give me a thousand-pun note in my blessed hand, and my Easter
dooty not bein' able to perform, miss, which it be the first time it
ever wor the case; an' it owing to the rheumatiz; otherwise I am
better, miss, and thank you kindly."

"Her ladyship is very sorry," continued Hilda. "She is unable to
return herself just yet, but she has asked me to attend to several
matters for her, and one of them is connected with you, Martha. She
has received a letter from his lordship stating that he was bringing
with him a staff of servants, and among them a French cook."

Here Martha assumed the porcupine again, with every quill on end; but
she said nothing, though Hilda paused for an instant. Martha wished
to commit Miss Krieff to a proposition, that she might have the glory
of rejecting it with scorn. So Hilda went on:

"Your mistress was afraid that you might not care about taking the
place of under-cook where you have been head, and as she was anxious
to avoid hurting your feelings in any way, she wished me to tell you
of this beforehand."

Another moment and the apoplexy which had been threatening since the
moment when "under-cook" had been mentioned would have been a fact,
but luckily for Martha her overcharged feelings here broke forth with
accents of bitterest scorn:

"Which she's _very_ kind. Hunder-cook, indeed! which it's what I
never abore yet, and never will abear. I've lived at Chetwyn this
twenty year, gurl and woman, and hopes as I 'ave done my dooty and
giv satisfaction, which my lord were a gentleman, an' found no fault
with his wittles, but ate them like a Christian and a nobleman,
a-thankin' the Lord, and a-sayin', 'I never asks to see a tidier or a
'olesomer dinner than Martha sends, which she's to be depended on as
never bein' raw nor yet done to rags;' an' now when, as you may say,
gettin' on in years, though not that old neither as to be dependent
or wantin' in sperrit, to have a French cook set over me a talkin'
furrin languidgis and a cookin' up goodness ony knows what messes as
'nd pison a Christian stomach to as much as look at, and a horderin'
about Marthar here and Marthar there, it's what I can't consent to
put up with, and nobody as wasn't a mean spereted creetur could
expect it of me, which it's not as I wish to speak disrespectful of
her ladyship, which I considers a lady and as allers treated me as
sich, only expectin' to hend my days in Chetwyn it's come, sudden
like; but thanks to the blessed saints, which I 'ave put by as will
keep me from the wukkus and a charge on nobody; and I'd like to give
warnin', if you please, miss, and if so be as I could leave before
monseer arrive."

Here Martha paused, not from lack of material, but from sheer want of
breath. She would have been invincible in conversation but for that
fatal constitutional infirmity--shortness of breath. This brought her
to a pause in the full flow of her eloquence.

Hilda took advantage of the lull.

"Your mistress," said she, "feared that you would feel as you do on
the subject, and her instructions to me were these: 'Try and keep
Martha if you possibly can--we shall not easily replace her; but if
she seems to fear that this new French cook may be domineering'"
(fresh and alarming symptoms of apoplexy), "'and may make it
uncomfortable for her, we must think of her instead of ourselves. She
has been too faithful a servant to allow her to be trampled upon now;
and if you find that she will not really consent to stop, you must
get her a good place--'"

"Which, if you please, mum," said Martha, interrupting her excitedly,
"we won't talk about a place--it is utterly useless, and I might be
forgettin' myself; but I never thought," she continued, brushing away
a hasty tear, "as it was Master Guy, meaning my lord, as would send
old Martha away."

"Oh, I am sure he did not mean to do that," said Hilda, kindly; "but
gentlemen have not much consideration, you know, and he is accustomed
to French cookery." The softer mood vanished at the hated name.

"And he'll never grow to be the man his father were," said she,
excitedly, "on them furrin gimcracks and kickshaws as wouldn't
nourish a babby, let alone a full-growed man, and 'e a Henglishman.
But it's furrin parts as does it. I never approved of the harmy."

"Her ladyship told me," said Hilda, with her usual placidity, and
without taking any notice of the excited feeling of the other, "that
if you insisted on going I was to give you twenty pounds, with her
kind regards, to buy some remembrance."

"Which she's very kind," rejoined Martha, rather quickly, and with
some degree of asperity; "and if you'll give her my grateful dooty,
I'd like to leave as soon as may be."

"Well, if you are anxious to do so, I suppose you can. What
kitchen-maids are there?"

"Well, miss," said Martha, with dignity, yet severity, "sich drabs of
girls as I 'ave 'ad would 'ave prevoked a saint, and mayhap I was a
little hasty; but takin' up a sauce-pan, and findin' it that dirty as
were scandlus to be'old, I throwed the water as were hin it over 'er,
and the saucepan with it, an' she declared she'd go, which as the
'ousekeeper bein' in bed, as you know, miss, an' there likely to
remain for hevermore, she did, an' good riddance to her, say
I--ungrateful hussy as had jist got her wages the day before, and 'ad
a comfortable 'ome."

"It does not matter. I suppose the French cook will bring his own
subordinates."

"Wery like, miss," said Martha, sharply. "I leave this very day.
Good-mornin', miss."

"Oh no; don't be in such a hurry," said Hilda. "You have a week
before you. Let me see you before evening, so that I may give you
what your mistress has sent."

Martha sullenly assented, and withdrew.

The most difficult part of Hilda's business had thus been quietly
accomplished. Nothing now remained but to see the coachman and groom,
each of whom she graciously dismissed with a handsome present. She
told them, however, to remain for about a week, until their
successors might arrive. The large present which the liberality of
Lady Chetwynde had given them enabled them to bear their lot with
patience, and even pleasure.

After about a week Gualtier came up to Chetwynde Castle. He had been
away to London, and brought word to Hilda that some of the new
servants were expected in a few days. It was soon known to Roberts,
Susan, and Mary that Gualtier had been made steward by Lady
Chetwynde. He took possession of one of the rooms, and at once
entered upon the duties of this office. On the day of his arrival
Hilda left, saying to the remaining servants that she would never
come back again, as she intended to live in the south of France. She
shook hands with each of them very graciously, making each one a
present in her own name, and accompanying it with a neat little
speech. She had never been popular among them; but now the thought
that they would never see her again, together, perhaps, with the
very handsome presents which she had made, and her very kind words,
affected them deeply, and they showed some considerable feeling.

Under such circumstances Hilda took her departure from Chetwynde
Castle, leaving Gualtier in charge. In a few days the new servants
arrived, and those of the old ones who had thus far remained now took
their departure. The household was entirely remodeled. The new ones
took up their places; and there was not one single person there who
knew any thing whatever about the late Earl, or Hilda, or Gualtier.
The old ones were scattered abroad, and it was not within the bounds
of ordinary possibility that any of them would ever come near the
place.

In thus remodeling the household it was somewhat enlarged. There was
the new housekeeper, a staid, matronly, respectable-looking woman;
three house-maids, who had formerly lived, in the north of England; a
coachman, who had never before been out of Kent; a butler, who had
formerly served in a Scotch family; two footmen, one of whom had
served in Yorkshire, and the other in Cornwall; two grooms, who had
been bred in Yorkshire; a cook, who had hitherto passed all her life
in London; and three kitchen-maids, who also had served in that city.
Thus the household was altogether new, and had been carefully
collected by Gualtier with a view rather to the place from which they
had come than to any great excellence on the part of any of them. For
so large a place it was but a small number, but it was larger than
the household which had been dismissed, and they soon settled down
into their places.

One only was left of the old number. This was Mrs. Hart. But she lay
on her sick-bed, and Hilda looked upon her as one whose life was
doomed. Had any thought of her possible recovery entered her mind,
she would have contrived in some way to get rid of her. In spite of
her illness, she did not lack attention; for the new housekeeper
attached herself to her, and gave her the kindliest care and warmest
sympathy.

Last of all, so complete had been Hilda's precautions in view of
possible future difficulties, that when Gualtier came as the new
steward, he came under a new name, and was known to the household as
_Mr. M'Kenzie_.



CHAPTER XXXV.


THE LADY OF THE CASTLE.


The new household had been led to expect the arrival of Lady
Chetwynde at any moment. They understood that the old household had
not given satisfaction, that after the death of the late Earl Lady
Chetwynde had gone away to recruit her health, and, now that she was
better, she had determined to make a complete change. When she
herself arrived other changes would be made. This much Gualtier
managed to communicate to them, so as to give them some tangible idea
of the affairs of the family and prevent idle conjecture. He let them
know, also, that Lord Chetwynde was in India, and might come home at
any moment, though his engagements there were so important that it
might be impossible for him to leave.

After a few days Lady Chetwynde arrived at the Castle, and was
greeted with respectful curiosity by all within the house. Her cold
and aristocratic bearing half repelled them, half excited their
admiration. She was very beautiful, and her high breeding was evident
in her manner; but there was about her such frigidity and such
loftiness of demeanor that it repelled those who would have been
willing to give her their love. She brought a maid with her who had
only been engaged a short time previously; and it was soon known that
the maid stood in great awe of her mistress, who was haughty and
exacting, and who shut herself off altogether from any of those
attempts at respectful sympathy which some kind-hearted lady's-maids
might be inclined to show. The whole household soon shared in this
feeling; for the lady of the Castle showed herself rigid in her
requirements of duty and strict in her rule, while, at the same time,
she made her appearance but seldom. She never visited Mrs. Hart, but
once or twice made some cold inquiries about her of the housekeeper.
She also gave out that she would not receive any visitors--a
precautionary measure that was not greatly needed; for Chetwynde
Castle was remote from the seats of the county families, and any
changes there would not be known among them for some time.

The lady of the Castle spent the greater part of her time in her
boudoir, alone, never tolerating the presence of even her maid except
when it was absolutely necessary, but requiring her to be always near
in case of any need for her presence arising. The maid attributed
this strange seclusion to the effects of grief over her recent
bereavement, or perhaps anxiety about her husband; while the other
servants soon began to conjecture that her husband's absence arose
from some quarrel with a wife whose haughty and imperious demeanor
they all had occasion to feel.

It was thus, then, that Hilda had entered upon her new and perilous
position, to attain to which she had plotted so deeply and dared so
much. Now that she had attained it, there was not an hour, not a
moment of the day, in which she did not pay some penalty for the past
by a thousand anxieties. To look forward to such a thing as this was
one thing; but to be here, where she had so often longed to be, was
quite another thing. It was the hackneyed fable of Damocles with the
sword over his head over again. She was standing on treacherous
ground, which at any moment might give way beneath her feet and
plunge her in an abyss of ruin. To live thus face to face with
possible destruction, to stare death in the face every day, was not a
thing conducive either to mildness or to tenderness in any nature,
much less in one like hers.

In that boudoir where she spent so much of her time, while her maid
wondered how she employed herself, her occupation consisted of but
one thing. It was the examination of papers, followed by deep thought
over the result of that examination. Every mail brought to her
address newspapers both from home and abroad. Among the latter were a
number of Indian papers, published in various places, including some
that were printed in remote towns in the north. There were the Delhi
_Gazette_, the Allahabad _News_, and the Lahore _Journal_, all of
which were most diligently scanned by her. Next to these were the
_Times_ and the _Army and Navy Gazette_. No other papers or books, or
prints of any kind, had any interest in her eyes.

It was natural that her thoughts should thus refer to India. All her
plans had succeeded, as far as she could know, and, finally, she had
remodeled the household at Chetwynde in such a way that not one
remained who could by any possibility know about the previous
inmates. She was here as Lady Chetwynde, the lady of Chetwynde
Castle, ruler over a great estate, mistress of a place that might
have excited the envy of any one in England, looked up to with awful
reverence by her dependents, and in the possession of every luxury
that wealth could supply. But still the sword was suspended over her
head, and by a single hair--a sword that at any moment might fall.
What could she know about the intentions of Lord Chetwynde all this
time? What were his plans or purposes? Was it not possible, in spite
of her firmly expressed convictions to the contrary, that he might
come back again to England? And then what? Then--ah! that was the
thing beyond which it was difficult for her imagination to go--the
crisis beyond which it was impossible to tell what the future might
unfold. It was a moment which she was ever forced to anticipate in
her thoughts, against which she had always to arm herself, so as to
be not taken at unawares.

She had thrown herself thus boldly into Chetwynde Castle, into the
very centre of that possible danger which lay before her. But was it
necessary to run so great a risk? Could she not at least have gone to
Pomeroy Court, and taken up her abode there? Would not this also have
been a very natural thing for the daughter of General Pomeroy? It
would, indeed, be natural, and it might give many advantages. In the
first place, there would be no possibility that Lord Chetwynde, even
if he did return from India, would ever seek her out there. She might
communicate with him by means of those letters which for years he had
received. She might receive his answers, and make known to him
whatever she chose, without being compelled to see him face to face.
By such a course she might gain what she wished without endangering
her safety. All this had occurred to her long before, and she had
regarded it in all its bearings. Nevertheless, she had decided
against it, and had chosen rather to encounter the risk of her
present action. It was from a certain profound insight into the
future. She thought that it was best for Lady Chetwynde to go to
Chetwynde Castle, not to Pomeroy Court. By such an act scandal would
be avoided. If Lord Chetwynde did not come, well and good; if he did,
why then he must be met face to face; and in such an event she
trusted to her own genius to bring her out of so frightful a crisis.
That meeting would bring with it much risk and many dangers; but it
would also bring its own peculiar benefits. If it were once
successfully encountered her position would be insured, and the fear
of future danger would vanish. For that reason, if for no other, she
determined to go to Chetwynde Castle, run every risk, and meet her
fate.

While Hilda was thus haughty and repellent to her servants, there was
one to whom she was accessible; and this was the new steward,
Gualtier, with whom she had frequent communications about the
business of the estate. Their interviews generally took place in that
morning-room which has already been described, and which was so
peculiarly situated that no prying servants could easily watch them
or overhear their conversation, if they were careful.

One day, after she had dined, she went to this room, and ordered her
maid to tell the steward that she would like to see him. She had that
day received a number of Indian papers, over which she had passed
many hours; for there was something in one of them which seemed to
excite her interest, and certainly gave occupation to all her mind.

Gualtier was prompt to obey the mandate. In a few minutes after Hilda
had entered the room he made his appearance, and bowed in silence.
Hilda motioned him to a chair, in which he seated himself. The
intercourse of these two had now become remarkable for this, that
their attitude toward one another had undergone a change
corresponding to their apparent positions. Hilda was Lady Chetwynde,
and seemed in reality, even in her inmost soul, to feel herself to be
so. She had insensibly caught that grand air which so lofty a
position might be supposed to give; and it was quite as much her own
feeling as any power of consummate acting which made her carry out
her part so well. A lofty and dignified demeanor toward the rest of
the household might have been but the ordinary act of one who was
playing a part; but in Hilda this demeanor extended itself even to
Gualtier, toward whom she exhibited the same air of conscious social
superiority which she might have shown had she been in reality all
that she pretended to be. Gualtier, on his part, was equally
singular. He seemed quietly to accept her position as a true and
valid one, and that, too, not only before the servants, when it would
have been very natural for him to do so, but even when they were
alone. This, however, was not so difficult for him, as he had always
been in the habit of regarding her as his social superior; yet still,
considering the confidences which existed between this extraordinary
pair, it was certainly strange that he should have preserved with
such constancy his attitude of meek subservience. Here, at Chetwynde,
he addressed her as the steward of the estates should have done; and
even when discussing the most delicate matters his tone and demeanor
corresponded with his office.

On this occasion he began with some intelligence about the state of
the north wall, which bounded the park. Hilda listened wearily till
he had finished. Then she abruptly brought forward all that was in
her thoughts. Before doing so, however, she went to the door to see
that no one was present and listening there, as she had herself once
listened. To those who were at all on their guard there was no
danger. The morning-room was only approached by a long, narrow hall,
in which no one could come without being detected, if any one in the
room chose to watch. Hilda now took her seat on a chair from which
she could look up the hall, and thus, feeling secure from observation
or from listeners, she began, in a low voice:

"I received the Indian papers to-day."

"I was aware of that, my lady," said Gualtier, respectfully. "Did you
see any thing in them of importance?"

"Nothing certain, but something sufficient to excite concern."

"About Lord Chetwynde?"

"Yes."

"He can not be coming home, surely?" said Gualtier, interrogatively.

"I'm afraid that he is."

Gualtier looked serious.

"I thought," said he, "my lady, that you had nearly given up all
expectation of seeing him for some time to come."

"I have never yet given up those expectations. I have all along
thought it possible, though not probable; and so I have always
watched all the papers to see if he had left his station."

"I suppose he would not write about his intentions."

"To whom could he think of writing?" asked Hilda, with a half sneer.

"I thought that perhaps he might write to Lady Chetwynde."

"Lady Chetwynde's letters to him have been of such a character that
it is not very likely that he will ever write to her again, except
under the pressure of urgent necessity."

"Have you seen any thing in particular in any of the papers about
him?" asked Gualtier, after some silence.

"Yes. In one. It is the Allahabad _News_. The paragraph happened to
catch my eye by the merest accident, I think. There is nothing about
it in any of the other Indian papers. See; I will show it to you."

And Hilda, drawing a newspaper from her pocket, unfolded it, and
pointing to a place in one of the inside columns, she handed it to
Gualtier. He took it with a bow, and read the following:


"PERSONAL.--We regret to learn that Lord Chetwynde has recently
resigned his position as Resident at Lahore. The recent death of his
father, the late Earl of Chetwynde, and the large interests which
demand his personal attention, are assigned as the causes for this
step. His departure for England will leave a vacancy in our
Anglo-Indian service which will not easily be filled. Lord
Chetwynde's career in this important part of the empire has been so
brilliant, that it is a matter for sincere regret that he is
prevented, by any cause, from remaining here. In the late war he made
his name conspicuous by his valor and consummate military genius. In
the siege of Delhi he won laurels which will place his name high on
the roll of those whom England loves to honor. Afterward, in the
operations against Tantia Toupi, his bold exploits will not soon be
forgotten. His appointment to the Residency at Lahore was made only a
few months since; yet in that short time he has shown an
administrative talent which, without any reflection on our other able
officials, we may safely pronounce to be very rare in the departments
of our civil service. He is but a young man yet; but seldom has it
happened that one so young has exhibited such mature intellectual
powers, and such firm decision in the management of the most delicate
cases. A gallant soldier, a wise ruler, and a genial friend, Lord
Chetwynde will be missed in all those departments of public and
private life of which he has been so conspicuous an ornament. As
journalists, we wish to record this estimate of his virtues and his
genius, and we feel sure that it will be shared by all who have been
in any way familiar with the career of this distinguished gentleman.
For the rest, we wish him most cordially a prosperous voyage home;
and we anticipate for him in the mother country a career
corresponding with his illustrious rank, and commensurate with the
brilliant opening which he made in this country during those recent
'times which tried men's souls.'"


Gualtier read this paragraph over twice, and then sat for some time
in thought. At last he looked up at Hilda, who had all this time been
intently watching him.

"That's bad," exclaimed he, and said no more.

"It seems that, after all, he is coming," said Hilda.

"Have you seen his name in any of the lists of passengers?"

"No."

"Then he has not left yet."

"Perhaps not; but still I can not trust to that altogether. His name
may be omitted."

"Would such a name as his be likely to be omitted?"

"I suppose not; and so he can not have left India as yet--unless,
indeed, he has come under an assumed name."

"An assumed name! Would he be capable of that? And if he were, what
motive could he have?"

"Ah! there I am unable to find an answer. I'm afraid I have been
judging of Lord Chetwynde by that." And Hilda pointed to the portrait
of the young officer, Guy Molyneux, over the fireplace. "Years have
changed him, and I have not made allowance for the years. I think now
that this Lord Chetwynde must be very different from that Guy
Molyneux. This hero of Delhi; this assailant of Tantia Toupi; this
dashing officer, who is at once brilliant in the field and in the
social circle; this man who, in addition to all this, has proved
himself to be a wise ruler, with a 'genius for administration,' is a
man who, I confess, dawns upon me so suddenly that it gives me a
shock. I have been thinking of an innocent boy. I find that this boy
has grown to be a great, brave, wise, strong man! There, I think, is
the first mistake that I have made."

Hilda's words were full of truth and meaning. Gualtier felt that
meaning.

"You have an alternative still," said he.

"What is that?"

"You need not stay here."

"What! Run away from him--in fear?" said Hilda, scornfully. "Run away
from this place before I even know for certain that he is coming?
That, at least, I will not do."

"There is Pomeroy Court," hinted Gualtier.

"No. Chetwynde Castle is my only home. I live here, or--nowhere. If I
have to encounter him, it shall be face to face, and here in this
house--perhaps in this room. Had I seen this a month ago my decision
might have been different, though I don't know even that; but now,
under any circumstances, it is too late to go back, or to swerve by
one hair's breadth from the path which I have laid down for myself.
It is well that I have seen all this"--and she pointed to the
newspaper--"for it has given me a new view of the man. I shall not be
so likely to underrate him now; and being forewarned I will be
forearmed."

"There is still the probability," said Gualtier, thoughtfully, "that
he may not come to England."

"There is a possibility," said Hilda, "certainly; but it is not
probable, after so decided an act performed by one in so important a
position, that he will remain in India. For why should he remain
there? What could possibly cause him to resign, except the fixed
intention of coming home? No; there can not be the slightest doubt
that he is coming home us as certain as the dawn of to-morrow. What I
wonder at, however, is, that he should delay; I should have expected
to hear of his arrival in London. Yet that can not be, for his name
is not down at all; and if he had come, surely a name like his could
not by any possibility be omitted. No, he can not have come just yet.
But he will, no doubt, come in the next steamer."

"There is yet another chance," said Gualtier.

"What is that?"

"He may come to England, and yet not come here to Chetwynde."

"I have thought of that too," said Hilda, "and used to think of it as
very probable indeed; but now a ray of light has been let into my
mind, and I see what manner of man he is. That boy"--and she again
pointed to the portrait--"was the one who misled me. Such a one as he
might have been so animated by hate that he might keep away so as not
to be forced to see his detested wife. But this man is different.
This soldier, this ruler, this mature man--who or what is his wife,
hated though she be, or what is she to him in any way, that _she_
should prove the slightest obstacle in the path of one like _him_? He
would meet her as her lord and master, and brush her away as he would
a moth."

"You draw this absent man in grand colors," said Gualtier. "Perhaps,
my lady, your imagination is carrying you away. But if he is all this
that you say, how can you venture to meet him? Will you risk being
thus 'brushed away,' as you say, 'like a moth?'"

Hilda's eyes lighted up. "I am not one who can be brushed away," said
she, calmly; "and, therefore, whatever he is, and whenever he comes,
I will be prepared to meet him."

Hilda's tone was so firm and decided that it left no room for further
argument or remonstrance. Nor did Gualtier attempt any. Some
conversation followed, and he soon took his departure.



CHAPTER XXXVI.


FACE TO FACE.


Some time passed away after the conversation related in the last
chapter, and one evening Hilda was in her boudoir alone, as usual.
She was somewhat paler, more nervous, and less calm than she had been
a few months previously. Her usual stealthy air had now developed
into one of wary watchfulness, and the quiet noiselessness of her
actions, her manner, and her movements had become intensified into a
habit of motionless repose, accompanied by frequent fits of deep
abstraction. On the present occasion she was reclining on her couch,
with her hand shading her eyes. She had been lying thus for some
time, lost in thought, and occasionally rousing herself sharply from
her meditations to look around her with her watchful and suspicious
eyes. In this attitude she remained till evening came, and then, with
the twilight, she sank into a deep abstraction, one so deep that she
could not readily rouse herself.

It was with a great start, therefore, that she rose to her feet as a
sudden noise struck her ears. It was the noise of a carriage moving
rapidly up through the avenue toward the house. For a carriage to
come to Chetwynde Castle at any time was a most unusual thing; but
for one to come after dark was a thing unheard of. At once there came
to Hilda a thought like lightning as to who it might be that thus
drove up; the thought was momentous and overwhelming; it might have
been sufficient to have destroyed all courage and all presence of
mind had her nerves been, by the slightest degree, less strong. But
as it was, her nerve sustained her, and her courage did not falter
for one single instant. With a calm face and firm step she advanced
to the window. With a steady hand she drew the curtains aside and
looked out. Little could lie seen amidst the gloom at first; but at
length, as she gazed, she was able to distinguish the dim outline of
a carriage, as it emerged from the shadows of the avenue and drove up
to the chief door.

Then she stepped back toward the door of her boudoir, and listened,
but nothing could be heard. She then lighted two lamps, and, turning
to a cheval-glass at one end of her room, she put one lamp on each
side, so that the light might strike on her to the best advantage,
and then scrutinized herself with a steady and critical glance. Thus
she stood for a long time, watchful and motionless, actuated by a
motive far different from any thing like vanity; and if she received
gratification from a survey of herself, it was any thing but
gratified pride. It was a deeper motive than girlish curiosity that
inspired such stern self-inspection; and it-was a stronger feeling
than vanity that resulted from it. It was something more than things
like these which made her, at so dread a moment, look so anxiously at
her image in the glass.

As she stood there a tap came at the door.

"Come in," said Hilda, in her usual calm tone, turning as she spoke
to face the door.

It was the maid.

"My lady," said she, "his lordship has just arrived."

To her, at that moment, such intelligence could have been nothing
less than tremendous. It told her that the crisis of her life had
come; and to meet it was inevitable, whatever the result might be. He
had come. He, the one whom she must face; not the crude boy, but the
man, tried in battle and in danger and in judgment, in the camp and
in the court; the man who she now knew well was not surpassed by many
men among that haughty race to which he belonged. This man was
accustomed to face guilt and fear; he had learned to read the soul;
he had become familiar with all that the face may make known of the
secret terrors of conscience. And how could she meet the calm eyes of
one who found her here in such a relation toward him? Yet all this
she had weighed before in her mind; she was not unprepared. The hour
and the man had come. She was found ready.

She regarded the maid for a few moments in silence. At last she
spoke.

"Very well," she said, coldly, and without any perceptible emotion of
any kind. "I will go down to meet his lordship."

His lordship has just arrived! The words had been spoken, and the
speaker had departed, but the words still echoed and re-echoed
through the soul of the hearer. What might this involve? and what
would be the end of this arrival?

Suddenly she stepped to the door and called the maid.

"Has any one accompanied his lordship?"

"No, my lady."

"He came alone?"

"Yes, my lady."

"Did Mr. M'Kenzie see him?"

"No, my lady. He is not in the house."

Hilda closed the door, went back, and again stood before the mirror.
Some time elapsed as she stood there regarding herself, with strange
thoughts passing through her mind. She did not find it necessary,
however, to make any alterations in her appearance. She did not
change one fold in her attire, or vary one hair of her head from its
place. It was as though this present dress and this present
appearance had been long ago decided upon by her for just such a
meeting as this. Whether she had anticipated such a meeting so
suddenly--whether she was amazed or not--whether she was at all taken
by surprise or not, could not appear in any way from her action or
her demeanor. In the face of so terrible a crisis, whose full meaning
and import she must have felt profoundly, she stood there, calm and
self-contained, with the self-poise of one who has been long
prepared, and who, when the hour big with fate at last may come, is
not overwhelmed, but rises with the occasion, goes forth to the
encounter, and prepares to contend with destiny.

It was, perhaps, about half an hour before Hilda went down. She went
with a steady step and a calm face down the long corridor, down the
great stairway, through the chief hall, and at length entered the
drawing-room.

On entering she saw a tall man standing there, with his back turned
toward the door, looking up at a portrait of the late Earl. So
intently was he occupied that he did not hear her entering; but a
slight noise, made by a chair as she passed it, startled him, and he
turned and looked at her, disclosing to her curious yet apprehensive
gaze the full features and figure of the new Lord Chetwynde. On that
instant, as he turned and faced her, she took in his whole face and
mien and stature. She saw a broad, intellectual brow, covered with
dark clustering hair; a face bronzed by the suns of India and the
exposure of the campaign, the lower part of which was hidden by a
heavy beard and mustache; and a tall, erect, stalwart frame, with the
unmistakable air of a soldier in every outline. His mien had in it a
certain indescribable grace of high breeding, and the commanding air
of one accustomed to be the ruler of men. His eyes were dark, and
full of quiet but resistless power; and they beamed upon her
lustrously, yet gloomily, and with a piercing glance of scrutiny from
under his dark brows. His face bore the impress of a sadness deeper
than that which is usually seen--sadness that had reigned there
long--a sadness, too, which had given to that face a more sombre cast
than common, from some grief which had been added to former ones. It
was but for a moment that he looked at her, and then he bowed with
grave courtesy. Hilda also bowed without a word, and then waited for
Lord Chetwynde to speak.

But Lord Chetwynde did not speak for some time. His earnest eyes were
still fixed upon the one before him, and though it might have been
rudeness, yet it was excusable, from the weight which lay on his
soul.


[Illustration: "Hilda Stood There, Calm, Watchful, And Expectant."]


Hilda, for her part, stood there, calm, watchful, and expectant. That
slender and graceful figure, with its simple and elegant dress, which
set off to the utmost the perfection of her form, looked certainly
unlike the ungrown girl whom Lord Chetwynde had seen years before.
Still more unlike was the face. Pale, with delicate, transparent
skin, it was not so dark as that face which had dwelt in his memory.
Her eyes did not seem so wild and staring as those of the imp whom he
had married; but deep, dark, and strong in their gaze, as they looked
back steadily into his. The hair was now no longer disordered, but
enfolded in its dark, voluminous masses, so as to set off to the best
advantage the well-shaped head, and slender, beautifully rounded
neck. The one whom he remembered had been hideous; this one was
beautiful. But the beauty that he saw was, nevertheless, hard, cold,
and repellent. For Hilda, in her beauty and grace and intellectual
subtilty, stood there watchful and vigilant, like a keen fencer on
guard, waiting to see what the first spoken word might disclose;
waiting to see what that grand lordly face, with its air of command,
its repressed grief, its deep piercing eyes, might shadow forth.

A singular meeting; but Lord Chetwynde seemed to think it natural
enough, and after a few moments he remarked, in a quiet voice:

"Lady Chetwynde, the morning-room will be more suitable for the
interview which I wish, and, if you have no objection, we will go
there."

At the sound of these words a great revulsion took place in Hilda's
feelings, and a sense of triumph succeeded to that intense anxiety
which for so long a time had consumed her. The sound of that name by
which he had addressed her had shown her at once that the worst part
of this crisis had passed away. He had seen her. He had scrutinized
her with those eyes which seemed to read her soul, and the end was
that he had taken her for what she professed to be. He had called her
"Lady Chetwynde!" After this what more was there which could excite
fear? Was not her whole future now secured by the utterance of those
two words? Yet Hilda's self-control was so perfect, and her vigilance
so consummate, that no change whatever expressed in her face the
immense revolution of feeling within her. Her eyes fell--that was
all; and as she bowed her head silently, by that simple gesture which
was at once natural and courteous, she effectually concealed her
face; so that, even if there had been a change in its expression, it
could not have been seen. Yet, after all, the triumph was but
instantaneous. It passed away, and soon there came another feeling,
vague, indefinable--a premonition of the future--a presentiment of
gloom; and though the intensity of the suspense had passed, there
still remained a dark anxiety and a fear which were unaccountable.

Lord Chetwynde led the way to the morning-room, and on arriving there
he motioned her to a seat. Hilda sat down. He sat opposite in another
chair, not far off. On the wall, where each could see it, hung his
portrait--the figure of that beardless, boyish, dashing young
officer--very different from this matured, strong-souled man; so
different, indeed, that it seemed hardly possible that they could be
the same.

Lord Chetwynde soon began.

"Lady Chetwynde," said he, again addressing her by that name, and
speaking in a firm yet melancholy voice, "it is not often that a
husband and a wife meet as you and I do now; but then it is not often
that two people become husband and wife as you and I have. I have
come from India for the sake of having a full understanding with you.
I had, until lately, an idea of coming here under an assumed name,
with the wish of sparing you the embarrassment which I supposed that
the presence of Lord Chetwynde himself might possibly cause you. In
fact, I traveled most of the way home from India under an assumed
name with that intent. But before I reached England I concluded that
there was no necessity for trying to guard against any embarrassment
on your part, and that it would be infinitely better to see you in my
own person and talk to you without disguise."

He paused for a moment.

"Had you chosen to come all the way in your own name, my lord," said
Hilda, speaking now for the first time, "I should have seen your name
in the list of passengers, and should have been better prepared for
the honor of your visit."

"Concealment would have been impossible," continued Lord Chetwynde,
gloomily, half to himself, and without appearing to have heard
Hilda's words, "here, in my home. Though all the old servants are
gone, still the old scenes remain; and if I had come here as a
stranger I should have shown so deep an interest in my home that I
might have excited suspicion. But the whole plan was impossible, and,
after all, there was no necessity for it, as I do not see that your
feelings have been excited to madness by my appearance. So far, then,
all is well. And now to come to the point; and you, I am sure, will
be the first to excuse my abruptness in doing so. The unfortunate
bond that binds us is painful enough to you. It is enough for me to
say that I have come home for two reasons: first, to see my home,
possibly for the last time; and secondly, to announce to you the
decision at which I have arrived with regard to the position which we
shall hereafter occupy toward one another."

Hilda said nothing. Awe was a feeling which was almost unknown to
her; but something of that had come over her as, sitting in the
presence of this man, she heard him say these words; for he spoke
without any particular reference to her, and said them with a grand,
authoritative air, with the tone of one accustomed to rule and to
dispense justice. In uttering these concluding words it seemed to be
his will, his decision, that he was announcing to some inferior
being.

"First," he went on to say, "let me remind you of our unhappy
betrothal. You were a child, I a boy. Our parents are responsible for
that. They meant well. Let us not blame them.

"Then came our marriage by the death-bed of your father. You were
excited, and very naturally so. You used bitter words to me then
which I have never forgotten. Every taunt and insult which you then
uttered has lived in my memory. Why? Not because I am inclined to
treasure up wrong. No. Rather because you have taken such extreme
pains to keep alive the memory of that event. You will remember that
in every one of those letters which you have written to me since I
left England there has not been one which has not been filled with
innuendoes of the most cutting kind, and insults of the most galling
nature. My father loved you. I did not. But could you not, for his
sake, have refrained from insult? Why was it necessary to turn what
at first was merely coolness into hate and indignation?

"I speak bitterly about those letters of yours. It was those which
kept me so long in India. I could not come to see my father because
you were here, and I should have to come and see you. I could not
give him trouble by letting him know the truth, because he loved you.
Thus you kept me away from him and from my home at a time when I was
longing to be here; and, finally, to crown your cruelty, you
sedulously concealed from me the news of my father's illness till it
was too late. He died; and then--then you wrote that hideous letter,
that abomination of insult and vindictiveness, that cruel and
cowardly stab, which you aimed at a heart already wrung by the grief
of bereavement! In the very letter which you wrote to tell me of that
sudden and almost intolerable calamity you dared to say that my
father--that gentle and noble soul, who so loved you and trusted
you--that he, the stainless gentleman, the soul of honor--_he_ had
cheated _you_, and that his death was the punishment inflicted by
Providence for his sin; that he had made a cunning and dishonest plan
to get you for the sake of your fortune; that _I_ had been his
accomplice; and that by his death the vengeance of Divine justice was
manifested on both of us!"

Deep and low grew the tones of Lord Chetwynde's voice as he spoke
these words--deep and low, yet restrained with that restraint which
is put over the feelings by a strong nature, and yet can not hide
that consuming passion which underlies all the words, and makes them
burn with intensest heat. Here the hot fire of his indignation seemed
to be expressed in a blighting and withering power; and Hilda shrank
within herself involuntarily in fear, trembling at this terrific
denunciation.

Lord Chetwynde made a slight gesture. "Calm yourself," said he; "you
can not help your nature. Do you suppose for one moment that I, by
any possibility, can expect an explanation? Not at all. I have
mentioned this for the first and for the last time. Even while your
letters were lying before me I did not deign to breathe one word
about them to my father, from whom I kept no other secret, even
though I knew that, while he loved you and trusted you, both his love
and his trust were thrown away. I would not add to his troubles by
showing him the true character of the woman to whom he had sold me
and bound me fast, and whom he looked on with affection. That sorrow
I determined to spare him, and so I kept silent. So it was that I
always spoke of you with the formulas of respect, knowing well all
the time that you yourself did not deserve even that much. But he
deserved it, and I quenched my own indignation for his sake. But now
there is no longer any reason why I should play the hypocrite, and so
I speak of these things. I say this simply to let you know how your
conduct and character are estimated by one whose opinion is valued by
many honorable gentlemen.

"Even after his death," continued Lord Chetwynde, "I might possibly
have had some consideration for you, and, perhaps, would not have
used such plain language as I now do. But one who could take
advantage of the death of my father to give vent to spleen, and to
offer insult to one who had never offended her, deserves no
consideration. Such conduct as yours, Lady Chetwynde, toward me, has
been too atrocious to be ever forgiven or forgotten. To this you will
no doubt say, with your usual sneer, that my forgiveness is not
desired. I am glad if it is not.

"To your father, Lady Chetwynde, I once made a vow that I would
always be careful about your happiness. I made it thoughtlessly, not
knowing what I was promising, not in any way understanding its full
import. I made it when full of gratitude for an act of his which I
regarded only by itself, without thinking of all that was required of
me. I made it as a thoughtless boy. But that vow I intend now, as a
mature man, to fulfill, most sacredly and solemnly. For I intend to
care for your happiness, and that, too, in a way which will be most
agreeable to you. I shall thus be able to keep that rash and hasty
vow, which I once thought I would never be able to keep. The way in
which I intend to keep it is one, Lady Chetwynde, which will insure
perfect happiness to one like you; and as you are, no doubt, anxious
to know how it is possible for me to do such a thing, I will hasten
to inform you.

"The way in which I intend, Lady Chetwynde, to fulfill my vow and
secure your perfect happiness is, first of all, by separating myself
from you forever. This is the first thing. It is not such an
accomplishment of that vow as either your father or mine anticipated;
but in your eyes and mine it will be a perfect fulfillment. Fortunate
it is for me that the thing which you desire most is also the very
thing which I most desire. Your last letter settled a problem which
has been troubling me for years.

"This, however, is only part of my decision. I will let you know the
rest as briefly as possible. When your father came from India, and
made that memorable visit to my father, which has cost us both so
dear, Chetwynde was covered with mortgages to the extent of sixty
thousand pounds. Your father made an unholy bargain with mine, and in
order to secure a protector for you, he gave to my father the money
which was needed to disencumber the estate. It was, in fact, your
dowry, advanced beforehand.

"The principals in that ill-omened arrangement are both dead. I am no
longer a boy, but a man; the last of my line, with no one to consider
but myself. An atrocious wrong has been done, unintentionally, to me,
and also to you. That wrong I intend to undo, as far as possible. I
have long ago decided upon the way. I intend to give back to you this
dowry money; and to do so I will break the entail, sell Chetwynde,
and let it go to the hands of strangers. My ancient line ends in me.
Be it so. I have borne so many bitter griefs that I can bear this
with resignation. Never again shall you, Lady Chetwynde, have the
power of flinging at me that taunt which you have so often flung. You
shall have your money back, to the last farthing, and with interest
for the whole time since its advance. In this way I can also best
keep my vow to General Pomeroy; for the only mode by which I can
secure your happiness is to yield the care of it into your own hands.

"For the present you will have Chetwynde Castle to live in until its
sale. Every thing here seems quite adapted to make you happy. You
seem to have appropriated it quite to yourself. I can not find one of
those faithful old domestics with whom my boyhood was passed. You
have surrounded yourself with your own servants. Until your money is
paid you will be quite at liberty to live here, or at Pomeroy Court,
whichever you prefer. Both are yours now, the Castle as much as
Pomeroy Court, as you remarked, with your usual delicacy, in your
last letter, since they both represent your own money.

"And now," said Lord Chetwynde, in conclusion, "we understand one
another. The time for taunts and sneers, for you, is over. Any
letters hereafter that may come to me in your handwriting will be
returned unopened. The one aim of my life hereafter shall be to undo,
as far as possible, the wrong done to us both by our parents. That
can never be all undone; but, at any rate, you may be absolutely
certain that you will get back every penny of the money which is so
precious to you, with interest. As to my visit here, do not let it
disturb you for one moment. I have no intention of making a scene for
the benefit of your gaping servants. My business now is solely to see
about my father's papers, to examine them, and take away with me
those that are of immediate use. While I am here we will meet at the
same table, and will be bound by the laws of ordinary courtesy. At
all other times we need not be conscious of one another's existence.
I trust that you will see the necessity of avoiding any open
demonstrations of hatred, or even dislike. Let your feelings be
confined to yourself, Lady Chetwynde; and do not make them known to
the servants, if you can possibly help it."

Lord Chetwynde seemed to have ended; for he arose and sauntered up to
the portrait, which he regarded for some time with fixed attention,
and appeared to lose himself in his thoughts. During the remarks
which he had been making Hilda had sat looking at the floor. Unable
to encounter the stern gaze of the man whom she felt to be her
master, she had listened in silence, with downcast eyes. There was
nothing for her to say. She therefore did the very best thing that
she could do under the circumstances--she said nothing. Nor did she
say any thing when he had ended. She saw him absorb himself in
regarding his own portrait, and apparently lose himself in his
recollections of the past. Of her he seemed to have now no
consciousness. She sat looking at him, as his side face was turned
toward her, and his eyes fixed on the picture. The noble profile,
with its clear-cut features, showed much of the expression of the
face--an expression which was stern, yet sad and softened--that face
which, just before, had been before her eyes frowning, wrathful,
clothed with consuming terrors--a face upon which she could not look,
but which now was all mournful and sorrowful. And now, as she gazed,
the hard rigidity of her beautiful features relaxed, the sharp
glitter of her dark eyes died out, their stony lustre gave place to a
soft light, which beamed upon him with wonder, with timid awe--with
something which, in any other woman, would have looked like
tenderness. She had not been prepared for one like this. In her
former ideas of him he had been this boy of the portrait, with his
boyish enthusiasm, and his warm, innocent temperament. This idea she
had relinquished, and had known that he had changed during the years
into the heroic soldier and the calm judge. She had tried to
familiarize herself with this new idea, and had succeeded in doing so
to a certain extent. But, after all, the reality had been too much
for her. She had not been prepared for one like this, nor for such an
effect as the sight of him had produced. At this first interview he
had overpowered her utterly, and she had sat dumb and motionless
before him. All the sneering speeches which she had prepared in
anticipation of the meeting were useless. She found no place for
them. But there was one result to this interview which affected her
still more deeply than this discovery of his moral superiority. The
one great danger which she had always feared had passed away. She no
longer had that dread fear of discovery which hitherto had harassed
her; but in the place of this there suddenly arose another fear--a
fear which seemed as terrible as the other, which darkened over her
during the course of that scene till its close, and afterward--such
an evil as she never before could have thought herself capable of
dreading, yet one which she had brought upon herself.

What was that?

His contempt--his hate--his abhorrence--this was the thing which now
seemed so terrible to her.

For in the course of that interview a sudden change had come over all
her feelings. In spite of her later judgment about him, which she had
expressed to Gualtier, there had been in her mind a half contempt for
the man whom she had once judged of by his picture only, and whom she
recollected as the weak agent in a forced marriage. That paragraph in
the Indian paper had certainly caused a great change to take place in
her estimate of his character; but, in spite of this, the old
contempt still remained, and she had reckoned upon finding beneath
the mature man, brave though he was, and even wise though he might
be, much of that boy whom she had despised. But all this passed away
as a dream, out of which she had a rude awakening. She awoke suddenly
to the full reality, to find him a strong, stern, proud man, to whom
her own strength was as weakness. While he uttered his grand
maledictions against her he seemed to her like a god. He was a mighty
being, to whom she looked up from the depths of her soul, half in
fear, half in adoration. In her weakness she admired his strength;
and in her wily and tortuous subtlety she worshiped this
straightforward and upright gentleman, who scorned craft and cunning,
and who had sat in stern judgment upon her, to make known to her _his
will_.

For some time she sat looking at him as he stood, with her whole
nature shaken by these new, these unparalleled emotions, till,
finally, with a start, she came to herself, and, rising slowly, she
glided out of the room.



CHAPTER XXXVII.


AN EFFORT AT CONCILIATION.


Lord Chetwynde's occupations kept him for the greater part of his
time in his father's library, where he busied himself in examining
papers. Many of these he read and restored to their places, but some
he put aside, in order to take them with him. Of the new steward he
took no notice whatever. He considered the dismissal of the old one
and the appointment of Gualtier one of those abominable acts which
were consistent with all the other acts of that woman whom he
supposed to be his wife. Besides, the papers which he sought had
reference to the past, and had no connection with the affairs of the
present. In the intervals of his occupation he used to go about the
grounds, visiting every one of those well-known places which were
associated with his childhood and boyhood. He sought out his father's
grave, and stood musing there with feelings which were made up of
sadness, mingled with something like reproach for the fearful mistake
which his father had made in the allotment of the son's destiny.
True, he had been one of the consenting parties; but when he first
gave that consent he was little more than a boy, and not at all
capable of comprehending the full meaning of such an engagement. His
father had ever since solemnly held him to it, and had appealed to
his sense of honor in order to make him faithful. But now the father
was dead, the son was a mature man, tried in a thousand scenes of
difficulty and danger--one who had learned to think for himself, who
had gained his manhood by a life of storms, in which of late there
had been crowded countless events, each of which had had their weight
in the development of his character. They had left him a calm,
strong, resolute man--a man of thought and of action--a graduate of
the school of Indian affairs--a school which, in times that tried
men's souls, never failed to supply men who were equal to every
emergency.


[Illustration: "He Sought Out His Father's Grave, And Stood Musing
There."]


At the very outset he had found out the condition of Mrs. Hart. The
sight of his loved nurse, thus prostrated, filled him with grief. The
housekeeper who now attended her knew nothing whatever of the cause
of her prostration. Lord Chetwynde did not deign to ask any questions
of Hilda; but in his anxiety to learn about Mrs. Hart, he sought out
the doctor who had attended his father, and from him he learned that
Mrs. Hart's illness had been caused by her anxiety about the Earl.
The knowledge of this increased, if possible, his own care. He made
the closest inquiry as to the way in which she was treated, engaged
the doctor to visit her, and doubled the housekeeper's salary on
condition that she would be attentive to his beloved nurse. These
measures were attended with good results, for under this increased
care Mrs. Hart began to show signs of improvement. Whether she would
ever again be conscious was yet a question. The doctor considered her
mind to be irretrievably affected.

Meanwhile, throughout all these days, Hilda's mind was engrossed with
the change which had come over her--a change so startling and so
unexpected that it found her totally unprepared to deal with it. They
met every day at the dinner-table, and at no other times. Here Lord
Chetwynde treated her with scrupulous courtesy; yet beyond the
extreme limits of that courtesy she found it impossible to advance.
Hilda's manner was most humble and conciliatory. She who all her life
had felt defiant of others, or worse, now found herself enthralled
and subdued by the spell of this man's presence. Her wiliness, her
stealthiness, her constant self-control, were all lost and forgotten.
She had now to struggle incessantly against that new tenderness which
had sprung up unbidden within her. She caught herself looking forward
wistfully every day to the time when she could meet him at the table
and hear his voice, which, even in its cold, constrained tones, was
enough for her happiness. It was in vain that she reproached and even
cursed herself for her weakness. The weakness none the less existed;
and all her life seemed now to centre around this man, who hated her.
Into a position like this she had never imagined that she could
possibly be brought. All her cunning and all her resources were
useless here. This man seemed so completely beyond her control that
any effort to win him to her seemed useless. He believed her to be
his wife, he believed himself bound by honor to secure her happiness,
and yet his abhorrence of her was so strong that he never made any
effort to gain her for himself. Now Hilda saw with bitterness that
she had gone too far, and that her plans and her plots were recoiling
upon her own head. They had been too successful. The sin of Lord
Chetwynde's wife had in his eyes proved unpardonable.

Hilda's whole life now became a series of alternate struggles against
her own heart, and longings after another who was worse than
indifferent to her. Her own miserable weakness, so unexpected, and
yet so complete and hopeless, filled her at once with anger and
dismay. To find all her thoughts both by day and night filled with
this one image was at once mortifying and terrible. The very
intensity of her feelings, which would not stop short at death itself
to gain their object, now made her own sufferings all the greater.
Every thing else was forgotten except this one absorbing desire; and
her complicated schemes and far-reaching plans were thrust away. They
had lost their interest. Henceforth all were reduced to one
thought--how to gain Lord Chetwynde to herself.

As long as he staid, something like hope remained; but when he would
leave, what hope could there be? Would he not leave her forever? Was
not this the strongest desire of his heart? Had he not said so? Every
day she watched, with a certain chilling fear at her heart, to see if
there were signs of his departure. As day succeeded to day, however,
and she found him still remaining, she began to hope that he might
possibly have relented somewhat, and that the sentence which he had
spoken to her might have become modified by time and further
observation of her.

So at the dinner-table she used to sit, looking at him, when his eyes
were turned away, with her earnest, devouring gaze, which, as soon as
he would look at her again, was turned quickly away with the timidity
of a young bashful child. Such is the tenderness of love that Hilda,
who formerly shrank at nothing, now shrank away from the gaze of this
man. Once, by a great effort, as he entered the dining-room she held
out her hand to greet him. Lord Chetwynde, however, did not seem to
see it, for he greeted her with his usual distant civility, and
treated her as before. Once more she tried this, and yet once again,
but with the same result; and it was then that she knew that Lord
Chetwynde refused to take her hand. It was not oversight--it was a
deliberate purpose. At another time it would have seemed an insult
which would have filled her with rage; now it seemed a slight which
filled her with grief. So humiliated had she become, and so
completely subdued by this man, that even this slight was not enough,
but she still planned vague ways of winning his attention to her, and
of gaining from him something more than a remark about the weather or
about the dishes.

At length one day she formed a resolution, which, after much
hesitation, she carried out. She was determined to make one bold
effort, whatever the result might be. It was at their usual place of
meeting--the dinner-table.

"My lord," said she, with a tremulous voice, "I wish to have an
interview with you. Can you spare me the time this evening?"

She looked at him earnestly, with mute inquiry. Lord Chetwynde
regarded her in some surprise. He saw her eyes fixed upon him with a
timid entreaty, while her face grew pale with suspense. Her breathing
was rapid from the agitation that overcame her.

"I had some business this evening," said Lord Chetwynde, coldly, "but
as you wish an interview, I am at your service."

"At what time, my lord?"

"At nine," said Lord Chetwynde.

Nine o'clock came, and Hilda was in the morning-room, which she had
mentioned as the place of meeting, and Lord Chetwynde came there
punctually. She was sitting near the window. Her pale face, her rich
black locks arranged in voluminous masses about her head, her dark
penetrating eyes, her slender and graceful figure, all conspired to
make Hilda beautiful and attractive in a rare degree. Added to this
there was a certain entreaty on her face as it was turned toward him,
and a soft, timid lustre in her eyes which might have affected any
other man. She rose as Lord Chetwynde entered, and bowed her
beautiful head, while her graceful arms, and small, delicately shaped
hands hung down at her side.

Lord Chetwynde bowed in silence.

"My lord," said Hilda, in a voice which was tremulous from an
uncontrollable emotion, "I wished to see you here. We met here once
before; you said what you wished; I made no reply; I had nothing to
say; I felt your reproaches; they were in some degree just and
well-merited; but I might have said something--only I was timid and
nervous, and you frightened me."

Here Hilda paused, and drew a long breath. Her emotion nearly choked
her, but the sound of her own voice sustained her, and, making an
effort, she went on:

"I have nothing to say in defense of my conduct. It has made you hate
me. Your hate is too evident. My thoughtless spite has turned back
upon myself. I would willingly humiliate myself now if I thought that
it would affect you or conciliate you. I would acknowledge any folly
of mine if I thought that you could be brought to look upon me with
leniency. What I did was the act of a thoughtless girl, angry at
finding herself chained up for life, spiteful she knew not why. I had
only seen you for a moment, and did not know you. I was mad. I was
guilty; but still it is a thing that may be considered as not
altogether unnatural under the circumstances. And, after all, it was
not sincere--it was pique, it was thoughtlessness--it was not that
deep-seated malice which you have laid to my charge. Can you not
think of this? Can you not imagine what may have been the feelings of
a wild, spoiled, untutored girl, one who was little better than a
child, one who found herself shackled she knew not how, and who
chafed at all restraint? Can you not understand, or at least imagine,
such a case as this, and believe that the one who once sinned has now
repented, and asks with tears for your forgiveness?"

Tears? Yes, tears were in the eyes of this singular girl, this girl
whose nature was so made up of strength and weakness. Her eyes were
suffused with tears as she looked at Lord Chetwynde, and finally, as
she ceased, she buried her face in her hands and sobbed aloud.

Now, nothing in nature so moves a man as a woman's tears. If the
woman be beautiful, and if she loves the man to whom she speaks, they
are irresistible. And here the woman was beautiful, and her love for
the man whom she was addressing was evident in her face and in the
tones of her voice. Yet Lord Chetwynde sat unmoved. Nothing in his
face or in his eyes gave indications of any response on his part.
Nothing whatever showed that any thing like soft pity or tender
consideration had modified the severity of his purpose or the
sternness of his fixed resolve. Yet Lord Chetwynde by nature was not
hard-hearted, and Hilda well knew this. In the years which she had
spent at the Castle she had heard from every quarter--from the Earl,
from Mrs. Hart, and from the servants--tales without number about his
generosity, his self-denial, his kindliness, and tender consideration
for I the feelings of others. Besides this, he had received from his
father along with that chivalrous nature the lofty sentiments of a
knight-errant, and in his boyish days had always been ready to
espouse the cause of any one in distress with the warmest enthusiasm.
In Hilda's present attitude, in her appearance, in her words, and
above all in her tears, there was every thing that would move such a
nature to its inmost depths. Had he ever seen any one at once so
beautiful and so despairing; and one, too, whose whole despair arose
from her feelings for him? Even his recollections of former disdain
might lose their bitterness in the presence of such utter
humiliation, such total self-immolation as this. His nature could not
have changed, for the Indian paper alluded to his "genial" character,
and his "heroic qualities." He must be still the same. What, then,
could there be which would be powerful enough to harden his feelings
and steel his heart against such a woeful and piteous sight as that
which was now exhibited to him? All these things Hilda thought as she
made her appeal, and broke down so completely at its close; these
things, too, she thought as the tears streamed from her eyes, and as
her frame was shaken by emotion.

Lord Chetwynde sat looking at her in silence for a long time. No
trace whatever of commiseration appeared upon his face; but he
continued as stern, as cold, and as unmoved, as in that first
interview when he had told her how he hated her. Bitter indeed must
that hate have been which should so crush out all those natural
impulses of generosity which belonged to him; bitter must the hate
have been; and bitter too must have been the whole of his past
experience in connection with this woman, which could end in such
pitiless relentlessness.

At length he answered her. His tone was calm, cool, and impassive,
like his face; showing not a trace of any change from that tone in
which he always addressed her; and making known to her, as she sat
with her face buried in her hands, that whatever hopes she had
indulged in during his silence, those hopes were altogether vain.

"Lady Chetwynde," he began, "all that you have just said I have
thought over long ago, from beginning to end. It has all been in my
mind for years. In India there were always hours when the day's
duties were over, and the mind would turn to its own private and
secret thoughts. From the very first, you, Lady Chetwynde, were
naturally the subject of those thoughts to a great degree. That
marriage scene was too memorable to be soon forgotten, and the
revelation of your character, which I then had, was the first thing
which showed me the full weight of the obligation which I had so
thoughtlessly accepted. Most bitterly I lamented, on my voyage out,
that I had not contrived some plan to evade so hasty a fulfillment of
my boyish promise, and that I had not satisfied the General in some
way which would not have involved such a scene. But I could not
recall the past, and I felt bound by my father's engagement. As to
yourself, I assure you that in spite of your malice and your insults
I felt most considerately toward you. I pitied you for being, like
myself, the unwilling victim of a father's promise and of a sick
man's whim, and learned to make allowance for every word and action
of yours at that time. Not one of those words or actions had the
smallest effect in imbittering my mind toward you. Not one of those
words which you have just uttered has suggested an idea which I have
not long ago considered, and pondered over in secret, in silence, and
in sorrow. I made a large allowance also for that hate which you must
have felt toward one who came to you as I did, in so odious a
character, to violate, as I did, the sanctities of death by the
mockery of a hideous marriage. All this--all this has been in my
mind, and nothing that you can say is able in any way to bring any
new idea to me. There are other things far deeper and far more
lasting than this, which can not be answered, or excused, or
explained away--the long persistent expressions of unchanging hate."

Lord Chetwynde was silent. Hilda had heard all this without moving or
raising her head. Every word was ruin to her hopes. But she still
hoped against hope, and now, since she had an opportunity to speak,
she still tried to move this obdurate heart.

"Hate!" she exclaimed, catching at his last word--"hate! what is
that? the fitful, spitefull feeling arising out of the recollection
of one miserable scene--or perhaps out of the madness of anger at a
forced marriage. What is it? One kind word can dispel it."

As she said this she did not look up. Her face was buried in her
hands. Her tone was half despairing, half imploring, and broken by
emotion.

"True," said Lord Chetwynde. "All that I have thought of, and I used
to console myself with that. I used to say to myself, 'When we meet
again it will be different. When she knows me she can not hate me.'"

"You were right," faltered Hilda, with a sob which was almost a
groan. "And what then? Say--was it a wonder that I should have felt
hate? Was there ever any one so tried as I was? My father was my only
friend. He was father and mother and all the world to me. He was
brought home one day suddenly, injured by a frightful accident, and
dying. At that unparalleled moment I was ordered to prepare for
marriage. Half crazed with anxiety and sorrow, and anticipating the
very worst--at such a time death itself would have been preferable to
that ceremony. But all my feelings were outraged, and I was dragged
down to that horrible scene. Can you not see what effect the
recollection of this might afterward have? Can you not once again
make allowances, and think those thoughts which you used to think?
Can you not still see that you were right in supposing that when we
might meet all would be different, and that she who might once have
known you could not hate you?"

"No," said Lord Chetwynde, coldly and severely.

Hilda raised her head, and looked at him with mute inquiry.

"I will explain," said Lord Chetwynde. "I have already said all that
I ought to say; but you force me to say more, though I am unwilling.
Your letters, Lady Chetwynde, were the things which quelled and
finally killed all kindly feelings."

"Letters!" burst in Hilda, with eager vehemence. "They were the
letters of a hot-tempered girl, blinded by pique and self-conceit,
and carelessly indulging in a foolish spite which in her heart she
did not seriously feel."

"Pardon me," said Lord Chetwynde, with cold politeness, "I think you
are forgetting the circumstances under which they were written--for
this must be considered as well as the nature of the compositions
themselves. They were the letters of one whom my father loved, and of
whom he always spoke in the tenderest language, but who yet was so
faithless to him that she never ceased to taunt me with what she
called our baseness. She never spared the old man who loved her. For
months and for years these letters came. It was something more than
pique, something more than self-conceit or spite, which lay at the
bottom of such long-continued insults. The worst feature about them
was their cold-blooded cruelty. Nothing in my circumstances or
condition could prevent this--not even that long agony before
Delhi"--added Lord Chetwynde, in tones filled with a deeper
indignation--"when I, lost behind the smoke and cloud and darkness of
the great struggle, was unable to write for a long time; and,
finally, was able to give my account of the assault and the triumph.
Not even that could change the course of the insults which were so
freely heaped upon me. And yet it would have been easy to avoid all
this. Why write at all? There was no heavy necessity laid upon you.
That was the question which I used to put to myself. But you
persisted in writing, and in sending to me over the seas, with
diabolical pertinacity, those hideous letters in which every word was
a stab."

While Lord Chetwynde had been speaking Hilda sat looking at him, and
meeting his stern glance with a look which would have softened any
one less bitter. Paler and paler grew her face, and her hands
clutched one another in tremulous agitation, which showed her strong
emotion.

"Oh, my lord!" she cried, as he ceased, "can you not have mercy?
Think of that black cloud that came down over my young life, filling
it with gloom and horror. I confess that you and your father appeared
the chief agents; but I learned to love _him_, and then all my
bitterness turned on _you_--you, who seemed to be so prosperous, so
brave, and so honored. It was you who seemed to have blighted my
life, and so I was animated by a desire to make you feel something of
what I had felt. My disposition is fiery and impetuous; my father's
training made it worse. I did not know you; I only felt spite against
you, and thus I wrote those fatal letters. I thought that you could
have prevented that marriage if you had wished, and therefore could
never feel any thing but animosity. But now the sorrows through which
I have passed have changed me, and you yourself have made me see how
mad was my action. But oh, my lord, believe me, it was not
deliberate, it was hasty passion! and now I would be willing to wipe
out every word in those hateful letters with my heart's blood!"

Hilda's voice was low but impassioned, with a certain burning fervor
of entreaty; her words had become words almost of prayer, so deep was
her humiliation. Her face was turned toward him with an imploring
expression, and her eyes were fixed on his in what seemed an agony of
suspense. But not even that white face, with its ashen lips and its
anguish, nor those eyes with their overflowing tears, nor that voice
with its touching pathos of woe, availed in any way to call up any
response of pity and sympathy in the breast of Lord Chetwynde.

"You use strong language, Lady Chetwynde," said he, in his usual
tone. "You forget that it is you yourself who have transformed all my
former kindliness, in spite of myself, into bitterness and gall. You
forget, above all, that last letter of yours. You seem to show an
emotion which I once would have taken as real. Pardon me if I now say
that I consider it nothing more than consummate acting. You speak of
consideration. You hint at mercy. Listen, Lady Chetwynde"--and here
Lord Chetwynde raised his right hand with solemn emphasis. "You
turned away from the death-bed of my father, the man who loved you
like a daughter, to write to me that hideous letter which you
wrote--that letter, every word of which is still in my memory, and
rises up between us to sunder us for evermore. You went beyond
yourself. To have spared the living was not needed; but it was the
misfortune of your nature that you could not spare the dead. While he
was, perhaps, yet lying cold in death near you, you had the heart to
write to me bitter sneers against him. Even without that you had done
enough to turn me from you always. But when I read that, I then knew
most thoroughly that the one who was capable, under such
circumstances, of writing thus could only have a mind and heart
irretrievably bad--bad and corrupt and base. Never, never, never,
while I live, can I forget the utter horror with which that letter
filled me!"

"Oh, my God!" said Hilda, with a groan.

Lord Chetwynde sat stern and silent.

"You are inflexible in your cruelty," said Hilda at length, as she
made one last and almost hopeless effort. "I have done. But will you
not ask me something? Have you nothing to ask about your father? He
loved me as a daughter. I was the one who nursed him in his last
illness, and heard his last words. His dying eyes were fixed on me!"

As Hilda said this a sharp shudder passed through her.

"No," said Lord Chetwynde, "I have nothing to ask--nothing from
_you_! Your last letter has quelled all desire. I would rather remain
 in ignorance, and know nothing of the last words of him whom I so
loved than ask of _you_."

"He called me his daughter. He loved me," said Hilda, in a broken
voice.

"And yet you were capable of turning away from his death-bed and
writing that letter to his son. You did it coolly and remorselessly."

"It was the anguish of bereavement and despair."

"No; it was the malignancy of the Evil One. Nothing else could have
prompted those hideous sneers. In real sorrow sneering is the last
thing that one thinks of. But enough. I do not wish to speak in this
way to a lady. Yet to you I can speak in no other way. I will
therefore retire."

And, with a bow, Lord Chetwynde withdrew.

Hilda looked after him, as he left, with staring eyes, and with a
face as pallid as that of a corpse. She rose to her feet. Her hands
were clenched tight.

"He loves another," she groaned; "otherwise he never, never, never
could have been so pitiless!"



CHAPTER XXXVIII.


SETTING THE DOG ON THE LION'S TRACK.


After this failure in the effort to come to an understanding with
Lord Chetwynde, Hilda sank into despondency. She scarcely knew what
there was to be done when such an appeal as this had failed. She had
humbled herself in the dust before him--she had manifested
unmistakably her love, yet he had disregarded all. After this what
remained? It was difficult to say. Yet, for herself, she still looked
forward to the daily meeting with him: glad of this, since fate would
give her nothing better. The change which had come over her was not
one which could be noticed by the servants, so that there was no
chance of her secret being discovered by them; but there was another
at Chetwynde Castle who very quickly discovered all, one who was led
to this perhaps by the sympathy of his own feelings. There was that
secret within his own heart which made him watchful and attentive and
observant. No change in her face and manner, however slight, could
fail to be noticed by this man, who treasured up every varying
expression of hers within his heart. And this change which had come
over her was one which affected him by much more than the mere
variation of features. It entered into his daily life and disarranged
all his plans.

Before the arrival of Lord Chetwynde, Gual tier, in his capacity of
steward, had been accustomed to have frequent interviews with Hilda.
Now they were all over. Since that arrival he had not spoken to her
once, nor had he once got so much as a glance of her eye. At first he
accounted for it from very natural causes. He attributed it to the
anxiety which she felt at the presence of Lord Chetwynde, and at the
desperate part which she had to play. For some time this seemed
sufficient to account for every thing. But afterward he learned
enough to make him think it possible that there were other causes. He
heard the gossip of the servants' hall, and from that he learned that
it was the common opinion of the servants that Lady Chetwynde was
very fond of Lord Chetwynde, but that the latter was very distant and
reserved in his manner toward her. This started him on a new track
for conjecture, and he soon learned and saw enough to get some
general idea of the truth. Yet, after all, it was not the actual
truth which he conjectured. His conclusion was that Hilda was playing
a deep game in order to win Lord Chetwynde's affection to herself.
The possibility of her actually loving him did not then suggest
itself. He looked upon it as one of those profound pieces of policy
for which he was always on the look-out from her. The discovery of
this disturbed him. The arrival of Lord Chetwynde had troubled him;
but this new plan of Hilda's troubled him still more, and all the
more because he was now shut out from her confidence.

"The little thing is up to a new game; and she'll beat," he said to
himself; "she'll beat, for she always beats. She's got a long head,
and I can only guess what it is that she is up to. She'll never tell
me." And he thought, with some pensiveness, upon the sadness of that
one fact, that she would never tell him. Meanwhile he contented
himself with watching until something more definite could be known.

Lord Chetwynde had much to occupy him in his father's papers. He
spent the greater part of his time in the library, and though weeks
passed he did not seem to be near the end of them. At other times he
rode about the grounds or sauntered through the groves. The seclusion
in which the Castle had always been kept was not disturbed. The
county families were too remote for ordinary calling, or else they
did not know of his arrival. Certain it is that no one entered these
solitary precincts except the doctor. The state of things here was
puzzling to him. He saw Lord Chetwynde whenever he came, but he never
saw Lady Chetwynde. On his asking anxiously about her he was told
that she was well. It was surprising to him that she never showed
herself, but he attributed it to her grief for the dead. He did not
know what had become of Miss Krieff, whose zeal in the sick-room had
won his admiration. Lord Chetwynde was too haughty for him to
question, and the servants were all new faces. It was therefore with
much pleasure that he one day saw Gualtier. Him he accosted, shaking
hands with him earnestly, and with a familiarity which he had never
cared to bestow in former days. But curiosity was stronger than his
sense of personal dignity. Gualtier allowed himself to be questioned,
and gave the doctor that information which he judged best for the
benefit of the world without. Lady Chetwynde, he told him, was still
mourning over the loss of her best friend, and even the return of her
husband had not been sufficient to fill the vacant place. Miss
Krieff, he said, had gone to join her friends in North Britain, and
he, Gualtier, had been appointed steward in place of the former one,
who had gone away to London. This information was received by the
doctor with great satisfaction, since it set his mind at rest
completely about certain things which had puzzled him.

That evening one of the servants informed Gualtier that Lady
Chetwynde wished to see him in the library. His pale face flushed up,
and his eyes lightened as he walked there. She was alone. He bowed
reverentially, yet not before he had cast toward her a look full of
unutterable devotion. She was paler than before. There was sadness on
her face. She had thrown herself carelessly in an arm-chair, and her
hands were nervously clutching one another. Never before had he seen
any thing approaching to emotion in this singular being. Her present
agitation surprised him, for he had not suspected the possibility of
any thing like this.

She returned his greeting with a slight bow, and then fell for a time
into a fit of abstraction, during which she did not take any further
notice of him. Gualtier was more impressed by this than by any other
thing. Always before she had been self-possessed, with all her
faculties alive and in full activity. Now she seemed so dull and so
changed that he did not know what to think. He began to fear the
approach of some calamity by which all his plans would be ruined.

"Mr. M'Kenzie," said Hilda, rousing herself at length, and speaking
in a harsh, constrained voice, which yet was low and not audible
except to one who was near her, "have you seen Lord Chetwynde since
his arrival?"

"No, my lady," said Gualtier, respectfully, yet wondering at the
abruptness with which she introduced the subject. For it had always
hitherto been her fashion to lead the conversation on by gradual
approaches toward the particular thing about which she might wish to
make inquiries.

"I thought," she continued, in the same tone, "that he might have
called you up to gain information about the condition of the estate."

"No, my lady, he has never shown any such desire. In fact, he does
not seem to be conscious that there is such a person as myself in
existence."

"Since he came," said Hilda, dreamily, "he has been altogether
absorbed in the investigation of papers relating to his father's
business affairs; and as he has not been here for many years, during
which great changes must have taken place in the condition of things,
I did not know but that he might have sought to gain information from
you."

"No, my lady," said Gualtier once more, still preserving that
unfaltering respect with which he always addressed her, and wondering
whither these inquiries might be tending, or what they might mean.
That she should ask him any thing about Lord Chetwynde filled him
with a vague alarm, and seemed to show that the state of things was
unsatisfactory, if not critical. He was longing to ask about that
first meeting of hers with Lord Chetwynde, and also about the
position which they at present occupied toward one another--a
position most perplexing to him, and utterly inexplicable. Yet on
such subjects as these he did not dare to speak. He could only hope
that she herself would speak of them to him, and that she had chosen
this occasion to make a fresh confidence to him.

After his last answer Hilda did not say any thing for some time. Her
nervousness seemed to increase. Her hands still clutched one another;
and her bosom heaved and fell in quick, rapid breathings which showed
the agitation that existed within her.

"Lord Chetwynde," said Hilda at last, rousing herself with a visible
effort, and looking round with something of her old stealthy
watchfulness--"Lord Chetwynde is a man who keeps his own counsel, and
does not choose to give even so much as a hint about the nature of
his occupations. He has now some purpose on his mind which he does
not choose to confide to me, and I do not know how it is possible for
me to find it out. Yet it is a thing which must be of importance, for
he is not a man who would stay here so long and labor so hard on a
mere trifle. His ostensible occupation is the business of the estate,
and certain plans arising in connection with this; but beneath this
ostensible occupation there is some purpose which it is impossible
for me to fathom. Yet I must find it out, whatever it is, and I have
invited you here to see if I could not get your assistance. You once
went to work keenly and indefatigably to investigate something for
me; and here is an occasion on which, if you feel inclined, you can
again exercise your talents. It may result in something of the
greatest importance."

Hilda had spoken in low tones, and as she concluded she looked at
Gualtier with a penetrating glance. Such a request showed him that he
was once more indispensable. His heart beat fast, and his face
lighted up with joy.

"My lady," said he, in a low, earnest voice, "it surely can not be
necessary for me to tell you that I am always ready to do your
bidding, whatever it may be. There is no necessity to remind me of
the past. When shall I begin this? At once? Have you formed any plan
of action which you would like me to follow?"

"Only in a general way," said Hilda. "It is not at Chetwynde that I
want you to work, but elsewhere. You can do nothing here. I myself
have already done all that you could possibly do, and more too, in
the way of investigation in this house. But in spite of all my
efforts I have found nothing, and so I see plainly that the search
must be carried on in another place."

"And where may that be?" asked Gualtier.

"He has some purpose in his mind," Hilda went on to say--"some one
engrossing object, I know not what, which is far more important than
any thing relating to business, and which is his one great aim in
life at present. This is what I wish to find out. It may threaten
danger, and if so I wish to guard against it."

"Is there any danger?" asked Gualtier, cautiously.

"Not as yet--that is, so far as I can see."

"Does he suspect any thing?" said Gualtier, in a whisper.

"Nothing."

"You seem agitated."

"Never mind what I seem," said Hilda, coldly; "my health is not good.
As to Lord Chetwynde, he is going away in a short time, and the place
to which he goes will afford the best opportunity for finding out
what his purpose is. I wish to know if it is possible for you in any
way to follow him so as to watch him. You did something once before
that was not more difficult."

Gualtier smiled.

"I think I can promise, my lady," said he, "that I will do all that
you desire. I only wish that it was something more difficult, so that
I could do the more for you."

"You may get your wish," said Hilda, gloomily, and in a tone that
penetrated to the inmost soul of Gualtier. "You may get your wish,
and that, too, before long. But at present I only wish you to do
this. It is a simple task of watchfulness and patient observation."

"I will do it as no man ever did it before," said Gualtier. "You
shall know the events of every hour of his life till he comes back
again."

"That will do, then. Be ready to leave whenever he does. Choose your
own way of observing him, either openly or secretly; you yourself
know best."

Hilda spoke very wearily, and rose to withdraw. As she passed,
Gualtier stood looking at her with an imploring face. She carelessly
held out her hand. He snatched it in both of his and pressed it to
his lips.

"My God!" he cried, "it's like ice! What is the matter?"

Hilda did not seem to hear him, but walked slowly out of the room.

About a week after this Lord Chetwynde took his departure.



CHAPTER XXXIX.


OBED STANDS AT BAY.


On leaving Marseilles all Zillah's troubles seemed to return to her
once more. The presence of Windham had dispelled them for a time; now
that he was present no longer there was nothing to save her from
sorrow. She had certainly enough to weigh down any one, and among all
her sorrows her latest grief stood pre-eminent. The death of the
Earl, the cruel discovery of those papers in her father's drawer by
which there seemed to be a stain on her father's memory, the
intolerable insult which she had endured in that letter from Guy to
his father, the desperate resolution to fly, the anguish which she
had endured on Hilda's account, and, finally, the agony of that lone
voyage in the drifting schooner--all these now came back to her with
fresher violence, recurring again with overpowering force from the
fact that they had been kept off so long. Yet there was not one
memory among all these which so subdued her as the memory of the
parting scene with Windham. This was the great sorrow of her life.
Would she ever meet him again? Perhaps not. Or why should she? Of
what avail would it be?

Passing over the seas she gave herself up to her recollections, and
to the mournful thoughts that crowded in upon her. Among other
things, she could not help thinking and wondering about Windham's
despair. What was the reason that he had always kept such a close
watch over himself? What was the reason why he never ventured to
utter in words that which had so often been expressed in his eloquent
face? Above all, what was the cause of that despairing cry which had
escaped him when they exchanged their last farewell? It was the
recognition on his part of some insuperable obstacle that lay between
them. That was certain. Yet what could the obstacle be? Clearly, it
could not have been the knowledge of her own position. It was
perfectly evident that Windham knew nothing whatever about her, and
could have not even the faintest idea of the truth. It must therefore
be, as she saw it, that this obstacle could only be one which was in
connection with himself. And what could that be? Was he a priest
under vows of celibacy? She smiled at the preposterous idea. Was he
engaged to be married in England, and was he now on the way to his
bride? Could this be it? and was his anguish the result of the
conflict between love and honor in his breast? This may have been the
case. Finally, was he married already? She could not tell. She rather
fancied that it was an engagement, not a marriage; and it was in this
that she thought she could find the meaning of his passionate and
despairing words.

Passing over those waters where once she had known what it was to be
betrayed, and had tasted of the bitterness of death, she did not find
that they had power to renew the despair which they once had caused.
Behind the black memory of that hour of anguish rose up another
memory which engrossed all her thoughts. If she had tears, it was for
this. It was Windham, whose image filled all her soul, and whose last
words echoed through her heart. For as she gazed on these waters it
was not of the drifting schooner that she thought, not of the hours
of intense watchfulness, not of the hope deferred that gradually
turned into despair; it was rather of the man who, as she had often
heard since, was the one who first recognized her, and came to her in
her senselessness, and bore her in his arms back to life. Had he done
well in rescuing her? Had he not saved her for a greater sorrow?
Whether he had or not mattered not. He had saved her, and her life
was his. That strange rescue constituted a bond between them which
could not be dissolved. Their lives might run henceforth in lines
which should never meet, but still they belonged henceforth to one
another, though they might never possess one another. Out from among
these waters there came also sweeter memories--the memories of
voyages over calm seas, under the shadow of the hoary Alps, where
they passed away those golden hours, knowing that the end must come,
yet resolved to enjoy to the full the rapture of the present. These
were the thoughts that sustained her. No grief could rob her of
these; but in cherishing them her soul found peace.

Those into whose society she had been thrown respected her grief and
Her reticence. For the first day she had shut herself up in her room;
but the confinement became intolerable, and she was forced to go out
on deck. She somewhat dreaded lest Obed Chute, out of the very
kindness of his heart, would come and try to entertain her. She did
not feel in the mood for talking. Any attempt at entertaining her she
felt would be unendurable. But she did not know the perfect
refinement of sentiment that dwelt beneath the rough exterior of
Obed. He seemed at once to divine her state of mind. With the utmost
delicacy he found a place for her to sit, but said little or nothing
to her, and for all the remainder of the voyage treated her with a
silent deference of attention which was most grateful. She knew that
he was not neglectful. She saw a hundred times a day that Obed's mind
was filled with anxiety about her, and that to minister to her
comfort was his one idea. But it was not in words that this was
expressed. It was in helping her up and down from the cabin to the
deck, in fetching wraps, in speaking a cheerful word from time to
time, and, above all, in keeping his family away from her, that he
showed his watchful attention. Thus the time passed, and Zillah was
left to brood over her griefs, and to conjecture hopelessly and at
random about the future. What would that future bring forth? Would
the presence of Hilda console her in any way? She did not see how it
could. After the first joy of meeting, she felt that she would
relapse into her usual sadness. Time only could relieve her, and her
only hope was patience.

At last they landed at Naples. Obed took the party to a handsome
house on the Strada Nuova, where he had lodged when he was in Naples
before, and where he obtained a suite of apartments in front, which
commanded a magnificent view of the bay, with all its unrivaled
scenery, together with the tumultuous life of the street below. Here
he left them, and departed himself almost immediately to begin his
search after Hilda. Her letter mentioned that she was stopping at the
"Hotel de l'Europe," in the Strada Toledo; and to this place he first
directed his way.

On arriving here he found a waiter who could speak English, which was
a fortunate thing, in his opinion, as he could not speak a word of
any other language. He at once asked if a lady by the name of Miss
Lorton was stopping here.

The waiter looked at him with a peculiar glance, and surveyed him
From head to foot. There was something in the expression of his face
which appeared very singular to Obed--a mixture of eager curiosity
and surprise, which to him, to say the least, seemed uncalled for
under the circumstances. He felt indignant at such treatment from a
waiter.

"If you will be kind enough to stare less and answer my question,"
said he, "I will feel obliged; but perhaps you don't understand
English."

"I beg pardon," said the other, in very good English; "but what was
the name of the lady?"

"Miss Lorton," said Obed.

The waiter looked at him again with the same peculiar glance, and
then replied:

"I don't know, but I will ask. Wait here a moment."

Saying this, he departed, and Obed saw him speaking to some half a
dozen persons in the hall very earnestly and hurriedly; then he went
off, and in about five minutes returned in company with the master of
the hotel.

"Were you asking after a lady?" said he, in very fair English, and
bowing courteously to Obed.

"I was," said Obed, who noticed at the same time that this man was
regarding him with the same expression of eager and scrutinizing
curiosity which he had seen on the face of the other.

"And what was the name?"

"Miss Lorton."

"Miss Lorton?" repeated the other; "yes, she is here. Will you be
kind enough to follow me to the parlor until I see whether she is at
home or not, and make her acquainted with your arrival?"

At this information, which was communicated with extreme politeness,
Obed felt such immense relief that he forgot altogether about the
very peculiar manner in which he had been scrutinized. A great weight
seemed suddenly to have been lifted off his soul. For the first time
in many weeks he began to breathe freely. He thought of the joy which
he would bring to that poor young girl who had been thrown so
strangely under his protection, and who was so sad. For a moment he
hesitated whether to wait any longer or not. His first impulse was to
hurry away and bring her here; but then in a moment he thought it
would be far better to wait, and to take back Miss Lorton with him in
triumph to her sister.

The others watched his momentary hesitation with some apparent
anxiety; but at length it was dispelled by Obed's reply:

"Thank you. I think I had better wait and see her. I hope I won't be
detained long."

"Oh no. She is doubtless in her room. You will only have to wait a
few minutes."

Saying this, they led the way to a pleasant apartment looking out on
the Strada Toledo, and here Obed took a seat, and lost himself in
speculations as to the appearance of the elder Miss Lorton. In about
five minutes the door was opened, and the master of the hotel made
his appearance again.

"I find," said he, politely, "that Miss Lorton is not in. She went
out only a few minutes before you came. She left word with her maid,
however, that she was going to a shop up the Strada Toledo to buy
some jewelry. I am going to send a messenger to hasten her return.
Shall I send your name by him?"

"Well," said Obed, "I don't know as it's necessary. Better wait till
I see her myself."

The landlord said nothing, but looked at him with strange
earnestness.

"By-the-way," said Obed, "how is she?"

"She?"

"Yes; Miss Lorton."

"Oh," said the landlord, "very well."

"She recovered from her illness then?"

"Oh yes."

"Is she in good spirits?"

"Good spirits?"

"Yes; is she happy?"

"Oh yes."

"I am glad to hear it. I was afraid she might be melancholy."

"Oh no," said the landlord, with some appearance of confusion; "oh
no. She's very well. Oh yes."

His singular behavior again struck Obed rather oddly, and he stared
at him for a moment. But he at last thought that the landlord might
not know much about the health or the happiness of his guest, and was
answering from general impressions.

"I will hasten then, Sir," said the landlord, advancing to the door,
"to send the messenger; and if you will be kind enough to wait, she
will be here soon."

He bowed, and going out, he shut the door behind him. Obed, who had
watched his embarrassment, thought that he heard the key turn. The
thing seemed very odd, and he stepped up to the door to try it. It
was locked!

"Well, I'll be darned!" cried Obed, standing before the door and
regarding it with astonishment. "I've seen some curious foreign
fashions, but this here _I_talian fashion of locking a man in is a
little the curiousest. And what in thunder is the meaning of it?"

He looked at the door with a frown, while there was that on his face
which showed that he might be deliberating whether to kick through
the panels or not. But his momentary indignation soon subsided, and,
with a short laugh, he turned away and strolled up to the window with
an indifferent expression. There he drew up an arm-chair, and seating
himself in this, he looked out into the street. For some time his
attention and his thoughts were all engaged by the busy scene; but at
length he came to himself, and began to think that it was about time
for the return of Miss Lorton. He paced up and down the room
impatiently, till growing tired of this rather monotonous employment,
he sought the window again. Half an hour had now passed, and Obed's
patience was fast failing. Still he waited on, and another half hour
passed. Then he deliberated whether it would not be better to go back
to his rooms, and bring the younger Miss Lorton here to see her
sister. But this thought he soon dismissed. Having waited so long for
the sake of carrying out his first plan, it seemed weak to give it up
on account of a little impatience. He determined, however, to
question the landlord again; so he pulled at the bell.

No answer came.

He pulled again and again for some minutes.

Still there was no answer.

He now began to feel indignant, and determined to resort to extreme
measures. So going to the door, he rapped upon it with his stick
several times, each time waiting for an answer. But no answer came.
Then he beat incessantly against the door, keeping up a long,
rolling, rattling volley of knocks without stopping, and making noise
enough to rouse the whole house, even if every body in the house
should happen to be in the deepest of slumbers. Yet even now for some
time there was no response; and Obed at length was beginning to think
of his first purpose, and preparing to kick through the panels, when
his attention was aroused by the sound of heavy footsteps in the
hall. They came nearer and nearer as he stood waiting, and at length
stopped in front of the door. His only thought was that this
was the lady whom he sought so he stepped back, and hastily composed
his face to a pleasant smile of welcome. With this pleasant smile he
awaited the opening of the door.

But as the door opened his eyes were greeted by a sight very
different from what he anticipated. No graceful lady-like form was
there--no elder and maturer likeness of that Miss Lorton whose face
was now so familiar to him, and so dear--but a dozen or so gens
d'armes, headed by the landlord. The latter entered the room, while
the others stood outside in the hall.

"Well," said Obed, angrily. "What is the meaning of this parade?
Where is Miss Lorton?"

"These gentlemen," said the landlord, with much politeness, "will
convey you to the residence of that charming lady."

"It seems to me," said Obed, sternly, "that you have been humbugging
me. Give me a civil answer, or I swear I'll wring your neck. Is Miss
Lorton here or not?"

The landlord stepped back hastily a pace or two, and made a motion to
the gens d'armes. A half dozen of these filed into the room, and
arranged themselves by the windows. The rest remained in the hall.

"What is the meaning of this?" said Obed. "Are you crazy?"

"The meaning is this," said the other, sharply and fiercely. "I am
not the landlord of the Hotel de l'Europe, but sub-agent of the
Neapolitan police. And I arrest you in the name of the king."

"Arrest _me_!" cried Obed. "What the deuce do you mean?"

"It means, Monsieur, that you are trapped at last. I have watched for
you for seven weeks, and have got you now. You need not try to
resist. That is impossible."

Obed looked round in amazement. What was the meaning of it all? There
were the gens d'armes--six in the hall, and six in the room. All
were armed. All looked prepared to fall on him at the slightest
signal.

"Are you a born fool?" he cried at last, turning to the "agent." "Do
you know what you are doing? I am an American, a native of the great
republic, a free man, and a gentleman. What do you mean by this
insult, and these beggarly policemen?"


[Illustration: "Don't Move, Or I'll Blow Your Brains Out!"]


"I mean this," said the other, "that you are my prisoner."

"I am, am I?" said Obed, with a grim smile.

"A prisoner! My friend, that is a difficult thing to come to pass
without my consent."

And saying this, he quietly drew a revolver from his breast pocket.

"Now," said he, "my good friend, look here. I have this little
instrument, and I'm a dead shot. I don't intend to be humbugged. If
any one of you dare to make a movement I'll put a bullet through you.
And you, you scoundrel, stand where you are, or you'll get the first
bullet. You've got hold of the wrong man this time, but I'm going to
get satisfaction for this out of your infernal beggarly government.
As to you, answer my questions. First, who the deuce do you take me
to be? You've made some infernal mistake or other."

The agent cowered beneath the stern eye of Obed. He felt himself
covered by his pistol, and did not dare to move. The gens d'armes
looked disturbed, but made no effort to interfere. They felt that
they had to do with a desperate man, and waited for orders.

"Don't you hear my question?" thundered Obed. "What the deuce is the
meaning of this, and who the deuce do you take me for? Don't move,"
he cried, seeing a faint movement of the agent's hand; "or I'll blow
your brains out; I will, by the Eternal!"

"Beware," faltered the agent; "I belong to the police. I am doing my
duty."

"Pooh! What is your beggarly police to me, or your beggarly king
either, and all his court? There are a couple of Yankee frigates out
there that could bring down the whole concern in a half hour's
bombardment. You've made a mistake, you poor, pitiful concern; but
I'm in search of information, and I'm bound to get it. Answer me now
without any more humbugging. What's the meaning of this?"

"I was ordered to watch for any one who might come here and ask for
'_Miss Lorton_,'" said the agent, who spoke like a criminal to a
judge. "I have watched here for seven weeks. You came to-day, and you
are under arrest."

"Ah?" said Obed, as a light began to flash upon him. "Who ordered you
to watch?"

"The prefect."

"Do you know any thing about the person whom you were to arrest?"

"No."

"Don't you know his crime?"

"No. It had something to do with the French police."

"Do you know his name?"

"Yes."

"What was it?"

"_Gualtier_," said the agent.

"And you think I am Gualtier?"

"Yes."

"And so there is no such person as Miss Lorton here?"

"No."

"Hasn't she been here at all?"

"No; no such person has ever been here."

"That'll do," said Obed, gravely, and with some sadness in his face.
As he spoke, he put back his revolver into his pocket. "My good
friend," said he, "you've made a mistake, and put me to some
annoyance, but you've only done your duty. I forgive you. I am not
this man Gualtier whom you are after, but I am the man that is after
him. Perhaps it would have been better for me to have gone straight
to the police when I first came, but I thought I'd find her here.
However, I can go there now. I have a message and a letter of
introduction to the prefect of police here from the prefect at
Marseilles, which I am anxious now to deliver as soon as possible.
So, my young friend, I'll go with you after all, and you needn't
be in the least afraid of me."

The agent still looked dubious; but Obed, who was in a hurry now, and
had got over his indignation, took from his pocket-book some official
documents bearing the marks of the French prefecture, and addressed
to that of Naples. This satisfied the agent, and, with many
apologies, he walked off with Obed down to the door, and there
entering a cab, they drove to the prefecture.



CHAPTER XL.


GLIMPSES OF THE TRUTH.


Meanwhile, during Obed's absence, Zillah remained in the Strada
Nuova. The windows looked out upon the street and upon the bay,
commanding a view of the most glorious scenery on earth, and also of
the most exciting street spectacles which any city can offer. Full of
impatience though she was, she could not remain unaffected by that
first glimpse of Naples, which she then obtained from those windows
by which she was sitting. For what city is like Naples? Beauty, life,
laughter, gayety, all have their home here. The air itself is
intoxication. The giddy crowds that whirl along in every direction
seem to belong to a different and a more joyous race than sorrowing
humanity. For ages Naples has been "the captivating," and still she
possesses the same charm, and she will possess it for ages yet to
come.

The scene upon which Zillah gazed was one which might have brought
distraction and alleviation to cares and griefs even heavier than
hers. Never had she seen such a sight as this which she now beheld.
There before her spread away the deep blue waters of Naples Bay,
dotted by the snow-white sails of countless vessels, from the small
fishing-boat up to the giant ship of war. On that sparkling bosom of
the deep was represented almost every thing that floats, from the
light, swift, and curiously rigged lateen sloop, to the modern
mail-packet. Turning from the sea the eye might rest upon the
surrounding shores, and find there material of even deeper interest.
On the right, close by, was the projecting castle, and sweeping
beyond this the long curving beach, above which, far away, rose the
green trees of the gardens of the Villa Reale. Farther away rose the
hills on whose slope stands what is claimed to be the grave of
Virgil, whose picturesque monument, whether it be really his or not,
suggests his well-known epitaph:


  "I sing flocks, tillage, heroes. Mantua gave
    Me life; Brundusium death; Naples a grave."


Through those hills runs the Titanic grotto of Posilippo, which leads
to that historic land beyond--the land of the Cumaeans and Oscans;
or, still more, the land of the luxurious Romans of the empire; where
Sylla lived, and Cicero loved to retire; which Julius loved, and
Horace, and every Roman of taste or refinement. There spread away the
lake Lucrine, bordered by the Elysian Fields; there was the long
grotto through which Aeneas passed; where once the Cumaean Sibyl
dwelt and delivered her oracles. There was Misenum, where once the
Roman navy rode at anchor; Baiae, where once all Roman luxury loved
to pass the summer season; Puteoli, where St. Paul landed when on his
way to Caesar's throne. There were the waters in which Nero thought
to drown Agrippina, and over which another Roman emperor built that
colossal bridge which set at defiance the prohibition of nature.
There was the rock of Ischia, terminating the line of coast; and out
at sea, immediately in front, the isle of Capri, forever associated
with the memory of Tiberius, with his deep wiles, his treachery, and
his remorseless cruelty. There, too, on the left and nearest Capri,
were the shores of Sorrento, that earthly paradise whose trees are
always green, whose fruits always ripe; there the cave of Polyphemus
penetrates the lofty mountains, and brings back that song of Homer by
which it is immortalized. Coming nearer, the eye rested on the
winding shores of Castellamare, on vineyards and meadows and
orchards, which fill all this glorious land. Nearer yet the scene was
dominated by the stupendous form of Vesuvius, at once the glory and
the terror of all this scene, from whose summit there never ceases to
come that thin line of smoke, the symbol of possible ruin to all who
dwell within sight of it. Round it lie the buried cities, whose
charred remains have been exhumed to tell what may yet be the fate of
those other younger cities which have arisen on their ashes.

While the scene beyond was so enthralling, there was one nearer by
which was no less so. This was the street itself, with that wild,
never-ending rush of riotous, volatile, multitudinous life, which can
be equaled by no other city. There the crowd swept along on
horseback, on wheels, on foot; gentlemen riding for pleasure, or
dragoons on duty; parties driving into the country; tourists on their
way to the environs; market farmers with their rude carts;
wine-sellers; fig-dealers; peddlers of oranges, of dates, of
anisette, of water; of macaroni. Through the throng innumerable
calashes dashed to and fro, crowded down, in true Neapolitan fashion,
with inconceivable numbers; for in Naples the calash is not full
unless a score or so are in some way clinging to it--above, below,
before, behind. There, too, most marked of all, were the lazaroni,
whose very existence in Naples is a sign of the ease with which life
is sustained in so fair a spot, who are born no one knows where, who
live no one knows how, but who secure as much of the joy of life as
any other human beings; the strange result of that endless
combination of races which have come together in Naples--the Greek,
the Italian, the Norman, the Saracen, and Heaven only knows what
else.

Such scenes as these, such crowds, such life, such universal
movement, for a long time attracted Zillah's attention; and she
watched them with childish eagerness. At last, however, the novelty
was over, and she began to wonder why Obed Chute had not returned.
Looking at her watch, she found, to her amazement, that two hours had
passed since his departure. He had left at ten; it was then mid-day.
What was keeping him? She had expected him back before half an hour,
but he had not yet returned. She had thought that it needed but a
journey to the Hotel de l'Europe to find Hilda, and bring her here.
Anxiety now began to arise in her mind, and the scenes outside lost
all charm for her. Her impatience increased till it became
intolerable. Miss Chute saw her agitation, and made some attempt to
soothe her, but in vain. In fact, by one o'clock, Zillah had given
herself up to all sorts of fears. Sometimes she thought that Hilda
had grown tired of waiting, and had gone back to England, and was now
searching through France and Italy for her; again she thought that
perhaps she had experienced a relapse and had died here in Naples,
far away from all friends, while she herself was loitering in
Marseilles; at another time her fears took a more awful turn--her
thoughts turned on Gualtier--and she imagined that he had, perhaps,
come on to Naples to deal to Hilda that fate which he had tried to
deal to her. These thoughts were all maddening, and filled her with
uncontrollable agitation. She felt sure at last that some dread thing
had happened, which Obed Chute had discovered, and which he feared to
reveal to her. Therefore he kept away; and on no other grounds could
she account for his long-continued absence.

Two o'clock passed--and three, and four, and five. The suspense was
fearful to Zillah, so fearful, indeed, that at last she felt that it
would be a relief to hear any news--even the worst.

At length her suspense was ended. About half past five Obed returned.
Anxiety was on his face, and he looked at Zillah with an expression
of the deepest pity and commiseration. She on her part advanced to
meet him with white lips and trembling frame, and laid on his hand
her own, which was like ice.

"You have not found her?" she faltered, in a scarce audible voice.

Obed shook his head.

"She is dead, then!" cried Zillah; "she is dead! She died here--among
strangers--in Naples, and I--I delayed in Marseilles!"

A deep groan burst from her, and all the anguish of self-reproach and
keen remorse swept over her soul.

Obed Chute looked at her earnestly and mournfully.

"My child," said he, taking her little hand tenderly in both of
his--"my poor child--you need not be afraid that your sister is dead.
She is alive--as much as you are."

"Alive!" cried Zillah, rousing herself from her despair. "Alive! God
be thanked! Have you found out that? But where is she?"

"Whether God is to be thanked or not I do not know," said Obed; "but
it's my solemn belief that she is as much alive as she ever was."

"But where is she?" cried Zillah, eagerly. "Have you found out that?"

"It would take a man with a head as long as a horse to tell that,"
said Obed, sententiously.

"What do you mean? Have you not found out that? How do you know that
she is alive? You only hope so--as I do. You do not know so. Oh, do
not, do not keep me in suspense."

"I mean," said Obed, slowly and solemnly, "that this sister of yours
has never been in Naples; that there is no such steamer in existence
as that which she mentions in her letter which you showed me; that
there is no such ship, and no such captain, and no such captain's
wife, as those which she writes about; that no such person was ever
picked up adrift in that way, and brought here, except your own poor
innocent, trustful, loving self--you, my poor dear child, who have
been betrayed by miserable assassins. And by the Eternal!" cried
Obed, with a deeper solemnity in his voice, raising up at the same
time his colossal arm and his clenched fist to heaven--"by the
Eternal! I swear I'll trace all this out yet, and pay it out in full
to these infernal devils!"

"Oh, my God!" cried Zillah. "What do you mean? Do you mean that Hilda
has not been here at all?"

"No such person has ever been in Naples."

"Why, was she not picked up adrift? and where could they have taken
her?"

"She never was picked up. Rely upon that. No such ship as the one she
mentions has ever been here."

"Then she has written down 'Naples' in mistake," cried Zillah, while
a shudder passed through her at Obed's frightful insinuation.

"No," said Obed. "She wrote it down deliberately, and wrote it
several times. Her repetition of that name, her description of the
charms of Naples, show that she did this intentionally. Besides, your
envelope has the Naples postage stamps and the Naples post-marks. It
was mailed here, whether it was written here or not. It was sent from
here to fetch you to this place, on this journey, which resulted as
you remember."

"Oh, my God!" cried Zillah, as the full horror of Obed's meaning
began to dawn upon her. "What do you mean? What do you mean? Do you
wish to drive me to utter despair? Tell me where you have been and
what you have done. Oh, my God! Is any new grief coming?"

"My child, the Lord on high knows," said Obed Chute, with solemn
emphasis, "that I would cut off my right hand with my own
bowie-knife, rather than bring back to you the news I do. But what
can be done? It is best for you to know the whole truth, bitter as it
is."

"Go on," said Zillah, with an effort to be calm.

"Come," said Obed, and he led her to a seat. "Calm yourself, and
prepare for the worst. For at the outset, and by way of preparation
and warning, I will say that yours is a little the darkest case that
I ever got acquainted with. The worst of it is that there is ever so
much behind it all which I don't know any thing about."

Zillah leaned her head upon her hand and looked at him with awful
forebodings.

"When I left you," said Obed Chute, "I went at once to the Hotel de
l'Europe, expecting to find her there, or at least to hear of her. I
will not relate the particulars of my inquiry there. I will only say
that no such person as Miss Lorton had been there. I found, however,
that the police had been watching there for seven weeks for Gualtier.
I went with them to the Prefecture of Police. I gave my letter of
introduction from the prefect of Marseilles, and was treated with the
utmost attention. The prefect himself informed me that they had been
searching into the whole case for weeks. They had examined all the
vessels that had arrived, and had inspected all their logs. They had
searched through foreign papers. They had visited every house in the
city to which a stranger might go. The prefect showed me his
voluminous reports, and went with me to the Harbor Bureau to show me
the names of ships which arrived here and were owned here. Never
could there be a more searching investigation than this had been.
What was the result?

"Listen," said Obed, with impressive emphasis, yet compassionately,
as Zillah hung upon his words. "I will tell you all in brief. First,
no such person as Miss Lorton ever came to the Hotel de l'Europe.
Secondly, no such person ever came to Naples at all. Thirdly, no ship
arrived here at the date mentioned by your sister. Fourthly, no ship
of that name ever came here at all. Fifthly, no ship arrived here at
any time this year that had picked up any one at sea. The whole thing
is untrue. It is a base fiction made up for some purpose."

"A fiction!" cried Zillah. "Never--never--she could not so deceive
me."

"Can the writing be forged?"

"I don't see how it can," said Zillah, piteously. "I know her writing
so well," and she drew the letter from her pocket. "See--it is a very
peculiar hand--and then, how could any one speak as she does about
those things of hers which she wished me to bring? No--it can not be
a forgery."

"It is not," said Obed Chute. "It is worse."

"Worse?"

"Yes, worse. If it had been a forgery she would not have been
implicated in this. But now she does stand implicated in this
horrible betrayal of you."

"Heavens! how terrible! It must be impossible. Oh, Sir! we have lived
together and loved one another from childhood. She knows all my
heart, as I know hers. How can it be? Perhaps in her confusion she
has imagined herself in Naples."

"No," said Obed, sternly. "I have told you about the post-marks."

"Oh, Sir! perhaps her mind was wandering after the suffering of that
sea voyage."

"But she never had any voyage," said Obed Chute, grimly. "This letter
was written by her somewhere with the intention of making you believe
that she was in Naples. It was mailed here. If she had landed in
Palermo or any other place you would have had some sign of it. But
see--there is not a sign. Nothing but 'Naples' is here, inside and
out--nothing but 'Naples;' and she never came to Naples! She wrote
this to bring you here."

"Oh, my God! how severely you judge her! You will drive me mad by
insinuating such frightful suspicions. How is it possible that one
whom I know so well and love so dearly could be such a demon as this?
It can not be."

"Listen, my child," said Obed Chute, tenderly. "Strengthen yourself.
You have had much to bear in your young life, but this is easier to
bear than that was which you must have suffered that morning when you
first woke and found the water in your cabin. Tell me--in that hour
when you rushed up on deck and saw that you were betrayed--in that
hour--did no thought come to your mind that there was some other than
Gualtier who brought this upon you?"

Zillah looked at him with a frightened face, and said not a word.

"Better to face the worst. Let the truth be known, and face it,
whatever it is. Look, now. She wrote this letter which brought you
here--this letter--every word of which is a lie; she it was who sent
Gualtier to you to bring you here; she it was who recommended to you
that miscreant who betrayed you, on whose tracks the police of France
and Italy are already set. How do you suppose she will appear in the
eyes of the French police? Guilty, or not guilty?"

Zillah muttered some inarticulate words, and then suddenly gasped
out, "But the hat and the basket found by the fishermen?"

"Decoys--common tricks," said Obed Chute, scornfully. "Clumsy enough,
but in this case successful."

Zillah groaned, and buried her face in her hands.

A long silence followed.

"My poor child," said Obed Chute at last, "I have been all the day
making inquiries every where, and have already engaged the police to
search out this mystery. There is one thing yet, however, which I
wish to know, and you only can tell it. I am sorry to have to talk in
this way, and give you any new troubles, but it is for your sake
only, and for your sake there is nothing which I would not do. Will
you answer me one question?"

Zillah looked up. Her face had now grown calm. The agitation had
passed. The first shock was over, but this calm which followed was
the calm of fixed grief--a grief too deep for tears.

"My question is this, and it is a very important one: Do you know, or
can you conceive of any motive which could have actuated this person
to plot against you in this way?"

"I do not."

"Think."

Zillah thought earnestly. She recalled the past, in which Hilda had
always been so devoted; she thought of the dying Earl by whose
bedside she had stood so faithfully; she thought of her deep sympathy
with her when the writings were found in her father's desk; she
thought of that deeper sympathy which she had manifested when Guy's
letter was opened; she thought of her noble devotion in giving up all
for her and following her into seclusion; she thought of their happy
life in that quiet little sea-side cottage. As all these memories
rose before her the idea of Hilda being a traitor seemed more
impossible than ever. But she no longer uttered any indignant
remonstrance.

"I am bewildered," she said. "I can think of nothing but love and
fidelity in connection with her. All our lives she has lived with me
and loved me. I can not think of any imaginable motive. I can imagine
that she, like myself, is the victim of some one else, but not that
she can do any thing else than love me."

"Yet she wrote that letter which is the cause of all your grief. Tell
me," said he, after a pause, "has she money of her own?"

"Yes--enough for her support."

"Is she your sister?"

Zillah seemed startled.

"I do not wish to intrude into your confidence--I only ask this to
gain some light while I am groping in the dark."

"She is not. She is no relation. But she has lived with me all my
life, and is the same as a sister."

"Does she treat you as her equal?"

"Yes," said Zillah, with some hesitation, "that is--of late."

"But you have been her superior until of late?"

"Yes."

"Would you have any objection to tell her name?"

"Yes," said Zillah; "I can not tell it. I will tell this much: Lorton
is an assumed name. It belongs neither to her nor to me. My name is
not Lorton."

"I knew that," said Obed Chute. "I hope you will forgive me. It was
not curiosity. I wished to investigate this to the bottom; but I am
satisfied--I respect your secret. Will you forgive me for the pain I
have caused you?"

Zillah placed her cold hand in his, and said:

"My friend, do not speak so. It hurts me to have you ask my
forgiveness."

Obed Chute's face beamed with pleasure.

"My poor child," he said, "you must go and rest yourself. Go and
sleep; perhaps you will be better for it."

And Zillah dragged herself out of the room.



CHAPTER XLI.


OBED ON THE RAMPAGE.


A long illness was the immediate result of so much excitement,
suffering, and grief. Gradually, however, Zillah struggled through
it; and at last, under the genial sky of Southern Italy, she began to
regain her usual health. The kindness of her friends was unfaltering
and incessant. Through this she was saved, and it was Obed's sister
who brought her back from the clutches of fever and the jaws of
death. She had as tender a heart as her brother, and had come to love
as a sister or a daughter this poor, friendless, childlike girl, who
had been thrown upon their hands in so extraordinary a manner.
Brought up in that puritanical school which is perpetually on the
look-out for "special providences," she regarded Zillah's arrival
among them as the most marked special providence which she had ever
known, and never ceased to affirm that something wonderful was
destined to come of all this. Around this faithful, noble-hearted,
puritanical dame, Zillah's affections twined themselves with
something like filial tenderness, and she learned in the course of
her illness to love that simple, straightforward, but high-souled
woman, whose love she had already won. Hitherto she had associated
the practice of chivalrous principles and the grand code of honor
exclusively with lofty gentlemen like the Earl and her father, or
with titled dames; now, however, she learned that here, in Obed
Chute, there was as fine an instinct of honor, as delicate a
sentiment of loyalty to friendship, as refined a spirit of
knight-errantry, as strong a zeal to succor the weak and to become
the champion of the oppressed, and as profound a loathing for all
that is base and mean, as in either of those grand old gentlemen by
whom her character had been moulded. Had Obed Chute been born an
English lord his manners might have had a finer polish, but no
training known among the sons of men could have given him a truer
appreciation of all that is noble and honorable and chivalrous. This
man, whose life had been passed in what Zillah considered as "vulgar
trade," seemed to her to have a nature as pure and as elevated as
that of the Chevalier Bayard, that hero _sans peur et sans reproche_.

Obed, as has already been seen, had a weakness for Neapolitan life,
and felt in his inmost soul that strange fascination which this city
possesses. He had traversed every nook and corner of Naples, and had
visited, with a strange mixture of enthusiasm and practical
observation, all its environs. In the course of his wanderings he had
fallen in with a party of his countrymen, all of whom were kindred
spirits, and who hailed his advent among them with universal
appreciation. Without in any way neglecting Zillah, he joined himself
to these new friends, and accompanied them in many an excursion into
the country about Naples--to Capua, to Cumae, to Paestum, and to many
other places. To some of these places it was dangerous to go in these
unsettled times; but this party laughed at dangers. They had acquired
a good-natured contempt for Italians and Italian courage; and as each
man, in spite of the Neapolitan laws, carried his revolver, they were
accustomed to venture any where with the most careless ease, and the
most profound indifference to any possible danger. In fact, any
approach to danger they would have hailed with joy, and to their
adventurous temper the appearance of a gang of bandits would have
been the greatest blessing which this land could afford.

The whole country was in a most disturbed condition. The Lombard war
had diffused a deep excitement among all classes. Every day new
rumors arose, and throughout the Neapolitan dominions the population
were filled with strange vague desires. The government itself was
demoralized--one day exerting its utmost power in the most repressive
measures, and on the next recalling its own acts, and retreating in
fear from the position which it had taken up. The troops were as
agitated as the people. It was felt that in case of an attempt at
revolution they could not be relied upon. In the midst of all other
fears one was predominant, and was all comprised in one magic
word--the name of that one man who alone, in our age, has shown
himself able to draw nations after him, and by the spell of his
presence to paralyze the efforts of kings. That one word was
"Garibaldi."

What he was, or what he was to do, were things which were but little
known to these ignorant Neapolitans. They simply accepted the name as
the symbol of some great change by which all were to be benefited. He
was, in their thoughts, half hero, half Messiah, before whom all
opposing armies should melt away, and by whom all wrongs should be
redressed. Through the heart of this agitated mass there penetrated
the innumerable ramifications of secret societies, whose agents
guided, directed, and intensified the prevalent excitement. These
were the men who originated those daily rumors which threw both
government and people into a fever of agitation; who taught new hopes
and new desires to the most degraded population of Christendom, and
inspired even the lazaroni with wild ideas of human rights--of
liberty, fraternity, and equality. These agents had a far-reaching
purpose, and to accomplish this they worked steadily, in all parts
and among all classes, until at last the whole state was ripe for
some vast revolution. Such was the condition of the people among whom
Obed and his friends pursued their pleasures.

The party with which Obed had connected himself was a varied one.
There were two officers from those "Yankee frigates" which he had
hurled in the teeth of the police agent at the Hotel de l'Europe; two
young fellows fresh from Harvard, and on their way to Heidelberg, who
had come direct from New York to Naples, and were in no hurry to
leave; a Southerner, fresh from a South Carolina plantation, making
his first tour in Europe; a Cincinnati lawyer; and a Boston clergyman
traveling for his health, to recruit which he had been sent away by
his loving congregation. With all these Obed at once fraternized, and
soon became the acknowledged leader, though, as he could not speak
Italian, he was compelled to delegate all quarrels with the natives
to the two Heidelbergians, who had studied Italian on their way out,
and had aired it very extensively since their arrival.

Having exhausted the land excursions, the party obtained a yacht, in
which they intended to make the circuit of the bay. On their first
voyage they went around its whole extent, and then, rounding the
island of Capri, they sailed along the coast to the southeast without
any very definite purpose.

The party presented a singular appearance. All were dressed in the
most careless manner, consulting convenience without any regard to
fashion. The Heidelbergians had ade their appearance in red flannel
shirts and broad-brimmed felt hats, which excited such admiration
that the others at once determined to equal them. Obed, the officers,
and the South Carolinian went off, and soon returned with red flannel
shirts and wide-awake hats of their own, for which they soon
exchanged their more correct costume. The lawyer and the clergyman
compromised the matter by donning reefing jackets; and thus the whole
party finally set out, and in this attire they made their cruise,
with many loud laughs at the strange transformation which a change of
dress had made in each other's appearance.

In this way they made the circuit of the bay, and proceeded along the
coast until they came opposite to Salerno. It was already four
o'clock, and as they could not get back to Naples that day they
decided to land at this historic town, with the hope that they might
be rewarded by some adventure. The yacht, therefore, was headed
toward the town, and flew rapidly over the waves to her destination.

On rounding a headland which lay between them and the town their
progress was slow. As they moved toward the harbor they sat lazily
watching the white houses as they stretched along the winding beach,
and the Boston clergyman, who seemed to be well up in his medieval
history, gave them an account of the former glories of this place,
when its university was the chief medical school of Europe, and
Arabian and Jewish professors taught to Christian students the
mysteries of science. With their attention thus divided between the
learned dissertation of the clergyman and the charms of the town,
they approached their destination.

It was not until they had come quite near that they noticed an
unusual crowd along the shore. When they did notice it they at first
supposed that it might be one of those innumerable saints' days which
are so common in Italy. Now, as they drew nearer, they noticed that
the attention of the crowd was turned to themselves. This excited
their wonder at first, but after a time they thought that in so dull
a place as Salerno the arrival of a yacht was sufficient to excite
curiosity, and with this idea many jokes were bandied about. At
length they approached the principal wharf of the place, and directed
the yacht toward it. As they did so they noticed a universal movement
on the part of the crowd, who made a rush toward the wharf, and in a
short time filled it completely. Not even the most extravagant ideas
of Italian laziness and curiosity could account for this intense
interest in the movements of an ordinary yacht; and so our Americans
soon found themselves lost in an abyss of wonder.

Why should they be so stared at? Why should the whole population of
Salerno thus turn out, and make a wild rush to the wharf at which
they were to land? It was strange; it was inexplicable; it was also
embarrassing. Not even the strongest curiosity could account for such
excitement as this.

"What 'n thunder does it all mean?" said Obed, after a long silence.

"There's something up," said the Cincinnati lawyer, sententiously.

"Perhaps it is a repetition of the landing at Naples on a grander
scale," said the clergyman. "I remember when I landed there at least
fifty lazaroni followed me to carry my carpet-bag."

"Fifty?" cried one of the Heidelbergians. "Why, there are five
hundred after us!"

"But these are not lazaroni," said Obed. "Look at that crowd! Did you
ever see a more respectable one?"

In truth, the crowd was in the highest degree respectable. There were
some workmen, and some lazaroni. But the greater number consisted of
well-dressed people, among whom were intermingled priests and
soldiers, and even women. All these, whatever their rank, bore in
their faces an expression of the intensest curiosity and interest.
The expression was unmistakable, and as the yacht came nearer, those
on board were able to see that they were the objects of no common
attention. If they had doubted this, this doubt was soon dispelled;
for as the yacht grazed the wharf a movement took place among the
crowd, and a confused cry of applause arose.

For such a welcome as this the yachting party were certainly not
prepared. All looked up in amazement, with the exception of Obed. He
alone was found equal to the occasion. Without stopping to consider
what the cause of such a reception might be, he was simply conscious
of an act of public good-will, and prepared to respond in a fitting
manner. He was standing on the prow at the time, and drawing his tall
form to its full height, he regarded the crowd for a moment with a
benignant smile; after which he removed his hat and bowed with great
_empressement_.

At this there arose another shout of applause from the whole crowd,
which completed the amazement of the tourists. Meanwhile the yacht
swung up close to the wharf, and as there was nothing else to be done
they prepared to land, leaving her in charge of her crew, which
consisted of several sailors from one of the American frigates. The
blue shirts of these fellows formed a pleasing contrast to the red
shirts and reefing jackets of the others, and the crowd on the wharf
seemed to feel an indiscriminate admiration for he crew as well as
for the masters. Such attentions were certainly somewhat
embarrassing, and presented to these adventurous spirits a novel kind
of difficulty; but whether novel or not, there was now no honorable
escape from it, and they had to encounter it boldly by plunging into
the midst of the crowd. So they landed--eight as singular figures as
ever disturbed the repose of this peaceful town of Salerno. Obed
headed the procession, dressed in a red shirt with black trowsers,
and a scarf tied round his waist, while a broad-brimmed felt hat
shaded his expansive forehead. His tall form, his broad shoulders,
his sinewy frame, made him by far the most conspicuous member of this
company, and attracted to him the chief admiration of the spectators.
Low, murmured words arose as he passed amidst them, expressive of the
profound impression which had been produced by the sight of his
magnificent physique. After him came the others in Indian file; for
the crowd was dense, and only parted sufficiently to allow of the
progress of one man at a time. The Southerner came next to Obed, then
the Heidelbergians, then the naval officers, while the clergyman and
the Cincinnati lawyer, in their picturesque pea-jackets, brought up
the rear. Even in a wide-awake American town such a company would
have attracted attention; how much more so in this sleepy, secluded,
quiet, Italian town! especially at such a time, when all men every
where were on the look-out for great enterprises.

Obed marched on with his friends till they left the wharf and were
able to walk on together more closely. The crowd followed. The
Americans took the middle of the street, and walked up into the town
through what seemed the principal thoroughfare. The crowd pressed
after them, showing no decrease whatever in their ardent curiosity,
yet without making any noisy demonstrations. They seemed like men who
were possessed by some conviction as to the character of these
strangers, and were in full sympathy with them, but were waiting to
see what they might _do_. The Americans, on their side, were more and
more surprised at every step, and could not imagine any cause
whatever for so very singular a reception. They did not even know
whether to view it as a hostile demonstration, or as a sort of
triumphant reception. They could not imagine what they had done which
might merit either the one or the other. All that was left for them
to do, therefore, they did; and that means, they accepted the
situation, and walked along intent only upon the most prosaic of
purposes--the discovery of a hotel. At length, after a few minutes'
walk, they found the object of their search in a large stucco edifice
which bore the proud title of "Hôtel de l'Univers" in French. Into
this they turned, seeking refuge and refreshment. The crowd without
respected their seclusion. They did not pour into the hotel and fill
it to overflowing from top to bottom, but simply stood outside, in
front, in a densely packed mass, from which arose constantly the deep
hum of earnest, animated, and eager conversation.

On entering they were accosted by the landlord, who received them
with the utmost obsequiousness, and a devotion which was absolute. He
informed them that the whole hotel was at their disposal, and wished
to know at what time their excellencies would be pleased to dine.
Their excellencies informed him, through the medium of the
Heidelbergians, that they would be pleased to dine as soon as
possible; whereupon the landlord led them to a large upper room and
bowed himself out.

Their room looked out upon the street. There was a balcony in front
of the windows; and, as they sat there waiting, they could see the
dense crowd as it stood in front of the hotel--quiet, orderly,
waiting patiently; yet waiting for what? That was the problem. It was
so knotty a problem that it engaged all their thoughts and
discussions while they were waiting for dinner, and while they were
eating their dinner. At last that solemn meal was over, and they
arose refreshed; but the peaceful satisfaction that generally ensues
after such an important meal was now very seriously disturbed, in
their case, by the singular nature of their situation. There was the
crowd outside still, though it was already dusk.

"I think," said Obed, "that I'll step out and see what is going on.
I'll just look around, you know."

Saying this, Obed passed through the open window, and went out on the
balcony. His appearance was the cause of an immense sensation. For a
moment the crowd was hushed, and a thousand eyes were fixed in awe
and admiration upon his colossal form. Then the silence was suddenly
broken by loud, long, and wild acclamations, "_Viva la Liberia_!"
"_Viva la Republica_!" "_Viva l'Italia_!" "_Viva Vittore Emmanuele_!"
"_Viva Garibaldi_!"

This last word was caught up with a kind of mad enthusiasm, and
passed from mouth to mouth till it drowned all other cries.

"What'n thunder's all this?" cried Obed, putting his head into the
room, and looking at the Heidelbergians. "See here--come out here,"
he continued, "and find out what in the name of goodness it all
means, for I'll be durned if I can make head or tail of it."

At this appeal the Heidelbergians stepped out, and after them came
the naval officers, while the rest followed, till the whole eight
stood on the balcony.

Their appearance was greeted with a thunder of applause.

Obed knew not what it all meant, nor did any of the others; but as he
was the acknowledged leader he felt upon him the responsibility of
his situation, and so, with this feeling animating him, he responded
to the salutation of the crowd by a low bow.

It was now dusk, and the twilight of this southern climate was
rapidly deepening, when suddenly the Americans were aware of a sound
in the distance like the galloping of horses. The sound seemed to
strike the crowd below at the same moment. Cries arose, and they fell
back quickly on either side of the road, leaving a broad path in
their midst. The Americans did not have a long time left to them for
conjecture or for wonder. The sounds drew nearer and nearer, until at
last, through the gloom, a body of dragoons were plainly seen
galloping down the street. They dashed through the crowd, they reined
in their horses in front of the hotel, and, a the sharp word of
command from their leader, a number of them dismounted, and followed
him inside, while the rest remained without.

The crowd stood breathless and mute. The Americans saw in this a very
singular variation to the events of the evening, and, as they could
no more account for this than for those which had preceded it, they
waited to see the end.

They did not have to wait long.

A noise in the room which they had left roused them. Looking in they
saw about a dozen dragoons with the captain and the landlord. The
dragoons had arranged themselves in line at the word of command, and
the landlord stood with a terror-stricken face beside the captain.

"Ah!" said Obed, who had looked through the window into the room,
"this looks serious. There's some absurd mistake somewhere, but just
now it does seem as though they want us, so I move that we go in and
show ourselves."

Saying this he entered the room, followed by the others, and the
eight Americans ranged themselves quietly opposite the dragoons. The
sight of these red-shirted strangers produced a very peculiar effect
on the soldiers, as was evident by their faces and their looks; and
the captain, as he regarded the formidable proportions of Obed,
seemed somewhat overawed. But he soon overcame his emotion, and,
stepping forward, he exclaimed:

"Siete nostri prigionieri. Rendetevi."

"What's that he says?" asked Obed.

"He says we're his prisoners," said one of the Heidelbergians, "and
calls on us to surrender."

"Tell him," said Obed, unconsciously parodying Leonidas--"Tell him to
come on and take us."

The Heidelbergian translated this verbatim.

The captain looked puzzled.

"Boys," said Obed, "you may as well get your revolvers ready."

At this quiet hint every one of the Americans, including even the
Boston clergyman, drew forth his revolver, holding it carelessly, yet
in such a very handy fashion that the captain of the dragoons looked
aghast.

"I will have no resistance," said he. "Surrender, or you will be shot
down."

"Ha, ha!" said the Heidelbergian. "Do you see our revolvers? Do you
think that we are the men to surrender?"

"I have fifty dragoons outside," said the officer.

"Very well, we have forty-eight shots to your fifty," said the
Heidelbergian, whose Italian, on this occasion, "came out uncommonly
strong," as Obed afterward said when the conversation was narrated to
him.

"I am commanded to arrest you," said the officer.

"Well, go back and say that you tried, and couldn't do it," said the
Heidelbergian.

"Your blood will be on your own heads."

"Pardon me; some of it will be on yours, and some of your own blood
also," retorted the Heidelbergian, mildly.

"Advance!" cried the officer to his soldiers. "Arrest these men."

The soldiers looked at their captain, then at the Americans, then at
their captain again, then at the Americans, and the end of it was
that they did not move.

"Arrest them!" roared the officer.

The Americans stood opposite with their revolvers leveled. The
soldiers stood still. They would not obey.

"My friend," said the Heidelbergian, "if your men advance, you
yourself will be the first to fall, for I happen to have you covered
by my pistol. I may as well tell you that it has six shots, and if
the first fails, the second will not."

The officer turned pale. He ordered his men to remain, and went out.
After a few moments he returned with twelve more dragoons. The
Americans still stood watchful, with their revolvers ready, taking
aim.

"You see," cried the officer, excitedly, "that you are overpowered.
There are as many men outside. For the last time I call on you to
surrender. If you do not I will give no quarter. You need not try to
resist."

"What is it that he says?" asked Obed.

The Heidelbergian told him.

Obed laughed.

"Ask him why he does not come and take us," said he, grimly. "We have
already given him leave to do so."

The Heidelbergian repeated these words.

The captain, in a fury, ordered his men to advance.

The Americans fully expected an attack, and stood ready to pour in a
volley at the first movement on the part of the enemy. But the enemy
did not move. The soldiers stood motionless. They did not seem
afraid. They seemed rather as if they were animated by some totally
different feeling. It had been whispered already that the Neapolitan
army was unreliable. This certainly looked like it.

"Cowards!" cried the captain, who seemed to think that their inaction
arose from fear. "You will suffer for this, you scoundrels! Then, if
you are afraid to advance, make ready! present! fire!"

His command might as well have been addressed to the winds. The guns
of the soldiers stood by their sides. Not one of them raised his
piece. The captain was thunder-struck; yet his surprise was not
greater than that of the Americans when this was hastily explained to
them by the Heidelbergians. Evidently there was disaffection among
the soldiers of his Majesty of Naples when brought into the presence
of _Red Shirts_.

The captain was so overwhelmed by this discovery that he stood like
one paralyzed, not knowing what to do. This passive disobedience on
the part of his men was a thing so unexpected that he was left
helpless, without resources.

Meanwhile the crowd outside had been intensely excited. They had
witnessed the arrival of the dragoons. They had seen them dismount
and enter the hotel after the captain. They had seen the captain come
down after another detachment. They had known nothing of what was
going on inside, but conjectured that a desperate struggle was
inevitable between the Red Shirts and the dragoons. As an unarmed
crowd they could offer no active intervention, so they held their
peace for a time, waiting in breathless suspense for the result. The
result seemed long delayed. The troopers did not seem to gain that
immediate victory over the Red Shirts which had been fearfully
anticipated. Every moment seemed to postpone such a victory, and
render it impossible. Every moment restored the courage of the crowd,
which at first had been panic-stricken. Low murmurs passed among
them, which deepened into words of remonstrance, and strengthened
into cries of sympathy for the Red Shirts; until, at last, these
cries arose to shouts, and the shouts arose wild and high,
penetrating to that upper room where the assailants confronted their
cool antagonists. The cries had an ominous sound.

"_Viva la Liberia_!" "_Viva la Republica_!" "_Viva Garibaldi_!" At
the name _Garibaldi_, a wild yell of applause resounded wide and
high--a long, shrill yell, and the name was taken up in a kind of mad
fervor till the shout rose to a frenzy, and nothing was heard but the
confused outcries of a thousand discordant voices, all uttering that
one grand name, "_Garibaldi_!" "_Garibaldi_!" "_Garibaldi_!"

The Americans heard it. What connection there was between themselves
and Garibaldi they did not then see, but they saw that somehow the
people of Salerno had associated them with the hero of Italy, and
were sympathizing with them. Obed Chute himself saw this, and
understood this, as that cry came thundering to his ears. He turned
to his friends.

"Boys," said he, "we came here for a dinner and a night's rest. We've
got the dinner, but the night's rest seems to be a little remote.
There's such an infernal row going on all around that, if we want to
sleep this blessed night, we'll have to take to the yacht again, and
turn in there, sailor fashion. So I move that we adjourn to that
place, and put out to sea."

His proposal was at once accepted without hesitation.

"Very well," said Obed. "Now follow me. March!"

With his revolver in his extended hand, Obed strode toward the door,
followed by the others. The dragoons drew back and allowed them to
pass out without resistance. They descended the stairs into the hall.
As they appeared at the doorway they were recognized by the crowd,
and a wild shout of triumph arose, in which nothing was conspicuous
but the name of Garibaldi. The mounted dragoons outside did not
attempt to resist them. They looked away, and did not seem to see
them at all. The crowd had it all their own way.

Through the crowd Obed advanced, followed by his friends, and led the
way toward the yacht. The crowd followed. They cheered; they shouted;
they yelled out defiance at the king; they threw aside all restraint,
and sang the Italian version of the "Marseillaise." A wild enthusiasm
pervaded all, as though some great victory had been won, or some
signal triumph achieved. But amidst all their shouts and cries and
applause and songs one word was pre-eminent, and that one word was
the name of "_Garibaldi_!"

But the Americans made no response. They marched on quietly to their
yacht, and pushed off from the wharf. A loud, long cheer followed
them from the crowd, which stood there watching their departure; and,
as the yacht moved away, cheer after cheer arose, which gradually
died away in the distance.

They passed that night on the sea instead of at the hotel at Salerno.
But they did not have much sleep. Their wonderful adventure formed
the theme of discussion all night long. And at last the only
conclusion which they could come to was this, that the red-shirted
strangers had been mistaken for Garibaldini; that Obed Chute had been
accepted as Garibaldi himself; and, finally, that the subjects of the
king of Naples, and his soldiers also, were in a fearful state of
disaffection.

Not long after, when Garibaldi himself passed through this very town,
the result confirmed the conjectures of these Americans.



CHAPTER XLII.


ANOTHER REVELATION.


Time passed on, and Zillah once more regained something like her old
spring and elasticity; yet the sadness of her situation was no way
relaxed. In addition to the griefs of the past, there now arose the
problem of the future. What was she to do? Was she to go on thus
forever with these kind friends? or was she to leave them? The
subject was a painful and a perplexing one, and always brought before
her the utter loneliness of her position with the most distressing
distinctness. Generally she fought against such feelings, and tried
to dismiss such thoughts, but it was difficult to drive them from her
mind.

At length it happened that all her funds were exhausted, and she felt
the need of a fresh supply. So she conferred with Obed Chute, and
told him the name of her London bankers, after which he drew out a
check for her for a hundred pounds, which she signed. The draft was
then forwarded.

A fortnight passed away. It was during this interval that Obed had
his famous Salerno expedition, which he narrated to Zillah on his
return, to her immense delight. Never in his life had Obed taken such
pleasure in telling a story as on this occasion. Zillah's eager
interest, her animated face, her sparkling eyes, all encouraged him
to hope that there was yet some spirit left in her in spite of her
sorrows; and at length, at the narration of the reception of the
Neapolitan's order to surrender, Zillah burst into a fit of laughter
that was childish in its abandon and heartiness.

About a week or ten days after this, Obed came home one day with a
very serious face. Zillah noticed it at once, and asked him anxiously
if any thing had happened.

"My poor child," said he, "I'm afraid that there is more trouble in
store for you. I feared as much some time ago, but I had to wait to
see if my fears were true."

Zillah regarded him fearfully, not knowing what to think of such an
ominous beginning. Her heart told her that it had some reference to
Hilda. Had he found out any thing about her? Was she ill? Was she
dying? These were her thoughts, but she dared not put them into
words.

"I've kept this matter to myself till now," continued Obed; "but I do
not intend to keep it from you any longer. I've spoken to sister
about it, and she thinks that you'd better know it. At any rate," he
added, "it isn't as bad as some things you've borne; only it comes on
top of the rest, and seems to make them worse."

Zillah said not a word, but stood awaiting in fear this new blow.

"Your draft," said Obed, "has been returned."

"My draft returned?" said Zillah, in astonishment. "What do you
mean?"

"I will tell you all I know," said Obed. "There is villainy at the
bottom of this, as you will see. Your draft came back about ten days
ago. I said nothing to you about it, but took it upon myself to write
for explanations. Last evening I received this"--and he drew a letter
from his pocket. "I've meditated over it, and shown it to my sister,
and we both think that there are depths to this dark plot against you
which none of us as yet have even begun to fathom. I've also
forwarded an account of this and a copy of this letter to the police
at Marseilles, and to the police here, to assist them in their
investigations. I'm afraid the police here won't do much, they're so
upset by their panic about Garibaldi."

As Obed ended he handed the letter to Zillah, who opened it without a
word, and read as follows:


"LONDON, September 10, 1859.

"SIR,--In answer to your favor of 7th instant, we beg leave to state
that up to the 15th of June last we held stock and deposits from Miss
Ella Lorton--i. e., consols, thirty thousand pounds (£30,000); also
cash, twelve hundred and seventy-five pounds ten shillings (£1275
10s.). On the 15th of June last the above-mentioned Miss Ella Lorton
appeared in person, and, with her own check, drew out the cash
balance. On the 17th June she came in person and withdrew the stock,
in consols, which she had deposited with us, amounting to thirty
thousand pounds (£30,000) as aforesaid. That it was Miss Ella Lorton
herself there is no doubt; for it was the same lady who deposited the
funds, and who has sent checks to us from time to time. The party you
speak of, who sent the check from Naples, must be an impostor, and we
recommend you to hand her over to the police.

"We have the honor to be, Sir, your most obedient servants, TILTON
AND BROWNE.

"OBED CHUTE, Esq."


On reading this Zillah fell back into a chair as though she had been
shot, and sat looking at this fatal sheet with wild eyes and haggard
face. Obed made an effort to cry for help, but it sounded like a
groan. His sister came running in, and seeing Zillah's condition, she
took her in her arms.

"Poor child! poor sweet child!" she cried.


[Illustration: "His Sister, Seeing Zillah's Condition, Took Her In
Her Arms."]


"It's too much! It's too much! She will die if this goes on."

But Zillah rapidly roused herself. It was no soft mood that was over
her now; it was not a broken heart that was now threatening her. This
letter seemed to throw a flood of light over her dark and mysterious
persecution, which in an instant put an end to all those tender
longings after her loved Hilda which had consumed her. Now her eyes
flashed, and the color which had left her cheeks flushed hack again,
mounting high with the full sweep of her indignant passion. She
started to her feet, her hands clenched, and her brows frowning
darkly.

"You are right," she said to Obed, in a low, stern voice. "I am
betrayed--and she--_she alone_ has been my betrayer. She! my sister!
the one who lived on my father's bounty; who was my companion in
childhood; who shared my bed; who had all my love and trust--she has
betrayed me! Ah, well," she added, with a long sigh; "since it is so,
it is best for me to know it. Do not be grieved, dear friends. Do not
look so sadly and so tenderly at me. I know your loving hearts. You,
at least, do not look as though you believed me to be an impostor."

And she held out her hands to the brother and sister. Obed took that
little hand which she extended, and pressed it reverently to his
lips.

"Sit down, my poor child," said Miss Chute, tenderly. "You are
excited. Try to be calm, if you can."

"I am calm, and I will be calm," said Zillah, faintly.

"Come," said Obed. "We will talk no more about it now. To-morrow, or
next day, or next week, we will talk about it. You must rest. You
must drive out, or sail out, or do something. I'll tell you what I'll
do. I'll order the yacht and take you to Salerno."

Zillah looked at him with a faint smile, appreciating his well-meant
reference to that famous town, and Obed left her with his sister.

A week passed, and Zillah was not allowed to speak of this subject.
But all the time she was oppressed by a sense of her utterly
desperate situation. As long as she had believed herself rich she had
not felt altogether helpless; but now!--now she found herself a
pauper, alone in the wide world, a dependent on the kindness of these
noble-hearted friends. What could she do? This could not go on
forever. What could she do--she, a girl without resources? How could
she ever support herself? What would become of her?

Could she go back to that home from which she had fled? Never! That
thought came once, and was instantly scouted as impossible. Sooner
than do that she would die of starvation. What, then, could she do?
Live on as a burden to these kind friends? Alas! how could she? She
thought wildly of being a governess; but what could she teach?--she,
who had idled away nearly all her life. Then she thought of trying to
get back her money from those who had robbed her. But how could this
be done?

For, to do this, it would be necessary to obtain the help of Obed
Chute; and, in that case, she would have to tell him all. And could
she do this? Could she reveal to another the secret sorrow of her
life? Could she tell him about their fatal marriage; about the Earl;
about Guy's letter, and her flight from home? No; these things were
too sacred to be divulged to any one, and the very idea of making
them known was intolerable. But if she began to seek after Hilda it
would be necessary to tell her true name, at least to Obed Chute, and
all about her, a thing which would involve the disclosure of all her
secret. It could not be done. Hilda had betrayed her, sought out her
life, and robbed her--of this there no longer remained any doubt; and
she was helpless; she could neither seek after her rights, nor
endeavor to obtain redress for her wrongs.

At length she had a conversation with Obed Chute about her draft. She
told him that when she first went to Tenby her sister had persuaded
her to withdraw all her money from her former bankers and deposit it
with Messrs. Tilton and Browne. Hilda herself had gone to London to
have it done. She told Obed that they were living in seclusion, that
Hilda had charge of the finances, and drew all the checks. Of course
Messrs. Tilton and Browne had been led to believe that she was the
Ella Lorton who had deposited the money. In this way it was easy for
her, after getting her sister out of the way, to obtain the money
herself.

After Obed Chute heard this he remained silent for a long time.

"My poor child," said he at last, in tones full of pity, "you could
not imagine once what motive this Hilda could have for betraying you.
Here you have motive enough. It is a very coarse one; but yet men
have been betraying one another for less than this since the world
began. There was once a certain Judas who carried out a plan of
betrayal for a far smaller figure. But tell me. Have you never
associated Gualtier and Hilda in your thoughts as partners in this
devilish plot?"

"I see now that they must have been," said Zillah. "I can believe
nothing else."

"You have said that Gualtier was in attendance on you for years?"

"Yes."

"Did you ever notice any thing like friendship between these two?"

"She always seemed to hold herself so far above him that I do not see
how they could have had any understanding."

"Did he seem to speak to her more than to you?"

"Not at all. I never noticed it. He accompanied her to London,
though, when she went about the money."

"That looks like confidence. And then she sent him to take you to
Naples to put you out of the way?"

Zillah sighed.

"Tell me. Do you think she could have loved Gualtier?"

"It seems absurd. Any thing like love between those two is
impossible."

"It's my full and firm conviction," said Obed Chute, after deep
thought, "that this Gualtier gained your friend's affections, and he
has been the prime mover in this. Both of them must be deep ones,
though. Yet I calculate she is only a tool in his hands. Women will
do any thing for love. She has sacrificed you to him. It isn't so bad
a case as it first looked."

"Not so bad!" said Zillah, in wonder. "What is worse than to betray a
friend?"

"When a woman betrays a friend for the sake of a lover she only does
what women have been engaged in doing ever since the world began.
This Gualtier has betrayed you both--first by winning your friend's
love, and then by using her against you. And that is the smart game
which he has played so well as to net the handsome figure of £30,000
sterling--one hundred and fifty thousand dollars--besides that
balance of £1200 and upward--six thousand dollars more."

Such was Obed Chute's idea, and Zillah accepted it as the only true
solution. Any other solution would force her to believe that Hilda
had been a hypocrite all her life--that her devotion was a sham, and
her love a mockery. Such a thing seemed incredible, and it seemed far
more natural to her that Hilda had acted from some mad impulse of
love in obedience to the strong temptation held out by a lover. Yes,
she thought, she had placed herself in his power, and did whatever he
told her, without thinking of the consequences. The plot, then, must
be all Gualtier's. Hilda herself never, never, never could have
formed such a plan against one who loved her. She could not have
known what she was doing. She could not have deliberately sold her
life and robbed her. So Zillah tried to think; but, amidst these
thoughts, there arose the memory of that letter from Naples--that
picture of the voyage, every word of which showed such devilish
ingenuity, and such remorseless pertinacity in deceiving. Love may do
much, and tempt to much, she thought; but, after all, could such a
letter have emanated from any one whose heart was not utterly and
wholly bad and corrupt? All this was terrible to Zillah.

"If I could but redress your wrongs," said Obed, one day--"if you
would only give me permission, I would start to-morrow for England,
and I would track this pair of villains till I compelled them to
disgorge their plunder, and one of them, at least, should make
 acquaintance with the prison hulks or Botany Bay. But you will not
let me," he added, reproachfully.

Zillah looked at him imploringly.

"I have a secret," said she, "a secret which I dare not divulge. It
involves others. I have sacrificed every thing for this. I can not
mention it even to you. And now all is lost, and I have nothing.
There is no help for it, none." She seemed to be speaking to herself.
"For then," she continued, "if they were hunted down, names would
come out, and then all would be known. And rather than have all
known"--her voice grew higher and sterner as she spoke, expressing a
desperate resolve--"rather than have all known, I would die--yes, by
a death as terrible as that which stared me in the face when I was
drifting in the schooner!"

Obed Chute looked at her. Pity was on his face. He held out his hand
and took hers. "It shall not be known," said he. "Keep your secret.
The time will come some day when you will be righted. Trust in God,
my child."

The time passed on, but Zillah was now a prey to this new trouble.
How could she live? She was penniless. Could she consent to remain
thus a burden on kind friends like these? These thoughts agitated her
incessantly, preying upon her mind, and never leaving her by night or
by day. She was helpless. How could she live? By what means could she
hope to get a living? Her friends saw her melancholy, but attributed
it all to the greater sorrows through which she had passed. Obed
Chute thought that the best cure was perpetual distraction. So he
busied himself with arranging a never-ending series of expeditions to
all the charming environs of Naples. Pompeii and Herculaneum opened
before them the wonders of the ancient world. Vesuvius was scaled,
and its crater revealed its awful depths. Baiae, Misenum, and
Puzzuoli were explored. Paestum showed them its eternal temples. They
lingered on the beach at Salerno. They stood where never-ending
spring abides, and never-withering flowers, in the vale of
Sorrento--the fairest spot on earth; best representative of a lost
Paradise. They sailed over every part of that glorious bay, where
earth and air and sea all combine to bring into one spot all that
this world contains of beauty and sublimity, of joyousness and
loveliness, of radiance and of delight. Yet still, in spite of all
this, the dull weight of melancholy could not be removed, but never
ceased to weigh her down.

At length Zillah could control her feelings no longer. One day,
softened by the tender sympathy and watchful anxiety of these loving
friends, she yielded to the generous promptings of her heart and told
them her trouble. "I am penniless," she said, as she concluded her
confession. "You are too generous, and it is your very generosity
that makes it bitter for me to be a mere dependent. You are so
generous that I will ask you to get me something to do. I know you
will. There, I have told you all, and I feel happier already."

As she ended a smile passed over the face of Obed Chute and his
sister. The relief which they felt was infinite. And this was all!

"My child," said Obed Chute, tenderly, "there are twenty different
things that I can say, each of which would put you perfectly at ease.
I will content myself, however, with merely one or two brief remarks.
In the first place allow me to state that you are not penniless. Do
you think that you are going to lose all your property? No--by the
Eternal! no! I, Obed Chute, do declare that I will get it back some
day. So dismiss your fears, and dry your tears, as the hymn-book
says. Moreover, in the second place, you speak of being a dependent
 and a burden. I can hardly trust myself to speak in reply to that. I
will leave that to sister. For my own part, I will merely say that
you are our sunshine--you make our family circle bright as gold. To
lose you, my child, would be--well, I won't say what, only when you
leave us you may leave an order at the nearest stone-cutter's for a
tombstone for Obed Chute."

He smiled as he spoke--his great rugged features all irradiated by a
glow of enthusiasm and of happiness.

"But I feel so dependent--such a burden," pleaded Zillah.

"If that is the case," said Obed Chute, "then your feelings shall be
consulted. I will employ you. You shall have an honorable position.
Among us the best ladies in the land become teachers. President
Fillmore's daughter taught a school in New England. It is my purpose
now to engage you as governess."

"As governess?"

"Yes, for my children."

"But I don't know any thing."

"I don't care--I'm going to engage you as governess all the same.
Sister teaches them the rudiments. What I want you to teach them is
music."

"Music? I'm such a wretched player."

"You play well enough for me--well enough to teach them; and the
beauty of it is, even if you don't play well now, you soon will.
Doesn't Franklin or somebody say that one learns by teaching?"

Zillah's face spoke unutterable gratitude.

"This," said Obed Chute, "is purely a business transaction. I'll only
give you the usual payment--say five hundred dollars a year, and
found."

"And--what?"

"Found--that is, board, you know, and clothing, of course, also. Is
it a bargain?"

"Oh, my best friend! how can I thank you? What can I say?"

"Say! why, call me again your 'best friend;' that is all the thanks I
want."

So the engagement was made, and Zillah became a music-teacher.



CHAPTER XLIII.


THE REPORT.


During Lord Chetwynde's absence Hilda received constant
communications from Gualtier. He had not very much to tell her,
though his watchfulness was incessant. He had contrived to follow
Lord Chetwynde to London, under different disguises, and with
infinite difficulty; and also to put up at the same house. Lord
Chetwynde had not the remotest idea that he was watched, and took no
pains to conceal any of his motions. Indeed, to a mind like his, the
idea of keeping any thing secret, or of going out of his way to avoid
notice, never suggested itself. He was perfectly open and free from
disguise. He stopped at the Hastings House, an elegant and quiet
hotel, avoided the clubs, and devoted himself altogether to business.
At this house Gualtier stopped also, but could find out nothing about
Lord Chetwynde's business. He could only learn this much, that Lord
Chetwynde went every day, at eleven o'clock, to the office of his
solicitors, Messrs. Pendergrast Brothers, with whom he was closeted
for an hour or more. Evidently there was some very important business
between them; but what that business was, or to whom it might have
reference, was a perfect mystery to Gualtier. This was about the sum
and substance of the information which his letters conveyed to the
anxious Hilda.

For her part, every thing which Gualtier mentioned about Lord
Chetwynde was read by her with eager curiosity. She found herself
admiring the grand calm of this man whom she loved, this splendid
carelessness, this frank and open demeanor. That she herself was
cunning and wily, formed no obstacle to her appreciation of frankness
in others; perhaps, indeed, the absence of those qualities in herself
made her admire them in others, since they were qualities which she
could never hope to gain. Whatever his motive or purpose might be, he
was now seeking to carry it out in the most open manner, never
thinking of concealment. She was working in the dark; he was acting
in the broad light of day. Her path, as she looked back upon it,
wound on tortuously amidst basenesses and treacheries and crimes; his
was straight and clear, like the path of the just man's--not dark,
but rather a shining light, where all was open to the gaze of the
world. And what communion could there be between one like him and one
like her? Could any cunning on her part impose upon him? Could she
ever conceal from him her wily and tortuous nature? Could he not
easily discover it? Would not his clear, open, honest eyes see
through and through the mask of deceit with which she concealed her
true nature? There was something in his gaze which she never could
face--something which had a fearful significance to her--something
which told her that she was known to him, and that all her character
lay open before him, with all its cunning, its craft, its baseness,
and its wickedness. No arts or wiles of hers could avail to blind him
to these things. This she knew and felt, but still she hoped against
hope, and entertained vague expectations of some final understanding
between them.

But what was the business on which he was engaged? What was it that
thus led him so constantly to his solicitors? This was the problem
that puzzled her. Various solutions suggested themselves. One was
that he was merely anxious to see about breaking the entail so as to
pay her back the money which General Pomeroy had advanced. This he
had solemnly promised. Perhaps his long search through his father's
papers had reference to this, and his business with his solicitors
concerned this, and this only. This seemed natural. But there was
also another solution to the problem. It was within the bounds of
possibility that he was taking measures for a divorce. How he could
obtain one she did not see, but he might be trying to do so. She
knew nothing of the divorce law, but had a general idea that nothing
except crime or cruelty could avail to break the bonds of marriage.
That Lord Chetwynde was fixed in his resolve to break all ties
between them was painfully evident to her; and whatever his immediate
purpose might now be, she saw plainly that it could only have
reference to this separation. It meant that, and nothing else. He
abhorred her, and was determined to get rid of her at all hazards.
This she plainly saw.

At length, after a few weeks' absence, Gualtier returned. Hilda, full
of impatience, sent for him to the morning-room almost as soon as he
had arrived, and went there to wait for his appearance. She did not
have to wait long. In a few minutes Gualtier made his appearance,
obsequious and deferential as usual.

"You are back alone," said she, as she greeted him.

"Yes; Lord Chetwynde is coming back tomorrow or next day, and I
thought it better for me to come back first so as to see you before
he came."

"Have you found out any thing more?"

"No, my lady. In my letters I explained the nature of the case. I
made all the efforts I could to get at the bottom of this business,
and to find out what you called the purpose of his life. But you see
what insuperable obstacles were in the way. It was absolutely
impossible for me to find out any thing in particular about his
affairs. I could not possibly gain access to his papers. I tried to
gain information from one of the clerks of Pendergrast--formed an
acquaintance with him, gave him a dinner, and succeeded in getting
him drunk; but even that was of no avail. The fellow was
communicative enough, but the trouble was he didn't know any thing
himself about this thing, and had no more knowledge of Lord
Chetwynde's business or purposes than I myself had. I have done all
or purposes than I myself had. I have done all that was possible for
a man in my situation, and grieve deeply that I have nothing more
definite to communicate."

"You have done admirably," said Hilda; "nothing more was possible. I
only wished you to watch, and you have watched to good purpose. This
much is evident, from your reports, that Lord Chetwynde has some
all-engrossing purpose. What it is can not be known now, but must be
known some day. At present I must be content with the knowledge that
his purpose exists."

"I have formed some conjectures," said Gualtier.

"On what grounds? On any other than those which you have made known
to me?"

"No. You know all."

"Never mind, then. I also have formed conjectures, and have a larger
and broader ground on which to build them. What I want is not
conjectures of any kind, but facts. If you have any more facts to
communicate, I should like very much to hear them."

"Alas, my lady, I have already communicated to you all the facts that
I know."

Hilda was silent for some time.

"You never spoke to Lord Chetwynde, I suppose?" said she at length.

"Oh no, my lady; I did not venture to come into communication with
him at all."

"Did he ever see you?"

"He certainly cast his eyes on me, once or twice, but without any
recognition in them. I really don't think that he is conscious of the
existence of a person like me."

"Don't be too sure of that. Lord Chetwynde is one who can see every
thing without appearing to see it. His eye can take in at one glance
the minutest details. He is a man who is quite capable of making the
discovery that you were the steward of Chetwynde. What measure did
you take to avoid discovery?"

Gualtier smiled.

"The measures which I took were such that it would have puzzled
Fouché himself to penetrate my disguise. I rode in the same
compartment with him, all the way to London, dressed as an elderly
widow."

"A widow?"

"Yes; with a thick black veil, and a very large umbrella. It is
simply impossible that he could penetrate my disguise, for the veil
was too thick to show my features."

"But the hotel?"

"At the hotel I was a Catholic priest, from Novara, on my way to
America. I wore spectacles, with dark glasses. No friend could have
recognized me, much less a stranger."

"But if you went with the clerks of Pendergrast, that was an odd
disguise."

"Oh, when I went with them, I dropped that. I became an American
naval officer, belonging to the ship _Niagara_, which was then in
London. I wore a heavy beard and mustache, and talked through my
nose. Besides, I would drink nothing but whisky and sherry cobblers.
My American trip proved highly advantageous."

"And do you feel confident that he has not recognized you?"

"Confident! Recognition was utterly impossible. It would have
required my nearest friend or relative to have recognized me, through
such disguises. Besides, my face is one which can very easily be
disguised. I have not strongly marked features. My face can easily
serve for an Italian priest, or an American naval officer. I am
always careful to choose only such parts as nature has adapted me
for."

"And Lord Chetwynde is coming back?"

"Yes."

"When?"

"To-morrow, or next day."

"I wonder how long he will stay?"

"That is a thing which no one can find out so well as yourself."

Hilda was silent.

"My lady," said Gualtier, after a long pause.

"Well?"

"You know how ready I am to serve you."

"Yes," said Hilda, dreamily.

"If this man is in your way he can be removed, as others have been
removed," said Gualtier, in a low voice. "Some of them have been
removed by means of my assistance. Is this man in your way? Is he?
Shall I help you? For when he goes away again I can become his valet.
I can engage myself, bring good recommendations, and find employment
from him, which will bring me into close contact. Then, if you find
him in your way, I can remove the obstacle."

Hilda's eyes blazed with a lurid light. She looked at Gualtier like a
wrathful demon. The words which she spoke came hissing out, hot and
fierce:

"Curse you! You do not know what you are saying. I would rather lose
a thousand such as you than lose _him_! I would rather die myself
than have one hair of his head injured!"

Gualtier looked at her, transfixed with amazement. Then his head sank
down. These words crushed him.

"Can I ever hope for forgiveness?" he faltered at last. "I
misunderstood you. I am your slave. I--I only wished to serve you."

Hilda waved her hand.

"You do not understand," said she, as she rose. "Some day you will
understand all."

"Then I will wait," said Gualtier, humbly. "I have waited for years.
I can still wait. I only live for you. Forgive me."

Hilda looked away, and Gualtier sat, looking thoughtfully and sadly
at her.

"There is one thing," said he, "which you were fortunate to think of.
You guarded against a danger which I did not anticipate."

"Ah!" said Hilda, roused by the mention of danger. "What is that?"

"The discovery of so humble a person as myself. Thanks to you, my
assumed name has saved me. But at the same time it led to an
embarrassing position, from which I only escaped by my own wit."

"What do you allude to?" asked Hilda, with languid curiosity.

"Oh, it's the doctor. You know he has been attending Mrs. Hart. Well,
some time ago, before I left for London, he met me, and talked about
things in general. Whenever he meets me he likes to get up a
conversation, and I generally avoid him; but this time I couldn't.
After a time, with a great appearance of concern, he said:


[Illustration: "I Rode With Him All The Way To London, Dressed As An
Elderly Widow."]


"'I am sorry to hear, Mr. Gualtier, that you are about to be
superseded.'

"'Superseded!' said I. 'What do you mean?'

"'I hear from some gossip of the servants that there is a new
steward.'

'"A new steward! This is the first that I have heard of it,' said I.
'I am the only steward here.'

"'This one,' said he, 'is--a--Mr. M'Kenzie.'

"'M'Kenzie!' said I, instantaneously--

'M'Kenzie!' And I laughed. 'Why, I am Mr. M'Kenzie.'

"'You!' said he, in utter amazement. 'Isn't your name Gualtier?'

"'Oh no,' said I; 'that is a name which I adopted, when a
music-teacher, for professional purposes. Foreign names are always
liked better than native ones. My real name is M'Kenzie. The late
Earl knew all about it, and so does Lady Chetwynde.'

"The doctor looked a little puzzled, but at last accepted my
explanation and went off. Still I don't like the look of the thing."

"No," said Hilda, who had listened with no great interest, "it's not
pleasant. But, after all, there was no danger even if he had thought
you an impostor."

"Pardon me, my lady; but doctors are great gossips, and can send a
story like this flying through the county. He may do so yet."

At another time Hilda would have taken more interest in this
narration, but now she seemed so preoccupied that her usual vigilance
had left her. Gualtier noticed this, but was scarcely surprised. It
was only a fresh proof of her infatuation.

So after a few moments of silent thoughtfulness he left the room.



CHAPTER XLIV.


A STRANGE ENCOUNTER.


On the day after Gualtier's interview with Hilda, Lord Chetwynde was
still in London, occupied with the business which had brought him
there. It was between ten and eleven in the morning, and he was
walking down Piccadilly on his way to the City, where he had an
appointment with his solicitors. He was very much preoccupied, and
scarcely noticed any thing around him. Walking on in this mood he
felt his arm seized by some one who had come up behind him, and a
voice exclaimed:

"Windham! by all that's great! How are you, old fellow?" and before
he had time to recover from his surprise his hand was seized,
appropriated, and nearly wrung off by Obed Chute.

To meet Obed Chute thus in London was certainly strange, yet not so
very much so, after all. London is vast, multitudinous, enormous--a
nation rather than a city, as De Quincey well remarks--a place where
one may hide and never be discovered; yet after all there are certain
streets where strangers are most frequent, and that two strangers
should meet one another here in one of these few thoroughfares is
more common than one would suppose. After the first surprise at such
a sudden greeting Windham felt it to be a very natural thing for Obed
Chute to be in London, and evinced as much pleasure at meeting him as
was shown by the other.

"Have you been here ever since your return to England?" he asked.

"Oh no," said Windham, "I've only been here a short time, and I have
to leave this afternoon."

"I'm sorry for that; I should like to see you--but I suppose it can't
be helped; and then I must go back immediately."

"Ah! You are on your way to America, then?"

"America! Oh no. I mean--go back to Italy."

"Italy?"

"Yes; we're all there yet."

"I hope Miss Chute and your family are all well?" said Lord
Chetwynde, politely.

"Never better," said Obed.

"Where are you staying now?"

"In Naples."

"It's a very pleasant place."

"Too pleasant to leave."

"By-the-way," said Lord Chetwynde, after a pause, and speaking with
assumed indifference, "were you ever able to find out any thing
about--Miss Lorton?"

His indifference was but poorly carried out. At the mention of that
name he stammered, and then stopped short.

But Obed did not notice any peculiarity.

He answered, quickly and earnestly:

"It's that very thing, Windham, that has brought me here. I've left
her in Naples."

"What?" cried Lord Chetwynde, eagerly; "she is with you yet, then?"

"Yes."

"In Naples?"

"Yes--with my family. Poor little thing! Windham, I have a story to
tell about her that will make your heart bleed, if you have the heart
of a man."

"My God!" cried Lord Chetwynde, in deep emotion; "what is it? Has
any thing new happened?"

"Yes, something new--something worse than before."

"But _she_--_she_ is alive--is she not--she is well--she--"

"Thank God, yes," said Obed, not noticing the intense emotion of the
other; "yes--she has suffered, poor little girl, but she is getting
over it--and one day I hope she may find some kind of comfort. But
at present, and for some time to come, I'm afraid that any thing like
happiness or peace or comfort will be impossible for her."

"Is she very sad?" asked Lord Chetwynde, in a voice which was
tremulous from suppressed agitation.

"The poor child bears up wonderfully, and struggles hard to make us
think that she is cheerful; but any one who watches her can easily
see that she has some deep-seated grief, which, in spite of all our
care, may even yet wear away her young life. Windham, I've heard of
cases of a broken heart. I think I once in my life saw a case of that
kind, and I'm afraid that this case will--will come at last to be
classed in that list."

Lord Chetwynde said nothing. He had nothing to say--he had nothing to
do. His face in the few moments of this conversation had grown,
ghastly white, his eyes were fixed on vacancy, and an expression of
intense pain spread over his features. He walked along by Obed
Chute's side with the uncertain step of one who walks in a dream.

Obed said nothing for some time. His own thoughts were reverting to
that young girl whom he had left in Naples buried under a mountain of
woe. Could he ever draw her forth from that overwhelming grief which
pressed her down? They went on together through several streets
without any particular intention, each one occupied with his own
thoughts, until at last they found themselves at St. James's Park.
Here they entered, and walked along one of the chief avenues.

"You remember, Windham," said Obed at last--"of course you have not
forgotten the story which Miss Lorton told about her betrayal."

Lord Chetwynde bowed, without trusting himself to speak.

"And you remember the villain's name, too, of course."

"Yes--Gualtier," said Lord Chetwynde.

"I put the case in the hands of the Marseilles police, and you know
that up to the time when we left nothing had been done. Nothing has
been done since of any consequence. On my way here I stopped at
Marseilles, and found that the police had been completely baffled,
and had found no trace whatever either of Gualtier or of the maid
Mathilde. When I arrived at Marseilles I found that the police there
had been on the look-out for that man for seven weeks, but in spite
of the most minute inquiry, and the most vigilant watchfulness, they
had seen no sign of any such person. The conclusion that I have come
to is that he never went to Naples--at least not after his crime.
Nor, on the other hand, is it likely that he remained in France. The
only thing that I can think of is that both he and the maid Mathilde
went back to England."

"There is Germany," said Lord Chetwynde, who had not lost a word, "or
the other states of Italy. Florence is a pleasant place to go to.
Above all, there is America--the common land of refuge to all who
have to fly from the Old World."

"Yes, all that is true--very true. It may be so; but I have an idea
that the man may still be in England, and I have some hope of getting
on his track now. But this is not the immediate purpose of my coming.
That was caused by a discovery of new features in this dark case,
which show a deliberate plan on the part of Gualtier and others to
destroy Miss Lorton so as to get her money."

"Have you found out any thing else? Has any fresh calamity fallen
upon that innocent head?" asked Lord Chetwynde, in breathless
anxiety. "At any rate, it can not be so bad as what she has already
suffered."

"In one sense it is not so bad, but in another sense it is worse."

"How?"

"Why, it is not so bad, for it only concerns the loss of money; but
then, again, it is far worse, for"--and Obed's voice dropped
low--"for it shows her that there is an accomplice of Gualtier's, who
has joined with him in this crime, and been a principal in it, and
this accomplice is--_her sister_!"

"Great God!" cried Lord Chetwynde, aghast. "Her sister?"

"Her sister," said Obed, who did not, as yet, think it necessary to
tell what Zillah had revealed to him in confidence about their not
being sisters.

Lord Chetwynde seemed overwhelmed.

Obed then began and detailed to him every circumstance of the affair
of the draft, to all of which the other listened with rapt attention.
A long discussion followed this revelation. Lord Chetwynde could not
help seeing that Miss Lorton had been betrayed by her sister as well
as by Gualtier, and felt painfully affected by the coldblooded
cruelty with which the abstraction of the money was managed. To him
this "Ella Lorton" seemed wronged as no one had ever been wronged
before, and his heart burned to assist Obed Chute in his work of
vengeance.

He said as much. "But I fear," he added, "that there is not much
chance. At any rate, it will be a work of years; and long before
then, in fact, before many weeks, I expect to be on my way back to
India. As to this wretched, this guilty pair, it is my opinion that
they have fled to America. Hilda Lorton can not be old in crime, and
her first instinct would be to fly from England. If you ever find
those wretches, it will be there."

"I dare say you are right," said Obed. "But," he added, in tones of
grim determination, "if it takes years to find this out, I am ready.
I am willing to spend years in the search. The police of Italy and of
France are already on the track of this affair. It is my intention to
direct the London police to the same game, and on my way back I'll
give notice at Berlin and Vienna, so as to set the Prussian and
Austrian authorities to work. If all these combined can't do any
thing, then I'll begin to think that these devils are not in Europe.
If they are in America, I know a dozen New York detectives that can
do something in the way of finding out even more artful scoundrels
than these. For my own part, if, after ten years of incessant labor,
any light is thrown on this, I shall be fully rewarded. I'd spend
twice the time if I had it for her, the poor little thing!"

Obed spoke like a tender, pitying father, and his tones vibrated to
the heart of Lord Chetwynde.

For a time he was the subject of a mighty struggle. The deepest
feelings of his nature were all concerned here. Might he not now make
this the object of his life--to give up every thing, and search out
these infernal criminals, and avenge that fair girl whose image had
been fixed so deeply on his heart? But, then, he feared this task.
Already she had chained him to Marseilles, and still he looked back
with anguish upon the horror of that last parting with her. All his
nature yearned and longed to feel once more the sunshine of her
presence; but, on account of the very intensity of that longing, the
dictates of honor and duty bade him resist the impulse. The very
tenderness of his love--its all-consuming ardor--those very things
which impelled him to espouse her cause and fight her battles and win
her gratitude, at the very same time held him back and bade him avoid
her, and tear her image from his heart. For who was he, and what was
he, that he should yield to this overmastering spell which had been
thrown over him by the witchery of this young girl? _Had he not his
wife_? Was she not at Chetwynde Castle? That odious wife, forced on
him in his boyhood, long since grown abhorrent, and now standing up,
an impassable barrier between him and the dearest longings of his
heart. So he crushed down desire; and, while assenting to Obed's
plans, made no proposal to assist him in any way in their
accomplishment.

At the end of about two hours Obed announced his intentions at
present. He had come first and more especially to see Messrs. Tilton
and Browne, with a hope that he might be able to trace the affair
back far enough to reach Hilda Lorton; and secondly, to set the
London police to work.

"Will you make any stay?" asked Lord Chetwynde.

"No, not more than I can help. I can find out soon whether my designs
are practicable or not. If they can not be immediately followed out,
I will leave it to the police, who can do far better than me, and go
back to Naples. Miss Lorton is better there, and I feel like
traveling about Italy till she has recovered. I see that the country
is better for her than all the doctors and medicines in the world. A
sail round Naples Bay may rouse her from the deepest melancholy. She
has set her heart on visiting Rome and Florence. So I must go back to
my little girl, you see."

"Those names," said Lord Chetwynde, calmly, and without exhibiting
any signs of the emotion which the allusion to that "little girl"
caused in his heart--"those names ought certainly to be
traceable--'Hilda Lorton,' 'Ella Lorton.' The names are neither
vulgar nor common. A properly organized effort ought to result in
some discovery. 'Hilda Lorton,' 'Ella Lorton,'" he repeated,
"'Hilda,' 'Ella'--not very common names--' Hilda,' 'Ella.'"

He repeated these names thus over and over, but the names gave no
hint to the speaker of the dark, deep mystery which lay beneath.

As for Obed, he knew that Hilda was not _Hilda Lorton_, and that a
search after any one by that name would be useless. Zillah had told
him that she was not her sister. At length the two friends separated,
Lord Chetwynde saying that he would remain in London till the
following day, and call on Obed at his hotel that evening to learn
the result of his labors. With this each went about his own business;
but into the mind of Lord Chetwynde there came a fresh anxiety, which
made him have vague desires of flying away forever--off to India, to
Australia--any where from the power of his overmastering, his
hopeless love. And amidst all this there came a deep longing to go to
Italy--to Naples, to give up every thing--to go back with Obed Chute.
It needed all the strength of his nature to resist this impulse, and
even when it was overcome it was only for a time. His business that
day was neglected, and he waited impatiently for the evening.

Evening came at last, and Lord Chetwynde went to Obed's hotel. He
found his friend there, looking somewhat dejected.

"I suppose you have accomplished nothing," he said. "I see it in your
face."

"You're about right," said Obed. "I'm going back to Naples
to-morrow."

"You've failed utterly, then?"

"Yes, in all that I hoped. But still I have done what I could to put
things on the right track."

"What have you done?"

"Well, I went first to Tilton and Browne. One of my own London agents
accompanied me there, and Introduced me. They were at once very eager
to do all that they could for me. But I soon found out that nothing
could be done. That girl--Windham--that girl,'' repeated Obed, with
solemn emphasis, "is a little the deepest party that it's ever been
my lot to come across. How any one brought up with my little girl"
(this was the name that Obed loved to give to Zillah) "could develop
such superhuman villainy, and such cool, calculating, far-reaching
craft, is more than I can understand. She knocks me, I confess. But,
then, the plan may all be the work of Gualtier."

"Why, what new thing have you found out?"

"Oh, nothing exactly new; only this, that the deposit of Miss
Lorton's funds and the withdrawal, which were all done by her in Miss
Lorton's name and person, were managed so cleverly that there is not
the slightest ghost of a clew by which either she or the money can be
traced. She drew the funds from one banker and deposited them with
another. I thought I should be able to find out the banker from whom
they were drawn, but it is impossible. Before I came here I had
written to Tilton and Browne, and they had made inquiries from all
the London bankers, but not one of them had any acquaintance whatever
with that name. It must have been some provincial bank, but which one
can not be known. The funds which she deposited were in Bank of
England notes, and these, as well as the consols, gave no indication
of their last place of deposit. It was cleverly managed, and I think
the actors in this affair understand too well their business to leave
a single mark on their trail. The account had only been with Tilton
and Browne for a short time, and they could not give me the slightest
assistance. And so I failed there completely.

"I then went to the police, and stated my case. The prefect at
Marseilles had already been in communication with them about it. They
had made inquiries at all the schools and seminaries, had searched
the directories, and every thing else of that kind, but could find no
music-teacher mentioned by the name of Gualtier. They took it for
granted that the name was an assumed one. They had also investigated
the name 'Lorton,' and had found one or two old county families; but
these knew nothing of the young ladies in question. They promised to
continue their search, and communicate to me any thing that might be
discovered. There the matter rests now, and there I suppose it must
rest until something is done by somebody. When I have started the
Austrian and Prussian police on the same scent I will feel that
nothing more can be done in Europe. I suppose it is no use to go to
Spain or Russia or Turkey. By-the-way, there is Belgium. I mustn't
forget that."

It was only by the strongest effort that Lord Chetwynde was able to
conceal the intensity of his interest in Obed's revelations. All that
day his own business had been utterly forgotten, and all his thoughts
had been occupied with Zillah and her mysterious sorrows. When he
left Marseilles he had sought to throw away all concern for her
affairs, and devote himself to the Chetwynde business. But Obed's
appearance had brought back before him in fresh strength Gualtier
also was not unmindful of this. On the day of his arrival he had
learned that Mrs. Hart was recovering and might soon be well. He
understood perfectly all that was involved in her recovery, and the
danger that might attend upon it. For Mrs. Hart would at once
recognize Hilda, and ask after Zillah. There was now no chance to do
any thing. Lord Chetwynde watched over her as a son might watch over
a mother. These two thus stood before him as a standing menace, an
ever-threatening danger in that path from which other dangers had
been removed at such a hazard and at such a cost. What could he do?
Nothing. It was for Hilda to act in this emergency. He himself was
powerless. He feared also that Hilda herself did not realize the full
extent of her danger. He saw how abstracted she had become, and how
she was engrossed by this new and unlooked for feeling which had
taken full possession of her heart. One thing alone was possible to
him, and that was to warn Hilda. Perhaps she knew the danger, and was
indifferent to it; perhaps she was not at all aware of it; in any
case, a timely warning could not possibly do any harm, and might do a
great deal of good. Under these circumstances he wrote a few words,
which he contrived to place in her hands on the morning when Lord
Chetwynde arrived. The words were these:


"_Mrs. Hart is recovering, and the doctor hopes that she will soon be
entirely well_."


Hilda read these words gloomily, but nothing could be done except
what she had already decided to do. She burned the note, and returned
to her usual meditations. The arrival of Lord Chetwynde soon drove
every thing else out of her mind, and she waited eagerly for the time
for dinner, when she might see him, hear his voice, and feast her
eyes upon his face.

On descending into the dining-room she found Lord Chetwynde already
there. Without a thought of former slights, but following only the
instincts of her own heart, which in its ardent passion was now
filled with joy at the sight of him, she advanced toward him with
extended hand. She did not say a word. She could not speak. Her
emotion overpowered her. She could only extend her hand and look up
into his face imploringly.

Lord Chetwynde stood before her, cold, reserved, with a lofty hauteur
on his brow, and a coldness in his face which might have repelled any
one less impassioned. But Hilda was desperate. She had resolved to
make this last trial, and stake every thing upon this. Regardless,
therefore, of the repellent expression of his face, and the coldness
which was manifested in every lineament, she determined to force a
greeting from him. It was with this resolve that she held out her
hand and advanced toward him.

But Lord Chetwynde stood unmoved. His hands hung down. He looked at
her calmly, yet coldly, without anger, yet without feeling of any
kind. As she approached he bowed.

"You will not even shake hands with me?" faltered Hilda, in a
stammering voice.

"Of what avail would that be?" said Lord Chetwynde. "You and I are
forever separate. We must stand apart forever. Why pretend to a
friendship which does not exist? I am not your friend, Lady
Chetwynde."

Hilda was silent. Her hand fell by her side. She shrank back into
herself. Her disappointment deepened into sadness unutterable, a
sadness that was too profound for anger, a sadness beyond words. So
the dinner passed on. Lord Chetwynde was calm, stern, fixed in his
feelings and in his purpose. Hilda was despairing, and voiceless in
that despair. For the first time she began to feel that all was lost.



CHAPTER XLVI.


THE TABLES TURNED.


Lord Chetwynde had the satisfaction of seeing that Mrs. Hart
recovered steadily. Day after day she improved, and at length became
conscious of surrounding objects. After having gained consciousness
her recovery became more rapid, and she was at length strong enough
for him to visit her. The housekeeper prepared her for the visit, so
that the shock might not be too great. To her surprise she found that
the idea of his presence in the same house had a better effect on her
than all the medicines which she had taken, and all the care which
she had received. She said not a word, but lay quiet with a smile
upon her face, as one who is awaiting the arrival of some sure and
certain bliss. It was this expression which was on her face when Lord
Chetwynde entered. She lay back with her face turned toward the door,
and with all that wistful yet happy expectancy which has been
mentioned. He walked up to her, took her thin, emaciated hands in
his, and kissed her pale forehead.

"My own dear old nurse," he said, "how glad I am to find you so much
better!"

Tears came to Mrs. Hart's eyes. "My boy!" she cried--"my dearest boy,
the sight of you gives me life!" Sobs choked her utterance. She lay
there clasping his hand in both of hers, and wept.

Mrs. Hart had already learned from the housekeeper that she had been
ill for many months, and her own memory, as it gradually rallied from
the shock and collected its scattered energies, brought back before
her the cause of her illness. Had her recovery taken place at any
other time, her grief might have caused a relapse but now she
learned that Lord Chetwynde was here watching over her--"her boy,"
"her darling," "her Guy"--and this was enough to counterbalance the
grief which she might have felt. So now she lay holding his hand in
hers, gazing up into his face with an expression of blissful
contentment and of perfect peace; feeding all her soul in that gaze,
drawing from him new strength at every glance, and murmuring words of
fondest love and endearment. As he sat there the sternness of Lord
Chetwynde's features relaxed, the eyes softened into love and pity,
the hard lines about the month died away. He seemed to feel himself a
boy again, as he once more held that hand which had guided his
boyhood's years.

He staid there for hours. Mrs. Hart would not let him go, and he did
not care to do violence to her affections by tearing himself away.
She seemed to cling to him as though he were the only living being on
whom her affections were fixed. He took to himself all the love of
this poor, weak, fond creature, and felt a strange pleasure in it.
She on her part seemed to acquire new strength from his presence.

"I'm afraid, my dear nurse," said he, "that I am fatiguing you. I
will leave you now and come back again."

"No, no," said Mrs. Hart, earnestly; "do not leave me. You will leave
me soon enough. Do not desert me now, my own boy--my sweet
child--stay by me."

"But all this fatigues you."

"No, my dearest--it gives me new strength--such strength as I have
not known for a long time. If you leave me I shall sink back again
into weakness. Do not forsake me."

So Lord Chetwynde staid, and Mrs. Hart made him tell her all about
what he had been doing during the years of his absence. Hours passed
away in this conversation. And he saw, and wondered as he saw it,
that Mrs. Hart grew stronger every moment. It seemed as if his
presence brought to her life and joy and strength; He laughingly
mentioned this.

"Yes, my dearest," said Mrs. Hart, "you are right. You bring me new
life. You come to me like some strong angel, and bid me live. I dare
say I have something to live for, though what it is I can not tell.
Since he has gone I do not see what there is for me to do, or why it
should be that I should linger on in life, unless it may be for you."

"For me--yes, my dear nurse," said Lord Chetwynde, fondly kissing her
pale brow--"yes, it must be for me. Live, then, for me."

"You have others who love you and live for you," said Mrs. Hart,
mournfully. "You don't need your poor old nurse now."

Lord Chetwynde shook his head.

"No others can supply your place," said he. "You will always be my
own dear old nurse."

Mrs. Hart looked up with a smile of ecstasy.

"I am going away," said Lord Chetwynde, after some further
conversation, "in a few days, and I do not know when I will be back,
but I want you, for my sake, to try and be cheerful, so as to get
well as soon as possible."

"Going away!" gasped Mrs. Hart, in strong surprise. "Where to?"

"To Italy. To Florence," said Lord Chetwynde.

"To Florence?"

"Yes."

"Why do you leave Chetwynde?"

"I have some business," said he, "of a most important kind; so
important that I must leave every thing and go away."

"Is your wife going with you?"

"No--she will remain here," said Lord Chetwynde, dryly.

Mrs. Hart could not help noticing the very peculiar tone in which he
spoke of his wife.

"She will be lonely without you," said she.

"Well--business must be attended to, and this is of vital
importance," was Lord Chetwynde's answer.

Mrs. Hart was silent for a long time.

"Do you expect ever to come back?" she asked at last.

"I hope so."

"But you do not know so?"

"I should be sorry to give up Chetwynde forever," said he.

"Is there any danger of that?"

"Yes. I am thinking of it. The affairs of the estate are of such a
nature that I may be compelled to sacrifice even Chetwynde. You know
that for three generations this prospect has been before us."

"But I thought that danger was averted by your marriage?" said Mrs.
Hart, in a low voice.

"It was averted for my father's lifetime, but now it remains for me
to do justice to those who were wronged by that arrangement; and
justice shall be done, even if Chetwynde has to be sacrificed."

"I understand," said Mrs. Hart, in a quiet, thoughtful tone--"and you
are going to Florence?"

"Yes, in a few days. But you will be left in the care of those who
love you."

"Lady Chetwynde used to love me," said Mrs. Hart; "and I loved her."

"I am glad to know that--more so than I can say."

"She was always tender and loving and true. Your father loved her
like a daughter."

"So I have understood."

"You speak coldly."

"Do I? I was not aware of it. No doubt her care will be as much at
your service as ever, and when I come back again I shall find you in
a green old age--won't I? Say I shall, my dear old nurse."

Tears stood in Mrs. Hart's eyes. She gazed wistfully at him, but said
nothing.

A few more interviews took place between these two, and in a short
time Lord Chetwynde bade her an affectionate farewell, and left the
place once more.

On the morning after his departure Hilda was in the morning-room
waiting for Gualtier, whom she had summoned. Although she knew that
Lord Chetwynde was going away, yet his departure seemed sudden, and
took her by surprise. He went away without any notice, just as he had
done before, but somehow she had expected some formal announcement of
his intention, and, because he had gone away without a word, she
began to feel aggrieved and injured. Out of this there grew before
her the memory of all Lord Chetwynde's coolness toward her, of the
slights and insults to which he had subjected her, of the abhorrence
which he had manifested toward her. She felt that she was despised.
It was as though she had been foully wronged. To all these this last
act was added. He had gone away without a word or a sign--where, she
knew not--why, she could not tell. It was his abhorrence for her that
had driven him away--this was evident.

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." And this woman, who found
herself doubly and trebly scorned, lashed herself into a fury of
indignation. In this new-found fury she found the first relief which
she had known from the torments of unrequited passion, from the
longing and the craving and the yearning of her hot and fervid
nature. Into this new fit of indignation she flung herself with
complete abandonment. Since he scorned her, he should suffer--this
was her feeling. Since he refused her love, he should feel her
vengeance. He should know that she might be hated, but she was not
one who could be despised. For every slight which he had heaped upon
her he should pay with his heart's blood. Under the pangs of this new
disappointment she writhed and groaned in her anguish, and all the
tumults of feeling which she had endured ever since she saw him now
seemed to congregate and gather themselves up into one outburst of
furious and implacable vengefulness. Her heart beat hot and fast in
her fierce excitement. Her face was pale, but the hectic flush on
either cheek told of the fires within; and the nervous agitation of
her manner, her clenched hands, and heaving breast, showed that the
last remnant of self-control was forgotten and swept away in this
furious rush of passion. It was in such a mood as this that Gualtier
found her as he entered the morning-room to which she had summoned
him.

Hilda at first did not seem to see him, or at any rate did not notice
him. She was sitting as before in a deep arm-chair, in the depths of
which her slender figure seemed lost. Her hands were clutched
together. Her face was turned toward that portrait over the
fire-place, which represented Lord Chetwynde in his early youth. Upon
that face, usually so like a mask, so impassive, and so unapt to
express the feelings that existed within, there was now visibly
expressed an array of contending emotions. She had thrown away or
lost her self-restraint; those feelings raged and expressed
themselves uncontrolled, and Gualtier for the first time saw her off
her guard. He entered with his usual stealthy tread, and watched her
for some time as she sat looking at the picture. He read in her face
the emotions which were expressed there. He saw disappointment, rage,
fury, love, vengeance, pride, and desire all contending together. He
learned for the first time that this woman whom he had believed to be
cold as an icicle was as hot-hearted as a volcano; that she was
fervid, impulsive, vehement, passionate, intense in love and in hate.
As he learned this he felt his soul sink within him as he thought
that it was not reserved for him, but for another, to call forth all
the fiery vehemence of that stormy nature.

She saw him at last, as with a passionate gesture she tore her eyes
away from the portrait, which seemed to fascinate her. The sight of
Gualtier at once restored her outward calm. She was herself once
more. She waved her hand loftily to a seat, and the very fact that
she had made this exhibition of feeling before him seemed to harden
that proud manner which she usually displayed toward him.

"I have sent for you," said she, in calm, measured tones, "for an
important purpose. You remember the last journey on which I sent
you?"

"Yes, my lady."

"You did that well. I have another one on which I wish you to go. It
refers to the same person."

"Lord Chetwynde?"

Hilda bowed.

"I am ready," said Gualtier.

"He left this morning, and I don't know where he has gone, but I wish
you to go after him."

"I know where he intended to go."

"How? Where?"

"Some of the servants overheard him speaking to Mrs. Hart about going
to Italy."

"Italy!"

"Yes. I can come up with him somewhere, if you wish it, and get on
his track. But what is it that you wish me to do?"

"In the first place, to follow him up."

"How--at a distance--or near him? That is to say, shall I travel in
disguise, or shall I get employ near his person? I can be a valet, or
a courier, or any thing else."

"Any thing. This must be left to you. I care not for details. The
grand result is what I look to."

"And what is the grand result?"

"Something which you yourself once proposed," said Hilda, in low,
stern tones, and with deep meaning.

Gualtier's face flushed. He understood her.

"I know," said he. "He is an obstacle, and you wish this obstacle
removed."

"Yes."

"You understand me exactly, my lady, do you?" asked Gualtier,
earnestly. "You wish it removed--_just as other obstacles have been
removed_. You wish never to see him again. You wish to be your own
mistress henceforth--and always."

"You have stated exactly what I mean," said Hilda, in icy tones.

Gualtier was silent for some time.

"Lady Chetwynde," said he at length, in a tone which was strikingly
different from that with which for years he had addressed her--"Lady
Chetwynde, I wish you to observe that this task upon which you now
send me is far different from any of the former ones which I have
undertaken at your bidding. I have always set out without a
word--like one of those Haschishim of whom you have read, when he
received the mandate of the Sheik of the mountains. But the nature of
this errand is such that I may never see you again. The task is a
perilous one. The man against whom I am sent is a man of singular
acuteness, profound judgment, dauntless courage, and remorseless in
his vengeance. His acuteness may possibly enable him to see through
me, and frustrate my plan before it is fairly begun. What then? For
me, at least, there will be nothing but destruction. It is,
therefore, as if I now were standing face to face with death, and so
I crave the liberty of saying something to you this time, and not
departing in silence."

Gualtier spoke with earnestness, with dignity, yet with perfect
respect. There was that in his tone and manner which gave indications
of a far higher nature than any for which Hilda had ever yet given
him credit. His words struck her strangely. They were not
insubordinate, for he announced his intention to obey her; they were
not disrespectful, for his manner was full of his old reverence; but
they seemed like an assertion of something like manhood, and like a
blow against that undisputed ascendency which she had so long
maintained over him. In spite of her preoccupation, and her
tempestuous passion, she was forced to listen, and she listened with
a vague surprise, looking at him with a cold stare.

"You seem to me," said she, "to speak as though you were unwilling to
go--or afraid."

"Pardon me, Lady Chetwynde," said Gualtier, "you can not think that.
I have said that I would go, but that, as I may never see you again,
I wish to say something. I wish, in fact, now, after all these years,
to have a final understanding with you."

"Well?" said Hilda.

"I need not remind you of the past," said Gualtier, "or of my blind
obedience to all your mandates. Two events at least stand out
conspicuously. I have assisted you to the best of my power. Why I did
so must be evident to you. You know very well that it was no sordid
motive on my part, no hate toward others, no desire for vengeance,
but something far different--something which has animated me for
years, so that it was enough that you gave a command for me to obey.
For years I have been thus at your call like a slave, and now, after
all these years--now, that I depart on my last and most perilous
mission, and am speaking to you words which may possibly be the last
that you will ever hear from me--I wish to implore you, to beseech
you, to promise me that reward which you must know I have always
looked forward to, and which can be the only possible recompense to
one like me for services like mine."

He stopped and looked imploringly at her.

"And what is that?" asked Hilda, mechanically, as though she did not
fully understand him.

"_Yourself_," said Gualtier, in a low, earnest voice, with all his
soul in the glance which he threw upon her.

The moment that he said the word Hilda started back with a gesture of
impatience and contempt, and regarded him with an expression of anger
and indignation, and with a frown so black that it seemed as if she
would have blasted him with her look had she been able. Gualtier,
however, did not shrink from her fierce glance. His eyes were no
longer lowered before hers. He regarded her fixedly, calmly, yet
respectfully, with his head erect, and no trace of his old
unreasoning submission in his face and manner. Surprised as Hilda had
evidently been at his words, she seemed no less surprised at his
changed demeanor. It was the first time in her life that she had seen
in him any revelation of manhood; and that view opened up to her very
unpleasant possibilities.

"This is not a time," she said at length, in a sharp voice, "for such
nonsense as this."

"I beg your pardon, Lady Chetwynde," said Gualtier, firmly, "I think
that this and no other is the time. Whether it be 'nonsense' or not
need not be debated. It is any thing but nonsense to me. All my past
life seems to sweep up to this moment, and now is the crisis of my
fate. All my future depends upon it, whether for weal or woe. Lady
Chetwynde, do not call it nonsense--do not underrate its importance.
Do not, I implore you, underrate me. Thus far you have tacitly
assumed that I am a feeble and almost imbecile character. It is true
that my abject devotion to you has forced me to give a blind
obedience to all your wishes. But mark this well, Lady Chetwynde,
such obedience itself involved some of the highest qualities of
manhood. Something like courage and fortitude and daring was
necessary to carry out those plans of yours which I so willingly
undertook. I do not wish to speak of myself, however. I only wish to
show you that I am in earnest, and that though you may treat this
occasion with levity, I can not. All my life, Lady Chetwynde, hangs
on your answer to my question."

Gualtier's manner was most vehement, and indicative of the strongest
emotion, but the tones of his voice were low and only audible to
Hilda. Low as the voice was, however, it still none the less
exhibited the intensity of the passion that was in his soul.


Hilda, on the contrary, evinced a stronger rage at every word which
he uttered. The baleful light of her dark eyes grew more fiery in its
concentrated anger and scorn.

"It seems to me," said she, in her most contemptuous tone, "that you
engage to do my will only on certain conditions; and that you are
taking advantage of my necessities in order to drive a bargain."


"You are right, Lady Chetwynde," said Gualtier, calmly. "I am trying
to drive a bargain; but remember it is not for money--it is for
_yourself_."

"And I," said Hilda, with unchanged scorn, "will never submit to such
coercion. When you dare to dictate to me, you mistake my character
utterly. What I have to give I will give freely. My gifts shall never
be extorted from me, even though my life should depend upon my
compliance or refusal. The tone which you have chosen to adopt toward
me is scarcely one that will make me swerve from my purpose, or alter
any decision which I may have made. You have deceived yourself. You
seem to suppose that you are indispensable to me, and that this is
the time when you can force upon me any conditions you choose. As far
as that is concerned, let me tell you plainly that you may do what
you choose, and either go on this errand or stay. In any case, by no
possibility, will I make any promise whatever."

This Hilda said quickly, and in her usual scorn. She thought that
such indifference might bring Gualtier to terms, and make him decide
to obey her without extorting this promise. For a moment she thought
that she had succeeded. At her words a change came over Gualtier's
face. He looked humbled and sad. As she ceased, he turned his eyes
imploringly to her, and said:

"Lady Chetwynde, do not say that. I entreat you to give me this
promise."

"I will not!" said Hilda, sharply.

"Once more I entreat you," said Gualtier, more earnestly.

"Once more I refuse," said Hilda. "Go and do this thing first, and
then come and ask me."

"Will you _then_ promise me?"

"I will tell you nothing now."

"Lady Chetwynde, for the last time I _implore_ you to give me some
ground for hope at least. Tell me--if this thing be accomplished,
will you give me what I want?"

"I will make no engagement whatever," said Hilda, coldly.

Gualtier at this seemed to raise himself at once above his dejection,
his humility, and his prayerful attitude, to a new and stronger
assertion of himself.

"Very well," said he, gravely and sternly. "Now listen to me, Lady
Chetwynde. I will no longer entreat--I insist that you give me this
promise."

"Insist!"

Nothing can describe the scorn and contempt of Hilda's tone as she
uttered this word.

"I repeat it," said Gualtier, calmly, and with deeper emphasis. "_I_
insist that you give me your promise."

"My friend," said Hilda, contemptuously, "you do not seem to
understand our positions. This seems to me like impertinence, and,
unless you make an apology, I shall be under the very unpleasant
necessity of obtaining a new steward."

As Hilda said this she turned paler than ever with suppressed rage.

Gualtier smiled scornfully.

"It seems to me," said he, "that you are the one who does not, or
will not, understand our respective positions. You will _not_ dismiss
_me_ from the stewardship, Lady Chetwynde, for you will be too
sensible for that. You will retain me in that dignified office, for
you know that I am indispensable to you, though you seemed to deny it
a moment since. You have not forgotten the relations which we bear to
one another. There are certain memories which rise between us two
which will never escape the recollection of either of us till the
latest moment of our lives; some of these are associated with the
General, some with the Earl, and some--with _Zillah_!"

He stopped, as though the mention of that last name had overpowered
him. As for Hilda, the pallor of her face grew deeper, and she
trembled with mingled agitation and rage.

"Go!" said she. "Go! and let me never see your face again!"

"No," said Gualtier, "I will not go till I choose. As to seeing my
face again, the wish is easier said than gained. No, Lady Chetwynde.
_You are in my power_! You know it. I tell it to you here, and
nothing can save you from me if I turn against you. You have never
understood me, for you have never taken the trouble to do so. You
have shown but little mercy toward me. When I have come home from
serving you--_you know how_--hungering and thirsting for some slight
act of appreciation, some token of thankfulness, you have always
repelled me, and denied what I dared not request. Had you but given
me the kind attention which a master gives to a dog, I would
have followed you like a dog to the world's end, and died for
you--like a dog, too," he added, in an under-tone. "But you have used
me as a stepping-stone; thinking that, like such, I could be spurned
aside when you were done with me. You have not thought that I am not
a stone or a block, but a man, with a man's heart within me. And it
is now as a man that I speak to you, because you force me to it. I
tell you this, that you are in my power, and you must be mine!"

"Are you a madman?" cried Hilda, overwhelmed with amazement at this
outburst. "Have you lost your senses? Fool! If you mean what you say,
I defy you! Go, and use your power! _I_ in the power of such as
you?--Never!"

Her brows contracted as she spoke, and from beneath her black eyes
seemed to shoot baleful fires of hate and rage unutterable. The full
intensity of her nature was aroused, and the expression of her face
was terrible in its fury and malignancy. But Gualtier did not recoil.
On the contrary, he feasted his eyes on her, and a smile came to his
features.

"You are beautiful!" said he. "You have a demon beauty that is
overpowering. Oh, beautiful fiend! You can not resist. You must be
mine--and you shall! I never saw you so lovely. I love you best in
your fits of rage."

"Fool!" cried Hilda. "This is enough. You are mad, or else drunk; in
either case you shall not stay another day in Chetwynde Castle. Go!
or I will order the servants to put you out."

"There will be no occasion for that," said Gualtier, coolly. "I am
going to leave you this very night to join Lord Chetwynde."

"It is too late now; your valuable services are no longer needed,"
said Hilda, with a sneer. "You may spare yourself the trouble of such
a journey. Let me know what is due you, and I will pay it."

"You will pay me only one thing, and that is _yourself_," said
Gualtier. "If you do not choose to pay _that_ price you must take the
consequences. I am going to join Lord Chetwynde, whether you wish me
to or not. But, remember this!"--and Gualtier's voice grew menacing
in its intonations--"remember this; it depends upon you in what
capacity I am to join him. You are the one who must say whether I
shall go to him as his enemy or his friend. If I go as his enemy,
you know what will happen; if I go as his friend, it is you who must
fall. Now, Lady Chetwynde, do you understand me?"

As Gualtier said this there was a deep meaning in his words which
Hilda could not fail to understand, and there was at the same time
such firmness and solemn decision that she felt that he would
certainly do as he said. She saw at once the peril that lay before
her. An alternative was offered: the one was, to come to terms with
him; the other, to accept utter and hopeless ruin. That ruin, too,
which he menaced was no common one. It was one which placed her under
the grasp of the law, and from which no foreign land could shelter
her. All her prospects, her plans, her hopes, were in that instant
dashed away from before her; and she realized now, to the fullest
extent, the frightful truth that she was indeed completely in the
power of this man. The discovery of this acted on her like a shock,
which sobered her and drove away her passion.

She said nothing in reply, but sat down in silence, and remained a
long time without speaking. Gualtier, on his part, saw the effect of
his last words, but he made no effort to interrupt her thoughts. He
could not yet tell what she in her desperation might decide; he could
only wait for her answer. He stood waiting patiently.

At last Hilda spoke:

"You've told me bitter truths--but they are truths. Unfortunately, I
am in your power. If you choose to coerce me I must yield, for I am
not yet ready to accept ruin."

"You promise then?"

"Since I must--I do."

"Thank you," said Gualtier; "and now you will not see me again till
all is over either with _him_ or with _me_."

He bowed respectfully and departed. After he had left, Hilda sat
looking at the door with a face of rage and malignant fury. At
length, starting to her feet, she hurried up to her room.



CHAPTER XLVII.


HILDA SEES A GULF BENEATH HER FEET.


The astonishing change in Gualtier was an overwhelming shock to
Hilda. She had committed the fatal mistake of underrating him, and of
putting herself completely in his power. She had counted on his being
always humble and docile, always subservient and blindly obedient.
She had put from her all thoughts of a possible day of reckoning. She
had fostered his devotion to her so as to be used for her own ends,
and now found that she had raised up a power which might sweep her
away. In the first assertion of that power she had been vanquished,
and compelled to make a promise which she had at first refused with
the haughtiest contempt. She could only take refuge in vague plans of
evading her promise, and in punishing Gualtier for what seemed to her
his unparalleled audacity.

Yet, after all, bitter as the humiliation had been, it did not lessen
her fervid passion for Lord Chetwynde, and the hate and the vengeance
that had arisen when that passion had been condemned. After the first
shock of the affair with Gualtier had passed, her madness and fury
against him passed also, and her wild spirit was once again filled
with the all-engrossing thought of Lord Chetwynde. Gualtier had gone
off, as he said, and she was to see him no more for some
time--perhaps never. He had his own plans and purposes, of the
details of which Hilda knew nothing, but could only conjecture. She
felt that failure on his part was not probable, and gradually, so
confident was she that he would succeed, Lord Chetwynde began to seem
to her not merely a doomed man, but a man who had already undergone
his doom. And now another change came over her--that change which
Death can make in the heart of the most implacable of men when his
enemy has left life forever. From the pangs of wounded love she had
sought refuge in vengeance--but the prospect of a gratified vengeance
was but a poor compensation for the loss of the hope of a requited
love. The tenderness of love still remained, and it struggled with
the ferocity of vengeance. That love pleaded powerfully for Lord
Chetwynde's life. Hope came also, to lend its assistance to the
arguments of love. Would it not be better to wait--even for
years--and then perhaps the fierceness of Lord Chetwynde's repugnance
might be allayed? Why destroy him, and her hope, and her love,
forever, and so hastily? After such thoughts as these, however, the
remembrance of Lord Chetwynde's contempt was sure to return and
intensify her vengeance.

Under such circumstances, when distracted by so many cares, it is not
surprising that she forgot all about Mrs. Hart. She had understood
the full meaning of Gualtier's warning about her prospective
recovery, but the danger passed from her mind. Gualtier had gone on
his errand, and she was sure he would not falter. Shut up in her own
chamber, she awaited in deep agitation the first tidings which he
might send. Day succeeded to day; no tidings came; and at last she
began to hope that he had failed--and the pleasantest sight which she
could have seen at that time would have been Gualtier returning
disappointed and baffled.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Hart, left to herself, steadily and rapidly
recovered. Ever since her first recognition of Lord Chetwynde her
improvement had been marked. New ideas seemed to have come to her;
new motives for life; and with these the desire of life; and at the
promptings of that desire health came back. This poor creature, even
in the best days of her life at Chetwynde Castle, had not known any
health beyond that of a moderate kind; and so a moderate recovery
would suffice to give her what strength she had lost. To be able to
wander about the house once more was all that she needed, and this
was not long denied her.

In a few days after Gualtier's departure she was able to go about.
She walked through the old familiar scenes, traversed the well-known
halls, and surveyed the well-remembered apartments. One journey was
enough for the first day. The next day she went about the grounds,
and visited the chapel, where she sat for hours on the Earl's tomb,
wrapped in an absorbing meditation. Two or three days passed on, and
she walked about as she used to. And now a strong desire seized her
to see that wife of Lord Chetwynde whom she so dearly loved and so
fondly remembered. She wondered that Lady Chetwynde had not come to
see her. She was informed that Lady Chetwynde was ill. A deep
sympathy then arose in her heart for the poor friendless lady--the
fair girl whom she remembered--and whom she now pictured to herself
as bereaved of her father, and scorned by her husband. For Mrs. Hart
rightly divined the meaning of Lord Chetwynde's words. She thought
long over this, and at last there arose within her a deep yearning
to go and see this poor friendless orphaned girl, whose life had been
so sad, and was still so mournful.

So one day, full of such tender feelings as these, and carrying in
her mind the image of that beautiful young girl who once had been so
dear to her, she went up herself to the room where Hilda staid, and
asked the maid for Lady Chetwynde.

"She is ill," said the maid.

Mrs. Hart waved her aside with serene dignity and entered. The maid
stood awe-struck. For Mrs. Hart had the air and the tone of a lady,
and now when her will was aroused she very well knew how to put down
an unruly servant. So she walked grandly past the maid, who looked in
awe upon her stately figure, her white face, with its refined
features, and her venerable hair, and passed through the half-opened
door into Hilda's room.

Hilda had been sitting on the sofa, which was near the window. She
was looking out abstractedly, thinking upon the great problem which
lay before her, upon the solution of which she could not decide, when
suddenly she became aware of some one in the room. She looked up. It
was Mrs. Hart!

At the sight her blood chilled within her. Her face was overspread
with an expression of utter horror. The shock was tremendous. She had
forgotten all about the woman. Mrs. Hart had been to her like the
dead, and now to see her thus suddenly was like the sight of the
dead. Had the dead Earl come into her room and stood before her in
the cerements of the grave she would not have been one whit more
horrified, more bewildered. But soon in that strong mind of hers
reason regained its place. She saw how it had been, and though she
still wondered how Mrs. Hart had come into her room, yet she prepared
as best she might to deal with this new and unexpected danger. She
arose, carefully closed the door, and then turning to Mrs.
Hart she took her hand, and said, simply,

"I'm so glad to see you about again."

"Where is Lady Chetwynde?"

This was all that Mrs. Hart said, as she withdrew her hand and looked
all about the room.

Like lightning Hilda's plan was decided upon. "Wait a moment," said
she; and, going into the ante-room, she sent her maid away upon some
errand that would detain her for some time. Then she came back and
motioned Mrs. Hart to a chair, while she took another.

"Did not Lord Chetwynde tell you about Lady Chetwynde?" she asked,
very cautiously. She was anxious, first of all, to see how much Mrs.
Hart knew.

"No," said Mrs. Hart, "he scarcely mentioned her name." She looked
suspiciously at Hilda while she spoke.

"That is strange," said Hilda. "Had you any conversations with him?"

"Yes, several."

"And he did not tell you?"

"He told me nothing about her," said Mrs. Hart, dryly.

Hilda drew a long breath of relief.

"It's a secret in this house," said she, "but you must know it. I
will tell you all about it. After the Earl's death Lady Chetwynde
happened to come across some letters written by his son, in which the
utmost abhorrence was expressed for the girl whom he had married. I
dare say the letters are among the papers yet, and you can see them.
One in particular was fearful in its denunciations of her. He reviled
her, called her by opprobrious epithets, and told his father that he
would never consent to see her. Lady Chetwynde saw all these. You
know how high-spirited she was. She at once took fire at these
insults, and declared that she would never consent to see Lord
Chetwynde. She wrote him to that effect, and then departed from
Chetwynde Castle forever."

Mrs. Hart listened with a stern, sad face, and said not a word.

"I went with her to a place where she is now living in seclusion. I
don't think that Lord Chetwynde would have come home if he had not
known that she had left. Hearing this, however, he at once came
here."

"And you?" said Mrs. Hart, "what are you doing here? Are you the Lady
Chetwynde of whom the servants speak?"

"I am, temporarily," said Hilda, with a sad smile. "It was Zillah's
wish. She wanted to avoid a scandal. She sent off all the old
servants, hired new ones, and persuaded me to stay here for a time as
Lady Chetwynde. She found a dear old creature to nurse you, and never
ceases to write about you and ask how you are."

"And you live here as Lady Chetwynde?" asked Mrs. Hart, sternly.

"Temporarily," said Hilda--"that was the arrangement between us.
Zillah did not want to have the name of Chetwynde dishonored by
stories that his wife had run away from him. She wrote Lord Chetwynde
to that effect. When Lord Chetwynde arrived I saw him in the library,
and he requested me to stay here for some months until he had
arranged his plans for the future. It was very considerate in Zillah,
but at the same time it is very embarrassing to me, and I am looking
eagerly forward to the time when this deceit can be over, and I can
rejoin my friend once more. I am so glad, my dear Mrs. Hart, that you
came in. It is such a relief to have some one to whom I can unburden
myself. I am very miserable, and I imagine all the time that the
servants suspect me. You will, of course, keep this a profound
secret, will you not, my dear Mrs. Hart? and help me to play this
wretched part, which my love for Zillah has led me to undertake?"

Hilda's tone was that of an innocent and simple girl who found
herself in a false position. Mrs. Hart listened earnestly without a
word, except occasionally. The severe rigidity of her features never
relaxed. What effect this story, so well told, produced upon her,
Hilda could not know. At length, however, she had finished, and Mrs.
Hart arose.

"You will keep Zillah's secret?" said Hilda, earnestly. "It is for
the sake of Lord Chetwynde."

"You will never find me capable of doing any thing that is against
his interests," said Mrs. Hart, solemnly; and without a bow, or an
adieu, she retired. She went back to her own room to ponder over this
astonishing story.

Meanwhile, Hilda, left alone to herself, was not altogether satisfied
with the impression which had been made on Mrs. Hart. She herself had
played her part admirably--her story, long prepared in case of some
sudden need like this, was coherent and natural. It was spoken
fluently and unhesitatingly; nothing could have been better in its
way, or more convincing; and yet she was not satisfied with Mrs.
Hart's demeanor. Her face was too stern, her manner too frigid; the
questions which she had asked spoke of suspicion. All these were
unpleasant, and calculated to awaken her fears. Her position had
always been one of extreme peril, and she had dreaded some visitor
who might remember her face. She had feared the doctor most, and had
carefully kept out of his way. She had not thought until lately of
the possibility of Mrs. Hart's recovery. This came upon her with a
suddenness that was bewildering, and the consequences she could not
foretell.

And now another fear suggested itself. Might not Lord Chetwynde
himself have some suspicions? Would not such suspicions account for
his coldness and severity? Perhaps he suspected the truth, and was
preparing some way in which she could be entrapped and punished.
Perhaps his mysterious business in London related to this alone. The
thought filled her with alarm, and now she rejoiced that Gualtier was
on his track. She began to believe that she could never be safe until
Lord Chetwynde was "removed." And if Lord Chetwynde, then others. Who
was this Mrs. Hart that she should have any power of troubling her?
Measures might easily be taken for silencing her forever, and for
"removing" such a feeble old obstacle as this. Hilda knew means by
which this could be effected. She knew the way by which the deed
could be done, and she had nerve enough to do it.


[Illustration: "She Stood For A Little While And Listened."]


The appearance of this new danger in Chetwynde Castle itself gave a
new direction to her troubles. It was as though a gulf had suddenly
yawned beneath her feet. All that night she lay deliberating as to
what was best to do under the circumstances. Mrs. Hart was safe
enough for a day or two, but what might she not do hereafter in the
way of mischief? She could not be got rid of, either, in an ordinary
way. She had been so long in Chetwynde Castle that it seemed morally
impossible to dislodge her. Certainly she was not one who could be
paid and packed off to some distant place like the other servants.
There was only one way to get rid of her, and to this one way Hilda's
thoughts turned gloomily.

Over this thought she brooded through all the following day. Evening
came, and twilight deepened into darkness. At about ten o'clock Hilda
left her room and quietly descended the great staircase, and went
over toward the chamber occupied by Mrs. Hart. Arriving at the door
she stood without for a little while and listened. There was no
noise. She gave a turn to the knob and found that the door was open.
The room was dark. She has gone to bed, she thought. She went back to
her own room again, and in about half an hour she returned. The door
of Mrs. Hart's room remained ajar as she had left it. She pushed it
farther open, and put her head in. All was still. There were no
sounds of breathing there. Slowly and cautiously she advanced into
the room. She drew nearer to the bed. There was no light whatever,
and in the intense darkness no outline revealed the form of the bed
to her. Nearer and nearer she drew to the bed, until at last she
touched it. Gently, yet swiftly, her hands passed over its surface,
along the quilts, up to the pillows. An involuntary cry burst from
her--

The bed was empty!



CHAPTER XLVIII.


FROM LOVE TO VENGEANCE, AND FROM VENGEANCE TO LOVE.


On the night of this last event, before she retired to bed, Hilda
learned more. Leaving Mrs. Hart's room, she called at the
housekeeper's chambers to see if the missing woman might be there.
The housekeeper informed her that she had left at an early hour that
morning, without saying a word to any one, and that she herself had
taken it for granted that her ladyship knew all about it. Hilda heard
this without any comment; and then walked thoughtfully to her own
room.

She certainly had enough care on her mind to occupy all her thoughts.
The declaration of Gualtier was of itself an ill-omened event, and
she no longer had that trust in his fidelity which she once had, even
though he now might work in the hope of a reward. It seemed to her
that with the loss of her old ascendency over him she would lose
altogether his devotion; nor could the remembrance of his former
services banish that deep distrust of him which, along with her
bitter resentment of his rebellion, had arisen in her mind. The
affair of Mrs. Hart seemed worse yet. Her sudden appearance, her
sharp questionings, her cold incredulity, terminated at last by her
prompt flight, were all circumstances which filled her with the most
gloomy forebodings. Her troubles seemed now to increase every day,
each one coming with startling suddenness, and each one being of that
sort against which no precautions had been taken, or even thought of.

She passed an anxious day and a sleepless night. On the following
morning a letter was brought to her. It had a foreign post-mark, and
the address showed the handwriting of Gualtier. This at once brought
back the old feelings about Lord Chetwynde, and she tore it open with
feverish impatience, eager to know what the contents might be, yet
half fearful of their import. It was written in that tone of respect
which Gualtier had never lost but once, and which he had now resumed.
He informed her that on leaving Chetwynde he had gone at once up to
London, and found that Lord Chetwynde was stopping at the same hotel
where he had put up last. He formed a bold design, which he put in
execution, trusting to the fact that Lord Chetwynde had never seen
him more than twice at the Castle, and on both occasions had seemed
not even to have looked at him. He therefore got himself up very
carefully in a foreign fashion, and, as he spoke French perfectly, he
went to Lord Chetwynde and offered himself as a valet or courier. It
happened that Lord Chetwynde actually needed a man to serve him in
this capacity, a fact which Gualtier had found out in the hotel, and
so the advent of the valet was quite welcome. After a brief
conversation, and an inquiry into his knowledge of the languages and
the routes of travel on the Continent, Lord Chetwynde examined his
letters of recommendation, and, finding them very satisfactory, he
took him into his employ. They remained two days longer in London,
during which Gualtier made such good use of his time and
opportunities that he managed to gain access to Lord Chetwynde's
papers, but found among them nothing of any importance whatever, from
which he concluded that all his papers of any consequence must have
been deposited with his solicitors. At any rate it was impossible for
him to find out any thing from this source.

Leaving London they went to Paris, where they passed a few days, but
soon grew weary of the place; and Lord Chetwynde, feeling a kind of
languor, which seemed to him like a premonition of disease, he
decided to go to Germany. His first idea was to go to Baden, although
it was not the season; but on his arrival at Frankfort he was so
overcome by the fatigue of traveling that he determined to remain for
a time in that city. His increasing languor, however, had alarmed
him, and he had called in the most eminent physicians of the place,
who, at the time the letter was written, were prescribing for him.
The writer said that they did not seem to think that this illness had
any thing very serious in it, and simply recommended certain changes
of diet and various kinds of gentle exercise, but he added that in
his opinion there was something in it, and that this illness was more
serious than was supposed. As for the sick man himself, he was much
discouraged. He had grown tired of his physicians and of Frankfort,
and wished to go on to Baden, thinking that the change might do him
good. He seemed anxious for constant change, and spoke as though he
might leave Baden for some other German city, or perhaps go on to
Italy, to which place his thoughts, for some reason or other, seemed
always turning with eager impatience.

As Hilda read this letter, and took in the whole of its dark and
hidden meaning, all her former agitation returned. Once more the
question arose which had before so greatly harassed her. The
disappearance of Mrs. Hart, and the increasing dangers which had been
gathering around her head, had for a time taken up her thoughts, but
now her great, preoccupying care came back with fresh vehemence, and
resumed more than its former sway. Mrs. Hart was forgotten as
completely as though she had never existed. Gualtier's possible
infidelity to her suggested itself no more; it was Lord Chetwynde and
Lord Chetwynde only, his sickness, his peril, his doom, which came to
her mind. On one side stood Love, pleading for his life; on the
other Vengeance, demanding its sacrifice.

_Shall he live, or shall he die_?

This was the question which ever and ever rang in her soul. "Shall he
live, or die? Shall he go down to death, doomed by me, and thus end
all my hope, or shall he live to scorn me?" In his death there was
the satisfaction of vengeance, but there was also the death of hope.
In his death there was fresh security for herself; but in his death
her own life would lie dead. On each side there were motives most
powerful over a mind like hers, yet so evenly balanced that she knew
not which way to turn, or in which way to incline. Death or
life?--life or death? Thus the question came.

And the hours passed on; and every hour, she well knew, was freighted
with calamity; every hour was dragging Lord Chetwynde on to that
point at which the power to decide upon his fate would be hers no
longer.

Why hesitate?

This was the form which the question took at last, and under which it
forced itself more and more upon her. Why hesitate? To hesitate was
of itself to doom him to death. If he was to be saved, there was no
time for delay. He must be saved at once. If he was to be saved, she
must act herself, and that, too, promptly and energetically. Her part
could not be performed by merely writing a letter, for the letter
might be delayed, or it might be miscarried, or it might be neglected
and disobeyed. She could not trust the fulfillment of a command of
mercy to Gualtier. She herself could alone fulfill such a purpose.
She herself must act by herself.

As she thought of this her decision was taken. Yes, she would do it.
She herself would arrest his fate, for a time at least. Yes--he
should live, and she herself would fly to his aid, and stand by his
side, and be the one who would snatch him from his doom.

Now, no sooner was this decision made than there came over her a
strange thrill of joy and exultation. He should live! he should live!
this was the refrain which rang in her thoughts. He should live; and
she would be the life-giver. At last he would be forced to look upon
her with eyes of gratitude at least, if not of affection. It should
no longer be in his power to scorn her, or to turn away coldly and
cruelly from her proffered hand. He should yet learn to look upon her
as his best friend. He should learn to call her by tender names; and
speak to her words of fondness, of endearment, and of love. Now, as
deep as her despondency had been, so high rose her joy at this new
prospect; and her hope, which rose out of this resolution, was bright
to a degree which was commensurate with the darkness of her previous
despair. He shall live; and he shall be mine--these were the words
upon which her heart fed itself, which carried to that heart a wild
and feverish joy, and drove away those sharp pangs which she had
felt. And now the love which burned within her diffused through all
her being those softer qualities which are born of love; and the hate
and the vengeance upon which she had of late sustained her soul were
forgotten. Into her heart there came a tenderness all feminine, and a
thing unknown to her before that fateful day on which she had first
seen Lord Chetwynde; a tenderness which filled her with a yearning
desire to fly to the rescue of this man, whom she had but lately
handed over to the assassin. She hungered and thirsted to be near
him, to stand by his side, to see his face, to touch his hand, to
hear his voice, to give to him that which should save him from the
fate which she herself had dealt out to him by the hands of her own
agent. It was thus that her love at last triumphed over her
vengeance, and, sweeping onward, drove away all other thoughts and
feelings.

Hers was the love of the tigress; but even the love of the tigress is
yet love; and such love has its own profound depths of tenderness,
its capacity of intense desire, its power of complete self-abnegation
or of self-immolation--feelings which, in the tigress kind of love,
are as deep as in any other, and perhaps even deeper.

But from her in that dire emergency the one thing that was required
above all else was haste. That she well knew. There was no time for
delay. There was one at the side of Lord Chetwynde whose heart knew
neither pity nor remorse, whose hand never faltered in dealing its
blow, and who watched every failing moment of his life with unshaken
determination. To him her cruel and bloody behests had been committed
in her mad hour of vengeance; those behests he was now carrying out
as much for his own sake as for hers; accomplishing the fulfillment
of his own purposes under the cloak of obedience to her orders. He
was the destroying angel, and his mission was death. He could not
know of the change which had come over her; nor could he dream of the
possibility of a change. She alone could bring a reprieve from that
death, and stay his hand.

Haste, then--she murmured to herself--oh, haste, or if will soon be
too late! Fly! Leave every thing and fly! Every hour brings him
nearer to death until that hour comes when you may save him from
death. Haste, or it may be too late--and the mercy and the pity and
the tenderness of love may be all unavailing!

It was with the frantic haste which was born of this new-found pity
that Hilda prepared for her journey. Her preparations were not
extensive. A little luggage sufficed. She did not wish a maid. She
had all her life relied upon herself, and now set forth upon this
fateful journey alone and unattended, with her heart filled with one
feeling only, and only one hope. It needed but a short time to
complete her preparations, and to announce to the astonished
domestics her intention of going to the Continent. Without noticing
their amazement, or caring for it, she ordered the carriage for the
nearest station, and in a short time after her first decision she was
seated in the cars and hurrying onward to London.

Arriving there, she made a short stay. She had some things to procure
which were to her of infinite importance. Leaving the hotel, she went
down Oxford Street till she came to a druggist's shop, which she
entered, and, going up to the clerk, she handed him a paper, which
looked like a doctor's prescription. The clerk took it, and, after
looking at it, carried it to an inner office. After a time the
proprietor appeared. He scanned Hilda narrowly, while she returned
his glance with her usual haughtiness. The druggist appeared
satisfied with his inspection.

"Madame," said he, politely, "the ingredients of this prescription
are of such a nature that the law requires me to know the name and
address of the purchaser, so as to enter them on the purchase book."

"My address," said Hilda, quietly, "is Mrs. Henderson, 51 Euston
Square."

The druggist bowed, and entered the name carefully on his book, after
which he himself prepared the prescription and handed it to Hilda.

She asked the price, and, on hearing it, flung down a sovereign,
after which she was on the point of leaving without waiting for the
change, when the druggist called her back.

"Madame," said he, "you are leaving without your change."

Hilda started, and then turning back she took the change and thanked
him.

"I thought you said it was twenty shillings," she remarked, quietly,
seeing that the druggist was looking at her with a strange
expression.

"Oh no, madame; I said ten shillings."

"Ah! I misunderstood you," and with these words Hilda took her
departure, carrying with her the precious medicine.

That evening she left London, and took the steamer for Ostend. Before
leaving she had sent a telegraphic message to Gualtier at Frankfort,
announcing the fact that she was coming on, and asking him, if he
left Frankfort before her arrival, to leave a letter for her at the
hotel, letting her know where they might go. This she did for a
twofold motive: first, to let Gualtier know that she was coming, and
secondly, to secure a means of tracking them if they went to another
place. But the dispatch of this message filled her with fresh
anxiety. She feared first that the message might not reach its
destination in time; and then that Gualtier might utterly
misunderstand her motive--a thing which, under the circumstances, he
was certain to do--and, under this misapprehension, hurry up his
work, so as to have it completed by the time of her arrival. These
thoughts, with many others, agitated her so much that she gradually
worked herself into an agony of fear; and the swiftest speed of
steamboat or express train seemed slow to the desire of that stormy
spirit, which would have forced its way onward, far beyond the speed
which human contrivances may create, to the side of the man whom she
longed to see and to save. The fever of her fierce anxiety, the
vehemence of her desire, the intensity of her anguish, all worked
upon her delicate organization with direful effect. Her brain became
confused, and thoughts became dreams. For hours she lost all
consciousness of surrounding objects. Yet amidst all this confusion
of a diseased and overworked brain, and amidst this delirium of wild
thought, there was ever prominent her one idea--her one purpose. How
she passed that journey she could not afterward remember, but it was
at length passed, and, following the guidance of that strong purpose,
which kept its place in her mind when other things were lost, she at
last stood in the station-house at Frankfort.

"Drive to the Hôtel Rothschild," she cried to the cabman whom she had
engaged. "Quick! for your life!"

The cabman marked her agitation and frenzy.

He whipped up his horses, the cab dashed through the streets, and
reached the hotel. Hilda hurried out and went up the steps. Tottering
rather than walking, she advanced to a mail who had come to meet her.
He seemed to be the proprietor.

"Lord Chetwynde!" she gasped. "Is he here?" She spoke in German.

The proprietor shook his head.

"He left the day before yesterday."

Hilda staggered back with a low moan. She did not really think that
he could be here yet, but she had hoped that he might be, and the
disappointment was great.

"Is there a letter here," she asked, in a faint voice, "for Lady
Chetwynde?"

"I think so. I'll see."

Hurrying away he soon returned with a letter in his hand.

"Are you the one to whom it is addressed?" he asked, with deep
respect.

"I am Lady Chetwynde," said Hilda, and at the same time eagerly
snatched the letter from his hand. On the outside she at once
recognized the writing of Gualtier. She saw the address, "Lady
Chetwynde." In an instant she tore it open, and read the contents.


The letter contained only the following words:


"FRANKFORT, HÔTEL ROTHSCHILD, October 30, 1859.

"We leave for Baden to-day. Our business is progressing very
favorably. We go to the Hôtel Français at Baden. If you come on you
must follow us there. If we go away before your arrival I will leave
a note for you."


The letter was as short as a telegram, and as unsatisfactory to a
mind in such a state as hers. It had no signature, but the
handwriting was Gualtier's.

Hilda's hand trembled so that she could scarcely hold it. She read it
over and over again. Then she turned to the landlord.

"What time does the next train leave for Baden?" she asked.

"To-morrow morning at 5 A.M., miladi."

"Is there no train before?"

"No, miladi."

"Is there no steamer?"

"No, miladi--not before to-morrow morning. The five o'clock train is
the first and the quickest way to go to Baden."

"I am in a great hurry," said Hilda, faintly. "I must be called in
time for the five o'clock train."

"You shall be, miladi."

"Send a maid--and let me have my room now--as soon as possible--for I
am worn out."

As she said this she tottered, and would have fallen, but the
landlord supported her, and called for the maids. They hurried
forward, and Hilda was carried up to her room and tenderly put to
bed. The landlord was an honest, tender-hearted German. Lord
Chetwynde had been a guest of sufficient distinction to be well
remembered by a landlord, and his ill health had made him more
conspicuous. The arrival of this devoted wife, who herself seemed as
ill as her husband, but who yet, in spite of weakness, was hastening
to him with such a consuming desire to get to him, affected most
profoundly this honest landlord, and all others in the hotel. That
evening, then, Hilda's faith and love and constancy formed the chief
theme of conversation; the visitors of the hotel heard the sad story
from the landlord, and deep was the pity, and profound the sympathy,
which were expressed by all. To the ordinary pathos of this affecting
example of conjugal love some additional power was lent by the
extreme beauty, the excessive prostration and grief, and, above all,
the illustrious rank of this devoted woman.

Hilda was put to bed, but there was no sleep for her. The fever of
her anxiety, the shock of her disappointment, the tumult of her hopes
and fears, all made themselves felt in her overworked brain. She did
not take the five o'clock train on the following day. The maid came
to call her, but found her in a high fever, eager to start, but quite
unable to move. Before noon she was delirious.

In that delirium her thoughts wandered over those scenes which for
the past few months had been uppermost in her mind. Now she was shut
up in her chamber at Chetwynde Castle reading the Indian papers; she
heard the roll of carriage wheels; she prepared to meet the new-comer
face to face. She followed him to the morning-room, and there
listened to his fierce maledictions. On the occasion itself she had
been dumb before him, but in her delirium she had words of
remonstrance. These words were expressed in every varying shade of
entreaty, deprecation, conciliation, and prayer. Again she watched a
stern, forbidding face over the dinner-table, and sought to appease
by kind words the just wrath of the man she loved. Again she held out
her hand, only to have her humble advances repelled in coldest scorn.
Again she saw him leave her forever without a word of
farewell--without even a notice of his departure, and she remained to
give herself up to vengeance.

That delirium carried her through many past events. Gualtier again
stood up before her in rebellion, proud, defiant, merciless,
asserting himself, and enforcing her submission to his will. Again
there came into her room, suddenly, and like a spectre, the awful
presence of Mrs. Hart, with her white face, her stern looks, her
sharp inquiries, and her ominous words. Again she pursued this woman
to her own room, in the dark, and ran her hands over the bed, and
found that bed empty.

But Lord Chetwynde was the central object of her delirious fancies.
It was to him that her thoughts reverted from brief wanderings over
reminiscences of Gualtier and Mrs. Hart. Whatever thoughts she might
have about these, those thoughts would always at last revert to him.
And with him it was not so much the past that suggested itself to her
diseased imagination as the future. That future was sufficiently dark
and terrible to be portrayed in fearful colors by her incoherent
ravings. There were whispered words--words of frightful meaning,
words which expressed those thoughts which in her sober senses she
would have died rather than reveal. Had any one been standing by her
bedside who knew English, he might have learned from her words a
story of fearful import--a tale which would have chilled his blood,
and which would have shown him how far different this sick woman was
from the fond, self-sacrificing wife, who had excited the sympathy of
all in the hotel. But there was none who could understand her. The
doctor knew no language beside his own, except a little French; the
maids knew nothing but German. And so it was that while Hilda
unconsciously revealed the whole of those frightful secrets which she
carried shut up within her breast, that revelation was not
intelligible to any of those who were in contact with her. Well was
it for her at that time that she had chosen to come away without her
maid; for had that maid been with her then she would have learned
enough of her mistress to send her flying back to England in horror,
and to publish abroad the awful intelligence.

Thus a week passed--a week of delirium, of ravings, of incoherent
speeches, unintelligible to all those by whom she was surrounded. At
length her strong constitution triumphed over the assaults of
disease. The fever was allayed, and sense returned; and with
returning sense there came the full consciousness of her position.
The one purpose of her life rose again within her mind, and even
while she was too weak to move she was eager to be up and away.

"How long will it be," she asked of the doctor, "before I can go on
my journey?"

"If every thing is favorable, miladi," answered the doctor, "as I
hope it will be, you may be able to go in about a week. It will be a
risk, but you are so excited that I would rather have you go than
stay."

"A week! A week!" exclaimed Hilda, despairingly. "I can not wait so
long as that. No. I will go before then--or else I will die."

"If you go before a week," said the doctor, warningly, and with
evident anxiety, "you will risk your life."

"Very well then, I will risk my life," said Hilda. "What is life
worth now?" she murmured, with a moan of anguish. "I must and will go
on, if I die for it--and in three days."

The doctor made no reply. He saw her desperation, and perceived that
any remonstrance would be worse than useless. To keep such a resolute
and determined spirit chained here in a sick-chamber would be
impossible. She would chafe at the confinement so fiercely that a
renewal of the fever would be inevitable. She would have to be
allowed her own way. Most deeply did he commiserate this devoted
wife, and much did he wonder how it had happened that her husband had
gone off from her thus, at a time when he himself was threatened with
illness. And now, as before, those kindly German hearts in the hotel,
on learning this new outburst of conjugal love, felt a sympathy which
was beyond all expression. To none of them had there ever before been
known any thing approaching to so piteous a case as this.

The days passed. Hilda was avaricious about every new sign of
increasing strength. Her strong determination, her intense desire,
and her powerful will, at last triumphed over bodily pain and
weakness. It was as she said, and on the third day she managed to
drag herself from her bed and prepare for a fresh journey. In
preparation for this, however, she was compelled to have a maid to
accompany her, and she selected one of those who had been her
attendants, an honest, simple-hearted, affectionate German
girl--Gretchen by name, one who was just suited to her in her present
situation.

She made the journey without any misfortune. On reaching Baden she
had to be lifted into the cab. Driving to the Hôtel Français, she
reached it in a state of extreme prostration, and had to be carried
to her rooms. She asked for a letter. There was one for her. Gualtier
had not been neglectful, but had left a message. It was very much
like the last.


BADEN, HÔTEL FRANÇAIS, November 2, 1859.

"We leave for Munich to-day, and will stop at the Hôtel des
Etrangers. Business progressing most favorably. If we go away from
Munich I will leave a note for you."


The letter was dated November 2, but it was now the 10th of that
month, and Hilda was far behind time. She had nerved herself up to
this effort, and the hope of finding the object of her search at
Baden had sustained her. But her newfound strength was now utterly
exhausted by the fatigue of travel, and the new disappointment which
she had experienced created discouragement and despondency. This told
still more upon her strength, and she was compelled to wait here for
two days, chafing and fretting against her weakness.

Nothing could exceed the faithful attention of Gretchen. She had
heard at Frankfort, from the gossip of the servants, the story of her
mistress, and all her German sentiment was roused in behalf of one so
sorrowful and so beautiful. Her natural kindness of heart also led to
the utmost devotion to Hilda, and, so far as careful and incessant
attention could accomplish any thing, all was done that was possible.
By the 13th of November Hilda was ready to start once more, and on
that morning she left for Munich.

This journey was more fatiguing than the last. In her weak state she
was almost overcome. Twice she fainted away in the cars, and all of
Gretchen's anxious care was required to bring her to her destination.
The German maid implored her with tears to get out at some of the
towns on the way. But Hilda resolutely refused. She hoped to find
rest at Munich, and to stop short of that place seemed to her to
endanger her prospect of success. Again, as before, the strong soul
triumphed over the infirmity of the body, and the place of her
destination was at last attained.

She reached it more dead than alive. Gretchen lifted her into a cab.
She was taken to the Hôtel des Etrangers. At the very first moment of
her entrance into the hall she had asked a breathless question of the
servant who appeared:

"Is Lord Chetwynde here?"

"Lord Chetwynde? No. He has gone."

"Gone!" said Hilda, in a voice which was like a groan of despair.
"Gone! When?"

"Nearly a week ago," said the servant.

At this Hilda's strength again left her utterly, and she fell back
almost senseless. She was carried to her room. Then she rallied by a
mighty effort, and sent Gretchen to see if there was a letter for
her. In a short time the maid reappeared, bringing another of those
welcome yet tantalizing notes, which always seemed ready to mock her,
and to lure her on to fresh disappointment. Yet her impatience to
read its contents had in no way diminished, and it was with the same
impetuous fever of curiosity as before that she tore open the
envelope and devoured the contents. This note was much like the
others, but somewhat more ominous.

It read as follows:


"MUNICH, HÔTEL DES ETRANGES, November 9, 1859.

"We leave for Lausanne to-day. We intend to stop at the Hôtel Gibbon.
It is not probable that any further journey will be made. Business
most favorable, and prospects are that every thing will soon be
brought to a successful issue."



CHAPTER XLIX.


THE ANGUISH OF THE HEART.


As Hilda read these ominous words a chill like that of death seemed
to strike to her inmost soul. Her disappointment on her arrival here
had already been bitter enough. She had looked upon Munich as the
place where she would surely find the end of her journey, and obtain
the reward of her labors. But now the object of her search was once
more removed, and a new journey more fatiguing than the others was
set before her. Could she bear it?--she who even now felt the old
weakness, and something even worse, coming back irresistibly upon
her. Could she, indeed, bear another journey? This question she put
to herself half hopelessly; but almost immediately her resolute soul
asserted itself, and proudly answered it. Bear such a journey? Ay,
this journey she could bear, and not only this, but many more. Even
though her old weakness was coming back over her frail form, still
she rose superior to that weakness, and persisted in her
determination to go on, and still on, without giving up her purpose,
till she reached Lord Chetwynde, even though it should only be at the
moment of her arrival to drop dead at his feet.

There was more now to stimulate her than the determination of a
resolute and invincible will. The words of that last note had a dark
and ominous meaning, which affected her more strongly by far than any
of the others. The messages which they bore had not been of so
fearful an import as this.

The first said that the "business" was progressing _very favorably_.

The second, that it was progressing _most favorably_.

This last one told her that the business _would soon be brought to a
successful issue_.

Well she knew the meaning of these words. In these different messages
she saw so many successive stages of the terrific work which was
going on, and to avert which she had endured so much, at the cost of
such suffering to herself. She saw the form of Lord Chetwynde failing
more and more every day, and still, while he struggled against the
approach of insidious disease, yielding, in spite of himself, to its
resistless progress. She saw him going from place to place, summoning
the physicians of each town where he stopped, and giving up both town
and physicians in despair. She saw, also, how all the time there
stood by his side one who was filled with one dark purpose, in the
accomplishment of which he was perseveringly cruel and untiringly
patient--one who watched the growing weakness of his victim with
cold-blooded interest, noting every decrease of strength, and every
sign which might give token of the end--one, too, who thought that
she was hastening after him to join in his work, and was only
delaying in order to join him when all was over, so as to give him
her congratulations, and bestow upon him the reward which he had made
her promise that she would grant.

Thoughts like these filled her with madness. Wretched and almost
hopeless, prostrated by her weakness, yet consumed by an ardent
desire to rush onward and save the dying man from the grasp of the
destroyer, her soul became a prey to a thousand contending emotions,
and endured the extreme of the anguish of suspense. Such a struggle
as this proved too much for her. One night was enough to prostrate
her once more to that stage of utter weakness which made all hope of
travel impossible. In that state of prostration her mind still
continued active, and the thoughts that never ceased to come were
those which prevented her from rallying readily. For the one idea
that was ever present was this, that while she was thus helpless,
_her work was still going on_--that work which she had ordered and
directed. That emissary whom she had sent out was now, as she well
knew, fulfilling her mandate but too zealously. The power was now all
in his own hands. And she herself--what could she do? He had already
defied her authority--would he now give up his purpose, even if she
wished? She might have telegraphed from London a command to him to
stop all further proceedings till she came; but, even if she had done
so, was it at all probable that he, after what had happened, would
have obeyed? She had not done so, because she did not feel in a
position to issue commands any longer in her old style. The servant
had assumed the air and manner of a master, and the message which she
had sent had been non-committal. She had relied upon the prospect of
her own speedy arrival upon the scene, and upon her own power of
confronting him, and reducing him to obedience in case of his refusal
to fall in with her wishes.

But now it had fallen out far differently from what she had expected,
and the collapse of her own strength had ruined all. Now every day
and every hour was taking hope away from her, and giving it to that
man who, from being her tool, had risen to the assertion of
mastership over her. Now every moment was dragging away from her the
man whom she sought so eagerly--dragging him away from her love to
the darkness of that place to which her love and her longing might
never penetrate.

Now, also, there arose within her the agonies of remorse. Never
before had she understood the fearful meaning of this word. Such a
feeling had never stirred her heart when she handed over to the
betrayer her life-long friend, her almost sister, the one who so
loved her, the trustful, the innocent, the affectionate Zillah; such
a feeling had not interfered with her purpose when Gualtier returned
to tell of his success, and to mingle with his story the recital of
Zillah's love and longing after her. But now it was different. Now
she had handed over to that same betrayer one who had become dearer
to her than life itself--one, too, who had grown dearer still ever
since that moment when she had first resolved to save him. If she had
never arrived at such a resolution--if she had borne with the
struggles of her heart, and the tortures of her suspense--if she had
fought out the battle in solitude and by herself, alone at Chetwynde,
her sufferings would have been great, it is true, but they would
never have arisen to the proportions which they now assumed. They
would never have reduced her to this anguish of soul which, in its
reaction upon the body, thus deprived her of all strength and hope.
That moment when she had decided against vengeance, and in favor of
pity, had borne for her a fearful fruit. It was the point at which
all her love was let loose suddenly from that repression which she
had striven to maintain over it, and rose up to gigantic proportions,
filling all her thoughts, and overshadowing all other feelings. That
love now pervaded all her being, occupied all her thoughts, and
absorbed all her spirit. Once it was love; now it had grown to
something more, it had become a frenzy; and the more she yielded to
its overmastering power, the more did that power enchain her.

Tormented and tortured by such feelings as these, her weary, overworn
frame sank once more, and the sufferings of Frankfort were renewed at
Munich. On the next day after her arrival she was unable to leave.
For day after day she lay prostrate, and all her impatient eagerness
to go onward, and all her resolution, profited nothing when the poor
frail flesh was so weak. Yet, in spite of all this, her soul was
strong; and that soul, by its indomitable purpose, roused up once
more the shattered forces of the body. A week passed away, but at the
end of that week she arose to stagger forward.

Her journey to Lausanne was made somehow--she knew not how--partly by
the help of Gretchen, who watched over her incessantly with
inexhaustible devotion--partly through the strength of her own
forceful will, which kept before her the great end which was to crown
so much endeavor. She was a shattered invalid on this journey. She
felt that another such a journey would be impossible. She hoped that
this one would end her severe trials. And so, amidst hope and fear,
her soul sustained her, and she went on. Such a journey as this to
one less exhausted would have been one memorable on account of its
physical and mental anguish, but to Hilda, in that extreme of
suffering, it was not memorable at all. It was less than a dream. It
was a blank. How it passed she knew not. Afterward she only could
remember that in some way it did pass.

On the twenty-second day of November she reached Lausanne. Gretchen
lifted her out of the coach, and supported her as she tottered into
the Hôtel Gibbon. A man was standing in the doorway. At first he did
not notice the two women, but something in Hilda's appearance struck
him, and he looked earnestly at her.

An exclamation burst from him.

"My God!" he groaned.


[Illustration: Hilda's Arrival At The Hotel Gibbon.]


For a moment he stood staring at them, and then advanced with a rapid
pace.

It was Gualtier.

Hilda recognized him, but said nothing. She could not speak a word.
She wished to ask for something, but dreaded to ask that question,
for she feared the reply. In that interval of fear and hesitation
Gualtier had leisure to see, in one brief glance, all the change that
had come over her who had once been so strong, so calm, so
self-reliant, so unmoved by the passions, the feelings, and the
weaknesses of ordinary humanity. He saw and shuddered.

Thin and pale and wan, she now stood before him, tottering feebly
with unsteady step, and staying herself on the arm of her maid. Her
cheeks, which, when he last saw them, were full and rounded with the
outlines of youth and health, were now hollow and sunken. Around her
eyes were those dark clouded marks which are the sure signs of
weakness and disease. Her hands, as they grasped the arms of the
maid, were thin and white and emaciated. Her lips were bloodless. It
was the face of Hilda, indeed, but Hilda in sorrow, in suffering, and
in grief--such a face as he had never imagined. But there were some
things in that face which belonged to the Hilda of old, and had not
changed. The eyes still flashed dark and piercing; they at least had
not failed; and still their penetrating gaze rested upon him with no
diminution in their power. Still the rich masses of ebon hair
wreathed themselves in voluminous folds, and from out the luxuriant
black masses of that hair the white face looked forth with its pallor
rendered more awful from the contrast. Yet now that white face was a
face of agony, and the eyes which, in their mute entreaty, were
turned toward him, were fixed and staring. As he came up to her she
grasped his arm; her lips moved; but for a time no audible sound
escaped. At length she spoke, but it was in a whisper:

"_Is he alive_?"

And that was all that she said. She stood there panting, and gasping
for breath, awaiting his reply with a certain awful suspense.

"Yes, my lady," said Gualtier, in a kind of bewilderment, as though
he had not yet got over the shock of such an apparition. "He is alive
yet."

"God be thanked!" moaned Hilda, in a low voice. "I have arrived in
time--at last. He must be saved--and he shall be saved. Come."

She spoke this last word to Gualtier. By her words, as well as by her
face and manner, he saw that some great change had come over her, but
why it was, he knew not yet. He plainly perceived, however, that she
had turned from her purpose, and now no longer desired the death of
the man whom she had commissioned him to destroy. In that moment of
hurried thought he wondered much, but, from his knowledge of the
recent past, he made a conjecture which was not far from the truth.

"Come," said Hilda. "I have something to say to you. I wish to see
you alone. Come."

And he followed her into the hotel.



CHAPTER L.


BLACK BILL.


On the day after his meeting with Lord Chetwynde Obed had intended to
start for Naples. Lord Chetwynde had not chosen to tell Obed his real
name; but this maintenance of his incognito was not at all owing to
any love of mystery, or any desire to keep a secret. He chose to be
"Windham" because Obed thought him so, and he had no reason for being
otherwise with him. He thought, also, that to tell his real name
might involve a troublesome explanation, which was not desirable,
especially since there was no need for it. Had that explanation been
made, had the true name been made known at this interview, a flood of
light would have poured down upon this dark matter, and Obed would
have had at last the key to every thing. But this revelation was not
made, and Windham took his departure from his friend.

On the following morning, while Obed was dressing, a note was brought
to his room. It was from the police, and requested a visit from him,
as matters of importance had been found out with reference to the
case which he had intrusted to them. At this unexpected message
Obed's start for Naples was postponed, and he hurried off as rapidly
as possible to the office.

On arriving there he soon learned the cause of the note. An event had
occurred which was in the highest degree unexpected, and had not
arisen out of the ordinary inquiries of the detectives at all. It
seems that on the evening of the previous day a man had come
voluntarily to lodge information against this same Gualtier for the
purpose of having a search made after him. He was one of the worst
characters in London, well known to the police, and recognized by
them, and by his own ruffian companions, under the name of "Black
Bill." In order that Obed might himself hear what he had to say, they
had detained the informer, and sent for him.

Obed was soon brought face to face with this new actor in the great
tragedy of Zillah's life. He was a short, stout, thick-set man, with
bull neck, broad shoulders, deep chest, low brow, flat nose, square
chin, and small black eyes, in which there lay a mingled expression
of ferocity and cunning. His very swarthy complexion, heavy black
beard, and thick, matted, coal-black hair, together with his black
eyes, were sufficiently marked to make him worthy of the name of
"Black Bill." Altogether, he looked like a perfect type of perfect
ruffianism; and Obed involuntarily felt a cold shudder pass over him
as he thought of Zillah falling into the hands of any set of villains
of which this man was one.

On entering the room Black Bill was informed that Obed was largely
interested in the affair which he had made known, and was bidden to
tell his story once more. Thereupon Black Bill took a long and very
comprehensive stare at Obed from head to foot, after which he went on
to narrate his story.

He had been engaged in the month of June, he said, by a man who gave
his name as Richards. He understood that he was to take part in an
enterprise which was illegal, but attended with no risk whatever. It
was simply to assist in sinking a vessel at sea. Black Bill remarked,
with much naïveté, that he always was scrupulous in obeying the laws;
but just at that time he was out of tin, and yielded to the
temptation. He thought it was a case where the vessel was to be sunk
for the sake of the insurance. Such things were very common, and
friends of his had assisted before in similar enterprises. The price
offered for his services was not large--only fifty pounds--and this
also made him think it was only some common case.

He found that three other men had also been engaged. They were
ordered to go to Marseilles, and wait till they were wanted. Money
was given them for the journey, and a certain house was mentioned as
the place where they should stay.

They did not have long to wait. In a short time the man who had
employed them called on them, and took them down to the harbor, where
they found a very handsome yacht. In about an hour afterward he
returned, accompanied this time by a young and beautiful lady. Black
Bill and all the men were very much struck by her appearance. They
saw very well that she belonged to the upper classes. They saw also
that their employer treated her with the deepest respect, and seemed
almost like her servant. They heard her once call him "_Mr.
Gualtier_," and knew by this that the name "Richards" was an assumed
one. They all wondered greatly at her appearance, and could not
understand what was to be her part in the adventure. Judging from
what they heard of the few words she addressed to this Gualtier, they
saw that she was expecting to sail to Naples, and was very eager to
arrive there.

At last the second night came. Gualtier summoned Black Bill at
midnight, and they both went into the hold, where they bored holes.
The other men had meanwhile got the boat in readiness, and had put
some provisions and water in her. At last the holes were bored, and
the vessel began to fill rapidly. Black Bill was ordered into the
boat, Gualtier saying that he was going to fetch the young lady. The
men all thought then that she had been brought on board merely to be
forced into taking part in the sinking of the vessel. None of them
understood the idea of the thing at all.

They waited for a time, according to Black Bill. The night was
intensely dark, and they could hear nothing, when suddenly Gualtier
came to the boat and got in.

"Where's the girl?" said Black Bill.

"She won't come," said Gualtier, who at the same time unloosed the
boat. "She won't come," he repeated. "Give way, lads."

The "lads" refused, and a great outcry arose. They swore that they
would not leave the vessel without the girl, and that if he did not
go back instantly and get her, they would pitch him overboard and
save her themselves. Black Bill told him they thought it was only an
insurance business, and nothing like this.

Gualtier remained quite calm during this outcry. As soon as he could
make himself heard he told them, in a cool voice, that he was armed
with a revolver, and would shoot them all down if they did not obey
him. He had hired them for this, he said, and they were in for it. If
they obeyed him, he would pay them when they got ashore; if not, he
would blow their brains out. Black Bill said that at this threat he
drew his own pistol and snapped it at Gualtier. It would not go off.
Gualtier then laughed, and said that pistols which had a needle run
down the nipple did not generally explode--by which Black Bill saw
that his pistol had been tampered with.

There was a long altercation, but the end of it was that Gualtier
gave them a certain time to decide, after which he swore that he
would shoot them down. He was armed, he was determined; they were
unarmed, and at his mercy; and the end of it was, they yielded to him
and rowed away. One thing which materially influenced them was, that
they had drifted away from the schooner, and she had been lost in the
deep darkness of the night. Besides, before their altercation was
over, they all felt sure that the vessel had sunk. So they rowed on
sullenly all that night and all the next day, with only short
intervals of rest, guarded all the time by Gualtier, who, pistol in
hand, kept them to their work.

They reached the coast at a point not far from Leghorn. It was a wild
spot, with wooded shores. Here Gualtier stepped out, paid them, and
ordered them to go to Leghorn. As for himself, he swore they should
never see him again. They took the money, and rowed off for a little
distance along the shore, when Black Bill made them put him ashore.
They did so, and rowed on. He plunged into the woods, and walked back
till he got on Gualtier's trail, which he followed up. Black Bill
here remarked, with a mixture of triumph and mock contrition, that an
accident in his early life had sent him to Australia, in which
country he had learned how to notice the track of animals or of man
in any place, however wild. Here Gualtier had been careless, and his
track was plain. Black Bill thus followed him from place to place,
and after Gualtier reached the nearest railway station was easily
able to keep him in sight.

In this way he had kept him in sight through North Italy, over the
Alps, through Germany, and, finally, to London, where he followed him
to the door of his lodgings. Here he had made inquiries, and had
learned that Gualtier was living there under the name of Mr. Brown;
that he had only been there a few weeks, but seemed inclined to stay
permanently, as he had brought there his clothes, some furniture, and
all his papers, together with pictures and other valuables. Black
Bill then devoted himself to the task of watching him, which he kept
up for some time, till one day Gualtier left by rail for the west,
and never returned. Black Bill had watched ever since, but had seen
nothing of him. He thought he must have gone to America.

Here Black Bill paused for a while, and Obed asked him one or two
questions.

"What is the reason," he asked, "that you did not give information to
the police at first, instead of waiting till now?"

"A question like that there," said Black Bill, "is easy enough to
answer. You see I wanted for to play my hown little game. I wanted
fur to find out who the gal was. If so be as I'd found out that, I'd
have had somethin' to work on. That's fust an' foremost. An' next,
you understand, I was anxious to git a hold of him, so as to be able
to pay off that oncommon black score as I had agin him. Arter
humbuggin' me, hocusin' my pistol, an' threat'nin' murder to me, an'
makin' me work wuss than a galley-slave in that thar boat, I felt
petiklar anxious to pay him off in the same coin. That's the reason
why I sot up a watch on him on my own account, instead of telling the
beaks."

"Do you know," asked Obed again, "what has become of the others that
were with you in the boat?"

"Never have laid eyes on 'em since that blessed arternoon when I
stepped ashore to follow Gualtier. P'r'aps they've been
nabbed--p'r'aps they're sarvin' their time out in the
galleys--p'r'aps they've jined the _I_talian army--p'r'aps they've
got back here again. Wot's become of them his Honor here knows
better'n me."

After this Black Bill went on, and told all the rest that he had to
say. He declared that he had watched Gualtier's lodgings for more
than three months, expecting that he would return. At last he
disguised himself and went there to make inquiries. The keeper of the
house told him that nothing had been heard from "Mr. Brown" since he
left, and he had packed away all his things in hope of his return.
But a Liverpool paper had recently been sent to him with a marked
paragraph, giving an account of the recovery of the body of a man who
had been drowned, and who in all respects seemed to resemble his late
lodger. Why it had been sent to him he did not know; but he thought
that perhaps some paper had been found in the pockets of the
deceased, and the authorities had sent this journal to the address,
thinking that the notice might thus reach his friends.

After this Black Bill began to lose hope of success. He did not
believe that Gualtier had perished, but that it was a common trick to
give rise to a belief in the mind of his lodging-house keeper that he
had met with his death. In this belief he waited for a short time to
see if any fresh intelligence turned up; but at length, as Gualtier
made no sign, and Black Bill's own resources were exhausted, he had
concluded that it would be best to make known the whole circumstance
to the police.

Such was the substance of his narrative. It was interrupted by
frequent questions; but Black Bill told a coherent tale, and did not
contradict himself. There was not the slightest doubt in the minds of
his hearers that he was one of the greatest scoundrels that ever
lived, but at the same time there was not the slightest doubt that on
this occasion he had not taken part willingly against the life of the
young girl. He and his associates, it was felt, had been tricked and
overreached by the superior cunning of Gualtier. They saw also, by
Black Bill's account, that this Gualtier was bold and courageous to a
high degree, with a cool calculation and a daring that were not
common among men. He had drawn these men into the commission of what
they expected would be some slight offense, and then forced them to
be his unwilling allies in a foul murder. He had paid them a small
price for the commission of a great crime. He had bullied them,
threatened them, and made them his slaves by his own clever
management and the force of his own nature, and that, too, although
these very men were, all of them, blood-stained ruffians, the most
reckless among the dregs of society. From Black Bill's story Obed
gained a new view of Gualtier.

After Black Bill had been dismissed, the lodging-house keeper, who
had been sent for, made his appearance. His account was quite in
accordance with what had been said. This man, whom he called _Brown_,
had taken lodgings with him in May last, and had staid a few weeks.
He then had been absent for a fortnight or so. On his return he
passed a few days in the house, and then left, since which time he
had not been heard of. The Liverpool paper which had been sent him
gave the only hint at the possible cause of his absence. In reply to
an inquiry from Obed, the landlord stated that Mr. Brown's effects
seemed to be very valuable. There was a fine piano, a dozen handsome
oil-paintings, a private desk, an iron box, a jewel box, and a trunk,
which, from its weight, was filled with something perhaps of value.
On the whole, he could not think that such things would be left by
any one without some effort to regain possession of them. If they
were sold at a sacrifice, they would bring a very large sum.

The lodging-house keeper was then allowed to take his departure,
after which Obed and the magistrate discussed for some time the new
appearance which had been given to this affair. Their conclusions
were similar, in most respects.

It seemed to them, first, that this Gualtier, whose names were so
numerous, had planned his crime with a far-reaching ingenuity not
often to be met with, and that after the accomplishment of his crime
he was still as ingenious in his efforts after perfect concealment.
He had baffled the police of France, of Italy, and of England thus
far. He had also baffled completely that one enemy who had so long a
time followed on his track. His last act in leaving his lodgings was
well done--though putting the notice in the Liverpool paper, and
sending it to the landlord, seemed more clumsy than his usual
proceedings. It was readily concluded that the notice in that paper
was only a ruse, in order to secure more perfect concealment, or,
perhaps, elude pursuit more effectually.

It seemed also most likely, under the circumstances, that he had
actually gone as far as Liverpool, and from that port to America. If
that were the case it would be difficult, if not impossible, ever to
get on his track or discover him. The only chance appeared to be in
the probability that he would send, in some way or other, for those
things which he had left in the lodging-house. Judging by the
enumeration which the landlord had given, they were too valuable to
be lost, and in most cases the owner would make some effort to
recover them. The magistrate said that he would direct the landlord
to keep the things carefully, and, if any inquiry ever came after
them, to give immediate information to the police. This was evidently
the only way of ever catching Gualtier.

The motive for this crime appeared quite plain to these inquirers.
Judging by the facts, it seemed as though Gualtier and Hilda had been
lovers, and had planned this so as to secure all the property of the
younger sister. To Obed the motive was still more plain, though he
did not tell what he knew--namely, the important fact that Hilda was
not the sister at all of her victim, and that her own property was
small in comparison with that of the one at whose life she aimed. He
thought that to tell this even to the police would be a violation of
sacred confidence. After the commission of the crime it seemed plain
that these criminals had taken to flight together, most probably to
America. This they could easily do, as their funds were all portable.

A careful look-out at the lodging-house was evidently the only means
by which the track of the fugitives could be discovered. Even this
would take a long time, but it was the only thing that could be done.

After this a careful examination was made of the things which
Gualtier had left behind at the lodging-house. The pictures were
found to be very valuable; the piano, also, was new--one of
Collard's--and estimated to be worth one hundred and fifty pounds.
The jewel box was found to contain articles of great value, some
diamond rings, and turquoise and pearl. Many of the things looked
like keepsakes, some of them having inscriptions, such as "To
M.--from G.," "To M.--from L.," "From Mother." These seemed like
things which no living man could willingly give up. How could it be
known that Gualtier had indeed given up such sacred possessions as
these?

On opening the trunks, one was found to contain books, chiefly French
novels, and the other clothes. None of these gave any fresh clew to
the home or the friends of the fugitive.

Last of all was the writing-desk. This was opened with intense
curiosity. It was hoped that here something might be discovered.

It was well filled with papers. But a short examination served to
show that, in the first place, the papers were evidently considered
very valuable by the owner; and, in the second place, that they were
of no earthly value to any one else. They were, in short, three
different manuscript novels, whose soiled and faded appearance seemed
to speak of frequent offerings to different publishers, and as
frequent refusals. There they lay, still cherished by the author,
inclosed in his desk, lying there to be claimed perhaps at some
future time. There were, in addition to these, a number of receipted
bills, and some season tickets for railways and concerts--and that
was all.

Nothing, therefore, was discovered from this examination. Yet the
result gave hope. It seemed as if no man would leave things like
these--this piano, these pictures, these keepsakes--and never seek to
get them again. Those very manuscript novels, rejected as they had
been, were still things which the author would not willingly give up.
The chances, therefore, were very great that at some time, in some
way, some application would be made for this property. And on this
the magistrate relied confidently.

Obed spent another day in London, and had another interview with the
magistrate. He found, however, that nothing more could be done by
him, or by any one else, at present, and so he returned to Naples via
Marseilles. He called on the prefect of police at the latter city to
acquaint him with the latest intelligence of this affair; heard that
nothing more had been discovered about Mathilde, and then went on his
way, arriving in due time at his destination. He told his sister the
result of his journey, but to Zillah he told nothing at all about it.
Having done all that man could do, Obed now settled himself down once
more in Naples, beguiling his time between the excitement of
excursions with his friends, and the calm of domestic life with his
family. Naples, on the whole, seemed to him the pleasantest spot to
stay in that he had seen for a long time and he enjoyed his life
there so much that he was in no hurry to leave it.



CHAPTER LI.


A STARTLING PROPOSAL.


Obed and his family thus remained in Naples, and Zillah at last had
an occupation. The new duties which she had undertaken gave her just
enough of employment to fill the day and occupy her thoughts. It was
a double blessing. In the first place it gave her a feeling of
independence; and again, and especially, it occupied her thoughts,
and thus prevented her mind from preying upon itself. Then she was
able to gain alleviation for the troubles that had so long oppressed
her. She felt most profoundly the change from the feeling of poverty
and dependence to one of independence, when she was actually "getting
 her own living." She knew that her independence was owing to the
delicate generosity of Obed Chute, and that under any other
circumstances she would probably have had no refuge from starvation;
but her gratitude to her friends did not lesson at all her own
self-complacency. There was a childish delight in Zillah over her new
position, which was due, perhaps, to the fact that she had always
looked upon herself as hopelessly and incurably dull; but now the
discovery that she could actually fill the position of music-teacher
brought her a strange triumph, which brightened many a dark hour.

Zillah already had understood and appreciated the delicate feeling
and high-toned generosity of Obed Chute and his sister. Nothing could
increase the deep admiration which she felt for these simple,
upright, honest souls, whose pure affection for her had proved such a
blessing. If there had been nothing else, her very gratitude to them
would have been a stimulus such as the ordinary governess never has.
Under such a stimulus the last vestige of Zillah's old willfulness
died out. She was now a woman, tried in the crucible of sorrow, and
in that fiery trial the dross had been removed, and only the pure
gold remained. The wayward, impetuous girl had reached her last and
fullest development, and she now stood forth in adversity and
affliction, right noble in her character--an earnest woman, devoted,
tender, enthusiastic, generous.

The fondness and admiration of her friends increased every day. The
little children, whose musical education she had now begun, had
already learned to love her; and when she was transformed from a
friend to a teacher they loved her none the less. Zillah's capacity
for teaching was so remarkable that it surprised herself, and she
began to think that she had not been understood in the old days. But
then, in the old days, she was a petted and spoiled child, and would
never try to work until the last year of her life with the Earl,
after he had extorted from her a promise to do differently.

Obed Chute saw her success in her new position with undisguised
satisfaction. But now that she had become a governess he was not at
all inclined to relax his exertions in her behalf. She was of too
much importance, he said, to waste her life and injure her health in
constant drudgery, and so he determined that she should not suffer
for want of recreation. In Naples there need never be any lack of
that. The city itself, with its noisy, laughing, jovial population,
seems to the English eye as though it was keeping one perpetual
holiday. The Strada Toledo looks to the sober northerner as though a
constant carnival were going on. Naples has itself to offer to the
visitor, with its never-ending gayety and its many-sided life--its
brilliant cafés, its lively theatres, its gay pantomimes, its
buffooneries, its macaroni, its lazaroni, and its innumerable
festivities. Naples has also a cluster of attractions all around it,
which keep their freshness longer than those of any other city. Among
these Obed Chute continued to take Zillah. To him it was the best
happiness that he could desire when he had succeeded in making the
time pass pleasantly for her. To see her face flush up with that
innocent girlish enthusiasm, and to hear her merry laugh, which was
still childlike in its freshness and abandon, was something so
pleasant that he would chuckle over it to himself all the evening
afterward.

So, as before, they drove about the environs or sailed over the bay.
Very little did Obed Chute know about that historic past which lived
and breathed amidst all these scenes through which he wandered. No
student of history was he. To him the cave of Polyphemus brought no
recollections; the isle of Capri was a simple isle of the sea, and
nothing more; Misenum could not give to his imagination the vanished
Roman navies; Puzzuoli could not show the traces of Saint Paul; and
there was nothing which could make known to him the mighty footprints
of the heroes of the past, from the time of the men of Osca, and
Cumae, and the builders of Paestum's Titan temples, down through all
the periods of Roman luxury, and through all gradations of men from
Cicero to Nero, and down farther to the last, and not the least of
all, Belisarius. The past was shut out, but it did not interfere with
his simple-hearted enjoyment. The present was sufficient for him. He
had no conception of art; and the proudest cathedrals of Naples, or
the noblest sculptures of her museums, or the most radiant pictures,
never awakened any emotion within him. Art was dumb to him; but then
there remained something greater than art, and that was nature.
Nature showed him here her rarest and divinest beauty; and if in the
presence of such beauty as that--beauty which glowed in immortal
lineaments wherever he turned his eyes--if before this he slighted
the lesser beauties of art, he might be sneered at by the mere
dilettante, but the emotions of his own soul were none the less true
and noble.


[Illustration: "Zillah's Capacity For Teaching Surprised Herself."]


One day they had arranged for a sail to Capri. Miss Chute could not
go, and Zillah went with Obed Chute alone. She had frequently done so
before. It was a glorious day. Most days in Naples are glorious. The
Neapolitan boatmen sang songs all the way--songs older, perhaps, than
the time of Massaniello--songs which may have come down from Norman,
or even from Roman days. There was one lively air which amused
Zillah--


  "How happys is the fisher's life,
    Eccomi Eccola,
  The fisher and his faithful wife,
    Eccola!"


It was a lively, ringing refrain, and the words had in them that
sentiment of domestic life which is not usually found in Continental
songs. The sea glittered around them. The boat danced lightly over
the waves. The gleaming atmosphere showed all the scenery with
startling distinctness. (Where is there an atmosphere like that of
Naples?) The sky was of an intense blue, and the deep azure of the
sea rivaled the color of the sky that bent above it. The breeze that
swept over the sea brought on its wings life and health and joy. All
around there flashed before them the white sails of countless boats
that sped in every direction over the surface of the waters.

They landed in Capri, and walked about the island. They visited the
cave, and strolled along the shore. At length they sat down on a
rock, and looked over the waters toward the city. Before them spread
out the sea, bounded by the white gleaming outline of Naples, which
extended far along the shore; on the left was Ischia; and on the
right Vesuvius towered on high, with its smoke cloud hovering over
it, and streaming far along through the air. Never before had the Bay
of Naples seemed so lovely. Zillah lost herself in her deep
admiration. Obed Chute also sat in profound silence. Usually he
talked; now, however, he said nothing. Zillah thought that he, like
herself, was lost in the beauty of this matchless scene.

At length the long silence was broken by Obed Chute.

"My child," said he, "for the last few weeks I have been thinking
much of you. You have wound yourself around my heart. I want to say
something to you now which will surprise you, perhaps--and, indeed, I
do not know how you will take it. But in whatever way you take it, do
not be afraid to tell me exactly how you feel. Whatever you may say,
I insist on being your friend. You once called me your 'best friend.'
I will never do any thing to lose that title."

Zillah looked up in wonder. She was bewildered. Her brain whirled,
and all presence of mind left her. She suspected what was coming, but
it seemed too extraordinary, and she could scarcely believe it. She
looked at him thus bewildered and confused, and Obed went calmly on.

"My child," said he, "you are so noble and so tender that it is not
surprising that you have fixed yourself fast in my old heart. You are
very dear and very precious to me. I do not know how I could bear to
have you leave me. I hope to have you near me while I live, in some
way or other. How shall it be? Will you be a daughter to me--or will
you be a wife?"

Obed Chute paused. He did not look at her as he said this. He did not
see the crimson flush that shot like lightning over that white and
beautiful face. He looked away over the sea.

But a deep groan from Zillah aroused him.

He started and turned.

Her face was upturned to his with an expression of agony. She clasped
his arms with a convulsive grasp, and seemed to gasp for breath.

"Oh God!" she cried. "Is this so? I must tell you this much, then--I
will divulge my secret. Oh, my friend--I am married!"



CHAPTER LII.


A BETTER UNDERSTANDING.


For a long time not a word was spoken. Obed was thunder-struck by
this intelligence. He looked at her in wonder, as her fair girlish
face was turned toward him, not knowing how to receive this
unparalleled communication.

"Oh, my friend," said Zillah, "have I ever in any way shown that I
could have expected this? Yes, I am married--and it is about my
marriage that the secret of my life has grown. Forgive me if I can
not tell you more."

"Forgive you? What are you saying, my child?" said Obed Chute,
tenderly. "I am the one who must be forgiven. I have disturbed and
troubled you, when I was only seeking to secure your happiness."

By this time Obed had recovered from his surprise, and began to
contemplate the present state of affairs in their new aspect. It
certainly was strange that this young girl should be a married woman,
but so it was; and what then? "What then?" was the question which
suggested itself to Zillah also. Would it make any difference--or
rather would it not make all the difference in the world? Hitherto
she had felt unembarrassed in his society, but hereafter all would be
different. Never again could she feel the same degree of ease as
before in his presence. Would he not hereafter seem to her and to
himself as a rejected lover?

But these thoughts soon were diverted into another channel by Obed
Chute himself.

"So you are married?" said he, solemnly.

"Yes," faltered Zillah.

"Well, my child," said Obed, with that same tenderness in his voice,
which was now so familiar to her, "whether it is for good or evil I
do not seek to know. I only say this, that if there is any thing
which I could do to secure your happiness, you could not find any one
who would do more for you than Obed Chute."

"Oh, my friend!"

"Just now," said Obed Chute, "I asked you to be my wife. Do not avoid
the subject, my child. I am not ashamed of having made that proposal.
It was for your happiness, as I thought, as well as for my own. I
loved you; and I thought that, perhaps, if you were my wife, I could
make you happier than you now are. But since it is not to be, what
then? Why, I love you none the less; and if you can not be my wife,
you shall be my daughter. Do not look upon me as a passionate youth.
My love is deep and tender and self-sacrificing. I think, perhaps, it
is much more the love of a father than that of a husband, and that it
is just as well that there are obstacles in the way of my proposal.
Do not look so sad, my little child," continued Obed Chute, with
increased tenderness. "Why should you? I am your friend, and you must
love me as much as you can--like a daughter. Will you be a daughter
to me? Will you trust me, my child, and brighten my life as you have
been doing?"

He held out his hand.

Zillah took it, and burst into tears. A thousand contending emotions
were in her heart and agitating her.

"Oh, my friend and benefactor!" said she; "how can I help giving you
my love and my gratitude? You have been to me a father and a
friend--"

"Say no more," said Obed, interrupting her. "It is enough. We will
forget that this conversation has taken place. And as for myself, I
will cherish your secret, my child. It is as safe with me as it would
be with yourself only."

Now as he spoke, with his frank, generous face turned toward her, and
the glow of affection in his eyes, Zillah felt as though it would be
better to give him her full confidence and tell him all. In telling
him that she was married she had made a beginning. Why should she not
tell every thing, and make known the secret of her life? It would be
safe with him. It would be a fair return for his generous affection.
Above all, it would be frank and honest. He would then know all about
her, and there would be nothing more to conceal.

Thus she thought; but still she shrank from such a confession and
such a confidence. It would involve a disclosure of all the most
solemn and sacred memories of her life. It would do violence to her
most delicate instincts. Could she do this? It was impossible. Not
unless Obed Chute insisted on knowing every thing could she venture
to lay bare her past life, and make known the secrets of her heart.
And she well knew that such a thing would never be required of her,
at least by this generous friend. Indeed, she knew well that he would
be most likely to refuse her confidence, even if she were to offer it
on such an occasion as this.

"I feel," said Zillah at length, as these thoughts oppressed her,
"that I am in a false position. You have been so generous to me that
you have a right to know all about me. I ought to let you know my
true name, and make you acquainted with the story of my life."

"You ought to do nothing of the sort," said Obed Chute. "There are
some things which can not be breathed to any human being. Do you
form so low an estimate of me, my dear child, as to think that I
would wish to have your confidence unless it was absolutely
necessary, and for your own good? No. You do not understand me. The
affection which I have for you, which you call generosity, gives me
no such claim, and it gives me no desire to tear open those wounds
which your poor heart must feel so keenly. Nothing can prevent my
loving you. I tell you you are my daughter. I accept you as you are.
I wish to know nothing. I know enough of you from my knowledge of
your character. I only know this, that you have suffered; and I
should like very much to be able to console you or make you happier."

"You have done very much for me," said Zillah, looking at him with
deep emotion.

"Nothing, as far as I am concerned; but it is pleasant to me to know
that any thing which I have done is grateful to you," said Obed,
calmly and benignantly. "Keep your secret to yourself, my dear child.
You came to me from the sea; and I only hope that you will continue
with me as long as you can to brighten my life, and let me hear your
voice and see your face. And that is a simple wish. Is it not, my
child?"

"You are overwhelming me with your goodness," said Zillah, with
another grateful glance.

She was most grateful for the way in which Obed had given up his idea
of matrimony. Had he shown the excitement of a disappointed lover,
then there would have been a dark future before her. She would have
had to leave his family, among whom she had found a home. But Obed
showed nothing of this kind. He himself said that, if he could not
have her as a wife, he would be satisfied to have her as a daughter.
And when he learned that she was married, he at once took up the
paternal attitude, and the affection which he expressed was that
tender yet calm feeling which might become a father. At the
expression of such a feeling as this Zillah's generous and loving
heart responded, and all her nature warmed beneath its genial
influence. Yes, she would be to him as a daughter; she would show him
all the gratitude and devotion of which she was capable. Under such
circumstances as these her life could go on as it had before, and the
interview of to-day would not cast the slightest shadow over the
sunshine of the future. So she felt, and so she said.

Obed took pains to assure her over and over again how entirely he had
sunk all considerations of himself in his regard for her, and that
the idea of making her his wife was not more precious than that of
making her his daughter.

"It was to have you near me," said he, "to make you happy, to give
you a home which should be all yours; but this can be done in another
and a better way, my child: so I am content, if you are."

Before they left the place Zillah gave him, in general terms, an
outline of her secret, without mentioning names and places. She said
that she was married when very young, that her father had died, that
the man to whom she had been married disliked her, and she had not
seen him for years; that once she had seen a letter which he had
written to a friend, in which he alluded to her in such insulting
language, and with such expressions of abhorrence, that she had gone
into seclusion, and had determined to preserve that seclusion till
she died. Hilda, she said, had accompanied her, and she had believed
her to be faithful until the recent discovery of her treachery.

This much Zillah felt herself bound to tell Obed Chute. From this he
could at once understand her situation, while at the same time it
would be impossible for him to know who she was or who her friends
were. That she would not tell to any human being.

All the sympathies of Obed Chute's nature were aroused as he listened
to what Zillah told him. He was indignant that she should have been
led through any motive into such a marriage. In his heart he blamed
her friends, whoever they were, and especially her father. But most
of all he blamed this unknown husband of hers, who, after consenting
to a marriage, had chosen to insult and revile her. What he thought
he did not choose to say, but to himself he registered a vow that, if
he could ever find out this villain, he would avenge all Zillah's
wrongs in his heart's blood, which vow brought to his heart a great
peace and calm.

This day was an eventful one for Zillah, but the result was not what
might at one time have been feared. After such an interchange of
confidence there was an understanding between her and her friend,
which deepened the true and sincere friendship that existed between
them. Zillah's manner toward him became more confiding, more
trustful--in short, more filial. He, too, insensibly took up the part
of a parent or guardian; yet he was as solicitous about her welfare
and happiness as in the days when he had thought of making her his
wife.



CHAPTER LIII.


BEYOND HIS REACH.


"Come!"

This was the word which Hilda had addressed to Gualtier in front of
the Hôtel Gibbon at Lausanne, and, saying this, she tottered toward
the door, supported by Gretchen. That stout German maid upheld her in
her strong arms, as a mother might hold up a child as it learns to
walk, ere yet its unsteady feet have found out the way to plant
themselves. Gualtier had not yet got over the shock of such a
surprise, but he saw her weakness, and was sufficiently himself to
offer his arm to assist his mistress. But Hilda did not seem to see
it. At any rate she did not accept the offer. Her only aim was to get
into the hotel, and the assistance of Gretchen was quite enough for
her.

Although Gretchen thus supported her, still even the slight exertion
which she made, even the motion of her limbs which was required of
her, though they scarcely felt her weight, was too much for her in
her weakness and prostration. She panted for breath in her utter
exhaustion, and at length, on reaching the hall, she stood for a few
moments at the foot of the stairway, as though struggling to regain
her breath, and then suddenly fainted away in the arms of Gretchen.

At this the stout maid took her in her arms, and carried her up
stairs, while Gualtier led the way to the suite of apartments
occupied by Lord Chetwynde. Here Hilda was placed on a sofa, and
after a time came to herself.

She then told Gretchen to retire. The maid obeyed, and Hilda and
Gualtier were left alone. The latter stood regarding her, with his
pale face full of deep anxiety and apprehension, dreading he knew not
what, and seeing in her something which seemed to take her beyond the
reach of that coercion which he had once successfully applied to her.

"Tell me," cried Hilda, the instant that Gretchen had closed the door
after her, looking around at the same time with something of her old
sharp vigilance--"tell me, it is not too late yet to save him?"

"To_ save_ him!" repeated Gualtier.

"Yes. That is what brought me here."

Gualtier looked at her with eager scrutiny, seeking to fathom her
full meaning. Suspecting the truth, he was yet unwilling to believe
it. His answer was given in slow, deliberate tones.

"No," said he, "it is--not--yet--too--late--to--save him--if that is
really what you wish."

"That is what I have come for," said Hilda; "I am going to take my
place at his bedside, to undo the past, and bring him back to life.
That is my purpose. Do you hear?" she said, while her white lips
quivered with excitement, and her shattered frame trembled with the
intensity of her emotion.

"I hear, my lady," said Gualtier, with his old respect, but with a
dull light in his gray eyes, and a cold and stern intonation which
told of the anger which was rising within him.

Once he had shaken off her authority, and had spoken to her with the
tone of a master. It was not probable that he would recede now from
the stand which he had then taken. But, on the other hand, Hilda did
not now seem like one over whom his old menaces would have any
effect. There was in her, besides her suffering, an air of reckless
self-sacrifice, which made it seem as if no threats of his could
again affect her.

"You hear?" said she, with feverish impatience. "Have you nothing
more to say?"

"No, nothing. It is for you to speak," said Gualtier, gruffly. "You
began."

"He must be saved," said Hilda; "and I must save him; and you must
help me."

Gualtier turned away his head, while a dark frown came over his face.
The gesture excited Hilda still more.

"What!" she hissed, springing to her feet, and grasping his arm, "do
you hesitate? Do you refuse to assist me?"

"Our relations are changed," said Gualtier, slowly, turning round as
he spoke. "This thing I will not do. I have begun my work."

As he turned he encountered the eyes of Hilda, which were fixed on
him--stern, wrathful, menacing.

"You have begun it!" she repeated. "It was my work--not yours. I
order you to desist, and you must obey. You can not do any thing
else. To go on is impossible, if I stand between you and him. Only
one thing is left for you, and that is to obey me, and assist me as
before."

"Obey you!" said Gualtier, with a cold and almost ferocious glance.
"The time for obedience I think is past. That much you ought to know.
And what is it that you ask? What? To thrust from me the dearest hope
of my life, and just as it was reaching fruition."

Hilda's eyes were fastened on Gualtier as he said these words. The
scorn with which he disowned any obedience, the confidence with which
he spoke of that renunciation of his former subordination, were but
ill in accordance with those words with which he expressed his
"dearest hope."

"Dearest hope!" said Hilda--"fruition! If you knew any thing, you
would know that the time for that is rapidly passing, and only your
prompt obedience and assistance will benefit you now."

"Pardon me," said Gualtier, hastily; "I forgot myself in my
excitement. But you ask impossible things. I can not help you here.
The obstacle between you and me was nearly removed--and you ask me to
replace it."

"Obstacle!" said Hilda, in scorn. "Is it thus that you mention
_him_?" In her weakness her wrath and indignation burst forth. "That
man whom you call an obstacle is one for whose sake I have dragged
myself over hundreds of miles; for whom I am now ready to lay down my
life. Do not wonder. Do not question me. Call it
passion--madness--any thing--but do not attempt to thwart me. Speak
now. Will you help me or not?"

"Help you!" cried Gualtier, bitterly, "help you! to what? to do that
which will destroy my last hope--and after I have extorted from you
your promise! Ask me any thing else."

"I want nothing else."

"You may yet want my aid."

"If you do not help me now, I shall never want you."

"You have needed me before, and will need me again."

"If _he_ dies, I shall never need you again."

"If _he_ dies, that is the very time when you will need me."

"No, I shall not--for if _he_ dies I will die myself!" cried Hilda,
in a burst of uncontrollable passion.

Gualtier started, and his heart sank within him. Long and earnestly
he looked at her, but he saw that this was more than a fitful
outburst of passion. Looking on her face with its stern and fixed
resolve, with its intense meaning, he knew that what she had said was
none other than her calm, set purpose. He saw it in every one of
those faded lineaments, upon which such a change had been wrought in
so short a time. He read it in the hollows round her eyes, in her
sunken cheeks, in her white, bloodless lips, in her thin, emaciated
hands, which were now clenched in desperate resolve. From this he saw
that there was no appeal. He learned how strong that passion must be
which had thus overmastered her, and was consuming all the energies
of her powerful nature. To this she was sacrificing the labor of
years, and all the prospects which now lay before her; to this she
gave up all her future life, with all its possibilities of wealth and
honor and station. A coronet, a castle, a princely revenue, rank,
wealth, and title, all lay before her within her grasp; yet now she
turned her back upon them, and came to the bedside of the man whose
death was necessary to her success, to save him from death. She
trampled her own interests in the dust; she threw to the winds the
hard-won results of treachery and crime, and only that she might be
near him who abhorred her, and whose first word on coming back to
consciousness might be an imprecation. Beside this man who hated her,
he who adored her was as nothing, and all his devotion and all his
adoration were in one moment forgotten.

All these thoughts flashed through the mind of Gualtier as at that
instant he comprehended the situation. And what was he to do? Could
he associate himself with her in this new purpose? He could not. He
might have refrained from the work of death at the outset, if she had
bid him refrain, but now that he had begun it, it was not easy to
give it up. She had set him to the task. It had been doubly sweet to
him. First, it was a delight to his own vindictive nature; and
secondly, he had flattered himself that this would be an offering
well pleasing to the woman whom he adored. She had set him to this
task, and when it was fully completed he might hope for an adequate
reward. From the death of this man he had accustomed himself to look
forward in anticipation of the highest happiness for himself. All his
future grew bright from the darkness of this deed.

Now in one instant his dream was dispelled. The very one who had
commanded him to do this now came in a kind of frenzy, with a face
like that of death, bidding him to stay his hand. Deep, dark, and
bitter was that disappointment, and all the more so from its utter
suddenness. And because he could read in her face and in her words
not only the change that had taken place, but also the cause of that
change, the revulsion of feeling within himself became the more
intolerable. His nature rose up in rebellion against this capricious
being. How could he yield to her wishes here? He could not sway with
every varying feeling of hers. He could not thus retire from his
unfinished work, and give up his vengeance.

Indignant as he was, there was yet something in Hilda's countenance
which stirred to its depths the deep passion of his soul. Her face
had the expression of one who had made up her mind to die. To such a
one what words could he say--what arguments could he use? For a time
pity overmastered anger, and his answer was mild.

"You ask impossibilities," said he. "In no case can I help you. I
will not even let you do what you propose."

Hilda looked at him with a cold glance of scorn. She seated herself
once more.

"You will not let me!" she repeated.

"Certainly not. I shall go on with the work which I have begun. But I
will see that you receive the best attention. You are excited now.
Shall I tell the maid to come to you? You had better put an end to
this interview; it is too much for you. You need rest."

Gualtier spoke quietly, and seemed really to feel some anxiety about
her excitement. But he miscalculated utterly the nature of Hilda, and
relied too much on the fact that he had once terrified her. These
cool words threw into Hilda a vivid excitement of feeling, which for
a time turned all her thoughts upon this man, who under such
circumstances dared to resume that tone of impudent superiority which
once before he had ventured to adopt. Her strength revived under such
a stimulus, and for a time her bitter contempt and indignation
stilled the deep sorrow and anxiety of her heart.

The voice with which she answered was no longer agitated or excited.
It was cool, firm, and penetrating--a tone which reminded him of her
old domineering manner.

"You are not asked to give up your work," said she. "It is done. You
are dismissed."

"Dismissed!" said Gualtier, with a sneer. "You ought to know that I
am not one who can be dismissed."

"I know that you can be, and that you are," said Hilda. "If you were
capable of understanding me you would know this. But you, base and
low-born hireling that you are, what can there be in common between
one like you and one like me?"

"One thing," said Gualtier. "_Crime_!"

Hilda changed not a feature.

"What care I for that? It is over. I have passed into another life.
Your coarse and vulgar threats avail nothing. This moment ends all
communication between us forever. You may do what you like. All your
threats are useless. Finally, you must go away at once."

"Go away?"

"Yes--at once--and forever. These rooms shall never see you again.
_I_ am here, and will stay here."

"You?"

"_I_."

"You have no right here."

"I have."

"What right?"

"The right of _love_," said Hilda. "I come to save him!"

"You tried to kill him."

"That is passed. I will save him now."

"You are mad. You know that this is idle. You know that I am a
determined and desperate man."

"Pooh! What is the determination or the desperation of one like you?
I know well what you think. Once you were able to move me by your
threats. That is passed. My resolve and my despair have placed me
beyond your reach forever. Go--go away. Begone! Take your threats
with you, and do your worst."

"You are mad--you are utterly mad," said Gualtier, confounded at the
desperation of one whom he felt was so utterly in his power; one,
too, who herself must have known this. "You have forgotten your past.
Will you force me to remind you of it?"

"I have forgotten nothing," said Hilda; "but I care nothing for it."

"You must care for it. You will be forced to. Your future happens to
depend on it."

"My future happens to be equally indifferent to me," said Hilda. "I
have given up all my plans and hopes. I am beyond your reach, at any
rate. You are powerless against me now."

Gualtier smiled.

"You speak lightly," said he, "of the past and the future. You are
excited. If you think calmly about your position, you will see that
you are now more in my power than ever; and you will see, also, that
I am willing to use that power. Do not drive me to extremes."

"These are your old threats," said Hilda, with bitter contempt. "They
are stale now."

"Stale!" repeated Gualtier. "There are things which can never be
stale, and in such things you and I have been partners. Must I remind
you of them?"

"It's not at all necessary. You had much better leave, and go back to
England, or any where else."

These words stung Gualtier.

"I will recall them," he cried, in a low, fierce voice. "You have a
convenient memory, and may succeed for a time in banishing your
thoughts, but you have that on your soul which no efforts of yours
can banish--things which must haunt you, cold-blooded as you are,
even as they have haunted me--my God!--and haunt me yet."

"The state of your mind is of no concern to me. You had better obey
my order, and go, so as not to add any more to your present apparent
troubles."

"Your taunts are foolish," said Gualtier, savagely. "You are in my
power. What if I use it?"

"Use it, then."

Gualtier made a gesture of despair.

"Do you know what it means?" he exclaimed.

"I suppose so."

"You do not--you can not. It means the downfall of all your hopes,
your desires, your plans."

"I tell you I no longer care for things like those."

"You do not mean it--you can not. What! can you come down from being
Lady Chetwynde to plain Hilda Krieff?"

"I have implied that, I believe," said Hilda, in the same tone. "Now
you understand me. Go and pull me down as fast as you like."

"But," said Gualtier, more excitedly, "you do not know what you are
saying. There is something more in store for you than mere
humiliation--something worse than a change in station--something more
terrible than ruin itself. You are a criminal. You know it. It is for
this that you must give your account. And, remember, such crimes as
yours are not common ones. Such victims as the Earl of Chetwynde and
Zillah are not those whom one can sacrifice with impunity. It is such
as these that will be traced back to you, and woe be to you when
their blood is required at your hands! Can you face this prospect? Is
this future so very indifferent to you? If you have nothing like
remorse, are you also utterly destitute of fear?"

"Yes," said Hilda.

"I don't believe it," said Gualtier, rudely.

"That is because you think I have no alternative," said Hilda; "it is
a mistake into which a base and cowardly nature might naturally
fall."

"You have no alternative," said Gualtier. "It's impossible."

"I have," said Hilda, calmly.

"What?"

She whispered one word. It struck upon Gualtier's ear with fearful
emphasis. It was the same word which she had once whispered to him in
the park at Chetwynde. He recoiled with horror. A shudder passed
through him. Hilda looked at him with calm and unchanged contempt.

"You dare not," he cried.

"Dare not?" she repeated. "What I dare administer to others I dare
administer to myself. Go and perform your threats! Go with your
information--go and let loose the authorities upon me! Go! Haste!
Go--and see--see how quickly and how completely I will elude your
grasp! As for you--your power is gone. You made one effort to exert
it, and succeeded for the moment. But that has passed away.
Never--never more can any threats of yours move me in the slightest.
You know that I am resolute. Whether you believe that I am resolute
about this matter or not makes no difference whatever to me. You are
to go from this place at once--away from this place, and this town.
That is my mandate. I am going to stay; and, since you have refused
your assistance, I will do without it henceforth."

At these words Gualtier's face grew pale with rage and despair. He
knew well Hilda's resolute character. That her last determination
would be carried out he could scarcely doubt. Yet still his rage and
his pride burst forth.

"Hilda Krieff," said he, for the first time discarding the pretense
of respect and the false title by which he had so long addressed her,
"do you not know who you are? What right have you to order me away,
and stay here yourself--you with the Earl of Chetwynde--you, an
unmarried girl? Answer me that, Hilda Krieff."

"What right?" said Hilda, as loftily as before, utterly unmoved by
this utterance of her true name. "What right? The right of one who
comes in love to save the object of her love. That is all. By that
right I dismiss you. I drive you away, and stand myself by his
bedside."

"You are very bold and very reckless," said he, with his white face
turned toward her, half in rage, half in despair. "You are flinging
yourself into a position which it will be impossible for you to hold,
and you are insulting and defying one who can at any moment have you
thrust from the place. I, if I chose, could now, at this instant,
have you arrested, and in this very room."

"You!" said Hilda, with a sneer.

"Yes, I," said Gualtier, emphatically. "I have but to lodge my
information with the authorities against you, and before ten minutes
you would be carried away from this place, and separated from that
man forever. Yes, Hilda Krieff, I can do that, and you know it; and
yet you dare to taunt me and insult me, and drive me on to do things
of which I might afterward repent. God knows I do not wish to do any
thing but what is in accordance with your will. At this moment I
would still obey any of your commands but this one; yet you try me
more than mortal nature can endure, and I warn you that I will not
bear it."

Hilda laughed.

Since this interview had commenced, instead of growing weaker, she
had seemed rather to grow stronger. It was as though the excitement
had been a stimulus, and had roused her to a new life. It had torn
her thoughts suddenly and violently away from the things over which
she had long brooded. Pride had been stirred up, and had repaired the
ravages of love. At this last threat of Gualtier's she laughed.

"Poor creature!" she said. "And do you really think you can do any
thing here? Your only place where you have any chance is in England,
and then only by long and careful preparation. What could you do here
in Lausanne?"

"I could have you flung in prison, and separated from him forever,"
said Gualtier, fiercely.

"You! you! And pray do you know who you are? Lord Chetwynde's valet!
And who would take your word against Lord Chetwynde's wife?"

"That you are not."

"I am," said Hilda, firmly.

"My God! what do you mean?"

"I mean that I will stand up for my rights, and crush you into dust
if you dare to enter into any frantic attempt against me here. You!
why, what are you? You are Lord Chetwynde's scoundrel valet, who
plotted against his master. Here in these rooms are the witnesses and
the proofs of your crimes. You would bring an accusation against me,
would you? You would inform the magistrates, perhaps, that I am not
Lady Chetwynde--that I am an impostor--that my true name is Hilda
Krieff--that I sent you on an errand to destroy your master? And pray
have you thought how you could prove so wild and so improbable a
fiction? Is there one thing that you could bring forward? Is there
one living being who would sustain the charge? You know that there is
nothing. Your vile slander would only recoil on your own head; and
even if I did nothing--even if I treated you and your charge with
silent contempt, you yourself would suffer, for the charge would
excite such suspicion against you that you would undoubtedly be
arrested.

"But, unfortunately for you, I would not be silent. I would come
forward and tell the magistrates the whole truth. And I think,
without self-conceit, there is enough in my appearance to win for me
belief against the wild and frenzied fancies of a vulgar valet like
you. Who would believe you when Lady Chetwynde came forward to tell
her story, and to testify against you?

"I will tell you what Lady Chetwynde would have to say. She would
tell how she once employed you in England; how you suffered some
slight from her; how you were dismissed from her service. That then
you went to London, and engaged yourself as valet to Lord Chetwynde,
by whom you were not known; that, out of vengeance, you determined to
ruin him. That Lady Chetwynde Was anxious about her husband, and,
hearing of his illness, followed him from place to place; that, owing
to her intense anxiety, she broke down and nearly died; that she
finally reached this place to find her villainous servant--the one
whom she had dismissed--acting as her husband's valet. That she
turned him off on the spot, whereupon he went to the authorities, and
lodged some malicious and insane charges against her. But Lady
Chetwynde would have more than this to say. She could show _certain
vials_, which are no doubt in these rooms, to a doctor; and he could
analyze their contents; and he could tell to the court what it was
that had caused this mysterious disease to one who had always before
been so healthy. And where do you think your charge would be in the
face of Lady Chetwynde's story; in the face of the evidence of the
vials and the doctor's analysis?"

Hilda paused and regarded Gualtier with cold contempt. Gualtier felt
the terrible truth of all that she had said. He saw that here in
Lausanne he had no chance. If he wished for vengeance he would have
to delay it. And yet he did not wish for any vengeance on her. She
had for the present eluded his grasp. In spite of his assertion of
power over her--in spite of the coercion by which he had once
extorted a promise from her--he was, after all, full of that same
all-absorbing love and idolizing affection for her which had made him
for so many years her willing slave and her blind tool. Now this
sudden reassertion of her old supremacy, while it roused all his
pride and stimulated his anger, excited also at the same time his
admiration.

He spoke at length, and his tone was one of sadness.

"There is one other thing which is against me," said he; "my own
heart. I can not do any thing against you."

"Your heart," said Hilda, "is very ready to hold you back when you
see danger ahead."

Gualtier's pale face flushed.

"That's false," said he, "and you know it. Did my heart quail on that
midnight sea when I was face to face with four ruffians and quelled
their mutiny? You have already told me that it was a bold act."

"Well, at least you were armed, and they were not," said Hilda, with
unchanged scorn.

"Enough," cried Gualtier, flushing a deeper and an angrier red. "I
will argue with you no more. I will yield to you this time. I will
leave the hotel and Lausanne. I will go to England. _He_ shall be
under your care, and you may do what you choose.

"But remember this," he continued, warningly. "I have your promise,
given to me solemnly, and that promise I will yet claim. This man may
recover; but, if he does, it will only be to despise you. His
abhorrence will be the only reward that you can expect for your
passion and your mad self-sacrifice. But even if it were possible for
him to love you--yes, to love you as you love him--even then you
could not have him. For I live; and while I live you could never be
his: No, never. I have your promise, and I will come between you and
him to sunder you forever and to cast you down. That much, at least,
I can do, and you know it.

"And now farewell for the present. In any event you will need me
again. I shall go to Chetwynde Castle, and wait there till I am
wanted. The time will yet come, and that soon, when you will again
wish my help. I will give you six months to try to carry out this
wild plan of yours. At the end of that time I shall have something to
do and to say; but I expect to be needed before then. If I am needed,
you may rely upon me as before. I will forget every injury and be as
devoted as ever."

With these ominous words Gualtier withdrew.

Hilda sank back in her chair exhausted, and sat for some time
pressing her hand on her heart.

At length she summoned her strength, and, rising to her feet, she
walked feebly through several rooms. Finally she reached one which
was darkened. A bed was there, on which lay a figure. The figure was
quite motionless; but her heart told her who this might be.



CHAPTER LIV.


NURSING THE SICK.


The figure that lay upon the bed as Hilda entered the room sent a
shock to her heart at the first glance. Very different was this one
from that tall, strong man who but lately, in all the pride of manly
beauty and matured strength, overawed her by his presence. What was
he now? Where now was all that virile force, and strong, resistless
nature, whose overmastering power she had experienced? Alas! but
little of it could be seen in this wasted and emaciated figure that
now lay before her, seemingly at the last verge of life. His features
had grown thin and attenuated, his lips were drawn tight over his
teeth, his face had the stamp of something like death upon it. He was
sleeping fitfully, but his eyes were only half closed. His thin, bony
hands moved restlessly about, and his lips muttered inarticulate
words from time to time. Hilda placed her hand on his forehead. It
was cold and damp. The cold sent a chill through every nerve. She
bent down low over him. She devoured him with her eyes. That face,
worn away by the progress of disease, that now lay unconscious, and
without a ray of intelligence beneath her, was yet to her the best
thing in all the world, and the one for which she would willingly
give up the world. She stooped low down. She pressed her lips to his
cold forehead. An instant she hesitated, and then she pressed her
lips this time to the white lips that were before her. The long,
passionate kiss did not wake the slumberer. He knew not that over him
was bending one who had once sent him to death, but who now would
give her own life to bring him back from that death to which she had
sent him.

Such is the change which can be worked in the basest nature by the
power of almighty love. Here it was made manifest. These lips had
once given the kiss of Judas. On this face of hers the Earl of
Chetwynde had gazed in horror; and these hands of hers, that now
touched tremblingly the brow of the sick man, had once wrought out on
him that which would never be made known. But the lips which once
gave the kiss of Judas now gave that kiss which was the outpouring of
the devotion of all her soul, and these hands were ready to deal
death to herself to rescue him from evil. She twined her arms around
his neck, and gazed at him as though her longing eyes would devour
every lineament of his features. Again and again she pressed her lips
to his, as though she would thus force upon him life and health and
strength. But the sick man lay unconscious in her arms, all unheeding
that full tide of passionate love which was surging and swelling
within her bosom.

At last footsteps aroused her. A woman entered. She walked to the
bedside and looked with tender sympathy at Hilda. She had heard from
Gretchen that this was Lady Chetwynde, who had come to nurse her husband.

"Are you the nurse?" asked Hilda, who divined at one glance the
character of the newcomer.

"Yes, my lady."

"Well, I am to be the nurse after this, but I should like you to
remain. You can wait in one of the ante-rooms."

"Forgive me, my lady, if I say that you yourself are in need of a
nurse. You will not be able to endure this fatigue. You look overworn
now. Will you not take some rest?"

"No," said Hilda, sharply and decisively.

"My lady," said the nurse, "I will watch while you are resting."

"I shall not leave the room."

"Then, my lady, I will spread a mattress on the sofa, and you may lie
down."

"No, I am best here by his side. Here I can get the only rest and the
only strength that I want. I must be near enough to touch his hand
and to see his face. Here I will stay."

"But, my lady, you will break down utterly."

"No, I shall not break down. I shall be strong enough to watch him
until he is either better or worse. If he gets better, he will bring
me back to health; if he gets worse, I will accompany him to the
tomb."

Hilda spoke desperately. Her old self-control, her reticence, and
calm had departed. The nurse looked at her with a face full of
sympathy, and said not a word. The sight of this young and beautiful
wife, herself so weak, so wan, and yet so devoted, so young and
beautiful, yet so wasted and emaciated, whose only desire was to live
or die by the side of her husband, roused all the feelings of her
heart. To some Hilda's conduct would have been unintelligible; but
this honest Swiss nurse was kind-hearted and sentimental, and the
fervid devotion and utter self-abnegation of Hilda brought tears to
her eyes.

"Ah, my lady," said she, "I see I shall soon have two to nurse."

"Well, if you have, it will not be for long," said Hilda.

The nurse sighed and was silent.

"May I remain, my lady, or shall I go?" she asked.

"You may go just now. See how my maid is doing, and if she wants any
directions."

The nurse retired, and Hilda was again alone with the sick man. She
sat on the bedside leaning over him, and twined her arms about him.
There, as he lay, in his weakness and senselessness, she saw her own
work. It was she, and no other, who had doomed him to this. Too well
had her agent earned out the fatal commission which she had given. As
his valet he had had constant access to the person of Lord Chetwynde,
and had used his opportunities well. She understood perfectly how it
was that such a thing as this had been brought about. She knew every
part of the dread process, and had read enough to know the inevitable
results.

And now--would he live or die? Life was low. Would it ever rally
again? Had she come in time to save him, or was it all too late? The
reproaches which she hurled against herself were now overwhelming
her, and these reproaches alternated with feelings of intense
tenderness. She was weak from her own recent illness, from the
unwonted fatigue which she had endured, and from the excitement of
that recent interview with Gualtier. Thus torn and tossed and
distracted by a thousand contending emotions, Hilda sat there until
at length weakness and fatigue overpowered her. It seemed to her that
a change was coming over the face of the sick man. Suddenly he moved,
and in such a way that his face was turned full toward her as he lay
on his side. At that moment it seemed to her that the worst had
come--that at last death himself had placed his stamp there, and that
there was now no more hope. The horror of this fancy altogether
overcame her. She fell forward and sank down.


[Illustration: "No; I Am Best Here By His Side."]


When at length the nurse returned she found Hilda senseless, lying on
the bed, with her arm still under the head of Lord Chetwynde. She
called Gretchen, and the two made a bed on the sofa, where they
lifted Hilda with tenderest care. She lay long unconscious, but at
last she recovered. Her first thoughts were full of bewilderment, but
finally she comprehended the whole situation.

Now at length she found that she had been wasting precious moments
upon useless reflections and idle self-reproaches. If she had come to
save, that safety ought not to be delayed. She hurriedly drew from
her pocket a vial and opened it. It was the same which she had
obtained from the London druggist. She smelled it, and then tasted
it. After this she rose up, in spite of the solicitations of the
nurse and Gretchen, and tottered toward the bed with unsteady steps,
supported by her attendants. Then she seated herself on the bedside,
and, asking for a spoon, she tried with a trembling hand to pour out
some of the mixture from the vial. Her hands shook so that she could
not. In despair she allowed the nurse to administer it, while
Gretchen supported her, seating herself behind her in such a way that
Hilda could lean against her, and still see the face of the sick man.
In this position she watched while the nurse put the liquid into Lord
Chetwynde's mouth, and saw him swallow it.

"My lady, you must lie down, or you will never get over this," said
the nurse, earnestly, and passing her arms around Hilda, she gently
drew her back to the sofa, assisted by Gretchen. Hilda allowed
herself to be moved back without a word. For the remainder of that
day she watched, lying on her sofa, and gave directions about the
regular administration of the medicine. At her request they drew the
sofa close up to the bedside of Lord Chetwynde, and propped her up
high with pillows. There she Iay weakly, with her face turned toward
him, and her hand clasping his.

Night came, and Hilda still watched. Fatigue and weakness were fast
overpowering her. Against these she struggled bravely, and lay with
her eyes fixed on Lord Chetwynde. In that sharp exercise of her
senses, which were all aroused in his behalf, she became at last
aware of the fact that they were getting beyond her control. Before
her eyes, as she gazed upon this man, there came other and different
visions. She saw another sick-bed, in a different room from this,
with another form stretched upon it--a form like this, yet unlike,
for it was older--a form with venerable gray hairs, with white,
emaciated face, and with eyes full of fear and entreaty. At that
sight horror came over her. She tried to rouse herself from the
fearful state into which she was drifting. She summoned up all that
remained of her physical and mental energy. The struggle was severe.
All things round her seemed to change incessantly into the semblances
of other things; the phantoms of a dead past--a dead but not a
forgotten past--crowded around her, and all the force of her will was
unavailing to repel them. She shuddered as she discovered the full
extent of her own weakness, and saw where she was drifting. For she
was drifting helplessly into the realm of shadowy memories; into the
place where the past holds its empire; surrounded by all those forms
which time and circumstance have rendered dreadful; forms from which
memory shrinks, at whose aspect the soul loses all its strength. Here
they were before her; kept back so long, they now crowded upon her;
they asserted themselves, they forced themselves before her in her
weakness. Her brain reeled; the strong, active intellect, which in
health had been so powerful, now, in her hour of weakness, failed
her. She struggled against these horrors, but the struggle was
unavailing, and at last she yielded--she failed--she sank down
headlong and helplessly into the abyss of forgotten things, into the
thick throng of forms and images from which for so long a time she
had kept herself apart.

Now they came before her.

The room changed to the old room at Chetwynde Castle. There was the
window looking out upon the park. There was the door opening into the
hall. Zillah stood there, pale and fearful, bidding her good-night.
There was the bed upon which lay the form of a venerable man, whose
face was ever turned toward her with its expression of fear, and of
piteous entreaty. "Don't leave me," he murmured to the phantom form
of Zillah. "Don't leave me with her," and his thin finger pointed to
herself. But Zillah, ignorant of all danger, promised to send Mrs.
Hart. And Zillah walked out, standing at the door for a time to give
her last look--the look which the phantom of this vision now had.
Then, with a momentary glance, the phantom figure of Zillah faded
away, and only the prostrate figure of the Earl appeared before her,
with the white face, and the venerable hair, and the imploring eyes.

Then she walked to the window and looked out; then she walked to the
door and looked down the hall. Silence was every where. All were
asleep. No eye beheld her. Then she returned. She saw the white face
of the sick man, and the imploring eyes encountered hers. Again she
walked to the window; then she went to his bedside. She stooped down.
His white face was beneath her, with the imploring eyes. She kissed
him.

"Judas!"

That was the sound that she heard--the last sound--for soon in that
abhorrent vision the form of the dead lay before her, and around it
the household gathered; and Zillah sat there, with a face of agony,
looking up to her and saying:

"I am the next victim!"

Then all things were forgotten, and innumerable forms and phantoms
came confusedly together.

She was in delirium.



CHAPTER LV.


SETTING A TRAP.


Gualtier was true to his word. On the evening of the day when he had
that interview with Hilda he left the hotel, and Lausanne also, and
set out for England. On the way he had much to think of, and his
thoughts were not at all pleasant. This frenzy of Hilda's had taken
him by complete surprise, and her utter recklessness of life, or all
the things most desirable in life, were things on which he had never
counted. Her dark resolve also which she had announced to him, the
coolness with which she listened to his menaces, and the stern way in
which she turned on him with menaces of her own, showed him plainly
that, for the present at least, she was beyond his reach, and nothing
which he might do could in any way affect her. Only one thing gave
him hope, and that was the utter madness and impossibility of her
design. He did not know what might have passed between her and Lord
Chetwynde before, but he conjectured that she had been treated with
insult great enough to inspire her with a thirst for vengeance. He
now hoped that Lord Chetwynde, if he did recover, would regard her as
before. He was not a man to change; his mind had been deeply
imbittered against the woman whom he believed his wife, and recovery
of sense would not lessen that bitterness. So Gualtier thought, and
tried to believe, yet in his thoughts he also considered the
possibility of a reconciliation. And, if such a thing could take
place, then his mind was fully made up what to do. He would trample
out all feelings of tenderness, and sacrifice love to full and
complete vengeance. That reconciliation should be made short-lived,
and should end in utter ruin to Hilda, even if he himself descended
into the same abyss with her.

Thoughts like these occupied his mind until he reached London. Then
he drove to the Strand Hotel, and took two front-rooms on the second
story looking out upon the street, commanding a view of the dense
crowd that always went thronging by.

Here, on the evening of his arrival, his thoughts turned to his old
lodging-house, and to those numerous articles of value which he had
left there. He had once made up his mind to let them go, and never
seek to regain possession of them. He was conscious that to do so
would be to endanger his safety, and perhaps to put a watchful
pursuer once more on his track. Yet there was something in the
thought which was attractive. Those articles were of great intrinsic
value, and some of them were precious souvenirs, of little worth to
any one else, yet to him beyond Would it not be worth while to make
an effort at least to regain possession of them? If it could be done,
it would represent so much money at the least, and that was a thing
which it was needful for him to consider. And, in any case, those
mementoes of the past were sufficiently valuable to call for some
effort and some risk. The more he thought of this, the more
resistless became the temptation to make this effort and run this
risk.

And what danger was there? What was the risk, and what was there to
fear? Only one person was in existence from whom any danger could
possibly be apprehended. That one was Black Bill, who had tracked him
to London, and afterward watched at his lodgings, and whom he had
feared so much that for his sake, and for his alone, he had given up
every thing. And now the question that arose was this, did Black Bill
really require so much precaution, and so great a sacrifice? It was
not likely that Black Bill could have given any information to the
police; that would have been too dangerous to himself. Besides, if
the police had heard of such a story, they would have given some
sign. In England every thing is known, and the police are forced to
work openly. Their detective system is a clumsy one compared with the
vast system of secrecy carried on on the Continent. Had they found
out any thing whatever about so important a case as this, some kind
of notice or other would have appeared in the papers. Gualtier had
never ceased to watch for some such notice, but had never found one.
So, with such opinions about the English police, he naturally
concluded that they knew nothing about him.

It was therefore Black Bill, and Black Bill only, against whom he had
to guard. As for him it was indeed possible, he thought, that he was
still watching, but hardly probable. He was not in a position to
spend so many months in idle watching, nor was he able to employ a
confederate. Still less was it possible for such a man to win the
landlord over to his side, and thus get his assistance. The more he
thought of these things the more useless did it seem to entertain any
further fear, and the more irresistible did his desire become to
regain possession of those articles, which to him were of so much
value. Under such circumstances, he finally resolved to make an
effort.

Yet, so cautious was he by nature, so wary and vigilant, and so
accustomed to be on his guard, that in this case he determined to run
no risk by any exposure of his person to observation. He therefore
deliberated carefully about various modes by which he could apply to
the landlord. At first he thought of a disguise; but finally rejected
this idea, thinking that, if Black Bill were really watching, he
would expect some kind of a disguise. At last he decided that it
would be safest to find some kind of a messenger, and send him, after
instructing him what to ask for and what to say.

With this resolve he took a walk out on the Strand on the following
morning, looking carefully at the faces of the great multitude which
thronged the street, and trying to find some one who might be suited
to his purpose. In that crowd there were many who would have gladly
undertaken his business if he had asked them, but Gualtier had made
up his mind as to the kind of messenger which would be best suited to
him, and was unwilling to take any other.

Among the multitude which London holds almost any type of man can be
found, if one looks long enough. The one which Gualtier wished is a
common kind there, and he did not have a long search. A street boy,
sharp, quick-witted, nimble, cunning--hat was what he wanted, and
that was what he found, after regarding many different specimens of
that tribe and rejecting them. The boy whom he selected was somewhat
less ragged than his companions, with a demure face, which, however,
to his scrutinizing eyes, did not conceal the precocious maturity of
mind and fertility of resource which lay beneath. A few words
sufficed to explain his wish, and the boy eagerly accepted the task.
Gualtier then took him to a cheap clothing store, and had him dressed
in clothes which gave him the appearance of being the son of some
small tradesman. After this he took him to his room in the hotel, and
carefully instructed him in the part that he was to perform. The
boy's wits were quickened by London life; the promise of a handsome
reward quickened them still more, and at length, after a final
questioning, in which he did his part to satisfaction, Gualtier gave
him the address of the lodging-house.

"I am going west," said he; "I will be back before eight o'clock. You
must come at eight exactly."

"Yes'r," said the boy.

"Very well. Now go."

And the boy, with a bob of his head, took his departure. The boy went
off, and at length reached the place which Gualtier had indicated. He
rang at the door.

A servant came.

"Is this Mr. Gillis's?"

"Yes."

"Is he in?"

"Do you want to see him?"

"Yes."

"What for?"

"Particular business."

"Come in," said the servant; and the boy entered the hall and waited.
In a few moments Mr. Gillis made his appearance. He regarded the boy
carefully from head to foot.

"Come into the parlor," said he, leading the way into a room on the
right. The boy followed, and Mr. Gillis shut the door.

"Well," said he, seating himself, "what is it that you want of me?"

"My father," said the boy, "is a grocer in Blackwall. He got a letter
this morning from a friend of his who stopped here some time back. He
had to go to America of a sudden and left his things, and wants to
get 'em."

"Ah!" said Mr. Gillis. "What is the name of the lodger?"

"Mr. Brown," said the boy.

"Brown?" said Mr. Gillis. "Yes, there was such a lodger, I think; but
I don't know about his things. You wait here a moment till I go and
ask Mrs. Gillis."

Saying this Mr. Gillis left the room. After about fifteen or twenty
minutes he returned.

"Well, my boy," said he, "there are some things of Mr. Brown's here
yet, I believe; and you have come for them? Have you a wagon?"


[Illustration: "He Carefully Instructed Him In The Part He Was To
Perform."]


"No. I only come to see if they were here, and to get your bill."

"And your father is Mr. Brown's friend?"

"Yes'r."

"And Mr. Brown wrote to him?"

"Yes'r."

"Well, you know I wouldn't like to give up the things on an
uncertainty. They are very valuable. I would require some order from
your father."

"Yes'r."

Mr. Gillis asked a number of questions of the boy, to which he
responded without hesitation, and then left the room again, saying
that he would go and make out Mr. Brown's bill.

He was gone a long time. The boy amused himself by staring at the
things in the room, at the ornaments, and pictures, and began to
think that Mr. Gillis was never coming back, when at last footsteps
were heard in the hall, the door opened, and Mr. Gillis entered,
followed by two other men. One of these men had the face of a
prizefighter, or a ticket-of-leave man, with abundance of black hair
and beard; his eyes were black and piercing, and his face was the
same which has already been described as the face of Black Bill. But
he was respectably dressed in black, he wore a beaver hat, and had
lost something of his desperate air. The fact is, the police had
taken Black Bill into their employ, and he was doing very well in his
new occupation. The other was a sharp, wiry man, with a cunning face
and a restless, fidgety manner. Both he and Black Bill looked
carefully at the boy, and at length the sharp man spoke:

"You young rascal, do you know who I am?"

The boy started and looked aghast, terrified by such an address.

"No, Sir," he whimpered.

"Well, I'm Thomas S. Davis, detective. Do you understand what that
means?"

"Yes'r," said the boy, whose self-possession completely vanished at
so formidable an announcement.

"Come now, young fellow," said Davis, "you've got to own up. Who are
you?"

"I'm the son of Mr. B. F. Baker, grocer, Blackwall," said the boy, in
a quick monotone.

"What street?"

"Queen Street, No. 17," said the boy.

"There ain't no such street."

"There is, 'cos he lives there."

"You young rascal, don't you suppose I know?"

"Well, I oughter know the place where I was bred and bornd," said the
boy.

"You're a young scamp. You needn't try to come it over me, you know.
Why, I know Blackwall by heart. There isn't such a street there. Who
sent you here?"

"Father."

"What for?"

"He got a letter from a man as used to stop here, askin' of him to
get his things away."

"What is the name of the man?"

"Mr. Brown."

"Brown?"

"Yes'r."

"Where is this Mr. Brown now?"

"In Liverpool."

"How did he get there?"

"He's just come back from America."

"See here, boy, you've got to own up," said Davis, suddenly. "I'm a
detective. We belong to the police. So make a clean breast of it."

"Oh, Sir!" said the boy, in terror.

"Never mind 'Oh, Sir!' but own up," said Davis. "You've got to do
it."

"I ain't got nothin' to own up. I'm sure I don't see why you're so
hard on a poor cove as never did you no harm, nor nobody else."

And saying this the boy sniveled violently.

"I s'pose your dear mamma dressed you up in your Sunday clothes to
come here?" said the detective, sneeringly.

"No, Sir," said the boy, "she didn't, 'cos she's dead, she is."

"Why didn't your father come himself?"

"'Cos he's too busy in his shop."

"Did you ever hear the name of this Brown before to-day?"

"No, Sir, never as I knows on."

"But you said he is a friend of your father's."

"So he is, Sir."

"And you never heard his name before?"

"Never, Sir, in my life, Sir--not this Brown."

"Is your father a religious man?"

"A what, Sir?"

"A religious man."

"I dunno, Sir."

"Does he go to church?"

"Oh, yes'r, to meetin' on Sundays."

"What meeting?"

"Methodist, Sir."

"Where?"

"At No. 13 King Street," said the boy, without a moment's hesitation.

"You young jackass," said Davis. "No. 13 King Street, and all the
numbers near it in Blackwall, are warehouses--what's the use of
trying to humbug me?"

"Who's a-tryin' to humbug you?" whimpered the boy. "I don't remember
the numbers. It's somewhere in King Street. I never go myself."

"You don't, don't you?"

"No, Sir."

"Now, see here, my boy," said Davis, sternly, "I know you. You can't
come it over me. You've got into a nice mess, you have. You've got
mixed in with a conspiracy, and the law's goin' to take hold of you
at once unless you make a clean breast of it."

"Oh Lord!" cried the boy. "Stop that. What am I a-doin' of?"

"Nonsense, you young rascal! Listen to me now, and answer me. Do you
know any thing about this Brown?"

"No, Sir. Father sent me."

"Well, then, let me tell you the police are after him. He's afraid to
come here, and sent you. Don't you go and get mixed up with him. If
you do, it'll be worse for you. This Brown is the biggest villain in
the kingdom, and any man that catches him'll make his blessed
fortune. We're on his tracks, and we're bound to follow him up. So
tell me the truth--where is he now?"

"In Liverpool, Sir."

"You lie, you young devil! But, if you don't own up, it'll be worse
for you."

"How's a poor cove like me to know?" cried the boy. "I'm the son of a
honest, man, and I don't know any thing about your police."

"You'll know a blessed sight more about it before you're two hours
older, if you go on hum-buggin' us this fashion," said Davis,
sternly.

"I ain't a-humbuggin'."

"You are--and I won't stand it. Come now. Brown is a _murderer_, do
you hear? There's a reward offered for him. He's got to be caught.
You've gone and mixed yourself up with this business, and you'll
never get out of the scrape till you make a clean breast of it.
That's all bosh about your father, you know."

"It ain't," said the boy, obstinately.

"Very well, then," said Davis, rising. "You've got to go with us.
We'll go first to Blackwall, and, by the Lord, if we can't find your
father, we'll take it out of you. You'll be put in the jug for ten
years, and you'll have to tell after all. Come along now."

Davis grasped the boy's hand tightly and took him out of the room. A
cab was at the door. Davis, Black Bill, and the boy got into it and
drove along through the streets. The boy was silent and meditative.
At last he spoke:

"It's no use goin' to Blackwall," said he, sulkily. "I ain't got no
father."

"Didn't I know that?" said Davis. "You were lying, you know. Are you
goin' to own up?"

"I s'pose I must."

"Of course you must."

"Well, will you let me go if I tell you all?"

"If you tell all we'll let you go sometime, but we will want you for
a while yet."

"Well," said the boy, "I can't help it. I s'pose I've got to tell."

"Of course you have. And now, first, who sent you here?"

"Mr. Brown."

"Ah! Mr. Brown himself. Where did you see him?"

"In the Strand."

"Did you ever see him before?"

"No. He picked me up, and sent me here."

"Do you know where he is lodging?"

"Yes."

"Where?"

"At the Strand Hotel. He took me into his room and told me what I was
to do. I didn't know any thing about him or his business. I only went
on an errand."

"Of course you did," said Davis, encouragingly. "And, if you tell the
truth, you'll be all right; but if you try to humbug us," he added,
sternly, "it'll be the worse for you. Don't you go and mix yourself
up in a murder case. I don't want any thing more of you than for you
to take us to this man's room. You were to see him again to-day--of
course."

"Yes'r."

"At what time?"

"Eight o'clock."

"Well--it's now four. You take us to his room, and we'll wait there."

The boy assented, and the cab drove off for the Strand Hotel.

The crowd in front of the hotel was so dense that it was some time
before the cab could approach the entrance. At last they reached it
and got out, Black Bill first, and then Davis, who still held the
hand of the boy in a tight grasp, for fear that he might try to
escape. They then worked their way through the crowd and entered the
hotel. Davis said something to the clerk, and then they went up
stairs, guided by the boy to Gualtier's room.

On entering it no one was there. Davis went into the adjoining
bedroom, but found it empty. A carpet-bag was lying on the floor
open. On examining it Davis found only a shaving-case and some
changes of linen.

"We'll wait here," said Davis to Black Bill, as he re-entered the
sitting-room. "He's out now. He'll be back at eight to see the boy.
We've got him at last."

And then Black Bill spoke for the first time since the boy had seen
him. A grim smile spread over his hard features.

"Yes," said he, "_we've got him at last_!"



CHAPTER LVI.


AT HIS BEDSIDE.


Meanwhile Hilda's position was a hard one. Days passed on. The one
who came to act as a nurse was herself stricken down, as she had
already been twice before. They carried her away to another room, and
Gretchen devoted herself to her care. Delirium came on, and all the
past lived again in the fever-tossed mind of the sufferer.
Unconscious of the real world in which she lay, she wandered in a
world of phantoms, where the well-remembered forms of her past life
surrounded her. Some deliriums are pleasant. All depend upon the
ruling feelings of the one upon whom it is fixed. But here the ruling
feeling of Hilda was not of that kind which could bring happiness.
Her distracted mind wandered again through those scenes through which
she had passed. Her life at Chetwynde, with all its later horrors and
anxieties, came back before her. Again and again the vision of the
dying Earl tormented her. What she said these foreign nurses heard,
but understood not. They soothed her as best they might, and stood
aghast at her sufferings, but were not able to do any thing to
alleviate them. Most of all, however, her mind turned to the
occurrences of the last few days and weeks. Again she was flying to
the bedside of Lord Chetwynde; again the anguish of suspense devoured
her, as she struggled against weakness to reach him; and again she
felt overwhelmed by the shock of the first sight of the sick man, on
whom she thought that she saw the stamp of death.

Meanwhile, as Hilda lay senseless, Lord Chetwynde hovered between
life and death. The physician who had attended him came in on the
morning after Hilda's arrival, and learned from the nurse that Lady
Chetwynde had come suddenly, more dead than alive, and was herself
struck down by fever. She had watched him all night from her own
couch, until at last she had lost consciousness; but all her soul
seemed bent on one thing, and that was that a certain medicine should
be administered regularly to Lord Chetwynde. The doctor asked to see
it. He smelled it and tasted it. An expression of horror passed over
his face.

"My God!" he murmured. "I did not dare to suspect it! It must be so!"

"Where is Lord Chetwynde's valet?" he asked at length, after a
thoughtful pause.

"I don't know, Sir," said the nurse.

"He always is here. I don't see him now."

"I haven't seen him since Lady Chetwynde's arrival."

"Did my lady see him?"

"I think she did, Sir."

"You don't know what passed?"

"No, Sir. Except this, that the valet hurried out, looking very pale,
and has not been back since."

"Ah!" murmured the doctor to himself. "She has suspected something,
and has come on. The valet has fled. Could this scoundrel have been
the guilty one? Who else could it be? And he has fled. I never liked
his looks. He had the face of a vampire."

The doctor took away some of the medicine with him, and at the same
time he took with him one of the glasses which stood on a table near
the bed. Some liquid remained in it. He took these away to subject
them to chemical analysis. The result of that analysis served to
confirm his suspicions. When he next came he directed the nurse to
administer the antidote regularly, and left another mixture also.

Lord Chetwynde lay between life and death. At the last verge of
mortal weakness, it would have needed but a slight thing to send him
out of life forever. The only encouraging thing about him for many
days was that he did not get worse. From this fact the doctor gained
encouragement, though he still felt that the case was desperate. What
suspicions he had formed he kept to himself.

Hilda, meanwhile, prostrated by this new attack, lay helpless,
consumed by the fierce fever which rioted in all her veins. Fiercer
and fiercer it grew, until she reached a critical point, where her
condition was more perilous than that of Lord Chetwynde himself. But,
in spite of all that she had suffered, her constitution was strong.
Tender hands were at her service, kindly hearts sympathized with her,
and the doctor, whose nature was stirred to its depths by pity and
compassion for this beautiful stranger, who had thus fallen under the
power of so mysterious a calamity, was unremitting in his attentions.
The crisis of the fever came, and all that night, while it lasted, he
staid with her, listening to her disconnected ravings, and
understanding enough of them to perceive that her fancy was bringing
back before her that journey from England to Lausanne, whose fatigues
and anxieties had reduced her to this.

"My God!" cried the doctor, as some sharper lamentation burst from
Hilda; "it would be better for Lord Chetwynde to die than to survive
a wife like this!"

With the morning the crisis had passed, and, thanks to the doctor's
care, the result was favorable. Hilda fell into a profound sleep, but
the fever had left her, and the change was for the better.

When the doctor returned once more he found her awake, without fever,
yet very feeble.

"My lady," said he, "you must be more careful of yourself for the
sake of others. Lord Chetwynde is weak yet, and though his symptoms
are favorable, yet he requires the greatest care."

"And do you have hope of him?" asked Hilda, eagerly. This was the one
thought of her mind.

"I do have hope," said the doctor.

Hilda looked at him gratefully.

"At present," said the doctor, "you must not think or talk about any
thing. Above all, you must restrain your feelings. It is your anxiety
about Lord Chetwynde that is killing you. Save yourself for his
sake."

"But may I not be carried into his room?" pleaded Hilda, in imploring
tones.

"No; not to-day. Leave it to me. Believe me, my lady, I am anxious
for his recovery and for yours. His recovery depends most of all upon
you."

"Yes," said Hilda, in a faint voice; "far more than you know. There
is a medicine which he must have."

"He has been taking it through all his sickness. I have not allowed
that to be neglected," said the doctor.

"You have administered that?"

"Most certainly. It is his only hope."

"And do you understand what it is?"

"Of course. More--I understand what it involves. But do not fear. The
danger has passed now. Do not let the anguish of such a discovery
torment you. The danger has passed. He is weak now, and it is only
his weakness that I have to contend with."

"You understand all, then?" repeated Hilda.

"Yes, all. But you must not speak about it now. Have confidence in
me. The fact that I understand the disease will show you that I know
how to deal with it. It baffled me before; but, as soon as I saw the
medicine that you gave, I suspected and understood."

Hilda looked at him with awful inquiry.

"Be calm, my lady," said the doctor, in a sympathetic voice. "The
worst is over. You have saved him."

"Say that again," said Hilda. "Have I, indeed, done any thing? Have
I, indeed, saved him?"

"Most undoubtedly. Had it not been for you he would by this time have
been in the other world," said the doctor, solemnly.

Hilda drew a deep sigh.

"That is some consolation," she said, in a mournful voice.

"You are too weak now to talk about this. Let me assure you again
that you have every reason for hope. In a few days you may be removed
to his apartment, where your love and devotion will soon meet with
their reward."

"Tell me one thing," asked Hilda, earnestly. "Is Lord Chetwynde still
delirious?"

"Yes--but only slightly so. It is more like a quiet sleep than any
thing else; and, while he sleeps, the medicines are performing their
appropriate effect upon him. Every thing is progressing favorably,
and when he regains his senses he will be changed very much for the
better. But now, my lady, you must think no more about it. Try and
get some sleep. Be as calm in your mind as you can until to-morrow."

And with these words the doctor left.

On the following day he came again, but refused to speak on the
subject of Lord Chetwynde's illness; he merely assured Hilda that he
was still in an encouraging condition, and told her that she herself
must keep calm, so that her recovery might be more rapid. For several
days he forbade a renewal of the subject of conversation, with the
intention, as he said, of sparing her every thing which might agitate
her. Whether his precautions were wise or not may be doubted. Hilda
sometimes troubled herself with fancies that the doctor might,
perhaps, suspect all the truth; and though she succeeded in
dismissing the idea as absurd, yet the trouble which she experienced
from it was sufficient to agitate her in many ways. That
fever-haunted land of delirium, out of which she had of late emerged,
was still near enough to throw over her soul its dark and terrific
shadows. It needed but a slight word from the doctor, or from any one
else, to revive the accursed memories of an accursed past.

Several days passed away, and, in spite of her anxieties, she grew
stronger. The longing which she felt to see Lord Chetwynde gave
strength to her resolution to grow stronger; and, as once before, her
ardent will seemed to sway the functions of the body. The doctor
noticed this steady increase of strength one day, and promised her
that on the following day she should be removed to Lord Chetwynde's
room. She received this intelligence with the deepest gratitude.

"Lord Chetwynde's symptoms," continued the doctor, "are still
favorable. He is no longer in delirium, but in a kind of gentle
sleep, which is not so well defined as to be a stupor, but is yet
stronger than an ordinary sleep. The medicine which is being
administered has this effect. Perhaps you are aware of this?"

Hilda bowed.

"I was told so."

"Will you allow me to ask how it was that you obtained that
particular medicine?" he asked. "Do you know what it involves?"

"Yes," said Hilda; "it is only too well known to me. The horror of
this well-nigh killed me."

"How did you discover it--or how did you suspect it?"

Hilda answered, without a moment's hesitation:

"The suddenness of Lord Chetwynde's disease alarmed me. His valet
wrote about his symptoms, and these terrified me still more. I
hurried up to London and showed his report to a leading London
physician. He looked shocked, asked me much about Lord Chetwynde's
health, and gave me this medicine. I suspected from his manner what
he feared, though he did not express his fear in words. In short, it
seemed to me, from what he said, that this medicine was the _antidote
to some poison_."

"You are right," said the doctor, solemnly; and then he remained
silent for a long time.

"Do you suspect any one?" he asked at last.

Hilda sighed, and slowly said:

"Yes--I do."

"Who is the one?"

She paused. In that moment there were struggling within her thoughts
which the doctor did not imagine. Should she be so base as to say
what was in her mind, or should she not? That was the question. But
rapidly she pushed aside all scruples, and in a low, stern voice she
said:

"I suspect his valet."

"I thought so," said the doctor. "It could have been no other. But he
must have had a motive. Can you imagine what motive there could have
been?"

"I know it only too well," said Hilda, "though I did not think of
this till it was too late. He was injured, or fancied himself
injured, by Lord Chetwynde, and his motive was vengeance."

"And where is he now?" asked the doctor.

"He was thunder-struck by my appearance. He saw me nearly dead. He
helped me up to his master's room. I charged him with his crime. He
tried to falter out a denial. In vain. He was crushed beneath the
overwhelming surprise. He hurried out abruptly, and has fled, I
suppose forever, to some distant country. As for me, I forgot all
about him, and fainted away by the bedside of my husband."

The doctor sighed heavily, and wiped a tear from his eye.

He had never known so sad a case as this.



CHAPTER LVII.


BACK TO LIFE.


On the next day, according to the doctor's promise, Hilda was taken
into Lord Chetwynde's room. She was much stronger, and the newfound
hope which she possessed of itself gave her increased vigor. She was
carried in, and gently laid upon the sofa, which had been rolled up
close by the bedside of Lord Chetwynde. Her first eager look showed
her plainly that during the interval which had elapsed since she saw
him last a great improvement had taken place. He was still
unconscious, but his unconsciousness was that of a deep, sweet sleep,
in which pleasant dreams had taken the place of delirious fancies.
His face had lost its aspect of horror; there was no longer to be
seen the stamp of death; the lips were full and red; the cheeks were
no longer sunken; the dark circles had passed away from around the
eyes; and the eyes themselves were now closed, as in sleep, instead
of having that half-open appearance which before was so terrible and
so deathlike. The chill damp had left his forehead. It was the face
of one who is sleeping in pleasant slumber, instead of the face of
one who was sinking rapidly into the realm where the sleep is
eternal. All this Hilda saw at the first glance.

Her heart thrilled within her at the rapture of that discovery. The
danger was over. The crisis had passed. Now, whether he lay there for
a longer or a shorter period, his recovery at last was certain, as
far as any thing human and mortal can be certain. Now her eyes, as
they turned toward him, devoured him with all their old eagerness.
Since she had seen him last she too had gone down to the gates of
death, and she had come back again to take her place at his side. A
strange joy and a peace that passed all understanding arose within
her. She sent the nurse out of the room, and once more was alone with
this man whom she loved. His face was turned toward her. She flung
her arms about him in passionate eagerness, and, weak as she was, she
bent down her lips to his. Unconscious he lay there, but the touch of
his lips was now no longer like the touch of death.

She herself seemed to gain new strength from the sight of him as he
thus lay in that manly beauty, which, banished for a time, had now
returned again. She lay there on her sofa by his bedside, and held
his hand in both of hers. She watched his face, and scanned every one
of those noble lineaments, which now lay before her with something
like their natural beauty. Hopes arose within her which brought new
strength every moment. This was the life which she had saved. She
forgot--did not choose to think--that she had doomed this life to
death, and chose only to think that she had saved it from death. Thus
she thought that, when Lord Chetwynde came forth out of his
senselessness, she would be the first object that would meet his
gaze, and he would know that he had been saved from death by her.

Here, then, she took up her place by his bedside, and saw how every
day he grew better. Every day she herself regained her old strength,
and could at length walk about the room, though she was still thin
and feeble. So the time passed; and in this room the one who first
escaped from the jaws of death devoted herself to the task of
assisting the other.

At last, one morning as the sun rose, Lord Chetwynde waked. He looked
around the room. He lifted himself up on his elbow, and saw Hilda
asleep on the sofa near his bed. He felt bewildered at this strange
and unexpected figure. How did she get here? A dim remembrance of his
long sickness suggested itself, and he had a vague idea of this
figure attending upon him. But the ideas and remembrances were too
shadowy to be grasped. The room he remembered partially, for this was
the room in which he had sunk down into this last sickness at
Lausanne. But the sleeping form on the sofa puzzled him. He had seen
her last at Chetwynde. What was she doing here? He scanned her
narrowly, thinking that he might be mistaken from some chance
resemblance. A further examination, however, showed that he was
correct. Yes, this was "his wife," yet how changed! Pale as death was
that face; those features were thin and attenuated; the eyes were
closed; the hair hung in black masses round the marble brow; an
expression of sadness dwelt there; and in her fitful, broken slumber
she sighed heavily. He looked at her long and steadfastly, and then
sank wearily down upon the pillows, but still kept his eyes fixed
upon this woman whom he saw there. How did she get here? What was she
doing? What did it all mean? His remembrance could not supply him
with facts which might answer this question. He could not understand,
and so he lay there in bewilderment, making feeble conjectures.

When Hilda opened her eyes the first thing that she saw was the face
of Lord Chetwynde, whose eyes were fixed upon hers. She started and
looked confused; but amidst her confusion an expression of joy darted
across her face, which was evident and manifest to Lord Chetwynde. It
was joy--eager, vivid, and intense; joy mingled with surprise; and
her eyes at last rested on him with mute inquiry.

"Are you at last awake, my lord?" she murmured. "Are you out of your
stupor?"

"I suppose so," said Lord Chetwynde. "But I do not understand this. I
think I must be in Lausanne."

"Yes, you are in Lausanne, my lord, at the Hôtel Gibbon."

"The Hôtel Gibbon?" repeated Lord Chetwynde.

"Yes. Has your memory returned yet?"

"Only partially. I think I remember the journey here, but not very
well. I hardly know where I came from. It must have been Baden." And
he tried, but in vain, to recollect.

"You went from Frankfort to Baden, thence to Munich, and from Munich
you came here."

"Yes," said Lord Chetwynde, slowly, as he began to recollect. "You
are right. I begin to remember. But I have been ill, and I was ill at
all these places. How long have I been here?"

"Five weeks."

"Good God!" cried Lord Chetwynde. "Is it possible? I must have been
senseless all the time."

"Yes, this is the first time that you have come to your senses, my
lord."

"I can scarcely remember any thing."

"Will you take your medicine now, my lord?"

"My medicine?"

"Yes," said Hilda, sitting up and taking a vial from the table; "the
doctor ordered this to be given to you when you came out of your
stupor."

"Where is my nurse?" asked Lord Chetwynde, abruptly, after a short
but thoughtful silence.

"She is here, my lord. She wants to do your bidding. I am your
nurse."

"You!"

"Yes, my lord. And now--do not speak, but take your medicine," said
Hilda; and she poured out the mixture into a wine-glass and handed it
to him.

He took it mechanically, and without a word, and then his head fell
back, and he lay in silence for a long time, trying to recall his
scattered thoughts. While he thus lay Hilda reclined on the sofa in
perfect silence, motionless yet watchful, wondering what he was
thinking about, and waiting for him to speak. She did not venture to
interrupt him, although she perceived plainly that he was fully
awake. She chose rather to leave him to his own thoughts, and to rest
her fate upon the course which those thoughts might take. At last the
silence was broken.

"I have been very ill?" he said at last, inquiringly.

"Yes, my lord, very ill. You have been down to the very borders of
the grave."

"Yes, it must have been severe. I felt it coming on when I arrived in
France," he murmured; "I remember now. But how did you hear about
it?"

"Your valet telegraphed. He was frightened," said she, "and sent for
me."

"Ah?" said Lord Chetwynde.

Hilda said nothing more on that subject. She would wait for another
and a better time to tell him about that. The story of her devotion
and of her suffering might yet be made known to him, but not now,
when he had but partly recovered from his delirium.

Little more was said. In about an hour the nurse came in and sat near
him. After some time the doctor came and congratulated him.

"Let me congratulate you, my lord," said he, "on your favorable
condition. You owe your life to Lady Chetwynde, whose devotion has
surpassed any thing that I have ever seen. She has done every
thing--I have done nothing."

Lord Chetwynde made some commonplace compliment to his skill, and
then asked him how long it would be before he might recover.

"That depends upon circumstances," said the doctor. "Rest and quiet
are now the chief things which are needed. Do not be too impatient,
my lord. Trust to these things, and rely upon the watchful care of
Lady Chetwynde."

Lord Chetwynde said nothing. To Hilda, who had listened eagerly to
this conversation, though she lay with closed eyes, his silence was
perplexing, She could not tell whether he had softened toward her or
not. A great fear arose within 'her that all her labor might have
been in vain; but her matchless patience came to her rescue. She
would wait--she would wait--she should at last gain the reward of her
patient waiting.

The doctor, after fully attending to Lord Chetwynde, turned to her.

"You are weak, my lady," he said, with respectful sympathy, and full
of pity for this devoted wife, who seemed to him only to live in her
husband's presence. "You must take more care of yourself for _his_
sake."

Hilda murmured some inarticulate words, and the doctor, after some
further directions, withdrew.

Days passed on. Lord Chetwynde grew stronger every day. He saw Hilda
as his chief attendant and most devoted nurse. He marked her pale
face, her wan features, and the traces of suffering which still
remained visible. He saw that all this had been done for his sake.
Once, when she was absent taking some short rest, he had missed that
instant attention which she had shown. With a sick man's impatience,
he was troubled by the clumsiness of the hired nurse, and contrasted
it with Hilda's instant readiness, and gentle touch, and soft voice
of love.

At last, one day when Hilda was giving him some medicine, the vial
dropped from her hands, and she sank down senseless by his bedside.
She was carried away, and it was long before she came to herself.

"You must be careful of your lady, my lord," said the doctor, after
he had seen her. "She has worn herself out for you, and will die some
day by your bedside. Never have I seen such tenderness, and such fond
devotion. She is the one who has saved you from death. She is now
giving herself to death to insure your recovery. Watch over her. Do
not let her sacrifice herself now. The time has come when she can
spare herself. Surely now, at last, there ought to be some peace and
rest for this noble-hearted, this gentle, this loving, this devoted
lady!"

And as all Hilda's devotion came before the mind of this
tender-hearted physician he had to wipe away his tears, and turn away
his head to conceal his emotion.

But his words sank deep into Lord Chetwynde's soul.



CHAPTER LVIII.


AN EXPLANATION.


Time passed away, and Lord Chetwynde steadily recovered. Hilda also
grew stronger, and something like her former vigor began to come
back. She was able, in spite of her own weakness, to keep up her
position as nurse; and when the doctor remonstrated she declared,
piteously, that Lord Chetwynde's bedside was the place where she
could gain the most benefit, and that to banish her from it would be
to doom her to death. Lord Chetwynde was perplexed by this devotion,
yet he would not have been human if he had not been affected by it.

As he recovered, the one question before his mind was, what should he
do? The business with reference to the payment of that money which
General Pomeroy had advanced was arranged before he left England. It
was this which had occupied so much of his thoughts. All was arranged
with his solicitors, and nothing remained for him to do. He had come
to the Continent without any well-defined plans, merely in search
after relaxation and distraction of mind. His eventful illness had
brought other things before him, the most prominent thing among which
was the extraordinary devotion of this woman, from whom he had been
planning an eternal separation. He could not now accuse her of
baseness. Whatever she might once have done she had surely atoned for
during those hours when she stood by his bedside till she herself
fell senseless, as he had seen her fall. It would have been but a
common generosity which would have attributed good motives to her;
and he could not help regarding her as full of devotion to himself.

Under these circumstances it became a very troublesome question to
know what he was to do. Where was he to go? Should he loiter about
the Continent as he once proposed? But then, he was under obligations
to this devoted woman, who had done so much for him. What was he to
do with regard to her? Could he send her home coldly, without a word
of gratitude, or without one sign expressive of that thankfulness
which any human being would feel under such circumstances? He could
not do that. He must do or say something expressive of his sense of
obligation. To do otherwise--to leave her abruptly--would be brutal.
What could he do? He could not go back and live with her at
Chetwynde. There was another, whose image filled all his heart, and
the memory of whose looks and words made all other things
unattractive. Had it not been for this, he must have yielded to pity,
if not to love. Had it not been for this, he would have spoken tender
words to that slender, white-faced woman who, with her imploring
eyes, hovered about him, finding her highest happiness in being his
slave, seeking her only recompense in some kindly look, or some
encouraging word.

All the circumstances of his present position perplexed him. He knew
not what to do; and, in this perplexity, his mind at length settled
upon India as the shortest way of solving all difficulties. He could
go back there again, and resume his old duties. Time might alleviate
his grief over his father, and perhaps it might even mitigate the
fervor of that fatal passion which had arisen in his heart for
another who could never be his. There, at any rate, he would have
sufficient occupation to take up his thoughts, and break up that
constant tendency which he now had toward memories of the one whom he
had lost. Amidst all his perplexity, therefore, the only thing left
for him seemed to be India.

The time was approaching when he would be able to travel once more.
Lausanne is the most beautiful place in the world, on the shore of
the most beautiful of lakes, with the stupendous forms of the Jura
Alps before it; but even so beautiful a place as this loses all its
charms to the one who has been an invalid there, and the eye which
has gazed upon the most sublime scenes in nature from a sick-bed
loses all power of admiring their sublimity. And so Lord Chetwynde
wearied of Lausanne, and the Luke of Geneva, and the Jura Alps, and,
in his restlessness, he longed for other scenes which might be
fresher, and not connected with such mournful associations. So he
began to talk in a general way of going to Italy. This he mentioned
to the doctor, who happened one day to ask him how he liked Lausanne.
The question gave him an opportunity of saying that he looked upon it
simply as a place where he had been ill, and that he was anxious to
get off to Italy as soon as possible.

"Italy?" said the doctor.

"Yes."

"What part are you going to?"

"Oh, I don't know. Florence, I suppose--at first--and then other
places. It don't much matter."

Hilda heard this in her vigilant watchfulness. It awakened fears
within her that all her devotion had been in vain, and that he was
planning to leave her. It seemed so. There was, therefore, no feeling
of gratitude in his heart for all she had done. What she had done she
now recalled in her bitterness--all the love, the devotion, the
idolatry which she had lavished upon him would be as nothing. He had
regained the control of his mind, and his first thought was to fly.
The discovery of this indifference of his was terrible. She had
trusted much to her devotion. She had thought that, in a nature like
his, which was at once so pure, so high-minded, and so chivalrous,
the spectacle of her noble self-sacrifice, combined with the
discovery of her profound and all-absorbing love, would have awakened
some response, if it were nothing stronger than mere gratitude. And
why should it not be so? she thought. If she were ugly, or old, it
would be different. But she was young; and, more than this, she was
beautiful. True, her cheeks were not so rounded as they once were,
her eyes were more hollow than they used to be, the pallor of her
complexion was more intense than usual, and her lips were not so red;
but what then? These were the signs and the marks which had been
left upon her face by that deathless devotion which she had shown
toward him. If there was any change in her, he alone was the cause,
and she had offered herself up to him. That pallor, that delicacy,
that weakness, and that emaciation of frame were all the visible
signs and tokens of her self-sacrificing love for him. These things,
instead of repelling him, ought to attract him. Moreover, in spite of
all these things, even with her wasted form, she could see that she
was yet beautiful. Her dark eyes beamed more darkly than before from
their hollow orbs, against the pallor of her face the ebon hair shone
more lustrously, as it hung in dark voluminous masses downward, and
the white face itself showed features that were faultlessly
beautiful. Why should he turn away from so beautiful a woman, who had
so fully proved her love and her devotion? She felt that after this
conspicuous example of her love he could never again bring forward
against her those old charges of deceit which he had once uttered.
These, at least, were dead forever. All the letters which she had
written from the very first, on to that last letter of which he had
spoken so bitterly--all were now amply atoned for by the devotion of
the last few weeks--a devotion that shrank not from suffering, nor
even from death itself. Why then did he not reciprocate? Why was it
that he held himself aloof in such a manner from her caresses? Why
was it that when her voice grew tremulous from the deep love of her
heart she found no response, but only saw a certain embarrassment in
his looks? There must be some cause for this. If he had been
heart-whole, she thought, he must have yielded. There is something in
the way. There is some other love. Yes, that is it, she concluded; it
is what I saw before. He loves another!

At length, one day, Lord Chetwynde began to speak to her more
directly about his plans. He had made up his mind to make them known
to her, and so he availed himself of the first opportunity.

"I must soon take my departure, Lady Chetwynde," said he, as he
plunged at once into the midst of affairs. "I have made up my mind to
go to Italy next week. As I intend to return to India I shall not go
back to England again. All my business affairs are in the hands of my
solicitors, and they will arrange all that I wish to be done."

By this Lord Chetwynde meant that his solicitors would arrange with
Hilda those money-matters of which he had once spoken. He had too
much consideration for her to make any direct allusion to them now,
but wished, nevertheless, that she should understand his words in
this way.

And in this way she did understand them. Her comprehension and
apprehension were full and complete. By his tone and his look more
than by his words she perceived that she had gained nothing by all
her devotion. He had not meant to inflict actual suffering on her by
these words. He had simply used them because he thought that it was
best to acquaint her with his resolve in the most direct way, and, as
he had tried for a long time to find some delicate way of doing this
without success, he had at length, in desperation, adopted that which
was most simple and plain. But to Hilda it was abrupt, and although
she was not altogether unprepared, yet it came like a thunder-clap,
and for a moment she sank down into the depths of despair.

Then she rallied. In spite of the consciousness of the truth of her
position--a truth which was unknown to Lord Chetwynde--she felt as
though she were the victim of ingratitude and injustice. What she had
done entitled her, she thought, to something more than a cold
dismissal. All her pride and her dignity arose in arms at this
slight. She regarded him calmly for a few moments as she listened to
his words. Then all the pent-up feelings of her heart burst forth
irrepressibly.

"Lord Chetwynde," said she, in a low and mournful voice, "I once
would not have said to you what I am now going to say. I had not the
right to say it, nor if I had would my pride have permitted me. But
now I feel that I have earned the right to say it; and as to my
pride, that has long since been buried in the dust. Besides, your
words render it necessary that I should speak, and no longer keep
silence. We had one interview, in which you did all the speaking and
I kept silence. We had another interview in which I made a vain
attempt at conciliation. I now wish to speak merely to explain things
as they have been, and as they are, so that hereafter you may feel
this, at least, that I have been frank and open at last.

"Lord Chetwynde, you remember that old bond that bound me to you.
What was I? A girl of ten--a child. Afterward I was held to that bond
under circumstances that have been impressed upon my memory
indelibly. My father in the last hour of his life, when delirium was
upon him, forced me to carry it out. You were older than I. You were
a grown man. I was a child of fourteen. Could you not have found some
way of saving me? I was a child. You were a man. Could you not have
obtained some one who was not a priest, so that such a mockery of a
marriage might have remained a mockery, and not have become a
reality? It would have been easy to do that. My father's last hours
would then have been lightened all the same, while you and I would
not have been joined in that irrevocable vow. I tell you, Lord
Chetwynde, that, in the years that followed, this thought was often
in my mind, and thus it was that I learned to lay upon you the chief
blame of the events that resulted.

"You have spoken to me, Lord Chetwynde, in very plain language about
the letters that I wrote. You found in them taunts and sneers which
you considered intolerable. Tell me, my lord, if you had been in my
position, would you have been more generous? Think how galling it is
to a proud and sensitive nature to, discover that it is tied up and
bound beyond the possibility of release. Now this is far worse for a
woman than it is for a man. A woman, unless she is an Asiatic and a
slave, does not wish to be given up unasked. I found myself the
property of one who was not only indifferent to me, but, as I plainly
saw, averse to me. It was but natural that I should meet scorn with
scorn. In your letters I could read between the lines, and in your
cold and constrained answers to your father's remarks about me I saw
how strong was your aversion. In your letters to me this was still
more evident. What then? I was proud and impetuous, and what you
merely hinted at I expressed openly and unmistakably. You found fault
with this. You may be right, but my conduct was after all natural.

"It is this, Lord Chetwynde, which will account for my last letter to
you. Crushed by the loss of my only friend, I reflected upon the
difference between you and him, and the thought brought a bitterness
which is indescribable. Therefore I wrote as I did. My sorrow,
instead of softening, imbittered me, and I poured forth all my
bitterness in that letter. It stung you. You were maddened by it and
outraged. You saw in it only the symptoms and the proofs of what you
chose to call a 'bad mind and heart.' If you reflect a little you
will see that your conclusions were not so strictly just as they
might have been. You yourself, you will see, were not the immaculate
being which you suppose yourself to be.

"I say to you now, Lord Chetwynde, that all this time, instead of
hating you, I felt very differently toward you. I had for you a
feeling of regard which, at least, may be called sisterly.
Associating with your father as I did, possessing his love, and
enjoying his confidence, it would have been strange if I had not
sympathized with him somewhat in his affections. Your name was always
on his lips. You were the one of whom he was always speaking. When I
wished to make him happy, and such a wish was always in my heart, I
found no way so sure and certain as when I spoke in praise of you.
During those years when I was writing those letters which you think
showed a 'bad mind and heart,' I was incessantly engaged in sounding
your praises to your father. What he thought of me you know. If I had
a 'bad mind and heart,' he, at least, who knew me best, never
discovered it. He gave me his confidence--more, he gave me his love.

"Lord Chetwynde, when you came home and crushed me with your cruel
words I said nothing, for I was overcome by your cruelty. Then I
thought that the best way for me to do was to show you by my life and
by my acts, rather than by any words, how unjust you had been. How
you treated my advances you well know. Without being guilty of any
discourtesy, you contrived to make me feel that I was abhorrent.
Still I did not despair of clearing my character in your sight. I
asked an interview. I tried to explain, but, as you well remember,
you coolly pushed all my explanations aside as so much hypocritical
pretense. My lord, you were educated by your father in the school of
honor and chivalry. I will not ask you now if your conduct was
chivalrous. I only ask you, was it even just?

"And all this time, my lord, what were my feelings toward you? Let me
tell you, and you yourself can judge. I will confess them, though
nothing less than despair would ever have wrung such a confession out
of me. Let me tell you then, my lord, what my feelings were. Not as
expressed in empty words or in prolix letters, but as manifested by
acts.

"Your valet wrote me that you were ill. I left immediately, filled
with anxiety. Anxiety and fatigue both overpowered me. When I reached
Frankfort I was struck down by fever. It was because I found that you
had left that my fever was so severe. Scarce had I recovered than I
hurried to Baden, finding out your address from the people of the
Frankfort Hotel. You had gone to Munich. I followed you to Munich, so
weak that I had to be carried into my cab at Baden, and out of it at
Munich. At Munich another attack of fever prostrated me. I had missed
you again, and my anxiety was intolerable. A thousand dreary fears
oppressed me. I thought that you were dying--"

Here Hilda's voice faltered, and she stopped for a time, struggling
with her emotion. "I thought that you were dying," she repeated. "In
my fever my situation was rendered infinitely worse by this tear. But
at length I recovered, and went on. I reached Lausanne. I found you
at the last point of life. I had time to give you your medicine and
leave directions with your nurse, and then I fell down senseless by
your side.

"My lord, while _you_ were ill _I_ was worse. My life was despaired
of. Would to God that I had died then and there in the crisis of that
fever! But I escaped it, and once more rose from my bed.

"I dragged myself back to your side, and staid there on my sofa,
keeping watch over you, till once more I was struck down. Then I
recovered once more, and gained health and strength again. Tell me,
my lord," and Hilda's eyes seemed to penetrate to the soul of Lord
Chetwynde as she spoke--"tell me, is this the sign of a 'bad mind and
heart?'"

As, Hilda had spoken she had evinced the strongest agitation. Her
hands clutched one another, her voice was tremulous with emotion, her
face was white, and a hectic flush on either cheek showed her
excitement. Lord Chetwynde would have been either more or less than
human if he had listened unmoved. As it was, he felt moved to the
depths of his soul. Yet he could not say one word.

"I am alone in the world," said Hilda, mournfully. "You promised once
to see about my happiness. That was a vow extorted from a boy, and it
is nothing in itself. You said, not long ago, that you intended to
keep your promise by separating yourself from me and giving me some
money. Lord Chetwynde, look at me, think of what I have done, and
answer. Is this the way to secure my happiness? What is money to me?
Money! Do I care for money? What is it that I care for? I? I only
wish to die! I have but a short time to live. I feel that I am
doomed. Your money, Lord Chetwynde, will soon go back to you. Spare
your solicitors the trouble to which you are putting them. If you can
give me death, it will be the best thing that you can bestow. I gave
you life. Can you not return the boon by giving me death, my lord?"

These last words Hilda wailed out in low tones of despair which
vibrated in Lord Chetwynde's breast.

"At least," said she, "do not be in haste about leaving me. I will
soon leave you forever. It is not much I ask. Let me only be near you
for a short time, my lord. It is a small wish. Bear with me. You will
see, before I die, that I have not altogether a 'bad mind and
heart.'"

Her voice sank down into low tones of supplication; her head drooped
forward; her intense feeling overcame her; tears burst from her eyes
and flowed unchecked.

"Lady Chetwynde," said Lord Chetwynde, in deep emotion, "do as you
wish. You have my gratitude for your noble devotion. I owe my life to
you. If you really care about accompanying me I will not thwart your
wishes. I can say no more. And let us never again speak of the past."

And this was all that Lord Chetwynde said.



CHAPTER LIX.


ON THE ROAD.


Before Lord Chetwynde left Lausanne the doctor told him all about the
poison and the antidote. He enlarged with great enthusiasm upon Lady
Chetwynde's devotion and foresight; but his information caused Lord
Chetwynde to meditate deeply upon this thing. Hilda found out that
the doctor had said this, and gave her explanation. She said that the
valet had described the symptoms; that she had asked a London doctor,
who suspected poison, and gave her an antidote. She herself, she
said, did not know what to think of it, but had naturally suspected
the valet. She had charged him with it on her arrival. He had looked
very much confused, and had immediately fled from the place. His
guilt, in her opinion, had been confirmed by his flight. To her
opinion Lord Chetwynde assented, and concluded that his valet wished
to plunder him. He now recalled many suspicious circumstances about
him, and remembered that he had taken the man without asking any one
about him, satisfied with the letters of recommendation which he had
brought, and which he had not taken the trouble to verify. He now
believed that these letters were all no better than forgeries, and
that he had well-nigh fallen a victim to one of the worst of
villains. In his mind this revelation of the doctor only gave a new
claim upon his gratitude toward the woman who had rescued him.

Shortly after he started for Italy. Hilda went with him. His position
was embarrassing. Here was a woman to whom he lay under the deepest
obligations, whose tender and devoted love was manifested in every
word and action, and yet he was utterly incapable of reciprocating
that love. She was beautiful, but her beauty did not affect him; she
was, as he thought, his wife, yet he could never be a husband to her.
Her piteous appeal bad moved his heart, and forced him to take her
with him, yet he was looking forward impatiently for some opportunity
of leaving her. He could think of India only as the place which was
likely to give him this opportunity, and concluded that after a short
stay in Florence he would leave for the East, and resume his old
duties. Before leaving Lausanne he wrote to the authorities in
England, and applied to be reinstated in some position in the Indian
service, which he had not yet quitted, or, if possible, to go back to
his old place. A return to India was now his only hope, and the only
way by which he could escape from the very peculiar difficulties of
his situation.

It was a trying position, but he took refuge in a certain lofty
courtesy which well became him, and which might pass very well for
that warmer feeling of which he was destitute. His natural kindliness
of disposition softened his manner toward Hilda, and his sense of
obligation made him tenderly considerate. If Hilda could have been
content with any thing except positive love, she would have found
happiness in that gentle and kindly and chivalrous courtesy which she
received at the hands of Lord Chetwynde. Content with this she was
not. It was something different from this that she desired; yet,
after all, it was an immense advance on the old state of things. It
gave her the chance of making herself known to Lord Chetwynde, a
chance which had been denied to her before. Conversation was no
longer impossible. At Chetwynde Castle there had been nothing but the
most formal remarks; now there were things which approximated almost
to an interchange of confidence. By her devotion, and by her
confession of her feelings, she had presented herself to him in a new
light, and that memorable confession of hers could not be forgotten.
It was while traveling together that the new state of things was most
manifest to her. She sat next to him in the carriage; she touched
him; her arm was close to his. That touch thrilled through her, even
though she knew too well that he was cold and calm-and indifferent.
But this was, at least, a better thing than that abhorrence and
repugnance which he had formerly manifested; and the friendly smile
and the genial remark which he often directed to her were received by
her with joy, and treasured up in the depths of her soul as something
precious.

Traveling thus together through scenes of grandeur and of beauty,
seated side by side, it was impossible to avoid a closer intimacy
than common. In spite of Lord Chetwynde's coolness, the very fact
that he was thus thrown into constant contact with a woman who was at
once beautiful and clever, and who at the same time had made an open
confession of her devotion to him, was of itself sufficient to
inspire something like kindliness of sentiment at least in his heart,
even though that heart were the coldest and the least susceptible
that ever beat. The scenes through which they passed were of
themselves calculated in the highest degree to excite a communion of
soul. Hilda was clever and well-read, with a deep love for the
beautiful, and a familiar acquaintance with all modern literature.
There was not a beautiful spot on the road which had been sung by
poets or celebrated in fiction of which she was ignorant. Ferney,
sacred to Voltaire; Geneva, the birth-place of Rousseau; the Jura
Alps, sung by Byron; the thousand places of lesser note embalmed by
French or German writers in song and story, were all greeted by her
with a delight that was girlish in its enthusiastic
demonstrativeness. Lord Chetwynde, himself intellectual, recognized
and respected the brilliant intellect of his companion. He saw that
the woman who had saved his life at the risk of her own, who had
dropped down senseless at his bedside, overworn with duties
self-imposed through love for him--the woman who had overwhelmed him
with obligations of gratitude--could also dazzle him with her
intellectual brilliancy, and surpass him in familiarity with the
greatest geniuses of modern times.

Another circumstance had contributed toward the formation of a closer
association between these two. Hilda had no maid with her, but was
traveling unattended. On leaving Lausanne she found that Gretchen was
unwilling to go to Italy, and had, therefore, parted with her with
many kind words, and the bestowal of presents sufficiently valuable
to make the kind-hearted German maid keep in her memory for many
years to come the recollection of that gentle suffering English lady,
whose devotion to her husband had been shown so signally, and almost
at the cost of her own life. Hilda took no maid with her. Either she
could not obtain one in so small a place as Lausanne, or else she did
not choose to employ one. Whatever the cause may have been, the
result was to throw her more upon the care of Lord Chetwynde, who was
forced, if not from gratitude at least from common politeness, to
show her many of those little attentions which are demanded by a lady
from a gentleman. Traveling together as they did, those attentions
were required more frequently than under ordinary circumstances; and
although they seemed to Lord Chetwynde the most ordinary
commonplaces, yet to Hilda every separate act of attention or of
common politeness carried with it a joy which was felt through all
her being. If she had reasoned about that joy, she might perhaps have
seen how unfounded it was. But she did not reason about it; it was
enough to her that he was by her side, and that acts like these came
from him to her. In her mind all the past and all the future were
forgotten, and there was nothing but an enjoyment of the present.

Their journey lay through regions which presented every thing that
could charm the taste or awaken admiration. At first there was the
grandeur of Alpine scenery. From this they emerged into the softer
beauty of the Italian clime. It was the Simplon Road which they
traversed, that gigantic monument to the genius of Napoleon, which is
more enduring than even the fame of Marengo or Austerlitz; and this
road, with its alternating scenes of grandeur and of beauty, of glory
and of gloom, had elicited the utmost admiration from each. At
length, one day, as they were descending this road on the slope
nearest Italy, on leaving Domo d'Ossola, they came to a place where
the boundless plains of Lombardy lay stretched before them. There the
verdurous fields stretched away beneath their eyes--an expanse of
living green; seeming like the abode of perpetual summer to those who
looked down from the habitation of winter. Far away spread the plains
to the distant horizon, where the purple Apennines arose bounding the
view. Nearer was the Lago Maggiore with its wondrous islands, the
Isola Hella and the Isola Madre, covered with their hanging gardens,
whose green foliage rose over the dark blue waters of the lake
beneath; while beyond that lake lay towns and villages and hamlets,
whose far white walls gleamed brightly amidst the vivid green of the
surrounding plain; and vineyards also, and groves and orchards and
forests of olive and chestnut trees. It was a scene which no other on
earth can surpass, if it can equal, and one which, to travelers
descending the Alps, has in every age brought a resistless charm.

This was the first time that Hilda had seen this glorious land. Lord
Chetwynde had visited Naples, but to him the prospect that lay
beneath was as striking as though he had never seen any of the
beauties of Italy. Hilda, however, felt its power most. Both gazed
long and with deep admiration upon this matchless scene without
uttering one word to express their emotions; viewing it in silence,
as though to break that silence would break the spell which had been
thrown over them by the first sight of this wondrous land. At last
Hilda broke that spell. Carried away by the excitement of the moment
she started to her feet, and stood erect in the carriage, and then
burst forth into that noble paraphrase which Byron has made of the
glorious sonnet of Filicaja:


  "Italia! O Italia! thou who hast
    The fatal gift of beauty, which became
  A funeral dower of present woes and past,
    On thy sweet brow is sorrow plowed by shame,
    And annals graven in characters of flame.
  O God! that thou wert in thy nakedness
  Less lovely, or more powerful, and couldst claim
  Thy right, and awe the robbers back, who press
To shed thy blood and drink the tears of thy distress."


She stood like a Sibyl, inspired by the scene before her. Pale, yet
lovely, with all her intellectual beauty refined by the sorrows
through which she had passed, she herself might have been taken for
an image of that Italy which she thus invoked. Lord Chetwynde looked
at her, and amidst his surprise at such an outburst of enthusiasm he
had some such thoughts as these. But suddenly, from some unknown
cause, Hilda sank back into her seat, and burst into tears. At the
display of such emotion Lord Chetwynde looked on deeply disturbed.
What possible connection there could be between these words and her
agitation he could not see. But he was full of pity for her, and he
did what was most natural. He took her hand, and spoke kind words to
her, and tried to soothe her. At his touch her agitation subsided.
She smiled through her tears, and looked at him with a glance that
spoke unutterable things. It was the first time that Lord Chetwynde
had shown toward her any thing approaching to tenderness.

On that same day another incident occurred.

A few miles beyond Domo d'Ossola there was an inn where they had
stopped to change horses. They waited here for a time till the horses
were ready, and then resumed their journey. The road went on before
them for miles, winding along gently in easy curves and with a
gradual descent toward those smiling vales which lay beneath them. As
they drove onward each turn in the road seemed to bring some new view
before them, and to disclose some fresh glimpse to their eyes of that
voluptuous Italian beauty which they were now beholding, and which
appeared all the lovelier from the contrast which it presented to
that sublime Alpine scenery--the gloom of awful gorges, the grandeur
of snow-capped heights through which they had been journeying.

Inside the carriage were Lord Chetwynde and Hilda. Outside was the
driver. Hilda was just pointing out to Lord Chetwynde some peculiar
tint in the purple of the distant Apennines when suddenly the
carriage gave a lurch, and with a wild bound, the horses started off
at full speed down the road. Something had happened. Either the
harness had given way or the horses were frightened; at any rate,
they were running away at a fearful pace, and the driver, erect on
his seat, was striving with all his might to hold in the maddened
animals. His efforts were all to no purpose. On they went, like the
wind, and the carriage, tossed from side to side at their wild
springs seemed sometimes to leap into the air. The road before them
wound on down a spur of the mountains, with deep ravines on one
side--a place full of danger for such a race as this.


[Illustration: "He Laid Her Down Upon The Grass."]


It was a fearful moment. For a time Hilda said not a word; she sat
motionless, like one paralyzed by terror; and then, as the carriage
gave a wilder lurch than usual, she gave utterance to a loud cry of
fear, and flung her arms around Lord Chetwynde.

"Save me! oh, save me!" she exclaimed.

She clung to him desperately, as though in thus clinging to him she
had some assurance of safety. Lord Chetwynde sat erect, looking out
upon the road before him, down which they were dashing, and saying
not a word. Mechanically he put his arm around this panic-stricken
woman, who clung to him so tightly, as though by that silent gesture
he meant to show that he would protect her as far as possible. But in
so perilous a race all possibility of protection was out of the
question.

At last the horses, in their onward career, came to a curve in the
road, where, on one side, there was a hill, and on the other a
declivity. It was a sharp turn. Their impetus was too swift to be
readily stayed. Dashing onward, the carriage was whirled around after
them, and was thrown off the road down the declivity. For a few paces
the horses dragged it onward as it Iay on its side, and then the
weight of the carriage was too much for them. They stopped, then
staggered, then backed, and then, with a heavy-plunge, both carriage
and horses went down into the gully beneath.

It was not more than thirty feet of a descent, and the bottom was the
dry bed of a mountain torrent. The horses struggled and strove to
free themselves. The driver jumped off uninjured, and sprang at them
to stop them. This he succeeded in doing, at the cost of some severe
bruises.

Meanwhile the occupants of the carriage had felt the full
consciousness of the danger. As the carriage went down Hilda clung
more closely to Lord Chetwynde. He, on his part, said not a word, but
braced himself for the fall. The carriage rolled over and over in its
descent, and at last stopped. Lord Chetwynde, with Hilda in his arms,
was thrown violently down. As soon as he could he raised himself and
drew Hilda out from the wreck of the carriage.

She was senseless.

He laid her down upon the grass. Her eyes were closed, her hair was
all disordered, her face was as white as the face of a corpse. A
stream of blood trickled down over her marble forehead from a wound
in her head. It was a piteous sight.

Lord Chetwynde took her in his arms and carried her off a little
distance, to a place where there was some water in the bed of the
brook. With this he sought to restore her to consciousness. For a
long time his efforts were unavailing.

At last he called to the driver.

"Tie up one of the horses and get on the other," he said, "and ride
for your life to the nearest house. Bring help. The lady is stunned,
and must be taken away as soon as possible. Get them to knock up a
litter, and bring a couple of stout fellows back to help us carry
her. Make haste--for your life."

The driver at once comprehended the whole situation. He did as he was
bid, and in a few minutes the sound of his horse's hoofs died away in
the distance.

Lord Chetwynde was left alone with Hilda.

She lay in his arms, her beautiful face on his shoulder, tenderly
supported; that face white, and the lips bloodless, the eyes closed,
and blood trickling from the wound on her head. It was not a sight
upon which any one might look unmoved.

And Lord Chetwynde was moved to his inmost soul by that sight.

Who was this woman? His wife! the one who stood between him and his
desires.

Ah, true! But she was something more.

And now, as he looked at her thus lying in his arms, there came to
him the thought of all that she had been to him--the thought of her
undying love--her matchless devotion. That pale face, those closed
eyes, those mute lips, that beautiful head, stained with oozing
blood, all spoke to him with an eloquence which awakened a response
within him.

Was this the end of all that love and that devotion? Was this the
fulfillment of his promise to General Pomeroy? Was he doing by this
woman as she had done by him? Had she not made more than the fullest
atonement for the offenses and follies of the past? Had she not
followed him through Europe to seek him and to snatch him from the
grasp of a villain? Had she not saved his life at the risk of her
own? Had she not stood by his side till she fell lifeless at his feet
in her unparalleled self-devotion?

These were the questions that came to him.

He loved her not; but if he wished for love, could he ever find any
equal to this? That poor, frail, slender frame pleaded piteously;
that white face, as it lay upturned, was itself a prayer.

Involuntarily he stooped down, and in his deep pity he pressed his
lips to that icy brow. Then once more he looked at her. Once more he
touched her, and this time his lips met hers.

"My God!" he groaned; "what can I do? Why did I ever see--that other
one?"

An hour passed and the driver returned. Four men came with him,
carrying a rude litter. On this Hilda's senseless form was placed.
And thus they carried her to the nearest house, while Lord Chetwynde
followed in silence and in deep thought.



CHAPTER LX.


THE CLAWS OF THE AMERICAN EAGLE.


At length Obed prepared to leave Naples and visit other places in
Italy. He intended to go to Rome and Florence, after which he
expected to go to Venice or Milan, and then across the Alps to
Germany. Two vetturas held the family, and in due time they arrived
at Terracina. Here they passed the night, and early on the following
day they set out, expecting to traverse the Pontine Marshes and reach
Albano by evening.

These famous marshes extend from Terracina to Nettuno. They are about
forty-five miles in length and from four to twelve in breadth.
Drained successively by Roman, by Goth, and by pope, they
successively relapsed into their natural state, until the
perseverance of Pius VI. completed the work. It is now largely
cultivated, but the scenery is monotonous