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Title: Miss Hildreth: A Novel, Volume 3
Author: Stevens, Augusta de Grasse
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Miss Hildreth: A Novel, Volume 3" ***

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                            MISS HILDRETH.

                               A Novel.

                       BY A. DE GRASSE STEVENS,

              AUTHOR OF "OLD BOSTON," "THE LOST DAUPHIN,"
                    "WEIGHED IN THE BALANCE," ETC.


    In Three Volumes.
    VOL. III.

    LONDON:
    WARD AND DOWNEY,
    12, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C.
    1888.

    [_All rights reserved._]

    _Copyright by_ A. de GRASSE STEVENS, 1888.



CONTENTS.


        CHAPTER I. A VIGIL                                 1

       CHAPTER II. LUDLOW STREET JAIL                     22

      CHAPTER III. "FATHOM HER MOTIVES, PHILIP"           33

       CHAPTER IV. MIXED MOTIVES                          54

        CHAPTER V. A WOMAN'S LOGIC                        74

       CHAPTER VI. A QUESTION OF COMITY                   86

      CHAPTER VII. NON-COMMITTAL                         104

     CHAPTER VIII. A DAMAGING PROMISE                    117

       CHAPTER IX. CONFLICTING IDENTITIES                134

        CHAPTER X. A GLEAM OF LIGHT                      153

       CHAPTER XI. CHECKMATE                             169

      CHAPTER XII. OUR LADY OF KAZAN                     183

     CHAPTER XIII. NO EXPLANATION                        205

      CHAPTER XIV. "FORGIVE HER"                         218

       CHAPTER XV. VLADIMIR'S WELCOME                    233

      CHAPTER XVI. AN ETERNAL FAREWELL                   251

     CHAPTER XVII. AFTER TEN YEARS                       268



MISS HILDRETH.



CHAPTER I.

A VIGIL.


The news of Patricia Hildreth's arrest on a criminal warrant had flown
like wild-fire throughout society. Mr. Tremain found himself almost the
only one of his world not cognisant of the facts from the beginning; and
as he listened to one garbled statement after another, coloured
according to the narrator's fancy, he cursed the evil fortune and his
own selfishness, that had kept him so effectually out of the way, and
made him play so blindly into the enemies' hands.

He knew very well that had he been at home, or allowed his letters and
papers to be forwarded to him, matters would never have reached so
serious a pass; but shutting himself away as he had done from all
outside communication, there had been no one at hand to avert the blow
as it fell, or to force a more definite showing from the attacking
parties, before the extreme measure of arrest was put into execution.

Esther Newbold's absence, and the uncertain movements of the
_Deerhound_, had proved an additional disaster for Patricia. It was only
on the yacht putting in at New London, that Esther heard of her friend's
trouble. A flaming poster outside the hotel had caught Mrs. Newbold's
attention as she sauntered along the planked side-walk with Miss
Darling, and the next moment they were both reading with horrified
comprehension the bold sensational headings:

"Arrest of Miss Hildreth. Further developments expected shortly. Miss
Hildreth's appearance in Ludlow Street, etc., etc."

These were the lines, in staring red letters, that first greeted Esther
on her landing, after a three weeks' cruise; and their effect upon her
can better be imagined than described. She was, however, essentially a
person of action, and not an hour had passed before she, her husband,
and Dick Darling, were on their way to New York, leaving the yacht and
its guests to dispose of themselves.

That Patricia should be in such dire trouble, and alone, struck Esther
as something so preposterous as to be almost incredible. Patricia, who
counted her lovers and admirers by the score; who was always triumphant
and victorious and worshipped wherever she appeared; whose smile was a
reward highly coveted; whose favour was a prize eagerly courted--to be
in prison, arrested on some crime too horrible even to be named. Alone;
subjected to indignities and privations whose very meaning had been
hitherto unknown to her easy, luxurious existence.

"Ah, do let us get to her at once," Esther had cried, imploringly, after
she had poured out all the horrible story in George Newbold's
astonished ears. "Only to think of her in that dreadful place; how she
must suffer! And in this weather too, so hot and breathless as it is;
and we never knowing all the time, but enjoying ourselves like brutes
and heathens! Oh, Patricia, Patricia, is this what your wilfulness has
brought you to? Oh, George, do make haste; and to think what a viper we
entertained in that dreadful Count Mellikoff!"

"Well, he certainly hasn't turned out an angel," answered George, in his
slow fashion. "For once, my dear Esther, the scripture has gone back on
itself, for he _was_ a stranger, and we made him very welcome; in return
for which he took us in most neatly."

"Don't be profane," retorted his wife, "I'm sure this is no time for
such joking. Isn't poor Patty a lesson to us all, and the evil that has
overtaken her a judgment on our folly? But will you make haste? We shall
lose the train if you are so deliberate. There's the gig along-side at
last; good-bye, my Mimi, be very good and you shall come to Mumsey in a
day or two."

She put her little daughter out of her arms, drew down her veil, and
hurried off her husband and Miss Darling, without further leave-takings.
Little Marianne stood on the deck straining her blue eyes for a last
glimpse of the dancing boat, her white frock and golden hair fluttering
in the light breeze.

Mr. Tremain found himself embarked on a fruitless expedition when he
yielded to Dick Darling's entreaties and started off impetuously to
visit Miss Hildreth in prison, and, as Dick evidently expected, wrest
her there and then from its odious confines.

Indeed, had he been less overwhelmed by the calamity that had fallen
upon Patricia, he would have saved himself the needless journey; for,
although the evening was still young when they reached the gloomy
building, no amount of bribery or corruption could effect an entrance at
that hour. In vain Philip pleaded the exigencies of the case and his
own legal position; the not too polite official was adamant to all
entreaties. His instructions were decisive; any one wishing to see the
prisoner must come at the proper hours, and with a proper permit.

"But I am her counsel," urged Philip, with a reckless disregard of
truth.

The man looked at him disdainfully. "I guess that won't wash, Judge," he
said, and turned away determinately.

Mr. Tremain looked down at Dick, who stood crying openly beside him, not
even taking the trouble to wipe away the tears as they fell.

"It's no use, Miss Dick," he said, "we can do nothing until morning. You
must let me take you home."

"Oh, it's too horrible," cried Dick, sobbing. "It's brutal, it's wicked!
Only to think that poor Patricia is _somewhere_ in this awful place and
we can't get to her. Oh, Mr. Tremain, which one of those dreadful
windows with the iron bars belongs to her----?" she could not bring
herself to say "Cell," so choked down the final word in a fresh burst of
tears.

"Ah, which indeed!" answered Philip, sadly. The same thought had come to
him, as his eyes traversed quickly the long blank stone front of the
building, its monotony of outline only broken by the narrow barred
casements.

Behind which of those apertures lay Patricia, abandoned in her
extremity? Her beauty tarnished, her fair name tossed from lip to lip,
her character at the mercy of an unsympathetic human world.

"Oh, Patty, Patty," he cried to his own heart; "has it come to this, my
love? Have all your pride and loveliness brought you only to this?"

He turned away slowly, and, drawing Dick's hand within his arm, led her
to the carriage that stood some little distance down the street.

"Will you go back to Esther?" he asked as he helped her in.

"Yes," she answered; "and oh, Mr. Tremain, come with me; oh do, please
do."

He hesitated for a moment; then giving the address, stepped in and
seated himself beside her.

Neither Philip nor Miss Darling ever forgot that long night drive, or
the moving panorama made up of lights and shops and people, that seemed
for ever passing and repassing before them. It was as if they stood
still, while all this restless pageant went by them in brilliant
sequence.

As they turned into Broadway, and drove somewhat slowly up that narrow
thoroughfare, they met the stream of pleasure-seekers at its height; the
theatres were just over, and a crowd of brightly-dressed, gay-voiced
people were passing from the entrances into the streets. Now and then a
light laugh, or some careless jest, would reach the silent occupants of
the carriage, and wound them; as a blow wounds falling upon a hurt still
fresh and bleeding.

"Oh," cried Dick at one such moment, "how cruel the world is, how
unfeeling! Ah, Mr. Tremain, how can any one laugh and jest when _she_
lies in that awful place,--while Patricia is in prison?"

But Philip said nothing; the anguish of his own heart was too absorbing
to leave room for superfluous words of comfort. For no anguish is so
great and so overwhelming, as the knowledge of one's powerlessness to
help when one's best beloved is in dire need of aid.

Fifth Avenue was reached at last, heralded a long way off by the huge
electric transparency, which flaunts its advertisement high above the
heads of the pedestrians, and causes the very stars of heaven to pale
before its garish light.

Turning down a side street, well up among the "thirties," and then into
Madison Avenue, the coachman drew up before a large brown stone house,
across whose many-windowed front not a light was to be seen, save the
faint gas-jet of the ornamental brass sconce in the vestibule.

Miss Darling sprang out unassisted, and running quickly up the steps,
pulled out a latch-key and swung open the door as Philip came up behind
her.

"You will find Esther in her morning-room," she said briefly, and
leaving him to find his own way, turned towards the stairs. Philip
watched her as she mounted them wearily, step by step. There was
dejection and despondency in her movements, and in the tired droop of
the young shoulders beneath the long dark cloak.

A deeper feeling than he had ever believed it possible for him to
entertain for gay, volatile Miss Dick, had been born within his heart
that evening; and, as he stood now and watched the girlish figure fade
into the shadows of the upper corridor, it was with a sense of sudden
loneliness that he turned and walked slowly across the wide entrance
hall.

Mrs. Newbold's town house wore that look of desolation and inhospitality
that is born of holland covers over the furniture, carpets rolled up
into corners, statues, ornaments, and chandeliers wrapped in protecting
winding-sheets. The advent of the mistress of the house had been sudden
and unexpected, and the mansion had not as yet thrown off the depressing
atmosphere of care-takers and board-wages.

In Esther's boudoir, however, matters were a little more homelike; the
cases had been taken off the chairs and couches, and various feminine
belongings, flowers and books, redeemed somewhat the forlornness of
shrouded pictures, and a fireless hearth.

Mr. Tremain knocked in a perfunctory way on the door, and immediately
Mrs. Newbold's voice bade him enter. He found her lying on a couch drawn
up to an open window, over which the Venetian blind had been lowered.

She had been crying bitterly, and the face she raised from the pillows
bore but a faint resemblance to its usual _insouciant_ blonde
prettiness, in the blurred lines, heavy eyes, pallid cheeks, and tumbled
golden hair.

She sprang up impetuously on seeing Mr. Tremain, and ran towards him
holding out her hands in welcome.

"Oh, Philip," she cried, "have you come at last? Oh, is it not all too
dreadful? Have you seen her, Philip? How is she? Is she brave and full
of courage? Oh, Patricia! poor, poor Patricia!"

Mr. Tremain took her hands in his as he answered:

"No, I have not seen her, Esther. We were too late."

She turned away from him and sank down again on the couch, looking up at
him with the tears gathering in her tired blue eyes.

"I made sure you would see her," she said, simply. "I never doubted
your power, I never thought _you_ could fail."

"Alas, I am not omnipotent," he answered, somewhat bitterly. "Even a
little brief authority, officially bestowed, can render me powerless. It
will not be for very long, however. I shall go back again at the
earliest possible hour in the morning."

"And you will help her, Philip, you will not let any foolish feeling of
pique come between you and her now? You will not remember her cruelties,
you will only think of her sufferings? Oh, Philip, you must take up this
matter for her, and you must plead for her, when the time comes, as you
have never done before. You will, Philip, promise me you will?"

"There is little need for that," he answered, sadly; "all my services
are at her disposal if she will accept them."

"Yes, I am sure of it," replied Esther. "Ah, Philip, I did not think
_this_ would be the service she was to require from you, when I begged
you, that last day at the Folly, to help her if occasion came."

"No, nor did I," answered Philip, quietly; then after a moment's pause
he continued: "Do you think, Esther, you can bear to tell me a little
more about this matter? So far I know nothing beyond the bald fact of
the arrest, and the nature of the charge lodged. Miss Darling was too
much overcome to enter into particulars. If I put a few plain questions,
will you answer them?"

"Oh, yes, I will try," replied Mrs. Newbold, clasping her hands closely
together, and looking earnestly up at him.

Philip drew forward a low chair, and placing it in front of her, sat
down wearily, and with a half sigh.

"Do you know when--she--she was arrested?" He avoided Patricia's name
with something of the same dread which makes us hesitate over that of
one but lately dead.

"I think it was only a few days ago, but I don't know exactly; I cannot
give you the precise date," answered Esther.

"Ah, that accounts for the delay that has occurred in their pushing on
the matter," said Philip, more to himself than to her. "August is the
legal holiday month, and Anstice, the District Judge, before whom the
examination, if there be one, would be made, is not due here for another
week. We have therefore seven clear days before us, in any event,
without counting on the chapter of accidents for further delays. Now
tell me, who was it brought the application for arrest?"

"Count Vladimir Mellikoff," replied Mrs. Newbold. "Oh, Philip," she
added, her eyes flashing, "is he not a coward, and does not his seem
coward's work, when one remembers how he was received and trusted?"

Mr. Tremain answered by a gesture of his hand.

"One would rather not think of that," he said; "let us try and put aside
personalities, and look at the case only from an outside point of view.
You may be very sure Count Mellikoff wasted neither time, nor the
opportunities afforded him by your hospitality, to work out his
nefarious scheme. But what I wish to ask you, Esther, will, I know,
grieve you to answer; still I must clear up one or two points in my own
mind, before I see her. Who was the person murdered; and why is she
suspected of complicity in the crime?"

He spoke sternly, and the hard lines of his face appeared in greater
prominence. Esther looked at him half frightened.

"He believes her guilty," she thought, with quick and decisive
perception. "How terrible! But it is so, I see it in his face." Then she
said aloud, and with a slowness that was almost hesitancy: "The name of
the murdered man was Count Stevan Lallovich; but I can't tell you--that
is--at least I don't know, how it is that they prove Patricia to be
mixed up in the horrible affair."

Mr. Tremain noted her hesitancy and the sudden reserve that had come
over her; he put it down to the knowledge of some facts she was wilfully
withholding from him, and this suspicion added weight in the scale, that
balanced so evenly between Patricia's innocence and guilt.

When he next spoke, his voice was even colder and harder than before.

"There is something very mysterious in the whole affair," he said,
looking Esther straight in the eyes; "it seems inconceivable that an
American citizen should be arrested in her own country, on the charge of
a foreign agent, for a murder committed in a foreign land, on a foreign
subject. Of course Count Mellikoff has no power to arrest of himself; he
must therefore, have laid sufficiently compromising evidence before our
authorities to obtain a warrant, and an officer to execute it. As it
appears now the whole affair reads more like a midsummer madness than
anything else; but a madness pregnant with serious complications and
results. Who was this Stevan Lallovich, Esther, and did--she--know him?"

"He was a cousin, or a relation, or a near connection of the Russian
Tsar's," answered Mrs. Newbold, still avoiding Philip's eyes. "I heard
Patricia--I mean I believe she did once admit knowing him when she was
in St. Petersburg. He was a great swell there, I am told, and the
favourite of the Court society. I don't know anything more about it,
Philip, indeed I don't. And oh, it is all so horrible, and so dreadful,
how can you go on asking questions in that cold way? It's just as if you
admitted to yourself that there was a possibility of her--her knowing
something about the death of this miserable man. Oh, Philip, how can you
doubt her? How can you, when you think of her in prison, and remember it
is Patricia, our own Patricia, they accuse of this terrible crime?"

And Esther buried her face in her hands weeping passionately.

But Mr. Tremain was scarcely moved; he remained sitting, resting his
head on his hand, and apparently lost in close study of the carpet under
his feet. Esther's words rang in his ears.

"Oh, Philip, how can you doubt her?"

And yet he knew he did doubt her. He knew that when Mrs. Newbold
admitted Patricia's acquaintance with the murdered Stevan Lallovich, and
placed that acquaintance within the ten years of Miss Hildreth's
absence--those ten unexplained years--he felt all the old distrust and
suspicion leap into life again, and range themselves before him in mute
confirmation of Miss James's calculated insinuations.

"Ten years is a long time--long enough to plant and sow and reap--long
enough to sink one's self to the neck in intrigue, to bury one's self in
crime."

How could he declare her innocent when this terrible, impassable gulf
lay between them? Since she had known this Stevan Lallovich, might not
another of Miss James's suppositions prove true? Might she not also have
known Vladimir Mellikoff in that past, and have reason to fear him now?
How much could he believe even of what she, Patricia, might tell him?

Several long moments passed by in silence, during which Esther sobbed
hysterically, before he roused himself, and, getting up, said, very
quietly: "I will not trouble you further to-night, Esther; you had
better get to bed, little woman. You do not quite trust me, I know, but
you may, my dear; never fear, she shall not suffer or be overcome if I
can prevent it. I will come back to-morrow after--I have seen her--and
tell you of her."

"Oh, Philip, be gentle to her," pleaded Esther, "be very gentle;
remember you did love her--once."

"I am not likely to forget it," he replied, and then he turned away
abruptly and left her.

All night long he walked to and fro, up and down, across an open common
of waste land that skirted the railway at Manhattanville, and all night
long, as the hours crept by, and the stars faded, and the dawn drew on,
he fought the battle over and over against himself--the battle of his
love for her, against his doubt of her. And when the day broke in a
sunrise of golden splendour, it found him still uncertain, neither
victor nor vanquished; still loving her, and still doubting her.



CHAPTER II.

LUDLOW STREET JAIL.


Mr. Tremain did not return to his rooms with the dawning of the day; he
indeed shunned them with an almost superstitious dread of what he should
find there. It seemed to his overwrought nerves that they must for ever
be haunted by the horrible spectres evolved by Miss Dick, and by the
memory of her terror-stricken eyes and tear-stained face.

With the lengthening of the morning hours civilisation awoke again to
its monotonous round of employment. A grey-coated policeman, making his
way to the park, yawning as he walked, and but half awake, passed Mr.
Tremain, and turning round stared at him inquiringly.

And, indeed, Philip, as he stood outlined against the clear blue sky,
his hands thrust into his pockets, his hat drawn down over his eyes, his
face stern and pale, his dress disordered from his long night vigil,
appeared a strangely incongruous figure, out of keeping with the fresh
dewy daintiness of the summer morning, and might well arouse suspicions
in the commonplace mind of a respectable Central Park policeman.

The pertinacity of the man's curiosity awoke in Philip at last a sense
of his position, and brought back to him, with a sudden rush, the reason
of his presence there--the reason of the dull anguish that grew into
keener suffering with each heart-beat. In the bright sunshine everything
appeared more hard and real; the night vigil had soothed him somewhat,
and the slow on-coming of the dawn had held something of illusive hope
in its vague tertiary half-tones; but with the breaking forth of the
sun, in the vast triumphant heaven of illimitable blue, came the
sternness of reality, the hardness of fact, banishing the gentler mood,
and renewing the struggle and vacillation of his mind against his heart.

As the bell of the Sacred Heart Convent rang out for early mass, Mr.
Tremain turned his steps citywards, and, walking with long swinging
strides, was soon skirting the river Boulevard, and, entering the Park
on the west side, made his way to the Fifth Avenue gates, and so down
that deserted promenade until he came to an hotel; here he went in,
ordered a room, and flinging himself on the bed fell into a deep and
dreamless sleep which lasted for hours. It was nature's demand to
recuperate her exhausted faculties, and would not be denied.

When Philip awoke it was close upon noon, and greatly annoyed at the
flight of time, he swallowed a cup of tea and hurried away. On reaching
the gloomy building in Ludlow Street, he demanded an interview with the
superintendent, and after considerable delay, was admitted to that
functionary's presence.

The office of prison superintendent is one not altogether to be desired;
the men who fill the post are usually drawn from the rank and file of
disappointed office seekers on a larger scale, who for political reasons
consent to be mollified by the less honourable appointment. As a rule
they are neither refined in mind nor manner, and, with an eye to the
main chance, look upon the inmates committed to their charge as so many
victims to be fleeced according to their means.

As we know, there is a golden key that fits all locks, before which even
bolts and bars have been known to fly apart, and nowhere is its power so
potent and so comprehensive as in the cases of a certain class of
prisoners awaiting trial, who if they can control the "coin" can be
supplied with every luxury, save those of freedom and fresh air.

The man who received Philip, with a short nod, was neither better nor
worse than others of his tribe. He was apparently very busy--or wished
to seem so--over a large assortment of letters and bulky documents,
which, he rustled ostentatiously, and a trifle offensively, as he looked
at Philip over his large round spectacles, and bade him, "Morning."

"Good morning," replied Mr. Tremain, with considerable hauteur.

"Now then, what can I do for you, sir?" asked the superintendent,
fussily, and with another documentary rustle.

"I have called," said Philip, quietly, "to obtain full permission to
visit and to wait upon a lady now confined here, at all times, and on
all days, that I may deem it necessary to do so. The lady's name
is--Miss Patricia Hildreth."

He hesitated as the last words passed his lips; how strange it seemed to
use her name to this coarse unsympathetic official, how incompatible
with all the traditions of his and her past!

"As for my own name," he continued, "it may be better known to you than
my personal appearance."

He drew out his note-book and put one of his cards on the table. The
superintendent took it up and scrutinised it narrowly.

"Oh, so you're Mr. Tremain, are you?" he said at last, rolling the card
between his fingers as he spoke. "Oh, yes, I've heard of you, sir, often
enough. I guess we oughtn't to be strangers, Mr. Tremain, since we're
both in the same profession."

"Oh, indeed," replied Philip, seeing an answer was expected. "You are a
lawyer, then?"

"You can bet on that, sir; I've served my day at the bar, out in the
west there," with a comprehensive jerk of his thumb, "and I can tell you
we get through some pretty tall work out there. Plenty of cases like the
one you're interested in, you know; plenty of blood-letting, and many a
pretty young woman mixed up in it all."

Philip winced; this classing of Patricia with the lawless crimes of a
wild civilisation seemed little short of brutality, and brought home to
him with terrible exactitude the attitude she had assumed, in the eyes
of the public, by her association with crime.

The keen eyes of the official noted Philip's susceptibility, and he drew
his own conclusions.

"Beg pardon if the subject's distressing," he said, not unkindly; "it's
a pretty bad look-out as it stands, Mr. Tremain, and if I was a friend
of the lady's, I should own to feeling uncommon squeamish. It takes a
deal of evidence to get a warrant issued at any time, and specially
against such a top-sawyer as Miss Hildreth. But there, that foreign
Count, he's left no stone unturned; he's like one of those old
blood-hounds down south, that used to track the niggers before the war.
_He's_ tracked to some purpose."

All this was horrible to Philip. It seemed to him he could not stand
there and endure this man's crude criticisms and cruel deductions,
passed so unconcernedly upon Patricia. To him each look was an open
insult, each word a lash wherewith to strike at her; they brought the
reality of her position before him with unvarnished accuracy.

She was no longer Miss Hildreth surrounded by her own little court, the
cynosure of every eye, the honoured guest of every drawing-room, the
reigning favourite of all society; she was only Patricia Hildreth,
stripped of all accessories, a woman under arrest, a woman charged with
murder, a prisoner awaiting the law; just as any other of the poor
wretches within those hateful precincts awaited it, and with no more
merciful outlook than had they. It was indeed, as he had said, horrible,
incredible, maddening.

His silence had at length impressed itself upon his loquacious
companion, who now sat looking up at him keenly, turning the visiting
card round in his fingers. It was Philip who was the first to speak,
coming back to his immediate surroundings with a start, and turning so
sad a face, and such sorrow-haunted eyes, upon the little official, as
to rouse to life all the dormant sympathy of his shallow soul.

"And the permit?" asked Philip, quietly. "I should like to use it now,
if you please."

His very gentleness disarmed his opponent, who without further comment
drew towards him a large volume, and filling in a blank order, tore it
out noisily and handed it across the table. Mr. Tremain took it and
folded it quickly without glancing at it. Each separate item in this
horrible drama was agony to him; he had never fully recognised the
gravity of Patricia's position until brought face to face with the
official details of it.

"I've made it out as you wanted," said the superintendent a little
protestingly, as Philip took up the scrap of paper, "it's available for
any day and any hour, up to the official inquiry. You'd like to go to
her now, perhaps." He touched an electric bell, and in the moment that
passed before the summons was answered, said somewhat awkwardly: "I'm
real sorry for the lady, Mr. Tremain, we all are. I've done what I can
to make her comfortable, and let us hope her stay with us won't be a
very long one. Woods," he continued, addressing the tall warder, who had
entered as he was speaking, "take this gentleman to Miss Hildreth, and,
look here, he's to come and go as he pleases, do you understand? Good
morning, Mr. Tremain."

Philip bowed and walked out of the official presence as one in a dream.
He lost even his own identity as he followed the guide down endless
passages and corridors, and heard the jingle of the keys he carried
suspended by a ring from his finger.

It seemed to him he was back again at the Folly; he was walking along
the paths of Esther's flower-garden, with the stillness and hush of the
night above and around him. And now he had reached the little
hazel-copse and was pushing back the bough that barred his entrance;
there was the marble fountain in the distance, he could hear the drip of
the water as it fell from the upraised vase in the boy Narcissus' hands;
and there was the rustic bench, and the figure in the flowing, shining,
white drapery, that rose up hurriedly and came forward a little, holding
the soft laces closely about the white throat and heaving bosom.

Yes, it was Patricia--Patricia in all her regal loveliness, in all her
wealth of beauty; with her eyes glowing beneath the dark brows, her
mouth tremulous and wistful.

He started forward quickly--the vision faded, the night fled away, the
tinkling water-drops resolved themselves into the surly clink of key
against key on the warder's ring. All the poetry, and grace, and glory
fell away from him, as he found himself brought to a standstill before a
heavy door, into the lock of which Woods fitted a key from those on the
ring, unlocked it, and with a slight push threw it open.

Philip was conscious of a muttered "I'll be back in an hour, sir," and
the noise of a closing door behind him; and then he realised that he was
alone--face to face with Patricia.



CHAPTER III.

"FATHOM HER MOTIVES, PHILIP."


"Philip!" she cried, eagerly, and came forward, her hands held out in
greeting, and then, as if struck by some sudden remembrance, and with a
return to her old imperious manner, she dropped her hands, and turning,
walked away from him towards a small table that stood at the further end
of the room.

Mr. Tremain remained motionless just within the door, his senses taking
in by degrees the surroundings, and growing accustomed to the half gloom
that served as an apology for daylight, and that made its way through
the narrow barred casement set high up in the whitewashed wall.

The room was too large to be called a cell, and if sparsely furnished,
was not uncomfortable. Philip noted an easy-chair and a rug spread
beneath the table, while on the table were writing materials and books,
and a vase of delicate-hued roses; the counterpart of those he had seen
in Esther's boudoir the night before. It touched him strangely to see
this proof of Esther's love and Esther's faith; the golden blossoms
came, he knew, from the rose-houses at the Folly, and spoke eloquently
of Mrs. Newbold's belief in Patricia's innocence, since their presence
in that prison-room--fraught as they were with so many memories--must,
if she were guilty, prove a scourge rather than a comfort.

It took Philip some moments to realise his position and to adjust his
faculties; when at last he roused himself and looked across the
dimly-lighted room, it was to meet Patricia's eyes fixed upon him with
an expression of proud endurance, that was more pathetic than tears.

She had seated herself at the table and was leaning forward, her hands
folded across the portfolio that lay open before her. She was dressed in
black, and the severe lines and folds of the yielding cashmere seemed to
mark with painful accuracy the increased slenderness of her form--a
slenderness, it struck Philip, that had almost reached attenuation. Her
face was very pale; only the vivid burning scarlet of her lips, and the
blue fire of her eyes beneath the straight dark brows, redeemed it from
absolute pallor.

The confinement, added to the tropical heat without, and the close
atmosphere within, had told visibly upon her freshness and vigour; there
was a lassitude about her attitude and a weariness in the lines of her
face that bespoke mental as well as physical exhaustion, and now that
the sudden flush, called up at sight of him, had died out of her cheeks,
Philip perceived how hollow they had grown, and how the circles under
her eyes had darkened. Her hands as they rested on the open portfolio
were stripped of all their wonted brave array of rings, and looked as
white as the paper beneath them, the blue veins painfully apparent.

It was thus that he saw her again; it was thus that they met after that
parting on the night of the theatricals when she, radiant, beautiful,
sparkling with jewels, triumphant and successful, had laughed aside his
love, and swept by him with a light jest and indifferent word, that
wounded deeper than she might ever know. He had gone from her then,
smarting under his humiliation, and in the hour of his pain proffered
the love she had rejected to another woman, who could scarcely be called
her rival, and yet who influenced him as potentially as she.

And what the result had been of that second wooing he dared not now
remember, for even as he recalled his bondage to Adèle Lamien, and as he
looked upon the wrecked beauty, the stained loveliness of the woman
before him, so, too, he realised that he loved her and her only, loved
her better in this her hour of disgrace and misery than ever before;
and that never in reality had his true allegiance swerved from this one
woman of his heart--Patricia Hildreth.

The silence between them grew oppressive, embarrassing; it was she who
first broke through it, saying, in a voice that trembled somewhat, and
with a little laugh that was but a pitiful mockery of its old gaiety,
and that ended in a half sob:

"So you have come at last to see me, Philip. Well, and is it not absurd
that you should seek and find me--here?" She emphasized her words by a
swift glance up at the grated window and around the bare un-homelike
room.

At her voice Philip awoke as it were to life, his eyes followed hers in
that momentary, but comprehensive glance, and he understood only too
well the meaning of the quickly-repressed sigh, that half escaped her,
as she caught the gleam of yellow light upon the roses in the tall
vase.

He crossed the room quickly, and standing beside her, rested his hand
near hers, bending over her and speaking rapidly, in a voice whose deep
emotion was only kept in check by his strong will.

"Patty," he said, "believe me, I came as soon as I could. I knew nothing
of your trouble until last evening, when Miss Dick came to me about it.
I lost no time then. I, we, came to--to this place late as it was, but
we were not permitted to see you, we were obliged to go away and wait
until the morning."

At the sound of her homely, familiar diminutive her lips trembled,
though she answered with a little smile:

"Yes, the rules of this--this institution are rigorously observed;" then
with a sudden transition to the old mocking raillery: "Ah, Philip, in
all your gloomy prognostications for my future you never once thought of
me as coming to--this--did you?"

The flippant words and manner jarred on him, he drew back from her
mentally, and found himself wondering if there could be any situation
in life, however tragic, that she would take seriously; and as he
thought this, Patricia was noting the difference between his hand and
hers, as they rested on the table side by side. Hers so white and
dainty, luxurious, useless, with rounded nails and rosy finger-tips; his
strong and nervous, with fine lines in the long firm fingers and
well-modelled wrist. Were they not fitting types of their two
characters?

"Patricia," he said again, and even more gently because of his half
criticism of her, "it is a very terrible grief to me to find you here,
and to know the--the reason of it all. I have come now because I want
you to hear one thing from my own lips, and that is, Patty, that all I
have, or can give you at this time, is yours without the asking, if you
care to make use of it. I know I may be too late in offering you my
services--indeed, I may be too late to be of any practical advantage to
you--but in any case, as a lawyer, or a friend, I beg you will command
me. You can surely trust my friendship."

At the last word she smiled, and raising her eyes met his, with a sudden
leaping to life of the old blue fire in her own.

"Yes," she said slowly. "Yes, oh yes, I am quite sure I can rely upon
the disinterestedness of your--friendship." Then, after a moment's
silence: "Have you seen Esther? How is she? These are her roses. Are
they not exquisite, and redolent of the Folly?"

"They are redolent of _my_ folly," he answered sharply, and then
continued, hurriedly withdrawing his hand from its close proximity to
hers, "I saw Mrs. Newbold last evening; she has made herself quite ill
by grieving over you and your present position. She is a most loyal
friend, Patricia."

"And loyalty is so priceless an ingredient in--friendship," replied Miss
Hildreth, "one should put a fictitious value upon it when one finds it.
Will you find a chair, Philip, and sit down? I believe I shall make use
of your protestations now."

He crossed the room in answer to her invitation, bringing back with him
the one other chair afforded by official regulations. Her eyes followed
his movements, and a smile, half tender, half wistful, trembled about
her lips, fleeting in its gentleness as was her mood; for, when Philip
returned and seated himself at some little distance from her, the fine
well-cut lips were closed firmly and with something of sternness in
their expression.

"Philip," she began, in a low distinct voice, and looking at him with
resolute decision, "let us have done with this beating round the bush;
let us be quite frank with one another for this one half-hour at least.
You know why I am here; you know I have been arrested on a warrant for
complicity in a murder."

He made a hurried gesture of appeal, and would have spoken, but she
appeared not to heed him.

"They are ugly words; it is an ugly charge to bring against me, but
since it has been brought I should like you to tell me, Philip, just
what will be the course pursued. What will be the next move in the game?
I have been here now--in prison--three days; ah, it does not do to mince
one's words, my friend! And so far I am absolutely in the dark regarding
my possible fate. What will happen to me next, Philip? What is the next
step usual in such cases?"

For a moment Mr. Tremain looked at her in unfeigned amazement. Her
coolness, her almost indifference staggered him. He had expected to find
her overcome with apprehension and dismay, full of fears for the future;
dependent, humble, imploring. Instead of which she met him with her
accustomed ease and grace, and with even a touch of that old badinage
which had always jarred somewhat upon him.

He could not but contrast Dick Darling's passionate pleading, and
Esther's tears, with the calmness and self-possession of the friend for
whom they wept and pleaded. Was she worthy of the intense devotion it
seemed her prerogative to call forth? With this question his old doubt
of her reawakened, and when he answered her it was with a possession no
less assured than her own.

"To reply with anything like accuracy I must be professional," he said.
"That you will understand?"

She made a little gesture of assent.

"It is useless for me to cite any usual course of procedure," he
continued, "because all the details and circumstances surrounding this
case are of so peculiar a character as to admit of no ordinary
precedent. You have been arrested, not under the law strictly speaking,
but under what is defined as the comity of nations; that is, that
sufficient evidence of an incriminating character has been lodged
against you to induce the authorities to accede to the pressing request
of a foreign Power and to issue a warrant for your arrest. This arrest
will be followed by an official inquiry, which consists chiefly in an
examination of the warrant, to determine its regularity, and the
identity of the person therein named with the person arrested."

"And this examination," she interrupted, "where does it take place?"

"Before the District Judge. Undoubtedly it will come under his
jurisdiction."

"And this particular inquiry--my inquiry? How soon shall _I_ be inquired
into?" she asked again, with a scornful inflection of voice, and a
little smile.

"Judge Anstice is the District Judge for New York," he replied, in his
coldest and most professional manner; "this particular examination will
come on next week at the latest, it has only been delayed on account of
Anstice's unavoidable absence."

"I see," she answered. "And what happens next, Philip? You must forgive
my utter ignorance, the situation is a novel one for me."

Again there was a sufficiency of mockery in her voice to strike Mr.
Tremain afresh with the complete incongruity of the entire situation. It
was evident she either did not, or would not, comprehend the gravity of
her position; she was still looking at it as an outsider and not as the
principal actor, the pivot upon which all turned; just as she forgot or
put aside the terrible nature of the charge, and the fearful
compensation demanded should that charge be substantiated.

"Good heavens," thought Philip; "she cannot realise it is for complicity
in a murder that she stands accused! She cannot realise the nature of
the obstacles that lie between her and acquittal, or how awful will be
the consequences should our efforts in her behalf fail."

"Well," she said again, "what happens next, Philip? What is the next
proceeding of the law? You have brought me as far as the Judge and the
inquiry, what follows after?"

"Should there be any fault in the warrant papers," answered Mr. Tremain,
speaking against his will, and in short detached sentences, "or should
the evidence brought forward by those who obtained the arrest fail to be
of such a character as to justify the person under arrest being put on
trial, that person would be discharged, and therefore freed from any
further action. The arrest in fact falls to the ground, unsubstantiated,
there being no _primâ facie_ case."

"And if otherwise, Philip? If the evidence is of such a nature as to
prove a _primâ facie_ case, what then?"

She asked this question very slowly, looking at him steadily with
unflinching eyes.

"Then," he answered as slowly, and with every line of his stern face
tense and drawn, "then I fear--I believe, that the person under arrest
would be dealt with in the same manner as though legally proved guilty;
the accused would doubtless be sent back to the country from which the
request for arrest emanated, and where the crime was committed, for
trial according to that country's laws."

"I understand," she said, after a moment's absolute silence; "and in
this particular case--in my case--that would mean--Petersburg?"

He made no other reply save an assenting gesture of his hand.

For a long interval there was silence between them; a silence in which
each was lost to the other's presence, and which was so full of dark
meaning, so pregnant with dread possibilities, as to leave upon each
like traces to those once impressed indelibly upon the countenance of a
saint of old, who for one brief second was permitted to gaze into the
bottomless pit of anguish.

Again it was the woman who first broke the silence, and though it was
but the lightest whisper it pierced Philip's soul with dismay.

"Petersburg," she murmured, "and that means the mercies of the Imperial
Chancellerie!"

"Patty," cried Philip with sudden passion, "this terrible alternative
must never come to pass--it must be averted at all costs; do you hear
me?--_must_ be. You must be frank with me now, as frank as though your
last hour had come. Answer me with absolute truth the questions I shall
ask. I can only save you if you will save yourself."

She was not slow to read his meaning beneath his words, and the smile
that curved her lips was bitter enough as she exclaimed:

"So you doubt me, Philip--you!" Then, with a quick indrawn breath: "Ask
any questions you like, I will answer them."

"You know by whom your arrest has been accomplished?" he said quickly,
avoiding any definite answer to her reproach.

"Yes, by Count Vladimir Mellikoff."

"And the charge?"

"For being an accomplice in the murder of Count Stevan Lallovich," she
answered quietly.

"Did you ever know this Count Stevan Lallovich?"

"Yes."

"Did you know of his murder?"

"Yes."

"Do you know the circumstances connected with it?"

"Yes."

"Will you tell them to me?"

"I had rather not do so--now."

"Very well, let that pass. Did you ever know Count Mellikoff previous to
meeting him at the Folly?"

"No, I think not. One meets so many people in the course of one's life;
but I am quite sure I had never met Count Mellikoff before."

"Do you know of any reason he might have for enmity against you?"

"No, indeed; none whatever."

"It is very extraordinary," Mr. Tremain continued after this brief
colloquy. "I cannot but think there is some other person mixed up in
this affair besides Count Mellikoff, some one who has perhaps personal
motives to serve in bringing this charge against you. Can you think of
any one who has sufficient cause against you to make such a course
possible? Any woman, let us say, to whom the blackening of your
character would give a vindictive satisfaction?"

"Ah," she replied, with a scornful gesture, and the superiority of a
beautiful woman over her plainer sisters, "I cannot follow you there. We
all have our feminine enemies without doubt; but who of us can put our
finger on the most venomous of them?"

"All the same we must find this one, Patricia; when we find her we shall
perhaps unearth the secret of her spleen. I am convinced Count Mellikoff
has a woman for his ally."

Miss Hildreth shrugged her shoulders, but made no further reply.
Presently, however, she turned a little more towards him, leaning still
further across the table, and looking full into his eyes, said, with
sudden directness:

"Why do you ask nothing concerning your friend, Adèle Lamien, Philip? Do
you not know that she, too, is implicated in this affair?"

"Adèle Lamien!" he exclaimed, taken off his guard by the unexpectedness
of the assault. "Good Heavens! what has she to do with all this?"

"Ah, what indeed?" answered Miss Hildreth, slowly. "Fathom her motives,
Philip, and you will lay bare the secret of my arrest."

"Patricia," he cried again, strangely moved and excited by her words and
manner, and by the sudden return of that vague, intangible influence,
evoked by the mere mention of Mdlle. Lamien's name, that had from the
first played so distinct a part in his intimacy with her, "Patricia,
what do you mean? Explain yourself. What can Adèle Lamien have to do
with you?"

"Ah, what indeed?" she answered, in the same measured tones, still
looking at him earnestly. "What indeed? All--or nothing,--Philip. Simply
that."

"I must know more," he exclaimed, almost roughly. "You must tell me what
you mean. I must find her."

"That may prove more difficult than you imagine," answered Miss
Hildreth, quietly, and as she said the words, Woods the warder entered,
and Philip understood the end of his interview had come.

He got up mechanically and held out his hand. "It is best I should go
for a little while," he said. "I will come back again. After all, we
have settled very little."

"I should say we had settled a great deal," she answered, with another
of those quick, mocking smiles.

Then she bade him good-bye; and it was not until he had walked up the
longer half of Broadway, that Mr. Tremain remembered two things.
Patricia had calmly ignored his outstretched hand, and he had forgotten
to inquire of the superintendent the nature of Mdlle. Lamien's
complicity in the charge brought against Miss Hildreth.



CHAPTER IV.

MIXED MOTIVES.


Mr. Tremain had not been far wrong when he told Esther Newbold that the
arrest of so prominent and well-known a person as Miss Hildreth bid fair
to develop into an international question.

The charge entered against her was of too grave a nature not to excite
and sustain public attention. It certainly appeared to the community at
large a very arbitrary and high-handed proceeding that an American
citizen could be thus imprisoned at the request of a foreign Government.

Her offence being in no respect a political one, this loophole of escape
could not be urged in her favour, for in that case the foreign
Government interested in her committal would never have demanded her
arrest or expected her surrender into their hands. Doubtless had Miss
Hildreth been but a poor workwoman, on whom depended the support of her
family, no such strenuous efforts would have been put forth to
accomplish her arrest, or a precedence have been created to deal with
her position.

But being what she was, and controlling almost unlimited wealth and
influence, the case assumed potential proportions, and therefore it was
deemed expedient to allow an official inquiry to take place, and to
permit the greatest latitude in its operations, even to the calling of
witnesses.

To meet this position of affairs great exertions were made on the part
of Miss Hildreth's friends, foremost among whom stood Philip Tremain. He
had quitted Patricia's presence, at the conclusion of that first
interview, as undecided in his own mind as to her guilt or innocence as
he had been when he heard of her arrest. Her words, her insinuations,
her reticence, had all been so many damning factors against her, while
her manner, so light-hearted, so inconsequent, so trivial, were the only
elements in her favour.

To Philip, indeed, that very light-heartedness--which he called
flippancy--appeared the most suspicious feature of her behaviour. It
seemed to him that any woman, no matter how frivolous or hardened, must
have given vent to tears and protestations when brought so close to the
awful consequences of even supposed guilt; whereas, he found Miss
Hildreth even more composed--if that were possible--and more trivial
than at their parting in the flies on George Newbold's birthday night.

Good heavens, how long ago that seemed! And what a page of tragedy--or
was it melodrama? he had construed since then!

As he walked back to his rooms from Ludlow Street Jail that hot August
evening, his mind was very full of Patricia's farewell words:

"Fathom Adèle Lamien's motives, Philip, and you will lay bare the secret
of my arrest."

He had, indeed, in the sudden tumult and agitation of Dick Darling's
appearance and communication, lost sight of Mdlle. Lamien's claims upon
him; nor was it until Patricia spoke with that enigmatical smile that he
remembered them, or paused to consider what was likely to be her
attitude in the present complication of affairs.

He had neither heard from or of Mdlle. Lamien since their parting, and
while he held himself bound to her by honour, he could not help
reflecting upon the fact that no actual engagement existed between them,
and that she might so regard their equivocal position, and desire him to
understand her silence as an expression of her final refusal of his
suit. However that might be, he felt matters had reached such a crisis
as to make his seeing her an imperative duty, since, by so doing, he
might elucidate the true motive for Patricia's arrest. Recalling Adèle
Lamien's last words, and the note of victory in her voice--"surely this
should be triumph enough, even for me, to know that I have won you from
the remembrance, nay, from the very presence of Patricia Hildreth"--he
felt more than ever convinced that Vladimir Mellikoff had not only been
helped by a woman, but by this very woman.

Had not her own words betrayed her jealousy and dislike of her former
rival? What more natural than that she should join issue with Count
Mellikoff, and play into his hands, not realising perhaps the nature of
the train she set alight, or the gravity of the consequences?

Was she not a Russian, and had not Mellikoff himself enlightened him
regarding the system of that secret police, whose ranks were reinforced
by members of one's own household! According to the Count's black
note-book, the very people who ate your bread, who clasped your hand in
friendship, who instructed your children, were, one and all--if
Russian--banded against you, and ready to strike at you in the dark at
the word of command.

Separated from Mdlle. Lamien, and freed from the dominating influence of
her personality, Mr. Tremain realised how little his own volition had
had to do with his offer of marriage to her.

In looking back at their interview, it seemed to him he had been
possessed by some demon of evil who urged him on to his doom; and under
whose specious reasoning and cunning insinuations, his own stronger
sense and will had become but passive agents.

How gladly would he not now welcome any honourable means of escape from
the light fetters that bound him! He knew this, and acknowledged it
frankly; even while he also realised that, were he again to stand
before Adèle Lamien, and listen to her low suggestive voice, and look
upon her strangely familiar face, he would again yield to her influence
as he had yielded before, and be subjugated by that same nameless
_something_, to which he had succumbed before. It was not a pleasant
position for any man to accept, and yet he was obliged to accept it from
its very uncontrovertibleness.

He walked all the way from Ludlow Street to his up-town chambers with
such reflections for his only companions; it was not to be wondered at,
therefore, that he felt himself out of tune with his surroundings, or
that the light-hearted gaiety apparent in those he met, whose labours
over for the day, were evidently on pleasure bent, jarred upon him as
exuberant examples of positive callousness. Just so would they laugh and
smile and jest, even though the worst predictions came true; and she,
counted guilty, had already set sail across the ocean of destiny to meet
her fate--alone, in a land where neither his skill nor his love could
avail her anything. He reached his rooms at last, exhausted in body and
mind; he found them in the most scrupulous order, Harris, the
invaluable, having reduced everything to the level of every-day
commonplace. Not a trace of last night's emotional interview remained,
even Miss Dick's little glove had been neatly folded and lay upon the
table, with the faded rose-bud from her corsage placed on top of it.
With a sigh, Mr. Tremain threw himself down upon a couch drawn up
against an open window, and passed his hand wearily over his forehead.
The silence and coolness and half darkness were absolute rest and
refreshment to him after the heat and glaring sunshine, and conflicting
experiences of the day; it was a physical relief to sink into a state of
semi-apathy and to pass from the tense excitation of feeling into a
corresponding insensibility.

Philip could not have told how long he remained in this state of
suspended activity; he was aroused at length by the slamming to of the
heavy outer door, and with this ordinary sound he reawakened to the
exigencies of the immediate situation. He got up wearily and struck a
match, not with any definite object in view, but because he felt he must
be doing something, and that something could be better accomplished in
the light.

The slowly igniting candles on his writing-table threw but a faint
aureola into the darkness, sufficient, however, to reveal to Philip's
eyes the pile of unopened letters, across the topmost one of which was
written that under-scored _immediate_.

He took it up indifferently. "It is Mainwaring's writing," he thought
listlessly, and had almost a mind to put it by until a more propitious
moment--until he had written that letter to Adèle Lamien demanding an
interview, upon the wording of which it had taken him so long to
decide. John Mainwaring's communication could not possibly be of such
importance as to demand instant attention; it had waited several days as
it was, it might wait a few hours longer without disaster.

And so it is with the wisest and most sagacious of us. We pray on bended
knees, and with streaming eyes, for one, only one chance, one
opportunity more wherein to work out our salvation; and then when the
grace is given we reject it because, forsooth, it comes to us in so
accustomed and natural a guise we cannot believe in its efficacy.

How should Philip, hesitating and uncertain, holding Mainwaring's letter
in his hand, guess that within the long business envelope lay the
solution of all that was most enigmatic to him--the key to what was now
a locked book to his perceptions?

Do any of us ever know the exact moment when we stand upon a mental
precipice, or realise how far our next step may carry us on to our
doom?

He broke the seal at last, more from habit than impatience, and glanced
carelessly down at the page as he unfolded it. It was not a long letter,
only a few lines written hastily across one side; but had it been a
printed folio of engrossing depth it could not have riveted Philip's
attention more closely. The candles, flaming up with a sudden assured
brilliancy, shone full upon his face, and upon the startled, excited,
incredulous expression which spread over it as he read.

It was a long time, many moments, that he stood thus, reading and
re-reading John Mainwaring's hurried lines, and when at last he raised
his head and threw back his shoulders, he took a long deep breath as of
one who, but lately spent and exhausted, sees opening before him a fair
plain, smiling and verdant, wherein his tired nature may refresh its
weary faculties.

"If this is true," he said, half aloud, "why then----" and finished his
soliloquy with a smile.

Half an hour later Mr. Tremain was ringing the bell at Mrs. Newbold's
door, and somewhat astonished the servant by the vehemence of his demand
for her mistress.

"Tell her I must see her," he said, "it is of the utmost importance;"
then he pushed by the maid and made his way to Esther's boudoir.

He found the room empty, though traces of late occupancy were apparent
in a book tossed carelessly down on the tumbled cushions of the couch,
and a long strip of artistic needlework, in which the needle was
standing upright, and a tiny gold thimble, that had fallen down and lay
beside a "Kate Greenaway" picture book.

He had scarcely time to note these particulars before the door was
opened, and Esther came towards him quickly, looking a little pale and
excited, her fair hair tumbled about her face, and the long train of her
_négligé_ making a slight rustle as she moved. She came close up to him
and raised her eyes to his; they caught the reflection of the hopeful
gladness therein, and her cheeks flushed suddenly, as she cried, putting
out her hand and touching his arm:

"Philip, oh, Philip, you have news--good news?"

Her voice had a ring of expectancy in it that did not escape Philip.

"Esther," he replied, looking down at her steadily, and speaking
gravely, "I have come to you at this late hour for one reason only--to
ask you one question. Will you be frank and honest in your answer?"

"Ah," she exclaimed, "there are both reproach and reflection in your
words. Ask me the question first, Philip, and judge of my veracity by my
reply."

She turned and walked to the couch, seated herself, and, taking up the
strip of embroidery, examined it attentively.

Mr. Tremain followed her.

"It is all very well, your trying to parry my thrust, Esther; but it is
useless. I shall oblige you to give me a direct answer."

He drew up a chair as he spoke, and, as he sat down, took from his
pocket a note-case.

"Will you oblige me by reading this letter?" he said, handing her
Mainwaring's communication.

She took it with a deprecatory shrug of her shoulders, and read the few
lines it contained with an absolutely expressionless face.

"Well?" asked Philip, after several moments had passed.

"Well?" she echoed, folding the letter with exactness and handing it
back to him, but avoiding his eyes.

"Esther," he said, bending forward and forcing her to look at him,
"Esther, the news contained in that letter is no news to you."

Still she did not reply; she had again taken up the strip of embroidery,
and her fingers trembled a little as she drew out the needle. Mr.
Tremain put out his hand and took it from her.

"My dear Esther," he said once more, in the same measured tones he had
used from his first greeting of her, "you can at least answer a direct
question. Did you know of this before?"

"Since you put it in that way--yes," she replied.

"For how long--all the time?"

"Yes, all the time."

"And you have kept it to yourself--why?"

But to this she made no answer.

"Why did you keep it from me?" he asked, more sternly. "Do you think you
had any right to do so?"

"Yes, I do," she answered, quickly, stung by the reproach in his voice.
"I think so still. A promise should always be sacred."

"A promise--and to whom?"

"If you consider that a necessary question, I do not," she answered,
with a touch of asperity in her voice. "You surely have lost somewhat of
your customary acumen, Philip, to ask it."

"Then let me put it in another form," he replied, not in the least
disturbed by her show of temper. "Did you promise--_her_?"

She looked at him for a moment, before she spoke, and the rebellious
blood dyed her cheeks scarlet, her blue eyes flashed.

"I am not compelled to answer you," she said mutinously, "but I will do
so. Yes, I promised _her_."

"But why, Esther, why? What induced you to make so absurd a promise?
And, having made it, why, when such extraordinary circumstances arose,
did you still keep your lips closed? Why did you not tell me that
evening, when I came to you, and when you were in such grief and
anxiety? Surely you must have known it would have greatly simplified
matters."

But Mrs. Newbold was obstinately silent. She shut her lips firmly
together and looked at Philip beneath a decided frown.

"Do you mean to tell me," he continued, a trifle impatiently, "that you
could believe such a matter was not of vital importance? Do answer me,
Esther, I beg; what motive can I have save to help----"

"Oh, if you will look at it in that light," interrupted Mrs. Newbold,
quickly, "why then I must say, I don't see what great difference your
having known this would have made. It couldn't stop the arrest, you
know."

"I know nothing of the kind," he replied shortly; "I am not at all sure
that it might not have done so. It is always far more difficult to
rectify a blunder than to prevent one. I cannot but feel that you have
treated me badly in this matter, Esther; at such a time and under such
circumstances the utmost candour should have been shown."

He did not speak angrily, but with so much of sadness in his voice,
Esther felt compunction stealing over her and absorbing her late
vehemence and impatience.

"I should much prefer your being angry with me, Philip," she said,
wistfully, "or that you shook me; it's much more awful to see you look
so hurt and pained. But can't you believe me, can't you understand? It
was her wish--her demand--from the very beginning. She made me solemnly
swear that no one should know--least of all--you."

"Ah, yes--I least of all," he replied, half sadly. "Very well, my dear
Esther, I will ask you no more questions. You shall not be tempted
further to break your promise. Let us only hope that this unfortunate
secrecy may not in the end prove our greatest stumbling-block. I do not
see the way any clearer before me because of this unexpected document,
but I shall do my best to use it to our advantage. After all, what a
truly womanly bit of _finesse_ it was--and is!"

As Philip spoke the door was again thrown open, and Dick Darling came
in, followed by little Marianne carrying a basket filled with roses. She
ran up to her mother, holding out the basket to her, and crying:

"They've only just come, Mumsey. Perkins brought them up himself. Oh,
they do smell puffeckly 'licious!"

Esther took the flowers from her little daughter's hand.

"You can guess whom they are for," she said to Philip, smiling a little.
"Dick and I intend taking them early to-morrow morning."

Mr. Tremain took up one of the fragrant blossoms, and, bending down
towards Esther, said, in a half undertone:

"And is Miss Dick also a sharer in this secret?"

Esther shook her head.

"Not through me," she answered.

"And Mainwaring, how did he become a conspirator?"

"I do not know," she replied, looking down again. "I do not know--how
should I?"

He made no answer for a moment, during which his eyes never left the
downcast face before him.

"Good-bye," he said simply, at last, and including Miss Darling in his
leave-taking by a half bow, passed out of the room, carrying the red
rose-bud with him.

It was a distinct source of pleasure to him, as he contemplated the
little flower, to remember for whom its sister roses were destined. The
tiny blood-red blossom seemed to put him in touch once more with his old
life--that life which antedated his visit to the Folly--when Adèle
Lamien was still unknown to him.



CHAPTER V.

A WOMAN'S LOGIC.


The first check experienced by Count Mellikoff in the fulfilment of his
well-laid plans, was one of which he took but slight account.

In calling into action the machinery of the law, and thereby obtaining
the warrant for Miss Hildreth's arrest, he overlooked one point. He had
designedly delayed this summary action until such a moment, when knowing
the Newbolds and Mr. Tremain to be well out of his way, he could proceed
without apprehension of interference on their part.

He was quite well aware that to act against their combined forces would
be a far more serious undertaking than to attack Miss Hildreth alone
and unbefriended. But could he once accomplish her arrest, he believed
that here in America, as in Russia, he had only to demand an official
inquiry, as a matter of form, and it would at once be granted; at which
inquiry, trusting to the strength of his evidence, he foresaw her
immediate committal for trial, and expected by the time the _beau monde_
were returning to New York, and before a cabal could be raised in Miss
Hildreth's behalf, to be already on his way to Petersburg with his
prisoner, about whose subsequent fate, when once she was handed over to
the Imperial Chancellerie, he had no need to concern himself.

Then he would be free to seek Olga, and, laying his love and his life at
her feet, demand that reward for the sake of which she had persuaded him
to undertake this mission. Patouchki also would be convinced of his
loyalty by this last signal service in the Emperor's behalf; and even
the Tsar himself might bestow a further distinction upon him; one
ribbon more, perhaps, to swell the number of those upon which his
beautiful Olga set such store.

And, indeed, so far fortune had favoured him and his plans; up to a
certain time events marched according as he directed. The warrant was
obtained; Miss Hildreth was arrested; and, save John Mainwaring, none of
her special friends were in town to stand by her or act in her defence.
On Mainwaring, Count Mellikoff bestowed not a thought; he had not even
seen him in the crowd of transient guests at the Folly, and his name was
suggestive of nothing.

The matter of an immediate official inquiry, however, was not so easily
managed. Count Mellikoff found countless obstacles to overcome, raised
by that very organ, the law, which so far he had played upon to his own
purpose. Innumerable technicalities and difficulties were for ever
cropping up, resulting in unheard-of delays. Even Mellikoff's patience
gave way at last, and he anathematised the entire Western continent, its
institutions and customs, in language more forcible than polite. Despite
of his choler, however, Vladimir Mellikoff was obliged to swallow his
wrath, and bear with what patience he could muster, that most difficult
of all trials--enforced inaction.

Meantime he heard again from Patouchki, and the tone of his letter was
such as to create a fever of anxiety and unrest, that threatened to
prostrate him mentally and physically. From Olga Naundorff he received
neither word nor sign.

And so the long, hot days came and went, and by none of the waiting
actors in that life-drama were they ever forgotten in the years that
followed.

To Patricia, Philip, Esther, Dick Darling, Vladimir Mellikoff, and
Rosalie James, each sunrise brought but an increasing weight of
torturing anxiety; each nightfall was fraught with an additional burden
of suspense.

Within the week after his return, Mr. Tremain had another interview with
Miss Hildreth. He found her in the same half flippant, half rebellious
mood that had so angered him at their last meeting. He stayed with her
for more than an hour, during which she remained as adamant to all his
arguments, entreaties, prayers. He left her at last in anger, and with
hot words of passion as his farewell.

"You force me to draw my own conclusions," he said. "It would be more
reasonable if you would give me ever so foolish a motive as your reason
for denying the truth of the assertion contained in this letter." He
struck John Mainwaring's offending epistle as he spoke. "Once more,
Patricia, will you, or will you not, acknowledge this affirmation as
true?"

She had grown very pale under the lash of his ill-concealed anger; but
she gave no other sign either of embarrassment or yielding, and when she
answered she looked him straight in the eyes, and spoke without a
falter in her clear musical voice:

"I have nothing to say, Philip. Mr. Mainwaring is the best person for
you to apply to for confirmation, since he has made the statement."

"And that is all you have to tell me--all you will tell me?" he asked,
his voice reflecting the doubt and pain of his mind. "At least,
Patricia, since I know on what grounds Count Mellikoff will seek to
justify your arrest, you might confide the truth to me. Are you, or are
you not----"

"My dear Philip," she broke in hastily, the colour rushing to her face
in a sudden overwhelming torrent, "cannot you see what I am?--is not
that enough? Why should you try to solve Vladimir Mellikoff's motives?
It is he who has brought this charge against me, let him prove its
validity."

"And Mainwaring?" he asked, slowly, looking at her keenly.

"Mr. Mainwaring shall answer to me for his officiousness," she replied,
quietly.

"And this is all you have to say, Patricia? This is all you will tell
me?"

"Yes, that is all I have to say," she answered.

And at her reply he turned from her abruptly and left her; nor did he
again seek an interview with her during the few days that remained
before her quasi-trial.

Philip could not but contrast the emotions with which he had sought this
meeting, with those which overwhelmed him at its close. John
Mainwaring's letter had apparently opened the way to a satisfactory
unravelling of the tangled skein, and it was with a full belief in the
solution thus presented, that he had gone to Patricia, and begged for a
more explicit explanation than that suggested in Mainwaring's statement.
He believed also, that at last he had fathomed Mdlle. Lamien's part in
the transaction, and the secret of her power over him; he had already
accused her of being Count Mellikoff's accomplice, and now he thought he
saw how it was that all unconsciously she played advantageously into
his hands.

It needed but a word from Patricia to reduce his theory to reality; but
this word Miss Hildreth declined to pronounce, nor could he force from
her any admission upon which he could establish his hypothesis. The only
outcome of his interview with her was a return to the old uncertainty
and doubt that had made his life a torture for so many days.

To the great surprise of every one, Mr. Tremain did not appear as Miss
Hildreth's solicitor, nor, indeed, take any active part in her behalf.
It was John Mainwaring who was selected by Patricia as her adviser, and
to John Mainwaring she opened her whole heart; holding nothing back, and
in no way excusing or exonerating herself for the part she had played in
the plot, that bid fair to develop all the characteristics of tragedy
before its termination. She bound the young lawyer by the most solemn of
promises not to reveal certain portions of her confession, although the
consequences of his secrecy might be the worst possible for her. And
Mainwaring, being a man of quick sympathies and ardent chivalry, had,
under the spell of her beauty and her emotion, passed his word of honour
to use only such particulars of her statement, in her support, as she
should designate.

"I think you are mistaken," he had said, after urging a greater latitude
upon her, "I cannot say how far your reticence may not tell against you.
I wish you would be quite frank with me, Miss Hildreth, or rather let me
be on your behalf. I don't believe you half realise the gravity of your
position, or how terrible the result may be for you should I fail to
overthrow the validity of the warrant. You see a certain amount of
complicity we must acknowledge, since we cannot set up an _alibi_, and
that will go just so much against you if I may not show the context.
Won't you reconsider, Miss Hildreth, or let me take another opinion upon
the matter?"

"No," she answered with decision, "I cannot reconsider. It is
impossible. Only think in what a position it would place him were I to
allow you to proclaim my miserable attitude. No, be the consequences
what they may, I have brought sorrow and shame enough upon Philip
Tremain through my influence, I will not disgrace him publicly by having
my weakness dragged out to the light of day. You have given me your
word, Mr. Mainwaring. I have no fear of your breaking it, and I do not
care for any second opinion. I must stand or fall by the line of
argument we have marked out between us."

And from this decision he could not move her.

After he left her, Miss Hildreth sat for a long time quite still and
motionless. The slow heavy tears gathered in her eyes and fell down her
cheeks unnoticed and unchecked; the sobs, deep weary sobs, burst now and
then from her brave heart; and at last, as the evening shadows
lengthened into night, and all about her became wrapt in soft
impalpable darkness, she fell upon her knees, bowing her proud head to
the ground, and praying as she had never prayed before; entreating
forgiveness for her wilful pride, her cruel selfishness, her obdurate
egotism, through which, not she only had been brought to so terrible an
alternative, but he whom she loved bid fair to be dragged down with her
in her fall.

"No, no, no," she cried aloud, clasping her hands together and throwing
them outward in a passionate gesture of entreaty, "I will never give in.
I will never confess the shameful part I have taken in this deception. I
will never, my poor Philip, by word or sign permit one slight or sneer
to fall on you through me. If I have failed in everything else, I will
not fail in this. At least, I have courage and endurance left, I am not
afraid but that they will stand me in good stead; and should the very
worst consequences fall upon me, I deserve them all. Yes, every
individual item, in that horrible possibility of which he spoke, is not
too much for me to bear in punishment. Oh, Philip, Philip, to think I
should be the one to bring the disgrace upon you of biting scorn, and
evil laughter, and venomous tongues! I, who love you, and yet whose love
can point to no higher achievement than this!"



CHAPTER VI.

A QUESTION OF COMITY.


The morning of the fateful 15th of September dawned at last; and long
before the hour fixed for the official inquiry, the court-room was
filled to overflowing by a crowd gathered from every grade of Society,
to each member of which the arrest and possible fate of so prominent a
person as Patricia Hildreth assumed a special and individual importance.

The very secrecy and mystery that had surrounded the case from the
outset, and the reticence of the Press regarding it--usually so
garrulous and self-opinionated--served only to whet the sensation-loving
appetite of the community. The examination being held in open court,
any one was free to enter, and to exercise that naïve candour of
criticism and good-natured interference in other people's affairs
peculiarly American. Not a member of the assemblage but was cognisant of
the case in all its details, or who could not, at a moment's notice,
reel off a synopsis of its peculiar features, embracing the names,
social standing, personal incomes, and general habits of the persons
most implicated in it.

The Folly, the _Deerhound_, and Esther Newbold, as the mistress of both,
were fully canvassed, together with Miss Darling's openly expressed
anger at being detained by the accusing party to give special evidence,
and Mr. Tremain's extraordinary conduct in refusing to act as Miss
Hildreth's solicitor; while Patricia's private life, her jewels, wealth,
and beauty, were scarcely more absorbing topics than were the treachery,
blackheartedness and ingratitude of Vladimir Mellikoff; who, having been
received with such cordial hospitality, returned it in so evil and
back-handed a fashion.

A strong party of Patricia's friends occupied prominent places, among
whom were George Newbold, Sir Piers Tracey, Freddy Slade, and Jack
Howard, further enforced by a feminine contingent of the _super-chics_,
to whom a morning spent in a court of inquiry, of which they formed, as
it were, an independent jury, to decide upon the guilt or innocence of
one of their own sex and order, offered too new a sensation to be
despised in this age of satiated experience. They came, therefore,
arrayed in the most exquisite of costumes, and bringing with them their
individual fads and fancies in the way of salts, eau-de-cologne, and
fans. They rustled into their places with the same arrogance and
assurance with which they distinguished a "first night" at Wallack's or
the opera, and, raising their long tortoise-shell handled _pince-nezs_
with elaborate superciliousness, gazed at the gathering crowd with the
same indifference as they inspected the unfamiliar face of an aspirant
to histrionic fame whose success was still in embryo.

Patricia Hildreth had indeed no severer tribunal to stand before than
these butterflies of the hour, who were equally ready to bestow upon her
smiles, congratulations, and assurances of their undeviating fidelity,
or scoffs and jeers of objurgation--none the less defamatory because
spoken in soft tones and with downcast eyes--according as the decision
was given for or against her.

As the great clock in the tower of the City Hall struck ten, echoed by
all the lesser clocks of the neighbourhood, the little crowd of
black-coated lawyers and attorneys, that filled the space between the
bench and a certain railed off space, within which a chair had been
placed, separated, the different members taking their places to right
and left of the official bench set apart for the District Judge, before
whom Patricia Hildreth was to stand arraigned, by virtue of arrest, on a
charge of murder. It was understood, of course, that the proceedings
were in a manner informal; the inquiry purported to deal solely with the
validity of the warrant issued against Miss Hildreth, and did not in any
sense partake of the nature of a trial; that, should Count Mellikoff
substantiate the arrest, would take place in St. Petersburg, before a
Russian tribunal. Nevertheless, to all those concerned in the case, and
to the onlookers, this official inquiry was regarded in the light of a
trial, especially since, owing to the gravity of the circumstances,
witnesses were to be allowed on both sides.

John Mainwaring's dark, clean-shaven face wore a somewhat anxious
expression as he bent down towards George Newbold and spoke earnestly to
him. Mr. Tremain, Esther, and Miss Darling were not present in the
court-room; later they were to be called to give evidence. Count
Mellikoff was there, however, looking very pale but perfectly
self-possessed, his deep-set burning eyes flashing looks of disdain upon
the unfriendly crowd, whose hostile expressions did not fail to reach
his ears.

As his solicitor Vladimir had engaged Peter Munger, one of the most
famous members of the Bar, whose name alone was supposed to ensure
success. He was a large man, with a forbidding forehead and an offensive
smile; and his very aggressiveness was popularly supposed to weigh
heavily with the Bench.

He spoke very little to any one, but scowled darkly upon Mainwaring, and
muttered a rather unprofessional expletive beneath his breath, against
his opponent's youth and inexperience.

"I had rather it had been Tremain," he had growled out to Count
Mellikoff, when first apprised of the name of Patricia's solicitor,
"it's worth my while to beat _him_; but that youngster--bah!" And out
flew a shower of little chewed-up quids of paper, which it was the great
man's habit to indulge in as a break-water to the more pernicious
tobacco.

Count Mellikoff had shrugged his shoulders and held out his hands in
deprecation, but made no other reply, upon which the giant snorted out
something not over polite regarding foreigners, which Vladimir felt it
was wiser not to notice.

As the last stroke of the hour died upon the air a moment's silence fell
upon the assembly, and in that silence the peal of old Trinity's bells
rang out, calling the worshippers to morning service. Vladimir, as he
listened to the deep peal, thought of Petersburg, and found himself
waiting involuntarily for the victorious pæan, "How glorious is our God
in Zion," which in his country followed the striking of the hour,
drowning the sadder notes of the _Miserere_.

But the bells ceased, and with their final chord of aërial music the
small door behind the official bench was thrown open, and the legal
_cortège_ entered and took their seats in a silence that was absolute,
save for the throbbing of the air stirred by the expectant breathing of
the waiting crowd.

Judge Anstice, the District Judge for New York, was eminently imposing
both in person and manner. He was unusually tall, with an intellectual
head, a face of much power and kindliness, and a reputation for leniency
whenever compatible with a strict observance of justice. It was to him
that both John Mainwaring and Mr. Tremain looked instinctively for
sympathy, though knowing him to be before all things a strict
disciplinarian in all points pertaining to his profession. He was,
moreover, a popular favourite with the public, who hailed his appearance
with subdued satisfaction.

The half murmur of applause which greeted Judge Anstice developed into
decided expressions of excitement as a tall, slight figure advanced,
piloted up the narrow aisle by a policeman, and shown into the railed
off space before the Bench. The new-comer was Patricia Hildreth, and the
hush of expectation, that followed close upon the audible comments
called forth by her appearance, became breathless, as, with a firm step
and upright bearing, she took the place indicated and stood for a moment
confronting her accusers.

Her beautiful face was colourless, her blue eyes looked black and
luminous beneath the dark brows, her lips were resolutely closed, with
just a touch of defiance in the firm set curves. She was dressed plainly
in black, and she wore no veil.

It had never been Miss Hildreth's custom to hide her beauty when most
triumphant; why should she do so now in the hour of her extremity?

It was intimated to her that she was at liberty to sit down, and with a
slight bend of her proud head she availed herself of the permission.

Mr. Munger opened the proceedings with a short and technical explanation
as to the nature and purport of the warrant of arrest, the issuing of
which had been formally requested by the Russian Government, and
acceded to by that of the United States, not as a matter of absolute
right, but through that comity of nations by which the relationships
existing between two great powers were kept intact and justly balanced.
The warrant thus issued had been executed upon the person of Patricia
Hildreth, _alias_ Adèle Lamien, _alias_ Adèle Lallovich, on the charge
of her having been an accomplice in the murder of Stevan Lallovich,
which occurred at St. Petersburg in the month of December last. The
investigation of this warrant was what they had before them now, and in
so doing he would first call attention to the point of nationality,
since upon this point very much depended. Should Miss Hildreth, or
rather should Adèle Lamien, prove to be a Muscovite subject, the
American authorities could have but one course open to them, namely, to
surrender her to the Russian officials, and let her be put upon trial in
the country, and according to the laws, where the crime was committed.

A like course had been adopted by another foreign Power, when the
United States was the petitioner, and the offender a political criminal.
Spain had at once delivered up this fugitive from justice,[1] though not
legally compelled to do so, and the offender was brought to trial solely
through the courtesy of a foreign Government. Having then this case as a
precedent, it would, according to national honour, be impossible to
refuse a like amenity in the present instance. As the Bench was aware,
the circumstances in the case now before them were of so extraordinary a
nature, it had been deemed wise to allow of evidence being given, a
course entirely at variance with the usual procedure in such cases.
Special emergencies, however, required special treatment. But before he
availed himself of the privilege thus accorded, he would call the
attention of the Bench to a few of the peculiarities of this case, by
which it would be seen how weighty and grave were the reasons which led
to the demand and the issuing of the warrant.

[Footnote 1: The late Mr. W. M. Tweed].

In his opinion there had never been a more deliberately planned and
executed murder than that of Count Stevan Lallovich, nor one in which
greater skill and _finesse_ had been displayed, both before and after
the perpetration of it. It was needless for him to tell the Bench who
the lady purported to be that stood accused before them; her name and
her position were far too well known and defined to require any
blazoning forth by him. His task was the more unpleasant one of proving
that this Patricia Hildreth had no right to her recognised patronymic,
since she, under the name of Adèle Lamien, had contracted a marriage
with Count Stevan Lallovich, and had subsequently consented to, and
participated in, the murder of the same Stevan Lallovich. It was owing
to these exceptional features that the warrant had been issued against
her, and he submitted to his honour that the papers of arrest would be
found regular on all these points.

Having gone thus far, Mr. Munger paused and threw an imperative glance
at the Judge and auditors collectively; it was plainly evident that his
statement had made a decided impression.

The public interest in the case had been pronounced enough even when but
little of its real nature had been revealed, and now, when the true
aspect of the charge was exposed, and Patricia Hildreth stood stripped
of all protection, even that afforded her by her name and position, and
was openly branded not only as a murderer, but as a wilful impostor and
adventuress, the excitement reached fever heat, and not one pair of all
those hundreds of watching eyes but were turned upon the proud beautiful
face of the accused woman; that face never faltered nor winced beneath
their gaze, eager though they were to note the first sign or expression
of fear upon it.

After this scarcely perceptible pause, Mr. Munger took up his theme
again, and in incisive phrases, with rough eloquence, told the story of
the brilliant, dissolute, captivating Russian noble, Stevan Lallovich;
painting his character in forcible lights and deep shadows; dwelling
strongly on his blood connection with the Muscovite Emperor, his life at
Court, the unstinted adulation poured upon him, the continuous round of
success that attended his every caprice; until it became an article of
belief in his circle that he had but to express a wish, or whisper a
desire, and the fulfilment of it was accomplished without the asking.
Like Jove of old, did he but nod his head his whole world trembled, or
smile and they rejoiced. With great skill the able pleader brought down
his narrative to ten years ago, when, as he said, with a disagreeable
smile, Miss Hildreth, then in the full glory of her exceptional beauty,
had left her native country--he would not suggest under what
circumstances--and for the greater part of those succeeding ten years
had been an independent wanderer over the European continent, answerable
to no one; concerning her experiences during those ten years Miss
Hildreth was known to be obstinately reticent. They had her admission,
however, as he would show later, of her having been in St. Petersburg a
part of that time, and also of her having known Count Stevan Lallovich.
The date of her acknowledged visit to Petersburg comprised the month
before and the very day of Count Stevan's murder. She returned to
America early in February, the crime having been committed in the
December previous.

It was a well-known fact among Count Lallovich's friends, that about a
year before his ill-fated death he had become so infatuated by the
extreme beauty of a foreign lady--foreign in the sense of her not being
a Muscovite subject--as to marry her according to the ceremonies of the
Roman Catholic Church, which Church, not holding communion with the
Greek religion, is looked upon in Russia as schismatic. After a few
months of retired felicity the affair became known to the Tsar, who
revoked the marriage by Imperial ukase, and recalled Count Stevan to
Petersburg; the unfortunate lady was thus turned adrift, with her
character ruined, and her personality numbered among the many suspects,
over whom the Chancellerie keeps so close a watch.

On the morning of the 28th of December, Count Stevan Lallovich was found
murdered in his own palace, stabbed through the heart. The assassin had
left behind no more tangible proof of identity than was contained in a
small handkerchief, evidently dropped in the haste of flight, marked
across one corner in embroidered letters _A. de L._; above these letters
the initials _P. H._ had been carelessly written in ink. The
handkerchief was that of a woman, and was traced as belonging to Adèle
Lamien, or de Lallovich, Count Stevan's repudiated wife. Suspicion fell
naturally upon this woman, a suspicion which soon became assurance; but
she, with consummate cunning, eluded every effort put forth for her
apprehension, and finally escaped to America, landing in New York some
time within the month of February last.

It would be understood that in so grave and terrible a crime, where the
victim was a member of the Imperial Russian family, no efforts would be
spared to track and find the perpetrator of the deed. From positive and
unimpeachable evidence the Chancellerie had reason to believe the
assassin to be in the United States, and they accordingly authorised
Count Vladimir Mellikoff, a member of the Tsar's household, to act as
their agent in the matter; and he it was who in the furtherance of this
work had traced the criminal link by link, and bit by bit, until he was
able to lodge such information before the proper authorities in this
country as resulted in the arrest of Patricia Hildreth; who now, as
Adèle Lamien, or Lallovich, stands accused of her husband's murder.

"That, your honour," summed up Mr. Munger, "is my statement. To prove
the regularity of the warrant, and the validity of the evidence upon
which it was issued, I propose first to show that the lady calling
herself Patricia Hildreth is, _in propriâ personâ_, Adèle Lallovich, and
that by her marriage with Stevan Lallovich, she became _de facto_ a
Russian subject, and is therefore answerable to Russian authority. To do
this, I will avail myself of the precedent established for this case, by
taking informal evidence upon it. I will therefore ask Count Mellikoff
to come forward."



CHAPTER VII.

NON-COMMITTAL.


As Vladimir Mellikoff stepped out from the group of men surrounding him
and took the place indicated by Mr. Munger, a low murmur of disapproval
surged up from the highly wrought crowd of listeners and onlookers, at
the sound of which his colourless face flushed, for one brief second,
while the dark eyes in the cavernous sockets gleamed intemperately, and
the mouth beneath the dark beard and moustache tightened visibly.

He gave his evidence quietly and dispassionately, but with great
deliberation, his restless eyes glancing now at Miss Hildreth's calm,
unmoved face, now at John Mainwaring's dark, shapely, outlined
countenance, and back again to Mr. Munger's beetling brow and heavy
frown.

Each word he uttered told with distinct force against Patricia, and
gathering confidence as he went on, Count Vladimir carried the wavering
opinions of the public with him.

Ably interrogated, he proved the presence of Miss Hildreth in St.
Petersburg at the time of Count Stevan's murder, her acquaintance with
him, and her precipitate and mysterious flight from the Russian capital
the morning after the perpetration of the crime. He next proved that a
lady, calling herself Adèle Lamien, had taken passage and sailed in a
steamship of the International Line from London for New York; that, on
the ship's arrival at the latter port, Miss Hildreth was found to be
among the passengers, while Adèle Lamien was missing. Miss Hildreth's
friends were kept in ignorance of her arrival for several days, and when
questioned regarding her sudden and unexpected return, she displayed the
greatest reticence.

He, Vladimir Mellikoff, had arrived in New York somewhat later in the
same month of February, but, owing to various causes of delay, he made
no progress in his mission for several weeks; and, while waiting the
further development of events, he had accepted an invitation extended to
him by Mr. George Newbold, to pay him a visit at his country-house, the
Folly, on Staten Island. The first evening of his arrival he met Miss
Hildreth, and from something in her manner, he was led to observe her
closely; these observations resulted in the conviction that she was
playing a part, which it was vitally important she should succeed in. An
unexpected clue to her secret had fallen into his hands that very
evening; he had found beneath Miss Hildreth's chair, when she and the
house party had withdrawn for the rehearsal, a fine cambric
handkerchief, edged with lace and embroidered in a monogram, _A. de L._;
the very counterpart, in fact, of the one left by the criminal in her
precipitate flight from the rooms of the murdered Stevan Lallovich, the
only point of difference being that the one now in his possession did
not have the written initials _P. H._ upon it.

He next drew attention to the presence at the Folly of a person calling
herself Adèle Lamien, who filled the position of governess to Mr.
Newbold's little daughter. He, personally, had not met Mdlle. Lamien
during his visit; but others had done so who would prove her identity
with the lady before them. He had, however, been witness to an interview
between Mdlle. Lamien and Mr. Philip Tremain, during which Mr. Tremain
made no secret of his knowledge concerning that lady's past life. He had
also in his possession a note addressed to Miss Darling, one of the
young lady guests at the Folly, signed Adèle Lamien, written on paper
bearing the Lallovich crest, and dated the 3rd of May; the very evening
on which Miss Hildreth was said to have arrived at the Folly.

During all of Count Mellikoff's narration, Patricia never once took her
eyes from his dark, inscrutable face; she watched him with the same
expressionless countenance which she had worn from the opening of the
inquiry. But at the mention of the interview between Adèle Lamien and
Philip Tremain her face changed perceptibly, a wave of emotion passed
over it as she turned her troubled eyes appealingly towards John
Mainwaring. Then the mask of impenetrability settled over it again, and
she sat immovable, her hands clasped together on her lap, her head
thrown back in proud defiance.

Count Mellikoff's further statements were purely technical, and related
chiefly to his position in Russia, his credibility, authority, etc., all
of which were vouched for by the Russian Ambassador.

As Vladimir resumed his seat, a low murmur of disapproval escaped from
the crowd, a murmur promptly subdued, but that told of the growing
excitement. Mr. Munger, on hearing its threatening notes, tossed back
his head with a snort of defiance, and called up his next witness with
prompt alacrity.

As the slight, thin figure of Rosalie James appeared in answer to Mr.
Munger's call, another change passed rapidly across Patricia's face, her
lips curled slightly, while into her eyes there flashed a look of
comprehension. Had not Philip hinted at some hidden woman enemy; some
one to whom she, Patricia, had given cause for anger, for retaliation,
for revenge? And had not this girl, with the sharply outlined face,
always held aloof from her? Had she not often found those keen,
observant eyes fixed upon her with the same scrutiny with which they now
regarded her? She had put Mr. Tremain's supposition by as not worth
consideration; she saw now how important had been its bearing, for in
Rosalie James she recognised, with a woman's quick perception, her most
pronounced and calculating enemy. And with this certainty came another.

This girl loved Philip, and knowing her passion to be hopeless, she had
sought out, with the unfailing prescience of slighted love, the woman
who was her rival, hoping that in striking at her she would also wound
the man who had rejected her. Love is proverbially cruel, none knew this
truth better than Miss Hildreth; it was, therefore, with a strange
illogical sympathy that she listened to Miss James's defamation of her.

Rosalie spoke in her usual high pitched voice, every note of which
carried her words into the furthest corners of the crowded room. Under
Mr. Munger's manipulation she gave a condensed and telling account of
her instrumentality in the arrest of Miss Hildreth. In substance it was
as follows.

She had been a guest at the Folly at the same time as Patricia, and had
taken part in the same theatricals, though not in the same play. She had
often heard Miss Hildreth discussed before she met her, and from what
had been said had formed no very high opinion of that lady's character.
Miss Hildreth was always singularly reticent concerning her experiences
during her residence abroad. She had only once heard her make any
voluntary allusion to her visit to St. Petersburg, and that was on the
morning of the 4th of May, when some of the house party were gathered
together in Mrs. Newbold's boudoir. Miss Hildreth had then related a
curious tale; she had not actually detailed the murder of Count Stevan
Lallovich, but she had alluded to it very pertinently and with great
excitement of manner. She had also distinctly named Adèle Lallovich as
the victim of a moral crime, and had intimated the form of her revenge.

To her, Miss Hildreth had from the first appeared as a woman with a
secret, and she had determined to fathom that secret. She had her
reasons for doing so, they were purely personal reasons. She had, from
the first day of her arrival at the Folly, heard a great deal about
Adèle Lamien. She had seen her once or twice, but had paid little
attention to her, noticing only that she shunned observation and kept as
much in the background as possible. On the arrival of Mr. Tremain,
however, Mdlle. Lamien apparently lost her shyness, for she, Miss James,
had several times seen them together, and had once discovered the
governess in a state of great agitation.

She had not liked Mdlle. Lamien at any time, and believed her quite
capable of the most flagrant deception. Mrs. Newbold had been
remonstrated with for her credulity, and on one such occasion she had
related to her guests an extraordinary story, which purported to be that
of her governess, and which was substantially that of Adèle Lallovich,
as told by Count Mellikoff; the details and make-up differed somewhat,
and the murder of Count Stevan was not touched upon, but the main
features were the same. Mr. Tremain was present on the occasion, and it
had occurred to her at the time that Mrs. Newbold had some covert
meaning in her recitation; at all events Mr. Tremain seemed much moved
by it. Mdlle. Lamien was not at the dinner-table when her story was
discussed.

She had first suspected Miss Hildreth and Mdlle. Lamien of being one and
the same person, from a hint thrown out by Count Mellikoff. She had
previously remarked that Mdlle. Lamien and Miss Hildreth were never
present at the same time, and on the evening of Miss Hildreth's arrival,
it was given out that Mdlle. Lamien had suddenly been called away. It
was not long before these suspicions became assurances; she could not
form an opinion as to the motives for the deception being practised upon
them all; she had no previous acquaintance with Miss Hildreth,
consequently she could not vouch absolutely for her identity; but in any
case it was plain that the lady passing under that name had some
desperate motive for doing so.

It was not until the last day of Mr. Tremain's visit at the Folly that
the nature of this intrigue was made plain. The theatricals took place
on the evening of the 4th of May, Mr. Newbold's birthday; on the
following morning Mr. Tremain announced his departure for that
afternoon. About half-past four she and Count Mellikoff were seated on
the stone terrace beneath the library windows; they did not observe any
one enter the room until close on to five o'clock, when Mr. Tremain came
in, walked first up to the book-cases and then passed on into the
music-room, which was separated by _portières_ only from the library.
She and the Count remained a few moments longer on the terrace, and then
entered the library by one of the open French windows; as they did so a
sudden exclamation from the inner room arrested them, and they thus
became the listeners to a very remarkable interview between Mr. Tremain
and Adèle Lamien, during which Mdlle. Lamien played and sang in a manner
which seemed to greatly affect Mr. Tremain. At the close of the song he
had offered himself to Mdlle. Lamien, and this had called forth from
her a confused and rambling statement, in which she hinted at crime and
shame being not unknown to her. Mr. Tremain's ardour, however, had not
been daunted by these equivocal innuendoes; he pressed her for an
answer, and Mdlle. Lamien had at last accepted him conditionally. The
interview terminated by Mdlle. Lamien exclaiming, excitedly: "Surely
this should be triumph enough, even for me, to know that I have won you
from the remembrance, nay, from the very presence, of Patricia
Hildreth!"

She had thought them remarkable words at the time; but they assumed a
still greater significance when Mdlle. Lamien pushed back the
_portières_ and, walking rapidly across the library, turned as she
reached the open door and looked back. Believing herself to be alone,
she let the mask of deception fall from her, and, despite all disguise
of paint and powder, they recognised in the countenance thus turned
towards them, smiling and triumphant, the face of Patricia Hildreth!

Miss James gave her evidence throughout in so calm and assured a manner,
and in such cold and concise sentences, as to admit of no interruption
and impress the seal of unimpeachable truth on all she said. Both her
face and voice were hard and impassive; but, notwithstanding her
pronounced, unsympathetic attitude, she carried weight with her, and
reduced the majority of wavering opinions into affirmative antagonism
against Patricia.

Looked at through the medium of Count Mellikoff's and Miss James's
statements, that lady's conduct did indeed appear not only perplexing
but condemning.



CHAPTER VIII.

A DAMAGING PROMISE.


With the close of Miss James's testimony, the noon recess was called,
and to the relief of every one the mental strain and tension was laid
aside for an hour.

Miss Hildreth walked out of the court-room with the same firm tread and
upright bearing with which she had entered it; Judge Anstice disappeared
through a private door, and his withdrawal was followed by the
instantaneous appearance, on every side, of sandwich-boxes and
lunch-baskets. The ladies under George Newbold's escort regaled
themselves on chickens' wings and "cup;" the humbler crowd making
audible comments thereon over their humbler fare.

The silence was broken by a Babel of voices all raised to concert pitch,
all going together, and all discussing volubly the events of the
morning.

The public pulse stood at fever height, and public opinion, with its
usual consistency, was veering round in favour of Vladimir Mellikoff.
Miss Hildreth had been chief favourite when the inquiry opened, but Miss
Hildreth's chances for keeping that position looked scarcely favourable
now, judging from public expressions.

The refreshment hour passed all too quickly, and with the prompt return
of Judge Anstice, the crowd settled itself down, re-nerved and
fortified, for the long afternoon's work that evidently lay before it.

Once more Miss Hildreth took her place within the railed-off space, and
those nearest to her were quick to perceive the additional pallor of her
face, and the troubled look in her dark blue eyes.

Almost imperceptibly the _modus operandi_ of this informal inquiry had
assumed the proportions and importance of a legal trial; and so
exceptional and perplexing were the circumstances surrounding the case,
the usual manner of procedure was tacitly waived, and the investigation
carried on on broader lines. The dramatic element so predominated, it
insensibly bore both the Bench and the crowd along with it, breaking
down all ordinary barriers of legal treatment.

The stipulated point at issue was of course the examination of the
warrant papers, and if Judge Anstice stretched the cordon in this
respect it was scarcely to be wondered at. The case virtually had no
precedent; it was only in deference to that unwritten code of the
courtesy of common law between nations that any such inquiry took place
at all, and had the charge been a less grave one than that of murder, no
proceedings would have been entered upon. But, as has been said,
exceptional cases demand exceptional remedies, and since an arrest and
inquiry had been granted, the lines for the carrying out of the latter
could not be too broad and comprehensive.

Mr. Munger reappeared like a giant refreshed, and immediately called up
Mrs. Newbold as his next ally. Esther's fair, pretty face, flushed and
anxious, looked as much out of keeping with its surroundings as did her
costume of lace and muslin. She glanced appealingly at Miss Hildreth
before speaking, and that silent appeal called up a ghost of a smile to
Patricia's lips.

Despite the soft prettiness of her blonde colouring, however, Mrs.
Newbold could lay claim to plenty of self-possession, and Mr. Munger
found her not quite so malleable as he had imagined. She answered any
question put directly to her as briefly as possible, but she would not
advance any detail or explanation. Notwithstanding the neutrality of her
replies, however, her evidence was gravely important, for it established
beyond question the fact that Miss Hildreth and Marianne's governess,
known at the Folly as Adèle Lamien, were one and the same person. Esther
did not attempt to deny this, nor did she vouchsafe any explanation
concerning it. When asked if she had always been cognisant of this fact,
she answered, simply:

"Yes."

"Had she then assisted Miss Hildreth in the deception?"

"Yes."

"Had she told the story purporting to be that of Adèle Lamien, as
recounted by Miss James?"

"Yes."

"Was she present when Miss Hildreth indicated that of Adèle Lallovich?"

"Yes."

"Did she endeavour to stop her?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because she thought Miss Hildreth was indiscreet."

"Was she acquainted with Miss Hildreth's reasons for wishing to keep her
identity with Adèle Lamien secret?"

Mrs. Newbold's face flushed, and she turned another appealing look upon
Patricia before she replied, slowly:

"Yes."

"Would she state those reasons?"

"No, she could not."

"Why?"

"She was under a promise."

"To whom?"

"She would rather not say."

"To Miss Hildreth?"

"Yes."

"Had she agreed with Miss Hildreth's reasons?"

"Not altogether."

"Yet she assisted her to carry them out. Why?"

"She would rather not say."

"Had those reasons anything to do with Mr. Tremain?"

Mrs. Newbold was silent, and, with a snort and a smile, Mr. Munger
continued:

"Did Mrs. Newbold know Adèle Lamien, or Lallovich, to have committed a
crime at some period of her life?"

"Yes, she had been told so."

"And Mrs. Newbold was perfectly sure that the lady calling herself Miss
Hildreth was the same person who, at the Folly, was known as Adèle
Lamien?"

"Yes."

"Then Mrs. Newbold believed her friend--Miss Hildreth--to be guilty of
murder?"

Clear and sharp came the answer:

"No, I do not."

"What then did Mrs. Newbold believe?"

And Esther, her face flushing and paling alternately, her blue eyes
fixed dauntlessly upon her tormenter, replied, that while forced to
admit that Patricia Hildreth and the person purporting to be Adèle
Lamien were to her certain knowledge one and the same, to the best of
her belief this was not the whole truth. Miss Hildreth had reasons,
grave reasons, for what she had done, and she, Mrs. Newbold, had
consented to help her, never foreseeing the grave and terrible
consequences that might ensue. She was not at liberty to state those
reasons; but she was as certain as she stood before them then, that Miss
Hildreth was absolutely guiltless of the crime of which she was accused.

"How did Mrs. Newbold account for the two handkerchiefs marked _A. de
L._?"

"She could not account for them."

"Had Miss Hildreth ever spoken to her concerning her life
abroad--especially her life at St. Petersburg?"

"No; Miss Hildreth had always been uncommunicative on all such topics."

This closed Mrs. Newbold's statement; and Esther could not but feel, as
her husband handed her to a seat not far from Patricia, that she had
done more to injure her friend's cause than to help it.

"Oh, if she would but have let me speak!" she said to her husband, the
tears dimming the brightness of her blue eyes.

Patricia caught the half whispered exclamation, and saw the glistening
tear-drops; but she only folded her hands more closely together, and
waited with a look of quiet endurance on her pale face.

Dick Darling was next interrogated, and her violent partisanship was
decidedly refreshing to the excited listeners. She indignantly denied
any possible connection between Miss Hildreth and Adèle Lallovich; but
when pinned down to say why, she could only shake her brown head and
declare she was sure of it from a moral point of view.

Yes, she had received the pink note from Mdlle. Lamien, on the evening
of the 3rd of May. She could not say if the handwriting was that of Miss
Hildreth, or if it was the same as that on the handkerchief. She was not
familiar with Miss Hildreth's calligraphy. She had never had the
smallest suspicion of Miss Hildreth's identity with Mdlle. Lamien; she
didn't believe it. She was not given to looking for suspicious motives
in every-day life; thank goodness she was not a sneak, and hoped she
never might be; this last with a malevolent glance at Miss James. Miss
Hildreth had told the story of Adèle Lallovich at her special request.
Yes, she had used both names in telling it, Lamien and Lallovich.

Miss Darling finished with an open scowl at Mr. Munger, and a smile at
Patricia, and fluttered off to Esther's side, where she kept up a
running commentary on all subsequent events.

Once more there was a few moments' interval or breathing space, and then
Mr. Munger played his trump card by requesting Philip Tremain to step
forward. It had been, undoubtedly, a disagreeable surprise publicly when
it transpired that Mr. Tremain was not to appear as Miss Hildreth's
solicitor; but it created a still greater sensation that he should be
called in evidence against her; and, for a few moments, as he stood
there, composed, dignified, and impassive, such a silence fell upon the
assemblage that even the dropping of the proverbial pin would have
resounded loudly.

And in that brief interval Philip lost all sight or knowledge of those
around him; he saw only the pale, proud face of the woman he loved, the
close-shut curve of her lips, the anxious expectancy of her eyes. Was
she fearful of him then, and of what he might say? he asked himself a
little bitterly. She had never rightly estimated his love, why should he
expect her to do so now?

Perhaps, since she had deceived him, she judged him by her standpoint of
deception.

Then he lost touch with the more personal elements of the scene, and
remembered only where he was, and why he stood there. That woman yonder,
that dark, silent, motionless figure, with the clasped hands and the
pallid beautiful face, was Patricia Hildreth--the woman of his life-long
devotion, the love of his youth and his manhood--and she was charged
with what? Murder!

And he? He could do nothing to exonerate her, nothing; he was helpless,
powerless. She had refused even to give him an explanation of her
position, and should Vladimir Mellikoff come off triumphant and she be
taken from him, taken away to that Russia whose hand is as iron, whose
vengeance is of blood, whose retribution stern as death, he should never
know--never, never--how much of truth, how much of falsehood, she had
kept back from him; or what was the secret that not all his passionate
pleadings could wrest from her.

Patricia had not lifted her eyes from her folded hands, or apparently
taken any notice of Philip's appearance; only for one brief moment a
faint wave of colour tinged her cheeks and faded slowly away.

Mr. Munger's harsh voice broke the silence, and with an audible sigh of
relief the audience fixed its attention upon Mr. Tremain. In replying to
the lawyer's questions, Philip made his statement as brief as possible.

He had gone to the Folly by invitation, and had had no expectation of
meeting Miss Hildreth there; he had not seen Miss Hildreth for ten years
previous to his meeting her at the Folly. He had not found her
particularly changed; and had not had much intercourse with her. Yes, he
acted in the same play with her--_The Ladies' Battle_--on the evening of
Mr. Newbold's birthday, but as Miss Hildreth did not arrive until the
afternoon of the day before, they had not rehearsed together. He had
first met Mdlle. Lamien the evening of his arrival at the Folly; she had
interested him at once, and increased that interest by her courage on
the occasion of the carriage accident. He had never for a moment
suspected Mdlle. Lamien and Miss Hildreth of being the same person; he
could see no resemblance between them beyond height and certain tones of
voice. No, he had never seen Mdlle. Lamien in full daylight; at the time
of the accident she wore a thick black veil drawn closely over her
face.

Miss Hildreth had never spoken to him of her absence abroad, or
volunteered any information concerning it. He had known Miss Hildreth
for ten years; yes, at one time they had been engaged to be married. The
interview described by Miss James had certainly taken place between him
and Mdlle. Lamien; he had no wish to repudiate his position; at the end
of the interview he considered himself engaged to Mdlle. Lamien; nothing
had since occurred to alter his relations towards her. He had been out
of town from August to September; his orders were that no letters or
papers should be forwarded to him. He returned to New York on the
evening of the 8th of September; he had only just reached his rooms when
Miss Hildreth's arrest was made known to him; it was Miss Darling who
told him. He had gone at once to Ludlow Street but was denied
admittance; he then went to Mrs. Newbold's house in Madison Avenue. It
was only two days ago that he had learned that Miss Hildreth and Mdlle.
Lamien were supposed to be one and the same person. Yes, he had asked
Miss Hildreth either to confirm or negative the charge, but she had
declined to do so. He had no reason to believe that Miss Hildreth had
contracted an unhappy alliance while abroad, nor had he any for denying
the possibility of her having done so. Miss Hildreth was his friend, he
would not therefore insult her by protesting his belief in her
innocence. He had never seen Count Vladimir Mellikoff before meeting him
at the Folly, on the evening of the 2nd of May.

With the termination of Mr. Tremain's statement further inquiry was
adjourned until the following morning. The long, hot day had run its
course at last, and as the pent-up crowd surged out into the mellow,
lambent atmosphere of the summer evening, and melted away in all
directions, twilight and desertion settled down upon the empty
court-room.

Patricia, turning for one last look, as she passed out of the private
door, smiled sadly at the change wrought in so short a time. Would it be
so when she too had passed out of the lives of those who surrounded her
now? Would her name--her place--become but an empty memory--a
recollection to be put aside with all haste? Would he forget her,
too--he, Philip, for whose love she had played so hazardous a game?
Would _he_ forget her, as these people forgot her, glad to rush away
from the excitement of looking at her to the greater excitement of
condemning her? Must she, too, like Adèle Lallovich, drink to the very
dregs the bitter cup of humiliation and desertion?

When all this grim comedy--this farce that touched so close on
tragedy--was over, when Russia's hand had closed upon her, would he
think of her then? Would he come to know her better when she had passed
from out his life for ever, and, perchance, give now and then one
backward look, one sigh, to the days that were no more?

"Ah, Philip," she murmured, "I would rather far you should never know,
lest in knowing you should come to despise me for my weakness and my
love!"



CHAPTER IX.

CONFLICTING IDENTITIES.


On the second day of the inquiry public excitement and interest reached
a higher pitch than ever, when it became known that Mr. Mainwaring would
occupy the greater part of the morning in refuting the evidence given,
and in protesting against the legality of the warrant.

Considering how positive had been the evidence, even of Miss Hildreth's
own friends, it was difficult to see what possible line of argument the
young lawyer could take, with any surety of success. Mrs. Newbold's
testimony had disposed effectually of any doubts as to the identity of
Miss Hildreth with that of the governess at the Folly--Adèle
Lamien--and with this fact established irrefutably, was not Miss
Hildreth's complicity in the murder of Stevan Lallovich a foregone
conclusion?

The suborning of Miss Hildreth's particular friends against her had
certainly been a master stroke on Mr. Munger's part; how could John
Mainwaring confute such a mass of convicting testimony? Of course he was
bound to make a brave fight for his client; but--and here the public
shrugged its shoulders collectively--they were sorry for him, and sorry
for the poor figure he must inevitably cut; and then went to work to
show their sorrow by discussing Patricia's guilt as a proved premise,
and her probable fate only a question of time.

John Mainwaring had once again sought Miss Hildreth, and, with every
argument he could bring to bear, every pleading of rhetoric and
common-sense, entreated her to reconsider her decision, and loose him
from that promise of reservation respecting one point in her
confession.

But Patricia was not to be moved one jot or tittle. She heard him to the
end in silence, sitting, as Philip had last seen her, at the little
table, her hands clasped upon it, and leaning slightly forward. Her face
looked worn and sad, her eyes pathetic in their weariness, but the
beautiful lips were set in firm decision, their expression one of
dauntless courage and endurance.

The sweet, pungent perfume of the Maréchal Niel roses, grouped together
in a tall glass vase, filled the heavy atmosphere with overpowering
sweetness. She waited until John Mainwaring had quite finished speaking,
and then said, slowly, and with the musical notes of her voice less
reverberant than usual:

"No, Mr. Mainwaring, I cannot alter my decision; I cannot give you leave
to drag my poor secret out into the light of day; not, believe me, on my
own account, but on _his_. To you only have I opened my whole heart--you
alone know my weakness and my strength. For my own part, I should care
very little how much was known of my motives; but for him--for Philip
Tremain--I could not bear the thought and live, that, through me, and my
love, he should be exposed to public ridicule. Ah, Mr. Mainwaring, was
it for nothing, do you think, that I sat through those long, terrible
hours yesterday, and heard the murmurs of the crowd, their open
comments, their cruel innuendoes, their still more cruel laughter? Do I
not know how eagerly they would seize upon my poor secret, and, tearing
it limb from limb, dissect it and discuss it, in their cold, cruel,
analysing fashion, until even the garment of reverence that clothes all
love, however poor and mean, was torn from it, and it lay revealed--a
poor denuded passion in tatters? Do you think he could bear that? Do you
think Philip Tremain could hold up his head against such disgrace? Would
he not despise and hate the one who brought it upon him, and would he
not have reason to cast from him for ever all memory or recollection of
such an one? Could I plead anything in extenuation to him--then? No;
better, far better, the worst fate that can befall me than to clear
myself in the eyes of the world, at the expense of sinking for ever in
the estimation of him, to gain whose love I have placed myself in so
terrible a position."

John Mainwaring made no reply; indeed, what answer could he make to such
passionless reasoning as this? Whenever he was brought face to face with
Patricia, and listened to her clear, calm voice, he felt himself carried
away by the very attitude of her pleading. He saw things only from her
point of view, and was ready to acquiesce and agree with her, however
over-strained he considered her arguments. But when he was away from
her, and without the radius of her personal influence, he was apt to
anathematise himself in unparliamentary language, and to wish Miss
Hildreth's selection of a lawyer had fallen on some one less susceptible
to impressions.

"Since you give me no option, Miss Hildreth," he said presently,
somewhat sullenly, "I must perforce make the best of my material; but, I
warn you, my reasoning will sound very weak after yesterday's testimony,
and Munger is sure to pounce upon its weakest point, in substantiation
of which I have nothing to advance--positively nothing."

"I am very sorry for you, Mr. Mainwaring, believe me," she answered,
earnestly, "and very grateful; but I cannot change my mind."

Then he had gone away, and for many long minutes Miss Hildreth sat as he
had left her, her hands outstretched upon the table, her face quiet and
expressionless, save for the close set curve of the mobile lips.

John Mainwaring, on leaving Miss Hildreth, walked quickly to his office,
not in the most enviable frame of mind. As he entered the outer room,
his clerk came forward and whispered a few words to him, then preceding
him to the inner office, opened the door and held it back for Mainwaring
to enter. As he did so, a dark figure rose up from the depths of a
lounging chair, and advanced towards him. The brilliant sunshine from
the outer room struck full athwart the stranger's face, and revealed the
features of the Italian, Mattalini; then the door swung to, and the
clerk returned to his desk in the full glare of the hot sunshine.

By ten o'clock the court-room was again filled to overflowing,
apparently with the identical crowd of the day before. The battalion of
fashionable ladies showed an increase of recruits, and the knot of
lawyers gathered about the Bench was augmented in numbers. Close beside
the railed off space, sat Mrs. Newbold and Dick Darling, while not far
off, engaged in earnest conversation, were Mr. Tremain and Mainwaring.

Again there arose the concentrated murmur of many voices as Miss
Hildreth took her place within the rails, and at the same moment Judge
Anstice walked quietly to his seat on the Bench; and so began the second
act in the tragic drama.

Mr. Munger intimated to his honour that his part in the proceedings had
terminated with yesterday's evidence; which, he repeated, was in itself
sufficient to incriminate a dozen suspects, and to prove a dozen _primâ
facie_ cases. Bearing this in mind, it was not necessary for him to
recapitulate it in detail, or indeed to make any comments upon it. The
point at issue was the identity of the lady arrested with the person
named in the warrant as Adèle Lamien, or Lallovich. Yesterday's
evidence--that of Miss Hildreth's intimate friends, and especially Mrs.
Newbold's--had conclusively established that point; there could
therefore be no hesitancy in proclaiming the warrant a valid one, and
surrendering the lady up to the Russian Government. As to the guilt or
innocence of Adèle Lamien, or Lallovich, in the affair of Count Stevan's
murder, they were not called to pronounce upon; she must take her trial
on that charge in the country where the crime was committed. The only
point they were called upon to prove, was the legality of the warrant
papers, and the identity of the person arrested; this point having been
substantiated beyond question, he could not see any cause for further
delay in the matter.

And then Mr. Munger sat down with an ugly triumphant frown on his
rough-hewn face, and out flew a shower of his favourite paper pellets.

The silence that followed was intense. The hot summer sun beating in
through the bare windows fell across a sea of expectant, excited faces,
all turned in one direction, towards the slight, dark, upright figure
seated within the railed off space. She, who, as the rich and beautiful
Miss Hildreth, had been the object of their covetous envy, and who now,
as Adèle Lamien, stood charged with so vile a complicity in crime as to
separate her for ever from the poorest and lowest of that onlooking
multitude, beside whose poverty and honesty her wealth and beauty fell
away in torn and soiled fragments.

In the midst of this silence John Mainwaring arose to address the Bench.

Mr. Mainwaring's face was at all times non-committal, it wore now an
absolutely sphinx-like imperturbability. Tossing back the heavy lock of
black hair that fell over his forehead, and squaring his shoulders with
a motion that bespoke both doggedness and obstinacy, Mr. Mainwaring's
first words fell upon the listening audience with ringing distinctness,
and with sudden, unexpected surprise.

"His learned friend," he said, "had proved, beyond all shadow of doubt,
the question of Miss Hildreth's identity with the lady, who, as
governess to Mrs. Newbold's little daughter, was known as Adèle Lamien.
It was not a point upon which they could for one moment disagree; he had
no reason or desire to raise issue upon it; in fact, he not only
acknowledged the identity, but had been cognizant of it from the outset.
Miss Hildreth herself had no wish to dispute it; so far, indeed, from
that being the case, he desired particularly to impress upon his honour
the absolute truth of the assertion. Miss Hildreth was one and the same
person as that Adèle Lamien, who became Marianne Newbold's governess. He
wished to keep this fact distinctly before them; it was a very important
fact, as he would show them before he had finished."

At this uncalculated-upon acceptance of their theory, both Mr. Munger
and Count Mellikoff showed signs of perturbation. They had not, at any
one of their conferences upon the line Mainwaring was likely to take up,
imagined so bold an expedient as his flitching from them the very
corner-stone of their plan, and building upon it such an edifice as
should best suit his requirements. It was a decidedly clever move, and
sent John Mainwaring up in Mr. Munger's estimation at a bound.

"Well, then," continued Patricia's defender, "that point well
established, he would go on to the next; and here he must just remind
them of Mr. Munger's concise recapitulation of the case. They were not
there on any other business than that of proving, or disproving, the
legality of the warrant on which Miss Hildreth had been arrested, as
also of proving the identity of Miss Hildreth with that of Adèle Lamien,
or Lallovich, named in the warrant, who was charged with complicity in
the murder of her husband, Count Stevan Lallovich. This was the only
point at issue; all other points were extraneous, and they need not
trouble themselves about them. Now, while he acknowledged frankly that
Mr. Munger had proved the identity of Miss Hildreth with that of the
person received and known at the Folly as Adèle Lamien, he desired
humbly to submit one question to his honour. In establishing the
validity of this identity, how had they proved the identity of the Adèle
Lamien--Mrs. Newbold's governess--with that of the Adèle Lamien, or
Lallovich, who had murdered her quasi-husband, Count Stevan? He
unhesitatingly declared that they had not established such identity in
any particular.

"They had heard," he said, "a great deal of testimony, all of which had
been cited only to prove that Miss Hildreth and the governess at the
Folly were one and the same. That was not at all difficult to prove,
because Miss Hildreth had never for one moment denied the impeachment;
but he must say he failed to see how proving that, proved also her
identity with the cast-off wife of the dissolute young Russian noble,
Stevan Lallovich; and until such identity was established, he certainly
should protest against the accused being delivered up to the tender
mercies of the Russian authorities. He would not call into question the
truth of the facts and details, concerning the murder, as related to
them--they could all be verified if necessary; but it was not necessary.
Undoubtedly the poor deserted woman had committed the crime imputed to
her--it would be but a savage justice after all. With that he had
nothing to do; but when it came to the arrest of a lady, an American
citizen, in her own country, on the charge of so grave a crime, it
behoved that country to be very careful in its investigations, and to
leave no stone unturned to come at the actual truth. It was a terrible
alternative, that of handing over a fellow-countryman to the despotic
treatment of a foreign Power, and before such a thing was made possible,
every item of extenuation should be urged in behalf of the accused.

"He had listened to every word of the evidence, and while in every
instance he could lay his finger on weak links, he would pass them all
over, and recall only to his honour the substance of Miss James's, and
Mr. Tremain's, statements. The former had dwelt mostly upon the evidence
of her own eyes, and upon the nature of an interview which had taken
place between Mrs. Newbold's governess and Mr. Tremain. Miss James had
not hesitated to affirm that she recognised in the lady's face, despite
artistic accessories, the countenance and features of Miss Hildreth. Mr.
Tremain, on the contrary, assured them positively that he had never at
any time during his visit at the Folly, entertained the slightest
suspicion of this identity; it was not until after Miss Hildreth's
arrest that this complication was made known to him, and Miss Hildreth,
to whom he appealed for confirmation or reputation, refused to reply.
Miss Hildreth had her own reasons for thus treating the matter.

"He would next ask them to listen to a very strange chapter in this
strange story, and if it appeared incredible and beyond possibility, he
must beg them to remember that truth was often stranger than fiction.

"Early in the autumn of the last year Miss Hildreth had gone to Russia,
with the intention of travelling from place to place to form her own
opinions upon the customs and people of that country. While on one of
her expeditions one of the horses cast a shoe, and while waiting its
replacement she was invited to rest at a villa some four miles outside
of St. Petersburg. She did so, and was greatly impressed by the luxury
and beauty displayed in the interior arrangements of the unpretending
mansion. It was some little time before the lady of the house came to
her; but, from the moment she entered the _salon_, Miss Hildreth was
conscious of a sudden curious sympathy, that sprang to life in her
heart, combined with a puzzling certainty of having in some past
situation met and known the beautiful woman, who advanced towards her
with a smile of welcome. This perplexing enigma was presently solved in
the most commonplace way; Miss Hildreth and her hostess, rising together
to examine some object of art, passed a long mirror, and one glance
towards it was sufficient to explain the familiarity of the stranger's
countenance and bearing; between the two ladies there existed a marked
and positive likeness in feature, form, and colouring. So pronounced
indeed was it that both commented upon it. The impromptu visit lasted
some hours, and on parting Miss Hildreth carried with her the name and
rank of her chance acquaintance. She was known to her narrow, outside
world as Adèle Lamien, but she was in reality secretly married to Count
Stevan Lallovich, a near relative of the Tsar.

"Being often at Court and mingling in Court society, it was not long
before Miss Hildreth came in contact with Stevan Lallovich, who was
accounted the gayest, wealthiest, most fascinating, and most dissolute
man of his circle. He chose to devote himself conspicuously to Miss
Hildreth, and though posing as a bachelor, he more than once hinted at
some special reason for his attentions. Miss Hildreth accounted for them
as a tacit acknowledgment of the likeness that existed between herself
and his wife. She more than once drove out to the villa across the
Troitski Bridge, and each time returned more and more interested in its
mistress.

"Early in December, all St. Petersburg was thrown into a state of
consternation by the murder of Count Stevan Lallovich, who was found
dead in his palace, stabbed through the heart. With one of those
marvellous intuitions, granted only to women, Miss Hildreth, on first
hearing the bald details, felt confident as to the hand that had dealt
the fatal blow. She hurried alone and by night to the villa, and there
found the poor wife, whom desertion had changed into a demon of revenge,
and without a moment's reflection changed clothes with her, and by
morning both were flying across country, making straight for the
frontier, protected by Miss Hildreth's passport for herself and maid,
and by her unstinted use of money. In Paris they separated, Miss
Hildreth continuing her journey to England, and embarking on board the
_Suisse_, of the International Line, as Adèle Lamien, for the express
purpose of turning the Russian police off the track. The real Adèle
Lamien, or Lallovich, remained under the protection of her mother's
family, well-to-do people in the west of France."

So far, Mainwaring had gone on from point to point with rapid and
uninterrupted utterance, carrying his audience with him, who, from
sheer amazement, sat spell-bound and breathlessly attentive. He stopped
now, and with another upward toss of his head threw back the offending
lock of hair, turned a quick comprehensive look at his audience, and
then fixed his eyes for a brief second upon Patricia.

She sat bending forward a little, her hands folded, her face raised, on
either cheek a streak of vivid crimson staining their wax-like pallor;
her eyes beneath the dark, straight brows met his with one responsive
flash of their old quick fire.

With the very slightest smile of encouragement upon his lips, John
Mainwaring drew a deep breath and took up the thread of his discourse.



CHAPTER X.

A GLEAM OF LIGHT.


"And now, your honour," his deep voice rang out, "I come, perhaps, to
the most inconsequent and incomprehensible part of any that Miss
Hildreth has played in this curious and complicated history of a crime.
I have shown you how she, actuated by an enthusiastic and Quixotic
chivalry, imperilled her own life to help and succour a sister-woman,
who, in a moment of mad passion, had committed such a crime as put her
life in danger. Miss Hildreth, with a courage few men could emulate, had
not only planned her flight, but accompanied her in it, and accomplished
it with safety. It was a daring and hazardous undertaking; but Miss
Hildreth considered neither the danger nor the hazard, so long as there
was a chance of escape for that cruelly-wronged woman, who had struck
down the villain who ruined her.

"The crime committed by Adèle Lamien was an offence against the laws of
man, and being such, she stood a criminal and fugitive in the eyes of
men. But what should be said of the false-hearted traitor who had
committed a far graver moral crime, when he killed for ever the soul and
heart of the woman he had called his wife? That was a question for a
higher tribunal than any mere earthly one to answer, and before that
eternal justice Stevan Lallovich had entered, with the guilt of moral
murder fresh upon him.

"As he had already told his honour, Miss Hildreth parted from Adèle
Lamien in Paris, and although she kept up her disguise and name until
she reached America, it was only to gain time for the poor fugitive, and
to give a false scent to the police. On reaching New York Miss Hildreth
landed under her own proper name, and proceeded at once to her country
place in the White Mountains, where she remained for several weeks
without acquainting her friends with the fact of her return home. This
desire on her part to remain quiet and unnoticed did not arise, as Mr.
Munger would have them believe, from any criminal wish to keep her
whereabouts unknown, but was the outcome of purely personal
motives--motives he was not at liberty to divulge; but this much he
would say, these motives had nothing whatever to do with Adèle Lamien's
movements; Miss Hildreth had indeed heard nothing from, or of, that lady
since their parting.

"During this month or six weeks of solitude Miss Hildreth was engaged
upon a very delicate and purely personal matter, the successful result
of which she had very deeply at heart, and in the carrying out of which
she was willing to adopt any measures, no matter how compromising.

"Upon the nature of this work his lips were sealed, but he was willing
to stake his honour as to the probity and lawfulness of Miss Hildreth's
intentions. In the furtherance of this object circumstances arose which,
in Miss Hildreth's opinion, made it necessary for her to adopt another
character than her own; to enter, in fact, upon a little play-acting, in
which she personated the sole character. What more natural than that she
should make use of the name and disguise of the lady she had so lately
protected? As Adèle Lamien--a foreigner and dependent, with the
suspicion of a tragic past to give effect to the present--she could
enter without fear of detection upon the delicate mission she had marked
out for herself.

"The danger of such a personation never occurred to her; Miss Hildreth
was not one always on the outlook for danger-signals. She desired to
borrow Adèle Lamien's name and story, the latter with modifications, for
a certain length of time, and she did so, without thought of any
possible evil arising therefrom. But, to carry out her project, Miss
Hildreth was obliged to take some one person into her confidence, some
one who, knowing the why and wherefore of this masquerading, would keep
her secret intact while aiding and abetting her. And this some one she
found in Mrs. Newbold. They had all heard Mrs. Newbold's statement; she
acknowledged frankly that Miss Hildreth and her governess, known as
Adèle Lamien, were one and the same, that she had always known this to
be the case, and had given her countenance and support to the deception.
But here he would remind them of Mrs. Newbold's refusal to give any
reason for her collusion with Miss Hildreth, or any explanation of the
latter's motives. Like himself, Mrs. Newbold's lips were sealed by a
promise; she could not reveal her friend's motives, even though that
revelation were to save her from a graver situation than the present
one."

Once more John Mainwaring paused, and once more a sympathetic murmur
ran through the crowd.

He had struck the right chord in his opening sentences, and from the
moment of that favourable beginning he carried the harmony of his
audience along with him.

Even Judge Anstice leant forward in his chair and followed him point by
point with a keen and appreciative interest. Mr. Munger snorted and
tossed back his leonine head, and Vladimir Mellikoff's dark face grew
sterner and more set, while both of them acknowledged that the young
lawyer had hit upon a productive mine, and was working it to good
advantage.

Patricia Hildreth changed neither her attitude nor expression, only the
crimson stain upon her cheeks grew deeper as Mr. Mainwaring entered upon
more delicate ground.

Philip Tremain never took his eyes from her face; gradually, and at
first in faint gleams only that grew steadier as his memory added the
one touch needful, the true meaning of John Mainwaring's defence was
breaking upon him, and with the overwhelming rush of the revelation he
felt all the old love and tenderness for Patricia spring afresh to life
within his heart. He longed to snatch her up from out that curious,
eager crowd, and, carrying her away to some spot of safety and
seclusion, lay her head upon his heart and bid her be for ever at peace.

Meantime John Mainwaring had begun again.

"Mrs. Newbold, your honour, having consented to sustain Miss Hildreth in
her adopted character, the two ladies laid their plans and _modus
operandi_, and when the invited guests assembled at the Folly, in the
month of April, they found there a foreign lady whose appearance and
manner were unmistakably suggestive and interesting, to whom they were
introduced as Mdlle. Lamien, the new governess, and whose strange story
Mrs. Newbold related one evening during dinner. And so well did Mrs.
Newbold guard her friend's secret, that not even her husband was
entrusted with it.

"Mr. Tremain was one of the guests, and his attention was immediately
attracted to the quiet, retiring foreigner, an attraction which soon
developed into a stronger sentiment. Mr. Tremain had told them, that he
found no point of resemblance between Miss Hildreth and Mdlle. Lamien;
there were similar tones in their voices, but that was no uncommon
coincidence: he had, however, never seen Mdlle. Lamien in broad
daylight, though this fact made no impression upon him at the time; how
positive had been Mdlle. Lamien's influence over him was shown by his
subsequent proposal of marriage to her. He, Mr. Mainwaring, felt
convinced that were he but free to speak frankly at this point he could
show sufficient reason for this proposal; reasons arising from an
outside source, and which unfortunately he was not at liberty to
explain.

"Miss James had said that she suspected Miss Hildreth from the first;
Miss James was certainly a very clever young lady, for she admitted
entertaining similar doubts of Mdlle. Lamien. She, however, if they
excepted Count Vladimir Mellikoff, would seem to have been the only one
who had suspected a play within a play. Miss Hildreth's arrival was
announced for the 2nd of May, and from the time of her advent, _in
propriâ personâ_, Mdlle. Lamien disappeared. Miss James had not failed
to make a note of this coincidence. Mr. Tremain's proposal to Mdlle.
Lamien, whose reappearance took place after his _adieux_ to Miss
Hildreth, was made on the afternoon of the 5th of May, and from that day
he had heard nothing from her, although he considered himself in honour
bound to her. Nor had he again seen Miss Hildreth up to his return from
Maine early in September, when he was met with the astounding news of
her arrest. Here again, unfortunately, he was debarred from frankly
explaining Miss Hildreth's conduct at this juncture.

"She had carried out her project to a certain limit, and then it would
seem had capriciously abandoned it; for they must not lose sight of the
fact, that, though Mr. Tremain believed himself to be addressing his
proposals to Mdlle. Lamien, it was in reality Miss Hildreth who received
them. On this point he would make no comment, he was not in a position
to do so.

"A good deal of stress had been laid upon the two handkerchiefs, the one
found in the drawing-room at the Folly, the other left in the apartment
of the murdered Stevan Lallovich, both of which bore the same
embroidered initials. To his mind there was nothing incriminating in
this, the coincidence was a strange one, but nothing more. What was more
likely than that during one of the frequent visits paid by Miss Hildreth
to the villa outside St. Petersburg, she should have taken in mistake
one of the unfortunate Adèle Lamien's handkerchiefs, and, on seeing her
error, have remarked it carelessly with her own initials; or that after
a time the bit of muslin should have found its way back to its rightful
owner? As to the second handkerchief, that was a very simple riddle;
Miss Hildreth had in her possession many articles of dress belonging to
Adèle Lamien, having required them in her first disguise as that lady.
The note-paper was easily explained in the same way; he could himself
prove that the penmanship was Miss Hildreth's, though slightly
disguised. As to the conversation which took place in Mrs. Newbold's
boudoir, and the latter lady's evident agitation during it, he would
only ask his honour to consider the decidedly awkward position in which
Mrs. Newbold was placed. She knew what the consequences would be were
Miss Hildreth's Quixotic protection of the real Adèle Lamien to become
known, and she already had her suspicions regarding Count Mellikoff: she
alone rightly estimated the danger run by Miss Hildreth in personating
one who was a fugitive from justice.

"As to the part Miss James had played in the whole matter, he should be
sorry to call it by its right name; he believed there was no enmity so
bitter or treacherous as the enmity of a jealous woman. Might not the
motive power of Miss James's conduct be found in the one word--jealousy?
However, with that he had nothing to do. He begged again, and finally,
to submit to his honour's consideration the point at issue; namely, the
proved identity of Miss Hildreth, not with the governess known as Adèle
Lamien, but with the real Adèle Lamien, the wife and murderer of Stevan
Lallovich, which identity he submitted, had in no particular been
established. The warrant of arrest must therefore fall to the ground."

Up to a certain point Mr. Mainwaring felt that he carried his public
with him; but beyond that point--when he came to the equivocal position
held by both Miss Hildreth and Mrs. Newbold--he knew himself to be
losing touch again. He could calculate his audience's pulse to a
fraction of a beat, and he was aware of the exact moment when their
allegiance fell away from him, and veered back again to the opposing
scale.

It was as he had warned Patricia it would be; the instant he touched
delicate and doubtful ground and advanced a theory in support of which
he could produce no proofs, that instant the _entente cordiale_ failed
him. The public likes to believe in its own strict integrity, and its
abhorrence of anything not honest and above-board, and to have so
extravagant a story as this masquerading of Miss Hildreth's thrust down
its throat, accompanied by such lame excuses as sealed lips and secret
promises, was not at all to its taste.

Therefore when Mr. Munger sprang to his feet, he but expressed the
public's opinion when he told his honour "that Mr. Mainwaring must gauge
them by a fool's measurement, if he expected them to swallow such a
cock-and-bull story as that he had expounded. If Miss Hildreth had not
some awkward secret to conceal, why should she bind the tongues of both
her lawyer and her friend? What possible reason could she have for
concealment, unless the work she was engaged upon would not bear
official scrutiny? Mr. Mainwaring had begun boldly enough, and had not
spared his insinuations as to the good faith of those opposing him; but
he must say he failed to see how Mr. Mainwaring had established even one
point in his elaborate theory.

"He had submitted that while Miss Hildreth was Adèle Lamien, still she
was not Adèle Lamien. Such reasoning sounded to him very like a page out
of 'Alice in Wonderland,' where everything was not what it seemed, and
seemed not what it was. Why did not Mr. Mainwaring bring forward proofs
to establish his theory of there being two Adèle Lamiens? Were they to
meekly accept this melodramatic story of Miss Hildreth's heroic
championship of the wretched woman who had killed her lover, and not ask
for proofs? Both Mr. Mainwaring and Mrs. Newbold had made a great show
of acknowledging Miss Hildreth as Adèle Lamien, the governess; and then
they asked his honour to accept the absurd tale of Miss Hildreth's
personating Adèle Lamien, only to further some foolish plot of her own
devising, some personal intrigue that would not bear investigation.

"Either Miss Hildreth was or was not Adèle Lamien-Lallovich. She had
been proved to be the Adèle Lamien of the Folly, and had been
acknowledged by Mr. Mainwaring as such, and yet now, forsooth, he wanted
to prove that while she was the one Adèle Lamien, she was not the real
Adèle Lallovich--not the Simon Pure article. It was about as logical a
deduction as that of a child, who told you it either rained, or it did
not rain; it did not rain, therefore it rained! Altogether too much time
had been spent in such foolish arguments; on his side time was valuable,
would his honour, therefore, make known his decision; a decision which
could only be made in one way, and end this farce by declaring in favour
of the validity of the warrant, and the identity of the Adèle Lamien,
therein named, with the lady calling herself Miss Hildreth."

Mr. Munger's harsh voice threw out his words energetically, while he
clenched each sentence by a single hammer-like beat of one hand upon the
other. He had sprung up so suddenly, and poured out his rough eloquence
in such a stream, no one had an opportunity of interrupting; he finished
with another contemptuous snort and settled himself down in conspicuous
defiance.

With the calling of the noon recess, the case against Patricia Hildreth
had assumed a more ugly and threatening aspect than ever.



CHAPTER XI.

CHECKMATE.


When the Court re-assembled, however, a change in the moral temperature
had evidently taken place.

John Mainwaring entered with a certain assured step, and with almost a
smile upon his sombre countenance.

The audience, quick to notice the bent of any straw in this stream of
sensationalism, became at once aware of the slight increase of definite
self-possession in Mr. Mainwaring's bearing, and whispered amongst
themselves that the young lawyer had "caught on" to something new since
his speech of the morning, and was looking mighty pleased and smiling
over it.

So soon as the room was reduced to order, Mr. Mainwaring arose, and,
addressing Judge Anstice, begged to be permitted to substantiate his
statements of the morning through one witness only.

"He had," he said, "been jumped upon so summarily by his learned friend,
Mr. Munger, almost before he had finished his few remarks--he could not
dignify them by calling them a speech--that he had had neither time nor
opportunity in which to introduce this _vivâ voce_ evidence. He might be
somewhat out of order in wishing to do so now; but, as to that, the
entire examination had been conducted on purely informal lines. They had
all understood why it had been so conducted, for, where such grave
issues were at stake, it was not to be cavilled at if a few exceptions
were given and taken."

As he understood, the present position of affairs stood in this wise.
Could he prove that there were two Adèle Lamiens, or rather that Miss
Hildreth, in personating Adèle Lamien, had in truth portrayed the only
Adèle Lamien, and that the whereabouts of that lady were known to him
and could be substantiated? Should he establish this, he supposed the
charge against Miss Hildreth would be withdrawn. Doubtless the story he
had related to them, did sound incredible and marvellous; but they must
bear in mind that it was not given to every one to understand and
appreciate the higher gifts of heroism and courage. Mr. Munger had
clearly pointed out that what was required were proofs, proofs and
nothing but proofs. As he had said, truly, either Miss Hildreth was, or
was not, the woman, Adèle Lamien, wanted by the Russian police. If she
was proved not to be Adèle Lamien, then she would be released from her
present painful position, and would go out from this examination without
a stain upon her character. On the other hand, if this point was not
established, but remained doubtful, or if she was proved
circumstantially to be Adèle Lamien, then her fate was a hard one
indeed; she had only the tender mercies of the Russian law to look to.

Mr. Munger had seen fit to taunt him with his frank acknowledgment of
Miss Hildreth's personation of Adèle Lamien; he had, indeed, made very
merry over his childish logic. He could not hope to emulate Mr. Munger's
flow of rhetoric, still he could and would meet Mr. Munger's demand for
proofs, by introducing certain conclusive testimony. He would put aside
all extraneous matter, whether personal or otherwise, and stick to one
or two points only. Was there another Adèle Lamien, beside Miss
Hildreth, who was the real criminal, and if so, where was she to be
found? If he established these two points he should consider the
question of identity definitely disposed of. He would now produce his
sole and only witness.

At the sound of his name the Italian, Mattalini, stepped forward, and
with the slightest shrug of his shoulders, gave a meaning smile, as his
eye caught and held that of his master Vladimir Mellikoff.

At the sight of this paid servant of the Imperial Chancellerie appearing
against him, Vladimir Mellikoff gave a perceptible start, and for the
first time his belief in the ultimate success of his mission wavered. He
was, however, too seasoned a diplomatist to show any outward signs of
his inward disquietude, and, save for that momentary impulsive change of
expression, his dark, cold face remained as inscrutable as ever.

Following Mr. Mainwaring's lead, the Italian began by telling how and
why he had first become attached to the service of Count Mellikoff. He
had been sent by the Imperial Chancellerie about a month ago to wait
upon Count Mellikoff as valet. He had not been told in so many words
that he was also to act as a spy upon his master, but he knew this was
what was expected of him. It was the system employed by the
Chancellerie; each one of their agents had a double, whose business it
was to report to headquarters the other's every action, movement, or
word: it was a fine system, because it distributed power irrespective of
rank.

From something he heard at Petersburg, before joining Count Mellikoff,
he had reason to believe that the Chancellerie were not altogether
pleased with the Count's manner of procedure; he was, therefore,
despatched to look after Count Vladimir, and report upon his progress.
He had not been long in New York before he made up his mind that Count
Mellikoff was working on a wrong scent; he knew the nature of the
Count's mission, and he very soon discovered that the Count was not
showing his usual discretion in this case; he was, in fact, taken in by
a lay of circumstances, and by the assurances of the young lady, Miss
James. He had endeavoured, on one occasion, to speak to the Count upon
the subject; but he had been told to hold his tongue; a piece of advice
he strictly adhered to, until such a time when his not holding it would
most injure the Count. No one told him to hold his tongue twice, for
nothing.

Yes, he was ready solemnly to swear that the young lady, Miss Hildreth,
was in no way identical with the fugitive, Adèle Lamien, the murderer of
Stevan Lallovich. He had at one time often seen Adèle Lamien; there was
a strong resemblance between her and Miss Hildreth; but he knew for a
certainty that Miss Hildreth was not Adèle Lamien, and that Adèle Lamien
was, at the time he quitted Russia, in Petersburg, where she still
remained. He did not know this when he first came to Count Mellikoff;
but he did know it for a fact now, and he was quite ready to bear out
this statement; and, what was more, he could prove that Count Mellikoff
was not unaware of this fact; that he had indeed been warned by the
Chancellerie of Adèle Lamien's presence in Petersburg, which had been
sworn to by a member of the council, though, so far, they had not been
able to verify the report. He could not say why Count Mellikoff had paid
no heed to the warning and discredited it; it had come straight enough
to him--Mattalini--and from an unimpeachable source.

Miss James had several times visited Count Mellikoff at his hotel; he
had overheard one of their conversations, he had listened purposely; it
was the conversation in which the manner of Miss Hildreth's arrest had
been planned; it was arranged to take place during the absence of Miss
Hildreth's friends. Miss James had urged Count Mellikoff to greater
haste in the matter; she had seemed consumed with hatred of Miss
Hildreth. Oh, yes, he knew quite well what it meant to hate any one; he
hated Count Mellikoff, and was glad to pay him back for some of his
haughty insolence. He had known from the beginning of the inquiry that
Miss Hildreth was not Adèle Lamien, but he had had no absolute proof of
it until that morning. He had gone to Mr. Mainwaring and told him what
he was now telling his Excellency. Mr. Mainwaring had asked him for
proofs, but he had none then, only the proof of his inward convictions.
Mr. Mainwaring told him that they were no good; but within the last hour
he had got proof, and that proof he wanted to give up now.

Within the last hour a sea-telegram had come for Count Mellikoff; it was
his--Mattalini's--business to receive all telegrams and bring them to
the Count; it was not his habit to open and read them first; but of this
one the yellow envelope was not stuck down--when an envelope was not
stuck down it was no crime to look at the contents. He had done so, and
the first words he saw made him glad he had not been a stupid fool of an
innocent and stuck down the envelope flap, as for a moment he had
thought of doing. The telegram was in cipher, but he knew enough of the
Chancellerie cipher to make it out. It was sent by one Paul Patouchki,
who was the chief of the Chancellerie Council, and it ran to this
effect:

"The woman, Adèle Lamien, arrested this evening in the Nevski. She
attempts no defence. Your presence before the Council peremptory. Return
immediately."

As the Italian finished he drew out of his pocket a thin, crackling,
yellow envelope, indicative of a telegraphic message. He looked at it
fondly for a moment.

"_Eccelo!_" he exclaimed, "'tis a little thing with which to save one
woman's life, and yet big enough to kill another!"

Then he handed the missive up to the Judge, and stood waiting further
developments.

The sensation caused by the Italian's statement was beyond all
precedent; the excitement of the crowd burst all restraints; it seemed
as though, having once doubted Patricia Hildreth, they could not now be
loud enough in vociferating her innocence.

The clamour lasted but a few seconds; but in that short interval
Vladimir Mellikoff caught sight of such a sea of angry, menacing faces,
and heard the echo of such violent threats as to shake even his trained
courage, and warn him of the perilous position he should occupy if once
that public Nemesis was set loose.

The rage and anger of his own heart knew no bounds. To be duped and done
in such a fashion by his own paid assistant; to find out all too late
that a spy had been dogging his actions at every step of the way, and
that that spy had been sent by the Chancellerie--by Patouchki, his
chief, on whose honour he would have staked his own!

This then was his reward, this was Russia's gratitude! A thrust in the
dark, a blow from behind, and he was laid low, unable to defend himself
or fight for his life. He realised all too well what this failure meant
for him--disgrace utter and complete; the Chancellerie never forgot or
forgave a false move in the game, any more than it ever remembered the
many successes and triumphs achieved for it. To fail once was
sufficient, when one had reached so high an altitude as his, and with
failure came a downfall more disastrous and engulfing even than that of
death.

And Olga? But no, he must not think of her now, or he should go mad. He
must forget her, put her by, believe in her, trust her; he must pull
himself together, he must not succumb like the veriest novice before
this blow. Were not all those cruel faces turned upon him, those
hundreds of eyes peering with wonder and delight at him? He must not let
them see any fear upon his face, they must not hear a word of cowardice
from his lips.

Then he became aware of a single voice addressing him, and the sounds
slowly resolved themselves into Judge Anstice's familiar tones, asking
him to examine the cablegram, and state if the Italian's translation of
the cipher was a correct one.

He took the slip of flimsy paper with a hand that never trembled, and
scanned the few bald lines. Mattalini had read them only too correctly,
they were confirmation positive of the utter breakdown of all his
elaborate structure.

He could have leapt upon the Italian then and there in his blind rage,
and struck him to the ground; he could have beaten him senseless and
felt a savage joy in each blow he dealt him. Had he not ruined him for
ever, not only in the eyes of the Chancellerie, but in those of Olga
Naundorff? That was where the lash cut deepest, that was the agony
impossible to bear.

And yet, despite all this mad tumult going on within him, he still was
conscious of standing up and answering Judge Anstice in his usual
controlled voice. The Italian Mattalini had perfectly translated the
cipher, the message ran as he had said. A person called Adèle Lamien had
been arrested in Petersburg; he should immediately demand further
confirmation of the matter; in the meantime he left the custody of Miss
Hildreth in the hands of the Bench. He had no statement to make; he had
acted throughout in good faith and according to instructions; he would
at once communicate what further particulars he received to Judge
Anstice; without doubt his Government's Ambassador would stand surety
for the integrity of his future movements. He begged to return the
cablegram to the keeping of the Bench.

Then he sat down, and after a few moments' whispered conversation with
Mr. Munger and Mr. Mainwaring, Judge Anstice rose and withdrew, and the
crowd were free to force their way out into the streets, flooded with
the golden sunshine, and there to discuss this last change in the day's
excitements. And so ended the second day of what, in after years, came
to be known as Patricia Hildreth's trial.



CHAPTER XII.

OUR LADY OF KAZAN.


When Ivor Tolskoi quitted the presence of Patouchki, he carried with him
the remembrance of the chief's troubled face, and almost imperative
appeal:

"Find me the woman, here, in Petersburg, and I shall know how to act."

"I will find her," he had replied, and it needed no strong oath or
asseveration to convince Patouchki that Ivor would grudge nothing in the
fulfilment of this promise.

It was early afternoon when Tolskoi left the Chancellerie; it was long
past sundown ere the chief aroused himself from the anxious reverie into
which the young man's suspicions and insinuations had plunged him.

Despite the hardness and impregnability of Patouchki's nature, there
existed somewhere, deep down in the inner recesses of his rugged heart,
a softer spot than he was ever given credit for, and in that remote and
hidden nook he had set up the fidelity and friendship of Vladimir
Mellikoff, as the one bright sentiment in which to believe and trust. He
had watched his career from the outset, and had spared neither influence
nor interest to advance the abilities and talents he believed him to
possess. He entertained for him a feeling as nearly approaching love as
his temperament was capable of experiencing. And he had beheld with
concealed delight the increasing regard manifested by his august master
towards his favourite. It was owing entirely to his exertions that this
last delicate mission had been entrusted to Mellikoff's skill and
courage, and he had for once spoken almost with enthusiasm, at the
council, of Vladimir's peculiar fitness for the undertaking. He had said
to himself that with his success in this Mellikoff's name might be
fearlessly put forward for some signal mark of Imperial favour.

It may be imagined then with what proportionate anger and disappointment
he listened to Tolskoi's plausible insinuations. They did not lose one
feather's weight of value in Ivor's manner of expressing them; the very
candour of his words, the collectedness of his bearing, but increased
their reasonability; and Patouchki, with his quick perception, realised
this, and gave it more weight, perhaps, because of that weakness which
he knew existed in his heart for the absent Vladimir.

There is no judge so cruel and relentless as a human heart that owns but
one outlet for its affections. Unlike those happier natures who
sympathise, and in a manner love all fellow mortals, because of their
common humanity and common redemption, this poor starved soul sets all
its store on one poor fallible object, and then, when the floods of
doubt and mistrust are let loose and sweep away the idol, marring its
beauty and exposing its blemishes, it owns no larger creed to fall back
upon, and so drifts into the opposite extreme, and welcomes with
sardonic pleasure the mocking devils of resentment and retaliation.

It was so with Patouchki. Out of the very affection he had borne
Vladimir, sprang now the hydra-headed demon of doubt; and since he could
doubt him in one particular, he could doubt him in all. Ivor had set
alight such a train of implacability as even he would have hesitated to
fire, could he have foreseen its consequences; for with the downfall of
Patouchki's perspicuity came his resolve, to punish the one who had thus
dared to set at naught his judgment, and who by playing the rôle of
deceiver had inflicted on his self-love so dire a wound.

It was well for Vladimir Mellikoff that he could not see the chief's
face at that moment, for, as the evening shadows closed around the
motionless, lonely figure, sitting so still and rigid, they paused, half
afraid to creep about the stern hard countenance, whose eyes gleamed
with such passionate fire, whose lips were locked in so firm and cruel a
line. And so he sat for hours, his busy fingers idle, his active brain
absorbed in bitter contemplation of broken trust and ruined faith.

It had appeared to Ivor an easy and simple task to track and find the
poor fugitive, Adèle Lallovich. Petersburg and its environs covered a
considerable area, it was true; but these, when compared with Paris or
London, sank into insignificance, and yet every day fugitives from
justice were hunted down and trapped in those great cities, whose
mileage so far exceeded the Muscovite capital.

"It needed but system," so he told himself, with a smile and a shrug of
his shoulders at the tactics of the Chancellerie old women. "System and
perseverance, and a judicious use of gold," he would back these three
against the craft and _finesse_ of any woman. He therefore set about
laying the plan of his operations, being careful, however, to keep
himself out of the actual work, and to be recognised in it only as the
agent of the Chancellerie.

But day succeeded day, and week followed on week, without the least
success attending his efforts. Either he had mistaken a chance likeness
in some transient worshipper at St. Isaac's for the fugitive, or else
Adèle Lallovich had again made good her escape across the frontier. Each
day Patouchki looked at him with the same strange, hard expression, as
he asked:

"Have you found her?"

And each day Ivor, with a frown, was obliged to reply:

"Not yet! but I shall do so."

Then the chief would turn away with a grim smile, and Tolskoi would vow
with hot intemperance that he would be successful, even if his life were
to be the penalty.

And so the summer drew on apace, and Petersburg became a desolate
wilderness; empty, save for the thousands of poor souls who toiled on
and on, irrespective of the seasons' changes, and whose sole recreation
was a walk across the Troitski, or Nicholas bridges, stopping for an
instant's prayer before the shrine of the good name-saint, or leaning
against the granite parapet, drinking in the languid breeze that came,
touched with a suspicion of coolness, from off the grey Neva; or an
hour's stroll in the Boulevard-park, shorn now of its aristocratic
idlers, but gay enough with the brilliant colours in the costumes of the
less favoured _mondaines_.

The Court had long since flown westward; and after a few weeks' halt at
Gatschina, the gentle Tsarina had taken a favoured few of her
_personnel_, among whom was Olga Naundorff, and departed for her native
Denmark; where, in the dear old home of her childhood, she dropped the
restrictions of royalty even as she put off her state robes and jewels,
and in a cotton frock and straw hat became a girl again, outvieing even
her daughter, the Grand Duchess Xenia, in her happiness and delight.

Neither Patouchki nor Ivor left Petersburg. The former because no place
possessed half the charm for him as did the frowning Chancellerie, and
his own office within its walls; no music sounded so sweet to his ears
as the triumphant clang of the _jubilate_ chimes, or the mournful
cadences of the _miserere_ bells; no recreation so well pleased him as
an hour passed in reviewing the Chancellerie's past achievements, or in
building up vast schemes for its future greatness.

And Ivor stayed because his self-imposed task was not yet accomplished,
and because he felt the time growing daily shorter, when, unless he
could redeem his word and find the woman Adèle Lallovich, his rival
would return and snatch his prize from out his very arms.

Therefore he waited and he watched with a dogged patience and
perseverance. The July days passed into August, and August became
September, and still he made no further progress in the path of victory;
while on the other hand, according to private despatches from the
Italian, Mattalini, Vladimir Mellikoff was apparently succeeding in his
undertaking beyond his most sanguine hopes, and spoke confidently of his
speedy return to Petersburg.

Ivor felt the situation to be critical, and yet was unable to force the
march of events. So far his every effort had miscarried; each well-laid
plan, each secret scheme had but resulted in failure. Adèle Lallovich
seemed to have as completely vanished from out the orbit of his
machinations, as though she had never come within that of his vision.

And so the 15th of September dawned, and Tolskoi, with the sense of
defeat pressing heavily upon him, failed for the first time to report
himself at the Chancellerie. He felt he could not bear with equanimity
Patouchki's piercing glance, or the harsh tones of his voice as he put
the invariable question--"Have you found her?" and still less could he
meet the slow, cold smile that curled the chief's lips at the monotony
of his negative reply. He knew, too, that this was the day appointed in
America for the examination of the warrant papers, under which Count
Mellikoff had effected the arrest of a certain person calling herself
Adèle Lamien, and should this inquiry terminate in the establishment of
the woman's identity with the murderer of Stevan Lallovich, Mellikoff
would lose no time in starting for Russia; and, when once on the ground,
and his influence over Patouchki restored, what would become of his,
Ivor's, charges against him? The deepest laid schemes must fall to
pieces under the pressure of bald fact. It had never been a part of
Ivor's design that Vladimir should return triumphant; his defeat and
disgrace, while absent, were necessary factors in the carrying out of
his project. It was on that very defeat and disgrace that he depended
most for his success with Olga; like her royal ancestress, she could
not tolerate or forgive the sin of failure.

The day had been very close and hot; what breeze there was came laden
with a fiery touch, the great gilded dome of Isaac's Church blazed with
blinding intensity, the tall, lance-like spire of the great
Petropavlovsk fortress quivered in the palpitating atmosphere; there was
no retreat, however secluded, that was not laid bare and permeated by
the searching, cruel sunshine.

Ivor had remained a voluntary prisoner all day; but as evening drew on,
and the garish sun sank gradually down to rest in a panoply of royal
crimson and gold, he roused himself, and passed out into the rapidly
filling streets. Walking idly along the Boulevard de Cavalerio, he made
his way to the Nevski--the Rue Rivoli of Petersburg--stopping now and
then to look in the shop windows, and to wonder aimlessly which one of
all the pretty baubles displayed in the Circassian Bazaar would best
please Olga's fancy.

After half an hour's wandering through the arcades he turned in the
direction of the church of Our Lady of Kazan. The great doors stood
open, and on either side the semi-circular colonnades, like those of St.
Peter's at Rome, made deep and shadowy resting-places for the weary.

Pushing past the kneeling beggars gathered about the entrance, Ivor
passed in to the deep stillness and tranquillity of the grand interior.
No service was going on, and the hushed silence was unbroken save for
the occasional footsteps of coming or retreating worshippers. The rich
glory of colour and ornament, for which Our Lady of Kazan is famous,
were half hidden by the gathering on of night; here and there, where a
taper gleamed, the sparkle of gems, the reflection of gold, the green of
malachite, or the blue of lapis-lazuli would flash out, lost again in
the feeble, flickering rays.

Half hidden by one of the great columns, Ivor watched the ever-changing
stream of visitors, as they came and went, and fell to speculating upon
the nature of the petitions they pleaded so earnestly, throwing
themselves on their knees, bowing their heads, beating their breasts,
and making unceasingly the sacred symbol upon brow and heart. He did not
kneel himself; he would have told you that he had out-grown all such
old-world superstitions, but he watched with half-amused,
half-sympathetic toleration the rapt devotion of those about him.

Presently a woman, some little distance away, got up from her knees,
and, after a moment's hesitation, turned and walked swiftly down the dim
aisle. Ivor looked at her without much thought beyond the half-formed
one that her long cloak of black serge and closely-veiled bonnet were
ill fitted for the heat of that summer evening. As she drew near to him
his attention wandered, caught by the trifling incident of a baby's cry,
and when his thoughts returned to the heavily-draped figure it had
vanished out of sight.

In another moment Ivor also quitted the now dark church and retraced his
steps to the Nevski, where fascinated again by the frivolities in the
Circassian shop he halted, and returned to the vexed question of Olga's
taste in the matter of a gift.

Next door to the Bazaar was a small, rather bare-looking shop, whose
only sign of business was the significant one of St. Nicholas' three
golden balls. The entrance door was low, and as it opened or shut a tiny
bell above the transbeam gave out a warning jangle. It was this bell
that aroused Tolskoi's attention and caused him to look up suddenly. As
he did so, a tall figure dressed in a thick black serge cloak and close
bonnet came out of the low door; the nature of the woman's errand was
painfully apparent, for in her hand were two or three coins, over which
her head was bent down.

Ivor at once recognised her to be the same woman he had seen in the
church of Our Lady of Kazan, not half an hour before, and his interest
thus reawakened, he watched her not unkindly.

As she passed him the light wind caught at her long black veil, floating
out one end of it; she put up her hand to catch it, turning a little as
she did so, and there, in the half lights, partially concealed by the
black folds surrounding it, Ivor saw again the face that had haunted him
for so many months; the face he had seen wild and haggard and imploring
at the great door of St. Isaac's--the face of Adèle Lallovich!

His first impulse in his excitement was to cry out, to speak to her, to
stop her further progress, to make her his prisoner by violence if
necessary, to force her to accompany him to the Chancellerie. Then as
swiftly reason reasserted itself, and he determined to do nothing rash;
he had no power to arrest, he would but give her another chance of
escape if he raised a street _émeute_ against her. He understood too
well the organised power of the Nihilists; at one cry from this woman a
dozen defenders would spring to her assistance; she would be rescued
before his very eyes, and he should get but a fool's recompense for his
pains.

No, what he must do was this. He must follow her adroitly, without
arousing her suspicions; he must track her to her place of abode, and
when sure of her refuge, send for Patouchki and deliver her into his
hands.

The woman walked on swiftly, threading her way deftly between the
droschkies and heavier vehicles that thronged the Nevski, and as
stealthily as a sleuth-hound, Ivor kept pace behind her. At the door of
a good-sized, respectable house she stopped, raised her hand and knocked
twice; in an instant the door opened on a cord, and she passed into a
narrow passage. The pent-up shadows rushed forward to greet her, and
swallowed her up in their dark embrace. Then the door swung to
noiselessly, and Ivor was left without, staring vacantly at the
non-committal walls and casements.

An hour later and night had thrown her sombre mantle over the gay city.
One by one as the hours crept on, the noise of returning revellers grew
fainter and less frequent; gradually the peace of midnight settled down
upon the myriads of human souls who make up the sum of Petersburg's
life. The heavens were dark and formless, save for the millions of
shining stars; Isaac's golden dome loomed up in giant outline against
the sombre sky; only the glittering lance-like spire of Peter's fortress
caught and held a transitory gleam upon its slender shaft.

And then presently a noise of wheels broke the stillness, wheels that
came ever nearer and nearer; down the Boulevard first, and then into the
Nevski, where the pace slackened, and a covered droschky drew up in
front of the commodious and respectable house, before which Ivor had
stood baffled.

Three persons got out of the carriage, two of whom were easily
recognisable, despite the disguise of mufflers and low hats, as
Patouchki and Tolskoi. Not a word passed between them, while Ivor,
stepping a little in advance, knocked twice distinctly. Instantly the
door swung back on its cord, and the three men entering shut it quietly
behind them.

A light gleamed at the head of the stairs, and a woman's figure detached
itself from the surrounding gloom. She held a lamp high up above her
head, from which the close black bonnet had been removed. And thus
looking down upon them, calm and unsuspecting, they saw the beautiful
face of the fugitive Adèle Lallovich.

For, indeed, she was still very beautiful, despite the lines passion and
pain had graven on her forehead, and about her eyes. The eyes themselves
were deep blue beneath black pencilled brows; the dusky hair, wherein a
thousand golden tints played at hide and seek, fell loosely about her
throat; the curve of the lips was proud, with a touch of suffering in
its downward droop.

This, then, was the woman they sought! This was the defenceless being
against whom they came armed with Russia's law! This was Stevan
Lallovich's wife--this was his murderer!

For a moment they hesitated, stayed by the fearlessness and dependence
of her position; then Patouchki stepped forward and ascended the
staircase. She watched him as he came, step by step, and she knew that
her days were numbered.

She was alone in the house, save only for a little serving-maid; any
resistance would be but vain. She did not mean to resist. She had prayed
night and day for months that some release might come to her. Had she
not that very evening begged Our Lady of Kazan to have a little pity
upon her; to give her some little respite from the horrible dreams and
spectres that haunted her; to let her forget for only one small fraction
of time, the horror and reproach that had settled on her lover's face
when she dealt him his death-wound?

Our Lady of Kazan never turns a deaf ear, it is said. Was not this her
answer to that wild, imploring cry?

Patouchki reached her at last. She faced him boldly and with eyes that
never flinched; the lamp in her upraised hand burnt on steadily, no
tremble of weakness made its flame flicker, or grow dim.

And now Patouchki laid his hand upon her shoulder.

"You are Adèle Lamien," he said, in his harsh, bullet-like tones, "and
as such I arrest you, for the murder of Count Stevan Lallovich."

She made no gesture either of assent or dissent, she only looked at him,
with all her soul in her wonderful eyes. Then she spoke slowly and with
deliberation.

"I am Adèle Lallovich," she said, "I recognise no other name."

"That makes small difference," replied Patouchki. "I must trouble you,
madam, to accompany me."

Again she raised her beautiful eyes to his, and spoke, this time a
little wildly.

"I am Adèle Lallovich--and I killed him--my husband--with my own hand."

Then she turned, and walked with quick steps across a narrow hall, where
on a peg hung her black cloak and bonnet. She set down the lamp, and
with dexterous fingers put on her outside garments. When this was
accomplished she took some money from her pocket--the few silver pieces
Ivor had seen her counting over in her palm--and, wrapping them in a bit
of paper, wrote across it.

"It is for Paulina," she said in explanation, "my little maid."

Then she turned, and motioning Patouchki to precede her, followed him
down the stairs and along the passage. The door opened as noiselessly as
before, and was closed with equal caution. There was a moment's
whispered consultation, the slight dark figure stepped into the waiting
droschky without assistance, followed by Ivor and Patouchki; the door
was shut, and the vehicle moved quickly away down the deserted Nevski in
the direction of the Chancellerie, whose frowning portals were watched
over by Petropavlovsk's grim fortress.

As the noise of the wheels grew fainter, the sad _miserere_ bells rang
out the quarter past midnight.

On the following morning Patouchki, with an unusual light in his eyes,
and a cruel smile on his lips, wrote out the telegraphic cable, that
sounded the death-knell to Vladimir Mellikoff's love and hope.



CHAPTER XIII.

NO EXPLANATION.


Not many hours passed after that dramatic scene in the court-room, in
which the Italian, Mattalini, played so conspicuous a part, before ample
confirmation of his statement came over the ocean telegraph,
establishing beyond all question of doubt the arrest of the real Adèle
Lamien, and the innocence of Patricia Hildreth.

As John Mainwaring had said, his theory once confirmed, all shred of
suspicion must, as a matter of course, fall from her, and she would
re-enter society's world stainless in character and reputation. At the
end of the second day's examination, however, she returned voluntarily
to Ludlow Street Jail, refusing with decision the conditional liberty
bestowed upon her.

"I had much rather wait," she said to John Mainwaring. "Please, Mr.
Mainwaring, do not urge me to go against my conscience. You can surely
understand my feeling in this matter. I will not leave what has been my
prison, until my innocence is unqualifiedly established, and until those
who forced me into this position are convinced of its falsity. After a
week's experience of the delights of Ludlow Street, what can a few
additional hours matter?"

She finished with one of her rare smiles, which made John Mainwaring
again realise the utter futility of his eloquence, when pitted against
the charm of her loveliness.

So Patricia returned to her house of detention, and John Mainwaring left
her at the entrance thereto, with a more cheerful look upon his dark
countenance than had visited it for many a day.

It was still early in the afternoon when the inquiry terminated, and the
sunshine lay upon all things external with so lavish a touch and so
tropical a force, that the dark corridors and dim halls of the gloomy
building appeared most grateful to Miss Hildreth's tired brain and eyes.

She entered her room, the scene of so many conflicts between her love
and pride, and sank wearily down upon the chair before the table, on
which the yellow roses in their tall glass vase made a single spot of
golden colour. Resting her elbows on the open portfolio, she buried her
face in her hands and remained motionless, wrapt in a long desultory
retrospect of the week's events.

She was too weary even to remove her bonnet, or the light scarf of lace
about her shoulders.

Now that the long strain was ended, the tension slackened, she felt her
strength lapse from her, and an overpowering weakness take its place.

It was true she stood cleared in the eyes of the public, who now
regarded her in the light of a heroine, concerning whose courage and
chivalry they could not say enough. But was she cleared in her own eyes?
It was well for her that the secret of her disguise had not been dragged
ruthlessly out of its hiding-place. Had that been the case, would not
this same public be gloating over it now; mouthing it and discussing it,
with even greater avidity than they had displayed in the discussion of
her late situation? She was spared such an humiliation; but was she
spared the humiliation of her own thoughts, the scorn of her own
accusing conscience? Must not the knowledge of her motives, in thus
playing with the misery of another woman's crime, separate her for ever
from the very one for whose sake she had entered on the path of
deception? Could good ever come out of evil? Did the end ever justify
the means?

All the suffering and anguish of those last seven days would seem as
nothing, she told herself, could she but face Philip Tremain with
unfaltering integrity; could she but look into his eyes and not feel her
own fall beneath the honesty of his. Woman-like, she forgot his doubt of
her, his half belief in her criminality, a criminality which, if proved,
would have swept away all lesser indiscretions in its magnitude.

No; she gave no thought to the part he had borne. A woman is never so
happy as when she forgives, with all her heart, some wrong-doing on the
part of the man she loves. But with Patricia this active magnanimity was
not called into requisition, for the simple reason that Philip's
attitude during the past week was clean forgotten by her--swept away as
were all lesser matters in the contemplation of her own moral obliquity.

How long she sat thus absorbed and motionless she could not have told;
but it was long enough for the light in the room to wane, and for the
dying rays of the sun to gleam aslant through the narrow window, casting
long tremulous bars of tinted light upon the bare unlovely walls.
Presently a slight noise aroused her, and, the chain of reflection thus
broken, she raised her head and saw, standing some little way from her,
with the tinted sun-rays resting on his stern face, the man of whom she
thought.

For a moment she gazed at him without realising the actuality of his
presence; and then, as her sad beautiful eyes sought his they faltered,
while a rush of sudden colour dyed the pallor of her face.

"Philip!" she exclaimed, drawing in her breath with a half sob,
"Philip!"

Her voice broke the spell, and, while its trembling cadences still
lingered on the air, Mr. Tremain came nearer and stood beside her,
looking down upon the troubled face and anxious eyes that dared not meet
his own.

"Patricia," he said, "I have come to you now, because I must know the
truth. Because, notwithstanding the speciousness of John Mainwaring's
pleading, there still remains a little matter between you and me that
needs some explanation. I have come, Patricia, to hear that explanation
from your own lips."

His voice was harsh despite the tender supplication of his eyes; and
Miss Hildreth, looking down, missed this contradictory tenderness, and
realised only the commanding ring of his tones.

Her face hardened, and the old look of mocking defiance settled down
upon it. She gave a little laugh; the artificiality of its ring jarred
on Philip's sensibilities, and caused the tenderness in his eyes to give
place to quick anger.

"Ah!" said Miss Hildreth, "how could I forget that you, Philip, would
require even stronger proof than any afforded by Mr. Mainwaring's
eloquence, to convince you of my inability to commit a murder? I failed,
you see, to take into account the incredulity of a legal mind."

If her words were insolent, the smile and laugh accompanying them were
more so, but Mr. Tremain would not let his hasty temper get the better
of his discretion. He had come to her with the unformed theory, evoked
by John Mainwaring's ambiguous words, still at work within him, and he
determined, if it lay in his power, to force confirmation of it from
her.

"You know that is not what I mean," he said gently; "no one can ever
again entertain so vile a suspicion against you."

"Yet _you_ doubted me, Philip," she interrupted; "you doubted me
throughout."

"Yes," he answered, "if you like to classify a feeling, that scarce had
formation in my mind, under so grave an emotion as doubt--why, then--I
did doubt you, Patricia."

She made no reply to this, and after a short pause he began again:

"That, as you know, is not the subject to which I referred just now. You
may put me by with subterfuge and raillery, Patricia, but I shall
always come back to my point, again and again. Patty, what was your
reason for personating that most miserable woman, Adèle Lamien? What was
your inducement for imposing upon all at the Folly? What was your motive
in wishing to deceive me?"

Still she made him no answer. She had turned her head away as he spoke,
and taken one of the yellow roses from the vase. She raised this now,
and drew it once or twice across her lips. She felt his eyes upon her,
but she would not meet them. She knew this to be the crucial moment; and
she must meet and overcome it as best she might.

"Patricia," he said again, and his voice grew sterner, "you force me to
impute to you motives that are unworthy of you, unworthy of any woman.
But how can I think otherwise, if you will not help me to do so? How can
I put any other construction upon your conduct, save that of wilful and
wanton cruelty, when I remember, that twice as Miss Hildreth, you
refused me, scorning my love; and then, that only a few short hours
afterwards, as Adèle Lamien you accepted me, and all I had to
offer--accepted me, with a lie upon your lips, and deceit in your smile.
Have you no explanation to give me, Patricia? Oh, my dear, I will accept
any pretext you may offer; only make some little excuse, no matter how
trivial, for the duplicity of your conduct."

His voice grew pleading as he finished. Looking at her, as she sat
there, so near to him, and yet so far; a beautiful, lovely woman, whose
very beauty had brought suspicion and distrust upon her, and remembering
how first he had loved her in the full tide of her girlish fairness and
innocence, and how through all these years he had cherished her memory,
and could not put her from out his heart, all the old tenderness and
longing surged up within him, and he knew he could forgive her
everything, if only she would give him one little opportunity for such
forgiveness.

Had Miss Hildreth but looked up at that moment, while the light of love
still lingered in his eyes, and trembled on his lips, surely her foolish
pride would have broken down, and all the misery of those last few weeks
slipped from her, in the peace of a confession made with his arms about
her, her head upon his breast.

But Miss Hildreth, like many a woman before her, let slip the golden
chance, and passed by the propitious moment. She still played with the
yellow rose and avoided his eyes as she replied, slowly:

"I can explain nothing, Philip; I have no excuse to offer. You must form
your own opinion, and I must be judged and sentenced according to it."

"But, Patricia," urged Mr. Tremain, "I ask for so little. Will you not
at least assure me, that it was no more wanton motive than love of
conquest and power of coquetry, that led you to deceive me, and draw
from me that mad proposal, which you, as Adèle Lamien, were pleased to
triumph in against your own proper self? My dear, give me but one such
assurance, I will be content, I will ask for nothing more."

"No," she replied in a dull, quiet voice, "I cannot. I have nothing to
add to my former words. You had better leave me, Philip, and--forget
me."

"That I can never do," he said, "I have never for one moment forgotten
you in all the ten years of our separation. I am not likely to do so
now, when I have again looked so often and so longingly, upon your
beauty."

Her lips trembled a little at his words, but she made no response.

"Good-bye," he said sadly, and turned from her.

She listened to his firm footsteps as they traversed the floor; then
came the click of the lock in the catch, the sound of the opening and
shutting door, and then again the echo of his footsteps down the long
stone passage.

Then all was still. The tinted sun-rays paled and faded, then vanished
altogether; and Miss Hildreth, bowing her head upon her clasped hands,
burst into a passionate storm of tears.



CHAPTER XIV.

"FORGIVE HER."


A week later the daily papers chronicled two events.

The first was contained in a short paragraph, supplemented by a long
leader, stating that evidence having been received from Russia,
confirming the arrest of the real criminal, Adèle Lamien, or Lallovich,
the conspiracy against Miss Hildreth had fallen to the ground, and she
had been released from her very unpleasant and unjust position. Miss
Hildreth, on leaving Ludlow Street Jail, had immediately retired to her
country place in the White Mountains.

The second item was even more briefly worded, though commented on
exhaustively in a still longer leader, and ran to the following effect.
That Count Vladimir Mellikoff, having failed signally in his efforts to
traduce and incriminate a certain young lady, prominent in New York
circles for her wealth, beauty, and amiable qualities, had sailed on the
previous Saturday for Havre, _en route_ for St. Petersburg.

And so the "comity sensation," as it was called by _Town Optics_, died a
natural death, and the next social scandal, hurrying close upon its
heels, crowded it out of general consideration and recollection.

But those whom it had concerned so nearly could not forget it thus
easily; to them it always remained a very vivid and terrible experience,
out of which it seemed they had escaped almost by a miracle.

Mrs. Newbold returned at once to her island home, taking Dick Darling
with her; and there, after several weeks had elapsed, Mr. Tremain sought
her.

He took an early afternoon boat from the city, and walked up from New
Brighton to the Folly; where not finding his faithful friend within that
Palace of Idleness, and being informed vaguely by Perkins that his
mistress was "somewhere about the gardings," Philip, declining his aid,
set forth in search of her.

And so it came about that unconsciously his feet followed his memory,
for very soon he found himself at the opening of the little hazel copse,
where he and Patricia had so nearly touched on reconciliation.

The marble boy Narcissus was still there, and still holding aloft the
vase from which the water trickled in a gaily tinkling stream. There,
too, was the rustic bench, and seated on it, doing nothing very
gracefully, was Esther Newbold.

She jumped up at sight of him and ran forward, dragging her scarlet
parasol behind her. Her face was bright with welcome, her smile
affectionate and a little patronising.

"My dear Philip, what a pleasure!" she exclaimed, putting out her small
hand in a loose gardening glove. "We began to think you had given us up
altogether for 'a bad lot,' as my slang-loving Dick would say. Why have
you not come before, sir?"

And holding that frank little hand in his, and looking into the
sincerity of her blue eyes, Mr. Tremain asked himself the same question,
and answered it truly, as he replied:

"Esther, my dear, I did not come, because--I was afraid."

"Ah," she said quickly. "Afraid! That is not like you. Of what, or of
whom, were you afraid?"

"Of you, and of your powers of persuasion," he answered; at which Esther
shook her head, and laughed a little.

"It is as well you should acknowledge it," she said, "and with your
first breath. For, of course, you know, I don't mean to speak with you
upon any but one subject. Philip, why are you here; why are you not
already at the feet of Patricia?"

"Yes, I knew you would ask that," he answered; "but, my dear Esther, how
can I go to Miss Hildreth, when she herself has raised an impassable
barrier between us?"

But Esther failed to follow his reasoning.

"Nonsense," she said, a little brusquely. "Nothing should be impossible
to a man who loves; and all things should be forgiven to the woman who
loves him. I have no patience with either of you; but least of all with
you, Philip. Were I a man, no fantastical barrier should keep me from
the woman of my heart. Do you always intend to go on like this? To live
and to die, or, worse, grow old and grey, waiting for the barrier to
tumble down of itself, and never put out a hand to help its overthrow?"

Mr. Tremain could not but smile at her vehemence; he felt his spirits
rise under the energy of her assault.

"It is for Patricia to make the first overture," he said. "I went to
her, as you know, at once, and begged of her to give me ever so trivial
and light an excuse for the ambiguity of her conduct towards me, but she
would not. She had no explanation to offer, she said, and she let me go
from her without any word of resistance, any sign of relenting."

"Then she was a little fool," cried Esther, "and I wish I had her here
to scold, and pet, and tease, and kiss. But you, Philip, are not much
wiser. I dare say you went at her hammer and tongs, with your gravest
face, and in your longest words! Of course Patricia could not bear that
sort of argument. I wonder, for my part, that she listened to you at
all."

"But, surely, my dear Esther, you must admit I had a little show of
reason on my side," said Mr. Tremain, more quickly. "You must
acknowledge that Patricia's conduct in refusing me repeatedly, as Miss
Hildreth, and then accepting me, as Adèle Lamien, requires a little
explanation. It is not over pleasant to one's _amour propre_ to feel
that one has been duped; but to have been duped wantonly, is more than
unpleasant--it approaches insult."

Mrs. Newbold looked at him earnestly for several moments before
replying; when she spoke it was in a far graver and more serious manner.

"And have you no idea, Philip, why Patricia played this somewhat ignoble
rôle? Cannot you form some theory concerning it?"

Mr. Tremain shook his head.

"I have formed a dozen theories, my dear Esther, and dismissed them all;
each seemed less tenable than the other."

"And yet, you are very sure you love her?"

"Yes, I am very sure of that. I wish I was as sure that she cared
one-fifth part as much for me."

"Ah!" said Esther, a satisfied smile creeping in and out of her dimples.
"Then, Philip, I think I must read the riddle for you. _Patricia
deceived you--because she loved you._"

But if Mrs. Newbold expected Mr. Tremain to indulge in heroics at this
declaration, she was destined to be disappointed. Instead of rhapsodies
of delight, he replied with an echo of scorn in his voice.

"Are you aware what a paradoxical sentiment you are promulgating,
Esther? Love is not commonly supposed to take pleasure in deception."

"Ah," she interrupted, "but Patricia is not a common woman; perhaps she
is as paradoxical as my sentiment. However that may be, I assure you,
Philip, she deceived you because she loved you. Do you remember
receiving a letter from her, early in the spring?"

"I do indeed."

"Very well. I don't absolutely know what was in that letter, but I have
my shrewd suspicions, and I do know that your answer, when it arrived,
was not what she had looked for. She came to me soon after she received
it, and I was positively frightened by the look of pain and
determination on her face. She told me that she had written to you, that
she had humbled her pride sufficiently to do so, because she loved you,
and had never loved any one else but you. Then she told me of your
answer to her letter. She should never forgive you, she said, never,
until she had made you suffer, through a woman, some portion of the pain
and humiliation you had brought upon her. And then she told me her
plan."

Here Mrs. Newbold paused and stole a look at her auditor. He was
standing with his arms folded, his eyes fixed upon the sparkling drops
of water as they fell from the uplifted vase, in the marble-boy
Narcissus' hand. With a quickly-repressed shrug of her shoulders, Mrs.
Newbold opened her scarlet umbrella, and continued, watching Philip
meanwhile from under its friendly shade.

"And this was Patricia's plan. She would come down to the Folly,
ostensibly as Mimi's governess, and as such she was to be introduced to
you. I was to tell the story of Adèle Lallovich, more or less modified,
as if it were her own, and she was to strive to win your interest and
regard, despite the damaging evidences of so black a past. 'I will
conquer him yet,' she said, 'he shall not escape me always; and then,
when he has acknowledged himself vanquished, when he has laid down his
pride and his superiority for the sake of Adèle Lamien, why then, it
will be my turn to scorn and reject him, and he shall understand what it
is to make advances and be repulsed.' She was very angry, Philip, and
hard and desperate; and I was obliged to yield to her wishes for fear of
something worse. So we arranged it all between us, and I comforted
myself with the thought that perhaps, after all, good might come out of
it, if even under a disguise, Patricia could win you back again to her."

Again Mrs. Newbold paused, but Philip neither changed his attitude nor
raised his eyes. So intent was his gaze, he might have been counting the
drops as they fell, with rhythmic measure, into the marble basin.

Mrs. Newbold continued.

"And then at last you came, Philip; and the rest was easy work, because
from the very first, you were apparently strangely attracted to Adèle
Lamien, and I felt almost righteous when I saw how well all was working
as we had planned. Patricia came to me the evening of the day you left
the Folly, and falling on her knees beside me, told me of her interview
with you, as Adèle Lamien. She cried and laughed and was girlishly happy
over it, because, as she said, she could see all the time, even when you
were urging your suit most impetuously, she could see that it was not
Adèle Lamien you really loved, but she--in her own proper
person--Patricia Hildreth. 'Oh, Esther,' she cried, 'I know, I know he
loves me! And now, oh, how shall I ever face him; how shall I ever tell
him by what subterfuge and deceit I have won him from--myself? Oh,
Philip, it was unworthy of me, unworthy of my love; and yet I did it
because of my love.'"

Once more Mrs. Newbold stopped, and looked at him, but Philip was
oblivious of her gaze. She smiled, and closing her scarlet umbrella
moved a step or two nearer to him.

"And then you know," she went on, "our party broke up, and Patricia left
me. She promised me she would lose no time, she would write and tell you
all; she would keep nothing back, she would restore your pledge to you,
which she held as Adèle Lamien, and she would ask nothing from you but
your forgiveness. You who know Patricia's proud nature, can realise how
difficult such a confession would be for her; and indeed, Philip, she
would have carried out her purpose had I been able to keep near her.
Away from me, and alone, she grew fearful and lost courage. 'I cannot do
it,' she wrote me, 'Esther, I cannot do it. I could not bear the scorn
of his eyes, the lash of his words. I cannot tell him that I deceived
him, wantonly and cruelly, and of set purpose. My dear, I love him, and
yet see what my love has brought me to. Do you think he could ever
believe in it, or me, or trust to it, or me, again? No, let me say
nothing; let me drift out of his life. As Adèle Lamien I can easier bear
the certainty of his contempt, since I mean never to claim his promise,
but as Patricia Hildreth I should die beneath the scorn of his just
anger. I have been rightly punished for my wilfulness. Do not urge me
any further. I cannot tell him, Esther, I cannot.' Then you know,
Philip, came the terrible blow of her arrest, and the first thing she
demanded of me, when I went to see her, was that I should swear to keep
silent regarding the motive of her disguise. 'He must never know,' she
said, 'more than ever, he must never know; and Esther, of this be very
sure, I will face anything, Russia, condemnation, exile, rather than
that my weakness and folly shall be dragged out as my excuse, and he be
made the object of public derision. I have harmed him enough, Heaven
knows, but he shall suffer no more through my pride and weak revenge. I
would rather he believed me guilty of this horrible crime, Esther, than
that I should make him ridiculous, as the dupe of a selfish woman, in
the eyes of the world.' That is why John Mainwaring had so poor a
defence to work upon, and that is why both my lips and his were sealed."

Mrs. Newbold came still closer to him, she put her hand on his arm, her
eyes forced his to look at her; there were tears in their blue depths,
her voice was tremulous and she spoke impetuously.

"You know the rest, Philip; I have kept nothing back, and I think when
you remember the severity of her punishment, the bitterness of her
suffering, the humiliation of her spirit, you will forgive her. She
loves you, Philip; it is from her very love that all this misery has
fallen upon her. Will you leave her to bear it alone, or will you go to
her? Ah, Philip, no one has ever had a braver opportunity for carrying
out the old, old precept; the legacy left to us by One whose mercy and
forbearance knew no bounds, and who said, forgive, even if it be until
'seventy times seven.'"



CHAPTER XV.

VLADIMIR'S WELCOME.


It was winter once more, and the gay Russian capital had returned to its
round of festivities and merry-makings.

The Imperial family were in residence at the Winter Palace, and the long
_salon_ resounded nightly to the laughter and jests of the Court circle.
Not a cloud apparently marred the harmony and well-being of Petersburg.

All without was bright and brilliant; the sun shone on the dazzling
snow, the merry sleigh-bells rang out on the frosty air, and the Nevski
arcades were thronged with richly-dressed _mondaines_, who laughed and
chatted, and tossed over the costly trifles in the Circassian shop with
careless fingers. Within were ease and comfort and luxury; huge fires of
keen-scented woods, heavy draperies to shut out the shrewd air, and
respectful attendants to minister to the most wilful caprice.

But beyond and below all this brave assumption of security, there lay
hidden a terrible passionate hate. Slowly, slowly, the patient masses of
that under world had wakened to the consciousness of their wrongs, and
with the bitter knowledge of contrast came the thirst for compensation;
the burning desire to throw off the hand that had so long oppressed
them, the yoke that had galled for centuries.

"What maketh us to differ?" was the cry of thousands; and, with the
wording of the dumb misery that had held them silent so long, there
awoke also the craving for vengeance. "How long," went up the cry to
heaven, "how long, O Lord, shall the wicked oppress us?" And in the
pause that ensued between petition and answer, pleasure was stalked by
blood-red fear, and distrust kept pace with merriment.

The Countess Vera had opened the season by a grand _bal costumé_, in the
huge palace of her name. It was the maddest of all the little Countess's
mad freaks, for her guests were to come attired as beasts of the forest,
the chase, and the field. Grizzlies from the Rockies elbowed white
lambs, elephants and camelopards hob-nobbed with pussy-cats and fawns,
while tigers and wolves flirted tentatively with rabbits and red
squirrels.

The Countess, in a delightful white-cat costume, with diamond eyes and
jewelled paws, was the life and soul of the revels; flying hither and
thither, her little feet in their white fur boots treading as lightly as
her namesake, and startling more than one king of the forest by the
sharp tap of a little fur paw, and the merry smile beneath the
pussy-head that covered her giddy little brain.

It was during one of these frolicsome onslaughts that she caught sight
of Ivor Tolskoi's fresh face and yellow locks, looking ridiculously out
of keeping under the heavy disguise of a polar bear. She ran up to him
lightly, and stood before him laughing, a tiny figure set against his
feet and inches.

"Oh, my brave Ursa Major!" she exclaimed, "what a beautiful fierce
creature you are, to be sure! I am quite frightened to look at you."

Ivor glanced down at her smiling, but he failed to toss back her jesting
words with an equally quick repartee.

The little Countess laughed and shook her head, until the diamond eyes
in the pussy-cat mask danced with a thousand reflections.

"Oh, what a cross Ursa Major it is!" she cried, "and all because of
_some one_ who is not here, and who will not come." Then she came a step
nearer, and, dropping her bantering tone, said quickly: "I am sorry for
your disappointment, _mon cher_, but it is one of the prerogatives of
beauty, to be fickle. She would, and she would not, and the latter, you
see, won the day. Olga Naundorff has declined to honour my ball with her
presence. But is that a matter of such grave importance to you? Ah, I
see, it is the old story; he who has most, always craves more. You are
not satisfied with having won the Court favourite, even to the naming of
the wedding day, but you must be miserable because she is not always
present to swell your triumph! Be content, my dear boy, you _have_ won
her, and broken Vladimir Mellikoff's heart, that ought to suffice; and
after you are married, you can force her to attend any and all kinds of
festivities."

Ivor did not respond to this pleasant outlook, and Vera, with a mutinous
grimace, continued, banteringly:

"For my part, my sympathies all go out to that most unfortunate Count
Mellikoff. Only to think of what he has come to! So established as he
was in the Emperor's regard, so esteemed by the Chancellerie; such a
diplomatist and courtier, so distinguished and beyond reproach. And now,
behold, where is he? Poof! he is but a feather, blown about by each
contrary wind of prejudice. A failure, a fallen idol, a suspect. Bah, I
would rather die than be a failure! Be content, _mon cher_, be content;
you are on the crest of the wave, don't spoil your success by a fit of
the sulks."

Then she laughed again, and shook her fan of soft white feathers at him,
and fluttered off to a sedate elephant, whose thin cheeks and eagle eyes
beneath the grotesque head-gear, betrayed him to be a certain State
minister, whose word was law, whose smile power.

"Such a foolish boy I never saw," cooed the Countess Vera in the
statesman's ear, "as that Ivor Tolskoi. Not contented with ruining
Vladimir Mellikoff, and winning the lady of his affections, he mopes
because, forsooth, she is not here to illustrate his triumph. Youth is
very hard and illogical, monsieur; it takes older heads and hearts to
be merciful." And the little Countess sighed profoundly.

"Ah," she said, suddenly, "my heart is all in tune with the fallen
Mellikoff. I wonder, monsieur, what is to be the nature of his
punishment, and what his--destination?"

But the wary minister was not to be caught even by Vera's casuistry.

"Punishment is so entirely a relative matter," he replied. "I, for
instance, can imagine no severer sentence, no more desolate outlook than
to be shut away for ever from the light and sweetness of the Countess
Vera's presence."

"A thousand thanks," she answered quickly. "I appreciate your chivalry,
monsieur; but when one adds the mines, or a casemate in Petropavlovsk,
to the lesser evil--what then?"

"Neither are to be desired, madame," he replied, gravely, "and neither
can ever come within the experience of the Countess Vera. The mines,
and Petropavlovsk, are for those who betray, or mock at, Russia; not for
loyal subjects of his Majesty."

"Loyalty is such a very big word," sighed the Countess flippantly; and
then she flew away with a laughing gesture. But to herself she said:

"I know your destination now, my poor friend. I back a woman's wits
against a statesman's imperturbability. Alas! poor Vladimir!"

It was as the Countess Vera had said. Ivor Tolskoi had triumphed beyond
his most sanguine hopes. Olga was now his formally betrothed bride, and
the marriage day was in the immediate future.

With the arrest of Adèle Lallovich in Petersburg, came the downfall of
Mellikoff's mission, and the ruin of all his cleverly-laid schemes. He
would reach Russia only to find his disgrace had preceded him, and only
to find distrust and displeasure on every side. He too well knew the
nature of Russia's resentment, to strive to stem the current that set so
steadily against him.

It was worse than useless to expect such a thing as justice, at the
hands of the Chancellerie, or to look for condonement from the Council.

He had not only failed, but he had bungled, and in so doing had opened
the flood-gates of public opinion upon the Imperial policy. Russia never
forgave inefficiency, still less inefficiency that brought ridicule in
its wake. He knew this, and he knew also that his disgrace was imminent.
Still he clung to Patouchki, to his belief in the chief's calm equipoise
of judgment. He could endure a public expression of disgrace, if only
Patouchki absolved him from intentional failure.

And then, too, was not Olga awaiting him? He had done nothing to
alienate her love; she stood far above and beyond the lesser prejudices
of political intrigue and jealousy. He was still her lover. What
mattered anything so long as he had Olga to cling to; Olga's love and
trust for his haven of refuge? He would marry her at once, and take her
away, out of the foetid artificial air of Petersburg, out of the
network of personal envy and political stratagem, to those wide,
far-reaching estates on the Balkan frontier, and there they would be
free and untrammelled, removed from the narrow suspicions and cruel
dogmatism of the Court.

And so planning, hoping, believing, Vladimir Mellikoff turned his face
towards Petersburg. He lingered on his homeward journey, hoping against
hope at each halt to receive more pacific communications from the
Chancellerie; and thus when at last he reached the Russian capital, the
first month of the long Muscovite winter was already on the wane. He
drove to his lonely palace on the Neva, where the dark windows and
barred doors afforded but a sorry welcome.

It was a dreary home-coming, and Vladimir, as he crossed the threshold
and met the cold, damp atmosphere of long-closed and disused rooms,
shrank back shuddering. Unsuperstitious though he was, he could not
throw off the chill of apprehension which seized him, as he entered the
echoing corridor and passed on to a small drawing-room, that served as
study and office.

A fire smouldered in the stove, and the curtains were closely drawn,
giving a less cheerless aspect to the apartment. A couple of candles in
tall silver sticks were lighted on the chimney shelf, and beneath them
were arranged the numerous notes and cards of invitation that had
accumulated during his absence. Somewhat apart from these lay a small
sealed envelope, addressed in a clear, flowing hand.

Vladimir glanced over the notes and cards, holding in his hand the while
the huge ticket, covered with a Noah's Ark gallery, by which the
Countess Vera had invited her friends to her unique _bal costumé_. With
a half smile on his lips, called out by the little Countess's vagaries,
Vladimir caught sight of the note lying apart by itself, and in a moment
his heart told him who was the sender.

"It is from Olga," he murmured passionately, as he took it up and
touched it with his lips. "It is from Olga; it is my welcome home."

Then he broke the seal and drew forth the thick, creamy paper; as he did
so a slight, subtle perfume floated across the air.

It was a short letter; brief almost to cruelty. But when one deals a
death-blow, it is as well to strike swift and sure.

Vladimir read the words through, again and again, without comprehension,
without understanding; and then, suddenly, as their meaning struck him,
one low and terrible cry burst from him; he flung himself down on his
knees, burying his face in his hands. The letter floated slowly from his
grasp and fell noiselessly upon the carpet, the distinct careful
penmanship plainly visible in the candlelight.

     "Vladimir," the lines ran, "I never forgive or forget treachery or
     failure. You have failed, and you are a traitor. Knowing this, you
     must also realise that all is over for ever between you and

     "OLGA NAUNDORFF."

That was all. No word of regret, no expression of sorrow, no hint of
personal grief and pain.

Simply he had failed: failure was a sin never to be condoned by Mdlle.
Naundorff. It was shipwreck utter and entire--shipwreck without a chance
or hope of rescue. He knew it, he realised it, as perfectly as though
Olga had stood before him in her proud beauty, and spoken the cruel
words in her sweet, cold voice.

What was death compared to this agony of loss that overwhelmed him?
What was life--oh, God! what could life be without Olga?

How long he knelt there he never knew. The hours crept on long past
midnight, the great house was silent as a tomb. Outside, the stars shone
in myriad numbers, lighting the cold, dark heavens with thousands of
fairy lamps. The snow lay dense and white, stretching miles away, in
unbroken masses along the Neva's banks.

Presently the cathedral chimes struck the quarter, and the _miserere_
bells followed with their minor chant, "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, have
mercy upon me."

As the last note died away Vladimir arose; and with the change of
attitude he became aware of a stealthy, muffled sound--a sound that came
ever nearer and nearer; and that was neither the sweeping up of the
wind, nor the jangle of bells, but a sliding, creaking noise, as of two
smooth surfaces in friction.

A low exclamation escaped him, a look of horror crept over his dark
face. For a moment he stood as if paralysed, then he moved suddenly,
with soft, quick steps, towards one of the heavily-draped windows.

The stealthy, creaking noise had ceased.

He cautiously drew back a corner of the heavy curtain and peered out.
All was still and silent; a great field of glistening snow, with the
dull swish of the Neva against its banks. Was he mistaken? Had he not
heard aright? For a moment the wild beating of his heart threatened to
overpower him, then as suddenly it grew still.

Drawn up within the shadow of the deep _porte-cochère_, standing out
black and distinct against the white background, stood a covered
droschky; the horses' flanks steaming in the chill air, the lamps
carefully shaded. A figure stood beside the vehicle, wrapped in a heavy
coat and peaked fur cap; where the folds of the coat opened a gleam of
steel was visible.

Vladimir dropped the curtain and came back to the centre of the room.

"It has come," he said in a half whisper. "It is my turn at last. I, who
have gloried in Russia's stern vengeance, am I to feel her power now?"

Then his eye caught the open letter on the carpet.

He picked it up, touching it half-tenderly.

"How little it matters to me, now!" he said. "But you, Olga, shall be
freed from all reproach, and no one shall ever know that it is through
you the heaviest disgrace of all has come upon me. That much I can still
spare you."

He looked at the signature she had written with so firm a hand--Olga
Naundorff--"Good-bye," he said again, "good-bye."

He pressed his lips to her name, then held the paper in the candle-flame
with a steady hand, and watched it burn slowly, slowly.

As the last bit fell from his fingers and fluttered down to the little
heap of ashes on the velvet mantel-shelf, the door opened without
noise, and two men stepped within the room.

Vladimir turned and faced them. The foremost spoke quietly, and without
menace or threat.

"Count Vladimir Mellikoff, you are arrested in the name of the Emperor.
Long live the Tsar."

Vladimir bowed, and a smile for one moment passed over his dark face.

"I am ready, gentlemen," he said, and turning, took up his heavy coat
and cap of sables.

In the meantime the second intruder had crossed the room, attracted by
the faint odour of burnt paper. He fingered the little pile of ashes
suspiciously. Again Vladimir smiled.

"A burnt-out passion, monsieur," he said, "a discarded love-letter. That
is all; nothing in any way interesting to the Chancellerie--or, its
agents."

Then he put on the heavy furred coat and signified his readiness to
depart.

A moment later the three dark figures were lost in the shadowy interior
of the waiting droschky, and the curious scraping noise of steel runners
upon frozen snow began again.

As one of his captors leant forward to give a last instruction to the
officer without, a gleam from the shaded lamp fell across the face
beneath the high-peaked hat; in it Vladimir recognised the boyish
contour and innocent blue eyes of Ivor Tolskoi.

The heavy equipage moved on, and as the hour of dawn struck from the
great cathedral clock, and the chimes clashed out triumphantly the
liturgical chant, "How glorious is our Lord in Zion," Vladimir Mellikoff
stood a prisoner, within a nameless casemate of the impregnable fortress
of Petropavlovsk.



CHAPTER XVI.

AN ETERNAL FAREWELL.


It was the 4th of January--the New Year's Day of Russia.

All the morning, from the earliest peep of dawn, the bells had rung
clamorously and joyfully; from every public building the blue, red, and
white standard floated in the keen breeze; the streets were full of
merry-makers, the Boulevard de Cavaliero and the Nevski, were thronged
with sight-seers, the little shrine and chapel of St. Nichola, on the
Nicholas Bridge, were buried in lights, evergreen wreaths, and votive
offerings; an air of festivity and joyousness pervaded the atmosphere,
and even the grim Chancellerie, and Peter's Fortress, crept out of
their habitual gloom, under the lavish caresses of the brilliant
sunshine.

The old year was dead--dead and buried--with all its weight of sin and
failure; of wrongs unrighted, of crimes unavenged, of evils unremedied.
Let it go, let it go! "Ring out the false, ring in the true!" Welcome
this jocund New Year, this youngster, with the rosy cheeks and sturdy
limbs, this herald of a new _régime_, this hopeful progeny of a decrepit
past!

It wanted but half an hour to mid-day, and already the approaches to St.
Isaac's Church were thronged by a numerous and ever increasing crowd.
The eight grand entrances were all thrown open; down the wide central
granite steps a rich carpet was spread, and up this crimson pathway
passed a continuous stream of guests, the bright costumes of the ladies
mingling with the uniforms, Court dress, and plainer citizen habiliments
of the sterner sex, until one and all became submerged and impersonal
in the greater glory of the grand cathedral's gorgeous interior.

A line of the Petersburg Grenadiers, in their sombre green uniform, were
drawn up on either side of the central approach, while behind them were
grouped a guard of honour of the Caucasus Cossacks, their long scarlet
tunics adding picturesque vividness to the scene. All that was best and
brightest, most distinguished and most renowned, of the great Tsar's
Court was represented within St. Isaac's, on that winter morning, and
nothing could exceed the brilliancy and vivacity of the scene.

For not only was it the festa of the gay New Year, but it was also the
marriage day of Olga Naundorff, and the religious function was to be
celebrated with Royal splendour and pomp, honoured by the presence of
the Tsar and Tsarina, who took this occasion to testify their friendship
for the beautiful orphan, whose father had laid down his life in the
service of Russia.

And now excitement reached the highest pitch, for the Imperial _cortège_
was in sight, each equipage drawn by four black horses, mounted by
postillions, and accompanied by outriders. The Tsarina, looking fair and
fresh and young, bowed her acknowledgments to right and left, smiling as
she did so, while the Grand Duchess Xenia laughed girlishly at the
sparkling pageant. And now Alexander himself appeared, the great Tsar of
all the Russias, wearing his favourite crimson kaftan, and saluting
courteously in response to the old patriotic cry, as it echoed again and
again: "Health we wish your Imperial Majesty! Long live the Tsar!"

But the greatest and final burst of enthusiasm was reserved for Olga.
When she appeared--stepping down from the royal equipage, her white
draperies sweeping behind her, a cloak of regal ermine wrapped about her
neck and shoulders, from which her proud, beautiful face arose as cold
and white as the surrounding snow, crowned by the shining masses of her
golden-tinted hair, in which the Imperial gift of diamonds shone
resplendent--a hush of admiration held the onlookers for one brief
second; then, as she passed up the crimson foot-path, a deep low murmur
burst forth, growing in strength and enthusiasm, until, as the great
portal received her, it broke all bounds and ended in a prolonged and
hearty cheer.

Within St. Isaac's all was hushed and reverent, though gorgeous and
magnificent in its adornments. The lights from the eight great
candelabra threw their beams on the golds and purples, the reds and
blues of the mosaic decorations, and flashed forth in myriad reflections
from the jewels that gleamed and sparkled in the costumes of the Court
ladies.

The ceremonial was of the grandest; the Metropolitan, vested in cloth of
gold, entered by the central door and was met by a procession of
priests, who walked before him to the great altar, where the eight
massive malachite columns, and priceless lapis-lazuli shafts, separated
"the holy of holies" from the body of the cathedral. The trained voices
of the Imperial choir rose and fell in regular cadences, unsupported by
instruments of any kind, but perfect in harmony and unison. The bells
chimed at intervals, while the worshippers, as they fell upon their
knees, repeated again and again the symbol of the cross on forehead and
breast.

And so it was that Olga Naundorff became the wife of Ivor Tolskoi.

Sanctioned by the most solemn ritual of her faith, surrounded by the
highest nobility of her land; loved, admired, feared, and envied, Olga,
the beloved of Vladimir Mellikoff, pledged her vows to Ivor Tolskoi; and
shuddered even as she did so, at the light of triumph that flashed in
his bold blue eyes, when, as her husband, he bent his head, and for the
first time pressed a kiss upon her proud lips.

She had made her choice. But, after all, was it a wise one? Could she be
sure of ruling this lover, who had now become her husband? Despite the
_insouciance_ of his boyish face, despite the frank boldness of his blue
eyes and innocent smile, was he not destined to be the master, she the
slave? Already she could feel the iron hand beneath the velvet glove,
already she descried the touch of cruelty beneath his gayest smile, the
echo of tyranny beneath his fondest caress.

Alas, poor Olga! If the dawn of her marriage morning was marred by such
fore-bodings, what were its noontide and evening likely to prove?

We may not follow her so far into the future; and even if we dared, it
were wisest to draw the curtain close about that ruined life, and not
seek to pry into its wretchedness. A woman scorned is of all beings the
most desolate, so Vladimir Mellikoff had said, little thinking that his
prophecy was one day to come true of his passionately-loved Olga. Let us
refrain from gazing on her in her hour of despair.

There is no fairer woman to-day, in all Russia, than Olga Tolskoi; one
more envied and feared, nor one more hopeless and beyond hope. Like her
Imperial ancestress, she has forsaken the good for the evil; and, in
giving rein to the lower passions of her nature, has lost for ever the
power of repentance and contrition. She who once ruled supreme, is now
the neglected wife of a husband who is one in name only, and whose
indignities have long since reached the climax of insult.

Ivor has risen higher and higher on the wave of success. He holds a
foremost place in the Imperial Councils, he is esteemed and feared in
the Chancellerie, bowed down to and fawned upon at Court. Only within
the privacy of his own household is his true character known; only there
does he lay aside the mask of hypocrisy, and let loose the passions of
cruelty and oppression; only there does he give rein to the bitter joke
and cutting mockery, which are all that remain of the once humble wooing
and suppliant entreaty.

And Olga, knowing how he has deceived her, finding out too late by what
cunning subterfuge he turned suspicion upon Vladimir Mellikoff, and thus
won from her the only free gift a woman has to bestow--herself--hates
him, with an ever increasing hatred and loathing, that drives her to the
wildest deeds of imprudent folly.

And so the baser nature within her triumphs, and the better nature dies;
crushed out by passions too consuming to bear contradiction. Alas, poor
Olga! So to her has come the lesson, that not even the fairest charms of
woman's beauty and purity can bind the constancy of one, who, knowing
his legal rights secure, scorns to keep them intact, and throws fidelity
to the winds in the indulgence of the moment.

Well may the old despairing cry break from her in her splendour and
loneliness, as she thinks of the time when Vladimir loved her, and her
faith and trust in him were still unbroken:

"_Eheu fugaces! Postume, Postume!_ Oh, for the days that are lost to me,
lost to me!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Brilliant indeed was the scene within the Onyx Hall, of the Winter
Palace, on that New Year's night, the morning of which had seen the
completion of Ivor Tolskoi's highest hopes. The bride and her husband
were already far on their way towards those vast possessions on the Ural
frontier, of which Ivor was so justly proud; but the time-honoured
ceremonies of the festa were no less gay and joyous because shorn of
Olga's fair presence.

The great Onyx Hall was filled with guests, awaiting the magic signal,
gathered together in groups, chatting, laughing, intriguing, while ever
nearer and nearer the hands on the dial of the large gold incrusted
clock, standing at one end of the apartment, crept on to the hour of
midnight. Suddenly a single stroke from the great bells of Isaac's
Church, rang out, and a hush fell upon the waiting assembly; the clock
chimed deep and full--twelve slow notes, whose dying echoes were caught
up and thundered back by twelve salutes from the guns of Petropavlovsk,
broken here and there by the triumphant strains, "How glorious is our
Lord in Zion!" And as these died away the cathedral chimes broke forth
in resonant glad music.

Simultaneously the folding doors at the top of the great hall were
thrown open, and the Tsar entered, with the Empress leaning on his arm,
and followed by the Imperial family. Passing down between the double
lines of the Preobrashensky Grenadiers, and the Semenoffskoie Guards,
drawn up on either side, his Majesty walked up to the chief actor in
this brilliant pageant, and, halting before the tiny figure of the
smallest cadet in the Russian army, dressed in the historical uniform of
the Emperor Paul's Grenadiers, bent down over the mimic warrior and
bestowed upon him the kiss of peace.

At this mark of kindly condescension the trumpets burst forth in a grand
flourish, the bands struck up the spirited national air, and all the
guests cried out with one accord:

"Many years to the Tsar! Health we wish your Imperial Majesty!"

And thus the first day of the New Year sinks to rest, crowned by the old
but ever fresh benison, "Peace on earth, to men of good will."

With the departure of their Majesties the tongues of the guests were
once more let loose, and the little Countess Vera, flitting across the
wide hall, stops long enough beside the grave keen-eyed State minister,
who in the guise of an elephant had graced her costume ball, to say, in
a half whisper, and with a mocking smile:

"Well, monsieur, and were you present at the famous marriage function
this morning? Was ever man so lucky as _ce cher_ Ivor?--if it be luck to
win so cold and cheerless a bride as Olga Naundorff. For my part, I
could think of no one save that unfortunate Vladimir, whose shrift I
hear is to be short enough. No trial for him, poor soul! He has played
his game but ill, and we know, monsieur, you and I, what fate awaits one
who has played to win for the Chancellerie and--lost. It's a dreary
march to Siberia, even in the best of company; what must it be then when
one's companion is a murderer by confession? _Hélas_, poor Vladimir, you
should not have failed; for to failure Patouchki is implacable, and for
failure Russia can punish silently and surely. And so ends the farce,
monsieur, or was it tragedy? But let me whisper one word--let him laugh
loudest who wins last. There are evil days in store for Ivor, or I am no
true prophet; and for his bride? Bah! she will get but what she
deserves; I will leave her fate in the hands of the gods, whose mills,
we are told, 'grind slowly, but with justice grind they all.' And, after
all, her beauty will not last. _Sans adieu, monsieur, à tantôt._"

Then with another laugh the little Countess flew away, and was lost in
the undulations of the crowd.

       *       *       *       *       *

A second day's journey had begun for Ivor and his bride; the afternoon
was already closing down upon them, as they halted at a small post-house
where a relay of fresh horses awaited them. Ivor sprang out, glad to
exercise his cramped limbs and light a cigarette; but Olga remained
within the sleigh, buried in her costly wraps of fur.

There was some little delay, and as she sat alone, half lost in a
retrospective dream, she was suddenly aroused by the dull clank of arms
and the regular tread of marching feet. Leaning forward she looked out,
and saw coming towards her a party of men and women, who trod wearily,
with downcast heads, and hopeless hanging hands, and whose every step
was accompanied by the monotonous clank of steel chains. As she gazed
upon them she realised their situation and their destiny. They were
Russian criminals, arrested by Russian law, on their way to Siberia and
the mines.

Instinctively she drew back, shivering; as she did so the foremost
detachment of prisoners came into line with her sleigh. At that moment a
halt was called, to enable the officers in charge to refresh themselves
at the bar of the post-house.

Once more Olga leant forward; her heart beat rapidly, her breath came
quick and short, she clasped her hands together passionately, and as her
white face gleamed out from the heavy sables surrounding it, one of the
prisoners, he who was nearest to her, lifted his head, and thrust back
as well as he could with his manacled hand, the peaked hat that shaded
his forehead.

As he did so he turned his head slowly towards her, and in the dark
haggard face, the burning feverish eyes, Olga beheld the countenance of
Vladimir Mellikoff!

Fascinated, she gazed upon it, her own face blanched, her eyes wild with
horror. She tried to speak, to call out, to break the cruel band of
silence that held her as in a vice. It was useless. No words would come,
no sound, no cry.

And as she thus looked upon him, a sudden light of recognition sprang to
life within his eyes. He bent forward, holding her gaze with his;
studying each curve and line of that fair, beautiful countenance, noting
each golden curl where the hair lay about her neck and upon her brow,
reading each fleeting expression of the proud lips, and deep blue eyes.
And as he thus held her spell-bound, a smile passed over his worn face,
a smile so pitying and accusing that Olga shuddered and drew closer her
rich wraps, as if to ward off the cruelty of its tenderness.

For full a moment they looked thus upon one another, without word or
gesture of recognition. Then the order came for the march to recommence,
and Vladimir, with a single upward movement of his manacled hand, bade
her an immutable farewell.

As he did so the figure next to him was drawn forward by the heavy
chain that linked them together, and thus turned upon her companion in
exile a face so beautiful, despite the marks passion and suffering had
stamped upon it, that again Olga started, and drew back instinctively.

It was the face of Adèle Lamien, the murderer of Count Stevan Lallovich.

In another moment the exiles were in full march, and Olga, straining her
eyes to the utmost, could see nothing save an indistinct moving mass
against the miles of far-stretching snow; which even as she watched was
lost in the evening shadows that crept up with silent but resistless
steps.

It was a farewell from out eternity.

Truly Ivor Tolskoi's vengeance was complete, when Patouchki's cruel
sentence was carried out to the letter, and Vladimir Mellikoff, linked
to Adèle Lallovich, passed onward to that desolate Gehenna--Siberian
exile.

For Russia never forgets, and Russia never forgives.



CHAPTER XVII.

AFTER TEN YEARS.


It was a golden day in the golden month of October, when Philip Tremain
stepped down from the railway train, and stood, a solitary traveller,
upon the platform of the open station at Beetons, high up among the
rolling "white hills" of New Hampshire.

An open waggon, drawn by four sturdy mountain ponies, was in waiting
beside the rustic platform, and into this he sprang; the driver cracked
his long whip, accompanying it by a shrill whistle, and off the willing
little creatures started.

Up the steep winding roads and down again they went at a swift, even
gallop, while Mr. Tremain, with a sudden recollection of Mrs. Newbold's
park ponies and irreproachable basket phaeton, laughed aloud at the
dissimilarity between them and his present primitive conveyance, and at
the contrast of the solemn hills, and long wooded slopes, with the
suburban and ornamental prettiness that environed the Folly.

All before him stretched the grand White Mountain range, from
Jefferson's and Madison's verdure-tipped sides, to Washington's rocky
cliffs and snow-crowned peak. On every side the richest glory prevailed;
scarlet and crimson of the sugar maple, gold and amber of beech and
birch, russet brown of oak, and sombre green of hemlock. A keen
pine-scented breeze swept past him, swaying the tall golden-rod and blue
asters, and shaking out the bitter-sweet perfume from the purple gentian
where it grew far up the mountain side.

The road wound on, up and up, growing steeper and steeper with each
mile, fringed on either side by tall ferns, grasses, and brown bracken,
and starred with late yellow-and-white ox-eyed daisies. To his right the
steep mountains rose far above his head, to his left the beautiful "wild
Ammonoouc" leapt from stone to stone, and dashed into rivulets against
the lichen-covered boulders, breaking over them in creamy foam.

Once Philip bade his charioteer stop, and climbing down over the
high-sided vehicle, he gathered a nosegay of the wild, white daisies,
adding a maple and beech leaf as a set-off to the pure petals. Then,
with a smile upon his lips, he took his place beside the taciturn Jehu,
and on they went again, with the same long swinging gallop.

As the last roseate glow of sunshine was lighting up the western
heavens, and the great Phoebus was sinking to rest in the arms of grey
and violet clouds, they came upon a long low house, built far out on a
projecting spur of rock, which seemed to hang 'twixt earth and sky, and
looked as if a stiff north-easter would make short work of its walls
and foundations. This house was painted a dull venetian red, and was
covered with creepers and wild vines, and brilliant with rows of scarlet
geraniums marking each casement.

It glowed like some bird of tropical plumage, alighted suddenly upon the
cooler neutral tints of this northern land.

And this was the home of Patricia Hildreth.

Door and window stood open wide, and Philip's impatient feet carried him
over the threshold into the dainty atmosphere of Patricia's
drawing-room. And what a paradise it was to his hungry eyes! And how
redolent of her!

Flowers, birds, books, an open piano, and through the windows such a
view of mountain towering above mountain, all transfigured and
etherealised by the magic touch of the dying sun-god. Ah, it was good to
be here, it was good to breathe this free, keen air; it was good to
stand within her home, to think how soon, how very soon, he should look
upon her face, and read within her deep blue eyes the secret hidden
there for ten long years.

The sunlight blinded him, the birds' song dulled his hearing, the
perfume of the flowers steeped his senses; he was lost in a day-dream of
ecstatic bliss.

And did he still dream, or was this reality? This graceful, bending
figure, whose hands flashed in and out among the piano's ivory keys,
awaking the music of a plaintive strain, that, as it grew into melody,
became so strangely familiar?

It was no surprise to hear it, and still less was it a surprise to find
the melody take shape in words, falling across the refrain, half
chanted, half spoken as they were.

    "I am a woman,
      Therefore I may not
    Call to him, cry to him,
      Bid him delay not.
    Showing no sign to him,
      By look of mine to him,
    What he has been to me.
      Pity me, lean to me,
        Philip, my king!"

"Patty, my little Patty! Oh, my darling, I have found you at last, I
shall never let you go from me again."

"And have you forgiven me, Philip?" she asked, some long minutes after.
"Have you forgiven me my selfishness, and wilfulness, and deception? I
sometimes think I can never forgive myself."

He framed the beautiful face in both his hands, and feasted his eyes
upon it.

"Forgive you, my darling! Forgiveness is not necessary between us now.
We have found our love, Patty, after ten long years of loss; thank God,
my darling, we have not found it too late."

And to them both it seemed, that a little of the joy and beatitude of
heaven had come down to them on the golden sunset clouds.

"And so it was you, Patty," Philip says again, "who sang that very song
that evening--how long ago it seems, dear--at the Folly; and it was your
presence and your personality that influenced me so strongly, that drew
me to you as Adèle Lamien, and yet that perplexed and troubled and
almost frightened me?"

"Yes, Philip, it was I," she answered. "And, do you know, through all my
trickery and deceiving, it gave me keen delight to see how truly you did
love me; for, after all, Philip, even as Adèle Lamien, when I won your
half avowal of love, I was scarcely treacherous, because it could be no
treachery for Patty, to win you from--Patricia Hildreth."

It was specious reasoning mayhap, but it served.

It was Miss Hildreth's old mocking laugh that next broke the silence,
and Miss Hildreth's most tantalising voice that said:

"Ah, but Philip, there is one thing more that lies between us. Do you
remember a certain evening ten years ago, when an angry lover parted
from his fickle sweetheart? And do you remember his words when she
begged for one little good-bye token? 'When I can think of you, look at
you, speak of you as other men do; when all my love is dead; ask me
then, Patricia.'"

"And do you ask me?" he cried, a little of the old masterful ring in his
voice. "Nay, Patty, do not ask me, for that supposes it possible for me
to refuse you. My dearest, let me rather plead from you."

And there was that within her eyes that gave him leave to gather her
close into his arms, and bending down to lay his lips on hers.

And so, after ten years, the kiss was given and taken.


THE END.

       *       *       *       *       *

CHARLES DICKENS AND EVANS, CRYSTAL PALACE PRESS.





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