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Title: A Secret Inheritance  (Volume 2 of 3)
Author: Farjeon, B. L. (Benjamin Leopold)
Language: English
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     1. Page scan source:
        http://archive.org/details/secretinheritanc02farj
        (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)



                         A SECRET INHERITANCE



                                  A
                          SECRET INHERITANCE



                                  BY

                            B. L. FARJEON,

         AUTHOR OF "GREAT PORTER SQUARE," "IN A SILVER SEA,"
                  "THE HOUSE OF WHITE SHADOWS," ETC.



                          _IN THREE VOLUMES_
                               VOL. II



                               LONDON
                           WARD AND DOWNEY
                 12, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.C.
                                1887



                        Richard Clay and Sons,
                          LONDON AND BUNGAY.



                        A SECRET INHERITANCE.

                             * * * * * *

                    BOOK THE FIRST (_Continued_).

                     THE RECORD OF GABRIEL CAREW.



VOL. II.



                             CHAPTER XIV.


"I travelled for many months alone. I made acquaintances which never
ripened into friendships, and seldom did twenty-four hours pass
without my thoughts wandering to Silvain. Thinking it not unlikely
that one or both of the brothers had returned to their home in
Germany, I wrote several letters to them there, without receiving an
answer. This portentous silence increased rather than diminished my
interest in the man I loved as a brother. In speaking of him in these
terms I am but giving faithful expression to the feelings I
entertained for him; up to that time I had never met a human being,
man or woman, who had so entirely won my affectionate regard.

"Family circumstances rendered me more than ever my own master; I was
free to go whithersoever my inclination led me, and certainly my
inclination pointed clearly to that part of the world where I should
be most likely to find my dear friend. But I had no clue to guide me;
to turn east, west, north, or south, in search of him would have been
a hap-hazard proceeding, and to hope for success in so unintelligent a
search would have been the hope of a madman. My anxiety with respect
to the fate of Silvain and Kristel never deserted me, but it was many
years before I was enabled to take up the links in the chain.

"During those years a great and happy change occurred in my own life.
I interrupt the course of my narrative here to remark that it is
singular I should be relating this history fully, for the first time,
within a comparatively short distance of places in which the most
pregnant--and indeed terrible--incidents in the career of the twin
brothers were brought to my knowledge. My wife is acquainted with some
portions of this history, but not with all. The lighthouse in which
Avicia was born is within a hundred miles of this spot. Indirectly it
led me to the acquaintance of the lady who became my wife, and to as
great a happiness as any man can hope to enjoy.

"Nerac is not my birthplace, and it was in passing through the lovely
village on one of my visits to the village by the sea--visits made in
the vain hope of obtaining intelligence of Silvain--that I was
introduced to her. I pass over the records of a time which lives in my
remembrance as a heavenly summer. Happy is the man who has enjoyed
such a season. Happier is the man to whom such a season is the
harbinger of such home joys as have fallen to my lot.

"When I first made the acquaintance of my wife, and for some years
afterwards, her parents were alive, and I saw that it would be cruel
to ask her to leave them. I did not put her love to such a test. I
settled in Nerac, and married there.

"It is a solemnly strange reflection by what chance threads we are led
to our destiny--a destiny which may be one of honour or shame, and
which may bring a blessing or a curse into the lives of others whom,
but for the most accidental circumstance, we should never have seen.
The doctrine of responsibility is but little understood. Thus, had it
not been for my chance meeting with Silvain in London, I should never
have known my wife, and it seems to me impossible that I should have
been a happy or a good man without her. Such women as she keep men
pure.

"Midway between Nerac and the village by the sea to which Kristel led
his brother in his pursuit of the girl who was to bring them to their
doom lies a forest of great extent, and it was in this forest, after a
lapse of four years, that I came once more into association with
Silvain and Avicia. I was called in that direction upon important
business; at that period of my life I was an ardent pedestrian, and if
the opportunity offered, was glad to make my way on foot, without
respect to distance. I may confide to you that I was in the habit of
taking a great deal of exercise because I was afraid of growing fat.

"I was unacquainted with the locality, and I took a short cut, which
proved a long one. When darkness fell I found myself entrapped in the
forest amidst a wilderness of trees. Never shall I forget the night
and the day that followed. It was such a night as that upon which you,
my friend, were lying helpless in the woods near Nerac. Not relishing
the idea of passing a number of lonely hours in such a place and under
such circumstances, I made a vigorous effort to escape from the gloomy
labyrinth. I did not succeed, and it was one o'clock in the morning by
my watch before I made up my mind like a sensible person to rest till
daylight. So I sat me down upon the trunk of a tree, and made the best
of matters. Fatigued with my exertions I dozed for a few moments, then
started up with a vague feeling of alarm, for which there was no
cause, then dozed again and again, with repetitions of similar
uneasiness; and finally I fell fast asleep.

"It was full daylight when I awoke. I arose refreshed, and gazed
around with smiles and a light heart, despite that I was hungry and
that there was no water in sight. I had no doubt that I should soon
find myself in some place where I could obtain food. Resolving upon my
course I set forward in the direction of rising ground, from the
summit of which I should be able to overlook the country. In one part
of the forest I was traversing the trees were very thickly clustered,
and it was here I chanced upon the forms of a man and a woman lying on
the ground asleep. The circumstance was strange, and I leant over the
sleeping persons to see their faces. I could scarcely repress a cry of
astonishment at the discovery that the man was Silvain and the woman
Avicia. It was from an impulsive desire not to disturb them that I
uttered no sound, for truly their appearance was such as to excite my
deep compassion.

"Avicia's head was pillowed upon Silvain's right arm, and his left
hand was clasped in hers. In complete ignorance of what had brought
them to this miserable position, there was, to my mind, in this close
clasping of his hand in hers, a kind of protection, as though she were
making an instinctive effort to shield him from a hidden danger. The
faces of both were wan with suffering, and their clothes were poor and
ragged. I trembled to think that they might be in want of food.

"As I gazed in pity and apprehension Silvain moved. A spasm of fear
passed across his face, and he exclaimed in terror, 'Avicia! Avicia!
He is coming nearer--nearer! We must fly!'

"Before the words were uttered she was awake and on her feet. She saw
me without recognising me, and she sank to the ground again, with a
piercing scream which curdled through my veins, so much of fear and
terror did it express. Dazed, and not yet fully awakened, Silvain
threw himself before her in an attitude of protection.

"'Silvain!' I cried; 'do you not know me?'

"He looked up with a shudder, and passed his hand across his eyes. It
was like the look of an intelligent animal who is being hunted to his
death. But a softer expression came slowly into them as he gazed upon
me and saw that it was a friend and not an enemy who stood before him.
I spoke no further word at the moment, for the tears were running down
his haggard face; his overcharged heart had found relief, and I turned
from him.

"Presently I felt his hand upon my arm.

"'It is really you?' he said in a broken voice.

"'No doubt of that, Silvain,' I said in a cheerful tone, purposely
assumed to put him at his ease, 'unless life is a delusion.'

"'Would it were!' he muttered, 'would it were!' And then,
suspiciously, 'Did you come to seek me?'

"'No, Silvain; it is pure accident, if there be such a thing as
accident.'

"'There is not,' he said; 'all is ordained.'

"'One of our old arguments, Silvain,' I said, still with a cheerful
air; I would not humour his gloomy mood.

"'Do not mock me;' and he spread his hands, with upturned palms. 'Can
you not see?'

"'I can see that you are in bad trim, which can easily be set right.
Silvain,' I said reproachfully, 'this is not as we used to meet. I
come to you with open arms, and you receive me with doubt and
suspicion. Are we not, as we always were and always shall be, friends
staunch and true? You are the same Silvain; I am the same Louis;
unchanged, as you will find me if you care to prove me.'

"Avicia had risen and crept close to my side.

"'Friends staunch and true,' she said, echoing my words. 'You are not
mocking him?'

"'Indeed, no.'

"'Then give us food,' she said.

"At this appeal I felt my pretended cheerfulness deserting me, but I
caught the would-be runaway, and held it fast.

"'Food!' I exclaimed, rattling some money in my pocket. 'Would that I
knew where to obtain it! Here am I, starving, lost in the woods last
night, and with not an idea now how to get out of them. Can you show
me the way?'

"'Yes,' she replied eagerly.

"'Then I am fortunate, indeed, in lighting on you, and I bless the
chance. Ah, Silvain, how I searched for you! To leave me, without ever
a word--I would not have believed it of you. It was as though you
doubted my friendship, which,' I added, 'is as sincere at this moment
as ever it was in the years gone by.' Here there was a little choking
in my throat because of the tears which again flowed from his eyes. 'I
went to the village three times to get news of you, and had to come
away unsatisfied. I wrote to your home in Germany, and received no
reply. We have much to tell each other. But I am forgetting. You are
faint and weary, and so am I. Can you take us to an inn where we can
put some cheerful life into our bodies?'

"I addressed this last question to Avicia, and she answered 'Yes,' and
was about to lead the way when Silvain stopped her.

"'Is it on our road?' he asked.

"'Yes,' she answered, 'it is on our road.'

"He motioned to her to proceed, and she stepped forward, Silvain and I
walking side by side in the rear. This companionship was of my
prompting, for had I not detained him he would have joined Avicia. I
was burning with curiosity to learn what had befallen my friend during
the last few years, but I restrained myself from asking questions
which I felt he was not in the proper frame of mind at present to
answer. Therefore as we walked onwards it was chiefly I who had to
beguile the way. I told him all that had passed since we last met,
narrated adventures which in former times would have interested him,
and spoke freely of my settlement in life and of the happiness of my
home. He acknowledged my efforts in monosyllables, but volunteered
nothing of himself or Avicia. At the end of about an hour's walk we
arrived at a village, in which there was one poor inn, and there we
halted. Before we entered Silvain said,

"'A word first. I have been seemingly churlish and ungrateful, but I
am not so. My heart is overflowing with thankfulness; presently,
perhaps, I may have courage to unbosom myself. You are as you were;
life is fair and sweet to you.'

"It was only because he paused here that I spoke: 'And will be to you,
Silvain.'

"'Never again,' he said. 'I am followed by a relentless spirit; I have
been pursued for years by one who was heart of my heart, soul of my
soul, but who now, from feelings of revenge, and as he believes of
justice, is my bitter enemy.'

"'Dare I mention his name, Silvain?'

"'I will do so. My brother Kristel. It is of him I wish to say a word
to you before I partake of your charity.'

"'Silvain!' I cried, in remonstrance.

"'Forgive me. I am tormented because of my condition, because of
Avicia's misery. Answer me honestly. Is it really true that you came
upon us by chance in the woods?'

"'It is really true.'

"'Kristel did not send you?'

"'I have not seen Kristel since you and I last met.'

"'Nor heard from him?'

"'Nor heard from him.'

"He took the hand I held out to him, and we followed Avicia into the
inn, where, very soon, we were seated at a table with a modest meal
before us. The food was poor enough, the wine was thin and common, but
we could scarcely have enjoyed a grand banquet more. I speak not alone
for myself, but for Silvain and Avicia; it was evident to me that they
had not had many full meals lately. Avicia especially ate ravenously,
and with a perfect sense of animal enjoyment, and it was only when she
had finished that a certain terror, which I had observed in both her
and Silvain, again asserted itself.

"'Remain here a while, Avicia,' said Silvain, at the end of the meal;
'I wish to speak to our friend alone.'

"'Are we safe?' she asked.

"'I think so; I hope so. Sleep; it will do you good.'

"'Thank you, Silvain.'

"She was seated on a hard bench, not conducive to repose; nevertheless
she closed her eyes, and was almost immediately asleep.

"'Poor girl!' said Silvain, with a sigh, 'she has suffered much--and
in a few weeks will become a mother.'

"We strolled up and down outside the inn and conversed.

"'You have behaved to us with true friendship,' he said; 'and yet you
can see we are beggars. Are you prospering?'

"I am not rich,' I replied, 'but I can spare to a friend.'

"'We are making our way to Avicia's home, to the lighthouse upon which
I saw her for the first time otherwise than in my dreams. I doubt
whether you can turn aside the finger of Fate as I behold it, pointing
downwards to a grave, but you can perhaps help us to cheat it for a
short time.'

"'You speak strangely, Silvain; the ominous fears which oppress you
may be bred by a disordered fancy.'

"'In our former intercourse,' was his reply, 'was my fancy ever
disordered? I advanced nothing that was not afterwards proved; I made
no pretence of accounting for the warnings I received; I make none
now. I shudder to think of the future, not so much for my own sake as
for Avicia's. Helpless, penniless, without a friend----'

"'You are forgetting me, Silvain?'

"'Ah, yes, my friend, as you still declare yourself to be; I cannot
but believe you. But Avicia----'

"'I am her friend as well as yours.'

"'For God's sake, do not speak lightly! You do not know to what a pass
I am driven.'

"'You shall enlighten me, and I maybe able to counsel you. Do not
think I am speaking lightly, As I am your friend, so am I Avicia's. As
I will stand by you, so will I stand by her.'

"'In perfect faith, Louis?'

"It was the first time he had uttered my name, and I held it as a sign
that I had dispelled his distrust. I replied, 'In perfect faith,
Silvain.'

"'I accept it so. When I am gone, she will not be quite alone in the
world. And now, will you give me a little money? I do not ask you to
lend it to me, for I have no expectation of being able to repay you. I
will briefly explain the necessity for it. We are bound for the
lighthouse. It is our only refuge, and there our child will be born.
May it prove a comfort to the mother! We have fifty miles to go, and
Avicia is not strong enough to walk----'

"'Say no more,' I interrupted, 'of the necessity for such a trifle; I
can spare you more than sufficient for your purpose.'

"I took from my purse what was requisite for my immediate needs, and
pressed the purse with the coins that remained into his hand. He took
it in silence, and his emaciated form shook with gratitude.

"'You ask no questions about these,' he said, pointing to his rags.

"'Why should I?' I asked in return. 'But there are one or two points
upon which you might satisfy me.'

"'I cannot go into my history, Louis. If you will give me your address
I will send it to you before the week is out. Indeed, after your noble
promise with respect to Avicia, it is yours by right. It will not only
enlighten, it will guide you.'

"'I will wait for it, and will make an opportunity of seeing you soon
after I have read it. The points I wish to mention are these: While
you and Avicia were sleeping in the forest, and I stood looking down
upon you, you cried--not because of my presence, of which you were
ignorant, but because of some disturbing dream--"He is coming
nearer--nearer! We must fly!" To whom did you refer?'

"'To my brother Kristel. He is pursuing us.'

"'To your hurt?'

"'To my destruction.'

"'Then you have seen him?'

"'I have not seen him. I know it through my dreams, as of old. You
could not doubt their truth when we travelled together--ah, those
happy days!--you cannot doubt it now.'

"'Then, what was love between you has turned to hate?' The words
escaped me unaware; I repented of them the moment they were spoken.

"'Yes,' said Silvain, in a tone of deepest sadness, 'what was love
between us is turned to hate. Ask me no more questions--in pity!'

"'But one, Silvain. Have you any children?'

"'None. The babe that Avicia will soon press to her breast will be our
first-born.'

"To matters upon which I saw he was then unwilling to converse, I made
no further reference. He engaged a light cart and horse, and a man to
drive them to the village by the sea. Then he woke Avicia, and I said
farewell to them, and gazed after them till they were out of sight.

"As he had promised, I received from him before the end of the week a
statement of his adventures. It is now among my papers in Nerac, and I
remember perfectly all the salient particulars necessary to my story,
which is now drawing to a conclusion. I will narrate them in my own
way, asking you to recall the day upon which the brothers were last
seen in the village by the sea."



                             CHAPTER XV.


"Silvain, Kristel, and Avicia, accompanied by her father, rowed from
the lighthouse to the shore. The villagers saw but little of them;
they passed out of the village, and Avicia's father returned alone to
the lighthouse. Kristel loved Avicia with all the passion of a hot,
imperious, and intense nature. He looked upon her as his, and had he
suspected that Silvain would have fallen in love with her, it can
readily be understood that he would have been the last man to bring
them into association with each other. But so it happened.

"When Kristel and Avicia met in the Tyrol, Kristel was buoyed up with
hopes that she reciprocated the love she had inspired in his breast.
He had some reason for this hope, for at his request, when he asked
her to become his wife and said that he could not marry without his
father's consent, she had written home to _her_ father with respect to
the young gentleman's proposal, thereby leading him to believe that
she was ready to accept him. It appeared, however, that there was no
real depth in her feelings for him; and, indeed, it may be pardoned
her if she supposed that his fervid protestations were prompted by
feelings as light and as little genuine as her own. Unsophisticated as
she was in the ways of the world, the fact of his making the
honourable accomplishment of his love for her dependent upon the fiat
of another person could not but have lessened the value of his
declarations--more especially when she had not truly given him her
heart. It was given to Silvain upon the occasion of their first
meeting, and it was not long before they found the opportunity to
exchange vows of affection--a circumstance of which I and every person
but themselves were entirely ignorant. But love is cunning.

"It was because of Avicia's fear of her father that this love was kept
secret; he held her completely in control, and--first favouring
Kristel and then Silvain, playing them against each other, as it were,
to his own advantage in the way of gifts--filled her with
apprehension.

"'Looking back,' Silvain said in his statement to me, 'upon the
history of those days of happiness and torture, I can see now that I
was wrong in not endeavouring to arrive at a frank understanding with
my brother; but indeed I had but one thought--Avicia. As Kristel
believed her to be his, so did I believe her to be mine, and the idea
of losing her was sufficient to make my life a life of despair. And
after all, it was for Avicia to decide. Absorbing as was my love for
her, I should have had no choice but to retire and pass my days in
misery had she decided in favour of Kristel.'

"The base conduct of Avicia's father was to a great extent the cause
of turning brotherly love to hate. Seeing their infatuation, he
bargained with each secretly, saying, in effect, 'What will you give
me if I give you my daughter's hand?--for she will not, and cannot,
marry without my consent.'

"And to the other, 'What will _you_ give me?'

"He bound them to secrecy by a solemn oath, and bound his daughter
also in like manner, promising that she should have the one she loved.
Silvain was the more liberal of the two, and signed papers, pledging
himself to pay to the avaricious father a large sum of money within a
certain time after his union with Avicia. So cunningly did the keeper
of the lighthouse conduct these base negotiations, that, even on that
last day when they all rowed together to the village, neither of the
brothers knew that matters were to be brought then and there to an
irrevocable end.

"The village by the sea lay behind them some six or eight miles. Then,
upon a false pretext, Avicia's father got rid of Kristel, sending him
on an errand for Avicia which would render necessary an absence of
many hours. That done, he said to Silvain and Avicia, 'Everything is
arranged. This day will see you man and wife. Come with me to the
priest.'

"'But where is Kristel?' asked Silvain, his heart throbbing with joy.
'Does he not know?'

"'Yes, he knows,' replied Avicia's father, 'but, as you are aware, he
had a sneaking regard himself for my daughter, and he thought he would
feel more comfortable, and you and Avicia too, if he were not present
at the ceremony. He bade me give you his blessing.'

"Satisfied with this--being, indeed, naturally only too willing to be
satisfied--the marriage ceremony took place, and Silvain and Avicia
became man and wife. They departed on their honeymoon, and instructed
the keeper of the lighthouse to inform Kristel of their route, in
order that he might be able to join them at any point he pleased.

"Then came the interview between Avicia's father and Kristel, in which
the young man was informed that he had lost Avicia. Kristel was
dismayed and furious at what he believed to be the blackest treachery
on the part of his brother. He swore to be revenged, and asked the
road they had taken. Avicia's father sent him off in an entirely
opposite direction, and he set out in pursuit. Needless to say that he
soon found out how he had been tricked, and that it infuriated him the
more. Not knowing where else to write to Silvain, he addressed a
letter to him at their home in Germany; he himself did not proceed
thither, judging that his best chance of meeting the married couple
lay near the village by the sea, to which he felt convinced Silvain
and Avicia would soon return. Therefore he lurked in the vicinity of
the village, and watched by day and night the principal avenues by
which it was to be approached. But his judgment was at fault; they did
not return.

"In the meantime the lovers were enjoying their honeymoon. In order to
keep faith with Avicia's father in the bargain made between him and
Silvain--which rendered necessary the payment of a substantial sum of
money by a given time--it was imperative that Silvain should visit his
boyhood's home, to obtain his share of the inheritance left to him and
Kristel by their father. The happy couple dallied by the way, and it
was not until three months after their marriage that they arrived at
Silvain's birthplace.

"'Perhaps we shall meet Kristel there,' said Silvain.

"Instead of meeting his brother, Silvain received the letter which
Kristel had written to him. It breathed the deepest hate, and Silvain
had the unhappiness of reading the outpourings of a relentless,
vindictive spirit, driven to despair by disappointed love.

"'You have robbed me,' the letter said; 'hour by hour, day by day,
have you set yourself deliberately to ensnare me and to fill my life
with black despair. Had I suspected it at the time I would have
strangled you. But your fate is only postponed; revenge is mine, and I
hold it in my soul as a sacred trust which I shall fulfil. You shall
die by my hands. Never in this world or in the next will I forgive
you! My relentless hate shall haunt and pursue you, and you shall not
escape it!'

"And then the writer recorded an awful oath that, while life remained
within him, his one sole aim should be to compass his revenge. It was
a lengthy letter, and strong as is my description of it, it falls
short of the intense malignity which pervaded every line. Kristel
launched a curse so terrible against his brother that Silvain's hair
rose up in horror and fear as he read it. These are Silvain's own
words to me:

"'After reading Kristel's letter,' he said, 'I felt that I was
accursed, and that it was destined that he should kill me.'

"How to escape the terrible doom--though he had scarcely a hope of
averting it--how to prevent the crime of blood-guiltiness lying upon
Kristel's soul: this was thereafter the object of Silvain's life. It
afforded him no consolation to know that for the intense hate with
which Kristel's heart was filled Avicia's father was partly
responsible.

"In its delineation of the trickery by which Kristel had been robbed
of Avicia the letter was not truthful, for there had occurred between
the brothers a conversation in which Silvain had revealed his love for
her. Kristel's over-wrought feelings probably caused him to forget
this--or it may have been a perversion of fact adopted to give
sanction to hate.

"Kristel's letter was not the only despairing greeting which awaited
Silvain in the home of his boyhood. By some unhappy means the
inheritance left by his father had melted away, and he found himself a
beggar. Thus he was unable to carry out the terms of the bargain
Avicia's father had made with him. This part of his misfortune did not
greatly trouble him; it was but a just punishment to a grasping,
avaricious man; but with beggary staring him in the face, and his
brother's curse and awful design weighing upon him, his situation was
most dreadful and pitiable.

"It was his intention to keep Kristel's letter from the knowledge of
Avicia, but she secretly obtained possession of it, and it filled her
soul with an agonising fear. They decided that it was impossible to
return to the village by sea.

"'It is there my brother waits for us,' said Silvain.

"So from that time they commenced a wandering life, with the one
dominant desire to escape from Kristel.

"I cannot enter now into a description of the years that followed.
They crept from place to place, picking up a precarious existence, and
enduring great privations. One morning Silvain awoke, trembling and
afraid. 'I have seen Kristel,' he said.

"She did not ask him how and under what circumstances he had seen his
brother.

"'He has discovered that we are here, and is in pursuit of us,'
Silvain continued. 'We must fly without delay.'

"This was an added grief to Avicia. The place in which Silvain's dream
of his brother had been dreamt had afforded them shelter and security
for many weeks, and she had begun to indulge in the hope that they
were safe. Vain hope! They must commence their wanderings again. From
that period, at various times, Silvain was visited by dreams in which
he was made acquainted with Kristel's movements in so far as they
affected him and Avicia and the mission of vengeance upon which
Kristel was relentlessly bent. They made their way to foreign
countries, and even there Kristel pursued them. And so through the
days and years continued the pitiful flight and the merciless pursuit.
In darkness they wandered often, the shadow of fate at their heels, in
Avicia's imagination lurking in the solitudes through which they
passed, amidst thickets of trees, in hollows and ravines, waiting,
waiting, waiting to fall upon and destroy them! An appalling life, the
full terrors of which the mind can scarcely grasp.

"At length, when worldly circumstances pressed so heavily upon them
that they hardly knew where to look for the next day's food, Avicia
whispered to her husband that she expected to become a mother, and
that she was possessed by an inexpressible longing that her child
should be born where she herself first drew breath. After the lapse of
so many years it appeared to Silvain that the lighthouse would be the
likeliest place of safety, and, besides, it was Avicia's earnest wish.
They were on the road thither when I chanced upon them in the forest."



                             CHAPTER XVI.


"After reading Silvain's letter I lost as little time as possible in
paying a visit to the village by the sea. I took with me some presents
for the villagers, who were unaffectedly glad to see me, and not
because of the gifts I brought for them. There I heard what news they
could impart of the history of the lighthouse since I last visited
them. The disappointment with respect to the money he expected from
Silvain had rendered the keeper more savage and morose than ever. For
years after the marriage of his daughter he lived alone on the
lighthouse, but within the last twelve months he had sent for a young
man who was related to him distantly, and who was now looking after
the lights. This young man was deaf and dumb. What kind of comfort the
companionship of a man so afflicted could be in such a home it is
difficult to say, but the new arrival came in good time, for two
months afterwards Avicia's father slipped over some rocks in the
vicinity of the lighthouse, and so injured himself that he could not
rise from his bed. Thus, when Silvain and Avicia presented themselves
he could make no practical resistance to their taking up their abode
with him. However it was, there they were upon my present visit, and I
went at once to see them.

"They received me with a genuine demonstration of feeling, and I was
pleased to see that they were looking better. Regular food, and the
secure shelter of a roof from which they were not likely to be turned
away at a moment's notice, doubtless contributed to this improvement.
The pressure of a dark terror was, however, still visible in their
faces, and during my visit I observed Silvain go to the outer gallery
at least three or four times, and scan the surrounding sea with
anxious eyes. To confirm or dispel the impression I gathered from this
anxious outlook I questioned Silvain.

"'I am watching for Kristel,' he said.

"It is scarcely likely he will come to you here,' I said.

"'He is certain to come to me here,' said Silvain; 'he is now on the
road.'

"'You know this from your dreams?'

"'Yes, my dreams assure me of it. What wonder that I dream of the
spirit which has been hunting me for years in the person of Kristel. I
think of nothing else. Waking or sleeping, he is ever before me.'

"'Should he come, what will you do, Silvain?'

"'I hardly know; but at all hazards he must, if possible, be prevented
from effecting an entrance into the lighthouse. It would be the death
of Avicia.'

"He pronounced the words 'if possible' with so much emphasis that I
said:

"'Surely that can be prevented.'

"'I cannot be on the alert by night as well as by day,' said Silvain.
'My dread is that at a time when I am sleeping he will take me
unaware. Hush! Avicia is coming up the stairs; do not let her hear us
conversing upon a subject which has been the terror of her life. She
does not know that I am constantly on the watch.'

"In this belief he was labouring under a delusion, for Avicia spoke to
me privately about it; she was aware of the anxiety which, she said,
she was afraid was wearing him away; and indeed, as she made this
allusion, and I glanced at Silvain, who was standing in another part
of the lighthouse, I observed what had hitherto escaped me, that his
features were thinner, and that there was a hectic flush upon them
which, in the light of his tragic story, too surely told a tale of an
inward fretting likely to prove fatal. She told me that often in the
night when Silvain was sleeping she would rise softly and go to the
gallery, in fear that Kristel was stealthily approaching them.

"I saw her father. He gazed at me, and did not speak--not that he was
unable, but because it was part of the cunning of his nature. Silvain
informed me that Avicia expected her baby in three weeks from that
day. I had not come empty-handed, and I left behind me welcome
remembrances, promising to come again the following week.

"I kept my promise. Upon seeing me, a woman of the village ran towards
me, and whispered:

"'Kristel is here.'

"I followed the direction of her gaze, which was simply one of
curiosity, and saw a man standing on the beach, facing the lighthouse.
I walked straight up to him, and touched him with my hand. He turned,
and I recognised Kristel.

"I recognised him--yes; but not from any resemblance he bore to the
Kristel of former days. Had I met him under ordinary circumstances I
should not have known him. His thin face was covered with hair; his
eyes were sunken and wild; his bony wrists, his long fingers, seemed
to be fleshless. I spoke to him, and mentioned my name. He heard me,
but did not reply. I begged him to speak, and he remained silent.
After his first look at me he turned from me, and stood with his eyes
in the direction of the lighthouse. I would not accept his reception
of me; I continued to address him; I asked him upon what errand he had
come, and why he kept his eyes so fixedly upon the lighthouse. I gave
him information of myself, and said I should be pleased to see him in
my home--with a vague and foolish hope that he would accept the
invitation, and that I might be able to work upon his better nature.
And still no word came from him. I did not dare to utter the name of
either Silvain or Avicia, fearing that I should awake the demon that
had taken possession of his soul.

"By the time that I had exhausted what I thought it wise and good to
say, I found myself falling into a kind of fascination, produced by
his motionless attitude, and the fixed gaze in his unnaturally
brilliant eyes. It was a bright day, and I knew that my imagination
was playing me a trick, but I saw clearly with my mind's eye, the
outer gallery of the lighthouse, and the figure of Avicia standing
thereon, with her hair hanging loose, and a scarlet covering on her
head. Was it a spiritual reflection of what this silent, motionless
man was gazing upon? I shuddered, and passed my hand across my eyes;
the vision was gone--but he gazed upon it still.

"I was compelled at length to leave him standing there upon the beach,
and he took no notice of my departure.

"Others were observing him as well as I, and had watched me with
curiosity during the time I stood by his side. When I was among them
they asked if he had spoken to me.

"'No,' I replied, 'I could get no word from him.'

"'Neither has he spoken to us,' they said. 'Not a sound has passed his
lips since his arrival.'

"'When did he arrive?' I inquired.

"'Yesterday,' they answered, 'and our first thought was that he would
want a boat to row to the lighthouse, but he did not ask for it.
Surely he must wish to see his brother! There is something strange
about him, do you not think so? One of our women here insists that he
is dumb.'

"'He must be dumb,' said the woman; 'else why should he not speak?'

"'There was a jealousy between him and his brother,' said an elderly
woman, 'about Avicia.'

"'What has that to do with it?' exclaimed the woman who pronounced him
dumb. 'Jealousy, like love, does not last for ever. She is not the
only woman in the world, and men have eyes. They must have made up
their quarrel long ago. Besides, if he _was_ jealous still, which
isn't in the least likely, that would not make him dumb! His tongue
would be all the looser for it.'

"'More terrible,' thought I, 'is the dread silence of that motionless
man than all the storms of wrath his tongue could utter.'

"From what the villagers said, I knew that they were in ignorance of
the hatred which filled Kristel's heart, and I debated within myself
what it was best to do. That the simple men of the village would not
voluntarily make themselves parties to any scheme of blind vengeance
on the part of one brother against another I was certain, but I was
not satisfied that it would be right to give them my whole confidence,
and tell them all I knew. At the same time it would not be right to
allow them to remain in complete ignorance, for by so doing they might
be made unwittingly to further Kristel's designs upon his brother's
life. There was a priest in the village, and I went to him, and under
the seal of secrecy revealed something, but not all, of the meaning of
Kristel's appearance.

"'Come with me,' he said.

"I accompanied him, and once more stood by the side of Kristel. The
priest addressed him, counselled him, exhorted him, and, like myself,
could obtain no word from him. Kindlier speech I never heard, but it
made no impression upon Kristel.

"'He _must_ be dumb,' said the priest as we moved away.

"'Not so,' I said earnestly; 'were he dumb, and unable to hear what is
said to him, he would certainly indicate by some kind of sign that
speech addressed to him was falling upon ears that were deaf. He is
possessed by a demoniac obduracy, and his apparent indifference is but
a part of a fell design to which I should be afraid to give a name.'

"The priest was impressed by this view of the matter, which could not
but appeal successfully to a man's calm reason.

"'What can I do?' he asked. 'If a man is determined not to speak, I
have no power to compel him.'

"'It is in your power,' I said, 'to prevent bloodshed.'

"'Bloodshed!' he echoed, in a startled tone.

"'Nothing less, I fear,' I said. 'Lay an injunction upon the villagers
not to lend that man a boat, and not, under any pretext, to row him to
the lighthouse.'

"'What dreadful thoughts do your words suggest!' exclaimed the priest.
'They alarm and bewilder me.'

"'I am not at liberty to say more at the present moment,' I said. 'I
shall not leave the village to-day. I myself will see that man's
brother, and will obtain permission from him to reveal all I know.
Meanwhile give not that soul-tossed wretch the opportunity of carrying
out a scheme of ruthless vengeance which he has harboured for years.'

"'Tell me explicitly what you wish me to do.'

"'I have already told you. That man, with the connivance or assistance
of any person in this village, must not be enabled to get to the
lighthouse.'

"'He shall not,' said the priest.

"And he mixed with the villagers, men and women, and laid upon them
the injunction I desired. With my mind thus set at ease for at least a
few hours, I engaged a couple of boatmen to row me to Silvain. I half
expected that Kristel would come forward with a request, made if not
in speech in dumb show, to be allowed to accompany me, and I had
resolved what action to take; but he made no step towards me. He gave
no indication even of a knowledge of what was taking place within a
dozen yards of him, although it was not possible that the putting off
of the boat from the shore could have escaped his observation.

"'If he is not deaf and dumb,' said one of the rowers, 'he must have
gone clean out of his senses.'

"'Neither one nor the other,' thought I; 'he is nursing his vengeance,
and has decided upon some plan of action.'

"Silvain and Avicia were on the outer gallery, and when I joined them
Silvain drew me aside.

"'You have news of Kristel,' he said. I nodded, and he continued: 'I
know without the telling. He is in the village.'

"'Who informed you?' I asked.

"'No human,' he replied, with a sad smile. 'I see him standing upon
the beach, looking towards us.'

"In truth that was a physical impossibility, but I needed no further
proof of the mysterious insight with which Silvain was gifted. I
related to him all that had passed between me and Kristel and the
priest, and of the precautions taken to keep from Kristel the means of
reaching the lighthouse.

"'That will not prevent him from coming, said Silvain; 'he is a fine
swimmer. I myself, were I desperately pushed to it, would undertake to
swim to the village. You hold to your promise. You hold to your
promise, Louis, with respect to Avicia?'

"'It is binding upon me,' I replied; 'my word is given.'

"'Faithful friend! Neither will my child be left without a counsellor.
Louis, I shall never see the face of my child--I shall never feel his
little hands about my neck!'

"'Were it not for the tender sympathy I have for you,' I said in a
tone of reproof, 'I should feel inclined to be angry. Did you not
confess to me in former days that you could not see into the future?
And here you are, raising up ghosts to make the present more bitter
than it is. No, no, Silvain. Black as things appear, there are bright
years yet in store for you.'

"'I cannot help my forebodings, Louis. True, I cannot, nor can any
man, see into the future, but what can I do to turn my brother's hate
from me?' It was a cry of anguish wrung from his suffering heart. 'I
think of the days of our childhood, when we strolled in the woods with
our arms round each other's necks, I think of the dreams we mapped of
the future. Running water by the side of which we sat, bending over to
see our faces, and making our lips meet in a shadowed kiss, flowers we
picked in field and meadow, errands of mercy we went upon together,
twilight communings, the little sweethearts we had--all these innocent
ways of childhood rise before me, and fill me with anguish. What can I
do?--what can I do to bring him back to me in brotherly love? Louis, I
have a fear that I have never whispered to living soul. It is that
Avicia may have twin children, as Kristel and I are, and they should
grow up to be as we are now! Would it not be better that they should
be born dead, or die young, when their souls are not stained with
hatred of each other and with evil thoughts that render existence a
curse?'

"We were alone when he gave expression to his agonised feelings;
Avicia had left us to attend to domestic duties. I could say nothing
to comfort him; to harp upon one string of intended consolation to a
man who is in no mood to accept it becomes, after a time, an
oppression. He paced up and down, twining his fingers convulsively,
and presently said,

"'It would be too much, Louis, to ask you to remain with me a little
while?'

"'No,' I replied, 'it would not. Indeed, it was partly in my mind to
suggest it. The crisis you have dreaded for many years has come, and
if you wish me to stop with you a day or two I will willingly do so.
It may be--I do not know how--that I can be of service to you. The
boatmen are waiting in the boat below. I will write a letter to my
wife, and they shall post it, informing her that I shall be absent
from home perhaps until the end of the week, by which time I hope the
cloud will have passed away. No thanks, Silvain; friendship would be a
poor and valueless thing if one shrank from a sacrifice so slight.'

"I wrote my letter, and despatched it by the boatmen. Then we waited
for events; it was all that it was in our power to do.

"Avicia was very glad when she heard of my intention to remain with
them a while.

"'Your companionship will do him good,' she said. 'He has no one but
me to talk to, and he speaks of but one subject. If this continues
long he will lose his reason.'

"The day passed, and night came on. There was but scanty living
accommodation in the lighthouse, but a mattress was spread for me upon
the floor of the tiny kitchen; and there I was to sleep. Avicia and
Silvain wished me to occupy their bed, but I would not have it so.
Before retiring to rest, Silvain and I passed two or three hours in
converse; I purposely led the conversation into foreign channels, and
when I wished him good-night I was rejoiced to perceive that I had
succeeded for a brief space in diverting his mind from the fears which
weighed so heavily upon him.

"Nothing occurred during the night to disturb us; I awoke early, and
lay waiting for sunrise; but no light came, and when, aroused by
Silvain, I left my bed and went to the outer gallery, I was surprised
to see that all surrounding space was wrapt in a thick mist.

"'A great storm will soon be upon us,' said Silvain.

"He was right; before noon the storm burst, and the sea was lashed
into fury. It was a relief to see the play of lightning upon the angry
waters, but it was terrible too, and I thought how awful and joyless a
lone life must be when spent in such a home. This second day seemed as
if it would never end, and it was only by my watch that I knew of the
approach of night. With the sounds of the storm in my ears I lay down
upon my mattress and fell asleep.

"I know not at what time of the night I awoke, but with black darkness
upon and around me, I found myself sitting up, listening to sounds
without which did not proceed from the conflict of the elements. At
first I could not decide whether they were real or but the refrain of
a dream by which I had been disturbed; soon, however, I received
indisputable evidence that they were not the creations of my fancy.

"'Kristel! For God's sake, listen to me!'

"The voice was Silvain's, and the words were uttered in outer space.
When I retired to rest I had lain down in my clothes, removing only my
coat, and using it as a covering. I quickly put it on, and lit a lamp,
to which a chain was attached, by which means it could be held over
the walls of the lighthouse. The lamp was scarcely lighted, when
Avicia, but half dressed, rushed into the little room.

"'Silvain!' she cried. 'Where is Silvain?'

"Her eyes wandered round the room, seeking him. At that moment the
voice from without pierced the air.

"'Kristel! Oh, my brother, listen to me!'

"I threw my arms round Avicia, and held her fast.

"'Why do you hold me?' she screamed. 'Are you, too, leagued against
us? Silvain! Silvain!'

"It needed all my strength to restrain her from rushing out in her
wild delirium, perhaps to her destruction. I whispered to her
hurriedly that I intended to go to the outer gallery, and that she
should accompany me; and also that if she truly wished to be of
assistance to her husband she must be calm. She ceased instantly to
struggle, and said in a tone of suppressed excitement,

"'Come, then.'

"I did not quit my hold of her, but I used now only one hand, which I
clasped firmly round her wrist, my other being required for the
lantern. The next moment we were standing upon the gallery, bending
over. It was pitch dark, and we could see nothing; even the white
spray of the waves, as they dashed against the stone walls, was not
visible to us; but we heard Silvain's voice, at intervals, appealing
in frenzied tones to Kristel, who, it needed not the evidence of sight
to know, was holding on to the chains and struggling with his brother.
How the two came into that awful position was never discovered, and I
could only judge by inference that Kristel, in the dead of this deadly
night, had made his way by some means to the lighthouse, and was
endeavouring to effect an entrance, when Silvain, awakened by his
attempts, had gone out to him, and was instantly seized and dragged
down.

"So fearful and confused were the minutes that immediately followed
that I have but an indistinct impression of the occurrences of the
time, which will live ever within me as the most awful in my life. I
know that I never lost my grasp of Avicia, and that but for me she
would have flung herself over the walls; I know that the brothers were
engaged in a struggle for life and death, and that Silvain continued
to make the most pathetic appeals to Kristel to listen to him, and not
to stain his soul with blood; I know that in those appeals there were
the tenderest references to their boyhood's days, to the love which
had existed between them, each for the other, to trivial incidents in
their childhood, to their mother who worshipped them and was now
looking down upon them, to the hopes in which they had indulged of a
life of harmony and affection; I know that it struck me then as most
terrible that during the whole of the struggle no word issued from
Kristel's lips; I know that there were heartrending appeals from
Avicia to Kristel to spare her husband, and that there were tender
cries from her to Silvain, and from Silvain to her; I know that,
finding a loose chain on the gallery, I lowered it to the combatants,
and called out to Silvain--foolishly enough, in so far as he could
avail himself of it--to release himself from his brother's arms and
seize it, and that I and Avicia would draw him up to safety; I know
that in one vivid flash of lightning I saw the struggling forms and
the beautiful white spray of the waves; I know that Silvain's voice
grew fainter and fainter until it was heard no more; I know that there
was the sound of a heavy body or bodies falling into the sea, that a
shriek of woe and despair clove my heart like a knife, and that Avicia
lay in my arms moaning and trembling. I bore her tenderly into her
room, and laid her on her bed.

"The storm ceased; no sound was heard without. The rising sun filled
the eastern horizon with loveliest hues of saffron and crimson. The
sea was calm; there was no trace of tempest and human agony. By that
time Avicia was a mother, and lay with her babes pressed to her bosom.
Silvain's fear was realised: he was the dead father of twin brothers.

"The assistant whom Avicia's father had engaged rowed me to the
village, and there I enlisted the services of a woman, who accompanied
me back to the lighthouse, and attended to Avicia. The mother lived
but two days after the birth of her babes. Until her last hour she was
delirious, but then she recovered her senses and recognised me.

"'My dear Silvain told me,' she said, in a weak, faint voice, 'that
you would be a friend to our children. Bless the few moments remaining
to me by assuring me that you will not desert them.'

"I gave her the assurance for which she yearned, and she desired me to
call them by the names of Eric and Emilius. It rejoiced me that she
passed away in peace; strange as it may seem, it was an inexpressible
relief to her bruised heart that the long agony was over. Her last
words were,

"'I trust you. God will reward you!'

"And so, with her nerveless hand in mine, her spirit went out to her
lover and husband.

"We buried her in the village churchyard, and the day was observed as
a day of mourning in that village by the sea.

"I thought I could not do better than leave the twin babes for a time
in the charge of the woman I had engaged, and it occurred to me that
it might not be unprofitable to have some inquiries and investigation
made with respect to the inheritance left by their grandfather to his
sons Kristel and Silvain. I placed the matter in the hands of a shrewd
lawyer, and he was enabled to recover a portion of what was due to
their father. This was a great satisfaction to me, as it to some
extent provided for the future of Eric and Emilius, and supplied the
wherewithal for their education. It was my intention, when they
arrived at a certain age, to bring them to my home in Nerac, and treat
them as children of my own, but a difficulty cropped up for which I
was not prepared and which I could not surmount. Avicia's father,
learning that I had recovered a portion of Silvain's inheritance,
demanded from me an account of it, and asserted his rights as the
natural guardian of his grandchildren. There was no gainsaying the
demand, and I was compelled reluctantly to leave Eric and Emilius in
his charge. I succeeded, however, in prevailing upon him to allow them
to pay me regular visits of long duration, so that a close intimacy of
affectionate friendship has been established between them and the
members of my family. Here ends my story--a strange and eventful one,
you will admit. I often think of it in wonder, and this is the first
time a full recital of it has passed my lips."



                            CHAPTER XVII.


Such a story, which Doctor Louis truly described as strange and
eventful, could not have failed to leave a deep impression upon me.
During its recital I had, as it were, been charmed out of myself. My
instinctive distrust of the twin brothers Eric and Emilius, the growth
of a groundless jealousy, was for a while forgotten, and at the
conclusion of the recital I was lost in the contemplation of the
tragic pictures which had been presented to my mind's eye. Singularly
enough, the most startling bit of colour in these pictures, that of
the two brothers in their life and death struggle on the outer walls
of the lighthouse, was not to me the dominant feature of the
remarkable story. The awful, unnatural contest, Avicias agony,
Silvain's soul-moving appeals, and the dread silence of Kristel--all
this was as nought in comparison with the figure of a solitary man
standing on the seashore, gazing in the direction of his lost
happiness. I traced his life back through the years during which he
was engaged in his relentless pursuit of the brother who had brought
desolation into his life. In him, and in him alone, was centred the
true pathos of the story; it was he who had been robbed, it was he who
had been wronged. No deliberate act of treachery lay at his door; he
loved, and had been deceived. Those in whom he placed his trust had
deliberately betrayed him. The vengeance he sought and consummated was
just.

I did not make Doctor Louis acquainted with my views on the subject,
knowing that he would not agree with me, and that all his sympathies
were bestowed upon Silvain. There was something of cowardice in this
concealment of my feelings, but although I experienced twinges of
conscience for my want of courage, it was not difficult for me to
justify myself in my own eyes. Doctor Louis was the father of the
woman I loved, and in his hands lay my happiness. On no account must I
instil doubt into his mind; he was a man of decided opinions,
dogmatic, and strong-willed. No act or word of mine must cause him to
have the least distrust of me. Therefore I played the cunning part,
and was silent with respect to those threads in the story which
possessed the firmest hold upon his affections.

This enforced silence accentuated and strengthened my view. Silvain
and Avicia were weak, feeble creatures. The man of great heart and
resolute will, the man whose sufferings and wrongs made him a martyr,
was Kristel. Faithful in love, faithful in hate. Trustful, heroic,
unflinching. In a word, a man. But he and his brother, and the woman
who had been the instrument of their fate, belonged to the past. They
were dead and gone, and in the presence of Doctor Louis I put them
aside a while. Time enough to think of them when I was alone.
Meanwhile Eric and Emilius remained. They lived, and between their
lives and mine there was a link. Of this I entertained no doubt, nor
did I doubt that, in this connection, the future would not be
colourless for us. To be prepared for the course which events might
take: this was now my task and my duty. The thought was constantly in
my mind. "As Kristel acted, so would I act, in love and hate."

I observed Doctor Louis's eyes fixed earnestly upon my face.

"You are agitated," he said.

"Is not such a story," I said evasively, "enough to agitate one? Its
movements are as the movements of a sublime tragedy."

"True," mused Doctor Louis; "even in obscure lives may be found such
elements."

"You have told me little," I said, "of Eric and Emilius. Do they
reside permanently in the lighthouse in which their mother died?"

"They have a house in the village by the sea," replied Doctor Louis,
"and they are in a certain sense fishermen on a large scale. The place
has possessed for them a fascination, and it seemed as if they would
never be able to tear themselves away from it. But their intimate
association with it will soon be at an end."

"In what way?"

"They have sold their house and boats, and are coming to reside in
Nerac for a time."

I started and turned aside, for I did not wish Doctor Louis to see the
cloud upon my face.

"Only for a time?" I inquired.

"It depends upon circumstances," said Doctor Louis. "If they are happy
and contented in the present and in their prospects in the future,
they will remain. Otherwise, they will seek a larger sphere."

"Is this their idea?"

"Not theirs alone. I am partly responsible. We have talked of it
often, and I have urged them not to waste their lives in a village so
small and primitive as that in which they were born."

"Somewhat destructive of your own theories of happiness, doctor," I
observed. "Yourself, for instance, wasting your life in a small place
like Nerac, when by your gifts you are so well fitted to play your
part in a large city."

"I am selfish, I am afraid," he said with a deprecatory smile, "and am
too much wrapped up in my own ease and comfort. At the same time you
must bear in mind that mine is an exceptional case. It is a regretful
thing to be compelled to say that the majority of lives and homes are
less happy than my own. Often there is love, and poverty stands at the
bright door which opens but on a scene of privation and ill-requited
toil. Often there is wealth, in the use of which there has been an
endeavour to purchase love, which, my friend, is not a marketable
commodity. Often there are sorrow and sickness, and neither faith nor
patience to lighten the load. It is my good fortune to have none of
these ills. We have love and good health, and a sufficient share of
worldly prosperity to provide for our days. Therefore I will leave
myself out of the question. What!" he cried, interrupting himself in a
tone at once light and earnest; "am I entirely useless in Nerac? Do I
do no good whatever?"

"You do much," I said, "and also do Eric and Emilius in their village.
You have admitted that they are fishermen on a large scale, and
possess boats. Consequently they employ labour, and the wages they pay
support the homes of those who serve them."

"With some young men," said Doctor Louis, with a good-humoured laugh,
"there is no arguing. They are so keen in defence that they have a
formidable parry for every thrust. To the point, then, without
argument. Eric and Emilius have in them certain qualities which render
me doubtful whether, as middle-aged men, they would be in their proper
sphere in their village by the sea. The maidens there find no serious
favour in their eyes."

"Do they look," I asked, with a torturing pang of jealousy, "with a
more appreciative eye upon the maidens in Nerac?"

"Tush, tush," said Doctor Louis, in a kind tone, laying his hand upon
my shoulder; "vex not yourself unnecessarily. Youth's hot blood is a
torrent, restless by day and night, never satisfied, never content,
for ever seeking cause to fret and fume. You have given evidence of
wisdom, Gabriel--exercise it when it is most needed. You are still
disturbed. Well, question me."

"Of all the maidens in Nerac," I said, striving to speak with
calmness, "Lauretta is the fairest and sweetest."

"Go on, my friend. I, her father, will not gainsay you."

"Is it because she is fairer and sweeter than any Eric and Emilius
have seen in the village by the sea that they quit their home there,
and come to live in Nerac?"

"A plain question. Were I simply an ordinary friend of yours, and not
Lauretta's father, I might feel inclined to play with you; but as
it is, my happiness here is too largely at stake. Do not fall into
error, Gabriel. Viewing with a selfish eye--a human failing, common
enough--your own immediate affairs, forget not that I, Lauretta's
father, am as deeply concerned in them as yourself. Never would I be
guilty of the crime of forcing my child's affections. Do you think I
love her less than you do? If it should be your happy fate to be a
father, you will learn how much purer and higher is the love of a
father than that which a young man, after an hour's acquaintance,
bears for the maiden whom he would wed."

"After an hour's acquaintance!" I exclaimed, somewhat hotly.

"It cannot be said to be more," responded Doctor Louis gravely,
"compared with my knowledge of my child."

The retort was well-merited, and I murmured, "Forgive me!" The
consistently sweet accents of Doctor Louis's voice produced in me, at
this moment, a feeling of self-reproach, and a true sense of my
petulance and imperiousness forced itself upon me.

"There is little need to ask forgiveness," said Doctor Louis; "I can
make full allowance for the impetuous passions of youth, and if I wish
you to place a curb upon them it is for your welfare and that of my
child. Indulgence in such extravagances leads to injustice. Gabriel, I
will be entirely frank with you. Before your arrival in Nerac I had a
slight suspicion that one of the brothers--towards both of whom I feel
as a father--had an affection for Lauretta which might have ripened
into love. It is in the nature of things that a beautiful girl should
inspire a sentiment in the breasts of more than one man, but she can
belong only to one, to him to whom her heart is drawn. What passed
between us when you spoke to me as a lover of my daughter was honest
and outspoken. The encouragement you received from me would have been
withheld had it not been that I saw you occupied a place in Lauretta's
heart, and that the one end and aim I have in view is her happiness."

"Is it too much to ask," I said, "to which of the brothers you
referred?"

"Altogether too much," replied Doctor Louis. "It is an unrevealed
secret, and the right is not mine to say more than I have said."

I did not speak for a little while; I was the slave of conflicting
passions. One moment I believed entirely in Doctor Louis; another
moment I doubted him; and through all I was oppressed by a
consciousness that I was doing him an injustice.

"Anything more, Gabriel?" he asked. "Nothing special, sir," was my
reply, "but in a general way."

"Well?"

"Born under such singular circumstances, and of such a father as
Silvain, it would not be unnatural to suppose that they might inherit
some touch of his strangely sympathetic nature."

"They have inherited it," said Doctor Louis; "there exists between
them a sympathy as strange as that which existed in Silvain. I am at
liberty to say nothing more."

He spoke in a firm tone, and I did not question him further. As I
accompanied him home we conversed upon general subjects, and I took
pains to convey to him an assurance that there was nothing really
serious in the ungracious temper I had displayed. He was relieved at
this, and we fell into our old confidential manner with each other.

I passed the evening, as usual, in the society of his wife and
Lauretta. Peace descended upon me, and in the sweet presence of these
pure women I was tranquil and happy. How lovely, how beautiful was
this home of love and tender thought! The wild storms of life died
away, and strains of soft, angelic music melted the heart, and made
themselves heard even in the midst of the silences. Doctor Louis's
gaiety returned to him; he smiled upon me, and indulged in many a
harmless jest. I was charmed out of my moody humour, and contributed
to the innocent enjoyment of the home circle. The hours passed till it
was near bed-time, and then it was that a change came over me. Sitting
by Lauretta's side, turning the pages of an illustrated book of
travel, I heard the names of Eric and Emilius spoken by Doctor Louis.
He was telling his wife of the impending change in their mode of life,
and there was an affectionate note in his voice, and also in hers,
which jarred upon me. I started to my feet, and they all turned to me
in surprise. I recovered myself in a moment, and explained that I had
suddenly thought of something which rendered it necessary that I
should go at once to the house I had taken, and of which Martin Hartog
was at present the sole custodian.

"But you were not to leave us till the end of the week," expostulated
Lauretta's mother. "Is it so very important?"

"Indeed it is," I replied, "and should have been attended to earlier."

"You will return?" she asked.

"Not to-night. You need have no anxiety; everything is prepared, and I
shall be quite comfortable."

"My wife is thinking of the sheets," observed Doctor Louis jocosely;
"whether they are properly aired."

"I have seen to that," she said, "and there is a fire in every room."

"Then we can safely let him go," rejoined Doctor Louis. "He is old
enough to take care of himself, and, besides, he is now a householder,
and has duties. We shall see you to-morrow, Gabriel?"

"Yes, I shall be here in the morning."

So I wished them good-night, and presently was out in the open,
walking through dark shadows.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.


In solitude I reviewed with amazement the occurrences of the last few
moments. It seemed to me that I had been impelled to do what I had
done by an occult agency outside myself. Not that I did not approve of
it. It was in accordance with my intense wish and desire--which had
lain dormant in the sweet society of Lauretta--to be alone, in order
that I might, without interruption, think over the story I had heard
from Doctor Louis's lips. And now that this wish and desire were
gratified, the one figure which still rose vividly before me was the
figure of Kristel. As I walked onward I followed the hapless man
mentally in his just pursuit of the brother who had snatched the cup
of happiness from his lips. Yes, it was just and right, and what he
did I would have done under similar circumstances. Of all who had
taken part in the tragic drama he, and he alone, commanded my
sympathy.

The distance from Doctor Louis's house to mine was under two miles,
but I prolonged it by a _dètour_ which brought me, without
premeditation, to the inn known as the Three Black Crows. I had no
intention of going there or of entering the inn, and yet, finding
myself at the door, I pushed it open, and walked into the room in
which the customers took their wine. This room was furnished with
rough tables and benches, and I seated myself, and in response to the
landlord's inquiry, ordered a bottle of his best, and invited him to
share it with me. He, nothing loth, accepted the invitation, and sat
at the table, emptying his glass, which I continued to fill for him,
while my own remained untasted. I had been inside the Three Black
Crows on only one occasion, in the company of Doctor Louis, and the
landlord now expressed his gratitude for the honour I did him by
paying him another visit. It was only the sense of his words which
reached my ears, my attention being almost entirely drawn to two men
who were seated at a table at the end of the room, drinking bad wine
and whispering to each other. Observing my eyes upon them, the
landlord said in a low tone, "Strangers."

"You do not know them?" I asked.

"Never saw them before," he replied.

Their backs were towards me, and I could not see their faces, but I
noticed that one was humpbacked, and that, to judge from their attire,
they were poor peasants.

"I asked them," said the landlord, "whether they wanted a bed, and
they answered no, that they were going further. If they had stopped
here the night I should have kept watch on them!"

"Why?"

"I don't like their looks, and my wife's a timorous creature. Then
there's the children--you've seen my little ones, I think, sir?"

"Yes, I have seen them. Surely those men would do them no harm!"

"Perhaps not, sir; but a man, loving those near to him, thinks of the
possibilities of things. I've got a bit of money in the house, to pay
my rent that's due to-morrow, and one or two other accounts. They may
have got scent of it."

"Do you think they have come to Nerac on a robbing expedition?"

"There's no telling. Roguery has a plain face, and the signs are in
theirs, or my name's not what it is. When they said they were going
further on I asked them where, and they said it was no business of
mine. They gave me the same answer when I asked them where they came
from. They're up to no good, that's certain, and the sooner they're
out of the village the better for all of us."

The more the worthy landlord talked the more settled became his
instinctive conviction that the strangers were rogues.

"If robbery is their errand," I said thoughtfully, "there are houses
in Nerac which would yield them a better harvest than yours."

"Of course there is," was his response. "Doctor Louis's, for one. He
has generally some money about him, and his silver plate would be a
prize. Are you going back there to-night, sir?"

"No; I am on my road to my own house, and I came out of the way a
little for the sake of the walk."

"That's my profit, sir," said the landlord cheerfully. "I would offer
to keep you company if it were not that I don't like to leave my
place."

"There's nothing to fear," I said; "if they molest me I shall be a
match for them."

"Still," urged the landlord, "I should leave before they do. It's as
well to avoid a difficulty when we have the opportunity."

I took the hint, and paid my score. To all appearance there was no
reason for alarm on my part; during the time the landlord and I were
conversing the strangers had not turned in our direction, and as we
spoke in low tones they could not have heard what we said. They
remained in the same position, with their backs towards us, now
drinking in silence, now speaking in whispers to each other.

Outside the Three Black Crows I walked slowly on, but I had not gone
fifty yards before I stopped. What was in my mind was the reference
made by the landlord to Doctor Louis's house and to its being worth
the plundering. The doctor's house contained what was dearer to me
than life or fortune. Lauretta was there. Should I leave her at the
mercy of these scoundrels who might possibly have planned a robbery of
the doctor's money and plate? In that case Lauretta would be in
danger. My mind was instantly made up. I would return to the Three
Black Crows, and look through the window of the room in which I had
left the men, to ascertain whether they were still there. If they
were, I would wait for them till they left the inn, and then would set
a watch upon their movements. If they were gone I would hasten to the
doctor's house, to render assistance, should any be needed. I had no
weapon, with the exception of a small knife; could I not provide
myself with something more formidable? A few paces from where I stood
were some trees with stout branches. I detached one of these branches,
and with my small knife fashioned it into a weapon which would serve
my purpose. It was about four feet in length, thick at the striking
end and tapering towards the other, so that it could be held with ease
and used to good purpose. I tried it on the air, swinging it round and
bringing it down with sufficient force to kill a man, or with
certainty to knock the senses out of him in one blow. Then I returned
to the inn, and looked through the window. In the settlement of my
proceedings I had remembered there was a red blind over the window
which did not entirely cover it, and through the uncovered space I now
saw the strangers sitting at the table as I had left them.

Taking care to make no noise I stepped away from the window, and took
up a position from which I could see the door of the inn, which was
closed. I myself was in complete darkness, and there was no moon to
betray me; all that was needed from me was caution.

I watched fully half an hour before the door of the inn was opened. No
person had entered during my watch, the inhabitants of Nerac being
early folk for rest and work. The two strangers lingered for a moment
upon the threshold, peering out into the night; behind them was the
landlord, with a candle in his hand. I did not observe that any words
passed between them and the landlord; they stepped into the road, and
the door was closed upon them. Then came the sounds of locking and
bolting doors and windows. Then, silence.

I saw the faces of the men as they stood upon the threshold; they were
evil-looking fellows enough, and their clothes were of the commonest.

For two or three minutes they did not stir; there had been nothing in
their manner to arouse suspicion, and the fact of their lingering on
the roadway seemed to denote that they were uncertain of the route
they should take. That they raised their faces to the sky was not
against them; it was a natural seeking for light to guide them.

To the left lay the little nest of buildings amongst which were Father
Daniel's chapel and modest house, and the more pretentious dwelling of
Doctor Louis; to the right were the woods, at the entrance of which my
own house was situated. Which road would the strangers take? The left,
and it was part evidence of a guilty design. The right, and it would
be part proof that the landlord's suspicions were baseless.

They exchanged a few words which did not reach my ears. Then they
moved onwards to the left. I grasped my weapon, and crept after them.

But they walked only a dozen steps, and paused. I, also. In my mind
was the thought, "Continue the route you have commenced, and you are
dead men. Turn from it, and you are safe."

The direction of the village was the more tempting to men who
had no roof to shelter them, for the reason that in Father Daniel's
chapel--which, built on an eminence, overlooked the village--lights
were visible from the spot upon which I and they were standing. There
was the chance of a straw bed and charity's helping hand, never
withheld by the good priest from the poor and wretched. On their right
was dense darkness; not a glimmer of light.

Nevertheless, after the exchange of a few more words which, like the
others, were unheard by me, they seemed to resolve to seek the
gloomier way. They turned from the village, and facing me, walked past
me in the direction of the woods.

I breathed more freely, and fell into a curious mental consideration
of the relief I experienced. Was it because, walking as they were from
the village in which Lauretta was sleeping, I was spared the taking of
these men's lives? No. It was because of the indication they afforded
me that Lauretta was not in peril. In her defence I could have
justified the taking of a hundred lives. No feeling of guilt would
have haunted me; there would have been not only no remorse but no pity
in my soul. The violation of the most sacred of human laws would be
justified where Lauretta was concerned. She was mine, to cherish, to
protect, to love--mine, inalienably. She belonged to no other man, and
none should step between her and me--neither he whose ruffianly design
threatened her with possible harm, nor he, in a higher and more
polished grade, who strove to win her affections and wrest them from
me. In an equal way both were equally my enemies, and I should be
justified in acting by them as Kristel had acted to Silvain.

Ah, but he had left it too late. Not so would I. Let but the faintest
breath of certainty wait upon suspicion, and I would scotch it
effectually for once and all. Had Kristel possessed the strange power
in his hours of dreaming which Silvain possessed, he would not have
been robbed of the happiness which was his by right. He would have
been forewarned, and Avicia would have been his wife. In every step in
life he took there would have been the fragrance of flowers around
him, and a heavenly light. Thus, with me, and for me.

Did I, then, admit that there was any resemblance in the characters of
Avicia and Lauretta? No; one was a weed, the other a rose. Here
coarseness, there refinement. Here low desire and cunning; there
angelic purity and goodness. But immeasurably beneath Lauretta as
Avicia was, Kristel's love for the girl would have made her radiant
and spotless.

All this time I was stealthily following the strangers to the woods.
Once I tripped. The sound arrested them; they clutched each other in
fear.

"What was that?" one said hoarsely. "Are we being followed?"

I stood motionless, and they stood without movement for many moments.
Then they simultaneously emitted a deep-drawn sigh.

"It was the wind," said the man who had already spoken.

I smiled in contempt; not a breath of wind was stirring; there was not
the flutter of a leaf, not the waving of the lightest branch. All was
still and quiet.

They resumed their course, and I crept after them noiselessly. They
entered the wood; the trees grew more thickly clustered.

"This will do," I heard one say; and upon the words they threw
themselves to the ground, and fell into slumber.

Sleep came to them instantaneously. I bent over them and was
satisfied. The landlord of the Three Black Crows was mistaken. I moved
softly away, and when I was at a safe distance from them I lit a match
and looked at my watch; it was twenty minutes to eleven, and before
the minute-hand had passed the hour I arrived at my house. The door
was fast, but I saw a light in the lower room of the gardener's
cottage, which I had given to Martin Hartog as a residence for him and
his daughter.

"Hartog is awake," I thought; "expecting me perhaps."

I knocked at the door of the cottage, and received no answer; I
knocked again with the same result.

"Hartog! Hartog!" I called; and still no answer came.

The door had fastenings of lock and latch. I put my hand to the latch,
and finding that the key had not been turned in the lock, opened the
door and entered. Martin Hartog was not there.

The room, however, was not without an occupant. At the table sat a
young girl, the gardener's daughter, asleep. She lay back in her
chair, and the light shone upon her face. I had seen her when she was
awake, and knew that she was beautiful, but as I gazed now upon her
sleeping form I was surprised to discover that she was even fairer
than I had supposed. She had hair of dark brown, which curled most
gracefully about her brow and head; her face, in its repose, was sweet
to look upon; she was not dressed as the daughter of a labouring man,
but with a certain daintiness and taste which deepened my surprise;
there was lace at her sleeves and around her white neck. Had I not
known her station I should have taken her for a lady. She was young,
not more than eighteen or nineteen I judged, and life's springtime lay
sweetly upon her. There was a smile of wistful tenderness on her lips.

Her left arm was extended over the table, and her hand rested upon the
portrait of a man, almost concealing the features. Her right hand,
which was on her lap, enfolded a letter, and that and the
portrait--which, without curious prying, I saw was not that of her
father--doubtless were the motive of a pleasant dream.

I took in all this in a momentary glance, and quickly left the room,
closing the door behind me. Then I knocked loudly and roughly, and
heard the hurried movements of a sudden awaking. She came to the door
and cried softly, "Is that you, father? The door is unlocked."

"It is I," I said. "Is your father not at home then?"

She opened the door, and fell back a step in confusion.

"I should have let your father know," I said, "that I intended to
sleep here to-night--but indeed it was a hasty decision. I hope I have
not alarmed you."

"Oh, no, sir," she said. "We did not expect you. Father is away on
business; I expected him home earlier, and waiting for him I fell
asleep. The servants are not coming till to-morrow morning."

"I know. Have you the keys?"

She gave them to me, and asked if she could do anything for me. I
answered no, that there was nothing required. As I wished her
good-night a man's firm steps were heard, and Martin Hartog appeared.
He cast swift glances at his daughter and me, and it struck me that
they were not devoid of suspicion. I explained matters, and he
appeared contented with my explanation; then bidding his daughter go
indoors he accompanied me to the house.

There was a fire in my bedroom, almost burnt out, and the handiwork of
an affectionate and capable housewife was everywhere apparent. Martin
Hartog showed an inclination then and there to enter into particulars
of the work he had done in the grounds during my absence, but I told
him I was tired, and dismissed him. I listened to his retreating
footsteps, and when I heard the front door closed I blew out the
candle and sat before the dying embers in the grate. Darkness was best
suited to my mood, and I sat and mused upon the events of the last
forty-eight hours. Gradually my thoughts became fixed upon the figures
of the two strangers I had left sleeping in the woods, in connection
with the suspicion of their designs which the landlord had imparted to
me. So concentrated was my attention that I re-enacted all the
incidents of which they were the inspirers--the fashioning of the
branch into a weapon, the watch I had set upon them, their issuing
from the inn, the landlord standing behind with the candle in his
hand, their lingering in the road, the first steps they took towards
the village, their turning back, and my stealthy pursuit after
them--not the smallest detail was omitted. I do not remember
undressing and going to bed. Encompassed by silence and darkness I was
only spiritually awake.



                             CHAPTER XIX.


I was aroused at about eight o'clock in the morning by the arrival of
the servants of the household whom Lauretta's mother had engaged for
me, They comprised a housekeeper, who was to cook and generally
superintend, and two stout wenches to do the rougher work. In such a
village as Nerac these, in addition to Martin Hartog, constituted an
establishment of importance.

They had been so well schooled by Lauretta's mother before commencing
the active duties of their service, that when I rose I found the
breakfast-table spread, and the housekeeper in attendance to receive
my orders. This augured well, and I experienced a feeling of
satisfaction at the prospect of the happy life before me. Like mother,
like daughter. Lauretta would be not only a sweet and loving
companion, but the same order and regularity would reign in our home
as in the home of her childhood. I blessed the chance, if chance it
was, which had led me to Nerac, and as I paced the room and thought of
Lauretta, I said audibly, "Thank God!"

Breakfast over, I strolled into the grounds, and made a careful
inspection of the work which Martin Hartog had performed. The
conspicuous conscientiousness of his labours added to my satisfaction,
and I gave expression to it. He received my approval in manly fashion,
and said he would be glad if I always spoke my mind, "as I always
speak mine," he added. It pleased me that he was not subservient; in
all conditions of life a man owes it to himself to maintain, within
proper bounds, a spirit of independence. While he was pointing out to
me this and that, and urging me to make any suggestions which occurred
to me, his daughter came up to us and said that a man wished to speak
to me. I asked who the man was, and she replied, "The landlord of the
Three Black Crows." Curious as to his purpose in making so early a
call, and settling it with myself that his errand was on business, in
connection, perhaps, with some wine he wished to dispose of, I told
the young woman to send him to me, and presently he appeared. There
was an expression of awkwardness, I thought, in his face as he stood
before me, cap in hand.

"Well, landlord," I said smiling; "you wish to see me?"

"Yes, sir." And there he stopped.

"Go on," I said, wondering somewhat at his hesitation.

"Can I speak to you alone, sir?"

"Certainly. Hartog, I will see you again presently."

Martin Hartog took the hint, and left us together.

"Now, landlord," I said.

"It's about those two men, sir, you saw in my place last night."

"Those two men?" I said, pondering, and then a light broke upon me,
and I thought it singular--as indeed it was--that no recollection,
either of the men or the incidents in association with them should
have occurred to me since my awaking. "Yes?"

"_You_ are quite safe, sir," said the landlord, "I am glad to find."

"Quite safe, landlord; but why should you be so specially glad?"

"Nothing's happened here then, sir?"

"Nothing."

"That's what brought me round so early this morning, for one thing; I
was afraid something _might_ have happened."

"Kindly explain yourself," I said, not at all impatient, but amused
rather. "What _might_ have happened?"

"Well, sir, they might have found out, somehow or other, that you were
sleeping in the house alone last night"--and here he broke off and
asked, "You _did_ sleep here alone last night?"

"Certainly I did, and a capital night's rest I had."

"Glad to hear that, sir. As I was saying, if they had found out that
you were sleeping here alone, they might have taken it into their
heads to trouble you."

"They might, landlord, but facts are stubborn things. They did not,
evidently."

"I understand that now, sir, but I had my fears, and that's what
brought me round for one thing."

"An expression you have used once before, landlord. 'For one thing.' I
infer there must be another thing in your mind."

"There is, sir. You haven't heard then?"

"As yet I have heard nothing but a number of very enigmatical
observations from you with respect to those men. Ah, yes, I remember;
you had your doubts of them when I visited you on my road home?"

"I had sir; I told you I didn't like the looks of them, and that I was
not easy in my mind about my own family, and the bit of money I had in
my place to pay my rent with, and one or two other accounts."

"That is so; you are bringing the whole affair back to me. I saw the
men after I left the Three Black Crows."

"You did, sir! When? Where?"

"To tell you would be to interrupt what you have come here to say. No
more roundabouts, landlord. Say what you have to say right on."

"Well, sir, this is the way of it. I suspected them from the first,
and you will bear witness of it before the magistrate. They were
strangers in Nerac, but that is no reason why I should have refused to
sell them a bottle of red wine when they asked for it. It's my trade
to supply customers, and the wine was the worst I had, consequently
the cheapest. I had no right to ask their business, and if they chose
to answer me uncivilly, it was their affair. I wouldn't tell everybody
mine on the asking. They paid for the wine, and there was an end of
it. They called for another bottle, and when I brought it I did not
draw the cork till I had the money for it, and as they wouldn't pay
the price--not having it about 'em--the cork wasn't drawn, and the
bottle went back. I had trouble to get rid of them, but they stumbled
out at last, and I saw no more of them. Now, sir, you will remember
that when we were speaking of them Doctor Louis's house was mentioned
as a likely house for rogues to break into and rob."

"A moment," I interrupted in agitation. "Doctor Louis is safe?"

"Quite safe, sir."

"And his wife and daughter?"

"Quite safe, sir."

"Go on."

"The villains couldn't hear what we said, no more than we could hear
what they were whispering about. But they had laid their plans, and
tried to hatch them--worse luck for one, if not for both the
scoundrels; but the other will be caught and made to pay for it. What
they did between the time they left the Three Black Crows and the time
they made an attempt to break into Doctor Louis's is at present a
mystery. Don't be alarmed, sir; I see that my news has stirred you,
but they have only done harm to themselves. No one else is a bit the
worse for their roguery. Doctor Louis and his good wife and daughter
slept through the night undisturbed; nothing occurred to rouse or
alarm them. They got up as usual, the doctor being the first--he is
known as an early riser. As it happened, it was fortunate that he was
outside his house before his lady, for although we in Nerac have an
idea that she is as brave as she is good, a woman, after all, is only
a woman, and the sight of blood is what few of them can stand."

"The sight of blood!" I exclaimed. But that I was assured that
Lauretta was safe and well, I should not have wasted a moment on the
landlord, eager as I was to learn what he had come to tell. My mind,
however, was quite at ease with respect to my dear girl, and the next
few minutes were not so precious that I could not spare them to hear
the landlord's strange story.

"That," he resumed, "is what the doctor saw when he went to the back
of his house. Blood on the ground--and what is more, what would have
given the ladies a greater shock, there before him was the body of a
man--dead."

"What man?" I asked.

"That I can't for a certainty say, sir, because I haven't seen him as
yet. I'm telling the story second-hand, as it was told to me a while
ago by one who had come straight from the doctor's house. There was
the blood, and there the man; and from the description I should say it
was one of the men who were drinking in my place last night. It is not
ascertained at what time of the night he and his mate tried to break
into the doctor's house, but the attempt was made. There is the
evidence of it. They commenced to bore a hole in one of the shutters
at the back; the hole made, it would have been easy to enlargen it,
and so to draw the fastenings. However, they did not get so far as
that. They could scarcely have been at their scoundrelly work a minute
or two before it came to an end."

"How and by whom were they interrupted, landlord? That, of course, is
known?"

"It is not known, sir, and it's just at this point that the mystery
commences. There they are at their work, and likely to be successful.
A dark night, and not a watchman in the village. Never a need for one,
sir. Plenty of time before them, and desperate men they. Only one man
in the house, the good doctor; all the others women, easily dealt
with. Robbery first--if interfered with, murder afterwards. They
wouldn't have stuck at it, not they! But there it was, sir, as God
willed. Not a minute at work, and something occurs. The question is,
what? The man lies dead on the ground, with a gimlet in his hand, and
Doctor Louis, in full sunlight, stands looking down on the strange
sight."

"The man lies dead on the ground," I said, repeating the landlord's
words; "but there were two."

"No sign of the other, sir; he's a vanished body. People are out
searching for him."

"He will be found," I said----

"It's to be hoped," interrupted the landlord.

"And then what you call a mystery will be solved."

"It's beyond me, sir," said the landlord, with a puzzled air.

"It is easy enough. These two scoundrels, would-be murderers, plan a
robbery, and proceed to execute it. They are ill-conditioned
creatures, no better than savages, swayed by their passions, in which
there is no show of reason. They quarrel, perhaps, about the share of
the spoil which each shall take, and are not wise enough to put aside
their quarrel till they are in possession of the booty. They continue
their dispute, and in such savages their brutal passions once roused,
swell and grow to a fitting climax of violence. So with these.
Probably the disagreement commenced on their way to the house, and had
reached an angry point when one began to bore a hole in the shutter.
This one it was who was found dead. The proof was in his hand--the
gimlet with which he was working."

"Well conceived, sir," said the landlord, following with approval my
speculative explanation.

"This man's face," I continued, "would be turned toward the shutter,
his back to his comrade. Into this comrade's mind darts, like a
lightning flash, the idea of committing the robbery alone, and so
becoming the sole possessor of the treasure."

"Good, sir, good," said the landlord, rubbing his hands.

"No sooner conceived than executed. Out comes his knife, or perhaps he
has it ready in his hand, opened."

"Why opened, sir? Would it not be a fixed blade?"

"No; such men carry clasp-knives. They are safest, and never attract
notice."

"You miss nothing, sir," said the landlord admiringly. "What a
magistrate you would have made!"

"He plunges it into his fellow-scoundrel's back, who falls dead, with
the gimlet in his hand. The murder is explained."

The landlord nodded excitedly, and continued to rub his hands; then
suddenly stood quite still, with an incredulous expression on his
face.

"But the robbery is not committed," he exclaimed; "the house is not
broken into, and the scoundrel gets nothing for his pains."

With superior wisdom I laid a patronising hand upon his shoulder.

"The deed done," I said, "the murderer, gazing upon his dead comrade,
is overcome with fear. He has been rash--he may be caught red-handed;
the execution of the robbery will take time. He is not familiar with
the habits of the village, and does not know it has no guardians of
the night. One may stroll that way and make discovery. Fool that he
was! He has not only committed murder, he has robbed himself. Better
to have waited till they had possession of the treasure; but this kind
of logic always comes afterwards to ill-regulated minds. Under the
influence of his newly-born fears he recognises that every moment is
precious; he dare not linger; he dare not carry out the scheme.
Shuddering, he flies from the spot, with rage and despair in his
heart. Unhappy wretch! The curse of Cain is upon him."



                             CHAPTER XX.


The landlord, who was profuse in the expressions of his admiration at
the light I had thrown upon the case, so far as it was known to us,
accompanied me to the house of Doctor Louis. It was natural that I
should find Lauretta and her mother in a state of agitation, and it
was sweet to me to learn that it was partly caused by their anxieties
for my safety. Doctor Louis was not at home, but had sent a messenger
to my house to inquire after me, and to give me some brief account of
the occurrences of the night. We did not meet this messenger on our
way to the doctor's; he must have taken a different route from ours.

"You did wrong to leave us last night," said Lauretta's mother
chidingly.

I shook my head, and answered that it was but anticipating the date of
my removal by a few days, and that my presence in her house would not
have altered matters.

"Everything was right at home," I said. Home! What inexpressible
sweetness there was in the word! "Martin Hartog showed me to my room,
and the servants you engaged came early this morning, and attended to
me as though they had known my ways and tastes for years."

"You slept well?" she asked.

"A dreamless night," I replied; "but had I suspected what was going on
here, I should not have been able to rest."

"I am glad you had no suspicion, Gabriel; you would have been in
danger. Dreadful as it all is, it is a comfort to know that the
misguided men do not belong to our village."

Her merciful heart could find no harsher term than this to apply to
the monsters, and it pained her to hear me say, "One has met his
deserved fate; it is a pity the other has escaped." But I could not
keep back the words.

Doctor Louis had left a message for me to follow him to the office of
the village magistrate, where the affair was being investigated, but
previous to going thither, I went to the back of the premises to make
an inspection. The village boasted of one constable, and he was now on
duty, in a state of stupefaction. His orders were to allow nothing to
be disturbed, but his bewilderment was such that it would have been
easy for an interested person to do as he pleased in the way of
alteration. A stupid lout, with as much intelligence as a vegetable.
However, I saw at once that nothing had been disturbed. The shutter in
which a hole had been bored was closed; there were blood stains on the
stones, and I was surprised that they were so few; the gate by which
the villains had effected an entrance into the garden was open; I
observed some particles of sawdust on the window-ledge just below
where the hole had been bored. All that had been removed was the body
of the man who had been murdered by his comrade.

I put two or three questions to the constable, and he managed to
answer in monosyllables, yes and no, at random. "A valuable
assistant," I thought, "in unravelling a mysterious case!" And then I
reproached myself for the sneer. Happy was a village like Nerac in
which crime was so rare, and in which an official so stupid was
sufficient for the execution of the law.

The first few stains of blood I noticed were close to the window, and
the stones thereabout had been disturbed, as though by the falling of
a heavy body.

"Was the man's body," I inquired of the constable, "lifted from this
spot?"

He looked down vacantly and said, "Yes."

"You are sure?" I asked.

"Sure," he said after a pause, but whether the word was spoken in
reply to my question, or as a question he put to himself, I could not
determine.

I continued my examination of the grounds. From the open gate to the
window was a distance of forty-eight yards; I stepped exactly a yard,
and I counted my steps. The path from gate to window was shaped like
the letter S, and was for the most part defined by tall shrubs on
either side, of a height varying from six to nine feet. Through this
path the villains had made their way to the window; through this path
the murderer, leaving his comrade dead, had made his escape. Their
operations, for their own safety's sake, must undoubtedly have been
conducted while the night was still dark. Reasonable also to conclude
that, being strangers in the village (although by some means they must
have known beforehand that Doctor Louis's house was worth the
plundering), they could not have been acquainted with the devious
turns in the path from the gate to the window. Therefore they must
have felt their way through, touching the shrubs with their hands,
most likely breaking some of the slender stalks, until they arrived at
the open space at the back of the building.

These reflections impelled me to make a careful inspection of the
shrubs, and I was very soon startled by a discovery. Here and there
some stalks were broken and torn away, and here and there were
indisputable evidences that the shrubs had been grasped by human
hands. It was not this that startled me, for it was in accordance with
my own train of reasoning, but it was that there were stains of blood
on the broken stalks, especially upon those which had been roughly
torn from the parent tree. I seemed to see a man, with blood about
him, staggering blindly through the path, snatching at the shrubs both
for support and guidance, and the loose stalks falling from his hands
as he went. Two men entered the grounds, only one left--that one, the
murderer. The blood stains indicated a struggle. Between whom? Between
the victim and the perpetrator of the deed? In that case, what became
of the theory of action I had so elaborately described to the landlord
of the Three Black Crows? I had imagined an instantaneous impulse of
crime and its instantaneous execution. I had imagined a death as
sudden as it was violent, a deed from which the murderer had escaped
without the least injury to himself; and here, on both sides of me,
were the clearest proofs that the man who had fled must have been
grievously wounded. My ingenuity was at fault in the endeavour to
bring these signs into harmony with the course of events I had
invented in my interview with the landlord.

I went straight to the office of the magistrate, a small building of
four rooms on the ground floor, the two in front being used as the
magistrate's private room and court, the two in the rear as cells, not
at all uncomfortable, for aggressors of the law. It was but rarely
that they were occupied. At the door of the court I encountered Father
Daniel. He was pale, and much shaken. During his lifetime no such
crime had been perpetrated in the village, and his only comfort was
that the actors in it were strangers. But that did not lessen his
horror of the deed, and his large heart overflowed with pity both for
the guilty man and the victim.

"So sudden a death!" he said, in a voice broken by tears. "No time for
repentance! Thrust before the Eternal Presence weighed down by sin! I
have been praying by his side for mercy, and for mercy upon his
murderer. Poor sinners! poor sinners!"

I could not sympathise with his sentiments, and I told him so sternly.
He made no attempt to convert me to his views, but simply said, "All
men should pray that they may never be tempted."

And so he left me, and turned in the direction of his little chapel to
offer up prayers for the dead and the living sinners.

Doctor Louis was with the magistrate; they had been discussing
theories, and had heard from the landlord of the Three Black Crows my
own ideas of the movements of the strangers on the previous night.

"In certain respects you may be right in your speculations," the
magistrate said; "but on one important point you are in error."

"I have already discovered," I said, "that my theory is wrong, and not
in accordance with fact; but we will speak of that presently. What is
the point you refer to?"

"As to the weapon with which the murder was done," replied the
magistrate, a shrewd man, whose judicial perceptions fitted him for a
larger sphere of duties than he was called upon to perform in Nerac.
"No knife was used."

"What, then, was the weapon?" I asked.

"A club of some sort," said the magistrate, "with which the dead man
was suddenly attacked from behind."

"Has it been found?"

"No, but a search is being made for it and also for the murderer."

"On that point we are agreed. There is no shadow of doubt that the
missing man is guilty."

"There can be none," said the magistrate.

"And yet," urged Doctor Louis, in a gentle tone, "to condemn a man
unheard is repugnant to justice."

"There are circumstances," said the magistrate, "which point so surely
to guilt that it would be inimical to justice to dispute them. By the
way," he continued, addressing me, "did not the landlord of the Three
Black Crows mention something to the effect that you were at his inn
last night after you left Dr. Louis's house, and that you and he had a
conversation respecting the strangers, who were at that time in the
same room as yourselves?"

"If he did," I said, "he stated what is correct. I was there, and saw
the strangers, of whom the landlord entertained suspicions which have
been proved to be well founded."

"Then you will be able to identify the body, already," added the
magistrate, "identified by the landlord. Confirmatory evidence
strengthens a case."

"I shall be able to identify it," I said.

We went to the inner room, and I saw at a glance that it was one of
the strangers who had spent the evening at the Three Black Crows, and
whom I had afterwards watched and followed.

"The man who has escaped," I observed, "was hump backed."

"That tallies with the landlord's statement," said the magistrate.

"I have something to relate," I said, upon our return to the court,
"of my own movements last night after I quitted the inn."

I then gave the magistrate and Doctor Louis a circumstantial account
of my movements, without, however, entering into a description of my
thoughts, only in so far as they affected my determination to protect
the doctor and his family from evil designs.

They listened with great interest, and Doctor Louis pressed my hand.
He understood and approved of the solicitude I had experienced for the
safety of his household; it was a guarantee that I would watch over
his daughter with love and firmness and protect her from harm.

"But you ran a great risk, Gabriel," he said affectionately.

"I did not consider that," I said.

The magistrate looked on and smiled; a father himself, he divined the
undivulged ties by which I and Doctor Louis were bound.

"At what time," he asked, "do you say you left the rogues asleep in
the woods?"

"It was twenty minutes to eleven," I replied, "and at eleven o'clock I
reached my house, and was received by Martin Hartog's daughter. Hartog
was absent, on business his daughter said, and while we were talking,
and I was taking the keys from her hands, Hartog came home, and
accompanied me to my bedroom."

"Were you at all disturbed in your mind for the safety of your friends
in consequence of what had passed?"

"Not in the least. The men I left slumbering in the woods appeared to
me to be but ordinary tramps, without any special evil intent, and I
was satisfied and relieved. I could not have slept else; it is seldom
that I have enjoyed a better night."

"Cunning rascals! May not their slumbers have been feigned?"

"I think not. They were in a profound sleep; I made sure of that. No,
I could not have been mistaken."

"It is strange," mused Doctor Louis, "how guilt can sleep, and can
forget the present and the future!"

I then entered into an account of the inspection I had made of the
path from the gate to the window; it was the magistrate's opinion,
from the position in which the body was found, that there had been no
struggle between the two men, and here he and I were in agreement.
What I now narrated materially weakened his opinion, as it had
materially weakened mine, and he was greatly perplexed. He was annoyed
also that the signs I had discovered, which confirmed the notion that
a struggle must have taken place, had escaped the attention of his
assistants. He himself had made but a cursory examination of the
grounds, his presence being necessary in the court to take the
evidence of witnesses, to receive reports, and to issue instructions.

"There are so many things to be considered," said Doctor Louis, "in a
case like this, resting as it does at present entirely upon
circumstantial evidence, that it is scarcely possible some should not
be lost sight of. Often those that are omitted are of greater weight
than those which are argued out laboriously and with infinite
patience. Justice is blind, but the law must be Argus-eyed. You
believe, Gabriel, that there must have been a struggle in my garden?"

"Such is now my belief," I replied.

"Such signs as you have brought before our notice," continued the
doctor, "are to you an indication that the man who escaped must have
met with severe treatment?"

"Undoubtedly."

"Therefore, that the struggle was a violent one?"

"Yes."

"And prolonged?"

"That is the feasible conclusion."

"Such a struggle could not have taken place without considerable
disarrangement about the spot in which it occurred. On an even
pavement you would not look for any displacement of the stones; the
utmost you could hope to discover would be the scratches made by iron
heels. But the path from the gate of my house to the back garden, and
all the walking spaces in the garden itself, are formed of loose
stones and gravel. No such struggle could take place there without
conspicuous displacement of the materials of which the ground is
composed. If it took place amongst the flowers, the beds would bear
evidence. I observed no disorder in the flower beds. Did you?"

"No."

"Then did you observe such a disarrangement of the stones and gravel
as I consider would be necessary evidence of the struggle in which you
suppose these men to have been engaged?"

I was compelled to admit--but I admitted it grudgingly and
reluctantly--that such a disarrangement had not come within my
observation.

"That is partially destructive of your theory," pursued the doctor.
"There is still something further of moment which I consider it my duty
to say. You are a sound sleeper ordinarily, and last night you slept
more soundly than usual. I, unfortunately, am a light sleeper, and it
is really a fact that last night I slept more lightly than usual. I
think, Gabriel, you were to some extent the cause of this. I am
affected by changes in my domestic arrangements; during many pleasant
weeks you have resided in our house, and last night was the first, for
a long time past, that you slept away from us. It had an influence
upon me; then, apart from your absence, I was thinking a great deal of
you." (Here I observed the magistrate smile again, a fatherly
benignant smile.) "As a rule I am awakened by the least noise--the
dripping of water, the fall of an inconsiderable object, the mewing of
a cat, the barking of a dog. Now, last night I was not disturbed,
unusually wakeful as I was. The wonder is that I was not aroused by
the boring of the hole in the shutter; the unfortunate wretch must
have used his gimlet very softly and warily, and under any
circumstances the sound produced by such a tool is of a light nature.
But had any desperate struggle taken place in the garden it would have
aroused me to a certainty, and I should have hastened down to
ascertain the cause. Gabriel, no such struggle occurred."

"Then," said the magistrate, "how do you account for the injuries the
man who escaped must have undoubtedly received?"

The words were barely uttered when we all started to our feet. There
was a great scuffling outside, and cries and loud voices. The door was
pushed open and half-a-dozen men rushed into the room, guarding one
whose arms were bound by ropes. He was in a dreadful condition, and so
weak that, without support, he could not have kept his feet. I
recognised him instantly; he was the hump backed man I had seen in the
Three Black Crows.

He lifted his eyes and they fell on the magistrate; from him they
wandered to Doctor Louis; from him they wandered to me. I was gazing
steadfastly and sternly upon him, and as his eyes met mine his head
drooped to his breast and hung there, while a strong shuddering ran
through him.



                             CHAPTER XXI.


The examination of the prisoner by the magistrate lasted but a very
short time, for the reason that no replies of any kind could be
obtained to the questions put to him. He maintained a dogged silence,
and although the magistrate impressed upon him that this silence was
in itself a strong proof of his guilt, and that if he had anything to
say in his defence it would be to his advantage to say it at once, not
a word could be extracted from him, and he was taken to his cell,
instructions being given that he should not be unbound and that a
strict watch should be kept over him. While the unsuccessful
examination was proceeding I observed the man two or three times raise
his eyes furtively to mine, or rather endeavour to raise them, for he
could not, for the hundredth part of a second, meet my stern gaze, and
each time he made the attempt it ended in his drooping his head with a
shudder. On other occasions I observed his eyes wandering round the
room in a wild, disordered way, and these proceedings, which to my
mind were the result of a low, premeditated cunning, led me to the
conclusion that he wished to convey the impression that he was not in
his right senses, and therefore not entirely responsible for his
crime. When the monster was taken away I spoke of this, and the
magistrate fell in with my views, and said that the assumption of
pretended insanity was not an uncommon trick on the part of criminals.
I then asked him and Doctor Louis whether they would accompany me in a
search for the weapon with which the dreadful deed was committed (for
none had been found on the prisoner), and in a further examination of
the ground the man had traversed after he had killed his comrade in
guilt. Doctor Louis expressed his willingness, but the magistrate said
he had certain duties to attend to which would occupy him half an hour
or so, and that he would join us later on. So Doctor Louis and I
departed alone to continue the investigation I had already commenced.

We began at the window at the back of the doctor's house, and I again
propounded to Doctor Louis my theory of the course of events, to which
he listened attentively, but was no more convinced than he had been
before that a struggle had taken place.

"But," he said, "whether a struggle for life did or did not take place
there is not the slightest doubt of the man's guilt, I have always
viewed circumstantial evidence with the greatest suspicion, but in
this instance I should have no hesitation, were I the monster's judge,
to mete out to him the punishment for his crime."

Shortly afterwards we were joined by the magistrate who had news to
communicate to us.

"I have had," he said, "another interview with the prisoner, and have
succeeded in unlocking his tongue. I went to his cell, unaccompanied,
and again questioned him. To my surprise he asked me if I was alone. I
moved back a pace or two, having the idea that he had managed to
loosen the ropes by which he was bound, and that he wished to know if
I was alone for the purpose of attacking me. In a moment, however, the
fear was dispelled, for I saw that his arms were tightly and closely
bound to his side, and that it was out of his power to injure me. He
repeated his question, and I answered that I was quite alone, and that
his question was a foolish one, for he had the evidence of his senses
to convince him. He shook his head at this, and said in a strange
voice that the evidence of his senses was sufficient in the case of
men and women, but not in the case of spirits and demons. I smiled
inwardly at this--for it does not do for a magistrate to allow a
prisoner from whom he wishes to extract evidence to detect any signs
of levity in his judge--and I thought of the view you had presented to
me that the man wished to convey an impression that he was a madman,
in order to escape to some extent the consequences of the crime he had
committed. 'Put spirits and demons,' I said to him, 'out of the
question. If you have anything to say or confess, speak at once; and
if you wish to convince yourself that there are no witnesses either in
this cell--though that is plainly evident--or outside, here is the
proof.' I threw open the door, and showed him that no one was
listening to our speech. 'I cannot put spirits or demons out of the
question,' he said, 'because I am haunted by one, who has brought me
to this.' He looked down at his ropes and imprisoned limbs. 'Are you
guilty or not guilty?' I asked. 'I am not guilty,' he replied; 'I did
not kill him.' 'But he is murdered,' I said. 'Yes,' he replied, 'he is
murdered.' 'If you did not kill him,' I continued, 'who did?' What do
you think he answered? 'A demon killed him,' he said, 'and would have
killed me, if I had not fled and played him a trick.' I gazed at him
in thought, wondering whether he had the slightest hope that he was
imposing upon me by his lame attempt at being out of his senses. 'A
demon?' I said questioningly. 'Yes, a demon,' he replied. 'But,' I
said, and I admit that my tone was somewhat bantering, 'demons are
more powerful than mortals.' 'That is where it is,' he said; 'that is
why I am here.' 'You are a clumsy scoundrel,' I said, 'and I will
prove it to you; then you may be induced to speak the truth--in
which,' I added, 'lies your only hope of a mitigation of punishment.
Not that I hold out to you any such hope; but if you can establish,
when you are ready to confess, that what you did was done in
self-defence, it will be a point in your favour.' 'I cannot confess,'
he said, 'to a crime which I did not commit. I am a clumsy scoundrel
perhaps, but not in the way you mean. Prove it to me if you can.' 'You
say,' I began, 'that a demon killed your comrade.' 'He did,' persisted
the prisoner. 'And,' I continued, 'that he would have killed you if
you had not fled from him.' 'He would,' said the prisoner. 'But,' I
said, 'demons are more powerful than men. Of what avail would have
been your flight? Men can only walk or run; demons can fly. The demon
you have invented could have easily overtaken you and finished you as
you say he finished the man you murdered.' He was a little staggered
at this, and I saw him pondering over it. 'It isn't for me,' he said
presently, 'to pretend to know why he did not suspect the trick I
played him; he could have killed me if he wanted. I have spoken the
truth. I heard him pursuing me.' 'There again,' I said, wondering that
there should be in the world men with such a low order of
intelligence, 'you heard him pursuing you. Demons glide noiselessly
along. It is impossible you could have heard this one. You will have
to invent another story.' 'I have invented none,' he persisted
doggedly, and repeated, 'I have spoken the truth.' As I could get
nothing further out of him than a determined adherence to his
ridiculous defence, I left him."

"Do you think," asked Doctor Louis, "that he has any, even the
remotest belief in the story? Men sometimes delude themselves."

"I cannot believe it," replied the magistrate, "and yet I confess to
being slightly puzzled. There was an air of sincerity about him which
might be to his advantage had he to deal with judges who were ignorant
of the cunning of criminals."

"Which means," said Doctor Louis, "that it is really not impossible
that the man's mind is diseased."

"No," said the magistrate, in a positive tone, "I cannot for a moment
admit it. A tale in which a spirit or a demon is the principal actor!
In this age it is too absurd!"

At that moment I made a discovery; I drew from the midst of a bush a
stick, one end of which was stained with blood. From its position it
seemed as if it had been thrown hastily away; there had certainly been
no attempt at concealment.

"Here is the weapon," I cried, "with which the deed was done!"

The magistrate took it immediately from my hand, and examined it.

"Here," I said, pointing downwards, "is the direct line of flight
taken by the prisoner, and he must have flung the stick away in terror
as he ran."

"It is an improvised weapon," said the magistrate, "cut but lately
from a tree, and fashioned so as to fit the hand and be used with
effect."

I, in my turn, then examined the weapon, and was struck by its
resemblance to the branch I had myself cut the previous night during
the watch I kept upon the ruffians. I spoke of the resemblance, and
said that it looked to me as if it were the self-same stick I had
shaped with my knife.

"Do you remember," asked the magistrate, "what you did with it after
your suspicions were allayed?"

"No," I replied, "I have not the slightest remembrance what I did with
it. I could not have carried it home with me, or I should have seen it
this morning before I left my house. I have no doubt that, after my
mind was at ease as to the intentions of the ruffians, I flung it
aside into the woods, having no further use for it. When the men set
out to perpetrate the robbery they must have stumbled upon the branch,
and, appreciating the pains I had bestowed upon it, took it with them.
There appears to be no other solution to their possession of it."

"It is the only solution," said the magistrate.

"So that," I said with a sudden thrill of horror, "I am indirectly
responsible for the direction of the tragedy, and should have been
responsible had they used the weapon against those I love! It is
terrible to think of."

Doctor Louis pressed my hand. "We have all happily been spared,
Gabriel," he said. "It is only the guilty who have suffered."

We continued our search for some time, without meeting with any
further evidence, and I spent the evening with Doctor Louis's family,
and was deeply grateful that Providence had frustrated the villainous
schemes of the wretches who had conspired against them. On this
evening Lauretta and I seemed to be drawn closer to each other, and
once, when I held her hand in mine for a moment or two (it was done
unconsciously), and her father's eyes were upon us, I was satisfied
that he did not deem it a breach of the obligation into which we had
entered with respect to my love for his daughter. Indeed it was not
possible that all manifestations of a love so profound and absorbing
as mine should be successfully kept out of sight; it would have been
contrary to nature.

I slept that night in Doctor Louis's house, and the next morning
Lauretta and Lauretta's mother said that they had experienced a
feeling of security because of my presence.

At noon I was on my way to the magistrate's office.



                            CHAPTER XXII.


My purpose was to obtain, by the magistrate's permission, an interview
with the prisoner. His account of the man's sincere or pretended
belief in spirits and demons had deeply interested me, and I wished to
have some conversation with him respecting this particular adventure
which had ended in murder. I obtained without difficulty the
permission I sought. I asked if the prisoner had made any further
admissions or confession, and the magistrate answered no, and that the
man persisted in a sullen adherence to the tale he had invented in his
own defence.

"I saw him this morning," the magistrate said, "and interrogated him
with severity, to no effect. He continues to declare himself to be
innocent, and reiterates his fable of the demon."

"Have you asked him," I inquired, "to give you an account of all that
transpired within his knowledge from the moment he entered Nerac until
the moment he was arrested?"

"No," said the magistrate, "it did not occur to me to demand of him so
close a description of his movements; and I doubt whether I should
have been able to drag it from him. The truth he will not tell, and
his invention is not strong enough to go into minute details. He is
conscious of this, conscious that I should trip him up again and again
on minor points which would be fatal to him, and his cunning nature
warns him not to thrust his head into the trap. He belongs to the
lowest order of criminals."

My idea was to obtain from the prisoner just such a circumstantial
account of his movements as I thought it likely the magistrate would
have extracted from him; and I felt that I had the power to succeed
where the magistrate had failed. This power I determined to use.

I was taken into the man's cell, and left there without a word. He was
still bound; his brute face was even more brute and haggard than
before, his hair was matted, his eyes had a look in them of mingled
terror and ferocity. He spoke no word, but he raised his head and
lowered it again when the door of the cell was closed behind me.

"What is your name?" I asked. But I had to repeat the question twice
before he answered me.

"Pierre," he said.

"Why did you not reply to me at once?" But to this question, although
I repeated it also twice, he made no response.

"It is useless," I said sternly, "to attempt evasion with me, or to
think that I will be content with silence. I have come here to obtain
a confession from you--a true confession, Pierre--and I will force it
from you, if you do not give it willingly. Do you understand me? I
will force it from you."

"I understand you," he said, keeping his face averted from me, "but I
will not speak."

"Why?" I demanded.

"Because you know all; because you are only playing with me; because
you have a design against me."

His words astonished me, and made me more determined to carry out my
intention. He had made it clear to me that there was something hidden
in his mind, and I was resolved to get at it.

"What design can I have against you," I said, "of which you need be
afraid? You are in sufficient peril already, and there is no hope for
you. Your life is forfeit. What worse danger can befall you? Soon you
will be as dead as the man you murdered."

"I did not murder him," was the strange reply, "and you know it."

"Fool!" I exclaimed. "You are playing the same trick upon me that you
played upon your judge. It was unsuccessful with him; it will be as
unsuccessful with me. Answer me. What further danger can threaten you
than the danger, the certain, positive danger, in which you now stand?
You are doomed, Pierre."

"My body is, perhaps," he muttered, "but not my soul."

"Oh," I said, in a tone of contempt, "you believe in a soul."

"Yes," he replied, "do not you?"

"I? Yes. With reason, with intelligence. Not out of my fears, but out
of my hopes."

"I have no hopes and no fears," he said. "I have done wrong, but not
the wrong with which I am charged."

"Look at me, Pierre."

His response to this was to hide his head closer on his breast, to
make an even stronger endeavour to avoid my glance.

"When I next command you," I said, "you will obey. About your soul?
Believing that you possess one, what worse peril can threaten it than
the pass to which you have brought it by your crime."

And still he doggedly repeated, "I have committed no crime."

"You fear me?" I asked.

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because you are here to tempt me, to ensnare me. I will not look at
you."

I strode to his side, and with my strong hand on his shoulder, forced
him to raise his head, forced him to look me straight in the face. His
eyes wavered for a few moments, shifted as though they would escape my
compelling power, and finally became fixed on mine. He had no power to
resist me. The will in me was strong, and produced its effects on the
weaker mind. Gradually what brilliancy there was in his eyes became
dimmed, and drew but a reflected, shadowy light from mine. Thus we
remained face to face for four or five minutes, and then I spoke.

"Relate to me," I said, "all that you know from the time you and the
man who is dead conceived the idea of coming to Nerac up to the
present moment. Conceal nothing. The truth, the bare, naked truth!"

"We were poor, both of us," Pierre commenced, "and had been poor all
our lives. That would not have mattered had we been able to obtain
meat and wine. But we could not. We were neither of us honest, and had
been in prison more than once for theft. We were never innocent when
we were convicted, although we swore we were. I got tired of it;
starvation is a poor game. I would have been contented with a little,
and so would he, but we could not make sure of that little. Nothing
else was left to us but to take what we wanted. The wild beasts do;
why should not we? But we were too well known in our village, some
sixty miles from Nerac, so, talking it over, we said we would come
here and try our luck. We had heard of Doctor Louis, and that he was a
rich man. He can spare what we want, we said; we will go and take. We
had no idea of blood; we only wanted money, to buy meat and wine with.
So we started, with nothing in our pockets. On the first day we had a
slice of luck. We met a man and waylaid him, and took from him all the
money he had in his pockets. It was not much, but enough to carry us
to Nerac. No more; but we were satisfied. We did not hurt the man; a
knock on the head did not take his senses from him, but brought him to
them; so, being convinced, he gave us what he had, and we departed on
our way. We were not fast walkers, and, besides, we did not know the
straightest road to Nerac, so we were four days on the journey. When
we entered the inn of the Three Black Crows we had just enough money
left to pay for a bottle of red wine. We called for it, and sat
drinking. While we were there a spirit entered in the shape of a man.
This spirit, whom I did not then know to be a demon, sat talking with
the landlord of the Three Black Crows. He looked towards the place
where we were sitting, and I wondered whether he and the landlord were
talking of us; I could not tell, because what they said did not reach
my ears. He went away, and we went away, too, some time afterwards. We
wanted another bottle of red wine, but the landlord would not give it
to us without our paying for it, and we had no money; our pockets were
bare. So out we went into the night. It was very dark. We had settled
our plan. Before we entered the Three Black Crows we had found out
Doctor Louis's house, and knew exactly how it was situated; there
would be no difficulty in finding it later on, despite the darkness.
We had decided not to make the attempt until at least two hours past
midnight, but, for all that, when we left the inn we walked in the
direction of the doctor's house. I do not know if we should have
continued our way, because, although I saw nothing and heard nothing,
I had a fancy that we were being followed; I couldn't say by what, but
the idea was in my mind. So, talking quietly together, he and I
determined to turn back to some woods on the outskirts of Nerac which
we had passed through before we reached the village, and there to
sleep an hour or two till the time arrived to put our plan into
execution. Back we turned, and as we went there came a sign to me. I
don't know how; it was through the senses, for I don't remember
hearing anything that I could not put down to the wind. My mate heard
it too, and we stopped in fear. 'What was that?' my mate said. 'Are we
being followed?' I said nothing. We stood quiet a long while, and
heard nothing. Then my mate said, 'It was the wind;' and we went on
till we came to the woods, which we entered. Down upon the ground we
threw ourselves, and in a minute my mate was asleep. Not so I; but I
pretended to be. Then came a Shadow that bent over us. I did not move;
I even breathed regularly to put it off the scent. Presently it
departed, and I opened my eyes; nothing was near us. Then, being tired
with the long day's walk, and knowing that there was work before us
which would be better done after a little rest, I fell asleep myself.
We both slept, I can't say how long, but from the appearance of the
night I judged till about the time we had resolved to do our work. I
woke first, and awoke my mate, and off we set to the doctor's house.
We reached it in less than an hour, and nothing disturbed us on the
way. That made me think that I had been deceived, and that my senses
had been playing tricks with me. I told my mate of my fears, and he
laughed at me, and I laughed, too, glad to be relieved. We walked
round the doctor's house, to decide where we should commence. The
front of it faces the road, and we thought that too dangerous, so we
made our way to the back, and, talking in whispers, settled to bore a
hole through the shutters there. We were very quiet; no fear of our
being heard. The hole being bored, it was easy to cut away wood enough
to enable us to open the window and make our way into the house. We
did not intend violence, that is, not more than was necessary for our
safety. We had talked it over, and had decided that no blood was to be
shed. Robbers we were, but not murderers. Our plan was to gag and tie
up any one who interfered with us. My mate and I had had no quarrel;
we were faithful partners; and I had no other thought than to remain
true to him as he had no other thought than to remain true to me.
Share and share alike--that was what we both intended. So he worked
away at the shutter, while I looked on. Suddenly, crack! A blow came,
from the air it seemed, and down fell my mate, struck dead! He did not
move; he did not speak; he died, unshriven. I looked down, dazed, when
I heard a swishing sound in the air behind me, as though a great club
was making a circle and about to fall upon my head. It was all in a
minute, and I turned and saw the demon. Dark as it was, I saw him. I
slanted my body aside, and the club, instead of falling upon my head,
fell upon my shoulder. I ran for my life, and down came another blow,
on my head this time, but it did not kill me. I raced like a madman,
tearing at the bushes, and the demon after me. I was struck again and
again, but not killed. Wounded and bleeding, I continued my flight,
till flat I fell like a log. Not because all my strength was gone; no,
there was still a little left; but I showed myself more cunning than
the demon, for down I went as if I was dead, and he left me, thinking
me so. Then, when he was gone, I opened my eyes, and managed to drag
myself away to the place where I was found yesterday more dead than
alive. I did not kill my mate; I never raised my hand against him.
What I have said is the truth, as I hope for mercy in the next world,
if I don't get it in this!"

This was the incredible story related to me by the villain who had
threatened the life of the woman I loved; for he did not deceive me;
murder was in his heart, and his low cunning only served to show him
in a blacker light. However, I did not leave him immediately. I
released him from the spell I had cast upon him, and he stood before
me, shaking and trembling, with a look in his eyes as though he had
just been awakened from sleep.

"What have I said?" he muttered.

"You have confessed all," I said, meeting cunning with cunning.

"All!" he muttered. "What do you mean?"

Then I told him that he had made a full confession of his crime, and
in the telling expounded my own theory, as if it had come from his
lips, of the thoughts which led to it, and of its final committal--my
hope being that he would even now admit that he was the murderer. But
he vehemently defended himself.

"If I have said as much," he said, "it is you who have driven me to
it, and it is you who have come here to set a snare for my
destruction. But it is not possible, because what you have told me is
false from beginning to end."

So I left him, amazed at his dogged, determined obstinacy, which I
knew would not avail him. He was doomed, and justly doomed.



                            CHAPTER XXIII.


I have been reading over the record I have written of my life, which
has been made with care and a strict adherence to the truth. I am at
the present hour sitting alone in the house I have taken and
furnished, and to which I hope shortly to bring my beloved Lauretta as
my wife. The writing of this record from time to time has grown into a
kind of habit with me, and there are occasions in which I have been
greatly interested in it myself. Never until this night have I read
the record from beginning to end, and I have come to a resolution to
discontinue it. My reason is a sufficient one, and as it concerns no
man else, no man can dispute my right to make it.

My resolution is, after to-morrow, to allow my new life, soon to
commence, to flow on uninterruptedly without burdening myself with the
labour of putting into writing the happy experiences awaiting me. I
shall be no longer alone; Lauretta will be by my side; I should
begrudge the hours which deprived me of her society.

Another thing. I must have no secrets from her; and much that here is
recorded should properly be read by no eye than mine. Lauretta's
nature is so gentle, her soul so pure, that it would distress her to
read these pages. This shall not be. I recognise a certain morbid vein
in myself which the continuing of this record might magnify into a
disease. It presents itself to me in the light of guarding myself
against myself, by adopting wise measures to foster cheerfulness. That
my nature is more melancholy than cheerful is doubtless to be ascribed
to the circumstances of my child-life, which was entirely devoid of
light and gaiety. This must not be in the future; I have a battle to
fight, and I shall conquer because Lauretta's happiness is on the
issue.

It will, however, be as well to make the record complete in a certain
sense, and I shall therefore take note of certain things which have
occurred since my conversation with Pierre in his cell. That done, I
shall put these papers aside in a secret place, and shall endeavour to
forget them. My first thought was to destroy the record, but I was
influenced in the contrary direction by the fact that my first meeting
with Lauretta and the growth of my love for her are described in it.
First impressions jotted down at the time of their occurrence have a
freshness about them which can never be imparted by the aid of memory,
and it may afford me pleasure in the future to live over again,
through these pages, the sweet days of my early intimacy with my
beloved girl. Then there is the strange story of Kristel and Silvain,
which undoubtedly is worth preserving.

First, to get rid of the miserable affair of the attempt to rob Doctor
Louis's house. Pierre was tried and convicted, and has paid the
penalty of his crime. His belief in the possession of a soul could
not, after all, have had in it the spirit of sincerity; it must have
been vaunted merely in pursuance of his cunning endeavours to escape
his just punishment; otherwise he would have confessed before he died.
Father Daniel, the good priest, did all he could to bring the man to
repentance, but to the last he insisted that he was innocent. It was
strange to me to hear Father Daniel express himself sympathetically
towards the criminal.

"He laboured, up to the supreme moment," said the good priest, in a
compassionate tone, "under the singular hallucination that he was
going before his Maker guiltless of the shedding of blood. So fervent
and apparently sincere were his protestations that I could not help
being shaken in my belief that he was guilty."

"Then you believe in demons?" I remarked, amazed at this weakness.

"Not in the sense," said Father Daniel, "that the unhappy man would
have had me believe. Reason rejects his story as something altogether
too incredulous; and yet I pity him."

I did not prolong the discussion with the good priest; it would have
been useless, and, to Father Daniel, painful. We looked at the matter
from widely different standpoints. Intolerance warps the judgment; no
less does such a life as Father Daniel has lived, for ever seeking to
find excuses for error and crime, for ever seeking to palliate a man's
misdeeds. Sweetness of disposition, carried to extremes, may
degenerate into positive mental feebleness; to my mind this is the
case with Father Daniel. He is not the kind who, in serious matters,
can be depended upon for a just estimate of human affairs.

Eric and Emilius, after a longer delay than Doctor Louis anticipated,
have taken up their residence in Nerac. They paid two short visits to
the village, and I was in hopes each time upon their departure that
they had relinquished their intention of living in Nerac. I did not
give expression to my wish, for I knew it was not shared by any member
of Doctor Louis's family.

It is useless to disguise that I dislike them, and that there exists
between us a certain antipathy. To be just, this appears to be more on
my side than on theirs, and it is not in my disfavour that the
feelings I entertain are nearer the surface. Doctor Louis and the
ladies entertain a high opinion of them; I do not; and I have already
some reason for looking upon them with a suspicious eye. This reason I
will presently explain.

When we were first introduced it was natural that I should regard them
with interest, an interest which sprang from the story of their
father's fateful life. They bear a wonderful resemblance to each other
they are both fair, with tawny beards, which it appears to me they
take a pride in shaping and trimming alike; their eyes are blue, and
they are of exactly the same height. Undoubtedly handsome men, having
in that respect the advantage of me, who, in point of attractive
looks, cannot compare with them. They seem to be devotedly attached to
each other, but this may or may not be. So were Silvain and Kristel
until a woman stepped between them and changed their love to hate.
Before I came into personal relationship with Eric and Emilius I made
up my mind to distrust appearances and to seek for evidence upon which
to form an independent judgment. Some such evidence has already come
to me, and I shall secretly follow it up.

They are on terms of the most affectionate intimacy with Doctor Louis
and his family, and both Lauretta and Lauretta's mother take pleasure
in their society; Doctor Louis, also, in a lesser degree. Women are
always more effusive than men.

They are not aware of the relations which bind me to the village. That
they may have some suspicion of my feelings for Lauretta is more than
probable, for I have seen them look from her to me and then at each
other, and I have interpreted these looks. It is as if they said, "Why
is this stranger here? He is usurping our place." I have begged Doctor
Louis to allow me to speak openly to Lauretta, and he has consented to
shorten the period of silence to which I was pledged. I have his
permission to declare my love to his daughter to-morrow. There are no
doubts in my mind that she will accept me; but there _are_ doubts that
if I left it too late there would be danger that her love for me would
be weakened. Yes, although it is torture to me to admit it I cannot
rid myself of this impression. How would this be effected and by whom?
By these brothers, Eric and Emilius, and by means of misrepresentations
to my injury. I have no positive data to go upon, but I am convinced
that they have an aversion towards me, and that they are in their hearts
jealous of me. The doctor is blind to their true character; he believes
them to be generous and noble-minded, men of rectitude and high
principle. They are not so. I have the evidence of my senses in proof
of it.

So much have I been disturbed and unhinged by my feelings towards
these brothers--feelings which I have but imperfectly expressed--that
latterly I have frequently been unable to sleep. Impossible to lie
abed and toss about for hours in an agony of unrest; therefore I chose
the lesser evil, and resumed the nocturnal wanderings which was my
habit in Rosemullion before the death of my parents. These nightly
rambles have been taken in secret, as in the days of my boyhood, and I
mused and spoke aloud as was my custom during that period of my life.
But I had new objects to occupy me now--the home in which I hoped to
enjoy a heaven of happiness, with Lauretta its guiding star, and all
the bright anticipations of the future. I strove to confine myself to
these dreams, which filled my soul with joy, but there came to me
always the figures of Eric and Emilius, dark shadows to threaten my
promised happiness.

Last week it was, on a night in which I felt that sleep would not be
mine if I sought my couch; therefore, earlier than usual--it was
barely eleven o'clock--I left the house, and went into the woods.
Martin Hartog and his fair daughter were in the habit of retiring
early and rising with the sun, and I stole quietly away unobserved. At
twelve o'clock I turned homewards, and when I was about a hundred
yards from my house I was surprised to hear a low murmur of voices
within a short distance of me. Since the night on which I visited the
Three Black Crows and saw the two strangers there who had come to
Nerac with evil intent, I had become very watchful, and now these
voices speaking at such an untimely hour thoroughly aroused me. I
stepped quietly in their direction, so quietly that I knew I could not
be heard, and presently I saw standing at a distance of ten or twelve
yards the figures of a man and a woman. The man was Emilius, the woman
Martin Hartog's daughter.

Although I had heard their voices before I reached the spot upon which
I stood when I recognised their forms, I could not even now determine
what they said, they spoke in such low tones. So I stood still and
watched them and kept myself from their sight. I may say honestly that
I should not have been guilty of the meanness had it not been that I
entertain an unconquerable aversion against Eric and Emilius. I was
sorry to see Martin Hartog's daughter holding a secret interview with
a man at midnight, for the girl had inspired me with a respect of
which I now knew she was unworthy; but I cannot aver that I was sorry
to see Emilius in such a position, for it was an index to his
character and a justification of the unfavourable opinion I had formed
of him and Eric. Alike as they were in physical presentment, I had no
doubt that their moral natures bore the same kind of resemblance.
Libertines both of them, ready for any low intrigue, and holding in
light regard a woman's good name and fame. Truly the picture before me
showed clearly the stuff of which these brothers are made. If they
hold one woman's good name so lightly, they hold all women so. Fit
associates, indeed, for a family so pure and stainless as Doctor
Louis's!

This was no chance meeting--how was that possible at such an hour? It
was premeditated. Theirs was no new acquaintanceship; it must have
lasted already some time. The very secrecy of the interview was in
itself a condemnation.

Should I make Doctor Louis acquainted with the true character of the
brothers who held so high a place in his esteem? This was the question
that occurred to me as I gazed upon Emilius and Martin Hartog's
daughter, and I soon answered it in the negative. Doctor Louis was a
man of settled convictions, hard to convince, hard to turn. His first
impulse, upon which he would act, would be to go straight to Emilius,
and enlighten him upon the discovery I had made. And then? Why, then,
Emilius would invent some tale which it would not be hard to believe,
and make light of a matter I deemed so serious. I should be placed in
the position of an eavesdropper, as a man setting sly watches upon
others to whom, from causeless grounds, I had taken a dislike. I
should be at a disadvantage. Whatever the result one thing was
certain--that I was a person capable not only of unreasonable
antipathies but of small meannesses to which a gentleman would not
descend. The love which Doctor Louis bore to Silvain, and which he had
transferred to Silvain's children, was not to be easily turned; and at
the best I should be introducing doubts into his mind which would
reflect upon myself because of the part of spy I had played. No; I
decided for the present at least, to keep  the knowledge to myself.

As to Martin Hartog, though I could not help feeling pity for him, it
was for him, not me, to look after his daughter. From a general point
of view these affairs were common enough.

I seemed to see now in a clearer light the kind of man Silvain
was--one who would set himself deliberately to deceive where most he
was trusted. Honour, fair dealing, brotherly love, were as nought in
his eyes where a woman was concerned, and he had transmitted these
qualities to Eric and Emilius. My sympathy for Kristel was deepened by
what I was gazing on; more than ever was I convinced of the justice of
the revenge he took upon the brother who had betrayed him.

These were the thoughts which passed through my mind while Emilius and
Martin Hartog's daughter stood conversing. Presently they strolled
towards me, and I shrank back in fear of being discovered. This
involuntary action on my part, being an accentuation of the meanness
of which I was guilty, confirmed me in the resolution at which I had
arrived to say nothing of my discovery to Doctor Louis.

They passed me in silence, walking in the direction of my house. I did
not follow them, and did not return home for another hour.



                            CHAPTER XXIV.


How shall I describe the occurrences of this day, the most memorable
and eventful in my life? A new life is opening for me. I am
overwhelmed at the happiness which is within my grasp. As I walked
home from Doctor Louis's house through the darkness a spirit walked by
my side, illumining the gloom and filling my heart with gladness.

At one o'clock I presented myself at Doctor Louis's house. He met me
at the door, expecting me, and asked me to come with him to a little
room he uses as a study. I followed him in silence. His face was
grave, and but for its kindly expression I should have feared it was
his intention to revoke the permission he had given me to speak to his
daughter on this day of the deep, the inextinguishable love I bear for
her. He motioned me to a chair, and I seated myself and waited for him
to speak.

"This hour," he said, "is to me most solemn."

"And to me, sir," I responded.

"It should be," he said, "to you perhaps, more than to me; but we are
inclined ever to take the selfish view. I have been awake very nearly
the whole of the night, and so has my wife. Our conversation--well,
you can guess the object of it."

"Lauretta, sir."

"Yes, Lauretta, our only child, whom you are about to take from us." I
trembled with joy, his words betokening a certainty that Lauretta
loved me, an assurance I had yet to receive from her own sweet lips.
"My wife and I," he continued, "have been living over again the life
of our dear one, and the perfect happiness we have drawn from her. I
am not ashamed to say that we have committed some weaknesses during
these last few hours, weaknesses springing from our affection for our
Home Rose. In the future some such experience may be yours, and then
you will know--which now is hidden from you--what parents feel who are
asked to give their one ewe lamb into the care of a stranger." I
started. "There is no reason for alarm, Gabriel," he said, "because I
have used a true word. Until a few short months ago you were really a
stranger to us."

"That has not been against me, sir," I said, "and is not, I trust."

"There is no such thought in my mind, Gabriel. There is nothing
against you except--except," he repeated, with a little pitiful smile,
"that you are about to take from us our most precious possession.
Until to-day our dear child was wholly and solely ours; and not only
herself, but her past was ours, her past, which has been to us a
garden of joy. Henceforth her heart will be divided, and you will have
the larger share. That is a great deal to think of, and we have
thought of it, my wife and I, and talked of it nearly all the night.
Certain treasures," he said, and again the pitiful smile came on his
lips, "which in the eyes of other men and women are valueless, still
are ours." He opened a drawer, and gazed with loving eyes upon its
contents. "Such as a little pair of shoes, a flower or two, a lock of
her bright hair."

"May I see it, sir?" I asked, profoundly touched by the loving accents
of his voice.

"Surely," he replied, and he passed over to me a lock of golden hair,
which I pressed to my lips. "The little head was once covered with
these golden curls, and to us, her parents, they were as holy as they
would have been on the head of an angel. She was all that to us,
Gabriel. It is within the scope of human love to lift one's thoughts
to heaven and God; it is within its scope to make one truly fit for
the life to come. All things are not of the world worldly; it is a
grievous error to think so, and only sceptics can so believe. In the
kiss of baby lips, in the touch of little hands, in the myriad sweet
ways of childhood, lie the breath of a pure religion which God
receives because of its power to sanctify the lowest as well as the
highest of human lives. It is good to think of that, and to feel that,
in the holiest forms of humanity, the poor stand as high as the rich."
He paused a while before he continued. "Gabriel, it is an idle phrase
for a father holding the position towards you which I do at the
present moment, to say he has no fears for the happiness of his only
child."

"If you have any, sir," I said, "question me, and let me endeavour to
set your mind at ease. In one respect I can do so with solemn
earnestness. If it be my happy lot to win your daughter, her welfare,
her honour, her peace of mind, shall be the care of my life. These
assured, happiness should follow. I love Lauretta with a pure heart;
no other woman has ever possessed my love; to no other woman have I
been drawn; nor is it possible that I could be. She is to me part of
my spiritual life. I am not as other men, in the ordinary acceptation.
In my childhood's life there was but little joy, and the common
pleasures of childhood were not mine. From almost my earliest
remembrances there was but little light in my parents' house, and in
looking back upon it I can scarcely call it a home. The fault was not
mine, as you will admit. May I claim some small merit--not of my own
purposed earning, but because it was in me, for which I may have
reason to be grateful--from the fact that the circumstances of my
early life did not corrupt me, did not drive me to a searching for low
pleasures, and did not debase me? It seemed to me, sir, that I was
ever seeking for something in the heights and not in the depths. Books
and study were my comforters, and I derived real pleasures from them.
They served to satisfy a want, and, although I contracted a melancholy
mood, I was not unhappy. I know that this mood is in me, but when I
think of Lauretta it is dispelled. I seem to hear the singing of
birds, to see flowers around me, to bathe in sunshine. Perhaps it
springs from the fervour of my love for her; but a kind of belief is
mine that I have been drawn hither to her, that my way of life was
measured to her heart. What more can I say, sir?"

"You have said much," said Doctor Louis, "to comfort and assure me,
and have, without being asked, answered questions which were in my
mind. Do you remember a conversation you had with my wife in the first
days of your convalescence, commenced I think by you in saying that
the happiest dream of your life was drawing to a close?"

"I was thinking of Lauretta. Even in those early days I felt that I
loved her."

"I understand that now," said Doctor Louis. "My wife replied that life
must not be dreamt away, that it has duties."

"I remember the conversation well, sir."

"My wife said that one's ease and pleasures are rewards, only
enjoyable when they have been worthily earned; and when you asked,
'Earned in what way?' she answered, 'In accomplishing one's work in
the world.'"

"Yes, sir, her words come back to me."

"There is something more," said Doctor Louis, with sad sweetness,
"which I should not recall did I not hold duty before me as my chief
beacon. Inclination and selfish desire must often be sacrificed for
it. You will understand how sadly significant this is to me when I
recall what followed. Though, to be sure," he added, in a slightly
gayer tone, "we could visit you and our daughter, wherever your abode
happened to be. Continuing your conversation with my wife, you said,
'How to discover what one's work really is, and where it should be
properly performed?' My wife answered, 'In one's native land.'"

"Those were the words we spoke to one another, sir."

"It was my wife who recalled them to me, and I wish you--in the event
of your hopes being realised--to bear them in mind. It would be
painful to me to see you lead an idle life, and it would be injurious
to you. This quiet village opens out no opportunities to you; it is
too narrow, too confined. I have found my place here as an active
worker, but I doubt if you would do so."

"There is time to think of it, sir."

"Plenty of time. And now, if you like, we will join my wife and
daughter."

"Have you said anything to Lauretta, sir?"

"No. I thought it best, and so did her mother, that her heart should
be left to speak for itself."

Lauretta's mother received me with tender, wistful solicitude, and I
observed nothing in Lauretta to denote that she had been prepared for
the declaration I had come to make. After lunch I proposed to Lauretta
to go out into the garden, and she turned to her mother and asked if
she would accompany us.

"No, my child," said the mother, "I have things in the house to attend
to."

So Lauretta and I went out alone.

It was a lovely day, and Lauretta had thrown a light lace scarf over
her head. She was in gay spirits, not boisterous, for she is ever
gentle, and she endeavoured to entertain me with innocent prattle, to
which I found it difficult to respond. In a little while this forced
itself upon her observation, and she asked me if I was not well.

"I am quite well, Lauretta," I replied.

"Then something has annoyed you," she said.

No, I answered, nothing had annoyed me.

"But there _is_ something," she said.

"Yes," I said, "there _is_ something."

"Tell me," she said.

We were standing by a rosebush, and I plucked one absently, and
absently plucked the leaves. She looked at me in silence for a moment
or two and said, "This is the first time I have ever seen you destroy
a flower."

"I was not thinking of it," I said; and was about to throw it away
when an impulse, born purely of love for what was graceful and sweet,
restrained me, and I put it into my pocket. In this the most
impressive epoch in my life no sentiment but that of tenderness could
hold a place in my heart and mind.

"Well?" she said, still not suspecting. "Tell me."

"Lauretta," I said, taking her hand, which she left willingly in mine,
"will you listen to the story of my life?"

"You have already told me much," she said.

"You have heard only a part," I said, and I gently urged her to a
seat. "I wish you to know all; I wish you to know me as I really am."

"I know you as you really are," she said, and then a faint colour came
to her cheeks, and she trembled slightly, seeing a new meaning in my
earnest glances.

"May I tell you? May I sit beside you?"

"Yes," she said, and gently withdrew her hand from mine.

I told her all, withholding only from her those mysterious promptings
of my lonely hours which I knew would distress her, and to which I was
convinced, with her as my companion through life, there would be for
ever an end. Of even those promptings I gave her some insight, but so
toned down--for her sweet sake, not for mine--as to excite only her
sympathy. Apart from this, I was at sincere pains that she should see
my life as it had really been, a life stripped of the joys of
childhood; a life stripped of the light of home; a life dependent upon
itself for comfort and support. Then, unconsciously, and out of the
suffering of my soul--for as I spoke it seemed to me that a cruel
wrong had been perpetrated upon me in the past--I contrasted the young
life I had been condemned to live with that of a child who was blessed
with parents whose hearts were animated by a love the evidences of
which would endure all through his after life as a sweet and purifying
influence. The tears ran down her cheeks as I dwelt upon this part of
my story. Then I spoke of the happy chance which had conducted me to
her home, and of the happiness I had experienced in my association
with her and hers.

"Whatever fate may be mine," I said, "I shall never reflect upon these
experiences, I shall never think of your dear parents, without
gratitude and affection. Lauretta, it is with their permission I am
here now by your side. It is with their permission that I am opening
my heart to you. They know we are here together. I love you, Lauretta,
and if you will bless me with your love, and place your hand in mine,
all my life shall be devoted to your happiness. You can bring a
blessing into my days; I will strive to bring a blessing into yours."

My arm stole round her waist; her head drooped to my shoulder, so that
her face was hidden from my ardent gaze; the hand I clasped was not
withdrawn.

"Lauretta," I whispered, "say 'I love you, Gabriel.'"

"I love you, Gabriel," she whispered; and heaven itself opened out to
me.

Half an hour later we went in to her mother, and the noble woman held
out her arms to her daughter. As the maiden nestled to her breast, she
said, holding out a hand to me, which I reverently kissed, "God in His
mercy keep guard over you! His blessing be upon you both!"

                           *   *   *   *   *

These are my last written words in the record I have kept. From this
day I commence a new life.



                           BOOK THE SECOND.

IN WHICH THE SECRET OF THE INHERITANCE TRANSMITTED TO GABRIEL CAREW IS
REVEALED IN A SERIES OF LETTERS FROM ABRAHAM SANDIVAL, ESQ., ENGLAND,
TO HIS FRIEND, MAXIMILIAN GALLENGA, ESQ., CONTRA COSTA CO.,
CALIFORNIA.



                                  I.


My Dear Max,--For many months past you have complained that I have
been extremely reticent upon domestic matters, and that I have said
little or nothing concerning my son Reginald, who, since you quitted
the centres of European civilisation to bury yourself in a sparsely
populated Paradise, has grown from childhood to manhood. A ripe
manhood, my dear Max, such as I, his father, approve of, and to the
future development of which, now that a grave and strange crisis in
his life has come to a happy ending, I look forward with loving
interest. It is, I know, your affection for Reginald that causes you
to be anxious for news of him. Well do I remember when you informed me
of your fixed resolution to seek not only new scenes but new modes of
life, how earnestly you strove to prevail upon me to allow him to
accompany you.

"He is young and plastic," you said, "and I can train him to
happiness. The fewer the wants, the more contented the lot of man."

You wished to educate Reginald according to the primitive views to
which you had become so strongly wedded, and you did your best to
convert me to them, saying, I remember, that I should doubtless suffer
in parting with Reginald, but that it was a father's duty to make
sacrifices for his children. You did not succeed. My belief was, and
is, that man is born to progress, and that to go back into
primitiveness, to commence again, as it were, the history of the world
and mankind, as though we had been living in error through all the
centuries, is a folly. I did not apply this criticism to you; I
regarded your new departure not as a folly, but as a mistake. I doubt
even now whether it has made you happier than you were, and I fancy
I detect here and there in your letters a touch of sadness and
regret--of which perhaps you are unconscious--that you should have cut
yourself away from the busy life of multitudes of people. However, it
is not my purpose now to enlarge upon this theme. The history I am
about to relate is personal to myself and to Reginald, whose destiny
it has been to come into close contact with a family, the head of
which, Gabriel Carew, affords a psychological study as strange
probably as was ever presented to the judgment of mankind.

There are various reasons for my undertaking a task which will occupy
a great deal of time and entail considerable labour. The labour will
be interesting to me, and its products no less interesting to you, who
were always fond of the mystical. I have leisure to apply myself to
it. Reginald is not at present with me; he has left me for a few weeks
upon a mission of sunshine. This will sound enigmatical to you, but
you must content yourself with the gradual and intelligible unfolding
of the wonderful story I am about to narrate. Like a skilful narrator
I shall not weaken the interest by giving information and presenting
pictures to you in the wrong places. The history is one which it is my
opinion should not be lost to the world; its phases are so remarkable
that it will open up a field of inquiry which may not be without
profitable results to those who study psychological mysteries. A few
years hence I should not be able to recall events in their logical
order; I therefore do so while I possess the power and while my memory
is clear with respect to them.

You will soon discover that neither I nor Reginald is the principal
character in this drama of life. That position is occupied by Mr.
Gabriel Carew, the owner of an estate in the county of Kent, known as
Rosemullion.

My labours will be thrown away unless you are prepared to read what I
shall write with unquestioning faith. I shall set down nothing but the
truth, and you must accept it without a thought of casting doubt upon
it. That you will wonder and be amazed is certain; it would, indeed,
be strange otherwise; for in all your varied experiences (you led a
busy and eventful life before you left us) you met with none so
singular and weird as the events which I am about to bring to your
knowledge. You must accept also--as the best and most suitable form
through which you will be made familiar not only with the personality
of Gabriel Carew, but with the mysterious incidents of his life--the
methods I shall adopt in the unfolding of my narrative. They are such
as are frequently adopted with success by writers of fiction, and as
my material is fact, I am justified in pressing it into my service. I
am aware that objection may be taken to it on the ground that I shall
be presenting you with conversations between persons of which I was
not a witness, but I do not see in what other way I could offer you an
intelligent and intelligible account of the circumstances of the
story. All that I can therefore do is to promise that I will keep a
strict curb upon my imagination and will not allow it to encroach upon
the domains of truth. With this necessary prelude I devote myself to
my task.



                                 II.


Before, however, myself commencing the work there is something
essential for you to do. Accompanying my own manuscript is a packet,
carefully sealed and secured, on the outer sheet of which is written,
"Not to be disturbed or opened until instructions to do so are given
by Abraham Sandival to his friend Maximilian Gallenofa." The
precaution is sufficient to whet any man's curiosity, but is not taken
to that end. It is simply in pursuance of the plan I have designed, by
which you will become possessed of all the details and particulars for
the proper understanding of what I shall impart to you. The packet, my
dear Max, is neither more nor less than a life record made by Gabriel
Carew himself up to within a few months of his marriage, which took
place twenty years ago in the village of Nerac. The lady Gabriel Carew
married was the daughter of Doctor Louis, a gentleman of rare
acquirements, and distinguished both for his learning and benevolence.
There is no evidence in the record as to whether its recital was
spread over a number of years, or was begun and finished within a few
months; but that matters little. It bears the impress of absolute
truth and candour, and apart from its startling revelations you will
recognise in it a picturesqueness of description hardly to be expected
from one who had not made a study of literature. Its perusal will
perplexedly stir your mind, and in the feelings it will excite towards
Gabriel Carew there will most likely be an element of pity, the reason
for which you will find it difficult to explain. "Season your
admiration for a while;" before I am at the end of my task the riddle
will be solved.

As I pen these words I can realise your perplexity during your perusal
of the record as to the manner in which my son Reginald came be
associated with so strange a man as the writer. But this is a world of
mystery, and we can never hope to find a key to its spiritual
workings. With respect to this particular mystery nothing shall be
hidden from you. You will learn how I came to be mixed up in it; you
will learn how vitally interwoven it threatened to be in Reginald's
life; you will learn how Gabriel Carew's manuscript fell into my
hands; and the mystery of his life will be revealed to you.

Now, my dear Max, you can unfasten the packet, and read the record.



                                 III.


I assume that you are now familiar with the story of Gabriel Carew's
life up to the point, or within a few months, of his marriage with
Lauretta, and that you have formed some opinion of the different
persons with whom he came in contact in Nerac. Outside Nerac there was
only one person who can be said to have been interested in his fate;
this was his mother's nurse, Mrs. Fortress, and you must be deeply
impressed by the part she played in the youthful life of Gabriel
Carew. Of her I shall have to speak in due course.

I transport you in fancy to Nerac, my dear Max, where I have been not
very long ago, and where I conversed with old people who to this day
remember Gabriel Carew and his sweet wife Lauretta, whom he brought
with him to England some little time after their marriage. It is not
likely that the incidents in connection with Gabriel Carew and his
wife will be forgotten during this generation or the next in that
loveliest of villages.

When you laid aside Carew's manuscript he had received the sanction of
Lauretta's mother to his engagement with the sweet maid, and the good
woman had given her children her blessing. Thereafter Gabriel Carew
wrote: "These are my last written words in the record I have kept.
From this day I commence a new life." He kept his word with respect to
his resolve not to add another word to the record. He sealed it up and
deposited it in his desk; and it is my belief that from that day he
never read a line of its contents.

We are, then, my dear Max, in Nerac, you and I in spirit, in the
holiday time of the open courtship of Gabriel Carew and Lauretta.
Carew is occupying the house of which it was his intention to make
Lauretta the mistress, and there are residing in it, besides the
ordinary servants, Martin Hartog, the gardener, and his daughter, with
whom, from Carew's record, Emilius was supposed to be carrying on an
intrigue of a secret and discreditable nature. It is evident, from the
manner in which Carew referred to it, that he considered it
dishonourable. The name of this girl was Patricia.

There remain to be mentioned, as characters in the drama then being
played, Doctor Louis, Eric, and Father Daniel.

The crimes of the two ruffians who had attempted to enter Doctor
Louis's house remained for long fresh in the memories of the
villagers. They were both dead, one murdered, the other executed for a
deed of which only one person in Nerac had an uneasy sense of his
innocence--Father Daniel. The good priest, having received from the
unfortunate man a full account of his life from childhood, journeyed
shortly afterwards to the village in which he had been born and was
best known, for the purpose of making inquiries into its truth. He
found it verified in every particular, and he learnt, moreover, that
although the hunchback had been frequently in trouble, it was rather
from sheer wretchedness and poverty than from any natural brutality of
disposition that he had drifted into crime. It stood to his credit
that Father Daniel could trace to him no acts of cruel violence;
indeed, the priest succeeded in bringing to light two or three
circumstances in the hunchback's career which spoke well for his
humanity, one of them being that he was kind to his bedridden mother.
Father Daniel returned to Nerac much shaken by the reflection that in
this man's case justice had been in error. But if this were so, if the
hunchback were innocent, upon whom to fix the guilt? A sadness weighed
upon the good priest's heart as he went about his daily duties, and
gazed upon his flock with an awful suspicion in his mind that there
was a murderer among them, for whose crime an innocent man had been
executed.

Gabriel Carew was happy. The gloom of his early life, which threatened
to cast dark shadows over all his days, seemed banished for ever. He
was liked and respected in the village in which he had found his
happiness; his charities caused men and women to hold him in something
like affectionate regard; he was Father Daniel's friend, and no case
of suffering or poverty was mentioned to him which he was not ready to
relieve; in Doctor Louis's home he held an honoured place; and he was
loved by a good and pure woman, who had consented to link her fate
with his. Surely in this prospect there was nothing that could be
productive of aught but good.

The sweetness and harmony of the time, however, were soon to be
disturbed. After a few weeks of happiness, Gabriel Carew began to be
troubled. In his heart he had no love for the twin brothers, Eric and
Emilius; he believed them to be light-minded and unscrupulous, nay,
more, he believed them to be treacherous in their dealings with both
men and women. These evil qualities, he had decided with himself, they
had inherited from their father, Silvain, whose conduct towards his
unhappy brother Kristel had excited Gabriel Carew's strong abhorrence.
As is shown in the comments he makes in his record, all his sympathy
was with Kristel, and he had contracted a passionate antipathy against
Silvain, whom he believed to be guilty of the blackest treachery in
his dealings with Avicia. This antipathy he now transferred to
Silvain's sons, Eric and Emilius, and they needed to be angels, not
men, to overcome it.

Not that they tried to win Carew's good opinion. Although his feelings
for them were not openly expressed, they made themselves felt in the
consciousness of these twin brothers, who instinctively recognised
that Gabriel Carew was their enemy. Therefore they held off from him,
and repaid him quietly in kind. But this was a matter solely and
entirely between themselves and known only to themselves. The three
men knew what deep pain and grief it would cause not only Doctor Louis
and his wife, but the gentle Lauretta, to learn that they were in
enmity with each other, and one and all were animated by the same
desire to keep this antagonism from the knowledge of the family. This
was, indeed, a tacit understanding between them, and it was so
thoroughly carried out that no member of Doctor Louis's family
suspected it; and neither was it suspected in the village. To all
outward appearance Gabriel Carew and Eric and Emilius were friends.

It was not the brothers but Carew who, in the first instance, was to
blame. He was the originator and the creator of the trouble, for it is
scarcely to be doubted that had he held out the hand of a frank
friendship to them, they would have accepted it, even though their
acceptance needed some sacrifice on their parts. The reason for this
qualification will be apparent to you later on in the story, and you
will then also understand why I do not reveal certain circumstances
respecting the affection of Eric and Emilius for Martin Hartog's
daughter, Patricia, and for the female members of the family of Doctor
Louis. It would be anticipating events. I am relating the story in the
order in which it progressed, and, so far as my knowledge of it goes,
according to the sequence of time.

Certainly the dominant cause of Gabriel Carew's hatred for the
brothers sprang from his jealousy of them with respect to Lauretta.
They and she had been friends from childhood, and they were regarded
by Doctor Louis and his wife as members of their family. This in
itself was sufficient to inflame so exacting a lover as Carew. He
interpreted every innocent little familiarity to their disadvantage,
and magnified trifles inordinately. They saw his sufferings and were,
perhaps, somewhat scornful of them. He had already shown them how deep
was his hatred of them, and they not unnaturally resented it. After
all, he was a stranger in Nerac, a come-by-chance visitor, who had
usurped the place which might have been occupied by one of them had
the winds been fair. Instead of being overbearing and arrogant he
should have been gracious and conciliating. It was undoubtedly his
duty to be courteous and mannerly from the first day of their
acquaintance; instead of which he had, before he saw them, contracted
a dislike for them which he had allowed to swell to monstrous and
unjustifiable proportions.

Gabriel Carew, however, justified himself to himself, and it may be
at once conceded that he had grounds for his feelings which were to
him--and would likely have been to some other men--sufficient. These
may now be set forth.

When a lover's suspicious and jealous nature is aroused it does not
from that moment sleep. There is no rest, no repose for it. If it
require opportunities for confirmation or for the infliction of
self-suffering, it is never difficult to find them. Imagination steps
in and supplies the place of fact. Every hour is a torture; every
innocent look and smile is brooded over in secret. A most prolific,
unreasonable, and cruel breeder of shadows is jealousy, and the evil
of it is that it breeds in secret.

Gabriel Carew set himself to watch, and from the keen observance of a
nature so thorough and intense as his nothing could escape. He was an
unseen witness of other interviews between Patricia Hartog and
Emilius; and not only of interviews between her and Emilius but
between her and Eric. He formed his conclusions. The brothers were
playing false to each other, and the girl was playing false with both.
This was of little account; he had no more than a passing interest in
Patricia, and although at one time he had some kind of intention of
informing Martin Hartog of these secret interviews, and placing the
father on his guard--for the gardener seemed to be quite unaware that
an intrigue was going on--he relinquished the intention, saying that
it was no affair of his. But it confirmed the impressions he had
formed of the character of Eric and Emilius, and it strengthened him
in his determination to allow no intercourse between them and the
woman he loved.

An additional torture was in store for him, and it fell upon him like
a thunderbolt. One day he saw Emilius and Lauretta walking in the
woods, talking earnestly and confidentially together. His blood
boiled; his heart beat so violently that he could scarcely distinguish
surrounding objects. So violent was his agitation that it was many
minutes before he recovered himself, and then Lauretta and Emilius had
passed out of sight. He went home in a wild fury of despair.

He had not been near enough to hear one word of the conversation, but
their attitude was to him confirmation of his jealous suspicion that
the young man was endeavouring to supplant him in Lauretta's
affections. In the evening he saw Lauretta in her home, and she
noticed a change in him.

"Are you ill, Gabriel?" she asked.

"No," he replied, "I am quite well. What should make me otherwise?"

The bitterness in his voice surprised her, and she insisted that he
should seek repose. "To get me out of the way," he thought; and then,
gazing into her solicitous and innocent eyes, he mutely reproached
himself for doubting her. No, it was not she who was to blame; she was
still his, she was still true to him; but how easy was it for a friend
so close to her as Emilius to instil into her trustful heart evil
reports against himself! "That is the first step," he thought. "What
must follow is simple. These men, these villains, are capable of any
treachery. Honour is a stranger to their scheming natures. How shall I
act? To meet them openly, to accuse them openly, may be my ruin.
They are too firmly fixed in the affections of Doctor Louis and his
wife--they are too firmly fixed in the affections of even Lauretta
herself--for me to hope to expose them upon evidence so slender. Not
slender to me, but to them. These treacherous brothers are conspiring
secretly against me. I will meet them with their own weapons. Secrecy
for secrecy. I will wait and watch till I have the strongest proof
against them, and then I will expose their true characters to Doctor
Louis and Lauretta."

Having thus resolved, he was not the man to swerve from the plan he
laid down. The nightly vigils he had kept in his young life served him
now, and it seemed as if he could do without sleep. The stealthy
meetings between Patricia and the brothers continued, and before long
he saw Eric and Lauretta in the woods together. In his espionage he
was always careful not to approach near enough to bring discovery upon
himself.

In an indirect manner, as though it was a matter which he deemed of
slight importance, he questioned Lauretta as to her walks in the woods
with Eric and Emilius.

"Yes," she said artlessly, "we sometimes meet there."

"By accident?" asked Gabriel Carew.

"Not always by accident," replied Lauretta. "Remember, Gabriel, Eric
and Emilius are as my brothers, and if they have a secret----" And
then she blushed, grew confused, and paused.

These signs were poisoned food indeed to Carew, but he did not betray
himself.

"Have they a secret?" he asked, with assumed carelessness.

"It was wrong of me to speak," said Lauretta, "after my promise to say
nothing to a single soul in the village."

"And most especially," said Carew, hitting the mark, "to me."

She grew more confused. "Do not press me, Gabriel."

"Only," he continued, with slight persistence, "that it must be a
heart secret."

She was silent, and he dropped the subject.

From the interchange of these few words he extracted the most
exquisite torture. There was, then, between Lauretta and the brothers
a secret of the heart, known only to themselves, to be revealed to
none, and to him, Gabriel Carew, to whom the young girl was affianced,
least of all. It must be well understood, in this explanation of what
was occurring in the lives of these young people at that momentous
period, that Gabriel Carew never once suspected that Lauretta was
false to him. His great fear was that Eric and Emilius were working
warily against him, and were cunningly fabricating some kind of
evidence in his disfavour which would rob him of Lauretta's love. They
were conspiring to this end, to the destruction of his happiness, and
they were waiting for the hour to strike the fatal blow. Well, it was
for him to strike first. His love for Lauretta was so all-absorbing
that all other considerations--however serious the direct or indirect
consequences of them--sank into utter insignificance by the side of
it. He did not allow it to weigh against Lauretta that she appeared to
be in collusion with Eric and Emilius, and to be favouring their
schemes. Her nature was so guileless and unsuspecting that she could
be easily led and deceived by friends in whom she placed a trust. It
was this that strengthened Carew in his resolve not to rudely make the
attempt to open her eyes to the perfidy of Eric and Emilius. She would
have been incredulous, and the arguments he should use against his
enemies might be turned against himself. Therefore he adhered to the
line of action he had marked out. He waited, and watched, and
suffered. Meanwhile, the day appointed for his union with Lauretta was
approaching.



                                 IV.


Within a fortnight of that day Gabriel Carew's passions were roused to
an almost uncontrollable pitch.

It was evening, and he saw Eric and Emilius in the woods. They were
conversing with more than ordinary animation, and appeared to be
discussing some question upon which they did not agree. Carew saw
signs which he could not interpret--appeals, implorings, evidences of
strong feeling on one side and of humbleness on the other, despair
from one, sorrow from the other; and then suddenly a phase which
startled the watcher and filled him with a savage joy. Eric, in a
paroxysm, laid hands furiously upon his brother, and it seemed for a
moment as if a violent struggle were about to take place.

It was to the restraint and moderation of Emilius that this
unbrotherly conflict was avoided. He did not meet violence with
violence; after a pause he gently lifted Eric's hands from his
shoulders, and with a sad look turned away, Eric gazing at his
retreating figure in a kind of bewilderment. Presently Emilius was
gone, and only Eric remained.

He was not long alone. From an opposite direction to that taken by
Emilius the watcher saw approaching the form of the woman he loved,
and to whom he was shortly to be wed. That her coming was not
accidental, but in fulfilment of a promise was clear to Gabriel Carew.
Eric expected her, and welcomed her without surprise. Then the two
began to converse.

Carew's heart beat tumultuously; he would have given worlds to hear
what was being said, but he was at too great a distance for a word to
reach his ears. For a time Eric was the principal speaker, Lauretta,
for the most part, listening, and uttering now and then merely a word
or two. In her quiet way she appeared to be as deeply agitated as the
young man who was addressing her in an attitude of despairing appeal.
Again and again it seemed as if he had finished what he had to say,
and again and again he resumed, without abatement of the excitement
under which he was labouring. At length he ceased, and then Lauretta
became the principal actor in the scene. She spoke long and forcibly,
but always with that gentleness of manner which was one of her
sweetest characteristics. In her turn she seemed to be appealing to
the young man, and to be endeavouring to impress upon him a sad and
bitter truth which he was unwilling, and not in the mood, to
recognise. For a long time she was unsuccessful; the young man walked
impatiently a few steps from her, then returned, contrite and humble,
but still with all the signs of great suffering upon him. At length
her words had upon him the effect she desired; he wavered, he held out
his hands helplessly, and presently covered his face with them and
sank to the ground. Then, after a silence, during which Lauretta gazed
compassionately upon his convulsed form, she stooped and placed her
hand upon his shoulder. He lifted his eyes, from which the tears were
flowing, and raised himself from the earth. He stood before her with
bowed head, and she continued to speak. The pitiful sweetness of her
face almost drove Carew mad; it could not be mistaken that her heart
was beating with sympathy for Eric's sufferings. A few minutes more
passed, and then it seemed as if she had prevailed. Eric accepted the
hand she held out to him, and pressed his lips upon it. Had he at that
moment been within Gabriel Carew's reach, it would have fared ill with
both these men, but Heaven alone knows whether it would have averted
what was to follow before the setting of another sun, to the
consternation and grief of the entire village. After pressing his lips
to Lauretta's hand, the pair separated, each going a different way,
and Gabriel Carew ground his teeth as he observed that there were
tears in Lauretta's eyes as well as in Eric's. A darkness fell upon
him as he walked homewards.



                                  V.


The following morning Nerac and the neighbourhood around were agitated
by news of a tragedy more thrilling and terrible than that in which
the hunchback and his companion in crime were concerned. In attendance
upon this tragedy, and preceding its discovery, was a circumstance
stirring enough in its way in the usually quiet life of the simple
villagers, but which, in the light of the mysterious tragedy, would
have paled into insignificance had it not been that it appeared to
have a direct bearing upon it. Martin Hartog's daughter, Patricia, had
fled from her home, and was nowhere to be discovered.

This flight was made known to the villagers early in the morning by
the appearance among them of Martin Hartog, demanding in which house
his daughter had taken refuge. The man was distracted; his wild words
and actions excited great alarm, and when he found that he could
obtain no satisfaction from them, and that every man and woman in
Nerac professed ignorance of his daughter's movements, he called down
heaven's vengeance upon the man who had betrayed her, and left them to
search the woods for Patricia.

The words he had uttered in his imprecations when he called upon a
higher power for vengeance on a villain opened the villagers' eyes.
Patricia had been betrayed. By whom? Who was the monster who had
worked this evil?

While they were talking excitedly together they saw Gabriel Carew
hurrying to the house of Father Daniel. He was admitted, and in the
course of a few minutes emerged from it in the company of the good
priest, whose troubled face denoted that he had heard the sad news of
Patricia's flight from her father's home. The villagers held aloof
from Father Daniel and Gabriel Carew, seeing that they were in earnest
converse. Carew was imparting to the priest his suspicions of Eric and
Emilius in connection with this event; he did not mention Lauretta's
name, but related how on several occasions he had been an accidental
witness of meetings between Patricia and one or other of the brothers.

"It was not for me to place a construction upon these meetings," said
Carew, "nor did it appear to me that I was called upon to mention it
to any one. It would have been natural for me to suppose that Martin
Hartog was fully acquainted with his daughter's movements, and that,
being of an independent nature, he would have resented any
interference from me. He is Patricia's father, and it was believed by
all that he guarded her well. Had he been my equal I might have
incidentally asked whether there was anything serious between his
daughter and these brothers, but I am his master, and therefore was
precluded from inviting a confidence which can only exist between men
occupying the same social condition. There is, besides, another reason
for my silence which, if you care to hear, I will impart to you."

"Nothing should be concealed from me," said Father Daniel.

"Although," said Gabriel Carew, "I have been a resident here now for
some time, I felt, and feel, that a larger knowledge of me is
necessary to give due and just weight to the unfavourable opinion I
have formed of two men with whom you have been acquainted from
childhood, and who hold a place in your heart of which they are
utterly unworthy. Not alone in your heart, but in the hearts of my
dearest friends, Doctor Louis and his family.

"You refer to Eric and Emilius," said the priest.

"Yes, I refer to them."

"What you have already said concerning them has deeply pained me. I do
not share your suspicions. Their meetings with Hartog's daughter were,
I am convinced, innocent. They are incapable of an act of baseness;
they are of noble natures, and it is impossible that they should ever
have harboured a thought of treachery to a young maiden."

"I am more than justified," said Gabriel Carew, "by the expression of
your opinion, in the course I took. You would have listened with
impatience to me, and what I should have said would have recoiled on
myself. Yet now I regret that I did not interfere; this calamity might
have been avoided, and a woman's honour saved. Let us seek Martin
Hartog; he may be in possession of information to guide us."

From the villagers they learnt that Hartog had gone to the woods, and
they were about to proceed in that direction when another, who had
just arrived, informed them that he had seen Hartog going to Gabriel
Carew's house. Thither they proceeded, and found Hartog in his
cottage. He was on his knees, when they entered, before a box in which
his daughter kept her clothes. This he had forced open, and was
searching. He looked wildly at Father Daniel and Carew, and
immediately resumed his task, throwing the girl's clothes upon the
floor after examining the pockets. In his haste and agitation he did
not observe a portrait which he had cast aside, Carew picked it up and
handed it to Father Daniel. It was the portrait of Emilius.

"Does this look like innocence?" inquired Carew. "Who is the more
likely to be right in our estimate of these brothers, you or I?"

Father Daniel, overwhelmed by the evidence, did not reply. By this
time Martin Hartog had found a letter which he was eagerly perusing.

"This is the villain," he cried. "If there is justice in heaven he has
met with his deserts. If he still lives he shall die by my hands!"

"Hush, hush!" murmured Father Daniel. "Vengeance is not yours to deal
out. Pray for comfort--pray for mercy."

"Pray for mercy!" cried Hartog with a bitter laugh. "I pray for
vengeance! If the monster be not already smitten, Lord, give him into
my hands! I will tear him limb from limb! But who, who is he? The
cunning villain has not even signed his name!"

Father Daniel took the letter from his unresisting hand, and as his
eyes fell upon the writing he started and trembled.

"Emilius's?" asked Gabriel Carew.

"Alas!" sighed the priest.

It was indeed the writing of Emilius. Martin Hartog had heard Carew's
inquiry and the priest's reply.

"What!" he cried. "That viper!" And without another word he rushed
from the cottage. Carew and the priest hastily followed him, but he
outstripped them, and was soon out of sight.

"There will be a deed of violence done," said Father Daniel, "if the
men meet. I must go immediately to the house of these unhappy brothers
and warn them."

Carew accompanied him, but when they arrived at the house they were
informed that nothing had been seen of Eric and Emilius since the
previous night. Neither of them had been home nor slept in his bed.
This seemed to complicate the mystery in Father Daniel's eyes,
although it was no mystery to Carew, who was convinced that where
Patricia was there would Emilius be found. Father Daniel's grief and
horror were clearly depicted. He looked upon the inhabitants of Nerac
as one family, and he regarded the dishonour of Martin Hartog's
daughter as dishonour to all. Carew, being anxious to see Lauretta,
left him to his inquiries. Dr. Louis and his family were already
acquainted with the agitating news.

"Dark clouds hang over this once happy village," said Doctor Louis to
Carew.

He was greatly shocked, but he had no hesitation in declaring that,
although circumstances looked black against the twin brothers, his
faith in them was undisturbed. Lauretta shared his belief, and
Lauretta's mother also. Gabriel Carew did not combat with them; he
held quietly to his views, convinced that in a short time they would
think as he did. Lauretta was very pale, and out of consideration for
her Gabriel Carew endeavoured to avoid the all-engrossing subject.
That, however, was impossible. Nothing else could be thought or spoken
of. Again and again it was indirectly referred to. Once Carew remarked
to Lauretta, "You said that Eric and Emilius had a secret, and you
gave me to understand that you were not ignorant of it. Has it any
connection with what has occurred?"

"I must not answer you, Gabriel," she replied; "when we see Emilius
again all will be explained."

Little did she suspect the awful import of those simple words. In
Carew's mind the remembrance of the story of Kristel and Silvain was
very vivid.

"Were Eric and Emilius true friends?" he asked.

Lauretta looked at him piteously; her lips quivered. "They are
brothers," she said.

"You trust me, Lauretta?" he said.

"Indeed I do," she replied. "Thoroughly."

"You love me, Lauretta?"

"With my whole heart, Gabriel."

She gazed at him in tender surprise; for weeks past he had not been so
happy. The trouble by which he had been haunted took flight.

"And yet," he could not help saying, "you have a secret, and you keep
it from me!"

His voice was almost gay; there was no touch of reproach in it.

"The secret is not mine, Gabriel," she said, and she allowed him to
pass his arm around her; her head sank upon his breast. "When you know
all, you will approve," she murmured. "As I trust you, so must you
trust me."

Their lips met; perfect confidence and faith were established between
them, although on Lauretta's side there had been no shadow on the love
she gave him.

It was late in the afternoon when Carew was informed that Father
Daniel wished to speak to him privately. He kissed Lauretta and went
out to the priest, in whose face he saw a new horror.

"I should be the first to tell them," said Father Daniel in a husky
voice, "but I am not yet strong enough. They will learn soon enough
without me. It is known only to a few."

"What is known?" asked Carew. "Is Emilius found?"

"No," replied the priest, "but Eric is. I would not have him removed
until the magistrate, who is absent and has been sent for, arrives.
Come with me."

In a state of wonder Carew accompanied Father Daniel out of Doctor
Louis's house, and the priest led the way to the woods.

"Why in this direction?" inquired Gabriel Carew. "We have passed the
house in which the brothers live."

"Wait," said Father Daniel solemnly. "They live there no longer."

The sun was setting, and the light was quivering on the tops of the
distant trees. Father Daniel and Gabriel Carew plunged into the woods.
There were scouts on the outskirts, to whom the priest said, "Has the
magistrate arrived?"

"No, father," was the answer, "we expect him every moment."

Father Daniel nodded and passed on.

"What does all this mean?" asked Gabriel Carew.

And again the priest replied, "Wait."

From that moment until they arrived at the spot to which Father Daniel
led him, Carew was silent. What had passed between him and Lauretta
had so filled his soul with happiness that he bestowed but little
thought upon a vulgar intrigue between a peasant girl and men whom he
had long since condemned. They no longer troubled him; they had passed
for ever out of his life, and his heart was at rest. Father Daniel and
he walked some distance into the shadows of the forest and the night.
Before him he saw lights in the hands of two villagers who had
evidently been stationed there to keep guard.

"Father Daniel?" they cried in fearsome voices.

"Yes," he replied, "it is I."

He conducted Gabriel Carew to a spot, and pointed downwards with his
finger; and there, prone and still upon the fallen leaves, lay the
body of Eric stone dead, stabbed to the heart!

"Martin Hartog," said the priest, "is in custody on suspicion of this
ruthless murder."

"Why?" asked Gabriel Carew. "What evidence is there to incriminate
him?"

"When the body was first discovered," said the priest, "your gardener
was standing by its side. Upon being questioned his answer was, 'If
judgment has not fallen upon the monster, it has overtaken his
brother. The brood should be wiped off the face of the earth.' He
spoke no further word."



                                 VI.


Gabriel Carew was overwhelmed by the horror of this discovery. The
meeting between the brothers, of which he had been a secret witness on
the previous evening, and during which Eric had laid violent hands on
Emilius, recurred to him. He had not spoken of it, nor did he mention
it now. There was time enough. If Martin Hartog confessed his guilt
the matter was settled; if he did not, the criminal must be sought
elsewhere, and it would be his duty to supply evidence which would
tend to fix the crime upon Emilius. He did not believe Martin Hartog
to be guilty; he had already decided within himself that Emilius had
murdered Eric, and that the tragedy of Kristel and Silvain had been
repeated in the lives of Silvain's sons. There was a kind of
retribution in this which struck Gabriel Carew with singular force.
"Useless," he thought, "to fly from a fate which is preordained. When
he recovered from the horror which had fallen on him upon beholding
the body of Eric, he asked Father Daniel at what hour of the day the
unhappy man had been killed.

"That," said Father Daniel, "has yet to be determined. No doctor has
seen the body, but the presumption is that when Martin Hartog,
animated by his burning craving for vengeance, of which we were both a
witness, rushed from his cottage, he made his way to the woods, and
that he here unhappily met the brother of the man whom he believed to
be the betrayer of his daughter. What followed may be easily
imagined."

The arrival of the magistrate put a stop to the conversation. He
listened to what Father Daniel had to relate, and some portions of the
priest's explanations were corroborated by Gabriel Carew. The
magistrate then gave directions that the body of Eric should be
conveyed to the courthouse; and he and the priest and Carew walked
back to the village together.

"The village will become notorious," he remarked. "Is there an
epidemic of murder amongst us that this one should follow so closely
upon the heels of the other?" Then, after a pause, he asked Father
Daniel whether he believed Martin Hartog to be guilty.

"I believe no man to be guilty," said the priest, "until he is proved
so incontrovertibly. Human justice frequently errs."

"I bear in remembrance," said the magistrate, "that you would not
subscribe to the general belief in the hunchback's guilt."

"Nor do I now," said Father Daniel.

"And you," said the magistrate, turning to Gabriel Carew, "do you
believe Hartog to be guilty?"

"I do not," replied Carew.

"Do your suspicions point elsewhere?" asked the magistrate.

"This is not the time or place," said Carew, "for me to give
expression to any suspicion I may entertain. The first thing to be
settled is Hartog's complicity in this murder."

"True," said the magistrate.

"Father Daniel believes," continued Carew, "that Eric was murdered
to-day, within the last hour or two. That is not my belief."

"The doctors will decide that," said the magistrate. "If the deed was
not, in your opinion, perpetrated within the last few hours, when do
you suppose it was done?"

"Last night," Carew replied.

"Have you any distinct grounds for the belief?"

"None. You have asked me a question which I have answered. There is no
matter of absolute knowledge involved in it; if there were I should be
able to speak more definitely. Until the doctors pronounce there is
nothing more to be said. But I may say this: if Hartog is proved to be
innocent, I may have something to reveal in the interests of justice."

The magistrate nodded and said, "By the way, where is Emilius, and
what has he to say about it?"

"Neither Eric nor Emilius," replied Father Daniel, "slept at home last
night, and since yesterday evening Emilius has not been seen."

The magistrate looked grave. "Is it known where he is? He should be
instantly summoned."

"Nothing is known of him," said Father Daniel. "Inquiries have been
made, but nothing satisfactory has been elicited."

The magistrate glanced at Carew, and for a little while was silent.
Shortly after they reached the court-house the doctors presented their
report. In their opinion Eric had been dead at least fourteen or
fifteen hours, certainly for longer than twelve. This disposed of the
theory that he had been killed in the afternoon. Their belief was that
the crime was committed shortly after midnight. In that case Martin
Hartog must be incontestably innocent. He was able to account for
every hour of the previous day and night. He was out until near
midnight; he was accompanied home, and a friend sat up with him till
late, both keeping very quiet for fear of disturbing Patricia, who was
supposed to be asleep in her room, but who before that time had most
likely fled from her home. Moreover, it was proved that Martin Hartog
rose in the morning at a certain time, and that it was only then that
he became acquainted with the disappearance of his daughter. Father
Daniel and Gabriel Carew were present when the magistrate questioned
Hartog. The man seemed indifferent as to his fate, but he answered
quite clearly the questions put to him. He had not left his cottage
after going to bed on the previous night; he believed his daughter to
be in her room, and only this morning discovered his mistake. After
his interview with Father Daniel and Gabriel Carew he rushed from the
cottage in the hope of meeting with Emilius, whom he intended to kill;
he came upon the dead body of Eric in the woods, and his only regret
was that it was Eric and not Emilius.

"If the villain who has dishonoured me were here at this moment," said
Martin Hartog, "I would strangle him. No power should save him from my
just revenge!"

The magistrate ordered him to be set at liberty, and he wandered out
of the court-house a hopeless and despairing man. Then the magistrate
turned to Carew, and asked him, now that Hartog was proved to be
innocent, what he had to reveal that might throw light upon the crime.
Carew, after some hesitation, related what he had seen the night
before when Emilius and Eric were together in the forest.

"But," said the magistrate, "the brothers were known to be on the most
loving terms."

"So," said Carew, "were their father, Silvain, and his brother Kristel
until a woman stepped between them. Upon this matter, however, it is
not for me to speak. Perhaps Doctor Louis can enlighten you."

"I have heard something of the story of these hapless brothers," said
the magistrate, pondering, "but am not acquainted with all the
particulars. I will send for Doctor Louis."

Carew then asked that he should be allowed to go for Doctor Louis, his
object being to explain to the doctor, on their way to the magistrate,
how it was that reference had been made to the story of Silvain and
Kristel which he had heard from the doctor's lips. He also desired to
hint to Doctor Louis that Lauretta might be in possession of
information respecting Eric and Emilius which might be useful in
clearing up the mystery.

"You have acted right," said Doctor Louis sadly to Gabriel Carew; "at
all risks justice must be done. Ah! how the past comes back to me! And
is this to be the end of that fated family? I cannot believe that
Emilius can be guilty of a crime so horrible!"

His distress was so keen that Carew himself, now that he was freed
from the jealousy by which he had been tortured with respect to
Lauretta, hoped also that Emilius would be able to clear himself of
the charge hanging over him. But when they arrived at the magistrate's
court they were confronted by additional evidence which seemed to tell
heavily against the absent brother. A witness had come forward who
deposed that, being out on the previous night very late, and taking a
short cut through the woods to his cottage, he heard voices of two men
which he recognised as the voices of Emilius and Eric. They were
raised in anger, and one--the witness could not say which--cried out,

"Well, kill me, for I do not wish to live!"

Upon being asked why he did not interpose, his answer was that he did
not care to mix himself up with a desperate quarrel; and that as he
had a family he thought the best thing he could do was to hasten home
as quickly as possible. Having told all he knew he was dismissed, and
bade to hold himself in readiness to repeat his evidence on a future
occasion.

Then the magistrate heard what Doctor Louis had to say, and summed up
the whole matter thus:

"The reasonable presumption is, that the brothers quarrelled over some
love affair with a person at present unknown; for although Martin
Hartog's daughter has disappeared, there is nothing as yet to connect
her directly with the affair. Whether premeditatedly, or in a fit of
ungovernable passion, Emilius killed his brother and fled. If he does
not present himself to-morrow morning in the village he must be sought
for. Nothing more can be done to-night."

It was a melancholy night for all, to Carew in a lesser degree than to
the others, for the crime which had thrown gloom over the whole
village had brought ease to his heart. He saw now how unreasonable had
been his jealousy of the brothers, and he was disposed to judge them
more leniently.

On that night Doctor Louis held a private conference with Lauretta,
and received from her an account of the unhappy difference between the
brothers. As Silvain and Kristel had both loved one woman, so had Eric
and Emilius, but in the case of the sons there had been no supplanting
of the affections. Emilius and Patricia had long loved each other, and
had kept their love a secret, Eric himself not knowing it. When
Emilius discovered that his brother loved Patricia his distress of
mind was very great, and it was increased by the knowledge that was
forced upon him that there was in Eric's passion for the girl
something of the fierce quality which had distinguished Kristel's
passion for Avicia. In his distress he had sought advice from
Lauretta, and she had undertaken to act as an intermediary, and to
endeavour to bring Eric to reason. On two or three occasions she
thought she had succeeded, but her influence over Eric lasted only as
long as he was in her presence. He made promises which he found it
impossible to keep, and he continued to hope against hope. Lauretta
did not know what had passed between the brothers on the previous
evening, in the interview of which I was a witness, but earlier in the
day she had seen Emilius, who had confided a secret to her keeping
which placed Eric's love for Patricia beyond the pale of hope. He was
secretly married to Patricia, and had been so for some time. When
Gabriel Carew heard this he recognised how unjust he had been towards
Emilius and Patricia in the construction he had placed upon their
secret interviews. Lauretta advised Emilius to make known his marriage
to Eric, and offered to reveal the fact to the despairing lover, but
Emilius would not consent to this being immediately done. He
stipulated that a week should pass before the revelation was made;
then, he said, it might be as well that all the world should know
it--a fatal stipulation, against which Lauretta argued in vain. Thus
it was that in the last interview between Eric and Lauretta, Eric was
still in ignorance of the insurmountable bar to his hopes. As it
subsequently transpired, Emilius had made preparations to remove
Patricia from Nerac that very night. Up to that point, and at that
time nothing more was known; but when Emilius was tried for the murder
Lauretta's evidence did not help to clear him, because it established
beyond doubt the fact of the existence of an animosity between the
brothers.

On the day following the discovery of the murder, Emilius did not make
his appearance in the village, and officers were sent in search of
him. There was no clue as to the direction which he and Patricia had
taken, and the officers, being slow-witted, were many days before they
succeeded in finding him. Their statement, upon their return to Nerac
with their prisoner, was, that upon informing him of the charge
against him, he became violently agitated and endeavoured to escape.
He denied that he made such an attempt, asserting that he was
naturally agitated by the awful news, and that for a few minutes he
scarcely knew what he was doing, but, being innocent, there was no
reason why he should make a fruitless endeavour to avoid an inevitable
inquiry into the circumstances of a most dreadful crime.

He was much broken down by his position. No brother, he declared, had
ever been more fondly loved than Eric was by him, and he would have
suffered a voluntary death rather than be guilty of an act of violence
towards one for whom he entertained so profound an affection. In the
preliminary investigations he gave the following explanation of all
within his knowledge. What Lauretta had stated was true in every
particular; neither did he deny Carew's evidence nor the evidence of
the villager who had deposed that, late on the night of the murder,
high words had passed between him and Eric.

"The words," said Emilius, "'Well, kill me, for I do not wish to
live!' were uttered by my poor brother when I told him that Patricia
was my wife. For although I had not intended that this should be known
until a few days after my departure, my poor brother was so worked up
by his love for my wife, that I felt I dared not, in justice to him
and myself, leave him any longer in ignorance. For that reason, and
thus impelled, pitying him most deeply, I revealed to him the truth.
Had the witness whose evidence, true as it is, seems to bear fatally
against me, waited and listened, he would have been able to testify in
my favour. My poor brother for a time was overwhelmed by the
revelation. His love for my wife perhaps did not die immediately away;
but, high-minded and honourable as he was, he recognised that to
persevere in it would be a guilty act. The force of his passion became
less; he was no longer violent--he was mournful. He even, in a
despairing way, begged my forgiveness, and I, reproachful that I had
not earlier confided in him, begged _his_ forgiveness for the
unconscious wrong I had done him. Then, after a while, we fell
into our old ways of love; tender words were exchanged; we clasped
each other's hand; we embraced. Truly you who hear me can scarcely
realise what Eric and I had always been to each other. More than
brothers--more like lovers. Heartbroken as he was at the conviction
that the woman he adored was lost to him, I was scarcely less
heartbroken that I had won her. And so, after an hour's loving
converse, I left him; and when we parted, with a promise to meet again
when his wound was healed, we kissed each other as we had done in the
days of our childhood."



                           END OF VOL. II.



              RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LONDON AND BUNGAY.





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ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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