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Title: Tempest-Driven (Vol. III of 3) - A Romance
Author: Dowling, Richard
Language: English
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                           TEMPEST-DRIVEN.



                            TEMPEST-DRIVEN

                              A Romance.



                                  BY

                           RICHARD DOWLING,

       AUTHOR OF "THE MYSTERY OF KILLARD," "THE WEIRD SISTERS,"
  "THE SPORT OF FATE," "UNDER ST. PAUL'S," "THE DUKE'S SWEETHEART,"
           "SWEET INISFAIL," "THE HIDDEN FLAME," ETC.



                         _IN THREE VOLUMES_.

                              VOL. III.



                               LONDON:
              TINSLEY BROTHERS, 8 CATHERINE ST., STRAND.
                                1886.

                       [_All rights reserved_.]



                      CHARLES DICKENS AND EVANS,
                         CRYSTAL PLACE PRESS.



                              CONTENTS.


                            CHAPTER XXXII.

SALMON AND COWS.


                           CHAPTER XXXIII.

A FORTUNE LOST.


                            CHAPTER XXXIV.

A TELEGRAM FROM THE MAIL.


                            CHAPTER XXXV.

THE TRAVELLERS.


                            CHAPTER XXXVI.

SOLICITOR AND CLIENT.


                           CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE WIDOW'S THEORY OF THE CASE.


                           CHAPTER XXXVIII.

"WHERE'ER I CAME I BROUGHT CALAMITY."


                            CHAPTER XXXIX.

A COMPACT.


                             CHAPTER XL.

AN EXPEDITION PROPOSED.


                             CHAPTER XLI.

AT THE WHALE'S MOUTH.


                            CHAPTER XLII.

THE RED CAVE.


                            CHAPTER XLIII.

A RETROSPECT.


                            CHAPTER XLIV.

A LAST APPEAL.


                             CHAPTER XLV.

BEYOND THE VEIL.


                            CHAPTER XLVI.

AN EVENING WALK.


                            CHAPTER XLVII.

CONCLUSION.



                            TEMPEST-TOSSED



                            CHAPTER XXXII.

                           SALMON AND COWS.


Luncheon that day at Carlingford House was a quiet, subdued meal.
Edith Paulton, who was very small and vivacious, better-looking than
Madge, and distinguished by shrewd discontent rather than the
amiability which radiated from her elder sister, was the only one at
the table that made an effort at being sprightly. Although she was not
unsympathetic, she had a much more keen appreciation of her own
annoyances and troubles than those of others. She took great liberties
with her good-natured father and mother, and treated her brother as if
he were a useless compound of slave, fool, and magnanimous mastiff.
She was by no means wanting in affection, but she hated displays of
sentiment, and felt desperately inclined to laugh on grave occasions.

That day, when the two girls left the back room, they went straight to
Madge's, where they talked over the arrival of Jerry O'Brien, for whom
Edith strongly suspected Madge had a warmer feeling than friendship,
and who, she felt morally certain, greatly to her secret delight, was
over head and ears in love with Madge. The only human being in whom
she had infinite faith was Madge. She did not consider any hero or
conqueror of history good enough for her sister. To her mind, there
was only one flaw in Madge: Madge would not worship Madge. Madge
thought every one else in the world of consequence but herself. Edith
thought Madge the only absolutely perfect person living, or that ever
had lived--leaving out, of course, the important defect just
mentioned. The younger girl had, in human affairs, a certain hardness
and common-sense plainness which shocked the more sensitive sister.
For instance, she could not see anything at all pathetic in Mrs.
Davenport's situation.

Before the bell rang for luncheon, she said to her sister:

"I can't for the life of me see what is so terribly melancholy in Mrs.
Davenport's case. I think she got out of it rather well. She didn't
care anything for that dreadful old man who poisoned himself out of
some horrid kind of spite. She hasn't been put in prison, and he left
her a whole lot of money. So that as she isn't exactly an old maid, or
a grandmother, she can marry any other horrid old man she likes. Oh,
yes; I know she's very beautiful, and what you call young, Madge.
She's not fifty yet, I suppose. Every woman _is_ young now until she's
forty or fifty; and as to men, they don't seem to grow old now at any
age. As long as a man doesn't use crutches, they say he is in the full
vigour of manhood--that he's not marriageable until he's gray, and
bald, and deaf of one ear, or can't read even with glasses. I suppose
father will make her stop for dinner. I thought I'd laugh outright
when I saw him go to her and call her 'child.' Child! Fancy calling a
widow _child!_ If ever he calls me child again, I'll tell him, as far
as I know, I have not buried any husband yet. But, Madge, if she
_does_ stop for dinner, I'm not going to sit there and learn the very
latest thing in the manners of widows. I'll go out for a walk after
luncheon. Do you know, I think Jerry O'Brien is half in love with this
beautiful widow! I'll ask him to come with me, I will; and you,
good-natured fool, may sit within and catch the airs and graces of
early widowhood, though I don't think they'll ever be of any use to
you. You're certain to die an old maid. Alfred can't keep his eyes off
her. It's a pity we haven't that nice Mr. Blake here--her old
sweetheart. There, Madge, I don't mean a word I say, especially about
Jerry O'Brien. I know he's madly in love with me. I'm going to give
him a chance of proposing this evening. We'll walk as far as the
Palace, and if you get separated from us, and see me holding my
umbrella out from my side on two fingers--this way--just don't come
near us, and you shall be my bridesmaid, and Jerry shall give you a
present of a bracelet representing a brazen widow sitting on a silver
salmon. There's the bell! Madge, love, I'm not a beast, only a brute.
There!--I won't be rude again, and I'll try and rather like Mrs.
Davenport. She'll be a neighbour of mine, you know, when I'm married
to Jerry. I think I'll call him _Jer_ then."

After luncheon, Mrs. Paulton suggested that Mrs. Davenport should lie
down, as she must be quite worn out. But the latter would not consent
to this. She said she felt quite refreshed, and in no need of rest, as
she had slept well the previous night--although some memory of the
Channel passage was in her brain, and the sound of the railway journey
in her ears.

The evening was fine. Neither Mrs. Davenport nor Alfred cared for a
walk when it was suggested by Edith, but Jerry said he would like it
of all things; so he and the two sisters set off down the fine, broad,
prosperous-looking Dulwich Road, in the direction of the Crystal
Palace.

It is proverbially a small world, and the three pedestrians had not
gone many hundred yards when whom should they see but Nellie Cahill,
one of the firm friends and confidantes of the Paulton girls. Before
the three came up with Miss Cahill, Edith gave a brief and graphic
sketch of her to Jerry, who had not had the pleasure of meeting her
before. She was good-looking, good-humoured, jolly, a dear old thing,
mad as a March hare, true as steel, and last, though not least,
interesting to him--a fellow country-woman of his, as her name
betokened.

He must be introduced to her. He must like her awfully. He must love
her, if it came to that, unless, indeed, that slow coach Alfred had
been before him--in which case he, Jerry, was to be exceedingly
obliging and deferential; for any one would rather have a nice girl
like Nellie for a sister-in-law than a thousand widows.

Jerry was duly introduced, and said civil things and silly things, and
the four walked on all abreast, until Edith suddenly remembered that
she had to tell Nellie all about the reappearance of Mrs. Davenport,
and a lot of other matters, in which two sober, steady-going,
middle-aged people like Madge and Jerry could, by no stress of
imagination, be supposed to take a sensible and hilarious interest. So
the younger division of the party, comprised of Nellie Cahill and
Edith Paulton, fell to the rear, and the other division kept the
front. And thus, in spite of all Edith's designs on Jerry both for
herself and Nellie, these two enterprising and eminently desirable and
lovable young ladies lost all chance of his offering marriage to
either that afternoon.

A long story of the detestable villainy of the Fishery Commissioners
had to be first and foremost related to Madge. Considering that she
did not know what a weir was, and had never seen a salmon except on
the table or the marble slab of a fish-shop, and that according to her
notion the appearance of a Commissioner was something between a
beefeater of the Tower of London and a Brighton boatman, she listened
with great patience, and made remarks which caused Jerry to laugh
sometimes, and plunge into profound technicalities at others. But it
became quite plain that Jerry himself did not take any consuming
interest in his own wrongs and the refined ruffianism of the
Commissioners; for at a most bewildering description of the channel,
and the draught of water, and the set of tides, and the idiosyncrasies
of coal barges, he looked over his shoulder and, finding Edith and her
friend a good way behind, stopped suddenly in his discourse and said:

"Madge, I've been reeling off a lot of rubbish to you just to drop the
others a good bit astern. I now want to say something very serious to
you. Are you listening?"

"Yes; but look at that cow! Did you ever see a more contented-looking
creature in all your life?"

She kept her face turned towards the hedge.

"Confound the cow!" he cried. "Do you think I am going to give up
talking of Bawn salmon and barges, and talk about Dulwich cows? Are
you listening?"

"I am. But did you--now--did you ever see such a lovely cow?"

"Look here, Madge: If this is reprisal for my harangue about my
miserable salmon weirs, I'll not say another word about them. Are you
going to be friends with me?"

"Yes--of course."

Still the cow occupied her eyes, to judge by the way her head was
turned.

"I came out expressly to have a most serious talk with you on a most
important matter----"

"I am sure I was very sorry to hear about your salmon nets----"

"Nets! Nets! Good heavens, Madge!--I never said a word about nets the
whole time. I'm not a cot-man. Look here: you know it's only a few of
the greatest minds that can attend to two things at the one time. You
can't give your soul to fish and yet devote yourself to cows at the
one moment, except you are a person like Julius Cæsar. He could
dictate and write completely different things at the one time."

"Could he? He must have been very clever."

"Will you give up the cow? I want to talk of another beast."

"Trout?"

"No, not trout. Trout isn't a beast. If you're clever and smart, and
that kind of thing, I won't talk about my beast."

"What is your beast?"

"A fool."

"Oh!"

"Are you not curious to know who the fool is?"

"There are so many, one cannot be interested in all."

"No; but you are interested in this one."

Silence.

"I say you are interested in Alfred."

"Alfred!" She looked quickly round for the first time since the cow
had attracted her attention. Her colour was vivid, and her breath came
short. "Alfred a fool!"

"Yes; he's hit--badly hit."

"You don't think him ill?"--in alarm. The colour faded quickly.

"I think him very bad."

"His brain again. Oh, do tell me!"--pleadingly.

"No. He told me all in the front room to-day. It's his heart this
time."

"His heart?"

"Yes. Love."

"Love! In love with whom?"

"I forget."

"You forget whom he is in love with?"

"Yes. Another matter has put it out of my head. Madge, I'm a fool too.
You needn't turn away. There are no more cows, Madge. Give up the
salmon and cows, Madge, and have me instead! Will you, Madge? Give me
your hand.... Thank you, love. Madge!"

"Yes."

"The other two have turned back. There is no one else in the road. May
I kiss you?"

She looked over her shoulder on the side away from him. Then she
looked at him....

"Thank you, darling. Let us turn back. I have touched the limits of my
happiest road. Madge!"

"Yes."

"Yes, Jerry. Say 'Yes, Jerry.'"

"Yes, Jerry."

"That's better. I won't kiss you again until we get into the house. Do
you think you can last out till then?"

"I--I think so, Jerry."

"That's right. Cultivate self-denial and obedience. You don't think it
is respectable for a man to kiss his sweetheart on a public road?"

"No."

"That's right. Cultivate self-denial and obedience, but chiefly
obedience. Don't you think it is the duty of woman to cultivate
obedience chiefly?"

"I do."

"And if I asked it, you would, out of obedience to me, trample
self-denial under foot?"

"Certainly, Jerry, if you wished it."

"I do. Oh, my Madge--my darling--my gentle love! Once more."

"But Edith has turned round and sees us.... And my hat--you have
knocked off my hat.... Thanks. Now pick up my hair-pin. It fell with
the hat. What will Edith think?"

"I'll tell her. I'll tell Edith quite plainly it was your
self-restraint gave way, not mine."



                           CHAPTER XXXIII.

                           A FORTUNE LOST.


That day settled many things. Alfred had told O'Brien that no matter
how unwise or rash it might seem, he had made up his mind to try his
fate with Mrs. Davenport--not, of course, at that time, perhaps not
very soon, but ultimately, and as soon as possible.

Until that day--until he had seen her moved by the sense of her own
loneliness, until he had seen the tears start into her eyes--he had
not said even to himself that he loved her. He told himself over and
over again that he would risk his prospects, his life, his honour for
her. How his prospects or life could be imperilled he did not know,
did not care. He had a modest fortune of his own, and her husband had
left her the bulk of his great wealth. He would have preferred her
poor rather than rich. But if she would marry him, he would not allow
the fact that she had money to stand in the way of his happiness. She
had for a while, owing to circumstances in which no blame attached to
her, found herself labouring under a hideous suspicion. From the
shadow of that suspicion she had emerged without blemish. She had been
cruelly ill-used by fate, but it had been shown she was blameless.
Where, then, could danger to his honour lie? Her beauty was
undeniable; her family unexceptionable. She had been sold to an old
man by a venal lover. In this lurked no disgrace to her. What could
his father or mother find in her to object to? Nothing--absolutely
nothing. That day his father and mother showed great pleasure in
seeing her again. His father had suggested--nay, arranged--that he
should accompany her on that long journey to Ireland.

When Jerry O'Brien left Carlingford House that afternoon, he had no
intention of asking Madge to be his wife. All the way from Kilbarry to
London he had been assuring himself that nothing could be more
injudicious than to say anything to her on the subject at present. He
believed she was not indifferent to him. Little actions and words of
hers had given him cause to hope. He was sure she preferred him to any
other man in whose society he had ever seen her. She had smiled and
coloured at his approach, and once or twice, when he had ventured to
press her hand, he had suffered no reproach by word or look. All this
made it only the more necessary for him to be on guard and not allow
himself to be betrayed into a declaration until his affairs were
settled. But the opportunity came, and he could not resist the
temptation of telling her he loved her, and of hearing from her that
he was loved by her. It is true no word had been said between them of
an engagement even. The mere formality of speech was nothing.
Practically he had asked her to be his wife, and she had plainly given
him to understand she was willing to marry him.

Madge got back to the house in a state of bewildered excitement. She
confided nothing to her sister, and Edith behaved very well, never
showing even a trace of curiosity or slyness. She persisted in talking
of the most everyday topic. She wondered whether Miss Grant, the
dressmaker, would keep her word?--whether this would be as bad a year
for roses as last? She was of opinion the cold weather would not
return. Nellie Cahill had told her the new play at the Ben Jonson was
a complete failure, in spite of all said to the contrary, and so on.
Madge replied in monosyllables or vacant laughs. When the girls got
home, each went to her own room, and they did not meet again until
dinner time. Madge decided she had no occasion to speak to her mother,
or any one else, about what occurred on the Dulwich Road. It would be
time enough to speak when Jerry said something more definite to her,
or when either her father or mother spoke to her.

Jerry sought Alfred, whom he found alone in the library. He had been
carried beyond himself that afternoon, and did not feel in the
position to administer to his friend a lecture on prudence. Alfred was
of full age, and, in the way of money, independent of his father. Let
him do as he pleased and take his chance, as any other man must in
similar circumstances. He himself, for instance, would take advice in
his love affair from neither Fishery Commissioners nor John O'Hanlon.

"How far did you go?" asked Alfred, who looked flushed, radiant. He
got up and began walking slowly about the room.

"Oh, a little beyond the College. It isn't a very pleasant day out of
doors. We met an old flame of yours--Miss Cahill."

"Miss Cahill an old flame of mine! Why, I never was more than civil to
the girl in all my life! Who invented that story for you?"

"I don't think it was pure invention. Edith mentioned it to us."

"'To us!' Good heavens, you don't mean to say she said anything of the
kind in Miss Cahill's presence?"

"Well, no--not exactly in her presence, but when she was near us. How
did you get on since?"

Jerry's object was to keep the conversation in his own hands, and
prevent Alfred asking questions. To-morrow, when they were both clear
of London, he might take his friend into his confidence, but not now.

"Oh, dully enough," answered Alfred, with a look of disappointment.
"My father went out, my mother is busy about the house, and Mrs.
Davenport is in her room. She will, I hope, be able to come down to
dinner. You don't think, Jerry," he asked, anxiously, while he paused
before his friend, "that her health has suffered by all she has gone
through?"

"No; but I am quite sure your peace of mind has," replied Jerry, with
a dry smile.

With all his desire to be conciliatory, he could not wholly curb his
tongue.

"I," laughed the other, "was never happier in all my life. Why, only
to think that she is under this roof now, and that we are going on a
long journey with her to-morrow, and that I am to be near her for a
whole month! It's too good to be true."

"I hope not."

"Well, Jerry, I hope not too; but it seems too good. I know you are
one of those men who never give way to their feelings until they know
exactly whither their feelings are taking them. It isn't every one who
has such complete self-command as you. I am willing to risk everything
in the world for a woman. Some men are too cautious to risk anything."

"There's a good deal of truth and a good deal of rubbish in what you
say," rejoined Jerry, colouring slightly, and concealing his face from
his companion by going to the window and looking out at the evergreens
and leafless trees in the front garden.

Alfred's last speech had not been exactly a chance shot. He more than
guessed Jerry cared a good deal for Madge; but the tone of the other
had exasperated him, and he made an effort to compel silence, if not
sympathy, from him. Jerry was not prepared to retort. He did not want
to deny or assert his own susceptibility to the unconscious arts of
any woman; and, above all, he did not wish Madge's name to be
introduced even casually.

At last dinner came. It was an informal, a substantial, cosy meal. No
special preparations had been made for the guests. There was no
display, no stint, no profusion. Jerry sat beside Madge, and Alfred
between Edith and Mrs. Davenport. Jerry was the most taciturn--Madge
the most demure of the party. Mr. Paulton was chatty, cordial, and
particularly gracious to the widow. Mrs. Davenport was polite,
impassable, absent-minded.

When they were waiting for the joint, Mr. Paulton turned to Jerry, and
said:

"Are you depressed at the prospect of spending a while with an
invalid? To look at you both, one would think it was you, not Alfred,
who wants change of air."

"And so it is," said Jerry, stealing a look at Madge.

In order to divert attention from her, for she felt her face growing
hot, she said:

"I believe the south of Ireland is very mild?"

"Oh, very!" Jerry answered, with startling vivacity. "It's the mildest
climate in the world; but the people are not particularly mild: they
are full of fire and fight. I have no doubt Alfred will come back a
regular Milesian. You know those who live a while in Ireland always
become more Irish than the Irish."

"Never mind," said Mrs. Paulton. "He may become as Irish as he likes
if he at the same time grows as well in health as we like."

"I intend coming back quite a Goliath, mother. I shall eat and drink
everything I see," said Alfred gaily.

"You would find some of the things in the neighbourhood of Kilcash
rather hard to chew. I think Mrs. Davenport will agree with me that it
would take Goliath a long time to make a comfortable meal of the Black
Rock, or to make a comfortable meal on it?"

At the name of the Rock, Mrs. Davenport looked up and shuddered
visibly, and said, as she rested slightly on the back of her chair:

"The Black Rock is a hideous place."

Then, turning to Alfred: "You must not go there."

"I am altogether in the hands of this unprincipled wretch," answered
Alfred, smiling and nodding at Jerry.

"Then," said Jerry, "if you are not very civil--if you show a
disposition to exhibit your Goliath-like prowess on me, I shall take
you to the Black Rock, and first frighten the life out of you, and
then throw you into the Puffing Hole, where, except you are the ghost
of your own grandfather, or something equally monstrous, you will be
promptly smashed into ten billions of invisible atoms."

The rest of the dinner passed off quietly. When the dessert had been
put on the table, and the servants had withdrawn, Mr. Paulton said:

"Mr. O'Brien, I have often heard you talk of this Black Rock and the
Puffing Hole, but I am afraid I never had the industry to ask you for
a description of either. Are they very wonderful?"

"There is nothing wonderful about the Rock, except its extent and
peculiar shape and colour. But the Puffing Hole, although not unique,
is curious and terrible."

"I am doubly interested in them now, since I have the pleasure of
numbering Mrs. Davenport among my friends. What are the Black Rock and
Puffing Hole like?" He smiled, and bent gallantly towards the widow.

"I think," said Jerry, "Mrs. Davenport herself is the best person to
give you a description of either. Her house is near them, and she has
lived, I may say, next door to them for years, and knows more than I
do of the place. To make the matter even, if Mrs. Davenport will do
the description I will do the narrative part of the tale. That is a
fair division."

Mrs. Davenport trembled slightly again, and was about to speak, when
Mr. Paulton said, in a tone of impetuous persuasion:

"Your house near these strange freaks of nature, Mrs. Davenport! Of
course I did not know that, or I should not have dreamed of asking Mr.
O'Brien for an account of them."

The old man's belief was that it would divert Mrs. Davenport's mind
from wholly gloomy subjects if she were only induced to speak of
matters of general interest.

She shook her head sadly.

"It is true my home was for many years at Kilcash House, which is near
the Black Rock. But----"

She paused, and a peculiar smile took possession of her face. All eyes
were fixed on her in expectation. No one cared to speak. What could
that strange break mean? Surely, to describe a scene or phenomenon of
the coast with which she was most familiar could not be very
distressing?

"But," she resumed, "it is my home no longer. It is true I am going
back there for a little time--a few weeks; but that is only to arrange
matters. I have now no home."

The voice of the woman was almost free from emotion. It was slightly
tremulous towards the end; but if she had been reading aloud a passage
she but dimly understood, she could have displayed no less emotion.

"No home!--no home!" said Mr. Paulton, so softly as to be only just
audible. "I was under the impression you had been left Kilcash House."

"Yes, my husband left me Kilcash House and other things--other
valuable things--and a large sum of money. But----"

Again she paused at the ominous "but."

Again all were silent, and now even Mr. Paulton could not light on
words that seemed likely to help the widow over her hesitation.

"But I cannot take anything."

Once more the old man repeated her words: "Cannot take anything! Are
the conditions so extraordinary--so onerous?"

He and O'Brien thought that the principal condition must be forfeiture
in case she married Blake. This would explain much of what was now
incomprehensible.

"There are no conditions whatever in the will," she said in the same
unmoved way.

"No conditions! And yet you have no home, although your late husband
has left you a fine house?"

"Yes, and all that is necessary for the maintenance of that house;
notwithstanding which, I have no home, and am a beggar."

"Mrs. Davenport," cried the old man, with genuine concern, "what you
say is very shocking. I hope it is not true."

"I know this is not the time or place to talk of business. I know my
business can have little or no interest for you."

"Excuse me, my dear Mrs. Davenport, there is nothing out of place
about such talk now, and you really must not say we take but slight
interest in your affairs. On the contrary, we are very much interested
in them. I think I may answer for every member of my family, and say
that beyond our own immediate circle of relatives there is no lady in
whom we take so deep an interest."

The old man was solemn and emphatic.

"I am sure," said Mrs. Paulton, looking round the table, "that my
husband has said nothing but the simple fact."

She turned her eyes upon the widow.

"Mrs. Davenport, I hope you will always allow me to be your friend.
Your troubles have, I know, been very great, and you are now no doubt
suffering so severely that you think the whole world is against you.
We, at all events, are not. Anything we can do for you we will; and,
believe me, Mrs. Davenport, doing anything for you will be a downright
pleasure."

The widow bowed her head for a moment before speaking. It seemed as
though she could not trust her voice. After a brief pause she sat up,
and, resting the tips of the fingers of both hands on the table, said:

"As I told you earlier to-day, I have been alone all my life, and the
notion of fellowship is terrible to me, coming now upon me when my
life is over."

"Indeed you should not talk of your life being over. You are still
quite young. Many a woman does not begin her life until she is older
than you."

"I am thirty-four, and that is not young for one to begin life."

"But, may I ask," said Mr. Paulton, "how it is that the will becomes
inoperative? How is it that you cannot avail yourself of your
husband's bequests?"

"My reasons for not taking my husband's money must, for the present--I
hope for ever--remain with myself. Mr. Blake has told me certain
things, and I have found out others myself. I am now without money--I
do not mean," she said, flushing slightly, "for the present moment,
for a month or two--but I am without any money on which I can rely for
my support. I shall have to begin life again--or, rather, begin it for
the first time. I shall have to work for my living, just as any other
widow who is left alone without provision. This is very plain
speaking, but the position is simple."

"But, my dear Mrs. Davenport, you must not in this way give yourself
up to despair," said Mr. Paulton, as he rose and stood beside her.

"Despair!" she cried, looking up at him with a quick glance of angry
surprise. "Despair! You do not think me so poor a coward as to
despair. How can one who never knew hope know despair? I am in no
trouble about the future. I shall take to a line of life in which
there is room and to spare for such as I."

"Do not do anything hastily, I have a good deal of influence left."

Mrs. Paulton, who saw that Mrs. Davenport was excited, over-wrought,
rose and moved towards the door. The others stood up, excepting Mrs.
Davenport, who, as she was excited and looking up into Mr. Paulton's
face, did not hear the stir or see the move.

"I am most sincerely obliged to you, Mr. Paulton, but I greatly fear
that, much as I know you would wish it, you could not aid me in my
business scheme."

"May I ask what the business is?"

"The stage."

"The stage, Mrs. Davenport! You astound me."

"I have lived alone and secluded all my life. For the future I shall,
if I can, live among thousands of people, whom I will _compel_ to
sympathise with my mimic trials, since I never had any one to
sympathise with my real ones. I shall flee from an obscurity greater
than a cloister's to the blaze and full publicity of the footlights.
You think me mad?"

"No; ill-advised. Who suggested you should do this?"

She glanced around, and saw that the ladies were waiting for her.

"I beg your pardon," she said to them, as she rose and walked towards
the door, which Alfred held open.

She turned back as she went out, and answered Mr. Paulton's question
with the two words:

"Mr. Blake."

Alfred closed the door. The three men looked in amazement at one
another.

"There's something devilish in her or Blake," said the old man.

"Or both," said Jerry O'Brien.

By a tremendous effort, Alfred Paulton sat down and kept still. He did
not say anything aloud, but to himself he moaned:

"If I lose her, my reason will go again--this time for ever!"



                            CHAPTER XXXIV.

                      A TELEGRAM FROM THE MAIL.


When the men found themselves alone and somewhat calmed down after the
excitement caused by Mrs. Davenport's astonishing announcement, Mr.
Paulton and Jerry discussed the proposed step with great minuteness
and intelligence, while Alfred sat mute and listless. He pleaded the
necessity of his going to bed early on account of to-morrow's journey.
In the course of the discussion between the two elder men, Jerry held
that if she did take to the stage, she would make one of the most
startling successes of the time.

"She has beauty enough," he said, "to make men fools, and fire enough
to make them lunatics. What a Lady Macbeth she would be!"

Mr. Paulton was anything but a fogey. He did not forget that he had
been once young, nor did he forget that, when young, a pretty face and
a fine figure had seemed extremely bewitching things. He was liberal
in all his views, except in the matter of betting. To that vice he
would give no quarter whatever. He never once sought to restrain his
son's reading, and Alfred had a latchkey almost as soon as he was tall
enough to reach the keyhole. Although he did not smoke himself, he saw
no objection to others, his son included, smoking in suitable places,
and with moderation. He did not exclude shilling whist from his code,
although he never played. He rarely went out after dinner now, but
when he made his mind up to move, he did not think there was anything
unbecoming in his visiting a theatre--the _front_ of a theatre, mind
you, sir. He supposed and believed there were many excellent men
behind the scenes, and he did not feel himself called upon to say
that the majority of the ladies were not all that could be desired;
but--ah, well, he would be very sorry--it would, in fact, break his
heart if either of his daughters--Madge, for instance--went upon the
stage.

With the latter part of this somewhat long-winded speech Jerry
heartily concurred. He felt furious and full of strength when he
fancied Madge behind the curtain, subjected to dictation and
uncongenial associations, not to speak of anything more disagreeable
still. There were nasty draughts and nasty smells, and nasty ropes and
nasty dust, and sometimes the carefully-attuned ear might catch a
nasty word. It was blasphemy to think of Madge in such an atmosphere,
amid such surroundings. And then fancy any "young man" of fifty-six
putting his arm round Madge, and administering even a stage kiss to
his darling! The thing was preposterous, and not to be entertained by
any sane mind.

Coffee was sent into the dining-room, and the whole household retired
early.

Alfred's reflections that night were the reverse of pleasant. He had
that day seen the woman he loved. She had come before his eyes as
unsought as the flowery pageant of summer. She had filled his heart
with tropical heat, had set fancy dancing in his head, and restored
strength and vigour to his invalid body. He had, before the moment his
eyes rested on her that day, been satisfied with the hope of seeing
her in weeks, months. She had come voluntarily, no doubt, without
special thought of him, to their home; she had once more accepted
their hospitality, and he and O'Brien were to accompany her to
Ireland. They would not travel together, but he should know she was
near--know she was in the same train, in the same steamboat; they
should meet frequently on the journey, and, crowning thought of all,
they had one common destination!

He had that day spent some delicious minutes in her company. While she
was by he had forgotten his late illness, his present weakness. The
immediate moment had been filled with incommunicable joy, and the
future with splendid happiness.

What had befallen all this dream of enchantment? Ruin--ruin complete
and irreparable! She was, owing to some secret and mysterious cause or
other, no longer rich. In her own estimation she was a pauper. That
was little. If that was all, it could be borne with a smile--nay, with
gratitude; for riches would act as a lure to other men, and he wanted
only herself and, if it might come in time, her love.

She had determined to go upon the stage. That was bad--entirely bad;
but if this evil resolve stood alone, it might be combated. If she had
determined merely with herself to follow the profession of an actress,
she might be persuaded to abandon her design. But the unfortunate
course she had made up her mind to follow had been suggested by Blake,
by an old lover who years ago was dear to her, and now was absolute in
her counsels. This put an end to every hope that she could ever be
his.

Oh, weary day, and wearier night!

If he could, he would back out of going to Ireland; but that was now
impossible. Under the pressure of his great joy, he had told O'Brien
of his love for Mrs. Davenport, and all arrangements had, at his
request, been made for their setting off to-morrow. She must go
to-morrow. While there is life there is hope. He was hoping against
hope; but accidents did happen in many cases, and might happen in this
one. No man was bound to despair; in fact, despair was cowardly and
unmanly. It was the duty of every man to hope, and he would hope. He
would go to Ireland to-morrow; he would put his chance against
Blake's. If this disappointment were to kill him or drive him mad, he
might as well enjoy the pleasure of being near her until his health or
mind gave way finally.

When he came to this decision he fell asleep.

Next day broke chill and dismal, and none of the folk at Carlingford
House seemed lively except Edith. Mrs. Paulton was depressed because
her only son was going away from home and into a country of which she
had a vague and unfavourable notion. O'Brien was sulky at the thought
of being torn from the side of Madge, now that he might talk freely to
her of love and their prospects, and the brutal Commissioners. Mrs.
Davenport was depressed by a variety of circumstances and
considerations, and Alfred had much to make him anything but cheerful.
Mr. Paulton's seriousness--that was the strongest word which could
fairly be applied to his humour--was due to the dulness of the
weather, and a depreciation in the value of some shares held by him.

During the day each of the travellers was more or less busy with
preparations. Mrs. Davenport had to go to town early in order to
transact business she had neglected the day before. Alfred stayed
mostly in his room, and O'Brien, far from sweet-tempered, managed,
through the unsought contrivance of Edith, to be a whole hour alone
with Madge.

"You know," he said to her, when preliminaries had been disposed of,
"it's a beastly nuisance to have to go away from you now. I'd much
rather stop, I assure you."

"You are very kind."

"Don't be satirical, Madge. No woman ever yet showed to advantage when
satirical. I say it's a great shame to have to go away, particularly
when it's only to save appearances; for now that Blake has once more
come on the scene, all is up with poor Alfred. Upon my word, Madge, I
pity him."

"Do you like her, Jerry?"

"No. I like you. I like you very much. You're not a humbug."

"Is she?"

"No. But she's too awfully serious. I cannot help thinking she ought
to do everything to the slow music of kettledrums."

"Why kettle-drums?"

"I don't know. I suppose it's because the concerted kettle-drum
is the most bald and arid form of harmonious row. I'm afraid my
language is neither select nor expressive. But one can't help one's
feelings--particularly when one's feelings make one like you. I really
am sorry to have to leave you."

"But you mustn't blame me for that."

"Now you are quite unreasonable. You must know that a man without a
grievance is as insipid as a woman without vanity."

"Jerry, I'm not a bit vain; I never was a bit vain. What could I be
vain about?"

"Ungrateful girl! Have I not laid my hand and fortune, including the
bodies of the murdered Commissioners, at your feet?"

"You are silly, Jerry."

"How am I silly? In having laid my hand and fortune and the
bodies----"

"No. In talking such nonsense."

"And you are not vain of having made a conquest of me?"

"Jerry, I'm very fond of you, and I don't like you to talk to me as if
you thought I was only a silly girl whom you were trying to amuse with
any silly things you could think of. I hope you don't believe I'm a
fool?"

"No. You are right, Madge: it's a poor compliment for a man to talk
mere tattle to his sweetheart. I wonder, darling, if you would give me
a keepsake, now that I am going away?"

"No. I have no faith in keepsakes. I would not take any keepsake from
you, because I shall need nothing to remind me of you when you are
away."

"Darling, nor I of you. And if things go wrong with me?"

"They can't go wrong with you."

"I mean if I come off worse in these business affairs."

"That will not make any difference in you."

"No. Nor in you, darling?"

"No."

He held her in his arms a while, and said no more. Thus they parted.

It had been arranged that the two men should meet Mrs. Davenport at
Euston. They were on the platform when she arrived. To their surprise
she was not alone: Blake accompanied her. As soon as they came forward
he shook hands with her, raised his hat, and retired.

O'Brien and Paulton were greatly taken aback by Blake's presence. They
busied themselves about her luggage, and then took seats in the same
compartment with her. They were the only passengers in the
compartment.

As soon as the train was in motion she leaned forward to O'Brien, and
said in a clear, distinct voice, the edge of which was not dulled by
the rumble of the wheels:

"You arrived the day before yesterday from Ireland?"

"Yes," he answered, bending forward and looking into her inscrutable
eyes.

"You have been at Kilcash?"

"Yes. I was there for about a month."

"Did you hear a ghost story there?"

He started and looked seriously at her.

"Yes, I did. May I ask if you have heard anything about it?"

"Yes. When I got back to Jermyn Street where I stayed, I found a
letter there telling me that a ghost, the ghost of a man named Michael
Fahey, had been seen in the neighbourhood of Kilcash."

"At the Black Rock. I was going to tell the story yesterday at dinner,
but it slipped by."

"Do you know anything of this--apparition?"

"I saw it myself, and two others saw it."

"Where do we stop first?"

"At Rugby."

She took a note-book from her pocket, and wrote something in it. When
the writing was finished, she tore out the leaf on which it was, and
handed the leaf to O'Brien, saying:

"Will you be kind enough to telegraph this from Rugby for me?"

"It will have to be written on a form," he said, hesitatingly.

"Will you oblige by writing it on a form for me? There is no reason
why you shouldn't read it."

When he got out at Rugby he read the message. It was addressed to
Blake, and ran:

"_Mr. O'Brien saw what I told you. Follow me to Ireland at once_."



                            CHAPTER XXXV.

                           THE TRAVELLERS.


It was impossible for O'Brien to tell Alfred the nature of the
telegram he had just despatched to Blake. It would not be seemly to
whisper or to write, and to leave the compartment with the proclaimed
intention of seeking a smoking carriage would be a transparent device.
There was nothing for it but to sit still and keep silent.

The three travellers settled themselves in their corners, and
pretended to go to sleep. Each had thoughts of an absorbing nature,
but none had anything exceptionally happy with which to beguile the
dreary midnight journey. It was impossible to see if Mrs. Davenport
slept or not. She had, upon settling herself after leaving Rugby,
pulled down her thick veil over her face, and remained quite
motionless. Young Paulton was not yet as strong as he imagined, and
the monotonous sound and motion soon fatigued him, and he fell asleep.

Although O'Brien kept his eyes resolutely shut he never felt more
wakeful in his life.

What on earth could this woman want with this man of most blemished
reputation and desperate fortune? She had seen him lately, and he had
told her something of the mysterious appearance near the Puffing Hole;
but it was not until after they had started from Euston that she had
made up her mind to summon him to Ireland. What could she want him
for? She was, according to her own statement, now no longer rich. She
was no longer young. The best years of her beauty had passed away. No
doubt she was still an extremely beautiful woman, but the freshness
was gone. As far as he knew, Blake was the last man in the world to
marry such a woman. And yet there was some secret bond, some concealed
link between them. He was not unjust to her. He did not believe she
would inveigle any man into a marriage, and he could not understand
why this Blake was now even tolerable to her.

However matters might go, it looked as if Alfred were certain to
suffer. It was quite plain he was madly in love with her, and that she
did not see, or was indifferent to his passion. She was not a
coquette. She showed no desire to claim indulgence because of her sex
or sorrows, and certainly exacted no privilege as a tribute to her
beauty. To him she seemed hard, mechanical, cold. She had, it is true,
broken down the day before, but that was under extreme pressure.
Usually she was as unsympathetic, self-contained as bronze.

Jerry was not a fool or a bigot, and he allowed to himself, with
perfect candour, that although he looked on Alfred's passion as
infatuation, he could understand it. He himself was no more in love
with her than with the black night through which they were speeding;
but if she, at that moment, raised her veil and stood before him and
bade him undertake something unpleasant--nay, dangerous--he would
essay it. Strength gives command to a man, beauty to a woman, love to
either.

At Chester the three got coffee, and once more took up their corners
and affected to sleep or slept.

When they reached the boat at Holyhead, Mrs. Davenport said good-night
and descended to the ladies' cabin. The two friends got on the bridge,
and as soon as the steamer had started O'Brien took Paulton to the
weather bulwark, and told him the substance of the telegram Mrs.
Davenport had sent to London.

To O'Brien's astonishment, the younger man made nothing of the matter.
It was simply a business affair, he said: nothing of any moment. From
all they had heard, Blake knew more than they had supposed of the dead
man's affairs; and now that Mrs. Davenport had resolved not to take
the fortune her husband had left her, it was almost certain Blake
could be of assistance to her.

After a little while it was agreed that the bridge was too cold for
Alfred, so both men went below and lay down. O'Brien fell asleep, and
did not awake until he was called close to Kingstown.

It was a dreary, cold, bleak morning, with thin sunlight. There had
been rain in the night, and everything looked chill and depressing.
The passage had been smooth, and none of the three had suffered by it
beyond the spiritless depression arising from imperfect rest and
fatigue.

When they alighted at Westland Row, Jerry suggested that they should
send on their luggage to the King's Bridge terminus, and seek
breakfast.

"Not my luggage," said Mrs. Davenport; "I am not going to Kilcash
to-day. Kindly get me a cab. I will stay at the 'Tourists' Hotel.' I
have telegraphed, as you know, to Mr. Blake to come over, and will
send him word to meet me there. I am extremely obliged to both of you
for all your kindnesses on the way."

Alfred started, and Jerry looked surprised.

"You are," the latter said, "quite sure you prefer staying here. Of
course I do not presume to interfere; but perhaps it might be more
convenient for you, Mrs. Davenport, if Mr. Blake followed you to
Kilcash?"

"I am quite sure," she said, decisively, "that it would be best for me
to stay in Dublin for the present."

"If you simply wanted rest, we could wait for you a day or two," said
Alfred, out of whose face all look of animation had gone.

"Thank you, I am not in the least tired; and if you will get me a cab,
and tell the man to drive me to the 'Tourists', you will greatly
oblige me."

Nothing more was to be done or said. Her luggage was put on a cab, she
again thanked the two friends, and saying she hoped to have an
opportunity of soon seeing them at Kilcash House, said goodbye to
them, and drove away.

Alfred and Jerry O'Brien got breakfast, drove to the King's Bridge
terminus, and started for the South in no very good humour.

"It's always the way," thought the latter, despondingly. "Only for the
infernal Commissioners and O'Hanlon's craze about his brain--bless the
mark!--I need not have left London last month. Only for Alfred's
infatuated impatience and his father's vicarious gallantry, I might be
there now; and here are the Commissioners gone to sleep, O'Hanlon's
head good for nothing, any number of future bills of costs, and we
deserted by the object of young love and elderly gallantry! Upon my
word, it's too bad. If O'Hanlon had only had the good sense to murder
the Commissioners while suffering from temporary or permanent
insanity, and Blake owned the good taste to run away with the
widow--why, then, things would be wholesome and comfortable. As it is,
they are simply-beastly."

The two friends arrived late that night at the "Strand Hotel,"
Kilcash, and went to bed almost immediately. Neither rose early next
morning, but when they did get up, they found the weather magically
improved. A few high silver clouds floated against the deep blue
screen of sky, beyond which one knew the stars lay; for the grass and
bare branches of trees flashed and blazed, not with the yellow light
of the gaudy sun, but with rays that seemed glorious memories of
midnight stars. The sea in the bay was calm as a lake, and joined upon
the level margin of the sand smoothly, like a steady white flame
spreading out from a dull-red lake of fire. The doors of the cottages
were open, and people were abroad. Thin wreaths of smoke went up from
hushed hearths. Hundreds of gulls sailed slowly up and down across the
mouth of the bay. Now a dog barked, now a cock crew, now a wild bird
whistled.

Opposite Alfred, as he stood at his window, drinking in the peace of
the scene, rose the sloping sides of the bay. On them were sheep
grazing. Here the salt blasts from the Atlantic would let no wheat or
oats, or grain of any other kind, prosper. Nothing would grow but
short, poor grass, on which sheep picked up an humble livelihood. The
harvest fields of Kilcash were beyond the bay, out there on the blue
depths of the ocean, that great cosmopolitan common of the races of
man.

Little labour was ever to be done in Kilcash. Its farms, its
workshops, its mines were in the sea. No child, until he himself went
to sea, ever saw his father work. The men came home not merely to
their houses, but to the village to rest. When they had hauled up
their boats, and carried away the nets and sails and oars and masts,
their labours were at an end. The women bore the fish up to the Storm
Wall, whence it was thrown into carts and creels, and driven off to
Kilbarry. The visitors who came to the place in summer did not work.
They came avowedly to do nothing--to idle through the sunny weather,
to play at fishing, play at boating, play at swimming, to make grave
business of doing nothing.

"I feel it doing me good already," said Alfred, as he threw up the
window and spread his chest broad to take a full inspiration of the
invigorating, balsamic air.

After a late breakfast the two friends strolled out.

"What shall we do to-day?" said Jerry, lighting a cigar.

"What is there to be done?" asked Alfred, by way of reply.

"Nothing," answered Jerry, throwing away the match--"absolutely
nothing. It is because there is nothing to be done here I thought the
place would do you good."

"Not by way of change?" said Alfred, with a smile.

"Well, doing nothing at Kilcash is very different from doing nothing
in London. There you get up, eat breakfast, look at the morning
papers, yawn over a book; write three notes to say you have no time to
write a letter; wonder what the earlier portion of the day was
intended for; resolve to go to bed early that night so as to find out
the secret; dress; go out nowhere, anywhere; make a call on a person
whom you don't want to see, and who doesn't want to see you; curse
yourself for being so stupid as to look him up, and him for being so
stupid as not to amuse you; buy a hairbrush you don't want; wonder
where people can be going in hansoms at such an hour, and can't find
out for the life of you where you could go in a hansom at that time,
except to the British Museum, or Tower, or National Gallery, or some
other place no respectable person ever yet went to; drop into a club
for luncheon, and find that no one you ever saw before lunches at the
club, and that those who do are intensely disagreeable; stroll into
the park; pick up two dear old boys, who have been looking for you
everywhere to tell you about something or other that makes you swear;
back to the club to dinner, where you meet every man you care for, and
dine; after dinner go somewhere or other--to Brown's, for instance, or
to the theatre, or to see the performing Mastodon; afterwards cards or
billiards, and bed at half-past two or three."

"That's rather a full and exhausting programme for an idle day. It
isn't much good here. What do you do here a day you do nothing?"

"Nothing. Whether it's a busy or an idle day with you here, you can't
do anything, except you get books and go in for the exact sciences.
You couldn't buy a morning paper here for a sovereign, or a pack of
cards for a hundred pounds. The hotel does not take in a paper at this
time of the year, and only three come to the village--one each to the
clergymen, and one to the police barracks. The garrison of the
barracks is six men and a bull-terrier. There's no one to look at
here, and no one to call on, except the echoes, which at this time of
the year are uncommonly surly, not to say scurrilous. There is no
fish, as the fish have all gone away on business; they come here only
to stare at the summer visitors. The only thing one can do here is
smoke--provided you don't buy the tobacco in the village."

"And walk?" asked Alfred. "Cannot one walk here?"

"Yes, mostly. Not always, though; for when it rains here you have to
swim, and when it blows here, you have to fly."

"But to-day, for instance, we can walk."

O'Brien looked aloft, looked down in the light wind, and then out to
sea.

"Yes, I think it will keep fine."

"Well, then, let us walk."

"But I forgot to tell you there is no place to walk to."

"Oh, yes, there is. I know more of the neighbourhood than you, short a
time as I have been here."

"Where?"

"Kilcash House. Jerry, don't laugh or don't abuse me. I can't help it.
Let me see where she lived--where she will live again."



                            CHAPTER XXXVI.

                         SOLICITOR AND CLIENT.


When Mrs. Davenport reached the "Tourists' Hotel," she asked to be
shown into a private sitting-room. She had slept in the boat, and was
in no need of repose. In reply to the servant, she desired breakfast
to be brought, and asked for writing materials. She wrote out a
telegram to Blake: "I am staying at the 'Tourists', and shall await
you here." She wrote a couple of notes of no consequence, and then
breakfasted. At the very earliest Blake could not reach Dublin until
that evening. In the meantime she would go and see her late husband's
solicitor, Mr. Vincent Lonergan.

The old attorney received Mrs. Davenport with the most elaborate
courtesy. He was tall, round-shouldered, white-haired, white-bearded,
fresh-coloured, slow, oracular. He congratulated himself on meeting
her for the first time, and fished up phrases of sympathy and
condolence out of his inner consciousness, as though he was the first
man in the world who had ever to refer to such matters. Then he
paused, partly that his elaborate commonplaces might have time to sink
into her mind, and partly that she might have time to collect her
thoughts and bring her mind to the business of her visit.

"May I ask you," she said, "how long you acted as solicitor to my late
husband?"

"About twelve years, I think. I can tell you exactly if you desire
it."

"I will not trouble you for the exact date. During those twelve years
you were well acquainted with all Mr. Davenport's affairs, I dare
say?"

"With the legal aspect of his affairs, yes. With the business aspect
of his affairs, no."

"You know that he made large sums of money by speculating in foreign
stocks and shares?"

"I do not _know_ it. I have heard it."

"From whom have you heard it?"

"From several people--himself among the number."

She paused a moment, and then said: "Your words seem to imply a doubt.
You will, I am certain, give me all the information you can?"

"Assuredly, my dear lady."

"Then do you not know that he made his money out of foreign
speculations?"

"Permit me to explain: I did not intend to imply any doubt as to the
way in which the late Mr. Davenport made his money. We solicitors get
into a legal way of talking when we are at business; and, legally
speaking, I have no knowledge of my own of how the late Mr. Davenport
made his money, because the making of the money did not come directly
under my observation. I _do_ know he told me he made it in foreign
speculations, and I think you will be quite safe in taking it that he
did make it abroad. We are now, as I take it, speaking of the time
before your marriage with Mr. Davenport?"

"Yes, of the time before my marriage."

"Since then, you would naturally know more of his business affairs
than I."

"He spoke little to me of business, and I know hardly anything of his
affairs."

"As you know, you are largely benefited under the will. Roughly
speaking, all his property goes to you, in addition to what you are
entitled to under the marriage settlement."

She made a slight gesture, as though putting these subjects aside.

He made an elaborate gesture, indicating that he understood her, and
that he was her obedient, humble servant. After another pause she
asked:

"Do you know anything of a man named Fahey--a man who was in some way
or other connected with Mr. Davenport, and who was drowned or
committed suicide many years ago, shortly after Mr. Davenport's
marriage?"

"Fahey--Fahey--Fahey? Yes, I do. I remember that he drowned himself
near Kilcash House because the police were on his track for uttering
forged bank-notes."

"Do you know in what relation he stood to Mr. Davenport?"

"I am under the impression he was some kind of humble hanger-on; but I
am not sure."

"You _know_ nothing of him?"

"Certainly not."

"Never saw him?"

"Not to my knowledge."

Another pause.

"You were good enough to tell me a moment ago that you are acquainted
with the legal business of my late husband. Suppose I did not wish to
take any money or property under my late husband's will, how would the
matter be?"

"Not take your husband's money or property under the will! You are
not, my dear Mrs. Davenport, thinking of anything so monstrous?" cried
the old man, fairly surprised out of his measured tone and oracular
manner.

"Suppose I am. Have I, or shall I soon have, absolute control over
what has been left to me?"

"Certainly. There are no conditions. All will be yours absolutely."

"Thank you. I am very much obliged. You will add further to my
obligations to you if you will kindly hurry forward all matters in
connection with the will. I am most anxious to have the money in my
own hands."

"Permit me to explain once more: I take it for granted you have not
had leisure to read the copy of the will I forwarded to you?"

She bowed.

"In wills there are often very stupid conditions and provisions which
govern the disposal of the property. In this case there are no
conditions or provisions, so that you enter into possession quite
untrammelled. You understand me when I say quite untrammelled?"

"I understand."

"So that if at any time it seemed well to you to----" He stopped. She
had begun to rise, and he did not know whether it would be wise to
complete the sentence or not.

She stood before him holding out her hand as she finished what he had
begun--"To marry again I should run no risk of forfeiting the money."

"Precisely."

She smiled.

"Thank you. I am a little tired, and am not able to express my sense
of your goodness to me during this interview. But I am, I assure you,
grateful. I am not thinking of marriage. You will, I hope, be able to
get everything into order soon. I must go now. Good-bye."

He saw her into the cab waiting for her at the door, and then walked
back to his private office.

"A remarkable woman," he mused, "a remarkable and very fine woman. But
I suppose she's mad. There's a screw loose in the heads of the
Davenport family, and 'Evil communications corrupt good manners.'
Perhaps she took the taint from him. There was no screw loose in his
business head. He was as sharp as razors, and as close as wax. I think
she's mad, or perhaps she's only a rogue. I suspect his money was not
over clean, but that's no affair of mine. She married Davenport, every
one said, for his money. She lived with him all these years for his
money, every one said--although, for the life of me, I can't see what
good it did him or her; and now he's gone, and the money is all hers,
and she talks of doing away with it. Oh, she must be mad, for I don't
see where the roguery could come in, unless--unless---- Ah, that may
be it. By Jove, I'm sure that's it! Byron says, 'Believe a woman or an
epitaph?' But he didn't mean it. Byron hardly ever meant what he said,
and never what he wrote. It's a pity he never turned his attention to
law. He never, as far as my reading has gone, did anything with law
except to break all of it he could lay his hands on--civil and
divine--especially divine, for that's cheap, and he was poor. She's a
very fine woman, though. But what is this I was saying? Oh, yes. The
only explanation of her conduct is that Blake, the blackguard Blake,
has asked her, or is going to ask her, to marry him, and that she
wants to test him by saying she is about to give away all her money to
charitable institutions. That's the root of the mystery. And then,
when she marries him, she'll throw all the money into his lap, and
he'll spend it for her, and gamble it away and beat her. Anyway, he
can't make quite a pauper of her, for even she herself can't destroy
her marriage settlement, and the trustees won't stand any nonsense.
_Always_ 'believe a woman _and_ an epitaph.' I wonder what kind of an
epitaph will she put up to Davenport? Something about his name always
reminding her of him--that she couldn't stand it, and so had to change
it."



                           CHAPTER XXXVII.

                 THE WIDOW'S THEORY OF THE CASE.


When Mrs. Davenport got back to the hotel, she inquired if any
telegram had come for her, and was told not. She seemed displeased,
disappointed. She asked questions, and discovered that it would be
next to impossible that her telegram could reach London before the
departure of the morning mail. This put things right, for she felt
certain that if Blake got her message he would have replied. He was on
his way, and would be in Dublin that evening. In Dublin, yes; but how
should he know where to seek her? She spoke to the manager, to whom
she explained her difficulty.

If the lady telegraphed to the mail-boat at Holyhead, the gentleman
would be sure to get the message.

She thanked the manager, and adopted his suggestion. The day was
unpleasant under foot and overhead. There were no friends upon whom
she wished to call. The ten years of secluded life at Kilcash House
had severed all connection with old acquaintances, and she had made no
new ones.

She remained by herself in the sitting-room. She did not even try to
read. She sat in the window, and kept her eyes turned towards the busy
street. It could not be said she watched the crowds and vehicles, or
was even conscious of their existence. She kept her eyes in their
direction--that was all.

Luncheon was brought in. She sat at the table for a quarter of an
hour, ate something, and then went back to the old place at the
window. It was dark before dinner appeared, but she did not ring for
lights. When dinner was over, it was close to the time for the arrival
of the mail. She put on her bonnet, and went to Westland Row terminus.
The weather was still unpleasant, but she did not care, did not heed
it. She had not long to wait in that dismal, squalid cavern at the
foot of the stone steps leading down from the platform. The train
rumbled in, and the passengers began to descend and pass between the
double row of people. Suddenly she stepped forward and touched a man
on the arm. He turned quickly, and looked at her, exclaiming:

"You here, Marion! I got your telegram on the boat."

"I was afraid it might miss you, so I thought it safer to come
myself."

"What extraordinary story is this? I can scarcely believe you were
serious when you wired me yesterday from Rugby."

"I was in no humour for jesting," she said. "This is no place to talk
in. Wait until we get to the hotel."

When they were seated in Mrs. Davenport's sitting-room, he waited for
her to speak. She was in the arm of the couch--he by the table, with
his elbow resting on it. They were facing one another. She clasped her
hands in her lap and rested against the back of the couch. She was
deadly pale, and when she spoke her voice was low, firm, and full of
thought.

"I want you to tell me _all_ you know about this man Fahey. Mind, you
are to tell me all. There is no use in concealing anything now. I will
not take a penny of that money. Speak plainly."

"Not take the money, Marion! Are you mad?" he exclaimed, starting
forward on his chair.

"Not yet. The future of my reason will depend a good deal on the
plainness of your speech. Go on."

"But I have told you all that is worth telling."

"Tell it to me all over again, and this time add everything, great or
little, you can think of, you can recollect. Let me judge what is
worth listening to, and what is not. I am waiting."

"I know next to nothing of Fahey, and never saw the man in all my
life. You are allowing this absurd story of his ghost to prey on you.
You will make yourself ill."

"Nothing is so bad as uncertainty. I am racked by uncertainty. Go on
if you wish to do me a service."

"Service! I'd die for your sake, Marion."

"Then speak for my sake." She did not move or show any interest one
way or the other in his words, although they had been spoken
pleadingly, passionately.

"At Florence, when he was seized by that delusion, he raved now and
then, and in his ravings he said continually that there was a plot to
rob and murder him. He did not include me in the conspiracy, but all
others were leagued against him. At times he would become furious, and
defy his imaginary foes, swearing that all of them together were
powerless against him, as Fahey was loyal, and would be loyal to the
death."

"Loyal in what?"

"I don't know. He did not say in either his sane or frantic moments."

"What _did_ he say?"

"That Fahey knew, but that no power on earth would drag the secret out
of Fahey."

"What secret?"

"How should I know?"

"Do you know?"

"Upon my soul, Marion, I do not."

"Well, and after that what would happen?"

"He would laugh and snap his fingers at imaginary conspirators, and
dare them to do their worst, and then he would break out into a laugh
of triumph. And, as I hope to live, Marion, that's all."

"Every word?"

"Every syllable, I swear to you. Marion, I could not tell you a lie.
Marion, I never loved you until now. If you bid me, I will die for
you. If you tell me, I will go away and never see you again. Try me.
Bid me go or bid me die. Tell me to do anything, if you will only
believe I love you as I never loved you before--as I never loved any
other woman in the world. Since you will not forgive me, since you
will not give me your love for mine, since you will not let me be near
you or see you, set me something to do by which I can show you I am
sincere--madly in earnest."

He bent towards her, and held out his hands, but did not leave his
chair. His voice, his whole frame shook with excitement.

She raised her hand and lowered it gently, as a signal that he was to
be still and silent.

He drew his arms and his body quickly back, and sat mutely regarding
her.

"I am sorry," she said, slowly, gently, "that you spoke in that strain
now. This is not the time for such matters----"

"Then a time may come, Marion--a time may come soon or late? I do not
care when----"

"No," she answered, quietly, resolutely.

"That time came and went long ago. Be silent on that subject. I want
to speak of long ago."

He groaned, and struck his forehead with his clenched fist.

"It was scarcely fair of me to ask you to come. Will you answer my
questions?"

"Ask me what you please. I'll do it. The only hope now left to me is
that you will allow me to serve you."

"My next question may be, must be painful to you."

He laughed bitterly.

"That does not matter. Nothing can matter now, except feeling I can be
of no use to you."

"What means of influence had you over my husband beyond what I knew
of?"

"I am not in the least pained by that question. I was a poor idiotic
fool to give you up, but I could not support you if I married you on
my own means then. I had no means. But still less could I, vile as I
was, marry you on money got from him."

"What influence had you?"

"I had only one spell to conjure with."

"And that was?"

"The name of Fahey."

"How did you employ that name?"

"I said to him once, 'Is Fahey still loyal?' I said it half in jest.
We were alone. He begged of me never to mention that name again, as it
recalled his awful condition in Florence. He said if I would do him
the favour of never referring to that circumstance or name, he would
be my life-long debtor--adding: 'And I mean what I say, and that it
shall have practical results.'"

"He meant money."

"Yes."

"Was that before or after he gave you the thousand pounds?"

"Before--some months before. But now-poor Davenport is no more, and
cannot be hurt by any one. And Fahey is dead, and can hurt no one,
though foolish old women frighten themselves with the thought that
they have seen his ghost. Did you know this Fahey?"

She shuddered. This was the first sign of feeling she showed. What it
sprang from he could not guess.

"I did," she answered, unsteadily.

"And you believe this story about the ghost?"

"No."

"What then?"

"That"--with another shudder--"he is alive."

"Alive, Marion--alive! You are overexcited. You are talking nonsense.
Go and lie down. You are worn out."

"I am. I feel my head whirling round. Leave me."

He rose obediently to go.

"My mind is giving way, Tom."

That name spoken by her lips again rooted him to the spot.

"They suspected you, Tom, of that awful deed, and they say he did it
himself. I am going mad. Surely this is madness."

"What--what! Marion!"

"And now I suspect--_him!_"

"Whom, in the name of heaven?"

"Fahey. He was jealous of you both. Why did you put out the
lights----"

She tottered!



                           CHAPTER XXXVIII.

                "WHERE'ER I CAME I BROUGHT CALAMITY."


Tom Blake was thunderstruck. They were both standing facing one
another a few feet apart. Blake was not a man to be disturbed by a
trifle. He had been a good deal about in the world, and had had
experience of various kinds of men and women. Many years ago he had
met this woman frequently, and in the end he made love to her.
Although she accepted that love and returned it, she had never taken
him fully into her confidence.

In Marion Butler, as he knew her eleven or twelve years ago, there had
always been a certain undefined reserve. She would not refuse to
answer any question put to her, nor was there a doubt she answered
truly and fully. But she always created the impression that there were
questions which he could not devise or discover, and the answer to
which he was in no way prepared for. He had no idea or hint of what
these questions might be. He was in no way uneasy about them. He was
convinced there were portions of her nature which would always be
concealed from him; but he was not jealous or suspicious. He was not
then even slightly disquieted by this blankness, this reticence. It
had no more meaning for him than would her native tongue, had she been
born a Hindoo and laid that language aside for English. She had told
him she had never loved any one but him, and he believed her without
the possibility of doubt. She promised to be his wife, and he believed
she would have stood at the altar with him though death were his rival
for the first kiss.

But now he was amazed, confounded. He had never seen the man Fahey,
but he had heard and read in the papers a little about him, and from
all he had gathered he fancied Fahey was a kind of upper servant or
hanger-on of some kind. Davenport had spoken to him of Fahey, but the
talk had been very general and vague, except with regard to the
conspiracy, and the former man always showed the greatest possible
disinclination to hear anything, or be asked any questions relating to
the latter. Blake had never run the risk of riding a free horse to
death. He got money in large sums from Mr. Davenport, but he had been
judicious. There was nothing so low or coarse as blackmail hinted at
by Mr. Davenport. That gentleman and he were excellent friends, and he
had had bad luck, or was in want of money for some other cause, and
when men became alarmed about money matters, although they were quite
innocent, they often did foolish things. Look at that idiot Fahey. So
Mr. Davenport, because he was a gentleman and a friend of Blake's,
gave him money out of mere courtesy and good nature, and not fear, as
one gives to a strange fellow-pedestrian on the footway when the
stranger carries a load. There was no more hint of threat or dread of
fear in the case of Mr. Davenport's offering the money, or of Blake
taking it, than in the case of the meeting of two unacquainted
wayfarers.

He had thought nothing the widow could tell him would take him by
surprise, and here he now was fairly breathless and amazed. There was
no doubt in his mind this Fahey had not been the social equal of
Marion Butler, and Blake was of opinion the man's origin had been much
lower than Mr. Davenport's, though whence the dead man had sprung he
did not exactly know. Kilcash House had not always been the dead man's
property. He had bought it only a little while before his marriage.
Davenport seemed to be a man accustomed to meet men only. He was not
by any means at his ease in an ordinary mixed company, and he had
explained this to Blake by saying that until comparatively late in
life he had been almost wholly a business man and unaccustomed to the
society of ladies.

But now what ghastly light shone on the dire tragedy of the Crescent
House in Dulwich! What a wonderful revelation was this! Fahey, the
humble follower of the dead man, had been an admirer of the dead man's
wife; and he who had been declared dead a decade of years ago was by
her believed to be living, and to have been connected directly with
her husband's death! No wonder he was giddy. No wonder he could find
no words to speak to her. No wonder he could only stand and gaze at
her in stupid fear, revolving in a dim light the ghostly pageant of
the past.

It was she who broke the silence.

"I wish I were dead!"

Her voice recalled him to her presence and the immediate hour. He took
her by the hand, led her to a seat, and began pacing up and down the
room without speaking.

"Advise me," she went on, after a pause. "Advise me, out of mercy. If
I were dead, there would be no lips to tell, no soul to suspect the
horrors by which I am haunted. Advise me. You know more of me than any
other living being. Shall I die?"

Still he could not speak. Her question came to his ears as though it
were something apart from her personality and his consideration--as
though it were a tedious impertinence rising from an indifferent
source. Although he knew he was in that room with the widow of Louis
Davenport, and that she had just said she believed Fahey was alive,
and had killed her husband from jealousy, he could not give the
situation substantial form. There were confounding murmurs in his
ears, and indeterminable shadows floating before his eyes. His mind
was clamorous for quiet, and the clamour stunned and confounded him.

"Speak to me," she pleaded. "I am not deserted, yet I am alone. I have
always been alone since I can first remember. Only I myself have
broken the solitude in which I lived. Once, long ago, I thought you
were coming towards me from a distance, to share my solitude, but
you--you--went by. I felt like a castaway on a desolate island, who
sees a sail bear down upon him in the twilight, only to find the
morning sea a barren desert of water. Should I die? That is not a hard
question for you to answer, is it?"

"No; not a hard question, Marion. You must live."

"For what?"

If she had asked this question an hour ago, before she told him her
horrible suspicions, he would readily have answered, "For me." As it
was, such an answer would have seemed flippant, profane. But an answer
of some kind must be made. He could find no answer, and said merely,
"Give me time."

She sat upright on her chair. One hand and arm rested on the table,
the white hand lying open upon the leaf, the thumb holding on by the
edge. Her head and face were thrust forward, her chin projecting, the
forehead reclining. Her eyes, wide open, followed him closely,
intently, but not eagerly. She seemed curious, more than anxious. It
was as though she took but a reflected interest in the question,
although the reply might govern her action. She waited for him
patiently. He was a long time before he spoke.

"Marion," he said at length, "if I am to be of any use to you--if even
my advice is to be of service to you--I must know all--all, without
reserve of any kind. On the face of it, your question is absurd.
Supposing you had no code--no religious feeling in the matter; suppose
you had no fear or hope of the other world, what earthly good could
come of your doing violence to yourself?--of your throwing away your
life suddenly?"

While he was saying this, he continued to walk up and down the room,
with his eyes bent on the floor.

Her eyes had continued to follow him in the same close, intent way.
Still they lacked eagerness. She was a pupil anxious to know--not an
enthusiast impatient to act.

"It would," she answered, with no trace of emotion, "close up his
grave for ever, and give peace to his name."

"Your husband's--your husband's grave and name! Come, Marion, let us
be frank."

"In what am I uncandid?"

"You did not--you swore at the inquest you did not--love your husband,
and now you are talking of killing yourself for his sake. Marion, you
cannot hold such words candid."

He paused in his walk, and stood before her. He looked at her a
moment, and then averted his gaze. Her eyes, although they rested
intelligently on him, did not appear to identify him. They were the
eyes of one occupied with the solution of a mental problem, aided by
formula of which he was merely the source.

"Thomas Blake," she said, "I once thought you might grow to understand
me, and then I came to the conclusion you never could. You are now
further off than ever. Louis Davenport was my husband, and I belonged
to him. I belong to him still. I swore--as they were good enough to
remind me at the inquest--to love, honour, and obey him. I did not
come to love him as women love their husbands, but my feeling towards
him was whole and loyal. I was his, and I am his; and if my death, now
that he is dead, can benefit him or comfort his name with quiet, I am
willing to die. Do not be alarmed. I shall make no unpleasantness
here. Do you think I am in the way of his rest?"

"Marion, you are talking pure nonsense. Why, your feelings as a
Christian alone----"

"Who told you I was a Christian? I tell you I am a Pagan. Leave me at
least the Pagan virtues of courage and fearlessness." She did not
move.

He looked at her. There could be no doubt she was sincere. Mad as her
words sounded, they must be taken at the full value of their ordinary
meaning.

"I will not seek to break down your resolution or turn your purpose
aside. But before I can be of any real use to you in the way of
advice, you must trust me wholly. How am I to judge of your duty
unless I know the entire case? Tell me all you know. Tell me all that
passed between you and this Fahey, and all you know of the relations
between him and your husband."

"I will tell you all you need know."

"Do you think you are a good judge of where your confidence in a
matter of this importance should end?"

"I think I am. At all events, I shall be reticent if I consider it
better not to speak."

"Well, then, go on, Marion, and tell me all you may. Mind, the more I
know the more likely I am able to be of use to you."

She passed the hand not resting on the table across her forehead.

"Sit down," she said. "I can speak with greater ease while you are
sitting."

He took a chair directly opposite her, and she began:

"All that I said at the inquest is true, and I told the whole truth in
answer to any questions I was asked; but I did not say all that was in
my mind. I have had bitter trials in my life. I will not refer again
to what was once between you and me; and, remember, in anything I may
say I shall have no thought of that. I put that away from my mind
altogether, and it will be ungenerous of you if you draw any deduction
towards our relations in the past from anything I may say. Is that
understood?"

"Perfectly, Marion. I know you too well to fancy for a moment you
could be guilty of the mean cowardice of talking at any one. Go on."

"Thank you. I am glad you think I am no coward." She still kept her
hand before her face, as though to concentrate her attention upon her
mental vision. "As I said at that awful inquest, there was never
anything ever so slightly like a quarrel between Mr. Davenport and me.
Except that we lived almost exclusively at Kilcash House, which was
dull, I had little or nothing to complain of; and the great quiet and
isolation of that place did not affect me much, for I had small or no
desire to go out into the world, and after a few years it would have
given me more pain than pleasure to have to mingle in society. Very
shortly after my marriage I met Michael Fahey for the first time----"

"What was he like?" asked Blake, interrupting her.

"He was tall and slender. His hair was brown, his eyes light in
colour--blue, I think. He wore a moustache of lighter colour than his
hair, and small whiskers of the same colour. He was good-looking in a
way----"

"What kind of way?"

"Well, a soft and gentle way. At first he struck me as being a man who
was weak, mentally and physically. Later I had reason to think him a
man of average, if not more than average, physical strength."

"About how old was he then?"

"I could not say exactly. Under thirty, I should think. He also struck
me as a man of not quite good social position. His manners were
uneasy, apprehensive, and his English uncertain. He was restless and
ill at ease, and for my own peace of mind I was glad when I parted
from him; for it struck me he would be much more comfortable if he and
my husband were left alone together.

"My husband spoke to me in the highest terms of Fahey, and said that
although he wished nothing to be said about it just then, or until he
gave me leave to mention it, Fahey had done him useful service in his
time. That was all Mr. Davenport volunteered, and I asked no question.
I was sure of one thing more--namely, that the less I was with Michael
Fahey the better my husband would be satisfied.

"I smiled when this conviction came first upon me. Up to the moment I
felt it I had in my mind treated this Fahey as a kind of upper
servant, who was to be soothed into unconsciousness that he was not an
equal. For a short time I felt inclined to expostulate with Mr.
Davenport on the absurdity of fancying Fahey could think of me save as
the wife of his patron; but I kept silence, partly out of pride and
partly out of ignorance of the relations which really existed between
this man and my husband. You may, or may not, have heard of a
circumstance which occurred shortly after my marriage?"

"I remember nothing noteworthy. Tell me what it was."

"At that time it was Mr. Davenport's habit to keep large sums of money
in the house. Once upon his having to go away for a few days, he left
me the keys of the safe in which the money was locked up. While he was
away, an attempt was made to rob the house. A door was forced from
outside, and two men were absolutely in my room, where I kept the key
of the safe, when Fahey, who was staying in the village of Kilcash at
the time, rushed in and faced the thieves. I was aroused and saw the
struggle. Fortunately the men were unarmed. The light was dim--only my
low night lamp.

"The first blow Fahey struck he knocked one of the men through a
window. Then he and the other man struggled a long time, and at last
the thief broke loose and escaped by the way he had come in. Fahey had
overheard the two thieves plan the robbery in the village, and had
followed them that night to our house. My husband wished the matter to
be kept quiet, and so it was hushed up.

"The next time I met Fahey after that night I was alone on the downs.
He was alone too. I stopped to thank him. I do not remember exactly
what I said--commonplace words of gratitude, no doubt. While I was
speaking I was close to him, and gazing into his face. I cut my speech
short, for I saw a look in his eyes that told me I was not indifferent
to him."

The widow's hand fell from her face, and she looked at her visitor
with an expression of trouble and dismay.

"There was nothing distressing or alarming in that," said Blake, with
an encouraging smile. "You must remember you were then, as you are
now, an exquisitely lovely woman.


        "'No marvel, sovereign lady; in fair field
          Myself for such a face had boldly died.'"


"Ay, ay," she said, with a shudder and a glance of horror round the
room. "In the stanza before the one from which you quote my fate is
written:


        "'Where'er I came I brought calamity.'"


She stared before her, shuddered again, and sighed.

"Well?" said he. "You have more to tell me?"

"Yes; I'll go on."



                            CHAPTER XXXIX.

                              A COMPACT.


Mrs. Davenport rested slightly against the back of her chair, and
resumed:

"'Mrs. Davenport,' said Fahey, 'what I have done for you was nothing.
It was really not done for you at all. It was done for Mr. Davenport,
not you. The thieves did not want to steal you. They wanted to steal
Mr. Davenport's money. If I may presume to ask you for that rose, I
shall consider myself more than repaid for what I have done.'

"I gave him the rose. He bowed, and said: 'Yes, they were stupid,
mercenary fools. They thought a few pounds of more value than anything
else in the world. I am not a rich man, and I care very little for
money itself. I care more for what it may bring with it. I would not
care to be the richest man in the world. I have in my time, Mrs.
Davenport, been the humble means of forwarding Mr. Davenport's plans
for making money. He is a rich man. He is rich in more ways than
money.' Here he raised the rose to his lips and kissed it. I stood
amazed. I could not speak or move."

"Are you sure the man was serious, and that he meant it fully?--or was
it only a piece of elaborate gallantry?" asked Blake, in perplexity.

"There can be no doubt whatever of his absolute sincerity. Listen. I
merely smiled, as if I did not catch his drift, and moved as though I
would resume my walk towards home. He lifted his hat, and, standing
uncovered, with his hat in one hand and the rose I had given him in
the other, said:

"'I would not give this rose for all Mr. Davenport's money, and
I know more about his money than any other man living. Mr. Davenport
and I have been close friends for a long time. It is my nature
to be loyal. I have been loyal to him. If I liked I could do him
injury--irreparable injury. If I cared, I could ruin him utterly. But
it is my nature to be loyal. Do you credit me?'

"For a few seconds I did not answer. I believed he was crazy, and I
thought that I must soothe him in some way and get off. I had become
apprehensive, so I said: 'I am perfectly sure of your loyalty to Mr.
Davenport. I have always heard my husband speak of you in the highest
terms, I hope we may soon have the pleasure of seeing you again at the
House.'

"'Not yet,' he said--'do not leave me yet. I want to say a few more
words to you. It is easy to listen. Listen, pray. I would not, as I
said before, give that rose for all his money. If I chose to speak,
things might be different with him. By fair means or by foul, I will
not say which, I could make his wealth melt like snow in the sun. But
I have no caring, no need for wealth. I shall not hurt him if you will
make me two promises. Will you make the two promises I ask?'

"By this time I felt fully persuaded I was in the presence of a
madman. I looked around and could see no one but the man before me. We
were not a hundred yards from the edge of the cliff. I no longer
thought him physically weak; his encounter with the thieves had
settled that point. If he were mad, the promise would count for
nothing. There could be no doubt he was insane. I resolved to try him:
'How is it possible for me to make two promises to you until I know
what they are?'

"'Your husband trusts me--you may trust me. Do you promise?'

"'First let me know what the promises are.'

"'That you will say nothing of what I have said to you to Mr.
Davenport, and that, if ever I have it in my power to do you another
service, and do it, you will give me another rose.'

"'Yes; in both cases,' I answered. 'You may rest satisfied.'

"I got away then and was very glad to escape. There was no occasion to
speak to any one about this meeting with Fahey on the downs, unless
indeed I firmly believed he was mad; and now that I had time to recall
all he had said, and review all his actions, I began seriously to
question my assumption as to his insanity. I took the first
opportunity of asking my husband if there was anything remarkable
about Fahey. Mr. Davenport seemed a good deal put out by the question,
and asked me what I meant. I said I thought Fahey was odd at times. My
husband said Fahey was all right, and did not seem disposed to go on
any further with the conversation.

"I did not meet Fahey again for a long time--I mean months. He then
seemed quite collected; but before wishing good-bye, he said
significantly: 'A man may disappear at any moment on a coast like
this, and yet may not be dead. Now, suppose I were to disappear
suddenly on this coast, you would think I had died, and that Mr.
Davenport no longer ran any risk from my being talkative, or you any
chance of being called upon for that other rose. I am not enamoured of
this coast. I consider it dreary and inhospitable, and it would not at
all surprise me if one day I packed up and fled far away, and stopped
away until almost all memory of me was lost. Do you think, Mrs.
Davenport, that if, after such an absence, I were to come back, you
would recognise me?'

"I answered that I was sure of it, and got away from him as soon as I
could. Again I spoke to Mr. Davenport about Fahey's sanity. My husband
did not seem to care about discussing the subject, and so I let the
matter drop. Afterwards, when Fahey jumped into the Puffing Hole in
order to avoid the police, I thought to myself that when he talked
about disappearing from the coast he was much nearer the truth than he
had any notion of.

"All this occurred many years ago, but it made a great impression on
my mind, and I have not forgotten a tittle of it. The words Fahey
spoke, and the way he looked, are as plain to me now as if it all
happened only yesterday. For a long time after Fahey had disappeared,
I believed his death at the Black Rock was nothing more than a pure
coincidence. Now and then, at long intervals, Mr. Davenport would
refer to the matter, but always in tones of anxiety and doubt. I do
not know why I got the notion into my head, but gradually it found its
way there, until at last I became quite sure Fahey was not dead. On
more than one occasion when I had ventured to suggest such an idea to
Mr. Davenport's mind, he showed great emotion, and, after a few
struggles, either directly dismissed or changed the subject.

"If Fahey had been right about his power of disappearing from that
coast without dying, why should I refuse to believe that Fahey could
injure--nay, ruin, my husband, if he were to appear and make certain
statements of matters within his own knowledge? What these matters
were I could not guess. Since I saw you last I have got good reasons
to feel sure my husband had no proper right to the money he possessed,
and that this man Fahey was aware of the facts of the case."

"How did you find all this out, Marion?" asked Blake, looking across
at her with freshly awakened interest.

"I found papers of my husband's."

"Will you tell me how you believe he came by the money?"

"No. And you must say nothing of this conversation to any living
being."

"Trust me, I will not."

"The difficulties now are, Thomas Blake, that I believe my husband did
not come fairly by his fortune, that Michael Fahey is still alive, and
that he had a hand in the death of my husband."

Blake knit his brows, rose, and recommenced walking up and down the
room.

"Mr. Jerry O'Brien, who travelled over from London with me, told me
after we left Euston that he himself and Phelan, the boatman of
Kilcash, had seen the ghost or body of Fahey on the cliffs just above
the Black Rock."

"It may have been a delusion."

"Yes, it may; but the chances are ten thousand to one against it. He
told me, too, that a friend of his had seen the same figure, clad in
the same clothes it wore ten or a dozen years ago. The last-named
phenomenon I cannot account for. But if you can believe that a man who
jumped into the Puffing Hole years ago is still alive, all other
beliefs in this case are easy. Now, Thomas Blake, I have spoken more
fully to you than I have ever spoken to any other man. I want you to
advise and help me.

"How?" asked Blake, stopping in his walk and looking straight into her
white, fixed, expressionless face.

"By finding out Fahey and discovering whence my husband got his money.
Then, if I may return it without disgracing his name or exposing him,
I will, and if not----"

"Well, Marion, if not?"

"I shall put an end to my knowledge and myself, and so keep his grave
quiet and silent for him."

"Marion, this is sheer madness."

"So much the better. If I do wrong in an access of insanity, no moral
blame attaches to me or my act. Will you help me? Once upon a time I
could have counted on your aid."

"At that time you held out the promise of a glorious reward. Do you
hold it out still, Marion?"

"No. That thought must be put to rest for ever. You may think it
monstrous that such being my mind, I should deliberately seek you and
ask for your help. But I have no future, and you are all that is left
to me of the past----"

"Marion, Marion, for Heaven's sake don't say it is too late!" he
cried, passionately, and advanced a step towards her.

She retired two steps, and made an imperative gesture, bidding him
stand still.

"Stay where you are and listen to me. To quote again from the poem you
quoted awhile ago, 'My youth,' she said, 'was blighted with a curse.'"

"And," he said, pointing to himself, "if we alter the text slightly,
we find 'This traitor was the cause.' Is not that what you mean,
Marion? Do not spare me; I am meet for vengeance."

"The present one is not a case for vengeance. But if you like you may
in this matter expiate the past."

"And when my expiation is complete, in what relation shall you and I
stand to one another?"

"In the same relation as before we met. You will be just to me, and
help me in this matter, Thomas Blake. Remember that my life has not
been very joyous."

"But, Marion," he urged, softening his voice, and leaning towards her,
"if I am to take what you say at its full value----"

"I mean it all quite literally."

"Then my expiation would assume the form of leading you to the tomb
instead of the altar."

She drew back, and said:

"Yes, put it that way if you will. At one time I believed your hand
was guiding me up to the altar, beyond which lay love and life, and
all manner of good and bright things. We never reached the altar. But
something happened, and there was a dull, dead pause in life, like the
winter sleep of a lizard or the trance of the Sleeping Beauty, and
then I awoke, and, to my horror, found the altar had been changed into
a tomb, and the Fairy Prince into Death. There was no time for love. I
had slept through the period of love. I had no power to hate, but I
had the power and the will to die. You will help me?"

"Not to die, Marion. I will help you to solve the mystery of this
Fahey, and the relations between him and Mr. Davenport, and then when
all has been cleared up, you may----"

He held out his hand pleadingly.

"Yes," she said, coldly, firmly, "when all has been cleared up, I may
say--good-bye."



                             CHAPTER XL.

                       AN EXPEDITION PROPOSED.


When Jerry O'Brien said there was absolutely nothing to be done in
Kilcash, he had told the naked truth. The weather was still far from
genial, and Jerry and Alfred Paulton were the only visitors in that
Waterford village. For a man of active habits, in full bodily and
mental vigour, the place would have been the very worst in the world;
but for an invalid who had never been a busy man, it was everything
the most exacting could desire. If Alfred's mind had only been as
peaceful as his surroundings, he would have picked up strength visibly
from hour to hour.

But his mind was not at ease. For good or evil, he did not care which,
he had given his heart to that woman, and now once more the shadow of
this objectionable, this disreputable man Blake, had come between her
and him. The most disquieting circumstance in the case was that Blake
had not intruded, but had been summoned by her. It is true that on
closer examination this did not seem to point to a love affair between
the two; for unless a woman was fully engaged to a man, she would
scarcely, he being her lover, summon him to her side, under the
circumstances in Mrs. Davenport's case.

Such thoughts and doubts were not the best salve for a hurt
constitution; and although Alfred recovered strength and colour from
day to day, he did not derive as much benefit from Kilcash as if his
mind had been even as untroubled as it had been when the journey from
Dulwich began.

Jerry was by no means delighted with affairs. He put the best face he
could on things, but still he was not content. As far as he was
concerned, the detested Fishery Commissioners had gone to sleep, but
there was no forecasting the duration of their slumber. Any moment
they might shake themselves, growl, wake, and swallow up all his
substance.

"Until they are done with this part of the unhappy country, I shall
feel as if the country was overrun by 'empty tigers,' and I was the
only wholesome piece of flesh after which the man-eaters hankered."

O'Brien did not pretend to be a philosopher when his own fortune or
comfort was threatened or assailed. He chafed and fumed when things
went wrong, or when he could not get his way. Now he was compelled, in
a great measure, to keep silent, for there would be a want of
hospitality in displaying impatience of Kilcash to Alfred. He had
confided to the latter the secret of his love for Madge, and the
brother had grasped his hand cordially and wished him all luck and
happiness. No man existed, he had said, to whom he would sooner
confide the future of his sister. How was O'Brien to act with regard
to writing to Madge? There had been nothing underhand or dishonourable
in telling the girl of his love that day on the Dulwich Road. The
declaration had in a measure slipped from him before any suitable
opportunity occurred of talking to Mr. Paulton. But speaking to Madge
under the excitement of the moment and the knowledge of approaching
separation was one thing, and writing clandestinely to her quite
another. If he wrote to her openly, inquiries as to the nature of the
correspondence would certainly be made at home, and then their secret
would be found out, and the thought of being found out in anything
about which an unpleasant word could be said was unendurable. In the
haste of leaving Carlingford House he had made no arrangement with
Madge as to writing to her. It was absolutely necessary for him to
risk a letter. He would not be guilty of the subterfuge of writing
under cover of one of Alfred's letters. Accordingly he wrote a bright,
cheerful, chatty note to Madge, beginning "My dear Miss Paulton," and
ending "Yours most sincerely, J. O'Brien." To those who were not in
the secret, nothing could have been more ordinary than this letter.
But its meaning was plain to Madge. Among other things, he said the
Commissioners had not yet done with him, and until they had he could
not count upon another visit to Dulwich; and he begged her to give his
kindest regards to Mr. Paulton, and to express a hope that he might
soon enjoy the pleasure of a walk on the Dulwich Road, when he would
tell her father all about the Bawn salmon and the wretched
Commissioners. Until then he should not bother either of them with any
account of himself or the villains who were lying in wait for him.
This he intended to show that he would not write to her again until he
had cleared up matters with her father. And now that he had got rid of
this letter--it was a task, not a pleasure, to write it--what should
he do? He had told himself and Alfred that even in summer there was
not anything to be done in Kilcash. But he, O'Brien, was in full
health and vigour, and began to feel uneventful idleness very irksome.
Boating even with the pretence of fishing was out of the question, and
one grew tired of strolling along the strand or downs when fine, and
looking out of the windows at the unneeded rain when wet. Against the
weariness of the long evenings he had brought books, cards, and chess
from Kilbarry. Time began to hang heavily on his hands. Nothing more
had been heard or seen of the ghost of Fahey, and the two friends had
been a couple of times to see the outside of Kilcash House, whither,
he believed, Mrs. Davenport had not yet arrived from Dublin.

The weather was mild, moist, calm.

"I'll tell you what we shall do, Alfred," said Jerry briskly at
breakfast one morning.

"What?" asked the other, looking up from his plate.

"There isn't a ripple on the sea. I'll go see Jim Phelan, and get him
to launch his boat."

"Capital!" cried Alfred, who was in that state of convalescence when
the daily addition to physical strength begets a desire to use it and
yields indestructible buoyancy. "I should like a good long-sail of all
things--or, indeed, a good pull. I'm sure I could manage an oar nearly
as well as ever."

"Nonsense!" said Jerry, dogmatically. "I will not be accessory to your
murder, or allow you to commit suicide in my presence. I have had
enough of inquests for my natural life. It's too cold for sailing, and
you're not strong enough for rowing. But there are the caves. The time
of the year does, not make any difference in them, so long as the sea
is smooth. They are as warm in winter as in summer. We can bring
torches and guns, and a horn and grub with us. A torchlight picnic
would be a novelty to me, anyway. The echoes in some places are
wonderful, and I'll answer for the food being wholesome. I'll go down
to Phelan immediately after breakfast."

Big Jim Phelan was at home in his cottage--not the shelter that
covered him in the summer, but the one which the high and mighty of
the land could rent for eight to twelve pounds a month when they
wished to enjoy the sea.

O'Brien explained his design.

"Are you mad, sir?" said Jim, drawing back from the chair which he had
placed for his unexpected guest.

"No. Why? What's mad about it? I and my friend want to see the caves,
and they are just as good at this time of year as in summer. Will you
take us?--Yes or no? Or are you afraid?"

"I'm not afraid of anything that swims or walks or flies, Mr.
O'Brien," said Jim in a tone of indignant protest. "But nature is
nature, and it's not right to fly in the face of nature."

"Face of fiddlesticks!" said O'Brien. "What has nature to do with our
going to visit the caves? If you don't take us, some one else will.
what on earth do you mean by 'flying in the face of nature'?"

"Go to the caves at this time of year!" said Jim, in a musing tone of
voice. "Why, no one ever thought of such a thing before!"

"What difference does that make? No strangers are here, except in
summer; and of course the people of the village never want to go to
the caves either winter or summer, unless they are paid. Come on, Jim;
don't send me off to look for some one else. I like to stick to old
friends."

Phelan reflected awhile. There was no greater danger on such a day as
this in going to the caves than on the finest day in July. But the
novelty of the idea was almost too much for Jim. That any man in his
sober senses could even during the dog-days want to go to the caves
was wonderful enough; but that a man, and, moreover, a man who had
lived most of his life hard by, could think of exploring those gloomy
vaults in the chilly, damp days of spring, was too much for belief.
O'Brien was liberal, and if he happened to spend a couple of the
summer months at Kilcash, as he had hinted, Jim was certain to be a
few pounds the better for it. But it wouldn't do to give in too
easily.

"Mr. O'Brien, if you're bent on going, of course I must take you. I'll
go to the Cove of Cork for you, sir, single-handed, in my own yawl.
But mind you, sir, it wasn't I that put you up to going. If you ask me
my advice, I say don't go. I won't take any of the responsibility,
mind, sir."

"All right," cried O'Brien, with a laugh. "You know as well as I do
that there is no danger on a calm day like this. How soon will you be
ready?"

"I'll have to get a man to go with me, and gather a few hands to help
to launch the yawl. Will an hour be soon enough, sir?" said Jim, who,
now that he had decided on action, was already busy in preparation.

"Yes; an hour will do. How is the tide?"

"About an hour flood."

"And how will that answer for the Red Cave?"

"Red Cave!" said Phelan, pausing suddenly in his preparation. "Is it
Red Gap Cave you're thinking of going to, sir?"

There was a sound of uneasiness in the boatman's voice.

"Yes. Isn't it the largest? Isn't it the one they say has never been
explored?"

"Ay, sir. It never has been explored fully, and I don't suppose ever
will--for what would be the good?--and it isn't over agreeable in
there, with its windings and twistings, I can tell you. I don't mind
much about the Red Cave itself; but, Mr. O'Brien, it's only a little
bit beyond the Whale's Mouth, and you have some queer notions about
that cursed place; and, mind, I'll have nothing to do with it for love
or money."

"I didn't say anything about the Whale's Mouth," said O'Brien, in a
tone of irritation. "I asked you how is the tide for the Red Cave?
Can't you answer a simple question?"

"The tide is always right for the Red Cave," answered Phelan,
sullenly. "You can always go into it when the water is smooth."

"Very well. I'll expect you on the strand by the rocks in an hour;"
and saying this, O'Brien left the cottage and set out for the hotel.



                             CHAPTER XLI.

                        AT THE WHALE'S MOUTH.


Red Head is about a pistol-shot from the Black Rock to the east. It is
a tall, perpendicular red cliff, more than a hundred feet high,
projecting from the land a few hundred yards, and rising up sheer out
of deep water. In places it overhangs slightly--in places reclines.
The rocks of which it is formed are in no place angular, show no sharp
fracture, declare no brittleness in formation. They are rounded and
smooth like the human hand, abrupt nowhere, save in their giddy
descent to the water.

The middle of the Head is cleft in two a hundred yards inward. This
cleft is called the Gap, or the Red Gap, and is as wide as the nave of
St. Paul's. At the depth of a hundred yards in the Gap the height of
the opening suddenly grows less, and the mouth of a huge cave is
formed by the precipitous sides, and an irregular, blunted, Gothic
roof of the same firm, smooth red rock. The vast chamber, or system of
chambers, beyond, is the Red Gap Cave, for brevity called the Red
Cave.

At the time appointed, O'Brien and Paulton found Jim Phelan and his
mate Tim Corcoran afloat on the bay by the flat stretch of rocks which
served Kilcash as a landing-stage. Billy Coyne had brought down a
basket of food, some torches, a crimson light, and gun--the torches
and light to illumine the gloom, and the gun to awaken the echoes of
the vast vault.

The day was fair and bright, with chill spring sunshine. Overhead vast
fields of silvery white clouds stretched motionless across the full
azure sky. There was no breath of wind, no threat of rain, no look of
anger anywhere. The waters of the bay moved inward with a silken
ripple that scarcely stirred the yawl as she glided slowly onward.
When she reached the open water beyond the bay, and headed first south
and then east, she met the long, even Atlantic roller, which glided
towards her and under her as silently and gently as a summer's breeze.
No sound broke the plenteous silence but the ripple of the water
against the sides, the snap of the oars in the rowlocks, and the dull
beat of the waves against the foam-footed crags. No ship, no boat, no
bird was in view. The solitude of the air and sea was complete. The
sounds of the sea on the crags seemed not the distant notes of opening
war, but the soft prelude to long, breathless peace.

They rowed in silence until they were close to the Black Rock, until
it rose dark, inhospitable, forbidding above them. Phelan was on the
stroke, Corcoran on the bow oar. The yawl was now abreast the point at
which the Black Rock joined the cliff at the westward. There was no
rudder to the boat. On that coast rudders are looked on as foppery. In
smooth weather the stroke steers from the rowlocks; in a sea-way some
one steers with an additional oar from the sculling notch. O'Brien and
Paulton were aft, but there was no oar in the sculling notch to steer
with.

They were keeping a clean wake, and owing to the swelling out of the
Black Rock they would, if they held on as they were going, pass within
a few score fathoms of the Whale's Mouth. It was now about half flood.

All at once Jim Phelan began to ease without looking over his
shoulder.

"Pull, after oar--ease bow!" sang out O'Brien, quickly.

The bow eased as ordered, but, contrary to the order, the stroke oar
stopped pulling altogether, and Phelan looked up with an angry
expression at O'Brien.

"I said ease bow--pull stroke," said O'Brien, quickly, in a tone of
irritation.

"And I say--stop all," said Phelan, decisively.

Corcoran rested on his oar, and for a few seconds O'Brien and Phelan
sat looking at one another. It was plain O'Brien was angry, and that
Phelan was resolute. Paulton had no key to the difficulty. The clumsy
yawl rose to the top and slid into the trough of two long, slow
rollers before either of the men spoke further.

Jim Phelan peaked his oar and broke silence.

"Mr. O'Brien, I told you I wouldn't, and I won't. That's all."

"You won't what, you stubborn fool?"

O'Brien was hot, but he had not lost his temper.

"I told you," said Phelan, leaning his great body forward, and resting
his hands on his thighs, "as plain as words could be that I'd have
nothing to do with the Whale's Mouth. You may not care about your
life, Mr. O'Brien, but I have people looking to me. You're
independent, and can do what you like; but neither for you nor any
other man will I go nearer than I think safe to the Whale's Mouth. The
Red Gap is bad enough at this time of year; but not at this time of
year or any other will I have anything to do with that cursed hole in
the Black Rock here. Now, sir, am I to put about?"

"I think you're taking leave of your senses, Phelan," said Jerry,
testily. "What on earth put it into your head I wanted to go into the
Whale's Mouth? Why, if I wanted to do anything half so plucky as that,
I'd get a man with a _red_ liver, and a heart as big as a sparrow's!
Give way, I tell you."

An ugly look came into Phelan's face. He was not bad-tempered or
quarrelsome, but he justly had the reputation of being the most daring
and the strongest man in the village. He was not very intelligent, and
this was the first time in his life he had been accused of cowardice.
He felt more amazed than angry, but he felt some anger. He knew he
could, if he chose, catch O'Brien by the feet and throw him over the
gunwale as easily as the oar lying across his legs. For a moment he
thought the cold swim would do O'Brien good, but almost instantly he
saw the punishment would be out of proportion to the offence. He drew
a deep breath, partly straightened himself, and, catching his oar,
said:

"Are we to go on to the Red Gap, sir?"

"Yes, confound you!" said O'Brien, far from amiably. "Keep as close to
the rock as you think is _safe, quite safe_, Phelan. I wouldn't risk
your life for a thousand pounds."

"Thank you, sir," said Phelan, sullenly. "Neither would I--in a cave;
but if it came to anything between man and man----"

"I know," broke in O'Brien, with a laugh, "you'd be glad to risk your
neck to satisfy your anger."

He had suddenly regained his good humour.

"That's it," said Phelan, laconically, as the yawl moved on.

Paulton looked in surprise from one to the other. O'Brien smiled and
shook his head to reassure him, but said nothing. Visibly the spirits
of the little party were damped.

At length they were opposite the much-dreaded Whale's Mouth. The two
rowers, at the request of O'Brien, peaked their oars a few fathoms out
of the direct set of the in-draught, now at its greatest strength.

The wall of rock, in which the opening of the cave appeared, was at
this time of tide almost square, and considerably wider than the yawl
was long. Nothing could be more harmless-looking than the Mouth. Its
sides were smooth and almost perpendicular. No huge mass of rock hung
threateningly on high; the water beneath was pellucid, green, gentle.
No awful sounds issued from that Mouth. The internal sounds told of
little disturbance or danger. No sign of conflict appeared on the
sides of the Mouth or the water, or in the soft olive depths below. In
the heat of summer a stranger would have found it almost impossible to
deny himself the luxurious refreshment of repose in the moist twilight
of that water-cave.

No teeth were visible; but the lithe, subtle, unceasing, undulating
tongue was there--the polished, subtle water. It rose and fell,
seemingly, as the water round it, in indolent, purposeless
indifference; and looking at the water merely, it seemed to make no
greater progress onward than the water outside and around. Yet the
gentle swelling and hollowing of the waves had a purpose underlying,
though they seemed, like other waves, to move tardily, almost
imperceptibly forward. But here the water was dragged onward occultly
by some power, and for some purpose unknown. The roof of the Mouth and
the jaws were powerless for evil. No teeth were visible in this
gigantic Mouth, but the unsuspected, oily, slimy water was there lying
in wait for the unwary, and fatal to all things that touched it.

It was the tongue of the ant-bear that attracts, enfolds, and finally
engulphs its prey in its noisome maw.

"Is that the Whale's Mouth of which you told me, Jerry?" asked Alfred.

"That's it," answered Jerry, shortly. He took up one of the torches
lying on the stern-sheets and threw the torch towards the cave into
the sea.

"It doesn't appear very dreadful now--does it?"

"Watch that torch. No sea looks very terrifying in a calm," said
Jerry, sharply.

He had not yet quite recovered from the passage of arms with Phelan.
The boatman had annoyed him by extravagantly over-estimating the
dangers and powers of the chasm, and Paulton now ruffled him by
seeming to make nothing of them.

Slowly but surely the torch was carried towards the Whale's Mouth.
Slowly at first, but more quickly as it approached the rock, more
quickly as it approached the cave. Second by second the rate
increased, until, when it reached the Mouth and disappeared, it was
hurrying on as fast as a man could walk.

"That's strange!" said Alfred. "I think you told me no one has been
able to find out where all this water goes to."

"To a place that's more hot than comfortable," said Phelan grimly,
directing a look of inquiry towards Jerry.

"It all comes back again," said Jerry.

"Barring what doesn't," muttered Phelan. "Pull a stroke or two, Tim,"
he said to the other boatman. "The current is under her keel already,
and bad as this world is, I haven't made my will yet. A couple of more
strokes, Tim."

He looked at Alfred and addressed him, although he could not do so by
his name, as he had never heard it.

"I beg your pardon, sir; but if you'd like to make money, sir, I'll
lay you the price of this day's work to a brass button you never see
that torch again, and I'll lie by to watch for it until the ebb is
done."

Alfred did not answer. His eyes had been raised for a few moments, and
were now firmly fixed on the plain of the Black Rock. Jerry was
peering intently into the jaws of the Whale's Mouth. Phelan was
looking into Alfred's face to see the effect of his offer.

"Jerry!" cried Alfred, abruptly.

"What?" asked Jerry, without moving his eyes from the cavern.

"There's some one on the Black Rock."

"Good heavens!" exclaimed O'Brien, looking up. "Not Fahey?"

"No," said Alfred. "It's Mrs. Davenport!"



                            CHAPTER XLII.

                            THE RED CAVE.


There was no mistaking that figure, and if the figure had not been
ample confirmation of identity, there were the full widow's weeds,
and, above all, the pale, placid face. The full light of the unclouded
sun fell on her. The distance was not great, and she stood out in bold
relief against the white field of cloud stretching across the northern
sky.

On impulse, Alfred rose in the boat, and took off his hat and bowed.

She returned his salute, and without a moment's pause drew back from
the edge on which she had been standing, and disappeared from view.

"Mrs. Davenport!" said Phelan, forgetting his ill-humour in his
surprise. "What a place for a lady to be all by herself! I thought
Mrs. Davenport was away somewhere in foreign parts."

Alfred sat down. The boatmen had resumed their oars, and the yawl was
gliding steadily through the water.

"Is the Rock really dangerous at this time?" asked Alfred anxiously of
Phelan. O'Brien was buried in thought, and did not heed what the
others were saying.

"Not dangerous now, sir--not dangerous when the water is so smooth and
the air so calm; but if there's a little sea on, and a little breeze,
you never know what may happen here. Sometimes the sea alone will do
it, and sometimes the wind alone will do it, and sometimes both
together won't do it. You can only be sure she'll spout when the sea
is high and the wind a strong gale from the south-west. What surprises
me to see the lady there is because the place has a bad name, and she
was just standing on the worst spot of all when we saw her first."

"How a bad name, and how the worst place of all? Are you quite sure
there is no danger to the lady now?" asked Alfred, struggling
violently and successfully to conceal his extraordinary solicitude.

"I am perfectly sure there is no danger of the spout now. The reason I
said it has a bad name is because of all the people who were carried
off that Rock; and where Mrs. Davenport stood is just the worst spot
of all."

"But Mrs. Davenport must know the Rock well. I dare say, as her house
is near, she often comes to see it."

"Ay, she may often come to see it. But to see it and to walk on it are
different things. There are very few women in the village who would
care to go on it without a man to lend them a hand. Why, sir, it's as
slippery as ice, and two people fell and were killed on it out of
regard to its slipperiness."

"Is there no way of landing here?"

"No, sir. You can't get a foot ashore anywhere nearer than Kilcash.
You might, of course, land on many a rock here and there, but you
couldn't get up the cliffs. It's iron-bound for miles."

"But could not the lady be cautioned in some way? She could hear a
shout even though we cannot see her. She cannot yet be out of
hearing?" Paulton could scarcely sit still in the boat.

"And suppose she could hear a shout, sir, what could you tell her she
doesn't know? Do you think Mrs. Davenport has lived all these years
and years a mile from the Black Rock, and doesn't know as much as any
of us could tell her about it? Why, she lives nearer to it than any
one else in the world! Her next-door neighbours are, I may say, the
ghosts of men who lost their lives on that very spot."

"What is that you're saying?" asked O'Brien, coming suddenly out of
his reverie.

"Only, sir, that Mrs. Davenport's next-door neighbours are the ghosts
of the men who lost their lives on the Black Rock."

O'Brien looked in amazement at the boatman. He had been recalled from
his abstraction by the word "ghost;" but he had not fancied, when he
asked his question, that the answer would lie so close to the thoughts
which had been occupying his mind a moment before. For a while he
could not clear his mind of the effect of this coincidence.

"What on earth do you know or guess about the matter, Phelan?" he
cried, quite taken off his guard.

"I suppose I know as much about the Rock as any man of my years along
the coast," answered Phelan, with a slight return of his former
sullenness.

O'Brien at once saw that he had made a mistake, that Phelan's words
were perfectly consistent with ignorance of what he knew of the Fahey
affair--or, indeed, with the absence of intention to refer to the
Fahey affair. He hastened to put himself right.

"Of course you do, Phelan," said he cordially. "No man knows more than
you. Excuse me for what I said. I was thinking of something else when
you spoke, and I did not exactly hear what you said. I did not mean to
annoy you. I was only stupid myself."

Jim Phelan considered this a very handsome and ample apology, not only
for the words just then spoken, but for what had occurred a few
minutes before.

"He was thinking, poor gentleman," thought Phelan, "of those
blackguards of Commissioners. I know how anxious a man gets about
fish."

"He was thinking," thought Alfred, "of Madge. I know all about that
kind of thing."

He had not been thinking of one or the other. He was wondering how
Mrs. Davenport would have been affected if the figure of Fahey
suddenly rose before her on that Rock.

"This, sir," said the boatman, addressing Alfred, the stranger, "is
what we call the Red Gap, and the cave beyond is what we call the Red
Gap Cave--or the Gap Cave, or the Red Cave, for short."

Alfred looked around him, and then up.

Above towered the great perpendicular cliffs, silent and forlorn. From
the dark green water at their bases, to the hard, dark line they made
against the azure plain of sky that roofed the chasm, was no break, in
form or colour, no noteworthy ledge or hollow, no clinging weeds below
or verdurous patch above. All was smooth, and bluff, and huge, and
liver-coloured.

A peculiar silence, a silence of a new and startling quality, filled
the gigantic cleft. The silence abroad upon the sea was that in which
vast spaciousness engulfed sound. Here adamantine walls, beetling and
threatening, a thousand feet thick, stood between the stagnant air and
the large breathings of the sea. The atmosphere was dense, motionless,
inert with salt vapours. The prodigious circumvallation of cliff
crushed vitality out of the air. There was a breathless whisper of
water against the sea line of the ramparts, and deep in the gorge of
the cave a smothered snore, like the hushed breathing of some
stupendous monster.

The yawl glided slowly up between the closing walls of the Red Gap. No
one spoke. The two boatmen were indifferent to the place. O'Brien and
Paulton were lost in thoughts of diverse kinds, awakened by the
spectacle of Mrs. Davenport on the Black Rock. None of the men was
paying attention to the Gap.

At last a sudden darkness fell upon the boat. O'Brien and Paulton
looked up. The sky was no longer overhead. A gloom of purple brown was
above them. The light of day stood like a lofty, luminous pillar in
their wake. They had entered the Red Cave.

The boatmen ceased rowing, and Phelan lit a torch.

For a few moments nothing could be seen but the blazing red torch
flare against a vast black blank, and round the glowing red boat a
narrow pool of glaring orange water.

No one moved. No sound informed the silence but the hiss of the torch
and the profound sighs of distant, impenetrable hollows.

The water illumined near the boat looked trustworthy, denser than
water, a ruddy platform with shadowy verge. No undulation moved over
its face save a dulling ripple caused by the boat's imperceptible
motion. The boat and figures in it seemed the golden boss of a fiery
brazen shield hung in a night of chaos.

Alfred Paulton put his hand outward and downward. It touched the
gleaming surface of the water. He drew his hand back with a start. The
cold of the water froze his fingers, his soul. The water shone like
solid metal, felt less buoyant than the ruddy air he breathed. Instead
of resting on a firm plain of luminous beaten gold, the boat hung on a
faint, thin fluid over a sightless abyss.

This was a terrible place. Here was nothing but space for thought--for
visions and fears too awful to dwell upon. Nothing was surer than that
no loathsome dangers lurked, or swam, or hung pendulous above. Nothing
was surer than that the imagination crouched back from dreads which
had never affrighted it before.

This water was only phantom water. It was no better than the spume of
sea-mists held between invisible crags of blackness, of mute eternity.
If one should fall out into that water, he would sink through it swift
as lead through air. One would shoot down, and down, and down, giddy,
but not stunned. One would sink--whither? Whither? To what fell
intimacy with dripping rocks and clammy weeds and slime would one
come? What agonising sense of impending gloom reaching infinitely
upwards would lie upon one, as one fell! Would the falling ever cease?
Never, never. Nor would one live, for to fall thus for a moment of
time would serve to fill the infinite of eternity with chimeras of
ebon adamant too foul for human eyes.

The oars dipped. The boat moved forward into the immeasurable
vagueness of shadow--into this sleeping chamber of night. It glided
over the silent floor between hushed arras, which saw neither the
gaudy sun that drowns in light the tender whisperings of the sea, nor
the silver moon that hearkens forlorn to the faint complainings of the
weary waves, arras woven of the flame of earth's primal fire, and
limned by night in the smoke of ancient chaos.

Something floated from the side of the boat and shone a while in the
wake, and then was lost in the darkness as the boat moved slowly on.

"Keep her west," whispered a voice in the boat.

"We're keeping west," whispered another voice in the boat. The noise
of the oars in the rowlocks clanked in the echoes like the
complainings of a gigantic wheel whose bearings were dry. The whispers
came back from the echoes like the whispers of a Titan whose teeth
were gone, and whose tongue was thick with age or clumsy with disease.
The voice of the giant seemed near--on a level with the head. It
stirred the hair.

The torch went out.

"Light--give us light," whispered a voice in the boat.

"Wait. Watch astern," whispered another voice.

"Astern," whispered the awful, almost inarticulate voice close to the
ear, in the hair.

Then all was still. The oars stopped. All eyes were, unseeing, turned
in the direction whence the boat had come. The faintest glimmer
indicated the opening to the cave. All was black as the heart of
unhewn granite.

"Now watch," whispered a voice in the boat.

"Now watch," whispered the echo against the throat and neck.

"On no account start or stir. The report will be very loud. Hold on to
the thwarts. I am going to fire!"

Blended with the earlier portion of this speech, the echoes gave back
a sharp battering sound like that of throwing metal from a height.
This was the cocking of the gun.

When this sound ceased, the echo whispered:

"Fire!"

A jagged rod of flame and luminous smoke shot outwards and upwards
into the black void from the boat aft, and cleared the black space for
a moment.

Then the clash and clangour of a thousand shattered echoes close at
hand bore downward on the head and bent the head, while out of
far-reaching caverns thunders were torn with shrieks and yells and
flung against concave-resounding roofs, until the whole still air of
the monstrous hollows roared, and secret off-spring tombs of darkness,
never seen by man, answered with fearful groans and shrieks of the
Mother Cave.

Paulton let go the thwart, bent his head, flung his arms up, and
crossed them over his head.

Here was the solid earth riven through and through with prodigious
thunders of all the heavens!

The roar of sound fell to a shout, the shout to a groan, the groan to
a mutter. Then all was still, stiller than before--still with the
silence of annihilation accomplished. Nothing that had been was. The
echoes were dead, and would speak no more. The material had failed to
be, and only darkness and the unweary spirit of man remained.

A voice whispered, "Watch."

Some lingering phantom of an echo whispered in ghostly gutturals,
"Watch!"

There was a hiss, a purple commotion on the surface of the water, in
the air on the wake of the boat. A cone of intense red flame, as thick
as a man's arm, rose up from the level of the water in the wake, and
stood a cubit high:

The air took fire and burned, and out from the brown darkness leaned
huge polished pillars, copper-red, and broken walls, smooth pilasters,
and architraves keen with light, and sightless gargoyles blurred with
fire, and cloisters whose rich arches dripped with flame, and
buttresses with fierce outlines impacted on plutonian shade, plinths
with shafts of Moorish lightness and arabesques with ruby tags, sturdy
bastions and flat curtains, broken Gothic windows, capitals of
acanthus leaves flushed with ruddy flare.

Aloft yawned arches and domes and hollow towers, vast in sombre
distances and sultry with hidden fires. The secrets of their depths no
eye could pierce. They were abysmal homes of viewless voices--homes of
virgin night.

Hither and thither, chapels and aisles and corridors and galleries,
reached from the great central space into the copper gloom. Here above
the surface of watery floor stood columns of fallen pillars, masses of
broken walls, points of ruined spires.

In the centre of the level floor rose a block of stone, flat, a little
above the surface of the water, and on this the headless form of a
colossal figure, showing in rude outline like an Egyptian sphinx.

The ground was polished red granite here and there, ribbed with ruby
marble, that shone with dazzling brightness against the aqueous glare.

On the pedestal of the sphinx the men of the boat landed, and stood to
gaze upon this Pompeii beneath Vesuvia's pall--this subterranean
Venice in ruins--this water-floored Heliopolis without the sun!

There was a loud hiss. The blood-red architecture thrust forward in
fiercer light. A louder reverberating hiss, and all was dark!
Everything had vanished--had drawn back into immeasurable darkness.
The crimson light had burned down to the level of the tiny raft which
bore it, and the water of the cave had quenched its flame.

All was black darkness, turn which way one might.

"Light!" whispered Paulton, overcome by what he had heard and seen.

"What is that?" asked O'Brien, catching Phelan's hand, and pointing
down to where the western gallery had glowed a minute ago. Light was
seen piercing the cliff to the westward.

For a while no answer was given. Then, in accents of awe and fear, the
boatman answered:

"A light--a light made by no mortal hand!"

Far down in the gloom of the western gallery a yellow spot shone!



                            CHAPTER XLIII.

                            A RETROSPECT.


Mrs. Davenport's visit to the Black Rock that day had not been one of
mere curiosity, although nothing of import to her life was likely to
result from it. Her career was over, if, indeed, it might be said ever
to have begun.

In her younger days she had been abandoned by the only man she had
ever loved, and wed to a man whom she never loved, whom she could not
even esteem. She had sworn to love her husband; she had fairly tried,
and wholly failed. To her husband she had been a blameless wife, an
admirable companion. He had signified his approval of her conduct by
leaving her his fortune. All her lifetime she had been too proud to
care for money, and now she could not take it. Her father had
prevented her marrying the good-for-nothing, beggarly scamp, Tom
Blake, and forced her into the arms of the elderly, rich, excellent
Mr. Louis Davenport. In those days she had been torn by tempests of
love and hate, of aspirations and despairs, which no mortal eye had
seen, no mortal ear had heard. In the solitude of her own room, and of
the woods about her father's home, she had wept and stormed, and
pitied herself with the broken-hearted self-pity of youth. She had
cast herself against the bars that confined her, and wished that the
fury which shook her might end her. She had prayed in vain for death.
In answer to her passionate appeals for a shroud, heaven sent her a
bridal veil. When Blake gave her up, she did not care whether she
walked into an open grave or up to the marriage altar. She took no
interest in herself: why should she take interest in any one else?

If Blake had asked her to fly with him then, she would have rushed
into his arms with unspeakable eagerness and joy. But he sold his
claim to her for a sum of money, and walked off with the cash in his
pocket!

She then knew she was beautiful--one of the most beautiful women in
the country. Many men had sought her before Blake asked her for her
love. But up to his coming she was heart-whole. She had never
seriously considered any man. She thought little of the sex, of the
race, herself included. She took but a weak interest in this world,
and, up to the advent of her only sweetheart, would have stepped out
of it any day without much reluctance. She was a dreamer, and told
herself the hero of her dreams was not human. Then came Tom Blake, and
forth went her whole heart to him. She gave him all the love she had
to give. She told him her life had hitherto been dull, without
expectation, hope, love, sunlight; but that, as he was now with her,
and would, in spite of all opposition, be beside her all her life, her
soul was filled with ineffable hope, with delicious love, and the
dream-romance of her life had taken substantial form, which would be a
thousand times sweeter than she had ever dared to figure in her
thoughts.

Her lover had no money. He had lost his patrimony. Her father had
nothing to give her, and----

And what?

How was it to be? How could they live on nothing? She had been brought
up a lady, but her father was hopelessly in debt--over head and ears
in debt--and if he were ever so willing to do so, he was powerless to
help them now, and could leave them nothing later.

True--most sadly true. But what of that? Was Tom not her lover?--and
was he going to die of hunger? Did he not think he could get enough
money somehow to keep him from falling by the way?

No doubt. But she had been tenderly, luxuriously brought up. He had no
means of keeping her in any such position as she had all along in life
enjoyed.

But he could get bread? Not literally only bread, but as much as they
paid a gamekeeper or a groom?

Oh, nonsense! Of course he could. But gentlefolk could not live on the
wages of a gamekeeper or a groom.

Did he love her?

Very much. But a gamekeeper got no more----

Than a roof, and clothes, and food, and--love. How much did he love
her?

Oh, better than anything else in the world.

Well, then, let him take time and look around him, and get house, and
clothes, and food such as gamekeepers and grooms may have. Those would
be his contributions to their lives. She would supply the love.

But lady and gentleman could not live in such a way.

Why not? He was a gentleman, and she was a lady, and poverty could
take none of these poor possessions away, any more than riches could
create them. Let him get a gamekeeper's wages, and she would share
them with him, and give him all her love, every day renewed.

But----

Ah! Then all she had to give was not worth as much to him as a
gamekeeper valued his own wife at. Good-bye. The air was damp, and
this wood was chilly.

Yes, it looked as if it were going to rain. She would not leave him
thus. She would say good-bye to him, and give him one kiss at parting.

She would say good-bye, and he might have as many kisses as he cared
for, provided she got soon away--for it was going to rain. No man had
ever kissed her but him. Kisses did not mean anything, or words
either. Why did he draw back? She told him he might kiss her if he
chose. Any man might kiss her now. Kisses or words did not mean
anything. Well, good-bye. Whither was he going? It would surely rain.
Whither, did he say?

"To hell!"

"No, not there. You are a gentleman, and gentlemen do not go there;
only gamekeepers and grooms--and women such as I."

She walked slowly away through the moist wood in the drizzling rain.

He felt sorely sorry and hurt, and ill-used by fate; but he had a gay
disposition, and was no dreamer. Besides, he was a man of the world,
and devilishly pressed for money just then; so he took Louis
Davenport's thousand pounds and went away.

After a while she married the odd, rich, old bachelor, Louis Davenport
(she did not care what man kissed her now), and he took her away to
Kilcash House, and although he never laid any restraint upon her, she
knew he did not care that she should go much abroad; so she lived
almost wholly in the house, and rarely went out alone, and never had
any guest at the place.

Mr. Davenport was at home most of the time. Now and then he went away
for a few days, and always came back alone. There were no callers at
the house, and she at first hoped she might die, and when she found
her bodily health unimpaired, looked forward with a sense of relief to
the time when she should go mad.

Still her mental health held out as well as her bodily health, and
weeks grew into months, and found no change in her or her manner of
life.

But there came a slight change in her home. During the first few weeks
of her married life no stranger ever crossed the threshold of Kilcash
House.

Now a tall, gaunt, humble-mannered man, of slow, soft speech and
unpretending ways, was often with Mr. Davenport for a long time in the
day, sometimes far into the night, The husband never took the wife
into his business confidence, and the wife had no curiosity whatever.
But from odd words she gathered that this young man, whose name was
Michael Fahey, depended on her husband, and was helped and received by
him because of some old ties between the families of both. She heard
Fahey was staying at the village of Kilcash for his health, which was
delicate, and that he was completely trustworthy and well-disposed
towards Mr. Davenport.

All this reached Mrs. Davenport without leaving any impression
whatever on her mind beyond the simplest value of the words. Her
husband introduced Fahey to her as a man in whom he took a sincere
interest, and whom he wished her to think well of. Whether he intended
his wife should or should not treat the stranger as an equal, she did
not know, she did not care.

For a time she took little heed of Fahey, but gradually it dawned upon
her that in him she had a new admirer. She was accustomed to
admiration, surfeited with it. Her love romance was at an end. She was
married to a man for whom she did not care, from whom she did not
shrink, to whom she owed no ill-will, who was in his poor, narrow,
selfish way good and kind to her. If she had now any commerce with
laughter, she would have laughed; but even the pathetically absurd
experience she had had of love could not provoke a smile, and she
simply took no heed, said no word, gave no sign. She did not feel
angry, flattered, amused, even bored. She was past any of these
emotions now. She would, she could be no more than indifferent.

Nothing could be more respectful than Fahey's manner. He did not
regard her as human. He worshipped her afar off. He ate his heart in
silence. He breathed no word, no sigh, gave wilfully no sign. But she
saw his downcast or averted face, and she read the homage in furtive
glances of his wondering eyes.

Then came the scene with the rose and her husband's absence abroad,
followed by his return, and a brief history of the marvellous escape
he had from that French bank, and his resolution that he would now
settle down in life and speculate no more. She then had but a dim idea
of what speculation meant, of what his business was.

Soon came a day of mystery and horror to her.

She was alone in the little sitting-room on the ground floor, purely
her own. It faced west. Broad daylight flooded the garden before her,
the rolling downs beyond.

Suddenly the light of the window by which she sat was obscured. The
window was opened by Fahey. She motioned him to enter. By way of reply
he made an impatient gesture.

"Is he in?" asked Fahey, breathlessly.

"No," she answered. "Can I do anything for you?"

She now saw he was in violent agitation, and physically distressed.

He continued:

"I have not a moment to spare. Say to him, 'All is well. All is safe
for him.' I have arranged that."

"Safe!" she answered. "Does any danger threaten my husband?"

"Yes, while I am here--while I live."

"You--you would not hurt him?"

She remembered the look of admiration she had seen in this man's eyes,
and rose and recoiled in horror.

"Give him my message. Repeat all I have said, except this: 'I am not
doing it for his sake, or my own sake, but for yours. Good-bye.' Tell
no one else of my being here; no one but him--not a soul."

In a moment he was gone.

The next thing she heard of him was that he had drowned himself in the
hideous Puffing Hole.

At first she had been inclined to think Fahey's words referred solely
to his feelings towards her; but when she learned he had drowned
himself she doubted this. Against what was her husband secure? To say
he was secure against Fahey's admiration for her would be the height
of gratuitous absurdity. She cared no more for the young man than for
any misty figure in a fable. He must be mad; yes, that was it. That
supposition made all simple--explained everything.

It was night when her husband returned. She, remembering Fahey's
caution, and bearing in mind that walls have ears, went to the gate of
the grounds, and there met Davenport. He had heard of Fahey's fate. It
was dark--pitch dark--when she gave him the message with which she had
been charged.

"Poor Michael!" her husband said--"poor Michael! Unfortunate fellow!"

He said no more then, and rarely spoke of the man afterwards.
Davenport was not a communicative man, and there was nothing
noteworthy in his silence.

After her husband's death she went through his papers, and found
evidence of a much closer intimacy between Fahey and him than she had
till then suspected. There was no clear evidence in these documents.
They were partly in her husband's handwriting, partly in Fahey's.
There was an air of mystery in them, and she was certain many passages
of them were figurative. But one dreadful secret she learned from them
beyond all doubt: Louis Davenport had not come by his money fairly,
and Fahey was an accomplice in his schemes. When leaving London for
the Continent, she had carried those papers with her unread. There she
opened them, with a view to destroying them, and burned them in
terrified haste. She had never suspected her husband of dishonest
actions. Now she felt perfectly sure he had come by his money foully.
How, she did not know. The man had been her husband, and she would
shield his memory from shame; but she would touch none of his money,
let who would have it, when she got back to London.

She was convinced Fahey had not thrown himself into the Puffing Hole
for love of her, or because he was insane, but solely and simply
because he and her husband were mixed up in crimes of some kind, and
Fahey preferred death to discovery on his own part, and on her part
too; for she would suffer from the exposure of her husband, and Fahey
had nothing to expect from her. There was still a want of clearness
and precision about the whole affair. But on her way back from France,
she had no doubt her theory was right in the main.

Before the inquest she had been in horror of revealing in court the
history of the treatment she had received at the hands of Blake, and
the bare notion that she, being then a married woman, had driven this
man Fahey in a frenzy of self-sacrifice or devotion to drown himself,
filled her mind with thoughts of shame and anguish, the contemplation
of which nearly took away her own reason. She had contemplated making
away with herself rather than face the ordeal of the court. She had
been a recluse for years, and haughty in her consciousness of
unblameableness all her life.

On her return to London she heard the rumour of this apparition at the
Puffing Hole. Phelan had told of the apparition to several people in
Kilbarry. The news of it had got into the local papers, and London
papers copied the account. No name was given but Fahey's, and attached
to his name was a brief history of Fahey's disappearance years ago.

Upon these two discoveries she resolved to go to Ireland and renounce
all claim to the fortune her husband had left her. There could no
longer be in her mind any doubt that her husband's fortune, or a
portion of it, had been obtained by fraud. At Paulton's she met
O'Brien, who, on the way to Ireland, told her he himself had seen
Fahey.

She was now quite sure Fahey was still alive. The horrible suspicion
had taken hold of her mind that Fahey had, after keeping in hiding for
years, poisoned her husband for her sake! In the light of her belief
that Fahey still lived, the theory that her husband had poisoned
himself while of unsound mind was absurd to her.

Before setting out this day for the Black Rock she opened a drawer of
her late husband's, took out a revolver she knew to be loaded, and
dropped it into her pocket.

When she left the edge of the Black Rock she walked carefully to the
cliff and ascended by the path.

When she reached the level of the downs she gazed round.

She started. A loud explosion rose from beneath her feet. It was the
gunfire of the boat and the tremendous reverberations from the caves
and cliffs.

She looked round in alarm. A minute ago she had been alone. Now
Michael Fahey stood by her side!



                            CHAPTER XLIV.

                            A LAST APPEAL.


"Michael Fahey! Michael Fahey!" cried Mrs. Davenport, slowly. "Am I
awake and sane?"

"Both," answered he, gently. "You are awake and sane, and I am Fahey,
and alive. Nothing can be more incredible; but it is as I say, Mrs.
Davenport. You will not betray me? You will not be unmerciful to me?
Remember, I never meant to do you harm."

She shrank back from him. Did this man, whose hands were reddened with
her husband's blood, dare to plead to her for mercy. "Betray you! What
do you mean? Do you call it betraying you to give you into the hands
of justice? You will gain nothing by threats. I am not afraid of you;
and I am not defenceless, even though I am alone." She moved further
off, and pressed the revolver in her hand.

He seemed dejected rather than alarmed. "What good can it do you? When
I disappeared years ago, it was for the good of your husband----" He
held out his hands appealingly to her.

Her tone and attitude were firm, as she interrupted him. "You
disappeared years ago for the good of my husband, and reappear for his
death--for his murder! I can have no more words with you. I shall
certainly not shield you from the consequences of your crime."

"If you only knew me as well as you might--if you could only
understand how I felt that day I was hunted like a beast, you could
not believe I would willingly do anything to annoy, much less to harm
you.... Mrs. Davenport," he burst out, vehemently, "I would have died
then for you: I will die now if you bid me--die for that second rose."

She looked at him with a glance of loathing, and gathered herself
together as though she felt contaminated by contact with the air he
breathed.

"Go away at once. Your audacity is loathsome. Has it come to this with
me, that I must bandy words with such a monster?"

"Mrs. Davenport," said he, in a tone of expostulation, "I am very far
from saying I am blameless. I have committed crimes for which the
punishment would be great, but I was not alone in my crimes. I did not
invent them."

"And who invented the atrocious crime of last February? Who was in our
house in Dulwich that night?"

"I read the case, and saw that Mr. Thomas Blake was at your house on
that night."

"And where were you?"

"In Brussels. Good heavens!--you cannot imagine I had anything to do
with that awful night! The idea is too monstrous to resent--to think
of for a moment. I swear to you I was in Brussels at the time, and
that I never did, or thought of doing, any injury to your husband. I
loved him well; but I loved some one else better---better than all the
world besides."

He did not look at her, but kept his eyes fixed on the sea.

She moved as if to go.

He heard the motion, and went to her and stood between her and the
house.

"I will not say another word about myself; but hear me out. If I have
nothing to hope for, let me go away in the belief I am not unjustly
suspected by you of hurting your husband. I never cared much for my
life. Let me feel that when I die I shall not be worse in your eyes
than I deserve to be. Mrs. Davenport, hear me."

He entreated her with his voice, with his eyes, with his bent body,
with his outstretched hands.

Without speaking, she gave him to understand he might go on.

"I knew Mr. Davenport years before I saw you. I had business
connections with him which would not bear the light. You must have
heard or guessed something of what we have been busy about?"

She made no sign--said nothing.

"I was a steel engraver. Now and then he wanted plates done. I did the
plates for him."

"What kind of plates?"

She betrayed no emotion of any kind. Her voice was as calm as though
she was asking an ordinary question.

"You had better not know. It would do you no good to know. But do you
believe me that I was hundreds of miles away from London that awful
night?"

"And what brought you back to this place now?"

"I came back--because you are free!"

She made a gesture of impatience and dissent.

"You do not mean to say you will continue your suspicion in the face
of my denial, in the face of my horror at the mere thought?"

"But why should I take your unsupported word? If you are innocent, why
were you so horrified at the mere thought of inquiry?"

"But, good heavens! Mrs. Davenport, you did not for a moment imagine I
was afraid of inquiry into anything which occurred in February? I
thought the inquiry to which you referred had reference to some old
transactions between me and Mr. Davenport?"

"What were these transactions?"

"I beg of you not to ask. What good can it do to go into matters so
far back? You would find my answers of no advantage to you."

"Were they of a business character?"

"Purely of a business character, I assure you."

"And they would not bear the light?"

"Not with advantage to me."

"Or to my husband?"

"Or with advantage to your late husband."

"And to you, and to you alone the secret of these transactions is now
known?"

"To me, and to me alone."

She paused in thought. She held up her hand to bespeak his silence.
After a few moments' pause, she said:

"In the course of these transactions injury was done to some one? Was
that not so?"

"You are asking too much. Neither your happiness nor your fortune
could be served by my answering your questions. I refuse to answer."

With a gesture, she declined to be satisfied with this treatment.

"I have no fortune and no happiness. Once you told me you would do
anything I requested of you if I gave you a rose. There are no roses
now. In all likelihood there will be no more roses while I live----"

"While you live!"

"Let me go on. I have not much to say. You could not prize a rose for
its intrinsic value?"

"No; but for two other considerations--for the fact that it had once
been yours, and for what the gift of it from you to me might signify."

"If I gave you a rose now it could signify nothing--mind, absolutely
nothing. But if the mere fact that it belonged to me would make
anything valuable in your eyes, I will give you my glove, or my
bracelet, or this for your secret;" and she drew from her pocket the
revolver and pointed it at him.

He started towards her at the sight of the weapon, crying angrily:

"What do you mean by carrying that? Great heavens, it cannot be that
you came out here with the intention of committing suicide!"

He looked at her in horror.

"No," she answered quietly--"but with the intention of defending
myself against you. I thought if I should meet you, and you had
murdered my husband, and knew from me I had guessed it, that I might
need _this_. But I have no evidence you did murder him, and I see no
sign of guilt in you. Will you take it, or the bracelet, or the glove,
or all three, and tell me about those transactions in which my husband
was engaged with you?"

"It is not enough for my secret," he said.

"What more do you want? My purse?"

She put those questions in a placid tone, and showed no impatience or
scorn.

"No," he said, shaking with conflicting passions, "I do not want your
purse. If I wanted money, I could have had as much as any man could
care for out of your husband's purse. I have enough for myself. You
cured me of the love of money, and put another love in its place. Give
me your hand, or fire."

She raised her hand quickly, and flung the revolver from her over the
cliff. It fell on the Black Rock beneath. The fall was followed by a
long silence on both sides.

"I make one last appeal to you," she cried in soft, supplicating
tones--"one last appeal. I do not purpose keeping a penny of the
money--not one farthing. Some papers which fell accidentally into my
hands after my husband's death convinced me he came by his money
dishonestly. He himself told me you had been of great service to him,
and that your actions would not bear the light. Give me, for pity's
sake, a chance of restoring this money to those who ought to have it.
I did think of dying and shielding his memory, for if I died no one
could be surprised at my leaving the wretched money to charities. But
it would be better still to give what remains of the money to the
rightful owners. Will you tell me who they are?"

She caught his hand in hers and drew it towards her.

He seized hers eagerly, and held it.

"I will for this," he whispered. "We can give all his money back if
you will."

She snatched her hand away.

"That is impossible, sir. I have told you so finally."

She essayed to pass by him once more.

"Only a minute. I cannot live openly in this country; I must go
abroad. I have been concealed close to this place in the hope of
meeting you. I may never see you again. Do not go for a minute. Your
husband was always good and loyal to me, and I was always loyal to
him. He dealt honourably with me in money matters. It was necessary
for us to have a hiding-place near this, and I found it. Just before I
disappeared he made up his mind to abandon business of all kinds. He
had enough of money, and so had I--though of course he was a rich man
compared with me. Well, as you know, I disappeared. I went, no matter
where. I disappeared because I had no longer any business here, and
because of another reason to which I will not again refer. That is all
I have to say, except that I left documents which would be
intelligible to your husband--they contained the clue to our
hiding-place should I die or your husband want it--in Mr. John
O'Hanlon's hands for Mr. Davenport and you. Nothing, I suppose, ever
reached you about them?"

"No."

"That, then, is all I have to say."

"You will tell me no more? Give me no key?"

"Mr. Davenport left you his money. Why should I help you to get rid of
it? Good-bye."

He turned eastward, went along the cliff, and she moved off slowly in
the direction of Kilcash House.



                             CHAPTER XLV.

                           BEYOND THE VEIL.


It was Phelan who said it was not the hand of mortal man that had
kindled the fire the four men in the Red Cave saw after the dying of
the red light on the water.

For a long time after he had spoken no human voice was heard. All was
silence save the mystic whispers and breathings of the cave, which,
after the prodigious clangour lately filling the void, were no more
than the ripple of faint air flowing through mere night.

The three men watched the light breathlessly. At first it seemed
steady, but now it began to waver slowly this way and that way, like a
warning hand admonishing or threatening, a spiritual hand beckoning or
blessing.

It was not crimson, as the other flame had been, but pale yellow, like
the early east. It was not fierce and dazzling, but lambent and soft.
It was not light in darkness, as a zenith moon, but light against
darkness, as a setting star. It was independent, absolute, taking or
giving nothing. Space lay between it and the eyes that saw; infinity
between it and the sightless vault.

There was something in this cave that killed you, and yet in that
place you must not die.

"Heaven be merciful to us!" whispered a human voice.

"To us," whispered the phantom voice against the men's hair.

"It's the corpse-candle of the dead men of the Black Rock," whispered
Phelan.

"Of the Black Rock!" echoed the spirit.

The words "Black Rock" acted like a charm, and broke the terrible
spell of the place. Never before had the name of that fatal and hated
shelf of land sounded grateful to human ears.

The two boatmen had been often in that stupendous cave before, had
seen its colossal glories in the ruby flare, and heard its
reverberating thunders in the inexorable gloom. But never until now
had they gazed upon this weird light; they were certain that if it had
existed when they had been visitors on other occasions they could not
have missed observing it.

What they now saw made a profound impression on them, and powerfully
excited their superstitious minds. They had never rowed to the end of
that eastern shaft of the labyrinth, but they knew from the sharp turn
it struck west, and the great depth to which it penetrated, that the
onward limit of it must be near the rear of the Black Rock.

This filled them with doubt--uneasy doubt. Owing to the darkness and
the nature of the remote light, they could not form an exact notion of
its position, but they guessed it to be no less than a mile from the
Red Gap, and, allowing for everything, that would be the back of the
Black Rock.

Why should there be a light at the back of the Black Rock? How could a
light be accounted for there? except it was a corpse-candle on that
murderous reef.

It was a thought to shudder at.

With the other two men the effect was wholly different. Neither had
ever been in this marvellous place before; neither had seen its
sights, or heard its sounds, or endured its darkness until now, and
their imaginations had been powerfully excited and exercised. At one
time they were exalted by the visible--at another overawed by the
unseen. Sobriety of thought and familiarity of experience were absent,
and they were face to face with things undreamed of and enormous, and
with phantoms and monstrous ideas that baffled investigation and
pursuit.

But to them the mention of the Black Rock meant the re-entry of
ordinary ideas and homely thoughts. It lay out there in the noonday
sunlight beside the sunlit sea. It was part of the pastoral land where
people sang and trees waved their leaves and winds bore perfumes.
There was nothing more disquieting about it than about a ship, or a
house, or a rampart.

O'Brien's thoughts had now gone back to their ordinary course. If this
light came from anywhere near the Black Rock, might it not have
something to do with the Puffing Hole?

The question was fascinating, alluring. It might prove a beacon to
discovery.

"Where do you think it is from, Phelan?" he asked, in a whisper.

"Somewhere near the Black Rock. I can't say exactly where."

"What do you believe it is?"

"A corpse-candle. The corpse-candle of the men that the Rock killed."

"Nonsense! You ought to know better. A corpse-candle is not for the
dead--it's for the living."

"Above ground it may be so. But under ground it may be different."

"Let us go and see what it is."

"Not a stroke."

"What, Phelan!--afraid again? There's hardly a thing you are not
afraid of."

"I'm not afraid of you or any other man."

"If you don't go to it with me, I'll swim to it."

"If you do, it will be _your_ corpse-candle."

"I don't care. If you won't go, I'll swim to it. If you don't make up
your mind while I'm counting twenty, I'll dive off and swim."

"It would be murder to let you, O'Brien. Put it out of your head. We
won't let you go."

None of the men could see where another was standing.

O'Brien laughed.

"You can't touch me--you can't stop me."

"Whisht--whisht! For heaven's sake, don't laugh. This is no place for
laughing with that candle before you."

O'Brien laughed softly, and counted, "One."

"If you laugh again, by heavens, I'll throw you in, O'Brien."

"Two!" O'Brien laughed. "Then you won't let me count twenty? You
launch me on my swim at 'three'?"

"He'll bring the cliffs down on us."

"Four! Ha, ha, ha!"

Up to this the words and the laughter had been in whispers. This time
O'Brien counted and laughed out loud.

The effect was prodigious. Those vast chambers of solemn night had
never before heard human laughter, and they roared and bellowed, and
yelled and shrieked, and grumbled, as though furiously calling upon
one another to rush together and tear asunder or crush flat the
impious intruders who dared to profane with such sounds the sanctuary
of their repose.

"I'll go," whispered Phelan--"I'll go. But--wait!"

A torch was now lit, and by the aid of its fitful flame the four men
scrambled into the yawl. The two rowers took their places standing and
facing the bow. O'Brien held the flaring torch on high, and the
boatmen gave way.

As they glided gently along, the irregular walls of the aisle came
nearer to them out of the darkness with a nearness that was sinister
and hateful. It was as though they crept close with the full intention
of crushing the craft and grinding the men to death between their
ponderous fangs and molars. They seemed avengers of the echoes
outraged by the laughter.

The luminous shaft still shone; but as they came nearer, the light
grew whiter and less like flame. The red glare of the torch seemed to
overcome it.

The men watched it with starting eyes.

The walls of the cave came closer out of the darkness, and the roof
lowered.

By this time Phelan had lost all his fears, and was as curious as the
others to know what the light was.

All at once he cried out--"Ease!"

Both men stopped rowing. The sound of the oars ceased, and the noise
of the ripple from the oars. All listened intently. A hissing sound
could be distinctly heard--a loud hissing sound which they had not
noticed before, because, no doubt, of the gradualness of their
approach and the noises made by the rowers.

"It's water--falling water. But, in the name of all the saints, where
is it falling from, and how can we see it in the darkness? Give way,
Tim."

The cave grew narrower still, and now there was barely room for the
shortened oars. The sides of it came closer, the roof lowered until it
was no more than an arm's length above the heads of the standing men.
The bright patch grew higher and broader. The torch still burned. A
dull whiteness shone on the rocks.

The luminous space now looked like a faintly-lighted sheet of glass.
The hissing sound of the water had gathered intensity.

"I don't know what's beyond, but I'll risk going through if you are
willing," cried Phelan, who was now in a state of almost frenzy from
suppressed excitement.

"Go on--go on!" shouted O'Brien, who found it difficult to keep from
jumping overboard.

"Go on!" repeated Alfred, who, too, was now standing up.

"Give way with a will!" shouted Phelan; and in a minute the boat shot
through a thick sheet of foam and falling water, and glided into a
placid pool.

For a moment the men were blinded by the foam and water, and could see
nothing.

They rubbed their eyes, looked up obliquely, and were blinded once
again.

The mid-day sun flamed above their heads at the end of a stupendous
tube.

An indescribable cry arose. Then all was still.

A crow flew between them and the sun. All bent their heads and
crouched low as though instant death was rushing down upon them. The
crow went by harmlessly.

"Do you know where we are?" asked Phelan, in the voice of an awestruck
child.

"No."

"At the bottom of the shaft of the old mine. It slants to the
southward, and that's the sun!"

They looked around: some wreckage floated on one side of the boat.

"The planks that covered the mouth of the shaft. They must have fallen
in."

Something that was not a plank floated on the other side of the boat.

It was the body of Fahey!



                            CHAPTER XLVI.

                           AN EVENING WALK.


"Yes, Madge, 'twas an awful time. I never felt anything like it in my
life; and as for Alfred, he was stunned with terror. You see, that old
mine shaft had followed the soft part of the cliff (there's not much
use in looking for copper in solid sandstone), and so was like a huge
telescope, pointed south at some angle or other--the angle, I think,
at which you are now holding your chin."

"Jerry, don't talk nonsense."

"You'd be very sorry indeed if I didn't. Well, we hauled the dreadful
thing we had found into the boat, and then began to think of getting
back; but Phelan, the boatman, swore he would not go through that
awful Red Cave with it on board.

"We looked round us to see the best thing we could do. We found we
were in what I may call an under-ground pool, from which there were
three ways out--one leading into the cliff, one leading in the
direction of the sea, and the one by which we had entered. Am I tiring
you with my long-winded description?"

"No, Jerry--go on; I came out to hear all," said Madge, pressing the
arm on which her own rested.

"We first tried the way towards the sea, and found, to Phelan's
amazement and consternation, that it led right under, or, rather,
through the Puffing Hole. No power on earth could induce Phelan to go
that way. When we made this discovery, I now plainly saw the meaning
of those mysterious measurements and instructions left by the
unfortunate Fahey, and the means by which he had effected his
extraordinary disappearance years ago. He had jumped down and swum
inward to where we had found his dead body. In his 'Memorandum,' 'Rise
15.6 lowest' meant what I had expected--the rise of the lowest tide.
'At lowest minute of lowest forward with all might undaunted,' meant
that one entering at the Whale's Mouth at the lowest minute of the
lowest tide was to push forward with all vigour.... But, Madge
darling, this must bore you to death?"

"No, Jerry, I love to hear it. Just fancy having the hero of such an
adventure telling it quietly to me on the Dulwich Road!"

"Twenty years hence how sick you'll be of these same adventures! You
will then have heard them told at least a thousand times to every
fresh acquaintance I make--man, woman, or child. But you'll be
very tired of me also, sweetheart, and you shall go to sleep in an
easy-chair while I prate on."

"Don't say such horrid things, or I shall cry. Please go on."

"Ah, well, you may bully me now, but you won't then. Where did I leave
off, darling?" He pressed her arm and she pressed his.

"At the man going up under the Puffing Hole. The paper he left with
your solicitor."

"Our solicitor--say our solicitor."

"Our solicitor. There! But how tiresome you are!"

"Oh, ay! I have the whole thing off by heart. The 'Memorandum' goes
on, 'The foregoing refers to s-c-u-l-l-s with only one s-k-u-l-l any
lowest, or any last quarter, but great forward pluck required for
this. In both cases (of course!) left.' You see, here he underlines
the words 'sculls' and 'skull,' which shows something unusual was
meant. Remembering everything, 'sculls' evidently meant _sculls_, as
very few people have more than one skull, and 'skull' meant what it
seems to mean--your head. By-the-way, I beg your pardon. It's only men
have skulls, not angels.'

"Jerry, I'm going home."

"Well, I won't, I won't! Put your arm back. Let us, in fact, have an
armed peace."

"This kind of thing, Jerry, is very bitter, and I feel as if--as
if--as if----"

"As if what?"

"As if I can't help liking you--sometimes when you're nice."

"I'll be good and nice. Well, what he meant was that when you wanted
to get at his hiding-place by the sea, in a boat pulling sculls, you
came and did certain things; and that when you wanted to get there by
jumping down the Puffing Hole, you did other things.

"When we came back to the foot of the shaft the sun had gone off it,
and it was comparatively dark. We tried the passage leading inward,
and here we found Fahey's hiding-place. It was a small low cave, with
a rocky ledge about as wide as the footway we are walking on....
Madge, are those new boots? They look new. I wonder did I ever tell
you I think you have awfully pretty feet."

"I give you up. You are incorrigible."

"As I was saying, we found a ledge of rock about as broad as your
foot. This was Fahey's retreat, and here were all the materials used
by the forgers of bank-notes. How Fahey got them there unobserved is
the puzzle. He must have brought them piecemeal Here, beyond all
doubt, were printed the notes forged upon the bank of Bordelon and
Company, of Paris, by means of which Mr. Davenport stole a colossal
fortune.

"Here we found an explanation of how Fahey's suit of clothes lasted
ten or twelve years. We found two suits precisely similar. He kept one
to wear, no doubt, while the other was drying. There was a place which
had evidently been used as a fireplace, and although there was water
so close to this ledge, it was above the highest reach of the highest
tide, and dry as tinder. The dryness of the place and the salt of the
sea-water had preserved these clothes from decay, while most of the
metal things had crumbled into dust.

"He must have discovered this place in his boat, and after that found
out the shaft of the mine communicated with the whole cavernous
system, which is so vast as to stagger the mind. Thus he had two means
of gaining his retreat; and when he said he had lost his boat, she was
safely moored in the cave in case of emergency--for we found the
painter-chain hanging from a bolt."

"But what of that light you saw that turned out to be water? And did
the miners work in the sea?"

"Attentive and intelligent darling, I thank thee. The theory is that
Fahey, in falling or sliding down the shaft, struck the western wall
of the pool in which we found him, and brought down a huge mass of
clay which was ripe for falling, or that it had fallen recently, or
that our gunshot had brought it down. The curtain of water was formed
by a spring of fresh water. There are always dozens of such springs in
cliffs. As to the foot of the shaft, the explanation is that at the
time the miners were at work the sea had not eaten so far inward. In
fact, that whole district is and has been gradually so enormously
undermined, that soon a mighty subsidence must take place."

"But you say that the hole down to the mine slanted. How did he get up
and down? It would have been barely possible, but dangerous, to crawl
up."

"He had a rope by which to hold on, and while holding on thus, he
could walk upright--that is, hand over hand. Before the fall of the
planks that covered the top of the shaft, Fahey had crept out by a
small opening looking seaward, and concealed from view, if any one
ever should be so foolhardy as to go there, by a thick growth of
furze."

"Well, what did you do afterwards?"

"When?"

"You told me only as far as coming back from the Puffing Hole."

"True. Well, we laid what remained of the unfortunate man on the rock
which had often been his resting-place before, and then rowed back
through the wonderful Red Cave, and put the matter in the hands of the
police. At the inquest all about the forgery of Davenport and Fahey
and the swindle on the Paris bank came out, and Mrs. Davenport was
examined, She admitted Fahey had made love to her, as you saw by the
papers. Wasn't it strange that Alfred should be the first to see her
husband and her husband's partner in guilt dead, and not by natural
means, and that at both inquests she spoke of a new lover, and that
Alfred, the newest lover of all three, should have been at both
inquests?"

"It is astonishing and terrible. I wonder what will come of it?"

"Heaven knows. But there, let it go now, Madge. When you come to
Ireland, love, you shall see those wonderful caves."

"I'd rather die," she said, "than go near them."

"What!--if they were lit by the glorious effulgence of this splendid
specimen of the O'Briens?"

This dialogue took place one day after dinner in the June following
the visit to the cave. The villainous Fishery Commissioners had been
overcome, and Jerry and Madge were to be married in a week.

Alfred Paulton was still at the "Strand Hotel," in the village of
Kilcash.



                            CHAPTER XLVII.

                             CONCLUSION.


"Marion, will you not listen to me?--will you not listen to reason?
Your fortune, you say, is now all gone--must be restored to its lawful
owners, the Paris bankers, and that you have made the necessary
arrangements for doing so. You are bankrupt in fortune: why should you
be bankrupt also in love?"

"Understand me, Thomas Blake, I will speak on this subject no more to
you. I do not think you will have the bad taste to remain any longer
in this house when I ask you to go."

"I will do anything on earth for you, Marion--anything in reason you
ask me."

"Then go."

"But is that reasonable? Is it reasonable to ask me to leave you now
that you are as free as you were in the olden times?"

She looked at him wrathfully, scornfully.

"Have you got a second bidder for me in view? Did you not take my
heart when it was young, when you were young, and sell it for a sum of
money down? You know there is no one in this house but servants. Save
yourself the ignominy of my ringing the bell. Sir, will you go? I have
affairs to attend to. You have broken your promise by renewing this
subject."

"Why did you telegraph for me to London?"

"Because I thought you might be useful to me, and you have proved
useless."

"And if I had proved useful, would you have rewarded me?"

"Yes."

"Oh, Marion, Marion, you are playing with me! Do you mean to say you
would have allowed me to hope if I had proved of service in that
affair? I did my best. I swear to you I did my best, and if you will
only give me your hand now----"

"Thomas Blake, I would have rewarded you by saying that your debt to
me had been diminished by one useful act of yours. But my contempt for
you would have been just the same. Take your elderly protestations of
love to fresh ears. Mine are too old and too weary, and too well
acquainted with their value, to care much for them. Go now. When I
have need of you again I shall send for you."

"Marion, this is too bad. You are treating me as if I were a dog."

"Worse--much worse. We were intended for one another. Once I would
have died for you; now I cannot endure you except when I think you may
be of use to me. I shall send for you if I should happen to want you
again."

His face grew white, and he set his teeth. They were in the green
drawing-room of Kilcash House. The full June sun was flaming abroad on
the sea, and shining in through the windows.

"You outrage me. I am not accustomed to be----"

"Told the simple truth," she said, finishing the sentence for him. "I
threatened to ring."

She went to the bell-rope. He sprang between her and it menacingly.

"I believe you are capable of violence," she said, surveying him with
a taunting smile.

"I am capable of murder."

"Only for plunder," she said, still smiling.

He ground his teeth.

"You will drive me to it, Marion Butler."

At the mention of her maiden name, a swift flush of crimson darkened
her face. Her eyes flashed, her nostrils dilated, her head bent
forward, her mouth opened, the veins in her temple swelled. She
clenched her hands--her bosom heaved--she stood still.

The sudden change in her appearance arrested his anger. He believed
she was going to have a fit. Her maiden name had not been purposely
uttered by him. It loosed some current in the brain which had not
flowed for years.

Awhile she stood thus. Then all at once the colour fled from her face,
and left it pallid, cold, rigid. She pressed her hand once or twice
across her brow, and then, looking at him intently for a few moments,
said, in a quiet, weary voice:

"I am ill. Leave me; but come to me soon again. In an
hour--half-an-hour. I did not mean what I said. Pray leave me, and
come to me soon. I shall be here. I am confused."

Without speaking, and scarcely believing the words he heard, he stole
from the room.

She sat down on a couch and covered her face with her hands.

"Wait," she said softly to herself. "There is something I must
do--something I have forgotten. Oh, I know! He is an honourable
gentleman, and must not be disregarded."

She went over to a table, found writing materials, sat down, and
wrote:


"Dear Mr. Paulton,

"I got your note this morning. I told you the first time you did me
the honour of offering me marriage that there was no hope. I am sorry
to say I am of the same mind still. You will forget and forgive me in
time. I shall never forget your kindness to me in my distress.

                   "Yours sincerely,

                          "Marion Butler."


She read the note over and over again from top to bottom. Something in
the look of it did not please her, but she could not think of anything
better to say. She had received a note from him that morning, asking
her to grant him another interview. He had proposed to her a week ago.
She had told him plainly she would not marry him. He had begged that
he might be allowed to call again. She said it was quite useless. He
craved another interview, and she gave way, on the understanding no
hope was to be based on the permission. He had come again, and again
had been refused. And now he was asking for a third chance. She would
not give it to him. It would be worse than useless under the
circumstances. There was something wrong with this note, but it must
serve, as Tom Blake was waiting.

She put the letter in an envelope, addressed it to Alfred at the
"Strand Hotel," Kilcash, rang the bell, and sent a servant off with
it.

When it was gone she said:

"I must go now and meet Tom. He said he'd be---- Where's this he said
he'd be? Oh, I know! By the corner of the wood on the Bandon Road.
I'll put on the white muslin Tom likes. If Mr. Paulton should come
they must say I am out."

Alfred Paulton got the note, and although he could not understand the
signature--it was no doubt the result of a lapse of memory, in which
she went back for a moment to her girlish days--he knew his dismissal
was final.

That day he set off for London, and arrived in time to see Madge
married to his old friend, Jerry O'Brien, who was secretly delighted
at the failure of Alfred's suit.

While Jerry was on his honeymoon he got a letter from his old friend
and solicitor, the postscript of which gave him the latest news of
Mrs. Davenport: the doctors had pronounced her hopelessly insane.



                               THE END.


                         * * * * * * * * * *
           CHARLES DICKENS AND EVANS, CRYSTAL PALACE PRESS.





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