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Title: My Friend Pasquale and other stories
Author: Tait, James Selwin
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          MY FRIEND PASQUALE

                           AND OTHER STORIES

                                  BY

                           JAMES SELWIN TAIT

                               AUTHOR OF
         “WHO IS THE MAN?” “THE NEAPOLITAN BANKER,” ETC., ETC.

                               NEW YORK
                         TAIT, SONS & COMPANY
                             UNION SQUARE

                          COPYRIGHT, 1892, BY
                            J. SELWIN TAIT

                        [_All rights reserved_]


                      TO THE DEAR MEMORY OF HER,
                      WHO FIRST INSPIRED MY PEN,
                        I DEDICATE THESE PAGES.



MY FRIEND PASQUALE.



CHAPTER I.


The events narrated in the following story happened a score and more of
years ago. They have never before been made public, and I make them
known now with pain and misgiving, but impelled by a sense of duty which
I can no longer disregard.

During their occurrence they changed the current of my life, once from
grave to gay, and then and finally, from gaiety to unspeakable gloom.
Although time has to some extent dulled the edge of my grief at the loss
of my friend Pasquale, his memory will remain with me while life lasts
as a cherished and sacred thing.

When the reader ends this simple narration this eulogy of the dead may
surprise and shock him, and, in reply and explanation, I have only to
say in advance that I pity him if the faithful, unvarnished record
leaves that impression on his mind--he did not know Pasquale.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was wending my way homeward from Hampstead Heath one Saturday
afternoon in the early summer time, when I found myself, on recovering
from a lengthened reverie, midway on the Old North Road at a point now
occupied by the Midland Railway Terminus at Saint Pancras.

My day’s work at the bank was finished and with it all the duties of the
week, and I felt that sense of relief and buoyancy which, perhaps, comes
to all, young and old alike, at the completion of tedious work honestly
performed.

I was still--at the period of which I write--a good deal of a
day-dreamer, living in a world of my own for many hours of the
twenty-four, and when the heavy bank doors clanged behind me, with all
business cares and anxieties doubly barred within the impregnable vault,
my mind would soar away from business thoughts as an imprisoned lark
leaps to freedom from its narrow cage.

The road I was traveling was not one which I would have taken
intentionally, but in my fit of absent-mindedness I had unconsciously
followed the trend of the highway with the result that I was committed
to one of the most uninviting thoroughfares in the city of London.

As a highway this road was but little used; it had already been secured
by the railway company, and with the exception of one public-house of
low character there were no dwellings fronting it, but only the wreck of
the torn down structures demolished to make way for the company’s
projected improvements; and this wreckage was walled, or penned in, by a
high and closely boarded fence running the full length of the road.

The Old North Road was nearly a mile in length between these wooden
walls, and it was a street to be shunned not only by females but by
solitary travelers of even the stronger sex, for it afforded no means of
escape from an unpleasant encounter.

When I had traveled about one third of its length my attention was
attracted to an excited group of men some three hundred yards distant.

These men I found, on nearing them, to be coal-heavers employed by the
railway company, and already a good deal exhilarated by their wages-day
libations.

They were broad-shouldered, powerful men--a collection of sooty
giants--and the sport which they were enjoying was an impromptu
dog-fight, an amusement entirely after their own heart.

As I approached the group on the one side, a young man of about my own
age neared it from the other, and we both stopped to ascertain the cause
of the excitement.

The sight of one dog apparently killing the other was to me a revolting
spectacle, and I was turning away in disgust when I saw the other
arrival elbow his way fiercely through the men and attempt to drag off
the dog which seemed to be gaining the victory; in doing which he
certainly risked his life.

“O, you great, black cowards!” he shouted, his voice ringing in the air
like a trumpet, “to allow two poor creatures to worry each other in such
a way!”

His movements were so sudden that he had actually grasped one of the
dogs before his intention could be frustrated, but as soon as he touched
the animal a burly coal-heaver seized him round the waist, and lifting
him high in air, carried him out of the crush into the middle of the
road, where he planted him on the ground and released his hold. Not
ill-naturedly altogether, but yet with a warning look in his grimy face
he placed his bulky body in front of the disturber of the fight, saying
as he did so, “Master, we are not molesting you, leave us alone, or----”
the threat in his eyes supplied the rest.

The stranger whose face was pale as death, and whose eyes literally
flamed with rage, said not a word, but, quick as lightning, his right
hand shot out and struck his opponent straight between the eyes. The
amazing fury of the blow, the skill with which it was given, and the
smallness of the hand which struck it, had, to some extent, the same
effect on the dense skull of the coal-heaver as the pole axe has on the
head of the ox. He fell, not backward, but forward, on his knees, as a
bullock falls when struck.

The group around the two dogs had given no more thought to the intruder
after their companion had removed him, but now one looked around and
seeing his friend on the ground and probably concluding that the
foreign-looking stranger had stabbed him, he rushed to secure the
intruder.

The latter, however, seemed possessed with an ungovernable fury and flew
at his new assailant as if he would rend him to pieces. Even a blow
from the ponderous fist, though it landed him three yards away flat on
his back in the dusty road, in nowise discouraged him. In a moment he
was on his feet flying like a tiger-cat at his antagonist’s throat, his
dark eyes gleaming anew with electric fire. In the midst of the _mêlée_
a hansom cab drove up, and the driver stopped to witness the double
event.

Others of the group now gathered around, and I feared, not for the
safety of the stranger’s limbs, but for his life. It was an “ugly” group
for any single man to attack. These men, although easygoing enough up to
a certain point, were incarnate fiends when roused, and they were
already disposed to be quarrelsome.

At length the coal-heaver tore the other from his throat, and getting
him at arm’s length promptly felled him to the ground.

No movement this time--was he dead? That sledge-hammer blow might well
have fractured the skull of a delicate man!

Such men don’t always stop at knock-down blows, and when one, the worse
for liquor, shouted “Kill the fellow,” I called to the cabman, “For
Heaven’s sake get the injured man out of this.” “You get him inside
here,” promptly replied the driver. “Stand back!” I yelled to the men
with a horrified air, which was only half-assumed; “you have killed
him,” and stooping down I raised the slender figure in my arms. As I did
so the cabman turned his horse as if to drive off, but in reality in
order to put his vehicle between the men and myself. This he did with
much adroitness and without obstruction, as the others thought he was
simply preparing to leave.

His movement enabled me to place the slowly recovering figure in the
hansom cab without interference.

“Drive on!” I shouted, but, alas! a smoke-colored Hercules had seen my
movements and had grasped the horse’s head with a grip of iron. It was
the brute who had yelled “Kill him.”

Knowing remonstrance to be entirely useless I struck the wretch with my
stick with all the force I could muster. He staggered under the blow and
released his hold. A moment more and the horse sprang forward, and as
the cab passed me I caught at the driver’s seat, and with one hand on
that and a foot on the powerful spring which supported the body of the
carriage on that side, I managed to hold on until we were clear of the
dangers which threatened us.

When I joined my fellow-traveler inside the cab, I found him crouching
on his knees with his head buried in the cushion of the seat. He had
recovered consciousness and was moaning softly.

“Are you hurt?” I inquired as I entered the cab, alarmed lest the
merciless blow of the laborer should have done the stranger some serious
injury.

The face which was upturned to my gaze was ghastly pale, and a wide
semi-circle of sombre shadow under the dark weird-looking eyes lent to
the latter a strange unnatural brilliancy.

“No, I am not hurt,” he replied; “but it always upsets me very much to
witness cruelty of any kind: did you see the dogs?”

As he made the inquiry a shudder ran through his frame as if the
recollection of the sickening spectacle had revolted him anew.

The rest of the journey to my quarters was performed in silence, while
I, mindful of the mad fury of my companion’s attack on the coal-giant,
labored mentally to discover where the consistency lay in trying to
seriously injure a human being because he objected to the stoppage of a
dog-fight. I had, indeed, no love for the brutal coal-heaver, but I was
nevertheless sensible of a spirit of incongruity about my companion’s
actions, and I was still puzzling over the problem when the cab reached
its destination--my own rooms.

After I had assisted my fellow-traveler to alight, and had discharged my
obligations to the cabman, the latter, addressing my new friend, told
him that he had undoubtedly had a narrow escape. “Had those men got hold
of you at the last, a squad of police could not have saved you; you have
to thank that gentleman that you are not now lying battered out of shape
on the Old North Road; and I know both the men and the place.”

When the stranger heard this he turned towards me with eyes suffused
with tears, and raised my hand to his lips.

“I thank you for saving my life,” he murmured, “and I will never forget
the debt I owe you.”

I replied, somewhat ashamed at the novel attention I was receiving, that
but for the cabman the incident on the road would probably have proved
fatal to both of us.

When the cabman left he carried with him a _pour-boir_ which made the
compensation paid by myself mean and contemptible in comparison.

“Thank’ee, sir, and God bless’ee. If ever either of ye want a friend I
hope Will Owen may be on hand to take the office;” saying which he
wheeled his cab as on a pivot, saluted with the handle of his whip,
touched his horse with the lash, and drove off.

When I turned to my companion I found him staring confusedly at the
houses.

“Why--where are we?” he inquired with considerable astonishment in his
voice.

“In Russell Square, and this is where I live,” pointing to No. 12, where
the hansom had stopped.

“Well, that is certainly very remarkable,” he observed with a low laugh
of astonishment. “Why, I live next door to you.” Saying this he handed
me his card, on which I found engraved, Amidio Pasquale, 13 Russell
Square, London. “I chose No. 13 for a residence to see whether there
were any ill-luck in the number.” This last remark was the result of my
having somewhat unconsciously repeated the word “thirteen;” but I was
thinking only of the extraordinary coincidence that we who had been
brought together under such circumstances that day as would almost
certainly tend to bind us to each other in future, should find ourselves
already next-door neighbors.

Was it a coincidence--or was it only the first distinct move made by the
finger of fate on the chess-board of our lives?

Now, in these later years, when I recall the terrible ending to our
brief friendship begun that afternoon, it seems to my embittered and
discouraged soul that there was naught of coincidence in the
circumstance at all but, that, the time having come, Destiny began her
grim and blood-stained task in that kindly work of mercy attempted on
the Old North Road that day, reckless whether the blows which fell so
unrelentingly from her hand were struck by means of the crosier of the
Churchman or by the bludgeon of the assassin; or whether it was the
pinion of an angel or the hoof of a demon which she had seized to speed
her in her dire inscrutable work.

Is it because Man’s best deeds fall so far short of the approval of the
Immortal Gods that ofttimes they appear to be used--in sheer satire--as
instruments of untold misery and tragedy?

My friend accompanied me to my rooms, and for a time he sat in silence,
crouching over the fire in the grate, and every now and then shivering
as if from the sight of another horror.

“Did the appearance of the dogs impress you so very painfully?” I
inquired, anxious to find some solution for my new friend’s state of
semi-hysteria.

“O don’t speak of it!” he exclaimed, his voice quivering with emotion,
and the tears welling in his eyes, “One dog was literally being worried
to death!”

“O yes,” I replied, “it looks like that, but there are many ups and
downs even in a dog fight; probably the under dog had its turn after a
while, and it is surprising how much chewing they can stand from each
other and be but little the worse.”

Pasquale turned upon me speechless for the moment with horror. Then, ere
his glance had lengthened to a stony glare, he said with an apparent
effort at restraint, “But I forgot you did not see the animals, and
cannot therefore know how terrible it all was.”

“Well, be content,” I hastened to say by way of encouragement. “You did
your best; you knocked one coal-heaver almost senseless, and you tore
the other’s neck-tie to pieces, besides lacerating his face, and----”

“Do you know,” he interrupted, striding up to me with his eyes aflame
and the veins standing out round and black on his forehead, “do you
know, sir, that I would have liked to tear those men limb from limb for
stopping me, and I almost think I would have done so, if I had not been
prevented.”

And I thought so too, as I gazed at him standing there almost suffocated
with the fury of passion.

This strange anomaly--this combination of dove-like tenderness, and
tigerish ferocity was a complete mystery to me, and I felt bewildered at
the contemplation of it.

After a time my friend’s mood changed, and he apologized humbly for his
outbreak. “I am entirely unhinged by the events of the day,” he said
gently. “I am not usually like this, I can assure you”--a statement
fully borne out by my after-experience of him, for a brighter, gentler,
more delightful companion I shall never again meet in this world.

His last words as he left me were: “I am not feeling well, and shall go
away for a week, but when I return you and I must see much of each
other.”



CHAPTER II.


Life in London had great attractions for me during the first year of my
residence in that wonderful city. Not because of the gaieties of the
metropolis, for of those I knew nothing, while of its more solid
attractions my ignorance was equally great.

So long as my books retained their charms I had no appetite for other
recreations or attractions.

The busy crowds which in my homeward journey pressed past me on all
sides, callous as to my welfare and heedless of my existence, delighted
me because they gave me, with a sensation which thrilled me like a
passion, the enchantment of an isolation and seclusion greater than
those of the unpeopled desert.

When I arrived at home I gave myself up unreservedly to the enjoyment of
my library.

My rooms were comfortably and even richly furnished, and the apartments
themselves were of imposing dimensions. Before the tide of fashion had
rolled westward from Russell Square, the house in which I lived had been
a mansion of considerable pretensions; and this, to suit the more modest
requirements of the new class of tenants now occupying the square, had
been divided into two good-sized houses.

The cutting of the house in two had resulted oddly at some points, and
in my rooms signs of new walls, foreign to the original design of the
building, were discernible; as were also two massive oaken doorways
which had apparently at one time communicated with the opposite house,
but had since been closed up.

Of these two doors more hereafter.

The bright fire, the softly-shaded light, the dainty surroundings and
the book I loved, suggested something of a Sybaritish existence during
my evenings, and sometimes my conscience pricked me about yielding so
unreservedly to what certainly was a most pleasant enjoyment.

I need not, however, have fretted at the slender dissipation, since the
hour was already on the wing which was to shatter the repose of my life
into fragments, and to tarnish for evermore the gold with which these
earlier days were being perhaps over-gilded.

Life, however pleasant, had seemed tame beside the dramas of Literature;
soon Fiction was to pale before the tragedies of Fact.

Pasquale called upon me immediately on his return, and as I found him
then he continued without change until the end. Bright, cheery,
brilliant and debonair, his sun suffered no eclipse until it sank
forever.

Our acquaintance soon ripened into the warmest friendship, and ere long
the wonderful charm of his manner began to wean me from the books which
had hitherto enslaved me.

When at no lengthy intervals he came to “rout me out” and carry me off
for a long walk through the crowded streets I closed my volume with ever
lessening regret.

His powers of perception, naturally great, had been trained until they
had all the acuteness of the most delicate sense, and allied to a mind
accustomed to reason inductively they filled his brain with scenes lost
to the ordinary observer.

At the first glance he seemed to penetrate the mask which disguised the
true character of those he was brought in contact with. The various
hand-writings which mark the human visage, as well as the influences
which mould the actions of the body, seemed alike familiar to him, and
when the pros and cons were duly weighed in his logical brain the real
character of the individual, and not the outward pretence, lay mapped
out before him with wonderful accuracy and promptness considering the
inexactness of the science which he cultivated.

Hence it was that, to myself, wrapped up in my books and blind to the
outer world, his analysis of the individuals who passed us in our
nightly walks, seemed marvelous in the extreme.

Occasionally we went to the music halls, but I think that, catching the
infection from my friend, I studied the onlookers rather than the
somewhat offensive and vulgar display on the boards.

Truth to tell, I relished Pasquale’s company a great deal more without
such tawdry surroundings. It was at that time a source of considerable
wonder to me what attraction my brilliant friend could find in my dull
society, and I sometimes endured the passing and humiliating reflection
that he simply used me as a species of human target into which he could
shoot the sharp arrows of his fancy, or may be, as a very rough
commonplace file against which to edge them.

Occasionally I called upon my friend by way of acknowledgment of his
many visits to myself, but I must have been very unfortunate, for the
answer given unhesitatingly was invariably: “Mr. Pasquale has gone out.”

Once indeed his landlady, who was an American by birth, told the servant
to go up to the third floor and see whether her lodger was in, but the
answer received was the same--“He is not at home.”

Strange to say, my friend, who was so communicative on impersonal
topics, was so reticent about his own affairs, that this was the first
intimation I had received as to the floor on which he lived.

“You live on the third floor, I live on the second,” I remarked on the
occasion of his next visit, anxious to furnish something new to the
conversation.

“Indeed!” he remarked by way of reply, giving me, I fancied, a sharp
glance and adding quickly, “How did you discover that, Wyndham?”

When I told him he smiled, and then added, “I go out a great deal. I
love long walks and am quite unable to bury myself in books as you do,
my friend; I wish you would come with me more frequently.”

This implied-craving for my society was entirely unintelligible to me,
for Pasquale’s marvelous brightness and gaiety rendered my own stolidity
more apparent to myself day by day. No discouragement seemed to daunt
him, no business cares worried him. From the first moment that he joined
me till he left, his language and his expression were radiant with humor
and buoyant light-heartedness.

Of money troubles he had, or appeared to have, none, and he explained to
me in a moment of exceptional confidence that his father, who was an
Italian wine-grower, had sent him to London to learn the wine-business
there, in order that he might eventually open a branch establishment in
the English metropolis.

“I have no extravagant tastes,” he added, “and my father is wealthy and
generous, so that I am usually well in funds; so, Wyndham, if ever you
are hard up, you must make me your banker.”

Little by little this strange, bright creature woke me from my old-world
dreams, until at length, for the first time since my arrival in London,
I felt the evenings drag when he failed to put in an appearance. His
sunny nature had become to me a panacea for all the dull and oppressive
cares of my own life, and I craved for his company, in which nothing
sordid or gloomy could live.

Pasquale, in spite of his apparently volatile nature, was a great reader
of a certain class of books, as well as a close student of human nature,
and now and again he would astonish me by his information on all
questions touching the phenomena of mind and matter.

“My friend,” he remarked one day, “you traverse all roads at intervals,
and therefore cross the same parallels of thought again and again; I
only travel one for the most part untrodden, and on that lonely and
fearsome path I am leagues beyond your utmost thought and that of, I
think, every other human being. In fact I imagine that I must be close
to the pole of human search; anyhow,” he broke off merrily, “I feel cold
enough for such a northern latitude, and am glad to warm myself by your
beautiful fire.”

Shortly after this I felt a great inclination for a moonlight sail on
the Thames, and having received an invitation to join a boating party I
asked permission to bring my friend.

“You have never seen the Thames by moonlight,” I remarked to him, “and I
am told that it is lovely beyond description. On Thursday next it will
be full-moon; will you come?”

I had spoken warmly in my anxiety to secure his company, but he answered
me coldly, “I cannot accompany you--I am full of sympathies and
antipathies; I love you, Wyndham, as much, I think, as life itself, but
I hate and loathe the moonlight worse than death. Don’t stare at me,
dear boy, it is constitutional and cannot be helped.”

Rather than go alone or leave my friend I gave up the intended trip on
the river, but for the next week I, nevertheless, saw nothing of him. He
was reported “not at home.” When he returned he informed me, in reply to
my inquiry as to his absence, that he had been called out of town. He
had often been absent in a similar way before and the occurrence
occasioned me no surprise.

Shortly after this I was sent to the United States by the firm I
represented, to deliver certain papers of importance to a client in
Chicago.

As I was about to leave, my friend Pasquale somewhat surprised me by
saying, “Wyndham, I can’t stand this place without you, so I think I
shall go off for a time too; my father has been urging me for a long
while to take a two months’ holiday, and has recommended Norway
salmon-fishing as a soothing and pleasant recreation. Sport of the kind
would be worse than death to me with my hatred of seeing suffering: so,
as he leaves the choice to me, I am thinking of going over to Paris. I
happen to know the Chief of Police there, and I want to master their
wonderful detective system and to see whether I am right in supposing
that I know more than others do about the peculiarities of the human
mind, more especially in its relation to the perpetration of crime; and,
so, dear old friend,” he concluded, “if you hear of any wonderful
captures during your absence, look out for my name!”

And so we parted with, on my side, many a yearning heartache for the
friend I was leaving behind me.

As the stately Cunarder carrying me on board steamed out from Liverpool,
the same day a channel boat bore Pasquale from Dover to Calais.



CHAPTER III.


When I arrived in New York I had not much opportunity of reading up back
numbers of the daily papers, but I was startled to see that the Chief
Commissioner of the London Police, Sir Charles Pendreth, had been found
dead in his bed by his own hand, and that, immediately following upon
his suicide, had occurred that of two of the leading police magistrates
of the metropolis.

These occurrences, dire enough in themselves, were rendered still more
terrible by the fact that each had killed himself in the same way--by
severing his jugular vein with his razor,--and had left behind him a
letter in his well-known handwriting explaining why he had committed
self-destruction.

In the case of the first suicide the coroner’s jury had found
considerable difficulty in avoiding a verdict of _felo-de-se_, as the
letter left behind displayed so manifest a purpose; but in the other
cases the deaths were unhesitatingly attributed to the spreading of an
epidemic of suicide, and the verdict of temporary insanity rendered in
both instances threw a merciful veil over the intentions of the
self-slain.

On my return to New York from Chicago I found a letter awaiting me. It
was from my friend Pasquale, and the sight of his handwriting thrilled
me with joy. Heaven alone knew how dry and barren my life had seemed
without him all these long weeks spent in dreary, uninteresting travel.

Pasquale stated in his letter that he had found his stay in Paris very
agreeable (I winced jealously at the thought) and instructive, and that
while there he had seen no reason to moderate his views as to his
ability to unravel any criminal plot, or to account for any mental
obliquity; and in virtue of this additional confidence in himself, and
of the further experience which he had gained, he proposed to go to
London shortly to endeavor to solve the mystery of the terrible mania
for self-destruction in that city.

Pasquale’s letter was dated the 1st of October; he hoped to arrive in
London on the 31st. So did I. Thank God, my old friend and I would soon
meet.

On the 1st of November the good ship “Saragossa” landed me safely in
Liverpool, and at 7. P.M. the same evening my cab drove up to the door
of No. 12 Russell Square.

As I descended from my cumbersome four-wheeler I noticed a hansom cab
dash up to the adjoining house, and words would fail me to express the
rapture with which I saw my friend alight.

His welcome was like a bath of electrified sunshine, so gay, so bright
and thrilling was it in its _empressement_, and as soon as he had seen
his portmanteau safely housed he turned to me, his whole voice vibrating
with pleasure.

“Wyndham, I can’t ask you into my dull quarters, but you and I must see
much of each other to-night to make up for our long separation, so as
soon as we have taken our baths and a chop I will run in to spend a
couple of hours with you, and I’ve got some lovely French cognac which
the occasion will absolve us for using,--dear, dear Wyndham, on my soul
I’m glad to see you--” and before I could retreat, much to my
embarrassment, he had clasped me by the shoulder and imprinted a hearty
kiss, first on one cheek, and then on the other.

“I missed you more than tongue can tell,” he continued, and as he spoke
the tears in his voice made it husky, as the glad mist in my own eyes
made my vision dim.

I noticed that Pasquale had brought back a French valet with him from
Paris, a tall, muscular and rather forbidding man in appearance, with
the stamp of the army or police about his square shoulders, stiff neck
and mechanical step.

“An old army man,” I murmured to myself; “an officer’s servant, most
likely.”

“You are becoming somewhat more fastidious, my friend,” I remarked, in
reference to the valet.

“No, no, Wyndham,” was the reply; “Jacques is supposed to be my valet,
but he is in reality a detective to help me in the work of penetrating
the English mystery. Sometimes one good clue becomes lost while you are
hunting up another, and Jacques’ duty will be to follow the scent before
it grows cold, while I am doing something else; but, pray don’t tell
anyone about him.”

What a delightful couple of hours we spent. As the clock struck eleven
my friend rose to go. By that time he had given me a full history of his
doings in Paris, and it would certainly have been difficult for a less
enterprising individual to have managed to accomplish so much of actual
work and positive enjoyment in so short a time.

“Then you never visited London at all during those two months?” I
inquired.

“Not once,” was the reply; “I should have hated to visit my old haunts
while you were away.”

With Pasquale back the old days returned, bringing with them the
sunshine which seemed to crown him like a nimbus, and scatter its
radiance all around.

As I stood by the old carved mantelpiece, winding up my watch after the
door closed on him that evening, my heart was full of an exhilarating
gaiety to which it had long been a stranger.

If I--a man by nature harsh and cold--regarded Pasquale with such tender
feelings, what emotions must he arouse in the gentler sex, and what
unutterable havoc must he work with their tender susceptibilities!

While this thought was exercising my brain, and as I turned into the
inner room, I became conscious of a deep groan uttered on the opposite
side of the blind doorway which stood between my bedroom and the room on
the same floor in the adjoining house.

I recollected that Pasquale had informed me that the floor under him,
that is, the one adjoining my rooms, was occupied by a troublesome old
Frenchman whose peculiar ways gave the people of the house a good deal
of trouble.

I waited for a time in silence, but the groan was not repeated, and,
eventually, I retired to rest, and to enjoy an unbroken and dreamless
sleep.

I awoke somewhat late the following morning, and as I was not obliged to
report myself at the office at the usual hour on that occasion, and as I
was, moreover, somewhat fatigued, I proposed to enjoy my breakfast in
bed and my morning’s newspaper as well--- to me an unprecedented luxury.

If I had anticipated that my morning meal should be enjoyed in comfort I
was doomed to be disappointed, for I had scarcely tasted my food before
a thundering knock at the door announced my friend Pasquale, who burst
into my room newspaper in hand, and with outstretched finger pointed to
the giant head lines on the newspaper, “Another Suicide--- Death of
Inspector Reynolds by his own hand.”

“Now, my friend, you will see whether my boasted skill is of any use. If
I do not prove to your satisfaction that there is something more in
these suicides than meets the eye, I will agree to forfeit everything in
life.”

I was thunderstruck and horrified. I pushed the paper away from me with
the first trace of genuine impatience which I think I had ever displayed
towards my friend.

“Take your horrid sheet away, Pasquale,” I exclaimed, “I don’t
understand your ghoulish glee----,” but my voice failed me when I saw
the look of pain and remorse which crossed his face.

“Wyndham, I swear to you before God,” he replied with an earnestness
which it is pitiful to remember, “that I would not injure a hair of
anyone’s head whom the Good Lord has made, no, not for life itself, if I
knew it.”

My friend left shortly afterwards, cast down, it seemed to me, in spite
of my reiterated assurance that I had spoken hastily and tetchily,
having only just been waked out of my sleep.

When I returned to my apartments that evening there had been up to that
time no indication of any clue to the cause of the suicide, beyond the
strange, unsatisfactory letter which, as in the other cases of suicide,
had been left behind him by the dead man; and the condition of the
public mind was, in consequence, one of profound horror and anxiety.

I had hardly dared to hope that my friend Pasquale would forget the
hastiness of my morning’s greeting so far as to call upon me, and I was
accordingly relieved beyond measure when I heard the old familiar knock.

He came in--with at first a glance askance--almost of timidity, such a
glance as a loving, warm-hearted woman might give to an offended and
over-sensitive friend. When he noticed my shamefacedness he advanced
gracefully towards me with outstretched hands, looking altogether too
pretty a picture to waste on a cold-blooded stiff-mannered Briton, and
added hugely to my embarrassment by kissing me softly on either cheek.

That terrible foreign fashion--would I ever get accustomed to it! “Thank
God! Wyndham, you and I are all right! If we were to quarrel I should
give everything up in despair.”

The evening passed as a hundred others had gone before it; in
controversy, brilliant and conclusive on the one side, and stupid and
dogmatic on the other.

“Your obstinacy almost converts me, it is so magnificent, in its
contempt of law and fact.”

Such was the Parthian shaft which Pasquale launched as he bowed himself
out, genial and smiling, as if our every sentence had been a harmonious
duet; but the parting words rankled in my sensitive breast, and as the
door closed behind my friend, I sat still and silent in a cold defiant
mood.

“Good-night, old friend,” said a soft and musical voice at my elbow.
“Forgive my banter; I won’t sleep a wink if you don’t shake hands with
me.”

Pasquale had softly re-entered the room and stood gazing at me with a
tender wistful look.

I gave him my hand somewhat grudgingly,--it pains me to remember,--and
after one glance at the pathetic eyes I resumed my stare at the dying
embers.

Oh, memory! Oh, days and years that have been! how much more bitter than
death itself are your whisperings of lost opportunities, of loving
deeds undone, loving words unsaid, of loving glances withheld!

After Pasquale had gone I sat for a while reflecting on what he had told
me about the result of his preliminary investigations into the cause of
the epidemic of suicide which was paralyzing the entire city.

One peculiar feature of these horrors he had especially dwelt
upon--namely, the fact that in each case the suicide had left a letter
stating that he had determined to take his own life. As to the
authenticity of these letters the authorities appeared to have no doubt
whatever. On comparison with other specimens of the dead men’s
handwriting they could not, it was declared, be called in question.

Then, too, there was the extraordinary similarity as to method. Each man
had, with great deliberation, severed his jugular vein, using for the
purpose his own razor, which, in every instance, had been found firmly
clasped in the right hand of the suicide.

“The Press call it a contagion of suicide,” Pasquale had said, with a
smile of contempt which had roused my easily stirred ire, “now I say it
is nothing of the kind. It is murder and not suicide, and I will prove
it so.”

Yes, that had been the absurdly egotistical remark which had finally
exhausted my forbearance. I had no patience with such hair-brained
ideas.

During the next week I saw nothing of my volatile friend, and when he
finally made his appearance he looked pale and, I imagined, thinner.

“I have been called away,” he explained to me during this visit, “and I
must now redouble my efforts to work out my theory as to those so-called
suicides.”

On the next occasion when he visited my rooms he told me with great
exultation that he had at length received from a prominent expert in
handwriting the assurance, after a searching examination, that the
letters purporting to have been written by the poor suicides had all
been penned by the same hand; and that on careful comparison, although
wonderful forgeries, they were all essentially different in character
from the handwritings of the dead men.

“Such is the opinion of the expert I employed,” continued Pasquale, “but
looking to the gravity of the subject and the responsibility of making
so serious a statement, before handing his written report to me he has
taken the precaution to obtain the opinion of two other experts on the
subject. These opinions,” continued my friend with something of the
exultation which had previously repelled me, “entirely endorse the views
of the expert which I employed.”

When Pasquale produced the letter received from his expert, I found that
his statement had in nowise been exaggerated. The original view and the
opinions endorsing it, written in cold and well-weighed language, rested
in my hand for a moment; then I dropped the dread papers on the table as
I would have thrown from my grasp a cluster of poisonous reptiles.

I was horrified, and expressed myself so. I had never before, it seemed
to me, been in such proximity to crime, and I shuddered at the contact
with this terrible link.

“And that is not all,” resumed my friend, “the death wounds were not
made by the razors grasped in the hands of the dead men, or at least not
in the case of the last victim, for, unfortunately, the bodies of the
others have been interred and I have not been able to examine them.

“A razor cuts with a slash or gash, but it does not and cannot make a
stab, whereas in the last case there was, first of all, a stab
penetrating far into the neck, and that was followed by a long cut which
severed the great artery and all the surrounding flesh. That is to say,
the murderer thrust the knife into the neck, then drew it towards
himself, and then the deed was complete.”

As my friend spoke, carried away by his subject apparently and
insensible to its revolting character, I grew dumb, petrified with the
horror of his revelations. His eyes, always brilliant, shone large and
clear and seemed to stand out from the pale ivory features. There was in
his appearance the force and pride of elucidation which a successful
counsel might show in entangling the criminal in the noose destined to
terminate his existence; but there was more than that: there was the
physical and mental ardor of the chase, and the flash of eye and teeth
which the Zulu Caffre shows when he poises his willing spear to flesh it
in his human victims.

“And do you know,” he went on, while I grew sick and giddy beneath the
horror of his narration, and the uncanny mesmerism of his eyes, “the
murderer, whoever he was, must, after all, have been a bungler, for,
just think of it, would any man who had killed himself with the cold
premeditation shown by those letters, have done so without first
removing the linen from his neck and otherwise preparing himself? When
facing the scaffold the murderer dresses in his best, and however brutal
and even brutish he may have been in life, he gives much and careful
thought to looking decent after death. It seems absurd of course--this
anxiety as to how one will look after death, more especially where, as
in the case of the murderer, the body will be given up to the tender
mercies of quick lime in an hour or two--and yet that this feeling does
exist is admitted by every person. Does not one of your great English
poets in ‘The Ruling Passion Strong in Death’ put these words into the
mouth of the dying coquette?

    ‘One would not, sure, be frightful when one’s dead
     And, Betty, give this cheek a little red!’

“Now these men died in each instance without the slightest regard for
the _convenances_ of life or death, if I may be permitted to speak
deprecatingly of the dead. They had not an atom of regard for after
appearances, and glaringly belied human experience. But, unfortunate
men, that was no fault of theirs. They were in fact surprised in the
seclusion of their own rooms, where all busy and wearied men, thinking
themselves secure from intrusion, avail themselves to the utmost of the
few opportunities they have of being comfortably _en deshabille_.

“Moreover, they died without leaving behind them the faintest trace of
any preparation beyond these formal letters announcing their intentions;
such letters as, by the way, are rarely written by intending suicides.

“There is probably not one man amongst the millions on this globe who,
if calmly contemplating suicide, would not leave behind him some
evidence of preparation for the event; some last duty done, some last
message of love or upbraiding to be delivered; yet I have been informed
on good authority that there was, in every instance, an absolute
omission of any such farewell message, as well as of all sign of
preparation.

“On the contrary, there is considerable confusion in the business and
also in the domestic affairs of the dead men, such as, from their
well-known methodical habits, they would have been certain to provide
against had they foreseen their end even thirty minutes.

“So looking to the utter absence in this case of that studied decorum in
death observed by all men who do not slay themselves in the heat of
passion, and also to the total lack of arrangement in the deceaseds’
affairs, these facts alone would go far to prove that the dead men did
not kill themselves, but, taking them in conjunction with the revealed
forgeries, why, then, I say that the verdict of suicide is not to be
maintained for a moment.

“But even that is not yet all”--and as my friend resumed he rose to his
feet with a fire and force in his whole aspect which, together with his
marvelous theory, affected me so powerfully that I, too, rose in
sympathy, and we faced each other pale as death on the hearthrug. “No!”
and the words came almost hissing from his lips, “these men were not
_killed_ by the wounds in their throats; they were killed--or at least
the last one was killed--by the previous perforation of the base of the
skull by a powerful needle or bodkin! I found a small bluish colored
puncture at that point on the head of the last victim, and, on following
it up by my directions, the surgeon discovered embedded in the brain,
and penetrating half way through its entire depth, the needle-like blade
of a small dagger.

“Stay!” protested my friend as I was about to speak, “that is not all!
The blade had not been broken off; it had been released or discharged
from its handle by a powerful spring at the moment of the stab with the
intent that it should remain in the skull just beneath the surface and
so stop all hemorrhage, and every trace of it be removed by the closing
of the skin over it and by the natural covering of the hair.

“And even if the wound should bleed a little, the result would naturally
be attributed to the greater wound in the throat.

“And now, my friend, can you conceive a more hideous plot, or one more
fiendish in its ingenuity?”

When Pasquale had finished I felt benumbed with the force and fervor of
his presentment of the case. To me he was no longer the gay, and
brilliant friend, but the fierce and beautiful avenging angel of the
murdered men, and repelled though I was by the horror which surrounded
the series of crimes, I felt eager to aid him in his work of discovery.

“Have you taken any steps to find out whether the previous deaths were
caused in the same way?”

As I put this question there was a knock at the door and Pasquale’s
austere valet handed his master a letter which had just arrived, and
which being marked “immediate,” he explained, he had taken the liberty
of delivering at once.

In silence Pasquale handed me the letter, which stated briefly that in
deference to his request an order had been obtained to exhume the bodies
of the supposed suicides, with the result that in each case the same
needle or dagger point had been found in the skulls of the deceased.

The writer, in conclusion, intimated that the bodies would be held until
noon the following day in case Mr. Pasquale should wish to make any
further inspection himself.

As I handed back the letter Pasquale dashed off a few lines by way of
courteous acknowledgment, and stating that he would avail himself of the
offer and call and examine the bodies the following day.

That night was one of the most agitated and unrestful in my hitherto
placid life. For hours after Pasquale left I paced the floor of my room
possessed with a fever of unrest and a frenzy of excitement which tore
through my soul as a cyclone sweeps unresistingly through a bed of
reeds. By the morning every thought and aspiration of my life lay
prostrate before the one consuming desire to bring the murderer to
justice.

At nine o’clock I arrived at my office pale and haggard, and a few
minutes later I left to accompany my friend, excused from duty on the
plea of urgent business.

When Pasquale and I entered the Mortuary Chamber, where the bodies
awaited us, I shuddered for a moment and drew back. I had never seen a
dead body and my whole soul shrunk from the sight of a murderer’s
victims, in the various stages of decay. But after a time my courage
returned; or it were, perhaps, more correct to say, a new impulse
possessed me, and I went through the ordeal of the morning without
further display of weakness.

There was little additional evidence gleaned; but when the four dagger
points, which had been the means used to kill the murdered men, lay
side by side on the table, they were found to be exact in size and
shape, thereby proving beyond all doubt that the same hand had wrought
all the murders.

My friend, who was examining the weapons carefully under the microscope,
murmured to himself, “Antonio Seratzzi, Venice,” and in response to the
inquiry of my eyes he replied, “As nearly as I can decipher it for the
rust, that is the name of the maker of these daggers. It seems to me
that I have heard of them before, though for my life I can’t recollect
where or in what connection,” and he put his hand to his forehead as if
he were trying to recollect.



CHAPTER IV.


The publication of the discovery that the supposed suicides were, in
reality, murders committed by the same individual, filled London with
horror, which was intensified a hundred-fold by the knowledge that the
murderer was still at large.

The Metropolitan police, even when put upon the right track, failed to
discover any clue of the murderer, and at the end of a fortnight all
they could say in the way of elucidation was, that an aged man with long
white hair had been seen near the scene of each of the murders at the
time of the occurrence and prior to it.

There was nothing especially suspicious in his actions or appearance,
and the fact that he was in the neighborhood at the time might simply be
a coincidence, or the various testimony might not even refer to the same
individual, for white-haired elderly men are not at all uncommon in
London.

That the police should attach any importance to so faint a clue was
perhaps the best evidence of their admission how completely they were
baffled; so at least the public considered and the newspapers jeered the
officials for their inefficiency.

Meantime my friend continued his investigation with unabated ardor, and,
night after night, in the quiet of my bachelor rooms, we discussed each
point of evidence, however slight, and classified or dismissed it
according to its value.

Pasquale surrendered everything to the discovery of the dreadful
mystery, and he grew thin and anxious-looking as the days passed by
without throwing any further light upon it.

These were days ill-suited to hilarity, and much of the gaiety of
Pasquale’s sunny ways faded before their chilling influences; still if
the efflorescence of his light-hearted disposition seemed shed for the
time, the fact only served to reveal the true beauty of soul which was
the foundation of all I loved so much.

Save when crossed by the sight of suffering uselessly inflicted upon the
lower animals, I think he was the sweetest, gentlest creature God ever
made; and the most lovable.

“And yet so inexorable in hunting down the assassin!” the reader will
say--and I answer yes. Of the secret of that involved mechanism which
formed Pasquale’s soul I had no key; I only know that to me my friend
was like the fascinating page of some dearly-loved book--blurred and
unintelligible here and maybe there, but still sweeter in its occasional
illegibility than all the other volumes on earth combined.

At the end of the third week of search Pasquale’s valet called to
explain that his master had suddenly been summoned abroad to a family
council, but that his absence would probably not extend beyond a week.

If I could ever have found it in my heart to be vexed with Pasquale it
would have been over his habit of obeying those calls so promptly as not
even to allow himself time to bid me good-bye.

“Did your master leave no message, Jacques?” I inquired, puzzled to
account for the absence of any further explanation.

“No, sir; he left in haste and ordered me to present his apologies to
you for his omission to call and say good-bye.”

I looked at the speaker and endeavored to read his expression, but the
deep-set eyes dropped the moment they encountered my gaze, and the
clear-cut cruel lips and formidable jaw, together with the down-cast
eyes made one of the most unpleasing masks it had ever been my evil
fortune to gaze upon.

I thought of the masks of murderers in Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of
Horrors, and began to regard my visitor with a curious interest.

“Will you have a glass of brandy, Jacques?” I inquired, piqued by the
man’s impenetrability, and trusting to the liquor to thaw it.

“Thank you, sir.”

But the potent liquor served only to harden the deep lines which guarded
the reticent lips, and after I had measured the implacable face and
found no encouragement there, I said, “Jacques, that is all,” and, with
a low bow the inscrutable valet, or detective, left.

After he had closed the door, I amused myself by sketching his head in
profile upon the blotting pad. As the sketch lay before me it certainly
did not represent, according to either phrenologists or physiognomists,
a bad or wicked head. It was simply the side face of a self-contained,
determined man, and one possessed of considerable possibility of lofty
purpose.

I tossed the paper from me--disappointed in the sketch even more than I
had been in the original.

On the fourth day after my friend had left, I was aroused at an early
hour by the valet, who, after apologizing for the intrusion, handed me
the morning paper, and pointed to the announcement of another suicide by
a public functionary, and under circumstances precisely similar to the
cases which had preceded it.

As in the other instances, the victim’s hand grasped a razor, to account
for the deep wound in his throat, while his death was in reality due to
the puncture of the brain by the concealed dagger point.

My instant impulse was to telegraph for my friend to enable him to take
up the scent while it was fresh. I accordingly framed a message for the
valet to send in his own name, and this I--still in bed--requested him
to dispatch.

At four in the afternoon I received a note from the valet to the effect
that he had heard from his master, and that the latter would be with me
the following morning.

“Let me see the cablegram you received, Jacques.” “Sorry that I have
destroyed it,” replied that irritating individual. I thought that in a
gentle and careless way I would hint to my friend that however faithful
a valet or detective Jacques might be, something less like a cast-iron
sphinx would better meet the exigencies of ordinary life. I was
undergoing a childish fit of annoyance.

The evening papers gave full details of the so-called suicide and also
announced the fact that a white-bearded individual--such as the police
had connected with the previous crimes--had been seen in the vicinity of
the suicide, and had been traced.

Such was the condition of affairs when my friend, covered with the dust
of travel, entered my room the following morning.

At his urgent and indeed impassioned request, I obtained leave of
absence from the office that day, in order to aid him in following the
clues left by the murderer while they were still fresh.

As I left my apartments with my friend, I caught sight of his valet
standing at the entrance to the adjoining house. His usually stolid face
seemed to be expressive of anxiety, and once or twice he moved as if
about to speak. He had, however, all his life long cultivated a habit
of silence, and in his present spasm of uncertainty it prevailed. I saw
or appeared to see, a struggle going on in his mind, but I had no clue
to his apprehensions, and the symptoms of his distress were too
indefinite and too fleeting to justify action on my part; and, unwarned,
unchecked by the hand which still, even at the eleventh hour, might have
changed it, my friend Pasquale and I went forward to fulfil our
destinies.

I would fain draw a curtain over the events of the following twenty-four
hours. They have darkened my life, and they will shorten my days.
Pasquale and I examined each detail of the murder, but without throwing
further light upon it. The police, on their part, followed up step by
step the retreat of the white-haired murderer, only, however, to lose
him at King’s Cross. He had been too astute to hail a cab, and the
numerous exits afforded by that teeming centre gave him all the
facilities for escape which he needed.

When we parted for the night it was in disheartened silence. True,
Pasquale looked bright and cheery as usual, but I knew by my own
feelings that he must be as low in spirits as could well be. In vain I
strove to bury myself in an agreeable book; I could not read and I could
not rest.

At length, worn out by the day’s fierce though fruitless emotions, I
threw myself, tired and worn out, on my bed, and after a while I fell
into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Presently I awoke--suddenly and keenly conscious of the near happening
of some event of stupendous importance. The fire in the grate was still
burning brightly, so that I had not slept long. Why had I awoke so soon
and in such a startled and expectant state?

There was no apparent reason within my room--but, hark! what was that?
Clearly and distinctly, as if there were no obstructing walls, I could
hear the noise made by the tenant of the neighboring rooms as he
prepared himself to retire for the night. The sound of each movement
fell on my ear, in my then state of tension, with all the clearness of a
bell. I could even hear his muttered conversation. The latter seemed to
be of so strange and disjointed a character that, my curiosity
overcoming me, I stooped and applied my ear to the keyhole of the oaken
door which divided our rooms, believing that some demented person had
gained wrongful access to the adjoining rooms.

My view was limited to a few seconds, at the end of which the other door
which fronted the one in my own wall was abruptly closed. But in that
limited time my eye had garnered a terrible harvest, for in the
muttering inmate of the adjoining room I had identified--or imagined I
had identified--the white-bearded murderer as described by all who had
seen him; not indeed identified to me by the whiteness of his hair and
his age only, but by the blood-stained hands which he removed from his
gloves and by the weapon which he laid upon his table.

What to do I knew not, and, horrified beyond measure, I lay in my bed,
petrified with apprehension, waiting for the dawn.

With the first glimmer of dawn I sent next door for my friend, and
explained to him my midnight experiences.

“It is very strange,” he murmured. “Very strange. Who do you think lives
opposite to you?” From the glance he gave me it was evident that my
friend thought I had taken leave of my senses. “Only the old Frenchman
you told me of,” I replied. “Old Frenchman?” he returned with an air of
puzzled surprise and interrogation. “Did I say an old Frenchman lived
over against you? You misunderstood me, I think; he occupies the rooms
to the rear.” “Well, it was there that I heard the noise and saw the
man,” I replied.

A look of pain and perplexity had come into my friend’s face, and for a
few minutes he sat in silence, apparently lost in thought. Then he rose
to his feet and turned towards the door, adding as he opened it, “As
soon as you have breakfasted I would like you to accompany me to the
police station. I think you ought to tell the officers what you saw.”

There was still the same look of puzzled uncertainty in my friend’s
face, as well as an anxious glance, as if for my welfare, but there was
also a look of unutterable resolution as he said, as if to himself,
“There must be no hesitation; this thing has to be gone through.”

An hour later Pasquale and I arrived at the police station, and half an
hour afterwards two police officers, two detectives, Pasquale and myself
left for my friend’s house.

On the way thither Pasquale stepped aside to make a small purchase. “Go
straight on; I will follow you in a minute. I have left my pass-key in
another pocket, so you must knock for admittance.”

“Show these gentlemen up to the third floor.” Such was the landlady’s
orders to the servant when we requested to be shown to Mr. Pasquale’s
rooms, where we were to mature our plans.

When the servant reached the second floor she threw open the front
sitting-room door and stood aside to allow us to enter.

“This is not the third floor, my good girl,” exclaimed the senior
constable; “this is the second floor.”

“Well, sir! mistress calls it the third floor,” the servant replied.

At this moment Pasquale, who had joined us, remarked pleasantly, “The
girl is right; her mistress is an American and counts the ground-floor
as the first floor; these are the rooms which I occupy.”

“Yes, sir,” exclaimed the reassured servant, “these are Mr. Pasquale’s
rooms.”

My brain was in a perfect whirl--these my friend’s rooms! I had always
imagined that he lived on the floor above, misled by the American
landlady’s method of reckoning the floors. I glanced at Pasquale, but
he was unconscious of my look.

Turning to the servant he said, “Tell your mistress that the police wish
to inspect M. Goddecourt’s rooms, and bring us the key of his door.”

“M. Leon Goddecourt is the elderly French gentleman I spoke to you about
as occupying the rooms at the rear.” This was Pasquale’s explanation to
me.

When the servant returned with the key Pasquale led the way into the
passage communicating with the rooms at the back.

The occupant of the rooms was absent, and there was no hindrance to an
exhaustive examination. There was no door connecting with the rooms of
the house in which I lived. Nothing was discovered. The police were
turning to go, impressed, I believe, with the idea that I had been
hoaxing them, or else that the excitement of the murder had driven me
crazy for the time, when Pasquale, addressing me, inquired whether I was
certain that these were the rooms into which I was looking when I saw
the supposed murderer. “You can see for yourself, Wyndham,” he remarked,
“that your rooms and mine are not of the same length, and it was very
easy for you to make a mistake by concluding that the dimensions were
the same.”

“I cannot tell with any certainty,” I added falteringly, “for without
thinking very closely about it, I had assumed that the rooms on both
sides the partition were the same depth, but the door on my side is at
the extremity of my bedroom, and when you said that the Frenchman lived
at the rear, I concluded from the appearance of the man I saw that I was
looking into his rooms.”

“Well the matter can be settled very promptly,” remarked Pasquale. “If
you will go with one of these gentlemen, Wyndham, and show him the
doorway through which you saw the old man, we can easily connect with
you here.”

This seemed the most natural thing to do, and we prepared to carry out
Pasquale’s suggestion. As I was leaving the room the police sergeant
inquired whether Pasquale had the key of the door connecting my rooms
with his through the wall dividing the two houses, and before I passed
out of hearing I heard Pasquale explain that he had never had a key of
that door, and did not believe that there was one in existence.

When the policeman and I entered my apartments the former remarked that
he thought that the door which I pointed out to him would, if opened, be
found to lead into Mr. Pasquale’s rooms--“at least I judge so from the
relative length of the rooms,” he added.

Our loud knockings at the door through which I had seen the midnight
spectacle produced no result for a minute; evidently our friends were
still in the rear rooms. Then we could hear voices indistinctly, and
presently the sound of blows opposite to us showed that our friends had
at last “located” us.

After a short interval of heavy blows on the opposite door the latter
was burst open--that much we could hear by the volume of sound which
reached us--there was a shout of excitement, and presently the door
which had been forced was shut, and we could see and hear no more.

Something very amazing had happened; what was it?

       *       *       *       *       *

How can I relate the story of the events which followed? Even now, at
this lapse of time, the recital of them chills my inmost soul. When we
returned to the other house, we found Pasquale, my friend and more than
brother, in the custody of the police. The space between the double
doors dividing his room and mine had revealed all the paraphernalia of
the supposed murderer, and that it belonged to Pasquale was apparently
beyond doubt.

The wig and beard; the clothes, the boots, the blood-stained gloves; and
even the hare’s-foot with which the face had been painted to the
semblance of age, all belonged to him and all were there; and worse and
still more damning evidence was found in an oblong ivory box of antique
pattern. Within this lay a stiletto handle, the ivory of which was
yellow with extreme age. The weapon had no blade, but imbedded in the
faded velvet of the lid were seven dagger points identical in every
respect with those found in the heads of the dead men.

As we came forward the police sergeant removed a handkerchief from the
pocket of the coat found in the recess.

It, too, was slightly stained with blood, and on the corner it bore the
embroidered monogram of my ill-fated friend.

Horror-stricken, I stared at the face of Pasquale, who was now securely
held by the police. Still the same puzzled expression in it; that and
nothing more. He was evidently unable to understand the situation.
After a time he heaved a deep sigh, and, stretching out his manacled
hands, he took up the ivory dagger, as if casually and disinterestedly.

“Yes, that must have been what he used,” he murmured; “I have read of
such stilettos.”

At that moment I caught the gaze of the valet, Jacques, who had silently
stolen into the room. I had, up to this time, well-nigh hated his
homely, reticent face for the way it resisted me, but now and
henceforward I loved it for the expression it bore on that fateful
morning.

It was the appeal of a hero prepared to sacrifice his life on the mere
fraction of a chance, and what his glance entreated was that I should
create a diversion so that he should carry out his intentions. The hard
lines on his inflexible face seemed to shiver and break in his terrible
anxiety, and his fears, although they added to my own dread, inspired
me.

“Stay!” I said to the officer, “I have a confession to make. This
gentleman,” pointing to Pasquale, “has done nothing; a child could see
by his face that he is innocent. I am the guilty person; my room also
opens on to that cupboard; I placed all the material of my make-up
there, and raised the alarm to disguise my own guilt,” and I held out my
wrists as if to feel the clasp of the handcuffs.

At the conclusion of my remarks Jacques sprang forward like a tiger,
hurled one detective to the floor, thrust the policemen swiftly on one
side, and, seizing his master by the arm, was hurrying him away when a
violent blow from the powerful and cool-headed sergeant disabled him.

“Arrest him,” the sergeant said briefly, to his subordinates, indicating
poor Jacques; then turning to myself, he pointed with his hand to the
door opening into my room, of which the bolts were still shot in their
sockets.

“I admire your efforts, sir, but you could not have entered that space
between the two doors from your room, for it was bolted against you!”

Meantime, Pasquale appeared unconscious of the turmoil. He seemed still
to be examining the stilettos.

Only once did he look up--when he heard me endeavoring to incriminate
myself--then a soft beautiful smile crept over his face, but he
nevertheless shook his head with inflexible determination.

“You must accompany me, sir,” said the sergeant to Pasquale.

“To jail?” inquired the other. “A Pasquale to jail!” and he laughed
softly, as if the thought amused him.

“Good-bye, Wyndham, dear old friend, faithful to the last; Heaven send
you the best of luck,” and he kissed me fondly and even passionately on
both cheeks. “God bless you twice over, once for yourself and once for
me, who never had a blessing;” and as he spoke a tremor shook his frame
and he was barely able to steady himself.

“And, Jacques, my faithful friend and guardian, God bless you too--pray
for me.”

Then his gaze grew dim with tears and he turned again to the strange
weapon still lying on the table.

“Who would have thought that these little bodkins could have wrought
such fearful havoc?” As he spoke he took up one of the steel points and
fitted it mechanically into its socket.

It was all over in a moment. With a rapid movement Pasquale directed the
point towards himself, his wrist turned slightly, the hand tightened
fiercely and then opened, and the ivory handle of the stiletto rolled on
the floor as Pasquale reeled and fell into the arms of those behind
him. His eyes opened wide, smiled the old smile into mine just for one
brief instant, then the darkness of death blotted out their light, and
the lids drooped slowly as if from overwhelming fatigue. Pasquale had
entered into the rest which knows no waking.

They thought that he had fainted, but I knew differently. The deadly
stiletto had done its last work faithfully and fatally. The quick turn
of the wrist and the fierce grasp of the weapon had released the
powerful spring concealed in the ivory handle, and the dagger point was
now imbedded in Pasquale’s heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

A week later two visitors entered my rooms. They were my dead friend’s
father and the valet, Jacques. From the former I learned that his son
had, for some years, been subject to fits of dementia. These usually
occurred during the full moon. Mr. Pasquale’s reason for sending his son
to London was a hope expressed by the family doctor that an entire
change of scene might strengthen his mind and his body, and be the means
of creating a break in those periodic attacks.

Jacques, the valet, was in reality a faithful servant of the family,
employed from the first to take care of his young master. He had
occupied the adjoining room with Pasquale from the date of his first
arrival, but he kept himself very much in the background, as Pasquale
was extremely sensitive lest his condition should become known; a fact
which explained his, to me, unaccountable objection to receiving me in
his rooms.

After the return from Paris, Jacques, as the reader is aware, took a
more prominent part in his master’s daily life, for it was then that I
saw him for the first time. This greater prominence was due to the fact
that Jacques had reported to Mr. Amidio Pasquale, senior, that the
attacks instead of becoming more feeble, were growing more marked month
by month.

Jacques explained that the sudden alleged departure of his young master
was due to the fact, that, feeling the approach of the mental disorder,
he would without delay place himself in his valet’s hands. He was in
nowise a prisoner, for from the first to the last there had not been, on
the part either of his family or of his so-called valet, the faintest
suspicion of a homicidal mania; the only objects of the secrecy being a
general watchfulness in case of fresh developments, and to keep his
infirmity from the knowledge of his friends.

There were days when Pasquale felt out of sorts and indisposed, and
since it was the orders of his medical man that he should be soothed and
not opposed at such periods, the valet made no intrusion on his privacy
then.

It was undoubtedly at such periods that my friend’s most serious attacks
had culminated in the atrocities already recorded, for of his connection
with these, subsequent investigations removed every shadow of doubt.

As for the apparent difficulty in crossing the Channel to England, and
committing a murder, without his absence being discovered by his friends
that was readily explained. He had never while in Paris been under
strict surveillance, and he was frequently absent for a few days at a
time at a friend’s house.

It was evident that plans conceived during one period of lunacy were
perfected during the next, or following periods. This was especially
evident in connection with the dead man’s efforts to obtain specimens of
the hand-writing of the men whom he had resolved to kill, and had
afterwards killed.

In the closet where the disguise was found--in which I had seen my
friend arrayed, in that awful midnight glance,--were discovered letters
from six well-known justices of the peace, five of whom, including the
chief of the police, had undoubtedly died by Pasquale’s hand. These
letters were evidently in reply to cunningly worded inquiries, such as
would be likely to induce the recipients to answer with their own hands.
This had been done in every case but one (the sixth letter had been
dictated); and the lengthy epistles which the unsuspecting justices had
written afforded Pasquale, then in the fulness of his madness, ample
opportunity of making himself acquainted with their handwritings, and so
enabled him to forge the farewell letters by each supposed suicide,
without fear of detection.

If further proof of my demented friend’s guilt had been wanted, it was
readily forthcoming in the drafts of the letters to the justices found
in his handwriting in the same recess.

The horrible feeling, akin to remorse, which I experienced on
recognizing that it was my evidence as to the aged figure which I had
seen at midnight in the adjoining room, that had resulted in my
friend’s arrest and suicide, was somewhat mitigated when I learned that
on the morning of the discovery the superintendent of police at Scotland
Yard had received by the first post a communication from the expert
employed by my dead friend to examine the letters left by the supposed
suicides, to the effect that having detected a certain resemblance in
the handwriting in Pasquale’s letter to that in the forgeries, he had
made a crucial examination, with the result of satisfying himself that
the two were identical.

On the strength of that evidence a warrant would have been obtained
against Pasquale that day had not events rendered it unnecessary.

Nor was that all. On the superintendent’s desk I saw the five letters
which had elicited the replies found in the recess. These a keen
detective had discovered among the papers of the dead man, when in
search of some trace as to the methods employed to obtain specimens of
their handwriting. These letters requested a reply to Amidio Pasquale,
P. O. Box No. 2034, presumably to avoid their delivery at the house at
unseasonable times, and indicating that Pasquale, mad, was on his guard
against Pasquale, sane. So that on all sides the net had been closing
in around my dear demented friend.

Why, then, did Fate so gratuitously add to my lot the painful reflection
that I had, by my ill-timed discovery, precipitated my friend’s death?
These additional links proved how boundless the resources of Destiny are
when her time has arrived; surely, then, she might have spared me that
last bitter drop which she had added to my brimming cup.

       *       *       *       *       *

My task is done. With Pasquale’s tragic ending a shadow settled upon me,
and it has never wholly lifted. Our friendship lives in my memory as the
one green and sunny oasis in my desert life, and here, far away from the
home of my youth, I sit and muse on the gladsome hours we spent
together--my only grounds for belief that there is a happier world
beyond.

The man I knew--the friend I loved so passionately, the gentle-hearted
creature to whom the pain of any creature which God had made was
torture--was unconscious of the acts and ignorant of the identity of
Pasquale the insane murderer. That much, wise physicians, versed in the
mysteries of the human brain, have told me; and that I at least never
for an instant doubted.

It may be that Pasquale’s disorder was mentally contagious, and that my
open and receptive mind imbibed some of the fatal theories which at
times overbalanced his brilliant intellect. I almost hope that it is so,
for it will extenuate the wicked rebellious thoughts which still surge
through my brain when I recall the steps, one by one, which led to the
final ending.

The thought of the loving and gentle Pasquale, fierce only in the
pursuit of wrong, bringing all the marvelous resources of his wonderful
brain to the discovery of that terrible London mystery, and unraveling
it thread by thread only to weave it anew into a noose for himself,
paralyzes my brain. Did ever human being before lead justice step by
step through such a labyrinth of crime, and so unweariedly, until he
brought her to the very threshold of murder, and face to face with
himself the unconscious murderer!

       *       *       *       *       *

I left my rooms hastily, and in disorder, as if invaded by the plague.
Once only I unintentionally passed the house, and through the doorway
of my cab I saw the dull, dusty windows of an empty residence, with the
legend “To be let” placarded on the ill-fated No. 13.



THE LOST WEDDING-RING.



CHAPTER I.


“Do you think it unlucky, then, to take off one’s wedding-ring?”

The inquiry sprang with a half-startled air of surprise and alarm from a
pair of pretty half-parted lips, and still more eagerly from two
heavily-fringed and expressive gray eyes.

“Yes, dear, very unlucky; you ought to leave it where your husband
placed it; it is like undoing the ceremony to take it off.”

This most depressing reply was made with an air of conviction which
greatly disturbed the fair questioner--the bride of a month--who had in
a childish fit of restlessness removed her wedding-ring and was engaged
testing the stupendousness of its avoirdupois on the coral tips of her
dainty fingers.

Slowly, and as if it were something uncanny, the truant hoop was slipped
back to its place, as the delicate flush on the young wife’s cheek
deepened with the dawning consciousness of a hitherto unknown crime.

“I wish you would tell me why you think so, grandma,” was the somewhat
timid rejoinder.

The elder lady’s busy hands had dropped on her knees, and her face wore
the absent-minded expression which told that “her eyes were with her
heart, and that was far away.”

The question was evidently unheard, and it was presently amended.

“Grandma, dear, has your wedding-ring never been off your finger since
grandpa placed it there?”

The second question recalled the old lady’s wandering thoughts, and she
replied with a falter in her voice which heightened the look of alarm on
her grand-daughter’s face.

“Yes, dear, once.”

“Oh! did anything happen?”

“Yes, love, something which I will never forget as long as I live.”

As the elder lady spoke, the color faded slowly from the cheeks of the
youthful bride, leaving the glowing eyes doubly dark by contrast with
their pallor.

“Don’t you think that it is growing cold, grandma?”

This was said with a little shiver, and looking up, the latter
recognized for the first time that her remarks had startled and alarmed
her grand-daughter.

“Mind you, Alice,” she added hastily, “I do not mean to say that
misfortune _always_ follows, for of course a very great many people take
off their wedding-rings sooner or later, apparently without any serious
consequences, and I don’t think that anything really threatens the
happiness of a married couple unless the ring is actually lost; still,
my dear----”

The sound of a rapid, manly tread advancing on the arbor where the two
were seated caused the bride to spring to her feet with a glad cry.

For a moment the husband caught a glimpse of a pair of swimming gray
eyes with a world of woe reflected in their shadowy depths; the next a
trembling pliant figure was nestling in his arms, and trying to explain
amid tearful sobs about the bad luck coming to them both through the
removal of the wedding-ring.

As soon as the astonished husband could frame an intelligible meaning
out of the story, told with many interruptions of sobs and kisses and
passionate hugs, he burst into a merry laugh.

“Why, you little silly!” he began, but his voice melted to a tenderness
inarticulate in words, although mutually intelligible in love’s rich
vocabulary.

“Dear, _dear_, _dear_! to think what a sweet little goose it is after
all,” commenced the husband, after love’s exactions had been religiously
complied with. “Why, I know ladies who are continually losing their
wedding-rings. There is Mrs. North for instance----”

“O, George!!”

“Well,” resumed the husband a little confusedly, “I know, of course,
that she and her husband do not get on very well together, but there are
others. There is--let me see--but never mind--I’ll tell you what I’ll
do. I will take the ring off your finger myself and put it on again,
_then_ that will make everything just as it was,” and with this
pleasing little sophistry both bride and groom were made happy once
more.

As the youthful pair left the arbor, the old lady, whose loving heart
was wont to grow young again as she contemplated the happiness of the
others, softly rubbed the mists from her glasses as she said with a
sigh, “O, I wish Alice had not taken off her wedding-ring!”



CHAPTER II.


That the shadows of anxiety had not been altogether dispelled from the
breast of the young bride, Alice Montgomery, was rendered apparent to
her grandmamma the following morning, when the exactions of business had
emptied the house of its male population.

The two ladies were seated on a broad piazza, whose columns and roof
were richly festooned with a wealth of luxuriant creeper which the
gentle breeze, creeping up from the meadows and laden with the smell of
the hay-field, just stirred and no more.

For awhile the two sat in silence, their busy fingers and the placid
movement of their rocking-chairs keeping up a kind of rhythmical flow of
action as soothing as the “creen” of the tidal ebb and flow on a pebbly
shore.

“Grandma,” said Alice somewhat suddenly, letting her work fall on her
lap, “I can’t get out of my head what you said about the ill-luck in
removing one’s wedding-ring. George says that it is all an old
superstition, and one quite exploded now; but when he leaves me to
myself I get quite frightened about it--so, if you don’t mind, dear, I
wish you would tell me just what happened after you took off your ring.”

“Alice, dearest, I wish you would forget all about it; your husband is
quite right, it is just an old superstition.”

But Alice was not to be turned from her inquiry, and with gentle
feminine persistency she shook her pretty head, implying that life would
be a burden to her until this terrible affair was cleared up.

“_Please_, grannie,” was the extent of her audible entreaty, but her
eyes contained a fervor of appeal which was entirely irresistible, and
the old lady, who had by long experience learned the wisdom of an early
capitulation to the “little gray eyes,” as she called her grandchild,
surrendered with a sigh of protest.

As she removed her spectacles from her face she became aware of a
strangely intent look suddenly visible on the face of her
grand-daughter, who was looking at a clump of trees in the distance.

“What do you see, dear?” she inquired.

“I saw a figure in the copse yonder, which I fancied I recognized, but I
must have been mistaken, and the person, whoever he was, has gone away?”

“Was he looking this way?”

“Yes, grandma, and I imagined for a moment that he was beckoning to me,
but of course that could not be.”

“Do you know, darling,” exclaimed the elder lady in a tone of concern,
“you must really not be so nervous; you will be fancying all kinds of
things if you give way to such hallucinations. I am afraid that trouble
of your brother’s has affected your health. George must take you for a
change of air.”

The heightened color on the face of the youthful bride, which had
aroused the other’s anxiety, slowly faded from her face, leaving it pale
and wan.

By way of reply, Alice stole to her grandmother’s side, and brushing
away the silvery hair with which the rising breeze was playing,
imprinted a loving kiss on the time-furrowed brow.

“Never mind my fads, dear, tell me your story,” she whispered in the
other’s ear, but there was a wistfulness in the tone which impressed her
aged relation painfully, and she murmured, as the other sank to her
seat, “I wish you would not insist, Alice.”

“O, indeed I do, grandma,” promptly replied the other.

“When I married your grandpa, dear,” began the old lady, I was in
delicate health. My mother had only recently died, and the fever to
which she had succumbed had wasted my strength also. What with the
weakness resulting from my illness and grief at the death of my mother,
who had been my only remaining relative, and to whom I was naturally
passionately attached, my health was completely broken down, and it was
only the urgent wishes of your grandpapa, to whom I had been engaged to
be married for more than a year, that I consented to the ceremony at
such a time. I felt that I must have change of air, and quickly too, to
avoid a complete collapse, and alone in the world as I was, I could not
bear to go away and leave behind me the only being that I loved and that
loved me.

“Henry too, ‘urged me sair,’ as the old Scottish ballad says, and told
me that he could readily make arrangements for a six months’ leave of
absence, so that we could spend the winter-months, which were
approaching, in the South.

“After the wedding we sailed for Florida, which was at that time
enduring one of its occasional, but short-lived, bursts of prosperity.
In the old days, long before the war, the State was making money, and
the Florida planter as a potentate ranked side by side with the wealthy
slave-owner of Mississippi and Louisiana.

“A friend of my husband’s family had a plantation on the Gulf coast of
Florida, below Cedar Keys. We had received a pressing invitation to
spend our honeymoon on that plantation, and there we finally arrived
early in the month of December, after a most delightful voyage.

“At Cedar Keys we had changed our ocean-going ship for a smaller
coasting vessel, and as we sailed in our new craft up the waters of the
Homosassa River, I thought that not even in my dreams had I pictured, ‘a
world so fair.’ The broad, swelling bosom of the river, the luminous
transparency of the atmosphere, the banks covered with a wealth and
majesty of tropical trees, and the numerous coral islands dotting the
centre of the river and crowned with a perfect glory of foliage,--all
these thrilled my soul with a sense almost of religious devotion, just
as some rare anthem, pealing from some old-world organ, will move the
soul to an ecstasy of religious feeling.

“The planter and his family gave us a hearty welcome when at length our
vessel cast anchor off the plantation landing.

“Their house was a large, rambling, frame building, with the negro
quarters situated at some distance in the rear, and hidden from view by
a heavy belt of orange and banana trees.

“The land was what is termed hard-wood, hammock land, which is
considered to possess the richest soil in Florida. The Seminole Indians,
of which there were several thousand still left in the State, always
lived in the hammocks, and the plantation had formerly been the home of
the celebrated chief, Osceola, of whom you have read so much.

“Colonel Andrews, who owned the plantation, had always been on excellent
terms with the Indians, and among his frequent visitors was Tallahassee,
the hereditary Grand Mico of the Seminoles, the brave and handsome young
warrior-chief of the tribe.

“Shortly after we arrived at the plantation, Tallahassee made one of his
customary visits, bringing with him an old warrior of his tribe and
three younger chiefs.

“Colonel Andrews had allowed the Seminoles to build a few wigwams in an
old hammock near his house, and in these the Indians lived during their
visits.

“Our host was a widower, with two sons, and his house was managed by the
usual retinue of colored servants. There was no white woman about the
place, and I was probably one of the first of that color which the
celebrated chief had ever seen.

“Tallahassee, although grave and silent like the rest of his race, and
dignified as became the supreme authority in a still powerful tribe,
manifested considerable interest in our excursions, and as he knew every
foot of the vast forests, and every landing-place on the great rivers
which were close at hand, his unobtrusive presence was always very
welcome.

“Gradually a warm friendship, though for the most part undemonstrative,
so far as he was concerned, grew up between us, and my husband was wont
to declare, with much quiet amusement, that I had made a great conquest,
and that the renowned warrior-king, Tallahassee, was in love with me.

“Of course, that was only his silly nonsense, and the expressive
glances of the Indian’s dark eyes were only the result of a certain
taciturnity of habit enforced by the danger of talking when it might be
that concealed enemies were near. With the Indians the eyes are wont to
conduct the necessary conversation more readily than the slower and more
dangerous tongue.

“On one occasion the Indian chief, our host, my husband and myself,
started in a boat to examine the marvelous source of the Homosassa
River, a few miles distant.

“This wonderful river springs a full-fledged flood from the ground, and
is already a hundred yards in width within that distance of its spring,
and so deep as to be navigable to moderate-sized craft.

“When our boat entered the cove where the river took its origin, it was
with a feeling of fearful awe that I experienced the sensation of
floating between heaven and earth. Above us was the pure ether, walled
in on three sides by giant palms; beneath us lay a stupendous well of
water, clear as the atmosphere above us, and calm and silent as the
grave.

“Far down in its transparent depths we could distinctly see every tint
and every movement of the smallest fish, just as clearly, in fact, as
we could see the movement and brilliant hues of the birds and insects
flitting to and fro between the trees overhead.

“To me, unaccustomed to such wonders, the scene verged on the
supernatural, and I felt as if there was something uncanny in it,--a
feeling destined soon to be intensified a thousand-fold. In order to
illustrate the transparency of the water, which was there some forty
feet in depth to the peddled bottom, my husband threw some small silver
coins, one after another, into the spring, in which, contrary to
expectation, there were no air bubbles to distract the view. As we
watched them falling down through the water, slowly, as a feather falls
through the air, it seemed almost as if they would never reach the
bottom. At last, one of these coins fell between two great rocks,
directly under us, which the shadow of our boat had prevented us from
seeing sooner.

“‘Let the Water-Lily look,’ exclaimed the Indian, pointing to the coin
falling, and calling me by the poetic name with which he was accustomed
to designate me.

“As the small silver piece glanced between the dark rocks it seemed to
illuminate the gray blackness in which their narrow walls plunged the
space between them, until finally the shadow hid it while still falling
from sight.

“‘Great Heavens!’ I exclaimed shudderingly, ‘how deep is the water
between those rocks?’

“‘Ah! who knows,’ replied my husband.

“For a while a spell of silence fell upon us as we lay in the welcome
shadow of the fringed palms, so deliciously cool after the heat of the
exposed river.

“All at once the accident you wish to hear about happened. In order to
cool my fevered hands I had been trailing my fingers to and fro through
the cold spring water of the well. The downward position of my fingers,
and the shrinking of the flesh in the cold water, consummated the
catastrophe, and as I straightened my fingers to point to a strange
variety of fish, my wedding-ring--already somewhat large for my hand,
emaciated by long sickness--slipped from my finger, and slid into the
water beneath us.

“The scream which burst from my lips directed my companions to the
accident, and throwing off his hat and shoes my husband plunged
headlong after the fallen ring.

“The Indian had risen hastily to his feet in the attempt to prevent my
husband, but before he could get past me in the frail boat it was too
late.

“My husband was as visible to us as if he had been in the air above
instead of the water underneath. I knew him to be a strong swimmer, so
although his plunge had somewhat unnerved me, I did not feel alarmed for
his safety.

“But _what_ a time it took him to get to the bottom! It seemed as if,
struggle as he might, he would never reach it. The fact is, the powerful
though unseen current of the giant spring was pressing him upwards with
an almost irresistible force.

“At last, grasping with one firm hand the point of a rock in order to
enable him to retain his position, he stooped to seize the ring. But it
had fallen between two pieces of broken coral, and for a while which
seemed long to us, but which was probably five or six seconds, it evaded
his grasp. At last his fingers closed upon it, and he was about to turn
in order to ascend to the surface when a hoarse cry from the Indian
caused us to follow the direction of his pointed hand.

“Oh! Alice, child, to this day it chills my soul to tell you what I saw
there.

“Out from those ghostly, ill-fated rocks I told you of, a gigantic
alligator had floated up like some horrible creature from the nether
world, and I could see the lurid fire of its red eyes and the gleam of
its wide open jaws, as, with a mighty swish of its great tail, it rushed
at my husband, its great body shrouding him from view as with a gruesome
mantle.

“I saw Tallahassee, knife in hand, and with his long, and hitherto
pliant hair bristling like a mane, spring headlong from the boat, and I
felt the frail craft rock beneath me from the shock, and then I think I
must have become unconscious for a few seconds.

“When my senses returned and I opened my eyes, I saw Colonel Andrews
staring, rifle in hand, and with horrified, helpless gaze, into the
waters which were now red with blood and boiling with some awful
invisible conflict. What, in God’s great name, was going on in the now
hidden depths? I felt as if my brain was giving way, and in my frenzy I
strove to throw myself into the water to die with my dear husband if I
could not save him. With gentle but firm hand Colonel Andrews
restrained me.

“‘Hold that, and if you see anything _shoot_,’ he exclaimed, giving me
his rifle, ‘I am going to help my friends.’

“But before he had finished speaking, the violent lashing of the waters
ceased, and almost instantly the dark head of the Indian appeared above
the crimsoned waters. ‘Alone?’ Ah no, God be praised, not alone. Across
his shoulder lay the blood-stained and insensible body of my dear
husband, whom he had snatched from the jaws of death, and worse than
death; and, child, from that instant I have loved the whole Indian race.

“With a few vigorous strokes the Indian reached the shore where he
gently deposited the insensible form of my husband. After a lapse of
time, which seemed an eternity to me, the efforts of Tallahassee and
Colonel Andrews were successful, and my poor husband began to breathe
once more. With ready knife the Indian cut the shirt sleeve from his
right arm and shoulder which were terribly torn and disfigured by the
alligator’s cruel teeth. The shoulder-blade was fractured and the arm
broken by the bite.

“As my husband’s eyes opened and rested on my woe-begone face, a faint,
wan smile crept over his features. He was unable to articulate, but his
eyes glanced expressively towards his right arm. I thought he was
indicating his injury and showed my distress, but he gently shook his
head and whispered faintly, ‘My hand.’

“He could not move his wounded arm but I took his rigidly clenched hand
in mine and gently strove to open it; but the fingers were set in their
grasp, and I was afraid to use any force. A look of disappointment crept
over his face, and he murmured weakly, ‘Open it.’

“I did so; and oh, child, what do you think I saw? There, embedded in
his palm, with the fury of his grasp when he found death setting in, was
my poor wedding-ring, come back from the depths to me.

“My feelings overwhelmed me, and I well-nigh sobbed my life out on my
husband’s breast.

“The huge alligator had seized my husband by the arm, and in spite of
his efforts had dragged him to the edge of the deep cleft. In another
instant rescue would have been hopeless, but in that instant the
Indian’s knife had been driven up to the hilt in the eyes of the great
saurian, with lightning-like rapidity. The blows blinded the alligator,
and the pain caused him to loosen his hold. His frantic struggles were
the result of the continued contest with the Indian. My husband became
insensible from long submersion by the time he was released from the
alligator.”

When the elder lady finished her tragic story the younger one crept
softly to her side, and the tears stole down her cheeks as she buried
her face on the other’s shoulder murmuring, “Oh poor, poor grannie, what
a terrible ordeal it must have been to go through.”

After the acute feelings naturally called up by the narration of so
painful an incident had subsided, the young wife inquired why she had
never been told of the terrible affair before.

“Because, dear, I have shuddered even to think of the thing, it left
such a horrible impression on my mind.”

“Dear grannie,” murmured the other sympathetically. “Oh, if one tenth of
the misery which you endured happens to me through the removal of _my_
ring, I know I shall die, I could never stand any great strain; people
were stronger then than they are now.

“I wonder, grannie, what you were like when you were my age,” resumed
the speaker; “have you no old miniatures among your collections of
relics?”

“No, my dear, but I have an old scrap-book which contains a drawing of
myself, sketched during my honeymoon by my husband, who was quite a
famous etcher before that accident to his arm. There is also, I think,
an etching of Tallahassee, and one of the old plantation.”

Very naturally, nothing would content the youthful bride until she had
seen the drawings, and her grandmamma left the piazza to fetch the
album.

When left alone, an anxious expression crept over the former’s face, and
the point of her tiny boot tapped the boarded floor, nervously and
somewhat impatiently.

“I wonder if that _was_ Tom whom I saw beckoning to me in the thicket,
and if so, what trouble has he been getting into now?”

At that moment a low voice called her softly by name, and suppressing
the scream of alarm which rose to her lips, she turned to find the
person of whom she was thinking, her scapegrace brother Tom, half hidden
in the shrubbery which separated the main building from some outhouses.

Before she could frame any greeting, a letter fluttered to her feet, and
the alarming visitor disappeared as her grandmamma returned, album in
hand.

All that the letter said, when surreptitiously opened, was, “I _must_
meet you at the end of the peach walk at eight to-night; don’t fail to
be there; my safety concerned.”

Meantime, with spectacles adjusted, the old lady with gentle fingers
turned over the leaves of the antiquated album, now yellowed with its
half century of age.

“There, Alice,” she at last exclaimed, “there is my likeness, and
really, dear, it is as like you as it can be, or else my old eyes are
deceiving me.”

“Oh, grannie, it _is_ a beauty--like me, is it? Ah! you are flattering
me, and yet, really, truly, I almost seem to be gazing at myself when I
look at it. I hope, dearest, I shall be as beautiful as you are when I
am old; but I think only a good life can make a handsome old age.”

By way of reply the other stroked the beautiful dark brown hair which
frowned over the fair Grecian features, and murmured, “You will _always_
be beautiful, my darling; God has given you not only a beautiful face,
but a beautiful and unselfish disposition to match it.”

“Oh, grandma! is that splendid-looking Indian Tallahassee?” inquired
Alice, pointing to a well-executed etching of an Indian chief, evidently
of the Seminole tribe, from the turbaned head and long-waving locks.

“Yes, dear, that is our noble friend, Tallahassee.”

Long the young wife’s eyes gazed on the spirited etching, which revealed
an Indian warrior or buck in his youthful prime, his luminous eyes and
handsome aquiline features dignified with all the Seminole pride of
race, but wearing, as well, a certain refinement of expression rarely
seen except in very highly civilized society.

But it is very doubtful if the young wife’s attention was riveted on the
Indian’s likeness, for when she raised her head, there was an air of
troubled perplexity visible on her face which the inspection of the
portrait could not account for. Was she thinking of her ill-starred
brother?

“What you must have suffered, _dear_ grannie. I wonder you could ever
bear to hear the name of Florida again.”

“No, dear, I have none of that feeling. Some of the happiest moments of
my life were spent there, and I am hopeful that I may visit it once
again, now that it is so easy of access.

“I wonder whether our old friend, Tallahassee, has forgotten us yet.”

“Why, surely he is not living yet!” exclaimed the grand-daughter in an
astonished voice.

“Yes, dear, I believe he is; he certainly was alive a year ago, although
he is now an old and heartbroken man. The settlement of the State by
emigrants has driven him from his old haunts and from every new home as
fast as he has made it, and the tribe has dwindled down to a mere
handful of followers and himself; the very tender mercies of the pale
face are cruel to the red man.”

“But did he own no land?”

“His tribe thought they owned it all, but the white man came and wrested
it from them, and although our own Government always promised to give
Tallahassee a Reservation of his own, it was never done, and now the old
warrior has not even land of his own sufficient to be buried in.”

“What a shame! Is it the fault of the Government?”

“I think it is the fault of the Indian Department. I don’t think the
officials had any bad intentions towards Tallahassee and his Seminoles,
who have always been entirely friendly to the whites, but there was no
one to urge the red man’s claim, and so the thing drifted from session
to session while matters grew worse for the Indians every year. Ah! it
is very true that ‘evil is wrought by want of thought as well as want of
heart.’”

“I wish George was a Senator; I would get him to press poor dear old
Tallahassee’s claim,” murmured the young wife in half soliloquy, for
which tender-hearted little speech the old lady kissed her
affectionately as they passed indoors together.



CHAPTER III.


Notwithstanding the day’s outward sense of joyousness and rest, in the
brilliant sun, softened breeze, and lovely landscape, there was trouble
brewing for the peaceful New England home, and one, at least, of its
inmates seemed conscious of the fact.

“I wonder,” exclaimed Alice, as she stood before the cheval glass in her
dressing-room, attending to those delicate personal adornments with
which youthful brides are wont to prepare to receive their lords and
masters, “I wonder whether grandma would have told me that terrible
story about her wedding-ring if she had known that I had really lost
mine?”

This momentous question was asked of her _vis-à-vis_, her own brilliant
reflection in the swinging mirror before her. As the young bride turned
with a look of inquiry to her image in the glass, we may be permitted a
passing glance at the reflection which met her gaze.

A tall and lissom figure, with all the graceful lines of the stately
Grecian form, combined with the warmer and more womanly outlines of the
Norman maiden, the youthful matron stood a vision of loveliness which
Praxiteles himself might have despaired to reproduce.

As she tossed the burden of brown tresses from her forehead, her pure
Grecian profile stood out clear and delicate as a cameo against the
curtain of dark hair which fell, a rippling sombre cascade, almost to
her feet. The dark eyes smiled back a sympathetic glance from the
mirror, and then a weary sigh of anxiety clouded the beautiful eyes with
trouble. Why?

The conversation about the removed ring had been resumed in the morning,
and in compliance with the husband’s request, the young bride had again
taken off her wedding-ring, in order that he might himself replace it on
her fair finger; this unfortunately happened on the upper piazza, and in
the usual loving conflict with which youthful couples adjust all matters
between themselves, the ring had fallen into the garden and mysteriously
disappeared.

Search had been made high and low, but unavailingly, and with a feeling
of alarm which each concealed from the other, but which, nevertheless,
almost bordered on despair, the subject was dropped with mutual consent.

“It is just as well,” said the husband, with simulated cheerfulness; “I
will bring you a fresh ring to-night, and I will put that on your finger
myself--_once for all_.”

“Ah, pet, but it won’t be _our_ ring,” the bride had exclaimed with a
tremor in her voice, and although the husband had ridiculed the idea
that it made any difference, he was painfully conscious of the look of
gentle reproach in the outraged eyes of his young wife and of the
justice of it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Punctually at five o’clock the coachman brought around the carriage in
which his young mistress was accustomed to drive to the station to meet
her husband. The train arrived punctually, but it brought no husband to
the waiting wife. It was her first disappointment, trivial in character
though it might be, and to the youthful bride it was painful almost
beyond expression. As the coachman drove home it required a brave effort
to still the quivering lip and to press back the too ready tear.

“Oh, I hope,” she murmured fearfully, “that this is not the beginning of
any trouble through the loss of my wedding-ring.” For a moment the
thought appalled her, and then a smile of wonderful relief flashed
across her face.

“Oh! how silly I am,” she exclaimed, chiding herself, “of course George
is late because he has to buy me a new ring.”

This explanation was entirely sufficient, and the once more radiant
bride ascended to her room humming a dainty little operatic air, as
happy as the mocking-bird which flooded the sunny stairway with melody.

But the shadow returned to the young wife’s face with ever-deepening
gloom when the six o’clock and seven o’clock trains arrived and brought
no husband with them.

“He is detained on business, dear,” explained her grandma.

“Why couldn’t he telegraph then?”

“There is no office within five miles, love, and no doubt he thought he
would get here before his message.”

But another trouble weighed--and heavily--upon the young bride’s mind.
The last train was due at eight o’clock, the hour so urgently appointed
by her brother for their interview. How _could_ she possibly meet both
her husband and her brother at the same time?

This brother was a sad scapegrace, and it had been the one mistake of
the bride’s married life not to mention his existence to her husband.

“Why don’t you tell your husband about Tom?” had urged the old lady.

“O, I can’t bear George to know that I have anybody disgraceful so
nearly related to me; if ever he misunderstood any of my actions, or if
I was not at hand to explain them, he would be certain to think that I
was going wrong, like poor Tom, and it would break my heart. Don’t you
remember, dear, that night when we were talking about the Wollanders,
how scornfully he said: ‘Oh, they couldn’t run straight to save their
lives--it is in the blood--the strain is bad.’ That sentence of George’s
determined me not to tell him anything.”

“Believe me, dearest,” replied the other, “it was a mistake, and one
which grows more serious the longer it is kept up.”

“O, I _could not_ tell him,” returned Alice with a little air of
determination; “but, grannie, dear, don’t-ee scare me like that.”

And so the matter had ended for that time, and fair Alice’s opportunity
was lost forevermore.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Mr. Montgomery arrived by the eight o’clock train and found no one
to meet him, a dull feeling of apprehension crept into his heart. His
first thought was, “Can my darling be sick? She is in very delicate
health.”

With hasty steps he sped on his homeward way, denouncing the special
business which on that particular day had detained him.

“I’m glad I thought to buy the ring during the day and did not leave it
till after business, or I should either have lost the last train or had
to come home without the ring.”

Entering the house unseen, by the side door, he glanced through the
empty reception rooms, noted the vacant dining-room, and then hastened
upstairs to his wife’s apartments, only, however, to find these silent
and deserted.

A feeling of uneasiness and oppression took possession of him. “Where
can everybody be?” he muttered. “Ah! there are grandpa and grandma
coming across the fields, but where is Alice?”

Hastily glancing across the grounds from the window of his wife’s
boudoir, he caught a glimpse in the gathering dusk of feminine apparel
at the end of the long peach walk. The light was too uncertain, the
distance too great, and the foliage too thick for accurate observation,
but it appeared to him that some member of the household, probably one
of the maids, was keeping a somewhat late appointment out of doors, for,
with the aid of a pair of opera-glasses taken from the adjoining table,
he could discern the dark outline of a man’s dress in close proximity to
the other and more flowing garment.

Presently the two figures parted, and in the person of the female now
hurrying down the peach walk toward the house, the astonished husband
recognized his wife.

For a moment he stood gazing, stolidly it seemed, out of the window.
Only the dull leaden look creeping over his face, and, presently, the
panting breath gave indication of the shock he had received.

That his wife, whom he had considered as pure as the angels in Heaven,
should take advantage of his first absence to meet another man
clandestinely--another man! Bah! an old lover, for did she not kiss him
at parting? Yes, that much the glasses had enabled him to see. The
thought was agony, a thousand times worse than death.

“Oh, Alice! Alice! my love, my wife! How _could_ you!” he cried to the
unhearing walls, as he put his hand to his head with a gesture of
infinite pain.

That, however, was the last wail of love’s weakness; then the frenzy of
jealousy and revenge seized him and possessed him like a demon, and the
look on his face, as he took a revolver from a secret panel in the
bureau, boded ill for his future happiness.

“Fooled, the very first month of my marriage too!” he muttered; and the
words seemed ground out between his clenched teeth.

“----But I will clear this thing up or put an end to it once for all,
even if in doing so I have to put an end----”

His voice sank as he passed from a side door and stole rapidly through
the garden to intercept the man who had just left his wife.

The narrow path through the woods brought him out, as he had
anticipated, in advance of the person whom he had come to meet.

He saw him coming along a hundred yards or so away, and he felt, mixed
up with his murderous feelings, a craving to see the face of the man for
whom his wife had forgotten him even in their honeymoon.

The stranger bade him good-evening with an easy, nonchalant air, and was
passing on his way to the station.

“Stay!” commanded the other, in a hoarse and unnatural tone.

The face that turned towards him with an air of easy surprise was
wonderfully handsome, and now that it recognized an enemy in the man
before it, as insolent as handsome.

“Who are you?” inquired Montgomery, in a calmer tone, of which the other
possibly failed to note the full significance.

The stranger’s answer was to flick the ash from his cigar in the other’s
face, and then to turn easily and coolly on his heel.

In an instant, Montgomery’s hand was on his shoulder, and the two men
faced each other at bay.

“You met a lady just now, and you kissed her on leaving?” burst from
between Montgomery’s white lips.

“I certainly did.”

“Do you know who she is?”

“Quite well.”

“And you dare to tell me that to my face?”

“Yes, and also to tell you that I hope to meet and kiss the lady a great
many more times.”

“Never, at least, in this world again,” grimly broke in the other,
lashed to madness by the insolent smile of his antagonist, and stepping
back a pace, he levelled the revolver full at the stranger’s face.

As the other saw the gleam of the barrel he shouted “Stay!” and threw
back his head, but the action was too late, the bullet struck him in the
temple, and he fell to the ground, his face bathed in blood.

For a moment the other stood motionless with the smoking weapon in his
hand. Then he stooped and looked in the face of the dead man.

All the amazing fury had died out of his heart; he looked towards the
home where his wife was awaiting him, and he murmured, “God forgive
you, Alice, you have made me a murderer.” Then there came to him, as to
all similarly circumstanced, the brute instinct of self-preservation.
“No one saw me arrive,” he muttered to himself, “no one will suspect me;
still, I would like _her_ to know that I had found out her crime and
punished it.”

As he said this, a strange, ghastly smile, weird in the extreme, crept
over his face, and he laid on the dead man’s breast gently--not in
tribute to the man, but in reverence of death--the wedding-ring which he
had bought that day to replace the missing one.

“She will understand by this just how it happened,” he murmured, as he
turned to go.

Once he looked back and saw the dark form lying on the lonely road, and,
so strange a composite is humanity, he felt a thrill of revengeful joy,
to think how refined a method of punishment he had discovered for his
wife.

Poor, short-sighted, misguided man; how little he dreamt of the
widespread harm which that small, innocent-looking gold hoop was
destined to work.



CHAPTER IV.


The shriek of the railway whistle recalled George Montgomery to a sense
of his desperate situation, and, at the same time, suggested a means of
escape. The 8.45 fast up-train was arriving. It was due in New York an
hour later. There was the barest possibility that he might be arrested
on his arrival in New York, but, on the other hand, the general
ignorance as to his having been at the scene of the murder, the distance
from the telegraph station, and the infinite advantages presented by the
great metropolis for concealing his identity, far out-balanced the
possible risk, and the fugitive hesitatingly entered the train.

For the first time in his life he anathemized the long, well-lit cars
common to all, and remembered with regret the narrow and private
first-class carriages which he had seen on the English railroads. How he
would have liked to bury himself between their sheltering cushions, and
by means of a handsome fee to the guard have secured the compartment to
himself.

Who shall describe what the murderer feels during the first hour of his
criminal life, when the crime has been unpremeditated, and there has
been no previous process of hardening up? An hour ago this man was one
who rightly claimed the respect of all his fellow-men, and had his claim
abundantly allowed. _Now_ he had fallen, sheer and at a single plunge,
through civilization’s whole strata of respectability, to find himself
jarred and stupefied by the fall on the bed-rock of crime, below which
nothing human goes. He picked up a paper lying in the adjoining seat,
and his eye caught the heading of a flagrant defalcation unearthed that
day. Two hours previous he had read the same news and had felt only
contempt for the miserable delinquent; _now_ the mere swindler seemed as
far removed from him in the category of crime as Lazarus in Heaven
seemed removed from Dives in torment.

As the train sped on, the remembrance of his wife’s infidelity finally
drove all thought of his crime from his mind. As memory, ruthless and
unsparing, pictured to his gaze all that they had been to each other,
and recalled every incident of their courtship and marriage, when he had
so blindly and foolishly thought that they were all the world to each
other, the limits of the carriage in which he traveled seemed impossible
to hold him, and the old lust of murder crept up on his brain like a
returning springtide.

When the fresh paroxysm had spent itself the train entered New York.

Within twenty minutes a carriage stopped at a certain number in Nassau
Street, and the fugitive, with the aid of his private key, entered his
office. As he did so, the janitor handed him some letters which had
arrived since he had left. These he carelessly cast aside, reserving
one, the handwriting of which seemed familiar. This he laid on one side.
There was no lack of decision in George Montgomery’s actions. First of
all, he wrote a letter to his partner, saying that circumstances beyond
his control compelled his temporary absence, and requesting that until
further advised, a certain sum be paid monthly to his wife. He also
intimated that he had taken with him a copy of the firm’s telegraphic
code which he would use if necessary.

After concluding such arrangements as he deemed advisable for the
proper conduct of the business during his absence, he withdrew from the
safe a considerable sum of money, substituting his check on a leading
bank for the same. Then, after ringing for a messenger boy, he ran his
fingers through his address-book and having consulted the shipping list
to see as to the outgoing vessels, a sudden inspiration seemed to seize
him, and he ordered a cab and drove to the private residence of Isamord
Hadley, principal owner of the New York & Spanish Steamship Company.

“The tide serves at 3 A.M.,” he muttered, as he took his seat in a cab,
“and I believe Spain has no extradition treaty with this country, and if
she has, no American detective could find me there, so long as I have
plenty of money.”

To the majority of criminals such a reflection would have been like a
reprieve from death, but the brooding brow and leaden eye of this man
told that there was no balm in Gilead for his tortured soul, and that
wherever he went, and to the last breath of his life, he must carry with
him, like an incurable, malignant cancer, the knowledge of a crime,
horrifying beyond conception to his mind, and yet unrepented of,
because amply justified by the monstrous circumstance of his bride’s
infidelity. His unbalanced mind inveighed against Heaven for loading him
with a trial so far beyond mortal strength or endurance. Like stormy
gusts of passion these wild, rebellious thoughts swept across his mind,
wrecking and devastating the training of a lifetime as they went, and
leaving him faint and breathless with their fury.

During the mental lull which followed one of these outbursts he
bethought him of the letter of which the handwriting was familiar. This
letter, which he had selected from the others which the janitor had
given him, he had placed in his pocket, and he now essayed to open it.
The jolting of the cab and the uncertain light of the street, however,
made him change his mind, and he returned the letter to his pocket
unopened.

Presently the cab stopped and the fugitive alighted. Upon inquiry, he
found that his friend was at home and ready to see him. These two men
had been bosom friends from their boyhood, and their friendship had in
maturer years become intensified and solidified by the fact that they
were brother Masons in the same lodge.

Isamord Hadley’s face grew white and grave as his friend told him of the
events of that terrible evening.

“You surely must be dreaming, George,” he said at length, “I have not
seen much of your wife, but from what I did see I would pledge my life
unhesitatingly on her innocence. For Heaven’s sake, man, go back to
her.”

“Never while I live will I willingly look on her face again.” This was
said fiercely and with an air of great determination, but with a quiver
in the brusqueness of his voice, and then the poor tortured soul turned
his head to hide the great sobs which now shook his frame. The kindly
voice and the sympathetic eye of his old friend had, for the time being,
exorcised the demon of jealousy, and now poor George Montgomery stood
revealed a most miserable, broken-hearted man.

“You forget the murder,” at length he faltered; “how could I ever go
back?”

Two hours later Mr. Hadley left his house in company with George
Montgomery in disguise. A cab took them to the docks, and when they
stepped on board the “City of Seville” Montgomery was introduced to the
Captain as Mr. Angus Forman, a citizen of Chicago bound for Cadiz. As
owner of the vessel, Mr. Hadley bespoke for his friend every kind
attention and assistance which the captain and officers could render
him. Before leaving he took an opportunity of explaining to the captain
that his friend’s journey was partly undertaken on account of his
health, which had become impaired through over-work, and partly through
a recent family trouble, the details of which he did not enter into.

At 3.15 A.M. the “City of Seville” raised her anchor and left her
moorings, and when the early summer’s morning dawned, she was fast
leaving the land behind her.

As the outline of the shore grew dim, the solitary passenger on board
the “City of Seville” strained his gaze to catch the latest glimpse of
land, and the summons of the steward to breakfast fell unheeded on his
ears. At length, when the haze hid the land from view, and only the
heaving billows met his eye on every side, he turned away.

Half an hour later the captain on the bridge saw the figure of a man
fall prone on deck. The occurrence was unusual, and the captain left his
post to ascertain what it meant. He found his guest, Mr. Angus Forman,
lying insensible with an open letter tightly grasped in his hand. By the
captain’s orders, the passenger was removed to his cabin, where he
shortly afterwards regained consciousness. As sensibility returned, his
first gaze was directed to the letter, which was still clenched, all
crumpled, in his stiffened grasp.

“Oh, unhappy wretch that I am, and more than murderer,” he moaned. “My
poor, faithful darling, I have killed your brother and now you must
loathe me forevermore. Oh, why did I leave that cursed ring there to
establish my guilt!” As the wailing died from his lips, he turned from
the light as a creature stricken to death retreats to the darkest corner
of its lair to die in.

That night the strange passenger of the “City of Seville” was raving in
delirium, and for weeks, while the sailing vessel ploughed on its
monotonous way, he lay between life and death.

At length there came a day when the watchers by the invalid’s side
surrendered all hope, and it was then that, for the first time, the
captain felt it incumbent upon him to read the letter which had
apparently precipitated the catastrophe.

In itself the letter gave little clue to the secret of his passenger,
but coupled with the latter’s incoherent ravings, the captain was able
to arrive at a fairly accurate knowledge of what the secret was.

The letter was addressed to George Montgomery and was evidently from his
wife’s grandmother. In it the writer intimated that her grand-daughter,
through dread that it might lessen her husband’s love for her, had
concealed from him the fact that she had a scapegrace brother. The old
lady thought that _any_ secret between husband and wife was harmful, and
in that belief she had thought it best to make him acquainted with the
fact, so that he might find some opportunity to pave the way towards
inviting his wife’s full confidence, and so remove what might be a
future cause of grave misunderstanding. “I am the more anxious to set
you two right on this matter,” she continued, “because I feel that
sooner or later you will yourself hear of my wretched grandson from
outside sources, and if the indications are correct, sooner rather than
later, as he is again in some trouble or other, and likely to come for
help to his sister, as he has been in the habit of doing. It seemed to
me that I saw him lurking about our house to-day, but my eyesight is
very indifferent and I cannot speak positively as to this.” The letter
concluded with an urgent appeal to him to remember his wife’s
sensitiveness of mind as well as her delicacy of constitution, and to
invite and not force her confidence.

After he had finished the letter, the captain looked at the name on the
envelope. He was a self-contained, trustworthy man, and beyond a
prolonged “Ah--h,” as he noted the discrepancy between the names of
Montgomery and Forman, he gave no utterance to his feelings, as he
passed to his cabin, where he again sealed up the passenger’s letter and
addressed it (Mr. Angus Forman).

At midnight the captain was summoned to the sick man’s side.

“He is sinking fast,” explained the first officer in a low tone, “but he
is conscious at last, and wishes to see you.”



CHAPTER V.


As Alice Montgomery was returning to the house from the peach walk,
where she had met her brother according to his appointment, she caught a
glimpse of her husband hastily entering the wood. He was walking fast,
and before she had decided to call to him he had entered the wood and
was lost to her sight.

“He is searching for me,” she murmured, pleased at his apparent
precipitancy, and yet a little anxious as to how she was to explain her
failure to meet him. As she followed him into the wood her steps grew
slower as she found herself unable to frame to her entire satisfaction
an excuse for her very glaring omission.

“He must have gone to the Lake Summer-House, thinking to find me there,”
she presently surmised, as she came to two cross forest paths. Saying
this she entered the road opposite to that which her husband had taken.
When she reached the Summer-House and found it empty, a look of alarm
for the first time crossed her face.

“Oh, I hope he has not met Tom,” she whispered to herself half in
dismay. At that instant a shot rang through the wood, startling her
almost into a cry. “I wonder what that can be,” she exclaimed, “George
has no fire-arms; but perhaps it is some one shooting at the squirrels.”

After a moment’s hesitation she retraced her steps towards the direction
of the report, and passed into the foot-path taken by her husband some
ten minutes previously.

This brought her to the turnpike road, which was deserted, but for an
object lying on the ground some fifty yards away, and not clearly
discernible at that distance in the fading light.

A strange tremor filled her breast and almost palsied her limbs as she
moved towards the inanimate object lying so still and awful; and now as
she neared it, fast taking the semblance of a human body.

There are moments whose experience no pen can describe, and far be it
from us to attempt the impossible. What of agony and horror Alice
Montgomery suffered when she saw her brother lying dead on the public
highway, while his parting kiss was yet warm on her lips, to be
understood must be endured. Her first impulse was to give way to her
uncontrollable grief; but at that instant her straining eyes caught
sight of an object which froze the first cry on her lips. This was the
new wedding-ring which shone cold and distinct against the dark coat
worn by the dead man. As it lay there it seemed to voice the full intent
with which the murderer had placed it on his victim’s breast.

As if carved in pale cold marble the young bride stood there staring at
the dead body, and at the awful ring shrieking out its horrid tale. So
silent and still she stood that the birds fluttered near to her on the
road, and the squirrels stopped midway in their flight, and sat upright
in the dusty way to regard her.

Then, like a statue endowed with vitality, she stooped and removed the
ring from its place, murmuring in a low monotone, “The ring he bought
for me to-day.” Then she looked at it strangely and almost coldly, and
finally placed it in her pocket-book. Only a little shiver and a gasp
disturbed the calm--that was all.

With a desperate effort and with a self-possession bordering on the
horrible, she removed the revolver, of which the handle was discernible,
from the dead man’s pocket, and peered into each separate chamber. Alas!
they were all full. For an instant the long white fingers grasped the
weapon and then a cartridge driven from its place fell into her palm.
This she also placed in her pocket-book. Then she stooped and picked up
the empty shell which the murderer had cast from his revolver after
firing. Would it fit her brother’s weapon? It did; the pistols were of
the same (Smith & Wesson) make and also of similar calibre.

Her next task was a still more terrible one, but it was performed
without a tremor of the quick and capable fingers. With gentle yet
unfaltering touch she took the match-box from her brother’s vest pocket,
and, having abstracted a single match from it, she returned it to its
place. Then, moving into the shadow of the wood, lest the flame should
attract attention, she applied the lighted match to the empty chamber,
smoking and discoloring it as if the pistol had been recently fired.

This done, she laid the revolver close to the outstretched hand of the
dead man.

“God forgive me,” she said in a low tone, “for making my brother a
suicide, but it is to save my husband’s life.”

This was said with the same unnatural calm, and then the speaker knelt
beside the dead man and kissed him on the lips which were still
unchilled by death. Once, twice, three times, her lips, colder than
those of the dead, sought his face, then she took out her handkerchief
to wipe the blood which was penetrating the poor, unseeing, wide-open
eyes. Then, remembering the part which she had to play, she refrained.

“God help me, my deceit has killed my brother; I must try to save my
husband.” Murmuring this she turned from the dreadful spectacle on the
road and passed into the wood with a strange mechanical woodenness of
step, as if the shock which had spared her brain and hands had benumbed
or paralyzed her lower limbs.

As she neared the house her grandfather rose from his seat on the
piazza, and advanced to meet her.

“What is the matter, child?” he cried, alarmed beyond measure at the
ghastly face on which the seal of a great horror had been stamped, and
alarmed no less at the unnatural calm of his grand-daughter’s manner,
as she stood before him with staring eyes, whose dilated pupils
suggested insanity.

“Grandpapa, go down to the road,” she murmured pantingly, and with a
strange catch in her voice, “down by the white elm tree; something
terrible has happened to Tom.” And, her gruesome work being ended, poor
over-spent nature gave way, and she fell unconscious to the ground.

When she had been restored to sensibility and carried to her room, her
grandfather, calling the colored butler to follow him, went to
investigate the cause of her emotion. The gardener, who was found
watering the plants in the front, was also summoned to accompany his
master.

What the three found the reader already knows. The old white-haired
grandfather uttered no sound, and only the exclamations of the horrified
servants broke the weird silence.

“A lamp and a stretcher, Julius, quick!” exclaimed the old man,
silencing with a wave of his hand the lamentations of the others. Then
he stooped and put his ear to the chest of the silent figure; long and
patiently he listened, and then, as if reluctant to believe the worst,
or still uncertain, he undid the coat and vest and re-applied his ear
to catch the faintest flicker of life, if it be that any such were left
in the prostrate body.

“Your ear is younger than mine, try whether you can hear any action in
his heart.” This was said to the butler, who bent his head in silent
obedience to the commands of his master.

“Seems to me that I can hear _something_, sah!”

The minutes appeared hours while the two waited in the gathering gloom
for the return of Julius with the lamp and the stretcher. At last,
however, he arrived, and the inanimate body was carried gently to the
house. Five minutes later a mounted groom left for the nearest doctor.
When the latter had made his examination he announced that life was not
extinct, and that while it hung by a thread, there was still room for
hope. The bullet had fractured the skull and caused concussion of the
brain, but the latter organ had not been penetrated, the missile having
glanced from the bone in consequence of the slanting position of the
forehead at the moment of fire.

“I think it right to tell you,” the doctor said at parting, “that while
the patient’s life may possibly be saved, his reason will probably be
endangered. Do you think the young man intended to commit suicide?” he
added by way of inquiry, as his last remark was received in silence.

“I think not,” was the reply; “he was full of life, and was constantly
getting into trouble, but nothing weighed heavily on his mind; no, I
imagine that he took out his revolver to fire at some over-bold
squirrel, perhaps, and while examining the chambers to see whether they
were all loaded he probably touched the hair-trigger unintentionally; I
think that is, perhaps, the correct solution of the mystery.”

“I have no doubt that it is,” said the doctor, as he turned to go.
“Good-night, sir.”



CHAPTER VI.


When the young bride, Alice Montgomery, pale and wan, the mere spectre
of her former self, left the sick room for the first time, a month had
elapsed from the date of the events narrated in the last chapter. The
interval had brought no tidings of her missing husband, beyond the
intelligence conveyed by his partner that he had visited the office on
the night of his departure, and arranged for her maintenance during a
prolonged absence. This uncertainty as to his fate had greatly retarded
her recovery, and the triumph which her youth had thus gained in
dragging her back to life was, as yet, too uncertain to mitigate the
anxiety felt by her aged relatives. Her brother had recovered from his
wound, and had, in a measure, regained his health, but the mental
disorder predicted by the medical adviser was now only too apparent. Of
the occurrences of that dreadful night he had evidently no recollection,
and he never spoke of them. His mind seemed perpetually occupied with
monetary troubles, and no assurance on the part of his grandfather that
these had all been adjusted served to allay his apprehension. From a
youthful irrational creature of erratic habits he seemed suddenly to
have passed into careworn middle life, burdened with a thousand gloomy
anxieties.

Altogether the house of Arlington lay in a sombre shadow during those
bright summer days, and many silvery hairs were added to its aged heads
in the long weeks of trouble and grief through which they had to pass.

“Grandma, have you got my purse?” suddenly asked the young bride, while
seated on the veranda one afternoon in the early days of her
convalescence.

“Yes, dear,” replied the other, a delicate flush mantling her cheeks as
she thought of its contents--the cartridge and the wedding-ring; “shall
I fetch it?”

“Please, dear; has anyone else seen it, grannie?”

“No, love; I have kept it locked up since the night of the--the
accident.”

No more passed between these two on the subject, but each understood the
other, and if the gloom did not lighten with the mutual understanding,
their hearts grew stronger to endure its burden.

“Why do you not wear your wedding-ring?” her grandmother inquired one
day.

“I lost it the morning George left.”

A look of perplexity crossed the other’s face, but the trouble in her
grand-daughter’s eyes checked further inquiry.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the “City of Seville” sailed into the port of Cadiz the captain of
the vessel handed a sealed envelope to his passenger, Angus Forman, with
the assurance, somewhat stiffly delivered, that his secret, whatever it
might be, was safe with him.

The other received the envelope in silence, and when he broke the seal
and found the letter from his wife’s grandmother, which had been the
means of revealing his victim’s identity, he read it again without
apparent emotion.

During the long weeks of delirium and slow recovery to health in which
he had passed the interval of the sailing vessel’s slow passage, he had
discounted all human misery it seemed to him, and as he stood on the
deck, the mere skeleton of his former self, he felt alike indifferent to
the approach of weal or woe.

Far down in his breast there ached the dull ceaseless pain of a love
forever lost, which drowned every other feeling and made him indifferent
to it.

When the custom-house officers came aboard he was surprised--after a
languid fashion, and as one thinking of some casual acquaintance rather
than himself--that no detectives accompanied them, and that he was not
arrested for murder, but when he found that no inquiry was made for him,
and he was at liberty to go and come as he pleased, there was no
corresponding relief or elation visible in his manner.

On bidding the captain adieu he thanked him for his great kindness. “I
owe you my life,” he remarked, “and when I am certain that I am grateful
to you for preserving it, I will thank you more warmly,” with which
enigmatical sentence he passed ashore.

As health returned his tortured mind sought relief in excitement and he
left Cadiz for Madrid, where he strove to allay the grief which gnawed
at his heart by plunging into the wild excitement of that hot-headed and
hot-blooded capital. After a time the ferocious excitement of the weekly
bull fight ceased to deaden the agony which preyed at his heart, and he
allied himself with a revolutionary movement, which had the advantage of
promising equal excitement with some risk to the life which had long
been a burden to him.

The Carlist rising seemed like the first glimpse of Heaven’s good will
to him, and as such he embraced the opportunity it afforded. The
contagious excitement aroused by the Pretender, thrilled through his
being, and, at length, he opened his soul to his fellow-men. It were
more correct, perhaps, to say fellow-man, since his sole companion and
confidant was a much-travelled Spanish soldier of fortune, whose
desperate circumstances, as narrated by himself, had first melted the
icy reserve which begirt the heart-sore wanderer.

As the two travelled together to the front, the stranger, by insidious
inquiries gathered piecemeal George Montgomery’s history. More
particularly, however, he seemed interested in the bulky telegraphic
code which the other carried with him, and he was puzzled, he said, with
his eternal smile, to understand how a book of the kind could be of any
practical value; he appeared to be unlettered in business ways, and the
other, to while away the long evenings, explained to him the working of
the code, as he would have elucidated any ordinary puzzle.

“It seems plain to you, doesn’t it?” said his friend, one night,
laughingly, as he clasped his head in his palms at the end of a long
explanation, “yet I swear the whole thing is Greek to me. I suppose my
brain must be unusually dense.”

That night a false alarm was given, and, in the confusion, George
Montgomery was parted from his friend. When order was at length
restored, and the former endeavored to collect his baggage, he found
that his telegraphic cipher was missing. A hasty march was made from the
dangerous locality, and in the darkness he was parted from his friend,
whom he did not see again. “It is the fortune of war,” he remarked,
somewhat bitterly to himself, for he had grown to like his new-found
friend, and in the daily exigencies of an exciting life he soon forgot
his passing acquaintance.

The date of this alarm was the 5th of August. On the 10th the firm of
Alford & Montgomery, in New York, received a cable message in cipher, of
which the translation was:

            “Please remit by cable to the Bank of Madrid, five thousand
     dollars, payable to my order without identification.

                                                   “GEORGE MONTGOMERY.”



On receipt of this despatch the firm telegraphed to Mrs. Montgomery, and
received in reply a request to assure her husband that all was well, and
to beg him to return to his wife without delay.

On the evening of the 10th, the Atlantic cable carried the following
message in cipher:

     “We have remitted five thousand dollars, by cable, as requested.
     Your wife entreats you to return, and says, ‘All is well.’

                                                 “ALFORD & MONTGOMERY.”



When this message was delivered and translated, the receiver smiled
strangely as he lit a fresh cigar, adding, after he had established its
fire, “Seeing how easy it has been, I’m only sorry, friend Montgomery,
that I did not cable for twenty thousand dollars instead of five
thousand dollars. It was a bright idea to steal that very useful code of
yours.”

At that moment the clank of a heavy sabre on the marble floor of the
hotel smote on his ear, and the weight of a heavy hand fell on his
shoulder.

“I arrest you, señor, at the instance of the Bank of Madrid.”

“The charge?” fiercely ejaculated the other, finding his struggles
useless.

“Forgery,” was the grim and laconic reply.

“Ah, well, that is an old hallucination of the bank’s and easily
answered; let me light a cigarette any way,” urged the other, with
simulated indifference, as he turned the folded dispatch towards the
light. The officer made no objection and presently his prisoner ground
the ashes of the telegraphic message beneath his heel.

       *       *       *       *       *

At Arlington, Alice Montgomery waited with agonizing anxiety for a
cabled reply to the loving message which she had sent across the ocean
to her unhappy husband. As the days passed without bringing her any
answering message she persuaded her husband’s partner to telegraph again
to Madrid. Still no response, and still another message sped on its way
beneath the ocean, only, however, to result in the same stony silence.

At length, in reply to a letter sent to the Bank of Madrid, there came
the intelligence that the $5,000 remitted had never been applied for,
and that the Cable Company had only been able to deliver the first
message, all the others being still at the hotel where the husband had
received the first one.

Perhaps the information that her husband had received the loving message
which she had sent him, and had closed his ears and his heart to her
piteous appeal, was the bitterest drop in the cup of Mrs. Montgomery’s
affliction; and for a while it seemed as if in grinding out the ashes of
the cablegram beneath his heel in the hotel at Madrid, the villain who
had stolen George Montgomery’s cipher, had likewise ground out the life
of his now thoroughly heartbroken wife. But no thought of compunction
crossed the mind of the felon, now languishing in a Spanish cell and
torturing his mind how best he could manage to get hold of that money in
the bank, so that with a portion of it he might bribe his jailers and
regain his freedom.

“I wonder how my American friend enjoys fighting the Spanish troops?” he
smilingly queried of himself one day as he sat under the great
white-washed wall of the prison court rolling a fresh cigarette.

At that moment, George Montgomery, sorely wounded, was bleeding his life
out on the sunny slopes of the Sierra Morena mountains, and murmuring
brokenly, now faintly, now passionately, as his fever ebbed and flowed,
the name of his dearly loved wife, whom fate had at last, to all
appearances, forever separated from him.



CHAPTER VII.


In a Spanish monastery George Montgomery recovered from the wounds which
had so nearly proved fatal, and, by-and-by, when the last gleanings of
the autumnal crop of grapes shrivelled on its southern walls, he felt
the dawnings of returning convalescence.

As his eye, released from the shadow of death, swept the panorama of
mountain ranges and smiling valleys visible from his lofty eyrie in the
monastery, earth seemed very fair to him, and the life, so hardly
retained, acquired a double value in his sight.

His mind, with recovering strength, began to regain its equilibrium, and
his disordered brain was at last able to review in proper perspective
the situation as between himself and (first) his wife and (second) his
crime.

As his thoughts, purged from the dross of passion in that habitation
where nothing unworthy could live, calmly reviewed the situation, he
felt abased to think how selfishly he had acted--how cowardly indeed,
he thought, as he scourged himself with bitter self-recriminations.

Clear to him it seemed, as the evening star which rose on his view
nightly and darkened every other constellation by its brilliancy, that
his duty was to have communicated with his wife on the first available
moment after learning of the horrible mistake he had made in assuming
her brother to be her lover; and this he ought to have done at all
hazards to himself.

Was it too late? What might not have happened in those months of
silence?

These questions tortured his mind day by day with ever-increasing
violence, and finally, and reluctantly, the holy brotherhood permitted
the departure of the wounded man in order to enable him, while yet
perhaps there was time, to make atonement for a grievous wrong.

He bade the monks adieu with unfeigned regret. The odor of sanctity
which seemed to pervade the very walls of the monastery had impressed
him powerfully; he had seen how, while ministering to human trouble and
endowed with broad human sympathies, the brothers still held themselves
“unspotted from the world,” and he felt, on bidding them farewell, like
an African traveler, who, driven by desperate circumstances, leaves
behind him the last well and the last glimpse of verdure to plunge into
the unknown and illimitable desert beyond, strewn with the skeletons of
those who have gone before.

He shuddered at times when he reflected what possibly awaited him as he
remembered that awful figure lying on the cold road with the night
descending on it like a pall. He shuddered but he did not hesitate. The
monastic teachings had cleared his brain and outlined a path which he
had determined to follow, if his life lasted, until he reached the
desired goal.

He still had ample funds in his possession, and he was accordingly able
to reach Cadiz without delay. Immediately on arriving he wrote a long
letter to his wife, explaining fully the circumstances under which he
had fled; he concealed nothing: it was part of his merited punishment he
felt (and that not the least painful) to be compelled to make the
humiliating confession to his wife that he had suspected her fidelity
even during their honeymoon.

The writing of this letter was a terrible ordeal and called into
distressing activity the keenest emotions.

Never perhaps had the reasons for utter despair taken such palpable
shape as when the closing lines of his own letter lay before him in all
their stern significance.

“I shall never cease to love you while life lasts,” these said, “but I
know that I can now awake in you only feelings of abhorrence as the
murderer of your brother. I will not try to see you again, for indeed I
think that one glance of reproach from your eyes would kill me outright
where I stood.

“I am leaving this city within twenty-four hours not to return. I cannot
give you my address and I would not if I could. I have only one request
to make, that you will endeavor to blot all recollection of my most
unhappy self from your mind. And even that miserable solace is, I feel,
to be denied me, for however time might efface all memory of me as a
husband, eternity itself could not obliterate the horrible recollection
of me as your brother’s murderer.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The following day, when the “City of Havana” sailed for Cuba, George
Montgomery (or rather Angus Forman, for he had resumed his assumed
name), was one of the passengers.

Why he had made the West Indies his objective point he might perhaps
have been unable truthfully to decide. The reason that he gave to
himself was that his mind required yet another change of scene, while
his enfeebled body demanded that it should be to a still warmer clime.
Deep down in his heart, however, he was conscious of another reason, a
craving or soul-hunger to be nearer the Mecca of his heart. He fought in
vain against the tumultuous joy which swelled in his breast when an
inward voice whispered day by day and louder and louder as the vessel
surged on its way, “half-way home,” and yet he told himself with a
despair to which each breath of hope added keener poignancy, that the
second half of that way his feet would never traverse.

On the fifth day out from Cadiz, an event occurred which had
considerable effect on his after life. As he stood on the deck
listlessly watching a school of porpoises which had raced alongside the
ship, he was conscious of a considerable commotion among the sailors.
The cause was the discovery of a stowaway among the merchandise in the
hold. As the wretched prisoner was dragged forward for the captain’s
inspection, Montgomery recognized in him his old companion, the Spanish
soldier of fortune, De Leon, who had disappeared on the night of the
alarm when they were on their way to join the forces of Don Carlos. To
the readers this enterprising gentleman is known as the man who stole
the telegraphic cipher, who used it to cable for $5,000, and who finally
wound up in a Spanish prison before his roguery was consummated to his
satisfaction.

By appealing to the cupidity of his jailer, he had at last induced the
latter to secure a temporary substitute and leave of absence for a few
hours from the jail in order to obtain the money from the bank which the
latter had been instructed to pay over to George Montgomery on demand.

He had gone to the bank under the keen surveillance of his confederate,
the jailer, only to find, however, that the advice to pay the money had
been cancelled.

This was a death-blow to his hopes, but the hardy villain, surmising
that liberty even without wealth was better than incarceration,
determined to make a bold dash for liberty while he had the chance.

Watching his opportunity he tripped up his disappointed and now furious
companion, the jailer, with such violence as to rob that baffled
functionary of what little intelligence he possessed, for the space of
several minutes. De Leon’s knowledge of the purlieus of Madrid enabled
him to hide in safety until a suitable opportunity arose for him to
leave the city, and through his ingenuity as an adventurer, he was able
to reach the coast in safety. There, after a time, he had been able to
secrete himself on board the “City of Havana” while the careless sailors
were enjoying their afternoon siesta.

On board this Spanish ship the captain’s views of a stowaway’s crime
were, to say the least, somewhat harsh.

The wretched man’s starved condition and the misery of his appearance
aroused no spark of pity in the breast of the unfeeling skipper, whose
moustache bristled with rage at the thought of the daring and effrontery
of the man who had perpetrated such a fraud upon him and the owners of
the ship.

“Fifty lashes on the bare back at once, and to be handed over to the
authorities in Havana on landing,” was the sentence decreed, with the
accompaniment of many elaborate and inspiring Castilian oaths by the
haughty Spaniard. His desperate situation paralyzed the stowaway into
silence. One glance at the ruthless face of the captain satisfied the
poor wretch, whose career as an adventurer enabled him to read the human
countenance like an open page, that appeal was hopeless, while of means
of escape there were none, with only the wide waste of waters as a
refuge.

As the hunted gaze of the captive scanned all the faces around him he
suddenly drew back as if struck in the face by a blow, and cast his eyes
downward to the deck. He had recognized George Montgomery. In an instant
he summed up the situation in this wise: “If this man identifies me I
shall be handed over to the authorities at Havana, not as a suspicious
character, but as a thief and a forger, and that, added to my conspiracy
with the jailer and my escape, will ensure me twenty years of the
galleys.”

As these thoughts crashed like a shell through De Leon’s brain, he
forgot about the flogging which he was going to receive; the enormity of
the terrible punishment awaiting him in Spain obliterating every other
thought. All his native hardihood had deserted him, and he hung limp
and with closed eyes against the mast to which he had been lashed in
readiness for the ordered whipping.

He was vaguely conscious of a sudden silence among the men around him,
and, at length opening his eyes fearfully, he saw Montgomery in
conversation with the captain, and pointing towards him. He saw, or at
least concluded, that his worst fears had been realized; that the man he
had robbed had recognized him, and as he fancied he could hear him
detailing the particulars of his crime, he closed his eyes hurriedly and
the pallor on his face whitened to the hue of death.

In his conclusion that Montgomery had recognized him the miserable
culprit was correct, but as the reader is aware, the former had no
cognizance of his theft or of his other attempted frauds, and his
conversation with the captain at the moment was simply a proposition to
pay double compensation to the ship’s owners for the fare of which they
had been defrauded, together with a handsome _douceur_ to the captain
himself for the liberation of the prisoner.

The captain listened in moody silence, but under his lids an avaricious
gleam shot outwards and downwards. “Captain! he is an old
fellow-traveler of mine, and a right good fellow; let him go; if you had
ever seen him as I have seen him in good circumstances, you would be
shocked at the change in his appearance; he has suffered enough already,
God knows.”

This appeal moved the captain not one whit, but it provided a way for
him to secure the proffered consideration, and the grimness of his
features relaxed as if the other had released him from a disagreeable
and painful duty from which naturally his whole soul revolted.

“Say no more, señor, your assurance as to that unfortunate gentleman’s
respectability is received unreservedly. I can, of course, accept
nothing for myself; the knowledge that I have been of service to you is
in itself sufficient reward (this with a profound bow and radiant
smile), but my duty to the owners of the ship compels me to accept your
offer to recoup us for this man’s passage money. If, however, you will
see the purser, these details can be readily arranged. I will instruct
him to receive the money;” whereupon the captain left for the purser’s
office.

When George Montgomery had settled accounts with the purser, he had not
only paid double fare for his erring friend, but he had, in response to
a somewhat broad hint from the purser, paid a further sum of $250, which
the latter intimated would be the probable fine imposed on the captain
if it were discovered by the owners that he had not inflicted the usual
punishment on the stowaway. Perhaps it was to avoid the possibility of
the owners discovering such a flagrant dereliction of duty that no
entries were made in the ship’s books of the sums handed over that day!

When George Montgomery returned on deck, he found the inanimate figure
of his old fellow-traveler still bound to the mast. In response to his
glance of surprise at the captain, the latter explained with a smile and
another overpowering bow, that he thought Señor Forman might like to
release the prisoner himself.

Accepting a knife tendered by one of the crew he advanced to the mast.
The sight of the pale and haggard features covered with the glassy
moisture of a sudden and unspeakable terror might have moved a heart of
stone. The heavy lids still tightly closed the horrified eyes, and the
whole aspect was that of the dead.

“I have come to release you,” George whispered in his ear, but the other
gave no sign, save only that a dark flush began to creep up over his
neck.

“Don’t you remember me, old friend? Great Heavens, a glass of brandy
here, quick! The man is dying!”

The eyes had opened wide and stared horribly while you might count five,
and the fugitive color had died suddenly away and the body fallen a dead
weight on the ropes.

But “good news never kills,” and at length the sorrowful knight of
fortune recovered consciousness to find himself alone with the friend
whom he had wronged, and who was now bending over him in eager
solicitude. His bonds had been removed and he lay in his friend’s cabin.
When he had satisfied himself that he was not the victim of some
pleasing hallucination, and that he was really at liberty, he took his
friend’s hand between both his own, and kissed it again and again, while
the hot tears rained unheeded from his poor eyes.

“Ah, you are very weak,” explained his friend, “but here comes the cook
with some nice nourishing soup.”



CHAPTER VIII.


George Montgomery took an early opportunity of explaining to his friend
De Leon, that, for certain reasons, he was traveling under an assumed
name. To the other, it is lamentable to add, this appeared the most
natural thing in the world, and he never gave the matter a second
thought.

The devotion of the rescued stowaway to the friend who had saved him was
touching in the extreme. He followed him like his shadow, with a
dog-like fidelity which awoke the sneers of the supercilious Spaniards.
There were occasions when these sneers roused the ire of the patient De
Leon and prompt retribution seemed very near the heads of the offenders,
but the butt of their shafts recollected himself in time and dissembled
his wrath, conscious that he was not yet quite out of danger, and that
so long as he was on board ship and within touch, he was by no means
beyond the reach of Spanish malice.

At length the island of Cuba was reached, and the two friends left the
ship in safety.

On the night of their arrival, as the two were seated in the Hotel
Pasaje, in Havana, the second officer of the ship, who had been
celebrating his return with some old friends, entered the hotel. When he
saw De Leon, he pointed him out jeeringly to the friends who accompanied
him, as “the stowaway.”

He had been a special offender in this respect on board ship, so that it
scarcely needed the fresh insult to fire De Leon’s blood.

When the latter noticed that the officer’s companions were regarding him
curiously, he rose to his feet with much deliberation, and, lifting his
full wine-glass from the table, he threw its contents straight into the
officer’s face. As the latter endeavored to wipe the dark claret from
his face, De Leon, with the air of a grandee of Spain, raised his hat to
the other gentleman; then fixing his gaze on the officer, he said; “I am
at your service, señor.”

The interposition of the hotel officials prevented any continuation of
the quarrel there, and the entire party left together. George
Montgomery, who accompanied his friend, was in dismay at the quarrel
and the duel with the officer which seemed impending.

“You do not know, my friend, what you are about. If you knew what it was
to have blood on your hands you would die rather than shed it.”

The other glanced at him strangely for a moment, and then replied, “In
anything but this I would obey you willingly, but I am by birth a
Spanish noble, and this man has insulted me. I have avenged that insult,
and now I should be a coward if I did not give him the satisfaction he
requires.”

At this moment one of the officer’s friends approached Montgomery and
informed him courteously that the gentleman who had been insulted
demanded satisfaction, and intimated that the more promptly it could be
afforded, the more it would be to the taste of his principal.

As George Montgomery hesitated and then protested that nothing would
induce him to sanction a duel, De Leon took the matter into his own
hands, and said, “This gentleman is the only friend I have in the city;
he will not act, therefore I must dispense with a second, and I say I am
ready now to meet your principal. I have no preference as to weapons,
but as the choice rests with me, and to save time, I name the rapier. I
am content to accompany you alone, and as soon as we can secure the
weapons, I will go with you and settle the matter.”

The other bowed gravely, and, promising to return in a few minutes, he
left.

“Good-bye, for the present, at least,” exclaimed De Leon with
outstretched hand to his friend, as his opponent’s second returned with
the rapiers under his arm. “If all goes well I will return to the hotel
in a couple of hours, and if not, why then dearest of friends, adieu,”
and he raised the other’s hand to his lips and kissed it, not formally,
but tenderly and even passionately.

“Oh! I cannot let you go alone,” returned the other. “It is all wrong, I
know, and can only build up untold misery in the future, but I cannot
turn my back on a friend.”

In reply De Leon pressed his hand, and together they entered one of
three carriages which had been summoned for the use of the party.

A drive of twenty minutes landed them on a lonely spot hedged in on
three sides by lofty palms and a dense undergrowth of palmetto, and on
the other side by the blue waters of the bay, where a solitary craft lay
moored near the shore.

The moon was high in the heavens, and the light was almost as clear as
day.

When De Leon ran his fingers over the weapon which was handed to him, he
seemed jubilant with gaiety. “My friend,” he exclaimed, “if I thought I
was going to die, I would make a confession to you; I did you a great
wrong once. But I shall spit that wretch like a lark, and I cannot
afford to lose your friendship, so my confession must wait.”

While the preliminary arrangements were being made the movement on shore
had attracted the attention of the look-out on board the low-lying craft
at anchor a few hundred yards away, and presently a boat put off from
the ship containing the three officers on duty, who correctly surmised
the cause of the unwonted gathering and came ashore to see the fight.

As they joined the group they saluted its members courteously, but
carelessly, as men who were seldom wont to crave permission for their
presence, and were indifferent whether it was accorded or not, an
impression which was heightened by a certain swagger in their manner
which savored more of the buccaneer than of the naval officer, and also
by a superfluity of armament about their persons.

When the duellists had taken their places the contrast in the
expressions of the two principals was very marked.

On De Leon’s face there was an air of smiling assurance which seemed to
goad his opponent almost to fury. He had fully regained his strength
during the weeks which had elapsed since his discovery on board ship as
a stowaway, and the muscular neck and powerful arms promised that, given
equal skill, the observant moon would have left her proud elevation in
the sky before his physical powers would surrender to mere fatigue.

At last the signal of attack was given and the fine steel blades slid
along each other see-saw as their owners felt their way to the attack.
Then the officer shot out his weapon apparently full at the broad breast
of his antagonist. But no harm was done, and the ring of the steel hilts
as they clashed together, was the only sound which was borne on the
night air. A temporary lock of blades prevented any harm being done, and
when they were disengaged the two began afresh the see-sawing with
their weapons.

De Leon, however, had already gauged his opponent’s ability, and before
the latter could fathom his intention or do anything beyond blindly
advancing his weapon, the other’s rapier had disengaged itself from his
blade, slid like a lightning flash over his arm and pierced his neck.

The fight was over almost ere the weapon was withdrawn, and the officer,
choked with blood, staggered backwards and fell into the arms of his
friends.

At that instant a shrill double whistle of warning was heard from the
ship and the three officers belonging to it retraced their steps rapidly
to the boat. At the same moment a body of Spanish troops plunged through
the palmetto, cutlass in hand.

“Stay!” shouted De Leon to the retreating officers, “take us with you.”

His suspicious brain had surmised a trap, and he was afraid of the
troops as foes. The law and order of Spain he dreaded as much as
suspected Christians in former ages feared the Inquisition.

The reasons which impelled the officers to consent to his request may
probably be found in the fact that both looked able, powerful men, and
one at least had just proved himself to be a very efficient swordsman.

“All right, in with you--quick!” shouted the first officer by way of
reply, and the two took their seats hurriedly in the boat, which was
immediately pushed off from the shore.

       *       *       *       *       *

The vessel was found on a closer acquaintance to be engaged in the
contraband trade, and the captain in command, in consideration of the
sum of two hundred and fifty dollars, agreed to land the two passengers
on the mainland of Florida. The arrangement suited his own purposes for
the moment although he would have preferred to retain his passengers,
and the two were accordingly landed in safety at Punta Rassa, where they
engaged a boat and its owner, a Florida oyster dredger of villainous
appearance, and, had they known it, of still more evil reputation.

With this man they entered into a contract to take them through the
great Lake Okeechobee, with which he assured them he was familiar, and
thence northward through the chain of canals and lakes which led to
within reasonable distance of one of the principal termini of the very
limited railway service of Florida.

Why did George Montgomery choose such a route?

He would probably have found it hard to furnish a reasonable
explanation. When he landed in the State it seemed sufficient rapture
for the moment to feel that he was once more on the same continent with
his wife, and that no terrible width of ocean any longer divided them.

Still he could not forget that he was a fugitive from justice, and that
in all probability the “hue and cry” had been raised against him as the
murderer of his brother-in-law. He shuddered as he thought that on his
first visit to a railway station he might be confronted by a reward
offered for his own apprehension.

And so, satisfied with the thought that day by day he was creeping or
drifting nearer to the woman for whom his whole soul and body hankered,
he seemed to find a temporary contentment in his lot.

His preoccupation of mind rendered him the most unsuspicious of mortals,
and so hastened a catastrophe which came near terminating prematurely
his wanderings.

In taking a bundle of papers from his pocket one day a package of notes
of large denomination fell to the bottom of the boat. As a matter of
fact the parcel represented five thousand dollars, and with a
five-hundred-dollar bill as its outward symbol looked, it must be
confessed, its full value.

As the eyes of the boatman fell upon the parcel they glared at it with a
greed of covetousness which De Leon read at a glance and carefully
noted. The owner of the notes neither saw nor recked of the commotion
aroused by his carelessness. De Leon, however, not only saw the error,
but made it quite clear to the boatman that he understood him.

“Ah! my dear friend, there is trouble for us both ahead,” De Leon
muttered, as he softly soaked the boatman’s cartridges in the limpid
waters of Lake Okeechobee while that worthy slept. “I,” he resumed, “am
a Soldier of Fortune, _you_, my worthy ruffian, are simply a murderer!
but beware, De Leon watches!”

As he referred to himself as a Soldier of Fortune, it is possible that
he was endeavoring to discriminate to the satisfaction of his conscience
between a genius of _la haute finance_, who, in extremity, and with the
touch of a master, borrows a telegraphic cipher and uses it with
brilliant, if ephemeral, result, and a simple highway robber.

It is but just, however, to the brave De Leon to say that his cheeks
tingled with shame whenever he thought of the very scurvy trick he had
once played on his old and unsuspecting friend in stealing his code and
suppressing the message from his wife.

“Ah! it is a sorry business to rob a whole-souled generous man who
trusts you blindly.”

As De Leon reflected thus, the boat lay at anchor for the night on the
broad bosom of that inland sea, Lake Okeechobee.

“I think,” he whispered to himself, “I ought to mention that message to
my friend; it might lessen his distress, and yet how _can_ I let him
know how I have wronged him and tried to defraud him? I cannot do it.”

Three weeks later they stopped at a landing-place on the Kissimmee
River, in order to secure some fresh food. They had passed through the
great lake in safety, and also through its principal tributary to a
point north of Fort Kissimmee. That stoppage was the first of any
consequence since they had left Lake Okeechobee, and it is possible that
the careful watch observed by De Leon having been without result up to
that time, his vigils had grown somewhat careless.

This, however, is mere conjecture, but on the night of that landing, De
Leon awoke from a heavy stupor to find the boatman raising his axe to
slay his friend Montgomery. De Leon essayed to rise to his feet, yelling
out an alarm to his friend as he did so. The assassin, however, had
taken the precaution to tie some ropes across the other’s limbs, loosely
enough so as not to awake him, yet in such a way as to prevent him
rendering any sudden assistance to his friend.

The immediate result of De Leon’s alarm was to divert to himself the
blow intended for his friend. For a moment the yellow, devilish face of
the boatman bent over him with a look of indescribable malice, the next
the axe descended full on poor De Leon’s helpless head, and with a groan
he sank unconscious into the bottom of the boat.

The boatman turned in time to see that Montgomery was awake and feeling
for his pistol, then, recognizing that the game was up, he jumped
ashore.

When he got to the distance of about a hundred yards from the boat, and
so out of pistol range, he raised his rifle, which he had taken up as he
left the boat, and fired. Thanks, however, to poor De Leon’s
thoughtfulness in saturating the ruffian’s cartridges, the latter’s
murderous intentions were foiled although he tried shell after shell
before he gave up as useless his efforts to kill Montgomery.

The latter, oblivious of the murderer’s persistent attempts to shoot
him, was stooping over his wounded friend endeavoring to stay the
frightful loss of blood from the blow given him by the native. The wound
had not been what it had been intended to be--immediately fatal. When De
Leon saw the axe descending he had moved his head so as to evade the
full force of the weapon which had accordingly somewhat glanced in its
stroke.

Still the wound, although not instantly fatal, bid fair to prove so ere
long, and Montgomery groaned when he thought of his inability to render
his friend skilled assistance.

When he saw that the hemorrhage still continued in spite of all his
efforts, a feeling of desperate helplessness seized upon him and his
eyes scanned the land to see whether any possible help was within sight.

While his glance was turned towards the prairie a boat suddenly collided
gently with his own, and, to his amazement, he found a powerful Indian
seated in a birch canoe alongside.

The Indian made a cordial yet dignified signal of friendship, and almost
exhausted his English vocabulary with his greeting, “How do?”

In despair, the other pointed to his dying companion and then to the
woods beyond, indicating that the murderer had fled.

The Indian took in the situation at a glance, and paddling to the shore
he gathered from the armless socket of an aged live oak, a handful of
spiders’ webs; this done, he removed the other bandages and placed the
webs against the wound.

The fine clinging meshes of the webs did what the cloths had failed to
do, and the terrible bleeding stopped. De Leon opened his eyes at
length, and his friend rejoiced to see that he was sensible and as yet,
at least, free from fever.

“Friend, come here to me,” faintly whispered the wounded man, after
looking wistfully at George Montgomery for a time.

“I am going to leave you, George,” and his voice rested tenderly as a
woman’s on the other’s name; “and now that I am dying I want to tell you
about a wrong I did you. Stoop lower.”



CHAPTER IX.


Alice Montgomery’s health steadily drooped as the weeks went by and
brought no sign from her husband in reply to her loving message, and
when at length she received the letter written by her husband on leaving
the monastery its utter hopelessness served only to add to her misery
and to further undermine her health.

“We must take our poor darling south for the winter,” said the old
grandmother to her husband, “or we shall lose her,” and her sad-eyed
partner sighed acquiescence.

For Alice, the spring of her life seemed broken, and look which way she
would, the horizon seemed dark and hopeless.

Her brother’s malady showed no signs of improvement; he went about
pursued by a thousand phantasmal monetary cares--a craze of his brain
for which no remedy could be provided, and which was only kept within
bounds by his habit of spending long hours daily in signing imaginary
checks in payment of inextinguishable loans.

In the late autumn an incident happened to him which accomplished what
his medical advisers had considered to be well-nigh impossible in the
ordinary course of nature.

While hanging a picture for his sister one day, the step-ladder on which
he stood gave way, and precipitated him through a large pane of thick
plate-glass. The sharp edges of the glass cut his face and neck severely
and the result was a most terrible and alarming hemorrhage, which was
only stopped after such a loss of blood as imperiled for a time the
sufferer’s life.

This loss, however, served to ease and finally to entirely remove the
pressure upon his brain resulting from his bullet wound, and when he
came back to consciousness from the long fainting spells which succeeded
the loss of blood, he inquired feebly of his sister, where he was, and
whether she knew who the man was who had shot him.

His life, from the moment George Montgomery’s bullet had struck him
until now, was a complete blank.

When Alice Montgomery learned from her brother’s lips what had taken
place between him and her husband on the night of the quarrel, she,
gentle soul, had no blame for the latter, although she loaded herself
with bitter reproaches.

“My poor husband; what _must_ he have thought to see me meeting and
kissing another man surreptitiously, when he believed I had no male
relative living excepting the one in this house!”

Her husband’s letter had prepared her for her brother’s confession, but
the details, as furnished by the latter, showed that the crime had been
the result of but a momentary frenzy of jealousy which, as a woman, she
could readily forgive.

When she took her first walk out of doors with her invalid brother, the
last shock of autumn had stripped the trees and covered the sward with a
dense matting of leaves which the colored gardener was leisurely
removing with a large rake.

For a while the two stopped to speak to the old servitor, and then the
latter resumed his work.

Suddenly Alice sprang with a cry from her brother’s side and seized the
gardener’s rake.

“Stop! I saw something flash in the light just where your rake is.”

Softly she turned over the crumpled mass and there, at last, lying on a
withered chestnut leaf, and round and clear as the first day it was
made, lay the wedding-ring lost on that fateful morning, so many weary
months ago.

Hidden in the dense green of the turf during the summer season, it had
become exposed by the withering of the grass, only to be presently
covered by the falling leaves.

First glancing at the initials and date cut on the inside of the hoop to
see that there was no chance of a mistake, Alice pressed the ring again
and again to her lips, cooing and murmuring glad words of love to
herself the while.

“This is my wedding-ring,” she exclaimed to her greatly astonished
brother, “which I lost on the day of your--your first accident, and all
my trouble, I am sure, resulted from that loss. Now its recovery seems
like an omen of good luck. Oh, I wonder where on the face of the world
my dear husband is! I want to send him a message to tell him that all
will be right if he will only come back.” And then as the apparent
hopelessness of his return came back to her mind, the bright light died
out of her eyes, and she resumed the walk with her brother in silence.

At the same hour George Montgomery learned for the first time from his
dying comrade’s lips about the message which his wife had sent him by
cable: “Come back; all is well.”

He had no words of reproach for the man who had atoned for the harm
which he had done by sacrificing his life for him, but even in the midst
of his great and new-found happiness, he groaned to think what dire
complications the want of a reply to that message might have entailed.

The Indian had towed the boat to the shores of the beautiful Lake
Rosalie, in whose wonderful hammocks that branch of the Seminole tribe
which still clung to the Grand Mico, Tallahassee, had long built their
wigwams.

The Indians bore the wounded man gently up the bluff on a deer-skin
litter, and laid him on a soft couch of prepared Spanish moss, or old
man’s beard, as it is sometimes called.

Over the sick man’s couch a great live oak flung its protecting shade,
high above and impermeable to either sun or rain. On all sides the same
gigantic trees with their dense evergreen foliage, towered to the skies,
their vast limbs festooned with the long draperies of the flowing
Spanish moss. A wide open space lay within a vast forest of these
trees. The space was large enough for the encampment of an army, and as
the mighty span of the live oak branches enabled them to overlap far
overhead, the whole looked like some vast cathedral ornamented with
delicate fretwork and bathed in a soft and appropriate religious gloom.

To the left of the wounded man lay beautiful Lake Rosalie, across whose
broad bosom a refreshing breeze swept which fanned his fevered brow.

To his right, and far within the natural retreat, stood a cluster of
wigwams, in whose entrances could be seen groups of squaws of all ages
curiously regarding the new arrivals.

After a proper interval had elapsed, the aged Chief Tallahassee, came
forward from his tent to greet George Montgomery. The chief was a man of
commanding and exceedingly dignified appearance. He was evidently in
nowise forgetful of the glories of the tribe of which he was head, even
although that tribe should have dwindled down to a mere handful.

The braves who stood by his side were men of gigantic stature, and the
Czar of all the Russias owns not warrior more true, or courtiers more
obedient or of superior address.

The turbaned heads, clear aquiline features, and long wavy hair served
to distinguish this race from all others on the continent of America.
Beside their intellectual faces and stalwart frames, the cunning and
ferocious Apache, with his meaner physique, shifty eye and animal
profile, looked as the hyena looks beside the royal-looking lion.

George Montgomery despatched a letter to his wife, availing himself of
the services of an Indian to reach the nearest postal point.

Allowing an interval of ten days to elapse, the same Indian returned by
his direction for a reply.

None, however, came either that week or the next, and after the third
week the Indian went back no more, and the gloom returned to George
Montgomery’s brow.

He would fain have sped northward himself to investigate the cause of
this silence, but his dying friend still lingered, and as his end drew
near he seemed more eagerly to crave the other’s society.

“George--it will not be long--wait and close my eyes, and say a
Christian prayer over my grave.”

And George, in sore trouble, waited.

At length it was clear that the end was at hand and poor De Leon begged
his friend not to leave his side that day. As George sat by the other’s
couch his ear caught now and then the utterances of delirium of his
dying comrade.

“George! they are coming, and will soon be here. If they come before the
sun sinks behind Lake Rosalie, I shall die happy.”

Then he slumbered, and George’s head sank on his breast in sad and heavy
meditation.

“See! they are coming!” suddenly cried De Leon, rousing from his stupor
and startling the various members of the tribe within sound.

George glanced anxiously at his friend, who was now struggling to a
sitting position, and pointing across the lake.

“Look! look!” continued the dying man, “they have come in time.”

As Montgomery’s eyes followed the other’s hand, he saw, far in the
distance, a small steam-boat crossing the lake. He leaped to his feet
and then sat down, bitterly adding aloud, “Why should I excite myself,
it is probably a party of surveyors.”

An hour later, George Montgomery and Alice, his wife, stood hand in hand
by the death-bed of De Leon, and the latter’s dying eyes seemed only to
have waited for this, for when they saw the happy reunion, they smiled a
last benediction and then closed forever.

The meeting between husband and wife, inexpressible as it was in words,
was a profound surprise to both. Mrs. Montgomery had gone South at her
grandmother’s request, and George’s first letter was still following
her. During their stay in Florida the old lady heard that Chief
Tallahassee was camped near Lake Rosalie, and she conceived the
brilliant idea of visiting her former friend, and, at the same time,
lending some additional interest to her grand-daughter’s life.

With some difficulty she had secured the use of a small steam-yacht,
with what result the reader already knows.

Tallahassee and two of his braves were absent when the boat arrived.

When the former silently entered the camp, rifle in hand, he found
himself suddenly face to face with Mrs. Montgomery and the elder lady.

As he saw Alice, a wonderful light leapt to his eyes, and in the soft
Seminole tongue he murmured: “It is the Water-Lily come back,” and he
stooped and kissed the fair young hand which hung by her side.

“Ah, no, Tallahassee,” exclaimed the elder lady, with a rising mist in
her eyes and a quiver in her voice which showed that she forgave the
present neglect for the sake of the old and faithful memory,
“Water-lilies fade as even great warriors fade. I am the friend whose
husband you saved at Homosassa, and this new Water-Lily is my
grand-daughter.”

Tallahassee recognized his error, and his eyes had a soft and tender
light in them, as he scanned the aged though still beautiful lineaments
of the woman he had known and loved so many years ago. Then he gently
took her hand and raised it to his lips, saying tenderly as he did so,
“The Water-Lily blooms afresh every spring, but Tallahassee, the
Seminole, fades and dies.”

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, as the full-orbed moon shone on the waters of Lake Rosalie,
Alice explained fully what had only been whispered when they met. Her
brother, she told her husband, had recovered, and no one save
themselves knew who had wounded him. He, on his part, explained that
some one else had received the message she had sent to Madrid begging
him to return; but the name of the man who had received it, he did not
divulge, so that in mingling her tears with those of her husband over De
Leon’s lonely grave by Lake Rosalie, there was no bitterness from the
thought of wrong done by the dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

As George replaced on his wife’s hand the ring which had been lost,
their eyes met in a long eloquent glance, misty with happy tears. “I
will take good care not to take it off again, darling,--that is what you
mean, is it not?--for I am sure that whatever others may say, _we_ will
always believe that it is very unlucky either to take off or lose one’s
wedding-ring.”



THE LEGEND OF THE RED MOSS RAPIDS.


“Is this the spot where the knight of the old legend was killed,
Rowell?”

“Yes, dear, he died on these sharp, spear-pointed rocks, and the old
folks living around here who remember the particulars as they were
handed down through long generations, say that the rocks assumed that
shape and the moss for the first time put on that peculiar blood tint
after the murder. Imagination, no doubt; still the combination is
certainly a very weird one.”

“Suppose you tell me the legend, dear, while we sit on this sloping
bank; but, first of all, let me ask, was not the knight who was killed
an ancestor of yours?”

“Our family is descended from his brother, Sir Gawain Erfert, whose
likeness you saw in the picture gallery.”

“What! that strange, stern-looking knight in mail with his hand resting
on the cross handle of his sword?”

“Yes, dear, he was the real founder of our family.”

“And now for the legend, dear,” said the fair Hilda, a beautiful girl of
nineteen with large, dark, sympathetic eyes, and a smile whose
brightness lit up all the shaded landscape.

Still, Rowell hesitated, and his naturally serious, almost sombre, air,
took on more than a touch of gloom.

The two were betrothed lovers, and their wedding was fixed for the
following June. Their engagement had suffered from none of the
vicissitudes which are supposed to imperil the course of true love. This
was largely owing to the depth of their mutual attachment, but it was
also due in no small degree to the perfect compatibility of their
natures. She was all sweetness and gentleness; he all calmness and
strength, with apparently none of the usual masculine waywardness which
is more prone to cloud than to illuminate the lover’s horizon.

“I am waiting, sir,” expostulated the gentle Hilda, nestling much
closer to his side than was necessary to a successful hearing.

“Do you really want to hear that unhappy legend, dear?” replied Rowell.
“It is a miserable story, and the consequences of what took place here
so long ago have left a poison in our family tree which has showed
itself in every generation since, in some painful way. Ever since that
time, when the Knight Templar died on these rocks, five hundred years
ago, some wretched blunder, like an echo of the old one, has occurred
time and again to cloud each generation with misery and self-reproach;
and caused the family to be known throughout the whole North Country as
the “Gloomy Erferts.” When I tell you the story, which is shown by the
old chronicles to be a dismally true one in every detail, and in that
respect different from many other Border Legends, you may, perhaps, not
care to become a member of such an ill-starred house. The risk, dear,
seems to me to be quite considerable,” and the smile with which Rowell
looked into the eyes of his _fiancée_ had infinitely more of wistfulness
and pathos in it than was good to see in one so young.

“Oh, Rowell, do you think me a child! Our marriage is now so near that
I consider myself one of the family already; and you would not hide my
own family’s secrets from me would you?”

To Rowell, the warm pressure of the locked hands, the arch, lovelit
glance, and the magnetism of the beautiful girl-woman at his side were
irresistible; and taking the dainty head between his hands he kissed the
upturned face again and again--eyes, hair, lips--in a burst of passion
which left the fair Hilda’s cheeks all aglow, and her eyes eloquent with
a struggle between rebellion and rapture.

“Now, to business, sir, if you have got over your outbreak of lunacy,”
resumed the still blushing Hilda, as she regained possession of herself,
and moved, with much pretence of distance, a foot away.

Rowell, seeing there was no escape, took up the recital of the legend,
but there was a protest in his tones, which roused a look of
remonstrance in his listener.

“When the second Crusade failed,” began Rowell, “among the surviving
English knights who drifted slowly back to their homes, across Europe,
enfeebled by wounds and the pestilential climate in which they had
endured such untold hardships in their efforts to rescue the Holy City
from the Infidel, there was a Knight Templar who for special valor in
rescuing the person of the Preceptor as well as the sacred standard of
his Order after their capture by the Saracens, was, at his request,
absolved from his vows of celibacy by the Grand Master.

“This meant a retirement from the sacred Order, and as the latter’s
rules recognized no form of withdrawal, or absolution from its vows save
by death, the elaborate ceremonial customary on the death of a great
knight was observed and the Knight Templar obtained his freedom only
after the due performance of his funeral obsequies. The fame and
position of these knights and of their spiritual order was so great that
it is difficult to imagine any knight craving release.

“The explanation of the strange request, however, was to be found in the
fact that this knight, after taking his vows, had met and had fallen
hopelessly in love with a beautiful woman, the Lady Erminie Athelrade,
and the love was fully reciprocated.

“A mutual confession of attachment had taken place, and the knight left
with the apparently hopeless task before him of earning absolution from
his vows by some unparalleled service to the Order. Failing success--and
fulfilment of their desires had seemed beyond earthly possibilities--their
only hope lay in some future reward for their constancy, beyond the
grave, for the knight was of stainless character and would rather have
suffered death a thousand times at the hands of the Paynim hosts than
have betrayed his vows. So the knight had left England for the Holy
Land, breathing the sentiment which found voice hundreds of years later:
‘I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.’

“You will now understand with what feelings the knight--now no longer a
Templar, but simply Sir Julian Erfert--found himself, wounded and
war-beaten, it is true, but still alive, back in his native country; in
the same little island as the woman he worshipped, whose image, glowing
in his heart like a holy flame, had inspired him to deeds which had
thrilled Christendom and beggared all knightly possibilities.

“Sir Julian, I ought to say, had one confidant of his passion, his elder
brother, Sir Rowell.

“When Sir Julian arrived in England, no one would have recognized in the
battered knight, innocent of followers, the former princely Templar,
whose splendor of apparel and of retinue had elicited so much applause
when he left to join the Crusaders five years before.

“It was late one summer afternoon, in early June, when Sir Julian rode
up to the Castle of Barronby, where he had left the Lady Erminie in the
care of her guardian, the Earl of Wolston, a man, the knight now
recollected with a chill of apprehension, notorious for his grasping and
ambitious nature.

“Sir Julian had had no tidings of the lady since he had left, and he had
sent her no love message, ever mindful of the fact that it would be
death to the fair reputation of any dame to have her name breathed by a
Templar, or to have it known that she was interested in his welfare. He
had sent her word of the accomplishment of his release, but whether or
not his message had perished by the way in those perilous times he could
not tell. He had forwarded a letter to his brother, too, and so there he
was at last under the shadow of Castle Barronby’s walls, with his heart
throbbing as it had never beat even when a dozen Saracen blades were at
his throat and the gleam of his Red Cross banner was lost among the
tossing crescents of the Infidel host.

“As he gathered rein for an instant in an open glade, a foot soldier,
unarmed and with his head-casque gone, tottered into the opening and
fell with a moan into the heavy grass. On seeing this strange sight, the
knight dismounted and stooped over the soldier, who was evidently badly
wounded.

“After he had unlaced the fainting man’s jerkin the soldier opened his
eyes, and seeing Sir Julian, strove to rise, while his hollow voice
struggled for utterance.

“‘Sir Knight, go tell the Earl, the Lady Athelrade has been carried off
and her guard killed.’

“‘How many, and which way did they go?’ briefly inquired the knight.

“‘Full half a score spearmen and a knight whose crest I could not see.
They went by Swivel’s Moss, on the Umber Road,’ and he said no more but
fell back dead.

“The knight gave no glance to the castle, but he looked to his saddle
girths, untied the mace at his saddle-bow, loosened the heavy sword in
its sheath, and swung into the saddle humming softly a quaint eastern
air which made his gallant charger crane back his ears to hear, and
took all the fatigue out of his weary limbs. ‘This is like the old
times, Salado,’ said the knight softly to his Arab, and the horse leapt
at the words.

“The knight looked young again. ‘This is as my soul desired to win her,
at the sword’s point. Heaven is good. And here is Swivel’s Moss, and
there lies the Umber Road. Now, Salado!’

“Half an hour more and the Mivern Rapids could be heard. A few minutes
later and the glint of helmets came to the rider through the trees. ‘We
shall catch them at the ford, Salado,’ and the words gave new life to
the willing Arab, who came of a fighting race, and to whom fighting was
the very breath of life. ‘Ten to one, Salado, dare we venture?’ and the
knight laughed softly to himself, and the flying steed shook his sides
as if he too chuckled at the thought.

“A minute more, and the knight found himself face to face with the
abductors, who, hearing pursuit, had gathered themselves into line on
the edge of the ford.

“Yes, there they were, fully half a score and a knight with visor down,
and without a crest, in command, and on the further side a female
figure on horseback being hurried on in advance, on either side of her
a well-armed soldier.

“‘Surrender the lady,’ shouted the knight through the bars of his visor.

“‘To whom?’ came back the haughty inquiry.

“‘To her friend and Earl Wolston.’

“The strange knight laughed.

“‘Tell the Earl,’ he said, ‘the lady is a willing fugitive, and will not
return.’

“Sir Julian made no response, but Salado felt the touch--no more--of a
gilded spur and shot forward like an arrow from a bow. The men-at-arms
were stout and willing, but three of them fell from their seats like
dummies before the whirl of that demoniac mace; and the gallant Arab
fought no less willingly and mangled the opposing steeds. The odds were
terrible, but such odds were familiar, and the solitary warrior was not
without his chances. He had almost cleared a path, and even in the
frenzy of fight his brain was troubled to know why the lady made no
sign. Another horseman overthrown, and he stood face to face with the
leader, exchanged with him ringing blows, which could be heard far above
the roar of the rapids, on whose edge they fought. Once more the spur
touched Salado, and the mace beat down the leader’s guard. Victory was
in sight, almost, when, alas! the gallant Arab’s foot sank in the ooze
of the river, and his suddenly arrested movement threw horse and rider
into the shallow torrent. Sir Julian struggled to extricate himself and
to rise to his feet, but half a dozen spears hemmed him in and drank his
blood through the rifts in his armor made by the pointed rocks. The
struggle of his horse carried him beneath the current, the surging flood
filled his closed casque, and a long and last good-night fell, in his
native land, on the knight who had survived all the dangers of the
terrible Crusade. No, at least not yet, the leader knight, now
unhelmeted, directed his spearmen to raise the dying knight and carry
him to shore. But a javelin of rock between his shoulder-plates held him
fast while he was bleeding to death from spear thrusts.

“When his helmet was unbarred he regained the consciousness temporarily
lost, and his dying eyes wandered from the faces of the men around him
to that of their leader. The sight of the latter seemed to trouble him,
and he strove feebly to clear his eyes from the spray of the water and
the mist of approaching death. ‘My brother, can it be?’ he murmured
hoarsely.

“But why prolong the dismal story. It was his brother, Sir Rowell, who
had carried out the abduction of the lady. He had heard that the Earl
was about to wed the Lady Erminie to his nephew for the sake of her
lands, and having received his brother’s message from the Holy Land and
communicated its contents to the lady, an abduction was arranged as the
only possible means of preventing a forced marriage. He had intended
that his wife, the Lady Rowell, should give safe sanctuary to Erminie
until Julian returned, when the two long-parted lovers should be united.

“The knight died in the arms of the lady he loved. Her lips consoled
him--dying--for life’s disappointment. ‘Wait for me,’ were the last
words he heard on earth, and his waiting was short, for as his eyes
closed in death she drew the dagger from his belt and with it liberated
her own soul, so that it could--not follow--but accompany him. They were
buried together, and they left behind them the saddest man in all the
world, my ancestor, Sir Rowell, whose terrible share in that fatal
mistake--innocent enough in all conscience--has left all his
descendants a heritage of penance, showing that Nature, like man, never
forgets or forgives a blunder, or rather that she fails to discriminate
between a crime and a blunder, and punishes or rewards only according to
results.

“The tragedy of the rapids has been repeated in our family time and
again down through the intervening centuries, not as tragedies perhaps,
but as unhappy blunders--echo-like repetition of the first--such as have
worked untold miseries to all the race.

“Now, darling, that I have told you the true legend of the Red Moss
Rapids, do you still wish to marry into so dismal a family?”

“Yes, yes, more than ever; before it was simply a pleasure, now it is
also a duty.”

“In what way, dearest?”

“Ah, that is my secret, sir, only to be revealed on our wedding day;
but, tell me, was there no sequel to that terrible tragedy?”

“Well, my ancestor, who was the innocent cause of the slaying of Sir
Julian, said on his death-bed that in the far distance he foresaw a time
when the shadow consequent on his fatal error would be lifted from our
house, but it would only happen when some descendant of the Athelrade
family, who should be ignorant of all the circumstances, had of her own
free will revived the traditions of the celebrated Order of the
Templars.

“It was thought that grief had to some extent crazed the old knight’s
brain, and that in the long trances which he was subject to prior to his
death his burning desire to right the wrong he had inadvertently
done--which had grown to be a perfect monomania with him--had put
strange fancies into his head, and that as he imagined the misfortune
which fell on our house had come through the slight done to the Order of
the Templars by his brother’s retirement from it, even under proper
dispensation, he grew in time to believe that peace could only come to
the house again through some member of the Athelrade family (Lady
Athelrade being the person who, so to speak, tempted Sir Julian) doing
what I have stated.”

“Dear me,” remarked the fair Hilda, “how those fine old knights used to
worry about things; just fancy any soldier of the present day
distressing himself on his death-bed about an unlucky accident for which
he was in no way to blame, and torturing his last moments with the
forecast of what was going to happen three hundred years later.”

“Yes, it does seem strange,” returned her companion, “that these knights
who seemed in many respects so much more cruel and bloodthirsty than men
of the present day, should yet have had worries and anxieties which even
the most delicate and nervous lady of the nineteenth century would
despise. They were a strange medley, those knights of old, steeping
Europe in blood for a mere idea, and dying cheerfully themselves if in
their final departure they could but kiss a lock of some fair creature
some thousands of miles away, whom they adored. Oh, enthusiasm is a
great, an immeasurably great force. Tallyrand says: ‘_Point de
zèle--point de zèle_,’ but his clarion-trumpeted cry of ‘No zeal, no
zeal,’ is a vast mistake I think.

“His maxim may be all right for statesmen and diplomatists, but when the
zealot dies from off the earth, one of Nature’s grandest forces will
disappear.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Thank you, dear, that was quite an interesting little homily,” archly
ventured Hilda, as she wooed her lover back to present and more
attractive pursuits by placing her lovely arms round his neck. “Now,
suppose you tell me, my hero, what you will give me if I can erase all
that dark inky stain from your family escutcheon, in addition to
providing you with a brand-new bride?”

“Well, _cara-mia_, I am afraid it is not to be done; what you term the
ink stain has been there too long. My little sweetheart, who cannot find
acidity enough for her daily life, and is imposed upon all the time on
that account, certainly cannot evolve any acid strong enough to clear
away a stain which has grown deeper with the centuries. No, dearest, if
you insist upon marrying me after my recent disclosure, I am afraid you
will find that the ill-fate will follow us, and that our union will be
indeed for woe as well for weal.”

“Fie upon you, sir, for such gloomy thoughts; they are unworthy of my
future husband, and I protest against them. Yes, sir,--in this way,” and
her rosy lips stole upwards to his after a fashion that effectually
erased everything but Paradise from his mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

The wedding-day must have been Hymen’s own selection. The morning broke
bright and clear with that dewy freshness in the air only to be found
in Merrie England.

“Happy the bride the sun shines on,” a hundred pair of loving lips
murmured in joyous congratulation to the dainty white-robed figure
crowned with orange blossoms.

Surely never since time began did wedding-bells sound so merrily and so
sweetly on the palpitating air as on that morning when the proud and
happy Rowell led the fair Hilda from the altar. Forgotten were all
ill-fated ancestry and gloomy legends. The past rolled itself up hastily
and convulsively, as a roll of long-kept musty vellum bounds back into
its old-time shape, and only the happy, glorious, untranslateable
present remained. Words of gracious congratulation fell in showers on
the ears of the blissful pair as sweet June flowers fell beneath their
feet; but they scarcely heard or saw, so much greater was the joyous
tumult in their happy blissful hearts.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Hilda, my darling,” inquired the happy husband when his breath had come
back to him, and they were seated behind a pair of high-stepping horses
on their way to the railway station, with suspicious traces of rice
still visible on their travelling attire, “I noticed you signed your
name in the marriage register as Hilda Athelrade Erfert of Temple
Newsam!”

“Yes, dearest, and you want to know how I come to use the name of
Athelrade? Well, dear, I am a descendant of the Athelrade family. And O,
my darling, I must confess something else now--_my secret_. I am also
the owner of Temple Newsam--the innocent restorer of the tombs of the
Knight Templars, foretold by your ancestor, and O, sweetheart, last and
best of all, the destroyer of your family curse, as well as, I hope, the
founder of your own particular and individual happiness.”



TWO NINETY-DAY OPTIONS.


“It is a most wretched business, and I wish I were well out of it.”

As these words fell from the speaker’s lips his strong right hand smote
the portals in front of him, and Delmonico’s heavy glass doors swung
violently back in response to the vigor of his touch.

Carried away by the force of his feelings, he swung into the restaurant
with the full vigor of his mountain stride, and more as if he were a
detective in expectation of surprising a gang of coiners than an
innocent visitor in quest of congenial society and wholesome fare.

To speak the truth, Douglas Gaskell, a native of Scotland, and mining
expert by profession, thought himself in very hard luck indeed this
bright summer evening. Not even the hum of cheerful life around him
could overcome his despondency or soften the bitter reflections which
gnawed at his heart.

And as he reviewed the situation later on under the soothing influences
of his cigar and coffee, he still reassured himself that he had most
excellent grounds for repining, if not indeed for despairing altogether.

Glancing backward a few months he saw himself returning to his native
land after many long years of self-denial and hardship in the mining
districts of India and South Africa, with enfeebled health, a few
hundred pounds, a good reputation for honesty in a business of some
temptations, and a ripe experience in mining matters.

Then, in his retrospect, amid the hum of cheerful humanity around him,
he saw the fairest face in Scotland smiling on him; he saw an obdurate
old Scottish laird, who utterly refused to let his daughter be engaged
to a “penniless mining fellow;” and after a long siege by soft,
persistent womanhood’s irresistible arms, he saw the grim old borderer
yield so far as to say that if he, Gaskell, could satisfy him, before he
started for Norway in July, that he had means to maintain his daughter
suitably, he would then be willing to consider the propriety of an
engagement, on the clear, mutual understanding, however, that Gaskell
must sheer off for good if he were unable to satisfy the old man within
the three months which he allowed him.

This had been a most despairing decision to the mining expert, who
termed it the offer of “A ninety-day option on the woman I love, with
impossible conditions, and the wreck of two lives as a forfeit.” But
Madge, the lady of his heart’s affections, had declared everything was
possible of achievement to true love within three months; and how his
stern face softened as he recalled the bright, hopeful loyal look with
which she had dispatched him to London to take counsel with her uncle,
her dead mother’s favorite brother.

He remembered how the uncle had obtained him a commission to examine an
American gold mine, as a step towards finding, on his own account, while
in the mining districts of the United States, some good property
suitable for the British market.

“If you find such a mine,” he had said, “I will do my best to place it
for you, and you can honestly add $100,000 to its price as discoverer,
if it is large enough, and provided the terms on which you obtain the
control will justify it. That is the only way that occurs to me in which
you can honestly comply with the old curmudgeon’s absurd conditions
within the time.”

The face of the silent and absorbed man grew dark as he recalled how, in
the execution of his commission, he had arrived in New York only to
learn that the property he came to examine had been withdrawn from the
market.

The fact was that the gentleman who had offered the property in London,
and who had accompanied him across the ocean to introduce him to the
proprietors, had taken his measure accurately during the voyage, and had
reported to his colleagues and joint owners that he was quite satisfied
that Gaskell could not be tampered with, but would insist upon making a
thorough examination, such as must inevitably disclose the worthlessness
of the property. The owners were simply a gang of unscrupulous
adventurers, who had thought to avail themselves of the existing craze
for American mining properties.

It was the announcement of the withdrawal of the property which had
plunged Douglas Gaskell into the depths of despondency in which this
narrative finds him.

As his retrospection ended he sat lost in thought, and barely conscious
of the ebb and flow of the city’s gilded youth, and the men of affairs
who throng Delmonico’s in ever-increasing numbers.

He was all unconsciously being very closely observed by three gentlemen
seated at a distant table. Mr. Oswald, who had accompanied him across
from England; Hector Marble and Hamilton Gilbey, all “speculators” in
other people’s money. They were, in fact, the owners of the withdrawn
mine. Mr. Gilbey broke the silence at their table. “It is just as easy
to make a large haul as a small one,” he said. “We must manage to fix
something up for this Scotch expert who is sitting over there looking so
glum. He is disappointed at our withdrawal of this mine, and is, I
imagine, ready for a fresh suggestion. Now I have been casting about for
something to suit him, and I think I have discovered it at last.”

The three drew their chairs closer together than strictly honest men
found it necessary to do in Delmonico’s, and the champagne in their
glasses grew flat, and their cigars went out, while the one expounded
and the two received and approved one of the choicest plans which
villainy has ever concocted in connection with international syndicate
or corporate business.

The proposition laid by Mr. Gilbey before his colleagues with much
graphic force and a wealth of luminous illustration began with the
preamble, They must have money. The Scotchman sitting near by suggested
a means of getting it; he was only useful in connection with mines; he
could not be fooled as to the quality of a mine, therefore he must be
fooled in some other way, as they could not promptly get the control of
any honest mine on terms which would be acceptable to the syndicate and
profitable to them. That was the argument, and it was considered as
being to the point. The proposition was as follows: Gilbey knew of a
mine called “The Gold Queen” in California, which had at one time
embraced a great number of claims and covered quite an extent of
territory. This mine became quite a valuable property, and a dispute
having arisen as to the ownership of one-half of it, the property was
finally divided between the two litigants by decision of the Court of
Appeals. Both properties retained the title of “Gold Queen,” and
openings had been made in both about 700 yards apart. The workings in
one mine had proved enormously successful, and that mine could not be
purchased. The other had resulted in failure, and very little, if any,
labor was now being expended on it.

Mr. Gilbey’s suggestion was that the “Gold Queen” mine, which had proved
a failure, should be optioned to the English syndicate, and that while
its survey should be correctly given on the option, steps should be
taken to get Mr. Gaskell to examine the good mine, under the belief that
he was inspecting the one optioned to his syndicate. “Although you can’t
deceive him as to the existence of paying ore in a mine,” continued
Gilbey, “you can readily confuse him as to the identity of the property
he is examining, more especially if he is simply a mineralogist and not
a surveyor as well.”

“I know the manager of the ‘Gold Queen’ now in operation--number one let
us call it--and I can guarantee that he will see this business through
if we divide with him. Number one is well known to be well worth a large
sum of money, and it won’t do for us to offer the other property at less
than half a million. The owner of the latter is willing to give me a
four months’ option on it at $15,000.”

Their plans being matured, the illustrious pair were presently
introduced to Mr. Gaskell as the owners of the mine which had been
withdrawn. They had exerted themselves, they said, to find him a
property of equal promise, and had at last, after much trouble,
succeeded in obtaining for him an option on the “Gold Queen.”

Mr. Gaskell had notified Madge’s uncle of his first disappointment by
cable, and two hours after meeting Gilbey’s partners he walked across
Madison Square and sent another cablegram intimating that he had heard
of another property, and was about to go West to examine it at his own
expense.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days later Mr. Gaskell left for San Francisco, where, on his
arrival, he met the manager of the “Gold Queen” No. 1, who had received
a telegram from Mr. Gilbey to go to San Francisco to receive an
important letter, which letter he had carefully read and very cordially
approved.

The days which followed had many anxious moments for the three
speculators in New York.

“I do most devoutly hope this business won’t land us in State’s prison,”
murmured the less courageous Marble.

“What nonsense. We have not made any incriminating statement in
writing.”

“True, but you forget your letter to the manager of the mine. Won’t that
show conspiracy?”

“That is all right,” was Gilbey’s airy rejoinder; “the manager is under
my thumb.”

“By the way,” continued the tranquil Gilbey, “did you notice that
Gaskell had the ninety days’ option which you gave him made to himself
personally, and not as representing the syndicate?”

“Yes,” replied Oswald, “I noticed it. He would not take the
responsibility of spending the syndicate’s money in making
investigations which the members had not ordered. If he approves the
property he will recommend it to his syndicate.”

A soft, sweet, childlike smile crept over the faces of the precious
three as they separated.

       *       *       *       *       *

A fortnight later Mr. Gilbey presented to his delighted associates the
following dispatch from Gaskell, dated San Francisco:

     “I approve of the mine optioned, subject to some amendment in
     price, and start East to-night.

                                                     “DOUGLAS GASKELL.”



When Mr. Gaskell returned to New York he said he had made a very careful
examination of the mine, and would be willing to accept an option for it
if the price were fixed at $250,000 instead of double that sum. The
radical curtailment of their figures somewhat dampened the ardor of the
three confederates, but finally the price was fixed at $325,000 cash,
with many protests on the part of Messrs. Marble and Gilbey. Mr. Oswald
had throughout taken only such interest in the matter as a friend might
manifest. His name did not occur on any of the papers given Mr. Gaskell,
and on this occasion as on the others, he took little part in the
arrangements.

In due time the purchase money was paid over, and Messrs. Marble &
Gilbey, each with $100,000 to his credit, decided that they would seize
the opportunity to satisfy a long-felt ambition to explore Southern
America, not in the least--they were careful to assure the cynical
Oswald--because they were fearful as to what view the cold judicial eye
of the law might take of their action in connection with the mine they
had sold.

Mr. Oswald, who, as stated, had purposely kept in the background, and in
consequence contented himself with a smaller share of the profits,
remained in New York.

       *       *       *       *       *

Six months later Messrs. Gilbey and Marble were in the city of Mexico,
wearied beyond the power of words with the vaunted charms of that
country, and anxious only to be once more within sight of New York. Many
a time they echoed the sentiment of the city wanderer at which we smile
so often, “I would rather be a lamp-post on Broadway than a king
anywhere else.”

But respite was at hand. A letter to Mr. Oswald, making apparently
casual inquiry as to whether he had heard anything further of the “Gold
Queen” sale, elicited the following characteristic reply:

“If you are cooping yourselves up in the city of Mexico because you are
afraid to return on account of any troublesome developments in the ‘Gold
Queen’ business, you may as well come back at once. The Englishmen have
not discovered their blunder, and I do not think they ever will. I have
a good story to tell you which is worth your while to come 3,000 miles
to hear. Meet me at dinner on the 8th, usual time and place, and I’ll
tell you the story. There’s no place like home!”

Within three hours the two speculators were on the way to New York.

When the second bottle of champagne had been opened at Mr. Oswald’s
dinner the host lit a cigar, saying he supposed they were dying to hear
his story.

The lips of the two twitched a little, and a hardly perceptible pallor
indicated a passing nervousness.

“When the Scotchman got to the mine,” Oswald began, “the manager took
him to ‘Gold Queen’ No. 1, as you (or as we) arranged. He remained under
ground forty-eight hours. The manager was cautioned not to lose sight of
him for a moment, but he gave in after thirty-six hours and went home to
bed, as the Scot looked like spending a week in the bowels of the earth.
When the manager returned, twelve hours later, he found Gaskell just
coming to the surface. In reply to his inquiry he said he had completed
his investigation and would take some rest. Whether this was merely a
blind to put the manager off his guard, or whether he changed his mind,
I don’t know, but after he had seen the other descend the mine, and had
had some breakfast, he took the map which you gave him out of his valise
and proceeded very carefully to compare it--first, with the boundaries
of the No. 1 mine, which some loafing miner pointed out to him at his
request, and then with the map of the same mine hanging in the company’s
office, and which the manager had stupidly omitted to remove.

“As nearly as can be computed, it took that fellow just about five
minutes to detect the trick. Of course this is mere guess-work, for the
man himself was as silent as a clam. The profundity of his silence when
he unravelled our tangled plots aroused my admiration.

“After he learned the game, he placidly descended Mine No. 2, the one of
which he really held the option. He remained in that mine just sixteen
hours, and all that time the manager concluded he was in bed and asleep.
I’m sure I don’t know why, except on the assumption that a man must
sleep sometime.

“With the assistance of an old Mexican miner, who practically lives
down in that mine, in one of the shafts, he thoroughly explored the
mine, more especially at that part which is in a straight line with the
rich vein of No. 1.

“He had to all appearances some queer theory about that vein, for he and
the old Mexican worked for more than twelve hours cutting in its
direction. The result of these efforts was (it was ascertained after the
purchase) that while the Mexican slept Gaskell struck a continuation of
the vein belonging to No. 1. Having satisfied himself that he had struck
the true vein and after taking out several specimens of the ore, he
carefully covered up his ‘find,’ awoke the old man and returned to the
surface.

“You will understand the discovery Gaskell had made when I tell you that
from the vein in No. 1 to where it was identified in No. 2 is just 700
yards, of which 550 run through the land of No. 2, so that 11.14 of the
great vein belong to the mine that Gaskell bought.

“Well, gentlemen, Gaskell sold that mine to his syndicate--it was his
own venture--for $750,000, half cash, half stock, and his syndicate sold
it to the public for $1,500,000. The new company has already taken
$500,000 out of the mine in four months’ working, with the prospect of
taking out twenty times as much in the next two years. The Scotsman’s
profit of $325,000 taken in stock is now worth $1,000,000 in the
market.”

Marble and his associates gazed at each other fixedly for a minute, and
although their eyes spoke volumes, no word was uttered. The situation
was altogether too deep for words. With one impulse they rose in grim
silence from the table. “I find the air in this room suffocating,”
finally ejaculated Gilbey, “let us go.”

As the now silent trio passed into the vestibule in making their exit to
Fifth Avenue, Oswald shattered his preternatural calm by ejaculating:
“Great Jupiter!” The exclamation was not surprising, for there, coming
toward them, was Mr. Gaskell, the man they had done their best to
swindle, and his bride, the beautiful and queenly Madge. For a moment a
wavering in the ranks of the three was perceptible, and just the
suspicion of a desire to stampede, but the expression on the expert’s
face reassured them.

“My dear,” he said, addressing his wife, “let me present to you some
friends of mine who once rendered me a very great service--somewhat
inadvertently it is true”--(a faint shiver shook the three)--“but
nevertheless a genuine service. They helped me to win what I wanted most
on earth,” and his eyes rested fondly on his wife.

Mrs. Gaskell commented to her husband afterward on the strange, shy
modesty which almost prevented the three gentlemen from meeting her
gaze, and his smiling reply was, “They couldn’t stand the battery,
dear.”

After the three friends had escaped into the street from the (to them)
terrible situation, Oswald, probably for the first time in his life,
wore a crestfallen air. “Boys,” he said, “he carries too many guns for
us all round. Just think of it, he has never even mentioned to her
the--to put it mildly--somewhat peculiar part we took in the mining
deal.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because you can always tell by the expression in a woman’s eyes, when
you are presented to her, how her husband has been in the habit of
speaking about you to her. I would rather have faced a hair-trigger
revolver than those great gray eyes if she had known our game.”

Mr. Gaskell has taken other ninety-day options since his marriage, and
some of them have proved very valuable, but he never expects to find one
to equal that marvellous pair by which he won both fortune and bride in
1888.



A STRANGE STORY.



MR. JOHNSTONE’S INFIRMITY.


“Felix Johnstone! What a name, mamma! There is a great want of tone
about it. Don’t you think so? I’m sure I hope the man is presentable,
but you know how careless and unobservant Dick is.”

The speaker, Maud Ponsonby-Fitzwaring, a lovely girl of some twenty
summers, sat, pen in hand, and with her pretty brows all a-pucker, in
her mamma’s boudoir, scanning the list of names of intended guests of
Ormsby Hall during the ensuing shooting season.

“My dear,” replied her stately and abundant mamma in a tone which
settled the matter, “he is as rich as Crœsus, and even if he should
prove eccentric, why he is an Australian, and you know everything is
excused in a ‘Colonial;’ especially,” resumed the dame after a brief
pause and with more than her usual drawl--“especially if he is very
wealthy.”

Maud was too young for an argument of this kind to have any weight with
her, but she only shrugged her well-poised shoulders by way of protest,
and presently the letter of invitation for the Twelfth of August, when
grouse shooting commenced, was on its way to Mr. Felix Johnstone.

The person whose name set the dainty Maud’s teeth on edge was a
stoutly-built, well-preserved gentleman of some forty years, the greater
part of whose life had been spent at the Antipodes, where, if he had not
acquired much of the polish demanded by polite society, he had,
nevertheless, secured a goodly supply of that excellent substitute for
it--gold.

When Mr. Felix Johnstone reached the Hall, in response to the
invitation, he found that the bulk of the other visitors had already
arrived, and to a great extent “sorted” themselves, as he termed it;
that is to say, that the males and females had, for the most part,
settled upon their friendships for the period of their stay at Ormsby
Hall.

This arrangement left the late arrival somewhat out in the cold. It is
true that his friend Dick did his best to make him feel at home, but,
as the old Squire, Colonel Ponsonby-Fitzwaring, was somewhat gouty, most
of his duties as host devolved upon his son, who had in consequence but
little time to devote to any particular guest.

“Jarvis,” said Mr. Johnstone to his valet the morning after his arrival,
“you’ll have to keep me posted in things. You know that’s what you’re
here for. Captain Fitzwaring recommended you as being the best man he
knew, and Dick--I mean the Captain--knows a good man, if anybody does.”

“Yes, sir,” responded Jarvis with more of embarrassment than his usually
immovable face was wont to show.

“What shall you wear this morning, sir?” inquired the valet, as if
anxious to turn the conversation.

“Well, I thought a frock coat and that pair of lavender trousers, which
Poole sent in before I left London, and a white waistcoat, would about
suit this kind of weather and the style of society hereabouts--these
and--of course patent leather shoes.”

It could hardly have happened in so well-trained a servant, and yet
surely it was the ghost of a smile which his master saw flitting across
Jarvis’ face.

“Eh! What is it, Jarvis?” inquired Mr. Johnstone sharply, “wont these
do?”

“Well, sir,” replied the valet with much deference, “most gentlemen wear
knickerbockers and lacing boots in the morning when they are going
shooting. I thought, perhaps, this velvet jacket and these corduroy
trousers, and woollen stockings or gaiters--”

“What, these great coarse things? Why, I was better dressed than that in
the ‘Bush!’--still,” noticing a certain relentlessness of aspect
creeping over the well-trained servant’s face, “if I must, I must; only
it seems to me that there’s a great fondness here for showing one’s
legs. I’m sure the way these flunkies aired their white silk stockings
and great calves last night before the ladies was hardly decent. By the
way, Jarvis, do you know any of the gentlemen staying here? If you do,
just fire away and tell me all about them while I’m dressing myself like
a--like a navvy!”

“Well, sir, there’s Mr. Granby just walking across the lawn. He is a
celebrated barrister, made his reputation as a junior counsel in the
Tichborne case; he is likely to get a judgeship out in Bombay soon,
they say. The gentleman with him is Mr. Softleigh, editor of the Morning
Whisper, a very fashionable paper. That dark-browed swarthy man with the
piercing eyes, just lighting his cigar, is Hugo Swinton, the African
traveler who had the terrible fight with the great gorilla now in the
Zoo. The man waiting for him is Captain Bottomly, of the Guards, who
reformed the British square when the Soudanese broke it at--somewhere in
Egypt. They say he has six spear wounds in his body.”

“But, I say, Lord! Who is that pompous individual dressed in black--the
one with the clean shaven face and port-winey complexion?”

“That, sir, is the Bishop of Oldchester,” replied Jarvis, with a touch
of remonstrance in his tone.

“Well; and even he puts his chubby old calves on exhibition. Is he going
shooting too?”

“No, sir,” replied Jarvis, with quite an air, as if there were limits to
this kind of thing. “All the Bishops wear black tight fitting cloth
gaiters; it is their Episcopal dress.”

“O, I see; well now, who is that very elegant young gentleman with the
cane, bowing to the ladies in the pony carriage?”

“That is a Mr. Elphinstone Howard. I have never seen him before, but
they tell me he belongs to one of the County families in the North
somewhere. He is not very well acquainted with the gentry around here
yet, as he has been brought up abroad where his father was retrenching.
He saved Colonel Fitzwaring’s life in Florence by stopping a run-away
horse, and with that introduction the family took him up and introduced
him to English society.”

“Well, Jarvis, all of these men seem to be celebrated for something
excepting myself. Can you tell me how such a common-place person as I am
comes to be here?”

Jarvis did not like to tell Mr. Johnstone that his great wealth was his
recommendation, so he evaded the question by inquiring which of his guns
he would use that day.

“Oh, bother the guns,” was the response, “I don’t want to kill anything
this beautiful morning. Here, Jarvis, quick!” he called suddenly from
the window, “who is that lady driving the ponies?”

“That, sir, is the Lady Evelyn Beeton, daughter of the late Earl of
Kingswood.”

“Is she very poor, Jarvis?” inquired Mr. Johnstone, after a substantial
sigh indicative of dampened hopes at hearing the lady’s title.

“No, sir, she is reported to be quite wealthy, as she succeeded to the
old Earl’s property, excepting the estates which, being entailed in the
male line, passed to his nephew.”

“I’m sorry to hear it, Jarvis, deuced sorry, for that is the only woman
I could ever have loved. Funny thing to tell you, isn’t it, but then you
are in a way my confidential adviser in this strange, God-forsaken
country, and I know you would never split on me, for if you did, Jarvis,
I would break your blessed neck to a certainty.”

“Yes, sir,” replied the complaisant Jarvis, by way of acknowledging the
other’s kind intentions.

“No, sir,” resumed Mr. Felix Johnstone with a burst of enthusiasm, “I’m
not one of these men who have all their life long been trailing their
hearts through the streets and highways for every thoughtless miss to
trample on; my heart is a virgin field to be harvested only by one woman
in this world, and if she won’t have it so, then, Jarvis, the grain has
got to rot on the ground, that’s all. Now, Jarvis, there is something
about the lady’s voice and look which stirs me like a trumpet. I sat
opposite her at dinner last night, and the mistakes I made in
consequence are something awful to contemplate. You see, Jarvis, she is
not too young. She is, I imagine, about thirty----”

“She is thirty-two, sir,” respectfully corrected Jarvis, closing a
Burke’s Peerage at which he had been glancing.

“Well, now, it strikes me, my friend,” retorted his master, with a flush
on his brow, “that you are infernally precise about the Lady Evelyn
Beeton’s age. May I take the liberty of inquiring, sir, how you came to
know it exactly--just to a hair, as it were?”

There was fire in the master’s eye, but the well-trained valet answered
with stoical calm. “Her ladyship’s age is in the Peerage; sir, I thought
it might interest you to know.”

The answer was mollifying, but the little outburst called for a lull in
the conversation, and Mr. Johnstone, now fully dressed, stood in silence
looking out at the window, while the valet busied himself about his
master’s effects with unruffled brow.

“She has such a high-bred and refined air, and such a soft and musical
voice, and her eyes, what wonderful color and expression! And then the
figure, so graceful, and yet so rounded. She ought to be a queen, and
there I’m only a common Australian squatter and digger.”

Such was the murmuring monotone which rolled musically from the massive
throat of Felix Johnstone by the window.

“Well--I’m--consumed,” he suddenly shouted, “if that jackanapes Howard
hasn’t got into the pony chaise beside her! My hat, Jarvis, quick!”

But soon he reined his fury’s pace. “After all, it is no business of
mine,” he resumed, “besides, what could an uncultivated clod like me
have in common with a noble refined lady like that! Now if she were only
poor or in need of a friend, and,” warming to his work, “in danger of
her life, there would be some show for me, but as it is, my case is
simply hopeless,” with which moody reflections Mr. Johnstone slowly
wended his way downstairs to a late breakfast.

He found Miss Maud, the daughter of the house, presiding at the
breakfast table, with that radiant look and well groomed air peculiar to
English country girls, and by and by, when they were left alone, he
managed to turn the conversation to the object of his adoration.

“We think all the world of her,” remarked his companion. “She is one of
nature’s true noble-women. She gave up the best years of her life to her
invalid father, and now I suppose she will never marry.”

“Why it seems to me,” quickly replied Johnstone, “that young fellow
Howard is paying her marked attention. And he is quite young and very
good-looking.”

This sentence bore so dismal a tone that Miss Maud looked up, and after
regarding the speaker with a demure glance, she arose from the table
simultaneously with her _vis-à-vis_, and thereby terminated the morning
meal.

As she saw Mr. Johnstone standing on the steps a few minutes later, in a
listless attitude uncommon in so stalwart and well-knit a figure, she
remarked to herself, “and so you are caught, my handsome but
unsophisticated Antipodian.”

That evening at dinner an accident occurred which, for a time, assumed
the dimensions of a calamity. Colonel Ponsonby-Fitzwaring, it must be
stated, was lord lieutenant of the county in which he lived, and
although he bore no title he occupied a position and lived in a style
unsurpassed by any titled magnate within a hundred miles. Dinners at the
Hall under his _régime_ assumed the importance of State festivals, and
the order of procedence was as carefully observed as at any court
ceremony.

At eight o’clock, when the dining-room’s stately doors were thrown wide
open, it was accordingly a brilliant procession which Colonel
Fitzwaring--albeit still somewhat shaky from the gout--headed with the
worthy Bishop’s lady on his arm. Mrs. Penelope Broadbent was proud of
her revered husband, and she was, subject to no deductions, proud, also,
of herself. She was a lady of magnificent quantities, and if none of her
numerous admirers used the word “stately” in describing her, it was
probably because her wealth of proportion was other than perpendicular.
If a great and artistic photographer had had to choose as to the best
means of getting a really accurate and comprehensive likeness of Mrs.
Penelope Broadbent, it is probable that he would have decided on a
bird’s-eye view as having many points of advantage.

The lady, although of somewhat ardent complexion, affected the most
delicate conceivable shades of dress, probably by the way of contrast.
The latter was certainly sufficiently startling. On this particular
evening the dress which sheltered and adorned, without qualifying, the
tropical super-abundance of the bishop’s greater half, was a delicate
primrose satin, and it shimmered and billowed in the softened light like
waves of embodied chastity, while above it rose and fell a tossing wave
of glittering jewels, the Broadbent historic gems, the envy, it was
said, of Royalty itself.

The Bishop’s lady, as became her rank, sat at the right hand of the
host, while her benign and dignified lord sat next to the hostess at the
bottom of the table.

How it came about will probably never be known with absolute accuracy,
but just as a staid and dignified footman was about to hand a plate of
turtle soup to Mrs. Broadbent, the gentleman on her right--our friend
Mr. Felix Johnstone--was observed to be searching wildly for his
handkerchief. Alas! unfamiliarity with the geography of pockets in dress
clothes, and a hazy recollection that a table napkin should never be
placed to the nose, and the result was that Mr. Johnstone’s sneeze--a
thing known and dreaded along a hundred miles of Australian coast--burst
upon the dinner-table like the crack of doom. So weird, so awful, so
unspeakable, and ear-splitting a sneeze had surely never been heard
since the world began!

The footman, on Mr. Johnstone’s left, utterly demoralized, dropped his
plate of soup where he stood, by the chair of the Bishop’s wife, and the
contents, rich, dark, tenacious, fell on the ripe, warm shoulders of the
shrieking, half-scalded victim, and rolled in an oily river down the
palpitating, outraged bosom, and all athwart the delicate, primrose
tinted garment.

The scene now beggared description. Mr. Felix Johnstone, also
bespattered by the waiter’s munificence, for which he was devoutly
grateful, as it gave him an excuse for leaving the table, walked to the
door as if he expected to be hanged outside. As he bowed himself out
with a calm born of the supremest desperation, three glances were
daguerreotyped on his brain--the flaming visage of the Bishop burning
with a look of very unapostolic rage; the amused and cynical smile of
Mr. Elphinstone Howard (“I’ve seen you before, where?” flashed the
thought and inquiry through the unhappy one’s brain), and last, a look
of distress and commiseration directed toward him by Lady Evelyn. That
last glance was one of resuscitation in its effects, and was painful, as
such always are.

“O the pity of it!” the unhappy man murmured. “But for this awful
occurrence she might have grown to care for me, but no woman ever
forgave a man for making himself so ridiculous.”

“Jarvis,” he shouted as he entered his rooms, “bring me Bradshaw’s
Railway Guide.”

“Yes, sir, I see you have had an accident, won’t you change your
clothes, sir, before you return to the dining-room?”

“Jarvis, you are an idiot, do I look like a man who is about to return
to a dining-room? I want you to find me the earliest train that starts
for the North Pole, and if you don’t catch it, you’ll catch something
else; that, I can promise you.”

Jarvis was a discreet servant of vast experience, and the train which he
did look up, found its terminus in Euston Square, London.

“There is no train to-night, sir,” was all he said, as he closed his
Bradshaw.

An hour later Dick, the son and heir of the family, entered his friend’s
room, and after carefully closing the door and seeing Jarvis out of the
way, he sat down opposite his friend and gave himself up to great and
unrestrained laughter--laughing until the tears ran down his cheeks and
until he rolled off his chair through weakness.

“The sight of that old girl!” he exclaimed irreverently between his
paroxysms, “will last me till I die. She was clothed with soup as with a
garment, and had more on than I ever saw her wear before at table. By
Jove, Johnstone, you have rendered yourself immortal.”

“That’s right, old man, laugh your fill; but all the same, the thing has
done for me. I shall leave here in the morning.”

“Now look here,” returned Dick with an approach to gravity in his
manner; “that is precisely the very thing you must not do. My brain is
small, but what there is of it is clear, and I know just what is going
to happen. By to-morrow morning every one concerned in the accident, and
most of all the Bishop and his wife, will be anxious to have the whole
thing forgotten, and everything placed on its old footing. That is their
only chance of escaping being made the laughing-stock of every county
meeting within a hundred miles. Fancy it’s getting wind that you had run
away because you had been the means of having the Bishop’s wife
smothered with turtle soup while in a very _décolléte_ condition! Why,
people would say it was judgment on the exuberant old dame. No, old
chap, stay where you are and I’ll guarantee you absolution both from
Bishop and dame.”

The other sat in silence for a while, and presently Dick continued, “By
the way, if it is not too delicate a question, was there any special
cause for that unique sneeze, and is that about your usual figure?”

The other winced for a moment, and then slowly answered, “That sneeze is
my infirmity, but it does not spring from a cold. Ever since my earliest
recollection the smell of musk has caused me to sneeze in just that way,
and I noticed the scent of that perfume at table just before the attack
came on. I was told in Australia that a very slight operation on the
nostril, if skillfully performed, would cure the tendency to sneeze, and
I thought I would try some specialist in London, but it is so long
since I had one of the spasms that I imagined I was outgrowing them.”

Mr. Johnstone’s reception the following day bore out his friend’s
prophecy. The Bishop and his wife were cordial in the extreme and by
common consent the unwelcome subject was tabooed. Indeed the affair was
overshadowed by an occurrence of a much more serious character.

Mrs. Broadbent’s jewels, to which reference has already been made, were
discovered to have been stolen during the night. The shock which
followed the announcement was intensified by the discovery that other
jewels were missing. The stolen gems had been locked in a despatch box
which was kept in the dressing-room adjoining the Bishop’s bedroom, and
in the morning the box was found open and rifled of its contents. As the
diamonds taken were of immense value it was deemed advisable to send to
Scotland Yard for a London detective, and a telegram had been received
promising the arrival of the detective the following morning.

In the closer companionship which crime always induces among the
innocent within its orbit, Mr. Felix Johnstone found opportunities of
conversation with the Lady Evelyn Beeton, and it is a pleasure to note
that the lady found many solid attractions in the Colonist. He was
different from the men of her acquaintance--more natural, more manly,
less frivolous--in a word altogether more acceptable as a companion than
her more polished friends.

In the result our hero sought his couch that night with very different
feelings from those with which he had encountered it the previous night.

“About the North Pole, sir?” Jarvis had inquired, and his master’s reply
was, “Jarvis, if you mention that vegetable or mineral again, you’ll
lose your place. You leave that pole alone!”

And presently he slept the sleep of the just.

It was probably 2 A.M. when the door of Mr. Felix Johnstone’s bedroom
opened softly and a male figure stole in on tiptoe. The light burned low
in a night lamp, but that did not embarrass the intruder, who carried a
dark lantern of his own. The sleeper’s face was turned from the door,
and his breathing was deep and regular. Poising himself on his tiptoes,
as if ready either to advance or fly, the intruder paused for a moment
and regarded the sleeper attentively. Apparently the scrutiny was
satisfactory, for the burglar now advanced noiselessly in his list
slippers to a stout portmanteau, and as he laid his hand on the lock he
murmured, “I know him of old; he always carries heaps of money with
him.” The better to facilitate his operations he laid a jewelry case,
which he was carrying in his hand, on the dressing-table, while he took
a bunch of skeleton keys from his pocket. With the keys a cambric
handkerchief was drawn out, and instantly the room was filled with a
pungent odor of musk. The subdued jingle of the keys, or some other
influence, troubled the sleeper, who moved uneasily. Warily the burglar
stooped over him with the aromatic handkerchief, which he had just
picked up, in his hand. Instantly the closed eyes opened wide, and ere
the burglar could even move his hand there burst on the silence of the
night that stupendous and unearthly sneeze. It had seemed terrible
beyond measure in the crowded noisy room; but here, in the midnight
silence, its intensity and immensity baffled all description.

Instantly Johnstone, now fully awake, bounded to his feet, and being
nearer to the door than the burglar, he shut and locked it, and turned
to confront the intruder, who in his affright and surprise had turned
the light of his dark lantern on the room and on himself. “Whew!”
exclaimed the astonished Australian, who recognized in the man before
him not only the elegant Howard Elphinstone whose face had puzzled him
long, but also Red Winthrop, a notorious Melbourne burglar, whom he had
once been the means of “sending up” for a term of years.

“Don’t you think you have tempted your luck once too often, Red
Winthrop?” inquired Johnstone grimly, as he faced the other with the bed
between them.

The other’s eyes gave a dangerous gleam, but he said nothing. He only
shook his wrist sharply, and a long bowie-knife lay in his palm. But for
an instant, however. The next moment it flew with unerring aim at the
other’s throat. Perhaps Johnstone should have been more on his guard,
still his quick eye noted the danger, although not in time altogether to
avert it. The willing blade hewed a deep rut along the side of the jaw,
missing the jugular vein by a hair’s breadth, and passing on went
straight through a pier glass and stuck quivering in the wood at the
back of the glass. As the latter shivered, Johnstone, unmindful of his
wound, called out “Seven years’ bad luck for you, Winthrop,” and
vaulting across the bed he closed with the ex-convict, whom, after a
short but sharp struggle, he succeeded in tying, hands and feet.

Meanwhile the whole household, aroused by the unearthly noise, was
pounding at the door. When the latter was opened, a combined scream
burst from the assembled guests. Johnstone was standing over the
ex-convict in a pool of his own blood, which stained the white
bed-clothes and even the walls of the room.

Little more will suffice. The casket left on Mr. Johnstone’s table
contained the Lady Evelyn’s diamonds stolen that night. In the
prisoner’s rooms were found Mrs. Broadbent’s jewels intact, and also
those stolen from the other visitors.

Mr. Johnstone was in danger for some time from the excessive loss of
blood, and when finally he managed to leave his room he did so, not only
to find himself a general hero to all the folks at the Hall, but a very
especial and particular kind of a hero to a certain Lady Evelyn Beeton.

When in process of time the mutual admiration between these two was
crystallized in a happy union, the worthy Bishop tied the knot with an
unction as ripe and gracious as ever the church sanctioned, while madame
beamed on the alliance with a radiant effulgence which eclipsed and
dwarfed all the surrounding objects.

Shortly after the recovery of our Australian friend he testified against
Red Winthrop, and as that talented gentleman received his sentence of
seven years’ transportation, Mr. Johnstone dryly remarked, “You
shouldn’t break looking-glasses, Winthrop; I told you it meant seven
years’ bad luck.”

It is only right to add that although our friend the Australian had
sneezed himself back into favor after sneezing himself out of it, he
rightly felt that so fateful a blast was a dangerous and uncertain
possession, and, after a time, he took competent advice on the subject
with the result that he now no longer dreads the musk odor which used to
be his _bête noir_.



TWO CHRISTMAS EVES.


The swirling, eddying wind drove with a silent, ghostly fury up the
deserted High Street of Upper Medlock one winter’s evening in 1884,
carrying with it into every crevice and corner, in its wild pirouette,
great waves of heavy inch-square snowflakes.

“Oh, what lovely weather for Christmas time,” exclaimed Mrs. Cargill as
she stood by her husband’s side looking out of the deep, broad,
comfortable bow-window of their house on the rioting tempest in white
outside.

“Do you know,” she continued, nestling so close to her husband’s side
that he had to put his arm round her dainty little waist to maintain his
equilibrium, “do you know, that a storm like this makes me think our new
home doubly comfortable and beautiful. You see it is the first real home
that I was ever able to call my very own or yours, dear, which is quite
the same thing, is it not?” and she looked up into her husband’s face
with bright, happy eyes.

By way of reply her husband imprinted a warm kiss on the tempting lips
so near to his own, and his arm tightened lovingly round the slender
form.

“For shame, sir, kissing me at the window, I’m sure Mr. Strangely over
the way at the banks saw you; it is too public even in a snow-storm.”

But the husband dropped the arm which imprisoned her waist, and turned
from the window with a sigh which only a strong effort kept from
changing into a groan of despair.

“Ben!” exclaimed the anxious voice of his wife as she heard the sigh,
“there is something wrong with you, tell me what it is, darling.”

“No, dear, there is nothing wrong; I was standing in an awkward position
that was all,” and with this love-framed fiction the husband stroked his
wife’s glossy brown hair, and looked tenderly into her eyes. But there
was a shade of wistfulness in his own which the wife’s keen gaze noted
with apprehension, and with womanly persistence she pressed her point.

At last, and not altogether unwillingly, for the load was a heavy one
for a single heart to bear, the husband unbosomed his trouble, as, half
an hour later, they sat round the bright fire, with the bleak storm
barred and curtained out.

“You remember,” he began, “how your rejected admirer, Banker Strangely,
returned good for evil, as we thought, by giving me an opportunity of
going into the Longfellow mining deal with him, by which he said we both
would make an enormous fortune.”

Mrs. Cargill nodded her head by way of reply, but kept silent. Her
woman’s wit already saw trouble ahead, but she anticipated it by no
word.

“Well,” her husband resumed, “you advised me not to have anything to do
with the banker or his scheme; and, dear, you were so positive about it
that when Strangely over-persuaded me by explaining that your objection
arose only from a dislike to him, I felt averse to confessing what I had
done until the money should have been made and I could bring it in my
hand to you. You will recollect, dear,” almost pleaded the husband by
way of excuse as he looked into the loving, patient eyes before him, “we
were not very well off, and,” with a moist tenderness in his eyes, “I
wanted so badly to have a pretty cage for the bonny bird I had just
caught.”

The hand on his own pressed it gently, and there was a soft mist rising
in the corner of the brown eyes, but the mouth was set and firm.

“Tell me, dear.”

The words fell from her lips, and they almost startled the husband, they
sounded so unlike her usual soft, flute-like notes.

“Well,” resumed the husband almost desperately, “the sum I was to put in
was $10,000, which was just $5,000 more than I could command at the
time. I told Strangely that, and he said he would let me have the other
$5,000, on my note of hand, which, he said, could be paid out of the
profits of the mine, which was then doing remarkably well. I hesitated
about giving the note, but Strangely showed me a letter from the owner
of the mine, a man named George Williams, of Denver, which stated that
the preceding month’s profit had been $1,500 nett, and he thought that
figure would be maintained and considerably increased. Well, if that was
true--and Strangely vouched for Williams’ honesty--I could easily meet
the note which he asked me to give, out of the profits, more especially
as the banker said he would agree to let all the profits be put aside
for that purpose, and would not himself draw anything until the note I
was asked to give was paid.

“That same letter of Williams which I speak of showed me that since
Strangely had paid $1,000 down to bind the purchase, he (Williams) had
received an offer of $35,000 for the mine, which was $10,000 more than
we were going to pay for it.

“So to cut a long and miserable story short, I gave the banker my note
six months ago, and the purchase of the mine was completed, I
contributing $10,000 and Strangely paying $15,000. Since that time we
have had the hardest kind of luck with the mine. First of all the
manager left; then the mine was flooded; then some of the wooden
supports gave way, and one of the shafts was closed, and the end of it
all is that we have not received a single cent from the mine since we
took it over, and my note for $5,000 is due to-morrow, and all the money
I have or can control is $200. Was there ever such hard luck?”

For a time the two sat in silence hand in hand, he, just a little bit
averse to forcing a premature expression, she, with her soft velvety
eyes staring unseeingly into the blazing coals, miles deep in thought.
Presently she spoke, and her voice was sweet and even, but there was an
icy air about it, as if the breath which uttered it partook of the chill
of the dismal night outside.

“And Mr. Strangely, won’t he enable you to meet that note or let it
stand over, or renew it?” There was a suspicion of contempt in the last
words, but not contempt for the person she was addressing.

“No, dear, Strangely has been telling me all the month that he is very
short himself and that his directors will insist on the note being paid
when due. He says that they have made some losses lately and are in
quite a bad mood over them.”

“Well, dear, but if you _cannot_ meet the note, what will they do then?”

“They will protest my note, get a judgment against me, and sell my
property.

“What! this house--our home!” almost screamed his wife, as she sprang to
her feet, her indignant eyes all ablaze and giving back flame for flame
with the leaping sea-coal fire.

“Yes, darling,” murmured the weary, heart-broken man, “everything down
even to the baby’s cradle.”

“O, but they _cannot_ do it,” replied the wife, her bright head high in
the air, and her eyes full of a lovely defiance. “Ben,” she resumed with
a pitiful attempt at a cheery smile, “they cannot sell _you_, can they?”

“No, sweetheart,” replied Ben with a duplicate of the same wintery
heartbreaking mirth in his tone.

“Then never mind, my darling, love will find a way out of the
difficulty. My poor, poor dear, to think that you have been bearing this
burden all alone for these long, miserable months while I was so
blindly, so foolishly happy. And, oh me! to think of a note falling due
on Christmas eve; that must have been Mr. Strangely’s doing that, to
spoil our Christmas, now wasn’t it dear?”

“Well, I tried to put it off till January, but he said he could not make
the note for more than six months, although he could renew it. Now, of
course, he says he cannot renew it.”

“Just so, Ben, dear; do you not remember it was last Christmas eve Mr.
Strangely proposed, and I declined his suit? Does not this seem like
what you call getting even with us, darling, just a little like that,
eh? He is a vindictive, jealous man, and he has tried to ruin you, that
is all, love; that mine was a complete fraud, just his way of wrecking
_you_. Depend on it, I am right. Did you send anyone to examine the
mine? Do you know positively that he put $15,000 into it? No, my own
honest, unsuspicious husband, I see you did not. Well, be assured it is
as I say, and although he has spoilt our Christmas eve, he will not
spoil our lives or our love. A woman always gets a keen insight into the
character of the man who loves her; that is, provided she does not love
him. When she returns his love, she is blind and can see none of his
faults. I saw a good deal of Mr. Strangely, and I always disliked him,
even when he was expressing the greatest devotion to myself; he is a
bad, unprincipled man. That is probably not just what the commercial
agencies say about him, but I know I am nearer the truth than they are.”

At this moment a ring was heard at the outer bell, and Mrs. Cargill rose
hastily to her feet exclaiming--“Oh, that must be my brother Wilfred. I
forgot to tell you that I had a dispatch from him this afternoon saying
that he had arrived in New York from Denver, and would be here by this
evening to spend his Christmas with us. I have not seen Wilfred for more
than five years, and am so glad he is come. He is awfully cheerful, and
will keep us from moping, and he is so lucky to everybody but himself,
poor boy. He is quite poor, and yet he has been the means of making many
people rich. He always seems to bring me good luck; and have you not
seen people, dear, who were, on the contrary, what is called
‘ill-fated,’ who were always trying to do people good, and always
harming them quite badly. No!--oh I have, time and again; and don’t you
remember, in Bulwer Lytton’s ‘Harold,’ the ill-fated Haco, who is always
trying to do the king good with the most disastrous results, and is
finally the means of his death? Oh, I am so glad Will has come, and he
is such a good hypnotizer too;” and so the dear little wife rattled on
inconsequently, as if eager to drive out all miserable thoughts from her
husband’s mind. But with all her semblance of cheerfulness there was a
certain hardness of outline about the rounded cheek and chin which was
not noticeable before, and seemed out of place in one so young.

Presently her brother Wilfred was ushered into the room, and introduced
to her husband. When the first hearty welcomes were over and the evening
meal had been discussed, Wilfred entertained his host and hostess with a
graphic account of his experiences in the far West. These exhausted, his
sister inquired of him how he had prospered in his affairs.

“About the same as usual,” was his response. “Still a bachelor and
likely so to remain, for I am never more than $500 ahead of the world. I
take my pleasure as it comes, and don’t hoard up so that I may have it
when I am older and less able to enjoy it.”

The new-comer was a man of the most acute perceptions, and he soon
became aware of a heaviness or constraint in the social atmosphere which
pained him more almost than words could tell. “Great heavens,” he
murmured to himself, “I hope my sister Nell has not made an unhappy
match; yet I cannot imagine Ben to be an unkind man. There is more here
than meets the eye. I must get it out of him; it won’t do to receive any
confidences from her, if I am to make any use of them.” He looked so
abstracted in his musings that his sister, brightening up forcibly,
said, “Why, Will, you are positively dull; are you busy hypnotizing
someone now in the distance?”

“No,” replied the brother with a smile, “the fact is I am a kind of
wild, unregenerate creature whose habits get away with him at times,
having no wife to regulate them, and I am craving for a cigar with all
the force of a weak and vicious nature. If you have a den where I can
tame this wild beast within me--for I smoke weeds of the vilest
strength--I will come back in an hour clothed and in my right mind.”

This was but a ruse to enable him to be alone with his brother-in-law,
so that he might, if possible, induce or force a confession from him as
to the cause of the domestic cloud. “Give me an hour with Auld Nick,”
growled Wilfred to himself, “and I would wring the inside combination of
the doors of Hades out of him.”

When the two men emerged an hour later from the cozy smoking-room,
Wilfred knew all the facts of the domestic tribulation, and beyond an
appearance of occasional absent-mindedness, bore the confession
cheerily.

“What about Dick Strangely, who was formerly teller in the bank over
the way, and one of your numerous and most persistent admirers, Nell?”
he inquired.

“Why,” hurriedly remarked his brother-in-law, “did I not tell you that
he was president of the bank over the way who held my note.”

“No, you certainly did not. Now Nell, your good husband has told me all
about his trouble, and I want your opinion about it. You used to be
pretty clear-headed; perhaps, however, I ought to have said pretty _and_
clear-headed.”

“And so he occupies the flat over the bank, does he?” was the inquiry
which followed his sister’s opinion expressed in womanly fashion, but
with a sense and directness which caused the listener to weigh well
every word that fell from her lips.

As he made the inquiry, Wilfred rose from his seat, parted the heavy
window curtains, and, undoing the wooden shutters, gazed across the
street. The storm had abated, and for the time being, at least, the snow
had ceased to fall. The bright lamp-light from the street fell full on
the massive front of the bank and showed a white face and cruel
merciless gaze turned on the house--the house the Cargills were
occupying.

“Why that was Strangely himself, was it not?” remarked Will, and the
other nodding his reply he added, “Not much of friendship in that
glance, brother-in-law mine; what do you say?”

Half an hour later the new arrival begged permission to retire, on the
plea of fatigue. He had previously urged his sister to give him a
bedroom in the front of the house, if possible. “I want to study the
banker,” he explained, “and I cannot think properly of anyone over my
shoulder, or through a number of empty rooms.” In kissing his sister he
whispered in her ear, “I think things will come all right in time for
Christmas eve.” For a moment she brightened up and then with a little
doleful sigh she replied, “Ah! you do not know how vindictive that
banker is; he is working for revenge, not money.”

“I know, I know,” returned her brother with a touch of impatience.
“Still you just believe what I say, and go to bed in peace. Leave things
to me; I have straightened out worse tangles than this.”

When his sister had left the room he drew a chair in front of the clear
wood fire that burned in the low grate, and drawing to his side a small
table, he leaned his elbow on it with his outspread fingers supporting
his temples. For fully an hour he remained in that position, as
immovable as if cast in bronze. At the end of that time he rose from his
chair pale and almost ghostly in appearance, but with eyes that shone
supernaturally large and bright against the white skin of his face.
There was an air of set tension about the man, which a child would have
recognized and a thick-hided crocodile of the Ganges have given the
right of the road to.

The fire had faded away to smouldering, unnoticeable embers, and the
lamp which had been turned down since his sister left the room was now
blown out. Moving with a stride of extraordinary expression for the life
and vigor the step conveyed, Wilfred stepped to the window, pulled back
the curtains, drew up the blind, and swiftly but noiselessly raised the
window. The bank across the way lay buried in repose. It was now 11.30,
and to all appearances the inmates of the dwelling apartments over it
were all in bed, and presumably asleep. The storm had abated, and only
the dark unstarred sky above and the snow beneath recalled the storm
which had so recently rioted through the street.

Wilfred’s air, as his burning eyes rested on the bank building--or
rather pierced it, for that was the impression their fierce intensity
conveyed--was one of the most imperious command. It was no lifeless
brick and mortar which those compelling orbs transfixed, and which the
moving but voiceless lips ordered to perform their behests. His was a
face for the deadly breach or the forlorn hope, and it grew paler and
paler beyond even the pallor of death; while in spite of the gusts of
icy air which swept in through the open window, the dew gathered, beaded
and broke on his forehead, and mounted the stiffened hair that rose from
his scalp like a frozen crest.

It was evidently no ordinary creature with which this ghostly and
fantastic struggle was being waged. After the first stern bout and
victory, there was a cessation of action for a few minutes, but soon a
new struggle commenced, in which the stern monitor’s visage became that
of unbending command and insistence. There was threat, too, in the eye,
threat of dangerous and instant action.

At this point the watcher seemed to look for some noticeable event in
the house opposite, and surely enough, as if in instant obedience to his
wish, the flicker of a lamp could be seen descending the stairs of the
bank building.

Presently the light drifted into the bank itself and inside the railing
of the president’s office. Then slowly, and as if in a dream, the bearer
could be seen to open the great iron safe and take from thence a
portfolio, from which he carefully selected a document and then returned
it to the safe. At this juncture a night policeman saw the light in the
bank and hurried across the street preparatory to sounding an alarm.
Recognizing the President, however, by the light of his lamp, he
desisted, and stood for a few minutes watching his movements. As he saw
him enter his office and commence to write a letter at his desk he
resumed his round, merely muttering to himself: “Pretty late for banking
business, but I presume he forgot something.”

Returning on his beat half an hour later he saw the banker emerge from
his house, walk across the way and drop a long envelope into the
letter-box of the house opposite, and then slowly and wearily re-enter
his house.

Ten minutes later and the light died out from the banker’s dwelling.
Simultaneously a man, spent and exhausted beyond the possibilities of
ordinary or even extraordinary fatigue, closed his window, sank into an
arm-chair, and lay there with white upturned face, from which the
perspiration dropped in big, round, ice-cold beads. Few would have
recognized in the pallid face, carved by deeply hewn lines, the gay
debonair countenance of Wilfred Wharton, the wit, _bon vivant_ and _bon
camarade_ of the plains and city alike.

The following morning Wilfred was up betimes notwithstanding his
exhausting labors of the night before. As he descended to the
breakfast-room he met his sister, to whose inquiry as to whether he had
been able to devise any means of escape from their desperate situation,
he nodded encouragingly. “But,” he continued, “you must get me the key
of your letter-box at once before your husband comes down. It is
necessary for the success of my plans that I control your correspondence
for a few hours.”

Within the letter-box he found a long envelope bearing the printed name
of the bank. This he promptly opened, and after carefully perusing its
contents, nodded in a satisfied way, and placed it in an inner pocket of
his coat. Then returning the other letters unnoticed to the box, he
carried the key upstairs to his sister.

At breakfast nothing was said of the subject of the note due that day,
but as soon as the servant had left the room, Wilfred plunged into the
subject.

“Now, Ben,” he began, “you have got to follow me blindly in this matter,
or I cannot help you. If you agree to do that, I believe I can get you
out of this mess all right. The first request I have to make is that you
leave town for the day, without having any communication whatever with
the bank. You may return in good time for dinner, and I will promise to
report in full to you then. Now, as for you, Nell, if they send across
for Mr. Cargill from the bank just say your husband is out of town for
the day and will not be back till the evening; and tell them you know
nothing about his business. I am going out of town myself and will not
be back till five o’clock.”

As the morning wore on there might have been seen a look of vast
perplexity and uneasiness on the face of Banker Strangely across the
way--that is to say, while in the privacy of his own room. At ten
o’clock, on going through his private portfolio, he was unable to find
the $5,000 note of hand of his “dear” friend Benjamin Cargill, due that
day. He had spent an hour looking for it, and still finding no trace of
it he sat down to consider the situation. The day before he recollected
destroying some old private papers taken from the same portfolio, and
although he had been exceedingly careful, he now came to the conclusion
that he must have destroyed the note among those papers. The thought of
being baffled of his revenge against Mrs. Cargill for her former
slight--for, as the lady rightly surmised, it _was revenge_ and not
friendship which inspired the banker--consumed his very soul with rage.
Was he to be thus thwarted after tracking his victim down? Not while his
brain performed its accustomed office.

Taking pen in hand he wrote the following letter to his “friend” Mr.
Cargill:

     “DEAR SIR:--

     “I beg to remind you that your note for $5,000 in my favor is due
     here to-day. As I explained to you, if the amount is not paid by
     three o’clock the note will go to protest. I shall be very sorry
     indeed to have to resort to such measures, but for the reasons
     already given you, I have no alternative.”

The reply which was brought back was: “Mr. Cargill is out of town for
the day; the letter will be handed to him on his return.”

This indicated either a neglect or indifference of the banker’s
intentions, which made the latter furious. “I wonder where on earth that
note is,” he remarked under his breath feverishly again and again. And
as the day passed he grew half crazy with rage. At 2.30 he rang his bell
for his signature-book and after opening it at the letter “C,” he
carefully studied the specimen signature given there by Mr. Cargill when
he opened his account. Then from an inner drawer he took a promissory
note blank and slowly filled it in, using for the purpose a bottle of
stale black ink. “It is not forgery,” he murmured, as if excusing
himself to his conscience, “it is only justice.”

Ten minutes later he rang his bell, and sent the note into the general
office with instructions that if it were not taken up by three o’clock,
the teller should take it across to Mrs. Cargill and see her about it.
Then if still unpaid, he directed that the note should be protested.

The note being unpaid, the teller called on Mrs. Cargill, who politely
informed him that she knew nothing about her husband’s affairs. “Did
she not seem anxious and perturbed when she saw the note?”

“No, sir, she looked at the handwriting quietly and inquired who signed
her husband’s name to it.”

“What!” snarled the banker, “what did you say?”

“She inquired who signed her husband’s name to the note, and I replied
of course he signed it himself, and she said, ‘Well, I think I ought to
know Mr. Cargill’s signature, and I never saw it as shaky as that
before; he must have been put out when he signed that document.’”

When the teller retired, the banker sank into his chair in a heap as one
who had received a death wound. “Great Heaven,” he ejaculated, “what am
I doing, is that woman going to drive me to perdition? But no, her
remarks are only the silly talk of an ignorant woman. No one knows about
the note being mislaid.” Saying this he drove his hand down savagely on
the gong on his table, and when the clerk appeared in response to his
summons, he bade him in imperious tones to have “that note protested.”

       *       *       *       *       *

At four o’clock a sleigh drove up to Mr. Cargill’s house, from which
Wilfred alighted after requesting the driver to wait for further
instructions. Learning from Mrs. Cargill of the presentation of the
note, Wilfred re-entered the sleigh, giving the driver fresh directions
in a tone of command very unusual to him. After a drive of a mile the
sleigh stopped at the house of a justice of the peace, for the second
time that day.

On issuing from the house of the justice, Wilfred gave directions to be
driven to the police station. After announcing his wishes there, he
returned to his sister’s house and finding her husband had returned he
carried him off to the office of the Notary Public. At the latter place
they inquired whether a note for $5,000 had been left there for protest
that day. On learning that the note was in the notary’s hands and would
remain there until the morning, the Justice of the peace was again
visited, and an hour later the notary was served with an injunction not
to part with the note of hand.

Once more the sleigh’s sweet bells jangled before the police station and
when it sped on its way again its ample robe enfolded the sturdy albeit
somewhat bandied legs of the night policeman whose acquaintance we have
already made; but who was not now in uniform.

When Mr. Strangely returned to his residence from his own sleigh ride at
5.30 P.M., he was surprised to learn that three gentlemen awaited him in
the parlor.

“Who are they?” he inquired of the servant, and when he learned that Mr.
Cargill was one of the number he rubbed his hands together gleefully and
murmured to himself: “At last, at last, I have got you in the toils, my
lady with the dainty, devilish face that refused me so scornfully a year
ago.”

The look with which he entered the room where his visitors awaited him
had a fine and scornful air of contempt about it, suggestive of
unsatiated conquest, and slaves, male and female--especially
female--dragging at his victorious chariot’s wheel.

“You are come to take up that note, I presume?” he began, addressing Mr.
Cargill and ignoring his companion, “but you are entirely too late.
Honorable men do not come sneaking into a bank two hours after it has
been closed and after their note has gone to protest. To-morrow the
whole town will know that your note has been protested--no not
to-morrow, for that is Christmas Day,--but you will be the talk of the
town the following day, and no doubt _that_ reflection will sweeten your
Christmas dinner--as” he snarled through his shark-like teeth--“as your
wife sweetened mine a year ago, through your accursed interference.”

If he had not been carried away by his feelings he would have noticed
the peculiar expression on the faces of his visitors, but he did not,
and he raved on until, in a stentorian voice, Wilfred bade him be
silent. What was it in the look and voice of that man that made the
banker pause and wince as he met his gaze? “Who are you, sir, that
dare----” he began, but his voice faltered, and his whole frame seemed
to shrink as he met the other’s full lambent eye bent upon him, and felt
it thrilling him through and through.

“I know you, surely,” he said slowly and almost feebly. “I have seen you
before--somewhere,” and then the other’s gaze seemed to freeze him into
silence.

“Listen to me, Banker Strangely, and do not dare to open your mouth till
I have done.”

“You have been engaged in a conspiracy to ruin my friend, Mr. Cargill.
You induced him to give you $5,000 to invest in a mine named the
Longfellow, near Denver, and give you his note for $5,000, and you told
him you were paying $15,000 more, and that, you said, made up the entire
purchase money. To insure his joining you, you showed him a letter from
the manager of the mine named George Williams, showing that very large
profits were being made. You knew Mr. Cargill’s anxiety to make some
money, so that his wife, who had had so many rich offers, might not pine
for the wealth which might have been hers. O, revenge was sweet to you,
and you played your cards well. Too well, my friend, for your own
comfort now. You thought to wreck their happiness this fair Christmas
eve, did you; well, there is going to be some wrecking done, my friend,
but it is here in this house--_your_ home--where it is going to occur
and not over the way in the home of the woman you once said you loved.

“Your whole plot is laid bare. I hold in my hand in your own handwriting
a full and detailed confession of your villainy which you wrote out last
night and sent to my friend, together with the note for $5,000, which
you acknowledged you had got from him by fraud. There it is, and see,
you have endorsed it in your own handwriting, and added your private
stamp to it. In the same letter you gave my friend the name of your
accomplice, George Williams, and his address, and when I showed him your
letter he confessed everything too, and told me a good deal more of your
dealings than was needful for my case.”

“It is all a lie, that letter is a forgery, I never wrote it, and that
note was stolen from the bank last night,” shrieked the banker, goaded
to desperation, “I will send for the police.”

“You need not send far, there is one outside the door,” returned
Wilfred. Then, opening the door, he summoned the officer to enter.

“This officer in private clothes is the policeman who was on duty last
night, and saw you enter the bank office, unlock the safe, take out a
document, and after closing the safe, write a letter which you enclosed
in a long envelope and placed with your own hand in Mr. Cargill’s
letter-box. Am I not right, officer?”

“Entirely correct, sir.”

The banker sat paralyzed, his brain benumbed with the extraordinary
statement made to him. Was it all a dream, or was he going mad? And
then like a flash of lightning he recollected inquiring that morning if
the servant knew what had made his slippers so wet; it was the snow--the
accursed snow, as he crossed the street to Mr. Cargill’s. Ah! now he
knew they were speaking the truth; besides, that was undoubtedly his
handwriting and his seal; and that was beyond all question the genuine
note.

“Then,” resumed the inexorable Wilfred, mindful only of his sister’s
pain, “ignorant of what you had done in your sleeping hours and being
unable to find the note which you had returned to its rightful owner,
you imagined you had mislaid it, and lest your darling revenge for which
you had imperilled your soul, should escape you, you forged a fresh
note, which being of course unpaid, you have sent to the notary’s for
protest.

“Dick Strangely, you have played for a high stake--the wrecking of a
happy home--and you have lost. That is all, this bright snowy Christmas
eve! In my hand here I hold a warrant for your arrest on a charge of
conspiracy with Williams to defraud Cargill, and also on a charge of
forgery. I have obtained an injunction preventing the notary from
parting with the forged note which he holds, and I have Williams safe in
prison ready to bear evidence against you.”

As one by one the banker heard of the steps taken to close every door
against his escape, his head drooped lower and lower.

“Save me,” he murmured brokenly at last, “I’m a poor, desperate,
broken-hearted man, save me, and I’ll make restitution.”

As he glanced on the two faces beside him (the policeman had retired to
the passage) he saw on the one, that of Cargill, a mingling of relief
and amazement--for the revelations were not one whit the less surprising
to him than to the banker--and on the other only relentless
determination.

As he recognized the latter he sank on his knees and begged for mercy,
offering to pay back double what he had defrauded his former friend
Cargill of.

The two brothers-in-law stepped apart for a moment to confer. “Wilfred,”
urged the husband’s voice, “this man was until recently a friend. He
became an enemy because Nell refused him for me. Her rejection of his
desperate love for her has made a scoundrel of him; I imagine it would
have made a villain of me too. I surely can afford to be generous when
I win all around. I cannot send a man I once called by the name of
friend to jail on Christmas eve. Wait here, and I will go across and
talk the matter over with my wife; she ought to be consulted on this
business.”

“Bring her here,” was the laconic reply.

And so it happened that the mercy which Dick Strangely subsequently
received that night was taken humbly and penitently from the hand of the
woman he once professed to love, but whose husband and home he
ultimately tried to ruin.

The banker returned the money that night of which he had defrauded his
friend, and he also returned the mortgages. He offered indeed to pay
back double, but his offer was refused with scorn and loathing.

Dinner at Mr. Cargill’s was an hour late that night, but it was eaten
with great joy and happiness of heart. “The happiest Christmas eve of my
life,” exclaimed Mrs. Cargill with eyes whose radiance was momentarily
dimmed by their moisture; and so said they all.

“Wilfred,” exclaimed the happy wife and sister as she rose from table to
leave the two gentlemen to their after-dinner cigar, “I will never,
never understand how you accomplished what you did. I believe you must
have hypnotized Mr. Strangely. Did you, sir, tell me?”

“Perhaps,” was the reply with a curious smile curling the outer wave of
his moustache. “Ben, the port wine is with you!”

“Tell me, Wilfred, how you managed it,” pressed his brother-in-law.

“Well,” replied the other after a pause, “it is not fair to make me
disclose the secrets of my success, but I had a good deal of influence
over that fellow Strangely, at school. On one occasion I caught him at a
very disgraceful trick and gave him a very memorable thrashing. After
that he seemed to drift into my power somehow, partly by reason of his
disgrace, which I kept to myself, and partly because a good thrashing is
an excellent beginning in hypnotism among boys. As the result, I could
make him do anything I liked. With such a ground-work I had no
difficulty in bringing him under my influence last night, more
especially as I have become a pretty successful hypnotist by long
practice and study.”

“Could you, do you think, have made him do what he did if you had not
known him previously?”

“No, I think I would probably have had to go to work some other way with
him, but I imagine he would have had to disgorge all the same. Hypnotism
as an art is full of resources.”


THE END.



GLANCING SHAFTS.



CHAPTER I.


The place was Euston Square Station, the Metropolitan terminal depot of
the London and Northwestern Railway; the hour 8:15 P.M. when from time
wellnigh immemorial the London limited express has started for Scotland;
the individual a tall, broad-shouldered man of, perhaps, twenty-five
years, and known to the world, if not as yet to fame, as Richard
Dalrymple.

As the traveller hurriedly took his seat in the first-class carriage
which he had given the guard a couple of half-crowns to reserve for his
exclusive use, he looked out with some impatience on a whole landscape
of good-byes.

There were convivial good-byes perceptible in the refreshment
department, there were lovers’ good-byes “the world forgetting by the
world forgot,” then there were the multitudinous good-byes of
good-fellowship. The universal parting injunction to “mind and write
soon” was drowned in the hearty laughter and loud badinage which somehow
or other appear to be inseparable from this station, possibly as a sort
of counterpoise to the somewhat different style of off-going from the
northern and sadder end of the line where the ties of friendship or
kinship are apt to be closer and farewells longer and more affecting.

As Richard Dalrymple looked out upon the scene he thanked his lucky
stars that there was no one there to bid _him_ good-bye, and lest even a
passing acquaintance should recognize him he hurriedly drew the window
curtains and retired into the seclusion of his carriage.

“Thank God,” he murmured to himself as the train moved out of the
station, “I’m glad I’m off. It was safer to run away, she carries
altogether too many guns for me.”

As if to divert his mind from painful thoughts, he glanced out into the
night and watched for a while, after an absent-minded fashion, the
wayside stations as they fled past in endless procession.

Then an inbound express dashed by apparently smashing all the crockery
of the world as it went, and the shock so far dislocated his ideas as to
induce him to leave the window.

“I suppose I may as well make myself comfortable,” he presently murmured
to himself. “Barkirk is four hundred miles away and there is no change
of carriages.”

Saying this, he exchanged his tall hat for the regulation travelling-cap
used in those ante-Pullman days.

As he uncovered his head, his clear-cut profile crowned with a profusion
of light brown curls, such as ladies love to toy with, shone white and
clear against the dark blue of the carriage upholstery.

“A strikingly handsome man both as to feature and complexion,” all women
vowed Richard Dalrymple at first sight--“and a manly-looking man, too,”
they were prone to add when they saw his width of shoulder and length of
limb, and noted the frank fearless look of the well-opened dark blue
eyes.

And yet as he opened his cigar-case to while away with “a weed,” the
tedium of the long hours, there was an air of anxiety perceptible on his
brow and a worn look expressive of much turmoil and uncertainty of mind
visible around his eyes, which, to all appearance, the joy he had
expressed at his escape had not to any appreciable extent relieved.

As the dainty cigar-case of sweet-smelling Russia leather lay in his
grasp a tender look came into his eyes, and opening the clasp, two
lovely bunches of blue Scotch “forget-me-nots” lay before him worked in
silk in marked relief on the soft lining of the case.

As he sat gazing at the small blue flowers a soft mist crept into his
eyes and rose and rose until it blotted out both flowers and cigar-case
and blurred the light blazing overhead.

Then from the innermost receptacle of his pocket-book he took a piece of
soft tissue paper and extracted from it, with much tenderness, the half
of a three-penny piece, which, after putting tenderly to his lips, he
laid alongside the blue “forget-me-nots.”

“It is just three years ago,” he murmured to himself, “since Jeannie
gave me these when I first left for London to try my hand at medicine
there. I remember the very words of the old song which she repeated as
she gave me the half of the broken coin:

    ‘Now take this lucky thrupenny bit,
       ’Twill help you bear in mind,
     A faithful, loving, trusting heart,
       You left in tears behind.’

And although I have never seen my darling since, I have been true to her
in word and thought and deed.

“Yes, indeed, I have,” he repeated almost fiercely, as though someone
had challenged his statement; and then, as if a twinge of remorse
tortured him, he cried out, “Oh, forgive me, pet, if I have ever
wavered, even for a moment; you know I have never loved anyone but you.”

The heavy tears dropped from his eyes, and fell on the blue
“forget-me-nots;” and then, as if ashamed to show his womanishness even
to the walls opposite, he looked out into the night, through which the
express now plunged on its furious way, rocking under its
sixty-miles-an-hour gait.

Richard Dalrymple was what is termed a good, square man, and under the
strongest conceivable temptation to prove himself a renegade he was
doing his utmost, and not by any means with eye-service only, to prove
himself true to his little Scottish sweetheart.

The cause--not of his apostasy, for he was still true in word and deed,
and yes, in thought too, to his _fiancée_--but of his anxiety, was, all
unknown to him, seated in the adjoining carriage with a smile of mingled
triumph and apprehension lighting up her splendid dark eyes.

When Richard Dalrymple had regained his composure and had lit his cigar,
the lady in the next compartment, detecting the odor, smiled again.

“Make yourself at home, _mon prince_,” she murmured with a softer light
in her brilliant eyes--“and good-night--a sweet good-night,” she added
tenderly, throwing a mute kiss with both hands in the direction of the
invisible smoker. “The woman who loves you will keep watch over you,
aroon.”



CHAPTER II.


Miss Gwendoline Beattison, the lady who with her companion, an elderly
Frenchwoman, occupied the adjoining compartment, was the daughter of
General Beattison and of his wife, a Spanish lady of renowned beauty.

After acquiring great wealth in India, General Beattison--a Scotchman by
birth--had returned to his native town, and there during the intervals
of her visiting and education abroad his daughter had resided, and had
made the acquaintance of Richard Dalrymple, the only son of Doctor
Dalrymple, senior physician of the town.

When the younger Dalrymple had established a medical practice in the
West-end of London it seemed only natural that the Beattisons, who
generally spent from five to six months in the Metropolis each year,
should patronize him, more especially as they knew him to be well
trained in his profession, and well thought of among his brother
practitioners.

Dalrymple was an attractive man, a good talker and possessed of a
magnetism which drew other men to him. He was popular and was
accordingly in demand and at no house was he more welcome than at the
home of General Beattison.

But complications soon arose.

Mrs. Beattison had died while her daughter Gwendoline, an only child,
was still in the nursery, and the latter’s education had largely
devolved upon governesses at home and abroad, whom her naturally
dominant will soon reduced to subjection.

The result was that by the time she was sixteen years of age, Miss
Beattison was a law unto herself, and it might be added with some show
of truth, to her father also.

She was now twenty-one years of age and all the talk of “London-town,”
in her matchless beauty--the despair alike of painters and poets. From
her mother she had inherited her black Castilian hair and glorious dark
eyes, together with that magnetism of glance and capacity for arousing
or manifesting passion which seems the heritage of Spain’s seductive
daughters.

From her father’s side had sprung the height and stateliness which
marked her carriage; and the unresting audacity of the warrior’s blood
was readily visible when Miss Gwendoline entered the lists.

Courted by all, and the belle of the London season, Gwendoline was true
to an early--but undisclosed--infatuation for Richard Dalrymple, and
with scant courtesy she refused the best offers of the season “by the
score,” bent upon securing the only being she had made up her mind she
could love.

Richard, although by no means insensible to Miss Beattison’s charms, was
true to his Scotch _fiancée_, and feeling the fair Gwendoline’s passion
for him becoming more and more marked, and unable to see that he was
holding his own satisfactorily, he deemed discretion the better part of
valor and, as we have seen, fled.

Miss Beattison, who had fathomed his plans, determined to follow him,
believing that only some mistaken notion of chivalry on his side kept
them apart, and convinced in her own mind that they were made for each
other, and wholly unwilling that both their lives should be ruined by a
false delicacy on her part.

It will be seen that her views were very far indeed from being orthodox
on the question of woman’s rights, so far as they relate to courtship,
but as against this it may be said that no breath of suspicion had ever
been raised against her fair fame, and that her determination in
following Mr. Dalrymple was consistent with a hereditary obstinacy in
legitimate pursuits, once she was satisfied as to what was the right
thing for her to do.

As Richard Dalrymple finished his third cigar the train was nearing
Rugby station, its first stopping place.

“The preacher was entirely right,” he muttered, as he threw away the end
of his cigar; “‘fill a bushel full of wheat and there will be no room
for chaff.’ I have not been thinking enough of Jeannie, or this thing
would never have worried me.

“The dear little darling,” he suddenly burst out with a new accession of
fervor, as he took a photograph from his pocket and kissed it again and
again. “I will have a thousand copies of that photograph made, and I
will put them everywhere in my house and study and in my pockets, so
that people will say ‘what a model lover he is!’ and that will stimulate
me to be still better than I am.”

He kept on talking for some time until he became conscious of an undue
earnestness in his avowals. “Great Heavens!” he suddenly exclaimed, “I
hope I am not protesting too much--Oh no, no--how can I talk like that
when I am within eight hours of the sweetest lips in Christendom, all
mine too--exclusively--unkissed, unreaped for three years and just, just
(here hyperbole failed him)--just too sweet for anything.”

“Those lovely blue eyes, that rounded neck and that yellow hair, and
those dear arms! O dear, I feel them now even after three long years.

“I hate dark eyes and black hair and all your over-ripe Southern beauty;
I wonder I ever gave it a thought; it is so commonplace beside the charm
of the ravishing blond.”

In his excitement he had risen to his feet and was pacing backwards and
forwards in his carriage, thrusting his arms out forcibly in front of
him, as if in an effort to throw off excitement.

In turning, his hand struck the frame of the window forcibly, and the
photograph fell from his grasp underneath the seat.

As he stooped to recover it he saw a handkerchief alongside it. This he
at first mistook for his own until the softness of its texture
undeceived him.

Rising to his feet he held the handkerchief somewhat carelessly to the
light with the air of one who had nothing better to do, to see if he
could discover any initials upon it. As he did so he became conscious of
a subtle perfume, and it moved him horribly, as some men die without
being moved.

His knees gave way through the weakness and he sat down. There was, he
felt, but one person in all England who used that dainty Oriental
perfume. She had told him so, and that one was herself.

Lest there should be any doubt as to the identity of the handkerchief,
there, too, was the monogram in gold and black on the corner, the
initials G. B. subtly intertwined.

In silence Richard Dalrymple sat with whitening face looking at the
delicate piece of cambric in his hands.

“My God!” he suddenly burst out, “What is the matter with me; it is all
I can do to keep myself from kissing it!”

His hand shook as it held the piece of vagrant cambric, and when the
train entered Rugby station a man in the depths of self-abasement knelt
on the floor of Dalrymple’s compartment with his head buried in the
cushions of the seat.



CHAPTER III.


While the train was standing in the station at Rugby, and the majority
of the male passengers were taking their last “night-caps” at the bar of
the refreshment room, before composing themselves finally to sleep, a
voice of somewhat uncertain fibre called to the guard as he passed the
window of the carriage occupied by Richard Dalrymple.

“Guard, come here a minute. Can you tell me how that handkerchief got
into this carriage?” and the speaker handed the dainty piece of cambric
which he had found to the astonished guard.

Before the latter had time to frame a reply a shrill female voice from
the next compartment called out, “Come here at once please, guard,
quick!!”

The call was so urgent and the necessity of the caller apparently so
desperate that, with a hasty “Excuse me, one moment, sir,” to Richard
Dalrymple, the guard stepped to the door of the adjoining compartment.

“Come inside please, guard, I’ve crushed my finger in the window and
can’t get it out.”

As soon as the guard had entered the carriage the lady who had called
him--Miss Beattison’s companion--promptly placed herself in front of the
door to prevent anyone from seeing inside, and then waved the guard
toward her mistress.

“O, conductor, please tell me,” said the other with great eagerness,
“what the gentleman in the next compartment found. I overheard part of
your conversation but not all.”

“Well, miss, he found this handkerchief, and it seems to have startled
him very considerably indeed.”

“O dear, dear, it is one of mine which I must have dropped in that place
to-night. You will remember that you showed us into that compartment
first of all, but I exchanged it for this one because it gave me a
better view of the entrance gate, and enabled me to see who was going
off by train.

“Now, guard, that gentleman next door is a friend of mine, but I would
not for all the world he knew I was near him; he would certainly want
to travel in the same carriage, and that would be quite a nuisance.

“Tell him the handkerchief must have been left there by one of a party
of Northern visitors to London and must have escaped the cleaner’s
notice.

“Be steady now and on no account let him suspect that I am in this
carriage,” and a small golden coin changed hands.

When the guard returned to Dalrymple the latter questioned him as to
what was wrong next door. “Lady jammed her hand in the window, sir.”

“Dear me, and did you raise the window and relieve her hand, poor
thing.”

“Well, no, sir--come to reflect, hang me if I think I did “--this with
evident shamefacedness.

“You are a funny fellow, guard. After being called to open a window and
relieve a suffering damsel, you come away not only without taking off
the pressure, but you forget all about it; get out of my way and I’ll
attend to the suffering lady.”

“Hold on, sir--stop, I say, stop!” called out the guard resisting the
other’s exit, “the lady’s hand is all right now, and besides I haven’t
told you the worst, the lady is in a high fever and--and it looks like
small-pox. I didn’t want to tell you at first,” he went on mendaciously,
“but you have forced it out of me; please don’t say anything about it or
I’ll get into trouble.”

“Great Heavens!” ejaculated the traveller; “what an awful calamity! I
wish you would stand a little further off. Suppose,” he added under his
breath, “I should carry the infection to Jeannie.”

Then he added aloud as the other was leaving, “You have not explained
how that handkerchief came to be in this carriage.”

“Oh, that is a very simple matter, sir,” replied the other promptly with
an “in for a penny in for a pound” air, “a party of ladies came up to
London in this carriage on my last trip, and I suppose one of them
dropped her handkerchief under the seat, by accident. The name on their
trunks was Bertrand, and I heard one of the young ladies called
Georgiana, and the initials being the same,” continued the guard giving
full swing to his imagination, “I suppose the handkerchief belongs to
her.”

“That sounds all right,” returned Dalrymple, giving a side glance at the
piece of cambric as if he would have liked to have asked for it had he
only known what excuse to make for his request.

Now as the lady in the adjoining carriage, anxious that our traveller
should have a reminder of her, had with much and unwonted palpitation of
heart, suggested to the conductor the propriety of returning the
handkerchief to the finder, he had no particular difficulty in meeting
the other’s unspoken request.

“I suppose you may as well place that handkerchief where you found it,”
the guard remarked handing it to Dalrymple as he closed the door, “it is
the usual way.”

“Well, I suppose so,” replied the other with affected indifference,
receiving the precious article from his hands.

As the train sped on its way Dalrymple sat for a while with corrugated
brow, then he suddenly muttered as he lit a last cigar before turning in
for the night:

“That explanation might account for the initials, but how about the
perfume? The coincidence is too striking. I don’t understand it, and I
believe that small-pox scare next door is all a trumped-up affair. I
wonder who the people are who curtain themselves so closely in there,
and what they mean by fooling the guard so.”

He awoke once during the night to find himself with a photograph of his
lady-love in one hand and the handkerchief in the other. This
arrangement stung him to the heart, and he made as though he wanted to
throw the handkerchief out of the window.

“But no!” he said to himself in time, “I might need it as a reminder
that I must brace myself and drive all thoughts of Miss Beattison out of
my mind.”

That this reasoning was faulty was more than proved by the rapid
softening of the severe glance which he directed towards the fluffy
piece of cambric, which, as if half afraid of some necromantic
influence, he held gingerly between his finger and thumb.

“Guard,” he said, “I don’t believe that cock-and-bull story about
small-pox in the next compartment, or that high old tale you told me
about the lady crushing her hand--now who _are_ these people next door
and what little game are they dragging you into?”

“I don’t know anything more about them than I have told you,” returned
the conductor somewhat curtly, “and I’ve got too many daft people
bothering me all the time without hunting up fresh ones.”

Saying this he raised his silver whistle to his lips and blew a loud
blast, at the same time waving his right arm up and down toward the
engineer like a crazy semaphore; all of which was the signal to go
ahead.

Dalrymple retired to his seat with a rather chagrined smile.

“Slightly personal, that remark,” he said as he recomposed himself for
sleep, “but I suppose he _is_ worried quite a good deal by queer people.
This line seems to be haunted to-night.”



CHAPTER IV.


When Dalrymple awoke again, dawn was breaking coldly and slowly among
the mountains of the lake district.

When he put his head out of the window of his carriage, the fresh chilly
air of the hills carried his memory back with a rush to his old Scotch
days, and to the time of his courtship.

“Oh, my little pet,” he murmured, turning to the photograph in his hand,
“it seems but yesterday since you and I plighted our troth to each other
on just such a hillside as this one here. I remember the smell of the
heather that day, and how I could hardly find you a place to sit down on
in the soft velvety sward, because you said you never liked to crush the
bonny blue-bells--and they were all around us; and the lark, I
recollect, rose from our feet and soared aloft, and we said it was
singing us a wedding march.

“And that big intrusive bumble-bee too, that would fly around our
heads--we could not bear to hurt it, we were so happy ourselves, and I
have never even killed a wasp since for the memory of the time. Ah! and
I remember too, Jeannie, the touch of your dear little hand so plump and
firm, and the look in your bonny blue eyes when I told you I loved you
and asked you to marry me; you looked so beautiful and shy.

“I was the happiest man on earth till that day, and there never has
anything come between us, until now.”

As he ended there was a sharp tone of anger in his last words, and
rising quickly and with much energy he opened the window and threw from
it with all his force the poor little piece of monogrammed cambric,
which had been lying on the seat before him.

As this little incident culminated the train was slowing down to enter
the small station where travellers to the Lakes break their journey, and
a barefooted youngster who had run out to meet the train caught the
feather-like handkerchief as it fluttered and eddied from the advancing
train.

A lady sitting at the adjoining window which was open, heard the violent
banging of the sash ahead and saw the handkerchief thrown forcibly out.

“Call to that boy instantly, madame, to give you that handkerchief.”

The speaker was Miss Beattison, and as she made way for her companion at
the window the natural pallor of her face became almost ghastly as she
placed her hand to her side.

“Oh! _oh!_ OH!” she moaned, “at last he has broken my heart. Now indeed
I know how much he hates and loathes me by his throwing my poor little
handkerchief out of the window as if it was infected by the plague. Oh
how he must despise me!” Here gentle nature came to the relief of the
sad-eyed, heavy-hearted sleepless one, and she burst into a flood of
passionate tears.

“Has the boy got the handkerchief?” she inquired through her sobs.

“Yes, mademoiselle, here he comes with it, running alongside the train.”

“Oh, take it from him quickly, dear,” the sobbing maiden faltered, “or I
think I shall die of shame and mortification.”

“Boy, bring that handkerchief here, it belongs to me,” shouted a
commanding voice from the carriage ahead--and at the sound of it the
tears in Miss Beattison’s eyes stood still--a frozen cataract.

“The lady wants it, sir; she says it is hers,” protested the boy.

“Oh, madame, slay that boy,” said Miss Beattison in a fierce little
whisper.

“The lady is mistaken, bring that handkerchief here at once.”

“But it is a lady’s handkerchief, sir,” urged the boy.

“Bring it here at once, you little devil, or I’ll break your neck.”

Coarse words these, and oh how impolite to the other claimants, and yet
sweeter far to the straining ears of the offended one than the softest
music!

But the boy was “dour” in the face of ugly words or threats, and he held
out the handkerchief to the lady at the window.

“No, no, give it to the gentleman,” said madame, and after a moment’s
hesitation the boy threw the handkerchief into the carriage where
Dalrymple was standing.

Dalrymple endeavored to reward the boy by throwing him a shilling, but
the threat was not forgotten and the boy who came of a fighting stock
threw the coin back into the carriage.

Dalrymple saw with surprise a coin of large dimensions fall into the
boy’s hands from the other window, and he lighted a matutinal cigar to
try and cipher out the peculiar kind of lunatics there were imprisoned
in that adjoining compartment.

As for the eventful handkerchief, as if he were ashamed of having had it
brought back he let it lie where it fell.

Next door an unusual occurrence had already taken place. Rising to her
feet and swaying to and fro in the excess of her emotion, and with her
beautiful eyes swimming in happy tears, Gwendoline Beattison threw
herself on the hard bosom (but not hard heart) of her old companion and
friend, and murmured as she flung her arms around her neck, “Oh, it was
all a mistake. He did not intend to throw away my handkerchief. Did you
notice how furious he was, the darling, when he thought some one was
going to take it, eh?” At which, by way of reply, the truthful companion
groaned with much and genuine distress.

“I shall find out all about this mystery of the next compartment once I
get to Carlisle station,” muttered Richard Dalrymple to himself. “We
stop there fifteen minutes for breakfast, and it will be strange if I
can’t find out what particular kind of asylum I have next door then.”

Saying this he relit his cigar and gave his eyes to the dreamy study of
the Northern landscape, while his mind projected itself ahead to the
meeting so soon to take place between himself and his sweetheart, from
whom he had been parted for three long years.

But “the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee,” especially
when it is a woman’s wit which is the disturbing influence.

At the last station before entering Carlisle, Miss Beattison called the
guard to her, and begged that he would find an empty carriage in the
rear of the train (their carriage was now in front) for herself and
companion, into which they could change the moment the gentleman in the
adjoining compartment should leave it for his breakfast.

“But suppose he does not leave it?” gloomily queried the guard; “men who
smoke so much in the early morning can easily wait for their breakfast
until they get home.”

“Well, in that case,” responded the lady, “we will try some other plan,
but this will do until we know it can’t be carried out; and at Carlisle
we will keep our curtains closed until you give us warning to change, in
case he should feel inclined to satisfy his curiosity about us.”

“By the way, guard,” resumed the lady, after a momentary pause, and with
a little tremor in the voice, “did you happen to notice what he did with
the handkerchief?”

“Yes, madam, it is lying on the seat in front of him and he is studying
a photograph.”

“That is all, guard, thank you,” returned the lady in a fainter tone, as
she leaned her head back on the cushioned partition.

“You look faint, mademoiselle,” said her companion, hastening to her
side with an anxious look in her eyes--“will mademoiselle try a little
sal-volatile?”

“Thank you, no,” replied her mistress; “I think it is only that I am a
little faint after my long night’s travel.”

She sat in silence for a few minutes while the companion watched the
pallid face, and the white lids and long dark lashes which hid the
beautiful eyes.

There was a saddened droop in the beautiful mouth with its gracefully
curved lips, as if Cupid’s bow had been bent just a little awry. And
where, oh where, was that imperious look which was wont to be enthroned
on that boldly rounded chin? The change was Love the humiliator’s work.

The silken scarf thrown over the shapely head had fallen aside and now
showed the beautiful hair in all the graceful abandon consequent upon a
night’s comfortless travel.

The dusky tresses with the wave of a wind-swept banderol in them grew
low and luxurious over the broad white forehead, and curled upwards in
wealthy profusion over the graceful head.

The beautiful and strongly marked eyebrows, the densely fringed lids and
all the component parts of superlative beauty were there.

Men talk of alabaster loveliness, of faces pale and perfect as flawless
marble, but these similes fell far short of Miss Beattison’s complexion,
which was the despair of the rest of the sex. In her case these would
have been dead illustrations of a living glorious beauty to which
neither nature nor art could furnish an analogy or an expression.

Her beautiful eyes, now closed in heart-breaking reflections, like her
other perfections defied descriptions and beggared eulogy!

Even Byron, grand-master in the art of portraying woman’s ravishing
beauty, recorded his failure to describe the beauty of lovely eyes, and
his words might well be appropriated for Miss Beattison:

    “Her eye’s dark charm ’twere vain to tell
       But gaze on that of the Gazelle,
     It will assist thy fancy well.”

Suddenly the dark eyes opened widely, and the taper fingers clenched in
a paroxysm of emotion.

“Oh, why should I waste myself upon a man who does not care for me?” she
cried out bitterly. “What have I done that Heaven should grant me power
to love only one man when it makes that man despise me, and prefer an
ignorant Scotch country girl, whose love as compared with mine is as the
shallow sea-shell to the bottomless ocean.”

“Oh, mademoiselle, give him up--let us go back, he is not worthy of you;
there are a thousand handsomer, cleverer men--distinguished men too--who
would kneel at your feet to-morrow--yes, mademoiselle, and put proud
coronets there too; and splendid men, too, ah! if the poor companion
could but choose! there are some ravishing gentlemen who visit you, and
think you that I would run after a country doctor and break my heart
when all the great world would come to me? Ah, _mon Dieu_, no.”

“Hush, madame,” replied the other, “you do not know what you are talking
about. I know--of course I know, and the thought drives me nearly crazy
with rage against myself--that I am doing an indelicate and unmaidenly
thing in following up Dr. Dalrymple. Oh, I have fought against this love
on my knees--yes, on my bended knees--but I cannot help myself. I love
him, _I love him_, I LOVE HIM! Even when I wore short dresses he was,
all unknown to him, the idol of my childhood. Yes, I used to dream about
him and pray God to give me him for a dear husband when I grew up. I
remember him as he used to come up the church aisle on Sundays, and as
he passed our cross-pew I used to redden until I fancied all the people
in the church knew about my love for him. And during the sermon I never
recollected the text, or remembered what the old clergyman said, I was
just thinking of Richard (that is what I called him in my mind) and
longing to run my fingers through his bonny curly brown hair. And oh
when his moustache began to grow, as soon as I noticed it I insisted on
being put into long dresses so that I might, as it were, keep in step
with him; and when I went abroad it was still the same all the years I
was away; nothing ever took his boyish image out of my heart. I did not
flirt and carry on like other girls, I just thought of him and waited,
oh, so patiently! until my education should be completed, and I could
return home practically my own mistress.

“Now, madame, do you think that love like that is going to stop because
a thing seems unmaidenly, when all the happiness of my life is concerned
in the result? Do you know that Dr. Dalrymple is now on his way to see
his _fiancée_, and that this is the most crucial period of my whole
life? Oh, if I were a man, and our positions reversed, I would carry him
off!”

Madame was in despair--she held up her wrinkled hands and exclaimed
again and again, “_mon Dieu, mon Dieu!_” and then her womanly heart
coming to her aid, she took the beautiful head between her hands and
kissed it again and again. “God is good,” she said, softly but
hopefully, “maybe it will all come right yet.”

Large tears--the advance guard of grief’s thunder shower which indicates
but does not relieve the pent-up passion--gathered slowly and fell from
Miss Beattison’s eyes, and the white teeth tried hard to restrain the
quivering lip. But the effort was in vain, the rising sob refused to be
quelled, and unable any longer to restrain her emotion, Miss Beattison
covered her face and sobbed out her very soul on her old companion’s
sympathetic shoulder.

“Ah,” muttered the companion aside to herself, “if I were a man and had
a knife I would kill you!” and she shook her clenched fist at the
invisible traveller next door.

When Carlisle station was reached Dr. Dalrymple stepped quickly from his
carriage, thinking to catch a glimpse of the inmates of the adjoining
compartment.

The curtains, however, were closed, and no sign of life was visible.

“Asleep, I imagine,” soliloquized the Doctor, “well, I suppose I may as
well have some breakfast,” saying which he sauntered in the direction of
the first-class restaurant.

When he returned the window of the carriage next door was in the same
condition. “Still asleep,” he murmured as he lit his cigar, and the
train moved outward.

Dr. Dalrymple was in error, however, for the change of carriage had been
effected while he was at breakfast and his whilom companions were now a
dozen carriages to the rear.

At the next station, the first on Scotch soil, noticing the adjoining
door open, Dr. Dalrymple inquired of the guard if the ladies were still
inside the carriage. “No, sir, they left at Carlisle,” replied the
guard, an answer literally correct and yet giving, and intended to give,
the impression that the ladies had left the train at the station named.

“Well, well, I wonder who they were--something unique, I should say----”

“Yes, sir, quite so,” said the guard as he left the door, adding to
himself, “I seem to have more than the average of unique people this
trip.”



CHAPTER V.


When Richard Dalrymple reached Barkirk he was considerably surprised to
see General Beattison’s carriage awaiting the arrival of the train.

“Some visitor to the old general,” he surmised, adding under his breath
with a long drawn sigh of uncertain meaning, “It really does look as if
I was never to be allowed to forget that family.”

The visitor, whoever it was, was slow to alight, and Dr. Dalrymple’s
hack drove off without his having cleared up the point.

The new arrival’s welcome to his native home, after so long an absence,
was the heartiest conceivable, and so thoroughly was he taken possession
of, that it looked as if only by some desperate subterfuge would he be
able to tear himself away to call upon the object of his affections.

And here it should be told that the engagement between Richard Dalrymple
and Miss Jeannie Farquharson has been maintained as a profound secret
by request of the latter, in order not to antagonize a wealthy and
cantankerous aunt, her sole remaining relative. This state of affairs
had limited the correspondence between the two, as their letters had to
pass through the hands of a third person, who, knowing how cruel the
tender mercies of a gossiping Scotch town are, did not care to receive
too many lest she should arouse curiosity and set too many tongues
wagging at her own expense.

At last, under pretence of a visit to his old friend Miss Farquharson
the elder, Richard Dalrymple stood in the drawing room of Laburnum Lodge
awaiting with a beating heart the arrival of his _fiancée_. The servant
had said Miss Farquharson was out but would return in a few minutes, and
would he see Miss Jeannie?

Would he! The gods were at last propitious!

When the servant went upstairs to announce his arrival, he expected to
hear, maybe, a little glad cry, and the instant rush of descending
skirts.

But no, the house was still, and after a minute or two the servant
returned to say Miss Jeannie would be down directly. For a moment the
room seemed to grow chilly, but his face brightened and the temperature
rose again when he reminded himself that no doubt she had heard of his
arrival, and it was necessary for her still to dissemble her love before
tattling servants.

Presently he heard the sound of a soft foot-fall on the stairs and the
_frou-frou_ of a lady’s dress gliding downward from step to step. His
heart beat faster, the color slowly left his cheek, and a happy
expectant light shone in his eyes.

Yes, there, at last, the queen of all his hopes and joys stood in the
doorway, not indeed the Scotch lassie of his recollection and his
dreams, but a vision of fair Northern loveliness whose very perfection
chained to his side the arms he had raised to embrace her, and nailed
his feet to the floor; so that the passionate embrace of welcome which
he had so often rehearsed in his own mind, all miscarried.

“Miss Farquharson--Jeannie--my darling!” he exclaimed with a faltering
voice regaining control of himself and stretching out, not his arms but
his hand, “I scarcely know you, you have grown so beautiful--what, what
have you done with my shy little Scotch lassie?” Then he laid his hands
on her shoulders and looked deep into her eyes.

Yes, they at least were the same, they had not changed while he dreamed
of them these three long years, but they were not wont to droop before
his gaze then as now.

Then his arms stole softly around the lissom waist, and gently and
almost reverentially he stooped his lips to hers.

“Oh, please, Dick, don’t,” suddenly exclaimed the young lady with a
struggle, and a rapidly rising color in the clear brown cheek.

“Why, Jeannie dear, what is the matter?” queried her lover in a
distressed tone. “Don’t you love me any longer, darling?”

“Oh no, it is not that, Dick dear,” with faltering voice; “but we have
been parted so long, and I’ve hardly got accustomed to you yet, you seem
so formidable to me now, remember you were hardly more than a boy when
you left; and now you have grown so big and strong and manly-looking, it
doesn’t seem at all the same thing to kiss you now.”

“Well, darling, if that is all, the strangeness will soon pass, but
dear me! this seems a cool meeting for lovers.”

“Let us sit down, Dick, and talk things over,” replied Jeannie, taking
his hand and leading him to the sofa.

But Miss Farquharson’s knock was heard at the door, and they had only
time to hurriedly appoint a meeting for the following day at the lonely
Granton Falls, when the elder lady entered the room.

Richard Dalrymple’s mind was ill at ease during the rest of the day, and
he was glad when the evening came around and he could have a
confidential chat with the special friend and mentor of his old school
days--Alec Douglas.

He determined to unbosom himself to his former “chum,” and receive from
him the sweet solace of his sympathy as in the days of yore, when he
knew Alec to be as true as steel and the best secret-keeper in the
world.

Richard explained at length to his friend his relations with Miss
Jeannie Farquharson, but he was too much of a Bayard to allude to Miss
Beattison’s infatuation and its effect upon himself and his actions.

Alec Douglas sat silent while his friend unbosomed himself. He
interrupted by no comment, but that he listened attentively may be
gathered from the fact that his cigar went out unnoticed, and presently
fell from his lips altogether without awaking his consciousness to the
fact.

As his silence remained unbroken even after the close of the other’s
confidence, Dr. Dalrymple inquired what he thought of the situation. He
fancied that the expression on his friend’s face lacked the old-time
sympathy he was wont to express, and yet that failed to qualify his
astonishment when the other rose to his feet and after the merest
pretence of looking at his watch, announced that he must leave to keep
an appointment with a client.

“About your inquiry, Dick, as to what I think of the situation I can’t
say anything, but I consider that I am the last person you should ask
such a question,” saying which he strode out into the night.

“Well, I’m----blest if I don’t think everyone has gone back on me since
I left. My sweetheart is like an icicle and my old friend is as chilly
as a Norway blizzard. I feel like Rip Van Winkle who outlived or
outslept all his friendships.

“What did he mean, I wonder, about his being the last person in the
world I ought to ask? Is he so proud of his legal reputation that he
thinks it beneath him to give an opinion about a friend’s love troubles?
I suppose that is it, but if it is, this wretched little town hardens
the heart worse than much abused London does.”



CHAPTER VI.


Richard Dalrymple spent a restless night, and counted the minutes almost
until it was time to meet his _fiancée_ at Granton Falls.

He had some difficulty in evading his friends, but finally managed to be
at the place of rendezvous some twenty minutes before the time fixed.

The place appointed was the corner of a stone bridge which spanned the
Eildon river at Granton Falls, the said falls being simply a succession
of small rapids.

As Richard looked over the bridge he noticed the footpath about fifty
feet lower than the bridge, and said with some anxiety: “I hope Jeannie
did not mean the footpath at the falls, for if she goes there while I am
here I can’t get to her without breaking my neck over those rocks.”

At that instant the sharp ring of a horse’s hoofs on the hard granite
road aroused his attention, and turning round slowly, to his utter
bewilderment, he saw Miss Beattison, unattended by her groom, reining in
her horse by his side.

“How do you do, Doctor Dalrymple? Will you please help me to dismount, I
have something to say to you.”

Then she tied her horse to the nearest sapling, and came to his side;
her face white and almost stern in its set expression.

“Are you wondering how I came to be here? Well I came by the same train
as you did, to find out for myself whether the secret of your
indifference to me was to be found here, in this little country town;
and if it was the case, dear, as I had heard that you loved another,
why, then, I determined I should end my most miserable life, for to me
death is a thousand times better than life without you. Please do not
think ill of me, for, as Heaven is my witness, this unrequited love is
more than I can bear. This lonely walk what does it mean? Are you
waiting now to keep some appointment?”

As Gwendoline Beattison stood before Richard Dalrymple in all the pride
of her splendid beauty, pleading the cause of her own desperate heart,
his brain reeled before this fresh temptation. Did the struggle of all
these long months and the resolution displayed in his flight count for
nothing? Had he come all these long four hundred miles only to
capitulate here? Perish the thought, and yet his breath came fast and
faster as he gazed upon her, and his eyes faltered and fell before the
terrible battery of hers. He held up his hands, palm outward, as a
drowning man who finds the current too strong for him, and murmured,
“Leave me. For God’s sake go away and leave me.”

That is what he meant to say--and perhaps it is what he did say--but
every sense he had was surrendering to the irresistible usurper, and he
could not be sure that even his speech was not betraying him.

He tried to think of Jeannie, but his very soul shook as if there, too,
in the very holy of holies of his heart, a traitor was offering
capitulation on the conqueror’s own terms.

Every glance was a temptation to the stricken man as Gwendoline
Beattison stood before him. Her closely fitting habit revealed every
throb of the over-charged bosom and told all too plainly the tempest
which was convulsing it. His own heart bounded madly in response, every
fibre of his powerful frame thrilled in sympathy with the passion which
shook the voluptuous figure before him, and his eyes no longer sought
the ground but, alas!--_bon gré mal gré_--soon outdid hers in their
fiery candor.

Words failed them both. It was the silence of the duel when the smallest
flash of the blade may mean a life. As deadly was their silence and as
vital, but their eyes--ah, their eyes spoke with a measureless volume
and thrill, which deadened their ears to every earthly sound.

“Oh, why can’t you love me, dear? am I so unattractive that you must run
away from me?”

As Gwendoline Beattison said this, a wonderfully soft and pathetic look
came into her beautiful eyes, and, as if unable longer to control
herself, she placed her two trembling hands on Richard Dalrymple’s
shoulders.

“Why is it, dear--won’t you tell me?” and the voice which had been
shaken by passion became strangely gentle and tender as the straying
hands growing bolder stole around his neck and her beating heart in dire
proximity fired his own anew.

Oh, Jeannie Farquharson why do you not hurry to the relief of your
faltering lover, true to you so long in the face of a desperate
temptation, but now, alas, in the toils!

Too late! the perfume which surrounded the fair temptress like an
atmosphere was in his nostrils, the intoxication of her gaze mounted to
his brain; her touch thrilled him to his finger-tips, his very soul
tottered on its throne, and in another instant their lips met in a long
clinging kiss--a kiss never to be undone, never to be forgotten, the
kiss of a lifetime after which man and woman ought to die eternally,
since in its rapture they have beggared Paradise!

The long ecstatic kiss ended at last, the tumultuously beating feminine
heart grew still, the living, throbbing being in Richard Dalrymple’s
arms became a dead weight, and Gwendoline Beattison sank back
insensible, a victim to her own uncontrollable emotion.

“Oh, Dick, Dick, where are you? I saw you a minute ago.”

Such was the cry--all too late--which, welcome beyond words a few
minutes ago, now sounded like the knell of doom in Richard Dalrymple’s
ears.

Placing Miss Beattison’s inanimate form gently against a mossy knoll
our perturbed hero presented himself over the wall of foliage and called
to his lady-love, “Oh wait there, I will be with you in a minute.”

“No, stay where you are,” came back the silvery response; “you can’t
come down, I will cross the river on the stepping stones and come to
you.”

“Oh, but this is awful,” muttered Richard under his breath, “Jeannie
will be here in three minutes and will find Miss Beattison, and how on
earth can I explain things?”

Then he turned his attention to Miss Beattison, who was slowly regaining
consciousness. “Are you feeling better?” he began with a wonderful
softness and shamefacedness in eye and tone, when suddenly a piercing
scream made him leap to his feet and run to the other side of the
bridge.

“My God! Jeannie has fallen in and been swept over the rapids.”

Then he sped like a deer across the bridge, down the sloping bank at the
further side and past the rushing rapids to the whirling pool where poor
Jeannie, still partially buoyed up by her clothes, was whirling around
in the grasp of the fatal current.



CHAPTER VII.


A wild thrill of remorse shot through Richard Dalrymple’s heart even as
he sprang headlong into the whirlpool, and then he felt as if he was
fighting for his life in the embrace of a hundred devil-fish.

This way and that the currents buffeted him, fed in their strength by
the momentum of the rapids above, until all the breath was battered out
of his body. Suddenly a wayward current threw him against a projecting
rock which he caught, thereby probably saving his life. A coward would
have ceased his efforts at this point, but not so Richard Dalrymple.
Once more the form of his sweetheart met his eye, this time in the pool
beyond. Gathering himself up with such strength as he had left, he
climbed over the intervening rocks and again plunged to the rescue.

This time his effort was successful. With choking words of
encouragement, to cheer his sweetheart, who was fast losing
consciousness, by an Herculean effort he swam with her to the lower
shore and pushed her gently before him on to the low bank. All at once
the friendly swirl of the current changed and he was borne out into the
centre of the whirlpool. Again he caught the point of a rock, this time
with his feet, and by swimming with all his force, he maintained for a
short space a precarious foothold.

He knew that in a very few minutes, his strength being gone, he must
cease his efforts and then----

His brain seemed to become cleared as his strength failed. “Perhaps
things are happening for the best,” he thought as his arms became like
lead, his feet wavered in their hold, and a circling wave caught him in
its arms and whirled him off into the lower rapids.

When through the rush of water in his ears he heard a loud cry and his
failing sight caught the figure of a woman on horseback dashing in to
the foaming current, even in his death throes his heart thrilled as he
recognized the form of Miss Beattison.

“Steady, Saladin, steady, now.” He heard the ringing tones, he felt a
strong touch on his shoulder, and then he was dragged from the foaming
water, out of the jaws of death and on to the shelving edge of pebbles
which here replaced the jagged rock.

Although considerably bruised by being hurled against the rock by the
powerful current, none of Richard Dalrymple’s bones were broken and in a
few minutes he was able to rise to his feet. He had already been assured
by Miss Beattison that Miss Farquharson was reviving. As he rose Miss
Beattison was standing by the side of Saladin, who was still panting
from his tremendous fight with the current. Saladin’s head was between
the two, and it seemed at first as if neither cared to round the
dangerous point and meet each other after the episode of the bridge.

This time, however, the man was the bolder, and presently Richard
Dalrymple stood face to face with Gwendoline Beattison. For an instant
her eyes met his with a startled look of conscious shyness, then the
downward sweep of the dark lashes veiled their expression, and only the
faint color in the cheeks told of the maiden’s agitation.

“Miss Beattison, you have saved my life, I thank you for it;” here he
raised her hand and gently kissed it; “but indeed I think it would have
been better for us all if you had let me drown. Try to forget all that
has passed between us to-day, and permit me to assist you to your
saddle. I must go to Miss Farquharson’s aid.”

“Miss Farquharson is in good hands, she is with the gentleman she is
about to marry,” was the response in a somewhat uneven tone of voice.

“What can you mean, Miss Beattison? Miss Farquharson is engaged to
myself.”

“To you?” exclaimed the other reining in her horse abruptly. “Oh, the
shock of your narrow escape must have then affected your brain,--but
look for yourself.”

By this time the two had rounded the corner which hid Miss Farquharson
from view, and a glance revealed his friend, Alec Douglas, sitting on a
boulder with his arm round the waist of Miss Farquharson, whose head lay
confidingly on his shoulder.

For a moment, Richard Dalrymple stiffened as if turned into marble, and
then arresting the motion of his companion with a wave of his hand he
stepped swiftly over the noiseless stretch of sand towards the pair
whose backs were towards him.



CHAPTER VIII.


“My darling,” he heard the voice of his friend Alec Douglas saying,
“what should I have done if you had been drowned, my bonnie blue-eyed
forget-me-not. Who rescued you?”

The grim listener had heard the name of that little flower before, and
his lip curled scornfully and bitterly as he heard it now applied by the
mouth of another to the woman whom he had always worshipped as his own.

Just for a moment he experienced a passing twinge as a reminder of the
scene on the bridge where he had scarcely proven himself the knight
without reproach.

But that was only a momentary yielding to a terrible temptation; a man
surrenders very little in such an encounter compared with a woman.

Thus he reasoned to himself while his heart told him that such an
argument in his case was false, false as the bottomless pit; and that
never again in life could he rebuild against that besieger on the
bridge, the broken walls and citadel of his heart.

But no man lessens his rage at the defection of another--especially if
that other is a woman upon whom he has claims--simply because he happens
to be conscious of a like personal frailty; and so, although he
staggered under the accusation of his own heart, Richard Dalrymple
abated not one whit the contempt of the glance he turned on the
unconscious Jeannie.

And beyond all doubt he suffered acutely, although in the tumult of his
mind he was conscious of wondering why he did not suffer more. The
treachery of his sweetheart shattered an idol on whose worn shrine he
had lavished all the love and fealty of his manhood’s freshest years,
and around which he had twined the fairest garlands which youth’s blind
unquestioning idolatry can weave.

That the idol he had worshipped was nobler than the divinity it
represented, goes without saying where youth’s lofty ideal is unchecked
and uncorrected by a continual comparison with the original.

Thus poor Jeannie had fallen not only from herself, but she had fallen
deeper far from the high ideal her lover had fixed in his mind.

“A badly broken idol,” Richard Dalrymple said in looking at Jeannie--and
notwithstanding all the ravage done to his own feelings, he was
painfully conscious that it was a badly damaged idolater too, who looked
on.

“Who rescued you, my darling?” repeated Alec Douglas.

“Oh dear, dear,” sobbed his companion, “how can I tell you? the man who
saved my life was your friend Richard Dalrymple, and--- and he believes
I am engaged to be married to him. Oh, please don’t be angry with--me,
it was only a girlish love which I have outgrown, and I don’t love
anyone but you, darling. I had not written to him for months and I
thought he would understand that I wished everything to end between us.”

To the onlooker the idol seemed more than broken now, it was pulverized
to very fine powder indeed.

A heavy shadow falling across the two lovers caused them to turn, and to
find themselves face to face with a haggard and dishevelled man, whose
pallid face and dark upbraiding eye, caused them to spring hastily to
their feet.

Before the image confronting them both found themselves speechless.

“Is that true what you have been saying, Jeannie?” inquired Richard in a
hollow voice, “that your love for me was but a girlish fancy, and that
you love Douglas here--my old friend Alec, to whom I confided my secret
last night?”

No answer save that of downcast eye and burning cheek, and presently a
glance of wonderful regret and misery under the long level lashes.

“Betrayed by both betrothed and bosom friend! have _you_ nothing to say,
Douglas?”

“Yes, indeed, I have, Dalrymple,” replied the other; “now, old friend,
bear with me awhile. I swear to you I did not know of your engagement
until last night--and as far as Jeannie is concerned, she was just
telling me that as she had not written you for so long she thought you
would understand that she wished to end the engagement. You know,”
turning softly to Jeannie and laying a gentle caressing hand on her
head, “if there is one thing this little girl dreads more than another
it is anything approaching a quarrel, and she put off telling you of
the change in her feelings thinking that you would scold and make a
dreadful upset about it. Of course the whole thing is a terrible mistake
all through, but, Dick, I never betrayed a friend in my life, and I
would have killed myself rather than have made love to your sweetheart
if I had known it.”

At this the gentle Jeannie gave a scarcely perceptible toss of her fair
head as if to say, “That just shows how much wiser my way was.”

“I see, I see,” exclaimed the other bitterly, “I have only my own blind
unsuspecting devotion to thank for all this. If I had doubted and
mistrusted like other men this thing would never have happened. Alec, I
bear _you_ no malice, you did not know. Jeannie, you made light work of
a heart that deserved better from you.”

“Oh, Dick, _dear_ Dick, please----” began Jeannie, but he waved her
away. “Please leave me,” he added bitterly, “and if I must do without
your love, at least spare me the insult of your pity. Take back your
forget-me-nots and broken coin,” he added, taking the cigar-case and
coin from his pocket and handing them to her still wet with the whirling
pool from which he had saved her.

Jeannie would have replied, but the wise Alec, recognizing that much
lee-way must be allowed to the disappointed lover, motioned her not to
speak, and in silence they left as Richard turned on his heel and strode
away across the sand.

When he turned he expected to find himself if not face to face with, at
least within reach of, Miss Beattison, and the fact that she was not in
sight sent a keen and to him mysterious pang to his heart. He felt he
needed the sympathy of someone whose tenderness would not be an insult,
and now the only being whom he felt could have poured balm on his wounds
had disappeared.

He sat down by the water’s edge to think out the new scheme of his life
under the altered conditions of the morning, and somehow the tumult of
the broken waves seemed a suitable back ground to his thoughts.

For a while he sat in silence revolving the morning’s events in his
mind, and after a time he drew from his pocket two objects which we, the
readers, have seen before.

One was the photograph of Miss Farquharson, and the other the
handkerchief found in the train. The former, blurred and defaced by the
action of the water in his rescue of Miss Farquharson, caused him to
smile a sad, bitter, miserable smile, to which a tear would have been
preferable.

“The river ends it all,” he said as he tossed the photograph into the
torrent, “I almost wish it had ended me too.”

Then his eye fell upon the cambric handkerchief found in the train, and
a warmth seemed to steal from it, wet and crumpled as it was, which set
his heart beating to a faster measure.

“It seems to me,” he said softly, “as if all these long years I had been
prizing the shell and neglecting the priceless pearl.” Then, as he
kissed the handkerchief again and again--and now at last without
remorse--his mind travelled back to the scene on the bridge. Again in
his vision there arose the love illumined eyes and passionate glance of
the woman whom he was fain to confess now he had loved fondly even when
he fled from her. The passion of her presence seemed again to thrill him
as he sat there pressing her handkerchief to his lips, and in the fever
of his unrest he sprang to his feet and turned towards the highway, only
to find himself face to face with Gwendoline Beattison herself.

For a moment the love-light still burning in his eyes seemed to surprise
and dazzle her, and then as he opened wide his arms and murmured the one
word “darling,” she fled to his heart with a glad cry.

There, eye to eye, heart to heart, and soul to soul, love’s dominion was
restored, and Cupid’s glancing arrows at length found their rightful
mark.

                               THE END.

                   *       *       *       *       *

       Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

lack of arrangement in the deceased’s affairs=> lack of arrangement in
the deceaseds’ affairs {pg 42}

here and may be there=> here and maybe there {pg 49}

Madame Tassaud’s Chamber of Horrors=> Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of
Horrors {pg 50}

vis-a-vis=> vis-à-vis {pg 100}

the custom-house officers came abroad=> the custom-house officers came
aboard {pg 132}

coresponding relief or elation=> corresponding relief or elation {pg
132}

relief in excitment=> relief in excitement {pg 132}

The concagious excitement=> The contagious excitement {pg 133}

the last glimspe of verdure=> the last glimpse of verdure {pg 141}

Three week later=> Three weeks later {pg 161}

fade as even great warrior=> fade as even great warriors {pg 175}

well-preserved gentlemen of some forty years=> well-preserved gentleman
of some forty years {pg 220}

by the waiter’s munifience=> by the waiter’s munificence {pg 231}

Felix Johnston found opportunities=> Felix Johnstone found opportunities
{pg 235}

her bright head high in air=> her bright head high in the air {pg 249}

that must be by brother Wilfred=> that must be my brother Wilfred {pg
250}

unbending command and insistance=> unbending command and insistence {pg
257}

retired into the the seclusion=> retired into the seclusion {pg 278}

little piece of monogramed=> little piece of monogrammed {pg 297}

feather-like handerchief=> feather-like handkerchief {pg 297}

he was considerable surprised=> he was considerably surprised {pg 309}





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large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

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



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