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Title: The Dead Letter - An American Romance
Author: Victor, Metta Victoria Fuller
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Dead Letter - An American Romance" ***

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[Illustration:

Page 183.

THE PORTRAIT.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                  THE


                              DEAD LETTER:


                          AN AMERICAN ROMANCE.


                          BY SEELEY REGESTER.



                               NEW YORK:
                          BEADLE AND COMPANY,
                         _118 WILLIAM STREET_.
                                 1867.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



       Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1866, by
                          BEADLE AND COMPANY.

In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the
                     Southern District of New York.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                           CONTENTS--PART I.


                               CHAPTER I.

         THE LETTER,                                           9


                              CHAPTER II.

         EVENTS OF A NIGHT,                                   11


                              CHAPTER III.

         THE FIGURE BENEATH THE TREES,                        23


                              CHAPTER IV.

         MORELAND VILLA,                                      34


                               CHAPTER V.

         MR. BURTON, THE DETECTIVE,                           49


                              CHAPTER VI.

         TWO LINKS IN THE CHAIN,                              72


                              CHAPTER VII.

         ELEANOR,                                             86


                             CHAPTER VIII.

         THE HAUNTED GRAVE,                                   94


                              CHAPTER IX.

         THE SPIDER AND THE FLY,                             114


                               CHAPTER X.

         THE ANNIVERSARY,                                    132


                              CHAPTER XI.

         THE LITTLE GUEST AND THE APPARITION,                154


                              CHAPTER XII.

         THE NIGHT IN MORELAND VILLA,                        176


                             CHAPTER XIII.

         THE SHADOW ASSUMES SHAPE,                           188

                                PART II.

                               CHAPTER I.

         THE LETTER,                                         199


                              CHAPTER II.

         OUR VISITS,                                         212


                              CHAPTER III.

         THE CONFESSION,                                     228


                              CHAPTER IV.

         EMBARKED FOR CALIFORNIA,                            243


                               CHAPTER V.

         ON THE TRAIL,                                       252


                              CHAPTER VI.

         AT LAST--AT LAST,                                   261


                              CHAPTER VII.

         NOW FOR HOME AGAIN,                                 278


                             CHAPTER VIII.

         THE RIPE HOUR,                                      383


                              CHAPTER IX.

         JOINING THE MISSING LINKS,                          296


                               CHAPTER X.

         THE NEW LIFE,                                       305


                             ILLUSTRATIONS.

               BAFFLED,                                 64

               ELEANOR,                                 90

               "WELL, HOW DO YOU LIKE MY LOOKS?"       161

               THE PORTRAIT--Frontispiece,             183

               IN THE OAK,                             223

               "I NEVER ACCUSED YOU,"                  297



                            THE DEAD LETTER.



                                PART I.



                               CHAPTER I.

                              THE LETTER.


I paused suddenly in my work. Over a year's experience in the Dead
Letter office had given a mechanical rapidity to my movements in
opening, noting and classifying the contents of the bundles before me;
and, so far from there being any thing exciting to the curiosity, or
interesting to the mind, in the employment, it was of the most
monotonous character.

Young ladies whose love letters have gone astray, evil men whose plans
have been confided in writing to their confederates, may feel but
little apprehension of the prying eyes of the Department; nothing
attracts it but objects of material value--sentiment is below par; it
gives attention only to such tangible interests as are represented by
bank-bills, gold-pieces, checks, jewelry, miniatures, et cetera.
Occasionally a grave clerk smiles sardonically at the ridiculous
character of some of the articles which come to light; sometimes,
perhaps, looks thoughtfully at a withered rosebud, or bunch of pressed
violets, a homely little pin-cushion, or a book-mark, wishing it had
reached its proper destination. I can not answer for other employees,
who may not have even this amount of heart and imagination to invest in
the dull business of a Government office; but when I was in the
Department I was guilty, at intervals, of such folly--yet I passed for
the coldest, most cynical man of them all.

The letter which I held in my paralyzed fingers when they so abruptly
ceased their dexterous movements, was contained in a closely-sealed
envelope, yellowed by time, and directed in a peculiar hand to "John
Owen, Peekskill, New York," and the date on the stamp was "October
18th, 1857"--making the letter two years old. I know not what magnetism
passed from it, putting me, as the spiritualists say, _en rapport_ with
it; I had not yet cut the lappet; and the only thing I could fix upon
as the cause of my attraction was, that at the date indicated on the
envelope, I had been a resident of Blankville, twenty miles from
Peekskill--and something about that date!

Yet this was no excuse for my agitation; I was not of an inquisitive
disposition; nor did "John Owen" belong to the circle of my
acquaintance. I sat there with such a strange expression upon my face,
that one of my fellows, remarking my mood, exclaimed jestingly:

"What is it, Redfield? A check for a hundred thousand?"

"I am sure I don't know; I haven't opened it," I answered, at random;
and with this I cut the wrapper, impelled by some strongly-defined,
irresistible influence to read the time-stained sheet inclosed. It ran
in this wise:

  "DEAR SIR--It's too bad to disappoint you. Could not execute your
  order, as everybody concerned will discover. What a charming
  day!--good for taking a picture. That old friend I introduced you
  to won't tell tales, and you had not better bother yourself to
  visit him. The next time you find yourself in his arms, don't feel
  in his left-hand pocket for the broken tooth-pick which I lent him.
  He is welcome to it. If you're at the place of payment, I shan't be
  there, not having fulfilled the order, and having given up my
  emigration project, much against my will; so, govern yourself
  accordingly. Sorry your prospects are so poor, and believe me, with
  the greatest possible esteem,

                                       "Your disappointed NEGOTIATOR."

To explain why this brief epistle, neither lucid nor interesting in
itself, should affect me as it did, I must go back to the time at which
it was written.



                              CHAPTER II.

                           EVENTS OF A NIGHT.


It was late in the afternoon of a cloudy, windy autumn day, that I left
the office of John Argyll, Esq., in his company, to take tea and spend
the evening in his family. I was a law-student in the office, and was
favored with more than ordinary kindness by him, on account of a
friendship that had existed between him and my deceased father. When
young men, they had started out in life together, in equal
circumstances; one had died early, just as fortune began to smile; the
other lived to continue in well-earned prosperity. Mr. Argyll had never
ceased to take an interest in the orphan son of his friend. He had
aided my mother in giving me a collegiate education, and had taken me
into his office to complete my law studies. Although I did not board at
his house, I was almost like a member of the family. There was always a
place for me at his table, with liberty to come and go when I pleased.
This being Saturday, I was expected to go home with him, and stay over
Sunday if I liked.

We quickened our steps as a few large drops were sprinkled over us out
of the darkening clouds.

"It will be a rainy night," said Mr. Argyll.

"It may clear away yet," I said, looking toward a rift in the west,
through which the declining sun was pouring a silver stream. He shook
his head doubtfully, and we hurried up the steps into the house, to
escape the threatened drenching.

Entering the parlors, we found no one but James, a nephew of Mr.
Argyll, a young man of about my own age, lounging upon a sofa.

"Where are the girls?"

"They haven't descended from the heavenly regions yet, uncle."

"Dressing themselves to death, I expect--it's Saturday evening, I
remember," smiled the indulgent father, passing on into the library.

I sat down by the west window, and looked out at the coming storm. I
did not like James Argyll much, nor he me; so that, as much as we were
thrown together, our intercourse continued constrained. On this
occasion, however, he seemed in excellent spirits, persisting in
talking on all kinds of indifferent subjects despite of my brief
replies. I was wondering when Eleanor would make her appearance.

At last she came. I heard her silk dress rustle down the stairs, and my
eyes were upon her when she entered the room. She was dressed with
unusual care, and her face wore a brilliant, expectant smile. The smile
was for neither of us. Perhaps James thought of it; I am sure I did,
with secret suffering--with a sharp pang which I was ashamed of, and
fought inwardly to conquer.

She spoke pleasantly to both of us, but with a preoccupied air not
flattering to our vanity. Too restless to sit, she paced up and down
the length of the parlors, seeming to radiate light as she walked, like
some superb jewel--so lustrous was her countenance and so fine her
costume. Little smiles would sparkle about her lips, little trills of
song break forth, as if she were unconscious of observers. She had a
right to be glad; she appeared to exult in her own beauty and happiness.

Presently she came to the window, and as she stood by my side, a burst
of glory streamed through the fast-closing clouds, enveloping her in a
golden atmosphere, tinting her black hair with purple, flushing her
clear cheeks and the pearls about her throat. The fragrance of the rose
she wore on her breast mingled with the light; for a moment I was
thrilled and overpowered; but the dark-blue eyes were not looking on
me--they were regarding the weather.

"How provoking that it should rain to-night," she said, and as the
slight cloud of vexation swept over her face, the blackness of night
closed over the gleam of sunset, so suddenly that we could hardly
discern each other.

"The rain will not keep Moreland away," I answered.

"Of course not--but I don't want him to get wet walking up from the
depot; and Billy has put up the carriage in view of the storm."

At that moment a wild gust of wind smote the house so that it shook,
and the rain came down with a roar that was deafening. Eleanor rung for
lights.

"Tell cook to be sure and have chocolate for supper--and cream for the
peaches," she said to the servant who came in to light the gas.

The girl smiled; she knew, in common with her mistress, who it was
preferred chocolate and liked cream with peaches; the love of a woman,
however sublime in some of its qualities, never fails in the tender
domestic instincts which delight in promoting the comfort and personal
tastes of its object.

"We need not have troubled ourselves to wear our new dresses," pouted
Mary, the younger sister, who had followed Eleanor down stairs "there
will be nobody here to-night."

Both James and myself objected to being dubbed nobody. The willful
young beauty said all the gay things she pleased, telling us she
certainly should not have worn her blue silks, nor puffed her hair for
us--

"--Nor for Henry Moreland either--he never looks at me after the first
minute. Engaged people are so stupid! I wish he and Eleanor would make
an end of it. If I'm ever going to be bridemaid, I want to be--"

"And a clear field afterward, Miss Molly," jested her cousin. "Come!
play that new polka for me."

"You couldn't hear it if I did. The rain is playing a polka this
evening, and the wind is dancing to it."

He laughed loudly--more loudly than the idle fancy warranted. "Let us
see if we can not make more noise than the storm," he said, going to
the piano and thumping out the most thunderous piece that he could
recall. I was not a musician, but it seemed to me there were more
discords than the law of harmony allowed; and Mary put her hands over
her ears, and ran away to the end of the room.

For the next half-hour the rain came down in wide sheets, flapping
against the windows, as the wind blew it hither and thither. James
continued at the piano, and Eleanor moved restlessly about, stealing
glances, now and then, at her tiny watch.

All at once there occurred one of those pauses which precede the fresh
outbreaking of a storm; as if startled by the sudden lull, James Argyll
paused in his playing; just then the shrill whistle of the locomotive
pierced the silence with more than usual power, as the evening train
swept around the curve of the hill not a quarter of a mile away, and
rushed on into the depot in the lower part of the village.

There is something unearthly in the scream of the "steam-eagle,"
especially when heard at night. He seems like a sentient thing, with a
will of his own, unbending and irresistible; and his cry is threatening
and defiant. This night it rose upon the storm prolonged and doleful.

I know not how it sounded to the others, but to me, whose imagination
was already wrought upon by the tempest and by the presence of the
woman I hopelessly loved, it came with an effect perfectly
overwhelming; it filled the air, even the perfumed, lighted air of the
parlor, full of a dismal wail. It threatened--I know not what. It
warned against some strange, unseen disaster. Then it sunk into a
hopeless cry, so full of mortal anguish, that I involuntarily put my
fingers to my ears. Perhaps James felt something of the same thing, for
he started from the piano-stool, walked twice or thrice across the
floor, then flung himself again upon the sofa, and for a long time sat
with his eyes shaded, neither speaking nor stirring.

Eleanor, with maiden artifice, took up a book, and composed herself to
pretend to read; she would not have her lover to know that she had been
so restless while awaiting his coming. Only Mary fluttered about like a
humming-bird, diving into the sweets of things, the music, the flowers,
whatever had honey in it; and teasing me in the intervals.

I have said that I loved Eleanor. I did, secretly, in silence and
regret, against my judgment and will, and because I could not help it.
I was quite certain that James loved her also, and I felt sorry for
him; sympathy was taught me by my own sufferings, though I had never
felt attracted toward his character. He seemed to me to be rather
sullen in temper, as well as selfish; and then again I reproached
myself for uncharitableness; it might have been his circumstances which
rendered him morose--he was dependent upon his uncle--and his
unhappiness which made him appear unamiable.

I loved, without a particle of hope. Eleanor was engaged to a young
gentleman in every way worthy of her: of fine demeanor, high social
position, and unblemished moral character. As much as her many admirers
may have envied Henry Moreland, they could not dislike him. To see the
young couple together was to feel that theirs would be one of those
"matches made in heaven"--in age, character, worldly circumstances,
beauty and cultivation, there was a rare correspondence.

Mr. Moreland was engaged with his father in a banking business in the
city of New York. They owned a summer villa in Blankville, and it had
been during his week of summer idleness here that he had made the
acquaintance of Eleanor Argyll.

At this season of the year his business kept him in the city; but he
was in the habit of coming out every Saturday afternoon and spending
Sabbath at the house of Mr. Argyll, the marriage which was to terminate
a betrothal of nearly two years being now not very far away. On her
nineteenth birthday, which came in December, Eleanor was to be married.

Another half-hour passed away and the expected guest did not arrive. He
usually reached the house in fifteen minutes after the arrival of the
train; I could see that his betrothed was playing nervously with her
watch-chain, though she kept her eyes fixed upon her book.

"Come, let us have tea; I am hungry," said Mr. Argyll, coming out of
the library. "I had a long ride after dinner. No use waiting,
Eleanor--he won't be here to-night"--he pinched her cheek to express
his sympathy for her disappointment--"a little shower didn't use to
keep beaux away when I was a boy."

"A _little_ rain, papa! I never heard such a torrent before; besides,
it was not the storm, of course, for he would have already taken the
cars before it commenced."

"To be sure! to be sure! defend your sweetheart, Ella--that's right!
But it may have been raining down there half the day--the storm comes
from that direction. James, are you asleep?"

"I'll soon see," cried Mary, pulling away the hand from her cousin's
face--"why, James, what is the matter?"

Her question caused us all to look at him; his face was of an ashy
paleness; his eyes burning like coals of fire.

"Nothing is the matter! I've been half asleep," he answered, laughing,
and springing to his feet. "Molly, shall I have the honor?"--she took
his offered arm, and we went in to tea.

The sight of the well-ordered table, at the head of which Eleanor
presided, the silver, the lights, the odor of the chocolate
overpowering the fainter fragrance of the tea, was enough to banish
thoughts of the tempest raging without, saving just enough
consciousness of it to enhance the enjoyment of the luxury within.

Even Eleanor could not be cold to the warmth and comfort of the hour;
the tears, which at first she could hardly keep out of her proud blue
eyes, went back to their sources; she made an effort to be gay, and
succeeded in being very charming. I think she still hoped he had been
delayed at the village; and that there would be a note for her at the
post-office, explaining his absence.

For once, the usually kind, considerate girl was selfish. Severe as was
the storm, she insisted upon sending a servant to the office; she could
not be kept in suspense until Monday.

She would hardly believe his statement, upon his return, that the mail
had been changed, and there was really no message whatever.

We went back to the parlor and passed a merry evening.

A touch of chagrin, a fear that we should suspect how deeply she was
disappointed, caused Eleanor to appear in unusually high spirits. She
sung whatever I asked of her; she played some delicious music; she
parried the wit of others with keener and brighter repartee; the roses
bloomed on her cheeks, the stars rose in her eyes. It was not an
altogether happy excitement; I knew that pride and loneliness were at
the bottom of it; but it made her brilliantly beautiful. I wondered
what Moreland would feel to see her so lovely--I almost regretted that
he was not there.

James, too, was in an exultant mood.

It was late when we retired. I was in a state of mental activity which
kept me awake for hours after. I never heard it rain as it did that
night--the water seemed to come down in solid masses--and,
occasionally, the wind shook the strong mansion as if it were a child.
I could not sleep. There was something awful in the storm. If I had had
a touch of superstition about me, I should have said that spirits were
abroad.

A healthy man, of a somewhat vivid imagination, but without
nervousness, unknowing bodily fear, I was still affected strangely. I
shuddered in my soft bed; the wild shriek of the locomotive lingered in
my ears; _something besides rain seemed beating at the windows_. Ah, my
God! I knew afterward what it was. It was a human soul, disembodied,
lingering about the place on earth most dear to it. The rest of the
household slept well, so far as I could judge, by its silence and deep
repose.

Toward morning I fell asleep; when I awoke the rain was over; the sun
shone brightly; the ground was covered with gay autumn leaves shaken
down by the wind and rain; the day promised well. I shook off the
impressions of the darkness, dressed myself quickly, for the
breakfast-bell rung, and descending, joined the family of my host at
the table. In the midst of our cheerful repast, the door-bell rung.
Eleanor started; the thought that her lover might have stayed at the
hotel adjoining the depot on account of the rain, must have crossed her
mind, for a rapid blush rose to her cheeks, and she involuntarily put
up a hand to the dark braids of her hair as if to give them a more
graceful touch. The servant came in, saying that a man at the door
wished to speak with Mr. Argyll and Mr. Redfield.

"He says it's important, and can't wait, sir."

We arose and went out into the hall, closing the door of the
breakfast-room behind us.

"I'm very sorry--I've got bad news--I hope you won't"--stammered the
messenger, a servant from the hotel.

"What is it?" demanded Mr. Argyll.

"The young gentleman that comes here--Moreland's his name, I
believe--was found dead on the road this morning."

"Dead!"

"They want you to come down to the inquest. They've got him in a room
of our house. They think it's a fit--there's no marks of any thing."

The father and I looked at each other; the lips of both were quivering;
we both thought of Eleanor.

"What shall I do?"

"I don't know, Mr. Argyll. I haven't had time to think."

"I can not--I can not--"

"Nor I--not just yet. Sarah, tell the young ladies we have gone out a
short time on business--and don't you breathe what you have heard.
Don't let any one in until we return--don't allow any one to see Miss
Eleanor. Be prudent."

Her frightened face did not promise much for her discretion.

Hastening to the hotel, already surrounded by many people, we found the
distressing message too true. Upon a lounge, in a private sitting-room,
lay the body of Henry Moreland! The coroner and a couple of physicians
had already arrived. It was their opinion that he had died from natural
causes, as there was not the least evidence of violence to be seen. The
face was as pleasant as in slumber; we could hardly believe him dead
until we touched the icy forehead, about which the thick ringlets of
brown hair clung, saturated with rain.

"What's this?" exclaimed one, as we began to relieve the corpse of its
wet garments, for the purpose of a further examination. It was a stab
in the back. Not a drop of blood--only a small triangular hole in the
cloak, through the other clothing, into the body. The investigation
soon revealed the nature of the death-wound; it had been given by a
fine, sharp dirk or stiletto. So firm and forcible had been the blow
that it had pierced the lung and struck the rib with sufficient force
to break the blade of the weapon, about three-quarters of an inch of
the point of which was found in the wound. Death must have been
instantaneous. The victim had fallen forward upon his face, bleeding
inwardly, which accounted for no blood having been at first perceived;
and as he had fallen, so he had lain through all the drenching storm of
that miserable night. When discovered by the first passer-by, after
daylight, he was lying on the path, by the side of the street, which
led up in the direction of Mr. Argyll's, his traveling-bag by his side,
his face to the ground. The bag was not touched, neither the watch and
money on his person, making it evident that robbery was not the object
of the murderer.

A stab in the back, in the double darkness of night and storm! What
enemy had Henry Moreland, to do this deed upon him?

It is useless now to repeat all the varying conjectures rising in our
minds, or which continued to engross the entire community for weeks
thereafter. It became at once the favorite theory of many that young
Moreland had perished by a stroke intended for some other person. In
the mean time, the news swept through the village like a whirlwind,
destroying the calmness of that Sabbath morning, tossing the minds of
people more fearfully than the material tempest had tossed the frail
leaves. Murder! and such a murder in such a place!--not twenty rods
from the busiest haunts of men, on a peaceful street--sudden, sure,
unprovoked! People looked behind them as they walked, hearing the
assassin's step in every rustle of the breeze. Murder!--the far-away,
frightful idea had suddenly assumed a real shape--it seemed to have
stalked through the town, entering each dwelling, standing by every
hearth-stone.

While the inquest was proceeding, Mr. Argyll and myself were thinking
more of Eleanor than of her murdered lover.

"This is wretched business, Richard," said the father. "I am so
unnerved I can do nothing. Will you telegraph to his parents for me?"

His parents--here was more misery. I had not thought of them. I wrote
out the dreadful message which it ought to have melted the wires with
pity to carry.

"And now you must go to Eleanor. She must not hear it from strangers;
and I can not--Richard!--you will tell her, will you not? I will follow
you home immediately; as soon as I have made arrangements to have poor
Henry brought to our house when the inquest is over."

He wrung my hand, looking at me so beseechingly, that, loth as I was, I
had no thought of refusing. I felt like one walking with frozen feet as
I passed out of the chamber of horror into the peaceful sunlight, along
the very path _he_ had last trodden, and over the spot where he had
fallen and had lain so many hours undiscovered, around which a crowd
was pressing, disturbed, excited, but not noisy. The sandy soil had
already filtered the rain, so as to be nearly dry; there was nothing to
give a clue to the murderer's footsteps, whither he went or whence he
came--what impress they might have made in the hard, gravelly walk had
been washed out by the storm. A few persons were searching carefully
for the weapon which had been the instrument of death, and which had
been broken in the wound, thinking it might have been cast away in the
vicinity.



                             CHAPTER III.

                     THE FIGURE BENEATH THE TREES.


As I came near the old Argyll mansion, it seemed to me never to have
looked so fair before. The place was the embodiment of calm prosperity.
Stately and spacious it rose from the lawn in the midst of great old
oaks whose trunks must have hardened through a century of growth, and
whose red leaves, slowly dropping, now flamed in the sunshine. Although
the growing village had stretched up to and encircled the grounds, it
had still the air of a country place, for the lawn was roomy and the
gardens were extensive. The house was built of stone, in a massive yet
graceful style; with such sunshiny windows and pleasant porticoes that
it had nothing of a somber look.

It is strange what opposite emotions will group themselves in the soul
at the same moment. The sight of those lordly trees called up the
exquisite picture of Tennyson's "Talking Oak":

                 "Oh, muffle round thy knees with fern,
                   And shadow Sumner-chace!
                 Long may thy topmost branch discern
                   The roofs of Sumner-place!"

I wondered if Henry had not repeated them, as he walked with Eleanor
amid the golden light and flickering shadows beneath the branches of
these trees. I recalled how I once, in my madness, before I knew that
she was betrothed to another, had apostrophized the monarch of them
all, in the passionate words of Walter. Now, looking at this ancient
tree, I perceived with my eyes, though hardly with my mind, that it had
some fresh excoriations upon the bark. If I thought any thing at all
about it, I thought it the work of the storm, for numerous branches had
been torn from the trees throughout the grove, and the ground was
carpeted with fresh-fallen leaves.

Passing up the walk, I caught a glimpse of Eleanor at an upper window,
and heard her singing a hymn, softly to herself, as she moved about her
chamber. I stopped as if struck a blow. How could I force myself to
drop the pall over this glorious morning? Alas! of all the homes in
that village, perhaps this was the only one on which the shadow had not
yet fallen--this, over which it was to settle, to be lifted nevermore.

Of all the hearts as yet unstartled by the tragic event was that most
certain to be withered--that young heart, this moment so full of love
and bliss, caroling hymns out of the fullness of its gratitude to God
for its own delicious happiness.

Oh, I must--I must! I went in at an open window, from a portico into
the library. James was there, dressed for church, his prayer-book and
handkerchief on the table, and he looking over the last evening's
paper. The sight of him gave me a slight relief; his uncle and myself
had forgotten him in the midst of our distress. It was bad enough to
have to tell any one such news, but any delay in meeting Eleanor was
eagerly welcomed. He looked at me inquiringly--my manner was enough to
denote that something had gone wrong.

"What is it, Richard?"

"Horrible--most horrible!"

"For heaven's sake, _what_ is the matter?"

"Moreland has been murdered."

"Moreland! What? Where? Whom do they suspect?"

"And her father wishes me to tell Eleanor. You are her cousin, James;
will you not be the fittest person?" the hope crossing me that he would
undertake the delivery of the message.

"_I!_" he exclaimed, leaning against the case of books beside him. "I!
oh, no, not I. I'd be the last person! I'd look well telling her about
it, wouldn't I?" and he half laughed, though trembling from head to
foot.

If I thought his manner strange, I did not wonder at it--the dreadful
nature of the shock had unnerved all of us.

"Where is Mary?" I asked; "we had better tell her first, and have her
present. Indeed, I wish--"

I had turned toward the door, which opened into the hall, to search for
the younger sister, as I spoke; the words died on my lips. Eleanor was
standing there. She had been coming in to get a book, and had evidently
heard what had passed. She was as white as the morning dress she wore.

"Where is he?" Her voice sounded almost natural.

"At the Eagle Hotel," I answered, without reflection, glad that she
showed such self-command, and, since she did, glad also that the
terrible communication was over.

She turned and ran through the hall, down the avenue toward the gate.
In her thin slippers, her hair uncovered, fleet as a vision of the
wind, she fled. I sprung after her. It would not do to allow her to
shock herself with that sudden, awful sight. As she rushed out upon the
street I caught her by the arm.

"Let me go! I must go to him! Don't you see, he will need me?"

She made an effort to break away, looking down the street with strained
eyes. Poor child! as if, he being dead, she could do him any good! Her
stunned heart had as yet gone no further than that if Henry was hurt,
was murdered, he would need her by his side. She must go to him and
comfort him in his calamity. It was yet to teach her that this world
and the things of this world--even she, herself, were no more to him.

"Come back, Eleanor; they will bring him to you before long."

I had to lift her in my arms and carry her back to the house.

In the hall we met Mary, who had heard the story from James, and who
burst into tears and sobs as she saw her sister.

"They are keeping me away from him," said Eleanor, pitifully, looking
at her. I felt her form relax in my arms, saw that she had fainted;
James and I carried her to a sofa, while Mary ran distractedly for the
housekeeper.

There was noisy wailing now in the mansion; the servants all admired
and liked the young gentleman to whom their mistress was to be married;
and, as usual, they gave full scope to their powers of expressing
terror and sympathy. In the midst of cries and tears, the insensible
girl was conveyed to her chamber.

James and myself paced the long halls and porticoes, waiting to hear
tidings of her recovery. After a time the housekeeper came down,
informing us that Miss Argyll had come to her senses; leastwise, enough
to open her eyes and look about; but she wouldn't speak, and she looked
dreadful.

Just then Mr. Argyll came in. After being informed of what had
occurred, he went up to his daughter's room. With uttermost tenderness
he gave her the details of the murder, as they were known; his eyes
overrunning with tears to see that not a drop of moisture softened her
fixed, unnatural look.

Friends came in and went out with no notice from her.

"I wish they would all leave me but you, Mary," she said, after a time.
"Father, you will let me know when--"

"Yes--yes." He kissed her, and she was left with her sister for a
watcher.

Hours passed. Some of us went into the dining-room and drank of the
strong tea which the housekeeper had prepared, for we felt weak and
unnerved. The parents were expected in the evening train, there being
but one train running on Sunday. The shadow deepened over the house
from hour to hour.

It was late in the afternoon before the body could be removed from the
hotel where the coroner's inquest was held. I asked James to go with me
and attend upon its conveyance to Mr. Argyll's. He declined, upon the
plea of being too much unstrung to go out.

As the sad procession reached the garden in front of the mansion with
its burden, I observed, in the midst of several who had gathered about,
a woman, whose face, even in that time of preoccupation, arrested my
attention. It was that of a girl, young and handsome, though now thin
and deadly pale, with a wild look in her black eyes, which were fixed
upon the shrouded burden with more than awe and curiosity.

I know not yet why I remarked her so particularly; why her strange face
made such an impression on me. Once she started toward us, and then
shrunk back again. By her dress and general appearance she might have
been a shop-girl. I had never seen her before.

"That girl," said a gentleman by my side, "acts queerly. And, come to
think, she was on the train from New York yesterday afternoon. Not the
one poor Moreland came in; the one before. I was on board myself, and
noticed her particularly, as she sat facing me. She seemed to have some
trouble on her mind."

I seldom forget faces; and I never forgot hers.

"I will trace her out," was my mental resolve.

We passed on into the house, and deposited our charge in the back
parlor. I thought of Eleanor, as she had walked this room just
twenty-four hours ago, a brilliant vision of love and triumphant
beauty. Ay! twenty-four hours ago this clay before me was as
resplendent with life, as eager, as glowing with the hope of the soul
within it! Now, all the hours of time would never restore the tenant to
his tenement. Who had dared to take upon himself the responsibility of
unlawfully and with violence, ejecting this human soul from its house?

I shuddered as I asked myself the question. Somewhere must be lurking a
guilty creature, with a heart on fire from the flames of hell, with
which it had put itself in contact.

Then my heart stood still within me--all but the family had been
banished from the apartment--her father was leading in Eleanor. With a
slow step, clinging to his arm, she entered; but as her eyes fixed
themselves upon the rigid outlines lying there beneath the funeral
pall, she sprung forward, casting herself upon her lover's corpse.
Before, she had been silent; now began a murmur of woe so heart-rending
that we who listened wished ourselves deaf before our ears had heard
tones and sentences which could never be forgotten. It would be useless
for me, a man, with a man's language and thoughts, to attempt to repeat
what this broken-hearted woman said to her dead lover.

It was not her words so much as it was her pathetic tones.

She talked to him as if he were alive and could hear her. She was
resolved to make him hear and feel her love through the dark death
which was between them.

"Ah, Henry," she said, in a low, caressing tone, pressing back the
curls from his forehead with her hand, "your hair is wet still. To
think that you should lie out there all night--all night--on the
ground, in the rain, and I not know of it! I, to be sleeping in my warm
bed--actually sleeping, and you lying out in the storm, dead. That is
the strangest thing! that makes me wonder--to think I _could_! Tell me
that you forgive me for that, darling--for sleeping, you know, when you
were out there. I was thinking of you when I took the rose out of my
dress at night. I dreamed of you all night, but if I had known where
you were, I would have gone out barefooted, I would have stayed by you
and kept the rain from your face, from your dear, dear hair that I like
so much and hardly ever dare to touch. It was cruel of me to sleep so.
Would you guess, I was vexed at you last evening because you didn't
come? It was that made me so gay--not because I was happy. Vexed at you
for not coming, when you could not come because you were dead!" and she
laughed.

As that soft, dreadful laughter thrilled through the room, with a groan
Mr. Argyll arose and went out; he could bear no more. Disturbed with a
fear that her reason was shaken, I spoke with Mary, and we two tried to
lift her up, and persuade her out of the room.

"Oh, don't try to get me away from him again," she pleaded, with a
quivering smile, which made us sick. "Don't be troubled, Henry. I'm
_not_ going--I'm _not_! They are going to put my hand in yours and bury
me with you. It's so curious I should have been playing the piano and
wearing my new dress, and never guessing it! that you were so near
me--dead--murdered!"

The kisses; the light, gentle touches of his hands and forehead, as if
she might hurt him with the caresses which she could not withhold; the
intent look which continually watched him as if expecting an answer;
the miserable smile upon her white face--these were things which
haunted those who saw them through many a future slumber.

"You will not say you forgive me for singing last night. You don't say
a word to me--because you are dead--that's it--because you are
dead--murdered!"

The echo of her own last word recalled her wandering reason.

"My God! murdered!" she exclaimed, suddenly rising to her full hight,
with an awful air; "who do you suppose did it?"

Her cousin was standing near; her eyes fell upon him as she asked the
question. The look, the manner, were too much for his already
overwrought sensibility; he shrunk away, caught my arm, and sunk down,
insensible. I did not wonder. We all of us felt as if we could endure
no more.

Going to the family physician, who waited in another apartment, I
begged of him to use some influence to withdraw Miss Argyll from the
room, and quiet her feelings and memory, before her brain yielded to
the strain upon it. After giving us some directions what to do with
James, he went and talked with her, with so much wisdom and tact, that
the danger to her reason seemed passing; persuading her also into
taking the powder which he himself administered; but no argument could
induce her to leave the mute, unanswering clay.

The arrival of the relatives was the last scene in the tragedy of that
day. Unable to bear more of it, I went out in the darkness and walked
upon the lawn. My head was hot; the cool air felt grateful to me; I
leaned long upon the trunk of an oak, whose dark shadow shut out the
starlight from about me; thought was busy with recent events. Who was
the murderer? The question revolved in my brain, coming uppermost every
other moment, as certainly as the turning of a wheel brings a certain
point again and again to the top. My training, as a student of the law,
helped my mind to fix upon every slightest circumstance which might
hold a suspicion.

"Could that woman?"--but no, the hand of a woman could scarcely have
given that sure and powerful blow. It looked like the work of a
_practiced_ hand--or, if not, at least it had been deliberately given,
with malice aforethought. The assassin had premeditated the deed; had
watched his victim and awaited the hour. Thus far, there was absolutely
no clue whatever to the guilty party; bold as was the act, committed in
the early evening, in the haunts of a busy community, it had been most
fatally successful; and the doer had vanished as completely as if the
earth had opened and swallowed him up. No one, as yet, could form any
plausible conjecture, even as to the _motive_.

In the name of Eleanor Argyll--in the name of her whom I loved, whose
happiness I had that day seen in ruins, I vowed to use every endeavor
to discover and bring to punishment the murderer. I know not why this
purpose took such firm hold of me. The conviction of the guilty would
not restore the life which had been taken; the bloom to a heart
prematurely withered; it would afford no consolation to the bereaved.
Yet, if to discover, had been to call back Henry Moreland to the world
from which he had been so ruthlessly dismissed, I could hardly have
been more determined in the pursuit. In action only could I feel relief
from the oppression which weighed upon me. It could not give life to
the dead--but the voice of Justice called aloud, never to permit this
deed to sink into oblivion, until she had executed the divine vengeance
of the law upon the doer.

As I stood there in silence and darkness, pondering the matter, I heard
a light rustle of the dry leaves upon the ground, and felt, rather than
saw, a figure pass me. I might have thought it one of the servants were
it not for the evident caution of its movements. Presently, where the
shadows of the trees were less thick, I detected a person stealing
toward the house. As she crossed an open space, the starlight revealed
the form and garments of a female; the next moment she passed into the
obscurity of shadows again, where she remained some time, unsuspicious
of my proximity, like myself leaning against a tree, and watching the
mansion. Apparently satisfied that no one was about--the hour now
verging toward midnight--she approached with hovering steps, now
pausing, now drawing back, the west side of the mansion, from one of
the windows of which the solemn light of the death-candles shone. Under
this window she crouched down. I could not tell if her attitude were a
kneeling one. It must have been more than an hour that she remained
motionless in this place; I, equally quiet, watching the dark spot
where she was. For the instant that she had stood between me and the
window, her form was outlined against the light, when I saw that this
must be the young woman whose strange conduct at the gate had attracted
my attention. Of course I did not see her face; but the tall, slender
figure, the dark bonnet, and nervous movement, were the same. I
perplexed myself with vain conjectures.

I could not help connecting her with the murder, or with the victim, in
some manner, however vague.

At last she arose, lingered, went away, passing near me with that soft,
rustling step again. I was impelled to stretch out my hand and seize
her; her conduct was suspicious; she ought to be arrested and examined,
if only to clear herself of these circumstances. The idea that, by
following her, I might trace her to some haunt, where proofs were
secreted, or accomplices hidden, withheld my grasp.

Cautiously timing my step with hers, that the murmur of the leaves
might not betray me, I followed. As she passed out the gate, I stood
behind a tree, lest she should look back and discern me; then I passed
through, following along in the shadow of the fence.

She hurried on in the direction of the spot at which the murder had
been committed; but when nearly there, perceiving that some persons,
though long past midnight, still hovered about the fatal place, she
turned, and passed me. As soon as I dared, without alarming her, I also
turned, pursuing her through the long, quiet street, until it brought
her to a more crowded and poorer part of the village, where she went
down a side street, and disappeared in a tenement-house, the
entrance-hall to which was open. I ought to have gone at once for
officers, and searched the place; but I unwisely concluded to wait for
daylight.

As I came up the walk on my return, I met James Argyll in the avenue,
near the front portico.

"Oh, is it you?" he exclaimed, after I had spoken to him. "I thought it
was--was--"

"You are not superstitious, James?" for his hollow voice betrayed that
he was frightened.

"You did give me a confounded uneasy sensation as you came up," he
answered with a laugh.--How can people laugh under such
circumstances?--"Where have you been at this hour, Richard?"

"Walking in the cool air. The house smothered me."

"So it did me. I could not rest. I have just come out to get a breath
of air."

"It is almost morning," I said, and passed on into my chamber.

I knew who watched, without food, without rest, in the chamber of
death, by whose door my footsteps led; but ache as my heart might, I
had no words of comfort for sorrow like hers--so I passed on.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                            MORELAND VILLA.


Several minor circumstances prevented my going in search of the woman
who had excited my suspicions on the previous day, until about nine
o'clock of the morning, when I engaged an officer, and we two went
quietly, without communicating our plans to any one else, to the
tenement-house before spoken of.

Although Blankville was not a large village, there was in it, as in
nearly every town blessed with a railroad depot, a shabby quarter where
the rougher portion of its working people lived. The house stood in
this quarter--it was a three-story frame building, occupied by half a
dozen families, mostly those of Irish laborers, who found work in the
vicinity of the depot. I had seen the strange girl ascend to the second
floor, in the dim light of the previous night, so we went up and
knocked at the first door we came upon. It was opened by a
decent-appearing middle-aged woman, who held the knob in her hand while
she waited for us to make known our errand; we both stepped into her
apartment, before we spoke. A rapid glance revealed an innocent-looking
room with the ordinary furniture of such a place--a cooking-stove, bed,
table, etc.; but no other inmate. There was a cupboard, the door of
which stood open, showing its humble array of dishes and
eatables--there were no pantries, nor other places of concealment. I
was certain that I had seen the girl enter this room at the head of the
stairs, so I ventured:

"Is your daughter at home, ma'am?"

"Is it my niece you mean?"

I detected an Irish accent, though the woman spoke with but little
"brogue," and was evidently an old resident of our country--in a manner
_Americanized_.

"Oh, she is your niece? I suppose so--a tall girl with dark eyes and
hair."

"That's Leesy, herself. Was you wanting any work done?"

"Yes," answered the officer, quickly, taking the matter out of my
hands. "I wanted to get a set of shirts made up--six, with fine,
stitched bosoms." He had noticed a cheap sewing-machine standing near
the window, and a bundle of coarse muslin in a basket near by.

"It's sorry I am to disappoint you; but Leesy's not with me now, and I
hardly venture on the fine work. I make the shirts for the hands about
the railroad that hasn't wives of their own to do it--but for the fine
bussums"--doubtfully--"though, to be sure, the machine does the
stitches up beautiful--if it wasn't for the button-holes!"

"Where is Leesy? Doesn't she stop with you?"

"It's her I have here always when she's out of a place. She's an
orphan, poor girl, and it's not in the blood of a Sullivan to turn off
their own. I've brought her up from a little thing of five years
old--given her the education, too. She can read and write like the
ladies of the land."

"You didn't say where she was, Mrs. Sullivan."

"She's making the fine things in a fancy-store in New York--caps and
collars and sleeves and the beautiful tucked waists--she's _such_
taste, and the work is not so hard as plain-sewing--four dollars a week
she gets, and boarded for two and a half, in a nice, genteel place. She
expects to be illivated to the forewoman's place, at seven dollars the
week, before many months. She was here to stay over the Sunday with
me--she often does that; and she's gone back by the six o'clock train
this mornin'--and she'll be surely late at that by an hour. I tried to
coax her to stay the day, she seemed so poorly. She's not been herself
this long time--she seems goin' in a decline like--it's the stooping
over the needle, I think. She's so nervous-like, the news of the murder
yesterday almost killed her. 'Twas an awful deed that, wasn't it,
gintlemen? I couldn't sleep a wink last night for thinkin' of that poor
young man and the sweet lady he was to have married. Such a fine,
generous, polite young gintleman!"

"Did you know him?"

"Know him! as well as my own son if I had one!--not that ever I spoke
to him, but he's passed here often on his way to his father's house,
and to Mr. Argyll's; and Leesy sewed in their family these two summers
when they've been here, and was always twice paid. When she'd go away
he'd say, laughing in his beautiful way, 'And how much have you earned
a day, Miss Sullivan, sitting there all these long, hot hours?' and
she'd answer, 'Fifty cents a day, and thanks to your mother for the
good pay;' and he'd put his hand in his pocket and pull out a
ten-dollar gold-piece and say, 'Women aren't half paid for their work!
it's a shame! if you hain't earned a dollar a day, Miss Sullivan, you
hain't earned a cent. So don't be afraid to take it--it's your due.'
And that's what made Leesy think so much of him--he was so thoughtful
of the poor--God bless him! How could anybody have the heart to do it!"

I looked at the officer and found his eyes reading my face. One thought
had evidently flashed over both of us; but it was a suspicion which
wronged the immaculate memory of Henry Moreland, and I, for my part,
banished it as soon as it entered my mind. It was like him to pay
generously the labors of a sickly sewing-girl; it was not like him to
take any advantage of her ignorance or gratitude, which might result in
her taking such desperate revenge for her wrongs. The thought was an
insult to him and to the noble woman who was to have been his wife. I
blushed at the intrusive, unwelcome fancy; but the officer, not knowing
the deceased as I knew him, and, perhaps, having no such exalted idea
of manhood as mine, seemed to feel as if here might be a thread to
follow.

"Leesy thought much of him, you think, Mrs. Sullivan," taking a chair
unbidden, and putting on a friendly, gossiping air. "Everybody speaks
well of him. So she sewed in the family?"

"Six weeks every summer. They was always satisfied with her
sewing--she's the quickest and neatest hand with the needle! She'd make
them shirts of yours beautiful, if she was to home, sir."

"When did she go to New York to live?"

"Last winter, early. It's nearly a year now. There was something come
across her--she appeared homesick like, and strange. When she said she
meant to go to the city and get work, I was minded to let her go, for I
thought the change mebbe would do her good. But she's quite ailing and
coughs dreadful o' nights. I'm afraid she catched cold in that
rain-storm night afore last; she came up all the way from the depot in
it. She was wet to the skin when she got here and as white as a sheet.
She was so weak-like that when the neighbors came in with the news
yesterday, she gave a scream and dropped right down. I didn't wonder
she was took aback. I ain't got done trembling yet myself."

I remembered the gentleman who had first spoken to me about the girl
said that she had come in on the morning train Saturday; I could not
reconcile this with her coming up from the depot at dark; yet I wished
to put my question in such a way as not to arouse suspicion of my
motive.

"If she came in the six o'clock train she must have been on the same
train with Mr. Moreland."

"I believe she was in the seven o'clock cars--yes, she was. 'Twas
half-past seven when she got in--the rain was pouring down awful. She
didn't see him, for I asked her yesterday."

"In whose shop in New York is she employed?" inquired the officer.

"She's at No 3--Broadway," naming a store somewhere between Wall street
and Canal.

"Are you wanting her for any thing?" she asked, suddenly, looking up
sharply as if it just occurred to her that our inquiries were rather
pointed.

"Oh, no," replied my companion, rising; "I was a bit tired, and thought
I'd rest my feet before starting out again. I'll thank you for a glass
of water, Mrs. Sullivan. So you won't undertake the shirts?"

"If I thought I could do the button-holes--"

"Perhaps your niece could do them on her next visit, if you wanted the
job," I suggested.

"Why, so she could! and would be glad to do something for her old aunt.
It's bright you are to put me in mind of it. Shall I come for the work,
sir?"

"I'll send it round when I get it ready. I suppose your niece intends
to visit you next Saturday?"

"Well, ra'ly, I can't say. It's too expensive her coming every week;
but, she'll sure be here afore the whole six is complate. Good-mornin',
gintlemen--and they's heard nothin' of the murderer, I'll warrant?"

We responded that nothing had been learned, and descending to the
street, it was arranged, as we walked along, that the officer should go
to New York and put some detective there on the track of Leesy
Sullivan. I informed my companion of the discrepancy between her actual
arrival in town and her appearance at her aunt's. Either the woman had
purposely deceived us, or her niece had not gone home for a good many
hours after landing at Blankville. I went with him to the depot, where
we made a few inquiries which convinced us that she had arrived on
Saturday morning, and sat an hour or two in the ladies' room, and then
gone away up town.

There was sufficient to justify our looking further. I took from my own
pocket means to defray the expenses of the officer as well as to
interest the New York detective, adding that liberal rewards were about
to be offered, and waited until I saw him depart on his errand.

Then, turning to go to the office, my heart so sickened at the idea of
business and the ordinary routine of living in the midst of such
misery, that my footsteps shrunk away from their familiar paths! I
could do nothing, just then, for the aid or comfort of the afflicted.
The body was to be taken that afternoon to the city for interment, the
next day, in the family inclosure at Greenwood; until the hour for its
removal, there was nothing more that friendship could perform in the
service of the mourners. My usual prescription for mental ailments was
a long and vigorous walk; to-day I felt as if I could breathe only in
the wide sunshine, so cramped and chilled were my spirits.

The summer residence of the Morelands lay about a mile beyond the
Argyll mansion, out of the village proper, on a hillside, which sloped
down to the river. It was surrounded by fine grounds, and commanded one
of the loveliest views of the Hudson.

                        "A spirit in my feet
                        Led me, who knows how?"

in the direction of this now vacant and solitary place--solitary, I
believed, with the exception of the gardener and his wife, who lived in
a cottage back of the gardens, and who remained the year round, he to
attend to out-door matters, and she to give housekeeper's care to the
closed mansion.

The place had never looked more beautiful to me, not even in the bloom
of its June foliage and flowers, than it did as I approached it on this
occasion. The frosts had turned to every gorgeous color the tops of the
trees which stood out here and there; back of the house, and extending
down toward the southern gate, by which I entered, a grove of maples
and elms glowed in the autumn sunshine; the lawn in front sloped down
to the water's edge, which flowed by in a blue and lordly stream,
bearing on its broad bosom picturesque white ships. In the garden,
through which I was now walking, many brilliant flowers still lingered:
asters, gold, pink and purple; chrysanthemums; some dahlias which had
been covered from the frost; pansies lurking under their broad leaves.
It had been the intention of the young couple to make this their
permanent home after their marriage, going to the city only for a
couple of the winter months. The very next week, I had heard, Eleanor
expected to go down to help Henry in his selection of new furniture.

Here the mansion lay, bathed in the rich sunshine; the garden sparkled
with flowers as the river with ripples, so full, as it were, of
conscious, joyous _life_, while the master of all lay in a darkened
room awaiting his narrow coffin. Never had the uncertainty of human
purposes so impressed me as when I looked abroad over that stately
residence and thought of the prosperous future which had come to so
awful a standstill. I gathered a handful of pansies--they were
Eleanor's favorites. As I approached the house by the garden, I came
nearly upon the portico which extended across its western front before
I perceived that it was occupied. Sitting on its outer edge, with one
arm half wound around one of its pillars, and her bonnet in the grass
at her feet, I beheld the sewing-girl after whom I had dispatched an
officer to New York. She did not perceive me, and I had an opportunity
of studying the face of the woman who had fallen under my suspicion,
when she was unaware that my eye was upon it, and when her soul looked
out of it, unvailed, in the security of solitude. The impression which
she made upon me was that of despair. It was written on attitude and
expression. It was neither grief nor remorse--it was blank despair. It
must have been half an hour that I remained quiet, watching her. In all
that time she never stirred hand nor eyelid; her glance was upon the
greensward at her feet. When I turn to that page of my memory, I see
her, photographed, as it were, upon it--every fold of the dark dress,
which was some worsted substance, frayed, but neat; the black shawl,
bordered, drawn close about the slender shoulders, which had the
slight, habitual stoop of those who ply the needle for a living; the
jetty hair pushed back from her forehead, the marble whiteness and
rigidity of the face and mouth.

It was a face made to express passion. And, although the only passion
expressed now was that of despair, so intense that it grew like apathy,
I could easily see how the rounded chin and full lips could melt into
softer moods. The forehead was rather low, but fair, consorting with
the oval of the cheek and chin; the brows dark and rather heavy. I
remembered the wild black eyes which I had seen the previous day, and
could guess at their hidden fires.

This was a girl to attract interest at any time, and I mutely wondered
what had entangled the threads of her fate in the glittering web of a
higher fortune, which was now suddenly interwoven with the pall of
death. All her movements had been such as to confirm my desire to
ascertain her connection, if any, with the tragedy. It seemed to me
that if I could see her eyes, before she was conscious of observance, I
could tell whether there was guilt, or only sorrow, in her heart;
therefore I remained quiet, waiting. But I had mistaken my powers, or
the eyes overbore them. When she did lift them, as a steamer came
puffing around the base of the mountain which ran down into the river
at the east, and they suddenly encountered mine, where I stood not ten
feet from her, I saw only black, unfathomable depths, pouring out a
trouble so intense, that my own gaze dropped beneath their power.

She did not start, upon observing me, which, as I thought, a guilty
person, buried in self-accusing reveries, would have done--it seemed
only slowly to penetrate her consciousness that a stranger was
confronting her; when I raised my eyes, which had sunk beneath the
intensity of hers, she was moving rapidly away toward the western gate.

"Miss Sullivan, you have forgotten your bonnet."

With a woman's instinct she put up her hand to smooth her disordered
hair, came slowly back and took the bonnet which I extended toward her,
without speaking. I hesitated what move to make next. I wished to
address her--she was here, in my grasp, and I ought to satisfy myself,
as far as possible, about the suspicions which I had conceived. I might
do her an irreparable injury by making my feelings public, if she were
innocent of any aid or instigation of the crime which had been
committed, yet there were circumstances which could hardly pass
unchallenged. That unaccountable absence of hers on Saturday, from
three o'clock until an hour after the murder was committed; the
statement of her aunt that she was in the city, and my finding her in
this spot, in connection with the midnight visit to the window, and the
other things which I had observed, were sufficient to justify inquiry.
Yet, if I alarmed her prematurely I should have the less chance of
coming upon proofs, and her accomplices, if she had any, would be led
to take steps for greater safety. Anyhow, I would make her speak, and
find what there was in her voice.

"Your aunt told me that you had gone to New York," I said, stepping
along beside her, as she turned away.

"She thought so. Did you come here to see me, sir?" stopping short in
her walk, and looking at me as if she expected me to tell my business.

This again did not look like the trepidation of guilt.

"No. I came out for a walk. I suppose our thoughts have led us both in
the same direction. This place will have an interest to many,
hereafter."

"Interest! the interest of vulgar curiosity! It will give them
something to talk about. I hate it!" She spoke more to herself than to
me, while a ray of fire darted from those black orbs; the next instant
her face subsided into that passionate stillness again.

Her speech was not that of her station; I recalled what her aunt had
said about the education she had bestowed on her, and decided that the
girl's mind was one of those which reach out beyond their
circumstances--aspiring--ambitious--and that this aspiring nature may
have led her into her present unhappiness. That she was unhappy, if not
sinful, it took but a glance to assure me.

"So do I hate it. I do not like to have the grief of my friends
subjected to cold and curious eyes."

"Yet, it is a privilege to have the right to mourn. I tell you the
sorrow of that beautiful lady he was to have married is light compared
with trouble that some feel. There are those who envy her."

It was not her words, as much as her wild, half-choked voice, which
gave effect to them; she spoke, and grew silent, as if conscious that
the truth had been wrung from her in the ear of a stranger. We had
reached the gate, and she seemed anxious to escape through it; but I
held it in my hand, looking hard at her, as I said--"It may have been
the hand of envy which dashed the cup of fruition from her lips. Her
young life is withered never to bloom again. I can imagine but one
wretchedness in this world greater than hers--and that is the
wretchedness of the guilty person who has _murder_ written on his or
her soul."

A spasm contracted her face; she pushed at the gate which I still held.

"Ah, don't," she said; "let me pass."

I opened it and she darted through, fleeing along the road which led
out around the backward slope of the hill, like Io pursued by the
stinging fly. Her path was away from the village, so that I hardly
expected to see her again that day.

Within two minutes the gardener's wife came up the road to the gate.
She had been down to visit the corpse of her young master; her eyes
were red with weeping.

"How do you do, Mr. Redfield? These be miserable times, ain't they? My
very heart is sore in my breast; but I couldn't cry a tear in the room
where he was, a-lying there like life, for Miss Eleanor sot by him like
a statue. It made me cold all over to see her--I couldn't speak to save
me. The father and mother are just broke down, too."

"How is Miss Eleanor, this morning?"

"The Lord knows! She doesn't do any thing but sit there, as quiet as
can be. It's a bad symptom, to my thinking. 'Still waters run deep.'
They're a-dreading the hour when they'll have to remove the body from
the house--they're afraid her mind 'll go."

"No, no," I answered, inwardly shuddering; "Eleanor's reason is too
fine and powerful to be unstrung, even by a blow like this."

"Who was that went out the gate as I came around the bend? Was it that
girl, again?"

"Do you mean Leesy Sullivan?"

"Yes, sir. Do you know her? She acts mighty queer, to my thinkin'. She
was out here Saturday, sittin' in the summer-house, all alone, 'till
the rain began to fall--I guess she got a good soaking going home. I
didn't think much about her; it was Saturday, and I thought likely she
was taking a holiday, and there's many people like to come here, it's
so pleasant. But what's brought her here again to-day is more'n I can
guess. Do you know, sir?"

"I do not. I found her sitting on the portico looking at the river.
Maybe she comes out for a walk and stops here to rest. She probably
feels somewhat at home, she has sewed so much in the family. I don't
know her at all, myself; I never spoke to her until just now. Did you
get much acquainted with her, when she was in the house?"

"I never spoke to her above a dozen times. I wasn't at the house much,
and she was always at work. She seemed fast with her needle, and a girl
who minded her own business. I thought she was rather proud, for a
seamstress--she was handsome, and I reckon she knew it. She's getting
thinner; she had red spots on her cheeks, Saturday, that I didn't
like--looked consumptive."

"Did the family treat her with particular kindness?" It was as near as
I cared to put into words what I was thinking of.

"You know it's in the whole Moreland race to be generous and kind to
those under them. I've known Henry more than once, when the family was
going out for a drive, to insist upon Miss Sullivan's taking a seat in
the carriage--but never when he was going alone. I heard him tell his
mother that the poor girl looked tired, as if she needed a breath of
air and a bit of freedom, and the kind-hearted lady would laugh at her
son, but do as he said. It was just like him. But I'd stake my
everlasting futur' that he never took any advantage of her feelings, if
it's that you're thinking of, Mr. Redfield."

"So would I, Mrs. Scott. There is no one can have a higher respect for
the character of that noble young gentleman, than I. I would resent an
insult to his memory more quickly than if he had been my brother. But,
as you say, there is something queer in the actions of Miss Sullivan. I
know that I can trust your discretion, Mrs. Scott, for I have heard it
well spoken of; do not say any thing to others, not even to your
husband, but keep a watch on that person if she should come here any
more. Report to me what she does, and what spot she frequents."

"I will do so, sir. But I don't think any harm of her. She may have
been unfortunate enough to think too much of the kindness with which he
treated her. If so, I pity her--she could hardly help it, poor thing.
Henry Moreland was a young gentleman a good many people loved."

She put her handkerchief to her eyes in a fresh burst of tears. Wishing
her good-morning, I turned toward the village, hardly caring what I
should do next. Mrs. Scott was an American woman, and one to be
trusted; I felt that she would be the best detective I could place at
that spot.

When I reached the office, on my homeward route, I went in. Mr. Argyll
was there alone, his head leaning on his hand, his face anxious and
worn, his brow contracted in deep thought. As soon as I came in, he
sprung up, closed the outer door, and said to me, in a low voice,

"Richard, another strange thing has occurred."

I stared at him, afraid to ask what.

"I have been robbed of two thousand dollars."

"When and how?"

"That is what I do not know. Four days ago I drew that amount in bills
from the Park Bank. I placed it, in a roll, just as I received it, in
my library desk, at home. I locked the desk, and have carried the key
in my pocket. The desk has been locked, as usual, every time that I
have gone to it. How long the money has been gone, I can not say; I
never looked after it, since placing it there, until about an hour ago.
I wanted some cash for expenses this afternoon, and going for it, the
roll was gone."

"Haven't you mislaid it?"

"No. I have one drawer for my cash, and I placed it there. I remember
it plainly enough. It has been stolen"--and he sat down in his chair
with a heavy sigh. "That money was for my poor Eleanor. She was to
complete her wedding outfit this week, and the two thousand dollars was
for refurnishing the place out at the Grove. I don't care for the loss
so much--she doesn't need it now--but it's singular--at this time!"

He looked up at me, vague suspicions which he could not shape floating
in his brain.

"Who knew of your having the money?"

"No one, that I am aware of, except my nephew. He drew it for me when
he went down to the city last Wednesday."

"Could you identify the money?"

"Not all of it. I only remember that there was one five hundred dollar
bill in the package, a fresh issue of the Park Bank, of which,
possibly, they may have the number. The rest was city money of various
denominations and banks. I can think of but one thing which seems
probable. James must have been followed from the city by some
professional thief, who saw him obtain the money, and kept an eye upon
it, waiting for a suitable opportunity, until it was deposited in the
desk. The key is a common one, which could be easily duplicated, and we
are so careless in this quiet community that a thief might enter at
almost any hour of the night. Perhaps the same villain dogged poor
Henry in hopes of another harvest."

"You forget that there was no attempt to rob Henry."

"True--true. Yet the murderer may have been frightened away before he
had secured his prize."

"In which case, he would have returned, as the body remained
undiscovered all night."

"It may be so. I am dizzy with thinking it over and over."

"Try and not think any more, dear sir," I said, gently. "You are
feverish and ill now. I am going, this afternoon, with the friends to
the city, and I will put the police on the watch for the money. We will
get the number of the large bill, if possible, from the bank, and I
will have investigations made as to the passengers of Wednesday on the
train with James. Have you said any thing to him about your loss?"

"I have not seen him since I made the discovery. You may tell him if
you see him first; and do what you can, Richard, for I feel as weak as
a child."



                              CHAPTER V.

                       MR. BURTON, THE DETECTIVE.


When I came out of the office, I encountered James on the steps, for
the first time that day. I could not stop to make known the robbery to
him, and telling him that his uncle wished to see him a few minutes, I
hurried to my boarding-house, where I had barely time to take some
lunch in my room, while packing a small bag to be sent to the cars,
before hurrying back to Mr. Argyll's to attend the funeral escort to
the train. James and I were two of the eight pall-bearers, yet neither
of us could summon fortitude to enter the parlor where the body lay; I
believe that James had not yet looked upon the corpse. We stood
outside, on the steps of the piazza, only taking our share of the
burden after the coffin was brought out into the yard. While we stood
there, among many others, waiting, I chanced to observe his paleness
and restlessness; he tore his black gloves in putting them on; I saw
his fingers trembling. As for me, my whole being seemed to pause, as a
single, prolonged shriek rung out of the darkened mansion and floated
off on the sunshine up to the ear of God. They were taking the lover
away from his bride. The next moment the coffin appeared; I took my
place by its side, and we moved away toward the depot, passing over the
very spot where the corpse was found. James was a step in advance of
me, and as we came to the place, some strong inward recoil made him
pause, then step aside and walk around the ill-starred spot. I noticed
it, not only for the momentary confusion into which it threw the line,
but because I had never supposed him susceptible to superstitious or
imaginative influences.

A private car had been arranged for. James and I occupied one seat; the
swift motion of the train was opposed to the idea of death; it had an
exhilarating effect upon my companion, whose paleness passed away, and
who began to experience a reäction after his depression of feeling. He
talked to me incessantly upon trifling subjects which I do not now
recall, and in that low, yet sharp voice which is most easily
distinguished through the clatter of a moving train. The necessity for
attending to him--for making answers to irrelevant questions, when my
mind was preoccupied, annoyed me. My thoughts centered about the
coffin, and its inmate, taking his last ride under circumstances so
different from those under which he had set out, only two days ago, to
meet her whom his heart adored; whose hand he never clasped--whose lips
he never touched--the fruition of whose hopes was cut off
utterly--whose fate, henceforth, was among the mysterious paths of the
great eternity.

_I_ could not, for an instant, feel the least lightness of heart. My
nature was too sympathetic; the currents of my young blood flowed too
warmly, for me to feel otherwise than deeply affected by the
catastrophe. My eyes shed inward tears at the sight of the parents,
sitting in advance of us, their heads bowed beneath the stroke; and,
oh! my heart shed tears of blood at thought of Eleanor, left behind us
to the utter darkness of a night which had fallen while it was yet
morning.

Musing upon _her_, I wondered that her cousin James could throw off the
troubles of others as he did, interesting himself in passing trifles. I
have said that I never liked him much; but in this I was an exception
to the general rule. He was an almost universal favorite. At least, he
seldom failed to please and win those for whom he exerted himself to be
agreeable. His voice was soft and well modulated--such a voice as,
should one hear it from another apartment, would make him wish to see
the speaker; his manner was gracious and flattering. I had often
wondered why his evident passion for Eleanor had not secured her
interest in return, before she knew Henry Moreland, and had answered
myself that it was one of two reasons: either their cousinly
intercourse had invested him, to her, with the feelings of a brother or
relative, or her fine perceptions, being the superior woman which she
was, had unconsciously led her to a true estimate of his qualities.
This day I felt less affinity for him than ever before, as I gazed at
his dark, thin features, and met the light of eyes brilliant, unsteady
and cold. That intense selfishness which I had secretly attributed to
him, was now, to my perhaps too acute apprehension, painfully apparent.
In my secret heart, as I listened to his light remarks, and perceived
the rise of spirits which he hardly endeavored to check, I accused him
of gladness that a rival was out of the way, and that the chances were
again open for the hand of his beautiful and wealthy cousin. At first
he had been shocked, as we all were; but now that he had time to view
the occurrence with an eye to the future, I believed that he was
already calculating the results with regard to his own hopes and
wishes. I turned from him with a feeling of aversion.

After neglecting to reply to him until he was obliged to drop the
one-sided conversation, I recollected that I had not yet spoken to him
in regard to his uncle's loss; so I said to him quite suddenly,

"Mr. Argyll has been robbed of a sum of money."

An inexplicable expression flashed into his face and passed off; it
went as soon as it came.

"So he informed me, just before we started. He says that you will put
the police on the track of it--that possibly the five-hundred dollar
bill will be identified. It was taken from his desk, it appears."

"Yes; I wonder what will happen next."

"Ay! I wonder what will."

"Who knows what a narrow escape _you_ may have had," said I. "It is
well that you came here in broad daylight; else, like poor Henry, you
might have fallen a victim to a blow in the dark. Mr. Argyll thinks you
must have been followed from the city by some professional burglar."

"He thinks so?" he asked, while the shadow of a smile just showed a
second in the mirror of his eyes; it was as if there was a smile in his
heart, and a reflection from its invisible self fell athwart his eyes;
but he turned them away immediately.

"It's queer," he resumed; "horribly queer; don't you think so? I saw
that money in the desk Friday evening. Uncle asked me to hold the lamp
a moment, while he found some papers, and I noticed the roll of bills
lying in his cash-drawer, just as I had given them to him. It must have
been abstracted Saturday or Sunday--it's queer--confoundedly so! There
must be some great villain lurking in our midst!"--this last sentence
he uttered with an emphasis, looking me through with his black eyes.

There was suspicion in his gaze, and my own fell before it. Innocence
itself will blush if obliged to confront the insult of accusation. I
had had many wild, and doubtless many wrong and suspicious thoughts
about various persons, since the discovery of the murder; and this was
turning the tables on me rather suddenly. It never occurred to me that
among the dozens upon whom vague and flying suspicions might alight,
might be myself.

"There is an awful mystery somewhere," I stammered.

"Humph! yes, there is. My uncle Argyll is just the man to be wronged by
some one of his many friends and dependents. He is too confiding, too
unsuspecting of others--as I have told him. He has been duped
often--but this--this is too bad!"

I looked up again, and sharply, to see what he meant. If he intended
covertly to insinuate that _I_ was open to imputation as one of the
"friends or dependents" who could wrong a benefactor, I wished to
understand him. A friend, I knew, Mr. Argyll was to me; a friend to be
grateful for; but I was no dependent upon his bounty, as his nephew
was, and the hot blood rushed to my face, the fire to my eye, as I
answered back the cool gaze of James with a haughty stare.

"There is no love lost between us, Richard," he said, presently, "which
is principally your fault; but I am friendly to you; and as a friend, I
would suggest that you do not make yourself conspicuous in this affair.
If you should put yourself forward at all, being so young, and having,
apparently, so small an interest in the matter, you may bring
unpleasant remark upon yourself. Let us stand back and allow our elders
to do the work. As to that money, whether it has or has not any
connection with the--the other affair, time will perhaps show. Let the
police do what they can with it--my advice to you is to keep in the
background."

"Your course may be prudent, James," was my reply; "I do not ask your
approbation of mine. But to one thing I have made up my mind. So long
as I live, and the murderer of Henry Moreland is undiscovered, I will
never rest. In Eleanor's name, I consecrate myself to this calling. I
can face the whole world in her behalf, and fear nothing."

He turned away with a sneer, busying himself with the prospect from the
window. During the rest of the ride we said little; his words had given
me a curious sensation; I had sustained so many shocks to my feelings
within the last forty-eight hours, that this new one of finding myself
under the eye of suspicion, mingled in with the perplexing whirl of the
whole, until I almost began to doubt my own identity and that of
others. A vision of Leesy Sullivan, whose wild footsteps might still be
tracking hills and fields, hovered before me--and out of all this
distraction, my thoughts settled upon Eleanor. I prayed God earnestly
to be with her in this hour; either to strengthen her heart and brain
to bear her affliction without falling to ruins beneath the weight, or
to take her at once to Himself, where Henry awaited her in the mansions
of their eternal home.

The arrival of the train at Thirtieth street recalled me to my present
duties. Carriages were in waiting to convey the coffin and its escort
to the house of the parents, the funeral being arranged for the
following day. I saw the officer who had gone down from Blankville in
the morning, waiting in the depot to speak to me; but I did not need to
be told that he had not found the sewing-girl at her place of business.
I made an appointment to meet him in the evening at the Metropolitan,
and took my place in the sad procession to the house of the Morelands.

I was anxious to give notice of the robbery at the bank, and to
ascertain if they could identify any of the money, especially the large
bill, which, being new, I hoped they would have on record. Banking
hours were over, however, for the day, and it was only by intruding the
matter upon the notice of Mr. Moreland that I could get any thing
accomplished. This I decided to do; when he told me that, by going
directly to the bank, he thought I could gain access to the cashier;
and if not, he gave me his address, so that I might seek him at his
residence. Mr. Moreland also advised me to take with me some competent
detective, who should be witness to the statement of the cashier with
regard to the money paid to James Argyll, on his uncle's draft, and be
employed to put the rest of the force on the lookout for it, or any
portion of it which was identifiable. He gave me the name of an officer
with whom he had a chance acquaintance, and of whose abilities he had a
high opinion; telling me to make free use of his name and influence, if
he had any, with him, and the police.

"And please, Mr. Redfield--or James here, if you should be too
busy--make out an advertisement for the morning papers, offering a
reward of five thousand dollars for the detection and conviction of
the--the--murderer."

James was standing by us during the conversation; and I almost withdrew
my verdict upon his selfishness, as I marked how he shrunk when the eye
of the bereaved father rested upon him, and how vainly he endeavored to
appear calm at the affecting spectacle of the gray-haired gentleman
forcing his quivering lips to utter the word--"murderer." He trembled
much more than myself, as each of us wrung Mr. Moreland's hand, and
departed down the steps.

"It unmanned him," he said, stopping a moment on the pavement to wipe
the perspiration from his brow, though the day was not at all warm. "I
believe," he added, as he walked along, "that if the person who
resolves to commit a crime would reflect on all the consequences of
that act, it would remain undone for ever. But he does not. He sees an
object in the way of his wishes, and he thrusts it aside, reckless of
the ruin which will overwhelm surrounding things, until he sees the
wreck about him. Then it is too late for remorse--to the devil with it.
But I needn't philosophize before you, Richard, who have precociously
earned that privilege of wisdom"--with that disagreeable half-laugh of
his--"only I was thinking how the guilty party must have felt could he
have seen Henry's father as we saw him just now," and again I felt his
eye upon me. Certainly, there seemed no prospect of our friendship
increasing. I would rather have dispensed with his company, while I put
my full energies into the business before me; but it was quite natural
that he should expect to accompany me on an errand in which he must
have as deep an interest as myself. Coming out of the avenue upon
Broadway we took a stage, riding down as far as Grand street, when we
got out and walked to the office of the detective-police.

The chief was not in at the moment of our entrance; we were received by
a subordinate and questioned as to our visit. The morning papers had
heralded the melancholy and mysterious murder through the city;
hundreds of thousands of persons had already marveled over the boldness
and success, the silence and suddenness with which the deed had been
done, leaving not a clue by which to trace the perpetrator. It had been
the sensation of the day throughout New York and its environs. The
public mind was busy with conjectures as to the _motive_ for the crime.
And this was to be one of the sharp thorns pressed into the hearts of
the distressed friends of the murdered man. Suddenly, into the garish
light of day, beneath the pitiless gaze of a million curious eyes, was
dragged every word, or act, or circumstance of the life so abruptly
closed. It was necessary to the investigation of the affair, that the
most secret pages of his history should be read out--and it is not in
the nature of a daily paper to neglect such opportunities for turning
an honest penny. Here let me say that not one character in ten thousand
could have stood this trial by fire as did Henry Moreland's. No wronged
hireling, no open enemy, no secret intrigue, no gambling debts--not one
blot on the bright record of his amiable, Christian life.

To return to the detective-office. Our errand at once received
attention from the person in charge, who sent a messenger after the
chief. He also informed us that several of their best men had gone up
to Blankville that afternoon to confer with the authorities there. The
public welfare demanded, as well as the interest of private
individuals, that the guilty should be ferreted out, if possible. The
apparent impunity with which the crime had been committed was
startling, making every one feel it a personal matter to aid in
discouraging any more such practices; besides, the police knew that
their efforts would be well rewarded.

While we sat talking with the official, I noticed the only other inmate
of the room, who made a peculiar impression upon me for which I could
not account.

He was a large man, of middle age, with a florid face and sandy hair.
He was quietly dressed in the ordinary manner of the season, and with
nothing to mark him from a thousand other men of similar appearance,
unless it was the expression of his small, blue-gray eyes, whose
glance, when I happened to encounter it, seemed not to be looking at me
but into me. However, he turned it away, and occupied himself with
looking through the window at the passers-by. He appeared to be a
stranger, awaiting, like ourselves, the coming of the chief.

Desiring to secure the services of the particular detective whom Mr.
Moreland had recommended, I asked the subordinate in attendance, if he
could inform me where Mr. Burton was to be found.

"Burton? I don't know of any one of that name, I think--if I may except
my stage experience with Mr. Toodles," he added, with a smile, called
up by some passing vision of his last visit to the theater.

"Then there is no Mr. Burton belongs to your force?"

"Not that I am acquainted with. He may be one of us, for all that. We
don't pretend to know our own brothers here. You can ask Mr. Browne
when he comes in."

All this time the stranger by the window sat motionless, absorbed in
looking upon the throng of persons and vehicles in the street beneath;
and now I, having nothing else to do, regarded him. I felt a magnetism
emanate from him, as from a manufactory of vital forces; I felt,
instinctively, that he was possessed of an iron will and indomitable
courage; I was speculating, according to my dreamy habit, upon his
characteristics, when the chief appeared, and we, that is, James and
myself, laid our case before him--at the same time I mentioned that Mr.
Moreland had desired me to ask for Mr. Burton to be detailed to aid our
investigations.

"Ah! yes," said Mr. Browne, "there are not many outsiders who know that
person. He is my right hand, but I don't let the left know what he
doeth. Mr. Moreland had his services once, I remember, in tracking some
burglars who had entered his banking-house. Poor young Moreland! I've
seen him often! Shocking affair, truly. We mustn't rest till we know
more about it. I only hope we may be of service to his afflicted
father. Burton is just here, fortunately," and he beckoned to the very
stranger sitting in the window, who had overheard the inquiries made
for him without the slightest demonstration that such a being had any
existence as far as he was concerned, and who now slowly arose, and
approached us. We four went into an inner room, where we were
introduced to each other, and drawing up our chairs in a close circle,
we began, in low voices, the discussion of our business.

Mr. Browne was voluble when he heard that a robbery had been committed
in Mr. Argyll's house. He had no doubt, he said, that the two crimes
were connected, and it would be strange, indeed, if nothing could be
discovered relating to either of them. He hoped that the lesser crime
would be the means of betraying the greater. He trusted the rogue,
whoever he or she might be, had, in this imprudent act, done something
to betray himself. He had hopes of the five-hundred dollar bill.

Mr. Burton said very little, beyond asking two or three questions; but
he was a good listener. Much of the time he sat with his eyes fixed
upon James, who did a good deal of the talking. I could not, for the
life of me, tell whether James was conscious of those blue-gray eyes;
if he was, they did not much disturb him; he made his statements in a
calm and lucid manner, gazing into Mr. Burton's face with a clear and
open look. After a while, the latter began to grow uneasy; powerful as
was his physical and mental frame, I saw a trembling of both; he forced
himself to remain quiet in his chair--but to me he had the air of a
lion, who sees its prey but a little distance off, and who trembles
with restraint. The light in his eye narrowed down to one gleam of
concentrated fire--a steely, glittering point--he watched the rest of
us and said little. If I had been a guilty man I should have shrunk
from that observation, through the very walls, or out of a five-story
window, if there had been no other way; it struck me that it would have
been unbearable to any accusing conscience; but my own mind being
burdened with no weightier sins than a few boyish follies--saving the
selfishness and earthliness which make a part of all human natures--I
felt quite free, breathing easily, while I noticed, with interest, the
silent change going on in the detective.

More and more like a lion about to spring, he grew; but whether his
prey was near at hand and visible, or far away and visible only to his
mental gaze, I could not tell. I fairly jumped, when he at last rose
quickly to his feet; I expected to see him bound upon some guilty ghost
to us intangible, and shake it to pieces in an honest rage; but
whatever was the passion within him, he controlled it, saying only, a
little impatiently,

"Enough, gentlemen, we have talked enough! Browne, will you go with Mr.
Argyll to the bank, and see about that money? I do not wish to be known
there as belonging to your force. I will walk to his hotel with Mr.
Redfield, and you can meet us there at any hour you choose to appoint."

"It will take until tea-time to attend to the bank. Say about eight
o'clock, then, we will be at the--"

"Metropolitan," said I, and the quartette parted, half going up and
half going down town.

On our way to the hotel we fell into an easy conversation on topics
entirely removed from the one which absorbed the gravest thoughts of
both. Mr. Burton did more talking now than he had done at the office,
perhaps with the object of making me express myself freely; though if
so, he managed with so much tact that his wish was not apparent. He had
but poor success; the calamity of our house lay too heavily on me for
me to forget it in an instant; but I was constantly surprised at the
character of the man whose acquaintance I was making. He was
intelligent, even educated, a gentleman in language and manner--a quite
different person, in fact, from what I had expected in a member of the
detective-police.

Shut up in the private parlor which I obtained at the Metropolitan, the
subject of the murder was again broached and thoroughly discussed. Mr.
Burton won my confidence so inevitably that I felt no hesitation in
unvailing to him the domestic hearth of Mr. Argyll, whenever the habits
or circumstances of the family were consulted in their bearing upon the
mystery. And when he said to me, fixing his eye upon me, but speaking
gently,

"You, too, loved the young lady,"--I neither blushed nor grew angry.
That penetrating eye had read the secret of my heart, which had never
been spoken or written, yet I did not feel outraged that he had dared
to read it out to me. If he could find any matter against me in that
holiest truth of my existence, he was welcome to it.

"Be it so," I said; "that is with myself, and no one else."

"There are others who love her," he continued, "but there is a
difference in the quality of love. There is that which sanctifies, and
something, called by the same name, which is an excuse for infinite
perfidy. In my experience I have found the love of woman and the love
of money at the bottom of most mischief--the greed of gain is by far
the commonest and strongest; and when the two are combined, there is
motive enough for the darkest tragedy. But you spoke of a young woman,
of whom you have suspicions."

I told Mr. Burton that in this matter I trusted to his discretion; that
I had not brought it to notice before Mr. Browne, because I shrunk from
the danger of fixing a ruinous suspicion upon a person who might be
perfectly innocent; yet that circumstances were such as to demand
investigation, which I was sure he was the person to carry on. I then
gave him a careful account of every thing I had seen or learned about
the sewing-girl. He agreed with me that she ought to be placed under
secret surveillance. I told him that the officer from Blankville would
be in after tea, when we could consult together and dispose of the
discussion before the arrival of James and Mr. Browne--and I then rung
the bell, ordering a light supper in our room.

The Blankville official had nothing to report of Miss Sullivan, except
that she had not arrived either at her boarding-house or at the shop
where she was employed, and her character stood high at both places.
She had been represented to him as a "strictly proper" person, very
reserved, in poor health, with a sad appearance, and an excellent
workwoman--that no gentlemen were ever known to call to see her, and
that she never went out after returning to her boarding-house at the
close of work-hours. We then requested him to say nothing about her to
his brother officers, and to keep the matter from the newspapers, as we
should regret doing an irreparable injury to one who might be guiltless.

It seemed as if the Fates were in favor of the guilty. Mr. Browne,
punctually at eight o'clock, reported that there was none of the money
paid out to James Argyll at Mr. Argyll's order, which the bank would
identify--not even its own bill of five hundred dollars, which was a
recent issue. They had paid out such a bill on the draft, but the
number was not known to them.

"However," said Mr. Browne, "bills of that denomination are not common,
and we shall be on the lookout for them, wherever offered."

"But even should the robber be discovered, there is no proof that it
would establish any connection with the murder. It may have been a
coincidence," remarked James. "I have often noticed that one calamity
is sure to be followed by another. If there is a railroad disaster, a
powder-mill explosion, a steamer destroyed by fire, before the horror
of the first accident has done thrilling our nerves, we are pretty
certain to be startled by another catastrophe."

"I, too," said Mr. Burton, "have remarked the succession of
events--echoes, as it were, following the clap of thunder. And I have
usually found that, like the echoes, there was a natural cause for
them."

James moved uneasily in his chair, arose, pulled aside the curtain, and
looked out into the night. I had often noticed that he was somewhat
superstitious; perhaps he saw the eyes of Henry Moreland looking down
at him from the starry hights; he twitched the curtains together with a
shiver, and came back to us.

"It is not impossible," he said, keeping his face in the shadow, for he
did not like us to see how the night had affected him, "that some one
of the clerks in Mr. Moreland's banking-house--perhaps some trusted and
responsible person--was detected by Henry, in making false entries, or
some other dishonesty--and that to save himself the disgrace of
betrayal and dismissal, he has put the discoverer out of the way. The
whole business of the establishment ought to be thoroughly overhauled.
It appears that Henry went directly to the cars from the office; so
that if any trouble had arisen between him and one of the employees,
there would have been no opportunity for his consulting his father, who
was not at the place all that afternoon."

"Your suggestion is good," said Mr. Browne, "and must be attended to."

"The whereabouts of every one of the employees, down to the porter, at
the time of the murder, are already accounted for. They were all in the
city," said Mr. Burton, with precision.

Shortly after, the party separated for the night. An urgent invitation
came from Mr. Moreland for James and myself to stop at his house during
our stay in the city; but we thought it better not to disturb the quiet
of the house of mourning with the business which we wished to press
forward, and returned an answer to that effect. It was nearly ten
o'clock when James recollected that we had not been to the offices of
the daily journals with the advertisements which ought to appear in the
morning. It was the work of a few minutes for me to write one out,
which we then copied on three or four sheets of paper, and finding an
errand-boy below, we dispatched him with two of the copies to as many
journals, and ourselves hurried off with the others. I went to one
establishment and my companion to another, in order to hasten
proceedings, knowing that it was doubtful if we could get them inserted
at that late hour. Having succeeded to my satisfaction with my own
errand, I thought I would walk over to the next street and meet James,
whom, having a little further than I to go, I would probably meet,
returning. As I neared the building to which he had gone, and which was
brilliantly lighted up for its night-work, I saw James come out on the
pavement, look around him an instant, and then start off in a direction
opposite to that which would lead back to Broadway and his hotel. He
had not observed me, who chanced to be in shadow at the moment; and I,
without any particular motive which I could analyze, started after him,
thinking to overtake him and offer to join him in a walk. He went,
however, at so rapid a pace, that I still remained behind. Our course
lay through Nassau and Fulton streets, to the Brooklyn ferry. I
quickened my pace almost to a run, as James passed into the
ferry-house, for I saw that a boat was about to start; but I had a
vexatious delay in finding small change, so that I got through just in
time to see the boat move off, James himself having to take a flying
leap to reach it after it was under way. At that hour there was a boat
only every fifteen minutes; of course I gave up the pursuit; and
sitting down at the end of the bridge, I allowed the cool wind from the
bay and river to blow against my hot face, while I gazed out on the
dark waters, listening to their incessant moaning about the piers, and
watching where they glimmered beneath the lights of the opposite shore.
The blue and red lamps of the moving vessels, in my present mood, had a
weird and ghastly effect; the thousands of masts of the moored shipping
stood up naked against the sky, like a forest of blighted, skeleton
pines. Sadness, the deepest I had ever felt in my life, fell upon
me--sadness too deep for any expression. The shifting water, slipping
and sighing about the works of men which fretted it; the
unapproachable, glittering sky; the leafless forest, the wind fresh
from its ocean solitudes--these partially interpreted it, but not
wholly. Their soul, as far as the soul of Nature goes, was in unison
with mine; but in humanity lies a still deeper deep, rises a higher
hight. I was as much alone as if nearly a million fellow-creatures were
not so encircling me. I thought of the many tragedies over which these
waters had closed; of the secrets they had hidden; of the many lives
sucked under these ruthless bridges; of the dark creatures who haunted
these docks at evil hours--but most I thought of a distant chamber,
where a girl, who yesterday was as full of love and beauty as a morning
rose is full of dew and perfume--whose life ran over with light--whose
step was imperial with the happiness of youth--lay, worn and pallid,
upon her weary bed, breathing sighs of endless misery. I thought of the
funeral procession which to-morrow, at noon, should come by this road
and travel these waters, to that garden of repose, whose white
tombstones I knew, although I could not see them, gleamed now under the
"cold light of stars."

[Illustration:

BAFFLED.

Page 64.]

Thus I sat, wrapped in musings, until a policeman, who, it is likely,
had long had his eye upon me, wondering if I were a suspicious
character, called out--"Take care of your legs, young man!" and I
sprung to my feet, as the return boat came into her slip, drifting up
and bumping sullenly against the end of the bridge where my legs had
been dangling.

I waited until, among the not numerous passengers, I perceived James
hurrying by, when I slipped my hand into his arm quietly, saying,

"You led me quite a race--what in the world have you been across to
Brooklyn for?"

He jumped at my voice and touch; then grew angry, as people are apt to
do when they are startled or frightened, after the shock is over.

"What business is that of yours, sir? How dare you follow me? If you
have taken upon yourself the office of spy, let me know it."

"I beg your pardon," I answered, withdrawing from his arm, "I walked
over to the H---- office to meet you, and saw you walk off in this
direction. I had no particular object in following you, and perhaps
ought not to have done it."

"I spoke too hastily," he said, almost immediately. "Forget it,
Richard. You pounced upon me so unexpectedly, you gave me a nervous
shock--irritated my combativeness, I suppose. I thought, of course, you
had returned to the hotel, and feeling too restless to go back to my
little bedroom, there, I determined to try the effect of a ride across
the river. The bracing air has toned me up. I believe I can go back and
sleep"--offering his arm again, which I took, and we slowly retraced
our steps to the Metropolitan.

I will not pain the heart of my reader by forcing him to be one of the
mournful procession which followed Henry Moreland to his untimely
grave. At two o'clock of Tuesday, all was over. The victim was hidden
away from the face of the earth--smiling, as if asleep, dreaming of his
Eleanor, he was consigned to that darkness from whence he should never
awaken and find her--while the one who had brought him low walked
abroad under the sunlight of heaven. To give that guilty creature no
peace was the purpose of my heart.

James resolved to return to Blankville by the five o'clock train. He
looked sick, and said that he felt so--that the last trying scene had
"used him up;" and then, his uncle would surely want one of us to
assist him at home. To this I assented, intending myself to stay in the
city a day or two, until Mr. Burton was prepared to go out to
Blankville with me.

After such of the friends from the village as had come down to attend
the funeral, had started for home in the afternoon cars, I went to my
room to have another interview with the detective. In the mean time, I
had heard some of the particulars of Mr. Burton's history, which had
greatly increased the interest I already felt in him. He had chosen his
present occupation out of a consciousness of his fitness for it. He was
in independent circumstances, and accepted no salary for what was with
him a labor of love; seldom taking any of the liberal sums pressed upon
him by grateful parties who had benefited by his skill, except to cover
expenses to which long journeys, or other necessities of the case,
might have subjected him. He had been in the "profession" but a few
years. Formerly he had been a forwarding-merchant, universally esteemed
for integrity, and carrying about him that personal influence which men
of strong will and unusual discrimination exercise over those with whom
they come in contact. But that he had any extraordinary powers, of the
kind which had since been developed, he was as ignorant as others. An
accident, which revealed these to him, shaped the future course of his
life. One wild and windy night the fire-bells of New York rung a fierce
alarm; the flames of a large conflagration lighted the sky; the firemen
toiled manfully, as was their wont, but the air was bitter and the
pavements sleety, and the wintry wind "played such fantastic tricks
before high heaven" as made the angel of mercy almost despair. Before
the fire could be subdued, four large warehouses had been burned to the
ground, and in one of them a large quantity of uninsured merchandise
for which Mr. Burton was responsible.

The loss, to him, was serious. He barely escaped failure by drawing in
his business to the smallest compass, and, by the exercise of great
prudence, he managed to save a remnant of his fortune, with which, as
soon as he could turn it to advantage, he withdrew from his mercantile
career. His mind was bent on a new business, which unfitted him for any
other.

The fire was supposed to be purely accidental; the insurance companies,
usually cautious enough, had paid over their varying amounts of
insurance to those fortunate losers, who were not, like Mr. Burton,
unprepared. These losers were men of wealth, and the highest position
as business firms--high and mighty potentates, against whom to breathe
a breath of slander, was to overwhelm the audacious individual in the
ruins of his own presumption. Mr. Burton had an inward conviction that
these men were guilty of arson. He knew it. His mind perceived their
guilt. But he could make no allegation against them upon such
unsubstantial basis as this. He went to work, quietly and singly, to
gather up the threads in the cable of his proof; and when he had made
it strong enough to hang them twice over--for two lives, that of a
porter and a clerk, had been lost in the burning buildings--he
threatened them with exposure, unless they made good to him the loss
which he had sustained through their villainy. They laughed at him from
their stronghold of respectability. He brought the case into court.
Alas! for the pure, white statue of Justice which beautifies the
desecrated chambers of the law. Banded together, with inexhaustible
means of corruption at their command, the guilty were triumphant.

During this experience, Mr. Burton had got an inside view of life, in
the marts, on exchange, in the halls of justice, and in the high and
low places where men do congregate. It was as if, with the thread in
his hand, which he had picked out, he unraveled the whole web of human
iniquity. Burning with a sense of his individual wrongs, he could not
look calmly on and see others similarly exposed; he grew fascinated
with his labor of dragging the dangerous secrets of a community to the
light. The more he called into play the peculiar faculties of his mind,
which made him so successful a hunter on the paths of the guilty, the
more marvelous became their development. He was like an Indian on the
trail of his enemy--the bent grass, the broken twig, the evanescent
dew--which, to the uninitiated, were "trifles light as air," to him
were "proofs strong as Holy Writ."

In this work he was actuated by no pernicious motives. Upright and
humane, with a generous heart which pitied the innocent injured, his
conscience would allow him no rest if he permitted crime, which he
could see walking where others could not, to flourish unmolested in the
sunshine made for better uses. He attached himself to the secret
detective-police; only working up such cases as demanded the benefit of
his rare powers.

Thus much of Mr. Burton had the chief of police revealed to me, during
a brief interview in the morning; and this information, it may be
supposed, had not lessened the fascinations which he had for me. The
first thing he said, after the greetings of the day, when he came to my
room, was,

"I have ascertained that our sewing-girl has one visitor, who is a
constant one. There is a middle-aged woman, a nurse, who brings a
child, now about a year old, every Sunday to spend half the day with
her, when she does not go up to Blankville. On such occasions it is
brought in the evening, some time during the week. It passes, so says
the landlady, for the child of a cousin of Miss Sullivan's, who was
married to a worthless young fellow, who deserted her within three
months, and went off to the west; the mother died at its birth, leaving
it entirely unprovided for, and Miss Sullivan, to keep it out of the
charity-hospital, hired this woman to nurse it with her own baby, for
which she pays her twelve shillings a week. She was, according to her
story to the landlady, very much attached to her poor cousin, and could
not cast off the little one for her sake."

"All of which may be true--"

"Or false--as the case may turn."

"It certainly will not be difficult to ascertain if such a cousin
really married and died, as represented. The girl has not returned to
her work yet, I suppose?"

"She has not. Her absence gives the thing a bad look. Some connection
she undoubtedly has with the case; as for how deeply she was involved
in it, we will only know when we find out. Whoever the child's mother
may have been, it seems evident, from the tenor of the landlady's
story, that Miss Sullivan is much attached to it; it is safe to presume
that, sooner or later, she will return to look after it. In her anxiety
to reach the nest, she will fly into the trap. I have made arrangements
by which I shall be informed if she appears at any of her former
haunts, or at the house of the nurse. And now, I believe, I will go up
to Blankville with you for a single day. I wish to see the ground of
the tragedy, including Mr. Argyll's residence, the lawn, the library
from which the money was abstracted, etc. A clear picture of these,
carried in my mind, may be of use to me in unexpected ways. If we hear
nothing of her in the village, I will return to the city, and await her
reäppearance here, which will be sure to occur within a month."

"Why within a month?"

"Women risk themselves, always, where a little child demands it. When
the nurse finds the baby abandoned by its protector, and the wages
unpaid, she will throw the charge upon the authorities. To prevent
this, the girl will be back here to see after it. However, I hope we
shall not be a month getting at what we want. It will be curious if we
don't finish the whole of this melancholy business before that. And, by
the way, you and young Argyll had quite a hide-and-seek race the other
night!" and when I looked my astonishment at this remark, he only
laughed. "It's my profession, you know," was his only explanation.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                        TWO LINKS IN THE CHAIN.


We went up to Blankville that evening, arriving late. I confess that I
felt a thrill as of cold steel, and peered over my shoulder as we
walked up the hill from the depot; but my companion was guilty of no
such weakness. He kept as sharp a lookout as the light of a setting
moon would permit, but it was only with a view to making himself
familiar with the premises. We passed the Argyll mansion on our way to
my boarding-place; it was too late to call; the lights were
extinguished, except the faint one always left burning in the hall, and
in two or three of the chambers. A rush of emotion oppressed me, as I
drew near it; I would fain have laid my head against the pillars of the
gateway and wept--tears such as a man may shed without reproach, when
the woman he loves suffers. A growing anxiety possessed me to hear of
Eleanor, no report of her mental or physical condition having reached
me since that piercing shriek had announced the parting of her
heart-strings when the strain of final separation came. I would have
gone to the door a moment, to make inquiries, had I not inferred that a
knock at that late hour must startle the family into nervous
anticipations. The wan glimmer of the sinking moon struck under the
branches of the silent trees, which stood about the dark mass of the
stately mansion; not a breath stirred the crisp foliage. I heard a
leaf, which loosened itself and rustled downward to the sod.

"It is a fine old place," remarked my companion, pausing because my own
steps had come to a standstill.

I could not answer; he drew my arm into his, and we went on. Mr. Burton
was growing to me in the shape of a friend, instead of a
detective-officer.

That night I gave up my room to him, taking a hall-bedroom adjoining.
After breakfast we went forth into the village, making our first call
at the office. Mr. Argyll was there, looking thin and care-worn. He
said that he was glad to have me back, for he felt unfit for business,
and must let the mantle of labor drop upon my shoulders hereafter.

There had been an implied understanding, although it had never been
definitely agreed upon, that I was to become a partner in the law with
my teacher, when I had been admitted to practice. He had no one
associated with him in his large and lucrative business, and he was now
getting of an age to feel like retiring from at least the drudgery of
the profession. That he designed to offer me the place open for some
candidate, I had not doubted, for he had said as much many times. This
prospect was an unusually fair one for so young a person as myself; it
had urged me to patient study, to eager, ambitious effort. For I
rightly deemed that a respect for my habits of mental application and a
faith in my as yet undeveloped talents, had decided Mr. Argyll to offer
me the contemplated encouragement. This had been another reason for
James' dislike of me. He could not look favorably upon one who had, as
it were, supplanted him. Instead of seeing that the fault lay in
himself, and applying the remedy, he pursued the false course of
considering me as a rival and an interloper. He, also, was a student in
the office, and that he was a year behind me in his studies, and that,
if he ever became a partner, it would be as a third member of the firm,
was owing solely to his habitual indolence, which gave him a distaste
for the dry details of a lawyer's work. What he would have liked would
be to have his examination shirked over, to be admitted on the strength
of his uncle's reputation, and then to be employed only in making
brilliant oratorical efforts before the judge, jury and audience, after
some one else had performed all the hard labor of the case, and placed
his weapons ready at his hand.

If Mr. Argyll really intended to take the son of his old friend into
the firm, instead of his nephew, it was simply on the prudent
principles of business. I was to pass my examination on the first of
November; this remark, then, which he made, as I observed how weary and
unwell he looked, was not a surprise to me--it came only as a
confirmation of my expectations.

At that moment James entered the office. There was a cloud on his brow,
called up by his uncle's words; he hardly took time to shake hands with
me, before he said,

"How is it, uncle, if you are worried and overworked, that you do not
tell _me_? I should have been glad to help you. But it seems I am of no
possible account nowadays."

Mr. Argyll smiled at this outbreak, as he would at the vexation of a
child. A father could not be kinder to a son than he was to James; but
to depend upon him for solid aid or comfort would be to lean upon a
broken reed. The cloud upon the young man's face grew thunderous when
he perceived Mr. Burton; although, if I had not been looking straight
in his eyes, I should not have noticed it, for it passed instantly, and
he stepped forward with frank cordiality, extending his hand, and
saying,

"We did not know you were to come up. Indeed, we did not expect Richard
back so soon. Has any thing transpired?"

"We hope that something will transpire, very soon," answered the
detective. "You are very anxious, I see--and no wonder."

"No--no wonder! We are all of us perfectly absorbed--and, as for me, my
heart bleeds for my friends, Mr. Burton."

"And your friends' hearts bleed for you."

Mr. Burton had a peculiar voice, searching, though not loud; I was
talking with Mr. Argyll, and yet I heard this reply without listening
for it; I did not comprehend it, and indeed, I let it in at one ear and
out at the other, for I was asking about Eleanor.

"She is better than we hoped for," said the father, wiping the mist
from his eyes which gathered at the mention of her name, "but, alas,
Richard, that is not saying much. My girl never will be herself again.
My pretty Eleanor will never be my sunshine anymore. Not that her mind
is shaken--that remains only too acutely sensitive. But her heart is
broken. I can see that--broken, past mending. She has not left her bed
since Henry was carried away; the doctor assures me there is nothing
dangerous about her illness--only the natural weakness of the system
after intense suffering, the same as if she had endured great physical
pain. He says she will rally presently."

"If I could take her burden upon myself, I would ask no greater boon,"
I said.

My voice must have been very full of the feeling within me, for it made
Mr. Argyll give me a wondering look; I think it was the first time he
had a suspicion of the hopeless passion I had cherished for his
daughter.

"We must all bear our own troubles," he said. "Poor Richard, I fear you
have your own, like the rest of us."

When I again noticed what was passing between the other two, James was
telling Mr. Burton, with great animation, of some information which had
been lodged with the authorities of the village. I became absorbed in
it, of course.

A respectable citizen of a town some thirty or forty miles beyond, on
the railroad, hearing of the murder, had taken the trouble to come down
to Blankville and testify to some things which had fallen under his
observation on the night of the murder. He stated that he was a
passenger on the Saturday afternoon train from New York; that the seat
in front of his own, in the car, was occupied by a young gentleman,
who, by the description since given, he knew must be Henry Moreland;
that, as there were but few people in that car, he had given the more
attention to those near him; that he was particularly attracted by the
prepossessing appearance of the young gentleman, with whom he exchanged
a few remarks with regard to the storm, and who informed him that he
was going no further than Blankville.

"After we had been riding a while," said the witness--I do not give
James' words in telling it, but his own, as I afterward read them in
the sworn testimony--"I noticed a person who sat on the opposite side
of the car, facing us. His forehead was bent on his hand, and he was
looking out from under his fingers, at the young man in front of me. It
was his sinister expression which compelled me to notice him. His
small, glittering, black eyes were fixed upon my neighbor with a look
which made me shudder. I smiled at myself for my own sensation--said to
myself it was none of my business--that I was nervous--yet, in spite of
my attempts to be unconcerned, I was continually compelled to look
across at the individual of whose serpent-gaze the young gentleman
himself appeared totally unconscious. If he had once met those eyes, I
am certain he would have been on his guard--for I assert, without other
proof than what afterward transpired, that there was _murder_ in them,
and that that person was Henry Moreland's murderer. I can not prove
it--but my conviction is unalterable. I only wish, now, that I had
yielded to my impulse to shake my unknown neighbor, and say to
him--'See! there is an enemy! beware of him!' There was nothing but the
man's look to justify such a proceeding, and of course I curbed my
feelings.

"The man was a common-looking person, dressed in dark clothes; he wore
a low-crowned felt hat, slouched down on his forehead; I do not
remember about his hair, but his eyes were black, his complexion
sallow. I noticed a scar across the back of the hand which he held over
his eyes, as if it had sometime been cut across with a knife; also that
he had a large ring, with a red stone in it, on his little finger.

"When the cars stopped at Blankville, this person arose and followed
Henry Moreland from the car. I saw him step off the platform behind
him, which was the last I saw of either of them."

It may be imagined with what a thrill of fearful interest we listened
to this account, and the thousand conjectures to which it gave rise.

"It can not be difficult," I exclaimed, "to find other witnesses to
testify of this man."

We were assured by James that every effort had been made to get some
trace of him. No person answering to the description was a resident of
the village, and no one could be heard of as having been seen in the
vicinity. Not a solitary lounger about the depot, or the hotel close at
hand, could recall that he had seen such a stranger leave the cars; no
such person had stopped at the hotel; even the conductor of the train
could not be certain of such a passenger, though he had a dim
recollection of a rough fellow in the car with Mr. Moreland--he had not
observed where he left the train--thought his ticket was for Albany.

"But we do not despair of some evidence, yet," said Mr. Argyll.

"The New York police, not being able to do any thing further here, have
gone home," continued James. "If such a villain lurks in New York, he
will be found. That scar on the hand is a good point for identifying
him--don't you think so, sir?" to Mr. Burton.

"Well--yes! unless it was put on for the purpose. It may have been done
in red ocher, and washed off afterward. If the fellow was a practiced
hand, as the skill and precision of the blow would imply, he will be up
to all such tricks. If he had a real scar, he would have worn gloves on
such an errand."

"You think so?" and James drew a long breath, probably of
discouragement at this new statement of the case.

"I would like to go down to the depot, and along the docks for an
hour," continued Mr. Burton, "if there's nothing else to be done
immediately."

James politely insisted upon accompanying us.

"What the deuce did you bring another of those detectives up here for?"
he asked me, _sotto voce_, at the first opportunity. "We've had a
surfeit of them--they're regular bores! and this Burroughs or Burton,
or whatever his name is, is the most disagreeable of them all. A
conceited fellow--one of the kind I dislike, naturally."

"You mistake his character. He is intelligent and a gentleman."

"I wish you joy of his society," was the sneering reply.

Nevertheless, James favored us with his company during our morning's
tour. One sole fact the detective ascertained in the course of his two
hours' work. A fisherman had lost a small-boat during the storm of
Saturday night. He had left it, fastened to its accustomed moorings,
and, in the morning, found that the chain, which was old and rusty, had
parted one of its links, probably by the extreme violence with which
the wind had dashed the boat about. Mr. Burton had asked to see the
remnant of the chain. It was still attached to the post around which it
had been locked. An examination of the broken link showed that it was
partly rusted away; but there were also marks upon it, as if a knife or
chisel might have been used.

"I see my boy, Billy, a-tinkerin' with it," said the fisherman. "Like
as not he's been a-usin' of it to whittle on. That boy breaks more
knives'n his neck's wuth. He's goin' on nine, now, and he's had six
jack-knives in as many months."

Mr. Burton stood, holding the chain in his hand, and looking up and
down the river. His face glowed with a light which shone through from
some inward fire. I, who had begun to watch his varying expressions
with keen interest, saw that he was again becoming excited; but not in
the same way as on that first evening of our meeting, when he grew so
leonine.

He looked at the water and the sky, the fair shores and the dull dock,
as if these mute witnesses were telling to him a tale which he read
like a printed book. A few moments he stood thus in silence, his
countenance illuminated by that wonderful intelligence. Then, saying
that his researches were through with in this part of the village, we
returned, almost in silence, to the office; for when this man was
pondering the enigmas whose solution he was so certain to announce,
sooner or later, he grew absorbed and taciturn.

Mr. Argyll made us go home with him to dinner. I knew that I should not
see Eleanor; yet, even to be under the same roof with her, made me
tremble. Mary, who was constantly in attendance upon her sister, would
not appear at the table. She came down, for a moment, to greet me, and
to thank me for my poor efforts. The dear child had changed some, like
the rest of us. She could not look like any thing but the rosebud which
she was--a fresh and pure young creature of sixteen summers--a rosebud
drenched in dew--a little pale, with a quiver in her smile, and bright
tears beading her eye-lashes, ready, at any moment, to drop. It was
touching to see one naturally so joyous, subdued by the shadow which
had fallen over the house. Neither of us could say much; our lips
trembled when we spoke _her_ name; so, after a moment's holding my
hand, while the tears began to flow fast, Mary unclasped my fingers,
and went up stairs. I saw Mr. Burton hide those blue-gray eyes of his
in his handkerchief; my respect for him deepened as I felt that those
eyes, sharp and penetrating as they were, were not too cold to warm
with a sudden mist at the vision he had beheld.

"Ah!" murmured I to myself, "if he could see Eleanor!"

When dinner was over, Mr. Argyll went up to see his children, giving me
permission to show the house and grounds to the detective. James went
on the portico to smoke a cigar. Mr. Burton sat a short time in the
library, taking an impression of it on his mind, examined the lock of
the desk, and noticed the arrangement of the one window, which was a
large bay-window opening to the floor and projecting over the
flower-garden which lay behind the house and bordered the lawn to the
right. It was about three feet to the ground, and although quite
accessible, as a mode of entrance, to any one compelled to that
resource, the window was not ordinarily used as a mode of ingress or
egress. I had sometimes chased Mary, when she was not so old as now,
and sent her flying through the open casement into the mignonette and
violets beneath, and I after; but since we had both grown more sedate,
such pranks were rare.

We then went out upon the lawn. I took my companion to the tree beneath
which I had stood, when that dark figure had approached, and passed me,
to crouch beneath the window from which the death-candles shone. From
this spot, the bay-window was not visible, that being at the back of
the house and this on the side. Mr. Burton looked carefully about him,
walking all over the lawn, going up under the parlor windows, and
thence pursuing his way into the garden and around to the bay-window.
It was quite natural to search closely in this precinct for some mark
or footsteps, some crushed flowers, or broken branches, or scratches
upon the wall, left by the thief, if he or she had made his or her
entrance at this spot. Going over the ground thus, inch by inch, I
observed a bit of white lawn, soiled and weather-beaten, lying under a
rose-bush a few feet from the window. I picked it up. It was a woman's
handkerchief, of fine lawn, embroidered along the edge with a delicate
running vine, and a spray of flowers at the corner.

"One of the young ladies has dropped it, some time ago," I said, "or it
has blown across from the kitchen grass-plot, where the linen is put
out to dry."

Then I examined the discolored article more closely, and, involved in
the graceful twinings of the spray of flowers, I saw worked the
initials--"L. S."

"Leesy Sullivan," said my companion, taking it from my hand.

"It seems too dainty an article for her ownership," I said, at last,
for, at first, I had been quite stupefied.

"A woman's vanity will compass many things beyond her means. This thing
she has embroidered with her own needle--you remember, she is a
proficient in the art."

"Yes, I remember. She may have lost it Sunday night, during that visit
which I observed; and the wind has blown it over into this spot."

"You forget that there has been no rain since that night. This
handkerchief has been beaten into the grass and earth by a violent
rain. A thorn upon this bush has pulled it from her pocket as she
passed, and the rain has set its mark upon it, to be used as a
testimony against her."

"The evidence seems to conflict. She can not be a man and woman both."

"Why not?" was the quiet reply. "There may be a principal and an
accomplice. A woman is a safer accomplice for a man than one of his own
sex--and _vice versa_."

The face which I had seen, in its despair, the face of Leesy Sullivan,
rose in my memory, full of passion, marked in every soft yet impressive
lineament with slumbering power--"such a nature," I thought, "can be
maddened into crime, but it will not consort with villainy."

Mr. Burton put the handkerchief in the inside pocket of his coat, and
we returned into the house. He inquired the names of the servants, none
of whose initials corresponded with those we had found, nor could I
recall any lady visitors of the family to whom the handkerchief might
belong by virtue of its inscription. There was not the shadow of a
doubt but that it had been the property of the sewing-girl. Some
errand, secret and unlawful, had brought her to these grounds, and
under this window. We now considered it proper to show the handkerchief
to Mr. Argyll, and relate to him our grounds of suspicion against the
girl. Mary and James were admitted to the council. The former said that
she remembered Miss Sullivan; that she had been employed in the family,
for a few days at a time, on several different occasions, but none of
them recent. "We liked her sewing very much, and wanted to engage her
for the next six weeks," she added, with a sigh, "but on inquiring for
her, learned that she was now employed in New York."

"She must, then, have been perfectly familiar with the arrangement of
the house, and with the habits of the family; as for instance, at what
hour you dined. She might enter while the family were at table, since,
had she been surprised by the entrance of a servant, or other person,
she could affect to have called on an errand, and to be waiting for the
young ladies," remarked Mr. Burton.

The servants were then summoned, one at a time, and questioned as to
whether they had observed any suspicious persons whatever about the
house or grounds within a week. They were, of course, in a national
state of high excitement, and immediately upon a question being put to
them, answered every other imaginary case in the world but that,
blessed themselves, called on the Virgin Mary, gave an account of all
the beggars as called at the kitchen last year and the year afore,
cried abundantly, and gave no coherent information.

"Ah, sure!" said Norah, the cook, "there was the blackin'-and-bluin'
man come around last Wednesday, and I tuk a bottle of the blue for the
clothes. It's a poor mimiry I have, sure, since I came across the say.
Afore that I could recollect beyond any thing, and the praste used to
praise my rading. I think it was the tossin' an' rollin' ov the ship
upsot my brain. It was Saturday, it wur, and oh, Lordy, it is setting
me all of a trimble a-thinkin' of that day, and I see a little yeller
dog a-stickin' his nose into the kitching door, which was open about
half, and says I, there's vagabonds around sure, now, I knew by the
dog, and I wint and looked out, and sure as me name's Norah, there was
an old lame man wid a stick a-pretinding to look for rags an' bones in
the alley to the stable, which I niver allows such about, as it's
against the master's orthers, and I druv him off immajetly--and that, I
think, was Saturday two weeks now, but I won't be sure; and I don't
mind nobody else but the chany-woman, wid her basket, which I don't
think it could have been her as done any thin' bad, for she's been
round rig'ler, for a good while, and is a dacent-spoken body that I've
had some dalin's wid myself. I sowld her my old plaid gown for the
match-box of ebony that sits on the kitching-mantel now, and oh dear!
but my heart's dead broke, sure! Margaret and I daren't set in the
kitching of nights no more, unless Jim's there, an' I've woke up
scr'aming two nights now--och hone! and if I'd seed any thing, I'd a
told it long afore, which I wish I had, seein' you've axed me, sir. It
don't do no good a-cooking delicacies which nobody eats no longer--I
wish I had never come to Amyriky, to see poor Miss Eleanor so tuk
down!" and having relieved herself of the sympathy which she had been
aching to express, without the opportunity, she threw her apron over
her head, and sobbed after the manner of her people.

Margaret's testimony was no more to the point than Norah's. Mr. Burton
let each one go on after her own heart, putting up with the tedious
circumlocution, in the hope of some kernel of wheat in the bushel of
chaff.

After a deluge of tears and interjections, Maggie did finally come out
with a statement which arrested the attention of her listeners.

"I've never seen none gawking about as didn't belong here--not a living
sowl. The howly Virgin prevint that iver I should see what Jim did--it
wasn't a human being at all, but a wraith, and he seen it that very
night. He niver told us of it, till the Tuesday night, as we sot
talking about the funeral, and it frightened us so, we niver slept a
wink till morning. Poor Jim's worried with it, too; he pretinds he
isn't afraid of the livin' nor dead, but it's no shame to the best to
stand in awe of the sperits, and I see he's backward about going about
the place, alone, after dark, and no wonder! Sure, he saw a ghost!"

"What was it like?"

"Sure, you'd best call him, and let him describe it for hisself--it'll
make your blood run cold to think of sich things in a Christian family."

Jim was summoned. His story, weeded out, was this: On Saturday evening,
after tea, his mistress, Miss Eleanor, had asked him to go to the
post-office for the evening mail. It was very dark and rainy. He
lighted the lantern. As he went out the back gate, he stopped a minute
and lifted his lantern to take a look about the premises, to see if
there was any thing left out which ought to be taken in from the storm.
As he waved the light about, he saw something in the flower-garden,
about six feet from the bay-window. It had the appearance of a woman;
its face was white, its hair hung down on its shoulders; it stood quite
still in the rain, just as if the water was not coming down by
bucketfuls. It had very large, bright eyes, which shone when the candle
threw the light on them, as if they had been made of fire. He was so
frightened that he let his lantern fall, which did not happen to
extinguish the candle, but when he lifted it up again, the wraith had
vanished. He felt very queer about it, at the time; and next day, when
the bad news came, he knew it was a warning. They often had such in the
old country.

We did not undeceive Jim as to the character of the phantom. With the
assurance that it probably would not come again, since its mission had
been accomplished, and a caution not to make the girls in the kitchen
too nervous about it, we dismissed him.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                                ELEANOR.


One week, another--a third--a fourth, passed by. Our village was as if
it had never been shaken by a fierce agitation. Already the tragedy was
as if it had not been, except to the household whose fairest flower it
had blighted. People no longer looked over their shoulders as they
walked; the story now only served to enliven the history of the little
place, when it was told to a stranger.

Every thing that human energy could accomplish had been done to track
the murder to its origin; yet not one step had been gained since we
sat, that Wednesday afternoon, in the parlor, holding a council over
the handkerchief. Young and healthful as I was, I felt my spirits
breaking down under my constant, unavailing exertions. The time for my
examination came, which could not be unsuccessful, I had so long been
thoroughly prepared, but I had lost my keen interest in this era of my
life, while my ambition grew torpid. To excel in my profession had
become, for the time, quite the secondary object of my life; my brain
grew feverish with the harassment of restless projects--the recoil of
thwarted ideas. There was not one in the family group (always excepting
that unseen and cloistered sufferer) who betrayed the wear-and-tear of
our trouble so much as I. James remarked once that I was improved by
losing some of my boyish ruddiness--I was "toning down," he said. On
another occasion, with that Mephistophiles smile of his, he observed
that it must be that I was after the handsome rewards--the sum-total
would make a comfortable setting-out for a person just starting in the
world.

I do not think he wished to quarrel with me; he was always doubly
pleasant after any such waspish sting; he was naturally satirical, and
he could not always curb his inclination to be so at my expense.

In the mean time an impression grew upon me that he was watching
me--with what intent I had not yet decided.

In all this time I had not seen Eleanor. She had recovered from her
illness, so as to be about her room, but had not yet joined the family
at meals. I went frequently to the house; it had been a second home to
me ever since I left the haunts of my boyhood and the old red-brick
mansion, with the Grecian portico, whose massive pillars were almost
reflected in the waters of Seneca lake, so close to the shore did it
stand--and where my mother still resided, amidst the friends who had
known her in the days of her happiness--that is, of my father's life.

With the same freedom as of old, I went and came to and from Mr.
Argyll's. I was not apprehensive of intruding upon Eleanor, because she
never left her apartments; while Mary, gay young creature, troubled and
grieved as she was, could not stay always in the shadow. At her age,
the budding blooms of womanhood require sunshine. She was lonely, and
when she left her sister to the solitude which Eleanor preferred, she
wanted company, she said. James was gloomy, and would not try to amuse
her--not that she wanted to be amused, but every thing was so sad, and
she felt so timid, it was a relief to have any one to talk to, or even
to look at. I felt very sorry for her. It became a part of my duty to
bring her books, and sometimes to read them aloud, through the
lengthening evenings; at others to while away the time with a game of
chess. The piano was abandoned out of respect for the mourner in the
chamber above. Carols would rise to Mary's lips, as they rise from a
lark at sunrise, but she always broke them off, drowning them in sighs.
Her elastic spirit constantly asserted itself, while the tender
sympathy of a most warm, affectionate nature as constantly depressed
it. She could not speak of Eleanor without tears; and for this my heart
blessed her. She did not know of the choking in my own throat which
often prevented me from speaking, when I ought, perhaps, to be uttering
words of help or comfort.

James was always hovering about like a restless spirit. It had been one
of his indolent habits to spend a great deal of time with the young
ladies; and now he was forever in the house; but so uneasy, so
irritable--as Mary said--he was not an agreeable companion. He would
pick up a book in the library; in five minutes he would throw it down,
and walk twice or thrice up and down the hall, out upon the piazza,
back into the parlor, and stand looking out of the windows--then to the
library and take up another book. He had the air of one always
listening--always waiting. He had, too, a kind of haunted look, if my
reader can imagine what that is. I guessed that he was listening and
waiting for Eleanor--whom, like myself, he had not seen since the
Sunday so memorable; but the other look I did not seek to explain.

There had been a light fall of snow. It seemed as if winter had come in
November. But in a few hours this aspect vanished; the snow melted like
a dream; the zenith was a deep, molten blue, transfused with the pale
sunshine, which is only seen in Indian-summer; a tender mist circled
the horizon with a zone of purple. I could not stay in the office that
afternoon, so infinitely sad, so infinitely lovely. I put aside the
law-papers which I had been arranging for a case in which I was first
to appear before a jury and make my maiden argument. The air, soft as
that of summer and scented with the indescribable perfume of perishing
leaves, came to me through the open window, with a message calling me
abroad; I took up my hat, stepped out upon the pavement, and wandering
along the avenue in the direction of the house, went in upon the lawn.
I had thought to go out into the open country for a long walk; but my
heart drew me and held me here. The language of all beauty, and of
infinity itself, is love. The divine melancholy of music, the deep
tranquillity of summer noons, the softened splendor of autumn days,
haunting one with ineffable joy and sadness--what is the name of all
this varying demonstration of beauty, but love?

I walked beneath the trees, slowly, my feet nestling among the
thickly-strewn leaves, and pressing a faint aroma from the moist earth.
To and fro for a long time I rambled, thinking no tangible thoughts,
but my soul silently filling, all the time, like a fountain fed by
secret springs. To the back of the lawn, extending around and behind
the flower-garden, was a little ascent, covered by a grove of elms and
maples, in the midst of which was a summer-house which had been a
favorite resort of Eleanor's. Hither I finally bent my steps, and
seating myself, looked musingly upon the lovely prospect around and
beneath me. The rustic temple opened toward the river, which was
visible from here, rolling in its blue splendor across the exquisite
landscape. There is a fascination in water which will keep the eyes
fixed upon it through hours of reverie; I sat there, mindful of the
near mountains, the purple mist, the white ships, the busy village, but
gazing only at the blue ripples forever slipping away from the point of
my observation. My spirit exhaled like the mist and ascended in
aspiration. My grief aspired, and arose in passionate prayers to the
white throne of the eternal justice--it arose in tears, etherealized
and drawn up by the rays from the one great source and sun--the spirit
of Love. I prayed and wept for _her_. No thought of myself mingled with
these emotions.

Suddenly a slight chill fell upon me. I started to perceive that the
sun had set. A band of orange belted the west. As the sun dropped
behind the hills the moon came up in the east. It seemed as if her
silver light frosted what it touched; the air grew sharp; a thin, white
cloud spread itself over the river. I had sat there long enough, and I
was forcing myself to a consciousness of the fact, when I saw one
coming through the flower-garden and approaching the summer-house.

My blood paused in my veins when I saw that it was Eleanor. The sunset
yet lingered, and the cold moonlight shone full on her face. I
remembered how I had seen her, that last time but one, glowing and
flushing in triumphant beauty, attired with the most skilled coquetry
of a young, beloved woman, who is glad of her charms because another
prizes them.

Now she came along the lonesome path, between the withered flower-beds,
clothed in deepest black, walking with a feeble step, one small white
hand holding the sable shawl across her chest, a long crape vail thrown
over her head, from which her face looked out, white and still.

A pang like that of death transfixed me, as I gazed at her. Not one
rose left in the garden of her young life! The ruin through which she
walked was not so complete--but this garden would resurrect itself in
the months of another spring--while for her there was no spring on this
side of the grave.

[Illustration:

Page 90.

ELEANOR.]

Slowly she threaded her way, with bent gaze, through the garden, out
upon the hillside, and up to the little rustic temple in which she had
spent so many happy hours with him. When she had reached the grassy
platform in front of it, she raised her eyes and swept a glance around
upon the familiar scene. There were no tears in her blue eyes, and her
lips did not quiver. It was not until she had encircled the horizon
with that quiet, beamless look, that she perceived me. I rose to my
feet, my expression only doing reverence to her sorrow, for I had no
words.

She held out her hand, and as I took it, she said with gentleness--as
if her sweetness must excuse the absence of her former smiles,

"Are you well, Richard? You look thin. Be careful of yourself--is it
not too chilly for you to be sitting here at this hour?"

I pressed her hand, and turned away, vainly endeavoring to command my
voice. _I_ had changed!--but it was like Eleanor to put herself aside
and remember others.

"Nay, do not go," she said, as she saw that I was leaving her out of
fear of intruding upon her visit, "I shall remain here but a few
moments, and I will lean upon your arm back to the house. I am not
strong, and the walk up the hill has tired me. I wanted to see you,
Richard. I thought some of coming down-stairs a little while this
evening. I want to thank you."

The words were just whispered, and she turned immediately and looked
away at the river. I understood her well. She wanted to thank me for
the spirit which had prompted me in my earnest, though unsuccessful
efforts. And coming down to the family-group a little while in the
evening, that was for Mary's sake, and her poor father's. Her own light
had expired, but she did not wish to darken the hearthstone any more
than was unavoidable. She sunk down upon the seat I had vacated,
remaining motionless, looking upon the river and the sky. After a time,
with a long, tremulous sigh, she arose to go. A gleam from the west
fell upon a single violet which, protected from the frost by the
projecting roof, smiled up at us, near the door of the summer-house.
With a wild kind of passion breaking through her quiet, Eleanor
stooped, gathered it, pressed it to her lips, and burst into tears--it
was her favorite flower--Henry's favorite.

It was agony to see her cry, yet better, perhaps, than such marble
repose. She was too weak to bear this sudden shock alone; she leaned
upon my shoulder, every sob which shook her frame echoed by me. Yes! I
am not ashamed to confess it! When manhood is fresh and unsullied, its
tears are not wrung out in those single drops of mortal anguish which
the rock gives forth when time and the foot of the world have hardened
it. I could still remember when I had kissed my mother, and wept my
boyish troubles well upon her breast. I should have been harder than
the nether millstone, had I not wept tears with Eleanor then.

I mastered myself in order to assist her to regain composure, for I was
alarmed lest the violence of her emotion should break down the remnant
of her frail strength. She, too, struggled against the storm, soon
growing outwardly calm, and with the violet pressed to her bosom with
one hand, with the other she clung to my arm, and we returned to the
house, where they were already looking for Eleanor.

Under the full light of the hall-lamp we encountered James. It was his
first meeting with his cousin as well as mine. He gave her a quick,
penetrating look, held out his hand, his lips moved as if striving to
form a greeting. It was evident that the change was greater than he
expected; he dropped his hand, before her fingers had touched it, and
rushing past us through the open door, he closed it behind him,
remaining out until long after tea.

When he came in, Eleanor had retired to her chamber, and Mary brought
him the cup of tea which she had kept hot for him.

"You are a good girl, Mary," he said, drinking it hastily, as if to get
rid of it. "I hope nobody will ever make you look like _that_! I
thought broken hearts were easily mended--that girls usually had theirs
broken three or four times, and patched them up again--but I have
changed my mind."

That gloomy look, which Mary declared she dreaded, clouded his face
again. His countenance was most variable; nothing could excel it in
glitter and brilliant color when he was in his pleasing mood, but when
sullen or sad, it was sallow and lusterless. Thus it looked that
evening. But I must close this chapter now and here--it is consecrated
to that meeting with the object of my sorrow and adoration, and I will
not prolong it with the details of other events.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                           THE HAUNTED GRAVE.


When I returned to my boarding-house that same evening, I found a
telegram awaiting me from Mr. Burton, asking me to come down to the
city in the morning. I went down by the earliest train, and, soon
after, ringing the bell at the door of his private residence in
Twenty-third street, a servant ushered me into the library, where I
found the master of the house so absorbed in thought, as he sat before
the grate with his eyes bent upon the glowing coals, that he did not
observe my entrance until I spoke his name. Springing to his feet, he
shook me heartily by the hand; we had already become warm personal
friends.

"You are early," he said, "but so much the better. We will have the
more time for business."

"Have you heard any thing?" was my first question.

"Well, no. Don't hope that I have called you here to satisfy you with
any positive discoveries. The work goes on slowly. I was never so
baffled but once before; and then, as now, there was a woman in the
case. A cunning woman will elude the very Prince of Lies, himself, to
say nothing of honest men like us. She has been after the child."

"She has?"

"Yes. And has taken it away with her. And now I know no more of her
whereabouts than I did before. There! You must certainly feel like
trusting your case to some sharper person to work up"--he looked
mortified as he said it.

Before I go further I must explain to my reader just how far the
investigation into the acts and hiding-place of Leesy Sullivan had
proceeded. Of course we had called upon her aunt in Blankville, and
approached the question of the child with all due caution. She had
answered us frankly enough, at first--that Leesy had a cousin who lived
in New York, whom she was much attached to, and who was dead, poor
thing! But the moment we intruded the infant into the conversation, she
flew into a rage, asked if "we'd come there to insult a respectable
widdy, as wasn't responsible for what others did?" and wouldn't be
coaxed or threatened into any further speech on the subject, fairly
driving us out of the room and (I regret to add) down the stairs with
the broomstick. As we could not summon her into court and compel her to
answer, at that time, we were compelled to "let her alone." One thing,
however, became apparent at the interview--that there was shame or
blame, or at least a family quarrel, connected with the child.

After that, in New York, Mr. Burton ascertained that there had been a
cousin, who had died, but whether she had been married, and left a
babe, or not, was still a matter of some doubt.

He had spent over a week searching for Leesy Sullivan, in the vicinity
of Blankville, at every intermediate station between that and New York,
and throughout the city itself, assisted by scores of detectives, who
all of them had her photograph, taken from a likeness which Mr. Burton
had found in her deserted room at her boarding-place. This picture must
have been taken more than a year previous, as it looked younger and
happier; the face was soft and round, the eyes melting with warmth and
light, and the rich, dark hair dressed with evident care. Still, Leesy
bore resemblance enough to her former self, to make her photograph an
efficient aid. Yet not one trace of her had been chanced upon since I,
myself, had seen her fly away at the mention of the word which I had
purposely uttered, and disappear over the wooded hill. We had nearly
made up our minds that she had committed suicide; we had searched the
shore for miles in the vicinity of Moreland villa, and had fired guns
over the water; but if she had hidden herself in those cold depths, she
had done it most effectually.

The gardener's wife, at the villa, had kept vigilant watch, as I had
requested, but she had never any thing to report--the sewing-girl came
no more to haunt the piazza or the summer-house. Finally, Mr. Burton
had given over active measures, relying simply upon the presence of the
child in New York, to bring back the protectress into his nets, if
indeed she was still upon earth. He said rightly, that if she were
concealed and had any knowledge of the efforts made to discover her,
the surest means of hastening her reäppearance would be to apparently
relinquish all pursuit. He had a person hired to watch the premises of
the nurse constantly; a person who took a room next to hers in the
tenement-house where she resided, apparently employed in knitting
children's fancy woolen garments, but really for the purpose of giving
immediate notification should the guardian of the infant appear upon
the scene. In the mean time he was kept informed of the sentiments of
the nurse, who had avowed her intention of throwing the babe upon the
authorities, if its board was not paid at the end of the month. "Hard
enough," she avowed it was, "to get the praties for the mouths of her
own chilther; and the little girl was growing large now. The milk
wouldn't do at all, at all, but she must have her praties and her bit
bread wid the rest."

In answer to these complaints, the wool-knitter had professed such an
interest in the innocent little thing, that, sooner than allow it to go
to the alms-house, or to the orphan-asylum, or any other such place,
she would take it to her own room, and share her portion with it, when
the nurse's month was up, until it was certain that the aunt was not
coming to see after it, she said.

With this understanding between them, the two women got along finely
together; little Nora, just toddling about, was a pretty child, and her
aunt had not spared stitches in making up her clothes, which were of
good material, and ornamented with lavish tucks and embroidery. She was
often, for half a day at a time, in the room with the new tenant, when
her nurse was out upon errands, or at work; and the former sometimes
took her out in her arms for a breath of air upon the better streets.
Mr. Burton had seen little Nora several times; he thought she resembled
Miss Sullivan, though not strikingly. She had the same eyes, dark and
bright.

Two days before Mr. Burton telegraphed for me to come down to New York,
Mrs. Barber, the knitting detective, was playing with the child in her
own room. It was growing toward night, and the nurse was out getting
her Saturday afternoon supplies at Washington Market; she did not
expect her back for at least an hour. Little Nora was in fine spirits,
being delighted with a blue-and-white hood which her friend had
manufactured for her curly head. As they frolicked together, the door
opened, a young woman came in, caught the child to her breast, kissed
it, and cried. "An-nee--an-nee," lisped the baby--and Mrs. Barber,
slipping out, with the excuse that she would go for the nurse, who was
at a neighbor's, jumped into a car, and rode up to Twenty-third street.
In half an hour Mr. Burton was at the tenement-house; the nurse had not
yet returned from market, and the bird had flown, carrying the baby
with her. He was sufficiently annoyed at this _dénoûement_. In the
arrangements made, the fact of the nurse being away had not been
contemplated; there was no one to keep on the track of the fugitive
while the officer was notified. One of the children said that the lady
had left some money for mother; there was, lying on the table, a sum
which more than covered the arrears due, and a note of thanks. But the
baby, with its little cloak and its new blue hood, had vanished. Word
was dispatched to the various offices, and the night spent in looking
for the two; but there is no place like a great city for eluding
pursuit; and up to the hour of my arrival at Mr. Burton's he had
learned nothing.

All this had fretted the detective; I could see it, although he did not
say as much. He who had brought hundreds of accomplished rogues to
justice did not like to be foiled by a woman. Talking on the subject
with me, as we sat before the fire in his library, with closed doors,
he said the most terrible antagonist he had yet encountered had been a
woman--that her will was a match for his own, yet he had broken with
ease the spirits of the boldest men.

"However," he added, "Miss Sullivan is not a woman of that stamp. If
_she_ has committed a crime, she has done it in a moment of passion,
and remorse will kill her, though the vengeance of the law should never
overtake her. But she is subtle and elusive. It is not reason that
makes her cunning, but feeling. With man it would be reason; and as I
could follow the course of his argument, whichever path it took, I
should soon overtake it. But a woman, working from a passion, either of
hate or love, will sometimes come to such novel conclusions as to defy
the sharpest guesses of the intellect. I should like, above all things,
a quiet conversation with that girl. And I will have it, some day."

The determination with which he avowed himself, showed that he had no
idea of giving up the case. A few other of his observations I will
repeat:

He said that the blow which killed Henry Moreland was given by a
professional murderer, a man, without conscience or remorse, probably a
hireling. A woman may have tempted, persuaded, or paid him to do the
deed; if so, the guilt rested upon her in its awful weight; but no
woman's hand, quivering with passion, had driven that steady and
relentless blow. It was not given by the hand of jealousy--it was too
coldly calculated, too firmly executed--no passion, no thrill of
feeling about it.

"Then you think," said I, "that Leesy Sullivan robbed the family whose
happiness she was about to destroy, to pay some villain to commit the
murder?"

"It looks like it," he answered, his eye dropping evasively.

I felt that I was not fully in the detective's confidence; there was
something working powerfully in his mind, to which he gave me no clue;
but I had so much faith in him that I was not offended by his
reticence. Anxious as I was, eager, curious--if it suits to call such a
devouring fire of longing as I felt, curiosity--he must have known that
I perceived his reservations; if so, he had his own way of conducting
matters, from which he could not diverge for my passing benefit. Twelve
o'clock came, as we sat talking before the fire, which gave a genial
air to the room, though almost unnecessary, the "squaw winter" of the
previous morning being followed by another balmy and sunlit day. Mr.
Burton rung for lunch to be brought in where we were; and while we
sipped the strong coffee, and helped ourselves to the contents of the
tray, the servant being dismissed, my host made a proposition which had
evidently been on his mind all the morning.

I was already so familiar with his personal surroundings, as to know
that he was a widower, with two children; the eldest, a boy of fifteen,
away at school; the second, a girl of eleven, of delicate health, and
educated at home, so far as she studied at all, by a day-governess. I
had never seen this daughter--Lenore, he called her--but I could guess,
without particular shrewdness, that his heart was wrapped up in her. He
could not mention her name without a glow coming into his face; her
frail health appeared to be the anxiety of his life. I could hear her,
now, taking a singing-lesson in a distant apartment, and as her pure
voice rose clear and high, mounting and mounting with airy steps the
difficult scale, I listened delightedly, making a picture in my mind of
the graceful little creature such a voice should belong to.

Her father was listening, too, with a smile in his eye, half forgetful
of his coffee. Presently he said, in a low voice, speaking at first
with some reluctance,

"I sent for you to-day, more particularly to make you the confidential
witness of an experiment than any thing else. You hear my Lenore
singing now--has she not a sweet voice? I have told you how delicate
her health is. I discovered, by chance, some two or three years since,
that she had peculiar attributes. She is an excellent clairvoyant. When
I first discovered it, I made use of her rare faculty to assist me in
my more important labors; but I soon discovered that it told fearfully
upon her health. It seemed to drain the slender stream of vitality
nearly dry. Our physician told me that I must desist, entirely, all
experiments of the kind with her. He was peremptory about it, but he
had only need to caution me. I would sooner drop a year out of my
shortening future than to take one grain from that increasing strength
which I watch from day to day with deep solicitude. She is my only
girl, Mr. Redfield, and the image of her departed mother. You must not
wonder if I am foolish about my Lenore. For eighteen months I have not
exercised my power over her to place her in the trance state, or
whatever it is, in which, with the clue in her hand, she will unwind
the path to more perplexed labyrinths than those of the fair one's
bower. And I tell you, solemnly, that if, by so doing, she could point
out pots of gold, or the secrets of diamond mines, I would not risk her
slightest welfare, by again exhausting her recruiting energies.
Nevertheless, so deeply am I interested in the tragedy to which you
have called my attention--so certain am I that I am on the eve of the
solution of the mystery--and such an act of justice and righteousness
do I deem it that it should be exposed in its naked truth before those
who have suffered from the crime--that I have resolved to place Lenore
once more in the clairvoyant state, for the purpose of ascertaining the
hiding-place of Leesy Sullivan, and I have sent for you to witness the
result."

This announcement took away the remnant of my appetite. Mr. Burton rung
to have the tray removed, and to bid the servant tell Miss Lenore, as
soon as she had lunched, to come to the library. We had but a few
minutes to wait. Presently we heard a light step; her father cried,
"Come in!" in answer to her knock, and a lovely child entered, greeting
me with a mingled air of grace and timidity--a vision of sweetness and
beauty more perfect than I could have anticipated. Her golden hair
waved about her slender throat, in glistening tendrils. Seldom do we
see such hair, except upon the heads of infants--soft, lustrous, fine,
floating at will, and curled at the end in little shining rings. Her
eyes were a celestial blue--celestial, not only because of the pure
heavenliness of their color, but because you could not look into them
without thinking of angels. Her complexion was the most exquisite
possible, fair, with a flush as of sunset-light on the cheeks--too
transparent for perfect health, showing the wandering of the delicate
veins in the temples. Her blue dress, with its fluttering sash, and the
little jacket of white cashmere which shielded her neck and arms, were
all dainty, and in keeping with the wearer. She did not have the serene
air of a seraph, though she looked like one; nor the listless manner of
an invalid. She gave her father a most winning, childish smile, looking
full of joy to think he was at home, and had sent for her. She was so
every way charming that I held out my arms to kiss her, and she, with
the instinct of children, who perceive who their real lovers are, gave
me a willing yet shy embrace. Mr. Burton looked pleased as he saw how
satisfactory was the impression made by his Lenore.

Placing her in a chair before him, he put a photograph of Miss Sullivan
in her hand.

"Father wants to put his little girl to sleep again," he said, gently.

An expression of unwillingness just crossed her face; but she smiled,
instantly, looking up at him with the faith of affection which would
have placed her life in his keeping, and said, "Yes, papa," in assent.

He made a few passes over her; when I saw their effect, I did not
wonder that he shrunk from the experiment--my surprise was rather that
he could be induced to make it, under any circumstances. The lovely
face became distorted as with pain; the little hands twitched--so did
the lips and eyelids. I turned away, not having fortitude to witness
any thing so jarring to my sensibilities. When I looked again, her
countenance had recovered its tranquillity; the eyes were fast closed,
but she appeared to ponder upon the picture which she held.

"Do you see the person now?"

"Yes, papa."

"In what kind of a place is she?"

"She is in a small room; it has two windows. There is no carpet on the
floor. There is a bed and a table, a stove and some chairs. It is in
the upper story of a large brick house, I do not know in what place."

"What is she doing?"

"She is sitting near the back window; it looks out on the roofs of
other houses; she is holding a pretty little child on her lap."

"She must be in the city," remarked Mr. Burton, aside; "the large house
and the congregated roofs would imply it. Can you not tell me the name
of the street?"

"No, I can not see it. I was never in this place before. I can see
water, as I look out of the window. It appears like the bay; and I see
plenty of ships, but there is some green land across the water, besides
distant houses."

"It must be somewhere in the suburbs, or in Brooklyn. Are there no
signs on the shops, which you can read, as you look out?"

"No, papa."

"Well, go down the stairs, and out upon the street, and tell me the
number of the house."

"It is No. --," she said, after a few moments' silence.

"Go along until you come to a corner, and read me the name of the
street."

"Court street," she answered, presently.

"It is in Brooklyn," exclaimed the detective, triumphantly. "There is
nothing now to prevent us going straight to the spot. Lenore, go back
now, to the house; tell us on which floor is this room, and how
situated."

Again there was silence while she retraced her steps.

"It is on the fourth floor, the first door to the left, as you reach
the landing."

Lenore began to look weary and exhausted; the sweat broke out on her
brow, and she panted as if fatigued with climbing flights of stairs.
Her father, with a regretful air, wiped her forehead, kissing it
tenderly as he did so. A few more of those cabalistic touches, followed
by the same painful contortions of those beautiful features, and Lenore
was herself again. But she was pale and languid; she drooped against
her father's breast, as he held her in his arms, the color faded from
her cheeks, too listless to smile in answer to his caresses. Placing
her on the sofa, he took from a nook in his secretary a bottle of old
port, poured out a tiny glassful, and gave to her. The wine revived her
almost instantly; the smiles and bloom came back, though she still
seemed exceedingly weary.

"She will be like a person exhausted by a long journey, or great labor,
for several days," said Mr. Burton, as I watched the child. "It cost me
a pang to make such a demand upon her; I hope it will be the last
time--at least until she is older and stronger than now."

"I should think the application of electricity would restore some of
the vitality which has been taken from her," I suggested.

"I shall try it this evening," was his reply; "in the mean time, if we
intend to benefit by the sacrifice of my little Lenore, let us lose no
time. Something may occur to send the fugitive flying again. And now,
my dear little girl, you must lie down a while this afternoon, and be
careful of yourself. You shall dine with us to-night, if you are not
too tired, and we shall bring you some flowers--a bouquet from old
John's conservatory, sure."

Committing his darling to the housekeeper's charge, with many
instructions and warnings, and a lingering look which betrayed his
anxiety, Mr. Burton was soon ready, and we departed, taking a stage for
Fulton Ferry a little after one o'clock.

About an hour and a quarter brought us to the brick house on Court
street, far out toward the suburbs, which had the number indicated upon
it. No one questioned our coming, it being a tenement-house, and we
ascended a long succession of stairs, until we came to the fourth
floor, and stood before the door on the left-hand side. I trembled a
little with excitement. My companion, laying his hand firmly on the
knob, was arrested by finding the door locked. At this he knocked; but
there was no answer to his summons. Amid the assortment of keys which
he carried with him, he found one to fit the lock; in a moment the door
stood open, and we entered to meet--blank solitude!

The room had evidently been deserted but a short time, and by some one
expecting to return. There was a fire covered down in the stove, and
three or four potatoes in the oven to be baked for the humble supper.
There was no trunk, no chest, no clothing in the room, only the scant
furniture which Lenore had described, a few dishes in the cupboard, and
some cooking utensils, which had been rented, probably, with the room.
On the table were two things confirmatory of the occupants--a bowl,
containing the remains of a child's dinner of bread-and-milk, and a
piece of embroidery--a half-finished collar.

At Mr. Burton's request I went down to the shop on the first floor, and
inquired in what direction the young woman with the child had gone, and
how long she had been out.

"She went, maybe, half an hour ago; she took the little girl out for a
walk, I think. She told me she'd be back before supper, when she
stopped to pay for a bit of coal, and to have it carried up."

I returned with this information.

"I'm sorry, now, that we inquired," said the detective; "that fellow
will be sure to see her first, and tell her that she has had callers;
that will frighten her at once. I must go below, and keep my watch from
there."

"If you do not care for a second person to watch with you, I believe I
will go on to Greenwood. We are so near it, now, and I would like to
visit poor Henry's grave."

"I do not need you at all now; only, do not be absent too long. When I
meet this Leesy Sullivan, whom I have not yet seen, you remember, I
want a long talk with her. The last object I have is to frighten her; I
shall seek to soothe her instead. If I can once meet her face to face,
and voice to voice, I believe I can tame the antelope, or the lioness,
whichever she turns out to be. I do not think I shall have to coerce
her--not even if she is guilty. If she is guilty she will give herself
up. I may even take her home to dinner with us," he added, with a
smile. "Don't shudder, Mr. Redfield; we often dine in company with
murderers--sometimes when we have only our friends and neighbors with
us. I assure you I have often had that honor!"

His grim humor was melancholy to me--but who could wonder that a man of
Mr. Burton's peculiar experience should be touched with cynicism?
Besides, I felt that there was more in the inner meaning of his words
than appeared upon their outer surface. I left him, sitting in a
sheltered corner of the shop below, in a position where he could
command the street and the entrance-hall without being himself
observed, and making himself friendly with the busy little man behind
the counter, of whom he had already purchased a pint of chestnuts. It
would be as well that I should be out of the way. Miss Sullivan knew
me, and might take alarm at some distant glimpse of me, while Mr.
Burton's person must be unknown to her, unless she had been the better
detective of the two, and marked him when he was ignorant of her
vicinity.

Stepping into a passing car, in a few minutes I had gone from the city
of the living to the city of the dead. Beautiful and silent city! There
the costly and gleaming portals, raised at the entrance of those
mansions, tell us the name and age of the inhabitants, but the
inhabitants themselves we never behold. Knock as loud and long as we
may at those marble doors, cry, entreat, implore, they hold themselves
invisible. Nevermore are they "at home" to us. We, who once were never
kept waiting, must go from the threshold now, without a word of
welcome. City of the dead--to which that city of the living must soon
remove--who is there that can walk thy silent streets without a
prescience of the time when he, too, will take up his abode in thee for
ever? Strange city of solitude! where thousands whose homes are ranged
side by side, know not one the other, and give no greeting to the pale
new-comers.

With meditations like these, only far too solemn for words, I wandered
through the lovely place, where, still, summer seemed to linger, as if
loth to quit the graves she beautified. With Eleanor and Henry in my
heart, I turned in the direction of the family burial-plot, wishing
that Eleanor were with me on that glorious day, that she might first
behold his grave under such gentle auspices of light, foliage and
flowers--for I knew that she contemplated a pilgrimage to this spot, as
soon as her strength would warrant the attempt.

I approached the spot by a winding path; the soft plash of a fountain
sounded through a little thicket of evergreens, and I saw the gleam of
the wide basin into which it fell; a solitary bird poured forth a
mournful flood of lamentation from some high branch not far away. It
required but little aid of fancy to hear in that "melodious madness"
the cry of some broken heart, haunting, in the form of this bird, the
place of the loved one's sleep.

There were other wanderers than myself in the cemetery; a funeral train
was coming through the gate as I passed in, and I met another within a
few steps; but in the secluded path where I now walked I was alone.
With the slow steps of one who meditates sad things, I approached
Henry's grave. Gliding away by another devious path, I saw a female
figure.

"It is some other mourner, whom I have disturbed from her vigil by some
of these tombs," I thought--"or, perchance, one who was passing further
on before reaching the goal of her grief,"--and with this I dismissed
her from my mind, having had, at the best, only an indistinct glimpse
of the woman, and the momentary flutter of her garments as she passed
beyond a group of tall shrubs and was lost to view.

The next moment I knelt by the sod which covered that young and noble
form. Do not think me extravagant in my emotions. I was not so--only
overpowered, always, by intense sympathy with the sufferers by that
calamity. I had so mused upon Eleanor's sorrow that I had, as it were,
made it mine. I bowed my head, breathing a prayer for her, then leaning
against the trunk of a tree whose leaves no longer afforded shade to
the carefully-cultivated family inclosure, my eyes fell upon the grave.
There were beautiful flowers fading upon it, which some friendly hand
had laid there within a week or two. Ten or fifteen minutes I may have
passed in reverie; then, as I arose to depart, I took up a fading bud
or two and a sprig of myrtle, placing them in my vest-pocket to give
Eleanor on my return. As I stooped to gather them, I perceived the
imprint of a child's foot, here and there, all about the grave--a tiny
imprint, in the fresh mold, as of some toddling babe whose little feet
had hardly learned to steady themselves.

There were one or two marks of a woman's slender shoe; but it was the
infant feet which impressed me. It flashed upon me what female figure
it was which I had seen flitting away as I approached; now that I
recalled it, I even recognized the tall, slender form, with the slight
stoop of the shoulders, of which I had obtained but a half-glance. I
hastily pursued the path she had taken; but my haste was behind hers by
at least a quarter of an hour.

I realized that I would only lose time by looking for her in those
winding avenues, every one of which might be taking me from instead of
toward the fugitives; so I turned back to the gate and questioned the
keeper if he had seen a tall young woman with a little child pass out
in the last half-hour. He had seen several children and women go out in
that time; and as I could not tell how this particular one was dressed,
I could not arouse his recollection to any certainty on the point.

"She was probably carrying the child," I said; "she had a consumptive
look, and was sad-looking, though her face was doubtless hidden in her
vail."

"It's quite likely," he responded; "mostly the women that do come here
look sad, and many of them keep their vails down. However, it's my
impression there hasn't no child of that age been past here, lately. I
noticed one going in about two o'clock, and if it's _that_ one, she
hasn't come out yet."

So while Mr. Burton sat in the shop in Court street keeping watch, I
sat at the gates of Greenwood; but no Leesy Sullivan came forth; and
when the gates were closed for the night, I was obliged to go away
disappointed.

The girl began to grow some elusive phantom in my mind. I could almost
doubt that there was any such creature, with black, wild eyes and
hectic cheeks, whom I was pursuing; whom I chanced upon in strange
places, at unexpected times, but could never find when I sought
her--who seemed to blend herself in this unwarrantable way with the
tragedy which wrung some other hearts. What had she to do with Henry's
grave? A feeling of dislike, of mortal aversion, grew upon me--I could
not pity her any more--this dark spirit who, having perchance wrought
this irremediable woe, could not now sink into the depths where she
belonged, but must haunt and hover on the edges of my trouble, fretting
me to follow her, only to mock and elude.

Before leaving the cemetery I offered two policemen a hundred dollars
if they should succeed in detaining the woman and child whose
description I gave them, until word could be sent to the office of the
detective-police; and I left them, with another on guard at the gates,
perambulating the grounds, peering into vaults and ghostly places in
search of her. When I got out at the house on Court street, I found my
friend quite tired of eating chestnuts and talking to the little man
behind the counter.

"Well," said he, "the potatoes will be roasted to death before their
owner returns. We have been led another wild-goose chase."

"I have seen her," I answered.

"What?"

"And lost her. I believe she is a little snaky, she has such a slippery
way with her."

"Tut! tut! so has a frightened deer! But how did it happen?"

I told him, and he was quite downcast at the unlucky fortune which had
sent me to the cemetery at that particular time. It was evident that
she had seen me, and was afraid to return to this new retreat, for fear
she was again tracked.

"However," said he, "I'm confident we'll have her now before long. I
_must_ go home to-night to see my Lenore; I promised her, and she will
make herself sick sitting up."

"Go; and let me remain here. I will stay until it is perfectly apparent
that she does not expect to return."

"It will spoil the dinner. But, now that we have sacrificed so much, a
few hours more of inconvenience--"

"Will be willingly endured. I will get some bread and cheese and a
glass of beer of your friend, the penny-grocer, and remain at my post."

"You need not stay later than twelve; which will bring you home about
two, at the slow rate of midnight travel. I shall sit up for you. _Au
revoir._"

I changed my mind about supping at the grocer's as the twilight
deepened into night. The dim light of the hall and staircase, part of
them in total darkness, enabled me to steal up to the deserted room
unperceived by any one of the other inmates of the great building.

Here I put fresh coal on the fire, and by the faint glow which soon
came from the open front of the stove, I found a chair, and placing it
so that it would be in the shadow upon the opening of the door, I
seated myself to await the return of the occupants. The odor of
roasting potatoes, given forth at the increased heat, admonished me
that I had partaken of but a light lunch since an early and hasty
breakfast; drawing forth one from the oven, I made a frugal meal upon
it, and then ordered my soul to patience. I sat long in the twilight of
the room; I could hear the bells of the city chiming the passing hours;
the grocer and variety-storekeepers closing the shutters of their
shops; the shuffling feet of men coming home, to such homes as they had
in the dreary building, until nearly all the noises of the street and
house died away.

Gazing on the fire, I wondered where that strange woman was keeping
that little child through those unwholesome hours. Did she carry it in
her arms while she hovered, like a ghost, amid the awful quiet of
drooping willows and gleaming tombstones? Did she rock it to sleep on
her breast, in the fearful shadow of some vault, with a row of coffins
for company? Or was she again fleeing over deserted fields, crouching
in lonely places, fatigued, distressed, panting under the weight of the
innocent babe who slumbered on a guilty bosom, but driven still, on,
on, by the lash of a dreadful secret? I made wild pictures in the
sinking embers, as I mused; were I an artist I would reproduce them in
all their lurid light and somber shadow; but I am not. The close air of
the place, increased in drowsiness by the gas from the open doors of
the stove, the deep silence, and my own fatigue, after the varying
journeys and excitements of the day, at last overcame me; I remember
hearing the town clock strike eleven, and after that I must have
slumbered.

As I slept, I continued my waking dreams; I thought myself still gazing
in the smoldering fire; that the sewing-girl came in without noise, sat
down before it, and silently wept over the child who lay in her arms;
that Lenore came out of the golden embers, with wings tipped with
ineffable brightness, looking like an angel, and seemed to comfort the
mourner, and finally took her by the hand, and passing me, so that I
felt the motion of the air swept by her wings and garments, led her out
through the door, which closed with a slight noise.

At the noise made by the closing door, I awoke. As I gathered my
confused senses about me, I was not long in coming to the conclusion
that I had, indeed, heard a sound and felt the air from an open
door--some one had been in the room. I looked at my watch by a match
which I struck, for the fire had now entirely expired. It was one
o'clock. Vexed beyond words that I had slumbered, I rushed out into the
empty passages, where, standing silent, I listened for any footstep.
There was not the echo of a sound abroad. The halls were wrapped in
darkness. Quietly and swiftly I felt my way down to the street; not a
soul to be seen in any direction. Yet I felt positive that Leesy
Sullivan, creeping from her shelter, had returned to her room at that
midnight hour, had found me there, _sleeping_, and had fled.

Soon a car, which now ran only at intervals of half an hour, came
along, and I gave up my watch for the night, mortified at the result.

It was three o'clock when I reached Mr. Burton's door. He opened it
before I could ring the bell.

"No success? I was afraid of it. You see I have kept up for you; and
now, since the night is so far spent, if you are not too worn-out, I
wish you would come with me to a house not very far from here. I want
to show you how some of the fast young men of New York spend the hours
in which they ought to be in bed."

"I am wide awake, and full of curiosity; but how did you find your
little daughter?"

"Drooping a little, but persisting that she was not ill nor tired, and
delighted with the flowers."

"Then you did not forget the bouquet?"

"No, I never like to disappoint Lenore."

Locking the door behind us, we again descended to the deserted street.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                        THE SPIDER AND THE FLY.


"Come," said my cicerone, "we are already very late."

A rapid walk of a few minutes brought us to the entrance of a handsome
house, having the appearance of a private residence, and standing on a
fashionable street.

"Why," said I, inclined to draw back, as he ascended the steps, "you
surely would not think of disturbing the people here at this hour of
the night? There is not a light to be seen, even in the chambers."

Mr. Burton's low laugh made me blush at my own "greenness." His ring at
the bell was followed by a knock, which I was quick-witted enough, in
spite of my verdancy, to perceive had something significant about it.
The door immediately swung a little open, my friend said a few words
which had the effect to unclose the mysterious portals still wider, and
we entered a modest hall, which a single gas-burner, half-turned off,
dimly illuminated. The man-servant who admitted us was sable as ebony,
muscular, much above the medium size, dressed in a plain livery, and
with manners as polished as his own shining skin--an African leopard,
barring the spots, smooth and powerful.

"Is Bagley still here?" asked my companion.

"Yes, sir. In de library, jus' where you lef' him."

"Very well. You need not disturb him. I've brought my young friend in
to introduce him to the house, in view of further acquaintance."

The ebony man smiled respectfully, bowing for us to pass into the
parlor. I thought I saw in that quiet smile a lurking ray of
satisfaction--a gloating, as it were, over my prospective intimacy at
this respectable house. He had probably been usher to the maelstrom
long enough to know that those whose feet were once caught in the slow,
delightful waltz of the circling waters never withdrew them, after the
circle grew narrow and swift, and the rush of the whirlpool sounded up
from the bottomless pit.

We entered a suit of rooms in no manner differing from the parlors of a
private house. They were richly furnished and well lighted, close inner
blinds, hidden by heavy silk curtains, shutting in the light from the
observation of the street. There were three rooms in this suit; the two
first were now deserted, though the odor of wine, and scented hair and
handkerchiefs, showed that they had been recently occupied. In these
two the chandeliers were partially obscured, but the third room was
still brilliantly illuminated. We walked toward it. Magnificent
curtains of amber silk depended from the arch which separated it from
the parlors. Only one of these curtains was now drawn back, the others
trailing on the carpet, and closing the apartment from our observation.
Mr. Burton placed me in the shadow of the curtains, where I could
see--myself unseen. The room was furnished as a library, two of its
walls being covered with books; I particularly noticed a marble bust of
Shakspeare, very fine. A severe, yet liberal, taste marked the choice
and arrangement of every thing. A painting of Tasso reading his poems
to the Princess, hung between the two back windows.

It was a well-arranged library, certainly; yet the four occupants were
engrossed in a study more fascinating than that of any of the books by
which they were surrounded. If Mephistophiles could have stepped from
his binding of blue and gold, and made the acquaintance of the company,
he would have been quite charmed. Two couples sat at two tables playing
cards. All the other visitors to the establishment had gone away, some
of them to theft or suicide, perhaps, save those four, who still
lingered, wrapped up in the dread enchantment of the hour. The two at
the table I first glanced at, were both strangers to me; at the second,
I could not see the face of one of the players, whose back was toward
me; but the face of the other was directly in front of me, and under
the full light of the chandelier. This person was James Argyll. My
astonishment was profound. That I had never fraternized with him, I
considered partly my own fault--there are persons so naturally
antagonistic as to make real friendship between them impossible--and I
had often blamed myself for our mutual coldness. But, with all my
dislike of some of his qualities--as, for instance, his indolent
acceptance of his uncle's bounty, which, in the eyes of a person of my
disposition, took away half his manliness--with all my unfriendly
aversion to him, I had never suspected him of absolutely bad habits.

I had to look twice to assure myself of his identity. And having
looked, I could not take away my eyes from the strange attraction of a
countenance transformed by the excitement of the gaming-table. His dark
complexion had blanched to a sallow paleness; cheeks and lips were of
the same color; his nose seemed to have sharpened, and was drawn in
about the face with a pinched look; his eyebrows were very slightly
contracted, but fixed, as if cut in marble, while underneath them the
lids were drawn together, so that only a line of the eye was visible--a
narrow line, letting out a single steady ray from the lurid world
within. The lids appeared as if the eyeballs had shrunken in the
intensity of their gaze.

Silently the cards were dealt and played. It was evidently the closing
game, upon which much depended--_how_ much, for James, I could only
guess by the increasing pallor and absorption of his countenance.

"I wish I could see his opponent's face," I whispered to my companion.

"You would see nothing but the face of the devil coolly amusing
himself. Bagley never gets excited. He has ruined a dozen young men
already."

The last card was thrown down; the two players arose simultaneously.

"Well, Bagley," said James, with a desperate laugh, "you will have to
wait for the money until I--"

"Marry the young lady," said the other; "that is the agreement, I
believe; but don't consent to a long engagement."

"I shall find some means to pay these last two debts before that happy
consummation, I hope. You shall hear from me within a month."

"We will make a little memorandum of them," said his opponent; and as
they went together to a writing-desk, Mr. Burton drew me away.

I could hardly breathe when we got into the street, I was so suffocated
with rage at hearing the reference made by those two men, under that
unholy roof, to the woman so revered and sacred in my thoughts. I was
certain that Miss Argyll was the young lady whose fortune was to pay
these "debts of honor," contracted in advance upon such security. If
his strong hand had not silently withheld me, I do not know but I
should have made a scene, which would have been as unwise as useless. I
was thankful, afterward, that I was prevented, though I chafed under
the restraint at the time. Neither of us spoke until we were in the
house of my host, where a fire in the library awaited us. Before this
we seated ourselves, neither of us feeling sleepy after our night's
adventures.

"How did you know that Argyll was at that house? I had no idea that he
intended coming to the city to-day," I said.

"He had no intention until he learned of your sudden departure. He came
down in the next train, to see what _you_ were about. He is uneasy
about you, Mr. Redfield, didn't you know it? As he could ascertain
nothing satisfactory about your doings, or mine, he had nothing better
on his hands, this evening, than to look up his friend Bagley."

"How do you know all this?"

The detective half smiled, his piercing eyes fixed reflectively on the
fire.

"I should be poorly able to support my pretensions, if I could not keep
the circle of my acquaintance under my observation. I was informed of
his arrival in town, upon my return from Brooklyn, and have known of
his whereabouts since. I could tell you what he had for supper, if it
would interest you."

The uneasy feeling which I had several times experienced in Mr.
Burton's society, came over me again. I spoke a little quickly:

"I wonder if you have your secret agents--spirits of the air, or
electricity, they might almost seem to be--hovering always on _my_
steps."

He laughed, but not unpleasantly, looking me through with those
steel-blue rays:

"Would it trouble you to fancy yourself under surveillance?"

"I never liked fetters, of any kind. I yield my choice of will and
action to nobody. However, if any one finds satisfaction in playing the
part of my shadow, I don't know that I shall suffer any restraint upon
that account."

"I don't think it would disturb you seriously," he said.

"No one likes to be watched, Mr. Burton."

"We are all watched by the pure and penetrating eye of the All-seeing
One, and if we are not fearful before Him, whom need we shrink from?"

I looked up to see whether it was the secret-police-agent who was
preaching to me, or whether my host, in his power of varying the outer
manifestations of his character, had not dropped the mystic star for
the robe of the minister; he was gazing into the fire with a sad,
absorbed expression, as if he saw before him a long procession of
mortal crimes, walking in the night of earth, but, in reality, under
the full brightness of infinite day. I had seen him before in these
solemn, almost prophetic moods, brought on him by the revelation of
some new sin, which seemed always in him to awaken regret, rather than
the exultation of a detective bent on the successful results of his
mission. So soft, so gentle he appeared then, I inwardly wondered that
he had the sternness to inflict disgrace and exposure upon the
"respectable" guilty--which class of criminals he was almost
exclusively employed with--but I had only to reflect upon the admirable
equipoise of his character, to realize that with him justice was what
he loved best. For those who prowled about society in the garb of lambs
and shepherd-dogs, seeking whom they might devour, and laying, perhaps,
the proofs of guilt at the doors of the innocent, he had no mercy of
the "let us alone" type. A little time we were silent; the dropping of
an ember from the grate startled us.

"Why do you think that James watches me? What does he watch me for?"

I asked this, going back to the surprise I had felt when he made the
remark.

"You will know soon enough."

It was useless for me to press the question, since he did not wish to
be explicit.

"I did not know," I continued, "I never dreamed, that James had bad
associates in the city. I know that his uncle and cousins do not
suspect it. It pains me more than I can express. What shall I do? I
have no influence over him. He dislikes me, and would take the most
brotherly remonstrance as an insult."

"I do not wish you, at present, to hint your discovery to him. As for
your not suspecting his habits, those habits themselves are recent. I
doubt if he had ever ventured a dollar on cards three months ago. He
had some gay, even dissolute companions in the city, of whom the worst
and most dangerous was Bagley. But he had not joined them in their
worst excesses--he was only idle and fond of pleasure--a moth
fluttering around the flames. Now he has scorched his wings. He has not
spent more than three or four nights as he spent this; and the only
money he has lost has been to the person you saw him with to-night.
Bagley is one of the vampires who fatten on the characters and purses
of young men like James Argyll."

"Then ought we not to make some earnest effort to save him before it is
too late? Oh, Mr. Burton, you who are wise and experienced--tell me
what to do."

"Why do you feel so much interest in him? You do not like him."

"I could not see the merest stranger go down toward destruction without
stretching forth my hand. There is no great friendship between us, it
is true; but James is nearly connected with the happiness and
reputation of the family I honor most on earth. For its sake, I would
make the utmost endeavor."

"For the interests of justice, then, it is well that I am not related
to the Argylls by the personal ties which affect you. I will tell you
one thing--James does not gamble so much from weakness of will to
resist temptation, as he does to forget, for a time, under the
influence of the fascinating excitement, an anxiety which he carries
about with him."

"You're a close observer, Mr. Burton. James has, indeed, been deeply
troubled lately. I have noticed the change in him--in his appetite,
complexion, manners, in a thousand trifles--a change which grows upon
him daily. He is gnawed upon by secret doubts--now raised by hopes, now
depressed by fears, until he is fitful and uncertain as a light carried
in an autumn wind. But I can tell you that he is all wrong in indulging
this vain hope, which creates the doubt. I know what it is, and how
utterly without foundation. It is weakness, wickedness in him to allow
a passion which ought only to ennoble him and teach him self-control,
to chase him to such ruin as I saw to-night."

"That is _your_ way of viewing the matter, Mr. Redfield. We all see
things according to the color of the spectacles we happen to wear. Then
you think it is a growing certainty that Miss Argyll, even under her
present relief from past vows, will never favor his suit, nor that of
any man, which is driving her cousin to these reckless habits?"

I was half-offended with him for mentioning her name in that manner;
but I knew that mine was an extreme, if not a morbid sensitiveness,
where she was concerned, and I swallowed my resentment, answering,

"I fear it is."

"That may explain his disquiet to you--so be it."

Still Mr. Burton was keeping something back from me--always keeping
something back. I did not feel at all sleepy. I was full of eager
thought. I reviewed, with a lightning glance, all that he had ever
said--all James had recently done or said--and, I swear, had it not
been for the almost affectionate kindness of his general manner to me,
and my belief in his candor, which would not allow him to play the part
of a friend while acting the part of an enemy, I should have felt that
Mr. Burton suspected _me_ of that appalling crime which I was so busily
seeking to fix upon the head of a frail, frightened woman! Again the
idea, and not for the first time, crept through my veins, chilling me
from head to foot. I looked him full in the eyes. If he _had_ such a
thought, I would pluck it out from behind that curtain of deception,
and make him acknowledge it. If he had such a thought, James had
introduced it to his mind. I knew that James had had some interviews
with him, of which I was only cognizant by casual observations dropped
by my host. How many more conclaves they may have held, was left to my
imagination to conjecture. What was this man before me playing this
double part for?--a friend to each, but never to both together. The
reader may smile, and answer that it is the very calling and existence
of a detective to play a double part; and that I ought not to be
chagrined to find him exercising his fine talents upon me. Perhaps
James also had reason to fancy himself this man's confidant and friend,
who was playing us, one against the other, for purposes of his own. It
was the thought that Mr. Burton, before whom more than any other person
in this world, except my mother, I had been wiled to lay open my soul,
could suspect me of any hidden part in that dark tragedy, which chilled
me to the marrow.

But no!--it was impossible! I saw it now in the frank and smiling eyes
which met my searching and lengthy gaze.

"There!" he cried, gayly, "there is a ray of actual sunrise. The fire
is out; the room is chilly--the morning has come upon us. We have sat
out the night, Richard! Let me show you to your room; we will not
breakfast until nine o'clock, and you can catch a couple of hours'
repose in the mean time." He took up a lamp, and we ascended the
stairs. "Here is your chamber. Now, remember, I bid you sleep, and let
that clock in your brain run down. It is bad for the young to think too
deeply. Good--morning."

He passed on, as I closed the door of my chamber. His tone had been
that of an elder friend, speaking to a young man whom he loved; I had
wronged him by that unpleasant idea which had shivered through me.

Closed shutters and thick curtains kept out the broadening light of
dawn; yet I found it difficult to compose myself to sleep. That
haunting shadow which had flitted from Henry's grave as I approached it
yesterday--the dream which I had in the little chamber, awakening to
the reality of the sewing-girl's escape--I could not banish these any
more than I could the discovery made in that house of sin, where the
bloated spider of Play weaves his glittering net, and sits on the watch
for the gay and brilliant victims who flutter into its meshes.

One feeling I had, connected with that discovery, which I had not
betrayed to Mr. Burton--which I would not fairly acknowledge to my own
soul--which I quarreled with--drove out--but which persisted in
returning to me now, banishing slumber from my eyelids. When I had
stood behind those silken curtains, and beheld James Argyll losing
money in play, I had experienced a sensation of relief--I might say of
absolute gladness--a sensation entirely apart from my sorrow at finding
him in such society, with such habits. Why? Ah, do not ask me; I can
not tell you yet. Do not wrong me by saying that it was triumph over
the fall of my rival in Mr. Argyll's affections, in business, possibly,
and in the regards of those two noble girls whose opinions we both
prized so highly. Only do not accuse me of this most apparent reason
for my gladness, and I will abide my time in your judgment. But no! I
will confess this much to-night myself.

If this stealthy and flying creature whom we two men were hunting from
one hiding-place to another, whose wild face had been seen pressing
toward the library window on that night of nights, and whose
handkerchief the very thorns of the roses had conspired to steal from
her, and hold as a witness against her--if this doubtful, eluding
creature, flitting darkly in the shadows of this tragedy, had not
abstracted that money from Mr. Argyll's desk, I had dared to guess who
might have taken it. Simply and solely--not because I did not like
him--but because, to go back to the Friday before that fatal Saturday,
I had been late in the parlors. The girls were singing and playing at
the piano; I left turning the music for them to go for a volume in the
library which I desired to carry off with me to read in my room that
night; I opened the door suddenly, and startled James, who was leaning
over that desk.

"Have you seen my opera-glass?" said he. "I left it on the desk here."

I answered him that I had not seen it, got my book, and returned to the
music, thinking no more of that trifling occurrence--which I never more
should have recalled had it not been for a peculiar expression in
James' face, which I was afterward forced to remember against my will.
Yet so little did I wish to wrong him, even in my secret thoughts, that
when the investigations were taking place, I was convinced, with all
the others, that the unlawful visitor of the garden had, in some
manner, possessed herself of the money. It only came back to me as I
watched James this night, in the gambling saloon, that, if he ever had
been tempted to rob from his uncle more than the unfailing generosity
of that good gentleman allowed him, I was glad that it was _play_ which
had tempted him to the wrongful act. This was the shadowy nature of my
pleasure. Who has complete mastery of his thoughts? Who does not
sometimes find them evil, unwarrantable, uncomfortable, and to be
ashamed of?

From the perplexity of all these things I sunk into a slight slumber,
from which I was almost immediately aroused by the tinkling of the
breakfast-bell. I arose, dressed, and, upon descending to the library,
was met by a servant, who ushered me at once into a cheerful apartment,
where my host sat by the window, reading the morning paper, and where
the table only waited my appearance to be graced by a well-ordered meal.

"Lenore usually presides over the tea-urn," said Mr. Burton, as we sat
down. "We have a little affair which answers for two, and which is
adapted to the strength of her little hands. It seems pleasantest so;
and we both like it--but she has not arisen this morning."

"I hope she is not more unwell than usual," I said, with real
solicitude.

"To tell you the truth, she was not at all benefited by what occurred
yesterday. She is nervous and exhausted; I have been up to see her. I
know that when the doctor comes to-day, he will guess what I have been
about, and blame me. I mean it shall be the last time in which I
experiment upon her."

"I shall regret it, if she is really injured by it, despite my intense
desire to learn what she revealed. Perhaps it was from our selfishness
in making use of this exquisite instrument for purposes so earthly that
we are punished by the fruitlessness of the results."

Mr. Burton laughed.

"Perhaps. Punishment, however, seldom appears fitly meted out, this
side the Stygian river. My Lenore will be better this afternoon; and I
have strong hopes that, with the light now before us, we shall secure
our prize. If that woman escapes me now, I shall set her down as a
lunatic--only an insane person could have the consummate cunning to
thwart me so long."

"There never was one less insane," I said. "The impression which she
made upon me was that of one in whom the emotions and intellect were
both powerful. Her will and cunning are well-nigh a match for yours.
You will have to look sharp."

"It is easier to pursue than to evade pursuit. She has much the most
difficult strategy to conceive and execute. I tell you, Mr. Redfield,
I'm bound to see that woman. I shall be so piqued at my failure, as to
go into a decline, if I'm disappointed." He seemed two-thirds in
earnest, through his jocular assertion.

We did not linger long over the breakfast, being anxious to get back to
Brooklyn. After we had withdrawn from the table, he gave me the paper
to look over, while he ran up a moment to say something to his
daughter. While he was absent, the door-bell rung, and the servant
showed a gentleman into the room where I was.

"Well, really," were the first words I heard, "has Mr. Burton taken you
for an apprentice, and do you lodge with your employer?"

It was James--as usual, when addressing me, with the gay smile covering
the sneer. He did not even extend his hand, but stood looking at me a
moment, with a sort of defiant menace, which ended with an uneasy
glance about the place. If he had been conscious of my secret visit to
his haunts, he would have worn something such an expression; I
construed it that his restless conscience made him suspicious of his
friends.

"I came down, unexpectedly, yesterday morning, at his request. We got
some trace of Leesy Sullivan; and I shall stay until we do something
about it."

"Indeed!"--he seemed relieved, putting off his ugly look and
condescending to be gentlemanly again. "Have you found out where the
wretched creature has hidden herself? Upon my word, I think if Eleanor
knew the case in all its bearings, it might be useful in keeping her
from quite killing herself of grief."

It was now my turn to be angry; I turned upon him with a flushed face:

"For God's sake, don't slander the dead, even by imputation, however
slight. Whoever put Henry where he lies now, and for what purpose, this
much I believe--that no injustice nor sin of his own brought that high
heart low. And the villain, I say the villain, who could breathe such a
whisper in Eleanor's ear would be base enough to--to--"

"Speak out," smiled James, holding me with his softly glittering gaze.

"I will say no more," I ended, abruptly, as I heard Mr. Burton's steps
approaching. It was evident to me that there was to be no peace between
us two.

I watched my host while he greeted the new arrival; I wished to satisfy
myself if there was a difference in his manner of treating us which
would justify my belief that Mr. Burton was not playing a part with me.
He was courteous, affable, every thing that was desirable or to be
expected in a gentleman receiving a friendly acquaintance--that was
all; again I assured myself that it was only toward me that he
displayed real liking and affection. But this he did not now display.
His face had on its mask--that conventional smile and polish, that air
of polite interest, than which nothing is more impenetrable. It was
because, in our intercourse alone together, Mr. Burton laid this mask
aside, that I flattered myself I was his friend and confidant.

"Richard got the start of me," observed James, after the compliments of
the day were over; "I had not the least idea that he was in town. I
came down yesterday to buy myself an overcoat--important business,
wasn't it?--and stayed over to the opera, last night being the opening
of the new season. Did either of you attend? I did not see you, if
there. He tells me that he left in the early morning train, before the
one I took. Have you any information of importance, Mr. Burton?"

"We have seen Miss Sullivan."

"Is it possible? And have you really made up your mind that the poor
thing is guilty? If so, I hope you will not fail to have her arrested.
I should like, very much indeed, to have the affair sifted to the
dregs."

"Yes, I suppose so. It is quite natural that you should take an
interest in having it sifted, as you say. I assure you that if I have
reason enough to warrant an indictment, I shall have one gotten out. In
the mean time we must be cautious--the interests involved are too
serious to be played with."

"Certainly, they are, indeed. And unless that young woman is really the
dreadful being we believe her, we ought not to ruin her by open
accusation. Still, I must say she acts extremely like a guilty person."

"She does, Mr. Argyll; I see but one explanation of her conduct--she is
herself _particeps criminis_, or she knows who is."

"Quite likely. Indeed, we can not well think otherwise. Did you say you
had actually seen the girl, Mr. Burton?"

"We saw her yesterday--that is, Mr. Redfield did."

"May I inquire the result? or am I not supposed to be sufficiently
interested in the case to have any right to ask questions? If so, I beg
you, don't trouble yourselves. There are doubtless others who have
deeper and different reasons from mine, for being conspicuous in the
matter." As James said this, he looked directly at me. "You know, Mr.
Burton, I have intimated as much before; and, if I am sometimes
imprudent in my speech, you must know how hard it is for me to control
myself always."

I was conscious that I grew pale, as Mr. Burton glanced swiftly at me,
I felt so certain that James meant something personal, yet so uncertain
how to accuse him of it, or to compel him to explain himself, when he
would probably deny there was any thing to explain.

"I don't think there's any one has a deeper interest in the matter than
you, Mr. Argyll," said Mr. Burton, with a kind of smooth distinctness
of tone which might seem to be impressive, or mean nothing, as the
listener chose to understand it. "About seeing the girl, Redfield has
not half so much to tell as I wish he had. In fact, he let her slip
through his fingers."

A dry laugh was James' comment upon this avowal. Mr. Burton saw that we
were inwardly chafing, ready, as it were, to spring upon each other; he
took up his hat and gloves.

"Come, gentlemen, we have business on hand of too much importance to
permit of ceremony. Mr. Argyll, I must excuse myself. But if you'll
join us, we shall be glad of your aid and company. We are going over to
Brooklyn, to seek for another glimpse of Leesy Sullivan."

James slightly started as Brooklyn was mentioned. He had no reason to
suppose that any thing but courtesy prompted the invitation he
received; yet he did not hesitate to accept it. Whether from mere
curiosity, or jealousy at being kept out of the detective's full
confidence, or a desire to pry into my actions and motives, or a
praiseworthy interest--whatever it was prompted him, he kept with us
all day, expressing regret as deep as our own when another night came
without any results. Being belated, we took our supper in a saloon, as
we had done our dinner. I could not but notice that Mr. Burton did not
invite James to the house to spend the night, nor converse with him at
all about his daughter or his personal affairs.

The next morning James returned home; but I remained in the city
several days, all this time the guest of Mr. Burton, and becoming more
attached to him and his beautiful child. After the first day, Lenore
recovered pretty rapidly from the ill effects of the trance; I was, as
the ladies say, "perfectly charmed" with her. A gayer, more airy little
sprite never existed than she, when her health permitted her natural
spirit to display itself. Her grace and playfulness were befitting her
age--childish in an eminent degree, yet poetized, as it were, by an
ethereal spirituality, which was all her own. To hear her sing would be
to wonder how such a depth and hight and breadth, such an infinity of
melody, could be poured from so young and slender a throat--as I had
often wondered, when gazing at the swelling breast of some little
triumphant bird, where was hidden the mechanism for all that marvelous
power of music.

It is said that children know who are their true friends. I do not
think that "flitting, fairy" Lenore doubted for an instant that I was
hers. We acknowledged a mutual attraction, which it seemed to give her
father pleasure to observe. She was, to both of us, a delight and a
rest, to which we looked forward after the vexations and
disappointments of the day--vexations and disappointments which
increased upon us; for every night we had the dissatisfaction of
finding some slender thread of probability, which we had industriously
unraveled and followed, either abruptly broken off, leaving us
standing, perplexed and foolish, or else leading to persons and
purposes most irrelevant. I should dislike to say how many pale,
dark-eyed young women, with pretty babies, made our unexpected
acquaintance during the following week--an acquaintance as brief as it
was unsolicited on their part.



                               CHAPTER X.

                            THE ANNIVERSARY.


I have said that I expected Mr. Argyll to offer me a partnership, now
that I was prepared to begin my legal career. In this I was not
presumptuous, inasmuch as he had frequently and plainly hinted his
intention. Such an arrangement would be a desirable one for me; I
appreciated its many advantages; at the same time, I expected, by
taking all the hard work upon myself, and by the constant devotion of
such talent as I had to the interests of the firm, to repay, as far as
possible, my obligations to the senior member.

When I returned from New York, I appeared in court with a case which
had chanced to be intrusted to me, perhaps from the inability of my
client to employ an older and more expensive lawyer. I did well with
it, and was complimented by several of Mr. Argyll's fraternity upon my
success in handling the case. Much to my surprise and mortification,
Mr. Argyll's congratulations were in constrained and studied terms. He
had appeared to be more formal, less open in his manner of treating me,
ever since my last visit to the city. At first I thought it my fancy,
or caused by some temporary ill-health, or mental trouble, under which
he might be laboring. Day by day the impression deepened upon me that
his feelings toward me were not what they had been. The plainest proof
I had of this was, that no offer of partnership was made. I was placed
in a disagreeable situation for one of my proud temperament. My studies
completed to the point where admission to practice had been granted, I
had nothing to do but continue in his office, reading, reading
away--not but that my time was most usefully employed thus, and not
that I was in any great hurry to go into business, though my income was
narrow enough, and I knew that my mother had pinched her domestic
arrangements to afford me that--but I began to feel like an intruder.
My ostensible use of his books, office, and instructions was at an end;
I began to feel like a hanger-on. Yet I could not go away, or offer to
associate myself with others, hastily. I felt that he ought either to
put in execution his implied promise, or to inform me that he had
changed his plans, and I was free to try elsewhere.

Can any invalid tell me why he feels a prescience of the storm in his
aching bones and tingling nerves while the sun still shines in a
cloudless sky, and not one hint on the outward face of nature tells of
a change in the weather? Neither can I explain the subtle influences
which affected me, depressing me so deeply, and making me sensible of a
change in that atmosphere of home which had brooded for me over the
Argyll mansion. I had felt this first in the more business air of the
office; gradually, it seemed to me to be creeping over the household.
Mary, that sweet child of impulse, too young to assume much dignity,
and too truthful to disguise her innocent face in falsehood, who had
clung to me in this affliction as a sister clings to an elder brother,
awakening all my tenderest instincts of protection and indulgence--this
fair girl, doubly dear to me as the sister of that other woman whom I
adored, began to put on an air of reserve toward me. She was kind and
gentle, but she no longer ran to me with all those pretty demands and
complaints, those trifling confidences, so sweet because an evidence of
trust and affection; sometimes I caught her eyes fixed upon me in a
sad, wondering way, which puzzled and disconcerted me; when I caught
her glance, she would turn quickly, and blush.

I could not help believing, although I had no proof of it, that James
was covertly working to produce an impression against me in the family.
His manner toward me had never been so friendly; when we were alone
together he grew quite confidential, sometimes descending to small
flatteries, and almost entirely neglecting the use of those little
nettles of satire with which he once delighted in stinging me whenever
any one whom I esteemed was present. I could not pick a quarrel with
him, had I desired it. Yet I could not rid myself of the consciousness
that he was undermining my footing in the house of those friends I
loved best. In what manner, it was difficult for me to conjecture. If
he slandered my habits or associations, nothing could be easier than
for Mr. Argyll to quietly ascertain, by inquiries unknown to myself,
the truth of his statements; justice to me would require that he should
take that trouble before he cast off, as unworthy his further kindness,
the son of his dead friend. I could think of but one matter which he
could use to my prejudice; and in that my conscience accused me loudly
enough. I said to myself that he had told them of my love for Eleanor.
He had torn that delicate and sacred secret from my heart, where it lay
under the pitying light of God's eye alone--discovered it through hate
and jealousy, which are next to love in the keenness of their
perceptions--and exposed it to those from whom I had most shrinkingly
hidden it. Even then, why should they blame me, or treat me coldly, for
what I could not help, and for which I alone must suffer? Certainly not
for my presumption, since I had not presumed. One dreadful idea preyed
upon me. It was, that, in order to rid himself of me for ever, to drive
me out from the friendship of those whom he wanted to himself, for his
own selfish aims, James was representing to them not only that I loved
Eleanor, but that I was looking forward to the future with hopes which
mocked her present desolation.

I can not describe the pain and humiliation this idea gave me. If I
could have discovered it, or in any way denied it, I should not have
felt so hurt and helpless. As it was, I felt that my honor was being
stabbed in the dark, without a chance to defend itself--some secret
enemy was wounding it, as some base assassin had planted that deadly
wound in the heart of Henry Moreland.

In the mean time, the Christmas holidays were approaching. It was a
season of gloom and mourning, mocked by the merry preparations of
happier people. On the twenty-third day of December came Eleanor's
nineteenth birthday. It was to have been her wedding-day. A glorious
winter morning dawned; the sun shone in a sapphire sky; it seemed as if
every plant in the conservatory put forth double bloom--the japonicas,
the white roses, were incomparable. I could not help but linger about
the house. Eleanor kept herself in her room. If every word which refers
to her were written in tears, it could not express the feelings with
which we all were moved with the thought of her bereavement. We moved
about like people in dreams, silent and abstracted. The old
housekeeper, when I met her on the stairs, was wiping her eyes with the
corner of her apron. Mr. Argyll, unquiet and pale, wandered from room
to room. The office remained closed; the front blinds of the house were
shut--it was like the day of the funeral.

I went into the conservatory; there was sunshine there, and
sweetness--a bright luxuriance of beauty. It was more solemn to me than
the darkened parlors. I plucked a white rose, holding it idly in my
fingers. It was half-past eleven--at twelve the ceremony should have
been performed. Mary came in while I stood there wrapped in emotion
more than thought. Her eyes were swollen with weeping, her hands
trembled, and when she spoke, her lips quivered:

"She has taken out all the wedding apparel, for the first time since
that day. She is dressing herself. She has put on the robe and vail;
and now she has sent me down to make the bouquet. She wants some white
flowers for her bosom. She stands before the mirror, putting on
everything as carefully as if poor Henry--were--down-stairs. Oh,
Richard," she cried, breaking down utterly in a burst of tears, and
throwing herself into my arms, "it would break your heart to see her!
It almost kills me, but I must get the flowers. It is best to indulge
her."

"Yes, it is best," I answered, soothing her as best I could, when my
own voice and hands were so shaken. "I will help you. Don't keep her
waiting."

I took the scissors from her, cutting the fairest buds, the most
perfect flowers, arranging them with care and skill.

"I will tell you what she said," continued Mary, as I hastily made up
the bouquet; "she says that to-day they will be married, the same as if
Henry were on earth instead of in heaven; that their vows shall be
consummated at the hour appointed, and that thereafter she shall hold
herself his wife just as surely as if he had come in the body to
fulfill his part of the contract. She has her prayer-book open at the
marriage ceremony. She looks so sweet and calm, as beautiful as if she,
too, were an angel with dear Henry--only so very white, so very
solemn--oh, dear, I cannot bear it!" and again I had to compose her,
wiping away her tears, before I sent her up with the bouquet. As she
went out into the breakfast, or family-room, which opened into the
conservatory, I saw James by the door, and I knew, by the expression of
his face, that he had heard what passed between us. Through a kind of
alarm and vexation there was a flash of disdain, as if he wanted to
say, what he dared not:

"What a fool the girl is to cling to that dust and ashes! Married,
indeed! She shall be the wife of some one besides a ghost, or I lose my
guess."

"What a crotchety idea!" he said, as he caught my eye. "I never thought
Eleanor would be so whimsical. She ought to have some one to exert a
healthy influence over her, or she will injure herself--she surely
will."

"You ought to attempt to teach her a more practical view of life's
misfortunes. I'm afraid, however, you'll find her a stupid pupil."

His eye flashed into mine a triumphant gleam.

"'Perseverance conquers all obstacles,' the wise ones say; and I'm a
persevering man, you know, Richard."

He took up his cap and lounged out into the garden. I felt a sinking at
my heart as he thus openly avowed his hopes and expectations; I could
not entirely banish the heavy foreboding, even by recalling the image
of the stricken girl, at that moment binding herself, in awful and
mysterious companionship, with the spirit that waited for her across
the portals of Time. I watched James pacing back and forth, with
disquiet steps, through the frozen walks of the garden; presently he
lit a cigar, and went out on the lawn, and from thence into the
streets. His was one of those minds which do not like their own company
when they are uneasy. How he managed to while away the day I do not
know; to me it was long and oppressive; Mary remained up stairs with
her sister; Mr. Argyll sat in the library with a book, which he held
open but did not read. As the sun declined, I felt that a brisk walk in
the cold air would be the best medicine for my drooping spirits--it was
my usual remedy.

If I remember aright, I had not been in the direction of Moreland villa
since that singular meeting I had there with the person who had since
played so conspicuous a part in our thoughts, if not in our
eyes--except twice, when I had gone with Mr. Burton through the
vicinity, in hopes of tracing her from the point of her
disappearance--but to-day, I mechanically chose that road, led thither
by the chain of association. Snow glistened on the hilltops, the shores
of the river were skirted with ice, though its central current still
rolled bluely between those crystal walls. It was sunset when I began
my walk; before I reached the villa, the pink flush was fading from the
snowy summits; one large star, preternaturally bright, hung over the
turrets of the lonely house, shining through the flush of twilight;
gray shadows stretched over the barren hillsides, and a cold steel-blue
tinged the ice in the river. How desolate the place looked, stripped of
its summer garments! I leaned over the gate, while the night
approached, making a picture of how the villa would have appeared at
this hour, had that which had happened not happened. It would have been
a blaze of light, full of flowers and feasting, and alive with happy
human creatures. It had been the intention of the young couple to go
immediately to their new home, after the wedding-breakfast, and to
begin their housekeeping with a reception of their friends that same
evening. Instead of warmth and light, gay laughter and music, rolling
carriages and prancing horses, feasting, congratulations, love, beauty
and happiness, there was silence and desertion, oh, how appalling! I
could not bear the contrast between what was and what should have been.

Before returning to the village I thought I would call upon the
gardener's wife, Mrs. Scott, and inquire if she had any tidings of Miss
Sullivan; though I knew very well that if she had, she would have let
me heard them without waiting for a visit from me. I had grown chilly,
leaning so long over the gate, after my rapid walk, and the glow
through the window of the little cottage standing at the back of the
kitchen-garden, looked inviting. I made my way around to the gate at
the back of the premises, and was soon knocking at the door. I had
heard Mrs. Scott singing her baby to sleep as I approached the house;
but after I knocked there was silence, yet no one answered the summons.

I knocked thrice, the last time rather imperatively, for I was chilly,
and did not like waiting so long, when I knew I must be heard. At this
the door was opened a little way, very cautiously, the mistress peering
out suspiciously.

"Laws! Mr. Redfield, is it you?"--throwing the door wide open. "I beg
your pardon for keeping you waiting. If I'd had any idea it was _you_,
I shouldn't a' been skeered. But husband's gone to the village, and I
was alone with the children, and when you knocked so sudden, my heart
came right up in my mouth. I didn't like to see who 'twas. Do come in.
How cold 'tis out to-night. You look real blue. Take a chair by the
stove and warm yourself. I'm real ashamed I kept you standing so long.
How is all the family, sir?"

"About as usual, Mrs. Scott. So you are cowardly when you are alone
evenings, are you? I've mistaken your character, then; I've given you
credit for being one of the strong-minded women."

"Wal, the truth is," she said apologetically, "I never did used to be
afraid of any thing, dead or alive. But, since young Mr. Henry was took
away so sudden, I've been nervous and frightened like. I've never got
over the shock. I'll holler right out, sometimes, in broad daylight, if
any thing startles me, if it's only a door slamming. Husband laughs at
me and scolds me, but I can't help it."

"Nobody's going to hurt _you_, because another had evil happen to him."

"I know that as well as anybody. It's not because I've reason to be
afeard, that I am--it's the shock, you see. There, there, Johnny, be
still, will you? I used to go all over the place the darkest night that
ever was--but now, really, I'm ashamed to tell you, I dasn't put my
face out after dark."

"I should think it would be unpleasant, such a chronic state of fear,"
and I half-smiled through my own melancholy, at the woman's anxious
face.

"Onpleasant! I reckon it is mighty onpleasant. But there's good reason
for it."

"You just acknowledged that there was no reason--that it was fancy,
Mrs. Scott."

"You're goin' to trip me over my own words, Mr. Redfield. It _was_
fancy, at first, just nervousness; but lately--lately, as I said,
there's been things--"

"What things?"

"I know you'll laugh at me, sir; and you won't half believe me,
neither--so I guess I'd better not make a fool of myself before you.
But if you, or any other livin' person, had seen what I seen, and heard
what I heard, then you'd know what I know--that's all!"

She spoke with such evident earnestness, and I had hitherto felt so
much respect for the sturdy strength and integrity of her New England
character, that my curiosity was somewhat aroused. I thought best to
let her quiet herself, however, before leading her to converse about
the subject most on her mind, as I saw that she still trembled from the
fright I had given her by my sudden knock at the door.

"How's the place getting on since the winter weather set in? I suppose
your husband had the plants housed long ago. Has he been making any
changes with the grounds? I suppose not, since the family has so
completely deserted the villa. I came out to-night to take a look at
it. This is the twenty-third of December, do you remember?"

"I've been thinkin' of it all day, Mr. Redfield."

"It's terrible to see the house standing there in silence and darkness,
to-night. There seemed to me something ghostly about it--I could not
endure it. Have you been through the rooms lately?"

This last question I asked without any other object than to keep up the
conversation; she had started and looked curiously at me, when I
casually used the figurative expression of "ghostly," and now she shook
her head.

"I've _not_ been through the house lately," she said. "I ought to go, I
know--it wants airin', and there's bedclothes and things in the closet
wants lookin' after."

"Then why do you not attend to it?"

"That's it," she answered, looking me uneasily in the face.

"What?"

"Well, sir, to tell you the truth, it's my opinion, and I know, laugh
as you may--"

"I haven't laughed, Mrs. Scott."

She arose, looked at her boy, now fast asleep in his cradle, went to
the window, drew the little white curtain across the lower half,
resumed her chair, glanced about the room, and was opening her lips to
speak, when a slight rattling sound against the panes of glass, made
her clasp her hands together and utter a cry.

"What on earth was that?"

I did indeed now laugh at her pale face, answering, in some vexation,

"It was the snow breaking from the eaves, and slipping down against the
window."

"Oh!" drawing a long breath. "You are provoked at me, Mr. Redfield. If
you knew all, you wouldn't be."

"Well, tell me all, at once, then, and let me judge."

Again she gave a cautious look about, as if invisible guests might hear
and not relish her revelation, drew her chair a little nearer mine, and
said, impressively,

"_The house is haunted!_"

"Is that all?" I asked, feeling quite relieved, for her manner had
startled me in spite of myself.

"It's enough!" was the significant response. "To tell you flatly, sir,
John's about concluded to write to Mr. Moreland, and give up the
situation."

"Your husband! is he so foolish, too? There are no such things as
haunted houses, Mrs. Scott; and to give up a permanent and excellent
home like this, upon any such idle fancy, seems to me very unwise."

"Goodness knows I've liked the place," she cried, bursting into tears,
"and that we don't know what to turn to when we leave this. But I'm
worn out with it--I can't stand it no longer! You see how unsettled I
am now."

Unsettled enough, certainly, from the usually composed and self-reliant
woman in whose judgment I had placed considerable confidence.

"You haven't told me any thing to prove your assertion. I don't believe
in ghosts, I warn you; but I'd like to hear your reasons for thinking
the villa has got one."

"I always made fun of ghosts, myself, and so did John, until this
happened. He won't own up now, 'cept that he's ready to leave the
place, and won't go in with me in broad daylight, to 'tend to the
rooms. So I know he's just as scairt as I am. And you know John's no
coward with any thing he can see or handle, and it's no disgrace to a
body to be shy of onearthly things. I'm a bold woman myself, but I
ain't ready to face a spook."

"What makes you think the house is haunted?"

"Plenty of things."

"Please mention a few. I'm a lawyer, you know, and demand the proofs."

"I've seen a curious light hovering over the roof of the house of
nights."

"Did your husband see it also?"

"Yes, he did see it, night before last. He wouldn't believe till he see
it. I've seen it seven or eight times myself."

"What was it like?"

"Oh, Lordy, I'm sure I can't tell exactly what it was like, when I
never saw any thing of the kind before; I suppose it's like them
dead-lights that's been seen over graves. It's more like a bright
shadow than an actual light--you can see through it like air. It
wanders about the roof, then stops over one particular place. It would
make your flesh creep to see it, sir!"

"I would like, above all things, to try it. Do you suppose, if we went
out now, we should have the opportunity?"

"It's too early; leastways, I've never seen it so early in the evenin'.
The first time, my baby was sick, and I got up in the night to get him
some drops, and as I looked out the window, there was the thing
shinin'."

"Is that all that makes you think the house haunted?"

"No, sir; we've heard things--curious sounds--even in the daytime."

"What were the sounds like?"

"I couldn't rightly explain 'em to you, sir. They were not human
sounds."

"Try and give me some idea of them."

"They'd rise and fall, rise and fall--not like singing, nor crying, nor
talking--a kind of wailing music, only not like it, either--that is,
not like any thing I ever heard. It seems to come mostly from the
family-room, back o' the library. John and me followed it up one
evenin'. We went close up on the porch, and put our ears to the
shutters. We heard it plain. We was so frightened, we've been glad not
to go near the house again. I don't feel as if I ever could."

"I think I know what it was," I said, half inclined to laugh. "The
doors or sashes have been left open in such a way as to make a draught.
It is the wind, singing through the crevices of the deserted mansion.
I, myself, have heard the wind make most unearthly music under such
circumstances."

"'Twa'n't wind at all," said the gardener's wife, in an offended tone.

"Perhaps persons have obtained access to the house that have no
business there. They may deface the furniture, or carry off articles of
value. You really ought to look to it, Mrs. Scott; it's part of your
duty."

"There's nobody got in--I'm certain of that. We've examined every door
and window. There's not the least sign of any human being about the
premises. I tell you, Mr. Redfield, it's spirits; and no wonder,
considering how poor Henry was took away."

She said this solemnly, relapsing into moody silence.

I felt quite convinced that the imaginations of the pair, already awed
and excited by the murder, had converted some trifling atmospheric or
other phenomena, or some combination of circumstances, easily explained
when the key to them was found, into the mystery of a haunted house. I
was sorry, for two reasons: first, that they thought of leaving, when I
knew that their departure would give trouble to Mr. Moreland, who had
left the entire charge of the place to them for years, and at a time
when he was too bowed with heavier cares to be vexed with these small
matters; second, that the couple would be sure to spread the report
through the village, causing gossip and conjecture, and exciting a
prurient interest which would throng the vicinity with idle
wonder-seekers. So I said,

"I wish your husband was at home to-night. I must see him. It will not
do for him to trouble Mr. Moreland at this time, by throwing up his
situation. You would both of you be sorry and ashamed at such a
movement, before many weeks, I'm convinced. What do you say to my
coming out here to-morrow, and to our going through the house together?
If there is any thing in it which ought not to be, we will turn it out.
I will stay until you have aired the house and looked at the clothing;
then you can lock it up, and leave it for a few weeks without the
necessity of going through it."

"Well, Mr. Redfield, if you're willin' to do it, I ought to be ashamed
to hang behind. I'll do it, of course, and be thankful to you; for my
conscience hain't been easy, lettin' them things go so. I'm right glad
you happened out."

"And tell your husband, please, not to say any thing about this matter
to others. It will make it unpleasant for the friends."

"I did tell him not to. He ain't said nothin' yet, I'm sure. It's the
last thing we'd be willin' to do, make any more trouble for them that
has too much now, and that has always been kind to us. Must you go,
sir?"

"Yes; I'll say good-night, Mrs. Scott. You may expect me in the
morning, a little before noon. By the way, have you seen or heard any
thing of Miss Sullivan?"

"Not the least thing. She's kept clear of here since that day you found
her here. So she's run away, entirely, has she? Well, well, well--I
never! I declare, I turn these things over in my brain, some days, till
my head gets dizzy."

"So does mine, and my heart sick. Good-night, ma'am."

"Good-night, and good luck to you, this dark night."

She waited to see me through the gate, which led by a little lane past
the kitchen-garden, and thence by a private road along down into the
main one. As I passed the gate into the lawn, on my way out, I paused
perhaps half an hour, in the hope of hearing or seeing the marvels of
which the woman had spoken. There was no mystic light, blue or yellow,
playing lambently over the roof; no sound, sinking and rising, came
wildly on the starlit air; all was profound silence and darkness and
coldness like that of the grave.

My half-contemptuous pity of the state of mind into which the
gardener's wife had worked herself, gave place to deeper emotions; I
turned away, almost running along the smooth, hard-frozen road whose
course was clearly discernible in the winter starlight. I met the
gardener going home, but did not stop to speak with him--went directly
to my lodgings. The fire was out in my room, and I crept into bed,
forgetting that I had gone without my tea.

True to my promise, I went the next day to the villa. Mrs. Scott
brought the keys, I unlocked the doors, and together we entered the
long-vacant place. There is always something impressive, one might say,
"ghostly," about a deserted building. When you enter into it, you feel
the influence of those who were last within it, as if some portion of
them lingered in the old locality. I confess that I felt an almost
superstitious awe and dread, as I stepped over the threshold which I
had last crossed with _him_. How joyful, how full of young and princely
life, he had then been, his face lit up, as a man's face lights up when
he attends upon the woman he loves and expects soon to make his own! He
was leading Eleanor to a carriage; they had been talking about the
improvements they were going to make in the house. How every look and
tone came back to me! With a silent shudder, I stepped into the hall,
which had that moldy smell of confined air belonging to a closed
dwelling. I hastened to throw open the shutters. When I unclosed a
door, I flung it wide, stepping quickly in, and raising the windows, so
as to have the sunlight before looking much about. I had to do it all,
for my companion kept close to me, never stirring from my elbow. I went
into every room on every floor, from the kitchen to the garret. Into
the latter I only glanced, as Mrs. Scott said there was nothing up
there which she wanted, or which required attention. It was a loft,
rough-floored, of comfortable hight, with a window at the gable end.
The roof ran up sharply in the center, the villa being built in the
Gothic style. There was such a collection of rubbish in it as is usual
to such places--broken-down furniture, worn-out trunks, a pile of
mattresses in a corner, over which a blanket had been thrown to keep
them from the dust, some clothing depending from a line, and three or
four barrels. Mrs. Scott was standing at the foot of the ladder, which
led up into the attic out of a small room, or closet, used for storing
purposes. I saw she was uneasy at having me even that far from her, and
after a brief survey of the garret, I assured her there were no ghosts
there, and descended.

"Help yourself to some of them apples," said the woman, pointing to
some boxes and barrels in the room where we now stood. "They're winter
pippins. John's going to send them into the city, to the family, in a
week or two. We've permission to keep 'em here, because it's dry and
cool, and the closet being in the middle of the house, it don't freeze.
It's a good place for fruit. Hark! What was that?"

"It was a cat," said I, as I put a couple of the apples in my overcoat
pocket. "It sounded like a cat--in the garret. If we shut it up there,
it'll starve."

I went up the ladder again, looking carefully about the attic, and
calling coaxingly to the animal, but no cat showed itself, and I came
down, saying it must have been in one of the lower rooms, and had
probably run in since we opened the doors.

"It sartingly sounded overhead," persisted my companion, looking
nervous, and keeping closer to me than ever.

I had heard the noise, but would not have undertaken to say whether it
came from above or below.

"If that is the material she makes ghosts of, I'm not surprised that
she has a full supply," I thought.

In going out, the woman was careful to close the door, and I could see
her stealing covert glances into every corner, as we passed on, as if
she expected, momently, to be confronted by some unwelcome apparition,
there in the broad light of day. There were no traces of any intruders
having made free with the house. The clothes and china closets were
undisturbed, and the bureaus the same.

"This was Harry's room; he liked it because it had the best view of the
river," said Mrs. Scott, as we paused before a chamber on the second
floor.

We both hesitated; her apron was at her eyes, and my own throat swelled
suddenly: reverently I opened the door, and stepped within, followed by
the housekeeper. As I raised the window, and flung back the shutter,
she gave a scream. I was really startled. Turning quickly, I saw her
with her hands thrown up, an expression of terror upon her face.

"I told you the house was haunted," she murmured, retreating backward
toward the door.

"What do you see?" I asked, glancing about for the cause of her alarm.

"This room," she gasped--"it was his--and he comes here still. I know
it!"

"What makes you think so? Has it been disturbed? If it has, rest
assured it has been by the living, not the dead."

"I wish I thought so," she said, solemnly. "It can not be. No other
part of the house is in the least disturbed. No one has had admission
to it--it is impossible; not a crack, not a cranny, by which any thing
but a spirit could have got in. Harry's been here, Mr. Redfield; you
can't convince me different."

"And if he has," I said, calmly, for I saw that she was much agitated,
"are you any more afraid of him now than you were when he was in the
body? You loved him then; think you he will harm you now? Rather you
ought to be glad, since you believe in ghosts, that it is a good spirit
which haunts these premises--the innocent spirit of the murdered, not
the guilty one of the murderer."

"I know it," she said. "I'm not afraid--I don't think I could be really
afraid of Henry's ghost, even if I should see it; but it's so--awful,
isn't it?"

"Not to me, at all. If such things were permitted, I should like to
meet this spiritual visitant, and ask him the one question--if, indeed,
he could answer it. I should like to have him point out the guilty. If
his hand could reach out from the spiritual world, and stretch a
blasting finger toward his murderer, that would be awful to the
accursed one, but it would be welcome to me. But what makes you think
Henry has been here?"

She pointed to the bed; there was a pressure upon it, as if some light
shape had lain there--just the faintest indentation of a head on one of
the pillows; from thence she pointed to a little writing-table, between
the windows, on which a book lay open, and where there were some papers
and engravings; then to a pair of slippers standing on the carpet at
the head of the bed. The room was a delightful one, furnished with blue
and white--Henry's favorite colors. Two or three exquisite little
pictures hung on the walls, and not the slightest toy occupied a niche
in any place but spoke of the taste and refinement which had chosen it.
From the two windows, the view of the river flowing amidst the hills,
and the lovely country spreading far away, was such as would satisfy
the eye of a poet, turned from the page before him on the little
writing-table, to rest upon the fairer page of nature.

"I came into this room the day of the funeral," said the housekeeper,
with a trembling voice, "and I sot all to rights, as if the master was
coming back the next day. But little I thought he would really come! I
spread that bed as smooth as paper; I put on fresh slips on the
pillows, and sot 'em up without a dent or wrinkle in 'em; I put his
slippers with their toes to the wall, and now they're standin' as he
always left 'em when he took 'em off. Them papers has been stirred, and
he's been readin' in that book. _She_ gave him that, and it was a
favorite with him; I've often seen him with it in his hand. You may
shake your head, Mr. Redfield, but _I know_ Henry's been back here in
his room."

"If any thing in this room has been disturbed, rest assured there's
been some living intruder here. A spirit would have had no need of
slippers, and would have made no impression on your smooth bed."

"You can talk your big words, for you are an edicated man, Mr.
Redfield, but you can't convince me against my own persuasion. It's
been no human being has mussed that spread--why, it's hardly
wrinkled--you can just see it's been laid on, and that's all. Besides,
how did they get in? Can you tell me that? Through the keyhole, mebbe,
and went out the same way!"

Her voice was growing sharp and a little sarcastic. I saw that it was
in vain to try to disabuse her mind of its impression while she was in
her present excited state. And, indeed, I had no worthy argument to
offer. To all appearance the rest of the house had been undisturbed;
there was not a broken fastening, a displaced bar of any kind, and
nothing missing. It would seem as if nothing weightier than a shadow
had stirred the pillow, and moved about the room. As long as I could
not tell what it _was_, I could not positively assert what it was _not_.

I sat by the open window, while she smoothed the pillow, and placed
every article with an exactness which would inevitably betray the
slightest disturbance.

"You shall see for yourself, sir, the next time you come here," she
muttered.

As I waited, I lifted a little volume, which lay, with others, on the
table before me. It was Mrs. Browning's, and it opened at a page where
a book-mark had been left--once I had seen Eleanor embroidering that
very mark, I was sure. The first lines which caught my eye were these:

               "_It_ trembled on the grass
                 With a low, shadowy laughter;
               The sounding river, which rolled forever,
                 Stood dumb and stagnant after."

Just then a cloud swept over the noonday sun; a chill struck through
the open window; the wind which blew in, fluttering the page, could not
have been more dreary had it blown across a churchyard. Shivering, I
continued to read:

                "_It_ trembled on the grass
                  With a low, shadowy laughter;
                And the wind did toll, as a passing soul
                  Were sped by church-bell after;
                And shadows 'stead of light,
                  Fell from the stars above,
                In flakes of darkness on her face
                  Still bright with trusting love.
                                Margret! Margret!

                He _loved_ but only thee!
                  _That_ love is transient, too;
                The wild hawk's bill doth dabble still
                  In the mouth that vowed thee true.
                Will he open his dull eyes,
                  When tears fall on his brow?
                Behold the death-worm in his heart
                  Is a nearer thing than _thou_,
                                Margret! Margret!"

I know not if the housekeeper spoke to me. The clouds thickened about
the sun; a dampness came in from the air. I held the book, staring at
it, like one in a trance, and pondering the strange coincidence.
Evidently, Henry had read these verses when he last opened the
book--perhaps the lovers had read them together, with a soft sigh for
the fate of Margret, and a smile in each other's faces to think how
safe _their_ happiness was--how far removed from this doleful
"Romaunt." Now would he "open his dull eyes," for Eleanor's tears? I
seemed to hear the low laugh of the mocking fiend; a more than wintry
sereness settled upon the landscape:

                     "_It_ trembled on the floor!"

Yes! I was fast getting into the mood for believing any thing which
Mrs. Scott might assert about the occupant of this chamber. Emotions
which I had never before experienced chilled my heart; shapes began to
gather in every obscure corner; when the rising wind suddenly blew a
door shut, in the hall beneath, I started to my feet.

"We're goin' to have a stormy Christmas," said my companion. "It'll
suit our feelin's better'n a sunny one, I'm sure. Hark! there's my
Johnny cryin', I do believe! I should think his father could keep him
quiet a bit, till I get the house shut up again."

"It was that cat, I thought."

"Never mind. I'm through now, if you please, sir. Take a look at this
room, and fix it on your mind, if you will; and the next time you're
out here, we'll open it together."

We reclosed and barred the shutters throughout the house, carefully
fastened the doors, once more leaving it to its desolation. We had seen
no ghosts; I do not suppose the woman expected to _see_ any, but I felt
certain that her fears were in no manner dispelled.

"You see the place is all right," I said, when I handed her the keys.
"There is nothing in the world to make you uneasy. I would as soon
sleep alone in the villa as in my own room. I will do it, soon, if you
are not satisfied. All I ask of you is not to write to Mr. Moreland
until I have seen you again. I shall come out before many days, to see
how you get along."

"We shall wait until you come again, sir, before we say any thing. I
feel better, now things are 'tended to. There's Johnny crying again!
Well, Mr. Redfield, good-by. It'll snow by the time you get home."

I had a wild walk back to the village--full of lonely magnificence and
gloom, which suited my temper. Gray mists hung over the river and swept
about the bases of the hills; gray clouds whirled around their summits;
gray snow came down in blinding drifts; a savage wind seemed to be
blowing the universe about my ears.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                  THE LITTLE GUEST AND THE APPARITION.


I went to Mr. Argyll's to the Christmas dinner. I was surprised to meet
Eleanor in the family group; for, though she now frequently joined the
home circle, I thought that on this holiday her own loss would press
upon her with overwhelming weight. Instead of this, I saw a light in
her countenance which it had never before worn; her face, totally
devoid of smiles or color, yet shone with a serene and solemn luster,
the most touching, the most saddening, and yet elevating, of any
expression I had ever seen upon human features. My intense sympathy
with her taught me how to translate this new phase of her mind; I felt
that, in those mystic vows which she had taken upon herself with a
spirit, she had derived a comfort; that she joyed in the consciousness
that she was now and from henceforth evermore the bride of him who
waited for her in the mansions of the Heavenly country. This life was
transient--to be meekly borne a little while alone--then she would go
to him who awaited her in the only true and abiding home. I, and I
only, looked upon her as the wife of Henry Moreland, as sacredly as if
he were her living partner. I only was fitted, by the power of my own
passion and suffering, to appreciate her position, and the feelings
with which she now returned to her friends, to play such a part in life
as duty still pointed out. I can not explain with what an emotion of
reverence I took and pressed the little, attenuated hand which she
placed in mine.

There had been, as yet, no change in Eleanor's demeanor toward me.
Whether I imagined it in the rest of the family, or whether they had
changed, this much was still certain, and gave me the deepest pleasure
I could now know: Eleanor was the same to me as she had ever been--the
benignant, gentle sister, who loved and trusted me as a dear
brother--more dear than ever since I had given such proofs of my
devotion to her cause--since she could not but see how my very heart
was wrung with the pain which tore her own. As long as she continued to
treat me thus, as long as I could give her one smallest atom of
pleasure in any way, I felt that I could bear any thing from the
others. Not that there was any thing to bear--nothing--nothing, except
that indefinable air which a sensitive spirit feels more keenly than
any open slight. The new year was now approaching; it would be the most
natural time for entering into new business relations; I felt that if
Mr. Argyll intended to offer me the partnership, he would do it then.
If he did not--I must look out for myself--I must go away.

The Christmas dinner was the sumptuous feast which it always had been,
the old housekeeper having taken it into her own hands. She, to judge
by her provision, felt that such kind of painstaking would be a relief
to the general gloom. No guests were invited, of course. It was
touching to see how the servants persisted in placing every imaginable
delicacy before Miss Eleanor, which she could not, by any possibility,
even taste. A cup of coffee, with a piece of bread, made up her slender
Christmas feast. Yet it was a joy to her father to have her at the
table at all. Mary's affectionate glances continually sought her face;
parent and sister both felt relieved and comforted by its tranquil
expression.

James, too, was cheerful; he would have been brilliant had an
opportunity offered. I, who read him tolerably well, knew that it was
the sight of Eleanor's tranquillity which had inspired him--and that he
did not understand that saintly resignation as I did.

In the course of the conversation around the table, which I did my best
to make cheerful, I happened to speak of Lenore Burton. It was not the
first time I had mentioned her, always with such enthusiasm as to
excite the interest of the ladies. Mary asked me many questions about
her, finally turning to her sister, and saying,

"You were always so fond of children, Eleanor. May I not send for this
beautiful little girl to spend a few days with us?"

"Certainly, Mary, if you think you would like her company."

"Do you think her father would trust her to us a little while, Richard?"

"He can be persuaded, without doubt."

After we had left the table, Mary came to me, with much animation, to
whisper her ideas about the proposed visit; she thought the sight of an
agreeable, lovely child about the house might interest Eleanor more
than any thing else possibly could, and would, at least, delight her
father, who was drooping under the silence and mourning in his home. I
quite agreed with her in her opinions, deciding to write that evening a
pressing plea to Mr. Burton, promising the most careful attention to
his frail little household blossom which a trusty housekeeper and
loving friends could extend. I would come down to the city for her, and
attend her dutifully on her little journey, if his consent was given,
and Miss Lenore herself approved the action.

The next day I had an answer. Mr. Burton wrote that Lenore was
delighted with the invitation, and that he accepted it the more
willingly, as he was called unexpectedly to Boston, where he should be
absent a week or ten days, and that he had not liked leaving his
daughter so lonely during the holidays. He added that he was obliged to
leave that morning; but I might come for Lenore at any time; I would
find her ready; and that, upon his return from Boston, he would come up
to Blankville after her; closing his note with polite thanks for our
friendly interest in his little girl, etc. Thus every thing was
satisfactory. The third day after Christmas I went down, in the
morning, to New York, returning in the afternoon with my little
treasure, who was brimful of happiness, enjoying the ride with the zest
of childhood, and confiding herself to my guardianship with a joyful
content, which awakened my tenderest care in response. This artless
faith of the child in the providence of the grown-up man it is which
brings out the least selfish part of his character, bowing his haughty,
hardened nature to minister to the humblest of its confiding wants.

The sisters both came into the hall to receive their little visitor.
They took her into the parlors, bright with chandelier and firelight,
unhooding and uncloaking her before the grate. I was anxious to witness
the impression she made, for I had been so lavish of my praises, as to
run the risk of creating a disappointment.

It was impossible to be disappointed in Lenore. She made conquest of
the whole family in the half-hour before tea. It was not her exquisite
beauty alone, but her sweet expression, her modest self-possession amid
her stranger-friends, enhancing its effect. Mr. Argyll brightened as I
had not lately seen him; every other minute Mary would repeat the
welcome of her little guest with another kiss, declaring, in her
pretty, willful way, that Mr. Richard was not going to monopolize Miss
Lenore because he was the oldest acquaintance--Lenore having chosen her
seat by my side, with her hand nestled in mine.

James was not in the house; he did not come home until some time after
we had taken our tea--drank his alone in the dining-room--and joined
our circle quite late in the evening. As he came in we were sitting
about the fire. Lenore had gone, of her own inclination, to Miss
Argyll's side, where she sat on a low stool, with her head against the
lady's lap. She made a gay picture as she sat there, framed around with
the black of Eleanor's garments. Her traveling-dress was of crimson
merino, and her cheeks--what with the ride in the cold air, and the
glow of the present fire, were almost as red as her dress; while her
golden curls streamed in shining strands over the sable habiliments
against which she rested. She was replying archly to some teasing
remark of Mr. Argyll's, and I was thinking what a brightness she would
give to the dull house, when James came forward, holding out his hand,
with one of his pleasantest smiles, saying,

"This is the little lady, is it, whom we have been so anxiously waiting
to see? Can I be introduced, cousin Mary, or does not the Queen of
fairies allow herself to make the acquaintance of ordinary mortals?"

You have noticed, reader, how some little cloud, floating in the west
at sunset, will be flushed through with rosy light, and how, instantly,
while you gaze, it will turn gray, losing every particle of radiance.
So the child changed when he approached and spoke to her. Her cheeks
faded to a gray whiteness; her eyes were riveted on his, but she could
not smile; she seemed to struggle with some inward repugnance and her
sense of what courtesy demanded; finally she laid her little cold hand
in his, without a word, suffered him to kiss her, and, clinging close
to Eleanor, remained pale and quiet--her gayety and bloom were alike
gone. Mr. Argyll could not rally her--she shrunk like a sensitive plant.

"If that pallid, stupid little creature is the marvelous child Richard
promised us, I must say, he has shown his usual good taste," commented
James in an aside to Mary. He was not flattered by the reception he had
met.

"Something is the matter with her, James. She is wearied with her
journey. I am afraid we are keeping her up too late. She was gay enough
a little while since."

"Are you tired? Would you wish to go to bed?" whispered Miss Argyll.

"If you please," she replied, with an air of relief.

"You are not getting homesick so soon?" asked Mr. Argyll.

"I am not; I like it here very much," answered Lenore, candidly.
"Something is the matter with me now, sir, and you must please excuse
me. My head began to ache just now--so I suppose I had better go to
bed."

She bade us good-night with a smile so restrained that I felt afraid
she was not going to enjoy her visit. Eleanor herself took her away to
the maid who was to attend upon her, and did not return to us until her
little guest was in bed.

"Come, Mary, let's drop the baby question, and play chess," said James,
impatiently, as we discussed the visitor; "I'm tired of the subject."

"Wait until to-morrow, and you will become interested too," she
responded.

"I like hearty little bread-and-butter girls," said he, "but not such
die-away misses as that. She looks to me as if she read Coleridge
already. Children should be children, to please me."

The repulsion was mutual. I, only, had noticed the strange effect
wrought upon my pet by a sight of James, and knowing, as I did, the
peculiarities of her temperament, it had astonished me, and aroused my
curiosity. By the ill-humor with which he received any allusion to
Lenore, I believed that James himself was conscious that the pure eyes
of the child looked straight into the darker chambers of his heart, and
was frightened by what she saw there. A young man who was gambling away
his uncle's property upon the credit of a daughter's hand which he had
not yet won, could not have a very easy conscience; and it was not a
pleasant thing to be reminded of his delinquencies by the clear eyes of
an innocent child. As he became absorbed in his game of chess, I sat
studying his countenance, and thinking of many things. I wondered if
his uncle and cousins were not aware of the change which was coming
over him; that reckless, dissipated look which writes certain wrinkles
in a young man's face, overwritten in his by outer smiles, which could
not hide the truth from a discerning eye. I asked myself if I could
justify my course in keeping silence about what I had seen; it was my
plainest duty to inform Mr. Argyll, not only on his account, but on
James also. Such a knowledge, coming to his uncle, though it would be
terribly mortifying to his nephew, might be the means of breaking his
new fetters of habit before they were riveted upon him. Such, I felt,
was my duty. At the same time, I shrunk from it, as a person situated
as I was naturally would shrink; I was liable to have my motives
misconstrued; to have it hinted that self-interest was prompting me to
place James in a bad light. No, I couldn't do it! For the hundredth
time I came to this conclusion, against the higher voice of the
absolute right. I was glad to strengthen myself in my weak course by
remembering that Mr. Burton had requested my silence, and that I was
not at liberty to betray his confidence. Looking at him, thinking these
things, with my thoughts more in my eyes than they ought to have been
had I been on my guard, James suddenly looked up and encountered my
gaze. He pushed the board aside with an angry motion, which overthrew
half the men and entirely disconcerted the game.

"Well, how do you like my looks, Richard?" the defiant eyes glittering
with a will which overpowered my own, smiling a deadly smile which
threatened me.

"How peevish you are, James! I believe you threw up the game because
you saw I was checkmating you," cried his cousin.

"That's it, my dear child; I never would allow myself to be checkmated!"

"Then you shouldn't play!"

"Oh, sometimes I allow women to win the game; but when I play with men,
I never give up. The man who attempts the chances with me must prepare
for defeat."

"How generous you are to the witless sex," said Mary, sarcastically. "I
am much obliged to you, that you sometimes allow us to win. Just pick
up that castle you have sent tumbling in ruins, if you please, sir--and
don't ask me to play chess for at least a fortnight."

I perceived a threat in his words of which the girl was quite innocent;
he was throwing down the gauntlet to _me_; again and again his air, his
words, were such that I could put no other construction upon them. He
was determined to misunderstand me--to look upon me as a person seeking
to injure him. I was in his way--I must get out of it. This was the
manner he put on to me. I felt that night, more than ever, the
conviction that my connection with the Argylls was about to be broken.
If James felt thus toward me, I should be unwilling to take a position
which he regarded as belonging, of right, to himself. Worse than all, I
felt that his treacherous nature was working secretly against me, and
that his efforts had already told upon those whose love and respect was
most precious to me.

Shortly after, I took my leave; he was so engrossed, with his back
toward me, looking over some old engravings, that he did not turn to
say good-night. My room at my boarding-house had a particularly
cheerless air that evening; I felt lonely and embittered. My heart
ached for sympathy. I resolved that, if a partnership was not offered
on New Year's, I would propose a visit to my mother, for whose love and
encouragement I longed. The event of going away, too, would give Mr.
Argyll the opportunity of declaring himself in one way or another.

Lenore's visit was a decided success--in the way, too, which I had
hoped for. Her fine and spiritual nature was drawn toward Eleanor in a
manner which made the latter love her, and grow to feel a consolation
in the touch of the little hand, the unsought kiss, and the silent
sympathy which brought the child to sit hours by her side, saying
nothing, but looking with wonder and reverence at a sorrow too deep for
her young heart to fathom. Lenore frolicked with Mr. Argyll, chatted
and sung with Mary; but she was always ready to leave either for her
quiet corner by Miss Argyll. Mary pretended jealousy, though we were
all glad to see the interest Eleanor took in the child. One of our
greatest pleasures was in Lenore's singing. I have mentioned the purity
and great compass of her voice. To hear her sing some of Handel's
music, of a Sabbath twilight, was almost to obtain a glimpse into the
heaven toward which her voice soared. I saw Eleanor quietly weeping
while she sung, and I knew the music was loosening the tense strain
upon her heart-chords.

[Illustration:

Page 161.

"WELL, HOW DO YOU LIKE MY LOOKS, RICHARD?"]

I was interested in watching two things--first, the attachment between
Miss Argyll and Lenore; secondly, the persistent effort of James to
overcome his first aversion, and his ultimate success. By the second
day he had mastered his chagrin at the evident dislike of the child,
who could hardly compel herself to be polite to him, and who grew
constrained and pale whenever he was near her. James Argyll was not the
man to allow a child to slight him with impunity. His indolence was a
repugnance to business and study; it was no weakness of the will, for
when he set his resolves upon an object, he usually accomplished it. I
saw that he had resolved to conquer Lenore. He paid court to her as if
she were a "lady of the land," instead of a little girl; on New Year's
he overwhelmed her with splendid presents; he took her out
sleigh-riding with him, in a fancy cutter, which he declared was only
just large enough for those two, with chimes of silver bells and a
spirited horse. I ought not to have felt grieved that Lenore, also,
like the rest of the world, proved faithless to me. But I did. I was
more hurt by her growing indifference to me and her increasing
fascination for James than the subject warranted. I should have known
that rides and dolls, flowers and flatteries, and a dainty little ring
for her forefinger, would win any little maiden of eleven; but I had
estimated Lenore's character higher. I had noticed her attractions and
repulsions, the former always toward noble and true persons--the latter
toward the unworthy. Now, however, my little bird was charmed by the
serpent's eye; she was under the influence of James' will, and I
resigned her.

                             --------------

About ten days after my visit to Mrs. Scott, I kept my promise to her,
by returning to inquire about the present condition of Moreland villa.
I saw, as soon as I entered the cottage, that her mind was preyed on by
the same convictions which had troubled her on the former occasion.

"If there ain't at least one ghost in that house, then there never was
such a thing, and there never will be--now! You've seen for yourself
there ain't a human being in it--_and there is something_! I've seen it
and heard it, and you can't convince a person against them two senses,
I reckon."

"I don't want to convince you, Mrs. Scott; I only want to convince
myself what this thing is which you have seen and heard. Have you had
any new revelations?"

"I've seen the death-light once since, standing over the house; we saw
it, too, shinin' out of that room--John and I saw that together. We was
so set on findin' out whether it was spirits or not, we mustered up
courage to go through the house ag'in the next day, and as sure as
you're settin' there, _something_ had been back and laid down on that
bed ag'in--something light, that scarcely made a dent--you needn't tell
me't was any human mortal, which it wasn't. We've heard children
cryin', too, which is an evil omen, the dream-book says; an' to clap
the climax, Mr. Redfield, there's no use keepin' it back--_we've seen
the ghost_!"

I was now as interested as the woman could desire; she had stopped,
mysteriously, after making this grave declaration, and sat looking me
in the eyes. I returned her gaze with one of silent inquiry, leaning a
little forward in my chair. Mrs. Scott smoothed her apron absently,
with her large hands, still looking into my eyes, as if she saw the
ghost in their distending pupils. I made up my mind that I was going to
hear either something of ridiculous shadowyness magnified into an
apparition, or something which would give some tangible clue to the
mystery, if there was a mystery, of Moreland villa.

"You have been fortunate," said I. "What was it like, pray?"

"You've noticed there was a little balcony under the windows of Henry's
room?"

"I know there is such a balcony."

"It was there we saw it. You know how bright the nights have been
lately, with the full moon and the snow. John and I walked out, night
before last, to the front of the villa, to see what we could see--and
there it was! It was as light as day, and we both had a good look at
it. I don't know how long it might have stayed if I hadn't screamed.
John clapped his hand over my mouth to stop me, but he was too late; it
sort of riz right up and disappeared."

"But what was it like--man, woman, or child?"

"It was like a ghost, I tell you," replied the housekeeper, stoutly. "I
s'pose sperits are dressed purty much alike in the next world, whether
they're men or women. We read in the Bible of the white robes--and I've
never heard of a spook that was dressed in any other way. It may have
been Henry in his shroud, for all I know--that's what I believe it
was--there now!"

"Henry was never dressed in a shroud," I answered, gravely; "he was
buried in a black-broadcloth suit. So you see that you were not correct
there."

"Oh, well, Mr. Redfield, we can't understand these things--it isn't
given to us. I can tell you what John and I saw, and you can make up
your own mind. There was a shape, on the balcony, standing straight up,
white all over. A long white garment hung from its head to its feet;
its face was turned up to the moon, and its arms were raised as if it
prayed. It's eyes was wide open, and it's face as pale as a corpse's.
John and I will both make our affydavit to it, in court, if it's
necessary."

"Where did it go to when it disappeared?"

"It seemed to me to turn into the air; but that I wouldn't be so sure
about. John thought it went right through the side of the house."

"Was the window open behind it?"

"Wal, really now, I wouldn't swear that it was, or wasn't. The fact is,
I was so scaart the minit I saw it, I like to have dropped. John was
for staying 'to see if it wouldn't come ag'in,' but I wouldn't let him,
so we both cut and run."

"I am sorry you didn't use your eyes to better advantage."

"When you see a thing like that, I reckon you'll run, too. It ain't at
all likely the window was open, or we would have noticed it. It was all
shut up the next mornin', the same as ever."

"That was yesterday. I suppose you have not been in the villa since?"

"Lord! no, sir. I wouldn't go now for a hundred dollars."

"Have you noticed any thing else peculiar?"

"Yes, sir. There's been footsteps around the house in the snow."

"Indeed?" I said, eagerly; "that is more like something. Can I see them
now?"

"No, sir; the sun's melted 'em all off. But if you think they're the
tracks of persons comin' about the house for any purpose, just tell me,
will you, sir, how they happened to be just about the porch, and so on,
and not a track to it, nor away from it, in no direction?"

"Indeed, I can not explain it, until I've rooted out the mystery from
the beginning."

"Nor it can't be explained," cried the housekeeper, triumphantly.

It worried her to think I was so skeptical when she had given such
absolute proofs; the idea of the haunted villa was making her really
sick, yet she would not give up her cherished belief in its being
haunted. I think she would have been disappointed if any one had come
forward and sworn himself the ghost.

I sat a little while pondering her statements. There had been nothing,
on the former occasion, to convince me that any intruder, human or
spiritual, had been in the villa--except the shadowy imprint of a form
on Henry's bed, and for the proof that it had not been made before the
house was cleaned up, I had nothing but her word. As for the
death-light and the wailing sounds, I conceived that, in that lonesome,
solitary place, two persons of the class to which these belonged, with
their excited imaginations reäcting upon each other, might easily
persuade themselves of such marvels. Even in this last statement, that
both of them had clearly and distinctly seen a white form on the
balcony of the room, I did not find much to disturb me. There is
nothing better for producing all kinds of shapes and phantoms to a
frightened or superstitious eye, than a bright, moonlight night. It is
far better than the deepest darkness. The earth is full of weird
shadows; the most familiar objects take on an unnatural appearance in
the gleaming rays, enhanced in their strange effect by the black,
fantastic shadows which stretch away from them. Add to this, a garment
of snow spread over every thing. The landscape on which we have rested
our gaze, every day, for years, under these circumstances will be as
novel to us, as if it were a bit of scenery transplanted from some
strange and far country. A vivid fancy, predisposed to the work, can
make an excellent ghost out of a rose-bush or a fence-post--a fearful
apparition out of the shadow of a cornice heaped with snow. In the
present case, not only were the man and his wife in that feverish state
in which the eye makes visions for itself, but they were quite ready to
link such phantoms with Henry's room, which they had previously decreed
to be the favorite abode of the ghost. A review of the whole case led
me rather to be vexed with them, than satisfied there was any reason
for the mental "stew" into which they had heated themselves. The only
tangible things of the whole medley were--the footprints. If there were
actually traces of feet walking about the premises, that was enough to
satisfy me--not of a ghost, but of a person, engaged in prying about
the villa for some unlawful purpose. I made up my mind to watch for
this person, and entrap him. It occurred to me, at once, that one of
those dare-devil spirits, to be found in every community, was purposely
getting up scenic effects on the premises, for the amusement of
spreading the report that the villa was haunted, and exciting the
gossip and credulity of the village. I was indignant at the
heartlessness of the plan, and resolved, should I catch the
perpetrator, to inflict such summary chastisement, as would cure him of
his taste for practical joking. The assertion of the woman that the
tracks began and ended nowhere--that no one had approached the house,
because there were no footsteps coming in from any direction--did not
receive entire credit from me. Were that actually the case, then, it
was positive evidence that the person was secreted in the dwelling--an
idea foolish and incredible on the face of it, for many reasons.

However, I was in earnest, now, about the matter; I would ascertain the
truth or explode the falsehood, and make an end of it, before painful
reports should reach the ears of friends, or every idle ragamuffin in
the country make that hallowed place, consecrated by the ties and
memories of the one now gone, the focus of his vulgar curiosity.

"Where is your husband?"

"He's sortin' pertaters, or tyin' up seeds, in the loft."

"Please call him down, and give me the keys of the house."

The gardener came, following very reluctantly, at my bidding, while I
again entered the villa, and went over every room, stationing him in
the hall, so that no one could possibly escape during my visit to the
lower and upper floors. I searched from cellar to garret, while Mrs.
Scott, with her pale-blue eyes wide open, and affecting a bustling
bravery which her looks belied, accompanied me. Once, at a sudden
noise, she seized the skirts of my overcoat, but resigned them when I
told her it was caused by John's shutting the front hall-door.

"Dear! dear! there's rats in the villa, at last!" she exclaimed,
removing the cover of a flour-barrel which stood in the store-room.
"They've been in this flour! I'm sorry, for they're an awful pest.
They'll make trouble if I don't watch 'em clost. I believe I'll pizen
'em. Mrs. Moreland told me to take this flour home and use it up; but
we haven't needed it yet, and I've left it here, and now they've made
pretty work with it."

"If there are rats here, I shan't be surprised at all kinds of noises,"
I remarked. "Rats are equal to almost any thing. They will tramp like
an army of men, or stalk like a solitary burglar. They will throw down
plates and cups--like this one, broken on the floor here, since we came
here last; muss pillows and drag books out of place. You really will
have to keep a sharp lookout."

"They won't cry like a child, nor moan like a sick person, nor stand on
balconies dressed in shrouds!" observed the housekeeper.

"I think they would do the first two," and I smiled, "but as to the
latter, I'm not prepared to assert."

"I reckon not. I only wish you'd seen it, Mr. Redfield."

"I shall stay to-night in the hope of that pleasure, Mrs. Scott."

"I'm right glad to hear you say so, sir. It's not pleasant to be placed
in the situation I am--to know what I know, and not to have my word
taken."

It was true; it could not be pleasant for her to have her earnest
statements received with so much skepticism; I did not wonder that she
felt hurt, almost offended; at the same time I felt as if I, in my
turn, should be intensely aggravated if I found out there was nothing
in all this flurry.

This second search resulted in nothing, like the first. It was nearly
dark when we returned to the cottage, where Mrs. Scott allowed me to
dandle her fat, good-natured baby, Johnny, while she prepared tea in a
style befitting the important occasion of "company."

"If you're in earnest about sittin' up to watch, I'll make coffee,
instid of tea, if it's agreeable to you, Mr. Redfield. It's better to
keep one awake."

I assented to this assertion, being of a similar opinion myself. She
set her husband to grinding the delectable berry in a hand-mill, and
soon an excellent supper, with cold ham and hot biscuits, was placed
upon the table. The night promised to be clear and cold; the moon would
not rise until about eleven; I fortified myself against the hardships
of my adventure by two cups of strong coffee, with a substantial meal;
passed an hour or two chatting with the couple and singing Johnny to
sleep; then, about eight o'clock, I buttoned my overcoat close, tied my
muffler about my neck, and went forth to begin picket-duty.

"I'll leave the coffee-pot on the stove, and a good fire," was the
parting promise of the good woman, who seemed to think I had rather a
solemn time before me.

"Thank you, Mrs. Scott; if I make no discoveries by one or two o'clock,
I shall come in to warm myself, and give up the hope for this occasion.
You know midnight is the witching-hour--it will be useless to stay much
later."

"The Lord be with you," she said, earnestly.

Armed with a stout walking-stick, with which I intended to inflict
punishment upon any intruder of earthly mold, I walked out on the lawn,
taking such a survey as I could in the dim light; like the rain in the
children's riddle, I went "round and round the house," and finally took
station on the front porch, where I walked softly back and forth,
listening for sounds within and without. I heard and saw nothing. The
long hours slipped slowly away. Just before moonrise the darkness
seemed to deepen, as it does before dawn. My intention was to take up
some position on the lawn, where, unseen myself, I could command the
approaches to the villa, and also have a view of Henry's room, with the
balcony. It was time now to secrete myself, before the approaching moon
should reveal me to the person or persons who might themselves be on
the watch. Accordingly, I selected a seat on the little rustic bench,
completely encircled with bushy evergreens, which not only concealed my
person, but afforded me considerable protection from the cold. I can
not, to this day, breathe the pungent odor of the spicy trees, without
recalling the experiences of that night. A silence, like that which Dr.
Kane speaks of as one of the most impressive features of the long
Arctic night, brooded around; over against the hills came gradually
stealing the silvery luster of the rising moon, while the valleys yet
lay in profoundest gloom; the dimly glimmering stretches of snow
broadened into whiter fields; the picturesque villa, with its turrets
and porches and pointed roof, stood black and quiet before me. I could
hear a dog barking afar off, as it were some dream-dog barking in some
dream-world. I had almost forgotten the cause of my being there, at
that strange hour, in that lone spot, gazing at that dark mass of
building, empty of life and warmth as was _her_ heart of joy or hope;
the intense cold, the odor of the pines and hemlock, the trance of
thought into which I had fallen, were benumbing me.

Suddenly I saw a shapeless and shadowy brightness hovering amid those
dark turrets. It was the death-light of which Mrs. Scott had told me. A
warm thrill ran through my fingers and toes, arousing me to the keenest
consciousness. I watched it flutter and move--stand still--flutter
again--and disappear. It lasted perhaps three minutes. In that time I
had made up my mind as to the mysterious appearance--it was the light
of a lamp or candle being carried about in a person's hand. That was
what it most resembled; but who carried it, and how was the reflection
thrown _there_, over the roof? There was certainly a mystery about this
which, had I been at all superstitious, or even nervous, would have
unfitted me for any further cool investigation. I resolved that if I
could not master the marvel then, I would do it by the light of day. I
watched intently, hoping it would reäppear, and give me some glimpse of
its origin. While I waited, a ray of light pierced through the shutters
of Henry's room. I will acknowledge that for one single instant the
hand of the dead seemed laid on my heart; it turned cold, and refused
to beat. The next, I smiled grimly at myself. I had never been a moral
or physical coward. The solution of the mystery was now in my grasp,
and I had no idea of letting it slip. I was confident that some person
was playing the mischief in the deserted house; but if I had really
expected to confront the inhabitants of another world, I should not
have hesitated. The key of the main entrance was in my pocket; I walked
swiftly to the house, unlocked the door as softly as possible, and
grasping my stick firmly in my hand, sprung up the stairs. It was quite
dark in the house, although it was now light out of doors; in my haste,
I hit my foot against a chair at the bottom of the stairs, and
overthrew it. I was provoked, for I wished to come upon these midnight
prowlers unawares. Knowing just where the room was situated, I went
directly toward it; it was very dark in the upper passage, all the
blinds being closed; I groped for the handle of the door--something
rustled, something stirred the air--I flung the door open. There was no
light in it. All was dark and silent. Before I could fling the shutter
open, letting in a peaceful flood of silver moonlight, my hope of
detecting the intruder was almost at an end. I was certain that
something had passed me in the obscurity of the hall; I had been
conscious of that subtle magnetism which emanates from a human form,
perceived in the blackest night. It might be the magnetism of soul
instead of body, and a disembodied spirit might have sent the same
electric current through me. At all events, I had now nothing for my
labor. I did not think that another journey over the house would result
in any discovery, since the warning had been given; I had no lamp or
lantern with me; I reluctantly, after lingering and listening some time
in vain, closed the room and the house, and returned to the cottage,
where I drank the coffee which awaited me, laid down on a buffalo-robe
before the stove, and slept away my vexation.

I was not very communicative as to my adventures when eagerly
questioned by my entertainers the following morning. They were
satisfied, by my very reticence, that I had seen something to puzzle
me, and were both alarmed and triumphant. In answer to their inquiries,
which they were too respectful to press, I assured them that I had
reason to think, with them, that the villa required attention. I had
not been able to satisfy myself who was disturbing the premises; but
that I should not rest until I knew. I should return that night and
sleep in the villa; I wished to enter it very quietly, probably before
dark, so as not to alarm the inmate or inmates; and I was confident
that I should thus be able to pounce upon the ghost. Mrs. Scott
regarded me with admiring awe.

"She wouldn't go for to sleep in that house alone for all the riches of
Solomon," and wouldn't I, at least, provide myself with pistols?

When I went into Mr. Argyll's office that morning, he greeted me with
marked coldness. At last I could not conceal from myself that, not only
had his manner changed, but that he wished me to feel that it had. He
gave me, as I entered, a searching, suspicious glance, saying,
"Good-morning, Richard," in the most formal tone. Nothing further. I
took up a book, hiding my pain and embarrassment in an attempt to read;
but my mind was not on the legal difficulties expounded therein; I was
wondering at the causes of the situation in which I found myself. A
hanger-on! yes, an unwelcome hanger-on in an office where I no longer
had any conceded rights--in a home where I was no longer trusted.

"Has Mr. Argyll placed a spy on my actions? Does he know already that I
was out the entire night? and does he judge me before he has an
explanation?" I asked myself, indignantly. "If he thinks I am forming
bad habits, doing wrong in any respect, why does he not remonstrate
with me--give me a chance to defend myself?"

I had intended to take his advice in the matter of the haunted house;
but now I sat, angry and silent, feeling, oh, so wounded and forlorn. I
did not stay long in the office; going to my room, I wrote a long
letter to my mother, telling her I should come soon to pay her the
visit which should have been sooner made had I not been engrossed with
the duty to which I had vowed myself.

Yes! I had pledged my own heart to devote myself to the discovery of
Henry Moreland's murderer; and if Eleanor herself had put her foot on
that heart, and crushed it yet more, I do not know that I should have
held my vow absolved.

I should not have gone to the mansion that day, had not a message been
sent, late in the afternoon, that Mr. Burton had arrived, and expected
me to meet him at tea. I went; and had the pleasure of seeing little
Lenore enthroned by the side of James, who attended upon her as if she
were a princess, and of being treated with bare civility by all save
Mr. Burton. Miss Argyll was ill, and did not come down.

I saw the observant eye of Mr. Burton watching the intimacy between his
daughter and her new friend; whether he was pleased or not, I could not
decide; the eye which read the secret thoughts of other men did not
always betray its own impressions. I was certain, too, that he observed
the change in the demeanor of the family toward me, and my own
constrained manner.



                              CHAPTER XII.

                      THE NIGHT IN MORELAND VILLA.


Mr. Burton's arrival prevented my fulfilling the intention of sleeping
at Moreland villa that night; I immediately resolved to defer my
explorations until he could keep me company. The next day he came to my
room, and we had, as usual when we met, a long talk over things past,
present and to come. I did not introduce the subject of the mystery at
the villa until we had discussed many other matters. My companion was
preoccupied with important business of his own--the same which had
taken him to Boston; but his interest was pledged, almost as earnestly
as mine, to unmask the criminal of the Blankville tragedy, and any
reference to that sad subject was sure to secure his attention. Baffled
we acknowledged ourselves, as we talked together that morning, but not
discouraged. Mr. Burton told me that he was on the track of two
five-hundred-dollar bills of the Park Bank, which had left the city the
week after the murder, taking widely-different flights; there had one
come back from St. Louis, whose course his agents were tracing. As for
the sewing-girl, she had the power of vanishing utterly, like a light
extinguished, leaving no trace behind, and her pursuers literally in
the dark. This comparison of the detective reminded me of the curious
light which had led me, like a Jack-o'-lantern, into a quagmire of
uncertainty; I was about to begin my account of it, when he gave me one
of those peculiar piercing looks of his, saying,

"You have not yet entered into the contemplated partnership?"

"No, Mr. Burton; and I hardly think now that I shall."

There was some bitterness in my tone; he evinced no surprise, asking,
simply,

"Why?"

"I think James has been chosen to fill the place."

"But, he has not been admitted to the bar."

"He is studying a little recently; probably in order to pass an
examination."

"The wind is changing," said Mr. Burton, speaking like the old
gentleman in Bleak House. "I see how the land lies. The goodly and
noble Argyll ship is driving on to the rocks. Mark my words, she will
go to pieces soon! you will see her ruins strewing the shore."

"I pray heaven to avert your prophecy. I hope not to live to see any
such sight."

"How can it be otherwise?" he exclaimed, rising and pacing to and fro
through my little room, like a caged elephant. "A spendthrift and a
gambler--a man like _that_--about to have the helm put in his hands!
But it's none of my business--none of my business; nor much yours,
either."

"It is mine!" I cried; "I can not help but make it mine, as if these
girls were my sisters, and Mr. Argyll my father. Yet, as you say--it
is, indeed, nothing to me. They will not allow it to be!"

I drooped my head on my arms; my own loss and disappointment were
receding into the background before the idea of their possible
discomfiture. I was startled by the detective bringing his clenched
hand down upon the table with a blow which shook it; he was standing,
looking not at me, but at the wall, as if he saw some one before him,
invisible to me.

"James Argyll is a singular man--a _singular_ man! A person ought to be
a panther in cunning and strength to cope with him. By George, if I
don't look out, he'll overreach me yet--with that will of his. I see
everybody about me succumbing. He's having the game all in his own
hands. By the way, Redfield, I was a little surprised to see Lenore so
fond of him."

"Why so, Mr. Burton? James is an attractive, elegant young man; he has
never had any lack of admirers. It would rather have been strange if
your daughter had _not_ fancied him. He has been very good to her."

"He has, indeed; I'm sure I ought to be greatly obliged to all of you.
Did I ever tell you that I place great confidence in Lenore's intuitive
perception of character? You know that I have a remarkable gift that
way myself. When I meet people, I seem to see their minds, and not
their bodies--I can't help it. Well, I've remarked the same thing in my
child. She is so young and inexperienced that she can not explain her
own impressions; she has her instantaneous partialities, and I have
noticed that she leans toward true natures like a flower toward the
light, and away from the false as if they were shadows. I hardly
expected she would be so intimate with young Argyll."

I remembered the curious effect his first address had made upon her;
but I did not repeat it to her father. I was sensitive about appearing
in any manner jealous of James; if he could win my friends from me,
even that little girl whom I had loved for her pure sweetness, let them
go! I was too proud to solicit them to reconsider their opinions.

"Do you know," continued my companion, "he is performing a marvel with
my little Lenore? He has gained a great ascendancy over her in these
few days. This morning, for a purpose which you will realize I
considered highly important, I endeavored, alone with her in my own
apartment, to place her in the clairvoyant state. For the first time, I
failed. Her mind is no longer a pellucid mirror, reflecting truths
without color or refraction. She is under the influence of a
counter-will, as strong as my own--and mine moves mountains," he added,
with a laugh.

"I shouldn't think you would like it."

"I don't; but she is going home to-morrow. I will tell you why I wished
to procure Lenore's aid again. I have succeeded in tracing Leesy
Sullivan to this village. She came here the day after we frightened her
from Brooklyn--that is, she got off the cars at a little station about
six miles from here, not daring to land at this depot, and, I have no
doubt, started on foot for Blankville, coming here in the night."

"That aunt of hers is in the work," I exclaimed. "We are justified in
taking any step to compel her to own up where she conceals that girl."

"I am convinced that her aunt knows nothing whatever about her. Has
Mrs. Scott kept a sharp lookout at the villa?"

"She has not seen her since that first day; and I believe it would be
difficult for her to set her foot on the place without being
discovered, for the woman has got it into her head that the place is
haunted, and she is on guard night and day."

"Haunted?"

Mr. Burton sat down and drew up his chair with an appearance of
interest, which led me to recount our experiences at the villa, and my
intention of completing my researches that night, in his company, if he
had no objection. He said, "Of course; it would give him pleasure; he
liked nothing better than an adventure of the kind."

In fact, the idea evidently pleased him immensely; his face brightened,
and after that, for the rest of the day, for the first time in our
brief acquaintance, I saw him a little flurried and expectant. One of
his mottoes was:

                    "Learn to labor, and to _wait_."

His was one of those minds which would have kept silence seven years,
rather than speak a moment too soon; he was seldom in a hurry, no
matter what was at stake; but the fancy for lying _perdu_ in a haunted
house, to "nab" a ghost, was a novelty in his detective experience,
which inwardly amused him.

He smiled to himself more than once during the intervening hours. As
soon as tea was over, we excused ourselves to the family, kissed
Lenore, and, saying that Mr. Burton would stay with me all night, we
took our departure. I left the conduct of the proceedings in his hands.
When we reached the cottage, we found Mrs. Scott disposed to regard the
non-fulfillment of my engagement on the previous night as proof that I
was frightened from the pursuit; she accepted my excuse, however, and
highly approved of my having a companion in the spiritual dangers which
I was about to encounter. She made us, moreover, some of her excellent
coffee, to aid us in keeping awake, and gave us her prayers for our
protection along with the keys of the house.

"Treat a ghost as you would any other burglar," said my companion, as
we approached the villa, in the darkness, by the back entrance. "Steal
a march on him if you can."

It was a wild night for an enterprise like ours. It reminded me of that
night upon which Henry Moreland was murdered. One of those sudden
changes in the weather, common to our climate, had been transpiring
through the day, and now the warm, wild wind which brings in the
"January thaw," was blowing about the place, making every loose board
creak, and rubbing the bare branches of the trees against each other
with a grating sound. Black clouds, with ragged edges, skurried along
the air, with the large stars looking down between, with wide, bright
eyes, as of fear. While we stood outside, the great drops began to
patter down; and presently it was raining violently, as it rained
_that_ night. As gently as if he were a robber making a felonious
entrance, Mr. Burton turned the key in the lock; we entered the thick
darkness of the house, closed the door, and stole noiselessly, I taking
the lead, along the stairs and corridors, until we came to Henry's
room. This we entered, and, finding chairs, sat down upon either side
the little table in absolute silence. But we might safely have knocked
over half the furniture without giving alarm to any inmate--had there
been an inmate of the room or villa--such a tremendous uproar was now
made by the elements. As the rain dashed fitfully against the windows,
and the wind shook the solitary building, I was nearly overpowered with
the memories which the place and the storm so vivified. I was in a fit
mood to become a convert to a nocturnal specter--in that hour of gloom
and tempest, under the roof of the murdered, the material world seemed
not so far removed from the awful and shadowy confines of the
spiritual, as it appeared in the common routine of daylight life. As my
heart thumped loudly with the agitation of feelings almost too powerful
for mortal endurance, I was glad to consider that my companion was
cool, calm and vigilant. He had no such memories of the wind and rain
to overwhelm him as I had; this roof was not the roof of his friend--he
did not know Eleanor.

It was rather impressive to the dullest imagination to be sitting there
at night, in that empty mansion, in the darkness, with the storm
beating around it, waiting for--we knew not what. To me, with my ardent
temperament, and under the peculiar circumstances, it was exciting in
the highest degree.

For a long time there was but one interruption to our silent watch. Mr.
Burton leaned over the table, whispering,

"Did you hear some one singing?"

"I heard nothing but the wind, and the creaking of a tree against the
side of the house, except the rain, that I would be sure of. Hark!"

I did think I heard a soft, angelic note of music swelling in the air
above me, but at that moment the tempest redoubled its clamor, beating
out all lesser sounds.

"Unless I am mistaken, there was a human voice," he continued, in the
same whisper.

"Or a heavenly one," I murmured.

I believe Mr. Burton said "nonsense!" but I am not certain. Again there
was a long interval of waiting; we both leaned over toward each other
at the same instant, as the sound of something shoved overhead
attracted our attentive ears.

"It is rats in the garret," said I. "Mrs. Scott says they are in the
house."

"I hardly think it was rats; but we will wait a while."

Mr. Burton had brought a lamp and matches, so that we could have a
light when we wished it; if we heard any thing more overhead, I knew he
would examine the attic. There was a lull in the rain; as we sat
expectant, the pushing sound was shortly followed by a light, regular
patter, as of soft footsteps, along the floor of the garret. I had
heard rats make precisely similar sounds traversing a ceiling; and
though my heart beat a little faster, I was still quite certain it was
these troublesome vermin.

The next thing which fixed our attention was a glimmer of light. I
think the most spectral visitant could hardly have affected me as did
that sudden ray of light, shooting through the key-hole and under the
bottom of the door. Silently it crept along over the carpet, moving as
if the object which threw it was carried in the hand of a person
walking. I do not know exactly what I did expect when it paused in
front of the door, except that the door would open, and I should
see--the mystery. An instant of suspense--then the flickering light
wavered and moved around to the opposite angle from that at which it
had first appeared--it was going through the corridor and down the
stairs.

"All right," breathed my companion, in a scarcely audible whisper.
"Wait!"

The hand which he laid on my own was cold with excitement. As the last
yellow gleam trembled and disappeared, the elements conspired in a
grand attack upon our citadel; we could hear nothing but the roar of
their artillery--the tramp of their battalions. We waited perhaps five
minutes.

"Now," and I arose, following Mr. Burton through the darkness, as he
silently opened the door, crossed the corridor, and, leaning over the
railing, looked down into the lower hall. We could see nothing, until,
as we descended the stairs, a faint effulgence from some distant room
penetrated the obscurity. With cautious steps we followed it up through
the hall and library, to the family-room, from which, it will be
recollected, Mrs. Scott assured me she had heard mysterious noises. The
door was open a little distance, but not sufficiently to give us a view
of the interior. As we paused on the threshold, we heard a sigh--a
deep, long-drawn, tremulous sigh. With a deft hand my companion pushed
the door ajar, so that we could step in, and we both silently entered.
This room, in summer, was the favorite sitting-room of Mrs. Moreland;
and here, upon the walls, she had the portraits, life-size, in oil, of
her little family. In front of us, as we stepped in, hung the likeness
of Henry Moreland. Before it stood a woman, one hand holding aloft a
lighted candle, in a small chamber-candlestick, the other pressed upon
her heart, as if to keep down those painful signs. Motionless, rapt,
absorbed she stood; we made no sound, and if we had, I do not think she
would have heard us; her back was toward us; the light was thrown full
on the picture upon which her gaze was bent.

The woman was Leesy Sullivan. I knew her at once, though her face was
turned from us. Here, at last, we had found the fugitive we sought,
haunting the home of the man of whose murder my thoughts accused her,
standing before his portrait, in the dead of night, unwitting who were
the witnesses of her secret, as she betrayed it now. How she had
obtained access to the villa, or how long she had been its inmate, I
left to future inquiry to develop--the present scene was all-engrossing.

A long--long--long time she stood there; we did not interrupt her; it
was probably the expectation that she would utter some soliloquy which
would be of importance to us, as revealing what was on her mind, which
kept my companion quiet. She said nothing, however; only drawing those
deep sighs; until, at the last, she set the light on the little table
beneath the picture, and, lifting up both hands with a passionate
gesture toward it, sobbed one word--"Henry!"

Then, slowly, as if her eyes refused to leave the object of their
attraction, she began to turn away. We had one instant's glance at her
face before she discovered us; there was a burning spot upon either
thin cheek, and two great tears, frozen, as it were, upon her eyelids;
and a tremulous curve to the full, red lips of the tender and beautiful
mouth, as if they quivered with grief and love. There was nothing wild
or severe about her at that moment. Turning, slowly, she perceived us,
standing there in the shadow--two cruel men, hunting her even in this
sacred solitude. That was the feeling she gave us by the look which
passed over her countenance; I felt ashamed and unjustified until I
forced myself to recollect all.

She did not scream; she had passed through too many vicissitudes to
betray any fright; she only turned white, and put her hand on the table
to steady herself.

"You two men have come here at last, have you? Why do you interfere
with me? It's only a little while I have to stay, and I want peace."

"Peace only comes with a pure conscience," said Mr. Burton, sternly.
"What are you doing in this house?"

"I know I have no right here; but where else will you let me stay? Not
even by his grave--no, not even by his grave! You want to drag me forth
before the world, to expose my foolish secret, which I have hidden from
everybody--to put me in prison--to murder me! This is the business of
you two men; and you have the power, I suppose. I am so poor and
friendless it makes me a fit object for your persecution. Well, if you
can justify yourselves, do as you will with me!"

She folded her hands, looking us full in the face with eyes which
absolutely blazed.

"If you had no guilty secret, why did you fly from friends and enemies?
Why did you not seek an interview and explanation which would have been
satisfactory to us?" asked Mr. Burton.

"You would not believe me if I told you the reason," scornfully. "It is
not in the minds of men--the gross, suspicious minds of men--to
conceive or credit my excuse. I will not make it to such people."

Really, there was a majesty about the girl which quite awed me. As she
confronted us, the undaunted spirit sparkling through her slight,
wasted face and form, compelled a sort of acquiescence in me. I was not
the one to subdue or handle this powerful nature. Mr. Burton was.

"This is not the proper hour, nor the proper place, to enter into
explanations, Miss Sullivan. You must go with me to Mrs. Scott's
cottage; she will care for you until morning, and then we will have a
talk together. You will not find me harsh; nor shall I take any step
without good cause. All I want is the truth--and that I am bound to
have."

"Let me stay here to-night; I promise you I will not attempt to leave
the place. I will wait here until you see fit to come in the morning."

"I can not; there is too much at stake," he said, with determination.

"Then let me go and get the child," she said.

She took up the lamp and we followed her; up and along the garret
staircase, mounting the narrow steps which led into the attic. There,
upon the pile of mattresses which I have mentioned as lying in the
corner, reposed the baby girl before spoken of, sleeping sweetly, as
only infancy can rest.

"We were under this when you paid us a visit the other day," said
Leesy, with a sort of bitter smile. "I had hard work to keep baby from
crying out. She did make a fuss at last; you said it was a cat."

"How sound the little creature sleeps," said the detective. He had a
gentle heart, which shrunk from disturbing the slumbering infant.

"It's too bad to startle her up so," murmured her nurse.

"Yes, it is. I'll tell you what we will do. We will lock you up here,
and keep guard in the chamber until morning, if that pleases you."

"I don't care to take Norah out in the storm."

"Tell me one thing," said Mr. Burton, his bright eye fixing itself on
her own; "are you the mother of that babe?"

For a moment she answered his look with one of astonishment; then the
rosy blood rushed up to neck, cheek and brow--a virgin blush, which
showed all the soft and girlish side of her character.

"Am I Norah's mother?" she repeated. "I thought you knew I was not a
married woman."

The detective stood, a little embarrassed by the perfect simplicity of
her reply.

"It is understood to be your deceased cousin's child--an orphan, I
believe," he said. "Well, Miss Sullivan, we will leave you here,
undisturbed, for the remainder of the night."

We descended to the second floor, turning the key of the little
store-room which inclosed the garret staircase, well satisfied to keep
guard until morning, since we had secured the mysterious inmate of the
haunted house.



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                       THE SHADOW ASSUMES SHAPE.


We now lighted our lamp, and, finding a light cane sofa in the hall,
nearly opposite the locked door, we took seats, and kept ourselves
awake by talking. The storm had subsided into the monotonous patter of
a steady rain.

"I am surprised," said Mr. Burton, "that you did not at once comprehend
the secret of this house. The moment you spoke the word 'haunted,' I
knew how our investigations would end. It solved a mystery which has
bothered me for some time. I knew that Leesy Sullivan was here, in this
vicinity; the exact hiding-place was all I wanted to know; and when you
mentioned Moreland villa, I said to myself, 'that's it!' All I was then
afraid of was, that she would again elude us, before we could lay hands
on her. And in fact," he added laughingly, "I hardly feel sure of her
now. She may sublime through the ceiling before morning."

"I did not think of her, Mr. Burton; I was quite sure some person was
playing some game, either of mischief or worse, about the villa; but
how could I be certain, when two thorough daylight examinations failed
to reveal any thing? There did not seem to be a place at which a person
could enter the house; and as for a woman and child being actual
inmates, living and subsisting here for weeks--I think nothing but
actual proof could have convinced me of the marvel. I am curious to
know how she managed it."

"I ought to have come right here at first," continued my friend,
pursuing his train of thought. "Women are like mother-birds, when boys
approach the nest. They betray themselves and their cherished secret by
fluttering about the spot. If this Miss Sullivan had been a man, she
would have been in Kansas or California by this time; being a woman, I
ought to have looked for her in exactly the place it would seem natural
for her to avoid. One thing is certain--she loved young Moreland with
an intensity beyond the strength of most women. I have had to do with
natures like hers before--where a powerful brain is subservient to a
still more powerful emotional force. She was proud, ambitious,
discontented, with tastes and perceptions reaching up into a much
higher sphere of life. Miss Sullivan would have made a magnificent
heiress and pet daughter; yet in love she would be humble,
self-abnegating--give all and count it nothing. It's a sad pity such a
capacity for happiness should have brought only ruin."

"If she had loved Henry, how could she, under any impulse of jealousy,
have injured him? She is terrible to me in any view of the case."

"I do not know that she did injure him, or cause him to be injured.
Circumstances are against her. But I am far from believing her the
guilty person. Yet I am exceedingly anxious to have a quiet interview
with her. I must see her and talk with her alone. She is frightened
now, and defiant. I shall soothe her--magnetize her will, as it
were--and draw from her the truth. Every atom of knowledge which she
has, in any way connected with Henry Moreland, I shall draw from her,
and consolidate into one mass, to be used for or against her. If you
have the reliance upon my judgment which I flatter myself you have,
Richard, you will not object to my seeing Miss Sullivan alone, and
deciding, upon that interview, whether there are causes for her arrest,
as a party to the murder."

"I shall not object. It is your privilege to see her alone; and I have
the utmost confidence in you. I suppose Mr. Argyll and Henry's father
would be the proper persons to decide upon the arrest and prosecution."

"Of course. And if, after I have talked with her, I can elicit no facts
to warrant her being put on trial for her life, I shall not give her
her liberty until I have consulted both families, laying all my
evidence before them. They will be loth to begin a prosecution which
they can not sustain, even if they have an _impression_ of guilt. By
the way, Redfield, these _impressions_ are curious things! Supposing I
should tell you there are persons who, without one particle of proof of
any kind, have an impression that _you_ are the guilty man."

I arose from the sofa, looking at him, not knowing whether or not to
knock him down.

"Don't 'slay me with a look'," he said, laughing quietly. "I don't say
that _I_ have any such inner revelation. And I did not say this,
either, to hurt your feelings. I did it to save them. For, if I mistake
not, the same person who confided his impressions to me, has recently
been gradually confiding them to others. The very thought, the very
possibility, once entertained, or half-entertained and driven away
again, as an unwelcome guest, still has its injurious influence. You
are standing upon an earthquake, Richard--you may be swallowed up any
instant."

"I?"

"Yes. I have detected the premonitory rumblings. I have said this only
to warn you, that you may be ready for self-defense."

"I scorn to defend myself! Defend myself, forsooth! against what? Who
has dared to insinuate that thought against me which you have allowed
yourself to echo? But I need not ask--it is my natural foe, James
Argyll. He hates me as the rattlesnake hates the black-ash tree!"

"Well, the dislike is mutual. Will you deny that you, too, have had a
thought--mind, I say a mere, floating thought--that _he_ may have
instigated the deed?"

My conscious eye sunk before the steel-blue glance which pierced me.
God knows, such a fear, such a belief, at times vague and shadowy,
again vivid but brief as lightning, had again and again troubled me. I
have hinted at it once, when I said that I was glad that if James ever
took money, unpermitted, from his uncle, he took it to waste at the
gaming-table. Soon I raised my eyes.

"If I have had such a suspicion, I have struggled against it; I have
never breathed it into mortal ear. He has sought to injure me in
various ways; I have wished to win and conciliate him; to be friendly
with him, for the sake of my regard for his relatives. As to taking a
step to fix a blasting stigma upon him, without giving him a chance
openly to efface it, I am incapable of it. You are at liberty to judge
between us, Mr. Burton."

"You know that I do not like him," answered my companion. "But no
aversion which I may feel for him shall prevent my weighing all facts
which come under my observation, with the utmost impartiality. I am on
the right track, in this pursuit, and I shall follow it up to the dark
end, though you, yourself, abandon it. Justice shall be meted out! If
the bolt strikes the loftiest head in all this aristocratic vicinity,
it _shall_ fall where it belongs."

He left the sofa, walking up and down the corridor with a stern,
thoughtful face. As for me, I sunk back on my seat, overwhelmed by the
confirmation of a thousand times more than my worst fears. _Suspicion
of me_ was creeping like a shadow over the Argyll household. I had felt
its approach long ago; now my whole being grew cold, freezing, except
one burning spasm of indignation which throbbed in my breast.

As the gray dawn approached, the rain ceased. Morning was long in
coming. As soon as it grew light enough to see, I heard the gardener
cutting wood for the fire, and shortly after I walked over, at Mr.
Burton's request, to ask for some breakfast for the woman and child. I
will not describe the garrulous astonishment of the husband and wife
upon my announcement that the ghost was cornered, and proved to be
Leesy Sullivan. Of course the evil omen of hearing children crying was
now explained, as well as the disappearance of a considerable quantity
of flour, condiments and apples, which Mrs. Scott had charged to the
rats.

It went sorely against the inclination of formal, correct Mrs. Scott,
to furnish a comfortable breakfast to "such a jade as that seemed
likely to prove; behavin' in this style, which nobody on 'arth could
account for;" but the gratification of her feminine curiosity was some
reward for the outrage to her sensibilities, and she went with great
expedition to carry the desired refreshments to the prisoners.

When we entered the attic, in the light of the rising sun, Miss
Sullivan was sitting quietly on the edge of the mattresses, curling
little Nora's flaxen hair around her fingers. An obstinate reticence
marked her looks and actions; she scarcely replied to any of Mrs.
Scott's inquiries--only, when the comfort of the child was concerned.
For _her_ she took some of the warm food and tea, quietly feeding the
eager little girl, while we made a survey of her surroundings.

I now ascertained that a small sky-light, hidden from outside view by
the chimneys and ornamental work of the battlements, had given egress
to the mysterious brightness which had hovered so frequently over the
roof. The tenant of this great house had evidently arranged herself for
the winter. She had chosen the attic as a place of greatest safety, in
the case of parties entering the deserted dwelling for any purpose;
here she had brought a tiny charcoal-furnace, used in the basement in
summer-time for the purpose of heating smoothing-irons, which she
supplied with fuel from the stock left over in the cellar. The
provisions left in the house had served her wants equally well. It was
evident that by the exercise of extreme care and vigilance, leaving the
house only in the darkness of the night, she might have remained here
for a considerable longer time undisturbed in her novel seclusion, had
not the light, which she had never ventured to burn until all was dark
and silent in the little cottage, by chance first attracted the
curiosity which led finally to discovery.

Mr. Burton took a cup of tea and a roll, brought to him there; and
then, at his request, he was left alone with the silent woman, who sat
there with resolute brows and lips firmly closed, as if locked over her
thoughts.

"It will require all his diplomacy to wile her into a communicative
mood," was my decision, as I took a parting glance at her face. I was
chilled with my night's watching, and chilled more utterly by the words
the detective had spoken to me as I watched; I returned to the
cottage-fire, sitting there three hours, in a painful reverie,
answering almost at random the remarks of the housekeeper.

At the close of the three hours, Mr. Burton came into the little
dwelling, carrying Norah in his arms, who was stroking his cheek with
her chubby hand, and followed by the sewing-girl, whose cheeks bore
traces of tears, and whose hunted, defiant look had given place to a
dejected, gentle expression.

"Mrs. Scott, I want you to do me a kindness," he said, in his
authoritative, persuasive manner, to which people seldom thought it
worth while to object. "I want you to take care of Miss Sullivan and
this little cousin of hers, until I send them word they are wanted. It
may be to-day, or not for a week. In the mean time, if you have any
sewing to be done for yourself or little Johnny, she will be glad to
help you."

"She's welcome to stay, I'm sure," said the woman, in a tone not quite
so sure.

"Thank you. I knew I could ask a favor of you. Johnny, come here, and
make Miss Nora's acquaintance. I'm ready, Richard, if you are, to
return to the village. Lenore will wonder what has become of us.
Good-morning, all."

We walked away.

"Are you not afraid to leave that girl unguarded, after all the trouble
she has given us?"

"She will stay there; she has promised me. If she chooses to run away,
now, it is a matter of no consequence. I am perfectly, entirely
convinced that she is innocent of any participation in the murder of
Henry Moreland; or any knowledge of the murder--except, upon one point,
I could use her testimony. I shall give my opinion to Mr. Argyll, with
my grounds for it; if he chooses to arrest her, she will be there at
the cottage. Richard, this affair has gone as far as it can! I shall
tell Mr. Argyll, to-day, that I have withdrawn from it--that I give it
up. But I am willing _you_ should understand that I have not dropped it
entirely--that I shall still retain my interest in it--still secretly
pursue my investigations, which I believe I can carry on to the best
advantage if all parties believe that I have given the matter up. Are
you satisfied?"

"If I am not, what difference does it make? It is not for me to dictate
your course. I believe that you think it is the best one."

"I do. So will you some day, if we live to see the termination of this
thing. In the mean time, I am your friend, Richard, whether I give any
outward signs of friendship very soon or not. You are at liberty to
devote yourself to the cause as ardently as ever--and if ever you wish
to consult me, you will find me what you now know me."

I felt strangely as we walked along together. He talked as if he
thought some change were coming--as if things were to assume new
shapes--as if I were to need friendship, and yet as if he should be
compelled to conceal his for me behind a mask of coldness. I did not
understand it. I felt half offended with him, and wholly disheartened.

I dined with him at Mr. Argyll's. It was the last time I sat at that
table.

In the afternoon he had a private interview with the family, _from
which I was excluded_; and in the evening he returned to the city,
taking with him Lenore, the last wave of whose hand was for James, her
last kiss for Miss Argyll.

The next morning Mr. Argyll informed me that he had resolved to make
his nephew his partner in the practice of the law, and that I was at
liberty to take advantage of any other opportunity I might have for
going into business for myself. His manner was cold; he expressed no
regrets for my probable disappointment, caused by his own suggestions;
I could feel myself dismissed from his friendship as well as his
office. I would not ask why. My tongue grew dry as ashes when I thought
of attempting it. Mr. Burton had given me the clue to the feelings
which prompted this rupture of a life-long friendship--it was such as
to forbid any questions. No explanations could be made--nothing could
obliterate the memory of so deadly a wrong as they were committing upon
me. The golden bowl of friendship was broken at the fountain--the
waters spilled upon the ground.

I told him that I had contemplated a visit to my mother, which I would
take this opportunity to make. I might find what I wished for, in the
way of business, in the vicinity of my father's former home; when, with
formal thanks for his past kindness (which I was mentally vowing I
would find some means to repay), and begging him to trouble himself not
at all about my fortunes, I bowed myself from the office where I had
spent so much of the last three years of my life.

Blind, dizzy, cold, I went to my boarding-house to pack my trunks.

Before I went to bed, my few arrangements were completed. My clothes,
books, the few little articles of taste, or gifts of friends, allowable
in one small rented room, were easily put away in their traveling
receptacle. But, as for the rest!--for the wealth which my heart had
silently garnered during the golden harvest of youth--where was it?
Swept away as by a mighty wind.

I slept some, for I was thoroughly worn out by my emotions, no less
than by my recent vigils; but the earliest morning found me awake. I
was to leave at noon; I had many pleasant acquaintances in the village,
from whom I ought not to have parted without a farewell call; but all
these small pleasures and courtesies of life were swept aside, as sand
upon my path. I had nothing to do, all the tedious morning, save to
pretend to eat my breakfast, until the hour which I had set in my
thoughts for saying good-by to the girls.

I would not go away without seeing them; if there was any accusation in
their eyes I would confront it. And then, I did not believe that
Eleanor would do me an injustice. Blue-eyed, just, gentle as was her
character, _she_, at least, was grieved for me--believed in me. I did
not admit to myself how much comfort I drew from this faith, until I
was startled from it. My baggage was dispatched; my watch told eleven;
I passed the house on the way to the cars, giving myself a few minutes
for this farewell. As I knocked at the door, one of the servants opened
it. I sent her to ask Miss Argyll if she would come down to say
good-by, before I left on my visit to my mother; and Mary--I would like
to see her also.

While I waited for them, I stepped into the dear familiar parlors and
library, mutely taking my leave of them, with all their mingled
associations. Presently the messenger returned:

"Miss Argyll sent her farewell; she could not see Mr. Redfield that
morning."

"Where is she?"

"In the breakfast-room, looking at her flowers."

I started for the room in a wild tumult of anger and passion, resolved
to make her confess the reason of this treatment. Surely, three years
of an intimacy like ours, gave me the right. In three minutes I
confronted her where she stood, in the door between the breakfast-room
and conservatory, like a statue draped in crape.

"Eleanor!"

She shrunk back; she held up her hands with an expression of horror. My
God! that look in Eleanor's eyes was enough to kill me. I turned away
as hastily as I had come. As I stumbled along the passage, half blind
with the terrible surging and throbbing of the blood through me, a soft
pair of arms fell about my neck, a cheek wet with tears was pressed to
mine--it was Mary.

"Never mind what they say about you, Richard," she sobbed. "I don't
believe one word of it--not one word! I never shall. I am your friend.
I love you; indeed I do. _I_ do not want you to go away," and she
kissed me twice or thrice.

I took the sweet face in my cold hands, looked into the brimming eyes,
hastily kissed the blushing cheek--"God bless you, Mary," said I, and
was gone.


                         END OF THE PART FIRST.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            THE DEAD LETTER.


                                PART II.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CHAPTER I.

                              THE LETTER.


The reader can now understand why it was that I turned cold with
excitement as I sat there in the dead-letter office, holding the
time-stained epistle in my hand. Every word burned itself into my
brain. Obscure as it was--non-committal--directed to an unknown person
of a neighboring village--I yet felt _assured_ that those vague hints
had reference to the sinful tragedy which had occurred October 17th,
1857. Here was placed in my hands--at last!--a clue to that mystery
which I had once sworn to unravel. Yet, how slender was the clue, which
might, after all, lead me into still profounder labyrinths of doubt and
perplexity! As I pondered, it seemed to break and vanish in my fingers.
Yet, I felt, in spite of this, an inward sense _that I held the key
which was surely to unlock the awful secret_. I can never rightly
express the feelings which, for the first few moments, overpowered me.
My body was icy cold, but my soul stung and stirred me as with fire,
and seemed to rise on "budding wings" of flame with conviction of a
speedy triumph which was to come after long suffering. I arose,
clutched my hat, and went forth from the Department, to return to it no
more, for the present. Half the night I sat in my room at my
boarding-place, looking at that letter on the table before me.

Before I proceed further with its history, I will give, in a few words,
the brief, monotonous record of my life, since I was driven--driven is
the word you must use, Richard, haughty and sensitive though you may
be--from the friendship and presence of the Argylls, and from my
prospects of a long-cherished settlement in life. I made the visit to
my mother. She was shocked at the change in me, and grieved that I
withheld my confidence from her. But, I did not feel in a confiding
mood. The gentleness of my nature had been hardened; I was bitter,
sneering, skeptical; not from my own mother would I accept the sympathy
which my chilled heart seemed no longer to crave. Only one thing saved
me from utter loathing of humanity, and that was the memory of Mary's
face, as she had sought me at parting. In those sweet eyes were trust
and love; the tears which streamed down and fell upon her bosom, the
quiver of her lip, the sobs and fond words, attested to the sorrow with
which she had beheld my banishment.

Of course my mother was surprised to hear that I had left Blankville,
with no intention of returning to it; that the long-understood
partnership was not to be entered into. But, she did not press me for
explanations. She waited for me to tell her all, patiently; ministering
to my health and comfort, meanwhile, as a widowed mother will minister
to an only son--with a tenderness only less than that of heaven,
because it is yet, perforce, of earth.

Before I had been at home a fortnight, the unnatural tension of my mind
and nerves produced a sure result--a reäction took place, and I fell
sick. It was in the softer mood which came over me, as I was
convalescing from this illness, that I finally told my mother all the
dreadful story of the influences which had broken up my connection with
the Argylls. Her grief for me, her indignation against my enemy or
enemies, was what might have been expected. I could hardly restrain her
from starting at once for Blankville, to stand before her old friend,
the friend of my father, and accuse him, face to face, of the wrong he
had done her boy. But, out of this I persuaded her. I asked her if she
did not see that the wrong was irreparable? I could not forgive it. It
did not admit of being talked about; let the cloud drop between them
and us; our paths were henceforth apart. To this she finally yielded;
and, if there could have been any balm to my wounded pride and still
more deeply wounded affections, I should have found it in the enhanced,
touching, almost too-perfect tenderness with which my parent sought to
make up to me that which I had lost.

For a few weeks I abandoned myself to her healing attentions. Then I
set myself resolutely to find work both for hands and mind. My mother
was not without influential friends. As I have said, my fortunes were
somewhat nipped by my father's untimely death, but our family and
associations were among the best. We had a relative in power at
Washington. To him I applied for a clerkship, and received, in answer,
the situation I was filling, at the time when that dead-letter came so
strangely into my hands.

It may be thought improbable that I should abandon the profession for
which I had studied with so much zeal. But, the very memory of that
zeal, and of the hopes which had stimulated it, now gave me a dislike
to the law. I required both change of scene and of pursuits. The blow
dealt at my heart had stunned my ambition, also. To one of my
temperament, aspirations, acquisitiveness, all the minor passions and
pursuits of life are but steps leading up the hillside to the
rose-crowned summit, where love sits smiling under the eye of heaven.
And I, being for the time at least, blasted prematurely, was no more
myself, but was to myself like a stranger within my own sanctuary. I
went into the dead-letter office, and commenced my routine of breaking
seals and registering contents, as if I had been born for that
business. I was a rapid worker, quiet, and well-thought-of by my
associates, who deemed me a little cold and skeptical, a trifle
reserved, very steady for so young a fellow, and an efficient clerk who
thoroughly earned his salary. That was all they knew of Richard
Redfield. And in those days I did not know much more about myself. The
months had worn away, one after the other, with a dreary coldness. In
the summer I struggled through the suffocating dust; in the winter I
picked my way through the disgusting mud, to and fro, from my lodgings
to the office buildings; that was about all the change which the
seasons brought to me, whom once the smell of spring violets filled
with pungent delight, and the odor of June roses made happy as a god on
Olympus.

Half the night I sat brooding over that brief revelation, so precious
to me, yet so loathsome. The longer I pondered its words the less vivid
grew my hope of making any triumphant use of it for the detection of
the two guilty persons--the one who wrote it, and the one to whom it
was addressed. I might lay it before Mr. Argyll, but he might not feel,
as I did, that it had any connection with the murder, neither was there
anything to prove but that the missive might have been directed to
_me_. Indeed, Mr. Argyll might well inquire how I could pretend that it
should have reached me through the routine of the dead-letter
department, after all this stretch of time--very nearly two years!

This was a matter which puzzled me exceedingly. In the ordinary course
of affairs, it would, if not claimed, have been forwarded to Washington
three months after its reception at Peekskill, and have long ago been
consigned to the waste-basket and the flames. The hand of an overruling
Providence seemed to be moving the men in this terrible game. At that
hour I recognized it, and felt a solemn conviction that, sooner or
later, the murderer would be checkmated. It was this assurance, more
than any evidence contained in the letter, which gave me hope that it
would eventually be the instrument of punishment to the guilty. I
remembered the vow I had once made to my soul, never to rest in the
peace of my own pursuits, until I had dragged the slayer of the
innocent into the awful presence of Justice. That vow I had neglected
to fulfill to the uttermost, partly because of the injury which had
been done to my self-love, and also because the circumstance which had
attached suspicion to me, in the eyes of those interested, had made it
dangerous for me to move in a matter where all my motives were
misconstrued. But now that Fate had interposed in this singular manner,
in my behalf and in that of Truth, I took fresh courage. I was fully
startled from my apathy. That night I wrote my resignation to the
Department, gathered up my few effects again, and the next morning
found me on the way to New York.

My first purpose was to consult Mr. Burton. I had not seen him since
the day when we parted in Blankville; I only knew, by accident, that he
was still a resident of New York, having casually heard his name
mentioned in connection with a case which had brought some detectives
on to Washington only a few weeks previous.

I had never forgiven or understood the part he had played in that last
interview with the Argylls. I remembered the assurance he had given me
of friendship, but I did not believe that he had shown any friendship
for me, in that consultation with the relatives, or the results would
not have been so disastrous to me. Nevertheless, I felt a confidence in
him; he was the man for the emergency, and to him I would take the
letter. I thought it quite probable, that in the multiplicity of new
interests, the circumstances which had once brought us so much together
had faded from his mind, and that I should have to reawaken his
recollection of the details.

On the morning after my arrival in New York, I consulted the directory,
and finding that Mr. Burton still resided in Twenty-third street, I
called at the house at the earliest admissible hour.

While I was handing my card to the servant, his master came out of the
library at the end of the hall, and hastening forward, shook me
heartily by the hand. His joyous tones were better evidence of his
pleasure at seeing me, than even his words, which were cordial enough.

"I heard your voice, Richard," he said, "and did not wait for you to be
ushered in with the formalities. Welcome, my friend;" his expression
was as if he had said--"Welcome, my son."

He led me into the library, and placing me in an arm-chair, sat down
opposite me, looking at me with the well-remembered piercing shafts of
those steel-blue eyes. After inquiring about my health, etc., he said,
suddenly,

"You have news."

"You are right, Mr. Burton--else I should not have been here. I suppose
you are aware that I have been a clerk in the dead-letter office for
the last eighteen months?"

"I was aware of it. I never intended to let you slip out of the
numbered rosary of my friends, and lose you so entirely as not even to
know your whereabouts."

"Day before yesterday this letter arrived at the office, and I chanced
to be the clerk who opened it."

I handed him the missive. He examined the envelope attentively, before
unfolding the sheet within; and as he continued to hold it in his hand,
and gaze at it, one of those wonderful changes passed over his
countenance that I had remarked on some previous important occasions.
His practical intelligence seized upon the date, the post-office marks,
the hasty direction, and made the contents of the letter his own,
almost, before he read it. For some moments he pondered the outside,
then drew forth the letter, perused it with one swift glance, and sat
holding it, gazing at it, lost in thought, and evidently forgetful of
my presence. A stern pallor settled gradually over his usually placid
face; at last he looked up, and seeing me, recalled his surroundings to
his recollection.

"It is sad to be made to feel that such creatures live and flourish,"
he said, almost despondingly; "but," as his face brightened, "I can not
say how glad I am to get hold of this. It partially explains some
things which I have already found out. The chance which threw this
document into your hands was a marvelous one, Richard."

"However simple the explanation may prove to be, I shall always regard
it as Providential."

"All things are Providential," said my companion, "none less, and none
more so. Causes will have their effects. But now, as to the writer of
this--I am glad I have a specimen of the villain's handwriting; it will
enable me to know the writer when I see him."

"How so, Mr. Burton?"

"Because I have a very good picture of him, now, in my mind's eye. He
is about thirty years of age, rather short and broad-shouldered,
muscular; has dark complexion and black eyes; the third finger of his
right hand has been injured, so as to contract the muscles and leave it
useless. He has some education, which he has acquired by hard study
since he grew up to be his own master. His childhood was passed in
ignorance, in the midst of the worst associations; and his own nature
is almost utterly depraved. He is bad, from instinct, inheritance and
bringing-up; and now, our blessed Redeemer, himself, would hardly find
good enough in him to promise a hope of ultimate salvation. It is
curious that he should ever have seen fit to study, so as to acquire
even the smattering of knowledge which he has. He must have been led
into it by some powerful passion. If I could decide what that passion
was, I might have a key to unlock the gate into some other matters."

I stared at the speaker in astonishment as he rapidly pronounced the
above analysis of the personal appearance and character of the writer.

"Do you know him?" I asked.

"I do not know his _name_, and I have never met him. All the
acquaintance I have with him, I have made through the medium of his
chirography. It is sufficient for me; I can not mistake,"--then,
observing my puzzled and incredulous look, he smiled, as he added, "By
the way, Richard, you are not aware of my accomplishment in the art of
reading men and women from a specimen of their handwriting. It is one
of my greatest aids in the profession to which I have devoted myself.
The results I obtain sometimes astonish my friends. But, I assure you,
there is nothing marvelous in them. Patient study and unwearied
observation, with naturally quick perceptions, are the only witchcraft
I use. With moderate natural abilities, I assert that any other person
could equal me in this art (black art, some of my acquaintances regard
it,) by giving the same time to it that a musician would to master an
instrument."

"I do not know about that, Mr. Burton. I guess it would take a mind of
the singular composition of your own to make much out of an art with no
rules and no foundations."

"It has its rules, for me. But as proof is better than argument, show
me any letters or scraps of writing you may have about you. I would
like to satisfy you, before we proceed further, for I do not wish you
to feel that you are working with a crack-brained individual, who is
riding a hobby at your expense."

I emptied my inside coat-pocket of its contents, among which were
several letters--one from my mother, a note from my uncle in
Washington, an invitation from an old college-chum to attend his
wedding in Boston, and two or three business epistles from casual
acquaintances--one, I remember, an entreaty from a young man to get him
something to do in that magnetic center of all unemployed
particles--Washington. Of these, I revealed only to him the
superscription and signature, with, perhaps, some unimportant sentence,
which would, in no way, of itself, betray the characters or pursuits of
the writers. I need not describe my surprise when, in each instance, he
gave a careful and accurate description of the age, appearance, habits,
profession and mental qualities of the person whose handwriting he had
examined.

I could hardly credit my own senses; there must be some "_hocus-pocus_"
about it, as in the tricks which jugglers play with cards. But my
respect for the earnestness of my companion's pursuits, and the
indubitable nature of his proof, did not allow me to doubt any length
of time. I became a believer in _his facts_, and I give these facts to
my readers, at the risk of seeing the plain, sensible nose of the
majority turned up with an expression of skepticism, mortifying to me.
Mr. Burton's character is a real one, and the truth of his wonderful
achievements will become history.

The terrible interest of the subject which had brought us together did
not permit us to spend much time in these interesting but irrelevant
experiments. We discussed the past and present. Mr. Burton assured me
that he had never, for a day, lost sight of the case--that his interest
in it had deepened, rather than lessened; that he had not been idle
during all this long period; but that he had already gathered up a fact
or two of some importance, and had been on the point of sending for me,
once or twice. He had refrained, waiting for some lights to culminate,
and "now, he was glad enough to get hold of that letter."

He informed me that Leesy Sullivan was living quietly in the city,
subsisting mostly upon donations from himself, she being too far gone
with consumption to exert herself much with the needle. The child was
with her, healthy and pretty.

I made no inquiries after James Argyll, but he told me that the young
man came frequently to the city; that, for a while, he had seemed
dispirited, and gambled desperately, but that lately he was looking and
behaving better.

"It is my impression," added he, "that he is about to marry one of his
cousins--probably the youngest. And as to his bad habits, I caused him
to understand, indirectly, that if they were not reformed, he should be
convicted of them, before his uncle. This I did (after I became
convinced that he would marry one of the young ladies) out of
compassion to the family."

My head drooped on my hand. It was long since I had any tidings of the
Argylls--death could hardly have created a more barren space between
us. Yet, now that I heard the names of the girls mentioned, a flood of
old emotions broke over me, beneath which I struggled, half-suffocated.
Keen pain shot through my heart at the idea of Mary, that innocent,
most sweet and lovable girl, becoming the wife of James. I felt as if
it ought to be prevented, yet how could I interfere? Why should I wish
to? I recalled the hour when she had flown to me--had said, "_I_
believe in you, Richard; _I_ love you!" and I knew that I had put a
construction upon the tearful, passionate words of her last avowal,
which was, after all, not warranted. I had feared that she did really
love me, and that, in the last moment of sorrow and trouble, her
feelings had betrayed themselves to her own comprehension--and I had
felt a hope that it was not so. My own unanswered passion--my lonely,
unmated life--had taught me sympathy; and I was not so utterly selfish
as to have my personal vanity tickled with the idea that this young
creature loved me, who did not love her, except truly as a sister.

Yet now, when hearing that James had turned from Eleanor to her, I felt
a pang of pity--a wish that she might rather have loved me than him
whose cold, deceitful bosom could never be a safe shelter for a woman
as affectionate as Mary. With this regret I felt a triumph that Eleanor
had remained unassailable on the sublime and solitary hight of her
sorrow. It was what I expected of her. I gloried in her constancy to
the dead. I had loved her for this noble beauty of her nature, and
should have been disappointed had the test found her wanting in any of
the attributes with which my worship had invested her. She had done me
a wrong too cruel for me to complain about; but I would rather, still,
that she would wrong me than herself.

Lastly, Mr. Burton assured me that he had tidings of the
five-hundred-dollar bill which had been stolen from Mr. Argyll's desk.
This was, indeed, important, and I showed by my looks how deeply I was
absorbed in the particulars. That bill had come into the hands of
Wells, Fargo & Co., about six months after the robbery, having been
sold for specie to their agent in California, and forwarded to them
along with the other sums which they were constantly receiving. At
least, he had taken it for granted that it was the same bill, it being
one of the two which left the city of New York the week of the robbery;
the other he had traced to St. Louis, and ascertained that no possible
suspicious circumstances attached to it.

Wells, Fargo & Co. had given him every assistance in their power to
discover who had sold that bill to the California branch of their
house; but an answer had been returned from there that the person who
disposed of it was a stranger, on his way to the mining regions, whom
they had never seen before or since, and whose name they had not taken.
The clerk who transacted the brief business with him, had no distinct
recollection of him, except that he was rather a thick-set man, with an
unpleasant expression--doubtless one of the "hard cases" so frequent in
the precincts of San Francisco.

Of course, it was clear to us two, who sat in company with the
dead-letter, that the five-hundred-dollar bill was a part of the sum
referred to by the writer; that it had come out of Mr. Argyll's desk,
and that it was blood-money paid for a murder; and the receiver was
this person who, in the letter, so explicitly declared his intention of
fleeing to California. We were much excited in the presence of these
bold facts. In our enthusiasm, then, it seemed easy to stretch a hand
across the continent and lay it upon the guilty. We scarcely realized
the long and wearisome pursuit to which we were doomed--the slight clue
which we had to the individual whose deeds were yet so patent to us.

At this revelation of conspiracy, my mind eagerly searched about for
the accessory, and again settled itself upon Miss Sullivan. It did seem
to me that she had thrown a glamour over the usually clear sight of Mr.
Burton; so that I resolved to keep a separate watch which should not be
influenced by his decisions. While I was thinking of this, Mr. Burton
was walking about the floor. Suddenly he stopped before me and looked
into mine with those vivid eyes, so full of power, and said, as
confidently as if a vision had revealed it to him,

"I have now made out all the meaning of the letter. In the first place,
it is written '_by contraries_'--that is, it means just the contrary of
what it says. The contract _was_ fulfilled. The price was expected, the
emigration decided upon. The bright day was a rainy night; the picture
taken was a human life. And, don't you see it, Richard?--the old friend
was the hiding-place of the instrument of death, after which the
accomplice is directed to look. That instrument is the broken
tooth-pick. It was secreted in the pocket of the old friend. Now, who
or what is this old friend? Richard, didn't Leesy affirm she saw a man
descending from the old oak tree at the right of the Argyll mansion, on
the evening of the murder?"

"She did."

"Then _that_ is it. I want to know no more. The arms are the arms of
that old oak. Unless it has been removed, which is not probable, since
this letter was never received, the broken knife or dagger (of which I
have the point which was taken from the wound), will be found in some
hollow on the left side of that oak."

I gazed at him in astonishment; but he, unconscious of my wonder, sat
down, with a relieved, almost happy, expression.



                              CHAPTER II.

                              OUR VISITS.


So engrossed were we by our plans, which we were laboring to get into
shape, that we forgot the passing hours and the demands of appetite. It
was long past the lunch hour when a servant appeared to ask if he
should not bring in the tray, having waited in vain for the usual
summons. With its appearance Lenore came in, the same lovely,
sylph-like little creature, but looking rather less fragile than when I
saw her last. At the sight of me, her color went and came--one instant
she hesitated, then approached and gave me her hand, with a smile and
kiss. Her father had already told of her having made two or three
visits to the Argyll mansion within the time of my absence; and I
attributed her blushes, upon meeting me, to her frank heart accusing
her of the disparaging thoughts she had entertained of me. The subtle
influence of James had doubtless, without any necessity for putting the
idea into words, warned her against me as a bad man; but now as she
looked at me, she was sorry for what she had felt, and disposed to
renew her old friendship.

Before lunch was concluded, Mr. Burton fell into a reverie, which he
ended by saying,

"We must have the assistance of Lenore, if she can give us any."

I felt reluctant to see the child placed again in that unnatural
trance; but other considerations were even weightier than our fears for
the shock to her nervous system; and after she had chatted a while with
us, and had sung for me, Mr. Burton subjected her to the experiment. It
had been so long since he had exercised his power over her, that it
required a greater effort than on the former occasion which I
witnessed, to place her in the desired condition. He, however, finally
succeeded perfectly. The dead-letter was placed in her hands, when we
observed her shrink as if a serpent had glided over her lap; but she
did not throw it down, as she seemed moved to do.

"What do you see, Lenore?"

"It is too dark to see. A lamp shines across the walk, and I see a man
dropping the letter in the box. He is muffled up so that I can not tell
about his face; he steals up and goes off again very quickly."

"Follow him, Lenore."

"It is too dark, father. I am lost in the streets. Oh! now I have
overtaken him again; he walks so fast--he is short and thick--he looks
as if he were afraid of something. He will not pass the police-officer,
but crosses the street, and keeps in the shadow. Now we are at the
ferry--it is the Fulton Ferry--I know it well. Oh, dear! the water
rises and the wind blows--it is getting morning, but it rains so--and
the water is so wild I can not make my way on to the boat."

"Don't be discouraged, my child. I would give much to have you follow
him across the river, and tell me at what house he stops."

"The wind blows so," continued Lenore, pitifully; "all is dark and
uncertain. I have missed him--I do not know him from others."

"Try again, my darling. Look well at the letter."

"All is dark and uncertain," she repeated, in a vague tone.

"It is useless," exclaimed Mr. Burton, in a burst of disappointment;
"it has been too long since the letter was penned. The personality of
the writer has departed from it. If she had only been able to pursue
him to his haunts, our investigations in that vicinity might have
richly repaid us."

Finding it impossible to get any more information from the child, she
was relieved from her trance, stimulated with a glass of cordial, and
sent up to take a siesta before the hour for dinner. Scarcely had she
left the library before I sprung to my feet, exclaiming,

"Good heavens, how easy!--and here I have never thought of it."

"What is easy?"

"To ascertain who is the John Owen who calls for these letters at
Peekskill. Of course--why, what a fool I am!"

"I am afraid you will not find it so easy. People carrying on a
correspondence for such a purpose, do not come forward openly for their
letters--and this was a good while ago--and it is quite possible this
may be the only missive ever sent, through the mail, to that
address--and this, evidently, was never called for."

"At least, it is worth inquiring into," I added, less triumphantly.

"Of course it is. We wish, also, to ascertain how the letter came
dragging along to Washington two years, nearly, behind its time. I
propose that we start for Peekskill by the early morning train."

To wait, even until morning, seemed too tardy for my mood. But as it
was now four o'clock, and I had no right to ask the detective to resign
his dinner and evening comfort, I made no objection to the time. And,
in truth, the time sped more swiftly than I expected; we had still so
much to discuss. Dinner came--and the hour of retiring followed--before
we had matured our course of action. We were to go to Peekskill and
learn all possible about John Owen. If we gained no important
information there, we were to go on, in the evening, to Blankville, to
enter, under cover of the darkness, the lawn of the Argyll house, and
secure the broken knife or dagger, which, we believed, we should find
secreted in a certain oak upon the premises. This we wished to do
without the knowledge of the family, for two reasons: the smaller one
of which was, that I did not wish my visit to be made known, and the
larger, that we both were certain we could prosecute our plans more
successfully if the friends knew nothing of our efforts. Then, if we
still failed to discover the accomplice, we were to sail for California.

The reader may see that we were set upon the accomplishment of our
purposes by the willingness with which we gave time, money and mind to
our object. I had first proposed the visit to California, avowing my
intention to make it, when Mr. Burton had surprised me by offering to
be my companion. This was a sacrifice which I could not have asked or
expected of him; but he would not allow me to view it in that light,
saying, with pleasant peremptoriness, that Lenore needed a sea-voyage;
and he had been thinking of taking one on her account. He would make it
a pleasure-tour, as well as one of business, "and then," with a laugh
which would have been satirical if it had not been so frank--"he was
afraid my mission would not be so successful, if undertaken alone." And
I had answered him that I realized my own inefficiency, as compared
with his talent and experience--all I had to encourage me was the
devotion with which I undertook my work--to _that_, alone, I trusted to
insure me some reward. But if he really were willing to go with me, I
should feel almost elated.

We were at Peekskill the next day in good season. We found the same
postmaster in service who had been in the office at the time the
dead-letter arrived there. When Mr. Burton--I lounging carelessly in
the background--showed the envelope and inquired how it had occurred
that it had been forwarded to the Department at this late hour, the
official showed a little embarrassment, as inferring that he was about
to be taken to task for a neglect of duty by some indignant individual.

"I will tell you how it happened, Mr. Owen," said he, "if you're the
person addressed on that envelope. You never came for the letter, and
before the expiration of the time required by law for forwarding it to
Washington, it got slipped into a crack, and was never discovered till
about a fortnight ago. You see, our place here wasn't just the thing
for an office; it never did suit, and this month, I finally had new
boxes and shelves put in, and the room fixed up. In tearing down the
old fixings, several letters were discovered which had slipped into a
crack between the shelf and wall. This was one of them. I thought,
'better late than never,' though at first I had a mind to throw them
into the stove. I hope, sir, the loss of the letter hasn't put you to
any very great inconvenience?"

"It was of some importance," answered my companion, in a commonplace
tone, "and I'm not sorry, even yet, to have recovered it, as it settles
a matter I had been in doubt about. My man must have been very
negligent; I certainly sent him for the letter. Don't you remember a
young man, a coachman, coming for my letters?"

"He never came but twice, to my knowledge," answered the postmaster,
giving a glance of curiosity at the speaker. "I wondered who it was
they were for--not being any one that I knew--and I know mostly
everybody in the district. Traveling through our town, perhaps?"

"Yes, I was a stranger, who merely passed two or three times through
your village, stopping on business. My usual address is New York. That
coachman was hired at the next village to drive me about the country a
few days. I have nearly forgotten him. I would like to call him to an
account for some of his conduct which was not satisfactory. Can you
describe his personal appearance?--though, I suppose, you could not
have taken any particular notice of him."

"It was evening on both occasions of his calling. He was muffled up
about the lower part of the face, and his cap pulled down. I couldn't
tell you a thing about him, indeed, except that he had black eyes. If
I'm not mistaken, he had black or dark eyes. I think I remember of
their looking at me very sharp through the window here. But it was
evening, and I shouldn't mind the circumstance at all if I had not
wondered, at the time, who John Owen was. It's likely the fellow was a
rogue--he looked kind of slippery."

I, listening apart to the conversation, longed to ask if this muffled
driver was small and slender, for I was thinking of a woman. While I
was studying how to propose the question to Mr. Burton, he continued,

"A smallish fellow, if I remember rightly? I really wish I had his
name."

"Can't say any thing more about it," was the reply of the postmaster.
"I couldn't answer if he were large or small, white or black, except as
to his eyes, which were about all I saw of him. If you want to find out
about him, why don't you go to the livery-keeper who furnished your
team to you? Of course, his employer could tell you all you want to
know."

"That _would_ be the most sensible course," answered the detective,
with a laugh. "But, my good friend, it is considerably out of my way to
go to S--; and I must leave on the train up, in half an hour. After
all, the matter is not of so much importance. I had a curiosity to
learn what had kept the letter so long on its travels. Good-day, sir."

It never entered the official's thoughts to inquire how we came in
possession of a document which had not been returned from the
Dead-Letter Department--at least, not while we remained with
him--though he may afterward have puzzled his brains over the affair.

As we did not wish to arrive in Blankville until after dark, we had to
leave the cars once again, and to get off at a little intermediate
station, with half a dozen houses clustered about it; and here we
whiled away, as we best could, several tedious hours, whose dreariness
was only partially soothed by the influences of such a supper as could
be obtained in the small public-house attached to the depot.

As the sun drew toward setting and the night approached, a fierce
restlessness thrilled along my nerves. That peace--if the dullness and
sluggishness of my chilled feelings could be called peace--into which I
had forced myself for many months, was broken up. The mere fact of my
nearness to the spot which had once been so dear to me, overpowered me
with strong attractions; the force of habit and of memory was at work;
and when, at twilight, the train stopped and took us up, my mind ran on
before the iron-horse, and was at the end of the little journey before
the commencement. Upon arriving at Blankville, we descended the rear
car and walked up toward the village, without approaching the depot, as
I was afraid the lamps might betray me to some former acquaintance. It
was a mild evening, early in September, and I had no excuse for
muffling up; so I pulled my hat down over my eyes, quite sure that I
should escape recognition, in the dim moonlight, which, overblown by
light, thin clouds, transfused the western sky. We walked about, in
quiet parts of the village, until ten o'clock; and then, the moon
having set, we approached the Argyll mansion, along the well-remembered
street. I know not if my companion guessed my disturbance, as I passed
the office and came up in front of the lawn, black beneath the
starlight, with the shadows of its fine old trees. The past was not
half so dead as I had got in the habit of believing it--life is sweet
and strong in the heart of youth, which will endure many blows before
it will cease to beat with the tremulous thrill of hope and passion.

A bright light was shining from the windows of the parlor and several
of the other rooms, but the hall-door was closed, and every thing was
so quiet about the premises that I did not believe I ran any risk in
entering the gate and seeking out the monarch oak--a mighty tree, the
pride of the lawn, which stood quite to one side from the central
avenue which led up to the front portico, and only some thirty feet
from the left corner of the mansion, which was, at times, almost
touched by the reach of its outermost branches. We advanced together
through the darkness, it being the understanding that, should any
accident betray our visit, before its purpose was accomplished, I was
to retreat, while Mr. Burton would boldly approach and make the excuse
of a call upon Mr. Argyll. My familiarity with the premises and my
superiority in the art of climbing, made the duty of ascending the tree
devolve upon me. While my companion stood on guard beneath, I drew
myself up, carefully making my way through the night, out along to the
"second branch to the left," feeling for the hollow which I knew
existed--for, in my more boyish days, I had left no possible point of
the grand old tree unvisited. Not five minutes had elapsed since I
began my search, before my fingers, pressing into the ragged cavity of
the slowly-decaying limb, touched a cold object which I knew to be
steel. My hand recoiled with an instinctive shudder, but returned
immediately to its duty, cautiously drawing forth a slender instrument
of which I could not make out the precise character. Upon raising my
head, after securing the object of our anxiety, my eyes fell upon a
scene which held them fascinated for so long a time that the patience
of my friend at the foot of the tree must have been sorely tried.

The windows on the side of the parlor looking on the left were both
open, the chandeliers lighted, and from my airy eyrie in the tree, I
commanded a full view of the interior. For a time I saw but one person.
Sitting by a center-table, directly under the flood of light from the
chandelier, was one of the sisters, reading a book. At first--yes, for
a full minute--I thought it was Eleanor!--Eleanor as she was, when the
homage of my soul first went out toward her, like the exhalation of a
flower to the sun--as young, as blooming and radiant as she was before
the destroyer came--the dew upon the lip, the light on the brow, the
glory of health, youth and joy upon every feature and in every flow of
her garments, from the luster of her hair to the glimmer of her silken
slipper.

"Can it be?" I murmured. "Is there such power of resuscitation in human
vitality as this?"

While I asked myself the question, I was undecided. I saw (and wondered
how I could have been mistaken for an instant), that this beautiful
woman was Mary, grown so like her older sister, during the months of my
absence, as to be almost the counterpart of what Eleanor had been. When
I left her she was a girl, half-child, half-woman, bright with the
promise of rare sweetness; and now, in this brief summer-time of
fifteen months--so rapid had the magic culmination been--she had
expanded into the perfection of all that is loveliest in her sex. A
thoughtfulness, caused, probably, by the misfortune which had befallen
the house--a shadow from the cloud which wrapped her sister--toned down
the frolicsome gayety which had once characterized her, and added the
grace of sentiment to her demeanor. I could not gaze upon the fair,
meditative brow without perceiving that Mary had gained in depth of
feeling as well as in womanly beauty. She wore a dress of some lustrous
fabric, which gleamed slumberously in the yellow light, like water
shining about a lily; as she bent above her book, her hair clustered
about her throat, softening its exquisite outlines; so near, so vivid,
was the unconscious _tableau-vivant_, seen through the open frame of
the window, that I imagined I heard her breathe, and inhaled the
fragrance lingering in her curls and handkerchief.

While I gazed, another figure glided within range of my vision.
Eleanor, as I beheld her in my dreams, colorless, robed in black, young
still, beautiful still, but crowned, like a queen, with the majesty of
her desolation, which kept her apart from sympathy, though not from
adoration. Gliding behind her sister's chair, she bent a moment to see
what volume had such attractions, kissed the fair face turned instantly
with a smile to hers, and passed away, going out into the hall. I had
heard her low "good-night."

Then, almost before she had vanished, came the third figure into the
picture. James, approaching as if from some sofa where he had been
lounging, took the book from Mary's hand, which he held a little,
saying something which brought blushes to her cheeks. Presently she
withdrew her hand; but he caught it again, and kissed it, and I heard
him say,

"Oh! Mary, you are cruel with me--you know it."

Not until I heard him speak, did it rush upon me that I had no business
to be there, spying and eavesdropping. I had looked at first,
unconscious of the circumstances, like a wandering spirit lingering by
the walls of Eden, gazing upon the beauty which is not within its
sphere. No sooner did I realize my position than I began to descend
from my eyrie; but James had drawn his cousin from her chair, and the
pair approached the window, and stood there, their eyes fixed,
apparently, upon that very point in the giant oak where I crouched,
suddenly fear-blasted, with the square of light from the window
illuminating the limb where I lay concealed. I had crawled from my
first resting-place, and was about jumping to the ground, when their
presence transfixed me, in the most dangerous possible predicament. I
dared not move for fear of being discovered. I was paralyzed by a
lightning consciousness that should I then and there be betrayed, I
would be the victim of a singular combination of _circumstantial
evidence_. Found lingering at night, like a thief, upon the premises of
those I had injured; stealthily seeking to remove the evidence of my
guilt--the weapon with which the murder was committed, hidden by me, at
the time, in this tree, and now sought for in order to remove it from
possible discovery--why, I tell you, reader, had James Argyll sprung
upon me there, seized the knife, accused me, nothing would have saved
me from condemnation. The probabilities are, that the case would have
been so very conclusive, and the guilt so horribly aggravated, that the
populace would have taken the matter in their own hands, and torn me to
pieces, to show their love of justice. Even the testimony of Mr. Burton
would not have availed to turn the tide in my favor; he would have been
accused of seeking to hide my sin, and his reputation would not have
saved him from the ban of public opinion. A cold sweat broke over me as
I thought of it. Not the fear of death, nor of the horror of the
world--but dread of the judgment of the two sisters took possession of
me. If this statement of my critical position, when the trembling of a
bough might convict an innocent man, should make my reader more
thoughtful in the matter of circumstantial evidence, I shall be repaid
for the pangs which I then endured.

The young couple stepped out upon the sward. I did not trouble myself
about what had become of Mr. Burton, for I knew that he was in the
shadow, and could retreat with safety; he, doubtless, felt more anxiety
about me.

"Draw your scarf up over your head, Mary," said James, in that soft,
pleasant voice of his, which made me burn with dislike as I heard
it--"the night is so warm, it will not harm you to be out a few
moments. Do not deny me a little interval of happiness to-night."

As if drawn forward more by his subtle will than by her own wish, she
took his arm, and they walked back and forth, twice or thrice, in the
light of the window, and paused directly under the limb of the tree,
which seemed to shake with the throbbing of my heart. A beam of light
fell athwart the face of James, so that I could see its expression, as
he talked to the young creature on his arm--a handsome face, dark,
glowing with passion and determination, but sinister. I prayed, in my
heart, for Mary to have eyes to read it as I read it.

"Mary, you promised me an answer this week. Give it to me to-night. You
have said that you would be my wife--now, tell me how soon I may claim
you. I do not believe in long engagements; I want to make you mine
before any disaster comes between us."

"Did I promise you, James? I really did not know that you considered
what I said in the light of a promise. Indeed, I am so young, and we
have always been such friends--cousins, you know--that I hardly
understand my own feelings. I do wish you would not overpersuade me; we
might both be sorry. I never believed in the marriage of cousins; so I
do not think you ought to feel hurt, cousin James."

He interrupted the tremulous voice with one a little sharper than his
first persuasive tone:

"I am surprised that you do not feel that I regard you as already
betrothed to me. I did not think you were a coquette, Mary. And, as for
cousinship, I have already told you what I think of it. I know the
secret of your reluctance--shall I betray it to you?"

She was silent.

"Your heart is still set on that scoundrel. One might suppose that
dread and loathing would be the only sentiment you could entertain
toward a traitor and--I will not speak the word, Mary. You took up
swords in his defense, and persisted in accusing us of wronging him,
against the judgment of your own father and friends. I suspected, then,
by the warmth of your avowed friendship for him, that he had, among his
other _honorable_ deeds, gained my little cousin's heart, for the
pleasure of flattering his self-love. And I shall suspect, if you
persist in putting me off, when you know that your father desires our
union, and that my whole existence is wrapped up in you, that he still
holds it, despite of what has passed."

"He never 'gained' my heart by unfair means," said the girl, speaking
proudly. "I _gave_ him what he had of it--and he never knew how large a
part that was. I wish he _had_ known, poor Richard! for I still believe
that you are all wronging him cruelly. I am _his friend_, James, and it
hurts me to hear you speak so of him. But that would not prevent my
being your friend, too, cousin--"

[Illustration:

Page 223.

IN THE OAK.]

"You must not say 'cousin,' again, Mary. I'm worn out, now, and half
mad with my feelings--and it makes me desperate. One thing is certain:
I can not stay any longer where you are, if you continue so undecided.
I want a final answer to-night. If it is unpropitious, I shall go away
to-morrow, and seek for such poor fortune as may be mine, in some other
part of the world."

"But what will father do without you, James?"

There was distress and a half-yielding cadence in Mary's voice.

"That is for you to think of."

"His health is failing so rapidly of late; and he leans so much upon
you--trusts every thing to you. I am afraid it would kill him to have
all his hopes and plans again frustrated. He has never recovered from
the shock of Henry's death, and Richard's--going away."

"If you think so, Mary, why do you any longer hesitate? You acknowledge
that you love me as a cousin--let me teach you to love me as a lover.
My sweetest, it will make us all so happy."

But why should I try to repeat here the arguments which I heard?--the
main burden of which was the welfare and wishes of her father and
sister--mingled with bursts of tender entreaty--and, what was more
powerful than all, the exercise of that soft yet terrible will which
had worked its way, thus far, against all obstacles. Suffice it, that
when the cousins at last--after what seemed to me an age, though it
could not have been twenty minutes--returned through the window, I had
heard the promise of Mary to become the wife of James before the
beginning of another year.

Never was a man more glad to release himself from an unpleasant
predicament than I was to descend from my perch when the two figures
had passed within the house. My fear of discovery had become absorbed
in my keen shame and regret at being compelled to play the eavesdropper
to a conversation like that which I had overheard. Moving a few paces
in the shadow of the trees, I whispered--"Burton."

"Got yourself into a pretty scrape," was instantly answered, in a low
tone, as my friend took my arm and we moved forward to the gate. "I
didn't know but we should have a tragico-comedy upon the spot,
impromptu and highly interesting."

"I almost wonder that you are not too greatly out of patience with
waiting to jest about the matter."

"I've told you my motto--'learn to _wait_,' Richard. The gods will not
be hurried; but have you the knife?"

"Ay!" was my grim answer; I felt grim, as I grasped the treacherous,
murderous thing which had wrought such deadly mischief. The sound of
shutters drawn together startled us into a quicker pace; we looked back
and saw the lower part of the house dark--hurried forward, and without
any molestation, or our presence in Blankville being known to a single
acquaintance, took the night-train back to New York, which we reached
about two, A. M. and were at Mr. Burton's house, ringing up the
surprised servants, shortly after.

It was not until we were in the library, with the doors closed, and the
full blaze of a gas-burner turned on, that I took from my pocket the
weapon, and handed it to my companion.

Both of us bent curiously forward to examine it.

"This," said the detective, in a surprised and somewhat agitated tone,
"is a surgical instrument. You see, it is quite unlike a common knife.
It corroborates one of my conclusions. I told you the blow was dealt by
a practiced hand--it has been dealt by one skilled in anatomy. There's
another link in my chain. I hope I shall have patience until I shall
have forged it together about the guilty."

"There is no longer any doubt about the dead-letter referring to the
murder. You see the instrument is broken," I remarked.

"No doubt, indeed," and Mr. Burton went to a drawer of a secretary
standing in the room, and took out the little piece of steel which had
been found in Henry Moreland's body.

"You see it is the very fragment. I obtained this important bit of
evidence, and laid it away, after others had given up all efforts to
make it available. How fortunate that I preserved it! So, the wedding
is to take place within three months, is it? Richard, we must not rest
now. A great deal can be done in three months, and I would give all the
gold I have in bank to clear this matter up before that marriage takes
place. Should _that_ once be consummated before we are satisfied with
our investigations, I shall drop them for ever. A doctor--a doctor"--he
continued, musingly--"I knew the fellow had half-studied some
profession--he was a surgeon--yes! By George!" he exclaimed, presently,
leaping from his chair as if he had been shot, and walking rapidly
across the room and back.

I knew he was very much excited, for it was the first time I had heard
him use any expression like the above. I waited for him to tell me what
had flashed into his mind so suddenly.

"The fellow who married Leesy's cousin, and ran away from her, was a
doctor--Miss Sullivan has told me that. Richard, I begin to see
light!--day is breaking!"

I hardly knew whether his speech was figurative or literal, as day was
really breaking upon us two men, plotting there in the night, as if we
were the criminals instead of their relentless pursuers.

"Three months! There will be time, Richard!" and Mr. Burton actually
flung his arms about me, in a burst of exultation.



                              CHAPTER III.

                            THE CONFESSION.


In the afternoon we paid Miss Sullivan a visit. It was the first time I
had met her since that strange night of watching at Moreland villa; and
I confess that I could not meet her without an inward shudder of
abhorrence. Unbounded as was my respect and confidence for Mr. Burton,
I did think that he had erred in his conclusions as to the character of
this woman; or else that he concealed from me his real opinions, for
some purpose to be explained at the proper time. If he still had
suspicions, it was evident that he had kept them from their object as
skillfully as from me, for I saw, by her manner of receiving him, that
she regarded him as a friend.

Notwithstanding I had been informed of her rapidly-failing health, I
was shocked at the change in Miss Sullivan since I had seen her. It was
with an effort that she rose from her easy-chair at our approach; the
fullness had all wasted from her naturally queenly figure; her cheeks
were hollow, and aflame with the fire of fever; while those black eyes,
which had ever seemed to smolder above unfathomable depths of volcanic
passion, now almost blazed with light. Something like a smile flitted
across her face when she saw my companion, but smiles were too strange
there to feel at home, and it vanished as soon as seen. I do not think
she liked me any better than I did her; each recoiled from the other
instinctively; she would not have spoken to me had I come alone; but
out of concession to the presence of her friend, she bowed to me and
asked me to be seated. A little child in the room ran to Mr. Burton, as
if expecting the package of bon-bons which he took from his pocket;
but, as he became engaged in conversation with Leesy, I coaxed her over
to me, where she was soon sitting on my knee. She was a pretty little
girl, about three years old, in whose chubby little features I could no
longer trace any resemblance to her "aunt." She prattled after the
fashion of children, and in listening to her, I lost a remark or two of
Mr. Barton's; but soon had my attention aroused by hearing Miss
Sullivan exclaim,

"Going away! For how long?"

"Three months, at least."

Her hands sunk in her lap, and she became pale and agitated.

"It is presumptuous in me to dare to be sorry; I am nothing to you; but
you are much to me. I don't know how we shall get along without you."

"Don't be uneasy about that, my child. I shall make arrangements with
this same person who boards you now to keep you until my return, and,
if you should fall sick, to take good care of you."

"You are far too good," she responded, tremulously. "You will have the
blessing of the friendless. I only wish it had the power to bring you
good luck on your journey."

"Perhaps it will," he said, with a smile. "I have a great deal of faith
in such blessings. But, Leesy, I think you can assist my journey in
even a more tangible way than that."

She looked at him inquiringly.

"I want you to tell me all and every thing you know about the father of
little Nora."

"Why, sir?" she quickly asked. "I hope you have not heard from him,"
looking over toward the child, as if afraid it might be snatched from
her.

"Your health is very far gone, Leesy; I suppose you hardly hope ever to
recover it. Would you not be glad to see Nora under her father's
protection before you were taken away?"

She stretched out her arms for the child, who slid off my knee, ran and
climbed into her lap, where she held the curly head close to her bosom
for a moment; her attitude was as if she sheltered the little one from
threatened danger.

"I know, much more surely than any one else, that my days are numbered.
I believe I shall never see your face again, Mr. Burton; and that was
what grieved me when you spoke of going away--it was not that I thought
of my comfort so much. The winter snow will hide me before you come
back from your journey; and my darling will be left friendless. I know
it--it is my only care. But I would rather, far rather, leave her to
the cold charity of an orphan asylum--yes, I would rather turn her upon
the street, with her innocent face only for a protector--than that her
father should have aught to do with Nora."

"Why?"

"Because he is a bad man."

"I understand that he is in California; and as I am going to San
Francisco, and perhaps shall visit the mining regions before my return,
I thought you might wish to send him a message, telling him the child's
condition. He may have laid up money by this time, and be able to send
you a sum sufficient to provide for little Nora until she is old enough
to take care of herself."

She only shook her head, drawing the child closer, with a shudder.

"I have forgotten his name," said Mr. Burton.

"I will not tell you," answered Miss Sullivan, with a return of the old
fierceness, like that of a hunted panther. "Why can I never, never,
never be let alone?"

"Do you think I would do any thing for your injury or disadvantage?"
asked the detective in that gentle yet penetrating voice which had such
power to move people to his will.

"I do not know," she cried; "you have seemed to be my friend. But how
do I know that it is not all simply to compass my destruction at last?
You have brought into my house that person," looking at me, "who has
persecuted me. You promised me that I should be free from him. And now
you want to set a bloodhound on my track--as if I must be driven into
my grave, and not allowed to go in peace."

"I assure you, Leesy, I had no idea that you regarded Nora's father
with so much dislike. I have no object in the world in troubling you
with him. I promise you that no word of mine shall give him the clue to
your present circumstances, nor to the fact that he has a child living,
if he is ignorant of it. You shall be protected--you shall have peace
and comfort. What I would like is, that you shall give me a history of
his life, his habits, character, where he lived, what was his business,
etc.; and I will give you my reasons for wishing the information. A
circumstance has come to light which connects him with an affair which
I am investigating--that is, if he is the person I think he is--a sort
of a doctor, I believe?"

Miss Sullivan did not answer the question so skillfully put; she still
watched us with shining, half-sullen eyes, as if ready to put forth a
claw from the velvet, if we approached too near.

"Come, Leesy, you must tell me what I want to hear." Mr. Burton's air
was now that of a master. "Time is precious. I can not wait upon a
woman's whim. I have promised you--and repeat it, upon my honor--that
no annoyance or injury shall come to _you_ through what you may tell
me. If you prefer to answer me quietly to being compelled to answer
before a court, all is right. I _must_ know what I desire about this
man."

"_Man_, Mr. Burton! Call him creature."

"Very well, creature, Leesy. You know him better than I do, and if you
say he is a creature, I suppose I may take it for granted. His name
is--"

"Or was, George Thorley."

When the name was spoken, I gave a start which attracted the attention
of both my companions.

"You probably know something about him, Mr. Redfield," remarked the
girl.

"George Thorley, of Blankville, who used to have an apothecary shop in
the lower part of the village, and who left the place some three years
ago, to escape the talk occasioned by a suspicious case of malpractice,
in which he was reported to be concerned?"

"The same person, sir. Did you know him?"

"I can not say that I was acquainted with him. I do not remember that I
ever spoke a word with him. But I knew him, by sight, very well. He had
a face which made people look twice at him. I think I bought some
trifles in his shop once. And the gossip there was about him at the
time he ran away, fixed his name in my memory. I was almost a stranger
then in Blankville--had lived there only about a year."

"How did he come to have any connection with your family, Leesy?"

Miss Sullivan had grown pale during the agitation of our talk, but she
flushed again at the question, hesitated, and finally, looking the
detective full in the eyes, answered:

"Since you have promised, upon your honor, not to disturb me any
further about this matter, and since I am under obligations to you,
sir, which I can not forget, I will tell you the rest of the story, a
part of which I told you that morning at Moreland villa. I confessed to
you, there, the secret of my own heart, as I never confessed it to any
but God, and I told you something of my cousin's history to satisfy you
about the child. I will now tell you all I know of George Thorley,
which is more than I wish I knew. The first time I ever saw him was
over four years ago, a short time after he set up his little shop,
which, you recollect, was not far from my aunt's in Blankville. My aunt
sent me, one evening, for something to relieve the toothache, and I
went into the nearest place, which was the new one. There was no one in
but the owner. I was surprised by the great politeness with which he
treated me, and the interest he seemed to take in the case of my aunt.
He was a long time putting up the medicine, pasting the label on, and
making change, so that I thought my aunt would surely be out of temper
before I could bring her the drops. He asked our name, and where we
lived, which was all, I thought, but a bit of his blarney, to get the
good will of his customers." (Miss Sullivan usually spoke with great
propriety, but occasionally a touch of her mother's country, in accent
or expression, betrayed her Irish origin.) "That was the beginning of
our acquaintance, but not the end of it. It was but a few days before
he made an excuse to call at our house. I was a young girl, then, gay
and healthy; and the plain truth of it is that George Thorley fell in
love with me. My aunt was very much flattered, telling me I would be a
fool not to encourage him--that he was a doctor and a gentleman--and
would keep his wife like a lady--that there would be no more going out
to sew and slave for others, if I were once married to him; it was only
what she expected of me, that I would at least be a doctor's wife,
after the schooling she had given me, and with the good looks I had. It
is no vanity in me, now, to say of this clay, so soon to be mingled
with the dust of the earth, that it was beautiful--too much so, alas,
for my own peace of mind--for it made me despise the humble and honest
suitors who might have secured me a lowly, happy life. Yet it was not
that, either, and I'll not demean myself to say so--it was not because
I was handsome that I held myself aloof from those in my own station;
it was because I felt that I had thoughts and tastes they could not
understand--that my life was above theirs in hope, in aspiration. I was
ambitious, but only to develop the best that was in me. If I could only
be a needle-woman all my days, then I would be so skillful and so
fanciful with my work, as almost to paint pictures with my needle and
thread. But this isn't telling you about George Thorley. From the first
I took a dislike to him. I'm not good at reading character, but I
understood his pretty thoroughly, and I was afraid of him. I was very
cold to him, for I saw that he was of a quick temper, and I did not
mean he should say that I had ever encouraged him. I told my aunt I did
not think he was a gentleman--I had seen plenty of real gentlemen in
the houses where I sewed, and they were not like him. I told her, too,
that he had a violent temper, and a jealous disposition, and could not
make any woman happy. But she would not think of him in that light; her
heart was set on the apothecary's shop, which, she said, would grow
into a fine drug-store with the doctor's name in gilt letters on the
door of his office.

"George soon offered himself, and was terribly angry when I refused
him. I believe he loved me, in his selfish way, better than he loved
any other human creature. He would not give me up, nor allow me any
peace from his persecutions. He dogged my steps whenever I went out,
and if I spoke to any other man, it put him in a rage. I got to feeling
that I was watched all the time; for sometimes he would laugh in his
hateful way, and tell me of things he had seen when I thought him miles
away.

"Twice, in particular, I remember of his being in a savage passion, and
threatening me. It was after"--here the speaker's voice, despite of her
efforts to keep it steady, trembled and sunk--"he had seen me riding
out in the carriage with Mrs. Moreland. He said those people were
making a fool of me--that I was so set up, by their attentions, as to
despise him. I told him that if I despised him, it was not for any such
reason. It was because he behaved so ungentlemanly toward me, spying
around me, when he had no business whatever with my affairs. That made
him madder than ever, and he muttered words which I did not like. I
told him I was not afraid of any mortal thing, and I didn't think he
would frighten me into marrying him. He said he would scare me yet, so
that I would never get over it. I think he liked the spirit I showed;
it seemed the more I tried to make him hate me, the more determined he
was to pursue me. I don't know how it was that I understood him so
well, for in those days there had been nothing whispered against his
character. Indeed, people didn't know much about him; and he got
himself into the good graces of some of the leading citizens of
Blankville. He had told me something of his history; that is, that his
family were English; that he, like myself, was an orphan; that, by dint
of good luck, he had got a place in a doctor's office in one of the
towns in this State--one of those humble situations where he was
expected to take care of the physician's horse, drive the carriage, put
up medicines, attend upon orders, and any thing and every thing. He was
smart and quick; he had many hours of leisure when waiting behind the
little counter, and these hours he spent in studying the doctor's
books, which he managed to get hold of one at a time. By these means,
and by observing keenly the physician's methods, his advice to patients
who called at the office, and by reading and putting up prescriptions
constantly, he picked up a really surprising smattering of science.
Making up his mind to be a doctor, and to keep a drug-store (a
profitable business, he knew) he had the energy to carry out his plans.
How he finally obtained the capital to set up the little business in
Blankville, I never understood, but I knew that he attended lectures on
surgery, one winter, in New York, and was in a hospital there a short
time. All this was fair enough, and proved him ambitious and energetic;
but I did not like or trust him. There was something dark and hidden in
the workings of his mind, from which I shrunk. I knew him, too, to be
cruel. I could see it in his manner of treating children and animals;
there was nothing he liked so well as to practice his half-learned art
of surgery upon some unfortunate sufferer. The more he insisted on my
liking him, the more I grew to dread him.

"Affairs were at this crisis when my cousin came from New York to pay
my aunt a visit. Coming to our rooms almost every evening, of course he
made her acquaintance immediately. For the purpose of making me
jealous, he began to pay the most devoted attention to her. Nora was a
pretty girl, with blue eyes and fair hair; an innocent-minded thing,
not very sharp, apprenticed to a milliner in the city; she believed all
that _Doctor_ Thorley told her, and fell in love with him, of course.
When she went away, after her little holiday, George found that,
instead of provoking me to jealousy, he had only roused my temper at
the way he had fooled Nora. I scolded him well for it, and ended by
telling him that I never would speak to him again.

"Well, it was just after that the scandal arose about his causing the
death of a person by malpractice. He found it was prudent to run away;
so he sold his stock for what he could get, and hid himself in New
York. I did not know, at first, where he was; but felt so relieved to
be rid of him. I had made up my own mind to go to New York, and get
employment in a fancy-store. You know, Mr. Burton, for I once laid my
heart before you, what wild, mad, but sinless infatuation it was which
drew me there. I am not ashamed of it. God is love. When I stand in his
presence, I shall glory in that power of love, which in this bleak
world has only fretted and wasted my life. In heaven our whole lives
will be one adoration." She clasped her thin hands together, and turned
her dark eyes upward with an expression rapt to sublimity. I gazed upon
her with renewed surprise and almost reverence. Never do I expect to
meet another woman, the whole conformation of whose mind and heart so
fitted her for blind, absolute devotion as Leesy Sullivan's.

"When I went to the city to see about getting a place, I met my cousin,
who told me that she was married to George Thorley, and had been for
some weeks; that they were boarding in a nice, quiet place, and that
George staid at home a great deal--indeed, he hardly went out at all.

"It was evident that she had not heard of his reasons for leaving
Blankville, and that she did not guess why he kept himself so quiet. Of
course I hadn't the heart to tell her; but I made up my mind that I'd
be better to stay where I was, for the present--so I went back to my
aunt, without trying to get a situation in New York.

"It was about six months after this I got word from Nora, begging me to
come and see her. I loved my cousin, and I'd felt grieved that she was
married to Dr. Thorley. I mistrusted something was wrong; so I went to
the city, and found her out in the miserable tenement where she was now
stopping, starving herself in a room with hardly a bit of furniture.
She burst out a-crying when she saw me; and when I stopped her sobbing,
she told me she had not seen George for more than three months; that
either he had met with an accident, or he'd run away from her, leaving
her without a cent of money, and she in such health that she could
hardly earn enough to buy a bit of bread and pay the rent of this room.

"'Do you really think he has left you?' I asked her.

"'Sure, how can I tell?' she answered, looking at me so pitifully with
her innocent blue eyes. 'He was a fine gentleman, and it's afraid I am
that he's grown tired of his poor Irish Nora.'

"'I warned you, cousin,' I said; 'I knew George Thorley for a villain;
but you were taken with his fine words, and wouldn't heed. I'm sorry,
sorry, sorry for you--but that won't undo what's done. Are you sure you
are his wife, Nora dear?'

"'As sure as I am of heaven,' she cried, angry with me. 'But it's
married we were by a Protestant clergyman, to please George--and I've
got my certificate safe--ah, yes, indeed.'

"I could never ascertain whether the ceremony had been performed by a
legalized minister; I always suspected my poor cousin had been
deceived, and it was because my aunt thought so, too, and was sore on
the subject, that she got so angry with you two gentlemen when you went
to inquire. But, whether my suspicions were or were not correct, Nora
was George's wife as certainly, in the sight of the angels, as woman
was ever the wife of man. Poor child! I no longer hesitated about
coming to New York. She needed my protection, and my help, too. I paid
her board till the day of her death, which was but a few days after her
poor little baby was born; I saw her decently buried, and then I put
out the infant to nurse, and I worked to keep that. It was a comfort to
me, sir. My own heart was sad, and I took to the little creature almost
as if it was my own. I had promised Nora that I would bring it up, and
I have kept my word, thus far. I hated its father for the way he'd
treated Nora, but I loved the child; I took pleasure in making its
pretty garments and in seeing that it was well taken care of. I knew I
should never marry; and I adopted Nora's child as my own.

"Hardly was poor Nora cold in her grave when I was, one evening,
surprised by a visit from George Thorley. Where he had been during his
absence I did not know. He tried to excuse his conduct toward my
cousin, by saying that he had married her in a fit of jealousy, to
which I'd driven him by my coldness; that he'd been so tormented in
mind he couldn't stay with her, for he didn't love her, and he'd gone
out West, and been hard at work, to try and forget the past. But he
couldn't forget it; and when he saw his wife's death in the papers, he
had felt awfully; but now he hoped I'd forgive it all, and marry him.
He said he had a good business started in Cincinnati, and I should want
for nothing, and I _mustn't_ say no to him again. I stood up, I was so
indignant, and faced him till he grew as white as a sheet. I called him
a _murderer_--yes, Nora's murderer--and ordered him never to speak to
me nor come near me again. I knew he was terribly angry; his eyes
burned like fire; but he did not say much that time; as he took up his
hat to go, he asked about his baby--if it was living? I would not
answer him. He had no right to the child, and I did not wish him to see
it, or have any thing to do with it.

"What became of him, after that, for a long time, I don't know. He may
have been in the city all the time, or he may have been in Cincinnati.
At any rate, one day, as I was going from my boarding-house to the
store, I found him walking along by my side. Nora was nigh a year old
then. He commenced talking to me on the street, asking me again to
marry him; and then, to frighten me, he said what a pretty baby Nora
had got to be; and that he should have to find a wife to take care of
his child. She was his, and he was going to have her, right away; and
if I had any interest in her, I could show it by becoming her
step-mother. He said he had plenty of money, and pulled out a handful
of gold and showed me. But this only made me think the worse of him. He
followed me home, and into my room, against my will, and there I turned
upon him and told him that if he ever dared to force himself into my
presence again, I would summon the police, and he should be turned over
to the Blankville authorities for the crime that had driven him out of
the village.

"After he was gone, I sunk into a chair, trembling with weakness,
though I had been so bold in his presence. He looked like an evil
spirit, when he smiled at me as he shut the door. His smile was more
threatening than any scowl would have been. I was frightened for Nora.
Every day I expected to hear that the little creature had been taken
from her nurse; I trembled night and day; but nothing happened to the
child, and from that day to this I have not seen George Thorley. If he
is in California, I am glad of it; for that is a good ways off, and
perhaps he'll never get track of his daughter. I'd far rather she'd die
and be buried with her mother and myself, than to live to ever know
that she had such a father.

"It seems a strange lot has been mine," concluded the sewing-girl, her
dark eyes musing with a far-away look, "to have been followed by such a
man as that, to have set my heart so high above me, and then to have
fallen, by means of that love, into such a dreadful pit of
circumstances--not only to be heart-broken, but so driven and hunted
about the world, with my poor little lambkin here."

The pathetic look and tone with which she said this touched me deeply.
For the first time, I felt fully the exceeding cruelty I had been
guilty of toward her, if she were as innocent as her words averred of
that nameless and awful crime which I had written down against her. At
that moment, I did believe her innocent; I did pity her for her own
melancholy sufferings, which had wasted the fountains of her life; and
I did respect her for that humble and perfect devotion, giving all and
asking nothing, with which she lavished her soul upon him whose memory
called upon his friends for sleepless vigilance in behalf of justice. I
did not wonder that she shrunk from me as from one ready to wound her.
But this was only when in her presence; as soon as I was away I felt
doubtful again.

"Have you any likeness of George Thorley?" asked Mr. Burton.

"No. Poor Nora had his ambrotype, but after her death I threw it into
the fire."

"Will you describe him to us?"

Miss Sullivan gave a description corresponding in all particulars with
that given by Mr. Burton, after reading the dead-letter; he asked her
about the third finger of the right hand, and she said--"Yes, it had
been injured by himself, in some of his surgical experiments."

We now proposed to take leave, the detective again assuring Leesy that
he should rather protect her against Thorley than allow him any chance
to annoy her; he assured her she should be cared for in his absence,
and, what was more, that if little Nora should be left friendless, he
would keep an eye on the child and see that it was suitably brought up.
This last assurance brightened the face of the consumptive with smiles
and tears; but when he gave her his hand at parting, she burst into
sobs.

"It is our last meeting, sir."

"Try to keep as well as you are now until I come back," he said,
cheerfully. "I may want you very much then. And, by the way, Leesy--one
question more. You once told me that you did not recognize the person
you saw upon the lawn, at Mr. Argyll's, that night--have you a
suspicion who it might be?"

"None. I believe the man was a stranger to me. I only saw him by a
flash of lightning at the instant he was descending from the tree; if
he had been an acquaintance I do not know that I should have known him."

"That is all. Good-by, little Nora. Don't forget Burton."

We heard the girl's sobs after the door was shut.

"I'm her only friend," said my companion, as he walked away. "No wonder
she is moved at letting me go. I think, with her, that it is doubtful
if she lasts until we get back. Still, her disease is a lingering
one--I hope I shall see her live to witness the sad triumph of our
industry."

"You speak as if the triumph were already secured."

"If he's on the face of the earth, we'll find Doctor George Thorley. It
is no longer possible that we should be on the wrong track. You know,
Richard, that I have not confided all my secrets to you. There will be
no one more astonished than yourself when I summon my witnesses and sum
up my conclusions. Oh, that the hour were come! But I forget my
motto--'learn to labor and to wait.'"



                              CHAPTER IV.

                        EMBARKED FOR CALIFORNIA.


We were on our way to California by the next steamer. By the advice of
Mr. Burton I purchased my ticket under an assumed name, for he did not
wish to excite the curiosity of the Argylls, who might happen to see
the passage-list, and who would be sure to suspect something from the
contiguity of our names. To his friends, who chanced to know of his
sudden intentions, Mr. Burton represented that the health of his
daughter demanded a change of climate, and business matters had led him
to prefer California.

It was fortunate, since the expenses of such a trip had become so
unexpected a necessity, that I had lived in the plain, retiring manner
which I had done in Washington. I had wasted no money on white kids,
bouquets, nor champagne-suppers; I had paid my board and washing-bills,
and a very moderate bill to my tailor; the rest of my salary had been
placed in a New York bank to my account. My scorched soul and withered
tastes had demanded no luxurious gratification--not even the purchase
of new books; so that now, when this sudden demand arose, I had a fund
sufficient for the purpose. Mr. Burton bore his own expenses, which,
indeed, I could not help, for I had not the means of urging a different
course upon him.

We had a very definite object, but no definite plans; these were to be
formed according to the circumstances we had to encounter after our
arrival in El Dorado. Of course our man was living under an assumed
name, and had traveled under an assumed one; we might have every
difficulty in getting upon his track. At the time the detective had
discovered the return of the five-hundred dollar bill from San
Francisco, he had, with great perseverance, gained access to, and "made
a note of" the passengers' lists of all the steamers which sailed at or
about the time of the murder, for California. These he had preserved.
Out of the names, he had chosen those which his curious sagacity
suggested were the most likely to prove fictitious, and, if no quicker
method presented itself, he intended to trace out one and all of those
passengers, until he came upon _the man_. In all this I was his
assistant, willing to carry out his directions, but trusting the whole
affair to his more experienced hand.

During the long, monotonous days of our voyage, I seemed to have

                        "Suffered a sea-change"

into something quite different from the wooden sort of being into which
I had gradually been hardening. With the dull routine of my office-life
were broken up also many of the cynical ways of thinking into which I
had fallen. I felt as if the springs of youth were not quite dried up.
The real secret of this improvement was in the eager hope I entertained
that the real criminals were soon to be brought to light, and the
Argylls made to realize the cruel wrong they had done me. Already, in
imagination, I had accepted their regret and forgiven them their
injustice. It seemed as if every breath of the sea-breeze, and every
bound of the sparkling waves, swept away a portion of the bitterness
which had mingled with my nature. The old poetry of existence began to
warm my chilled pulses and to flush the morning and evening sky. For
hours most melancholy, yet most delicious, I would climb to some lonely
post of observation--for I was a perfect sailor among the ropes--and
there, where the blue of heaven bent down to meet the blue of the
ocean, making an azure round in which floated only the ethereal clouds,
all the sweetness of the past would come floating to me in fragments,
like the odor of flowers blown from some beloved and distant shore.

The most vivid picture in my sea-dreams, was that of the parlor of the
old Argyll mansion, as I had seen it last, on the night of my excursion
to the oak-tree. Mary, in the rosy bloom of young womanhood, the ideal
of beauty to the eye of a young and appreciative man, whose standard of
female perfection was high, while his sensitiveness to its charm was
intense--Mary, reading her book beneath the rich light of the
chandelier--I loved to recall the vision, except always that it was
marred by that shadow of James coming too soon between me and the
light. But that flitting vision of Eleanor was as if a saint had looked
down at me out of its shrine. I saw, then, that she was no longer of
this world, as far as her hopes were concerned. My once strong passion
had been slowly changing into reverence; I had grieved with her with a
grief utterly self-abnegating, and when I saw that her despair had
worked itself up to a patient and aspiring resignation, I now felt less
of pity and more of affectionate reverence. I would have sacrificed my
life for her peace of heart; but I no longer thought of Eleanor Argyll
as of a woman to be approached by the loves of this world. Still, as I
mused in my sea-reveries, I believed myself to have exhausted my wealth
of feeling upon this now dead and hallowed love. I had given my first
offering at the feet of a woman, peerless amid her compeers, and since
she had chosen before me, I must needs live solitary, too honored by
having worshiped a woman like Eleanor, to ever be satisfied with a
second choice. For Mary I felt a keen admiration, and a brother's
fondest love. The noble words she had spoken in my favor had thrilled
me with gratitude, and increased the tenderness I had always cherished
toward her. When I thought of her approaching marriage, it was not with
jealousy, but with a certain indefinable pang which came of my dislike
to the motives and character of James. I did not believe that he loved
her. Eleanor he _had_ loved; but Mary was to him only the necessary
means of securing the name, property, respectability, etc., of his
uncle's family. As I recalled that visit to the gaming-table, I felt,
at times, as if I _must_ get back from this journey in time to
interfere, and break up the marriage. I would run the risk of being
again treated as before--of being misunderstood and insulted--I would
run _any_ risk to save her from the unhappiness which must come from
such a partnership! So I thought one hour, and the next I would
persuade myself that I could not and must not make such a fool of
myself; and that, after all, when once "married and settled," James
might make a very good husband and citizen.

Little Lenore was the light and glory of the steamer. People almost
fancied that, with such a good angel aboard, no harm could come to the
ship. And indeed we had a speedy, prosperous voyage.

Yet it was tedious to Mr. Burton. I had never seen him so restless. I
used to tell him that he made the hours a great deal longer by counting
them so often. It was evident that he had some anxiety which he did not
share with me. A feverish dread of delays was upon him.

After we had crossed the isthmus, and were fairly embarked on the
Pacific, his restlessness abated. Yet it was just then that a small
delay occurred, which threatened to irritate him into new impatience.
It was found that the captain had taken on board quite a company of
passengers whom he had promised to land at Acapulco. It was a
beautiful, sunny day early in October, that our ship steamed into the
little bay. Nearly all the passengers were on deck, to take a look at
the country and harbor as we approached. I was upon the hurricane-deck
with Lenore, who was delighted with the warm air and green shores, and
whose hair streamed on the fresh yet delicious breeze like a golden
banner. She observed the distant mountains, the sunny haze, the
glimmering water of the bay, with all the intelligence of a woman;
while I could not but be more pleased with the roses blowing on her
cheeks and the trick the wind was playing with her hair, than with all
the scenery about us. The child's attendant, a steady, careful matron,
who had long had the charge of her, was likewise on deck, chatting with
some of her new acquaintances, and she could not refrain from coming to
us, presently, on the pretext of wrapping Lenore's shawl closer about
her.

"Do look at her, Mr. Redfield," said the good woman, "did you ever see
her looking so bright and healthy, sir? The master was right, sure
enough--it was a sea-voyage she needed, above all things. Her cheeks
are like pinies, and, if I do say it, who shouldn't, it's the opinion
of the company that you're the best-lookin' couple on the decks. I've
heard more'n one speak of it this past half-hour."

"That's half true, anyhow," I answered, laughing, and looking at
Lenore, whose modest, quiet mind was never on the alert for
compliments. She laughed because I did, but remained just as
unconscious of her pretty looks as hitherto.

"There's papa coming," she said; "something has happened to him."

With her marvelous quick discernment, so like her father's, she
perceived, before I did, that he was excited, although endeavoring to
appear more calm than he really felt.

"Well, Richard, Lenore," he began, drawing us a little apart from the
others, speaking in a low voice, "what do you say to my leaving you?"

"Leaving us!" we both very naturally exclaimed.

"It would be rather sudden, that is true."

"Where would you go? Walk off on the water, or betake yourself to the
valleys and mountains of Mexico?"

"There's no jest about it, Richard. Information, which has come to me
in the strangest, most unexpected manner, renders it imperative that I
should stop at Acapulco. I am as much surprised as you are. I have not
even time to tell you the story; in twenty minutes the ship will begin
to send off her passengers in a small-boat; and if I decide to remain
here, I must go to my state-room for some of my clothes."

"Are you in earnest, father?" asked Lenore, ready to cry.

"Yes, my darling. I am afraid I must let you go on to San Francisco
without me; but you will have Marie, and Richard will take as good care
of you as I would. I want you to enjoy yourselves, to have no cares, to
take the second return steamer, which will give you a fortnight in San
Francisco, and _I will meet you at the isthmus_. As you will have
nothing to do, after your arrival, I will advise you to explore the
country, ride out every pleasant day, etc. The time will soon pass, and
in five weeks, God willing, we shall meet and be happy, my dear little
girl. Run, run to Marie, and tell her what I am to do; she will come
and get my orders."

Lenore moved away, rather reluctantly, and Mr. Burton continued to
myself, who was standing silent from mere stupidity of astonishment:

"By the merest chance in the world I overheard a conversation between
the people about to land, which convinces me that George Thorley,
instead of being in California, is not thirty miles from Acapulco. If I
were not positive of it, I should not run the risk of experiment, now,
when time is worth every thing. But I am so certain of it, that I do
not see as there is any thing for you to do in San Francisco but to
help little Lenore pass the time pleasantly. I have thought, as calmly
as I could under the pressure of much haste, whether you had better
stop with me, and await, at some hotel in Acapulco, the result of my
visit into the interior, or go on to the end of your journey, and
returning, meet me at the isthmus. On the child's account, I think you
had better finish the voyage as expected. The sea-air is benefiting her
greatly; and, unless you fret too much, there is nothing to prevent
your enjoying the trip."

"I shall do just as you advise, Mr. Burton; but, of course, I shall be
intolerably anxious. For my own part, I would rather keep with you; but
that must be done which is best for all."

"You could do me no good by remaining with me; the only thing to be
gained is, that you would be out of your suspense sooner. But, I assure
you, you ought to rejoice and feel light-hearted in view of so soon
learning the one fact most important to us--the hiding-place of that
man. Think you I would wish delay? No. I'm sure of my man, or I should
not take this unexpected step. How curious are the ways of Providence!
It seems as if I received help outside of myself. I was vexed to hear
that we were to be delayed at Acapulco, and now this has proven our
salvation."

"God grant you are in the right, Mr. Burton."

"God grant it. Do not fear that I shall fail, Richard. You have reason
to be doubly cheerful. Don't you trust me?"

"As much--more, than any person on earth."

"Be true to your part, then; take good care of my child--meet me at the
isthmus--that is your whole duty."

"But, Mr. Burton, do you not place yourself in danger? Are you not
incurring risks which you ought to share with others? Can I go on, idle
and prosperous, leaving you to do all the work, and brave all the
dangers of a journey like yours?"

"I wish it. There may be a little personal risk; but not more, perhaps,
than I incur every day of my life. Perhaps you do not know," he added,
gayly, "that I lead a charmed life. Malice and revenge have followed me
in a hundred disguises--six times I have escaped poisoned food prepared
for me; several times, infernal machines, packed to resemble elegant
presents, have been sent to me; thrice I have turned upon the assassin,
whose arm was raised to strike--but I have come unscathed out of all
danger, to quietly pursue the path to which a vivid sense of duty calls
me. I do not believe that I am going to fail in this, one of the most
atrocious cases in which I have ever interested myself. No, no,
Richard; I enjoy the work--the sense of danger adds to its importance.
I would not have it otherwise. As I said, God willing, I will meet you
at the isthmus. If I do not keep my appointment, _then_ you may know
that harm has come to me; and, after providing for the safe passage
home of my little family, you may, if you please, come back to look
after the threads of the history which I have dropped. The steamer has
cast anchor; I must get my luggage in shape to go ashore."

He turned away; but presently paused and returned, with an air of
perplexity.

"There _will_ be something for you to do, Richard. I had forgotten
about that five-hundred-dollar bill, which certainly went to California
within a short time after the robbery. If I should be mistaken, after
all--but no! my information is too conclusive--I _must_ take the
course, now, and if I am on the wrong track, it will be a bad business.
However, I will not allow myself to think so," he added, brightening
again; "but it will do no harm for you to take a lesson in my art, by
exercising your skill in tracing the fortunes of that bank-note. In
doing that, you may come upon evidence which, if I fail here, may be
turned to use."

With a foreboding of evil I looked after him as he descended the ladder
to the lower deck--form, face and manner expressing the indomitable
energy which made him the man he was.

When the sun sunk, that night, into the molten waves of the Pacific,
Lenore and I paced the deck alone; and as she quietly wiped away the
tears which fell at the sense almost of desertion which her father's
sudden departure caused, I could hardly cheer her, as he had bidden me;
for I, too, felt the melancholy isolation of our position--voyaging to
a strange land in the wake of an awful mystery.



                               CHAPTER V.

                             ON THE TRAIL.


I need not dwell at much length upon our visit to San Francisco, since
nothing important to the success of our enterprise came of it. From the
hour we entered the Golden Gate till we departed through it, I was
restless with a solicitude which made me nervous and sleepless,
destroyed my appetite, and blinded me to half the novelties of San
Francisco, with its unparalleled growth and hybrid civilization. I gave
the most of my time to two objects--looking, by night, into all the
bad, popular, or out-of-the-way dens, haunts, saloons, theaters and
hotels, scanning every one of the thousands of strange faces, for that
one sinister countenance, which I felt that I could know at a
glance--and in the endeavor to identify the man who had disposed of the
Park Bank bill to the Express Company.

I was rewarded, for days of research, by ascertaining, finally, and
beyond doubt, that a gentleman of respectability, a Spaniard, still
residing in the city, had offered the bill to be discounted at the time
it had been accepted by the company. I made the acquaintance of the
Spanish gentleman, and, with a delicacy of address upon which I
flattered myself, I managed to learn, without being too impertinent,
that he had obliged a fellow-passenger, two years previously, who was
getting off at Acapulco, and who desired gold for his paper money, with
the specie, and had taken of him some two or three thousand dollars of
New York currency, which he had disposed of to the Express Company.

Burton was right, then! My heart leaped to my throat as the gentleman
mentioned Acapulco. From that moment I felt less fear of failure, but
more, if possible, intense curiosity and anxiety.

It had been my intention to proceed to Sacramento in search of the
haunting face which was forever gliding before my mind's eye; but,
after this revelation, I gladly yielded to the belief that Mr. Burton
would find the face before I did; and, in the relief consequent upon
this hope, I began to give more heed to his injunction, to do my part
of the duty by taking good care of his child.

Lenore was in rising health and spirits, and when I began to exert
myself to help her pass away the time, she grew very happy. The
confiding dependence of childhood is its most affecting trait. It was
enough for her that her father had given her to me for the present; she
felt safe and joyous, and made all those little demands upon my
attention which a sister asks of an older brother. I could hardly
realize that she was nearly thirteen years of age, she remained so
small and slender, and was so innocently childlike in her manners and
feelings. Her attendant was one of those active women who like nothing
so much as plenty of business responsibility; the trip, to her, was
full of the kind of excitement she preferred; the entire charge of the
little maiden intrusted to her care, was one of the most delightful
accidents that ever happened to her; I believe she rejoiced daily in
the absence of Mr. Burton, simply because it added to the importance of
her duties.

But I was glad when the fortnight's long delay was over, and we were
reëmbarked upon our journey. My mind lived in advance of the hour,
dwelling upon the moment when I should either see, awaiting us on the
dock, where he had promised to meet us, at the isthmus, the familiar
form of the good genius of our party, or--that blank which would
announce tidings of fatal evil.

We glided prosperously over the rounded swells of the Pacific, through
sunshiny days, and nights of brilliant moonlight. Through the soft
evenings, Lenore, well wrapped in shawls and hood by her faithful
woman, remained with me upon deck, sometimes until quite late, singing,
one after another, those delicious melodies never more subtly,
understandingly rendered, than by this small spirit of song. Rapt
crowds would gather, at respectful distances, to listen; but she sung
for my sake, and for the music's, unheeding who came or went.
Sometimes, even now, I wake at night from a dream of that voyage, with
the long wake of glittering silver following the ship, as if a million
Peris, in their boats of pearl, were sailing after us, drawn on by the
enchantment of the pure voice which rose and fell between stars and sea.

The last twenty-four hours before reaching the isthmus witnessed a
change in the long stretch of brilliant weather common at that season
of the year. Torrents of rain began to fall, and continued hour after
hour, shutting us in the cabin, and surrounding us with a gray wall,
which was as if some solid world had closed us in, and we were
nevermore to see blue sky, thin air, or the sharp rays of the sun.

Lenore, wearied of the monotony, at length fell asleep on one of the
sofas; and I was glad to have her quiet, for she had been restless at
the prospect of seeing her father early the next morning. It was
expected the steamer would reach her dock some time after midnight. As
the hours of the day and evening wore on, I grew so impatient as to
feel suffocated by the narrow bounds of the ship, and the close, gray
tent of clouds. Lenore went early to her state-room. I then borrowed a
waterproof cloak from one of the officers of the vessel, and walked the
decks the whole night, in the driving rain, for I could not breathe in
my little room. It was so possible, so probable, that harm had befallen
the solitary detective, setting forth, "a stranger in a strange land,"
upon his dangerous errand, that I blamed myself bitterly for yielding
to his wishes, and allowing him to remain at Acapulco. In order to
comfort myself, I recalled his ability to cope with danger--his
physical strength, his unshaken coolness of nerve and mind, his
calmness of purpose and indomitable will, before which the wills of
other men were broken like reeds by a strong wind. The incessant rain
recalled two other memorable nights to me; and the association did not
serve to make me more cheerful. There was no wind whatever, with the
rain; the captain assured me, after I had asked him often enough to vex
a less question-inured officer, for the twentieth time, that we were
"all right"--"not a half-hour after time"--"would arrive at the isthmus
at two o'clock, A.M., precisely, and I might go to bed in peace, and be
ready to get up early in the morning."

I had no idea of going to bed. The passengers were not to be disturbed
until daylight; but I was too anxious to think of sleep; I said to
myself that if Mr. Burton was as impatient as myself, he would, despite
the storm and the late hour, be upon the dock awaiting our arrival; and
if so, he should not find me slumbering. As we neared our landing, I
crowded in among the sailors at the forward part of the boat, and
strained my eyes through the gloom to the little twinkle of light given
out by the lamps along the quay. As usual, there was considerable stir
and noise, upon the arrival of the steamer, shouts from the ship and
shore, and a bustle of ropes and swearing of sailors. The passengers
generally were snug in their berths, where they remained until morning.
In a few moments the ropes were cast ashore and we were moored to our
dock. I leaned over the gunwale and peered through the mist; the rain
had kindly ceased descending, for the time; various lamps and lanterns
glimmered along the wharf, where some persons were busy about their
work, pertaining to the arrival of the ship; but I looked in vain for
Mr. Burton.

Disappointed, despondent, I still reconnoitered the various groups,
when a loud, cheery voice called out,

"Richard, halloo!"

I experienced a welcome revulsion of feeling as these pleasant tones
startled me to the consciousness that Mr. Burton had emerged from the
shadow of a lamp-post, against which he had been leaning, and was now
almost within shaking-hands distance. I could have laughed or cried,
whichever happened, as I recognized the familiar voice and form.
Presently he was on the vessel. The squeeze I gave his hand, when we
met, must have been severe, for he winced under it. I scarcely needed
to say--"You have been successful!" or he to answer; there was a light
on his face which assured me that at least he had not entirely failed.

"I have much, much to tell you, Richard. But first about my darling--is
she well--happy?"

"Both. We have not had an accident. You will be surprised to see
Lenore, she has improved so rapidly. My heart feels a thousand pounds
lighter than it did an hour ago."

"Why so?"

"Oh, I was so afraid you had not got away from Acapulco."

"You do look pale, that's a fact, Richard--as if you had not slept for
a week. Let your mind rest in quiet, my friend. _All is right._ The
trip has not been wasted. Now let God give us favoring breezes home,
and two years of honest effort shall be rewarded. Justice shall be
done. The wicked in high places shall be brought low."

He always spoke as if impressed with an awful sense of his
responsibility in bringing the iniquities of the favored rich to light;
and on this occasion his expression was unusually earnest.

"Where is my little girl? What is the number of her state-room? I would
like to steal a kiss before she wakes; but I suppose that careful Marie
has the door bolted and barred; so I will not disturb them. It is three
whole hours to daylight yet. I can tell you the whole story of my
adventures in that time, and I suppose you have a right to hear it as
soon as possible. I will not keep you in suspense. Come into the cabin."

We found a quiet corner, where, in the "wee sma' hours," by the dim
light of the cabin-lamps, now nearly out, I listened, it is needless to
say with what painful interest, to the account of Mr. Burton's visit in
Mexico. I will give the history here, as he gave it, with the same
reservations which, it was evident, he still made in talking with me.

These reservations--which I could not fail to perceive he had
frequently made, since the beginning of our acquaintance, and which,
the reader will recollect, had at times excited my indignation--puzzled
and annoyed me; but there was soon to come a time when I understood and
appreciated them.

On that day of our outward voyage, when the ship was detained to land a
portion of her passengers at Acapulco, Mr. Burton, restless at the
delay, was leaning over the deck-rails, thrumming impatiently with his
fingers, when his attention became gradually absorbed in the
conversation of a group of Mexicans at his elbow, several of whom were
of the party about to land. They spoke the corrupted Spanish of their
country; but the listener understood it well enough to comprehend the
most of what was said.

One of their number was describing a scene which occurred upon his
landing at this same port some two years previous. The ship, bound for
San Francisco, met with an accident, and put into Acapulco for repairs.
The passengers knowing the steamer would not sail under twenty-four
hours, the most of them broke the monotony of the delay by going on
shore. A number of rough New Yorkers, going out to the mines, got into
a quarrel with some of the natives, during which knives, pistols, etc.,
were freely used. A gentleman, named Don Miguel, the owner of a large
and valuable _hacienda_ which lay about thirty miles from Acapulco, and
who had just landed from the steamer, attempted, imprudently, to
interfere, not wishing his countrymen to be so touchy with their
visitors, and was rewarded for his good intentions by receiving a
severe stab in the side from one of the combatants. He bled profusely,
and would soon have become exhausted, had not his wound been
immediately and well dressed by a young American, one of the New York
passengers, who had landed to see the sights, and was standing idly to
one side, viewing the _mêlée_ at the time Don Miguel was injured. The
Don, exceedingly grateful for the timely attention, conceived a warm
liking for the young man, whose "Yankee" quickness and readiness had
attracted his attention while on board the steamer. Having given such
proof of his fitness for the place as he had done by dressing the Don's
wound, that gentleman, in the course of the two or three hours in which
the young stranger remained in attendance upon him, offered him the
situation of physician upon his immense estates, with the plain promise
that he should receive benefits much more important than his salary.
This offer, after a short hesitation, was accepted by the doctor, who
stated that he was out in search of his fortune, and it made no
difference to him where he found it, whether in Mexico or California,
only that he should be assured of doing well. This Don Miguel, in his
sudden friendship, was prompt to promise. The Don, besides vast grazing
farms, had extensive interests in the silver mines which bordered upon
his _hacienda_. Doctor Seltzer was deeply interested in an account of
these, and returned to the ship for his baggage, bidding his
fellow-passengers good-by, in excellent spirits. "And well he might
consider himself fortunate," continued the narrator, "for there are
none of us who do not feel honored by the friendship of Don Miguel, who
is as honorable as he is wealthy. For my part, I do not understand how
he came to place such confidence in the 'Yankee' doctor, who had to me
the air of an adventurer; but he took him to his home, made him a
member of his family, and before I left Acapulco, I heard that Don
Miguel had given him for a wife his only daughter, a beautiful girl,
who could have had her choice of the proudest young bloods in this
region."

It may be imagined with what interest Mr. Burton listened to the story
thus unconsciously revealed by the chatty Mexican. He at once, as by
prescience, saw his man in this fortunate Dr. Seltzer, who had
registered his name Mr., not Dr., on the passenger-list, and which name
was among those that the detective had selected as suspicious.

(I interrupted my friend's narrative here to explain the matter of the
bank-notes which he had exchanged for specie with a passenger, but
found that Mr. Burton already knew all about them.)

Edging gradually into the conversation, Mr. Burton, with his tact and
experience, was not long in drawing from the group a description of the
personal appearance of Dr. Seltzer, along with all the facts and
conjectures relating to his history since his connection with Don
Miguel. Everything he heard made "assurance doubly sure;" and there was
no time to be lost in deciding upon the course to be pursued in this
unexpected doubling of the chase. To get off at Acapulco was a matter
of course; but what to do with the remainder of his party he could not
at first determine. He knew that I would be eager to accompany him; yet
he feared that, in some way, should we all land and take rooms at any
of the hotels, the wily Doctor Seltzer, doubtless always on the alert,
might perceive some cause for alarm, and secure safety by flight. To go
alone, under an assumed name, in the character of a scientific explorer
of mines, seemed to him the surest and most discreet method of nearing
the game; and to this resolve he had come before he sought us out to
announce his intention of stopping at Acapulco, while leaving us to
pursue our voyage without him.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                           AT LAST--AT LAST.


As our ship steered away out into the open sea, Mr. Burton walked up
into the ruinous old Spanish town, and stopped at the hotel, in whose
breezy corridor he found several of his traveling companions, who had
preceded him. These persons had been somewhat surprised at his
desertion of the rest of his party for a visit to their decayed city;
but when he explained to them his desire of visiting some of their
deserted mines, and examining the character of the mountainous region,
a little back, before proceeding to similar investigations in
California, their wonder gave place to the habitual indolence of
temperaments hardly active enough for curiosity. There were two or
three persons from the United States stopping at the hotel, who quickly
made his acquaintance, eager for news direct from home, and while he
conversed with these the four o'clock dinner was announced. He sipped
his chocolate leisurely, after the dessert, chatting at ease with his
new friends; and upon expressing a desire to see more of the old town,
one of them offered to accompany him upon a walk. They strolled out
among cool palm groves, and back through the dilapidated streets, made
picturesque by some processions of Catholics, winding through the
twilight with their torches, until the moon arose and glimmered on the
restless ocean.

Most persons, on business similar to Mr. Burton's, would have gone at
once to the American consul for his assistance; but he felt himself
fully equal to the emergency, and desired no aid in the enterprise
which he was about to prosecute. Therefore he refused the invitation of
his companion to call upon the consul; and finally returned to his
hotel, to sit awhile in the open, moonlit corridor, before retiring to
his room, where he lay long awake, pondering upon the steps to be taken
next day, and somewhat disturbed by the open doors and windows, which
were the order of the establishment.

He was awakened from his first slumber by the cold nose of a dog rubbed
in his face, and from his second by a lizard creeping over him; but not
being a nervous man, he contrived to sleep soundly at last. He was
served, early in the morning, with a cup of coffee in his apartment,
and before the late breakfast was ready, he had been abroad and
concluded his arrangements for a visit to the estates of Don Miguel.
Everybody knew that gentleman by reputation; and he had no difficulty
in securing the services of two half-naked, lazy-looking native
Indians, to act as guides, who, with three forlorn mules, destined to
carry the party, were at the door when he finished his repast. He was
warned to go well armed, as, though the route to Don Miguel's was an
old one, often traveled, there was always more or less danger in that
country. A pistol or two would not be out of place, if only to keep his
shiftless guides in order. Mr. Burton thanked his advisers, told them
he feared nothing, and set out upon his long, hot and tedious
ride--thirty miles on muleback, under a southern sun, being something
more of a task than he had ever known a journey of that length to be
hitherto. At noon he took a rest of a couple of hours at a miserable
inn by the wayside, and a dinner of fried tortillas, rendered tolerable
by a dessert of limes, bananas and oranges. With a supply of this
cooling fruit in his pockets, he braved the afternoon sun, determined
to reach the _hacienda_ before dark. As he neared his destination, the
character of the country changed. The broad road, cut through groves of
palm, and fields of corn, with orchards of figs and peaches, grew more
narrow and uneven, and the surface of the ground more broken. Before
him loomed up hills, growing higher as they retreated, some of the
glittering peaks seeming to glisten with snow. A cool, refreshing air
swept down from them; the scenery, although wilder, was beautiful and
romantic in the extreme. Wearied as he was with the conduct of a mule
which was no disgrace to the reputation of its species, Mr. Burton
enjoyed the magnificent scene which opened before him, as he approached
the _hacienda_ of Don Miguel. It lay at the foot of a low mountain,
first of the brotherhood which overtopped it, and stood looking over
its shoulder. Rich plains, some of them highly cultivated, and others
covered with the grazing herds of a thousand cattle, lay at the foot of
the hill, which was heavily timbered, and down which leaped a sparkling
cascade, not more beautiful to the eye than promising of freshness to
the pastures below, and of "water-privileges" to the mines understood
to lay somewhere in the cañons of the mountain.

Before entering upon the estates which he had now reached, Mr. Burton
secured a night's lodging for his _peons_, at a hovel by the roadside,
and having abundantly rewarded them, dismissed them from his service,
riding forward alone along the private carriage-way, which, through
groves of flowering trees and fragrant peach-orchards, led up to the
long, low, spacious mansion of Don Miguel.

By the servant who came forth to receive him he was informed that the
master of the place was at home, and was soon shown into his presence,
in the cool, tile-floored sitting-room, in which he was lounging,
waiting for the supper-hour.

Mr. Burton's powers of pleasing were too great, and his refinement too
real, for him to fail in making the impression he desired upon the
gentleman into whose house he had intruded himself. The cold courtesy
with which he was at first received, soon took a tinge of warmth, and
it was with sincere cordiality that Don Miguel offered him the
hospitalities of his home, and full liberty to make all the researches
he might desire upon his estate. The habitual dislike of the Spaniard
for "los Yankees," seemed quite overcome in the case of Don Miguel, by
his friendship for his son-in-law, of whom he soon spoke, anticipating
the pleasure it would give Dr. Seltzer to meet a gentleman so recently
from his old home, New York. On this account he made the stranger
doubly welcome. Mr. Burton was interested in his host, and liked him,
perceiving him to be intelligent, generous and enthusiastic; his heart
rebuked him when he thought of the mission upon which he had come into
this little retired Paradise, so remote from the world and so lovely in
itself that it did seem as if evil ought to have forgotten it.

The two had conversed nearly an hour, when Don Miguel said,

"It is now our supper-hour. Allow a servant to show you to your
apartment, where we will give you time to at least bathe your face and
hands after your weary ride. I was so entertained with the news that
you bring me from the States that I have neglected your comfort. Dr.
Seltzer went up on the mountain, to-day, to look after our mining
interest a little, but I expect his return every moment. He will be
charmed to meet a countryman."

This last assertion Mr. Burton doubted, for he knew that the remorse of
a guilty conscience stung the possessor into a restlessness which made
any unexpected event a matter of suspicion. As the door closed upon him
in the large, airy chamber into which he was ushered, he sunk, for a
few moments, into a chair, and something like a tremor shook his
usually steady nerves. He stood so close upon the probable
accomplishment of the object he had kept in view for two years, that,
for an instant, excitement overcame him. He soon rallied, however, and
at the end of fifteen minutes, when the _peon_ came in again to
announce supper, he had toned up his courage with a plentiful dash of
cold water, and was never more his own peculiar self, than when he set
foot in the supper-room. A glance told him that the absent member of
the family had not yet returned; only two persons were present, his
host, and the beautiful woman whom he introduced as his daughter, Mrs.
Seltzer. The three sat down to the table, which was covered with an
elegant repast, the first dish of which was a fine-flavored roast
wild-turkey.

There was a plentiful supply of porcelain and silver-ware; it did not
take five seconds for the guest to decide that the quondam druggist of
Blankville--if this were indeed the person, as he assumed with such
certainty--had gotten himself into enviable quarters.

As his penetrating glance rested on the exquisite face which confronted
him across the "pale specter of the salt," he kept asking himself, with
inward anguish, why it was that he had not circumvented this adventurer
sooner, before the young, girlish creature he saw before him had
involved her fate with that of the guilty.

Beautiful as our dreamiest fancies of Spanish women she was, according
to the report of Mr. Burton, and he was no enthusiast. He saw that she
was as uneasy as a bird which misses its mate, her black eyes
constantly wandering to the door, and her ear so preoccupied with
listening for the expected step as scarcely to take note of the remarks
made to her by the stranger. Once she asked him, with much interest, if
he had known Dr. Seltzer in New York, but upon his answering in the
negative, he could guess that he had fallen in her esteem, for she
immediately withdrew her attention from him.

The senses of the guest were all keenly on the alert; but it was by the
sudden fire which leaped and melted in the eyes of the Donna, and the
rich color which shot into her hitherto olive cheek, that he was
informed of the approach of her husband. She had heard the rapid gallop
of his horse afar off, and now sat; mute and expectant, until he should
arrive at the gate, cross the veranda and enter the room. In three
minutes he stood in the supper-room. The visitor met him just in the
manner he would have most desired--when the man was entirely unwarned
of company, and had no chance to put on a mask. Outwardly Mr. Burton
was serene as a summer day, but inwardly his teeth were set upon each
other to keep his tongue from crying out--"_This is the man!_" When Dr.
Seltzer first perceived a stranger in the room, and heard his
father-in-law say, "A countryman of yours, from New York, doctor," his
slight start of surprise would, to most persons, have appeared no more
than natural; but the person whose courteous eye met his, saw in it the
first impulse of an ever-ready apprehension--an alarm, covered
instantly by a false warmth of manner which caused him to greet the
stranger with extreme friendliness.

The new-comer retired for a moment to his room to prepare for the meal;
upon his taking his place at table, hot dishes were brought in; the
Donna seemed also to have recovered her appetite, which had been
spoiled by his absence; a gay and social hour followed.

Dr. Seltzer might have been good-looking had his eyes not possessed the
shifting, uncertain glance that plays before a soul which dares not
frankly meet its fellows, and had not an evil expression predominated
on his features. His face was one which would have been distrusted in
any intelligent company of our own people; but the Spaniards, with whom
he was now associated, were so accustomed to treachery and untruth
among their race, and so familiar with kindred features and subtle
black eyes, that he, doubtless, had never impressed them unfavorably. A
Spaniard he was at heart, and he had found, in his present life, a
congenial sphere. Not that all Spaniards are necessarily murderers--but
their code of right and wrong is different from ours. Don Miguel was an
excellent gentleman, honorable, to an unusual degree for a Mexican,
real and sanguine in his feelings, and thoroughly deceived as to the
character and acquirements of the person to whom he had confided so
much. It was the bitter flavor in the cup of his assured triumph that
Mr. Burton, in bringing the villain to bay, must shock this amiable
host, and ruin the happiness of his innocent child.

After supper, they sat on the veranda a couple of hours. The
half-filled moon sunk down behind the groves of fragrant trees; the
stars burned in the sky, large, and, to a Northern eye, preternaturally
bright; the wind was luscious with warmth and sweetness; and the
beautiful woman, whose soft eyes dwelt ever on the face of her husband,
looked yet more lovely in the clear moonlight. (Through all the
earnestness of his story, my friend dwelt on these details, because he
observed them at the time, and they became a part of the narrative in
his mind.)

The conversation was principally upon mining. Mr. Burton had sufficient
scientific knowledge to make it apparent that his exploring expedition
was for the purpose of adding to that knowledge. Before they separated
for the night, Dr. Seltzer had promised to escort him, on the following
day, over all the mountainous portion of the ranch.

The visitor retired early, being fatigued with his journey; but he did
not sleep as quietly as usual. He was disturbed by the onerous duty to
which he had devoted himself. Visions of the Donna, pale with grief and
reproach, and of the interview which he had resolved upon with the
murderer, alone on the mountainside, when, by the force of will, and
the suddenness of the accusation, he expected to wring from him the
desired confession--kept him long awake. Once he half rose in his bed;
for, lying in that feverish condition when all the senses are exalted,
he heard, or fancied he heard, the handle of the door turned, and a
person step silently into the apartment. Knowing the thievish
propensities of the Spanish servants, he had no doubt but one of these
had entered for purposes of robbery; he therefore remained quiet, but
ready to pounce upon the intruder should he detect him approaching the
bed. The room was entirely dark, the moon having set some time before.
Whether he made some sound when rising on his couch, or whether the
visitor gave up his purpose at the last moment, he could only
conjecture; after some moments of absolute silence he heard the door
drawn softly together again, and was conscious of being alone. Soon
after this he dropped asleep, and awoke in the dawn to find his purse
and garments undisturbed.

He was summoned to an early breakfast, which was partaken of by the two
excursionists alone; his companion was, if possible, more social and
friendly than on the previous evening. It was yet hardly sunrise when
they arose from the table to mount the horses which awaited them at the
door. A basket of lunch was attached to the pummel of Dr. Seltzer's
saddle, whose parting injunction to the servant was to have dinner at
four, as they should stand in need of it upon their return. Then,
through a world of dew, coolness and perfume, glittering with the first
rays of the sun, the two men rode off toward the mountains.

After following a good road some five or six miles, they commenced
climbing the first of the series of hills of which mention has been
made. The road here was still tolerable; but when they advanced into
the immediate region of the mines they were compelled to abandon their
horses, which were left at a small building, belonging to the ranch,
and to proceed on foot into the mountain gorges.

The scenery now became wild beyond mere picturesqueness--it was
startling, desolate, grand. Traces of old mines, once worked, but now
deserted, were everywhere visible. Finally they came to a new "lead,"
which was being successfully worked by the _peons_ of Don Miguel. There
were some forty of these men at work, under an overseer. Dr. Seltzer
showed his companion the recent improvements which had been made; the
machinery which he himself had introduced, and a portion of which he
had invented; stating that, under the system which he himself had
introduced, Don Miguel was growing a rich man faster than he previously
had any idea was possible. The mountain-stream, spoken of as being
visible at a great distance, glittering from hight to hight, was here
made to do the unromantic work of washing the ore and grinding it. The
overseer was called upon by the host to give every desirable
information to the traveler, and here a long visit was made. Lunch was
partaken of under the cool shadow of a ledge of rock; and then Dr.
Seltzer proposed, if his visitor was not already too much fatigued, to
take him higher up, to a spot which he had discovered only the day
before, and which he had every reason to believe contained a richer
deposit of silver than any vein heretofore opened--in fact, he thought
a fortune lay hidden in the wild gorge to which he referred, and he
anxiously invited the scientific observation of his guest.

This was just the opportunity for being alone with his man that Mr.
Burton desired. It may seem strange that he proposed to confront the
murderer with his guilt in this solitary manner with no witnesses to
corroborate any testimony he might wring from the guilty; but the
detective knew enough of human nature to know that the confronted
criminal is almost always a coward, and he had no fear that this
person, if guilty, accused of his false name and falser character,
would refuse to do what he demanded of him. Again, his principal
object, more important by far than the discovery of the actual hired
assassin, was to gain from the frightened accomplice a full, explicit
confession of _who had tempted him to the crime_--who was really the
most guilty murderer--whose money had paid for the deed which his own
dastardly hand had shrunk from. Strong in resources which never yet had
failed him, Mr. Burton was anxious for the singular encounter he had
devised.

Leaving all traces of man behind them, the two climbed a rugged path,
and entered a cañon, through the center of which roared a foaming
torrent, and which was so deep and sheltered that even at this
noon-hour the path was cool and the sunlight tempered. As they walked
or clambered on, both men gradually grew silent. Of what Dr. Seltzer
might be thinking Mr. Burton did not know--his own mind was absorbed in
the scene which he was awaiting the earliest fitting moment to enact.
The doctor, who should have acted as guide, had, somehow, chanced to
lag behind.

"Which direction shall I take?" asked Mr. Burton, presently.

"Ascend the narrow defile to the right," called out his companion,
pressing after him, "but be cautious of your footing. A misstep may
hurl you upon the rocks below. In three minutes we shall be in a safe
and beautiful region, with our feet, literally, treading a silver
floor."

As he spoke thus, he drew nearer, but the path was too narrow to allow
him to take the advance, and Mr. Burton continued to lead the way.

The subtle perceptions of the detective, a magnetism which amounted
almost to the marvelous, I have so frequently referred to, that my
reader will understand how it was that Mr. Burton, thus in the van, and
not looking at all at his companion, felt a curious, prickly sensation
run along his nerves. He came to the narrowest part of the dangerous
path. An immense rock reached up, a mighty wall, upon the right, and to
the left, far below the uneven, stony and brier-grown ledge along which
he was picking his steps, foamed and roared the torrent, over rocks
which thrust themselves here and there above the yeasty water. Directly
in front arose an obstacle in the shape of a projection of the rock
some three or four feet in hight, covered with tough little bushes, one
of which he took hold of to draw himself up by.

However, instead of pulling himself up, as his action seemed to
indicate that he was about to do, he turned and grasped the arm of Dr.
Seltzer. His movement was rapid as lightning, but it was not made a
moment too soon. The arm which he held in a clasp of steel was raised
to strike, and a Spanish dirk was in the hand.

A stealthy, murderous light, almost red in its intensity, burned in the
eyes which now sunk before his. An instant the foiled assassin stood
surprised; then commenced a struggle between the two men. Dr. Seltzer
made desperate efforts to hurl his antagonist into the torrent beneath;
but, though frantic with rage and hate, his violent exertions did not
effect their object. On the contrary, Mr. Burton, calm and
self-possessed, despite an instant's astonishment, pressed his
adversary backward along the narrow path until they were both on safe
ground, in the middle of a little grassy plateau, which they had lately
traversed, where he held him, having disarmed him of his knife.

What had caused his momentary astonishment was the fact that Dr.
Seltzer knew him and suspected his object, which truth he instantly
comprehended, upon turning and reading the murderous eyes that met his.
Now, as he held him, he remarked,

"Another stab in the back, George Thorley?"

"Well, and what did you come here for, you accursed New York detective?"

"I came to persuade you to turn State's evidence."

"What about?"--there was a slight change in the voice, which told,
against his will, that the adventurer felt relieved.

"I want you to give your written and sworn testimony as to who it was
hired you, for the sum of two thousand dollars, to murder Mr. Moreland,
at Blankville, on the 17th of October, 1857."

"Who said I murdered him? Humph! you must think I'm decidedly simple to
be coaxed or frightened into committing myself."

"We'll not waste words, Thorley. I know you, all your history, all your
bad deeds--or enough of them to hang you. I have a warrant for your
arrest in my pocket, which I brought from the States with me. I could
have brought an escort from Acapulco, and arrested you at once, without
giving you any chance for explanation. But I have my own reasons for
desiring to keep this matter quiet--one of which is that I do not wish
any premature report to alarm your accomplice, man or woman, whichever
it is, until I can put my hand on the right person."

"What makes you think that I did it?"

"No matter what makes me _think_ so--I don't think, I _know_. I have
the instrument with which you committed the act, with your initials on
the handle. I have the letter you wrote to your accomplice, claiming
your reward. In short, I've proof enough to convict you twice over. The
only hope you have of any mercy from me is in at once doing all that I
ask of you--which is to give a full written statement, over your real
name, of all the circumstances which led to the murder."

"I'm not such a fool as to tie the rope around my own neck."

As he made this answer, he gave a powerful jerk to extricate himself
from the unpleasant position in which he was held. Mr. Burton drew a
revolver from his breast-pocket, remarking,

"I will not hold you, Thorley; but just as sure as you make an attempt
to get away, I will shoot you. Supposing you succeeded in getting free
from me--what good would that do you? Your prospects here would be
ruined; for I should expose you to Don Miguel. You would have to flee
from wife, country and fortune; all you would preserve would be your
rascally life, which I do not propose, at present, to take."

"A man's life is his best possession."

"A truth you would have done well to remember before you took away the
life of another. I can't talk to such a scoundrel as you, Thorley; I
fairly ache to inflict upon you the punishment you deserve. It is for
the sake of others, in whom I am interested, that I give you this one
chance of mercy. Here is paper, pen and ink; sit down on that stone
there, and write what I asked of you."

"What security do you offer me against the consequences of criminating
myself? I want you to promise I shall be none the worse off for it."

"You are too fully in my power to demand promises of me. Yet this I
will consent to, as I said before, for the sake of others--to let you
go unprisoned by the warrant I hold against you, and never to put the
officers of justice on your track. One thing, however, I must and shall
do. I can not leave this Paradise, into which you have crept like the
serpent, without warning Don Miguel what manner of creature he is
trusting and sheltering."

"Oh, don't do that, Mr. Burton! He'll turn me off on the world again,
and I shall be exposed to the same temptations as ever--and here I was
leading a better life--I was indeed--reformed, quite reformed and
repentant."

"So reformed and repentant, so very excellent, that you were only
prevented, but now, from killing me and tumbling me into this
convenient ravine, by my own prudence."

"Every thing was at stake, you know. I was desperate. You must forgive
me. It would not be natural for me to submit to see all I had gained
snatched away from me--my life periled. I recognized you within five
minutes after sitting down to the supper-table last night."

"I had no idea you had ever seen me," said Mr. Burton, willing to hear
how it was that this man knew him, when he had never met Thorley until
yesterday.

"I was interested, once, in a forgery case in which you were employed
to detect the criminals, by the examination of several handwritings
which were given you. You accused a highly respectable fellow-citizen,
to the astonishment of everybody, and convicted him, too. I, whom he
had employed as an agent in some transactions, but who did not appear
in any manner in the case, saw you in the court-room once or twice. I
_accidentally_ found out that you were a secret agent of the detective
police. When I saw you here, playing the scientific gentleman, my
conscience was not so easy as to blind me. I saw the game, and what was
at stake. I had the choice between my own safety or yours. I wasn't so
self-denying as to decide in your favor, and so--"

"You visited my room last night."

"Yes. But, on second thought, I decided that to-day would give me the
better opportunity. Had you waited a second longer, your friends would
have had a hard time tracing your fate. An excuse to my father-in-law,
that you had returned to Acapulco without stopping, by a nearer route,
would have ended inquiry here." He set his teeth, as he concluded,
unable to conceal how much he regretted that this convenient
_dénouement_ had been interrupted. "Was it chance caused you to turn?"
he continued, after a moment's silence.

"It was watchfulness. I thought I saw murder in your eyes once before,
to-day, when I met them suddenly; but as I believed myself unknown to
you, I could hardly credit my own impression. It grew upon me, however,
as we proceeded, and 'by the pricking of my ribs,' I turned in time to
prevent the compliment you were about to pay me. But this is wasting
time. Write what I expect of you. I shall permit no lies. I can tell
when I see one, or hear one. If you say any thing which is not true, I
shall make you correct it."

Coerced by the eye which never ceased to watch his slightest movement,
and by the revolver held in range of his breast, the reluctant doctor
took the sheet of paper and the fountain-pen which were offered him,
sat down on the stone, and, with the top of his sombrero for a desk,
wrote slowly for ten or fifteen minutes. Then he arose and handed the
document, which was signed with his real name, to the detective, who,
with one eye on his prisoner, and one on the paper, continued to read
the evidence without giving his companion a chance to profit by any
relaxation of his vigilance.

"You have told the truth, for once in your life," was his remark, as he
finished reading the paper. "I had found this out myself, fact for
fact, all but one or two facts which you give here; but I preferred
having your testimony before I brought the matter before the proper
parties, therefore I came here after it"--speaking as if a trip to
Acapulco were one of the easiest and most commonplace of things.

"You're d--d cool about it," remarked the adventurer, eying his
adversary with a glance of hate, with which was mingled a forced
admiration of a "sharpness" which, had he himself possessed it, he
could have used to such advantage. "And now, maybe you'll be good
enough to tell me if the affair kicked up much of a row."

"I can not talk with you. I want you to lead the way back to our
horses, for, since my business with you is finished, I may say that I
do not fancy your company. You must go with me before Don Miguel, and
we will enlighten him as to your true character, since with him to be
'forewarned may be fore-armed.'"

"Oh, don't do that! I beg you to spare me for my wife's sake--it would
kill her, she loves me so much!" and the creature dropped on his knees.

"I would, indeed, rather than blast her innocent heart with such
knowledge, allow you still to play your part in that little family--,
but I know that, sooner or later, you will contrive to break the heart
of that confiding woman, and it might be worse in the future than even
now. She has yet no children; she is young, and the wound may heal. It
is an unpleasant duty, which I must perform."

Then followed a scene of begging, prayers, even tears upon one side,
and relentless purpose on the other.



                              CHAPTER VII.

                          NOW FOR HOME AGAIN.


Dr. Seltzer and his scientific friend returned down the mountain,
reaching the flowery carriage-way which led up to the mansion about
four P. M.; but here the former suddenly whirled his horse and set off
toward Acapulco, at his utmost speed. Mr. Burton did not fire at him,
to stop him; if he wished to run away from the horrible exposure which
he had not the courage to face, it was no longer any business of the
detective. This very flight would prove his guilt the more
incontestably. It was with a pang of pity that he noticed the Donna,
coming forth on the piazza with a face illumined with expectation of
meeting her husband; he replied to her inquiry, that the doctor had
gone down the road without saying how long he expected to be gone; and
asking a private interview with Don Miguel, he at once, without
circumlocution, laid before him the painful facts.

Of course the Don was shocked and grieved beyond expression, more on
his daughter's account than on his own; and blamed himself severely for
having introduced a stranger, without proper credentials, into his
confidence. If the murder had been committed from jealousy, anger, or
upon any impulse of passion, he would not have thought so badly of the
young man; but that it should have been done for _money_ was to him an
irreparable crime and disgrace.

Mr. Burton had thought of returning to Acapulco that afternoon and
evening, considering that his presence could not be welcome to the
family under such circumstances; but Don Miguel positively forbade him
to attempt the journey at that late hour, as it might be dangerous at
any time, and now, if the doctor wished to revenge himself upon his
betrayer, a better opportunity could not occur than on this lonely
road, where he might linger in the expectation of his passing. From the
interview which followed between the father and his child, Mr. Burton
was absent; he saw no more of the beautiful young wife, for he left the
_hacienda_ early the following morning; but her father informed him
that she bore the news better than he expected--simply because she
refused to believe in the guilt of her husband!

Don Miguel and two of his servants accompanied Mr. Burton all the way
back to town; the Don affirming that he had some business requiring a
visit to the city sooner or later; though his guest knew very well that
his real object was to protect him from any danger which might
threaten. For this he was grateful, though his courage did not shrink,
even from the idea of secret assassination.

He was detained in Acapulco several days before he had an opportunity
of leaving for the isthmus. During that time he learned, by a messenger
whom Don Miguel sent him, that, during the Don's absence from the house
in the two days of his journey to town and back, Dr. Seltzer had
returned there, possessed himself of every article of value which he
could carry away upon his person, including the Donna's jewels, which
she had inherited from her mother, and a large sum in gold, and had
persuaded his wife to accompany his flying fortunes to some unknown
region. In the letter which Don Miguel wrote to the stranger, he
expressed himself as one robbed and left desolate. It was not the loss
of money or jewels, but the loss of his poor, confiding, loving child,
that he dwelt upon. The Donna's was one of those impulsive, impassioned
natures which must love, even if it knows the object unworthy. No deed
which her husband could commit could make him otherwise to her than the
man with whose fate her own was linked for "better or worse." Mr.
Burton folded up the letter with a sigh; no power of his could amend
the fate of this young creature, which promised to be so sad.

While he remained in the ruinous old place he used extraordinary
precautions to insure his own safety; for he believed that Dr. Seltzer,
or George Thorley, would seek revenge upon him, not only for the sake
of the revenge, but to silence the accusation which he might carry back
to the States. It was well that he was thus careful, as, among other
proofs that he was thus pursued, was the following. One afternoon, as
he sat in the great, breezy corridor of the hotel, an old woman came in
with a basket and offered to sell him some particularly fine oranges.
He bought a couple of the largest, and was about to eat one, when he
observed that she did _not_ offer the fruit to any other customer; upon
this, he regarded her more closely, and was satisfied that all was not
right. When she had lingered a time to notice if he ate the fruit, he
strolled out to the street, and in her presence called up a stray pig,
to which he fed pieces of the orange. When she saw this, the old hag,
who was an Indian, quickly disappeared, and shortly after the pig died.

It was, therefore, with feelings of satisfaction that the detective
finally bade farewell to Acapulco on a return steamer. He had waited
some time at the isthmus, where the days had hung heavily, but he had
comforted himself with his motto about patience; and now, as he assured
me at the close of his narrative, "If heaven would give us a propitious
passage home we should be _in time_--all would be right."

Day was breaking when Mr. Burton finished his narrative; the rain had
ceased, but a thick fog hung over the sea and land, making every thing
gloomy and disagreeable.

"I must go now, and awaken my little girl," he said, rising.

"But you have not read me the written confession of that Thorley."

"Richard, you must forgive me if I do not see fit to allow you to read
it at present. I have a purpose in it, or I should not keep back from
you any of my own information. That confession did not surprise me; I
knew the murderer long ago, but I could not prove it. You shall soon be
at rest about this affair. I only pray, now, for a speedy voyage, and
that Leesy Sullivan may be alive when we reach New York. Richard!" he
added, with a passionate gesture, "you do not dream what a constant
fever I am in--I am so afraid we shall be _too late_. I can not bear
the horror which that would be to me."

And indeed it did seem, at that time, as if my own engrossing interest
was scarcely equal to that of my companion, who yet had nothing at all
at stake, while I had so much. Not only then, but at various other
times during the remainder of our voyage, he expressed so much anxiety
lest Miss Sullivan should be dead before we arrived home, that I, who
was always torturing myself with conjectures, again revived my
suspicions that she was connected with the murder.

In the mean time, the sun arose upon the bustle of disembarking from
the steamer to the cars. Fortunately, the fog lifted by eight o'clock,
and we could enjoy the magnificent scenery through which the cars
whirled us--scenery so at variance, in its wildness and the exuberance
of its foliage, and the secluded aspect of its beauty, with this noisy
wonder of civilization which scattered its fiery deluge of sparks along
the path of gorgeous tropical flowers waving at us, sometimes, in long
streamers of bloom from the topmost branches of gigantic trees.

Nothing occurred to mar the tranquillity of the passage home. On the
expected day, we landed at the dock in New York, and I stepped upon the
earth with a curious, excited feeling, now that we drew so near to the
close of our efforts, which made me almost light-headed. We took a
carriage and drove to Mr. Burton's; he was expected by the housekeeper,
so that we found the house prepared for our reception. A fine dinner
was served at the usual hour--but I could not eat. Appetite and sleep
fled before my absorbing anticipations. My host, who noticed my
intense, repressed excitement, promised me, before I retired for the
night, that to-morrow, God willing, the secret places of the wicked
should be laid bare--that myself and all those interested should
witness the triumph of the innocent and the confusion of the guilty.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                             THE RIPE HOUR.


I arose from my sleepless bed to face this, the most memorable day of
my life. Whether I ate or drank, I know not; but I noticed that Mr.
Burton's countenance wore a peculiar, illuminated look, as if his soul
was inwardly rejoicing over a victory gained. However, there was still
preoccupation in it, and some perplexity. Immediately after breakfast,
he proposed to go out, saying,

"Richard, remain here a couple of hours with Lenore, until I find out
whether Miss Sullivan is dead or alive. I should not have gone to bed
last night without knowing, had I not been troubled with a severe
headache. This is now the first step in the day's duties. As soon as
possible I will report progress;" and he went out.

The time of his absence seemed very long. Lenore, sweet child, with
much of her father's perception, saw that I was restless and impatient,
and made many pretty efforts to entertain me. She sung me some of the
finest music, while I roamed about the parlors like an ill-bred tiger.
At the end of two hours my friend returned, looking less perplexed than
when he went out.

"God is good!" he said, shaking my hand, as if thus congratulating me.
"Leesy Sullivan is alive, but very feeble. She is scarcely able to
undertake a journey; but, since I have explained the object, she has
consented to go. She says she is so near death's door, that it matters
not how soon she passes through; and she is willing, for the sake of
others, to endure a trial from which she might naturally shrink. So
far, then, all is well."

Was this trial, of which he spoke, that pang which she must feel in
confessing herself implicated in this matter? Did he think, and had he
persuaded her, since she was too far gone for the grasp of the law to
take hold of her, she might now confess a dangerous and dark secret?

I could not answer the questions my mind persisted in asking. "It will
be but a few hours," I whispered to myself.

"We are to go up to Blankville by the evening train," he continued.
"Leesy will accompany us. Until that time, there is nothing to do."

I would rather have worked at breaking stones or lifting barrels than
to have kept idle; but, as the detective wished me to remain in the
house as a matter of caution against meeting any prying acquaintance
upon the streets, I was forced to that dreariest of all things--to
wait. The hours did finally pass, and Mr. Burton set out first with a
carriage, to convey Miss Sullivan to the depot, where I was to meet him
in time for the five o'clock train. When I saw her there, I wondered
how she had strength to endure the ride, she looked so wasted--such a
mere flickering spark of life, which a breath might extinguish. Mr.
Burton had almost to carry her into the car, where he placed her on a
seat, with his overcoat for a pillow. We took our seats opposite to
her, and as those large, unfathomable eyes met mine, still blazing with
their old luster, beneath the pallid brow, I can not describe the
sensations which rushed over me. All those strange scenes through which
I had passed at Moreland villa floated up and shut me in a strange
spell, until I forgot what place we were in, or that any other persons
surrounded us. When the cars moved rapidly out of the city, increasing
their speed as they got beyond the precincts, Leesy asked to have the
window open.

The air was cold and fresh; her feverish lips swallowed it as a
reviving draught. I gazed alternately at her and the landscape, already
flushed with the red of early sunset. It was a December day, chill but
bright; the ground was frozen, and the river sparkled with the keen
blueness of splintered steel. The red banner of twilight hung over the
Palisades. I lived really three years in that short ride--the three
years just past--and when we reached our destination, I walked like one
in a dream. It was quite evening when we got out at Blankville, though
the moon was shining. A fussy little woman passed out before us,
lugging a large band-box; she handed it to the town express, telling
the driver to be very careful of it, and take it round at once to
Esquire Argyll's.

"I suppose it contains the wedding-bonnet," he said, with a laugh.

"That it does, and the dress, too, all of my own selection," said the
little woman, with an air of importance. "Just you carry it in your
hand, sir, and don't you allow nothing to come near it."

When I heard these words, a hot flush came to my face. That Mary Argyll
was already married, or expected to be very soon, I knew; but I could
not hear this reference to the wedding, nor see this article of
preparation, without keen pain. Yet what business was it of mine?

Mr. Burton had also heard the brief colloquy, and I noticed his lips
pressed together with a fierce expression as we passed under the lamp
which lighted the crossing. He took us into the hotel by the depot. Oh,
how suffocating, how close, became memory! Into this building poor
Henry had been carried on that wretched morning. It seemed to be but
yesterday. I think Leesy was recalling it all, for when a cup of tea
was brought in for her, at Mr. Burton's bidding, she turned from it
with loathing.

"Leesy," he said, looking at her firmly, and speaking in a tone of high
command, "I don't want you to fail me now. The trial will soon be over.
Brace yourself for it with all the strength you have. Now, I am going
out a few moments--perhaps for half an hour. When I return, you will
both be ready to go with me to Mr. Argyll's house."

I was nearly as much shaken by this prospect as the frail woman who sat
trembling in a corner of the sofa. To go into that house from which I
had departed with such ignominy--to see Eleanor face to face--to meet
them all who had once been my friends--to greet them as strangers, for
such they were--they must be, to me!--to appear in their midst under
such strange circumstances--to hear, I knew not what--to learn that
mystery--my heart grew as if walled in with ice; it could not half
beat, and felt cold in my breast.

Both Leesy and myself started when Mr. Burton again appeared in the
room.

"All is right thus far," he said, in a clear, cheery voice, which,
nevertheless, had the high ring of excitement. "Come, now, let us not
waste the golden moments, for now the hour is ripe."

We had each of us to give an arm to Miss Sullivan, who could scarcely
put one foot before the other. We walked slowly along over _that_ path
which I never had trodden since the night of the murder without a
shudder. A low moan came from Leesy's lips, as we passed the spot where
the body of Henry Moreland had been discovered. Presently we came to
the gate of the Argyll place, and here Mr. Burton again left us.
"Follow me," he said, "in five minutes. Come to the library-door, and
knock; and, Richard, I particularly desire you to take a seat by the
bay-window."

He went up the walk and entered the house, without seeming to ring the
hall door-bell, leaving the door open as he passed in. I looked at my
watch by the moonlight, forcing myself to count the minutes, by way of
steadying my head, which was all in a whirl. When the time expired, I
helped Leesy forward into the dim hall, on to the library-door, where I
knocked, according to directions, and was admitted by Mr. Argyll
himself.

There was a bright light shining from the chandelier, fully
illuminating the room. In the midst of a flood of recollections, I
stepped within; but my brain, which had been hot and dizzy before, grew
suddenly calm and cool. When Mr. Argyll saw that it was me, he slightly
recoiled, and gave me no greeting whatever. A glance assured me that
every member of the family was present. Eleanor sat in an arm-chair
near the center-table; Mary and James occupied the same sofa. Eleanor
looked at me with a kind of white amazement; James nodded as my eye met
his, his face expressing surprise and displeasure. Mary rose,
hesitated, and finally came forward, saying,

"How do you do, Richard?"

I bowed to her, but did not take her outstretched hand, and she
returned to her place near James. In the mean time, Mr. Burton himself
placed Leesy Sullivan in an easy-chair. I walked forward and took a
seat near the window. I had time to observe the appearance of my whilom
friends, and was calm enough to do it. Mr. Argyll had grown old much
faster than the time warranted; his form was somewhat bent, and his
whole appearance feeble; I grieved, as I noticed this, as though he was
my own father, for I once had loved him as much. Mary looked the same
as when I had seen her, three months since, in that surreptitious visit
to the oak, blooming and beautiful, the image of what Eleanor once was.
Eleanor, doubtless, was whiter than her wont, for my appearance had
startled her; but there was the same rapt, far-away, spiritual look
upon her features which they had worn since that day when she had
wedded herself to the spirit of her lover.

Mr. Burton turned the key in the lock of the door which opened into the
hall; then crossed over and closed the parlor-door, and sat down by it,
saying as he did so,

"Mr. Argyll, I told you a few moments ago, that I had news of
importance to communicate, and I take the liberty of closing these
doors, for it would be very unpleasant for us to be intruded upon, or
for any of the servants to hear any thing of what I have to say. You
will perhaps guess the nature of my communication, from my having
brought with me these two persons. I would not agitate any of you by
the introduction of the painful subject, if I did not believe that you
would rather know the truth, even if it is sad to revive the past. But
I must beg of you to be calm, and to listen quietly to what I have to
say."

"I will be very calm; do not be afraid," murmured Eleanor, growing yet
feebler, for it was to her he now particularly addressed the injunction.

I was so occupied with her that I did not notice the effect upon the
others.

"Mr. Argyll," continued the detective, "I have never yet abandoned a
case of this kind until I have unraveled its mystery to the last
thread. Nearly two years have passed since you supposed that I ceased
to exert myself to discover the murderer of Henry Moreland. But I have
never, for a day, allowed the case to lie idle in my mind. Whenever I
have had leisure, I have partially followed every clue which was put in
my hands at the time when we first had the matter under discussion. It
was not alone the sad circumstances of the tragedy which gave it
unusual interest to me. I became warmly attached to your family, and
as, from the first--yes, from the very first hour when I heard of the
murder--I believed I had discovered the perpetrator, I could not allow
the matter to sink into silence. You remember, of course, our last
interview. Some ideas were there presented which I then opposed. You
know how the discussion of all the facts then known ended. Your
suspicions fell upon one who had been an honored and favored member of
your family--you _feared_, although you were not certain, that Richard
Redfield committed the deed. You gave me all the reasons you had for
your opinions--good reasons, too, some of them were; but I then
combated the idea. However, I was more or less affected by what you
said, and I told you, before parting, that, if you had such feelings
toward the young man, you ought not to allow him to be, any longer, a
member of your family. I believe he came to understand the light in
which you regarded him, and shortly after left the place, and since has
been most of the time, in Washington, employed there as a clerk in the
dead-letter office. I believe _now_, Mr. Argyll, that you were not far
wrong in your conjectures. _I have discovered the murderer of Henry
Moreland, and can give you positive proof of it!_"

This assertion, deliberately uttered, caused the sensation which might
be expected. Eleanor, with all her long habit of self-control, gave a
slight shriek, and began to tremble like a leaf. Exclamations came from
the lips of all--I believe James uttered an oath, but I am not certain;
for I, perhaps more than any other in the room, was at that moment
confounded. As the idea rushed over me that Mr. Burton had been acting
a part toward _me_, and had taken these precautions to get me utterly
in his power, where I could not defend myself, I started to my feet.

"Sit still, Mr. Redfield," said the detective to me, sternly. "There is
no avenue of escape for the guilty," and rising, he took the key of the
door and put it in his pocket, giving me a look difficult to understand.

I did sit down again, not so much because he told me, as that I was
powerless from amazement; as I did so, I met the eyes of James, which
laughed silently with a triumph so hateful that, at the moment, they
seemed to me the eyes of a devil. All the feelings which, at various
times, had been called up by this terrible affair, were nothing to
those which overwhelmed me during the few moments which followed. My
thought tracked many avenues with lightning rapidity; but I could find
no light at the end of any of them. I began to believe that George
Thorley, in his confession, had criminated _me_--who knew him not--who
never had spoken with him--and that _this_ was the reason why Mr.
Burton had withheld that document from me--falsely professing
friendship, while leading me into the pit! If so, what secret enemy had
I who could instruct him to lay the murder at my door? If he _had_
accused me, I was well aware that many little circumstances might be
turned so as to strengthen the accusation.

I sat there dumb. But there is always strength in innocence--even when
betrayed by its friends! So I remained quiet and listened.

"When a crime like this is committed," proceeded the detective, quite
calm in the midst of our excitement, "we usually look for the _motive_.
Next to avarice come the passions of revenge and jealousy in frequency.
We know that money had nothing to do with Henry Moreland's
death--revenge and jealousy had. There lived in Blankville three or
four years ago, a young fellow, a druggist, by the name of George
Thorley; you remember him, Mr. Argyll?"

Mr. Argyll nodded his head.

"He was an adventurer, self-instructed in medicine, without principle.
Shortly after setting up in your village, he fell in love with this
woman here--Miss Sullivan. She rejected him; both because she had a dim
perception of his true character, and because she was interested in
another. She allows me to say, here, what she once before confessed to
us, that she loved Henry Moreland--loved him purely and unselfishly,
with no wish but for his happiness, and no hope of ever being any thing
more to him than his mother's sewing-girl, to whom he extended some
acts of kindness. But George Thorley, with the sharpness of jealousy,
discovered her passion, which she supposed was hidden from mortal eyes,
and conceived the brutal hate of a low nature against the young
gentleman, who was ignorant alike of him and his sentiments. So far, no
harm was done, and evil might never have come of it, for Henry Moreland
moved in a sphere different from his, and they might never have come in
contact. But another bosom was also possessed of the fiend of jealousy.
An inmate of your family had learned to love your daughter Eleanor--not
only to love her, but to look forward to the fortune and position which
would be conferred by a marriage with her as something extremely
desirable. He would not reconcile himself to the engagement which was
formed between Miss Argyll and Mr. Moreland. He cherished bad thoughts,
which grew more bitter as their happiness became more apparent. Once,
he was standing at the gate of this lawn, when the young couple passed
him, going out for a walk together. He looked after them with a dark
look, speaking aloud, unconsciously, the thought of his heart; he said,
'_I hate him! I wish he were dead!_' Instantly, to his surprise and
dismay, a voice replied, '_I'm with you there--you don't wish it so
much as I do!_' The speaker was Thorley, who, passing, had been
arrested by the young couple going out of the gate, and who had
remained, also, gazing after them. It was an unfortunate coincidence.
The first speaker looked at the second with anger and chagrin; but he
had betrayed himself, and the other knew it. He laughed impudently, as
he sauntered on; but, presently, he returned and whispered, 'I wouldn't
object to putting him out of the way, if I was well paid for it.' 'What
do you mean?' inquired the other, angrily, and the response was, 'Just
what I say. I hate him as bad as you do; you've got money, _or can get
it_, and I can't. Pay me well for the job, and I'll put him out of your
way so securely that he won't interfere with your plans any more.' The
young gentleman affected to be, and perhaps was, indignant. The fellow
went off, smirking; but his words left, as he thought they would, their
poison behind. In less than a month from that time, the person had
sought Thorley out, in his lurking-place in the city--for he had, you
recollect, been driven from Blankville by the voice of public
opinion--and had conferred with him upon the possibility of young
Moreland being put out of the way, without risk of discovery of those
who had a hand in it. Thorley agreed to manage every thing without risk
to any one. He wanted three thousand dollars, but his accomplice, who
was aware that you were about to draw two thousand from a bank in New
York, promised him that sum, with which he agreed to be satisfied. It
was expected and planned that the murder should be committed in the
city; but, as the time drew nigh for accomplishing it, opportunity did
not present. Finally, as the steamer upon which Thorley wished to flee
to California was about to sail, and no better thing offered, he
concluded to follow Mr. Moreland out in the evening train, and stab
him, under cover of the rain and darkness, somewhere between the depot
and the house. This he did; then, afraid to take the cars, for fear of
being suspected, he went down along the docks, took possession of a
small boat which lay moored by a chain, broke the chain, and rowed down
the river, completely protected by the storm from human observation.
The next morning found him in New York, dress, complexion and hair
changed, with nothing about him to excite the least suspicion that he
was connected with the tragedy that was just becoming known. However,
he wrote a letter, directed to John Owen, Peekskill, in which he stated
in obscure terms, that the instrument with which the murder was
committed would be found secreted in a certain oak tree on these
premises, and that it had better be taken care of. I have the letter
and the broken instrument. The way it came to be concealed in the tree
was this: After the murder, being so well sheltered by the storm, he
was bold enough to approach the house, in hopes of communicating with
his accomplice, and receiving the money directly from his hands, which
would prevent the latter from the necessity of making a trip to
Brooklyn to pay it. He saw nothing of him, however; perceiving that he
could look into the parlor through the open upper half of the shutter
by climbing the large oak at the corner, he did so; and was looking at
you all for some minutes on that evening. Perceiving by the light which
shone from the window that the instrument was broken at the point, he
at once comprehended how important it was to get rid of it, and
chancing to discover a hollow spot in the limb he stood on, he worked
it well into the rotten heart of the wood. He it was whom Miss Sullivan
detected descending from the tree, on that awful night when she, alas!
led by a hopeless, though a pure love, passing the house on her way to
her aunt's, could not deny herself a stolen look at the happiness of
the two beings so soon, she thought, to be made one. She never expected
to see them again until after their marriage, and a wild, foolish
impulse, if I must call it so, urged her into the garden, to look
through the open bay-window--a folly which came near having serious
consequences for her. George Thorley escaped, and fulfilled the
programme so far as to sail for San Francisco; but the boat stopping at
Acapulco, he received an offer there, from a Spanish gentleman, of the
position of doctor on his immense estates. It was just the country for
a character like that of Thorley to prosper in; he accepted the
proposition, wormed himself into the esteem of the Spaniard, married
his daughter, and was flourishing to his heart's content, when I came
suddenly upon him and disturbed his serenity. Yes! Mr. Argyll, I
started for California after the villain, for I had traces of him which
led me to take the journey, and it was by a providential accident that
I ascertained he was near Acapulco, where I, also, landed, sought him
out, and wrung a confession from him, which I have here in writing. He
has told the story plainly, and I have every other evidence to confirm
it which a court of law could possibly require. I could hang his
accomplice, without doubt."

At the first mention of the name of George Thorley I chanced to be
looking at James, over whose countenance passed an indescribable
change; he moved uneasily, looked at the closed doors, and again
riveted his gaze on Mr. Burton, who did not look at him at all during
the narrative, but kept steadily on, to the end, in a firm, clear tone,
low, so as not to be overheard outside, but assured and distinct.
Having once observed James, I could no longer see any one else. I
seemed to see the story reflected in his countenance, instead of
hearing it. Flushes of heat passed over it, succeeded by an ashy
paleness, which deepened into a sickly blue hue, curious to behold;
dark passions swept like shadows over it; and gradually, as the speaker
neared the climax of his story, I felt like one who gazes into an open
window of the bottomless pit.

"Have I told you _who_ it was that hired George Thorley to murder Henry
Moreland?" asked Mr. Burton, in the pause which followed.

It had been taken for granted who the person was, and as he asked the
question the eyes of all turned to me--of all except James, who
suddenly sprung with a bound against the door opening into the parlor,
which was not locked. But another was too quick for him; the powerful
hand of the detective was on his shoulder, and as he turned the
attempted fugitive full to the light, he said, in words which fell like
fire,

"It was your nephew--James Argyll."

For a moment you might have heard a leaf drop on the carpet; no one
spoke or stirred. Then Eleanor arose from her chair, and, lifting up
her hand, looked with awful eyes at the cowering murderer. Her look
blasted him. He had been writhing under Mr. Burton's grasp; but now, as
if in answer to her gaze, he said,

"Yes--I did it, Eleanor," and dropped to the floor in a swoon.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                       JOINING THE MISSING LINKS.


The scene which transpired in the next few minutes was harrowing. The
revulsion of feeling, the shock, the surprise and the horror were
almost too much for human nature to bear. Groan after groan burst from
Mr. Argyll, as if his breast were being rent in twain. Mary tottered to
her sister and threw herself at her feet, with her head buried in her
lap; if she had not been so healthily organized, and of such an even
temperament, I know not how she would have survived this frightful
check to her hopes and affections. It seemed as if Eleanor, who had
lived only to suffer for so many weary months, had now more
self-possession than any of the others; her thin, white hand fell
softly on her sister's curls with a pitying touch; and after a time,
she whispered to her some words. My own surprise was nearly as much as
any one's; for, although many times I had _felt_ that James was the
guilty one, I had always tried to drive away the impression, and had
finally almost succeeded.

In the mean time no one went to the unhappy man, who found a temporary
relief from shame and despair in insensibility. All recoiled from him,
as he lay upon the floor. Finally, Mr. Burton forced himself to raise
him; consciousness was returning, and he placed him on the sofa, and
gave him a handkerchief wet with cologne.

Presently Mary arose from her kneeling position, and looked around the
room until her glance fell on me, when she came toward me, and grasped
both my hands, saying,

"Richard, _I_ never accused you--I always felt that you were innocent,
and always said so. You must forgive the others for my sake. My father
and sister will bear me witness that I always defended you from the
accusations of one who, it is now proved, sought with double, with
inconceivable baseness, to divert suspicion from himself to
another"--her voice trembled with scorn. "I never wanted to marry him,"
she added, bursting into tears, "but they overpersuaded me."

"Quiet yourself, sister," said Eleanor, gently, arising and approaching
us. "We have all wronged you, Richard--I fear beyond forgiveness. Alas!
we can now see what a noble enemy you have been!"

In that moment I felt repaid for all I had suffered, and I said with
joy,

"Never an enemy, Miss Argyll; and I forgive you, wholly."

Then there was another stir; James had risen to slip away from the
company, now so distasteful to him; but Mr. Burton again stood between
him and egress; as he did so, he said,

"Mr. Argyll, it is for you to decide the fate of this miserable man. I
have kept all my proceedings a secret from the public; I even allowed
George Thorley to remain in Mexico, for I thought your family had
already suffered enough, without loading it down with the infamy of
your nephew. If you say that he shall go unpunished by the law, I shall
abide by your wish; this matter shall be kept by the few who now know
it. For _your_ sakes, not for his, I would spare him the death which he
deserves; but he must leave the country at once and for ever."

"Let him go," said the uncle, his back turned upon the murderer, toward
whom he would not look. "Go, instantly and for ever. And remember,
James Argyll, if I ever see your face again, if I ever hear of your
being anywhere in the United States, I shall at once cause you to be
arrested."

"And I, the same," added Mr. Burton. "God knows, if it were not for
these young ladies, whose feelings are sacred to me, I would not let
you off so easily."

He opened the door, and James Argyll slunk out into the night, and
away, none knew whither, branded, expatriated, and alone--away, without
one look at the fair, beautiful girl who was so soon to have been his
bride--away, from the home he had periled his soul to secure.

When he had gone, we all breathed more freely. Mr. Burton had yet much
to say, for he wished to close this horrible business for ever. He took
the surgical instrument which we had found in the tree, and fitted it
to the piece which had been extracted from the body of the murdered
man, and showed the family the initials of George Thorley upon it. He
then produced the written confession of Thorley, which we all read for
ourselves; but as it contained only, in a plain statement, the facts
already given, I will not repeat them here. He then proceeded with the
history of the DEAD LETTER, which, also, he had with him, and which
proved to be in the same handwriting as the confession. In speaking of
the curious manner in which this document had been lost, to be
recovered in the right time by the right person, he seemed to consider
it almost awfully providential.

From this he went on with a minute history of all the steps taken by
both of us, our journey over the ocean, the wonderful success which
waited upon patience, perseverance and energy, securing the final
triumph of justice; and, to conclude with, he said,

[Illustration:

Page 297.

"I NEVER ACCUSED YOU."]

"I owe, still, a good many explanations both to you, Mr. Argyll, and to
Mr. Redfield. I can not lay before you the thousand subtle threads by
which I trace the course of a pursuit like this, and which makes me
successful as a detective; but I can account for some things which at
times have puzzled both of you. In the first place there is about me a
power not possessed by all--call it instinct, magnetism, clairvoyancy,
or remarkable nervous and mental perception. Whatever it is, it enables
me, often, to _feel_ the presence of criminals, as well as of very good
persons, poets, artists, or marked temperaments of any kind. The day on
which this case was placed before me, it was brought by two young men,
your nephew and this person now present. I had not been ten minutes
with them when I began to perceive that _the murderer was in the room
with me_; and before they had left me, I had decided which was the
guilty man. But it would have been unpardonable rashness to denounce
him without proof; by such a course I would throw him on the defensive,
defeat the ends of justice, and overwhelm myself with denunciation. I
waited and watched--I put him under surveillance. That night upon which
he crossed the Brooklyn ferry to pay the money to the hired assassin, I
was upon his track; I heard the angry dismay with which he accused
Richard of following him, when the other met him upon this side. It was
not very long after I began to investigate the case before he
cautiously approached me, as he did you, with hints of the
might-be-guilty party; he made me see how much to the interest of his
friend Richard it would be if rivals were out of the way, and how
desperately that person loved Miss Argyll. (Forgive me, friends, for
using plain language--the whole truth must be told.) But I need not
dwell on his method, for you must be familiar with it. I confess that
he used consummate tact; if I had not read him from the first, I, too,
might have been misled. He was not over-eager in the search for
suspected persons, as the guilty almost always are. He did _not_
suspect Miss Sullivan, as Richard did. I favored the pursuit of Miss
Sullivan for two reasons; the first was to conceal my real suspicions;
the next was, after finding her handkerchief in the garden, after the
flight, and all those really strong grounds for supposing her connected
with the murder, I began to think that she _was_ connected with it,
through some interest in James Argyll. I did not know but that she
might have been attached to him--that the child she cared for might be
his--you see I was totally in the dark as to all the details. I only
took it for granted that James was guilty, and had to gather my proofs
afterward. It was not until after my interview with Leesy, at Moreland
villa, that I became convinced she had nothing to do with the murder,
and that all her strange proceedings were the result of the grief she
felt at the tragic death of one whom she secretly loved. When I had an
interview with you on that same afternoon, I saw that James had
poisoned your mind with suspicions of Mr. Redfield; for the same reason
which had kept me silent so long--that is, that I should eventually
undeceive you--I did not defend him, as I otherwise should. Apparently,
I allowed the case to drop. It was only that I might follow it
undisturbed. I had already fixed upon California as the retreat of the
accomplice, and was about to start off in search of him when Richard
appeared upon the scene with the dead-letter in his hand.

"From that hour I felt sure of perfect success. My only anxiety was
that the marriage should not be consummated which would seal my mouth;
for, if Mary had been married on my return, I should have considered it
too late to reveal the truth. This made me very uneasy--not only for
her sake, but because then I could not clear Mr. Redfield's character
to those friends who had cruelly wronged him. I kept my suspicions from
him, although he was the partner of my investigations, for I was afraid
that his impetuosity might cause him to do something indiscreet, and I
did not want the guilty one alarmed until the net was spread for his
feet. To-night, when I came here, I still further carried on my plan of
allowing you to remain undecided until the last moment, for I counted
on the sudden, overwhelming accusation having the effect to make the
murderer confess--which it did. I wished Miss Sullivan to be present,
not only to corroborate any points of my testimony in which she might
be concerned, but that reparation might also be done her, for we have
troubled and frightened her a great deal, poor thing, when her only
fault has been too keen a perception of the nobility of that departed
martyr, whose memory his friends cherish so sacredly. She has but a
brief space to dwell on earth, and I thought it would comfort her to
know that no one blames her for the pure devotion which has lighted her
soul and consumed it like oil which burns away in perfume."

Mr. Burton never meant to be poetical, but his perceptions were of that
refined kind that he could not withhold from poor Leesy this little
tribute to her noble folly. His words touched Eleanor; she was too
high-minded to despise the fruitless offering of another and a humbler
woman at the shrine before which _she_ was privileged to minister; I
believe in that hour she felt a sister's interest in poor, lowly, but
love-exalted Leesy Sullivan. She crossed over, took the wasted hand in
her own, and pressed it tenderly. We all now perceived how much this
dreadful evening had fatigued the invalid.

"She must go to bed at once," said Eleanor; "I will call Nora, and have
her placed in the room which opens out of ours, Mary."

The young ladies retired to give their gentle attention to the sick
girl; and both, before they went out, pressed my hand as they said
good-night.

We three men remained long, talking over each particular of our strange
story, for we could not feel like sleeping. And before we parted for
the night, Mr. Argyll had humbled himself to confess that he was led to
condemn me without sufficient cause.

"I loved you as a son, Richard," he said, in a broken voice, "better
than I ever loved James, for I was aware that he had many faults of
heart and head. And when I was induced to believe you the author of the
crime which had broken all our hearts, I was still further downcast. My
health has failed, as you see; and I was urgent upon Mary to marry her
cousin, for I felt as if she would soon be left friendless, and I
wanted the girls to have a protector. I might better have left them to
the care of a viper," he added, with a shudder. "Poor Mary, dear girl!
she was right all the time. She never did love that man--though, of
course, she had no idea of the truth. Thank God, it is no worse!"

I knew he was thinking of the marriage, and I, too, murmured, "Thank
God."

"Mr. Argyll," said Mr. Burton, laying his hand on that of the other,
"this terrible affair is now brought to a close, as far as it can be.
Let me advise you to brood over it as little as possible. Your health
is already affected. I acknowledge it is enough to shake one's reason;
but, for that, I would bid you to drop it all from your mind--to banish
the thought of it--never to refer to it again. You can yet be tolerably
happy. A fair future lies before all of you, except dear Miss Eleanor.
Adopt Richard as your son, make him your partner, as you first
intended. I will give you my warrant for what it is worth, that he will
relieve you both of business and household cares--and that you will
feel, during your declining years, as if you, indeed, had a son to
comfort you."

"But I do not believe that Richard would take such a place, after what
has passed," said Mr. Argyll, doubtfully.

I hesitated; for a moment pride rebelled; but since all is forgiven,
ought it not to be forgotten? When I spoke it was with heartiness.

"If you need a partner in your office, and wish me to take the place, I
will do so."

"Then the compact is signed," said Mr. Burton, almost gayly. "And now I
will try to find a bed at the hotel."

"Of course you will not," said our host; "this house is yours as much
as mine, Mr. Burton, always. How much I thank you for all the time,
money and thought you have lavished in our behalf, I will not try to
say to-night. Our gratitude is unspoken because it is boundless."

"Don't thank me for following out the instincts of my nature," said the
detective, affecting carelessness; and with that we shook Mr. Argyll's
hand, and retired to the rooms assigned us.

In the morning Miss Sullivan was found to be much worse; the journey
and the excitement had made her very ill, so that it was impossible for
her to return to the city with Mr. Burton. A physician was sent for who
said that she could not live over two or three days. She heard the
sentence with apparent joy; only she begged Mr. Burton to send little
Nora up to her, on the evening train, that she might see the child
before she died. This he promised to do, and to have always an interest
in her welfare. She was much affected when he bade her farewell, for he
had gained her love and confidence by his manner of treating her.

The child came, and was tenderly received by the sisters. They were
unwearied in their attentions to the sufferer, whose last hours were
soothed by their earnest words of hope and comfort. Leesy died with a
smile on her face, going out of this world, which had been so cold to
one of her impassioned nature, with joy. When I looked at the wasted
corpse, I could hardly realize that the fire was out for ever which had
so long burned in those wonderful eyes--it was not quenched, it had
only been removed to a purer atmosphere. She was buried, very quietly,
but reverently, on a beautiful winter day. Her little charge was much
petted by the young ladies; and as a lady who chanced to see her,
learning that she was an orphan, took a fancy to adopt her, they, with
Mr. Burton's consent, resigned her to a new mother. I have seen little
Nora lately; she is a pretty child, and well cared for.



                               CHAPTER X.

                             THE NEW LIFE.


The winter passed away quietly. The sudden absence of James Argyll
caused much harmless gossip in the village. It was reported, and
generally believed, that he had gone abroad, on a tour to Egypt,
because Miss Argyll had jilted him. Fortunately, the arrangements for
the wedding were known to but few, the feelings of the family having
inclined toward a very quiet affair. The little woman who had prepared
the wedding-dress was a New York milliner, who probably never learned
that the wedding was not consummated.

I was very busy in the office. Mr. Argyll's health was poor, and
business had accumulated which took the most of my time. He wished me
to board in his house, but I declined doing so; though, as in the old,
happy times, I spent nearly all my evenings there.

Beyond the first shock, Mary did not seem to suffer from the abrupt
termination of an engagement into which she had entered reluctantly. I
even believed that she felt very much relieved at not being compelled
to marry a cousin for the sake of securing a protector. Her gay laugh
soon resumed its sweetness; her bright loveliness bloomed in the midst
of winter, making roses and sunshine in the old mansion. Eleanor seemed
to love to see her sister happy, gently encouraging her efforts to
drive away the shadow which lingered about the house. Her own sad life
must not be permitted to blight the joy of any other. I have said that
my feelings toward her had changed from passionate love, through
intense sympathy, into affectionate reverence. I think, now, that I
felt toward her a good deal as Mary did--that nothing we could do for
her, to show our silent love and sympathy, could be too much--a tender
regard for her wishes and habits--a deep respect for the manner in
which she bore her loss. We did not expect that she would ever again be
gay or hopeful; so we did not annoy her with trying to make her so.

In the mean time a great change was taking place in my own nature, of
which I was but faintly aware. I only knew that I enjoyed my hard
work--that I felt resolute and strong, and that my evenings were
pleasant and homelike. Further, I did not question. I wrote to my
mother a guarded account of what had occurred; but I was obliged to pay
her a flying visit to explain all the facts, for I dared not trust them
on paper. Thus the winter glided away into sunshine and spring again.

It was the first day which had really seemed like spring. It was warm
and showery; there was a smell of violets and new grass on the air. I
had my office-window open, but as the afternoon wore away, and the sun
shone out after an April sprinkle, I could not abide the dullness of
that court of law. I felt those "blind motions of the spring," which
Tennyson attributes to trees and plants. And verily, I was in sympathy
with nature. I felt _verdant_--and if the reader thinks that to my
discredit, he is at liberty to cherish his opinion. I felt young and
happy--years seemed to have dropped away from me, like a mantle of ice,
leaving the flowers and freshness to appear. Not knowing whither my
fancy would lead me, I walked toward the mansion, and again, as upon
that autumn afternoon upon which I first saw Eleanor after her
calamity, I turned my steps to the arbor which crowned the slope at the
back of the lawn. Thinking of Eleanor, as I saw her then, I entered the
place with a light step, and found Mary sitting, looking off on the
river with a dreamy face. She blushed when she perceived who had
intruded upon her reverie; I saw the warm color sweep, wave after wave,
over the lovely cheek and brow, and I knew instantly the secret it
betrayed. I remembered the arms which had once fallen about my neck,
the tears which had rained upon my cheek from the eyes of a young girl,
the eager voice which had said, "_I_ love you Richard! _I_ will believe
nothing against you!"

Oh, how sweetly the revelation came to me then! My own heart was fully
prepared to receive it. Through months I had been transferring the
wealth of young, hopeful love, which craves the bliss of being shared,
from the sister who was raised so far above mortal passion, to this
dear semblance of her former self. My face must have expressed my
happiness, for when I stood over Mary, as she sat, and turned her sweet
face up toward my own, she gave but one glance before her eyes fell to
hide their thought.

I kissed her, and she kissed me back again, shyly, timidly. She loved
me; I was no longer mateless, but drank the cup of joy which is filled
for youth. What happy children we were, when, late enough after sunset,
we strolled back to the house and went to receive the paternal blessing!

I believe that hour when our betrothal was known was the best which had
blessed the household since the shadow descended upon it.

In June we were married; there was no excuse for delay, and all the
friends expressed themselves urgent to have the matter settled. We
went, on our wedding-tour, to see my mother, with whom we had a long,
delightful visit. Three years have passed since then, and in that time
there have been changes--some of them very sad. Mr. Argyll died about
two years since, his health never rallying from the shock which it
received during those trying times. Since then, we have resided in the
old mansion, and Eleanor lives with us. She is a noble woman--one of
Christ's anointed, who puts aside her own sorrow, to minister to the
griefs and sufferings of others. Both Mary and myself defer a great
deal to her judgment, which is calm and clear, never clouded by
passion, as ours will sometimes be. We feel as if nothing evil could
live where Eleanor is; she is the light and blessing of our household.

The saddest affliction which has fallen upon us since the loss of our
father, is the death of Mr. Burton. Alas! he has fallen a victim, at
last, to the relentless pursuit of enemies which his course in life
raised up about him. The wicked feared him, and compassed his
destruction. Whether he was murdered by some one whom he had detected
in guilt, or by some one who feared the investigations he was making,
is not known; he died of poison administered to him in his food. It
wrings my heart to think that great and good soul is no more of this
world. He was so active, so powerful, of such a genial temperament, it
is hard to conceive him dead. We all loved him so much! Oh, if we could
discover the cowardly assassin! Sometimes I wonder if it may not have
been the man whom he once so mercilessly exposed. God knows--I do not.
Attempts upon his life were many times made, but his acute perceptions
had always, hitherto, warned him of danger.

Lenore is with us. We shall keep her until some lover comes in the
future to rob us of her. She is a rare child--almost a woman now--as
talented as her father, and exceedingly lovely. At present she is
overwhelmed with grief, and clings to Eleanor, who is her best
comforter. In our love for her we try to repay some of the debt we owe
her father.


                                THE END.



                          Transcriber's Notes


When italics were used in the original book, the corresponding text has
been surrounded by _underscores_.

Some presumed printer's errors have been corrected, including
normalizing punctuation. Further corrections are listed below with the
printed text (top) and corrected text (bottom):

  until it it is
  until it is (p. 111)

  detcetive
  detective (p. 231)

  wth
  with (p. 266)

  reappearance
  reäppearance (p. 96; change based on usage elsewhere in the book)





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